Below is a blog entry written by James Clay for the currently ongoing #JISCEL10 conference, drawing upon a title I suggested for our talk at #PELC10 (Keep Calm and Carry On – my PhD research included this topic). As we are running into another freezing cold snap, the issues we raised at that conference are raised highly again. At the University of Winchester as we look to embed the use of Wimba amongst staff (and students, although we’ve been running some test sessions with them, and they don’t need any guidance, but dive straight in and experiment with the tools), this re-emphasises the need for using such software, although there’s a clear feeling at the moment that’s its more of a choice/add-on.
The BBC is reporting that:
The UK is entering a prolonged cold snap which could bring one of the earliest significant snowfalls since 1993, according to weather forecasters.
Northern and eastern parts of the UK are expected to bear the brunt of the wintry conditions.
So more snow and more prospects of snow closing institutions… despite the fact that we currently have the technology to enable institutions to remain “open” virtually, whilst keeping the physical site closed.
One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett is that “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”. When something awful happens, or freakish, we hear news reporters say “it was a million-to-one chance that this would happen”.
In February 2009 we had the worst snow for twenty years. Across the UK many schools, colleges and universities closed for a few days as travel made it impossible (and unsafe) for learners to get to their lessons and classes.
As it was the worst snow for twenty years, any idea of planning to use the VLE or similar to support learning from home was thrown out of the window, as it was obvious that such bad snow probably wouldn’t happen again for another twenty years…
Of course less than twelve months later, we had even worse snow. We saw even more closures and for even longer!
What were the chances of that happening?
What are the chances of it happening again?
Probably less than a million-to-one!
Even if it doesn’t snow really badly next year, other things may happen that result in the physical closure of the educational institution. It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…
So how should educational institutions be responding? How should they prepare?
Personally I think that it is not about preparation, but having the staff and learners in the right frame of mind about using online and digital tools before any such million-to-one chance happens.
Changing the culture is going to take time, having access to the right tools can help, but attitude towards those tools is just as important. Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow or any other “disaster” only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.
This is something that I have been talking about for ages and discussed during a symposium at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference.
“million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten” http://elearningstuff.net/2010/03/29/million-to-one-chances-happen-nine-times-out-of-ten/
e-Learning Stuff Podcast #030: Snow Joke Two http://elearningstuff.net/2010/01/17/e-learning-stuff-podcast-030-snow-joke-two/
e-Learning Stuff Podcast #012: It’s Snow Joke http://elearningstuff.net/2009/02/08/e-learning-stuff-podcast-012-its-snow-joke/