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Using digital technologies to provide a sense of ‘normality’


Using digital technologies to provide a sense of ‘normality’

Gareth Ward looks at how universities and businesses have adapted to an online culture.

Since the initial lockdown in March 2020, the UK has experienced significant change in how working from home has been viewed as a society, with the realisation that many roles are able to still create value without the need to be tied to working in an office environment.

It is only human nature for us to feel the need to be in the company of others. We are social beings and working together to overcome shared challenges is a fundamental element of the human experience that drives our survival as a species. With this in mind, it is no wonder that immediately following the announcement of a nationwide lockdown, people across the country turned to making use of digital technologies to support, not only their familial relationships, but to also enable them to continue to work, providing a sense of normality to their everyday lives.

It is therefore understandable when we feel the need to be able to continue to contribute to society in some way, even while unable to physically meet in person.

In response, universities quickly adapted to teaching students remotely through the use of digital technologies, such as Microsoft Teams, Blackboard Collaborate and Google Classroom. These technologies were developed over the last decade due to the growing need for online real-time collaboration between global and decentralised organisations, and became increasingly viable with the introduction of super-fast internet as a result of governmental policy.

Subsequently, universities in the UK were already on a trajectory to fully adopt the virtual campus mindset, and one of the many positive outcomes of the pandemic response has been the acceleration in the adoption of digital technologies across the sector.

In addition, over the last decade the introduction of web-native services using a software as a service (SaaS) approach, has enabled collaborative working to take place anywhere in the world where a fast internet connection and web browser were accessible.

When combined, these factors enabled the UK to continue to operate through the Covid-19 pandemic, and universities such as Canterbury Christ Church University, have been able to continue to teach students remotely, while supporting the needs of their regional economies.

By the time that the second lockdown was put in place on the 5th November, many universities had adopted a blended learning approach. This enabled teaching to continue using physical spaces on campus with smaller groups of students, while maximising the benefits that can be found through the use of remote learning activities. This highlights the ability for people to come together to overcome national and international adversity in such challenging times.

It stands to reason that it is important to recognise, in such a difficult climate, how UK Universities and businesses have adapted to the increasingly uncertain external environment, while continuing to successfully support students and staff. In my opinion, this is something to celebrate, as it has the potential to bring positivity to the lives of our students, staff and our wider communities during such difficult times.

Gareth Ward is a Lecturer in Computing, in the School of Engineering, Technology and Design.

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