Organised by Mark Carrigan, Ibrar Bhatt and Jeremy Knox
In only a few months, the world has been transformed beyond recognition by Covid-19. As we face the prospect of many months, even years, until a vaccine can be produced and distributed, it seems increasingly clear there will be no return to normality. This online conference by the Society for Research into Higher Education’s Digital University Network inquires into the ‘new normal’ we face in higher education, as well as the role which digital technology has and will play in bringing about it. With the university campus still vacated by the vast majority of staff, there is mounting uncertainty about what the next academic year will hold given that the imperative of social distancing will reshape every aspect of academic life.
It is clear that digital technology will be essential to teaching, research and administration under these conditions but it is far less obvious what this will look like in practice. Furthermore, this online pivot is being undertaken at such speed and under such difficult conditions that strategic considerations risk being subordinated to the imperative of keeping the university operating at a distance. There is a substantial body of expertise about the use of digital technologies for educational purposes but our understanding of their embedding in the organisational structures of the university is less well developed. For example platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have enabled operations of the university to continue at a distance during the lockdown but there are urgent questions this raises about surveillance, safety and security. This online conference aims to bring together political, sociological and technological questions which speak to our uncertain moment and the many questions we confront about how to move forward from here. This might include:
- Possible models of socially distanced teaching and learning
- The logistical challenges of rapidly pivoting to distance education
- Academic labour in the digitally mediated university
- The impact of the digital transition on student experience
- Strategies and techniques for creating community in a socially distanced university
- The short, medium and long term impact of social distancing on research culture
However these are only suggestions and we welcome contributions on any theme relate to digital technology, lockdown and the post-pandemic university. If you would like to take part, please send a 300 word abstract by June 30th to firstname.lastname@example.org with the the title ‘Digital Technology, Lockdown and the Post-Pandemic University’. We intend to confirm acceptance by July 5th for an online event to take place on July 31st using Zoom. It is our intention to produce a special issue of a journal building from this event so please indicate in your original message if this is something which you are interested in.