• Academic freedom is in crisis ; free speech is not

    In August 2020, the UK think tank The Policy Exchange produced a report on Academic Freedom in the UK (https://policyexchange.org.uk/publication/academic-freedom-in-the-uk-2), alleging a chilling effect for staff and students expressing conservative opinions, particularly pro-Brexit or ‘gender critical’ ideas. This is an issue that was examined by a 2018 parliamentary committee on Human Rights which found a lack of evidence for serious infringements of free speech (https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201719/jtselect/jtrights/1279/127904.htm). In a university context, freedom of speech is protected under the Human Rights Act 1998 as long as the speech is lawful and does not contravene other university regulations on issues like harassment, bullying or inclusion. Some of these controversies have been firmly rebutted by Chris Parr (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/free-speech-crisis-uk-universities-chris-parr) and others who describe how the incidents have been over-hyped.

    Despite this, the government seems keen to appoint a free speech champion for universities (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/feb/15/tories-war-on-the-woke-ministers-statues-protests) which continues a campaign started by #Sam_Gyimah (https://academicirregularities.wordpress.com/2018/07/06/sams-on-campus-but-is-the-campus-onto-sam) when he was minister for universities in 2018, and has been interpreted by some commentators as a ‘war on woke’. In the current climate of threats to university autonomy, many vice chancellors wonder whether this might be followed by heavy fines or reduced funding for those institutions deemed to fall on the wrong side of the culture wars.

    While public concern has been directed to an imagined crisis of free speech, there are more significant questions to answer on the separate but related issue of academic freedom. Most university statutes echo legislation and guarantee academics ‘freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial and unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at their institutions.’ [Section 202 of the Education Reform Act 1988]. In reality, these freedoms are surrendered to the greater claims of academic capitalism, government policy, legislation, managers’ responses to the pandemic and more dirigiste approaches to academics’ work.

    Nevertheless, this government is ploughing ahead with policies designed to protect the freedom of speech that is already protected, while doing little to hold university managers to account for their very demonstrable violations of academic freedom. The government is suspicious of courses which declare a sympathy with social justice or which manifest a ‘progressive’ approach. This hostility also extends to critical race theory and black studies. Indeed, the New York Times has identified a right wing ‘Campaign to Cancel Wokeness’ (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/26/opinion/speech-racism-academia.html) on both sides of the Atlantic, citing a speech by the UK Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch, in which she said, “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt…Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

    This has now set a tone for ideological oversight which some university leaders seem keen to embrace. Universities will always wish to review their offerings to ensure they reflect academic currency and student choice. However, operating under the cover of emergency pandemic planning, some are now seeking to dismantle what they see as politically troublesome subject areas.

    Let’s start with the most egregious and transparent attack on academic freedom. The University of Leicester Business School, known primarily for its disdain of management orthodoxy, has announced it will no longer support research in critical management studies (https://www.uculeicester.org.uk/redundancy-briefing) and political economy, and the university has put all researchers who identify with this field, or who at some time might have published in CMS, at risk of redundancy. Among the numerous responses circulating on Twitter, nearly all point to the fact that the critical orientation made Leicester Business School distinctive and attractive to scholars wishing to study and teach there. Among those threatened with redundancy is the distinguished former dean, Professor Gibson Burrell. The sheer volume of protest at this anomaly must be an embarrassment to Leicester management. We should remember that academic freedom means that, as a scholar of proven expertise, you have the freedom to teach and research according to your own judgement. When those in a field critical of structures of power have their academic freedom removed, this is, unarguably, a breach of that expectation. Such a violation should be of concern to the new freedom of speech champion and to the regulator, the Office for Students.

    If the devastation in the School of Business were not enough humiliation for Leicester, in the department of English, there are plans to cancel scholarship and teaching in Medieval and Early Modern literature. The thoughtless stripping out of key areas that give context and coherence within a subject is not unique to Leicester – similar moves have taken place in English at University of Portsmouth. At Leicester, management have offered the justification that this realignment will allow them to put resources towards the study of gender and sexuality. After all, the Vice Chancellor, Nishan Canagarajah, offered the keynote speech at the Advance HE conference in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion on 19th March (https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/programmes-events/conferences/EDIConf20#Keynotes) and has signalled that he supports decolonising the curriculum. This might have had more credibility if he was not equally committed to extinguishing critical scholarship in the Business School. The two positions are incompatible and reveal an opportunistic attempt to reduce costs and remove signs of critical scholarship which might attract government disapproval.

    At the University of Birmingham, the response to the difficulties of maintaining teaching during the pandemic has been to issue a ruling that three academic staff must be able to teach each module. The explanation for this apparent reversal of the ‘lean’ principle of staffing efficiency, is to make modules more resilient in the face of challenges like the pandemic – or perhaps strike action. There is a consequence for academic freedom though – only the most familiar, established courses can be taught. Courses that might have been offered, which arise from the current research of the academic staff, will have to be cancelled if the material is not already familiar to other colleagues in the department. It is a way of designing innovation and advancement out of courses at the University of Birmingham.

    Still at Birmingham, UCU is contesting a proposal for a new ‘career framework’ (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/strike-warning-over-birminghams-or-out-probation-plan) by management characterised as ‘up or out’. It will require newly appointed lecturers to achieve promotion to senior lecturer within five years or face the sort of performance management procedures that could lead to termination of their appointment. The junior academics who enter on these conditions are unlikely to gamble their careers on academic risk-taking or pursue a challenge to an established paradigm. We can only speculate how this apprenticeship in organisational obedience might restrain the pursuit of discovery, let alone achieve the management’s stated aim to “develop and maintain an academic culture of intellectual stimulation and high achievement”.

    Meanwhile at the University of Liverpool, Vice Chancellor Janet Beer is attempting to apply research metrics and measures of research income over a five-year period to select academics for redundancy in the Faculty of Life Sciences. Staff have been threatened with sacking and replacement by those felt to hold more promise. It will be an unwise scholar who chooses a niche field of research which will not elicit prime citations. Astoundingly, university mangers claim that their criteria are not in breach of their status as a signatory to the San Fransisco Declaration on Research Assessment (https://news.liverpool.ac.uk/2021/03/08/project-shape-update). That is correct insofar as selection for redundancy by grant income is clearly such dishonorable practice as to have been placed beyond contemplation by the international board of DORA.

    It seems we are reaching a pivotal moment for academic freedom for higher education systems across the world. In #Arkansas and some other states in the #USA, there are efforts to prohibit the teaching of social justice (https://www.chronicle.com/article/no-social-justice-in-the-classroom-new-state-scrutiny-of-speech-at-public).

    In #France, the education minister has blamed American critical race theory (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/france-about-become-less-free/617195) for undermining France’s self-professed race-blindness and for causing the rise of “islamo-gauchisme”, a term which has been cynically deployed to blunt any critique of structural racism.

    In Greece, universities are now bound by law to ensure policing and surveillance of university campuses (https://www.crimetalk.org.uk/index.php/library/section-list/1012-exiting-democracy-entering-authoritarianism) by ‘squads for the protection of universities’ in order to suppress dissent with the Orwellian announcement that the creation of these squads and the extensive surveillance of public Universities are “a means of closing the door to violence and opening the way to freedom” and an assertion that “it is not the police who enter universities, but democracy”.


    It occurs to me that those public figures who feel deprived of a platform to express controversial views may well be outnumbered by the scholars whose universities allow their work to be suppressed by targeted intellectual purges, academic totalitarianism and metric surveillance. It is telling that assaults on academic freedom in the UK have not attracted comment or action from the organisations which might be well placed to defend this defining and essential principle of universities. I hereby call on Universities UK, the Office for Students and the freedom of speech champion to insist on an independent audit of academic freedom and autonomy for each higher education institution.

    We now know where intervention into the rights of academics to teach and research autonomously may lead. We also know that many of the candidates targeted for redundancy are UCU trade union officials; this has happened at University of East London and the University of Hull. Make no mistake, this is a PATCO moment (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/05/reagan-fires-11-000-striking-air-traffic-controllers-aug-5-1981-241252) for higher education in the UK as management teams try to break union support and solidarity in order to exact greater control in the future.

    Universities are the canary down the mine in an era of right-wing authoritarianism. We must ensure that they can maintain their unique responsibility to protect against the rise of populism and the dismantling of democracy. We must be assertive in protecting the rights of academics whose lawful and reasoned opinions are increasingly subject to some very sinister threats. Academic freedom needs to be fought for, just like the right to protest and the right to roam. That leaves a heavy responsibility for academics if the abolition of autonomy and academic freedom is not to be complete.

    #liberté_académique #liberté_d'expression #UK #Angleterre #université #facs #justice_sociale #black_studies #races #race #approches_critiques #études_critiques #privilège_blanc #économie_politique #Leicester_Business_School #pandémie #crise_sanitaire #Birmingham #Liverpool #Janet_Beer #concurrence #Grèce #Etats-Unis #métrique #attaques #éducation_supérieure #populisme #démocratie #autonomie #canari_dans_la_mine

    ping @isskein @cede

    • The Campaign to Cancel Wokeness. How the right is trying to censor critical race theory.

      It’s something of a truism, particularly on the right, that conservatives have claimed the mantle of free speech from an intolerant left that is afraid to engage with uncomfortable ideas. Every embarrassing example of woke overreach — each ill-considered school board decision or high-profile campus meltdown — fuels this perception.

      Yet when it comes to outright government censorship, it is the right that’s on the offense. Critical race theory, the intellectual tradition undergirding concepts like white privilege and microaggressions, is often blamed for fomenting what critics call cancel culture. And so, around America and even overseas, people who don’t like cancel culture are on an ironic quest to cancel the promotion of critical race theory in public forums.

      In September, Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget ordered federal agencies to “begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’” which it described as “un-American propaganda.”

      A month later, the conservative government in Britain declared some uses of critical race theory in education illegal. “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt,” said the Tory equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch. “Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

      Some in France took up the fight as well. “French politicians, high-profile intellectuals and journalists are warning that progressive American ideas — specifically on race, gender, post-colonialism — are undermining their society,” Norimitsu Onishi reported in The New York Times. (This is quite a reversal from the days when American conservatives warned darkly about subversive French theory.)

      Once Joe Biden became president, he undid Trump’s critical race theory ban, but lawmakers in several states have proposed their own prohibitions. An Arkansas legislator introduced a pair of bills, one banning the teaching of The Times’s 1619 Project curriculum, and the other nixing classes, events and activities that encourage “division between, resentment of, or social justice for” specific groups of people. “What is not appropriate is being able to theorize, use, specifically, critical race theory,” the bills’ sponsor told The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

      Republicans in West Virginia and Oklahoma have introduced bills banning schools and, in West Virginia’s case, state contractors from promoting “divisive concepts,” including claims that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.” A New Hampshire Republican also proposed a “divisive concepts” ban, saying in a hearing, “This bill addresses something called critical race theory.”

      Kimberlé Crenshaw, a pioneering legal scholar who teaches at both U.C.L.A. and Columbia, has watched with alarm the attempts to suppress an entire intellectual movement. It was Crenshaw who came up with the name “critical race theory” when organizing a workshop in 1989. (She also coined the term “intersectionality.”) “The commitment to free speech seems to dissipate when the people who are being gagged are folks who are demanding racial justice,” she told me.

      Many of the intellectual currents that would become critical race theory emerged in the 1970s out of disappointment with the incomplete work of the civil rights movement, and cohered among radical law professors in the 1980s.
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      The movement was ahead of its time; one of its central insights, that racism is structural rather than just a matter of interpersonal bigotry, is now conventional wisdom, at least on the left. It had concrete practical applications, leading, for example, to legal arguments that housing laws or employment criteria could be racist in practice even if they weren’t racist in intent.

      Parts of the critical race theory tradition are in tension with liberalism, particularly when it comes to issues like free speech. Richard Delgado, a key figure in the movement, has argued that people should be able to sue those who utter racist slurs. Others have played a large role in crafting campus speech codes.

      There’s plenty here for people committed to broad free speech protections to dispute. I’m persuaded by the essay Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in the 1990s challenging the movement’s stance on the first amendment. “To remove the very formation of our identities from the messy realm of contestation and debate is an elemental, not incidental, truncation of the ideal of public discourse,” he wrote.

      Disagreeing with certain ideas, however, is very different from anathematizing the collective work of a host of paradigm-shifting thinkers. Gates’s article was effective because he took the scholarly work he engaged with seriously. “The critical race theorists must be credited with helping to reinvigorate the debate about freedom of expression; even if not ultimately persuaded to join them, the civil libertarian will be much further along for having listened to their arguments and examples,” he wrote.

      But the right, for all its chest-beating about the value of entertaining dangerous notions, is rarely interested in debating the tenets of critical race theory. It wants to eradicate them from public institutions.

      “Critical race theory is a grave threat to the American way of life,” Christopher Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank once known for pushing an updated form of creationism in public schools, wrote in January.

      Rufo’s been leading the conservative charge against critical race theory. Last year, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, he called on Trump to issue an executive order abolishing “critical race theory trainings from the federal government.” The next day, he told me, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, called him and asked for his help putting an order together.

      Last month, Rufo announced a “new coalition of legal foundations and private attorneys that will wage relentless legal warfare against race theory in America’s institutions.” A number of House and Senate offices, he told me, are working on their own anti-critical race theory bills, though none are likely to go anywhere as long as Biden is president.

      As Rufo sees it, critical race theory is a revolutionary program that replaces the Marxist categories of the bourgeois and the proletariat with racial groups, justifying discrimination against those deemed racial oppressors. His goal, ultimately, is to get the Supreme Court to rule that school and workplace trainings based on the doctrines of critical race theory violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

      This inversion, casting anti-racist activists as the real racists, is familiar to Ian Haney López, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in critical race theory. “There’s a rhetoric of reaction which seeks to claim that it’s defending these higher values, which, perversely, often are the very values it’s traducing,” he said. “Whether that’s ‘In the name of free speech we’re going to persecute, we’re going to launch investigations into particular forms of speech’ or — and I think this is equally perverse — ‘In the name of fighting racism, we’re going to launch investigations into those scholars who are most serious about studying the complex forms that racism takes.’”

      Rufo insists there are no free speech implications to what he’s trying to do. “You have the freedom of speech as an individual, of course, but you don’t have the kind of entitlement to perpetuate that speech through public agencies,” he said.

      This sounds, ironically, a lot like the arguments people on the left make about de-platforming right-wingers. To Crenshaw, attempts to ban critical race theory vindicate some of the movement’s skepticism about free speech orthodoxy, showing that there were never transcendent principles at play.

      When people defend offensive speech, she said, they’re often really defending “the substance of what the speech is — because if it was really about free speech, then this censorship, people would be howling to the high heavens.” If it was really about free speech, they should be.


      #droite #gauche #censure #cancel_culture #micro-agressions #Trump #Donald_Trump #Kemi_Badenoch #division #critical_race_theory #racisme #sexisme #Kimberlé_Crenshaw #Crenshaw #racisme_structurel #libéralisme #Richard_Delgado #Christopher_Rufo #Ian_Haney_López

    • No ‘Social Justice’ in the Classroom: Statehouses Renew Scrutiny of Speech at Public Colleges

      Blocking professors from teaching social-justice issues. Asking universities how they talk about privilege. Analyzing students’ freedom of expression through regular reports. Meet the new campus-speech issues emerging in Republican-led statehouses across the country, indicating potential new frontiers for politicians to shape campus affairs.


  • When Academic Bullies Claim the Mantle of Free Speech
    Harassment should not be protected.

    Every week, it seems, a new organization is formed to combat “#cancel_culture” and “#wokeness” — not in order to perpetuate institutional racism, of course, or sexism and sexual assault in the workplace, or indeed any form of injustice, but to champion free speech. Who could possibly be against that? Free speech, open debate — surely this is the bedrock of democracy. For those of us who work at colleges and universities, it is nothing less than our raison d’être. That is why we must support the academic freedom of people we disagree with; it is the condition of possibility for any form of legitimate intellectual disagreement whatsoever.

    But then imagine that the following scenario unfolds on your campus: A faculty member shares with her students a CNN article entitled “Math Is Racist.” The article, published in 2016, is a brief discussion of a book by the mathematician and data analyst Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction — a painstaking analysis of “how algorithms and big data are targeting the poor, reinforcing racism, and amplifying inequality.” The faculty member would have no reason to imagine that anyone could plausibly object to discussing the article in class.

    She is shocked, then, to find her name and picture tied to the phrase “math is racist” — shorn of any context or any reference to the CNN article — and posted on Twitter by two of her male colleagues. It is picked up by the anti-woke warrior Chris Rufo, who tags the professional provocateur Joe Rogan and Fox’s voluble and influential Tucker Carlson. She has now become the latest exhibit in a national right-wing campaign to frame university professors as the new apparatchiks of a racially motivated totalitarianism. She shares an article with her students, and she is cast as one of Stalin’s henchmen. She is one of the “new racists.”

    Anyone who has lived through one of the right-wing rage-gasms of the past decade — and they are disproportionately women and faculty of color — knows how terrifying they can be. All you have to do is say, “It’s true that the Greeks painted their statues,” or, “Hmm, it seems that the far right is appropriating a lot of medieval imagery,” and you can find yourself in the cross hairs, subject to doxxing, hate mail, physical harassment, and death threats.

    The two men who circulated the “math is racist” meme were outsourcing the harassment of a colleague to the legions of trolls flying from Mr. Potato Head to Dr. Seuss to rapping librarians to the next faux-outrage fury-fest. Every time this happens, the targets of right-wing rage can only hope that a shiny new object will come along to distract their tormentors. But there is always the possibility — given the apocalyptic rhetoric that higher education’s attempts to reckon with systemic racism constitute a Maoist Cultural Revolution — that one of these stunts will get someone hurt.

    The above scenario is not a hypothetical. It happened at my university, Portland State, and was instigated by our very own anti-woke warriors, Bruce Gilley and Peter Boghossian. Gilley and Boghossian have been working this beat for years now, on Twitter and on blogs. And they claim to be doing so in the name of academic freedom.

    I am part of the elected leadership of my university’s faculty-union chapter, PSU-AAUP. If you live in the world of Fox News, you might imagine that I am constantly besieged by wokeness, teaching in the smoldering remains of what was once Portland, Ore., before antifa burnt the city to the ground. But here’s the reality: I have now heard from dozens of colleagues who tell me that they cannot say what they think in department meetings or on committees or in the Faculty Senate because it will be wrenched out of context and paraded on one of our resident provocateurs’ Twitter feeds or on a YouTube video one of them splices together.

    What can a campus do when some of its faculty members decide to stop conducting themselves like responsible, professional academics and instead to cosplay as cub reporters for Breitbart or The Daily Caller?

    Here’s what we did.

    When our colleagues used their #Twitter platforms to encourage students to post material from their “woke” and “neoracist” professors on a “woke@PSU” page, we filed a grievance on behalf of all of our members who might find themselves the target of an anti-woke mob. The Faculty Senate also acted. It passed a resolution to remind the campus community that “university policies that spell out the commitment to academic freedom also recognize responsibilities that come with it.”

    The university’s president, Stephen Percy, and provost, Susan Jeffords, soon followed with a statement, “Standing With the Faculty Senate on Academic Freedom,” that affirmed the Senate’s resolution and reiterated the necessity of “guarding against abuses” of free speech and academic freedom. “Our values as an institution,” they wrote, “include creating a safe space for a variety of perspectives and debate of intellectual ideas, advancing racial justice, supporting student success, and fulfilling our role as a civic leader and partner within our community.”

    PSU-AAUP also issued a statement: “We defend our members’ academic freedom and their right to express it in public forums. However, when this public engagement takes the form of, and indeed encourages, bullying, harassment, and intimidation of our colleagues, all the while invoking academic freedom as a shield, academic freedom is being abused and undermined.”

    So what happened? Using the standard pretzel logic of Fox World, Gilley and Boghossian are claiming that their academic freedom is being compromised.

    Some academic jokes endure because they are entirely accurate. How can you tell the difference between a bully and an academic bully? A bully knocks you down and takes your lunch money. An academic bully barrels into you, falls over, pretends that you knocked him down, and sues you for your lunch money.

    Though Gilley was not named at the Faculty Senate meeting in which the resolution passed, he knew that the resolution was issued in response to his actions. The resolution did not call for his termination, or even that he be disciplined. It did not mention him at all. It simply reminded faculty members of what we already know, because it’s in AAUP policy, it’s in faculty constitutions, and by now it should be axiomatic: Academic freedom does not mean anything goes.

    Gilley, though, decided that the Faculty Senate had “littered [the stage] with the bloody corpses of what used to constitute the core principles of the university” — and he spliced together a YouTube video from the publicly streamed video of the Senate meeting.

    Another of my colleagues is now receiving messages from the people who subscribe to Gilley’s feed. These are people who replied to his screed with comments like “Pinochet knew what to do with these people” and “Franco did too.”

    Over the past decade, something very odd has happened to the idea of academic freedom: It has become conflated with free speech, due either to lazy thinking or to deliberate attempts to confuse the issue. Academic freedom has been weaponized, cut loose from its traditional mooring in intellectual expertise (as has been argued by intellectuals expert in the subject, such as Robert Post and Joan Scott), and deployed to defend professors who deliberately spread medical misinformation in a pandemic (Scott Atlas, looking at you) or help to incite a riot at the U.S. Capitol that they proceed to blame on antifa (John Eastman, you did well to retire).

    Professors at public colleges and universities in the United States have the First Amendment right to say any number of vicious, unhinged, and/or batshit-crazy things. That does not mean they have the academic freedom to do so.

    There should be no sense in which academic freedom entails the freedom to provoke, encourage, and engage in campaigns of harassment against colleagues. Surely, whatever else we may disagree about, all professors need the academic freedom to discuss the meaning of academic freedom without fear of organized harassment and frivolous lawsuits funded by the deep pockets of conservatives.


    #harcèlement #liberté_d'expression #liberté_académique #université #extrême_droite #réseaux_sociaux

    via @isskein

  • Ed-Tech Mania Is Back

    J’avais zappé cet article de septembre 2020... Morceaux choisis :

    There are two major issues with the arguments of today’s charismatic technologists. The first is historical: Since the days of early radio and film, evangelists have been promising that new technologies will sweep away the sandy foundations of higher education, and yet here we are — starved and teetering from austerity, but at no real risk of wholesale disruption from technology.

    This isn’t to deny growth and innovation in online learning. Online education has been steadily, incrementally expanding for decades, and there are a few places with concentrated growth.

    The second problem for today’s charismatic technologists is that the types of disruption they envisioned haven’t happened. MOOCs, adaptive tutors, chatbots, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, learning analytics, and other recent innovations have played very minor roles in higher ed’s crisis pivot to online learning. Instead, the pandemic has seen us embrace two dominant technologies. The first is the learning-management system — a place to distribute and collect resources online. Learning-management systems were theorized in the ‘60s and ‘70s, commercialized in the ‘90s, and made open source in the ‘00s.

    The other major technology we’ve embraced is similarly old school: it was called “videotelephony” when it debuted in the 1930s, and it has gradually morphed into today’s videoconferencing. Faculty members have simply turned from the classroom lectern to their home-office webcam without the assistance of chatbots or AI tutors.

    There’s a middle path between charismatic boosterism and skepticism. In The Charisma Machine, Ames calls it “tinkering.” Drawn from David Tyack and Larry Cuban’s history of K-12 education in the United States, Tinkering Towards Utopia (Harvard University Press, 1995), “tinkerers” see schools and colleges as complex systems that can be improved but believe that major improvement is the product of years of incremental changes, not the result of one grand stroke. Tinkerers study past efforts at educational reform to avoid replicating past mistakes. Tinkerers harbor an optimism that technology can be used to improve teaching and learning, but they embrace research and critique as a crucial check against utopian thinking. While charismatic technologists orchestrate boom-and-bust hype cycles, cajoling local systems into making major changes and then moving on when transformation proves elusive, tinkerers persist with their designs, their partners, and their communities.

  • Les universités, l’#enseignement_à_distance et le #Covid-19 (1/2)

    Alors que nos universités vivent depuis quelques semaines un des psychodrames dont elles ont malheureusement l’habitude au sujet des modalités d’examen ou de contrôle des connaissances à appliquer cette année, il peut être utile de prendre le temps de réfléchir quelques instants à la situation inédite à laquelle les universitaires sont confrontés et, surtout, à la manière dont cette crise va modifier, en profondeur, les métiers universitaires et l’université toute entière.

    En premier lieu, il faut remarquer et apprécier une véritable révolution spirituelle chez bon nombre de collègues, hier réticents et même hostiles à l’idée d’enseigner en ligne, de se faire enregistrer et diffuser, et qui semblent s’être convertis très rapidement à ces nouvelles méthodes, au point d’exiger, aux quatre coins de la France, l’organisation d’#examens en ligne afin de sanctionner les cours en ligne ! Alors qu’il y a quelques semaines, beaucoup refusaient catégoriquement de se laisser filmer en cours, considérant qu’il s’agissait d’une insupportable atteinte à leur liberté de parole ou d’enseignement, ils défendent aujourd’hui avec véhémence la conversion de l’université au tout numérique, examen compris, ce qui n’a pourtant jamais été envisagé même par les plus numériques d’entre nous. Étonnant revirement. Bien sûr, il convient d’interpréter ce nouvel amour pour ce qu’il est, c’est-à-dire un simple flirt passager lié aux circonstances particulières du confinement et la manifestation d’une addiction à l’examen et à la sélection qui frappe beaucoup d’universitaires.

    Toutefois, pour quelqu’un qui s’est battu presque dix ans pour développer la politique de #pédagogie_numérique de son université, cela reste un phénomène plaisant à observer. Naturellement, comme souvent, les nouveaux convertis se montrent imprudents, excessifs et bien trop zélés. Leur amour naissant les fait oublier bien des enjeux, comme la protection de la vie privée ou le nécessaire respect de l’#égalité entre étudiant∙es. Il convient, maintenant qu’ils ont la foi, de les faire réfléchir sur l’outil hier haï et aujourd’hui vénéré. Il y a urgence car si la conversion totale au numérique est une vue de l’esprit confiné, la réflexion sur ces outils désormais popularisés mais toujours méconnus doit désormais s’envisager dans une perspective de profonde rénovation de l’université que la crise sanitaire a complètement bouleversé au point de rendre un retour à la situation antérieure difficilement envisageable.

    Des #limites de l’enseignement numérique

    Une des premières choses qu’il convient de rappeler est le fait que l’équation « #cours_présentiel = #cours_à_distance » n’a jamais été vraie. Il y a une différence de nature entre les deux et il faut davantage envisager leur complémentarité plutôt que de les croire substituables. D’ailleurs, il ne s’agit pas d’établir une hiérarchie entre ces deux formes d’enseignement ! Dans certains cas, l’enseignement à distance se montre plus efficace que l’enseignement présentiel : il permet aux étudiant∙es de travailler en fonction de leur propre emploi du temps, ils peuvent revoir les interventions enregistrées, les utiliser pour apprendre puis réviser, poser leurs questions au milieu de la nuit ou en plein dimanche avec l’espoir de recevoir une réponse, rarement immédiate mais dans un délai raisonnable.

    Ainsi, dans mon université, après avoir créé une préparation estivale à distance pour les étudiant∙es souhaitant passer l’examen d’accès aux CRFPA (les centres de formation pour les futurs avocats), nous avons pu dématérialiser quasiment l’intégralité des préparations, même durant l’année universitaire, avec des résultats très concluant. Les préparations s’adressent à des étudiant∙es titulaires d’un Master 1 ou en passe de l’être et souhaitant entreprendre la carrière d’avocat. Avec un public très motivé, capable de travailler en parfaite #autonomie et ayant un temps limité pour préparer l’examen, la #dématérialisation des enseignements offre bien des avantages, pour le préparateur comme pour le préparant. Le programme est un indéniable succès qui a permis à l’université de devenir en quelques années le plus grand centre de préparation à cet examen en France. Pour autant, ce qu’il est possible de faire pour des programmes de préparation n’est pas nécessairement reproductible pour des enseignements de licence ou de maîtrise. Dans ces cas, la présence de l’enseignant demeure nécessaire pour stimuler les étudiant∙es, motiver ceux qui ne le sont pas ou plus, réorienter ceux qui sont perdus, orienter ceux qui survolent, c’est-à-dire enseigner en veillant à ne jamais laisser des étudiant∙es décrocher mais en s’efforçant aussi de ne pas frustrer les meilleurs. La recherche de ce fragile équilibre n’est pas vaine, dans un amphi ou dans une classe. Tous ceux qui ont eu l’occasion d’enseigner et qui ont senti une vocation, non à se mettre en scène, mais dans le fait de transmettre, le savent. Sans lieu, sans classe, sans amphi, tout cela disparaît et n’est pas remplacé. Il n’y a pas lieu de recenser ici les innombrables différences entre l’enseignement à distance et en présence de l’enseignant mais il convient de comprendre qu’elles sont de toute nature. Ainsi, par exemple, il n’est pas absurde de s’interroger sur la disparition ou la transformation du sentiment d’#empathie derrière un écran et l’effet que cela peut avoir sur le processus de #transmission. Quiconque connait le métier est à même de voir les innombrables différences entre ces méthodes s’il fait l’effort d’y réfléchir.

    Ensuite, même si dans certains cas l’enseignement à distance peut être utile et efficace, il suppose des #outils qui ne peuvent être improvisés en quelques jours ou en quelques semaines ! La construction d’un cours en ligne est un travail conséquent, que l’universitaire ne peut, en général, mener seul, sauf à réduire son enseignement à quelques vidéos mal cadrées dans lesquels on le voit en contrejour parler pendant des heures avec un mauvais micro ou à des documents à imprimer de plusieurs centaines de pages balancés en vrac aux étudiant∙es. L’attention d’un auditeur en amphi est déjà limitée à quelques dizaines de minutes ; devant un ordinateur, chez lui, c’est pire ! Le pouvoir de l’éloquence, les effets de manche et même, pour l’étudiant, le fait de pouvoir s’adresser à son voisin pour quelques secondes de détente disparaissent en ligne, ce qui rend le cours bien plus monotone et difficile à suivre, quel que soit l’intérêt de l’étudiant pour le propos de l’enseignant. Il convient donc de concevoir des #outils_pédagogiques qui prennent en compte ces limites et qui s’adaptent à cette réalité. La conversion en quelques jours et dans l’urgence de centaines d’enseignements en cours en ligne est une entreprise vouée à l’échec malgré l’enthousiasme de certains collègues et, si cette solution imparfaite permet malgré tout de sauver l’année en cours, elle ne saurait être considérée comme un modèle pour l’avenir ni comme une base sérieuse pour mettre en place un contrôle des connaissances discriminant.

    Surtout, l’enjeu de demain transcende largement le problème d’aujourd’hui et devrait nous convaincre, collectivement, à engager une réflexion approfondie sur notre avenir. Pense-t-on sérieusement que, passée la crise actuelle, nous allons revenir au monde d’hier, avec les amphis bondés, les couloirs noirs de monde, les nez qui coulent et les gorges qui raclent par centaines en hiver dans des espaces mal aérés ? Les comptoirs administratifs pris d’assaut, les files d’étudiant∙es se pressant autour de l’enseignant à la fin du cours, les cocktails de fin d’année où l’on égare son verre et récupère celui du voisin, les rentrées chaotiques avec les étudiant∙es perdus, errant de salles en salles à la recherche de leur enseignant, tout cela risque d’être impossible dans le monde de demain. La fin du confinement n’annonce pas la fin de la #distanciation_sociale ou de l’impérieuse nécessité de respecter des règles d’hygiène minimales actuellement impossibles à imaginer dans le contexte universitaire. Trop d’étudiant∙es, aucun moyen, des locaux vétustes et des habitudes bien ancrées risquent de faire de la rentrée et de toutes les rentrées prochaines un insoluble #casse-tête.

    Un nouveau modèle universitaire

    C’est dans ce cadre que l’outil pédagogique numérique mérite d’être étudié. Bien pensées, les formations à distance peuvent représenter un appui à l’intégration à l’université pour de nombreux étudiant∙es mais aussi des méthodes d’approfondissement particulièrement efficaces ; elles peuvent aussi être étudiée afin de désengorger considérablement les locaux universitaires permettant alors de consacrer les mètres carrés libérés à des actions davantage personnalisées. Ainsi, par exemple, il est possible d’imaginer que certains cours en présentiel ne soient accessibles qu’après avoir finalisé un parcours numérique d’apprentissage. Il n’est pas nécessaire d’imaginer des tests ou des examens discriminants : le simple suivi sérieux du cours peut suffire à s’assurer de la motivation et à exclure les plus dilettantes des séances en présentiel.

    Naturellement, des dispositifs d’appui aux étudiant∙es en difficulté numérique ou ayant besoin d’un suivi plus dense doivent se développer. Cette diversification plaide pour une multiplication des classes aux #effectifs_restreints. En revanche, l’enseignement classique, les cours dans les gigantesques amphis, serait progressivement abandonné au profit de #conférences_numériques accessibles à un nombre encore plus important d’auditeurs dans des conditions de sécurité et d’hygiène garanties. Ces conférences pourraient se tenir en public, avec un auditoire restreint mais, diffusées à grande échelle, elles permettraient à tous d’y accéder simplement. Ces nouvelles méthodes d’apprentissage pourraient également favoriser l’#entraide au sein de la communauté étudiante en valorisant l’échange entre étudiant∙es de niveaux différents. Le tuteur étudiant pourrait être rémunéré, le libérant ainsi de la nécessité de trouver des financements pour ses longues études en dehors de l’université. Ces nouveaux circuits économiques, peu exploités en France avant le doctorat, auraient pour effet de renforcer la communauté universitaire, multipliant les liens entre l’institution et son public.

    Dans ce nouveau monde universitaire, le mandarin avide de cours d’amphi mais avare d’échanges et fuyant l’étudiant comme la peste n’aurait plus vraiment sa place – qui s’en plaindra ? – contrairement à l’enseignant affable et humain, privilégiant le dialogue au monologue. Cela suppose, dans de nombreuses disciplines, une transformation radicale du rapport de l’enseignant-chercheur avec son université et ses étudiant∙es. Ainsi, par exemple, s’il doit pouvoir bénéficier d’un lieu de travail adapté au sein des locaux universitaires, l’enseignant doit, en contrepartie, accepter un temps de présence plus important au sein de la faculté au bénéfice exclusif des étudiant∙es. Le bureau de l’enseignant pourrait ainsi se transformer en lieu de production et de transmission du savoir, accessible aux étudiant∙es comme aux collègues. Aujourd’hui, le bureau universitaire, denrée rare dans certaines universités, est le plus souvent un simple espace utile pour expédier les trop nombreuses tâches administratives qui pèsent sur les épaules de nombreux enseignant∙es-chercheur∙es investis dans leurs universités et organiser quelques rendez-vous pour traiter les cas d’étudiant∙es un peu atypiques et suffisamment téméraires pour demander un entretien. La culture de la porte ouverte n’existe pratiquement pas.

    Plus généralement, ce nouveau modèle permettrait de mettre fin à l’illusion selon laquelle l’égalité serait respectée en offrant à tous le même régime. Il privilégierait, au contraire, une approche fondée sur la diversité et la confrontation avec l’étudiant, envisagé dans sa singularité et non comme un simple atome d’une masse informe dont il s’agirait de trier le bon grain de l’ivraie. Cette adaptation de l’institution à ses étudiant∙es ne saurait naturellement être totale mais au contraire centrée sur ce que l’université a réellement à offrir, c’est-à-dire le fruit du travail des chercheurs qui sont le véritable cœur de l’institution universitaire.


    #université #facs #France #enseignement_distanciel #confinement #coronavirus #ESR #témoignage

    • Marianne veut anticiper les bons et les mauvais côtés du #téléenseignement à la #rentrée

      Pour dédoubler les enseignements — cours magistraux et travaux dirigés — à la rentrée 2020, il faut des locaux et des enseignant·es. Difficile de gérer les locaux, plus simple de recruter des enseignant·es ?


    • #LaFacÀDistance – ou imaginer notre pédagogie en #télé-enseignement

      Nous le pressentions depuis des semaines, notre ministre confirme : la rentrée universitaire de l’automne sera au moins en partie en distanciel.

      Nous avons besoin de nous y préparer dès maintenant. Pour cela, quelques éléments à garder en tête d’abord :

      Oui, nous n’avons pas envie de le faire, parce que nous aimons enseigner en présence de nos étudiant∙es. Cela peut même être au cœur de notre pratique et identité professionnelles, voire la raison pour laquelle nous avons choisi ce métier. Il faut prendre le temps d’acter ce renoncement sous contraintes et de faire le deuil de ce qui aurait pu être.
      Oui le passage au distanciel pose énormément de questions politiques (mainmise d’entreprises privées par les outils choisis, accroissement de certaines inégalités – pas toutes –, instrumentalisation au service de la néolibéralisation en cours à l’université avec plus de précariat, moins de protection des personnels, risques psycho-sociaux etc.). N’oublions cependant pas que l’enseignement à distance est là pour améliorer la sécurité sanitaire des étudiant∙es, d’abord, et des personnels, pas seulement enseignantes. Et n’oublions pas non plus le travail acharné depuis des années en pédagogie critique du supérieur pour faire de l’enseignement à distance qui ait un vrai sens pédagogique et émancipateur1. Jeter l’anathème sur l’enseignement à distance dans son ensemble, non.
      Ce que nous avons fait au second semestre est un atterrissage en catastrophe : transférer en quelques jours des enseignements conçus pour être en présentiel en distanciel. Sans savoir pour combien de temps (@6amart6), sans avoir le temps d’être formé·es à cela ou d’y avoir réfléchi, avec les outils que nous avions sous la main, que nous prenions en main, en devant en changer, etc. Ce n’est donc pas du distanciel, c’est de la gestion d’urgence. Nous avons là un peu plus de temps pour réfléchir à nos enseignements de la rentrée et pour pouvoir les concevoir différemment. Nous pouvons prendre le temps de les penser en distanciel (surtout les CM). Nous pouvons les construire de manière flexible permettant l’alternance de phases en distanciel et en présentiel, sachant que nous n’aurons pas la main sur les dates d’éventuels reconfinements. Nous pouvons intégrer la possibilité d’un retour en présentiel, ce que @melpicard appelle les « penser à l’envers.
      Ce qui ne veut pas dire que nous n’avons rien à apprendre de l’expérience de ce semestre (full disclosure : ma charge d’enseignement mensuelle est presque en totalité au premier semestre, donc vous en savez en général plus que moi). Voir ce qu’en dit Michelle Miller ici : https://www.chronicle.com/article/5-Takeaways-From-My-Covid-19/248713 et les liens très intéressants de l’article.
      Enfin, tout ne dépend pas de nous. Beaucoup de nos étudiant·es n’ont pas d’ordinateur personnel (ou insuffisant) ; iels n’ont pas de lieu où travailler, pas de connexion stable, etc. Si nous pouvons et devons continuer de faire pression sur nos établissements pour que cela soit intégré (par l’emprunt d’ordi, par des envois et financements de clefs 4G comme cela a été fait, pour l’intégration des salles informatiques dans les équipements à rouvrir, avec règles de distanciation sociale, etc.), si nous pouvons et devons concevoir des dispositifs pédagogiques flexibles, avec des roues de secours pour un maximum de configuration
      J’insiste sur ce point : nous, enseignant∙es-chercheru∙ses, n’avons pas les moyens de résoudre ce problème matériel. Sachons distinguer ce que nous pouvons et devons faire, ce que nous devons faire remonter, et ce qui n’est hélas pas dans nos mains – nous en serons plus efficace ou plus satisfait∙es et moins en burnout.

      Nos étudiant·es savent quels sont leurs besoins et viennent d’avoir l’expérience de ce semestre en distanciel de catastrophe. Demandons-leur ce qui a marché et ce qui ne convient pas (sachant que les besoins et problèmes sont différents en fonction des gens, des disciplines, des niveaux, des établissements…) et mettons nos idées en commun (#entraide #KropotkinFoerever). En nous rappelant que sur cette question comme sur beaucoup de questions pédagogiques, il n’y a pas de solution magique et que chacune doit être adaptée à nos situations d’enseignement.

      Je restitue donc ici la discussion qui a eu lieu sur Twitter, en grande partie sous l’hashtag #LaFacADistance (merci @6amart6), en remerciant très sincèrement toutes les personnes qui y ont participé, listées ci-dessous. J’ai essayé d’attribuer au maximum les idées, parfois collectives ou dialogiques, et de les créditer quand leurs auteur·es m’en ont donné la permission, en citant les tweets en les éditorialisant a minima. Mes excuses, vous étiez tant que j’ai très probablement oublié des gens dans la multitude des belles réponses.

      Pour chacun.e d’entre nous
      1. Créér et maintenir la relation enseignant·e / étudiant·e

      Des rencontres (pouvant être visio) en petit groupe pour faire connaissance et instaurer la relation de confiance, notamment avec les nouveaux et les L1 (@Chouyo)
      Des horaires de permanence hebdomadaire aussi en visio, pour garder un maximum de contact et être accessible à celleux qui rencontreraient des problèmes. Et quand ces permanences sont pour répondre aux questions sur le cours, laisser un peu de temps pour « digérer » (@FrançoisLevrier) !
      Des tchats dédiés, pour comprendre collectivement les difficultés et ne pas hésiter à en parler pour ajuster (@GoLuluGogo)
      Les liens importants et adresse mail de contact dispo et visibles partout, tout le temps. (@Chouyo)
      Une vidéo d’accueil du cours, en particulier pour les L1
      Des accusés de réceptions des travaux, permettant de limiter le stress (@mcbd, @Chouyo, @WritingRg)

      2. Accompagner la création d’un collectif

      pour des L1 en particulier, mais pour les autres aussi, il faut favoriser le contact entre étudiantEs voire le travail de groupe, y compris sur les rendus (éventuellement en optionnel, @edragone18). Ce n’est déjà pas toujours évident en présentiel mais c’est gage d’entraide et donc de ne pas uniquement se reposer sur les enseignant·es. Cela aide aussi à la motivation (@GoLuluGogo). Cela peut aller avec un outil de type réseau social dans l’ENT (@melpicard) et selon plusieurs modalités : rendre un devoir commun, partager une lecture, échanger dessus, partager des incompréhensions, se relire (@ChRabier). L’idée est d’avoir un relais à l’enseignant·e et que le cours vive entre étudiant·es. De favoriser la cohésion et l’aide pour la réussite de toustes (@GoLuluGogo).

      3. Les cours eux-mêmes

      Un syllabus clair et complet pour chaque cours (@melpicard)
      Prendre un maximum de groupes de TD associés quand on fait le cours d’amphi pour permettre du face-à-face (oui, collègues PR, vous aussi). Car, comme le souligne @GoLuluGogo, les TD auront une vraie fonction de lien social. Sans lien et sans confiance mutuelle, le distanciel est pénible pour les enseignant·es et les étudiant·es.
      Enregistrer une partie du cours par oral (@edragone18) pour aller avec le PDF et/ou les diapos
      L’explication des cours en version vidéo (@49Lyloo05), en se rappelant des contraintes de connexion de certains étudiant·es et des difficultés à charger des fichiers lourds, ainsi que des recommandations des études de pédagogie sur le fait qu’il faut éviter des vidéos longues (<15 mn), inefficaces sur le plan de la transmission et de la rétention des informations. Bien cibler donc.
      Un mélange entre éléments synchrones (nécessaires, @adelinedurandm) et asynchrones
      La mise à disposition de tous les documents nécessaires numérisés (dont les ouvrages)
      Offrir des exercices d’application pour la mise en pratique du cours et pas une simple lecture (@edragone18)
      Donner un temps indicatif pour certains travaux et cours (prévoir 15min d’écoute pour cette capsule, 25 si prise de notes etc.) (@Chouyo)
      Donner des documents et des travaux facultatifs, pour celleux qui peuvent, veulent, voire en ont besoin, ainsi que des ressources supplémentaires en libre accès (@edragone18)
      Si possible, une barre de progression de la tâche/cours par rapport au déroulé du semestre. (@Chouyo)

      4. Les examens

      Construire les examens en fonction (@anthropolegiste) : par exemple en valorisant les questions métacognitives, comme « qu’est-ce que ma matière peut vous apporter »« quelle est votre opinion sur le sujet du cours ? » comme les questions de réflexion (@claireplacial)

      5. De la souplesse et de l’attention aux plus vulnérables

      Des créneaux, rendus, dispositifs de secours pour être le plus flexibles possibles, pour que les étudiant·es ne fassent pas les frais de pannes de connexion, souci matériel, maladie, mise en quarantaine subite, etc.
      De manière plus générale, augmentation des boucles rétroactives ! Isolé·es, les étudiant·es ont encore plus besoin de retours de la part des enseignants et de motivation/réconfort. (@stperret, @49Lyloo05). Voir qui décroche, n’ose pas poser de question, ne parvient pas à se connecter pour pouvoir agir de manière ciblée.
      Être particulièrement attentif.ve aux étudiant·es handicapé·es (@adelinedurandm) et intégrer leurs besoins dans le design du cours (voir par exemple les enjeux d’accessibilités pour les étudiant·es sourd·es, si on n’a pas de vrais moyens mis sur les sous-titres, aveugles et mal-voyant·es sur les diapos (@Anne-GE).
      Être aussi attentif.ves aux étudiant·es plus vulnérables : étudiant·es étranger·es, de première génération etc.
      Prendre en compte l’impact psychologique de la situation sur les étudiant·es y compris du retour en présentiel, dans ce qui peut aussi être un lieu nouveau (@adelinedurandm, @Angryotterr)
      S’assurer que les étudiant·es en fracture numérique puissent recevoir les cours et participer au cours le plus possible (@edragone18, @6amart6).

      À l’échelle de l’équipe pédagogique :

      De la coordination, de la coordination, de la coordination

      Un calendrier clair et donné à l’avance (sur un ou deux mois dans l’idéal, voire plus) pour les dates de cours, de TD, les dates de rendus, etc., partagé (@stperret, @gaydrian_smith, @adelinedurandm, @Angryotterr, @edragone18, @Anne_GE, @WritingRg) et UTILISE par les membres de l’équipe et partagé avec les étudiant·es
      Une attention collective donnée à la charge de travail globale des étudiant·es (@FrancoisLevrier)

      À l’échelle de l’établissement

      Travailler avec les services informatiques et les services d’appui pédagogiques pour le choix des outils, les questions d’équipement, de connexion, de soutien logistique, etc.
      Idem pour les questions d’accessibilité (sous-titres, question des illustrations etc.)
      Se mettre en lien avec les services handicap pour travailler à l’accessibilité (@adelinedurandm)
      Demander que l’université propose un outil de communication collective (libre) pour ses étudiant-es (un Mattermost par ex.) ; sans quoi celleux qui ne sont pas sur facebook vont être complètement écarté·es d’un groupe « promo ». (@Anne_GE)
      Demander que l’université ait réglé leurs logiciels sur les prénoms d’usage. (@Anne_GE)

      Et beaucoup, énormément, à la folie, toujours plus, jamais assez, de bienveillance (@stperret, @edragone18)

      Enfin, la plupart de ces belles idées sont des pratiques que nous enseignant·es devrions DE TOUTE FACON, adopter en temps dit normal et en présentiel…

      Pour compléter ce rapide panorama de propopositions, nous vous invitons à continuer à faire vos propositions #LaFacÀDistance sur la plateforme ci-dessous.

      Merci de votre aide !

      Formulaire à idées :


      #rentrée_2020 #rentrée_universitaire #septembre_2020

    • À distance, il n’y a pas d’école

      Sous la condition du « confinement », l’univers numérique a connu une énorme expansion. Même les plus réticents et beaucoup de ceux qui étaient exclus de l’utilisation des nouvelles technologies –généralement des personnes âgées– ont fait leur initiation. La vie à distance a forcé l’intégration dans l’écosystème numérique.

      L’expérience en cours la plus notable et la plus importante est l’enseignement à distance, qui fait sortir l’école de son enceinte protectrice et la fait entrer dans l’intimité du foyer. Le dispositif de l’enseignement à distance implique un danger auquel nous sommes tous exposés aujourd’hui, presque sans protection : une expansion significative du panoptique numérique (qui permet de tout voir et d’exercer une surveillance). Mais la question fondamentale dans cette expérience est de savoir si elle est réussie sur le plan niveau didactique (plus précisément, quel niveau de réussite a été atteint), et quelles conclusions peut-on en tirer. Il est évident que les résultats diffèrent grandement, en fonction des disciplines, des enseignants et des élèves. Je ne me fonderai pas sur des expériences particulières, les réflexions que je propose se situent sur un plan moins empirique.

      Je commencerai par la question de la transparence : l’école a été protégée tant qu’elle a bénéficié de l’état hermétique de la classe, que la porte de la salle de classe a été fermée, créant un espace discontinu, sans intrusions extérieures (espace qui pouvait être utopique ou oppressant aussi bien). Ce temps est révolu depuis longtemps et la salle de classe, qui reflète l’ouverture de l’école dans son ensemble, n’est plus un espace autarcique. La transparence, qui auparavant avait déjà donné lieu à une discussion sur la nécessité ou non de la moduler, connaît désormais, avec le confinement, une nouvelle étape : elle est devenue totale et absolue. À la maison, chacun peut regarder les « performances » des enseignants, évaluer leurs manières de faire et « apprécier » leur vidéogénie. Un certain degré de technophobie était encore toléré tant que l’enseignant exerçait dans sa classe ; dans l’enseignement à distance, ce n’est pas possible, et les arguments pour légitimer cette technophobie ne semblent plus recevables.

      Mais la question la plus importante qui ressort de cette expérience exceptionnelle — qui a peut-être pour effet de montrer combien l’école est une institution indispensable et capable d’alimenter la dernière utopie à laquelle nous avons droit — est celle de l’école comme lieu de construction du collectif et de la centralité de la classe en tant que communauté. Le modèle de la communauté éducative a une très grande signification politique.

      Un autre aspect important est celui de l’attention. Comme nous le savons, le plus grand défi de l’école est celui de l’attention : comment gagner et fixer l’attention des élèves, ces « sujets numériques » qui vivent sous le régime du fractionnement de l’attention ? Le grand combat de l’école, ces dernières années, a consisté à se doter de rituels spécifiques qui servent de dispositifs attentionnels, afin de récupérer ce que l’on appelle généralement « l’attention conjointe » (ou attention partagée), mode qui désigne le fait que l’attention de quelqu’un (dans la circonstance, un élève) est attirée sur l’objet qui lui est indiqué par la personne (dans la circonstance, le professeur) qui joue un rôle de guide.

      Or l’attention conjointe est intrinsèquement liée à la présence. C’est un fait bien connu de nos jours que les enfants et les adolescents n’échouent pas à l’école parce qu’on leur y enseignerait des choses difficiles à apprendre, mais parce que ce qu’ils apprennent à l’école ne les intéresse pas. C’est pourquoi les situations d’enseignement doivent être analysées du point de vue d’une écologie de l’attention. La salle de classe doit être conçue comme un écosystème d’attention. Est-il possible de créer cet écosystème dans l’enseignement à distance ? Dans son livre sur la figure du pédagogue Joseph Jacotot, Le maître ignorant, le philosophe français Jacques Rancière décrit et analyse une action pédagogique visant essentiellement à « l’émancipation intellectuelle ». La fonction essentielle du maître (potentiellement ignorant) n’est pas d’expliquer les contenus, mais d’exercer sur les élèves la capacité d’attention, soit par un ordre imposé, soit en stimulant leur désir. Toute l’expérience de l’enseignement, dit Rancière, doit tendre à « l’habitude et au plaisir que l’on éprouve en observant et en fixant avec attention » (attention : ad-tendere, tendre vers). C’est pourquoi la salle de classe est le lieu d’une expérience unique, irremplaçable, capable parfois de procurer une expérience euphorique, tant au « maître » qu’aux élèves.


    • #As_It_Used_To_Be

      Depuis 2001, le « 48 Hour Film Project » est une compétition annuelle qui invite de jeunes réalisateurs à réaliser un court-métrage à contraintes (en 48h, en tirant au sort genre, personnage, objet, réplique). Après avoir remporté la victoire à Paris en 2011 avec le film « Casse-gueule », #Clément_Gonzalez a rencontré le succès à nouveau avec « As it used to be » en 2012 (mise en ligne 2013), qui développe en deux séquences et 8’13’’ quelques puissantes images associées à l’enseignement à distance (EAD) dans les universités. Le concours se tient dans une centaine de centres urbains du monde entier ; c’est à Johannesburg que Clément Gonzalez et son « Collectif 109 » ont tourné « As it used to be », dont la carrière a débuté de façon foudroyante par une avalanche de programmations et de récompenses1, avant de ressurgir en 2020 par la grâce d’une généralisation brutale et massive de l’EAD dûe aux mesures de confinement.

      L’Université de Johannesburg prête son architecture brutaliste aux décors de cette courte histoire de near future, comme l’ont fait ensuite les structures de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France dans la série Tripalium (Arte, 2016), ou auparavant les célèbres Espaces d’Abraxas de Noisy-le-Grand dans de nombreux films, de Brazil (1985) à Hunger Games (2012). L’Université de Johannesburg est d’ailleurs également réputée pour avoir lancé les premiers diplômes 100% à distance d’Afrique du Sud en 2017 et 20182 – et ses étudiant·es se sont fortement mobilisé·es en avril dernier pour faire entendre la voix des moins bien équipé·es des leurs3.)

      Le charisme des deux acteurs du film, l’intelligence et l’émotion de cet aperçu de la passion d’enseigner font dire à Clément Gonzalez que le court-métrage, depuis le début, a rencontré l’adhésion aussi bien des étudiant·es que des professeur·es. Il confie également qu’un projet d’extension en long métrage est en écriture depuis quelque temps. Le moment ne serait pas mal choisi pour développer un récit de contre-dystopie, où des voix persévèrent à résonner entre les murs des amphis.


      #court-métrage #film

    • Les universités, l’enseignement à distance et le Covid-19 (2/2)

      Mettre fin à une lente et longue dérive

      Ces dernières années, deux phénomènes ont progressivement fait perdre son sens à l’université et l’ont profondément pervertie. D’une part, la complexification administrative due notamment à l’augmentation des effectifs étudiant∙es conjugué à la réduction du personnel administratif, a eu pour effet de développer la fonction administrative de l’enseignant-chercheur, au détriment de ses deux véritables fonctions, l’enseignement et la recherche. Cette nouvelle fonction administrative est évidemment mal assurée par un personnel qui n’a pas été formé à cela et qui vit cet investissement nécessaire le plus souvent comme une punition ou une calamité. Cela a pour conséquence d’augmenter les tensions entre la composante administrative de l’université et la composante pédagogique et de diminuer, encore, la qualité du service surtout dans les grandes universités au sein desquelles les personnels se connaissent mal. D’autre part, la croyance, de plus en plus ancrée dans l’esprit des étudiant∙es, des enseignant∙es et de la société en général, selon laquelle le diplôme universitaire permet d’accéder à l’emploi, a entrainé une modification de la nature de l’enseignement et des diplômes universitaires, pensés comme de plus en plus professionnalisant et techniques et reflétant de moins en moins l’activité de recherche dans la discipline concernée. Le tissu économique, l’État et désormais de nombreux étudiant∙es voudraient que l’on sorte de l’université prêt·e à l’emploi, ce qui est difficilement envisageable dans la mesure où la plupart des futurs métiers des étudiant∙es universitaires ne sont pas représentés dans les athénées. Si le diplôme peut parfois permettre d’accéder à une profession, cela reste marginal et surtout cela ne saurait être considérée comme un élément décisif pour juger de la pertinence d’un enseignement universitaire.

      Le monde de l’entreprise a un intérêt à la transformation des universités en de gigantesques centres de formation professionnelle, car cela permet de réduire les coûts de la formation interne des entreprises. Le savoir technique est enseigné par des fonctionnaires, les stages sont financés par l’argent public et l’employeur peut donc embaucher des travailleurs prêts à l’emploi. Le risque d’une rapide obsolescence des formations trop techniques est ignoré au profit d’une incessante critique de l’incapacité de l’université à s’adapter à la réalité économique… Le transfert du coût de la formation interne des entreprises à la collectivité nationale, à travers notamment l’institutionnalisation du stage, n’est jamais mentionné et les universitaires sont au contraire invités à remercier gracieusement les entreprises pour leur sacrifice qui consiste à accueillir une main d’œuvre jeune, motivée et… pratiquement gratuite ! Loin de pouvoir leur demander des comptes, les universités sont sommées de se plier aux desideratas de ces gentils philanthropes. Si la loi d’encadrement des stages a permis de mettre fin à certains abus trop criants pour être ignorés, elle n’a pas eu pour effet de modifier le système en profondeur ou de changer les rapports déséquilibrés qui se sont progressivement installés au profit du monde économique.

      Surtout, ces deux évolutions concomitantes, l’augmentation de la charge administrative et l’injonction du prêt à l’emploi, ont perverti le travail de l’universitaire qui n’exerce plus que marginalement le métier qu’il a pourtant choisi et pour lequel il a été formé plusieurs années. Avec moins de temps à consacrer à ses recherches et contraint d’enseigner un savoir de plus en plus éloigné d’elles, il subi, comme de nombreux fonctionnaires, une lente dérive qui l’éloigne de ce qu’il est ou plutôt de ce qu’il voulait être. L’irruption massive du numérique, si elle est aussi pensée à cet effet, peut constituer un moyen efficace pour aider l’université à sortir de cette situation désolante et à se retrouver.
      L’informatique au service du renouveau universitaire

      Certes, il ne s’agit pas du remède universel capable de guérir miraculeusement tous les maux ! L’outil informatique demeure un simple instrument qui peut servir le pire comme le meilleur. Il peut toutefois permettre de concilier des impératifs apparemment contradictoires comme la nécessaire diminution de la fréquentation des sites universitaires et l’augmentation de l’audience des universités. Il favorise aussi le travail de divulgation et de diffusion des travaux de recherche dont tout chercheur doit aujourd’hui se préoccuper. Ainsi, les revues universitaires, les éditions de facultés qui ont progressivement disparu ou qui vivotent ici ou là doivent devenir de puissants vecteurs de diffusion des travaux des universitaires, non en direction uniquement de leur propre communauté scientifique, mais également en s’adressant au plus grand nombre. La recherche étant financée par des fonds publics, il va de soi que le savoir produit doit être distribué gratuitement ou à des coûts très modiques, ce que permet l’approche numérique. A contrario, l’existence des centaines et parfois des milliers de revues, propriétés de grands groupes privés mais qui vivent uniquement grâce au travail des chercheurs, principalement fonctionnaires, et concentrent aujourd’hui l’essentiel des publications scientifiques dans plusieurs domaines, mérite d’être profondément remis en question. Des initiatives en ce sens existe déjà et doivent être massivement développées.
      De même, la production de matériel pédagogique par les universitaires ne peut continuer, comme aujourd’hui, à alimenter un marché privé très rentable, massivement financé par l’impôt puisqu’essentiellement destiné à vendre des produits réalisés par des fonctionnaires dans le cadre de leur fonction mais qui débouche sur la vente de manuels forts chers pour les bourses étudiantes. Là encore, l’outil numérique est à même d’escamoter ce modèle économique étrange au profit d’une vision moins naïve permettant de rendre à l’université ce qui est à l’université tout en offrant à l’étudiant l’outil sans lequel ses études s’avèrent impossible et qu’il est aujourd’hui obligé d’acheter à un éditeur privé.

      A contrario, comme les universités en font douloureusement l’expérience depuis plus de dix ans, l’outil numérique ne peut se substituer à l’existence d’une administration universitaire importante pour ne pas dire pléthorique. La diminution conséquente du personnel administratif par rapport à la masse d’étudiant∙es en constante augmentation a conduit au recours au traitement informatique des données dans un nombre toujours croissant de domaines, des inscriptions à la saisie des notes jusqu’à la délivrance des diplômes. Tout, ou presque, a été dématérialisé. Si ce processus présente d’indéniables avantages qu’il convient d’exploiter pour l’avenir, il ne doit paradoxalement pas être accompagné d’une réduction massive des effectifs administratifs et doit au contraire servir à développer des fonctions essentielles progressivement délaissées.

      Il en va de la survie même de l’administration universitaire dont le travail ne peut se réduire, pour des milliers de fonctionnaires, à la saisie informatique de données. Ce travail à la chaine aussi abrutissant que dévalorisant doit être subdivisé et le plus possible délégué ou partagé avec l’ensemble de la communauté universitaire : personnels administratifs, enseignant∙es mais aussi étudiant∙es. Cette tâche ingrate mais nécessaire doit être évidemment compensée à la hauteur de sa pénibilité. Aux côtés de cette administration fortement dématérialisée et déconcentrée, il faut reconstruire une administration qui soit un véritable soutien aux usagers comme aux enseignant∙es. Cela ne signifie pas rétablir une hiérarchie interne qui n’a pas de raison d’être entre l’administration et les pédagogues mais au contraire mettre l’ensemble de l’université, enseignant∙es et administrations, au service des étudiant∙es et plus généralement de la fonction universitaire.

      Il faut un personnel formé, qualifié, comme il en existe dans des milliers d’entreprises prestataires de service qui se soucient du niveau de satisfaction de leurs usagers et se préoccupent de leurs employés. Ainsi, par exemple, les universités doivent se doter de réels services de ressources humaines, avec un suivi des carrières, une capacité à proposer à chaque employé des possibilités d’évolution, des informations utiles sur la formation professionnelle, etc. Aujourd’hui, les services d’orientation pour les étudiant∙es sont quasiment inexistants alors que l’univers de l’enseignement supérieur n’a jamais été aussi complexe. Également, les directions des relations extérieures doivent être renouvelée et renforcée, en particulier au service des étudiant∙es qui souhaitent avoir une expérience à l’étranger et pour lesquels si peu est fait. La liste des services à repenser est longue et il ne s’agit pas ici de la dresser avec exhaustivité. Il convient, dans un premier temps, simplement d’admettre que si beaucoup de choses peuvent aujourd’hui être traitées exclusivement par mail et par tableur, comme les inscriptions ou le suivi académique, d’autres ne peuvent pas l’être et ne pourront jamais l’être. Il faut cesser de faire comme si dans le simple objectif non avoué de réduire, toujours plus, les dépenses et donc le personnel. Le chantier de reconstruction de l’administration universitaire est immense et la route est longue mais il faut s’y engager pour espérer redonner à l’université sa fonction et par là-même, son prestige.
      Le nerf de la guerre : le diplôme national

      Rien ne sera cependant possible sans une réflexion profonde sur la place des titres et diplômes que délivrent les universités et qui se sont progressivement substitués au chercheur, à la recherche et à l’enseignement, pour devenir le véritable moteur de l’université. Il convient de les considérer pour ce qu’ils sont, c’est-à-dire de simples accessoires d’une entreprise plus noble et bien plus complexe que la distribution des distinctions : la transmission du savoir universitaire. Le titre ou le diplôme ne donne pas de travail, tout au plus qualifie-t-il pour un emploi mais dans la majeure partie des cas il n’est là que pour attester de la formation reçue par le diplômé. Il n’a pas d’autre valeur que celle qu’il certifie, à savoir la qualité de l’enseignement. Or, l’université ne sait véritablement et efficacement former que par la transmission du savoir qu’elle produit et dont elle est dépositaire. Ce savoir est parfois très pratique, y compris dans des champs disciplinaires qui pourraient paraître improductifs, mais il demeure intimement lié à l’activité du chercheur. Ce lien indissoluble entre recherche, enseignement et diplôme doit être restauré et conduire à l’abandon de l’idée selon laquelle l’université pourrait tout enseigner. Elle ne doit plus être vue comme le prolongement naturel de l’éducation nationale, destinée à accueillir toute la jeunesse française, prétendument capable de tout enseigner et de tous les former. A contrario, elle doit s’ouvrir à nouveau sur la société et s’adresser à tous, jeunes et moins jeunes, indépendamment de la question de la délivrance d’un titre national qui viendrait systématiquement sanctionner ses formations. L’univers de la formation aujourd’hui regorge de méthodes de certifications et autres techniques qui attestent de l’enseignement ou de la formation reçue, de manière plus souple, moins contraignante et souvent bien plus pertinente que les diplômes nationaux. Les universités doivent investir massivement ce champ afin de valoriser les domaines de recherche de ses enseignant∙es-chercheur∙es et au contraire délaisser les multiples formations pour lesquelles elles n’ont d’autres compétence que leur capacité à faire appel à des formateurs extérieurs ou à forcer leurs propres enseignant∙es.

      Le diplôme national, avec son cadre nécessairement rigide et l’indispensable harmonisation des formations qui le délivrent, doit retrouver sa juste place, c’est-à-dire celle d’un titre donnant accès à des professions, des métiers ou des formations qui ne peuvent être exercés ou suivies par quelqu’un qui n’en serait pas titulaires. Ainsi, la santé, la justice ou encore l’enseignement sont des activités qui peuvent supposer une certaine uniformité du savoir transmis aux futurs acteurs. C’est à la fois lié à la nature de l’activité et à sa prise en charge par la communauté. Il est d’ailleurs intéressant de remarquer, qu’à l’exception notable de la formation médicale qui peut intégralement avoir lieu au sein de l’université grâce aux centres hospitaliers universitaires, de nombreuses activités réglementées requiert le passage d’examens et de formations à l’extérieur de l’université, comme pour les professions juridiques (avocats, notaires, juges…) ou l’enseignement. En revanche, le diplôme national, n’a, dans de très nombreuses situations, aucune utilité : ainsi des milliers de métiers les plus divers peuvent légalement s’exercer sans devoir exhiber de titre. Malgré cela, le diplôme national s’est progressivement imposé comme la forme normale de certification d’une formation d’enseignement supérieur au détriment de la diversité et surtout de la qualité réelle des formations dispensées. Il ne garantit évidemment aucune forme d’égalité entre étudiant∙es provenant d’établissements universitaires différents mais donne au contraire lieu à des formes de concurrence malsaine entre établissements : certains choisissant de limiter l’attribution du diplôme afin de garantir la « qualité » du titre délivré par l’université tandis que d’autres facilitent cette obtention afin d’attirer des candidats. Le marché de l’emploi n’est pas dupe de cette réalité et sait parfaitement établir sa propre échelle de valeur des formations délivrées par les établissements universitaires. Aussi, faire croire que le diplôme est le même quelle que soit l’université qui le délivre consiste à entretenir une fiction à laquelle plus personne ne croit et qui finit non par valoriser la formation moins qualitative mais à faire perdre son sens au diplôme national.


      La crise actuelle permet de penser le basculement. La fermeture des universités les a inévitablement réduites à ce qu’elles sont essentiellement : une communauté de chercheurs et d’enseignant∙es au service des étudiant∙es. Pour beaucoup, ils se démènent pour permettre à leur enseignement d’exister malgré les circonstances, pour continuer à transmettre mais aussi à apprendre. La transmission et la circulation du savoir résiste alors que tout le reste s’est effondré en quelques heures suivant le confinement. Cela n’aurait pas été possible, le plus souvent, sans l’implication active des services informatiques pédagogiques qui ont dans de nombreux cas remarquablement relevé le défi et ont efficacement épaulé des milliers d’enseignant∙es et d’étudiant∙es. Cette extraordinaire et héroïque résistance de ce qui constitue l’âme de l’université, sa fonction première de sauvegarde et de transmission du savoir, est un trésor sur lequel construire l’avenir.


  • Boston University Is First To Announce It May Postpone Its Fall Term Until January 2021

    Boston University appears to be the first American college or university to announce that it may not re-open its campus until January 2021. If public health officials deem it unsafe for students to congregate, the campus could remain closed until the start of next year.

    BU, a private residential research university with 33,000 students that traces its roots to 1839, revealed its contingency plan on BU Today, a news site managed by its communications department. Since it closed its campus on Sunday, March 22, BU president Robert Brown has convened five working groups who are all contributing to a COVID-19 “Recovery Plan.” They include a group that is examining remote learning and another focused on residential life.

    The BU Today article says the January start date would happen in the “unlikely event” that health officials advise that social distancing should extend through the fall. But it is still significant that a major U.S. university is making public the possibility that face-to-face classes could be delayed for as long as nine months. BU has also canceled all its in-person summer classes.

    Richard Ekman, president of the non-profit Council of Independent Colleges, says that some of the 659 colleges in his group have begun quietly to consider whether they too will have to postpone campus openings. Some are discussing start date delays of a month. Others are looking at more extended closures. “They’re all waiting to get better health information,” he says.

    Roughly one third of those small colleges have cash reserves that would be depleted in less than half a year if they were not able to collect tuition and other revenue from enrolled students. “If they had no income for six months, those schools would be in trouble,” he says.

    Even if colleges can reopen in the fall, enrollments are likely to be down since many families have taken a huge financial hit and students may opt to delay college or to attend less expensive public or community colleges.

    At BU, the working groups are also examining what will have to happen when on-campus classes can finally resume. “[T]his is not going to be as simple as flipping a switch and getting back to business as usual,” says BU President Brown. “Starting that planning now is a necessity.”


    #septembre_2020 #janvier_2021 #université #USA #Etats-Unis #ouverture #Boston #septembre_2020 #rentrée_2020 #rentrée_universitaire
    Le #déconfinement... c’est pas pour tout de suite tout de suite...

    • Boston University admits classrooms may stay empty in fall

      University sets focus on 2021 and ponders idea of overhauling residential experience.

      Boston University (BU) is telling its community to prepare for the possibility of no on-campus instruction this fall, a blunt warning its president calls a necessary admission of reality, to allow for proper planning.

      The mindset, said the BU president, Robert A. Brown, is helping his staff keep their focus on the preparations that matter most at a time of great uncertainty across higher education, the nation and the world.

      “Facing up to that fact, I think, is important at this time,” Dr Brown, a former provost at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has led BU since 2005, said in an interview.

      It is nevertheless raising anxiety, he admitted, at a time when students, faculty and almost everyone in society is eager for a return to normalcy, while trying to assess the relative costs of a bunkered civilisation.

      For the most part, US universities are still consumed by the unexpected challenges of moving their entire spring semester operations online, while perhaps talking in general terms about evaluating options for the fall.

      A professor of chemical engineering, Dr Brown said he took a hard look at the realities of fighting Covid-19 and the necessary conditions for normal close human contact.

      He concluded that the nation’s current progress against Covid-19 meant that BU could not realistically host on-campus courses this summer and possibly this fall. As a result, it is keeping classrooms closed through this summer while holding out a fall reopening as a possibility. That position clears the way, he said, for BU to seriously begin reimagining the concept of a residential campus once the pandemic eases enough to allow some in-person instruction, with promises to set out specific details.

      In practical terms, Dr Brown said, BU’s assessment process means considering tactics such as reconfiguring classrooms to hold far fewer students, with course time divided into online components and smaller in-class periods.

      In somewhat more abstract terms, he said, the process means gaining a greater appreciation for faculty-student interactions and considering how to take the best possible advantage of them when they can occur.

      By examining details such as touching doorknobs and sharing bathrooms, Dr Brown said, BU’s planners will unavoidably have to ask themselves what level of ongoing infection rate is acceptable while awaiting a vaccine. “That really is the fundamental question,” he said, “because it’s not going to be zero.”

      The pressures on higher education, as with much of the rest of the economy, are substantial. US colleges and universities are especially vulnerable, Moody’s Investors Service said in a global analysis, because they rely so heavily on state funding, foreign students and endowment investments that have been hurt by paralysed economies.

      The US institution with the biggest endowment, Harvard University, has just joined the growing number of campuses that have frozen spending, announcing a hold on hiring, salaries and capital spending, with pay cuts for top executives. Its president, Lawrence Bacow, has acknowledged being consumed by the need to decide about the fall semester while “a tremendous amount of uncertainty” remains globally.

      Dr Brown said he, too, cannot predict the shape of the fall semester, owing to major medical questions such as the future availability of widespread testing for Covid-19.

      But he suggested that US colleges could be clearer to their communities about what simply isn’t possible at this point, and what some of their main choices look like, even while he admitted that broaching the idea of spending the fall semester outside classrooms appears to have amplified fears at BU in the short term.

      “There’s a risk with it,” he acknowledged. “And I think a lot of universities say: ‘Well, there’s a real risk of giving uncertainty by saying you don’t know the answer and exposing yourself.’”


      #coronavirus #covid-19

    • Here’s a List of Colleges’ Plans for Reopening in the Fall

      The coronavirus pandemic has left higher-education leaders facing difficult decisions about when to reopen campuses and how to go about it. The Chronicle is tracking individual colleges’ plans. Currently the vast majority say they are planning for an in-person fall semester.

      Here’s our list of colleges that have either disclosed their plans or set a deadline for deciding. New additions include Abilene Christian, Arizona State, Bradley, Central Michigan, Coastal Carolina, Drake, Fairfield, Harding, High Point, Kansas State, McMurry, New Mexico State, Northern Arizona, Norwich, Tarleton State, and Willamette Universities; Bowdoin, Manhattanville, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, and Roanoke Colleges; and the Universities of Buffalo, Massachusetts at Amherst, Nevada at Reno, and Toledo.

      Tell us your college’s plans or if they are different than reported below. Use this form and provide a relevant link if you want your institution to be included.


    • How to study at home during coronavirus – by online students and tutors

      Here’s how to study effectively from home, according to those who have been doing it all along

      For Dafydd Evans, 21, who studies media production at De Montfort University, online teaching has got off to a good start. “I didn’t think the new systems would cope, but they have,” he says. “We have contact with academics as normal and I really don’t think there’s much I’m missing out on.”

      Others, however, say it’s been an uphill struggle. “The sites are crashing and lecturers are struggling to turn face-to-face interactions into online discussions,” says Isabel Thomas (not her real name), who studies international development at the University of Sussex. “We don’t all log on at the same time as some don’t have stable enough internet connection for live chats. Everything is slower.”

      Scott Henderson, who studies esports at Staffordshire University, feels he’s missing out on valuable experience. “A big part of what we were doing this year was running a live event and we obviously can’t go forward with that,” he says.

      Although UK university learning has been moving online for a while in light of the coronavirus crisis, this wasn’t the experience most envisaged. For others, though, it was their first choice. We asked online learners and tutors for their tips on how to make it work.

      Create a study area …

      Although you may be competing with others in your household, try to mark out a work space. “Even if this is temporary each time you use it, place some physical objects around you to customise it. Make it comfortable,” says Martin Weller, professor of educational technology at the Open University. Set boundaries with others. If your study space is now the kitchen table, try to get an agreement that it is yours alone for a set time period.

      … and keep it tidy

      It’s hard to be disciplined to work at home, and even harder if the place is cluttered. “If you have piles of dishes or laundry around you it can be difficult to focus. I like to set a timer for 15 minutes and do a quick blitz of a room. It makes for a calmer environment,” says Kimberley Lowe, who studied Spanish and English at the Open University.

      Keep socialising

      Although you may miss campus and socialising in person, reaching out and connecting with staff and other students can maintain a sense of community. Use the online systems to maintain social contact. Stephane Bignoux, senior lecturer in management at Middlesex University, says although it can feel lonely, posting on discussion boards and reading other student’s posts can help. Set up informal discussions via Skype or FaceTime if you can.

      Reach out for help

      Not everyone has access to a laptop and reliable wifi. Some students are relying on mobile data to connect to their online lessons and many are missing physical resources such as the library and laboratories. Get in touch with your university if you don’t have access to the right equipment. “We are telling staff to make content easy to view and interact with on smartphones. It needs to be much more inclusive,” says Neil Morris, dean of digital education at the University of Leeds.

      Manage your time

      Recognise that different tasks require different levels of concentration. Watching a video can be easier than reading a complex text and taking notes. Divide your work in to manageable time slots and take proper breaks.

      Plan your day

      The fact that you can put off watching recorded lectures until later can be dangerous. Make sure you devote your full attention to the recording – don’t squeeze it in while eating or listening to music. Set a routine to use time efficiently, says Jack Yarrow, 28, a final year engineering student at the Open University. “If you’re tired or not feeling great don’t just sit there – go tidy up, and when you’re feeling more awake, apply yourself then.”

      Be clear when messaging colleagues

      As with other social media platforms, a simple misunderstanding in writing can quickly escalate. “What may have been intended as an ironic comment can be misinterpreted,” warns Weller.

      On discussion forums you may find that some who don’t speak up in class have more to say – which is a good thing. “My course generally don’t interact that much in lectures, but the interaction with online teaching has been constant,” says Evans. “It seems hiding behind the screen brings out confidence in our generation.”


    • Some Advice for PhD Students and Their Mentors in the Time of Coronavirus
      View all posts by Meghan Duffy →
      13-17 Minuten

      This blog post started as an email conversation between Dana Turjeman and Meghan Duffy. Dana turned her initial outline into a twitter thread (starting here). We decided it would be fun (and hopefully helpful!) to turn this into a blog post that expands on these ideas. So, here are the perspectives of a PhD student and a faculty member who are trying to figure out how to maintain mental health – and also hopefully some productivity, but that definitely comes second to physical & mental health – while social distancing.

      First, this assumes that you are not going about your normal routine, but, rather, trying to stay home as much as possible. This is strongly encouraged! If you aren’t sure of why, please read this.

      Here’s our advice:

      Most importantly: your health and the health of your loved ones comes first.

      There has been advice on how to stay productive while working from home, and we understand the motivation behind this. But we think it’s important to note that this is not business as usual. Things will be different, and it’s important to emphasize that physical and mental health come first. This should always be true, but it’s especially important right now.

      Maintain a routine – plan out your working hours, exercise, sleep, eating regularly, connections with others, work breaks, etc. (Note: this should also include keeping a sense of weekends, taking some days off from work.)

      Maybe you already were a routine kind of person – if so, great! Keep it up, adjusting your schedule to accommodate the new reality. Maybe you are not a schedule person. Take a growth mindset and give it a shot now! A lack of structure can be tough for mental health. Create structure as much as possible.

      If you can, try to get outside every day, to non-crowded places with fresh air. This might not hold to those who must stay in strict isolation (which is different from social distancing) and cannot get closer to others. But, to the extent possible, try to get sunlight and fresh air, even when indoors.

      Make sure you keep up other aspects of your normal routine. Meghan remembers how, when she was writing up her dissertation and her advisor was in a different state, she was thinking that she could just stay home all the time. At that time, she got advice along the lines of: “You need to come in at least for lunch or else first you’ll stop getting dressed, then you’ll stop showering, then you’ll stop brushing your teeth”. He had a point. So, while we aren’t going to gather in person for lunch now, it is still important to keep up normal routines!

      At the same time, be flexible. Modify your plans. Experiment with new approaches.

      We’re all going to be learning on the fly. You will misjudge how much you can do. Your initial routine may end up not working well for you. You will realize things work differently than you thought they would. This is all normal. Be flexible, and be kind with yourself and others as everyone figures out how to adjust.

      Arrange virtual coffees or lunches with colleagues, even if you didn’t have those before. Start with some small talk. (Bonus points if some of the small talk is not about coronavirus!)

      Social distancing is important, but really it’s physical distancing that we need, not social isolation. So, to the extent possible, try to connect with folks virtually.

      Stay connected, but not too connected.

      The internet helps a lot with maintaining connections with people (which is good!), but it’s also easy to get sucked in in ways that are not helpful. There are real downsides to anxiety scrolling through social media and constantly checking the news. Set limits on where you get your news and how often you check it (e.g., something like: “I will only check X sites, and I will only do that for 15 minutes four times a day” or “I will not check social media or news within 1 hour of bedtime”.) If you feel you check the news in ways that harm your mental health or productivity, and need an external boundary, try using “website blockers” on PC/Mac, and/or one of the many iPhone/Android apps. Some examples: WebsiteBlocker, ColdTurkey, HeyFocus.

      If a partner / housemate is staying with you at home, make sure to respect each other’s work time and routine. Try to get a break from time to time – by sitting in another room or, contrary to that, arranging fun games together to reduce the working stress. Being together more than you’re used to might cause stress and tension.

      Coming back to a common theme: we’re all trying to figure out new ways of working and living. Be kind, be compassionate, and communicate clearly and regularly.

      Find an accountability partner – someone you “promise” to show measurable progress of work to, and who will nudge you gently in the right direction if you’re not holding up to your promises.

      This may be a lab mate or a friend or someone else in your grad program or a colleague or a mentor. At first, it might help to check in pretty frequently – maybe three times a week or every week day. Keep the check in format short. One that Meghan has used (modified from resources from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity) has: 1) My goals for yesterday were ; 2) I accomplished ; 3) My goals for today are . Depending on who you are checking in with, it might also make sense to explicitly check in about non-work stuff (e.g., are you maintaining connections with folks? Taking breaks from work? Getting sleep and exercise?)

      If progress on a project is paused or delayed because you’re unable to collect data / run studies in the lab etc., try to think of all the things you can do otherwise – literature review, writing introduction of a paper, ideation for another paper etc.

      In Meghan’s group, as of last week, the only lab work going on is: 1) maintaining cultures (which cannot be frozen, unfortunately) and, 2) finishing up one experiment (the last block of an experiment that is the last chapter of the dissertation of a student who is finishing this summer). Everything else is on hold, and all but three people in the lab have been told to work from home, and we’ve discussed how even those two things that are currently going on might need to stop. The folks staying at home are analyzing data, planning for future experiments, and working on literature reviews and meta-analyses. It will be interesting to see if there’s a notable increase in lit reviews & meta-analyses in the next year!

      For the PIs/advisors/mentors, some things to keep in mind as you think about where people should work should include things like how they would get there (e.g., would they need to take public transit?), what other responsibilities they have (remember that many schools are closed now), their health, their comfort levels with being out (some people will not feel safe coming in and that should be respected), and possible impacts on their careers. For the last one, though, the bar has to be in a different place than it normally would – productivity is going to be impacted by this.

      We were really impressed with the leadership shown by Tom Finholt, the Dean of UMichigan’s School of Information, as summarized here:

      Communicate clearly and regularly

      Information vacuums cause a lot of stress. Do your best to avoid them.

      For the advisors: make sure you are in regular contact with everyone in your lab. Check on them. Keep them up to date on the status of things. Make sure they have opportunities for informal conversations where they can ask questions. You should be in touch with your lab several times a week (but also should allow for them to be on their own schedules – everyone’s solution to the current situation is going to be different!)

      One idea Meghan heard that she liked is to set up frequent (three times a week or more) virtual lab hours where people from the lab can gather online to check in and chat with each other. Bonus: this increases the number of opportunities for seeing everyone’s pets!

      For the students: If possible, update your advisers and co-authors more than you are used to. Schedule weekly meetings – even short ones – as much as possible, while recognizing that they have other things to focus on, too. Find measurable results of analyses / writing to present each time. Send short email updates to them, with small chunks of your progress. If things are requested from them, make sure to allow extra flexibility, and find things that you can do even without their feedback, so that they won’t feel obliged to respond if unable to. For example: “Hi, I did these analyses. Below you may find the results, and a draft of the text I will put in the manuscript. I would love to hear your feedback whenever you have time. However, no rush. I understand things might be busy on your side too. Therefore, meanwhile, I will be working on the literature review for the other part of the paper. “

      For everyone: It is especially important to keep up with regular check-ins right now!

      Schedule meetings with people you wanted to meet offline / online anyways – such as fellow PhD students / faculty from other places. Many conferences are cancelled (and more cancellations are surely coming), and networking will be lacking. Try being proactive in fixing this. Example: email seminar speakers who were supposed to come, or people you hoped to meet in (now cancelled) conferences, and ask to meet them online instead.

      Some people will be too busy with childcare, moving courses online, etc., but others will be excited to have a chance to connect and to have a welcome distraction from all the other chaos!

      Take advantage of the reduced commute time, and learn something fun and new – cooking, art, meditation…whatever can be done indoors (or away from others) in a healthy, respectful way.

      Yes, for some people, just getting the bare minimum done will be all they can manage. But also consider whether this is an opportunity to try something new. Maybe it’s time to pick up a long neglected instrument, or to finally download that meditation app you’ve been considering, or to perfect your croissant-making techniques. (Meghan admits to having been tempted to finally get a new dog, but, sadly, concluded this is not the time.)

      Recognize that people are making hard choices, dealing with difficult circumstances, and doing the best they can.

      Your advisers, peers and colleagues might not be as responsive as you’d like. This will likely be even more so if they face health concerns or familial obligations. Remember that lots of people have things going on right now, some of which you will not know about (e.g., worrying about loved ones who are far away). Try to be understanding, and find other routes of support, as needed. Everyone is adjusting to a new situation, and lots of folks are extremely stressed and anxious right now.

      Your work matters, even if it isn’t directly linked to coronavirus or health.

      People who are not doing research directly linked to epidemiology, medicine, or something that feels pretty close to the pandemic might feel a sense of unworthiness. However, once things settle down, the impact of that work will become clear again!

      Again, remember that the wellbeing of you and your loved ones comes first. Some people are talking about how productive they will be because of this, ignoring that people will be sick and worried and that some people have family responsibilities that need to come first.

      There have been waaaaaay too many tweets noting how much Newton did in the year he was isolated as a result of the plague. This is our favorite take on those:

      Work isn’t going to be perfect, parenting isn’t going to be perfect. Again, we need to be compassionate (with ourselves and others) and be flexible.

      But what to do? One common suggestion has been to set a routine. (Meghan’s 4 year old helpfully set an alarm for 6AM – perhaps he is trying to keep us on schedule? Dana, on the other hand, hopes her toddlers won’t wake her up before 6AM.) This schedule has been going around social media:

      schedule of different things to do during a typical day, from waking to bedtime

      That particular routine might not work for you & your family, but trying some sort of routine seems like a good plan. (And, for those who do follow it, here’s hoping for lots of days where the kids earn 9PM bedtimes!)

      If you have a partner who is also working from home, discuss your plans for sharing the load – for example, maybe one person takes the lead on childcare/homeschooling in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Another option is 3 days for one, 3 days for the other.

      Your children’s school may have given some assignments for the coming weeks. If not (or if you want to supplement), other resources are available, such as Khan Academy and Scholastic Learn at Home. For more, here’s a list of education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings.

      Finally, Amy Cohn (a UMich Engineering Prof & the Associate Director of the Center for Healthcare Engineering & Patient Safety) shared her thoughts in this twitter thread:

      Which ends with this advice:

      We’re interested in your thoughts, too! What advice would you give? What have you been doing that’s been helping? What are you trying to figure out? We’re hoping people will share their thoughts, questions, and experiences in the comments!

      About the authors
      Dana is a PhD student in Quantitative Marketing at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where she is also the wellbeing and research productivity chair in their PhD forum. Meghan, as regular readers of the blog know, is a Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Michigan and Chair of the Rackham Graduate School’s Task Force on Graduate Student Mental Health.

      Additional resources that might be of interest (please share others in the comments!):

      From Active Minds: Coping and Staying Emotionally Well During covid-19 related school closures

      From Gina Baucom & her lab: How to Science During a Pandemic

      From UMich’s Center for Academic Innovation: Adjusting your study habits during COVID, which includes these tips for working with a group or team:


    • Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure
      By Aisha S. Ahmad
      9-12 Minuten

      Among my academic colleagues and friends, I have observed a common response to the continuing Covid-19 crisis. They are fighting valiantly for a sense of normalcy — hustling to move courses online, maintaining strict writing schedules, creating Montessori schools at their kitchen tables. They hope to buckle down for a short stint until things get back to normal. I wish anyone who pursues that path the very best of luck and health.

      Yet as someone who has experience with crises around the world, what I see behind this scramble for productivity is a perilous assumption. The answer to the question everyone is asking — “When will this be over?” — is simple and obvious, yet terribly hard to accept. The answer is never.

      Global catastrophes change the world, and this pandemic is very much akin to a major war. Even if we contain the Covid-19 crisis within a few months, the legacy of this pandemic will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come. It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect. There is simply no way that our lives will resume as if this had never happened. And so, while it may feel good in the moment, it is foolish to dive into a frenzy of activity or obsess about your scholarly productivity right now. That is denial and delusion. The emotionally and spiritually sane response is to prepare to be forever changed .

      The rest of this piece is an offering. I have been asked by my colleagues around the world to share my experiences of adapting to conditions of crisis . Of course, I am just a human, struggling like everyone else to adjust to the pandemic. However, I have worked and lived under conditions of war, violent conflict, poverty, and disaster in many places around the world. I have experienced food shortages and disease outbreaks, as well as long periods of social isolation, restricted movement, and confinement. I have conducted award-winning research under intensely difficult physical and psychological conditions, and I celebrate productivity and performance in my own scholarly career.

      I share the following thoughts during this difficult time in the hope that they will help other academics to adapt to hardship conditions. Take what you need, and leave the rest.

      Stage No. 1: Security

      Your first few days and weeks in a crisis are crucial, and you should make ample room to allow for a mental adjustment. It is perfectly normal and appropriate to feel bad and lost during this initial transition. Consider it a good thing that you are not in denial, and that you are allowing yourself to work through the anxiety. No sane person feels good during a global disaster, so be grateful for the discomfort of your sanity. At this stage, I would focus on food, family, friends, and maybe fitness . (You will not become an Olympic athlete in the next two weeks, so don’t put ridiculous expectations on your body.)

      Next, ignore everyone who is posting productivity porn on social media right now. It is OK that you keep waking up at 3 a.m. It is OK that you forgot to eat lunch and cannot do a Zoom yoga class. It is OK that you have not touched that revise-and-resubmit in three weeks.

      Ignore the people who are posting that they are writing papers and the people who are complaining that they cannot write papers. They are on their own journey. Cut out the noise.

      Know that you are not failing. Let go of all of the profoundly daft ideas you have about what you should be doing right now. Instead, focus intensely on your physical and psychological security . Your first priority during this early period should be securing your home. Get sensible essentials for your pantry, clean your house, and make a coordinated family plan. Have reasonable conversations with your loved ones about emergency preparedness . If you have a loved one who is an emergency worker or essential worker , redirect your energies and support that person as your top priority. Identify their needs, and then meet those needs.

      No matter what your family unit looks like, you will need a team in the weeks and months ahead. Devise a strategy for social connectedness with a small group of family, friends, and/or neighbors , while maintaining physical distancing in accordance with public-health guidelines. Identify the vulnerable and make sure they are included and protected.

      Get Fast Advice for Your Academic Life

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      The best way to build a team is to be a good teammate, so take some initiative to ensure that you are not alone. If you do not put this psychological infrastructure in place, the challenge of necessary physical-distancing measures will be crushing. Build a sustainable and safe social system now .

      Stage No. 2: The Mental Shift

      Once you have secured yourself and your team, you will feel more stable, your mind and body will adjust, and you will crave challenges that are more demanding. Given time, your brain can and will reset to new crisis conditions, and your ability to do higher-level work will resume.

      This mental shift will make it possible for you to return to being a high-performance scholar, even under extreme conditions. However, do not rush or prejudge your mental shift, especially if you have never experienced a disaster before. One of the most relevant posts I saw on Twitter (by writer Troy Johnson) was: “Day 1 of Quarantine: ‘I’m going to meditate and do body-weight training.’ Day 4: just pours the ice cream into the pasta” — it’s funny but it also speaks directly to the issue.

      Now more than ever, we must abandon the performative and embrace the authentic. Our essential mental shifts require humility and patience. Focus on real internal change. These human transformations will be honest, raw, ugly, hopeful, frustrated, beautiful, and divine. And they will be slower than keener academics are used to. Be slow. Let this distract you. Let it change how you think and how you see the world. Because the world is our work. And so, may this tragedy tear down all our faulty assumptions and give us the courage of bold new ideas .

      Stage No. 3: Embrace a New Normal

      On the other side of this shift, your wonderful, creative, resilient brain will be waiting for you. When your foundations are strong, build a weekly schedule that prioritizes the security of your home team , and then carve out time blocks for different categories of your work: teaching, administration, and research. Do the easy tasks first and work your way into the heavy lifting. Wake up early. The online yoga and crossfit will be easier at this stage.

      Things will start to feel more natural. The work will also make more sense, and you will be more comfortable about changing or undoing what is already in motion. New ideas will emerge that would not have come to mind had you stayed in denial. Continue to embrace your mental shift. Have faith in the process. Support your team.

      Understand that this is a marathon. If you sprint at the beginning, you will vomit on your shoes by the end of the month. Emotionally prepare for this crisis to continue for 12 to 18 months , followed by a slow recovery. If it ends sooner, be pleasantly surprised. Right now, work toward establishing your serenity, productivity, and wellness under sustained disaster conditions.

      None of us knows how long this crisis will last. We all want our troops to be home before Christmas. The uncertainty is driving us all mad.

      Of course, there will be a day when the pandemic is over. We will hug our neighbors and our friends. We will return to our classrooms and coffee shops. Our borders will eventually reopen to freer movement. Our economies will one day recover from the forthcoming recessions.

      Yet we are just at the beginning of that journey. For most people, our minds have not come to terms with the fact that the world has already changed. Some faculty members are feeling distracted and guilty for not being able to write enough or teach online courses properly. Others are using their time at home to write and report a burst of research productivity. All of that is noise — denial and delusion. And right now, denial only serves to delay the essential process of acceptance , which will allow us to reimagine ourselves in this new reality.

      On the other side of this journey of acceptance are hope and resilience . We will know that we can do this, even if our struggles continue for years. We will be creative and responsive, and will find light in all the nooks and crannies. We will learn new recipes and make unusual friends. We will have projects we cannot imagine today, and will inspire students we have not yet met. And we will help each other. No matter what happens next, together, we will be blessed and ready to serve.

      In closing, I give thanks to those colleagues and friends who hail from hard places, who know this feeling of disaster in their bones. In the past few days, we have laughed about our childhood wounds and have exulted in our tribulations. We have given thanks and tapped into the resilience of our old wartime wounds. Thank you for being warriors of the light and for sharing your wisdom born of suffering. Because calamity is a great teacher.

      Aisha Ahmad is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto and the author of the award-winning book Jihad & Co: Black Markets and Islamist Power (Oxford University Press, 2017). Her Twitter is @ProfAishaAhmad.


      Aisha Ahmad’s personal website: https://www.aishasahmad.com/about

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    • Staying Grounded & Connected to Academic Work in the Time of COVID-19 - The Dissertation Coach

      Alison Miller, PhD, Owner of The DIssertation Coach & Kathryn Peterson, PhD, Dissertation Coach
      8-10 Minuten

      When we imagined the world in 2020, we didn’t conceive of this very strange and frightening reality of COVID-19. But here we are, living in some kind of dystopian existence, where our world has been turned upside down by a global pandemic.

      Just a little while ago, we were unfamiliar with terms like social distancing [sic #terminology —> physical distancing, smart distancing or distant socialising] , shelter in place, safer at home, or flattening the curve. Few of us have ever experienced empty supermarket shelves, toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages, or scrambling to recalibrate our lives to work online. Many of us are having to make countless small and large adjustments. You may be teaching online, changing your routines and suddenly coworking with others, becoming homeschool teachers overnight while schools are shut down, or caring for others who cannot leave their homes at all.

      Even in the face of our new reality, we know it is important to maintain some sense of #routine and #normality. We also know that many of you still want to make progress on the path to earning a graduate degree. We are all needing a way to manage the #stress and #uncertainty of our new reality, yet still be able to #focus, #concentrate, and complete academic tasks. To that end, we want to offer you a few #ideas of how you can support yourself to stay grounded, productive, and connected to your academic work during this unprecedented time.


      To start, it can make a big difference to clarify your priorities . In terms of your academic work, we encourage you to consider what deadlines you have or goals are you seeking to meet. What work would it feel really good to (realistically and humanely) accomplish today, this week, this month? Take into account what can reasonably be accomplished given what is happening in your household, changes to your work or childcare responsibilities, and the stress of living through this pandemic. We recommend writing down the academic and life priorities you have over the next few weeks to set the stage for making progress and being able to care for yourself and loved ones. Each evening, write out your priorities for the next day and give yourself specific writing or other research tasks that can be completed in shorter intervals of time. For example, instead of a directive to “write chapter 2,” it may be more helpful to identify small subsections in chapter 2 to write in a given day.


      A great way to feel connected to your work is to set up a structure for your day that includes some academic zones , periods of time when you will commit to only doing academic tasks (and truly take a break from your phone, email, social media, and the news). This is especially important if you are not used to working from home. It can be very helpful to map out a plan for the day that includes when you are writing or doing other academic tasks, when you are exercising, and when you are managing other work and personal responsibilities with space to unwind and even do nothing. Alison closes out each work day by mapping out the next day on a yellow pad of paper and uses that written plan as a roadmap for how to move through her day including her own writing projects, phone calls and meetings, administrative tasks,etc. She often plans 1-2 hour blocks of phone and email free time for writing projects. Alison has learned from experience how vital it is to build in time to rest, eat, connect with her family and unwind so she can better focus and concentrate when it is time to work. Inside your academic work zones, you may find it especially helpful to use the Pomodoro Technique , where you work in 25 minute increments (check out Spotify’s Pomodoro Playlist) or virtually co-work with others via Skype or Zoom.


      Virtually #coworking with others can be a great way to feel more accountable and supported while also reducing the #isolation of only being able to work at home. We offer virtual writing boot camps for our clients and many of them tell us that coworking is the only way they can focus and make meaningful progress during this pandemic. Coworking can make a surprising difference in your productivity. Here is a suggested coworking strategy:

      Find one or more people to schedule a coworking call. Open the call with a 5-10 minute meeting to get connected and declare your work goals for the first work session. We find that using Skype or Zoom with video can be very helpful.
      Agree to a set amount of time you will all work and then turn off the video and sound during the work session. Set an alarm or timer so you know when to return to the call at the agreed upon time.
      Take a 5-10 minute break and share what you were able to accomplish. Support and encourage each other as needed and declare your goals for the next work session. Alison typically co-works with others for 1.5 to 2 hour blocks of time, checking in about every 40 minutes or so. Other people prefer the pomodoro method mentioned above, where they work for 25 minutes and check in for 5, doing between 2 and 4 pomodoros in a row.
      Close out the co-working session by acknowledging your accomplishments and anything you want to do to make future work sessions more effective. Schedule another coworking session.


      We are all facing challenges and uncertainty at this time. Many of us are experiencing that our bodies are flooded with adrenaline and cortisol leaving us in a chronic flight, fight, or freeze state. You may be losing track of time and feel like your brain is not fully functioning. If you feel like your IQ has dropped or you are struggling to remember, think, or write clearly, you are not alone. What we are experiencing with COVID-19 is pushing us into survival consciousness where the reptilian brain (more primitive part of the brain) takes charge, and the neocortex (where higher order functioning takes place) gets limited to rehashing the past or trying to control the future. Thus it becomes harder to think clearly and make thoughtful, conscious choices. We are more likely to be in a reactive mode. So please be gentle with yourself and keep focusing on what is in your control. None of us can control how long this pandemic will last, whether others will practice social distancing [sic] , or when life will feel more normal again. Yet we can all practice being kind and compassionate toward ourselves and others. We can stay informed while also maintaining a healthy boundary with news and social media, find enjoyable activities and do things like connect with loved ones virtually, engage in activities that help us unwind from stress, and practice social distancing [sic] and other recommended behavior. Believe it or not, some of you may find working on your dissertation to be a helpful refuge from the world . Also, don’t forget to take time to create a peaceful, organized workspace so you have an environment that feels good and is conducive to productivity..


      Some of you may work in healthcare or other fields that are seriously impacted by COVID-19 or now have children at home who require your attention and care. If your professional or parenting responsibilities are making it very difficult to meet external deadlines, we encourage you to be in communication sooner rather than later. Most likely, faculty and administration will be flexible and grant extensions to students given this pandemic. Communicate this message in a positive way that demonstrates your commitment to meet existing deadlines with an alert that you may need to ask for an extension. In our experience, it is better to communicate early and provide a proactive warning that you may not be able to meet deadlines .

      We are here rooting for you to put one foot in front of the other, taking it one day at a time, maybe one hour at a time. From all of us at The Dissertation Coach, we hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe.


  • How Unpaywall is transforming open science

    After being kicked out of a hotel conference room where they had participated in a three-day open-science workshop and hackathon, a group of computer scientists simply moved to an adjacent hallway. There, Heather Piwowar, Jason Priem and Cristhian Parra worked all night on software to help academics to illustrate how much of their work was freely available on the Internet. They realized how much time had passed only when they noticed hotel staff starting to prepare for breakfast.

    That all-nighter, back in 2011, laid the foundation for Unpaywall. This free service locates open-access articles and presents paywalled papers that have been legally archived and are freely available on other websites to users who might otherwise have hit a paywalled version. Since one part of the technology was released in 2016, it has become indispensable for many researchers. And firms that run established scientific search engines are starting to take advantage of Unpaywall.


    #open_access #open_science #recherche #communs #intelligence_collective #Unpaywall

  • She Left #Harvard. He Got to Stay.

    Did the university’s handling of one professor’s sexual-harassment complaint keep other women from coming forward for decades?

    Karl’s first semester at Harvard went well. Her course evaluations were excellent, she remembers. When Domínguez came by her office one day that summer, he wrapped her in his arms and tried to kiss her. She pulled away, though she didn’t make a scene. She didn’t want to offend him. Domínguez offered a parting suggestion: Don’t spend too much time on students, he said, because teaching is not what Harvard rewards.

    She mentioned the hug and kiss to some friends, but didn’t report him to administrators. She hoped it was an aberration.

    That fall, Harvard hosted a dinner that included, as a guest, the former president of Venezuela, Rafael Caldera. Karl had done research in Venezuela, and had gotten to know Caldera. When she arrived at the dinner, Domínguez greeted her then turned to Caldera and said, “Conoce a Terry. Ella es mi esclava.”

    Translation: “You know Terry. She is my slave.”

    Domínguez asked for a ride home that night, as he often did. She had come to dread those requests, but it was hard to say no. In the car, she confronted him about the comment. He told her he was surprised that she was offended. That’s when he kissed her and slid his hand up her skirt, telling her he would be the next department chairman, decide her promotion, review her book. Karl froze. She had never even heard the term “sexual harassment,” but she knew what was going on. “I’m feeling like somebody is asking for sexual favors in return for a good review,” she says.

    Later, she would scold herself for being naïve, for not recognizing what seemed, in retrospect, like an obvious ploy. She also told herself she could handle it. “You try to minimize it,” she says. “OK, this just happened in the hotel, and I’m going to lunch with him and I’m going to say ‘Don’t ever do this again’ and it’s going to be OK. You tell yourself over and over, ‘It’s going to be OK.’”

    Considering his previous behavior, Karl took the statement as a threat. “At this point, I became physically afraid of him,” she would later write when describing the incident in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She was determined never to be alone with him again.

    At the end of July 1983, Karl and Domínguez signed an agreement, one she hoped would offer some measure of protection. Domínguez promised to “conduct himself in the future at all times in a fashion respectful” of Karl. In August, Rosovsky wrote in a letter to Karl that Domínguez’s “repeated sexual advances and certain other deprecating actions” amounted to a “serious abuse of authority — for which he is fully responsible.” Along with being temporarily removed from administrative responsibilities, he was also forbidden from reviewing Karl’s work or taking part in discussions about her promotion. As for Karl, she was given three semesters of paid leave, and her tenure clock was put on hold for two years. In addition, Rosovsky said that administrators would talk more about sexual-harassment procedures and that the faculty council might address it.

    But the books weren’t closed yet. Karl was hearing rumors that made her worried about her reputation. In October Domínguez met with a number of graduate students, including Philip Oxhorn, now a professor of political science at McGill University. Oxhorn recalls that Domínguez told the students what happened was “a love affair gone bad, and that he was as much a victim as Terry, if not more so.” Another graduate student who was at that meeting, Cynthia Sanborn, now research vice president at the University of the Pacific, in Peru, later described it in a letter to Rosovsky: “[Domínguez] clearly implied that his harassment of the junior professor in this case was actually a ’misunderstanding,’ and if he could only tell us his side of the story we would see things differently,” she wrote.

    Meanwhile Domínguez steadily climbed the ladder at Harvard. In 1995, he was selected as director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, a post previously occupied by scholarly heavyweights like Samuel Huntington and Robert Putnam. In 2006, he was made vice provost for international affairs, and, in 2014, he and Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, traveled to Mexico City together as part of the university’s international outreach. In 2016, a dissertation prize was set up in Domínguez’s honor at the university’s Latin American-studies center. Originally the prize, and the $54,000 raised to support it, was to be given through the Latin American Studies Association, but when some who knew about Domínguez’s behavior, including Philip Oxhorn, caught wind of the plan, they worked behind the scenes to scuttle it. “This was not a man who deserved that kind of recognition,” Oxhorn says.

    Karl believes Harvard administrators played down her many complaints, attempting to mollify her rather than dealing with a difficult situation head-on. Harvard refused, as some universities still do, to publicly name the person responsible. They also let him stay, and promoted him, which sent a signal that Karl believes discouraged others from coming forward. If they hadn’t done that, "then these women who experienced harassment in the 1990s and 2000s, it wouldn’t have happened, or they would have known that someone would be punished if they were harassed,” she says. “That’s the great enabling. It’s why the silence is so terrible.”

    #université #harcèlement_sexuel #injustice #Teddy_Karl #témoignage

  • Academic Conference Panels Are Boring - The Chronicle of Higher Education

    Merci Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary d’avoir signalé cet opus, on s’identifie assez bien :)


    By Randy Laist December 05, 2017

    It’s conference season, and that means we will soon be suffering together in some drab meeting room. The minutes will tick by as an earnest scholar reads — word for excruciating word — a jargon-filled essay advancing an indecipherable thesis about an esoteric subject that no one in the audience knows anything about.

    We’ve all been there. Maybe you’ve even been that earnest speaker. I know I have.

    For more than a dozen years, I’ve participated in conference panels all over the world, and I’ve had stimulating, thought-provoking, and engaging experiences — just far, far too few of them. Rather than inspiration, what I remember most from those sessions is trying to calculate — based on the number of pages the speaker was holding at the lectern — how much longer the droning would continue.