Friday, 24 July 2015

Summer Holidays

Earlier this week I became aware of #blimage - a challenge to write blog posts on learning, inspired by particular images. You can read more about the challenge from Steve Wheeler in his post Blimey, it's #blimage. Since then, there have been #blimage blogposts appearing all week, and I'm barely keeping up with them!

Following David Hopkins' post Desks of Doom, David challenged me to get involved.
To be honest, my first reaction was "I haven't got time for this", but actually, David's challenge image aligns nicely with my current phase of work. So, I decided I'd use the opportunity to get something written.

Birmingham Airport Departure Lounge (gate 14/15) 

Image by David Hopkins on flickr
I've been in plenty of departure lounges while travelling; sometimes for work and sometimes on holiday; sometimes as a solo traveller and sometimes with colleagues, friends or family. This one, at least, has seats - unlike some areas used in the past by Ryanair.

What I see here is not a dull, depressing scene. It's likely that, just minutes before, this area was full of people, old and young, excited about the journey ahead of them. In another few minutes, the space will begin to fill up, and the cycle will begin again.

This image shows just a snapshot in time, but it's a time when it's possible to take stock of the space - maybe do some cleaning up or perhaps rethink the whole area in terms of upgrading, arrangement and facilities. That type of upgrade activity can only take place at a quiet time, like the moment depicted.

So, why does this image align with my current phase of work? Well, I think it looks quite like the scene I can see out of my office window. I am lucky to have an office on the ground floor of a very central building, that looks out on one of the busiest areas of the campus: just outside the library, with the main university restaurant just down some steps, and many of the university's lecture theatres in easy reach. During the teaching year, there is a magnificent buzz, with students and staff milling around, grouped together in clusters, rushing from one space to the next. It is constant, and a perfect reminder to me of the main purpose of the university. To be part of the scene is energising, and I can't help but feel motivated by the anticipation of the crowd.

View from my office window
 But just now, this is how it looks. If you look hard, you'll see there are a couple of people outside the library entrance, and I do see people walking up and down the steps. There are people around, as evidenced by the collection of bicycles in the rack, but nothing like the buzz during term. It's hard to imagine that, in just over a month, this place will be teeming with students. Some of them may even be excited about the journey ahead of them.

So, what has me so busy? Well, this is my team's time to do all the necessary maintenance and updates before the term begins. We can only do this work at this time of year (and possibly a much shorter window at Christmas).

In addition to our ongoing support for staff, we have 4 fairly big projects scheduled over the summer including various upgrades to current technologies (VLE, video technologies, lecture capture, language labs), which entail development of new training resources and documentation. We are working on a completely new website (due to launch end of next week) and are planning a full schedule of training for academic staff for the second half of August. Some of our efforts will be visible to and appreciated by university staff, and we look forward to supporting their work in the new academic year.

Will the students notice any difference when they come back in September? Possibly not, or not immediately. A bit like improvements in an airport waiting lounge!

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