Category Archives: jisc

Introducing James Clay and Lawrie Phipps #altc


This year I am attending ALT-C 2016 in Warwick and along with my colleague Lawrie Phipps will be running a workshop on the Wednesday looking at digital capabilities and organisational mapping.

Digital technologies are driving some significant changes in the world of work, and are deeply implicated in others.

Effective use of digital technology by college staff is vital in providing a compelling student experience and in realising a good return on investment in digital technology. To help managers and individuals understand what is needed, Jisc have published a digital capability framework which describes the skills needed by staff in a wide range of teaching, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment.

What does it mean to be digitally capable? Not just for an individual, but from an organisational perspective. How will you lead using the plethora of digital tools and channels available to you?

The Jisc building digital capability project has been addressing these issues for institutional leaders, for those on the front line of teaching and research, and those who support them. Universities and colleges across the UK have been participating in the pilots for the Jisc Building digital capability project This workshop will bring those experiences to the participants.

A person’s capabilities (what they can do) are no longer attested to simply by their certificates and grades. Digital devices and systems have the capacity to: record learning, achievement, and evidence of practice e.g. using digital video; capture data related to learning and achievement e.g. from learning records, learning environments; organise the evidence e.g. using tags, file structures, structured e-portfolios; showcase learning, achievement and evidence of practice e.g. using a blog/vlog, eportfolio, personal web page. We can use mapping to explore a person’s or an institution’s digital capabilities.

Collaboration between academics, TEL teams, professional services, business support and learner support is critical in ensuring an organisation can build digital capability across the institution and help provide a compelling student experience.

This workshop will ask and provide responses to the following questions, through an individual and group mapping exercise.

  • How do you build digital capability?
  • How do you ensure collaboration across the institution to build a breadth of capability to make more effective use of technology?
  • Why is collaboration essential?
  • What is the role of leadership in building capability?
  • Who within an institution needs to be involved?

The Visitors and Residents mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. We then started to think about how we could use a similar concept to map teaching practice and curriculum design. This lead onto thinking about mapping the “learning” of our learners. Where are they learning, is that learning scheduled and formalised? Is that learning ad-hoc? Is it individual, group, collaborative? So the next stage was to map this in a similar manner to the Visitor and Residents. This is the approach that will be used in the workshop.

Structure of the session

15 mins Introduction to what we understand by digital capability and how we can use mapping to explore organisational capability

15 minutes Individuals will map their own institutional contexts in relation to teaching and learning and assessment

10 mins reflection on their maps and the maps created by others in the room. What maps are interesting and what patterns and similarities are their across the maps.

10 mins in groups exploring how collaboration across an organisation could help them to move and inflate/deflate areas on their maps to create an institution where technology supports teaching, learning and assessment more effectively.

10 minutes summary discussion and what next steps individuals and organisations could take and how could they encourage collaboration.

Mapping is an useful exercise to think about practice and though any such map may not be accurate or complete, it does allow you to consider and think about actions and training required to change behaviours or how spaces and tools are used.


Lawrie Phipps and I are often invited to give these sorts of sessions on a more regular basis than other speakers that may or may not be at ALT-C.  We thought these biographies might give people a sense of who we might be.

Lawrie Phipps

Lawrie, the son of a politician[1] was destined for business but instead got into the business of souls, preaching to congregations across the southern US[2], also known as “Milk” is a keen follower of the arts and regular helps to organise and attend art and music festivals[3].

Lawrie resurrected the Arapahoe Hunt Club, a prestigious group of horsebacked hunters who, aided by a band of eager foxhounds, pursued coyote as opposed to the English tradition of foxes[4].

A keen naturalist, Lawrie has appeared in several natural history documentaries and BBC Countryfile.

Lawrie managed to beat a north sea cod into second place.[5]

Lawrie is from Dudley.

James Clay

Unknown to most people, James Clay frequently goes by the nickname “Scoot” in his personal life.[6]

James is an expert on the game of whist,  according to the Westminster papers: a monthly journal of chess, whist, games of skill and the drama Clay had been “the acknowledged head of the Whist world” for the last thirty years, spending much of his time and attention on whist and piquet.He became chairman of a committee for settling the laws of whist.[7]

Having been elected MP for Hull[8], he held the seat for six years, when he was unseated after a bribery inquiry. He regained the seat four years later at the by-election and held the seat for another sixteen years.[9]

In the 1980s, Lindeboom became the very first beer James Clay imported after an unlikely introduction to the beer by a local Dutch builder. “It became a cult beer in the local area and we used to keep at least 10 cases in a walk in fridge at the pub for take outs on a Saturday night!”[10]

In 1988 James Clay gained a world record for the world’s largest greetings card. It was nineteen feet high and was sent to BBC’s Children in Need and was shown live on TV.[11]

Using the stage name, Jim Clay, he was a production designer on many famous films including Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, Love Actually and Children of Men.[12]

In 2004, James released an album of music.[13] Though as one of the reviews reads, “Sadly James gave up the music life to pursue playing rock music in local bars.”

James Clay is the 79th ranked of 480 active US West Amateur Middleweights.[14]

In 2011, James Clay has a small part in the film My Week with Marilyn and was later to appear in Financial Crisis in 2016.[15]

James Clay once managed to get funding to go to a conference in Dudley.

Down the #altc road


Reading Maren Deepwell’s recent post about her #altc journey, it reminded me of the many conferences I have attended and like her the impact that they had on my life and professional practice. Going back to my experiences of my first ALT-C I was surprised I even went again!

Continue reading Down the #altc road

Keynote at UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

The Stage at #udigcap

I am currently at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event here in Birmingham. I will be live blogging here on elearningstuff and will probably post a more in-depth reflective piece on the digital capability blog later.

Last year, just before I started as Project Manager for the Jisc Digital Capabilities project, UCISA ran their first Spotlight on Digital Capabilities and Sarah Davies talked about where the project was and where it was going. Now just under twelve months later I am here in Birmingham at the second conference to talk about the project, where we are at and where we may go in the future.

As the opening keynote in front of well informed audience on the subject I have been immersed with over the last twelve months was quite a challenge. I didn’t want to repeat the story that Sarah delivered last year, I knew I want to let people know where we are, but also to get them to start thinking about once the service is available, what else needs to happen at an institutional level.

The presentation covered where we are in terms of the Jisc Digital capability service and what it will offer universities and colleges, but also some of the challenges and thinking behind the work we have done.

Building digital capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency

What does it mean to be digitally capable? Not just for an individual, but from an organisational perspective. How will you lead using the plethora of digital tools and channels available to you? The Jisc building digital capability project has been addressing these issues for institutional leaders, for those on the front line of teaching and research, and those who support them.

I also covered aspects of institutional digital capability and what this may cover and what may need to happen. This area is really interesting, but key to helping universities and colleges to build digital capability. I intend to explore these areas in more detail as the work evolves.

Summer of Student Innovation 2016 #studentideas

As Jisc asks

Our challenge: could your students make an impact?

Jisc’s Summer of Student Innovation competitions are an opportunity for students to have an impact on life and study in work based learning providers, colleges and universities across the UK.

Do your students have a bright idea that uses technology to improve study or student life? If so we’d like to hear it, and the best will be given funding, support and an invitation to a multi-day mentoring event to turn their concept into reality.

Our goal is to unearth and develop the best ideas, creating apps and tools to be piloted in colleges and universities and harness the power of technology for better learning and teaching across the UK.

What’s more, our competitions fit in with core curricula and encourage employability skills like team working, business planning and viability testing. Many colleges and universities now recognise students’ work towards our competitions as part of their coursework.

Student Ideas Competition 2016 is open to all learners in universities, colleges or learning providers. We will select 15 successful teams who will receive £2000 per team to attend a four day design sprint on the 8-11 August. Each team will pitch to a panel on the 23 August and we will select five ideas to be developed into products who will receive a further £3000.

Support Technology Start-ups 2016 is open to established teams with existing products seeking to further pilot their product within colleges, universities or skills providers. Up to five selected teams with receive £20,000 and participate in a six month pre-accelerator programme.

The closing date for submissions is 23 May 2016.

For further information see: and the blog post: Want to develop your own technology solution to support your learning? Enter our Summer of Student Innovation competition.

Learning Analytics – Case Studies and Report


Probably the highest profile technology amongst senior managers and leaders at this time is the use of analytics to support teaching, learning and assessment.

Using the data that institutions gather on a regular basis for the purposes of analysis, looking for patterns is one that has gained traction over the last few years. There are also others who wonder if this analysis of data and patterns is useful and allowing us to make informed decisions about learners.

Jisc have released a new report: Learning Analytics in Higher Education: A review of UK and international practice  (PDF). Drawing on eleven case studies, they examine why institutions are deploying learning analytics, and what the benefits are for learners. They also discuss the main data sources being drawn upon by institutions and the technical architecture required.

The emphasis of the report is on investigating the evidence for learning analytics: what impact it’s having, and to what extent the algorithms can actually predict academic success.

I have always seen analytics as a tool to support and enhance existing decision making and support, that was already in place. The analytics reinforcing an existing view, or bringing to light patterns that were previously hidden.

Analytics in my opinion doesn’t replace good teaching decisions, support and intervention strategies, it helps inform them, so that we can ensure all learners receive the support and advice they need. Which is why I am also pleased to see in the report, that they also look at how institutions are carrying out interventions to attempt to retain students at risk, and provide better support for all students as they progress through their studies.

The interventions arising from analytics are probably the most important aspect of analytics, otherwise why bother?

The main report summarises the case studies.  The full individual case studies are:

  1. Traffic Lights and Interventions: Signals at Purdue University
  2. Analysing use of the VLE at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  3. Identifying at-risk students at New York Institute of Technology
  4. Fine-grained analysis of student data at California State University
  5. Transferring predictive models to other institutions from Marist College
  6. Enhancing retention at Edith Cowan University
  7. Early alert at the University of New England
  8. Developing an ‘analytics mind-set’ at the Open University
  9. Predictive analytics at Nottingham Trent University
  10. Analysing social networks at the University of Wollongong
  11. Personalised pathway planning at Open Universities Australia