Oncoming vehicle approaching – Weeknote #187 – 30th September 2022

Was in London on Monday. I had gone up the night before, so I could avoid travelling on a Monday morning.

Monday was a team coaching day, where we did our insights (colours) thing. I think the most useful aspect is discussion and working together, as for the insights I am always reminded of horoscopes.

Monday evening, I couldn’t see Jupiter as it was cloudy, saw it last week and later in the week, but not on the day it was the closest to the earth in 107 years.

On Tuesday I presented at the GuildHE Policy and Planners Network meeting in London on analytics and student support. This was well received presentation and there was lots of questions and discussion afterwards.

Wednesday I was back in Bristol. I had a constructive meeting on the marketing, event, production requirements for the HE objectives assigned to me, and how these will fit into the planning and campaign processes for 2022-23. We also discussed transformative content (thought leadership) and the planning I have done on producing transformative content that will support the delivery of the HE sector strategy and ensuring it is aligned to the Jisc core strategy.

Read this HEPI blog post at the weekend. The blog says

There is a tendency for the literature to connect innovation and technology in discussions about models of change. Clearly, technology can have a significant impact on activities and practice and can lead to innovation but, if badly designed or implemented, can create unnecessary costs and additional bureaucracy. The key to good innovation is that it leads to better productivity; better work practice; and better delivery of activities. In planning any change, it is important to understand how the innovation that you wish to introduce will deliver those three things: better productivity, better practice and better delivery. 

You could almost rewrite this and replace the word innovation with transformation. It goes onto say:

Innovation is also often seen as a big bang ‘thing’. This is not necessarily the case, small improvements or minor changes can have significant effects…

I was reminded of my butterfly post on digital transformation.

Do you think transformation is something that has a result (we’ve been transformed) or do you see it as an evolving continuing process (we are transforming and continue to transform)?

The Mirror reports that University of Glasgow students are unhappy about having lectures in a church with no internet access.

Though it was July 2015 when Apple Pay was introduced in the UK, I have never actually used it until August this year! I bought some parking on my phone and used Apple Pay to pay for it. It was only on Thursday that I actually used Apple Pay at a till! I paid for some shopping using the system at one of those “unexpected item in the bagging area” machines.

I know I should know this, but it was quite a seamless experience. I did have to double tap, which I didn’t think I would need to do. Well done that now, do I need to do it again? Probably not.

Friday I headed to work in our Bristol office. Had some administration to do as well as catching up with conversations and email.

Why is this post entitled oncoming vehicle approaching? Well when I was driving to London, I did see a fair few warning signs, that there was an oncoming vehicle approaching. I wasn’t sure how much I should slow down by, as there were cars behind and next to me. I wasn’t sure even which lane I should stick to, as I had no idea about the oncoming vehicle, would it be in the outside lane, or on the hard shoulder? There were a lot of unknowns and in the end I tried to ensure that I had plenty of options for moving out of the way, just in case. I never did see the vehicle, but it was quite unnerving. Writing this, it reminded me of how some people feel when it comes to the implementation and embedding of digital technology. People may be unsure of what to do and it might be all bit unnerving as they are doing what they normally do and now they are facing uncertainty.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Threads – Weeknote #186 – 23rd September 2022

A shorter week this week down the bank holiday at the start of the week.

Attended a Sector Agency Widening Participation and Data Working Groups Workshop. This was an in-person workshop in Cheltenham. This was a really engaging workshop with UCAS, HESA, and Advance HE. QAA were unable to attend. We looked at the student journey and where the different organisations are working in the widening participation space. As you might expect UCAS are focussed on the pre-application and application stages of the student journey. Whereas Jisc, HESA and Advance HE are working in the “at university” stage. Agreed we would put proposals to the Heads of Sector Agency for collaboration going forward. In addition, we may want to reflect on the widening participation and inclusion agenda on the products and services we provide for the sector.

One of the interesting discussions was on the deficit model that many universities and organisations use when it comes to the widening participation agenda. So, services, systems, and processes are designed for the “standard” student and then things are added to widen participation. The result is often those students who are in need of support are required to find or register for that support. A more inclusive approach to widening participation, is by ensuring services, systems, and processes are designed to be inclusive from the design stage.

We had a tour of the UCAS Building, it was interesting to see how UCAS had already changed their offices to reflect their hybrid mode of working with new spaces.

Also, interesting to see that they have built a fully functioning TV studio for the creation of video content and more engaging and professional live streaming content.

Over the last few months, I have been working on an idea that Jisc should have a TV studio, now seeing this, I think we should accelerate this idea. Was interesting to see an organisation that had done this.

group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I enjoyed this article on Wonkhe: Imagined universities and blank spaces for dreams.

Eileen Pollard and Stephanie Aldred ask if “sticky campus” directives are based on collective conceptions of campus communities that no longer exist? University tactics for keeping students stuck range from threats, surveillance, and persuasion, to outright bribery because (as we explain to both them and ourselves) students who come to class and interact with us and their peers get higher marks.

I like how the article says that the point of university is not to be in a physical space, but a place where we can realise our dreams, be that a physical space or an online space. I was reminded of how work is not somewhere we go, but something we do by Lawrie.

The web affords us new ways of working, new opportunities to connect.  It furthermore allows for a richer experience of work and life, rather than forcing us to segregate our time from ourselves via physical location, allowing us to choose when and where we are most productive, and how to conserve our face to face energy for those times that truly require it.

In another story on working, the BBC reported how firms in four-day week trial have decided to make it permanent.

Many UK firms taking part in a four-day working week trial have said they will keep it in place after the pilot ends. More than 70 firms are taking part in the scheme where employees get 100% pay for 80% of their normal hours worked. At the halfway point in a six-month trial, data shows that productivity has been maintained or improved at the majority of firms.

I think this practice could be tricky, politically, in the education world, but certainly something to keep an eye on.

Spent some time planning a presentation I am giving next week in London, looking at learning analytics and student support.

This week 38 years ago, The BBC broadcast Threads, a documentary drama about a nuclear attack on the UK, with a focus on Sheffield.

I remember watching it at the time, and was scared, chilled and having a feeling of total helplessness in the face of, what the time, felt like something that could quite easily happen. Though that threat is still here, it did feel in the 1990s and 2000s that it wasn’t so imminent or probable.

This week, not so much.

The EU must take Vladimir Putin’s threats he could use nuclear weapons in the conflict in Ukraine seriously, the bloc’s foreign policy chief has said.

My top tweet this week was this one.

In Dublin’s fair city – Weeknote #185 – 16th September 2022

Famine sculpture
Famine by James Clay

Well, a week like no other.

I spent Monday having internal meetings discussing various things. One meeting was how our Directorate could communicate more effectively what we do, with the rest of the business on our intranet. I do think that often people assume that others in an organisation know and understand what other parts of the organisation do. Of course, when you are immersed and close to what you and your team do, it can be easy to assume that others are also just as clear about your role and the work of your team. Most times they’re not. I am thinking about how I can communication the work I do, to the rest of the organisation. In some ways these week notes do that in one way.

Another meeting was about setting some priorities in the public affairs space. With all the changes that are taking place in Government, it can be dynamic and changing landscape. A new prime minister, a new secretary of state and new ministers; does mean making new connections and new relationships. It is also very likely that there will be no policies as well.

I spent time on Tuesday preparing for a presentation that I was delivering in Dublin. It did involve reviewing existing presentations and documentation; as well as designing and producing a presentation.

I flew out to Dublin on Wednesday.

Dublin Airport
Dublin Airport by James Clay

I have been to Dublin four times before. I was there in August 1998 when I was on a day trip, we were camping in Pembrokeshire and caught the ferry to Rosslare and then the train to Dublin. I do remember going on an open top bus, and then visiting the Guinness museum.

When I went to Edtech 2020 in Athlone, caught a flight to Dublin. Before catching the train to Athlone I did explore some of Dublin. Didn’t have a huge amount of time back then.

I went to MoodleMoot 2012, which was in Dublin, however I never go further than the conference hotel which was next to the airport.

My last visit to Dublin was in 2016, where I was keynoting at LiLAC 2016. I saw many different parts of Dublin on that visit. Mainly as I was out at University College Dublin and staying at the St. Helen’s Hotel which was quite far south of Dublin. We did have a nice conference dinner at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. However I did not make it into the city centre on that visit.

So arriving in Dublin and catching a bus to the hotel, I did have time before the dinner in the evening to explore the heart of Dublin.

In the evening I was at a dinner with the HEAnet Advisory Group.

On Thursday I was attending and presenting at the HEAnet Advisory Group.

After a presentation on the strategic direction of HEAnet and EduCampus, we had a presentation from Dr Orla Flynn, President of Atlantic Technological University (ATU), called Digital transformation from the perspective of institutional leader. ATU is a multi-campus technological university in the west and northwest of Ireland that delivers a rich combination of academic and research excellence. It covers a wide area, over 37% of the geographical area of Ireland. It was a really interesting talk and the issues of digital transformation echoed many of the experiences I have heard about in the UK.

I delivered my presentation, Digital transformation: Analytics to support student experience and success; a perspective on good practice in UK HEIs, to the group was well received and opened possibilities for further collaboration, provision of services, consultancy, as well as invites to institutions to share UK experiences and practices.

My presentation focused on what Jisc is doing in the learning analytics space, and then the core requirements that UK HEIs need to address in delivering in this space. I also covered some of the core challenges and issues that UK HEIs face, such as privacy and ethics.

After an interesting workshop on digital transformation, and a lunch,

Dublin GPO
Dublin GPO

I had some time before my flight back to Bristol. What I didn’t realise, until I was pass security, was that my flight was delayed, so I had to wait in Dublin Airport for over five hours. This was exhausting.

I think next time I will catch the boat.

The energy crisis is starting to impact on educational providers. One college is moving to a four day week to reduce energy costs. This is something I have been discussing with colleagues.

With the energy crisis, what is the potential impact of shorter weeks on education, also enery blackouts. How do you deliver digital and online learning when the students lack connectivity or power. Something I think I will write about in the next few weeks.

I had an interesting meeting on the original background to the history of HE thought leadership at Jisc over the last two years and where we are, and the current situation. It was agreed that past work using the term thought leadership wasn’t what thought leadership is, using the accepted term for Thought Leadership, but was much more about inspiring transformative content. This is the start of a conversation about where Jisc goes next in this space.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Warm and nostalgic – Weeknote #184 – 9th September 2022

I was away the whole week, firstly in Manchester for ALT-C and then Leamington Spa for our away day. Of course the end of this week was dominated by the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

On Monday I headed off to Manchester, stopping at our Bristol office to pick some stuff up, as well as participate in an online meeting. ALT-C was kicking off at 9am on Tuesday, so wanted to be in Manchester rather than travelling and missing the start of the conference, especially as I knew I would miss most of the sessions on Thursday.

I planned some travel, as I am in Dublin next week. The last time I had the opportunity to visit Dublin was in 2016 when I was a keynote speaker at LILAC 2016. I am looking forward to making a return visit.

It was interesting to return to Manchester for ALT-C. The last time I attended ALT-C in person was in 2018, in Manchester. I missed going in 2019 in Edinburgh. I would like to have gone to ALT-C in Edinburgh, alas I didn’t go that year as I needed to be close to home as my youngest started secondary school, and as most people know, transition is a challenging time for all. In the end there were very few issues, but I am glad I stayed behind. Of course, due to the pandemic, the 2020 conference in London was cancelled and the 2021 conference was purely online.

This was a hybrid conference, so the first part of day one was online with the in-person sessions starting after lunch.

I did feel warm and nostalgic attending the conference, it reminded me of conferences past. However, there was still something new about it as well, which I enjoyed.

I am intending to write up my thoughts on the various sessions in future blog posts.

I did one sketch note of a keynote on ethics in educational technology, which was liked by people.

I did have a bit of a challenge as my iPad battery died before I had finished the sketch. So I kept listening and took some photographs on my phone. After the keynote I headed out to Caffé Nero to both refresh myself with a coffee and use their power sockets to charge my iPad. There was certainly a dearth of power sockets in the conference venue.

Leaving Manchester on Thursday I realised how exhausting attending an in-person conference is, I haven’t done this kind of conference for a while.

Pleased to see a tweet about the Social Media In HE Conference. Every year when I see this is happening, I say to myself I should attend that, but then forgot the following year to book. This year I am planning to attend.

We had an away day in Leamington Spa, in which we looked at the current sector landscape, planning for next year and just getting together in-person, which is something we rarely do as a geographically distributed team. It was a lunchtime to lunchtime away day.

After the sessions for that day I went to my room and made a coffee. I was so glad I had taken my coffee machine with me to Manchester and Leamington Spa.

As I read Twitter, it was announced the Queen had died. I went off for a drink before dinner in the bar.

Friday was the second half of our away day and then it was a lengthy journey home.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Then and Now Take Two – ALT-C Live

Over on my “stuff” blog I have been publishing a series of blog posts about photographs of the same place taken years apart.

I was in Manchester at the ALT Conference 2022 and I was reminded that ten years previously I had run ALT-C Live at the conference.

So I found the photograph of ALT-C Live I had taken in 2012.

I then took a similar photograph of the same location, which this year was the site of the Jisc space at the conference.

ALT-C Live is something I would probably like to do again at some point. It was an informal conference backchannel streamed live to the internet and featuring exclusive interviews and chat with conference organisers, keynote speakers, presenters and delegates. The intention was to provide another channel which, along with social media such as the official conference Crowdvine, Twitter, and delegate blogs, would serve to amplify those hot topics and discussions from the conference.

Packing for #altc22

Power
Image by ldyshah from Pixabay

I have written conference packing posts before, I did a post in 2009 and wrote an updated version in 2018. Actually the last time I attended ALT-C in person was in 2018. So here we are four years later and I am off to ALT-C once more.

So here are some suggestions on what to pack if you are attending the conference in-person. It might have been a while since you attended an in-person conference, so hope you find the suggestions useful.

Six-Way Gang – I still think a six way gang is an useful thing, instead of fighting people for the power sockets, you can immediately make five friends! Having such an adapter is also useful in the hotel room when you want to charge everything up for the following day and you have limited plug sockets. When I mentioned the previous article on the Twitter someone told me about the USB charging stations you can now buy. With so many devices reliant on USB charging then these could be useful, but then I have a laptop that needs a proper plug socket. If you are coming from outside the UK, then a trick I do (going the other way) is to bring a extension gang and then you only need one UK plug adapter.

Power Bank – Though in normal usage your phone might last the day, I have found if you are using your device for photographs, using the Twitter, accessing the conference Discord, checking e-mail, and so on; your battery will be hit hard. A charged power bank can be used for restoring those battery bars on your device.

coffee
Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Coffee – I don’t drink instant coffee and usually that it is what is only available in hotel rooms. Some hotels these days have Nespresso machines, which is nice, but most I find still rely on sachets of instant coffee. In the past I have taken a cafetière mug or coffee bags. I have been thinking as I now doing a lot more travelling, about getting a portable coffee machine.

Of course if you drink a specific brand of tea, then take some of those, you can’t always rely on Twinings being in the hotel room. 

It’s also useful to take the time to see what independent and local coffee places are near to the venue, which can be used instead of queuing for that awful conference coffee.

Snacks – I also bring a few snacks with me as well, as that solitary small pack of biscuits you usually get is never enough! These days though I have found that the increase in (small) supermarket branches means buying snacks locally is much easier than it use to be. Of course if your conference isn’t in Manchester, then pack some snacks.

Chargers – Don’t forget your chargers, expensive to replace, difficult to borrow, make sure you pack yours. The other thing about power is investing in a higher powered adapter (or borrowing one from a friend). As Apple says here

Using an Apple 12W or 10W USB power adapter charges some Apple devices and accessories faster than a 5W power adapter.

I find that when charging my iPhone using the adapter that came with my iPad Pro and it charges the phone so much faster, which is an useful thing to know for a conference. This means you can do a quick “supercharge” of your iPhone ready for the next keynote. Also useful to know that the 5W power adapter potentially can charge your iPad Pro, but only if you aren’t using it for eight hours or more….

filming on a phone
Image by SplitShire from Pixabay

Photography and Video – I use to take a camera to conferences, today I use my phone. If you take a lot of photographs then check you have a lot of storage space on your phone, or at least one way to take the pictures off. I try and remember to empty my camera roll before I go to the conference. However if you like to take a lot of video then I personally would take a separate additional video camera.

Connectivity – I am sure that the WiFi at the conference venue will be fine, however what about at the hotel, the dinner, the train… Technological changes means that connectivity is more important that in the last few years. Yes there is a plethora of places to get free wifi, but there are some security considerations to take into account. I normally use tethering on my iPhone and make sure I have enough bandwidth to do that. Other options could include some kind of MiFi device. 

Display cables – If you are presenting, then ensure your laptop can be connected somehow to the projector, you can’t always rely that the VGA adapter you have will be good enough. I now take an HDMI cable with my too. I also take my Lightning to HDMI adapter so in theory I can present from your iPhone or iPad. It also means I can connect to the hotel TV and watch what I want on the big screen.

broken USB stick
Broken USB Stick by James Clay

USB Stick – In a world of cloud storage, you might think why would you need an USB stick. I have been caught out and needed to quickly move my presentation to a presenter machine. Despite the proliferation of the cloud or potential sharing solutions, I find sharing via an USB stick is quick and easy.

SD Card – If using a device with an SD Card I usually carry a couple of spare SD Cards, just in case I lose one, or fill one of the others up.

USB Cables – Due to the differing sizes of USB, normal, micro and mini, I now carry three of them! I also carry a couple of Apple lightning cables too.

Paracetamol – some of those presentations do give you headaches…

What are you going to pack?

Preparing to pack – Weeknote #183 – 2nd September 2022

Lots of my colleagues were still on leave, so it was quite quiet in the office.

So I was on leave last week and the week started with a Bank Holiday in England, so it was a shorter week. Having spent the week on leave, I was not too surprised to find that there were 109 unread emails in my inbox, it didn’t take too long to get those down to six that I needed to deal with.

Spent some time working out our finance system, I rarely raise purchase orders, so I do find it can be challenging to get to grips with the finance system and processes. Though I will say ours is certainly simpler than ones I have used in the past.

Next week I am off to Manchester for ALT-C. I revised and updated a blog post about making preparations for the conference.

Having probably spent time and effort securing the funding to go to a conference such as the ALT Conference in Manchester, it makes sense to spend some time preparing in advance of attending. Last minute rushing and chaotic flipping through the programme on the day of the conference, means you are probably not getting as much out of the conference as you could. I think this year with the hybrid nature of the conference, it makes even more sense to do some planning.

I have also written a blog post about packing and what to take to the conference, which I will be publishing later. Of course if you are attending online then this old post might be useful.

Some meetings were cancelled this week, as a key member of staff was off sick, which gave me some more time for planning.

Had some discussions with GuildHE about Jisc attending a network meeting at end of September to present on Learning Analytics and Student Support.

Had a session with a member of staff about agile methodology and how I use an agile approach, JIRA and Confluence to plan my week and my work. It reminded me that I haven’t written this up (for myself) and maybe I should write a blog post on my workflow and processes.

I updated my new stuff and old stuff event and conferences pages on the blog. Helpful for me to remind myself where I have been and where I am going, but may also be useful for others to either find out about a future event, or to let me know about an event that I might want to attend (and isn’t in the list).

I enjoyed this Twitter thread on diversity, merit and excellence.

I often hear people about appointing the best person for the job based on merit, or inviting the best speaker for the conference. This often though misses the whole picture and what diversity can bring to the holistic metaphorical table.

Diversity increases innovation: diverse groups are known to produce innovative solutions, especially to ill-defined problems (much of the science we do). Demographic diversity is a proxy for diverse thinking.

Having a diverse team means a better team, this isn’t about recruiting the best individuals, it’s about having the best team. I think I might write more about this in a future post.

I also liked this comment from the thread on higher education, and the importance of diversity in the demographic of the staff in an university.

Demographic diversity is beneficial to the very experiences of undergraduate and graduate students, creates a feeling of belonging in students, and provides them with role models that they can aspire to.

Rochdale Canal in Manchester
Rochdale Canal in Manchester

So if you are attending ALT-C next week in Manchester, see you there.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Preparing for #altc or where do I buy the decent coffee?

The last time I attended ALT-C in person was in 2018, I missed going in 2019. I would like to have gone to ALT-C in Edinburgh, alas I didn’t go that year as I needed to be close to home as my youngest started secondary school, and as most people know, transition is a challenging time for all. In the end there were very few issues, but I am glad I stayed behind. Of course, due to the pandemic, the 2020 conference was cancelled and the 2021 conference was purely online.

Here we are three years later, and four years since I went and I am off to Manchester next week for the conference.

Having probably spent time and effort securing the funding to go to a conference such as the ALT Conference in Manchester, it makes sense to spend some time preparing in advance of attending. Last minute rushing and chaotic flipping through the programme on the day of the conference, means you are probably not getting as much out of the conference as you could. I think this year with the hybrid nature of the conference, it makes even more sense to do some planning.

My first ALT conference was in 2003 in Sheffield, this was also one of the first “proper” conferences I had attended, I wasn’t well prepared and came away a little disappointed, but you can read about that in my ALT-C journey blog post.

I have attended many conferences here in the UK and abroad, but probably not as many as some people. I have attended as a delegate, a presenter, an invited speaker and have had the pleasure of delivering keynotes at various big conferences.

So here is some advice from me, based on those experiences… Continue reading Preparing for #altc or where do I buy the decent coffee?

Weeknote #182 – 26th August 2022

I was on leave this week, so no weeknote this week.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Back from leave – Weeknote #181 – 19th August 2022

Well after two weeks leave it was back to work, and 179 emails in my inbox. I used an Inbox Zero approach and cleared them out before the end of the day. I left the emails form mailing lists in their folders and marked all as read.

Went to London for me end of year review having finished off the preparation for this earlier in the week. This is where these weeknotes can be useful for reminding me of the different things I have done and events I have attended.

I wrote a blog post on culture, strategy and croissant and strategy implementation.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. Reflecting on this quote though, I did start to think about breakfast, and wondered if I could use breakfast as an analogy for effective strategy implementation. As well as strategic objectives, what else do people need to know in order to deliver those objectives successfully.

I had a fair few cancelled meetings and sessions this week. Not too surprising as these were often planned when people were on leave and then other priorities take precedence.

I was in Harwell on Thursday and saw the autonomous self driving bus they have there. It had got slightly confused on one of the roundabouts.

Thursday was A Level results week and the press was packed with news stories about the results. I was reminded that I had written this blog post in 2017, You too can be a millionaire!

I was asked about the future of learning and the role of technology, and I referred back to a piece I wrote on the duality of digital teaching.

When we talk about online and in-person many of us think of this as a dichotomy, either we are online, or we are in-person. The reality is though as we know, that this can be more of a spectrum, a range of possibilities, with varying depths to which online or digital can be embedded into an in-person experience.

My top tweet this week was this one.

news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…