Space, the final frontier – Weeknote #259 – 16th February 2024

It was half term week in North Somerset, so I was off to the office for most of the week.

I posted a blog post What makes an intelligent campus? which was about the differences between a smart campus and a campus which is intelligent.

A dumb campus is merely a series of spaces and buildings. For example the heating comes on at 8am, off at 5pm, and is only switched on between November and March, regardless of the external temperature.

A smart campus uses data from the spaces and buildings to make decisions. For example, a thermostat controls the heating, as the room warms up, the heating turns off.

An intelligent campus uses data from across the organisation to make decisions and make predictions. For example, a team is out on an away day, so the intelligent campus, switches off the heating and lighting on that floor for that day.

I also updated a blog post I had written about the links between the university smart campus and the smart city (or smart community).

So how does the intelligent campus slot into the smart city? The reality is in many cities the campus and the city are not distinct spaces, and for many people they will move between city and campus across the day. If a university with an intelligent campus does not integrate or work with the smart city, then they won’t have the full picture and in some cases could be at odds with each other. Bringing in the full picture, all the data, a better understanding can be drawn from the experiences of the students and the city population at large.

Following on from the Intelligent Campus workshop I ran in January, the university has been back in touch to discuss planning a two day workshop with a wider range of stakeholders.

I had my Q2 review. As always, these notes come in useful for writing up that review.

I spent time reviewing the personalisation space I have on Dovetail and identifying gaps and further research required. The plan here is not to create the definitive guide to personalisation in higher education, but reflect on a shared understanding, the needs of the sector in this landscape, and where and how Jisc can help and support universities in moving to a more personalised student experience. I worked through a potential workplan and what the next steps are.

lecture theatre
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I have spent time working on learning spaces, and I undertook a second analysis of learning spaces scoping study we did last year, adding tags and insights to Dovetail space I have on learning spaces.

In the city there’s a thousand faces, all shining bright

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The Intelligent University in the Smart City

The smart campus is already here. Universities across the UK are already using technology, sensors and data analysis capability to prompt simple, automated actions such as adjusting heating, for example. The smart campus goes further than such simple actions and allows us to gather data about the spaces and, importantly, act on that data. We can turn down heating in rooms which aren’t being used, and the system will take into account the actual external temperature and not just the time of year. We can use electronic entry systems, such as swipe cards, to ensure the security of the rooms, but also to measure room occupancy. Similar occupancy data can be gleaned from campus wide wireless neteworks. We can also ensure that the lighting, heating and CO2 levels are within defined parameters. We often have insights into specific aspects of the smart campus, environmental conditions or room utilisation but these insights can be limited in what they can tell us. Most of the time, it isn’t all joined up and so has limited scope in terms of what we can learn and how we can use the knowledge to enhance and improve the student experience.

London
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

It’s a similar story with the smart city. Cities across the world are looking at how they can use technology to make transport and transit systems work for the people in that city. The Wikipedia definition of a smart city is “an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and internet of things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets”. Data from systems and sensors across a city can tell us some stories, about the use of transport, congestion, parking, pollution, health care, crime and a range of other functions and aspects of the modern city. Like the smart campus these insights and stories can be limited in scope, and often only give us part of the story.

Newcastle University worked with its local authority to develop a Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (CITS) leading to a “smart corridor”. This will mean that buses will be controlled by digital technology. This will allow buses to “talk to” traffic lights, maybe holding green lights for a short time or redirect drivers past congestion, improving journeys and reducing delays. Many of these smart city initiatives work in isolation, where real benefit comes is when the data from these systems is integrated and new possibilities emerge. It’s not always about systems talking to each other – if a system can utilise the data from another then maybe better informed decisions can be made.

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay
Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

There is a vision of universities moving from a smart campus, to a smarter campus, to the intelligent campus. An intelligent campus will take data from a range of sources, not just the physical aspects of the campus and how it is being used, but also the data from digital systems such as cohort information, attendance records, the virtual learning environment, the library, student records, even Electronic Point of Sales and online services. This joined up approach can provide insights into the student experience that we would otherwise miss. These insights can inform and support decision-making by individuals across the campus, including students, academic and professional service staff.

An intelligent campus using predictive analytics means that rather than responding to problems, universities and colleges are proactive and make appropriate interventions earlier to avoid those problems happening in the first place, based on a range of live data sources. It’s a similar story within the smart city, where using a range of data sources and analytics could enable informed decision making removing the need to react to problems by ensuring they don’t happen or are mitigated as much as possible.

So how does the intelligent campus slot into the smart city? The reality is in many cities the campus and the city are not distinct spaces, and for many people they will move between city and campus across the day. If a university with an intelligent campus does not integrate or work with the smart city then they won’t have the full picture and in some cases could be at odds with each other. Bringing in the full picture, all the data, a better understanding can be drawn from the experiences of the students and the city population at large.

CCTV
Image by Stafford GREEN from Pixabay

The collection and interpretation of data from a wide variety of sources understandably raises some concerns about the appropriateness of data collection and usage. One of the challenges that does need to be seriously considered are the ethical issues of using a range of sensors, tracking technologies, even CCTV that could be used to track not just people’s movements, but could actually be linked to individuals.

Some of the examples of data used in intelligent campus or smart city activities might not be thought of as personal. However, with the combination of different types of data from different sources, it becomes potentially easier to identify individuals, for example precise location and user behaviour. Anonymised data once aggregated can lead to better understanding of user behaviour and the management of facilities, but also potentially reduce privacy.

Even in an age where sharing of data on an app is commonplace, and sometimes scant attention is paid by users to the extent of this sharing, the fears and concerns of individuals should not be underestimated nor dismissed. This is something that we at Jisc have had to grapple with when developing our Learning Analytics service, which we recently launched, along with a code of practice to address ethical questions.

laptop
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Could this become a reality? Learning analytics services rely on a hub where academic and engagement data is collected, stored and processed. What if we, as a sector, could extend the learning data hub to enable data to be gathered in from physical places? Could we also bring in data from public systems, such as transit information, traffic, pollution levels, health care, entertainment information and provide a full enhanced student experience? Well that’s a dream that may well be possible in the near future.

References

Clay, J. (2018). Guide to the intelligent campus. 1st ed. [ebook] Bristol: Jisc. Available at: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6882/ [Accessed 13 Feb 2024].

Clay, J. (2017). In the city there’s a thousand faces, all shining bright | Intelligent campus. [online] Intelligentcampus.jiscinvolve.org. Available at: https://intelligentcampus.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2017/06/12/in-the-city-theres-a-thousand-faces-all-shining-bright/ [Accessed 13 Feb 2024].

Jisc. (2015). Code of practice for learning analytics. [online] Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/code-of-practice-for-learning-analytics [Accessed 13 Feb 2024].

Clay, J. (2024). What makes an intelligent campus? [online} Available at: https://elearningstuff.net/2024/02/12/what-makes-an-intelligent-campus/  [Accessed 13 Feb 2024].

Education Technology. (2018). What makes an intelligent campus?. [offline] Available at: https://edtechnology.co.uk/Article/what-makes-an-intelligent-campus [Accessed 10 Sep. 2018].

En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Smart city. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_city [Accessed 13 Feb 2024].

What makes an intelligent campus?

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

I often, well sometimes, I got asked what is the difference between a smart campus, and an intelligent campus.

A dumb campus is merely a series of spaces and buildings. For example the heating comes on at 8am, off at 5pm, and is only switched on between November and March, regardless of the external temperature.

A smart campus, uses data from the spaces and buildings to make decisions. For example, a thermostat controls the heating, as the room warms up, the heating turns off.

An intelligent campus, uses data from across the organisation to make decisions and make predictions. For example, a team is out on an away day, so the intelligent campus, switches off the heating and lighting on that floor for that day.

Now onto the detail…

The smart campus is already here; the technology, sensors and data analysis capability are all available, but it isn’t all joined up and so has limited scope in terms of what we can learn and how we can use the knowledge.

What we need now is the intelligent campus, where data from the physical, digital, and online environments can be combined and analysed, opening up vast possibilities for more effective use of learning and non-learning spaces.

But before we head down that road, it is useful to reflect on what we mean by a campus.

Universities across the UK are a diverse mix of traditional campus-based institutions, city-based universities where the estate is mixed in between retail, office and housing, and multi-site universities, with geographically spread campuses.

But they all have many features in common. There are formal teaching spaces, including classrooms, lecture theatres and labs. There are informal learning spaces, where learners can learn when they want to, including computer labs and the library.

There are also a whole host of social spaces such as cafeterias and dining halls, sports facilities, concert halls, common rooms, and student accommodation. Then there is the work space you need to run the institution, from the finance office to the server rooms, and there may also be green spaces, parking areas and business parks.

The non-smart or “dumb” campus is one where information on how physical infrastructure and space is being used, and what it is being used for, is rarely noted, and even more rarely acted upon. Any room utilisation surveys will be carried out by people with clipboards noting the number of people in each room, but probably not considering their activities. It would be really hard to work out how many people were in the building, even more challenging when there are multiple entrances and exits. In the non-smart campus heating comes on at 8am, and is only on between November and March, regardless of the external temperature. There are physical switches for the lighting system. Timetabling will dictate which cohort has to be where and when, and what subject they are doing. But often that is planned a year ahead and won’t take account of the kinds of teaching and learning that may be undertaken in any given slot, or whether the cohort changes size.

The non-smart campus can be inefficient, costly, and impact negatively on the student experience.

In many ways the smart campus is already here. Most new buildings built on the university campus will have an element of smartness about them.

There is some technology already in place which can start us on the road to making better-informed decisions about how best to use space, sensors, for example. We all know when lighting is linked to a movement sensor because everything goes dark when we sit still for too long, promoting much frantic arm-waving to turn the lights back on. The data from these sensors can tell us a lot about occupancy, as well as saving electricity costs.

But the smart campus goes further than such simple actions and allows us to gather data about the spaces and, importantly, act on that data. We can turn down heating in rooms which aren’t being used, and the system will take into account the actual external temperature and not just the time of year. We can use electronic entry systems, such as swipe cards, to ensure the security of the rooms, but also to measure room occupancy. We can also ensure that the lighting, heating and CO2 levels are within defined parameters.

Timetabling and curriculum planning, gives us an insight into when students could be on campus (not saying they will miss lectures, but you and I know this happens), adding in attendance data (if used) can enhance that picture. Bring in retail date from the coffee places and the shops. Data on bus tickets and car parking will also be an useful indicator of visitors to the campus.

Throw in library data, PC bookings and book issues.

Then there is network data, how busy is the network, how many devices are connected. Top end wireless networks can also help with occupancy based on connections to different wireless endpoints.

Even energy costs will add some useful insights into the use of the campus.

So what is the difference between a smart campus and an intelligent campus?

There are some key considerations when we come to looking at what makes an intelligent campus – the first is the aggregation and analysis of different kinds of data.

One of the noticeable attributes of a smart campus is that data is often siloed and isolated, and analysis and decision-making is based on a single data set.

An intelligent campus will take data from a range of sources, not just the physical aspects of the campus and how they are being used, but also the data from digital systems such as attendance records, the virtual learning environment, the library, student records, electronic point-of-sale and online services.

This joined-up approach can provide insights into the student experience that we would otherwise miss. These insights can inform and support decision-making by individuals across the campus, including students, academic and professional service staff. By using live and dynamic data, decisions can be made that are based on the current state of the campus. Here are some examples:

A student using an app on their smartphone can decide very quickly if they should visit the library that day as the app is indicating that the library is very busy, but it also informs the student that the noise levels in the coffee shop on the other side of campus are low, making it a possible option for study.

A lecturer decides on various group activities in a classroom, the room system having checked the module information and activity parameters, and set the heating and lighting to the optimal level for the activity, while also considering the preferences of the particular cohort of students.

A member of the finance team finds out from an app on their computer, based on data from previous visits, that the cafeteria is running low on the vegetarian special that day, so they can decide to leave now for lunch, so as not to miss their favourite meal.

The next level of the intelligent campus is to move beyond using this live data to add a machine learning or artificial intelligence element to the analysis, providing further insights. Bringing in historical data, feedback, and evaluative data, we can start to add a level of predictive analytics that will allow students and staff to make informed decisions on what is likely to happen.

Predicting when the library will be most busy and noisy, for example, will allow students to choose whether to come to campus before or after peak times, and will reduce the probability that the library will be too full for comfort at any one time.

An intelligent timetabling system could start to reflect on the sort of activity likely during a particular study module, not just on the number of students taking part, so the group activity could be shifted to an optimal room, rather than sticking rigidly to the same space.

By analysing when and how rooms are used, organisations will be able to make smarter, more effective use of learning spaces and other facilities across campus and to improve curriculum design and delivery.

But could this dream become a reality? Learning analytics services rely on a hub where academic and engagement data is collected, stored and processed. What if we, as a sector, could extend the learning data hub to enable data to be gathered in from physical places? How would we collect that data and what smart campus technologies would we need to have?

Making timely interventions to ensure that the best available spaces are being used for each session will enable students to learn more effectively and ensure that the organisation is running efficiently. Insights into utilisation of space, services, and resources, will enable universities to enhance the student experience.

Though much is being done in this space, the work has been focused on the relationship between the physical estate and the IT infrastructure coming together. The reality is that a university campus is awash with data from many different systems. A truly smart campus needs to bring that altogether, and an intelligent campus will enable deeper and more useful insights. Longer-term the possibilities for the intelligent campus are practically limitless.

What makes a smart building smart? – Weeknote #258 – 9th February 2024

After a week in the Bristol office, this week I was only there on Friday. Monday I was working from home, the train strikes disrupting rail travel for my Bristol commute. I spent a couple of days in Birmingham as well. I was off to Birmingham for a Smart Campus Roundtable being facilitated by PTS, an external consultancy company. I had attended a similar eventin London in June.

The focus of the event was about progress universities were making in the smart campus landscape, with presentations from Birmingham and Bristol. We had various discussions about university aspirations, challenges, business cases, cross-institutional teams. There was very little discussion on the actual smart campus technologies that are available. As was recognised across the room, the real challenges are vision, strategy, planning, policy, process, and culture.

I also found about the Smart Building Overlay to the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Plan of Work.

RIBA have developed a Smart Building Overlay to provide guidance on smart building technology through each RIBA Plan of Work stage; aligning decision-making with project outcomes and helping designers integrate the technology to support them.

This is an interesting document but does remind you of how much work has been done in this space by those involved in the architectural and construction industries, not just in education, but across all other sectors as well. Are educational spaces that different, something to think about.

Though much is being done in this space, the work has been focused on the relationship between the physical estate and the IT infrastructure coming together. The reality is that a university campus is awash with data from many different systems. A truly smart campus needs to bring that altogether, and an intelligent campus will enable deeper and more useful insights.

In a couple of weeks I have my Q2 review. As always, these notes come in useful for writing up that review. I also write my review in a Word document before then pasting into the HR system. I am glad that I did as I found out on Monday that there had been a glitch in the HR system which meant all my input was missing. Of course I could replace the text in my form from the Word document.

This was a habit I got into many years ago, as too often when writing into a web form, there would be a connectivity issue, or a glitch and I would lose everything I had written. So I now write in a word processor and then copy and paste. I do that for all my blog posts as well. So I am writing this blog post in Word, and then I will copy and paste into my WordPress instance later.

There is another advantage with using a word processor, is that I can write some of the blog post one day and finish it off another day. Using it for week notes means I can write up each day individually if I need to.

microphone
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

Saw an online presentation from David Kellerman on the digital transformation in his work at UNSW in Australia. He was an enthusiastic presenter and very passionate about his work.

I have been invited to speak at Higher Education Smart Campus Association (HESCA) event Smart Technology for a Smarter Campus’.

HESCA’s aim is to provide Higher Education establishments with a platform for debate on smart card technology issues relevant to their business objectives.

As you might imagine, the focus is very much on smart card technology, but though smart cards can provide lots of data, they can also be used to enhance the student experience in a lot of areas, if other sources of data are joined up. Very much an aspect of the intelligent campus.

I spent time researching, planning, and writing my presentation for HESCA 24 How smart technology is vital for tomorrow’s campus.

Reviewing and analysing my learning spaces space on Dovetail, looking at what I have done, what I could do, and what I need to do.

Spent time doing the purchase orders, booking, and logistics for various conferences. I am planning to attend UUK’s Survive or thrive? Grasping the financial sustainability challenge Conference. Also WonkHE’s Secret Life of Students, and the UCISA Leadership Conference in Edinburgh.

After some setbacks I did the recording and editing for my Leadership Masterclass – Operationalising your Strategic Vision video.

By the waterside – Weeknote #257 – 2nd February 2024


For the first time in ages, I was in the Bristol office every day this week. I don’t recall the last time I spent five days in the office in a row.

My use of JIRA and Confluence has been somewhat patchy over the last few months, so decided to reboot and refresh how I use both these tools in the planning and reporting of my work. I also want to be more structured in my writing for the blog. Though I am writing these weeknotes on a regular basis, I want to get more content and writing out there as well.

I was reading various articles and blog posts as part of my research on university operations and university spaces and campuses.

I have been reading the HEPI paper on Northampton University’s new Waterside campus.

The story of Northampton Waterside is one which reflects the many considerations and challenges which must be faced in such projects – and typically these pertain over at least a decade. Handling these issues effectively therefore requires clear governance and leadership.

Most universities have to grow and evolve their campuses, organically, in a way which is often not planned and usually dependent on a range of funding sources. Northampton were able to virtually start afresh.

There is a lot of press about the potential economic impact of a university failing. There was a letter in the Financial Times from Vanessa Wilson, Chief Exec­ut­ive of the Uni­versity Alli­ance.

Robert Shrims­ley’s piece on the crisis in higher edu­ca­tion (Opin­ion, Janu­ary 18) sum­mar­ises the finan­cial chal­lenges facing uni­versit­ies in Eng­land well. There’s something miss­ing however in the conversa­tion about the value of uni­versit­ies, which too often only focuses on our sec­tor being “world leading”. If a uni­versity were to fail, it would not be the inter­na­tional status that would be missed. The impact would be most keenly felt on the eco­nomy and ser­vices in that uni­versity’s region. The regional loss for NHS staff, engin­eers, archi­tects and design­ers would have a tan­gible impact on real lives. So too, the loss of the sup­port uni­versit­ies provide to local busi­nesses and the stu­dent start-ups and research spin­outs that attract invest­ment to local areas. Yes, our uni­versity sec­tor is world lead­ing, but it is also so, so much more than that.

There was this interesting comment from the Twitter.

A university closing in a British city might have a similar impact on the region to the closure of Tata Steel in Port Talbot.

Though we’ve not seen a major university fail in this way, the priority when smaller institutions have fallen by the wayside was always about the students and ensuring that they could complete their programmes of study. As for the actual institution, the staff, and the wider community, well there probably would be minimal help for them, and that would have a detrimental impact on the local community.

In a couple of weeks I have my Q2 review. As always, these notes come in useful for writing up that review. I also write my review in a Word document before then pasting into the HR system. I am glad that I did

Wrote up the Intelligent Campus workshop I did a few weeks back.

The challenge for many universities is using data for making better use of their physical campuses. We recently published a guide and a blog post on building the intelligent campus.

The pandemic changed the whole concept of the campus. From being a physical hub for staff and students, the campus is becoming more of a platform for extending teaching and learning. As a consequence, the importance of data analytics to enhance the learner experience is increasing. Thanks to technologies like 5G and the IoT, the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data already enables meaningful actions to be taken faster.

Universities across the country are looking for help and support in developing and enhancing their campuses. Their primary objectives are about improving and enhancing the student experience, but up there are secondary objectives such as efficiency, improved space utilisation, reducing their carbon footprint, and using their spaces more effectively.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Thinking about problems and solutions this week. Often people will start trying to work on a solution for a problem. When we don’t know what the problem space really is. We really need to understand what the problem is before we start proposing what the solution is.

Sometimes the problem is not what we think it is.

I am reminded of this blog post I wrote six years ago about the problem of people not using the VLE.

So if you want to increase use of the VLE, we approach the problem by thinking how we can get people to use the VLE, use it more and use it in different ways. By looking at things differently, using the VLE stops being the problem you are trying to solve, but the solution to a different problem.

So what was the problem or challenge, well in the article I wrote this.

The challenge can be that learners want to have access to a range of materials, resources, activities and conversations at a pace, time and place that suits them on a device of their choosing.

When you start to focus on the solution and see that as being a problem that needs to be solved, then you are going down the wrong road.

The lines were closed – Weeknote #256 – 26th January 2024

Monday I was working from home. I did some preparation for the week ahead, researching strategically the current state of higher education and the future challenges they may be facing.

I had an away day in London (and some other meetings). I decided to take the train, which I knew would be challenging as the lines were closed between Weston and Bristol all week due to engineering work. The plan was to take the train to Taunton and then take the train there to London.

Upon arriving at my local station I checked the National Rail app to see that my train was “delayed” and no indication when it would be arriving. It then magically appeared, so I got on the train and it headed down to Taunton. Had a bit of a wait at Taunton, so went to Starbucks for a coffee. I ordered a flat white.

Train arrived and I boarded. Then there was an announcement about ticket validity. Well, that was annoying. My super off peak ticket was not valid on the 09:43 from Taunton. Now needed to wait for the next train.  At least I managed to get off on time. I waited on the platform for the next train. This was a slower five carriage train, which stopped at many more stations. The previous train would have stopped at Reading and then Paddington only. This one was stopping at a lot more stations. In the end my journey was over five hours long.

Managed to arrive at our offices in Fetter Lane in time for my afternoon meeting. Had a really good discussion on the area of work I am looking at on optimising operations and data.

The following day we had an away day with various items on the agenda.

I spent Thursday, in the main, travelling home, again taking about five hours from London to Weston.

I have been invited to attend or speak at various events about the university (smart) campus.

It was rather cold – Weeknote #255 – 19th January 2024

Having done a lot of travelling and with anticipation with work being done on the office in Bristol, I planned to spend a lot of the week working from home. However the work being done was rescheduled. Well at least I could access my locker in the office this week.

Much of the week though was researching, writing, and reviewing some documentation for some work we’re doing in the optimising operations and data space. It was challenging, as it is quite complex, and wide in scope. Working out what we wanted, what is needed, and what then, was quite challenging.

I am realising that as I no longer use Twitter, that I am missing out on news and views. I am not getting this from Threads or Bluesky.

A good example was this thread from Charles Knight discussing falling recruitment in higher education.

There is often talk about the future of higher education and how universities need to respond. I do think that there is still an assumption that the traditional three year undergraduate degree programme is set in stone and will be here for a long time. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but what I do think we will start to see is young people wanting more flexibility, and we will see employers wanting more flexibility and more specialism. It’s an interesting space, but this is less about predicting the future, more about building in the resilience and agility to be much more responsive to future changes in student demographics.

I realise that I am not as immersed into the AI in education discussion as colleagues both in Jisc and in the sector. There is a lot happening in this space. Though I have played with Bard and Firefly, I’ve not really taken a deep dive into AI.

It was great though to see my colleague Lawrie getting his research into academics’ use of AI published in Nature.

And now, from Norwich, it’s the quiz of the week – Weeknote #254 – 12th January 2024

Most of the week I was over in East Anglia, and as a result I spent quite a bit of time travelling. It was also a shorter week as I was on leave at the beginning of the week.

My main event was delivering an Intelligent Campus workshop at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

We had an excellent interactive discussion about what is the smart campus, how do we make it intelligent. We looked at possible opportunities in making your campus smart, but also many of the challenges and barriers that will stop this from happening.

I also brought in some external perspectives from EDINA in Edinburgh and some of our own Jisc staff.

One thing that I was reminded of, was how that campuses don’t just appear, they evolve and grow over time. A typical university campus will have a range of buildings and spaces and with each building there are challenges in making them smart.

Another perspective was the importance of having a strategic vision for your campus. This can be challenging when a typical university campus can be for three years, whereas the typical life of a university building is usually in excess of twenty years.

I enjoyed the workshop and having an explore of the UEA campus. It has a real mix of buildings, old and new. There was lots of green spaces and trees as well. It was established in 1963, but their first building was Earlham Hall which was built in 1642. This building now where the Law School lives.

As I was in Norwich, I also took the time to visit the Norwich University of the Arts. They also have a mix of old and new buildings.

I grew up in East Anglia, and I am not 100% sure if I ever visited Norwich. I thought I had, but none of it seemed familiar. I had visited other places in Norfolk before, Kings Lynn, Dersingham, Hunstanton, and Thetford. However I have no recollection of visiting Norwich.

As I was over in East Anglia I also visited the University of Suffolk campus in Ipswich. This was founded originally in 2007 as a unique collaboration between the University of East Anglia and the University of Essex. It gained independence in 2016.

There are a range of buildings, the Waterfront Building which opened in 2008, followed by the James Hehir Building three years later.

There is a substantial amount of student accommodation on the waterfront as well.The most recent addition to the growing campus is The Hold, which houses the majority of the Suffolk Record Office’s collection and provides various facilities to the university including a lecture hall.

It’s quite a hike to East Anglia, so a good part of the week was travelling much as anything, but it was worth it for the workshop and visiting different campus sites.

Just doing stuff – Weeknote #253 – 5th January 2024

A shorter week with the bank holiday. Always nice when coming back from nearly two weeks leave to just 15 emails in the inbox. Knowing that you can probably delete all of them in one fell swoop as well. This time last year I had 109.

I went to our Bristol office a couple of times. It was very quiet on Friday, which wasn’t too surprising.

I spent much of the week planning an intelligent campus workshop I am doing next week in Norwich. As well as developing and designing the workshop, I also needed to sort out the travel and accommodation. With the planned tube strike, I decided that not only would I drive, but would take the opportunity to undertake some additional field work in the student experience landscape.

I finished off a blog post I started writing last year. It was on why I had quit the Twitter.

On September 24th 2023 I posted my last tweet to the Twitter (or X as it is called now). Since then I have not posted to the Twitter, or replied to any posts. I have retained my account though as I have an improbable hope that one day things might go back to the way they were. I think though that it unlikely.

I also published a post while I was on leave about how I might (re)subscribe to Flickr Pro.

Flickr is one of the first social networks I joined way back in 2007, which to me feels like just a few years ago and not 16 years ago!

I also started taking a photograph a day. Something I have done for a fair few years now.

I’ve quit the Twitter

Originally posted to Tech Stuff.

Twitter

On September 24th 2023 I posted my last tweet to the Twitter (or X as it is called now). Since then I have not posted to the Twitter, or replied to any posts. I have retained my account though as I have an improbable hope that one day things might go back to the way they were. I think though that it unlikely.

I had found over the last few years that my engagement with Twitter was declining and that I was finding it less useful as a social networking tool. There were days and weeks when it was really useful and interesting, the LTHEChats or as a back channel at a conference, but most of the time it wasn’t really working for me.

Over the last few months though, after Elon Musk bought the Twitter, I have noticed that not only engagement continued to decline, but also the functionality of the site was starting to break down. Combine that with the increase in hate speech, right wing rhetoric; I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would leave, and I did so in September.

Twitter

I have been a fan of micro-blogging (as it was called back in the day) since 2007. Something I heard about on a podcast. I joined Twitter, like quite a few other people in March 2007.

This was my first tweet.

This was from my second day on Twitter…

In an effort to really understand the potential and power of a micro-blogging service such as Twitter, I made a conscious effort to use the service on a regular basis. Often I would be working, take a break, grab a coffee, and think oh I must post something to Twitter so would post I was drinking a cup of coffee. Now I like coffee, but it wasn’t long before I had a reputation for coffee drinking on Twitter. Something that has stuck ever since.

In 2007 I actually didn’t use Twitter that much that year, though I was using a different micro-blogging service called Jaiku. Jaiku was a microblogging social network and mobile app that was founded in Finland in 2006, a month before Twitter. It allowed users to post short messages, or “jaikus”, sharing their thoughts and opinions on all kinds of subjects. The main reasons I used Jaiku, was firstly the community. My community was on Jaiku, and that was where the conversation was. The second reason was that Jaiku supported SMS.

In the US you could send and receive tweets by SMS, but this was not supported in the UK. Jaiku did support SMS, and some members of my community preferred that medium for engaging with the service.

SMS was much bigger in the 2000s and since then has been generally replaced with messaging services and something called WhatsApp!

The SMS constraint of 140 characters was the reason why Twitter (and Jaiku) restricted their micro-messages to 140 characters.

Jaiku was acquired by Google in 2007, but Google failed to integrate it with its other products and services. It also stopped other people from signing up, and then killed the SMS integration. As a result, Jaiku’s user base dwindled, and the service was shut down in 2012.

Though well before then I had migrated back to the Twitter, as more and more people I knew from the educational community found and started engaging with Twitter.

2009 was the year that delegates at ALT-C discovered the Twitter! In 2008 there were roughly 300 tweets and about forty people tweeting, in 2009 the amount of tweeting went through the roof!

Over the next ten years I would use Twitter on an almost daily basis. I used it to post (social) updates, professional updates, share links. It was a great tool for adding a communication back channel at conferences. 

I liked using IFTTT to gather information on people’s tweeting. I used the tool myself to share Instagram posts.

A highlight for me was the #LTHEChat tweetchats. Though I didn’t participate every week, when there was an interesting topic, it was fun to engage with that community.

But over time things started to change.

I posted this tweet in October 2021

I think it was a combination of the algorithm, but also a lack of engagement in Twitter from my community, and probably importantly I wasn’t really posting anything of interest.

Over the next two years I found Twitter less and less interesting and less useful. There were occasional peaks of engagement and activity, but for the most part, for me, it was declining.

When Elon Musk bought out Twitter, things just got worse. Much of the functionality started to break down. Changes to the algorithm meant I was getting less engagement, but more extreme messages were appearing in my stream. 

In the end I had enough and I left. After posting nearly 63,000 tweets over sixteen years, it was time to call it a day.

I will admit to visiting the site now and again, but I am glad I left. Still not fully engaged with Threads and Bluesky as alternatives though.

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