All posts by James Clay

Planning, discussing, and conversing – Weeknote #204 – 27th January 2023

I had a busy week with most of the week travelling and being in Manchester.

Monday though was a series of meetings across the whole day, incorporating updates, discussing the customer experience, finalising our team coaching, and a meeting with our public affairs team.

Tuesday I headed first to the Bristol office, where I picked some stuff up I needed for Manchester (okay I picked up my coffee machine for the hotel) and had my Q2 review. After that I travelled up to Manchester.

I spent two days in Manchester planning, discussing, and conversing.

Reviewing industry perspectives on the metaverse and immersive platforms. Meta, Google are all laying off technical staff in this space, Apple have delayed their AR/VR product again. Lots of confusion between immersive games and the Metaverse. Apart from some niche areas (such as education) what is the unique selling point of the metaverse? As Paul Bailey in a recent blog post said: “Let’s be clear: the metaverse (however you define it) is decades away.”

I had a meeting on the second edition of the guide to the intelligent campus, the decision has been made to make it a web guide.

Read this blog post from Donna and Lawrie on digital leadership.

We no longer encounter as many people in workshop contexts who have the option of not engaging with digital.  We no longer encounter people who believe that “digital” is a separate job that only a few people in an organization should have.

This reminds me of the staff IT induction sessions I use to run at Gloucestershire College, in that in 2006, there were many new staff who didn’t have and didn’t use e-mail, or the internet. By 2013, things had changed, all staff were using the internet and doing things that even I wasn’t doing online. Digital is not constant or standing still, it is constantly evolving and changing.

There is also a call to action on ensuring that digital leadership going forward is seen through the lenses of:

  1. Social justice and equity,
  2. Ethics, privacy, security, and intellectual property
  3. Environmental impact and sustainability of using Edtech (and tech generally) in education

Reviewing industry perspectives on AI and the impact of ChatGPT. Huge investments being made by Google and Amazon. Could we see an AI OS. Machine learning already in place in many applications (such as photo apps). Microsoft looking at including AI into tools such as Word (in a similar vein to a spellchecker and grammar checker).

My top tweet this week was this one.

Listen to the sound of my voice – Weeknote #203 – 20th January 2023

A shorter week for me, as I was on leave at the end of the week.

At the beginning of the week, I spent some time reviewing forthcoming events and conferences. I have found in the past that I usually find out about interesting events either on the day (via the Twitter) or after it is over. So, this year I have been planning to attend some conferences and events. Some will be ones I have attended in the past, others will be new to me.

I did though manage to get to the office in Bristol on one day.

Last week we did a session of our directorate risks, and after they were written up, I spent time reviewing them and feeding back. Another aspect was reviewing the mitigation of those risks.

In the summer Jisc will once more put on the online event, Connect More. I am part of the group at Jisc reviewing the themes for Connect More and I provided some ideas and feedback to the Jisc Events team.

Had a meeting with a new member of staff, exploring what I do and how my role fits into the wider Jisc.

Next week is my Q2 Review, so I did the paper paperwork and reviewing of work over the last quarter. As you might expect these weeknotes have helped considerably in reviewing my work over the last three months.

microphone

I have been researched and reflecting on AI voices and narration, implications for creating effective audio teaching resources automatically. Apple is already using AI voice narration for some of their audio books. Note this is not text to speech, but artificial voices that sound natural.

Some examples of voices can be found on the ElevenLabs website. The narration voices sound much better than text to speech.

My top tweet this week was this one.

The lights are on – Weeknote #202 – 13th January 2023

Monday I was working from home, spent some time planning for the week ahead. I spent much of the week up in London attending meetings in our Fetter Lane office.

I published a blog post about university spaces and wellbeing.

Could we use space utilisation data to support wellbeing? As students frequent and move about the campus, the spaces in which they study, learn and relax can have an impact on their wellbeing.

Had a meeting about some potential sessions at Jisc’s Digifest that I may present on.

Wednesday I was part of a meeting talking about risk. I have participated in risk meetings and importantly risk mitigation many times over the years. I remember undertaking a risk assessment on the external hosting of our VLE. I was asked by an auditor, what would we do if the server room in London (which hosted our VLE) flooded. Well we would switch to the alternate servers in Wiltshire. I was then asked what would we do if that server was taken out as well. As a group we decided that if both London and Wiltshire were taken out, then we would probably have more important problems to worry about than if the VLE was running or not. Though, if that did happen, we could restore the VLE from a backup on our own servers and get it running again that way.

On Thursday we had our Quarterly Leadership Team Away Day, much of what was taken up with a conversation and discussion with our CEO about the strategy, planning and moving forward.

Friday I attended the DfE HE Sector emergency planning liaison group where we discussed the potential impact of blackouts and cyber threats. I have written before, in October, about the potential impact of loss of power on student learning.

So how do students do online and digital learning without electricity or even connectivity? The news is full of stories on the possibility of winter blackouts as the energy crisis continues to hit home. With the continuing prospect of restrictions in gas supplies across Europe, there is a strong chance with a extreme cold spell in the UK that there will be power rationing. This means that some parts of the UK will be dark. Students will face learning without light, power, heat or connectivity. What can universities do to prepare for this potential likelihood? How can you deliver high quality online learning without power or connectivity?

In the post I explored some of the preparations that universities might want to consider if there was going to power outages.

At the time of writing the risk is low, so we are unlikely to see blackouts.

Jisc published a comment about ChatGPT and assessment.

ChatGPT and its ability to produce high quality essays with minimal human input has created a flurry in the UK education sector and many are questioning whether this signals the end of the essay as a primary mode of assessing learners.

One of the (now not so) little people got a new 10th generation iPad for Christmas. He asked if he could borrow my first generation Apple Pencil to do some drawing on his iPad. Having purchased an USB-C to Lighting adapter from the Apple Store in Bristol to connect a first generation Apple Pencil to a 10th generation iPad, I think there might be a problem with the pencil. It seemed to be failing to hold a charge, despite being connected and fast charging from the 10th generation iPad. Reading the web it looks like that as I haven’t used the pencil in a while, the battery has died. Though I had given up hope, my son hadn’t. While I was away for work, he tried once more to charge the pencil, and low and behold, it charged up, it paired and is working well with the 10th generation iPad.

It’s alive I tell you, alive!

My top tweet this week was this one.

Spaces and Wellbeing

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Could we use space utilisation data to support wellbeing?

As students frequent and move about the campus, the spaces in which they study, learn and relax can have an impact on their wellbeing.

Student wellbeing is a key priority for the Higher Education (HE) sector. The Stepchange framework, created by Universities UK, calls on all universities to make wellbeing a strategic priority which is “foundational to all aspects of university life, for all students and all staff.”  We know, as discussed in a recent Jisc blog post, that good data governance provides the foundation to build new wellbeing support systems that can respond to the needs of students – helping more people more quickly while maximising the use of available resources.

As well as the usual suspects that universities can use to collect engagement data, such as the VLE, library systems and access to learning spaces, could universities use space utilisation data to, enhance and improve the spaces (formal and informal) on campus to deliver a better student experience and support wellbeing?

Could we use data from how spaces and when spaces are being used to deliver a better student experience and maximise student wellbeing.

Space utilisation

 Currently universities will use manual and automated methods to measure space utilisation. Often this data is used to for self-assessment reports and proposals for expansion. Few are analysing that data in real time and presenting the information to students.

We know that measuring usage of space, tables and desks can be fraught with ethical concerns. It is critical when measuring space usage that the university is transparent about what it is doing, how it is doing it and why.

group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The importance of space

 You can imagine the scenario when a student who is facing challenges on their course, and decides to visit the campus, expecting to find space to study, but the library is busy, the study areas are noisy and even the café is closed. This disappointment can lead to annoyance. This small negative experience could potentially impact on the wellbeing of the student. They are probably not alone, as other students (and staff) are equally frustrated and disappointed. If they had known about the current (and predicted future) utilisation of that space, they may have made different plans. They could have left earlier, or arrived later.

Using data on spaces to support wellbeing

Analysing the data on space utilisation could provide a valuable insight into ensuring that when students need space to study that space is available, and can support wellbeing.

Universities could use the data to ensure that when space is unavailable, for example for cleaning, so that this is done at the best possible time, for the minimal impact on student wellbeing.

 Space isn’t the answer

Of course, when it comes to improving student wellbeing, just having data about the spaces students use is most certainly not going to be enough. Data on how students interact with online systems and services, the resources they engage with, all provide a wealth of engagement data. We know that engagement is one measure that universities can look at to understand if there is a story behind a student’s dis-engagement with the university and work to improve that student’s wellbeing.

As Jisc’s Andrew Cormack and Jim Keane said in their recent blog post on data governance,

If their new university does not use data intelligently to improve their day-to-day experience, students could be disappointed, which reflects badly on the institution.  

Universities should reflect on all the data they collect, and decide what the data can tell them about the student experience, and importantly what interventions they need to make to positively impact on student wellbeing. Running out of coffee isn’t the end of the world, but combine many small negative impacts on the student experience, students will not be happy and wellbeing could suffer as a result.

Read Jisc’s framework and code of practice for data-supported wellbeing – which outlines how to promote ethical, effective, and legally compliant processes that help HE organisations manage risk and resources.

Back to work – Weeknote #201 – 6th January 2023

Happy New Year.

It was a shorter week this week due to the New Year bank holiday.

In the education world there has been much discussion about ChatGPT and its impact on student assessment. I decided I would dig out some old assignment questions and see what ChatGPT made of them. I had to adjust them slightly, as the original questions were on Railtrack, so I changed that to Network Rail. I wrote about the results in a blog post.

I headed to our Bristol office for two days this week, it was rather quiet in the office, with very few people in there working. I suspect the rail strikes had a factor in this, but my commutes were rather quiet.

BBC News published a rather negative piece on hybrid learning, Nearly a third of university courses still have hybrid teaching.

Almost a third of university courses are still combining face-to-face teaching with online learning in 2022-23, data gathered by the BBC suggests. Data from 50 of the 160 universities surveyed shows 28% of courses are being taught in a hybrid way, compared with 4.1% in 2018-19 before the pandemic. One student said he feels like he is paying thousands of pounds per year for a “glorified streaming service”. But an official says many students appreciate the flexibility and freedom.

The basis of the entire article appears to be skewed to the perspectives of one student who doesn’t like it. Though later down the page the article talks about some of the benefits of flexibility and inclusion that blended, or hybrid bring. To me it appears that the journalist arrived with an agenda and wrote the article in that light.

My top tweet this week was this one.

“Write it in your own words”

City of Bristol College Ashley Down Centre
City of Bristol College Ashley Down Centre by James Clay CC BY-NC 2.0

Twenty-five years ago I was a business studies lecture in a college in Bristol. I taught on various programmes including the HNC Business and Management and the Advanced GNVQ Business Studies.

A key part of those courses was assessment through assignments, this was time of continuous assessment, and no final exams.

Setting and marking assignments was always a challenge. You were assessing their understanding of the content, textbooks and lectures. I would write assignments that comprised a series of questions.

I remember colleagues would often talk to students who were struggling, to read the source material, the text books, and then write it in their own words.

In the education world there has been much discussion about ChatGPT and its impact on student assessment. Continue reading “Write it in your own words”

e-Learning Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts 2022

old typewrite
Image by Patrik Houštecký from Pixabay

This year I have written 92 posts to the blog. There were 113 blog posts in 2021. In 2020 I had written 94 blog posts. In 2019 I had written 52 blog posts which was up from 2018 when I only wrote 17 blog posts.

I decided when I got my new role in March 2019 that I would publish a weekly blog post about my week. I did this all across 2022 as well which added to the number of posts. I did once get asked if these week notes were popular, not really, but they are much more for me than for others.

So the blog post at number ten in the top ten is an old post from my series on how to use a VLE, 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip. This one is still popular and is about embedding comic trips from online services into the VLE.

The ninth most popular post was from a more recent series of mine, lost in translation, and focussed on the lecture, it was called Lost in translation: the lecture. Before having 4-5 hours in a lecture theatre or a classroom was certainly possible and done by many institutions. However merely translating that into 4 hours of Zoom video presentations and discussions is exhausting for those taking part, but also we need to remember that in this time there are huge number of other negative factors impacting on people’s wellbeing, energy and motivation. This post explored the options and possibilities that could be undertaken instead of merely translating a one hour lecture into a one hour Zoom presentation. Simply translating what we do in our physical buildings into an online remote version, is relatively simple, however it may not be effective. Thinking about what you want that learning experience to achieve and what you want the students to learn, means you can do different things. 

At number eight was some thinking I had been doing on timetables, the post was titled: The tyranny of the timetable. When you start down the road, moving from a static timetable to a smart timetable, and then onto an intelligent timetable, you start to realise that the timetable is actually a small part of the work involved. There is a whole lot of data needed to enable the timetable to make smart or intelligent decisions.

A really old post from 2008 was the seventh most popular post. It was about Full Resolution Video on the PSP. Do people still use the PSP?

Climbing to sixth place was a post on change, Steering a supertanker… It’s pretty easy to be honest.

One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett is that “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”. When something awful happens, or freakish, we hear news reporters say “it was a million-to-one chance that this would happen”. At number five was a post on freakish occurrences, “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”

The fourth most popular post was from 2008, up two places from last year, Can I legally download a movie trailer? One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back. Things have changed since then, one of which is better connectivity which would allow you to stream content direct into a classroom, as for the legal issues well that’s something I am a little behind on the times though in that space.

Moving from place to third was Ten ways to use QR Codes which was not a post about ten ways to use QR codes.

The second most popular post in 2021 is one of the all time popular posts, The iPad Pedagogy Wheel. Published in 2013, this was number one for many years, including last yea,r number two in 2019  and number three in 2020. I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”. It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

The post at number one was from 2015, I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean? was from the FE Area Reviews.

So there we have it, the top ten posts of 2022.

Merry Christmas – Weeknote #199 – 23rd December 2022

Gingerbread people
Photo by Michele Purin on Unsplash

Merry Christmas.

No weeknote this week as I am on leave.

My top tweet this week was this one.

End of term – Weeknote #198 – 16th December 2022

This was my last working week of the year.

So though I had snow and cold weather in Berlin two weeks ago, it was even colder than that this week in the UK. In the South West we didn’t hit really cold temperatures, though I did experience -6°C one morning this week.

The week started with a Senior Education and Student Experience Group meeting. Originally planned to take place in London, due to a range of unforeseen circumstances we moved the meeting online. It was really useful and interesting to hear about the challenges various universities across the UK are facing.

Some key headlines from the group were (and there are no real surprises here)

  • Personalisation
  • Learning Spaces
  • Assessment and feedback
  • Wellbeing analytics
  • Learning analytics
  • Curriculum analytics
  • Influencing government and regulators on blended learning
  • Importance of support for campus (intelligent campus)
  • Reviewing the curriculum
  • Culture change
  • Digital learning environment review

One thing they did want to see more of, which crossed all those areas was research based evidence to support any advice, guidance, products across those areas.

I asked ChatGTP, an artifical intelligence tool,  what is personalisation of learning was and this was the response. I think tools like this have their place and their uses, but as with any tool understanding what its potential is, is important in knowing how you can use it, and how others might use it.

Disappointed and rather saddened to see the way Twitter is going. Despite that, and though I didn’t plan to, I quite enjoyed the #LTHEChat this week. It was run by an old friend of mine Lilian Soon, and was on accessibility.

One topic which did generate discussion was that of document styles.

I really struggle with getting people to use styles and templates effectively. Most don’t see the point and actually prefer to bold and underline headings throughout their documents and presentations. This is fine for them, but as soon as you need to collaborate on a document, you find that you need to work hard to retain styles and consistent formatting through a document. It’s a similar thing with templates. In theory if you use styles and you change the formatting of the style, then all the instances of the style will be updated. Where people use formatting tools on the actual text, this then doesn’t happen.

Why are styles important, well they are critical for screen readers in navigating documents, but also if a student (or a member of staff) wants to change a document, then styles makes it really easy.

So why don’t people use styles and templates, I don’t know. Maybe it is too hard. I don’t think this is just a training issue.

Also it is not just styles, some people don’t do section breaks instead do lots of hard returns.

Typewriter
Image by Patrik Houštecký from Pixabay

In many of my presentations in the past I have talked about laptop bans, and then ask can I bring a typewriter?

It always gets a few laughs.

So you should not be surprised I laughed at this.

My top tweet this week was this one.