Category Archives: conference

At the QMUL VLE Expo

Choosing a VLE for your university can be a challenge. Everyone has a different opinion, people have different needs, student want an outstanding experience. 

Sometimes just changing the VLE can be a catalyst for change, but you can also lose people who were heavily invested in the existing system.

Today I was at the Queen Mary University of London 2022 VLE Expo conference.

This conference is brought to you by the “SP192 VLE Review” project, one of the strategic projects that work together to deliver the 2030 strategy. The main aim of today’s conference is to gather your views and needs from a future VLE. We will use your contributions and feedback today to help shape a recommendation paper that will be used to decide the direction we will take with our VLE provision.

The university wants to ensure that whichever direction they go, it is  about delivering on their vision.

That is what this day is all about – making sure our Virtual Learning Environment matches our vision and fully supports our students in their journey.

I like how the focus is about, what do we want to do to achieve our strategic aspirations, how will the VLE help us to do that, and which platform (or platforms) will enable us to do that.

Of course the VLE is only part of the solution, knowing how to use the technical functions of the VLE is one thing, knowing how to use the VLE to support and enhance learning is a more challenging problem. Embedding the VLE into the curriculum is also a challenge.

My role in the day was to sit on a panel discussion, The Future of Digital Education, to discuss emerging themes from the day. I hope to address some of the issues with why you need a VLE and then thinking about how you will meet those needs.

Sketching at UCISA 22

Last week I was in Manchester for the UCISA Leadership conference. I have never attended that conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020. I did a couple of sketch notes at Digifest.

At the UCISA Leadership conference I I took the time to sketch some of the sessions and the details of these are covered in the posts I did about the three days of the conference, day 1, day 2 and day 3.

As with my previous sketch notes I was using the iPad pro, Paper by 53 and an Apple Pencil.

Thinking now about upgrading to Paper Pro for more tools and flexibility. It’s £8.99 a year so quite good value for what you get.

My favourite of the sketch notes I did was from What’s your narrative? Building a compelling vision and dancing in the field with Mark Simpson, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning & Teaching, Teesside University.

You can tell Mark covered a lot by how busy my sketch is. That I think is sometimes the challenge with sketch notes, is that if there is a lot of content and importantly thinking then I can do a rather busy sketch. However where the focus is on a single idea then it is harder to develop the sketch.

I also liked the sketch I did of Sustainability and the climate emergency: how can IT be part of the solution and not part of the problem?  A conversation with Mike Berners-Lee.

I realised comparing my most recent sketch notes with ones taken pre-pandemic, that I am a little rusty and need more practice. Here are a couple from ALT-C 2017.

Made me realise how long I have been doing them for now.

This one was from Maren Deepwell at ALT-C 2018.

I actually recorded this on the iPad as I drew it. I then speeded it up and put it on YouTube.

My sketch notes are really for me, rather than other people. The process of sketching allows my to digest for myself what is been talked about and demonstrated. The sketch note provides me with a mechanism that provides a process for my interpretation of what is being said and what I understand from the talk. The process of sketching engages me in the talk in ways in which note taking does for others, or conversing on the Twitter.

Looking back at the sketch notes I have used in this blog post has reminded me of those talks I sketched and what I got from them.

They are not done for other people, if other people find them useful then that’s just a bonus. I am not sure how useful they are for other people, but having posted them to the Twitter I did receive some nice comments about my most recent sketches.

So if you want some sketch notes for your conference, why not get in touch.

Scary – UCISA 22 Day #3

I have never attended the UCISA Leadership conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020.

This year’s much-anticipated UCISA22 Leadership Conference will look ahead at the future challenges and opportunities for digital leaders in education. The theme of conference is Digital Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World.

I wrote about day one of the conference in this blog post and day two in this post.

This was the last day of the UCISA Leadership Conference, ending at lunchtime. We were in a different space, which though more impressive, was not as comfortable as the space used on the first couple of days.

Great opening session from Heidi Fraser-Krauss on her role of CEO at Jisc, where Jisc has been, where Jisc is, and her vision for Jisc going forward.

I did like this quote from her presentation.

There is something written by “John” in every university which was created twenty years ago and is crucial to the running of the institution.

There were lots of questions for Heidi at the end of the session, which for me shows that people found her presentation interesting and useful. There were some really positive comments on the Twitter as well.

I did think that the next session, What can your organisation learn from Formula 1? with 

Adrian Stalham, Chief Change Officer, Sullivan and Stanley wasn’t going to be my cup of tea, but it was in the end one of the highlights of the conference.

Business models break, new ones develop, technology evolves, regulations are revised and customers alter buying habits. Every industry is witnessing change, and Formula 1 is no different; as a multi-billion dollar sport it has seen unprecedented change in the last 20 years. Above all, Formula One’s leadership teams have had to communicate, manage and implement transformation strategies, bringing their teams with them, ensuring that they make the most from embracing change.

I did a sketch note of his presentation.

Adrian presented some of the key principles from Formula 1 that can be implemented into teams to drive high performance. He opened his talk with a 67 second pitstop from the past and how today the Formula 1 pitstop can be less than two seconds.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Continue reading Scary – UCISA 22 Day #3

Disruption – UCISA 22 Day #2

I have never attended the UCISA Leadership conference before, but after the 2020 conference was cancelled, I was given the chance to attend the 2022 event. This was the third in-person conference I have attended since March 2020.

This year’s much-anticipated UCISA22 Leadership Conference will look ahead at the future challenges and opportunities for digital leaders in education. The theme of conference is Digital Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World.

I wrote about day one of the conference in this blog post. This post is about the second day of the event. This was a full day of sessions, conversations, exhibition and networking. Certainly not enough coffee, but then again conference coffee is never anything to write home about.

For me the day started with the 9am session, From The Workshop to The Disruptor: Strategic Online Planning During the Pandemic which was delivered remotely by Adam Shoemaker, Vice-Chancellor & President, Victoria University.

In 2021, enduring significant lockdowns meant we had to be creative and authentic in the way we engaged with staff. This became especially significant during our new strategic plan development – as we wanted our staff to be involved in the process in a way that had never been done before. Utilising a crowd-sourcing platform that we named The Workshop, we harnessed people power and digital enablement to create something truly unique. This has led to a new way of imagining our senior leadership and designing our teaching, research and partnering future.

I did a sketch note of his talk.

Victoria University took a very different approach to their strategic planning. This was not a top down approach, the process initially involved nearly a thousand staff. This was a highly collaborative approach bringing in ideas, thoughts and visions from across the university.

Continue reading Disruption – UCISA 22 Day #2

Eventedness

I was recently reminded of the importance of eventedness when it comes to events and has similar implications in the delivery of teaching both in-person and online.

One of my favourite presentations from the EdTech space is this one by that Dave White at ALT-C 2010.

Dave with his extensive experience with TALL at the University of Oxford certainly well qualified to understand the benefits and limitations of online delivery. However he discussed during his talk the importance of the social benefit that physical lectures provide for a community of learners. This is though not impossible to recreate online, is very challenging. Dave demonstrated through his delivery and content that the lecture in itself can be a useful way to stimulate discussion and debate.

Here we are twelve years later and much of what he spoke about resonates today with experiences across the pandemic. We know that with the emergency switch to online, that we lost the lecture and replaced it with online zoom calls. Many felt that this was a poor substitute for the in-person experience, and they were right.

David’s talk followed a keynote by Donald Clark who had opened the conference with his keynote, and riled people and annoyed them with a blanket attack on the lecture. What Donald Clark did was to challenge our perception of the lecture, and it appeared to me that the over-whelming consensus of the audience was that the lecture still had some place in the delivery of education. This was reinforced for me by Dave White who gave a wonderful (unplanned) response to Donald’s lecture, with an invited talk on the eventedness and social impact of coming together to learn.

The phrase “eventedness” has stayed with me since that talk back in 2010.

This was something that came back to me when I attended WonkHE’s The Secret Life of Students. In London. This was a real in-person event in central London. I have not done one of those for a while.

I think my last in-person (external) event was back in early 2020.

There was some great content in the event, I liked the use of different formats across the sessions. Mark Leach’s interview with Nicola Dandrige of the OfS was a highlight for me. I also liked the mix of panel sessions and keynote presentations.

There was something else though, in sharing these experiences with others. With the laughter at Mark’s humour, the weirdness of the B3 Bear, the in-person interactions with strangers. This was something I hadn’t really engaged with online events during the pandemic.

I really enjoyed the WonkHE event, it was nice to experience the eventedness of an in-person event. Something I have found missing from online events. I think part of the reason is that most online events I have attended during the pandemic have been poor translations of physical in-person events Losing all the nuances of what makes those events so engaging and not taking advantage of the affordances that digital platforms can provide.

I liked the interview format, something I don’t think we see enough of in both in-person and online conferences. The only thing missing for me was more audience interaction and discussion.

Zoom
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Next slide please!

Too often in online events I have seen people talking to Powerpoint slides, often this turns into a monologue. Having done presentations myself online, I have recently tried to avoid using slides and spend the time talking to camera. I also make an effort to up my game, or Partridge’ise my presentation, recognising that presenting online can flatten the performance somewhat.

I have also found online that few people take advantage of the chat function, actually I have also noticed that few people take advantage of the Twitter when attending online events. You almost get the feeling that the event is on in the background and delegates are working on their e-mails. Having that focus of the physical in-person event was useful for me and though tempted I did avoid doing “work” whilst engaged with the sessions.

Back in the 2000s I attended and participated in many online conferences and the technical limitations meant we couldn’t do live streaming. As a result we made use of recorded video, audio, and textual discussions. Once the bandwidth allowed live streaming, it was interesting to see that the engagement with the conference declined.

I do think you can have eventedness with online events, but it takes work and effort and thinking differently about how you will create that for the event. Similarly you can see similar thinking needs to happen with online teaching and learning. There is more to teaching than presenting.

Should note though that the coffee was awful at the in-person event, so much so I had to pop out for a real coffee.

Nice to see you, to see Eunice – Weeknote #155 – 18th February 2022

Well the week ended with a red weather warning, our offices were closed, I worked from home and my afternoon online meeting was cancelled because of the weather.

I spent most of the week in London. The last time I was in London was at the end of November.

This was also my first opportunity to take advantage of 5G (new phone and all that). What they don’t tell you with 5G is how slow the upload speeds can be. Fine for streaming. Rubbish for online video conferencing.

I had planned to attend WonkHE’s Making Sense of HE event on Monday, but the end result was I wasn’t booked onto the event, so I headed into the office in London. Our office was relatively quiet and so I did managed to get lots done, but missed the social aspect of the office.

On Tuesday I did attend WonkHE’s The Secret Life of Students. This was a real in-person event in central London. I have not done one of those for a while. I think my last in-person (external) event was Digifest back in 2020.

The opening session was on diversity the key takeaways from the event for me were that diversity needs to be done differently than what we have been doing before. We need to think more about the individual rather than just fixing issues for identified “groups”. It was apparent that there was a need in the sector to think about transforming their approach to diversity. I was reminded of how there have been changed approaches to accessibility and digital in the higher education sector. There is now much more consensus about a whole organisational approach to challenges, and thinking about a more personalised approach to accessibility for example.

There was lots of commentary about unusefulness and lack of evidence for generational stereotypes, therefore we should avoid using terms such as Generation Z or Millenials.

The Pearson report on belonging was interesting and could be relevant to universities as they attempt to rebuild their communities following the pandemic restrictions.

The afternoon sessions focussed on the main on student outcomes. Lots of references to Student Futures report. There were a fair few sessions on digital as well. There are opportunities and concerns about digital.

As you might expect from an event where the audience was very much seated in student support (and SU) the focus of discussion was very much on how universities could and should support wellbeing and mental health. A fair amount of concern expressed about using data and digital to do this, the human factor was seen as critical.

Again feedback about having a shared understanding of key terms such as personalisation, hybrid, etc… This wasn’t so much about having a national discussion on the definitions, but ensuring locally everyone understands what the university is trying to do in terms of hybrid, personalisation, blended learning, etc… The fact that they started referencing multi-modal teaching as an alternative to hybrid, shows again the sector likes to spend time discussing definitions rather than solutions.

There was some discussion about the WonkHE Kortext report which I blogged in last week’s Weeknote.

Institutional technical debt came up in presentations (from people like Mary Curnock Cook) however the audience were not engaged with it so much (probably as they are not directly involved in this. Though we saw it is an issue with many (see Twitter thread) outside the event. There are data and technology legacies out there that are stifling progress, but universities struggle to know how to get out of technical debt.

I found the session on supporting students and enabling them to cope with university interesting. Assumptions are made about their “readiness” obviously links here with digital capabilities and skills.

Overall, I really enjoyed the event, it was nice to experience the eventedness of an in-person event. Something I have found missing from online events. I think part of the reason is that most online events I have attended during the pandemic have been poor translations of physical in-person events Losing all the nuances of what makes those events so engaging and not taking advantage of the affordances that digital platforms can provide. Though the coffee was awful.

Wednesday I was in the London office again, there were a lot more people in on that day, which made it much more social. It was really nice to catch up with colleagues, who I wouldn’t generally interact with much as part of my role. I spoke to one of our service directorates in the afternoon about the HE strategy and what it means for them.

Thursday I had a meeting with the Office for Students as part of their funding of Jisc. I updated them on some of the work we have been undertaking in the teaching and learning space.

Glad to return home on Thursday as there was travel chaos on Friday because of storm Eunice.

I spent part of the week working on how we can improve and enhance our thought leadership offer. I actually don’t like the term thought leadership, so rarely use it externally (there is an exception here for example), however it is a term I use internally (as it is in our core strategy).  It should be noted that many in the HE sector actually don’t like the term thought leadership. However if you ask people from the sector about the actual content that is produced that we would think of as thought leadership, then there is a different story as they find this useful, inspiring and helps them think. Similarly, members will often ask for specific people within Jisc who are experts in their field for help and support. Or they will find presentations and articles from individuals inspiring.  This is something we need to work on further.

I also did a fair bit reflecting on the Student Futures Manifesto. One of their recommendations is for a new national technology infrastructure strategy.

We recommend that Jisc build upon their leadership work first to review the existing technology estate in HE, and then, as a matter of urgency, produce further guidance to help universities more rapidly modernise their systems architecture and applications. While many universities already have ‘digital transformation’ plans underway, further guidance to universities about the basic architectural building blocks and data systems to support a digital university, and how to plan and execute a transformation, would be welcomed.

The recommendation continues

The centrality of technology now means there is a case for this sector leading approach, because this remains a core strategic capability which leadership teams struggle with.

Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Jisc CEO, said: “I wholeheartedly support today’s report by the UPP Foundation, which goes a long way to address the pandemic-related concerns and needs of students. I also welcome the Student Manifesto to help students rebuild their confidence, regain control of their studies and plan for a successful future after graduation.  “The report is right to recommend action on tackling digital and data inequities. Jisc’s digital experience insights surveys of university students and academic staff showed the detrimental effect on teaching and learning experiences from not having access to reliable connectivity, technology and digital skills. “I will be keen to action any Jisc-related recommendations to help support universities in modernising digital infrastructure as well as digitally transform learning, teaching and assessment to improve the experiences staff and students seek. As we move towards established models of hybrid learning, we have an opportunity to transform education through technology. Never have digital, data and technology been so important in meeting the multiple challenges and opportunities that UK universities face.”

My top tweet this week was this one.

What, still no slides? – Weeknote #123 – 9th July 2021

beach ball
Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash

Slightly disappointed to see that the Microsoft’s Windows 11 blue screen of death is to become a black screen of death. Not that I see it that much these days as I usually have the spinning beachball of death on my Mac.

Actually my iMac fusion drive died at the weekend, luckily no data loss, but frustrating all the same. Attempts to fix it through software failed so I booked it in for a repair with the Apple Store.

After dropping off my iMac for its repair I headed into our Bristol office at Portwall Lane.

We had a review meeting about our Leeds programme and there was some good and interesting feedback.

Rochdale Canal in Manchester
Rochdale Canal in Manchester

The BBC reported how the University of Manchester remote learning plan was being criticised by students.

A university’s plans to continue online lectures with no reduction in tuition fees has been criticised by students. The University of Manchester said remote learning, which it has used during the Covid-19 pandemic, would become permanent as part of a “blended learning” approach.

What is interesting is that most (if not all) universities are going down a similar road.

Later there was an update, the University of Manchester remote learning plan ‘was a misunderstanding’

UoM vice-president April McMahon said the use of the term “blended learning” had caused the confusion. She said most teaching would return to normal once restrictions were eased. Ms McMahon, UoM’s vice president of teaching, learning and students, said it had “never been our intention” to keep teaching online and any such suggestion was “categorically untrue”.

Once more shows the importance of a shared understanding  of key terms such as blended learning.

Lake District
Cumbria by James Clay

On Wednesday I delivered the keynote at the University of Cumbria Annual Learning & Teaching Fest 2021. My presentation, Moving from Translation to Transformation, was delivered without slides and was similar to the one I delivered at LJMU last week.

James will describe how many universities who translated their practice are now reflecting on how they can transform their practice to enable an enhanced approach to digital teaching and learning.

I did another session for Leeds on digital leadership which went down well. We covered digital capability and was a chance to bring back Boaty McBoatFace and discuss what we understand by the term digital capability, once more a shared understanding is critical in ensuring that everyone knows what you are trying to do when you build capability (in that it is more than skills and more than just training).

In the afternoon I had a really useful and interesting meeting about the production of training materials and the cultural differences of teaching through the medium of Welsh.

Jisc's Portwall Lane Office, Bristol
Jisc’s Portwall Lane Office, Bristol

Thursday I was in the office. I didn’t have any in-person meetings, but have started the process of using the office more, in the main for a change of scenery, meeting people and generally changing my routine. With the school holidays imminent I will probably be spending more time in the office. I have also planned my first trip to the London office for an in-person meeting.

Friday I was working from home, another session for Leeds and some discussion on strategy and targets in the afternoon.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Video of shaping our future campuses

Back in May I was presenting at the QAA Conference, my presentation was entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses?

The physicality of online learning is an issue that will impact on university campuses as more institutions move to a blended programmes containing elements of online and digital learning and physical in-person learning. In this session James Clay from Jisc will explore the challenges that growth in online learning will bring to learning spaces and the university campus. He will explore what is required for, in terms of space for online learning, but will also consider the space and design implications of delivering online teaching as well. He will discuss what some universities are doing today to meet these challenges and requirements. He will reflect on a possible future where we are able to maximise the use of our space as students have the flexibility to learn online, in-person and across a spectrum of blended possibilities.

The video of my presentation is now available.

Ensuring excellence – Weeknote #121 – 25th June 2021

A rather busy week.

Had a few meetings about Jisc’s HE bespoke consultancy offer and next steps.

On Tuesday I did originally plan to go into the office today, but according to the desk bookings there were very few people in, so in the end I worked from home.

I delivered a presentation to the IHE Heads of Finance Network on LTR, Powering HE and how Jisc can support and help Higher Education with a particular focus on investment in digital.

Wednesday saw myself deliver the second session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. Despite the fact I had to do most of the session by myself, it did seem to go well.

On Thursday I did go to the office in Bristol. There was a lot more people in the office than normal, however as I had a fair few online interviews and meetings, I spent most of the day in one of our meeting rooms. However I did enjoy the change in routine and scenery, and I had a few happenstance conversations, which I don’t generally have online.

We had a debrief about the Advance HE/HEDG shareshop we did on transition. We also thought about future ideas, including dual mode delivery and curriculum planning.

Friday saw myself deliver a repeat of the second session of an online Digital Leadership programme to a cohort of university staff. It was a slightly shorter session as I had a conference to present at later that morning.

The conference was a Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference: Next steps for reforming the TEF and ensuring teaching excellence in HE. My session was entitled Driving up standards and supporting teaching excellence in remote and blended learning.

I talked about definitions, background, the emergency response and the implications of differentiating between translation and transformation. I also discussed the topic of digital poverty.

meeting
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

In the afternoon I did some analysis of the planning that universities were taking in respect to transition that came out of the shareshop we did on transition.

The main themes that came out of the online padlet discussion were:

  • Building online communities
  • The importance of student (and staff) wellbeing
  • Supporting and developing academic skills
  • Developing inductions and planning welcome weeks
  • Building digital skills
  • Returning to on campus delivery

One of the key themes that came out of the padlet discussion was the value and importance of building online communities. As one delegate pointed out in their planning, they felt it was important in supporting them to socialise and feel part of the community. One university wanted to increase connectedness and a sense of belonging to the university community.

As with academic skills (but slightly less commentary) the disruption to both new students and returning students, many comments were made about supporting and developing the digital skills of students. There was a recognition that many students did not have the (academic) digital skills to successfully engage with online and blended learning. As one participant said there was a need to be supporting the digital skills needed to access the course and related services. Another said we overestimated the students ability to use and engage with online content.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Day23: Best conference merch

This post is part of the #JuneEdTechChallenge series.

I could say the iPad I got, but it was a prize, so guessing doesn’t count.

I really loved my Cambridge University Press mug I got at UKSG in 2011. I used for many years across three jobs and then it got smashed.

I’ve always liked the pick and mix, or jars of sweets I have managed to swag at various conferences. They were always very much appreciated by the children at home, well those bags that managed to make their way home.

sweets

The really nice notebooks that seem to be the order of the day in the last few years have been useful as well.

I also liked the Canvas t-shirts which they use to give away.

The downside of online events over the last eighteen months has been that there has been no chance or opportunity to get some swag or merch. 

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).