Category Archives: jisc

Weeknote #22 – 2nd August 2019

The Maughan Library
The Maughan Library on Fetter Lane

On Monday I was off to London. I was originally planning to be in a workshop, but that didn’t work out, so I made the most of my trip to touch base with some key people in our London office. I spent some time planning a training and development session on presentations. This follows a talk I gave at an internal TEDx event.

A duck goes quack…

The talk was about designing powerpoint slides and presenting information.

For the training and development session on presentations I will expand this into an interactive session that will cover presenting and presentations in more depth. The participants will need to design and deliver a five minute presentation as part of the session.

I will be helping them to understand what makes an effective presentation, some important aspects to consider when trying to communicate a message, how to focus on and reinforce key aspects of that messaging, as well as how to manage a Q&A session after presenting. I will be mentioning fonts and images. I will attempt to not mention clip-art!

Blackfriars Bridge
Blackfriars Bridge

Tuesday was another trip to London to meet with some consultants be part of a workshop to discuss and plan our messages for current and future public affairs. In order to get to the meeting I caught the tube to Blackfriars and crossed the Thames to Southwark. I have not been to that part of London before so was curious to see what was around as I walked to the meeting. The railway bridge over the Thames had a huge crest not quite attached to it which I found quite fascinating.

London, Chatham and Dover Railway
London, Chatham and Dover Railway Crest

The bridge was once part of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway network. This rail company was formed in 1859 and the crest is dated five years later 1864. It formed a union with the South Eastern Railway and though not formally merged they operated as the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. In 1923 it was merged with other rail companies to form Southern Railway. The line became part of British Railways following nationalisation in 1948. It remained part of British Railways (and from 1965 when it traded as British Rail) until re-privatisation in 1992. Services are now operated by Thameslink.

I used the phrase “not quite attached to it” as the original structure of the original Blackfriars Railway Bridge deteriorated until it was unsound. In 1961, two tracks were removed from the bridge to ease its load. The bridge was eventually removed in 1985. The current “bridge” is in fact Blackfriars Station now.  The crest, which was restored in 1990, and the abutments are a listed building.

Wednesday I was in the office in Bristol for my end of year review, which I feel went well, despite it being an odd year with a role change mid-year. The office was packed and there were lots of people I hadn’t seen in a while, so it was good to catch up.

I spent quite some time reviewing operational plans in the context of the higher education strategy that we have which was an interesting exercise.

I have been given the task of leading on an Education 4.0 roadmap and it has been challenging to find suitable time in people’s diaries during the summer, as a lot of people are taking holiday.

Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary, University of London

Thursday I was off to London again, third time this week, an earlier train as I was travelling over to Queen Mary, University of London in East London. This was another part of London I had not been to before. It was a bit of a trek on the underground from Paddington to Mile End, but at least I didn’t have to change tubes.

London Underground Train
London Underground Train

We were having a round table discussion on how Jisc supports TNE for Jisc members. I gave a short presentation on how Jisc works in the HE learning and teaching space. We did though branch out into a wider educational technology discussion and I spent some time discussing the concept of the Intelligent Library. This I have spoken about before at various events across the UK.

An aspect of the discussion was use cases that could then drive how such a concept could be implemented. One we discussed was providing assessment information to libraries in a way that would support them in their provision of the library service.

I spent the afternoon working in our office in Fetter Lane.

Fetter Lane
Fetter Lane

Friday was a time to participate in a meeting about the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway I am developing at Jisc. I have made some progress, but still have some way to go to. I also took the time to undertake some planning.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Giving feedback….

Jisc Pedagogy Experts Group meeting in Bristol

I was reminded today by Amazon Photos that twelve years ago in 2007 I had attended a Jisc (or should that be JISC) Pedagogy Experts Group meeting in Bristol.

I did blog about the meeting. This was one of the first blog posts I wrote for this blog, but I had been blogging for a few years on my old Western Colleges Consortium blog.

The meeting brought together people from across the UK.

The aim of the meeting is to inform the group of the current issues and investigations into many of the JISC e-learning Learners’ Experience projects, also to consult the experts own expertise in relation to learners’ experiences.

It was not a meeting, much more a discussion and not a series of presentations with a few questions.I was on a panel in the afternoon looking at how can we help to meet learners’ changing needs and expectations.

I remember one session, where we were split into groups, and we were discussing learner experiences. We were challenged to provide feedback using a single PowerPoint slide. I decided that this didn’t give us much choice, so myself and Alistair McNaught decided to give our feedback as a rap. I used Garageband on the Mac and provided the background drums and music, and Alistair did the rapping. Luckily for everyone it wasn’t recorded, so the rap is now merely a memory….

State of play updated

On this day nine years ago I was presenting and giving an  overview of the current state of play of mobile tech and MoLeNET for the JISC Cetis Mobile Tech Event on the 15th June 2010 in Bolton.

Here are the presentation slides I delivered.

I created the slides in Apple’s Keynote application before saving them as images which I then imported into Powerpoint.

I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what we thought then was the state of play then and what the current state of play is.

June 2010 was just two weeks after the iPad was available in the UK and people were still wondering what to do with it and what it’s potential was, I used the image of iPad boxes to show that this was going to be a “something” and I think we can say it certainly had impact. 

Not just putting the tablet as a mobile device into the heads of consumers and educators, but also the influence it had on smartphones as well. I don’t think we would have the huge large screen smartphones we have today if it wasn’t for devices such as the iPad and notably the iPad mini.

In most of my presentations I usually put a slide like this in.

There was still a culture of presenters asking people to turn off devices, give me your full attention and all that. Today I think we have more idea of if we want to use our device or not at conferences and presentations. I certainly wanted people to think about what I was saying, but also join in the conversation using new tools such as the Twitter!

In the presentation I started to look at the news headlines of the day

Apple had released their iPhone in 2007, now three years later it was having a huge impact on the market for phones.

Today the figures are somewhat different, there is no more sign of Nokia, RIM, HTC or Motorola, but look how Samsung dominates that market along with Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers.

Another headline was the success of the iPad.

What was interesting was how much the iPhone (and the iPad) were used to browse the mobile internet back in 2010.

Today most smartphones are capable of web browsing, mainly as most websites are now mobile optimised, making it a much easier experience than trying to navigate a desktop enabled site on a mobile browser. The other big change has been the growth of smartphone apps.

Back then the data limits with mobile contracts was really limiting.

Though these limits are still here today, having an unlimited data contract is no longer the realm of business accounts, consumers and students can access contracts with unlimited data more easily and quite cheaply as well. The data landscape has changed as well with 4G speeds being widespread and we are on the edge of the 5G world as well. The other factor that has changed is the widespread availability of wifi.

I really find these data usage patterns for the O2 network for 2010 incredibly low compared to today.

I have been known to use between 50GB and 100GB per month on my mobile contract.

What’s the difference?

Hello Netflix!

I then had a link to a Jisc report published in 2009, on issues in mobile learning.

Identifying Emerging Issues in Mobile Learning in Higher and Further Education: A report to JISC

This report describes the results of a series of discussion workshops where experts and experienced practitioners explored visions of how mobile technologies and devices will influence practice in Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) in the near future. The workshop series was funded by the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) as part of the Emerge Community within JISC’s own Users and Innovation research programme. This exploration focused on identifying emerging issues for the sector arising from the increasingly likely large scale use of Smartphones, PDAs and camera phones by learners in HE and FE, both on campus and in the workplace. 

One of the things that is apparent from the report is how different mobile learning was back then compared to now. The main difference is the increase in bandwidth and connectivity. Then there was quite a bit of reliance on offline mobile learning and SMS texting. Today we see the use of mobile optimised web sites and apps.

However some of the issues in the report, highlighted in my presentation are still relevant today.

Training is still an issue, and not just with the technical side of things, understanding the affordances of mobile devices and mobile learning as well isn’t something that just happens and people instinctively know.

As discussed above, the issue of connectivity. Luckily today we have much better and more reliable wifi and mobile connectivity. This allows for mobile learning without the learner having to worry about being connected. Faster speeds allow for real time video chat, as well as streaming high quality video whilst on the move.

Collaboration back then often meant asynchronous textual conversations, as poor or expensive connectivity meant that real-time chat and conversations were not a possibility. Today collaboration is so much easier and can be done with audio or even video chat.

I also mentioned the Twitter.

As well as issues I also in the presentation talked about the fears that practitioners often felt when it came to mobile learning.

The cultural shift towards the use of mobile devices and learning whilst mobile, was something that hasn’t really gone away. 

There is still resistance to change despite advances and increases in the use of mobile technology. Often though people are happy to discover and use mobile devices for their own stuff, using mobile devices for learner is still a step too far for some.

One reference I think still stands is how as learning technologists we often think we come over as Luke Skywalker, here to “save you”.

We do need to remember that others mainly see us as…

Resistance is futile.

One important aspect that is equally important today was privacy.

With the increase in data gathering, location data gathering and increase in analytics, what was a real issue in 2010 is a much bigger issue today.

Having discussed the state of play back in 2010, I then went into discuss the MoLeNET project.

It’s interesting to see what has changed and what has remained the same.

References 

Clay, J. 2010 ‘Mobile: The State of Play (featuring MoLeNET)’ [PowerPoint presentation] Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/jamesclay/state-of-play . [Accessed 14 June 2019].

e-Learning Stuff. 2010. Mobile: The State of Play (featuring MoLeNET). [ONLINE] Available at: https://elearningstuff.net/2010/06/15/mobile-the-state-of-play-featuring-molenet/. [Accessed 14 June 2019].

Wishart, J & Green, D 2009, Identifying Emerging Issues in Mobile Learning in Higher and Further Education. JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), Bristol.

Weeknote #06 – 11th April 2019

Bristol

Monday I was back in the office, I do like going to the office. You can interact with people online quite easily these days, and I have been doing that for years. However there is a different kind of interaction you get in the physical office environment. Our Bristol office was shrunk due to an impending merger and move, so it can get crowded and noisy, even so I do like being there. I also like the fact that as it is in the heart of Bristol, I can go for a walk at lunchtime around the city centre.

I published a new Intelligent Campus use case on the Intelligent Campus blog.

Use Case: Onboarding – Improving the new employee experience

I also reviewed the other use cases, however these needed more work on them before they go on the blog.

I had to prepare some slides for a colleague who is attending a funders meeting next week on progress we had made on our HE and student experience strategy.

As part of the research for the slides I took the time to re-read the Digital experience insights survey 2018: Findings from students in UK further and higher education report.

In it are some interesting findings, though of course, it’s not a representative survey of HE students, as students chose to fill in the survey.

74% of HE students rated the quality of digital teaching and learning on their course as above average (choosing to rate it as either good, excellent or best imaginable). This doesn’t mean that the digital teaching and learning was of a high quality, as the responses are very personal and subjective. My high quality experience, may not be the same as your high quality experience. Having said that, three quarter of HE students who filled in the survey felt the experience they were having was good or better.

Seven in ten HE students used digital tools on a weekly basis to look for additional resources not recommended by their lecturer.

The survey also found that HE learner use lots of personal devices for learning, for example 94% of HE students own a laptop. Over 80% use a smartphone to support their learning.
Universities may want to think about ensuring that they are providing reliable wi-fi not just across their campuses and buildings, but in all those places that students use for learning and research. In a similar vein, are your online services are mobile-friendly and work effectively on mobile platforms.

I spent Tuesday working from home, mainly as the weather was predicted to be wet and cold. As well as finishing the slides I was working on, on Tuesday, I spent some time preparing for the panel session I was doing in Nottingham on Wednesday.

I had a few technical issues with Outlook not sending e-mails in a timely manner. I can never work out why that Outlook will send some e-mails, but with others leaves them in the Outbox waiting for something. In the end I had one e-mail stuck in there for four hours before it was sent.

I wrote a blog post on the discussion on the ALT mailing list about what we call learning technologists. As you might expect the predominate response from a list of members of Association for Learning Technology who in the main are learning technologists was that these “learning technologists” should be called learning technologists.

Wednesday I travelled to Nottingham for Networkshop, where I chaired a panel session. The session was entitled, What will the university look like in 2030?

Networkshop Panel Discussion

The background to the session described what we wanted to discuss.

What we hope to discuss and share our views on is about what the student experience will look like in 2030? What are the challenges students and staff will face in the future. Our panel of experts will discuss which emerging technologies offer the most promise in helping with the challenges universities and colleges face. The session will highlight the horizon report and Jisc’s view of education 4.0. This session is aimed at helping managers understand the future student experience, and what it potentially could look like and the challenges that may arise. What emerging technologies will help to meet these challenges, and how do they integrate these into the current and future institutional strategies. As you might expect with a somewhat technical audience some of the panellists will focus and discuss the technical aspects. How do we ensure we have the infrastructure and bandwidth to meet these challenges? How do we ensure security of the growing network, which takes advantage of the cloud and the internet of things?

I really quite enjoyed chairing the panel session, we had a great diverse panel with different backgrounds and experiences. We even had a student (which shouldn’t really be a big issue, but sometimes is at these conferences). We had a wide ranging discussion covering not just the student experience, but also opinions about the infrastructure needed to enable this. We had a good range of questions from the audience.

As it was scheduled the end of the day, it was a late finish. Nottingham isn’t in the middle of nowhere, but is a bit of a hike from Weston-super-Mare and back in a day.

Thursday was the final day of the week, a shorter week this week for me, as I am on leave on Friday. I was interviewed by Sophie Bailey and recorded for The EdTech Podcast in which I discussed my role, but also some of my thoughts on Education 4.0 and how we get there. I enjoyed the interview and reminded me of how much I enjoyed recording the elearning stuff podcast.

In between calls I looked at openetc which Lawrie had forwarded me the link, having attended a presentation about it at the OER conference which is taking place in Galway this week.

What Is OpenETC

I did consider going to OER19, but in the end decided not to. Not because it wasn’t going to be interesting and informative, but I am still relatively new in the role and the timeframe was quite short. Also it clashed with some home stuff.

Reading and reflecting on openetc, it reminds me of the PLE/VLE discussions we had ten years ago, when there would be these tools that students would use to create their own learning environment. My view back then was that the VLE would be at the hub of a learner’s online envruonment, and then they would plug in other tools. The use of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) which was initially developed back in 2008 with the final specification launched in 2010 made this much easier for people using tools such as Moodle, to then plug in other tools such as WordPress or Mahara.

The incarnation of openetc as a community also reminds me of the “offer” from ULCC of managed services that integrated Moodle and Mahara, the real advantage for FE was that it was a) managed so they didn’t need the skills and knowledge to maintain the service b) secure – they managed the security and patching. It is something that people may want to look at.

I had another meeting later about the future strategy, which was interesting and informative. One key thing we discussed was the importance of a robust data estate to fully exploit the advantages of analytics, across all aspects of the university.

Slightly annoyed that the meeting following that got cancelled at relative short notice. Something I need to reflect on, as it appears to be happening a lot with my diary.

I spent the rest of the day clearing through my inbox, nothing like Inbox Zero to end the week on. I also spent time planning for next week.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Talking Intelligently at #Digifest19

Digifest

Next week it’s time for Jisc’s Digifest and I am doing a one hour interactive presentation on the Intelligent Campus.

The smart campus is already here; the technology, sensors and data analysis capability is 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.

In order to enhance the student experience, allow for more effective and efficient use of space, could we take the smart campus and make it intelligent?

Universities and colleges spend billions on their campuses, yet they are frequently underutilised and are often a frustrating experience for students. In this session, I will describe the campus of the future. How does a traditional campus become a smart campus? What are the steps to make a smart campus, an intelligent campus? We have an opportunity to provide our members with a service that can help them address that problem. If we extend our learning analytics infrastructure to collect data from a wider range of institutional software and devices then we can deliver novel insights to institutional managers to help them make their campuses more efficient, improve student experience and deliver higher quality teaching.

The future intelligent campus service aims to find effective ways to use data gathered from the physical estate and combine it with learning and student data from student records, library systems, the virtual learning environment (VLE) and other digital systems. This session will describe what data can be gathered, how it can be measured and explore the potential for enhancing the student experience. It will demonstrate and explain to the delegates what the exciting future of the intelligent campus. Importantly I will also ask delegates to consider the ethical issues when implementing an intelligent campus as well as the legal requirements.

The one hour session takes place on there 12th March, at 11:30 in hall 9.

To read more about what is an intelligent campus have a read of this article, What makes an intelligent campus?, in Educational Technology written by me.

To find out more about the Jisc Intelligent Campus project – Using data to make smarter use of your university or college estate – see this webpage.

Jisc have published a guide for universities and colleges who are interested in venturing into the Intelligent Campus space.

In order to understand the potential of the Intelligent Campus space we have published a series of use cases.

For regular updates on the project and what is happening in the Intelligent Campus space then visit the project blog.

So long and thanks for all the fish…

Well time for a new job. Having spent just over three years at Jisc as a Senior Co-Design Manager, I have a new role at Jisc as the Head of higher education and student experience.

I have enjoyed my three years in the Futures Directorate at Jisc starting working for Sarah Davies on the digital capabilities project, before moving onto developing the Digital Leaders Programme with Lawrie Phipps, and working in the apprenticeships space and the Intelligent Campus.

I have had the opportunity to work with some great people in Futures and from the sector. I did start to list them and realised that there had been so many I was bound to miss someone out. Thanks to everyone.

As Jisc’s Head of higher education and student experience I coordinate Jisc’s overall strategy for HE learning, teaching and student experience and have lead responsbility for promoting the total programme and value and impact of all HE learning, teaching and student experience products and services delivered by Jisc.

I lead the ongoing review of Jisc’s HE learning and teaching strategy, positioning this work within the organisation’s overall strategy I ensure that Jisc’s portfolio of activity in this area remains in line with Jisc’s HE learning and teaching priorities and work closely with colleagues to develop Jisc’s understanding of the value and impact of all of our HE learning, teaching and student experience activities.

As Head of higher education and student experience I am also responsible for framing how current and future challenges in this area can be resolved by technological innovation and translating the key insights into actionable innovation pipelines that deliver real impact.

I manage the monitoring of national and regional HE learning, teaching and student experience customer and funder priorities, and work with Jisc account managers to examine the value ascribed by customers to Jisc products and services in this area, the join up of intelligence from funders and customers and the internal sharing of this, as appropriate.

I also manage the process of directorates identifying and mapping operational activities to our HE learning, teaching and student experience priorities, and the tracking and measuring of impact, highlighting gaps, challenging work if it is not aligned to priorities and identify emerging opportunities as these materialise.

If you are going to Jisc’s Digifest next week, come and say hello.

Going down the #altc road again

This is an updated version of this blog post from 2016. It now includes details of the 2016 and 2017 conferences.

#altc in Liverpool

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

Continue reading Going down the #altc road again

Why does no one care about my digital strategy?

lens

So have you ever been tasked with writing a digital strategy? Do you know where to start? Do you know what is going to ensure it will work and be successful.

So if you are tasked with writing a digital strategy, you could write it in isolation, but prepare for it to be a low priority for people higher up. Also expect people in other directorates or departments to ignore it as they focus on their own strategies.

Jisc have recently published a leadership briefing written by myself and Lawrie Phipps. A key aspect is aimed at those tasked with writing strategies, where we argue that in order to get stronger “buy-in” there is a need to apply digital lens to all strategies.

Jisc Senior leaders’ briefing paper

The paper proposes the concept of using a digital lens when approaching strategy, practice and process. The lens is made up of different aspects that need to be considered when applying digital to existing and intended structures.

digital lens

It is necessary to identify which element will be looked at in digital contexts – for example, a particular teaching practice. Different digital options should then be explored to gain a thorough understanding of the range of possibilities. The benefits and risks of each possibility should be carefully weighed before deciding to deploy. As with all change, it is important to reflect and evaluate the nature and impact of the changes caused by the incorporation of digital.

There is a history of people talking about applying a lens to stuff, to look at things differently. To give a different perspective on what has been written or talked about. These are sometimes called strategic lenses and can cover different area such as design, customer focus, resources, cultural amongst others.

lens

In this blog post I want to reflect on my own experiences in designing, developing and writing my own digital strategies. My initial frustrating experiences with a strategy that took a lot of my time which was then ignored, well certainly felt like it was ignored. It was almost a tick box exercise and the end result was the strategy was put into a lever arch file, put on a shelf until the following year when it would be reviewed, revised and published again.

As a TEL Manager in a college I was asked and I delivered a digital learning strategy, well back then it was called the Information and Learning Technology or ILT strategy. Historically it had come about because of funding from Becta to colleges was given on the basis of colleges writing an ILT strategy. This was often distinct from the IT strategy. The IT strategy was usually focused on the technical infrastructure to support the college business, whereas the ILT strategy was focused on the embedding of technology into teaching and learning. What often happened though was that both strategies weren’t linked together and weren’t always linked to the corporate strategy, of if they were those linkages weren’t always clear.

The end result was that sometimes these strategies were at odds with each other.You had an ILT strategy was advocating a student BYOD policy and the IT strategy was clear that non-organisation devices could not be connected to the wireless network.

Clicker

It wasn’t just the IT strategy, I am aware of heated discussions between managers, where the ILT strategy was advocating a student BYOD policy and the Estates strategy was clear that non-organisation devices could not be plugged into the power sockets.

On top of all this was the core corporate strategy that was focused on something completely different.

I remember my ILT strategy talking about the use of the VLE by students and that all courses would have a presence on the VLE. Sounds fine, but academic staff didn’t see that as a priority, because the corporate strategy was talking about, widening participation, improving teaching and learning, and better student outcomes. Staff saw the improvement of teaching and learning as a priority, they saw using the VLE as something extra, more work so a) didn’t use it b) would often say they didn’t have the time (which we know now means they didn’t consider it a priority). So a lot of my time was taken up “selling” the use of edtech. What I didn’t realise at the time was that what I often was doing was applying a digital lens to the existing strategy in order to “sell” the VLE or other edtech to academics. I would talk about how the VLE would enable them to “improve” teaching and learning, could be used to “widen participation”. I started to realise that having a strategy focused on tools was never going to be successful, one which focused on outcomes would be easily understood by managers and staff, and more easily achieved.

In a later role I had to write a combined IT, Libraries and Learning Technology strategy. We were being supported by an external consultant and I do remember one of the key things she said was that anything in our departmental strategies had to stem from the core corporate strategy.

A typical IT strategy will often say something like this:

Enable a secure, robust and stable network.

What this does is focus the minds of the IT and network teams to ensure that the network has high resilience, low downtime and is secure. As a result when academics and learning technologists want to try something new, they are “refused” because it could impact on the security and reliability of the network. Over the years I remember many times being told we couldn’t use this tool, access this service, because of the “importance” of enabling a secure, robust and stable network.

The problem was that the corporate strategy said

We will develop and deliver high quality teaching and learning, across a wide range of subjects and qualifications.

This meant developing new ways of teaching and improving learning. Academics wanted to try new and innovative practices, but the IT strategy was acting as a barrier.

If the IT strategy was linked to the corporate strategy and said:

Enable a secure, robust and stable network to allow high quality teaching and learning through the use of technology.

What this does is focus the minds of the IT and network teams to ensure that the primary focus and use of the network is on allowing innovative use of technology for teaching and learning. Yes they still need to ensure that the network is secure, resilient and stable, but their primary focus will be on ensuring that teaching and learning can make effective use of technology.

Any departmental or methodology strategy should always link back to the organisational strategy and how the objectives and actions will support the organisational strategic aims.

So how do you do that then?

Well that’s where the lens comes in.

So if you are tasked with writing a digital strategy, you could write it in isolation, but prepare for it to be a low priority for people.

If you apply a digital lens to the corporate strategy, you can demonstrate how digital technologies can enable that strategy. So rather than talk about how you are going to increase the use of digital technologies, the strategy talks about how the use of digital technologies will enable the strategic aims.

The leadership briefing we published provides a mechanism on how to do just that. The next stage will be to distill the strategy into an operational plan, again applying a digital lens will demonstrate and show how digital technologies can be an enabler and not a barrier.

Podcast on Leadership #jiscdiglead

Over the last three years I have been developing and delivering the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme, part of a wider team including Lawrie Phipps and Donna Lanclos.

Those two were recently interviewed by Chris Rowell, though the focus of the podcast was supposed to be about a chapter of a book that Lawrie and Donna had written, in the end the podcast was mainly about the leaders programme.

DELcast #4 Interview with Lawrie Phipps & Donna Lanclos about Digital Leadership and Social Media

DELcast #4 Interview with Lawrie Phipps & Donna Lanclos about Digital Leadership and Social Media – @Lawrie @DonnaLanclos @JISC

I really enjoyed listening to these two talk about the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme. The conversation reminded me how much the programme has changed since the initial pilots back in 2015, and what improvements and changes we have made to the programme.

Well worth a listen.

Open the pod bay doors…

People are not fearful of algorithms, they’re fearful of agendas that the algorithms represent.

2001-a-space-odyssey

Over the last few weeks I have been discussing and listening to people’s views on the intelligent campus.

One topic which has resulted in a fair bit of controversy is the concept of using artificial intelligence to support teaching and learning. This isn’t some kind of HAL 9000 computer running the campus and refusing to open the library doors until Dave the learner has finished their essay. This is more about a campus system being able to learn from the users, take that data, do some analysis and make suggestions to the user on potential ideas for improvement and useful interventions.

Imagine a learner arriving at campus with the intention of writing an essay, needing a quiet place in which to do this. They check their Campus App on their smartphone and it recommends a location based on the ambient noise levels and the type of environment the learner has used before. It could take into account the distance from the coffee shop, depending on if coffee is used as a distraction or supports the learner in writing their essay. The learner can of course ignore all this and just go to where they want to, the app provides informed guidance and learns as the learner does more learning activities and which spaces they use.

Another scenario, is a teacher planning a session, with some relatively interactive and engaging learning activities. They ask the intelligent campus where is the best place for this to happen! The system takes on board the preferences of the teacher, the availability of rooms, information from previously successful similar sessions and any feedback from learners. The teacher can then make an informed choice about the best space for this session. After the learning, the system asks for feedback so that it can learn from and improve the decisions it makes.

I think some of the issues (or should we call them problems and fears) that people have with a concept such as this is they feel any such algorithm is secret and hidden and will have a built in bias.

hal-9000-reflecting-daves-entry-in-stanley-kubricks-2001-a-space-odyssey

As I wrote in my previous blog post on open analytics I said

So if we are to use algorithms to manage the next generation of learning environments, the intelligent campus, support for future apprenticeships and data driven learning gains, how can we ensure that we recognise that there is bias? If we do recognise the bias, how do we mitigate it? Using biased algorithms, can we make people aware that any results have a bias, and what it might mean?

People are not fearful of algorithms, they’re fearful of agendas that the algorithms represent. But if we make these algorithms open and accessible, we could mitigate some of those concerns.

So if we are to use algorithms to support teaching and learning, could we, by making the algorithms open, ensure that, we remove some of those fears and frustrations people have with a data approach? By making the algorithms open could we ensure that staff and learners could see how they work, how they learn and why they produce the results that do?

This does bring up another issue that people have mentioned which is the bias any algorithm has, bias which comes from the people who write it, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. There is an assumption that these algorithms are static and unchanging and written by people who have an agenda. As we know from using Google and other algorithms, these are constantly changing and being tweaked.

Could we go one step further and allow people to edit or even create their own algorithms? Allowing them to make suggestions on how they could be improved, creating new analytics that could benefit the wider community.

We need to embrace the benefits of a smart campus, because the technology is already here, but we need one which learns from the people who use it; we need to ensure that those people are the ones who inform and guide the development of that learning. They are able to and can decide which intelligent campus decisions to benefit from and which they can ignore. By making the whole process open and accessible, we can provide confidence in the decision making, we can feel we can trust those decisions. We mustn’t forget that giving them that literacy in this area, is perhaps the most important thing of all.

Remember that in both scenarios above the learner and teacher both, ultimately, have the decision to ignore the intelligent campus decisions, they can decide themselves to close the pod bay doors.