Category Archives: jisc

I am working, I may be at home, but I really am working – Weeknote #79 – 4th September 2020

Shorter week due to a Bank Holiday in England, the weather wasn’t up to much.

I wrote a piece about the reality of robots. The premise of the article was that:

When we mention robots we often think of the rabbit robots and Peppa robot that we have seen at events. As a result when we talk about robots and education, we think of robots standing at the front of a class teaching. However the impact that robotics will have on learning and teaching will come from the work being undertaken with the robots being used in manufacturing and logistics.

The draft of the article was based on conversations and some research I had done over the last few years. This was an attempt to draw those things together, as well as move the discussion about robots in education away from toy robots which are great for teaching robotics, but how robots could and may impact the future of learning and teaching.

I remember in one job when we bought a Peppa robot, in the support of teaching robotics. One of my learning technologists asked if the team could get one. We then had a (too) long discussion on why would be need a robot and how it would enhance learning and teaching in subjects other than robotics? The end consensus was more that it was cool. This was a real example of the tech getting in the way of the pedagogy.

Peppa

It’s September, so schools and colleges are back this week, operating in a totally different way to what they were doing just six months ago.

At my children’s secondary school, the students will now remain in the same room throughout the day and it will be the teachers who move from room to room. Each child will have a designated desk which they will sit in each day for at least the first term, if not the rest of the academic year. It won’t be like this at colleges and universities, but restrictions will still need to be in place to mitigate the risk of infection.

There has been quite a bit of discussion online and in the press about people returning to the workplace. Sometimes the talk is of returning to work. Hello? Hello? Some of have never stopping working, we have been working from home! The main crunch of the issue appears to be the impact of people not commuting to the workplace and the impact this is having on the economy of the city centre and the businesses that are there.

Personally I think that if we can use this opportunity to move the work landscape from one where large portions of the population scramble to get to a single location via train or driving to one where people work locally (not necessarily from home) then this could have a really positive impact on local economies, as well as flattening the skewed markets that the commute to the office working culture can have on house prices, transport, pollution and so on.

I wrote more thoughts on this on my tech and productivity blog.

video chat
Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

I read an article on The Verge this week which sparked my interest.

These students figured out their tests were graded by AI — and the easy way to cheat

I posted the link to the article to the Twitter (as I often do with links) and it generated quite a response.

Didn’t go viral or cause a Twitterstorm, but the article got people thinking about the nature of assessment and marking, with the involvement of AI. I wrote a blog post about this article, my tweet and the responses to it.

There was a new publication from Jisc that may be of interest to those looking at digital learning, Digital learning rebooted.

This report highlights a range of responses from UK universities, ranging from trailblazing efforts at University of Northampton with its embedded ‘active blended learning’ approach, to innovation at Coventry University which is transforming each module in partnership with learning experience platform Aula. The University of Leeds, with its use of student buddies, and University of Lincoln’s long-standing co-creation work are notable for their supportive student-staff approaches. University of York, however, focused on simplicity in the short term and redesign longer-term. The University of the West of Scotland is also focusing on developing a community-based hybrid learning approach for the new year.

I am going teach, was a blog post I wrote about the nature of teaching in this new landscape.

The Office for Students are reviewing the challenges the sector faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and are calling for evidence.

This call for evidence is seeking a wide breadth of sector input and experience to understand the challenges faced, and lessons learned from remote teaching and learning delivery since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March 2020.

The OfS are looking to see what worked and what has not worked. What will work in the future and what about the student experience in all of this.

I was quoted a few times in this article, How digital transformation in education will help all children.

As many teachers and learners have discovered recently, Zoom fatigue, that that needs to be accounted for when designing curriculums. “You need to design an effective online curriculum or blended curriculum that takes advantage of the technology and opportunities it offers, but likewise doesn’t just bombard people with screentime that actually results in a negative impact on their wellbeing,” says Clay.

I also mentioned connectivity.

“As soon as you took away the kind of connectivity and resources you find on campus, it became a real challenge to be able to connect and stay connected,” says James Clay, head of higher education and student experience at Jisc.

This was something that was echoed in a recent survey on digital poverty from the OfS.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, 52 per cent of students said their learning was impacted by slow or unreliable internet connection, with 8 per cent ‘severely’ affected.

The survey also found the lack of a quiet study space was also impacting on the student experience.

71 per cent reported lack of access to a quiet study space, with 22 per cent ‘severely’ impacted

Friday was full of meetings, which made for a busy day.

My top tweet this week was this one.

U-turning – Weeknote #77 – 21st August 2020

Cineworld

Made my first visit to a cinema at the weekend, which was nice, I went to see The Empire Strikes Back which was amazing to see on the big screen, I never saw this at the cinema in 1980, so it was nice to see it where it was meant to be seen.

Also over the weekend we saw more articles on what the future of university will be when the new term starts this autumn. A couple caught my eye, including this one from the BBC News: What will university be like for freshers this year?

But what will the university experience be like for “freshers” at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives? Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include “bubbles” among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.

The student experience this year will not be like it was last year. I still think one of the challenges will be the potential chance of a second wave of infection and another full lockdown, but the more likely challenge will be a local lockdown. Universities will need to plan for that kind of eventuality, these local lockdowns are likely to be weeks rather than months. Will courses have the flexibility to be able to respond and change as the local situation changes? That kind of planning is challenging enough with the added challenge of planning a curriculum that needs to take the requirements of preventing the spread of the coronavirus through bubbles and social distancing. As discussed before the real challenge is the uncertainty out there.

And if that wasn’t enough to think about, on Monday the debacle about the A Level results continued to rumble on.

Pressure is mounting on ministers to let teacher-assessed grades stand in England to avoid a second wave of exams chaos hitting GCSE results this week.

Continue reading U-turning – Weeknote #77 – 21st August 2020

Communicating with impact – Weeknote #71 – 10th July 2020

Early in the week I was preparing for my presentation on Friday, as well as working on some more future vignettes.

I spent two days this week doing CPD on “communicating with impact”. Though I have spent over twenty five years presenting, I still think there are things you can learn and unlearn as well.

conference
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

Jisc made the news having helped UK universities comply with China internet limits for their international students who are unable or unwilling to travel to the UK.

UK universities are testing a new online teaching link for students in China – which will require course materials to comply with Chinese restrictions on the internet.

The pilot project involves four Russell Group universities – King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, York and Southampton – and is run by JISC, formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee, which provides digital services for UK universities.

BBC hasn’t quite caught up that JISC is now Jisc.

Despite hearing some anecdotal evidence to the contrary, it was interesting to read in the Guardian that  UK universities receive record number of applications in lockdown.

A record 40.5% of all 18-year-olds in the UK have applied to go to university, with numbers rising significantly during lockdown, according to the university admissions service UCAS.

We are seeing a political shift in how central Government view the university sector.

Government to scrap 50% of young to university target

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is to scrap a commitment to get 50% of England’s young people into university, which was reached for the first time last year.

He is also promising a German-style further education system with a focus on higher technical qualifications.

Tony Blair set the target over 20 years ago to boost social mobility.

University campus
Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

Friday I delivered a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching & Learning Conference. Originally when planned I would have travelled over to Hatfield to deliver the conference in person. With everything that has happened since March, I did my presentation via Teams. My presentation was on learning analytics and ethics.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Maintaining the quality – Weeknote #68 – 19th June 2020

I spent the best part of Monday preparing, planning and rehearsing for the  QAA online workshop on Maintaining quality in an online learning environment I am participating in.

An article I write was published in University Business this week. Regular readers of the blog will realise that this was a reworked (and polished) version of a blog post I published a few weeks back.

Throughout the pandemic, universities have done their utmost to make sure continuity of learning has been maintained as much as possible, and the pace at which the sector has moved is amazing. But now that the initial period of response is coming to a close, and universities are starting to look at more long-term options, a consideration of online pedagogy and strategy will be important.

On Tuesday I had another article published, this time in The PIE News.

As coronavirus turns the traditional university experience upside down, changing the ways we design and deliver teaching, are contact hours still a valuable mark of quality?

I spent most of the day in my Senior TEL Group meeting where we discussed the group’s current challenges and what potentially kind of support from Jisc they need. Issues that did arise included workload planning, curriculum scheduling and timetabling.

conference
Image by Spencer Garner from Pixabay

On Wednesday, UUK published the results of a survey on how universities will deliver teaching and learning this autumn.

97% of universities surveyed confirmed that they will provide in-person teaching at the start of term this year, with 78 universities (87%), also stating that they will offer in-person social opportunities to students, including outside events and sporting activities, all in line with government and public health guidance.

microphones
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Thursday I did two online presentations, one was part of a QAA workshop on Maintaining quality in an online learning environment in which we will look at some of the key quality assurance issues that universities will face in the new academic year.

This session will include an update on COVID-19 before moving to a focus on the pedagogy of online teaching and learning and how this underpins quality. We will discuss key messages from a range of sources regarding maintaining quality in an online environment, before hearing applied examples from providers.

I also ran a session at Jisc’s Connect Morewhich I have called What of the future?My session was asking delegates to think about what happens next? What they think they need to do? As well as what they want support and help with to make it happen? This was a challenging session, despite having 80+ people in the Zoom session, there wasn’t many contributions from the delegates. I am not sure if it was my session, or the fact that it was the last session of the day, or the platform (we were using the Zoom webinar platform) didn’t necessarily facilitate engagement that well. In the end I did a quick presentation about my thinking of what the short term future means for universities and colleges.

I have been thinking following conversations earlier this week about scheduling of hybrid and blended programmes on a socially distanced campus.

So we know many universities are planning for blended and hybrid programmes with some aspects of courses delivered physically, but socially distanced. Some parts will be delivered online through tools such as Zoom, Teams and the VLE. Some will be asynchronous, but some won’t.

My question is this, where (physically) are you expecting your students to access those online aspects of their programmes, especially those which are synchronous? They will need a device and an internet connection, but they will also need a physical space to participate as well.

Imagine a commuter student (or a student who lives some distance from the university) who has arrived on campus for a physical face to face seminar and then needs to attend an online session. Where are they expected to do that? If they are to be on campus, where would they go? Would they know where they could go? Are they expected to go “home”?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Rightly dunked – Weeknote #67 – 12th June 2020

At the weekend, in Bristol, the statue of Edward Colston was pulled down by protesters and dumped into the water of the Bristol Docks. There was real anger about the “celebration” of a man who made his fortune by buying and selling people. It’s vitally important that as a society we learn from the lessons of history, but my opinion, aligns with David Olusoga, statues do not teach history, they celebrate the lives of those they represent. If we want to retain such statues, then we should put them in a museum and put them in context.

Though the R factor for the coronavirus is decreasing elsewhere in the UK, here in the South West it’s 1.0 which means that though the rate of infection is not rising exponentially, it also isn’t declining. In theory I can go to the office in Bristol next week, if I really need to work there and can get there easily by foot or cycle. Well I think I will be working from home again next week.

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by a journalist and his article has now been published online on a webpage. Continue reading Rightly dunked – Weeknote #67 – 12th June 2020

Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

I have decided to take next week as leave, not that we’re going anywhere, but apart from the odd long weekend (bank holidays) I’ve not had any time off working since the lockdown started, actually I don’t think I’ve had leave since Christmas! I had planned to take some time off at Easter and go to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.

I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).

So this week I was winding down slightly as I wanted to ensure I had done everything that people needed before I was off.

Radio
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

I published a blog post over the weekend about making the transition to online and to not make the assumption that though there are similarities in delivering learning in classrooms and online, they are not the same.

Making that move from the radio…

Making that move from the radio…

If we are to make the move a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning have the right capabilities and skills to deliver effectively online.

I had an article published on the Media FHE Blog. Continue reading Wot no lectures? – Weeknote #64 – 22nd May 2020

Planning for the future, well the tomorrow – Weeknote #62 – 8th May 2020

For me Monday was very much thinking about how HE will need to plan for the unknown for the Autumn.

The BBC reported on how students would still need to pay full tuition fees.

University students in England will still have to pay full tuition fees even if their courses are taught online in the autumn, the government has said.

We know many universities are planning for either full online degree programmes or hybrid programmes, but also that many are planning for potential coronavirus second (or even third) wave of infections and subsequent lockdowns.

It got me thinking about how this looks from a prospective student perspective, and the impact on those universities which are reliant on local (and commuting) students and those for whom it’s a place where students travel to study there.

We already have an understanding of the impact of the massive fall in the international student market on some universities, but the domestic situation is still highly volatile and unknown. Some surveys say 5% of prospective students have already decided not to go to university this autumn, and another 20% who are changing their plans. If we see a loosening of lockdown measures between now and September, then maybe fewer will change their plans, but we could see lockdown come back and enforced more stringently; this will of course impact on those prospective student plans.

There was massive disappointment across the sector to the news that the government were not going to bailout the university sector or agree to the UUK plan. Continue reading Planning for the future, well the tomorrow – Weeknote #62 – 8th May 2020

Will Curriculum Analytics merge with Learning Analytics? 

At the recent Jisc Learning Analytics Community Event at Newman University in Birmingham I was a last minute addition to a panel discussing some topics in analytics. One question that was offered, was, will Curriculum Analytics merge with Learning Analytics?

A simple answer is yes.

Learning Analytics can be defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.”

In the same context then Curriculum Analytics could be defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about the curriculum and the context, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.”

We might need to think how we define curriculum, but if you think of learning analytics as one side of learning, then curriculum analytics is the other.

Understanding that data may tell us a narrative about a learner, then without the data on the curriculum side, means that the whole picture isn’t clear. Not that data will ever likely to provide the whole picture.

If we think of curriculum as the design of the course, the activities undertaken, the subjects covered and how the learning is delivered.

Trying to figure out what this looks like from a data perspective is challenging.

Take something as simple as the lecture, that should be easy to define? Well…

What is a lecture? How long is a lecture? How many people are in that lecture? Where is the lecture? What time is the lecture? Where does that lecture fit into the day, the week, the semester? Is it in the first year of the degree course or later in the course?

We call many things a lecture, but for some people it will be a monologue, for some it will involve going through equations and proofs on a series of blackboard and for others it will not be just talking, but will include interactivity and engagement with the students. We know lectures vary across disciplines as well.

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

So if we find it challenging to define what at first appearances is a “simple” lecture then you can start to understand the challenges of defining the curriculum overall, such as tutorials, seminars, group work, labs, field work and so on…

Throw in digital as well, that adds another layer of complexity, is a webinar a lecture, what about lecture capture in all that as well.

Then could we incorporate self-study into the mix? Could we ever define informal learning in a curriculum analytics system?

So, will Curriculum Analytics merge with Learning Analytics?

The simple answer is yes, but it isn’t as easy as it may first appear.

Hello Portwall Lane – Weeknote #41 – 13th December 2019

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

Monday was a lovely day, as it was the first day that the new Jisc offices on Portwall Lane in Bristol were open. The new office was lovely, not quite finished, but the main working areas were open for business and it was a fantastic working environment. Lots of choice of different places to work, open plan, quite spaces, not a library quiet working space, small meeting rooms (ideal for silent working), social working spaces, light, bright and airy. Loved it.

I spent time putting together a presentation I was delivering later in the week. Though it was mainly images I did put together some explanatory graphics.

The talk was only ten minutes, so I hoped the graphics would explain the concepts more easily and faster. I also wrote a blog post about the presentation, which helped me formulate what I wanted to say in the talk. I wrote this in advance and scheduled it for publication later on the same day as the presentation.

Latest trends in intelligent campus design

Latest trends in intelligent campus design Event
Latest trends in intelligent campus design event

As I had an early start in London on Wednesday I travelled up on the Tuesday so I wouldn’t be late for the event. In the end due to some travel issues I missed the start of the event, but was on time to present my piece and listen to some others from the first half.

James Clay speaking at the Latest trends in intelligent campus design Event
James Clay speaking at the Latest trends in intelligent campus design event

I enjoyed delivering the presentation and a due to a last minute illness I was asked to chair the second half of the event.

My overall takeaway was that developing an intelligent campus (even a smart campus) involves a range of stakeholders and users, and that all departments across an university need to be involved.

Thursday I was on leave, so Friday was more about catching up on missed e-mail from the week and doing some preparation for the Data Matters 2020 conference, ready for meetings next week.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Goodbye Castlepark – Weeknote #39 – 29th November 2019

Ramsay Garden in Edinburgh
Ramsay Garden in Edinburgh

It was a much busier week this time, with a lot more travelling, including trams, planes, trains, buses, cars and walking. At least the weather wasn’t too bad, but there was certainly some rain and wind about.

University of South Wales
University of South Wales

Monday I was in Wales for one of Jisc’s Stakeholder Forums. It was interesting to talk to colleagues form universities and colleges about how they felt about Jisc and the services we provide them. I really enjoyed the session delivered by my colleague on big challenges and co-design and on my table we had a really insightful and interesting discussion about  a Netflix style model for education.

Landed at Edinburgh Airport
Landed at Edinburgh Airport

Tuesday I was off to Scotland, staying overnight in Edinburgh, before heading off to Glasgow for a meeting with QAA Scotland. Continue reading Goodbye Castlepark – Weeknote #39 – 29th November 2019