Category Archives: news

Consider the ethical issues first!

exam
Image by F1 Digitals from Pixabay

I found this opinion article on the Guardian on facial recognition interesting and relevant to some of the work and research I have been doing on assessment, specifically remote assessment during the lockdown and plans for the future.

As students sit their exams during the pandemic, universities have turned to digital proctoring services. They range from human monitoring via webcams to remote access software enabling the takeover of a student’s browser. Others use artificial intelligence (AI) to flag body language and background noise that might point to cheating.

In my work on assessment I did research and look at digital proctoring. Most universities realised that the technology, despite the protestations of the companies involved, was unfair and could negatively impact on wellbeing. There were also concerns about the validity of such proctoring. Universities have also recognised that not every student was in a space, have the connection or the right kind of device to enable them to participate in said remote exams.

However, professional bodies, such as the Bar Standards Board in the article, have decided to use digital proctoring for their professional exams, and their chosen technology uses face-matching technology.

The Guardian article author, Meg Foulkes, rightly expresses her concerns about the biased nature of said technologies and is concerned that they are been used without sufficient safeguards in place, such as stricter regulation and ethical standards, for instance.

The article specifically mentions the concern of many over the bias that these technologies have.

Of most concern is the racialised bias that face-matching and facial recognition technologies exhibit.

This article reminds me of the discussion I had a few weeks back in my presentation to the University of Hertfordshire, where I talked about the possibilities of technology, but I said, first consider the ethical, privacy and legal aspects of said technology before blindly implementing it with students. This applies not just to universities, but also the professional bodies that they work and collaborate with.

The library will remain closed…

books
Image by IvanPais from Pixabay

The government recently published some guidance for universities reopening buildings and campuses

This document is designed to help providers of higher education in England to understand how to minimise risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and provide services to students, keeping as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they do not live with.

There has been a fair amount of commentary on the Twitter about this, mainly negative, describing it as of little help, or “bleeding” obvious…

Genuinely at a loss to understand why this was written.

It mentions ‘pinch points’ such as ‘the start and end of the day’: what does that actually mean on a university campus?

Honestly, it’s one of the vaguest documents I’ve ever read.

…what an astonishingly vague and unhelpful document this is

In which Higher Education Professional Services staff are rendered almost entirely invisible. Although to be fair, the whole thing is quite the waste of words.

There’s very little to say about this other than it’s highly amusing that it notes guidance from CMA on consumer contracts, cancellation and refunds in relation to student accommodation but not in relation to higher education itself!

 Start and end of the day is interesting concept on a residential ‘sticky campus’

Though this section from the report has huge implications for the sector.

Libraries are currently required by law to cease their business during the emergency period (regulation 5(1) of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020). However, they are allowed to provide services for orders made via website or on-line communications, telephones and text messaging, and post. You might therefore consider how to make library services available in line with those methods.

The implication is that the physical library on campus should remain closed and library services are delivered online.

The legislation doesn’t mention libraries, but refers to the provision of library services.

 A person responsible  for  carrying on  a  business, not  listed  in Part  3  of Schedule  2,  of offering goods  for  sale or  for  hire in  a  shop, or  providing  library services  must,  during the emergency period – (a)cease  to  carry on  that  business…

I found this rather worrying as libraries in universities are more than just library services. Usually this is discussed the other way around that the library is more than just the physical space and services can be accessed online. In reality most university libraries are a combination of space and services. Some of these can be delivered online, but often students will want to use the physical space in the library even if they are not (directly) using library services.

library
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

I am not sure if a university decides to open their library they would face action, but it certainly could be a possibility. Of course things may change between now and when universities return in September. If universities can ensure social distancing in their libraries then maybe they can open the physical space. Study desks could be set two metres apart, one way systems imposed on stairwells and markers on the floor to aid staff and students to maintain social distancing.

face mask
Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

What is less obvious is how they will need to reduce possible infection by transmission via their physical resources. Would physical books and journals need to be held for 72 hours after a student has used them before another student could use them?

The published guidance has one paragraph about libraries, and that is too superficial to provide any decent guidance or support for universities on how they should operate their libraries when term starts in the autumn.

Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

Dunes
Over the weekend we went to Brean Sands, won’t be going back for a while….

The office was still closed and Jisc had asked all staff to not to travel for work. It certainly felt like all the days were merging into a muddle of days. Even though I work from home a lot compared to others, I still had quite a bit of structure to my week, being out and about at least once a week if not more.

Last week I was supposed to be in London three times for example…. The week before I was in London for one day and Birmingham for two. This week, all at home….

This was also the day that all the schools were closed and as might be expected, school online learning services such as Doddle and Hegarty are not really coping with the demand for their services. Creating extra stress during these stressful times. We also need alternatives.

There was considerable strain on these services, which meant that I suspect a lot of children gave up and may not even try again.

I had a meeting discussing the Education 4.0 roadmap that I have been working on, this meeting was booked weeks ago, I was going to to Manchester to do this face to face, but of course now it was done online via Teams. Continue reading Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

The week when everything changed – Weeknote #55 – 20th March 2020

This was a week when everything changed…

Over the weekend I scared myself silly by watching Contagion again.

This was a film about a much more lethal virus with a shorter incubation period than coronavirus.

So in the interests of accuracy I checked the trivia and goofs sections of IMDB only to read this section in the goofs.

The disease in the film is highly lethal, affects a very large number of people and has a short incubation period. In reality an infectious disease must have a long incubation period and less lethality than in the film to facilitate a sustained transmission. The real case makes tracking much more difficult, which is a central part of the film, therefore the filmmakers had to bend the facts a bit.

Oh…

Monday I was supposed to be off to London, but due the cancellation of the meeting I was attending, I decided not to go and in hindsight this was probably the right decision.

I spent some time following up the cancellation of Data Matters and what we would do and what needed to be done.

Continue reading The week when everything changed – Weeknote #55 – 20th March 2020

Digital should be a choice…

Bananas - Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

We often forget that sometimes people don’t like innovation and innovation doesn’t automatically always mean better. Actually most of the time innovation for a lot of people is rarely better. Sometimes its worse than what was before, most of the time it’s just different.

Innovation is defined as new or different, but it isn’t defined as been better that was there was before.

I recently read an article on the BBC News website An experiment in shopping via app reveals consumers are not quite ready for till-free grocery buying about an experiment that the Sainsbury supermarket had been undertaking at one of their stores in London. It didn’t end well…

The branch of Sainsbury had removed all their tills and allowed shoppers to scan their goods with their phones and pay for them through the app. Removing the tills allowed them to have a wider range of goods on display.

The challenge was that a lot of people were going to to the help desk to pay for their goods as they didn’t want to, or couldn’t use the app. The result was long queues.

I suspect some people when they popped into to get some food and stuff didn’t realise that the only way to pay was though an app and assumed despite the posters that they could pay through a traditional checkout (or even one of the self-scan checkouts). When they couldn’t find one they went to the helpdesk. Not everyone wants to install an app either.

I think it also reflects that people like to have a choice. When we go “digital by default” we forget that this doesn’t mean “digital only” it means that the primary choice for people will be digital, but that other choices (analogue) should also be available.

This has implications for universities and colleges who are in the process of moving services to digital, whether that be self-service kiosks, chatbots, or using digital assistants like Alexa.

If 20% of the population don’t use the internet (as reported in this article) how is this reflected in the students who go to university? How many of them don’t use the internet, or have made the choice not to engage with internet services or apps. Some may not even have the devices required for access.

Then we need to be aware that not all of our potential users will want to use the internet, let alone use an app. They may not want to use a kiosk or ask Alexa.

Amazon Echo
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Digital by default means making the first option digital, but there needs to be a second option, one that may require the use of people to deliver the service.

I am also reminded of this blog post by Lawrie Phipps The Darker side of Digital. Lawrie describes some of the darker aspects of digital by default. In the BBC article I link to, it means people were annoyed when doing their shopping. Lawrie points out how moving a service to digital only can be harmful to people’s welfare and their physical or mental health.

He quotes from an UN report on poverty in the UK.

“One wonders why some of the most vulnerable and those with poor digital literacy had to go first in what amounts to a nationwide digital experiment.”

When creating digital services, we need to remember that we are trying to enhance and increase access. This also means that we shouldn’t be constraining or reducing access.

Building digital capability three years ago…

Three years ago today I was in Birmingham for the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities conference, where I was delivering the opening keynote.

As the opening keynote in front of well informed audience on the subject I have been immersed with over the last twelve months was quite a challenge. I didn’t want to repeat the story that Sarah delivered last year, I knew I want to let people know where we are, but also to get them to start thinking about once the service is available, what else needs to happen at an institutional level.

The presentation covered where we are in terms of the Jisc Digital capability service and what it will offer universities and colleges, but also some of the challenges and thinking behind the work we have done.

It also mentioned some stories about the importance and value of digital capabilities including the infamous story of BoatyMcBoatFace.

As well as taking photographs and putting them on Instagram, I blogged about other sessions at the conference as well.

The importance of language – UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

and

Building ICT Proficiency – UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

and

Digital diversity – UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

Following on from the conference I reflected on many of the sessions and wrote the following blog posts.

Do we still need IT training teams?

and

Engaging the invisibles

It wasn’t long after that, that I swapped teams at Jisc and moved into the Further Education and Skills team. Though I would continue to work on the technical side of the Digital Capability project, I was soon immersed into the world of the Intelligent Campus.

Alexa, what’s on my timetable today?

Amazon Echo
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Though I have left the Intelligent Campus project I still have some interest in that space. One aspect is voice assistants, tools such as Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. I noticed some recent news articles in this space, such as this one: Amazon Echos to be installed in dorms.

The program will oversee the installation of third-generation Echo Dot units in all of the suites, classrooms and study rooms.

There have been many exploratory programs in this space, and it reminds me of the early days of the iPad.

There are challenges connecting devices to university networks, mainly as the consumer devices aren’t always able to be connected to a WPA2 Enterprise wireless network (such as Eduroam) but as with early days with any device, this functionality is something that is on the roadmap and can often be found as beta software.

Alexa for Business now allows organizations to connect select Echo devices managed by Alexa for Business to their corporate WPA2 Enterprise Wi-Fi network.

What we don’t know is, are these devices a fad, or are voice assistants here to stay?

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.

Ten ways to use Pokemon Go for Learning

Pokemon Go

Sorry no this is not a post about how to use the current fad of the week in relation to teaching and learning!

If you have even a passing interest in tech news, or are on the Twitter, you will no doubt have seen the explosion of articles on the new AR game, Pokemon Go. I am surprised no one has gone and written an article entitled “Ten ways to use Pokemon Go for Learning” as often happens with new tools and technologies.

I am not alone in this, just after I started writing this article, Martin Weller posted this on the Twitter.

There will be lots of people posting on Twitter and in blog posts and discussing over coffee the impact and importance of Pokemon Go and some will even say how this will transform learning.

I do wonder sometimes why the edtech community gets so excited about consumer technologies and thinks that this will have a real impact on teaching and learning. However we have been here before many times with the iPad, Facebook even Twitter. However often the edtech interest isn’t what drives use in education, it’s more the use by the general public. It often takes consumer interest in a digital technology or tool to kickstart the use in education.

The tablet device, in the Dynabook was envisaged in 1973, there was lots of research on mobile learning in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but it wasn’t until the consumer success of the iPad from 2010 that really saw the potential of tablets (and mobile devices in general) to enhance and support teaching and learning.

The Gutenberg project in 1973 started a huge library of ebooks, but serious widespread educational interest in the potential of ebooks didn’t really happen until consumers got their hands on the Kindle (and the iPad).

I also see it going the other way, there was no real consumer demand for virtual worlds such as Second Life, as a result it never really hit the educational mainstream, and was ignored by virtually everyone including most of the edtech community.

I see Pokemon Go along the lines of Flappy Birds, a fad that will come and go, like a lot of games. It will probably (like both Flappy Birds and Angry Birds before) inspire developers to create a range of similar and copycat games. I am expecting to see a zombie style Pokemon Go game in the next few months (or even weeks).

However I also think that what Pokemon Go could do is make Augmented Reality more of a realistic proposition for others, including those in the education sector and (probably more likely) the museum sector. I also suspect that we will see an increase in the use of AR across other sectors, notably retail and entertainment. There is a chance that Pokemon Go could move augmented reality from the fringe into the consumer mainstream and there into education.

So what do you think, is Pokemon Go just a passing fad, or is it the first step to mainstream adoption of augmented reality?

The impact of the fickle nature of the web

Broken Web

Over on my tech blog I have been writing about the fickle nature of the web, it is one of those things that I find annoying. You post a link, embed a video and then a bit later you find that it has gone! This was very apparent today with the news that the BBC are, in order to save money, will close down their recipe website. For me this is a mistake, however I also understand how this can happen, not just with textual content, but also media too.

Now as I write this blog post, it would appear that the BBC have climbed down somewhat and the recipes will be moving over to the commercial BBC Good Food website.

Screengrab from BBC Food website - Eton Mess

The impact of archived, expired and missing content may be annoying for me, but it is probably more annoying and frustrating for teachers who have created or curated content using third party links and embedded media and find that the learners are unable to access the third party content. These links need to be fixed or replaced, embedded media needs to be found again, or an alternative discovered. I know when I was working with staff, this was an issue they found very frustrating when creating courses and content for the VLE.

Personally I when writing content for my blog, I try not to use third party sites (in case they disappear) and try not to embed content if I can help it. There are times though when people have removed a video years later and looking through an old blog post you find the embedded video has disappeared as the obscure service you used has shut down, or was taken over.

As I said over on the tech blog, sometimes I think, why do people and organisations like the BBC do this? Then I remember I have done this myself and sometimes you have little choice.

WCC Logo

Back in 2001 I was appointed Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and we had a nice little website and the domain of westerncc.ac.uk and the consortium was wound up in 2006. As a result the website was shut down and the domain lost.

Back in 1998 when I created my first web site, using Hot Metal Pro I used the free hosting that came with my ISP account. A few years later I moved hosting providers (as I was using too much bandwidth) and had a domain of my own. I did leave the old site up, but due to bandwidth usage it was eventually shut down!

I remember creating a course site for my learners using one of those services where you got a free domain name and free hosting, should I have been surprised when they shut down and asked for large fees for transferring the site and the domain. It was often easier to create a new domain and get new hosting. The original site was lost in the midst of time.

We have seen services such as Ning, which were free and well used, but once the money ran out and they started charging, lots of useful sites shut themselves down. People then moved to different services.

For these small sites, it probably is less of an issue, annoying, slightly frustrating, but you can live with it, it’s part of what the web is about. However with big sites, like BBC Food, then it becomes more than annoying, especially if you have a reliance on that content for your course or your teaching.

Since I wrote my blog post yesterday , the reaction on the web has intensified (and it looks like has had an impact). One blog post from Lloyd Shepherd, one of the original team who worked on the archive makes for interesting reading.

It was my team that ran product management and editorial on the new Food site, and the site that exists today is largely the site we conceptualised and built at that time.

He explains the basis behind the site

The idea was very simple: take the recipes from BBC programmes, repurpose them into a database, and then make that database run a website, a mobile site, and who-knows-what-else. Create relationships between recipes based on ingredients, shows, cuisines, and who-knows-what-else. And then run it with as small an editorial team as possible whose job was simply to turn telly recipes into database recipes.

He continues to point out that as far as the remit of the BBC as a public service broadcaster, the food archive hit two key points.

Did we discuss ‘public service remit’? You bet we did. Every day. And it really came down to two things:

These recipes have already been paid for by the BBC licence fee payer, and they’re being under-utilised. A new service can be developed out of them for very little up-front cost.

Nutrition is now a public health issue. Obesity is draining NHS coffers, government guidelines are badly understood and terribly publicised. There is a role for the BBC to play in this, and this is the way to do it.

Though at this time we don’t know for sure where the content will be archived, rumour has it, it will be archived on the Commercial BBC Good Food site, one impact which I know it will have will be on catering courses that use the BBC content to support the learning of the students. A lot of the recipes are from professional chefs and provide guidance and inspiration to learners who are starting out on their careers. Additionally the way in which the archive works, they can find ideas and recipes for different ingredients. Even if the archive is moved, one aspect of the BBC Food site that will be missed, is the lack of distracting advertising.

It would appear that the BBC are moving away from an archive to library of content, which can be “borrowed” for 30 days before it expires. That got me thinking…

In the olden days when I was running libraries, we use to “weed” the collection of book stock which needed replacing, was out of date or no longer been used. We would buy new content to either replace or update existing books, or buy books that were completely new. One thing we were clear about was that we were not an archive, old stock was to be removed and got rid of, usually recycled or sold. The copy of the Haynes manual for the Hillman Imp from 1972 was interesting in its own right, but from a teaching and learning perspective wasn’t actually of any use any more.

Haynes Hillman Imp manual

We didn’t have the space to store and keep books and journals just for the sake of keeping books and journals. Of course with online materials that space argument becomes less critical, but there is still the resources required to manage curate large quantities of digital content to ensure that the content is accessible, searchable and relevant.

I personally don’t think the BBC Food archive is a library that needs to be reduced, refreshed and restricted, I think it is a great archive that should be kept. For me there are two services here, one is the archive and the other is a service delivering current and new content. It’s a pity that the requirement of cost savings means one was planned to go. Hopefully the recipes will be saved and restored when they move over to the new site.

In my post on Ning starting to charge  back in 2010 I mentioned above,  I did say one of the issues with using any free Web 2.0 service is that they may not be here forever.

Gabcast is no longer free, but Audioboo is. Jaiku is pretty much dead, but Twitter is alive and well. Etherpad has gone, but iEtherpad is up and running.

I still think what I said in 2010 is still relevant today when talking about services and web tools.

At the end of the day this is not about a service disappearing or now charging, it’s much more about how when using these services you don’t think about long term, but have the capability and the technical knowledge to move between different services as and when they become available.

Use what is now and in the future use what is then.

Though that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain and moan when something like the BBC Food “closure” happens, as sometimes there aren’t real alternatives, especially when it comes to content rather than a service.

What this whole story tells us is that the web can be fickle and relying on the stickiness and permanence of web content can be a challenge for teachers and lecturers. How do you cope with the transient nature of web content?

Image Credit: Broken by David Bakker CC BY-NC-SA 2.0