Category Archives: weeknotes

Is this appropriate? – Weeknote #205 – 3rd February 2023

Spent a lot of time this week reading, digesting, reviewing, and reflecting. Also attended a few meetings and spent time having conversations on Teams.

On Tuesday I went to our Bristol office. The train was delayed, so I started attending a meeting on my phone, which I find weird, but it worked.

Attended an internal meeting about Microsoft – Mixed Reality (MR) and Metaverse. There is some excitement around the Metaverse. As I said last week  industry perspectives on the metaverse and immersive platforms are varied. Meta, Google are all laying off technical staff in this space, Apple have delayed their AR/VR product again. Lots of confusion between immersive games and the Metaverse. Apart from some niche areas (such as education) what is the unique selling point of the metaverse? As Paul Bailey in a recent blog post said, the “effective” metaverse is probably decades away…

Had an interesting discussion about the Office for Students and its future. There is criticism that they have been receiving from members and member organisations (such as GuildHE and the Russell Group). Labour (who are likely to win the 2024 election) have been quiet on HE and the OfS. Also found and read this  Can Labour de-Commodify Higher Education? It has a Minor Problem.

The education system in Britain is in the mud. That is scarcely news. But would Labour have the courage and values needed to revive it? The trouble they would have if they win the next General Election is due partly to their Party’s legacy and partly to a personal problem.

Attended Monthly sector strategy leads meeting and discussion. We had an interesting discussion on scenario planning. Thinking about a workshop on this. Continue reading Is this appropriate? – Weeknote #205 – 3rd February 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My top tweet this week was this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

microphone

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

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

My top tweet this week was this one.

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

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

I published a blog post about university spaces and wellbeing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jisc published a comment about ChatGPT and assessment.

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

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

It’s alive I tell you, alive!

My top tweet this week was this one.

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

Happy New Year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My top tweet this week was this one.

Merry Christmas – Weeknote #199 – 23rd December 2022

Gingerbread people
Photo by Michele Purin on Unsplash

Merry Christmas.

No weeknote this week as I am on leave.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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

This was my last working week of the year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typewriter
Image by Patrik Houštecký from Pixabay

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

It always gets a few laughs.

So you should not be surprised I laughed at this.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Chilly – Weeknote #197 – 9th December 2022

So though I had snow and cold weather in Berlin last week, it appeared to follow me back and this week was rather chilly.

After a week away, I spent most of the week working from home, catching up on stuff from last week and tidying things up before the Christmas break.

I also spent time doing the final preparations for a meeting next week, which originally was going to be in London, but will now take place online.

I spent some time reflecting on a keynote from Taskeen Adam, Designing Justice-oriented Digital Education, at Moving Target: Digitalisation 2022, which I saw last week in Berlin.

Moving Target Digitalisation 2022, Opening 30.11.2022, Museum für Kommunikation (MfK), Berlin – Credit Stefan Zeitz/DAAD

So I wrote up my thoughts and published them on the blog.

I thought this was an excellent thoughtful insight into the challenges universities face in reflecting where they are and where they need to be in relation to edtech and digital education.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Ich bin ein Berliner – Weeknote #196 – 2nd December 2022

Spent most of the week in Berlin for the Moving Target Conference.

I was at our London office on Monday. We had a team coaching session looking at our internal and external stakeholders.

On Tuesday I flew out to Berlin from Heathrow. When I was invited to the conference I did consider catching the train to Berlin, but after doing some research I found out it was going to take in excess of 20 hours and required not just changes (which I expected) but actually would entail taking a bus for part of the journey. So despite some reservations decided to fly. I would have preferred to fly from Bristol, but there were no direct flights to Berlin, so in the end flew from Heathrow.

Travelling to Terminal 5 from my hotel, I took an autonomous pod. These pods are for those parking at a car park, but were also available to hotel residents.

The conference was excellent and I enjoyed attending. It’s useful to see education from a different perspective.

The conference had a focus on trans-national education.  There were some interesting panel sessions and presentations. I did a few sketch notes on various presentations and panel sessions.

Here is my sketch note of Trust and reputation in the digital economy with Prof. Timm Teubner.

I delivered my keynote on the Friday.

Making the transformation happen: The UK higher education digital transformation journey

The UK higher education sector has over the last three decades invested heavily in information technology, online solutions, digital services, resources and content. The aim has been to enhance and improve and reframe the student experience, to reimagine learning, teaching and assessment, and to transform the infrastructure, the university estate to enable and enhance this digital transformation. Across this, Jisc, the UK national research and education network, has been proving the infrastructure, security, advice and guidance to the UK higher education sector. In this keynote, James Clay Head of Higher Education and Student Experience at Jisc, will explore what we mean by digital transformation, what it means for students and why the UK higher education sector needs to deliver on their digital transformation journey. He will explore the UK experience over the last few years and how this has helped to accelerate the digital transformation journey and will showcase exemplars from across the UK university sector. He will discuss how Jisc is supporting UK higher education and what are plans are for the future in enabling future digital transformation and what our colleagues can learn from our experiences and those of the UK higher education sector.

There was an online audience as well as people in the room.

The conference was at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences).

The building still had the scars from the fighting in 1945.

It was a great venue for a conference, with good spaces. I also appreciated the fact that the building had eduroam, so connecting to the wifi was quick and easy.

I get a mention in the closing comments about my sketchnoting and tweets on the conference.

Saw this Twitter thread. Really useful list of locations in London for working and reading, where you don’t need to buy endless cups of coffee.

Read this paper COVID, Campus, Cameras, Communication, and Connection by Jasmine Price, Donna Lanclos and Lawrie Phipps.

This article discusses insights from two separate and linked projects. A staff-facing project at a UK university in the English Midlands, took place in late Spring 2020. We heard at that time a concern from staff for students who were not in touch and were not “visible” due to their absence from digital places as well as the more obvious physical ones. Staff also discussed their sense that, from the students who were in contact, there were a lot more emails and one-on-one discussions about logistics and worries. In Spring 2021, at a university in the north of England, we conducted a student-facing project intended to discover their lived experience of the 2020-21 academic year, as well as surface insights into what the phrase “back to campus” might mean for these students. Students struggled with what their lecturers were asking in terms of visibility (especially cameras). Students were also concerned about building and maintaining connections. The desire for effective and transparent communication in a time of crisis was also expressed. We juxtapose the rhetoric about “back to campus” and assumptions embedded in policies around cameras and digital participation with the expressed desires of students for human relationships and care in a time of uncertainty and upheaval. We end with implications for institutions going forward, with the certainty that this will not be the last time, as a sector, when we have to rely primarily on digital places and platforms for the work of the University.

Well worth downloading and reading.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Under the weather – Weeknote #195 – 25th November 2022

Cardiff Castle

Spent the week working from home, mainly as I had a bad cold and also had my flu vaccination. Feeling under the weather I felt I was less productive than I usually am. It certainly didn’t help with the wet cold weather we had. Really felt like winter had arrived this week.

waiting room

I finished off my presentation for the keynote I am delivering next week in Berlin at Moving Target Digitalisation.

The UK higher education sector has over the last three decades invested heavily in information technology, online solutions, digital services, resources and content. The aim has been to enhance and improve and reframe the student experience, to reimagine learning, teaching and assessment, and to transform the infrastructure, the university estate to enable and enhance this digital transformation. Across this, Jisc, the UK NREN, has been proving the infrastructure, security, advice and guidance to the UK higher education sector.

 In this keynote, James Clay Head of Higher Education and Student Experience at Jisc, will explore what we mean by digital transformation, what it means for students and why the UK higher education sector needs to deliver on their digital transformation journey. He will explore the UK experience over the last few years and how this has helped to accelerate the digital transformation journey, and will showcase exemplars from across the UK university sector. He will discuss how Jisc is supporting UK higher education and what are plans are for the future in enabling future digital transformation and what our European colleagues can learn from our experiences and those of the UK higher education sector.

I did consider not using any slides and just talking to the audience, but in the end I with a mixed set of slides of mainly images, but also some text.

Did some more planning for my trip, from a travel and logistics perspective. Useful to check I can use my phone next week in Berlin for example. I also need to get from the airport to the hotel, looks like I can catch the train from the airport to central Berlin quite easily. I did in fact consider catching the train to Berlin, but it was going to be one long trip, with quite a few changes to get there. I did think it might be easier to get to by train. In the end decided I would fly there this time.

Brandenburg Gate
Image by Couleur from Pixabay

The last time I was in Germany was in 1985, and I have never actually been to Berlin either. Back in 1985 the city was divided by a wall, and it was at the height of the Cold War. I remember watching the news in 1989 as the wall came down. In 1985 I travelled through Germany to Yugoslavia on a Scout camp and we stayed in Munich. I did study German when I was at school, but I think I will struggle when I am there.

I also have to be in London on Monday, so did some planning around that as well. We are looking at our team’s internal and external stakeholders.

puzzle

BBC reported that: Rishi Sunak is considering curbs on foreign students taking “low quality” degrees and bringing dependents, Downing Street said.

However Downing Street declined to define what they meant by a “low quality” degree. To me it seems like an easy target to focus on rather than dealing with the actual issues and problems. It fails to take into account the positive impact of foreign students in the UK have for universities and the impact they return home afterwards.

My top tweet this week was this one.