Category Archives: weeknotes

Weeknote #14 – 7th June 2019

Lighthouse at Dungeness
Lighthouse at Dungeness

After a lovely week off in Sussex, it was straight back into work with three days in London. I am expecting a few issues as it would appear a certain American President is also visiting London during the same three days!

Though I have been off work for a week (well four days if you exclude the bank holiday) and having cleared my inbox before I went away, I did think 110 new emails wasn’t too bad. I suspect a fair few are automated notifications. There were no direct messages in Slack, but Teams was quite busy as was Yammer.

The big story of the week when I was away was the Augar report, I spent some time reading various articles on the report.

Tuesday was a blast from the past as I attended the Jisc Digital Futures Quarterly meeting in London. This was a regular meeting I participated in when I worked in the Futures directorate. In my new role I am in a different directorate. Myself and Zoe had been invited to speak about the Technical Career Pathways. After our session and a working lunch, we sat down and we spoke about mapping the relevant sections of the SIFA framework to the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway. Using the SIFA framework is going to enable us to provide consistency across the different Technical Career Pathways within Jisc.

Pasean restaurant

Wednesday another day in London, this time I was speaking to the Jisc e-textbook publisher strategy group meeting about the Jisc HE Learning and Teaching strategy.

It was an interesting conversation about not just the future of learning and teaching, but also some of the current projects Jisc is working on,

I didn’t see much of the Presidential visit except the huge number of helicopters flying overhead, so when I got home I was pleased to see the back of them. So you can guess I wasn’t too amused by the number of Royal Navy helicopters flying over my house on maneuverers on Thursday. Weston-super-Mare is home to the Helicopter Museum and the armed forces often fly their helicopters to that location and then back home.

I spent the end of the week going through the e-mails I had built up over the week (and the week I was off on leave).

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #12 – 24th May 2019

So the week started with a 9am start at the University of Hertfordshire. This meant travelling up the day before on Sunday. This was the second day of the University of Hertfordshire Value Study following the first day on Friday.

I was asked to facilitate various sessions, on Friday I did a session relating to that old chestnut of mine, the Intelligent Campus. Monday saw me supporting sessions on Learning and Teaching and Next Generation Learning Environments.

Whilst preparing for this session a few weeks back, I was reminded of the reports that have been published in this space by Lawrie Phipps.

The first was the report on the Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

The report was a response to the challenge of the following questions

  • What would an environment do for staff and students?
  • What kind of learning experiences would an environment need to support?
  • What learning and teaching practices aren’t currently supported in environments?

The report makes for interesting reading

The second report which was researched as a result of the earlier work, with the aim to gain a detailed understanding of current teaching practices in universities and colleges.

Listening to teachers: A qualitative exploration of teaching practices in higher and further education, and the implications for digital

Listening to teachers: a qualitative exploration of teaching practices in HE and FE and the implications for digital

I would recommend you read the whole report. One comment from an academic in the room was that they preferred to base their practice on academic papers rather than reports. So it nice to be able to say “and here is the link to the full paper.

Overall the day was extremely useful for both Jisc and I think Hertfordshire as well.

Tuesday was another travelling day, this time to Manchester, though I left it till the early evening to travel up.

Before I left I hosted a knowledge call on Digital Ecosystems, delivered by my colleague Lawrie Phipps.

On Wednesday I was in Manchester, I was staying in a hotel close to MediaCity, so caught the Metrolinktram into the centre of the city. I arrived in St Peter’s Square and decided to take a few photographs, including this one of a council building.

I have recently been using Amazon Photos as an online backup service for my photographs. One of the nice features is that in the app it shows you photos from the same date in previous years So I was amused to find that two years ago to the day, not only had I being in Manchester, but I had also taken some photographs including this one the same council building I had taken on Wednesday.

Mentioning this on the Twitter resulted in some amusing comments from people.

My main reason for coming to Manchester was to discuss with colleagues possible ideas about , what would probably be described as career analytics. Using a wider range of data sources and datasets to help careers staff be informed and better understand how to support students in what they want to do in the future, or even planning what degree to take.

I had a couple of other meetings in Manchester before heading home.

After a fair few days travelling it was nice to not have to do this and work from home, however it was an earlier start than normal as I had a meeting with some European colleagues about a workshop we’re running at TNC in June in Tallinn in Estonia.

This was followed by a meeting about Technical Carerer Pathways and the progress we are making with these within Jisc. In my new role I am leading on the Learning and Research career pathway and the best way to describe what these are is a mechanism for people to progress their careers from a technical and skills perspective rather than through managing people.

Over the week I have been working on our HE Learning and Teaching strategy which emcompasses the student experience.

Friday I was in our Bristol office with a day packed full of calls and meetings. Some of these were about future events and conferences. The office was busy for a Friday, with a flexible working culture, sometimes the office can feel somewhat quieter than other days of the week.

My top tweet that week was this one.

Weeknote #11 – 17th May 2019

Hertfordshire

So the week started with a 9am meeting, which was cancelled 15 minutes before it started… This seems to be happening a lot more in this new role than in my previous role. I appreciate that illness and other problems can result in the cancellation of a meeting at the last minute, but I find that a lot of the meetings I am scheduled to attend are cancelled for no obvious reason. Many times I have travelled, booked rooms, turned down other meetings or even events, then I find out that the meeting has been cancelled! I have started to notice patterns and I have started to de-piroritise certain meetings. What this means is that I have accepted them (sometimes tentatively) in my diary, however I will put in new meetings or events that clash when required.

Spent some time planning a series of knowledge calls for the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway. These will involve looking at digital ecosystems, presentation skills and Jira training.

Our infrastructure people were running a drop in session for any Office 365 problems. I was having issues with adding Twitter to a new team in Teams. We want to use the Twitter App as we want to have tweets with a specific hashtag posted to the Teams stream. However it wasn’t working very well. When you added the Twitter app to the team it resulted in a connection error. My initial thought was that certain apps were being blocked, but that wasn’t the case. We solved this problem, thanks to the drop in SharePoint/0365 surgery. The issue appeared to be a corrupt team (well it was me, Lawrie and Andy McG so no surprises there then). The solution alas was to delete the team and start a new one. This was not too much of a hardship as it was a new team we created anyhow. So now we have a nice shiny new team to which we can add apps.

Thursday I was off to Hatfield, with the University of Hertfordshire Value Study starting on Friday at 9am there was no practical way of getting there in time travelling up in the morning, so I went up the day before. This job does require a fair bit of travelling, I have been to Scotland, Ireland, across England, Wales and event Brittany in France. I generally (now) go to London about once a week. There was one week where was there for six days in a two week period, so travelled up and down a lot on the railway. I am lucky in that we have a great team for booking travel and accommodation, which makes life a lot easier. In a previous job, there was no such luxury.

Friday was all about the first day of the University of Hertfordshire Value Study. A 9am start and a 5pm finish, meant that the day was long and quite tiring (especially combined with a 150 mile drive home afterwards) but rewarding. We covered a range of topics, with a focus on the Janet network and the supporting services. I delivered a session about the Intelligent Campus describing how our R&D work supports the sector through community events, guides and blog posts and a mailing list.

These have been used for Hertfordshire in their smart campus plans.

My top tweet that week was this one.

Weeknote #10 – 10th May 2019

Corn Street in Bristol
Corn Street in Bristol

With  the bank holiday, a shorter week starting on the Tuesday. It was a pity the weather wasn’t better for the bank holiday weekend, so was slightly annoyed as I arrived for work in bright sunshine.

Tuesday was very much about touching base with people in person. Yes you can do this online or remotely, but there is something about that happenstance that occurs within an office environment.

There was some discussion about the ALT Conference this year, which is taking place in Edinburgh. Alas I won’t be going this year as I will need to be close to home as my youngest starts secondary school, and as most people know, transition is a challenging time for all. I have been going to ALT since 2003 when I presented at the conference in Sheffield. Since then I have been to virtually every conference , except 2004 in Exeter and 2013 in Nottingham. I missed Exeter in the main as I wasn’t presenting and I hadn’t really enjoyed the 2003 experience. I missed 2013 as I had just started a new job at the beginning of September in 2013, so couldn’t get funding. Since joining Jisc in 2015, I did go to Manchester that same year, Warwick in 2016, I enjoyed Liverpool in 2017 and returned to Manchester in 2018. This blog post describes my #altc journey.

I had an interesting discussion over lunch on wellbeing and mental health, and the potential of data and analytics in supporting (staff who support) students in this space.

As I said in a previous weeknote:

Weeknote #05 – 5th April 2019

I think it’s important that when we say something like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can support mental health and well-being for staff, students and researchers.

That what we’re actually saying is something more like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can provide insight, intelligence and inform those staff and services that work in this space and support the mental health and well-being of staff, students and researchers.

Later in the week, HEPI published a policy note on Measuring well-being in higher education. For me one of the key points was this.

The conflation of mental health and well-being is not helpful for tackling either low levels of well-being or supporting those suffering mental ill-health.

 The two issues are related, but they are not the same thing. Interventions can support both issues, but different approaches often need to be taken in order to increase well-being compared to supporting those with mental health issues.

Next week I am off to the University of Hertfordshire to participate in a series of workshops looking at the value of Jisc to our members. I was asked to facilitate sessions relating to that old chestnut of mine, the Intelligent Campus, but will also be supporting sessions on Learning and Teaching and Next Generation Learning Environments. Whilst preparing for this session on Wednesday I was reminded of the reports that have been published in this space by Lawrie Phipps.

The first was the report on the Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

The report was a response to the challenge of the following questions:

  • What would an environment do for staff and students?
  • What kind of learning experiences would an environment need to support?
  • What learning and teaching practices aren’t currently supported in environments?

The report makes for interesting reading

The changing nature of student and staff behaviours was something highlighted by many commentators; technology-led pedagogies, and emphasis on system features was another; and of course many people in the sector were commenting on the rise of analytics and the role that data may play in future systems.

As Technology Enhanced Learning continues to develop, it is clear that some form of digital learning environment will remain core to institutional practices; the levels of integration, features and porosity will continue to change, driven, and potentially driving the behavioural shifts we see in staff and students.

The second report which was researched as a result of the earlier work, with the aim to gain a detailed understanding of current teaching practices in universities and colleges.

Listening to teachers: A qualitative exploration of teaching practices in higher and further education, and the implications for digital

Listening to teachers: a qualitative exploration of teaching practices in HE and FE and the implications for digital. The concluding remarks make for interesting reading and provide food for thought for all those who are supporting and embedding the use of technology for learning and teaching.

Practitioners are struggling with the disconnect between what they need to do in the spaces their institution provides and what is possible. Staff have to work harder to deliver the kind of teaching they want to in spaces that are not always appropriately configured. Some of this difficulty is a result of limits on space as a resource, however, there is also an element of staff not always knowing what is possible in the spaces available.

Interviewees identified a lack of opportunity to reflect on and analyse their teaching practice. While there are forums and staff development opportunities, limited time is officially allocated to formatively evaluating how a course was delivered and received, beyond the metrics used for more formal summative evaluation.

The organisational distance between instructional designers, education technologists and the people teaching in HE and FE is clearly present in (the) data.

Institutionally provided systems are not single-stop places for practitioners, who use open web and commercially provided platforms as teaching and learning places. This is not new6, but it continues to have implications for the ways that institutions support and recognise teaching practices that leverage digital places and platforms.

 I would recommend you read the whole report.

Also too some time looking at various university documents in preparation for a visit to the University of Hertfordshire next week. They certainly have some interesting ambitions for their student experience.

traffic jam in the rain
Image by Holger Schué from Pixabay

I smiled at the Wonkhe article on university car parking rankings.

Our calculations are based on the supply of parking (the number of spaces on campus) divided by the demand for parking (based on the percentages of students and staff driving or carpooling to campus). Such a clear methodology means we can ignore the qualitative opinions of students and staff, which are messy and difficult to put on a league table. 

The environmental considerations appeared to be missed, but then you realise it’s just a parody. I once left a job, because of the car parking (well it was one of the reasons). We were moving campuses from a suburban campus with free parking, to a city centre campus where there was limited on-site parking and all day parking was (as it was right in the heart of the city) expensive. My hours were changing as well, so I would be teaching until 9:30pm, at which point I would be expected to use public transport (two buses) to get home. At this point I started looking for another job. Ironically I got a job at a city centre museum that had no parking either…

Even today my job with Jisc, our head office in Bristol has no staff parking, so I do the train instead, which actually is frequent, reliable (a lot of the time) and about the same price of parking and the cost of petrol. The main difference is that I don’t need to be in the office everyday, so commuting is much less of headache.

Spent some time reviewing my personal objectives for the rest of the year (which is the end of July 2019) as well as reflecting on potential objectives for the following year. In theory we use a platform called Fuse for our objective setting, I though put most of the detail into Confluence, and then using reporting on Jira tasks to pull out and provide the evidence for those objectives. I can also pull out a report of tasks I have done that are not related to objectives. This evidence is useful when pulling together end of year reviews (and mid year reviews too).

My top tweet that week was this one.

Weeknote #09 – 3rd May 2019

Telephone boxes in London

The week started off in London with a day looking at and thinking about next generation learning environments. Before I got there, as I sat on the train I thought and reflected about what we even mean when we say next generation learning environment. Are their generational changes in learning environments, as in big changes from one generation to the next? Or do they merely evolve gradually over time? Could we enable these big shifts? Do we even want big shifts?

In London we discussed a range of challenges and issues in relation to next generation learning environments. What is the future of education? Will teaching be transformed? How can create personalised adaptive learning? How do we re-imagine assessment? How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment? What are the foundations that need to be put into place before you can start building the infrastructure, the design, the staff development required to enable those future challenges?

In order to understand what needs to happen, we framed some questions independently, so see what commonality there was and what differences there were.  This is an useful exercise when deciding that question needs to be answered.

Some of my questions included:

  • What does adaptive learning look like from the view of students and staff?
  • Is personalised learning possible? Is it desirable?
  • How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment?
  • What are the differences between the student experience of 2020 and that of 2030?

coffee

Wednesday  morning, after some coffee,  I was in the office and had an initial discussion was had about possible themes for Digifest 2020, though this event won’t be happening until March 2020, like most big events the planning started almost after the last one finished (if not just a bit before).

The afternoon was off to the University of Bristol for a meeting about the One City Bristol project, elements of which are very much in the realm of the smart city. In my previous role I did do some initial research into the various smart city initiatives across the UK and we published a smart city use case on the Intelligent Campus blog.

In January 2019 Bristol published its first ever One City Plan.

The interdependent challenges of growing an inclusive, sustainable city that both breaks down our social fractures and inequalities and reaches carbon neutrality sit at the heart of the future we must deliver. They are stitched throughout the plan.

In the plan there are six themes, one of which is connectivity.

The lifeblood of Bristol is connectivity. Our connectivity is considered the template for contemporary city living. Whether our people connect in person or in virtual spaces, whether they connect in their physical communities or their global communities, our city infrastructure helps bring them together. Bristol connectivity means multimodal connectivity – we designed our infrastructure around the human condition. Anchored yet free, our people are able to draw on the experience of others in their communities and peer groups, and live independently and spontaneously.

Connectivity is synonymous with productivity and Bristol is the regional epicentre of productivity. The South West Economic Region grew on the back of investment in transport and digital connectivity.

The Bristol-Cardiff high speed, high frequency rail link benefits both cities equally – time and travel no longer impinge productivity as they once did. Talent, ideas, energy and enthusiasm flow between the cities and across the region. High-speed rail links connect Bristol with other cities and when the mass transit system was completed in the 2030s, connections between Bristol, Bath, Bristol airport and North Fringe and East Fringe were complete. Our traffic management has cut congestion times and many of our deliveries are made by driverless freight vehicles.

Throughout the 2020s ultrafast broadband was rolled out without exception to social housing, businesses, in public spaces and through city Wi-Fi services. Tactile and immersive virtual and augmented realities reduce the need to travel and are commonplace at work and at home. They also bring together like-minded communities for shared social activities and entertainment.

Our city has managed bus lanes, cycle lanes, congestion controls and programmes to educate school children about safe travel. More than half the city cycles and active travel is the preferred mode of transport for many commuters. Domestic deliveries often arrive by drone. Nobody has been killed or seriously injured as a result of an avoidable road traffic accident in Bristol for years.

We strategically removed the obstacles and barriers to people connecting. The city moves on renewable energy, our people are free to create their own pathways, connected in person or virtually. Our lifeblood flows locally, regionally and globally.

This certainly is an aspiration that hopefully will come to fruition.

Following a request, based on my experience of working on the Jisc Digital Apprenticeships project, Thursday saw me working on some desk research on the current provision of Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeships across the UK.

One thing that was apparent was how “popular” this degree apprenticeship is.

Chartered manager and digital and technology solutions are the two most implemented standards across each English region, with at least 43 and 33 institutions, respectively, providing them.

 Source

You can find more information about this specific degree apprenticeship on the government’s apprenticeships website.

One of the key requirements of my role is engaging with the Office for Students and the funding they provide Jisc to support higher education. As a result I attend and participate in various meetings that enables us to demonstrate value for money for the OfS, as well as how Jisc is supporting their strategic aims.

I spent some time this week reviewing the Office for Students Strategy 2018 to 2021 and their business plan for 2019-20 in preparation for a meeting on Friday morning.

One thing that I noticed was the target to Launch and oversee a ‘what works’ centre, Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education.

The Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) will use evidence and evaluation to understand and show how higher education contributes to social justice and mobility. TASO will exist as an independent hub for higher education professionals to access leading research, toolkits, evaluation techniques and more, to help widen participation and improve equality across the student lifecycle.

It made me think about how this could be done, how it will probably be done and what the actual impact will be.

I tweeted out about the Jisc Futures R&D quarterly learnings webinar for summer 2019

This is the third in a series of update webinars for Jisc members to discuss the progress of our R&D work and share what we are learning during our projects.

 Each webinar will consist of two presentations on recent lessons learned, followed by an open Q&A session which will offer an opportunity to question or discuss any of our R&D work.

    • Launch of the step up programme – making it easier and less risky to work with edtech start-ups
    • Building digital capability service demo including new features for library and information professionals
    • Q&A on all of our R&D projects

Details of the event and registration are here.

We had a debrief about the Agile Implementation Workshop I helped run last week. One outcome from this workshop was to run a knowledge call or workshop on using Jira for projects and business processes.

I spent part of Friday, clearing the inbox, reviewing my scrum boards and planning work for next week.

Following my post about Alexa last week, I read this blog post Maybe Universities Shouldn’t Be Putting Amazon Echos in Student Dorms from Inside Higer Ed which explores the problems and concerns some have about “listening” devices in students’ rooms.

Amazon Echo
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

In a tragic twist to the end of the week, someone at Castlepark office broke my Cambridge University Press Academic mug that I got at the UKSG 2011 conference in Harrogate ten years ago.

broken mug

I’ve had that mug ten years, through four jobs, three employers, three cities and numerous mugs of coffee. I liked that mug, but it holds no sentimental value.

So who broke it and why?

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #08 – 26th April 2019

Mews in London

A shorter week this week, due to the Easter holiday weekend, so the week started on a Tuesday.

I spent some time reflecting and reviewing some initial discovery work that Lawrie was doing on the emergence of new communication tools and platforms. He is looking at the impact on teaching practices and the student experience, as well as what Jisc could do in this space.

I attended an update on how the project was going that is looking at how Jisc can influence the influencers.

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 and wrote a blog post about one of the articles.

Back in January I presented at the Data Matters conference about the Intelligent Campus, I found out on Tuesday that I had been allocated an action: James Clay (Head of higher education and student experience) should work with the relevant members of the M5 group to prepare a proposal for the next Data Matters Conference. So I spent some time reviewing what this entails. The next Data Matters will take place in January 2020.

Wednesday saw me attending a debrief on and reviewing the workshop I lead last week looking at Jisc’s work in the Education 4.0 space and what others are doing in this space. We reviewed what worked well and what we would improve. We aim to run further workshops in a similar vein.

On Thursday I was in London for an Agile Implementation Workshop I am helping run.

On the train to London I skimmed Educauses’ Horizon Report, the end result was I realised how much I needed to read it in more detail. So when I got to London I printed it out , so I could annotate it.

At the workshop, I talked about reporting and also did an introductory demo of JIRA. Sometimes the value of a tool such as JIRA is not the value it adds to the individual using the tool, but the combined and added value you get when everyone in a team uses that tool. Reporting is something else that often is seen as a process between two people, but aggregated reports are valuable to a range of stakeholders in an organisation. It was a great workshop and it was nice to work with a wide range of people from across Jisc.

Agile Workshop

Friday I spent time discussing and reading about the “student journey”, the “student experience” and the “student lifecycle”. These are all terms used by different people and organisations and mean different things to different groups. I do wonder if they are similar or different things.

Lancaster use the term student journey and have mapped it out in a diagram.

Lancaster Student Journey

This map outlines the student journey from deciding to attend Lancaster University right through to graduation.

Manchester in their Student Lifecycle Project have used a map to describe what they also call the student journey.

UoM Student Journey

Westminster have described in text their vision of the student journey.

So is the journey where the student is going to go, and the student experience is what happens when they get there?

So what of the student digital experience?

At Jisc we are developing a world-leading and holistic understanding of the student digital experience. What is the role of digital in students’ journeys into, through and out of study and into employment, as well as their interaction with a range of systems through the day. This understanding should include student wellbeing issues and the experiences of learners across different: backgrounds, modes and levels of study, subjects, types of learning provider, locations, family and work commitments, and disabilities.

What is clear is having a shared understanding across the organisation of the student digital experience.

Finally the EdTech Podcast episode #146 was released and I am on that podcast.

Not listened to it yet, mainly as I don’t really like listening to myself, so I’ll leave that choice up to you. However it has reminded me that I may want to record some new episodes of my podcast.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #07 – 18th April 2019

coffee

Monday I was off to London for a workshop looking at Education 4.0 as well as a meeting discussing strategy. The workshop was looking at Jisc’s work in the Education 4.0 space and what others are doing in this space.

I published another couple of use cases for the Intelligent Campus blog.

Use Case: Intelligent Catering

Use Case: Intelligent Meetings

Working from home on Tuesday I had a couple of calls, though technical problems with VScene meant I didn’t get into one conference. I have no idea what the problem was, usually I don’t have an issue with VScene.

Wednesday I was into the office for an early meeting to discuss progress and objectives for my new role. I will be continuing some existing objectives on thought leadership (I know, I also hate the term); looking at the learning and research technical career pathway in Jisc; increasing member understanding of Jisc’s learning, teaching and student experience portfolio. In addition I am reviewing the HE and student experience strategy for 2020 onwards. Review our portfolio for the OfS and support a value study at the University of Hertfordshire (I discussed this back in March).

I had similar technical problems with VScene again, I was even using a different computer and browsers.  I think I may have narrowed down the problem to my Bluetooth wireless headset. So next time I am going to use a wired headset and see if that makes a difference.

Had a meeting to discuss some future ideas in a space that is new to me and to Jisc. Where could we apply our work in digital capabilities and analytics in new spaces.

Most of the afternoon I was doing a dry run through the Agile Implementation Workshop I am helping run next week in London. I am talking about reporting and also doing an introductory demo of JIRA.  Sometimes the value of a tool such as JIRA is not the value it adds to the individual using the tool, but the combined and added value you get when everyone in a team uses that tool. Reporting is something else that often is seen as a process between two people, but aggregated reports are valuable to a range of stakeholders in an organisation.

Had an interesting discussion with Lawrie on Thursday morning following a demonstration he had seen the day before.

Microsoft Teams is the digital hub that brings conversations, content, and apps together in one place. Create collaborative classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with all staff – all from a single experience in Office 365 Education.

I’ve not looked in detail at all aspects of what makes Teams a possible VLE, though there are some key aspects of Teams that make it appealing as a VLE or LMS. It has all the functions you expect from a VLE or LMS, such as content, communication (individual and group) and assessment. You can connect a wide range of apps to Teams, you like using Twitter for tweetchats, connect it in.

This reminds me of the concept of the VLE I proposed at  the infamous VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C in 2009 (was that really ten years ago now). I saw the VLE still being the centre of the student online learning environment, but other tools and services would plug into it.

Today we have the technology to make that a reality. It can be done with Teams, but similar connectors and connnections exist for tools such as Moodle. From a student perspective, they will be using a tool (and a suite of tools connected to that) they will potentially be using in the future. Yes of course the skills that you gain using tools such as Moodle and Blackboard (and Google Apps) are skills that are transferable, but not everyone sees them in that way, both students and employers.

There are already universities and colleges out in the sector using Teams as their VLE, I am interested in not just who is using Teams as their VLE, but also how they are using it, and how embedded it is into practice.

One thing that I noted was that, it’s all very well having a great tool, it’s quite another thing to understanding and knowing the potential of the functionality of that tool to enhance and enrich the student experience. It’s also another thing to have that functionality exploited by staff and students.

I spent some time setting up a Confluence Site and JIRA project for the Agile Implementation Workshop next week, I didn’t want to do something “not real” so will be using the sites and boards for work I am doing for our Learning & Research Technical Career Pathway.

A shorter week this week, due to the Easter holiday weekend, so also means a later start next week as well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

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.

Weeknote #05 – 5th April 2019

I was in the Bristol office on Monday morning, firstly I was discussing the panel session I had agreed to attend at Jisc’s Networkshop event in Nottingham next week. The end result was I found myself seeking out some panellists for the session and to find myself chairing the whole thing.

The session is entitled, What will the university look like in 2030? 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?

Following that I was in a meeting with my fellow sector strategy leads updating our progress and what challenges we were facing. This was the first of these meetings I had attended in my new role, so was both challenging and informative.

The afternoon saw myself and colleagues from my new directorate attend a tone of voice workshop. This was an interesting diversion and though there was a lot to take in, the key message for me was to collaborate more in my writing. I often pass draft blog posts to people for comment, but sometimes I am impatient and publish straight away. I know the value of a good proof reader and copy editor as well as collaborators.

On Tuesday I was off to the University of Birmingham for the UKSPA conference.

The mission of The United Kingdom Science Park Association (UKSPA) is to be the authoritative body on the planning, development and the creation of Science Parks and other innovation locations that are facilitating the development and management of innovative, high growth, knowledge-based organisations.

I had been invited, before I took on my new role,  to talk about the Intelligent Campus. I took my usual presentation on this and gave it a Science Park wrapper, so it was called The Intelligent Science Park.

The presentation as you can see is mainly, okay all, photographs. I use Pixabay and Unsplash a lot now to find images for presentations.

Lego Unicorn
Lego Unicorn – Image by Joakim Roubert from Pixabay

To a packed room I talked about the difference between the smart campus and the intelligent campus. I discussed the potential of an intelligent science park and the benefits this could provide organisations on those parks and for the people working there. I adapted our Intelligent Campus slide to convey what a hypothetical intelligent science park data infrastructure could look like.

I also went through the challenges that arise, the ethical considerations, the legal aspects (including GDPR), the importance of security, as well as the key challenges of technical and validity. There were lots of questions and interest in the topic.

Wednesday was an opportunity to catch up on missed e-mails and other communications.  I also finalised the plans and details for the panel session at Networkshop. I had a meeting to catch-up on the discovery work being undertaken in the area of curriculum analytics. Initially this had been tied up into the intelligent campus work, before been separated and worked on independently. It was good to see where it had got to and the potential for the future. This work was then presented later in the week to the Jisc Student Experience Experts Group.

The afternoon was catching up on the work being done by Jisc in the area of wellbeing and mental health. I think it’s important that when we say something like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can support mental health and well-being for staff, students and researchers.

That what we’re actually saying is something more like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can provide insight, intelligence and inform those staff and services that work in this space and support the mental health and well-being of staff, students and researchers.

This isn’t about just using data and analytics in the field of wellbeing, but using data to provide insights for people that work in this space, that may otherwise be missed, allow for earlier interventions, but also understand the impact of those interventions.

Thursday saw another meeting with a member of the Jisc ELT discussing the HE and student experience strategy. I am having a series of meetings with key members of the Executive to discuss the strategy.

On Thursday and Friday I had some administration to do, both for the new role, but also some legacy Intelligent Campus admin to sort and send out. Despite trying to maintain detailed notes on the Intelligent Campus Confluence site, you realise as you leave a project how much is buried inside the odd e-mail, in your head or was passed to other people in the team. We are recruiting a replacement for me to lead on the Intelligent Campus project, and I am sure that there will a lot of handover discussion as they bed into their new role.

My top tweet this week was this one.