Play Away – Weeknote #269 – 26th April 2024

The beginning of the week was our directorate away day in Bristol, well it was a lunchtime to lunchtime away day. Always nice to get together the directorate in-person and discuss key issues and challenges. I delivered a presentation, which for me has a fair few words on it about my work on optimising operations and data.

Read this article, ‘Give academics studios’ to record lectures that engage students

Blended learning will not truly take off until lecturers have access to recording studios and video editing services that will allow them to create high-quality online lectures, an e-learning expert has warned.

A colleague of mine noted that lecture capture became embedded in many institutions during the pandemic, and asked the question, has the level of use sustained?

video recording
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I was reminded that I wrote these posts at the height of the pandemic in May 2020.

Lost in translation: the television programme

Lost in translation: the radio programme

I also remember a year or so back that Durham University have put in self-service TV studios for staff. I did think that the technology was only part of the solution, what about the creative, production, and presentation skills, that would be needed. Recording high quality video content, is significantly different to capturing a lecture.

Also Leeds Business School had done something similar pre-pandemic

They were using some clever glass technology that made their content more engaging.

As it happened, I wrote this earlier this month, The idea of capturing a lecture…

The idea of capturing a lecture isn’t new. Even before the advent of dedicated lecture capture systems being installed across the campus some lecturers (and some students) would record the lecture onto cassette tape.

I read the HEPI policy note, ‘Dropouts or stopouts or comebackers or potential completers?’: Non-continuation of students in the UK.

…the UK has had the lowest drop-out rate among developed countries, with Ireland in second place; the UK’s strong performance arises in part from the historic levels of academic selection at the point of entry to higher education as well as the relatively short length of undergraduate degrees, which provides less scope for life events to intervene and disrupt study;

I did wonder though, if this was the main reason. Across Europe, many young people who go to university go to their local university, they’re not moving away from a family home for the university experience. Once studying maybe family issues disrupt study, or employment opportunities come around.

However the report concludes:

‘The UK’s problem is not high drop-out rates across the entire higher education sector. It is the relatively low attendance rate in the compulsory stage of education since the pandemic lessened, insufficient support for sub-degree provision, high drop-out rates among a minority of institutions, courses and students (including degree apprenticeships) and people being unable to make the most of their student experience because they have not got enough money and have to undertake a high number of hours of paid work – even during term time when their studies should be their main priority.’

They recognise how jobs and paid work are not intruding on that student experience, will the drop-out rates start to increase?

Personalisation, just some thoughts

man on windowsill looking over a city
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I have been looking at what we mean by personalisation in higher education. What I have discovered is that there isn’t really any clear idea or definition of what we mean by personalisation and across the sector there are varied views and opinions about what is personalisation, what can be personalised, and importantly why we would do this.

In this blog post I am not trying to come up with a definition of personalisation, nor am I proposing what it definitively means for higher education. No, this post is much more some of my recent thinking on the issue and what personalisation could mean for higher education.

In many ways the sector already has personalisation, the student journey for each student, though common in many areas, is pretty much unique to each individual student.

There are reasons why universities might want to be more explicit in how they personalise the student journey. These may include equity, inclusion, adaptation, enhancement, efficiency, and other reasons. Obviously though you might want to allow all of the student journey to be personalised, the reality is that a fully personalised student journey isn’t practical or affordable.

Reviewing the student journey, there will be touchpoints, where the student interacts and engages with the university. Across those touchpoints the university will need to decide which touchpoints:

  • Don’t need to be personalised.
  • Must be personalised
  • Should be personalised
  • Could be personalised

This will then allow those touchpoints to be prioritised.

In addition the level of personalisation would need to be considered, what changes would have to be made and the subsequent impact of those changes. What are the variables across the touchpoints and what does personalisation look and feel like for students for all the touchpoints.

I am interested in how data, digital, and technology can help and support this process. Certainly from a data and analytics perspective, the ability to record those touchpoints and the changes that arise from personalisation.

From my perspective, the next stage will be is, what is the role of an organisation like Jisc in the process of personalisation.

The challenge of time and space – Weeknote #268 – 19th April 2024

I was working on an invitation to tender this week. This took up most of my time with researching, reading, writing, reviewing, sharing, and then going back again…

Interesting article from Wonkhe this week on what keeps your estates manager awake at night?

Estates Directors, by and large, are significant net spenders of university income. While we may also run aspects of our institution’s income-generating commercial services – conferencing and retail for instance – and we know our university built environment can be key in attracting research income, staff and students too, on the whole we sit on the expenditure side of the balance sheet, with buildings second only to people in terms of operating costs.

It noted the challenge that costs are rising and budgets are being cut, and the challenges that this brings to the Estates team.

The issue of both students and staff using the campus differently now, post covid, and their hybrid use of space for studying and working. We know that space designed for the way we would use those spaces pre-covid, aren’t necessarily now the kinds of spaces that we need post-covid. Easy to say, actually quite challenging to design spaces that meet these new needs. What are those new kinds of spaces and how would we know?

The other challenge isn’t just space, but also time. You can already see that more people are coming into the office for two or three days a week, and those days are usually in the middle of the week. The challenge that anyone has in managing space is how do you provide the capacity needed for two or three days, knowing that for the rest of the week it will be underutilised. How do you incentivise people to spread their in-person working (and studying) patterns across the week, to ensure space is being used efficiently.

Next week I am presenting at our directorate away day in Bristol on my work. I produced a presentation, which for me has a fair few words on it. I also developed the visions exercise I ran recently with our senior group; I turned the visions into handouts and created an activity that can be used with them.

Back in the office – Weeknote #267 – 12th April 2024

Back to a full week, after a couple of shorter weeks. It’s still school holidays in the West, so the roads were quieter as were the trains. Well there was a few issues with the trains, but not big issues.

As it was the holidays I was in the office every day this week. Some days the office was busy and noisy, and on other days it was quieter. Friday it was very quiet.

Most of the week was researching reading, thinking, and writing.

On Tuesday I attended the HEAnet Group Advisory Forum, which is a group which supports HEAnet in Ireland. I attend as an international expert.

There are numerous stories across the press now about the financial (and other) challenges that various universities are facing. The Guardian reports on The Goldsmiths crisis: how cuts and culture wars sent universities into a death spiral.

Arts education is essential – yet on both sides of the Atlantic, the humanities and critical thinking are under attack. With massive redundancies announced at this London institution, is it the canary in the coalmine?

The article notes how what is happening at Goldsmiths is reflecting what is happening elsewhere in the sector.

Yet in many ways, what’s happening at Goldsmiths is a vivid thumbnail sketch of the crises, both accidental and deliberately manufactured, hitting the entire sector, bar a very few stunningly well-funded universities from the high-profile Russell Group.

Despite the sector being very collaborative and mutually friendly, underneath there is a fierce competitive streak. Changes in how university education was funded exposed this. As the article notes when fees were set at £9000 per year.

…Andrew McGettigan, author of the Great University Gamble and expert in university funding and finance, says: “Suddenly classroom subjects were getting a lot more than the cost of delivering teaching, so you could fund research time in your department out of the money you were getting from your students.” You could also cross-subsidise more expensive subjects. This led to what he calls “a great sucking sound” as larger, more prestigious institutions pulled in humanities students because they were very lucrative. 

The sector is facing huge challenges, and they will need to change. What that change is and what it looks like, we don’t’ really know.

Spent some time discussing our away day which is happening later this month, I am doing a session on the challenges that the higher education sector is facing.

Delivering value with AI

Back in March 2024 I attended the UCISA 24 Leadership Conference in Edinburgh. There was a range of interesting sessions, and for some I made some sketch notes.

There was a Microsoft sponsored session, Delivering value with AI: Insights and lessons learnt in shaping your AI enabled digital journey.

As AI becomes ever more woven into society, many organisations and individuals are just starting to understand the full extent of what’s possible. During this session, members of the Microsoft team will share thoughts and insights on the use of AI across the sector, whilst also drawing upon the lessons learnt from other industries. Security, governance, skills, and responsible / ethical AI are amongst the key pillars of building trustworthy and reliable AI outcomes. The session will discuss how data and models can be protected from unauthorised access, tampering or theft. How governance ensures processes and policies for developing and deploying AI are transparent, accountable, and fair. The importance of skills, both in consideration of your curriculum and your own workforce. And lastly, the approach of Responsible / Ethical AI to ensure alignment with human values and social norms. By following these principles, we can create AI solutions that benefit society and empower individuals.

The session covered a huge amount of content, but as you might imagine from a vendor perspective, it was quite positive about the impact AI will have on working and productivity. There were quite a few demonstrations of how copilot could be used to support this.

AI Today: Myths, politics and visions for the future

Back in March 2024 I attended the UCISA 24 Leadership Conference in Edinburgh. There was a range of interesting sessions, and for some I made some sketch notes.

One of the sessions I attended was AI Today: Myths, politics and visions for the future.

In this session, Dr Eleanor Drage, Senior Research Fellow, University of Cambridge walks us through the key myths about AI and why the images we use to represent it matter. She explains what companies can learn from how AI relates to politics, and how feminist and anti-racist ideas can make AI better and safer for everyone.

I made a sketch note of the talk.

As I expected in this session it covered a lot of the AI issues that would impact on educational institutions.

Taking the elevator – Weeknote #266 – 5th April 2024

Shorter week this week with Easter Monday. Headed to the office on Tuesday after the long weekend and did some writing and planning. In the end (with what it being school holidays) I was in the office every day this week. With many people in Jisc on leave this week, and the same can be said for much of higher education it was a rather quiet week, which gave me time to focus on getting some research, analysis and writing done.

I did write a blog post about lecture capture and how you could do things more creatively.

The idea of capturing a lecture isn’t new. Even before the advent of dedicated lecture capture systems being installed across the campus some lecturers (and some students) would record the lecture onto cassette tape.

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

I have been thinking of using Jisc’s Digital Elevation Tool for FE in the Intelligent Campus space. So this week I started planning what needs to happen to make that happen. This involved looking at the scaffolding that the tool has and what would need to be in a campus version of the tool.

Made some suggestions for Connect More 2024.

The idea of capturing a lecture…

Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

The idea of capturing a lecture isn’t new. Even before the advent of dedicated lecture capture systems being installed across the campus some lecturers (and some students) would record the lecture onto cassette tape.

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Though we talk about the lecture in higher education, there isn’t really a standard lecture across the different cohorts and subjects of the undergraduate degree. A mathematics lecture is not the same as a art history lecture, nor is it akin to a lecture in macroeconomics. Even within mathematics different topics will require different approaches.

In reality modern lectures are not really monologues anymore, lecturers will be bringing in visuals, video, interactions, engagement, discussion, and Q&A sessions. However these are not easily captured and as students engage with lecture recordings, they will focus on the core of the lecture which will be in essence a monologue and aspects of the discussion.

Are lectures still valuable? Lecturers and students seem to think so. They are quite a cost-effective way of teaching.

There is something also about the eventedness of the lecture. The coming together of a group of people for a common purpose. The social interactions that happen before, during, and after the lecture. The sharing of an event is something that is more challenging to recreate from a recording.

However there is still value in recording a lecture. The facility to review and replay a lecture has value for some. For those that missed the lecture, the recording is probably a better choice than not seeing the lecture. For those with different needs, for example English is not your first language, having access to the recording will help if they didn’t get it the first time, or missed the lecture. You can also add close captions to a recorded lecture, making it more accessible than it was in its original format.

Of course a recording of a lecture for many is not as good as the live lecture itself. A lecture recording is a compromise, you can’t put your hand up when watching a recording for example. You miss out on those social interactions that happen in the live in-person experience.

Finally is a lecture recording the best way to record the lecture. Is there a way of capturing a lecture differently?

The first thing to reflect on, is the video or images needed? Could you remove the visual element (or provide it in a different format) and focus on the audio only? Make this an audio recording for example. Well, possibly make some of the lectures audio recordings.

Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay

Rarely when accessing content on different media, do people listen to monologues. That’s not to say there isn’t value in a monologue, but a recorded monologue misses out on the affordances that you can have when creating a recorded piece for a course. Also the mental discipline to listen to a one hour (or even two hour) recorded lecture is challenging for some. Reflecting from an audience perspective, it might be better to create two or three shorter audio recordings rather than one big one. It might result in a fresher better recording than one which tires itself out. Also think about the student, will they have the time to listen to a 60 minute recorded lecture? You may think you are an amazing and engaging presenter and raconteur; the reality is maybe do something shorter and to the point. Breaking the podcast into two shorter recordings may allow them to be more accessible to the students, they could listen to them as they do something else, physical exercise for example. These could be released together or split during the week and again and follow it with a week long asynchronous online chat discussing the topics and content. Visual resources could be provided in advance or alongside the audio recording of the lecture.

Another option is to think differently and instead of recording a lecture, create an audio recording that is more akin to a radio programme or a podcast. The format and structure of a podcast or a radio recording is different to that of a lecture. Often they take form of a conversation or a panel discussion with multiple participants. This can be challenging to organise, but is something to reflect on.

Capturing a lecture isn’t a new idea, however capturing a lecture may not be the optimum way of delivering a recorded version of the in-person session.

Quality and AI

Back in March 2024 I attended Wonkhe’s Secret Life of Students at the Shaw Theatre in London. There was a range of interesting sessions, and for some I made some sketch notes.

There was part of one session which focussed on quality and included insights into AI and plagiarism.

It wasn’t a lengthy presentation, so it’s quite a minimalistic sketchnote as a result. I do like the fact that the Matrix inspired background worked well for a sketchnote; over the plain background I usually use.

Sometimes it doesn’t quite work…

Back in March 2024 I attended Wonkhe’s Secret Life of Students at the Shaw Theatre in London. There was a range of interesting sessions, and for some I made some sketch notes.

I did attempt to do a sketchnote on one of the sessions, but it didn’t come together.

Looking over the programme I am not even sure which session this was for!

My sketch notes are really for me, rather than other people. The process of sketching allows me to digest for myself what is been talked about and demonstrated. The sketch note provides me with a mechanism that provides a process for my interpretation of what is being said and what I understand from the talk. The process of sketching engages me in the talk in ways in which note taking does for others or conversing on social media.

Now in this session, I really couldn’t bring together what was being said in a sketch. There were odd words and phrases, which I noted in my sketch.

Does this mean it was a poor presentation? Well of course not, presentations at conferences are not delivered so I could draw a fancy sketchnote! However the talk didn’t work for me.

news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…