It’s a new year – Weeknote #231 – 4th August 2023

As I was about to go on leave for two weeks, I ensured that everything with a deadline was done, and that my inbox was empty.

I made a start on my Q4 Review paperwork, which also covers the previous 12 months. Our new year starts on the 1stAugust. I also started some planning and scaffolding for the next 12 months as well. This included creating a new Confluence site for my objectives and my work, as well as a new JIRA project. I have been using the same JIRA project for the last few years, but as a result it was getting complicated by previous years’ work. So decided to start afresh.

As part of our Cyber Essentials accreditation, I had to return some old kit, so spent time erasing and cleaning an old Microsoft Surface tablet and an iPad. The Windows machine, which can’t run Windows 11 was a really nice machine, and I quite enjoyed using it over the years, so it was somewhat sad when I had to hand it back in. It was also relatively easy to wipe and clean.

I spent some time reading and reviewing QAA briefing: Reconsidering assessment for the ChatGPT era: QAA advice on developing sustainable assessment strategies.

This paper sets out QAA’s advice for providers on how to approach the assessment of students in a world where students have access to Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools. The principles set out here are applicable to both higher and further education. This resource develops a theme first introduced in our earlier advice – Maintaining quality and standards in the ChatGPT era: QAA advice on the opportunities and challenges posed by Generative Artificial Intelligence – published in May 2023, around the (re)design of assessment strategies to mitigate the risks to academic integrity posed by the increased use of Generative Artificial Intelligence tools (such as ChatGPT) by students and learners.

I am planning to attend ALT-C, so have been planning, researching, developing, and preparing my presentation for ALT-C.

Looking through that digital lens

The pandemic crisis gave universities serious challenges and required creative thinking to provide solutions. Universities have needed to act at pace and scale. They’ve needed to do this whilst staff and students are coping lockdowns, social distancing, and restrictions. One aspect of higher education that gained more prominence during the emergency response, was the importance of digital. Knowing that digital has been critical to dealing with the challenges of the pandemic, the question now remains: how and what role will digital play in the post-pandemic strategic priorities of the university?

There are two key questions facing universities?

Does the strategy still meet the needs of the university in this new, changing, and uncertain landscape?

What role does digital play in helping universities achieve their [new] strategic aspirations?

Any departmental or methodology strategy should always link back to the organisational strategy and how the objectives and actions will support the organisational strategic aims. If you apply a digital lens to the corporate strategy, you can demonstrate how digital technologies can enable that strategy. So rather than talk about how you are going to increase the use of digital technologies, the strategy talks about how the use of digital technologies will enable the strategic aims (Clay 2018). Digital does not exist in isolation and there may be other strategies, such as teaching and learning, assessment, environmental, wellbeing or community. The concept of a lens can be used here as well. The digital lens approach, as outlined by Jisc (Phipps and Clay 2018) can enable effective and transformational behaviours to emerge by helping staff to understand and develop their capabilities and confidence in the context of their own work. The results can include an improved status quo and the identification of new goals for individuals and their organisations. There is a history of people talking about applying a lens to challenges, to look at things differently. (Phipps and Clay 2018) To give a different perspective on what has been written or talked about. In this session we will reflect on the various ways in which universities can respond to these questions, you may want to create new strategic priorities, which reflect the new landscape in which universities will operate.  A question that we will also discuss is, do universities need a separate digital strategy? There are challenges with having additional strategies that are an addition to the core strategic priorities, and with more strategies in place it is sometimes easy for things to fall between them.  Additionally, the provision of a new strategy, with new digital priorities, may be seen as some kind of extra or addition to what staff are already doing. The end result is that the digital strategy is often ignored or left to one side (Clay 2018). In the session we will look at how this can be avoided. In this session participants will gain an understanding of the importance of digital in strategic planning and decision making.

Phipps, L and Clay J (2018) Delivering digital change: strategy, practice and process. Senior leaders’ briefing paper Jisc

Clay J (2018) Why does no one care about my digital strategy? – eLearning Stuff [online] eLearning Stuff.

My top tweet this week was this one.


A sense of belonging – Weeknote #230 – 28th July 2023

I spent much of the week in London, attending meetings at our Fetter Lane office and visiting some London university campuses incognito.

We had our quarterly leadership meeting, always nice to have it in-person. The team is quite geographically distributed, so we rarely have the opportunity to meet in-person or even co-locate to work together. Yes we have Teams and all that, but there is something nice about the ad hoc, happenstance of working together in the same office.

I undertook some more desk research and field work for smart campus and belonging understanding.

Spent time organising and developing a Leadership Masterclass with Training and Development Team.

I did some more planning and scaffolding for the next year, our planning year ends on the 31st July.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Threading a discussion

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

I joined Threads from Meta partly to try it out and partly to ensure I had my name as my username. 

Back in the day I would talk about early days of the Twitter. Of course back then no one (as in normal people) used Twitter. It was full of chat and status updates. There was the odd joke or three. 

Those first few days of Threads it did to me feel like those early days of Twitter. Though the main difference was that rather than a chronological stream of postings from people I followed, on Threads it was a stream of postings from people and companies I wasn’t following. Meta were filling my stream for me, in a similar way they do on Facebook and Instagram. 

I did quite enjoy some of the threads, Channel 4s social media team seemed to be really enjoying themselves. In the past on Twitter these postings would have come from parody accounts. Today on Threads the companies are parodying themselves. 

I haven’t really got into a Threads vibe and am not posting as I did in the early days of Twitter. 

Popping in now and then I have noticed how Threads is like an accelerated Twitter model. I see people constantly posting about how and what you should and shouldn’t post on Threads. That use to happen all the time on Twitter. 

There is a constant stream of posts and requests from people basically asking if Threads could have all the features and functionality of Twitter. Is Threads just going to become a copy of Twitter? Will that actually work?

Sadly I am also seeing a lot of the toxic postings that I would see on Twitter appearing now in Threads. Like the for you stream on Twitter the algorithm is pushing this content into my Threads stream as it is getting engagement and traction. 

I will give Threads time and engagement, as experience tells me it takes time for a social media platform time to bed in and become part of people’s lives. 

So are you on Threads? You can find me there maybe talking about coffee.


Mainly leave again – Weeknote #228 – 14th July 2023

I was mainly on leave at the beginning of this week.

I am presenting next week, so spent time researching and developing my presentation.

Spent time collaborating working on a new DPS document for student experience, to enable Jisc to utilise external expertise in our work.

I had trouble accessing Dovetail, this required time to sort out.

Met a new colleague in our consultancy team.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Mainly leave this week – Weeknote #227 – 7th July 2023

I was mainly on leave this week.

On Monday I attended a future education scenarios workshop, which was interesting, as we looked at the impact of potential future scenarios.

I attended a risk meeting.

Alas due to electrical issues one of my meetings was cancelled.

As I was going on leave for a few days, I made sure I had cleared my inbox.

My top tweet this week was this one.

SURFing a report – Weeknote #226 – 30th June 2023

I spent most of the week in our Bristol office. I had my regular monthly catch-up with my line manager.

Booked myself onto the WonkHE Festival of Higher Education which is taking place in November.

Started working on a presentation for a forthcoming event that is taking place later in July.

Reviewed a report on HE challenges, well actually just reviewed a section about some work I had done.

Had a meeting with Sarah Dunne on their work on AI and Libraries.

Said goodbye to Andy McGregor, who is leaving Jisc. I worked closely with Andy on the Intelligent Campus.

Spent time going through usage of our Dovetail licences, checking who still needed a licence and who didn’t.

Read through the Trend Report Future Campus from SURF.

What might the physical and virtual campus of vocational education and higher education look like in 2040? That is the central question of the SURF project ‘Future Campus’. The focus is on the Netherlands, specifically education (research is out of scope). This project brings together teachers, students, and experts at the national level who are involved in campus development from various perspectives. In collaboration with them, SURF is working towards different future scenarios, which are expected to be presented by the end of 2023.

Friday I went to Gloucester to shoot some video for a presentation I am doing at ALT-C in September.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Time for another story

The sun is setting over a sports arena. In the background is some stadium covered tiered seating. In the foreground are some trees and a wire fence.
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

In the world of the intelligent campus I wrote a student story to illustrate and add a personal touch of what the intelligent campus could mean for the student experience.

The bus arrived at the campus and Leda got off, she checked her app and started to walk to her first lecture. As she passed one of the campus coffee shops she was sent a notification that three of her friends from the course were in there, so she checked the time, she had the time, popped in and found her friends. Her app let her know that she had enough loyalty points for a free coffee, well why not, Leda thought to herself. She could check if there were any additional resources for the lectures today.

Dom Pates did a similar thing using ChatGPT to write a story.

As the day wore on, Marcel attended a variety of classes and workshops, each designed to challenge and inspire him. The smart campus was constantly adapting to his preferences and needs, and he felt like he was learning more in a day than he had in a week at his old university.

I have recently been using Bard for various things, so I thought I would get it to write me a story, using the same prompt that Dom used.

Write a short story in the style of speculative fiction about a university student who spends a day on a smart or intelligent campus some time in the future. Ensure that the campus is designed to address issues around sustainability and data privacy, yet is responsive to the student in a personalised (but not creepy) way. Ensure that the student is studying a course for a future-focused job, and that the campus is actually a desirable and ethically-designed environment. Make the short story go through different stages of the day, and comes to approximately 1,500 words in total. Include an ethical quandary that the central character faces during the course of their day.

This was the result.

The year is 2042. University student Anya wakes up in her dorm room, which is located in a smart campus that is designed to address issues around sustainability and data privacy. The campus uses solar panels to generate electricity, and it has a rainwater collection system that provides water for irrigation and flushing toilets. The campus also has a sophisticated data privacy system that protects students’ personal information.

Anya gets out of bed and walks over to her desk. Her computer screen lights up as she approaches, and a personalized greeting appears. The computer knows Anya’s name, her major, and her class schedule. It also knows her preferences for learning style and study environment.

Anya opens her textbook and starts reading. The computer automatically highlights the important passages and provides links to additional resources. Anya can also ask the computer questions about the material, and the computer will provide answers or generate practice problems.

After a few hours of studying, Anya takes a break. She walks over to the window and looks out at the campus. The buildings are all connected by a network of walkways and bike paths. There are solar-powered charging stations for electric vehicles, and there are even a few self-driving cars that students can use to get around.

Anya decides to go for a walk. She walks through the quad, which is filled with students studying, chatting, and playing games. She walks past the library, the student union, and the gym. She even stops by the campus coffee shop for a cup of coffee.

As Anya walks, she thinks about her future. She is studying to be a data scientist, and she knows that she will be working with a lot of personal data. She is concerned about the ethical implications of her work, and she wants to make sure that she uses data in a responsible way.

Anya arrives at her next class, which is on artificial intelligence. The professor is talking about the potential for AI to be used for good or evil. Anya thinks about the ethical quandary she is facing, and she wonders how she will use her skills to make a positive impact on the world.

After class, Anya goes back to her dorm room. She logs onto her computer and starts working on a project for her data science class. She is using a dataset of social media posts to track the spread of misinformation. She wants to find out how to identify and counter misinformation before it can cause harm.

Anya works on her project for several hours. She is exhausted, but she is also excited about the potential of her work. She knows that she is making a difference, and she is confident that she is using her skills in a way that is ethical and responsible.

Anya goes to bed, knowing that she has made a good use of her day. She is confident that she is on the right track to a future-focused job that will allow her to use her skills to make a positive impact on the world.

I think this is an interesting interpretation of the prompt. I also think that much of what is mentioned or discussed is already here, or will be here in the next five years. What will the campus of 2042 look like, I think it will be very different to this story.

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