Lots of my colleagues were still on leave, so it was quite quiet in the office.
So I was on leave last week and the week started with a Bank Holiday in England, so it was a shorter week. Having spent the week on leave, I was not too surprised to find that there were 109 unread emails in my inbox, it didn’t take too long to get those down to six that I needed to deal with.
Spent some time working out our finance system, I rarely raise purchase orders, so I do find it can be challenging to get to grips with the finance system and processes. Though I will say ours is certainly simpler than ones I have used in the past.
Having probably spent time and effort securing the funding to go to a conference such as the ALT Conference in Manchester, it makes sense to spend some time preparing in advance of attending. Last minute rushing and chaotic flipping through the programme on the day of the conference, means you are probably not getting as much out of the conference as you could. I think this year with the hybrid nature of the conference, it makes even more sense to do some planning.
I have also written a blog post about packing and what to take to the conference, which I will be publishing later. Of course if you are attending online then this old post might be useful.
Some meetings were cancelled this week, as a key member of staff was off sick, which gave me some more time for planning.
Had some discussions with GuildHE about Jisc attending a network meeting at end of September to present on Learning Analytics and Student Support.
Had a session with a member of staff about agile methodology and how I use an agile approach, JIRA and Confluence to plan my week and my work. It reminded me that I haven’t written this up (for myself) and maybe I should write a blog post on my workflow and processes.
I updated my new stuff and old stuff event and conferences pages on the blog. Helpful for me to remind myself where I have been and where I am going, but may also be useful for others to either find out about a future event, or to let me know about an event that I might want to attend (and isn’t in the list).
I enjoyed this Twitter thread on diversity, merit and excellence.
"Oh, but we cannot compromise excellence for diversity."
This is a statement that I have heard many times at faculty meetings when trying to hire minoritized scholars (heck, even women scholars).
I often hear people about appointing the best person for the job based on merit, or inviting the best speaker for the conference. This often though misses the whole picture and what diversity can bring to the holistic metaphorical table.
Diversity increases innovation: diverse groups are known to produce innovative solutions, especially to ill-defined problems (much of the science we do). Demographic diversity is a proxy for diverse thinking.
Having a diverse team means a better team, this isn’t about recruiting the best individuals, it’s about having the best team. I think I might write more about this in a future post.
I also liked this comment from the thread on higher education, and the importance of diversity in the demographic of the staff in an university.
Demographic diversity is beneficial to the very experiences of undergraduate and graduate students, creates a feeling of belonging in students, and provides them with role models that they can aspire to.
So if you are attending ALT-C next week in Manchester, see you there.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Well back from leave, cleared the inbox down to six emails to deal with today. How's your week going?
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?
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.
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.
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
R&D quarterly learnings webinar – 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.https://t.co/lG7XoFZ7g5
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.
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.
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.
This map outlines the student journey from deciding to attend Lancaster University right through to graduation.
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.
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.
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.