Spent a lot of time this week reading, digesting, reviewing, and reflecting. Also attended a few meetings and spent time having conversations on Teams.
On Tuesday I went to our Bristol office. The train was delayed, so I started attending a meeting on my phone, which I find weird, but it worked.
Attended an internal meeting about Microsoft – Mixed Reality (MR) and Metaverse. There is some excitement around the Metaverse. As I said last week industry perspectives on the metaverse and immersive platforms are varied. Meta, Google are all laying off technical staff in this space, Apple have delayed their AR/VR product again. Lots of confusion between immersive games and the Metaverse. Apart from some niche areas (such as education) what is the unique selling point of the metaverse? As Paul Bailey in a recent blog post said, the “effective” metaverse is probably decades away…
Had an interesting discussion about the Office for Students and its future. There is criticism that they have been receiving from members and member organisations (such as GuildHE and the Russell Group). Labour (who are likely to win the 2024 election) have been quiet on HE and the OfS. Also found and read this Can Labour de-Commodify Higher Education? It has a Minor Problem.
The education system in Britain is in the mud. That is scarcely news. But would Labour have the courage and values needed to revive it? The trouble they would have if they win the next General Election is due partly to their Party’s legacy and partly to a personal problem.
I had a busy week with most of the week travelling and being in Manchester.
Monday though was a series of meetings across the whole day, incorporating updates, discussing the customer experience, finalising our team coaching, and a meeting with our public affairs team.
Tuesday I headed first to the Bristol office, where I picked some stuff up I needed for Manchester (okay I picked up my coffee machine for the hotel) and had my Q2 review. After that I travelled up to Manchester.
I spent two days in Manchester planning, discussing, and conversing.
Reviewing industry perspectives on the metaverse and immersive platforms. Meta, Google are all laying off technical staff in this space, Apple have delayed their AR/VR product again. Lots of confusion between immersive games and the Metaverse. Apart from some niche areas (such as education) what is the unique selling point of the metaverse? As Paul Bailey in a recent blog post said: “Let’s be clear: the metaverse (however you define it) is decades away.”
I had a meeting on the second edition of the guide to the intelligent campus, the decision has been made to make it a web guide.
Read this blog post from Donna and Lawrie on digital leadership.
We no longer encounter as many people in workshop contexts who have the option of not engaging with digital. We no longer encounter people who believe that “digital” is a separate job that only a few people in an organization should have.
This reminds me of the staff IT induction sessions I use to run at Gloucestershire College, in that in 2006, there were many new staff who didn’t have and didn’t use e-mail, or the internet. By 2013, things had changed, all staff were using the internet and doing things that even I wasn’t doing online. Digital is not constant or standing still, it is constantly evolving and changing.
There is also a call to action on ensuring that digital leadership going forward is seen through the lenses of:
Social justice and equity,
Ethics, privacy, security, and intellectual property
Environmental impact and sustainability of using Edtech (and tech generally) in education
Reviewing industry perspectives on AI and the impact of ChatGPT. Huge investments being made by Google and Amazon. Could we see an AI OS. Machine learning already in place in many applications (such as photo apps). Microsoft looking at including AI into tools such as Word (in a similar vein to a spellchecker and grammar checker).
A shorter week for me, as I was on leave at the end of the week.
At the beginning of the week, I spent some time reviewing forthcoming events and conferences. I have found in the past that I usually find out about interesting events either on the day (via the Twitter) or after it is over. So, this year I have been planning to attend some conferences and events. Some will be ones I have attended in the past, others will be new to me.
I did though manage to get to the office in Bristol on one day.
Last week we did a session of our directorate risks, and after they were written up, I spent time reviewing them and feeding back. Another aspect was reviewing the mitigation of those risks.
In the summer Jisc will once more put on the online event, Connect More. I am part of the group at Jisc reviewing the themes for Connect More and I provided some ideas and feedback to the Jisc Events team.
Had a meeting with a new member of staff, exploring what I do and how my role fits into the wider Jisc.
Next week is my Q2 Review, so I did the paper paperwork and reviewing of work over the last quarter. As you might expect these weeknotes have helped considerably in reviewing my work over the last three months.
I have been researched and reflecting on AI voices and narration, implications for creating effective audio teaching resources automatically. Apple is already using AI voice narration for some of their audio books. Note this is not text to speech, but artificial voices that sound natural.
Some examples of voices can be found on the ElevenLabs website. The narration voices sound much better than text to speech.
So though I had snow and cold weather in Berlin two weeks ago, it was even colder than that this week in the UK. In the South West we didn’t hit really cold temperatures, though I did experience -6°C one morning this week.
The week started with a Senior Education and Student Experience Group meeting. Originally planned to take place in London, due to a range of unforeseen circumstances we moved the meeting online. It was really useful and interesting to hear about the challenges various universities across the UK are facing.
Some key headlines from the group were (and there are no real surprises here)
Assessment and feedback
Influencing government and regulators on blended learning
Importance of support for campus (intelligent campus)
Reviewing the curriculum
Digital learning environment review
One thing they did want to see more of, which crossed all those areas was research based evidence to support any advice, guidance, products across those areas.
I askedChatGTP, an artifical intelligence tool, what is personalisation of learning was and this was the response. I think tools like this have their place and their uses, but as with any tool understanding what its potential is, is important in knowing how you can use it, and how others might use it.
Disappointed and rather saddened to see the way Twitter is going. Despite that, and though I didn’t plan to, I quite enjoyed the #LTHEChat this week. It was run by an old friend of mine Lilian Soon, and was on accessibility.
One topic which did generate discussion was that of document styles.
I really struggle with getting people to use styles and templates effectively. Most don’t see the point and actually prefer to bold and underline headings throughout their documents and presentations. This is fine for them, but as soon as you need to collaborate on a document, you find that you need to work hard to retain styles and consistent formatting through a document. It’s a similar thing with templates. In theory if you use styles and you change the formatting of the style, then all the instances of the style will be updated. Where people use formatting tools on the actual text, this then doesn’t happen.
Why are styles important, well they are critical for screen readers in navigating documents, but also if a student (or a member of staff) wants to change a document, then styles makes it really easy.
So why don’t people use styles and templates, I don’t know. Maybe it is too hard. I don’t think this is just a training issue.
Also it is not just styles, some people don’t do section breaks instead do lots of hard returns.
In many of my presentations in the past I have talked about laptop bans, and then ask can I bring a typewriter?
I askedChatGTP what is personalisation of learning was and this was the response.
The personalisation of learning is a growing trend in the education field, with more and more schools and institutions adopting personalised learning approaches in order to better meet the needs of their students.
Personalised learning is an approach to education that focuses on tailoring instruction to the individual needs, abilities, and interests of each student. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including through the use of technology, such as adaptive learning software, which can adjust the difficulty of content based on a student’s performance.
One of the main benefits of personalised learning is that it allows students to progress at their own pace, rather than being held back or pushed ahead by the pace of the class as a whole. This can help to improve motivation and engagement, as students are more likely to be interested in content that is challenging but achievable for them.
Another benefit of personalised learning is that it can help to foster a deeper understanding of the material. By allowing students to explore topics in more depth and at their own pace, personalised learning can facilitate a deeper level of learning and retention.
In addition, personalised learning can help to address the diverse learning needs of students, providing support for those who may struggle with certain subjects or have learning disabilities. It can also provide opportunities for advanced learners to challenge themselves and pursue their interests more deeply.
Overall, the personalisation of learning is a promising approach that has the potential to improve the educational experience for students of all abilities and backgrounds. While there are still challenges to be addressed, such as the need for adequate resources and teacher training, the benefits of personalised learning make it an approach worth exploring and investing in.
Not really anything special, then you read this article by Jisc’s Michael Webb and you realise that the shallowness of the content is a result of how ChatGPT works, it is at one level scraping content and then using predictive style text writing for the content.
There are huge opportunities here – this sort of AI really is going to revolutionise how we write and access information, very much in the same way the internet and computers have in the past. If we understand more about the technology, and more about its limitations as well as capabilities we’ll be in a good position to make the most of it. The technology in this area is evolving at a rapid pace, so we’ll continue to monitor and report on progress, and we will provide more guidance in the future on the best ways to make use of emerging tools.
If you didn’t know anything about the personalisation of learning, then you might think this content was it, however personalisation of learning in higher education is a lot more complex, has many layers and is more than what we see here. For example where is personalisation based on geo-location or connectivity or time?
Last week I was in London (oh and a bit of Bristol). This week I worked from home at the beginning of the week and spent the end of the week working in our Bristol office. I think this was the first time in ages that I had actually spent three days in a row working out of the office. Well it was warm.
I spent some time this week organising and planning the Jisc Senior Education and Student Experience Group. This meant organising attendance at meetings, expanding the group, responding to queries, booking rooms and locations. Also rejigging and renaming the Jiscmail list for the group.
I am organising a cross-Jisc conversation to discuss and join up activity across Jisc in the intelligent and smart campus space. We have quite a few projects and ideas in this area.
The news is full of stories on the possibility of winter blackouts as the energy crisis continues to hit home. With the continuing prospect of restrictions in gas supplies across Europe, there is a strong chance with a extreme cold spell in the UK that there will be power rationing. This means that some parts of the UK will be dark. Students will face learning without light, power, heat or connectivity. How can you deliver high quality online learning without power or connectivity? So I wrote a blog post exploring this.
People in England, Scotland and Wales are braced for the possibility of rolling power cuts this winter after a warning on Thursday from National Grid. The electricity and gas system operator has said households could face a series of three-hour power cuts…
Wonkhe was reporting on the cost of living crisis.
The cost of living crisis will be worse than the impact of the pandemic for some students, a Welsh university Vice Chancellor has warned. Ben Calvert, vice chancellor at the University of South Wales, made the comment as he gave evidence at the opening of a Senedd committee inquiry into mental health in higher education. Calvert told the committee: “I actually think for some of our students that will be harder, particularly where we have got populations of students who are older.”
These concerns have been expressed by many universities at meetings I have attended. What could universities do, and what should universities do?
We potentially could see shifts in attendance patterns on campus by students, as they take advantage of the warm rooms and opportunities to charge devices away from their rented student homes.
We noticed that many articles tend to mislead in similar ways, so we analyzed over 50 articles about AI from major publications, from which we compiled 18 recurring pitfalls. We hope that being familiar with these will help you detect hype whenever you see it. We also hope this compilation of pitfalls will help journalists avoid them.
This sentence implies that AI is autonomously grading and optimizing coursework. However, it is only being used to assist teachers in a small part of grading: identifying the answer that a student wrote and checking if it matches the answer provided by the teacher.
I think that the article and analysis is not just useful for journalists, but anyone looking at AI in education (and beyond).
I have been thinking about the keynote I am delivering for Moving Target 2022 in Berlin in November. Planning a short video for the conference organisers social media for next week as well.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Is it just me, but weren't cars more brightly coloured in the 1980s?
Monday morning, I was off to Queen Mary University of London for their VLE Expo. This was very much a QMUL focussed event, though they had invited a range of VLE vendors. I liked how the focus of the event was about, what do we want to do to achieve our strategic aspirations, how will the VLE help us to do that, and which platform (or platforms) will enable us to do that.
There were some excellent presentations from the academic staff on the different ways in which they were using technology including virtual reality, mixed reality and H5P. I sat on the final panel session answering questions from the floor on a range of issues. A lot of the questions were more about the use of technology for learning and teaching, than VLE specific topics. However, I did get into a few discussions about the VLE on the Twitter as a result of attending the event.
Someone just said the VLE is Dead and it wasn’t me… #QMULVLEExpo
Most institutions will (probably) have equipment which staff can use, but if there is a strategic approach to building a sustainable approach to the use of video and audio, then universities will need to reflect if they have sufficient resources to support the increased demand for cameras and microphones.
Tuesday I was still in London for a briefing session, well as it happened it got cancelled, so I worked in the office.
Apple have announced that they are going to stop selling the iPod once the current stocks of iPod touch run out. So did you have an iPod and if so which one?
Wednesday, I did two all-staff briefings for two directorates on the Jisc HE sector strategy. From the feedback I got they seemed to be well received.
I was reminded on the Twitter about when I took my bike to work. I made a video back then.
Mike Sharples posted an excellent Twitter thread on how AI can be used to write essays. I agree with Mike, if we are setting students assignments that can be answered by AI, are we really helping students learn?
Thursday, I made my way to Harwell for a drop in session I was running at the Jisc offices there, alas an accident the closure of the M4 meant I spent nearly four hours sitting the car rather than sitting in a room talking to Jisc staff. In the end I had to abandon my visit to the office.
Friday, I had a scoping call about learning spaces in higher education. Interested in the kinds of learning spaces higher education is using, flexibility, technology and the kinds of activities spaces are being used for.
Traditional providers can expect to find themselves facing the difficult job of rethinking existing assurance processes that are designed for coherent, longitudinal programmes of study, so that they can accommodate a new pick-and-mix landscape of highly portable and stackable micro-credential learning.
My top tweet this week was this one.
A1 sometime my presentations are just images, no text, no bullets
Over on the Twitter, Mike Sharples has written a thread about how students could potentially use AI to write assignments (and how academics could use AI to mark and provide feedback).
This "student essay" was written by an AI Transformer program. I gave it a prompt "The construct of learning styles is problematic because " and it generated the rest, including the headings and references. AI Transformer technology will disrupt education. Here's how. ?1/ pic.twitter.com/Vnlpz6ntn8
As Mike points out, existing tools such as Turnitin won’t spot these fakes.
Plagiarism software will not detect essays written by Transformers, because the text is generated, not copied. A Google search shows each sentence as novel. Any student can now generate an entire original essay or assignment in seconds. /4
Though I do think we should stop going down the rhetoric that all students want to cheat, I do agree with some of what Mike says in this tweet in that we do need to reflect and rethink assessment.
Students will employ AI to write assignments. Teachers will use AI to assess them. Nobody learns, nobody gains. If ever there were a time to rethink assessment, it's now. Instead of educators trying to outwit AI Transformers, let's harness them for learning. /7
I also agree with Mike’s other tweet in this thread if we are setting students assignments that can be answered by AI, are we really helping students learn?
Finally, as educators, if we are setting students assignments that can be answered by AI Transformers, are we really helping students learn? There are many better ways to assess for learning: constructive feedback, peer assessment, teachback. https://t.co/cLt1BW7EJv /11
Some of my highlights from the second day of Jisc’s Digifest.
The second day opened with Dr Sarah Jones, associate pro-vice-chancellor education (transformation) from De Montfort University talking about the 2030 learning landscape.
I did enjoy Sarah’s keynote and she covered lots of stuff, I liked how she bought Wordle into the presentation.
It was then time for my session on Powering HE – the HE sector strategy.
In this session, James will showcase Jisc’s HE sector strategy, Powering HE, and why and how we developed the strategy. He will explore what Jisc is doing and planning to do in the HE teaching and learning space. He will bring the session together with the impact the strategy is having on university members across the UK.
I was quite mentally exhausted after delivering my session, and I was just sorting stuff out in the room, so I missed the next session. I went for coffee.
I attended a session from the Jisc Data Analytics team on their products and services and how they can be used and their usefulness for universities (and colleges). Data informed decision making is something that can help and support individuals making decisions about what they need to and want to do.
I went to the AI insights session with Michael Webb, which was really interesting and informative about the work Jisc has been doing in the AI space.
It was good to see that there was a realistic approach being taken with how we could use AI, and concrete activity in delivering services using AI.
The day ended with a keynote panel discussion reflecting on the many highlights of the conference.
Do what were your highlights of the event?
I have to say I did enjoy Digifest 2022, it was nice to be back at an in-person conference, meeting up with friends, colleagues and meeting new people. There were so many of those in-person interactions that are so challenging to recreate online and are often missing from online events I have attended over the last two years.
It was just two years ago that we were in the ICC at Digifest 2020 with the imminent threat of lockdown, everyone washing their hands to the tune of happy birthday and no one was wearing masks. Two years is such a short time, but so much has happened in that timeframe. We know that the pandemic isn’t over by any means, but not only has so much happened, but we also learnt many things as well.
For me I did notice that there was a lot less usage of Twitter over the event, I don’t know if this is because it was less used during online events that we’ve forgotten how useful a back channel can be, or just a general decline in the use of Twitter because of the noise. Having said that there was an interesting discussion on Twitter just after the conference on digital transformation.
We've heard "digital transformation" many, many times at #Digifest22. Yet, I have not heard a credible, rational definition for what that term means (and what it doesn't). Can any of those who have used it suggest such a definition? #highered@jamesclay@sarahknight@Jisc