On Monday evening I went up an old North Sea gas rig on the seafront of Weston-super-Mare. The See Monster is an art installation. It certainly is an interesting place.
Tuesday I was in Birmingham for a team away day. A bit of double booking, late trains for people and other stuff, meant that it wasn’t as constructive as I hoped it would be. However, we did an excellent communication exercise which I really found illuminating.
Wednesday I was in Birmingham at the ICC for the Jisc Staff Conference. Nice to see people from across Jisc in-person. Some useful sessions and some fun ones as well.
Thursday I was down to London for a meeting with a Finnish delegation from the CSC, which is a NREN (like Jisc). Colleagues and myself presented on the work of Jisc across the UK and answered questions on various aspects of our work.
Friday I was working from home. I spent time sorting out stuff from the week in preparation for going on leave next week.
Tuesday I headed off to Cheltenham to run the first drop in session on our sector strategy. These sessions are about supporting staff at Jisc to see how their work supports the delivery of the strategy.
I was reminded on a mailing list of the “Short and Sweet” sessions I use to run at Gloucestershire College.
Someone was asking about TEL staff development and getting staff involved, and engaged. Often they would not attend staff development sessions.
Back in the day, when I worked at Gloucestershire College I faced similar problems. The solution for me was to take the staff development sessions, shorten them to 15 minutes and take them to the practitioners. These sessions were then delivered in their team meetings. I kept to time and also made a note of requests for further follow up training sessions.
Short and Sweet” sessions lasting fifteen minutes were not the only model of development we delivered, there were also sessions lasting an hour, half a day and the odd whole day development. They were a little techno-centric, but they could cover anything, so as well as technology they could be pedagogy as well. It worked really well and many other teams started to use the term, saying things like “should we “short and sweet” this training?”
I am aware of a couple of universities that “borrowed” the concept for their own training, for example the University of Oxford.
Also there is this week note of mine which reminisces on the concept.
On Wednesday and Thursday it was off to Birmingham for a lunchtime to lunchtime away day for our leadership team. This was the first time we had all met in-person as a leadership team.
We were looking at our priorities for the next year (and beyond) and how we would work together.
I was on leave on Friday and off to London for the day.
My top tweet this week was this one.
What is happening? #Eurovision whatever happened to nil points?
Well a busy week with travel, an in-person conference and some forward planning and road mapping.
Spent much of the week reflecting on digital transformation. What do we mean by it? What does it look like? Is it a something that happens, you transform, or is it something that continues over time?
Monday I was in Birmingham in preparation for Jisc’s Digifest. I had a fair few online meetings on Monday so had travelled up the night before. Didn’t really want to have long online calls from the services on the M5, or in a hotel foyer. Maybe in a coffee shop, but in the end decided a hotel room was better than all of those.
Tuesday was day one of Digifest 2022.
Two years ago I attended Digifest 2020 on what was the eve of lockdown. There was back then a murmuring that with the imminent restrictions that digital and online would play a huge part in supporting education. I don’t think we really recognised how hard it was going to be.
As I walked around Digifest 2022 it didn’t really feel that it had been only two years since the last time we had done it in in-person. 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.
After the conference I travelled down to London.
There was a bit of a Twitter discussion about digital transformation following this tweet.
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
It got me thinking that we don’t really have a consensus on what digital transformation actually is and what it looks like.
I have spoken about this in meetings and events but I am now planning some blog posts on my thoughts.
Jisc does have the following guide on digital transformation. This is derived from the DX work of Educause.
I have some concerns about the linear nature of the definition, as though if you undertake digitisation, then digitalisation, you will then be able to deliver digital transformation. There is much more to the Educase work on transformation, but sometimes people focus on the simplistic interpretations that you see in a diagram.
I also asked on the Twitter:
Do you think transformation is something that has a result (we’ve been transformed) or do you see it as an evolving continuing process (we are transforming and continue to transform)?
There were mixed responses, some thought it was incremental, some thought it was a continual process, few thought thought of it as some kind of “big bang” transformation.
I think it can be incremental. But you still need some kind of vision or end game. Otherwise you may find you have changed but not transformed.
Another perspective is that you make incremental steps, but the full effect or possibilities isn’t immediately apparent. But at some point in the future it suddenly all makes sense.
I need to do some more thinking, research and reflection on this topic. One thing that does come immediately to mind, there is quite a bit out there on digital transformation, does this help, or what kind of help do universities need to undertake digital transformation.
I went to the Jisc office on Thursday and though there were people there it was quite quiet. When I went out for lunch it was a different matter. I’ve not seen London this busy since March 2020. There were so many people, and queues in all my favourite places for lunch.
I had a multi agency meeting on widening participation which was informative, interesting and useful.
Friday I was also in the Jisc office and spent time road mapping
Some of my highlights from the first day of Jisc’s Digifest.
It was a nice start with the opening keynote from Jim Knight, director of Suklaa Ltd.
His personal reflections of the pandemic resonated with many in the audience, as did his vision for the future. There are things we want to keep and there are things we know we need to work on for the future. I did a sketch note of his talk.
I thought his presentation was nice, not inspiring, just nice.
Over the day we saw many sessions about building and changing for that future.
Stacy Vipas, head of digital learning, Askham Bryan College talked about her college’s use of an action research framework and a roadmap for the future of digital learning. She spoke about bringing together the changes in spaces needed, the digital skills of students, to bring about that future vision.
Tom Farrelly from Munster Technological University brought over his real life experiences of working with marginalised communities and how others could benefit from the lessons they learnt.
I attended another session, where a full room of delegates wanted to find out more about how Teesside used a learning design toolkit, underpinned by a framework, with academics across the university. They talked about how staff were initially hesitant, but the process of going through the toolkit was illuminating and transformative.
A highlight for me, on what was International Women’s Day was the panel consisting of inspirational female leaders and their views and reflections on their personal journeys to success and what this means for the sector to ensure that we can remove the barriers to inequality and support an equal future for women in the sector. We still have a way to go.
The climate emergency was the subject of an international panel discussion. We need to be thinking about greening agendas, carbon neutrality or even going carbon negative.
With two of the panel coming in live from the US, this was a great discussion on the importance of the education sector both responding to, but also been seen to be responding to the climate emergency.
This did mean I missed a, according to others, a great session from Rob Bladgen from the University of Gloucestershire in his session titled “Education: the great changemaker”. This session, saw Rob telling the story of Gloucestershire’s purchase of the city centre Debenhams building, with a plan to create an educational hub for students. Recognising the need for such a place to be a place for community and belonging.
We have as a sector seen real challenges over the last two years, but I did feel that now we have a (potential) roadmap to a better future.
However despite thinking about the future, we need to reflect on the past. This was the essence of Audrey Watters final streamed keynote, hope for the future. This was a thought provoking discussion about the importance of history and the future of edtech.
This week I am speaking at the Jisc Digifest in Birmingham. If you are going come and say hello.
The last time we had an in-person Digifest was two years ago. Back then we were all washing our hands to “happy birthday” and no one was wearing masks.
There was a lot of talk about the potential of digital and what it could mean if the UK was going to go into lockdown.
Of course here we are two years later and we know what happened, well we know something about what happened.
A year ago Jisc published Powering HE – the HE sector strategy. This document which followed the publication of the Learning and Teaching Reimagined reports was about how JIsc over the next three years was going to continue to support higher education in their digital transformation journey and onto 2030.
This week I am speaking at Digifest about the 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.
The session takes place on day two, Wednesday 9th March 2022 at 11:45 – 12:30 in Hall 7B.
Should be fun, as I talk about the last two years, some of the stuff we’ve learnt, some of the stuff we’ve being doing, the reaction we’ve had from the sector and what we could be doing over the next few years.
Monday I was off to Bristol, for a late afternoon meeting. It was nice to be back in the office and see the changes and improvements since I was last there a week or so back. It is a nice place to work.
This report is the result of an experts meeting exploring assessment in universities and colleges and how technology could be used to help address some of the problems and opportunities.
This report was widely reported in the press across the UK.
Assessment is a challenge for many institutions, often resulting in attempts to fix it, but sometimes I think we need to dig deeper and re-imagine assessment as a whole.
Having discussed the coronavirus in last week’s weeknote, the situation has been escalated and the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.
It comes as the government announced new powers to keep people in quarantine to stop the spread of the virus.
In order to do this the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.
The overall risk level to the UK remains “moderate”.
Wednesday I was at the 18th Jisc Learning Analytics Community Event at Newman University in Birmingham. There were various talks and discussions and overall it was an interesting day.
I published a blog post about the ALT Learning Spaces SIG that happened last month.
Really enjoyed reading @jamesclay's ideas for creating new learning spaces. Thinking beyond the classroom is crucial these days but unfortunately not a priority in most universities. We really need to reflect more on how students learn. https://t.co/CjeqXBea59
Thursday I was in our Bristol office working on a document with colleagues. I had quite a few conversations about the Education 4.0 roadmap I am working on and how the sector needs to start thinking and preparing for both the challenges, but also the opportunities that there is with this potential view of the future.
A surge in anxiety and stress is sweeping UK campuses. What is troubling students, and is it the universities’ job to fix it?
We know that there is a student mental health crisis and the reasons for this aren’t necessarily clear. We know there has been increase in the demand for mental health services at universities. The article notes that there has been research into the causes of this, but lays the blame for the crisis on the way in which universities are managed and run, leading to students not being in control of what they do and saddled with debt.
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.
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.
After a brief absence, the JISC, sorry Jisc Conference, sorry Jisc Digital Festival is back. The last JISC Conference was a couple of years ago and it has evolved in the Jisc Digital Festival.
It was a two day event in Birmingham looking at many different aspects of technology enhanced learning. There was stuff for learning technologists, library people and IT managers. For someone in my role there was a lot of choice.
In some ways it was reminiscent of past JISC Conferences and in others it was very different and new. There was a lot happening and it can be challenging to find the stuff you want to see and listen to.
I did like the festival theme, which really gave the event a very different feel. Two days also made a difference to the rushed single day there use to be.
With such a packed programme it was inevitable that there would be some clashes. I was torn for example about going to the digital storytelling session or the one on visitors and residents.
I was pleased with the vast majority of the sessions I attended, they were stimulating, interesting, informative and made me think. There was a lot of stuff to take away. With recordings and resources online, there’s a substantial amount of stuff to refect on and take away.
One of the key benefits for me of attending a conference such as this is making contacts, talking and networking. There wasn’t a huge number of people from FE, but I certainly spoke to many of them. Finding out what they were doing, the issues they faced and what they were planning. Finding out what others are doing is a critical factor when implementing change, for benchmarking and aiding discovery.
It was also useful to speak to contacts at Jisc, Janet, TechDis, as well as some of the exhibitors. I have a bundle of business cards, flyers, web links and even the odd QR Code.
I got a lot out of the conference, I took a lot away and it has made me think. I am glad to see the return of the conference and in many ways I think it was much better than previous Jisc conferences. Now that’s back, I hope that Jisc will also bring back the online conference, as I really missed it this year.
news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…