So the year is nearly over. This time last year I was in Berlin for a conference which felt very festive. This year I was mainly in chilly Bristol.
I had a few internal meetings and briefings this week.
I spent most of the week scoping and researching a possible intelligent campus elevation tool based on the concept of the Jisc FE Digital Elevation Tool.
I had my Q1 review this week. These weeknotes helped me complete the paperwork and discussions during the meeting.
I wrote a blog post about how I am not using the Twitter anymore.
I stopped using the Twitter in September. Though I still yet to delete my account, partly as I think one day, it might go back to what it was. Well one can dream. If I do look at the service, I come away disappointed and saddened.
I was mainly in London this week trying to avoid the rain.
I was attending the WonkHE Festival of Higher Education, this is the conference previously known as WonkFest. The name change was more about the challenge in delegates getting funding to come to the event… so you want to go to a conference, that should be fine, what’s it called. Seriously?
It was a rather good conference, some really good sessions, too much choice sometimes. Only downside was, one of the rooms for the parallel sessions, was too small, so as a result lots of people who wanted to attend the session were turned away (including me).
I enjoyed the session, “in conversation with David Aaronovitch“ I did have a question about the Remembrance of the Daleks… but a quick check of Wikipedia and I realise that Ben Aaronovitch wrote the Daleks and is David’s brother… So won’t be asking that question then!
I had to spend some time reviewing and collating materials, and writing briefing note and bullet points for a panel session at HEAnet on Navigating the Challenges and Opportunities of the Modern Campus. As the considered expert on the intelligent campus, I often get asked to provide a perspective on the future of the university campus.
It is the intelligent campus that I will be speaking about, next week at Learning Places Scotland 2023 in Glasgow. I am doing a presentation on building the intelligent campus.
Universities and colleges spend billions on their campuses, yet they are frequently underutilised and are often a frustrating experience for students. In this session, James Clay will describe the campus of the future. How does a traditional campus become a smart campus? What are the steps to make a smart campus, an intelligent campus? The intelligent campus builds on the smart campus concept and aims to find effective ways to use data gathered from the physical estate and combine it with learning and student data from student records, library systems, the virtual learning environment (VLE) and other digital systems. This session will describe what data can be gathered, how it can be measured and explore the potential for enhancing the student experience, achieving net zero, improve efficiency, and space utilisation. It will demonstrate and explain to the delegates what the exciting future of the intelligent campus. James will also ask delegates to consider the ethical issues when implementing an intelligent campus as well as the legal requirements.
I had to plan in a call to discuss the presentation.
On Monday before heading off to London, I had a great discussion with colleagues in the office about broadcast and recording capabilities within our Bristol office. The reality is that though I would love to have a proper TV studio in the office I really need to plan and deliver some initial content first, to provide some foundations to a proof of concept.
There was a discussion on the possible future of the office, as in redesigning the space to reflect the current (hybrid) working practices. So more collaborative spaces, more occasional spaces, more spaces for online conversations and meetings, and so on…
Continued doing more work on the planning, reflection, and researching concept of optimisation of operations and data.
I had a great meeting with Josie Fraser discussing digital skills and digitisation.
Had a pre-meeting for Jisc OfS meeting next week. As a result I have some preparation to do.
I did miss using the Twitter at the conference this week, though I did post to Bluesky and Threads, it wasn’t quite the same, and very little engagement. I did look at the Twitter and there were some posts, so I do think even if I had engaged, there wouldn’t have been a serious amount of traction and discussion.
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.
I always say I saw Star Wars at the cinema when it came out in 1977.
I was wrong.
Though Star Wars was released in the US in May 1977, it didn't premiere in the UK until 27th December 1977.
It was a really hot week this week again, weather wise again.
For the third week in a row, I was back in London. I also went to the Bristol office for a couple of days as well.
This time I was in London for the Intelligent Library session I was running. It was nice to focus in a specific use case for the Intelligent Campus looking at the use of data in the library. This workshop demonstrated that there is a real demand for support and help in this space. There are opportunities for more advanced Proof of Concepts, advice and guidance, vision and inspiration, and potential consultancy and training opportunities.
What was shown of value was the range of use cases for stimulating discussion and debate. We have published use cases for the intelligent campus; however, we never published the intelligent library use cases. I did create a series of use cases for various conference sessions I delivered. Something for next year, the key question is where? Also demand for a toolkit to support the use of use cases for both areas.
Working through notes and output captures across the various workshops over the last few weeks. The one consistent across these workshops (internal and external) was that the technical hurdles to the smart or intelligent campus (or library) are relatively simple and easy to deliver on. The challenge is the “so what”. How do institutions exploit the narrative the data is telling them. How does data informed decision making actually work in practice. Something to reflect and think about.
I visited our Harwell office as I returned from London. I often visit our other offices to work, partly for the change in routine, but also to meet other staff and be available for conversations about our HE strategy work.
Spent time developing and working on a new DPS document for student experience, to enable Jisc to utilise external expertise in our work.
Continued my research and analysis on personalisation.
Spent time working through my notes and image captures across the intelligent campus, intelligent library, and smart campus events and inputting them into our research analysis tool Dovetail.
I had a quiet week in terms of meetings and events, but did go to the Bristol office for three days this week.
Monday was spent catching up with email and Teams messages from last week when I was mainly on leave. Also on Monday was our monthly leadership meeting.
I was failing miserably to use the campaigns function of Salesforce for one of my community groups as I don’t have the necessary profile to do specific actions in relation to the campaign function. Escalated the problem, but the person I need to chat with, is on leave this week.
I went through my research and notes for potential Intelligent Campus Member Stories for our communication team to accompany the publication of the Guide to the Intelligent Campus.
As well as updating the Guide to the Intelligent Campus, we have also updated the use cases, which were on the project blog. I spent some time mapping these to the guide, so that the use cases, which will be in PDF format can be linked to from the guide. Started thinking about the next generation of use cases, especially in the light of AI tools such as ChatGPT.
Had a meeting with the Professional Development Manager at UCISA on various ideas, submissions, and activities.
Invited by IGPP Institute of Government & Public Policy and University of East London to talk at their event on Advancing Blended Learning in Higher Education.
Undertook some research and development time on personalisation and intelligent campus.
Published some blog posts on the Intelligent Campus
Started planning the next of the Intelligent Campus community events.
If you are working in the area of the intelligent campus and have an interest in the work being undertaken in this space, we would like to invite you to attend the next in our series of community events. This community of practice gives people a chance to network, share practice and hear what various institutions are doing. You will have the opportunity to discover more about intelligent campus projects and Jisc’s work in this space.
I use to run these when I was project manager for the Intelligent Campus project, then they were taken over by a colleague, before being run by RUGIT for a while. However, since the lead person there left the sector, and the Intelligent Campus is a key part of our HE strategy, I have decided to start running the community events again.
It will take place in London at the Jisc offices on the 24th May 2023.
Planning the Intelligent Library community event for the 21st June 2023.
The DfE HE sector emergency planning liaison group meeting on Friday was cancelled. However, I did some preparation work for the meeting, and have been asked to provide current Jisc guidance for senior leaders on cyber-attacks.
My top tweet this week was this one.
This week is a quiet week for me. However from next week it all goes busy, busy, busy.
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.
It was a shorter week this week due to the New Year bank holiday.
In the education world there has been much discussion about ChatGPT and its impact on student assessment. I decided I would dig out some old assignment questions and see what ChatGPT made of them. I had to adjust them slightly, as the original questions were on Railtrack, so I changed that to Network Rail. I wrote about the results in a blog post.
I headed to our Bristol office for two days this week, it was rather quiet in the office, with very few people in there working. I suspect the rail strikes had a factor in this, but my commutes were rather quiet.
Almost a third of university courses are still combining face-to-face teaching with online learning in 2022-23, data gathered by the BBC suggests. Data from 50 of the 160 universities surveyed shows 28% of courses are being taught in a hybrid way, compared with 4.1% in 2018-19 before the pandemic. One student said he feels like he is paying thousands of pounds per year for a “glorified streaming service”. But an official says many students appreciate the flexibility and freedom.
The basis of the entire article appears to be skewed to the perspectives of one student who doesn’t like it. Though later down the page the article talks about some of the benefits of flexibility and inclusion that blended, or hybrid bring. To me it appears that the journalist arrived with an agenda and wrote the article in that light.
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?
Was in London on Monday. I had gone up the night before, so I could avoid travelling on a Monday morning.
Monday was a team coaching day, where we did our insights (colours) thing. I think the most useful aspect is discussion and working together, as for the insights I am always reminded of horoscopes.
Monday evening, I couldn’t see Jupiter as it was cloudy, saw it last week and later in the week, but not on the day it was the closest to the earth in 107 years.
On Tuesday I presented at the GuildHE Policy and Planners Network meeting in London on analytics and student support. This was well received presentation and there was lots of questions and discussion afterwards.
Wednesday I was back in Bristol. I had a constructive meeting on the marketing, event, production requirements for the HE objectives assigned to me, and how these will fit into the planning and campaign processes for 2022-23. We also discussed transformative content (thought leadership) and the planning I have done on producing transformative content that will support the delivery of the HE sector strategy and ensuring it is aligned to the Jisc core strategy.
There is a tendency for the literature to connect innovation and technology in discussions about models of change. Clearly, technology can have a significant impact on activities and practice and can lead to innovation but, if badly designed or implemented, can create unnecessary costs and additional bureaucracy. The key to good innovation is that it leads to better productivity; better work practice; and better delivery of activities. In planning any change, it is important to understand how the innovation that you wish to introduce will deliver those three things: better productivity, better practice and better delivery.
You could almost rewrite this and replace the word innovation with transformation. It goes onto say:
Innovation is also often seen as a big bang ‘thing’. This is not necessarily the case, small improvements or minor changes can have significant effects…
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)?
The Mirror reports that University of Glasgow students are unhappy about having lectures in a church with no internet access.
Though it was July 2015 when Apple Pay was introduced in the UK, I have never actually used it until August this year! I bought some parking on my phone and used Apple Pay to pay for it. It was only on Thursday that I actually used Apple Pay at a till! I paid for some shopping using the system at one of those “unexpected item in the bagging area” machines.
I know I should know this, but it was quite a seamless experience. I did have to double tap, which I didn’t think I would need to do. Well done that now, do I need to do it again? Probably not.
Friday I headed to work in our Bristol office. Had some administration to do as well as catching up with conversations and email.
Why is this post entitled oncoming vehicle approaching? Well when I was driving to London, I did see a fair few warning signs, that there was an oncoming vehicle approaching. I wasn’t sure how much I should slow down by, as there were cars behind and next to me. I wasn’t sure even which lane I should stick to, as I had no idea about the oncoming vehicle, would it be in the outside lane, or on the hard shoulder? There were a lot of unknowns and in the end I tried to ensure that I had plenty of options for moving out of the way, just in case. I never did see the vehicle, but it was quite unnerving. Writing this, it reminded me of how some people feel when it comes to the implementation and embedding of digital technology. People may be unsure of what to do and it might be all bit unnerving as they are doing what they normally do and now they are facing uncertainty.
My top tweet this week was this one.
On this day, 38 years ago, The BBC broadcast Threads, about a nuclear attack on the UK.
I remember watching it and was scared, chilled and having a feeling of total helplessness in the face of, what the time, felt like something that could quite easily happen. pic.twitter.com/K7hjir3qfo
It was quite a busy week, with some travelling, going to different offices, a range of meetings and conversations. I also starting thinking about my work for next year.
Followed an interesting discussion about hybrid online. So, what is hybrid learning? If first published my perspective on hybrid (based on Simon Thomson’s ideas) back in May 2020, which I saw hybrid courses as analogue to hybrid cars, and being responsive to a changing external landscape.
With a hybrid course, some sessions are physical face to face sessions. There are live online sessions and there are asynchronous online sessions. In addition, there could be asynchronous offline sessions as well. You may not want to be online all the time! Some sessions could be easily switched from one format to another. So, if there is a change in lockdown restrictions (tightening or easing) then sessions can move to or from online or a physical location. These hybrid responsive courses will allow universities to easily clarify with prospective students about their experience and how they potentially could change as restrictions are either lifted or enforced. It helps staff plan their teaching and assessments to take into account the environment and changes to the situation.
Of course today, no one thinks that kind of responsive course is hybrid.
Sue Beckingham has in the past published a diagram on her view of the different terms that have been used across the sector.
Simon Thomson makes the point in a recent blog post that
I do think Sue Beckingham’s work is really helping in clarifying those differences in opinion on terminology and at least get to a consensus even if some won’t always agree.
We can spend a lot of time discussing what terms to use, or we can spend our time helping staff to deliver highly effective programmes for students. I do think the critical issue is ensuring a shared understanding, rather than focus on discussing the correctness of terms, when it comes to academic development and providing training and support.
Tuesday I was off to our Harwell campus to run a drop-in session about our sector strategy. This was my first visit to Harwell since October 2019. You could tell the difference the hybrid working we now have at Jisc is, as arriving late morning, I was still able to find a space in the car park (there was actually lots of spaces). On all my previous visits to Harwell the car park was (so I was told) full well before 9am. Now with staff working flexibly there are less staff commuting to the office on a daily basis. As you might expect the office was rather quiet.
Microsoft has retired Internet Explorer after 27 years
Internet Explorer’s popularity was dented by the launch of faster browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, as users seized on new applications to navigate platforms including Google Search, Facebook and YouTube. The rise of smartphones then arguably delivered the fatal blow, with Apple’s pre-installed Safari browser and Google Chrome on Android phones helping to shift internet access and usage into the mobile realm.
As a Mac user I remember the frustration of web sites being Internet Explorer only, which was compounded when I started using mobile devices.
I do like this animation of web browser usage over the years.
You certainly see at one point the dominance of Internet Explorer.
I went into our Bristol office on Thursday, it was a lovely hot day, but the office was nice and cool. I had a meeting about my priorities for next year. We have initially decided on personalisation of learning, the (digital) student experience and the intelligent campus (which includes learning spaces and net zero aspirations).
Turned out it was the hottest day of the year so far.