Tag Archives: bristol

Is this appropriate? – Weeknote #205 – 3rd February 2023

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.

Attended Monthly sector strategy leads meeting and discussion. We had an interesting discussion on scenario planning. Thinking about a workshop on this. Continue reading Is this appropriate? – Weeknote #205 – 3rd February 2023

Back to work – Weeknote #201 – 6th January 2023

Happy New Year.

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.

BBC News published a rather negative piece on hybrid learning, Nearly a third of university courses still have hybrid teaching.

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.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Who turned out the lights? – Weeknote #188 – 7th October 2022

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.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

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.

Also this from the Guardian: How would three-hour power cuts work if enacted in Great Britain?

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…

So I wrote up a follow-up post.

stove espresso maker
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

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.

This was an interesting read on Eighteen pitfalls to beware of in AI journalism.

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.

The first example was this analysis of an article on an AI EdTech product, The Machines Are Learning, and So Are the Students.

It features comments such as this one:

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).

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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.

Oncoming vehicle approaching – Weeknote #187 – 30th September 2022

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.

Read this HEPI blog post at the weekend. The blog says

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…

I was reminded of my butterfly post on digital transformation.

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.

Moving forward – Weeknote #172 – 17th June 2022

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.

Modes of Learning – (Sue Beckingham, 2021)

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.

My top tweet this week was this one.

More connecting – Weeknote #166 – 6th May 2022

The early spring bank holiday meant a shorter working week for me.

Most of the week was being involved in Jisc’s Connect More 2022 event. I was chair for one day and a virtual host for another day. I wasn’t presenting as this was very much a practitioner focused event.

Some great and inspiring sessions.

Politics against entered the debate about in-person teaching and blended learning.

Universities could be fined for failing to return to in-person teaching, minister warns

Michelle Donelan has warned that if universities fail to return to face-to-face teaching, they may face large penalties. The universities minister told The Mail on Sunday she plans to “put boots on the ground” and send teams of inspectors to check staff attendance rates at campuses across the UK. Where universities don’t meet the required standards, they could “potentially be fined…

Helpful rhetoric? No, of course not.

Was involved in a few discussions about how students wanted to return to campus, but not necessarily to attend lectures.

Friday I went to the office in Bristol. It was quite busy compared the last time I was there.

The sector still appears to be reflecting on the concept of hybrid (or hyflex) teaching I read the following summary of ‘Hybrid Teaching and Learning in HE: a futuristic model or a realistic model for the future?’ was a question addressed at a workshop held by the University of Nottingham in early 2022, when universities were ready to turn the pandemic corner. More than 150 participants from around the globe were brought together to share their practice and learn from a community of academic and technical colleagues who had experienced hybrid teaching.

clocks
Photo by Ahmad Ossayli on Unsplash

I published a blog post on time. Do you have enough time to read it?

Though I have written about time lots of times over time (well at least the last twenty years); across the sector we are still discussing that we need to provide academics and practitioners with more time. There are still many voices out there, saying that the challenge with engaging practitioners with learning technologies is about providing them with time The trouble with talking about time, is that it is a somewhat simplistic perspective over what is a complex and challenging issue.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Down in the harbourside – Weeknote #165 – 29th April 2022

A busy week. In the morning I published a post, Go and be more innovative which was discussing how we often conflate innovation with improvement.

For me true innovation in educational technology is change which has significant impact across the whole organisation. However this isn’t always exciting and shiny! Too often we focus on the new and the shiny and less on those innovations, that are holistic, organisation-wide and would have a greater impact on the learner experience.

Monday afternoon we continued the review of our HE Directorate looking at what we do and how we operate.

I went into our Bristol office on Tuesday which was quite quiet.

It got me thinking about how do we make better use of the offices spaces we have without resorting to the leaving of little notes saying sorry to have missed you and looking forward to seeing you in the office. Most, okay all my meetings were online and in theory I could have done them all from home, but I did like the change in routine and scenery that going to the office allows. It was nice to have the few in-person social interactions I did have. I was once asked if I preferred working from home or working in the office, my response was I prefer to have the choice. Pre-pandemic the choice was very much about what I was doing which influenced where I would choose to work.

Earlier in the week there was an interesting Twitter thread on returning to the office and hybrid working.

I did think that this assertion on micro coworking was an interesting insight.

I can certainly see the rise of shared offices that don’t require long commutes or want a space to collaborate or I think important work in a social environment with others, even if they aren’t working on the same thing, or even for the same company.

I also think we could potentially see micro co-learning for universities being developed as well. Allowing students to learn locally without necessarily travelling to campus everyday or even at all.

Wednesday I did work from home and we had some briefing sessions about Connect More which is happening next week (online).

Thursday I was in Bristol, though this time at the Mshed supporting a team away day. It was nice to deliver a session in-person and chat with people over coffee.

I did some extra work in between sessions in a local coffee place.

I read this article, ‘Bossware is coming for almost every worker’: the software you might not realize is watching you in the Guardian.

Many companies in the US and Europe now appear – controversially – to want to try, spurred on by the enormous shifts in working habits during the pandemic, in which countless office jobs moved home and seem set to either stay there or become hybrid. This is colliding with another trend among employers towards the quantification of work – whether physical or digital – in the hope of driving efficiency.

The reliance on surveillance software to check if people are working, I do think misses the point about what work is. Work is something you do, it isn’t somewhere you go, and it isn’t something you can always be seen to be doing. Focusing on presenteeism and computer activity isn’t really an effective way of ensuring work is done.

I can certainly see some people looking at the potential of such kinds of surveillance technologies to measure learning. As if it could actually do that, by looking at computer activity and interactions with systems.

Friday was the last day of the week and I spent it at home working. I had an introductory meeting with a couple of new people in our public affairs team, talking about the HE sector strategy.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Shorter – Weeknote #164 – 22nd April 2022

A shorter week as there was a bank holiday and I took a day’s leave.

Came back to 70 emails in my inbox, which I cleared quite quickly.

Had a meeting with ALT about plans and collaboration going forward. Next week is the OER 22 Conference and there is a call for papers for the ALT Conference 2022. The ALT Conference 2022 will take place in-person in Manchester.

I attended the HEAnet & EduCampus Group Advisory Forum online. We are planning a strategic meeting that will take place in-person in September.

I spoke to our innovation team about the HE Sector Strategy.

I went to the office in Bristol on Friday, realised it had been sometime since I went to the Bristol office having been on leave, in Manchester and in London quite a bit over the last few weeks.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Transforming – Weeknote #159 – 18th March 2022

According to a study museum visits do not improve GCSE results.

A family trip to the theatre or an afternoon at a museum may be a fun day out, but new research suggests that such cultural outings will not actually help children secure higher grades.

I love the implication that the only reason to do some cultural stuff is to secure higher grades at GCSE. Sometimes we as a family do stuff because it is fun, enjoyable or makes you think. A couple of weeks back we went to London for a day out, my daughter and I headed to the British Museum to see the Greek galleries. She had been reading the Percy Jackson series and now has a serious interest in Greek mythology. We both really enjoyed viewing the exhibits and reading the background and history of the different things we saw. Will this help her secure higher grades? To be honest we weren’t thinking or worrying about that. It was a great day out.

So how was your week? Mine, well I upset Spain with a photograph of the dish I cooked on Saturday night.

After a busy week travelling I was working from home on Monday. I finished my blog post on transformation, this is an area where I have been presenting and discussing and I wanted in this post to finalise some of my thinking on (digital) transformation.

Well, I have been thinking about what we understand mean by digital transformation and in some discussions, I have been using different kinds of explanations to explore what I see and understand digital transformation is.

In the post I went through the possible digital transformation of requesting and approving leave.

Tuesday though I was back to our Bristol office, for various things. Bristol Temple Meads that morning was full of Peaky Blinders types, suits and flat caps, all on their way (probably) to the Cheltenham Races. If Digifest (which was last week) was the same week as the Cheltenham Races, I would avoid the trains and drive to Birmingham. When I worked at Gloucestershire College, I would avoid our Cheltenham campus those weeks as well. Mainly as the trains were usually full and crowded of very drunk people out to have a good day, and it usually wasn’t even 9am!

I did some work on presentation formats for some ideas we are working on for online events and thought leadership content. Too often when it comes to online presentations, we see talking slides or talking heads. I have been reflecting and thinking about how we can be more creative, more innovative in the ways in which we deliver content during events or on the website. A lot of my thinking is based on the translation posts I did during the pandemic.

Thursday, I ventured back to the Bristol office again. It was much busier today with a couple of teams doing a co-location day. We also had a coffee and cake morning for charity.

The OfS are to launch a review of blended learning.

The Office for Students (OfS) has today launched a review of blended learning, amidst concerns that the poor quality of the online experience for some students during the pandemic has undermined the positive potential of mixing in-person and online course delivery.

It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the review in the summer.

Having defined the success criteria of our HE sector strategy I started detailing what this meant for one of our ambition statements and what Jisc could potentially do in this space to achieve the strategic aspiration.

I also started working on a second communication plan for the strategy. We did one last summer, but listening and talking to staff across the organisation, we have felt that we need to do more work to explore, explain and reflect on the HE sector strategy to the rest of the organisation. One challenge I am facing is what do we even mean by strategy?

butterfly
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

I did another blog post on transformation, this one was on the nature of transformation.

In the world around us the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies is a marvel of nature. Though technically referred to as metamorphosis rather than transformation, the process for butterflies (and all insects) involves a conspicuous and relatively abrupt change. This got me thinking about digital transformation in organisations.

HEPI and QAA published a new report that unpacks the meaning of quality in a complex and rapidly changing higher education sector.

Quality is a slippery term, not least because it is in part practical, in part philosophical and (almost) always relative. Yet it underpins higher education provision and is central to policy debate and regulatory approaches across the UK. So how do we define quality? An understanding of the different mechanisms at play can provide context to the debate.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Making it personal – Weeknote #157 – 4th March 2022

For the first time in at least two years (if not longer) I spent three days in a row at our Bristol office. The office was much busier than it has been on previous visits, and there was a (little) bit of a buzz in there. I did have a few in-person ad hoc interactions with people, who I might not interact with online. You can create these online, but it isn’t easy.

I was asked if I preferred working from home, or working in the office. My response was I prefer to have the choice. The challenge I found with lockdown, was that I had no choice. Though I have preferences about space when I have specific things I need to do, I really quite like working in different environments and spaces.

I had to upgrade the Twitter client on my iPad. The old one, which I liked kept crashing and I couldn’t get it to stop. The new one, I do not like.

group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I posted a blog post on my early thinking about personalisation.

What do we mean by personalisation, what can we personalise, what should be personalise and what are the challenges in personalisation?

I have been looking at how data and technology can deliver a personalised learning journey and we have in our HE strategy the following ambition statement.

We will explore and develop solutions to help universities deliver personalised and adaptive learning using data, analytics, underpinning technologies and digital resources.

We know that there are very different opinions and views of what personalised learning is. One of the things I do need to do is to take that ambition statement and expand it into a clear explanatory statement, so that key stakeholders are clear about what we mean and why this space is important to higher education.

The ICC in Birmingham
The ICC in Birmingham

I have been preparing for Digifest next week where I will be attending both days.

I am also speaking at Digifest on Wednesday9th March 2022 from 11:45 – 12:30 in Hall 7B.

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 enjoyed the WonkHE 404 page.

My top tweet this week was this one.