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?
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 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?
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.
Monday I was off to London for a discussion about the Education 4.0 Roadmap I have been working on. I am having meetings with colleagues from various universities about their thoughts and feedback on the roadmap. Initial feedback has been positive and that the initial concept is on the right lines and could be useful for the sector.
After that meeting I headed off to our London office for some ad hoc meetings and working on the programme for Data Matters 2020.
It was heralded as the product that would kill internal email chains. Instead, it’s changed how we behave while in the office
This does article does echo some of the feelings I have about IM style platforms (not just Slack, but also Teams and other platforms), that they can be a distraction if used badly. Slack doesn’t solve the problem of “doing e-mail” versus “work” as it is merely a platform and can replace e-mail, but doesn’t solve the problem of distraction of e-mail.
There were a couple of articles on grade inflation that caught my eye this week:
Universities UK (UUK) is asking higher education providers to take part in an online survey about their use of degree algorithms in an attempt to reduce the number of top-class degrees.The new survey will shed light on how degree classifications are decided. It is the latest stage in a sector-wide initiative led by UUK to tackle grade inflation and the perception that degrees are ‘dumbing down’.
The sharp increase in university students in the UK getting top degree grades seems to have stalled, according to annual official figures. It follows warnings from ministers of the need to prevent “grade inflation” devaluing degrees.
During the same period they asked universities to improve the quality of their teaching and learning which may have resulted in “higher” grades across the board. Many of the “unexplained” increased in grades were when some universities decided to align themselves with how other universities were grading their degrees.
It can be challenging to balance the need to improve the quality of education, and not to be seen to be dumbing down in the same breath.
Next week is Bett in London. My first Bett Conference was in 2000 and then I didn’t go again until 2007
Ten years ago I blogged that I wasn’t going to Bett in 2010.
I have been to BETT twice in my life and that was two times too many!
I had good reasons for not going.
The reason why I won’t be going is that the focus of BETT is too much on the technology rather than what people do with it. It is much more an event based on educational technology suppliers than educators using technology. It is this reason that I won’t be going.
Since then, though the focus is still on educational technology, there was more about how people were using technology.
I was kind of forced to go in 2013, partly against my will, but did see some interesting stuff. With a change in role I did go again in 2014 and saw a lovely VW Bus.
I know I went again in 2015, but then missed 2016, but did go in 2017, mainly for a team meeting, but due to train issues saw very little of the show itself!
I actually presented at BETT in 2018 on the Intelligent Campus, which was fun, but a little bit of a logistical nightmare, as I was in Leicester at the time running the Digital Leaders Programme, so I had to leave Leicester at lunchtime, catch a train to London, make my way across to the Excel Centre, before heading home, by way of Leicester again to collect my car.
Thursday I was travelling to Cheltenham for a meeting with a colleague. We recently merged with part of HESA and so we now have an office in Cheltenham where the former HESA, now Jisc, staff work. I worked in this area for seven years when I worked for Gloucestershire College, which had a campus in Cheltenham. Well though I was regularly in Cheltenham, two to three times a week, the campus was in the suburbs of Cheltenham (close to GCHQ) so I rarely if ever went into the heart of Cheltenham. So though familiar, it wasn’t that familiar.
Friday was another trip to London for a meeting between key staff from the University of Sussex and Jisc. We discussed a range of subjects and topics including the intelligent campus and intelligent libraries.
Monday was another trip to London, I had been expecting to participate in a workshop, but this was cancelled late last week, and I already had train tickets and another meeting in the diary so decided to head up anyhow. The weather was changeable, raining whilst on the train, but this cleared up by the time I arrived in London.
I saw this link in my news feed and it did make me think more about how we could use AI to support learning, but also reflect on some of the real challenges in making this happen. Also do we want this to happen!
In the afternoon in the office we were discussing Education 4.0 and how we are going to move this forward in terms of expert thinking and messages.
Tuesday was a busy day, first a meeting in the Bristol office, before heading up to Cheltenham for a meeting the HESA office.
I haven’t been on a CrossCountry train for a while now, so travelling to Cheltenham Spa from Bristol Temple Meads I was interested to see how the 3G connectivity issues I’ve always had on that route would be like, especially as I now have 4G with Three. Well same old problems, dipping in and out from 4G to 3G as well as periods of No Service. I would like to blame the train, but the reality is that there is poor phone signal connectivity on that route. As there is no incentive for mobile network providers to improve connectivity.
If I do go to Cheltenham again, I think I will take a book!
We were discussed the Data Matters 2020 Conference, which is now in my portfolio. Still a work in progress and the proposal needs to be signed off by key stakeholders.
Whilst I was in Cheltenham I bumped into my old colleague Deborah from Gloucestershire College and we had a chat about stuff. What was nice to hear was the number of my team and colleagues in that team that had started there in learning technology and were now doing new and more exciting jobs at universities across the UK.
Wednesday there was rain. I spent today preparing for a meeting in the afternoon and tidying up my inbox. Though I did find time for a coffee.
Thanks to Lawrie for the link, I read this report on the iPASS system, which uses data and analytics to identify students at risk.
The three institutions increased the emphasis on providing timely support, boosted their use of advising technologies, and used administrative and communication strategies to increase student contact with advisers.
This report shows that the enhancements generally produced only a modestly different experience for students in the program group compared with students in the control group, although at one college, the enhancements did substantially increase the number of students who had contact with an adviser. Consequently, it is not surprising that the enhancements have so far had no discernible positive effects on students’ academic performance.
Looks like that it didn’t have the impact that they thought it might.
In a couple of weeks I am recording a podcast and met with the organiser today to discuss content and format. Without giving too much away, we will be covering the importance of people in any digital transformation programme and ensuring that they are part of the process, consultation and are given appropriate training in the wider context of their overall skills and capabilities. You can’t just give people new digital systems and expect them to be able to use them from day one or with specific training. Familiarity with digital in its wider context is often critical, but is equally often forgotten.
Whilst writing a blog post about online learning I wrote the following
Conversations are really hard to follow in e-mail, mainly as people don’t respond in a linear manner, they add their comment to the top of their reply.
When I first started using e-mail in 1997, well actually I first started using e-mail in 1987, but then got flamed by the e-mail administrator at Brunel University, so stopped using it for ten years….
When I re-started using e-mail in 1997, there was an expectation when replying to e-mail that you would respond by writing your reply underneath the original e-mail, bottom posting, which really was something that I got from using usenet newsgroups. This from RFC 1855.
If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting be sure you summarize the original at the top of the message, or include just enough text of the original to give a context. This will make sure readers understand when they start to read your response. Since NetNews, especially, is proliferated by distributing the postings from one host to another, it is possible to see a response to a message before seeing the original. Giving context helps everyone. But do not include the entire original!
By the early 2000s lots more people were using e-mail and most of the time they were replying at the start of the e-mail, top-posting. There were quite a few people in my circles who continued to bottom post their replies, which made sense when reading a threaded conversation, but confused the hell out of people who didn’t understand why someone replied to a conversation, and from what they could see, hadn’t written anything!
Today top-posting appears to be the norm and I can’t recall when I last saw someone responding to an e-mail by replying at the end of the quoted reply.
Here is the blog post I wrote, about how online learning doesn’t just happen.
Friday was about planning, planning and even some forward planning. One thing that has puzzled me for a long time was the difference between forward planning and planning. Thanks to Google I have a better idea now.
Forward planning is being pro-active, predicting the future and then planning to achieve that prediction.
The opposite is backward planning, which is more reactive, you wait until you get a request or management decision then create a plan to achieve it.
So what is plain and simple planning then?
Wikipedia says that planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal.
So some of what I am doing in my planning is responding to both requested goals and planning for some predicted goals.
We had our weekly meeting about the Technical Career Pathways we are developing at Jisc. I am responsible for the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway.