Tag Archives: e-mail

I’m back…. Weeknote #141 – 12th November 2021

I was off sick with covid for five weeks, but I’m back now. Not 100% fit and healthy, but I was back at work for most of the week restarting work on Wednesday.

There were hundreds of emails in my inbox and to be honest I moved them all to a folder and marked them as read. It’s one thing if you are off work for a few days, but as this was weeks, I doubt there was anything useful in there, without first having some kind of update and back to work interview. I also need to understand what my priorities are for the next few weeks.

Rather than focus on the minutiae of what I had missed I started reviewing the news and other sites that I had not been to while I was off sick. What had been happening in Higher Education whilst I was away.

Well lots to be honest…

I did write about the vaccine status of students and the potential impact this could have. There were many other stories out there as well.

I was also reminded from some incoming e-mails that I was supposed to be off to speak at a conference, a real live conference, at the SEC in Glasgow (the same place where COP26 is being held). I was going to be talking at Learning Spaces Scotland. However after chatting with my manager we decided I would have to pull out.

I am taking it slowly this week and probably next week. I have concerns about long covid, I still have the cough, aching joints and get tired quite quickly.

I did however go to our Bristol office this week, which was the first time since August. It was nice to be back working in that environment.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Having an impact – Weeknote #129 – 20th August 2021

Well after a week of working in London, Monday with everyone out and about, I had the house to myself so I worked from home. It was also another shorter week as I was on leave on the Friday.

Plan to ban phones from classrooms is out of touch, say UK school leaders in an article on the Guardian.

School and college leaders have condemned the government’s plan to ban mobile phones from classrooms as outdated and out of touch, arguing that schools should be allowed to decide on appropriate rules.

My children’s secondary school have banned the use of mobile phones for some time now. Children are allowed to take phones to and from school, but at school they need to be turned off and put away. One of the challenges is that during the lockdown and forced periods of self-isolation, many young people used their phones to stay in touch and keep in contact with friends. There was a certain amount of reliance on them, so much so, that they became important for wellbeing as much as for communication, games, and distraction.

iphone
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Back in 2008 when I was working on MoLeNET (Mobile Learning Network) projects the issue of mobile phone bans came up quite often. I was often an advocate about instead of banning phones, think about how they could be utilised for teaching and learning. Today mobile phones are actually much more than phones, they are computers and internet devices. You can do so much more on them then the kinds of phones people had in 2008 (the iPhone was only a year old back then). I personally think a ban misses the point, yes, they can be a distraction, but we need to think about behaviour and engagement as well and how the pandemic has changed how people use their mobile devices.

Wednesday, I headed to the office in Bristol. This was not my first visit to the office, but the first since further restrictions were lifted. The office is now fully open, so we can work on all floors and don’t need to worry about booking desks. It was nice to have a much busier workplace than on previous visits to the office (and compared to last week when I was the only person in the London office).

I also made the decision to catch the train to work, rather than use my car. The train (the first off-peak service) was quite crowded, but then it was only two carriages. There is quite a bit of engineering work happening at Bristol Temple Meads over the summer, so there have been cancellations, rail replacement buses and signalling problems. My train in the end, was only a few minutes late.

Headed up to the third floor of the office. I was joined by some old colleagues from what was Futures within Jisc and had a really good chat. It had been over eighteen months since we had met in-person and in one case I had only met the person online. It reminded me of both the advantages and disadvantages of going to the office. I like the in-person interaction but can be disruptive if you have stuff to do.

The air conditioning was getting to me, so I hid in a meeting room and turned the heating up.

I caught the train home from Bristol Temple Meads (half of which was closed off).

Had a few ad hoc conversations on Thursday.

Quite liked these tweets from people who had attended the digital leadership consultancy I had delivered for Leeds.

I had as part of the programme delivered a session on e-mail. It incorporates much of what is in this blog post on Inbox Zero and this follow up post.

Always nice to see the positive impact that your training has had on the way that people work, they didn’t just attend the training, engage with the training, but are now acting on what they saw and learnt.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Once more to London – Weeknote #128 – 13th August 2021

Well after a week off work, it was back to work. As with a couple of weeks ago I spent the best part of the week working in our London office. It was also a shorter week as I was on leave on the Friday. London was not very busy, but I was expecting that following my previous time in London. The office was even less busy, I was the only person in the office. It was obvious that many staff were still working from home. I don’t mind working from home. There were a few articles about the shift back to office working. Whitehall was looking to remove the London weighting for staff according to this article in the Guardian.

Whitehall officials have held high-level talks about taking away a salary boost awarded to London-based civil servants amid efforts to encourage workers back to the office.

Whilst on the BBC website an article asked: Should I be working from home or going back to the office?

People in England are no longer being asked to work from home. Instead the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is recommending a “gradual return to work”. However, in the rest of the UK, people are still being advised to keep working at home where possible.

I had quite a bit of flexibility on where I worked before the pandemic, so there is less pressure to return to the office. I have been working in the office though, I like the change in scenery and routine. After eighteen months being forced to work from home, I like the option of choice. Also during the summer holidays it makes more sense for me, when working, to be away from home.

First job was to clear that inbox full of e-mail, which to be honest didn’t take too long.

We had a team wide call on Monday, which was interesting. There will be changes in the team from September (a new manager) and we have a new CEO from mid-September.

We had an interesting meeting about the evaluation of Connect More, which people seemed to enjoy and got a lot out of.

Wednesday I had an interesting review and discussion about assessment, and what Jisc can do to support the sector to transform assessment. Despite the opportunities of digital in regard to assessment, many of the issues relating to the digital transformation of assessment, are much more about the transformation of assessment, with digital just being a catalyst. What is the purpose of assessment for example.

On Thursday I had a catchup with our (newish) HR contact. In my role I have no line management responsibilities (though plenty of matrix management responsibilities). We had a great discussion and chat about how we can make that matrix management more effective and efficient going forwards. So, we can move people from one area of Jisc to another to work on projects more easily. Something that a company like Apple do quite often.

I had a useful and interesting meeting with a university talking about our Powering HE document and the possible opportunities and challenges that universities will face over the next few years.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Well what did you get? – Weeknote #118 – 4th June 2021

Well a shorter week for me, as Monday was a Bank Holiday and I took leave on Wednesday. As it was half term, I has planned to go to the office for the other three days. So it would have felt in some ways like a normal working week. However personal circumstances resulted in working from home instead.

I liked this Wonkhe article by Nic Whitton and Lawrie Phipps: Why the teaching legacy from the pandemic must be more than digital.

As we start to emerge from this prolonged period of change, many university leaders are thinking about how to keep the best elements of digital and embed them in future practice; “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is a mantra we’ve heard on many occasions. This reflection is necessary and welcome: something we must do as we develop a “new normal” after the heady pace of change over the past year-and-a-half. However as we reflect, it is important to remember that more has changed about how we teach than the digital tools we use. To torture the metaphor somewhat, we might need to take a whole new approach to baby hygiene.

I took a day’s leave on Wednesday and we went to Legoland, which we haven’t done in a few years now. In theory they were limiting numbers, but it felt very much to me busier and more crowded than visits in previous years.

I read this article from the BBC News: Working from home: Call to ban out-of-hours emails from bosses.

…Prospect is calling for the government to give employees a legally binding “right to disconnect”. This would ban bosses from “routinely emailing or calling” outside set working hours.

The long hours and out of hours culture we see in many organisations is rife and the pandemic has made this worse.

When I managed a large team I was always keen to point out to my staff that though I was e-mailing early in the morning or late into the evening, I never expected them to do this and I never expected them to respond either. My reason for the odd hours was that I was commuting to Oxford back and forth and spent about 4-5 hours on the train. I worked quite a bit and did a lot of e-mail during that commute, as I was catching an early train and arriving home late, the timing of those e-mail was out of hours. What I did do was manage expectations of my staff about responding or not to those e-mails.

Now in a very different role, we have quite a flexible approach to working, and though less so recently (down to the pandemic) when I was travelling I would often work in the evenings in hotels if I was away from home. Again I had not expectations about responses, e-mail is for me an asynchronous form of communication and that is its main feature. Even in pandemic lockdown, working flexibly allows me to do stuff in the middle of the day and catch up either first thing or later. I don’t expect other people to work in this way.

I have a few things I do to keep my e-mail in check. I absolutely keep home and social e-mail separate from work e-mail. I turn off that notification feature on e-mail so I don’t have badges with ever increasing numbers. I don’t check e-mail when I am not working, so when I am on leave or at weekends, but I have the choice if I want to.

The issue I have with legislating e-mail sending is that it doesn’t actually solve the real problem. You need to solve that problem first.

Spent a lot of the week working on a couple of bespoke Digital Leadership Development programmes. One will be a series of online sessions, alas no in-person sessions for this, the other will be a self-directed study programme.

Since last working in this space, a lot has changed, the elephant in the room is obviously the impact of covid, lockdowns and the emergency response to all this. However much of what digital leaders need to do is still there as it was before. It is about becoming an effective digital leader, modelling the behaviour you expect in others and leading and influencing digitally-driven change.

Interviewed a member of academic staff about their digital practices this week and it was interesting to see the parallels and reflections of their practice which I have also seen across other interviews at other HEIs. The importance of effective (digital) support was brought up again, and this is a wide ranging issue for academic staff, for whom the support might be technical support, application support or practical support. This tool isn’t working, how do I do this with this tool and how can I use this tool for teaching and learning? In most universities this support is provided by different teams, the question you need to ask, does the academic know who to ask when they need support?

At our regular Higher Education monthly team call I talked about our experiences with consultancy, some of our wins and some of our challenges.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Back from France – Weeknote #75 – 7th August 2020

Monday was my first day back at work after a week on leave, where we went to France for a holiday. It was nice to get away from it all. The situation (at the time) in France was nice and calm. As we now approach the end of the week, it looks like the situation in France is looking worse than when we were there. It was pretty much a last minute affair in booking the holiday, we booked on the Tuesday and went on Sunday. I think if we had decided to go later in the summer, we probably wouldn’t have gone at all. It brings back to the fore the whole challenge of what is, or what isn’t going to happen in the next six to twelve months, or even longer.

After my leave, I was a little anxious when I got to my computer, how many unread e-mails would be in my inbox, but in the end there was just 143. Well there was 143 in the main inbox, there were others in folders that go there with the automatic rules I use for e-mail.

I use the Inbox Zero approach when it comes to e-mail. This means I don’t check my e-mail and see what is there, I read, process and deal with my e-mail. For each e-mail I process them using one of the following five criteria.

    • Delete or Archive
    • Delegate
    • Respond
    • Defer
    • Do

I try to ensure that I only ever read an e-mail once and then it is either deleted or archived having undertaken what was required. Read more about how I process my e-mail.

In the end it didn’t take me long to go through the e-mails (well it is August) and then do the one task that had arisen from them. Most of the e-mails were from mailing lists I am subscribed to, and though I have rules that push JiscMail ones to specific folders, others from vendors and event organisers generally tend to end up in the main inbox.

Microsoft appear to be developing Teams into a VLE with the news that educators can now use SCORM curricula within Microsoft Teams.

Colleges across England can now use SCORM learning materials for their students directly through Microsoft Teams. In a major development for schools, colleges and universities, GO1 have released their app for Microsoft Teams. This will support SCORM, xAPI and other rich learning content packages formats to be accessed within Teams for free. In 2015, more than half of further education institutions across the UK teamed up to form the Blended Learning Consortium. This allows them to pool their money and purchase a higher quality of learning resources than they could develop on their own. These resources are available to participating colleges within Teams via the GO1 app, which supports complex learning formats like SCORM.

Via Lawrie Phipps on the Twitter

Having cancelled Data Matters 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic, we are now considering our options for 2021. When we cancelled the event, our initial thoughts were to re-schedule to January 2021, which reflected the original date for the 2019 event. However now needing to make decisions, social distancing and the fact that a lot of university staff may not actually want to (or be permitted) to travel to physical events, such as Data Matters. Could we do it online? Well would people be willing to pay for an online event?

It’s interesting to see how things keep changing adding much more to an uncertain future. I wrote a blog post about the continuing uncertainty and what this means for curriculum planning across the university sector.

The plan to use more localised lockdowns to contain the virus reminds us that the situation for many universities will be one of flux, as they or their cohorts of students may need to lockdown, as has happened with Aberdeen. The local lockdown there has resulted in the main university library closing down.

Set in the 23rd Century, Rene Auberjonois playing a Starfleet Colonel trying to convince his superiors of their technological advantage over the Klingons – by using a flip chart! Nice to know that they will still be extensively used in the future.

I published another blog post in my translation series, this time about the humble flip chart.

Spent some time thinking about innovation. We often forget that sometimes people don’t like innovation and innovation doesn’t automatically always mean better. Actually most of the time innovation for a lot of people is rarely better. Sometimes its worse than what was before, most of the time it’s just different. Innovation is defined as new or different, but it isn’t defined as been better that was there was before. I have written about this before last year and it’s something that has been, for most of my careers an important aspect. As we emerge from lockdown, we will need to be innovative in our practices.

The end of the week saw some meetings with my colleagues in my new directorate. Though I have not changed roles, where I sit within Jisc has changed. After sitting in Corporate Services to begin with, I moved (temporarily) into Data and Analytics, but now sit with the HE Directorate.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Just checking the e-mail…

iOS e-mail

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? What’s the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk at work? I suspect you are probably checking your e-mail? It wouldn’t surprise me that you leave your e-mail client (like Outlook) open all the time and respond as those little pop-ups appear on your screen. So how often do you check your e-mail?

Actually I would think that if you are reading this blog, having seen the link on social media, that your answers to those questions would differ from the norms of the behaviour of most people in the workplace.

For many people e-mail is their work. Usually the first activity when arriving at work (after making a coffee of course) is checking the e-mail. Then throughout the working day the e-mail is checked and checked again. Productive activity is interrupted by those lovely notifications popping up. Mobile devices like the iPhone suddenly make e-mail even more accessibly, those red numbers going up and up and make it essential the e-mail is checked again, even when travelling, at home and at weekends. Work is e-mail and e-mail is work.

I find it interesting how often we default to e-mail as the main communication tool, to the point where it replaces other forms of communication or discussion. People also often use e-mail for various activities that really e-mail wasn’t designed for.

Continue reading Just checking the e-mail…

“I can’t handle the amount of e-mail…”

Envelopes

Actually I can, but there are a fair few people who are participating in ocTEL who don’t seem to be able to handle the quantity of e-mail flooding into their inboxes having signed up to the MOOC.

I will say I wasn’t expecting to get any e-mail, let alone the volumes that are coming through, as I didn’t (at first) realised I had been added to a JISCMail mailing list.

Of course once it was coming in, for me it was a simple matter of creating a rule in Outlook to move all e-mails sent to OCTEL-PUBLIC@JISCMAIL.AC.UK to a folder. I may even set up a secondary rule that automatically deletes the messages if I haven’t read them within a few days or a week.

Deleting them from my Outlook, doesn’t remove access to them, as there will be an archive on the JISCMail website. There are also various JISCMail commands I could use to receive NOEMAIL, a DIGEST or similar.

Of course there is no need to even subscribe to the mailing list and no need to read or engage or interact with the e-mail. I intend to get an idea of what other people are thinking.

Stephen Downes in an open letter makes some valid points that with a MOOC you should really avoid mailing lists or even discussion forums.

In all the MOOCs I’ve done I’ve never had an open one-to-many channel, precisely because if you have 1000 people using it, it becomes unmanageable.

You’ll find that web forums become unmanageable as well if used by 1000 people.

I have also discouraged the ubiquitous ‘introduction’ posts, for the same reason. A dozen introductions make sense. 1000 do not.

I do think these are really good points and if you are thinking about organising or planning a MOOC to take into consideration.

What didn’t surprise me though was the number of people who are apparently immersed into TEL and learning technologies who appear to not know how to organise their e-mail or mailing lists. You would think I would be, but I too often I have seen people who know a lot about learning technologies, fail to understand and use effectively the very technologies they talk about.

It’s not just simple things like e-mail, blogging, webinars, the Twitter, even Powerpoint!

One lesson that people should take from ocTEL is that never assume that people, even technically literate people, will be able to do stuff that you take for granted. This applies equally to practitioners and importantly learners.

Image source.

Parents ‘want texts from schools’

Parents 'want texts from schools'

BBC reports on the survey from Becta about how schools need to use e-mail and SMS to communicate more with parents.

Many parents would like school reports on their children’s performance texted or e-mailed, a survey says.

One in 12 of the 1,493 parents polled by government education technology agency Becta said schools kept them informed using these methods.

But 68% of parents said they wanted schools to use such technologies to keep them up to date more frequently.

Of course if schools are to take heed of this survey, then FE Colleges need to do likewise. Does your FE College already communicate to the students by e-mail and/or SMS text messaging? Can the students communicate back?

Please do not send 17MB Word attachments…

As per usual when I am out of the office for a while I get the usual “Your mailbox is over its size limit” as I do send and receive a large amount of e-mail (even more so when I am out of the office as it is my main form of communication).

Please do not send 17MB Word attachments…

Now it’s very difficult to archive from a remote location, so I do go through and trim a few e-mails and download and then delete large attachments.

However was very surprised to see literally one day after doing this he “Your mailbox is over its size limit” message again, I checked I hadn’t received any new BIG e-mails for a while, so I thought I know I suspect that an all staff e-mail with a large attachment had been sent round.

And boy was I right!

Somone (who shall remain nameless as this is a public blog) had sent for sending to all staff an e-mail with a single Word document as an attachment.

This Word document was a single page document, with some pictures on it.

This Word document in terms of file size was large, nay huge, nay really really BIG!

It was 17MB, that’s right seventeen MB!

17MB for a single page document!

Obviously the person who had created the document had taken some photographs with a digital camera and inserted them into the word document, resized them so they fit on the page, but not resized them in terms of file size!

17MB for a single page document!

Now with other a thousand staff, that means the mail server was choked with 20GB from a single e-mail!

I suspect I was not the only one who received the “Your mailbox is over its size limit” e-mail this weekend and I suspect that there will be a lot of people who will be very annoyed and will just delete the Word document without opening or downloading it.

Really that file should have never been sent, posted as a link perhaps (but would you download a 17MB Word document).

I did go ahead and print it as a PDF and got it down to 300KB without trying which is still large, but so much better than 17MB.

Maybe next time a simple text e-mail would have sufficed.

Turn off your e-mail and get some work done…

Does e-mail improve the way you work, or is it something that gets in the way of your work?

I have been using the e-mail guidelines form Merlin Mann which I mentioned at the beginning of the month and at this point I have no e-mail in my inbox.

Too much e-mail can impact on the day to day things you need to do as part of your job.

There are other ways of dealing with e-mail, one of which that some companies are doing is to ban e-mail for the day.

The BBC reports on how companies like Intel are having e-mail free days.

With inboxes bulging with messages and many workers dreading the daily deluge of e-mail, some companies are taking drastic action. Intel has become the latest in an increasingly long line of companies to launch a so-called ‘no e-mail day’. On Fridays, 150 of its engineers revert to more old-fashioned means of communication. In actual fact e-mail isn’t strictly forbidden but engineers are encouraged to talk to each other face to face or pick up the phone rather than rely on e-mail. In Intel’s case the push to look again at the culture of e-mail followed a comment from chief executive Paul Otellini criticising engineers “who sit two cubicles apart sending an e-mail rather than get up and talk”.

This is quite a drastic way of encouraging employees to talk, but ask yourself this, have you ever used e-mail back and forth to ask and answer questions with someone who was at their desk and therefore could have answered the phone?

Have you ever sent an e-mail rather than pick up the phone or walk over for a chat?

Do you ever exit Outlook (or your e-mail client) or is it always running all day?

Do you use e-mail or does e-mail use you?