Tag Archives: e-mail

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?

Dealing with e-mail

An excellent presentation from Merlin Mann on how to deal with e-mail and have an inbox with zero e-mail in it!

One of the key messages, is don’t check your e-mail, deal with your e-mail.

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

Well worth a watch especially if you have more than fifty unread e-mail in your inbox.