So it was off to London on Monday for a couple of meetings. The weather on Sunday had been lovely, Monday it was raining.
I don’t think I would like to commute to London on a regular basis, as in every day, but don’t mind the fact that I am there three to five times a month in my role. I nearly said new role, I have been doing this job now for just over six months (Weeknote #28 is a bit of a giveaway), when does a new role, become just my role? Other parts of the country differ in their accessibility with public transport, so sometimes I drive.
These two quotes are what I really took from the article.
We are unconsciously drawn to people who think like ourselves, but rarely notice the danger because we are unaware of our own blind spots.
This applies to groups as well as organisations. We employ people that are like ourselves rather than think about the whole. You can measure diversity within an organisation, but that only tells you what you already know that your organisation isn’t diverse. Sometimes your organisation needs to be more diverse than the population, but how do you know that?
You may feel you have fair employment recruitment practices, but who decides what is “fair”, sometimes you will want to recruit people that wouldn’t be recruited if you were to be fair.
I am also reminded of unconscious bias, and the fact that this is easier to say then sometimes to actually do something about. This was echoed in the second quote from the article.
There is a science to putting together the right minds, with perspectives that challenge, augment, diverge and cross-pollinate rather than parrot, corroborate and restrict. This is how wholes become more than the sum of their parts.
There isn’t an easy solution to this, you could think outside the box and put together teams that are not like ourselves, but that is not as easy as it sounds. The rewards though, as the article says mean wholes become more than the sum of their parts.
Wednesday I caught the train to Manchester, to attend an internal product meeting where I was presenting on the drivers within the draft Jisc HE strategy.
It was quite along train journey there and back in a day, and though I did manage to get a fair bit of work done, the lack of connectivity did annoy me as it has before.
I wrote a blog post on making digital a choice, in response to a BBC news article about a branch of Sainsbury’s in Holborn in London where the only choice to pay was via an app.
Friday I was in Leeds to deliver a keynote on Education 4.0 for the Leeds Business School, I had travelled up the day before.
I showed a presentation, which is all photos. In the presentation I talked about who is Jisc, what do we mean by the Education 4.0 and some of the challenges we face in moving down the road to Education 4.0.
I also showed the Jisc Education 4.0 video we showed at UUK last year and at Digifest.
On Monday I was still on leave, so it wasn’t until Tuesday that I was back at work and then it was off to London for some meetings. I had expected a fair few e-mails in mu inbox, but in the end there was just over eighty. I managed to clear them all by 2pm (including all the extra ones that arrived after I started). I follow an Inbox Zero approach which works well for me.
There were a few other online places to check as well, Teams, Yammer and Slack. I also checked my Jira boards as well.
After being away on leave I find it usually takes me a day or so to re-adjust to work mode, catch up with what I am doing, what I have missed and what I need to do, including those urgent things. I haven’t yet found a quick way to do this. So when attending a 9:30am online meeting in Teams that morning, I wasn’t really in the zone… It certainly didn’t help that I was trying to attend the meeting whilst travelling at 125mph on a train. The connectivity wasn’t great, and as a result I missed some stuff, sometimes people sounded like a Dalek and the latency issues meant that I was unable to participate fully.
Wednesday morning saw me in the Bristol office attending various meetings in my role as Head of HE and Student Experience. Various items were discussed both external facing topics as well as internal processes.
After a morning in the Bristol office it was up North to Liverpool where I am recording a podcast on the following day.
Thursday I was in Liverpool recording a podcast with John Cartwright at the University of Liverpool, no spoilers, but we discussed a range of topics and issues on digital, data as well as the student experience. We had a really good conversation and I hope this is captured in the podcast recording. I will link to the podcast once it is published.
Reflecting on that conversation on the way home, I was conscious about how some universities approach change. Often the focus is on a small number of big effort improvements, large changes, as opposed to a large number of small effort quick changes. Often organisation prefer big change, as it is often linked to strategy. It can be easier to ask for larger sums of money for high profile projects than lots of smaller sums for projects which will result in a small improvement.
I was reminded of marginal gains analysis. The marginal gains theory is concerned with small incremental improvements in any process, which, when added together, make a significant improvement.
Can the same be gained though one big improvement? Something for further reflection.
Friday I was back to the Bristol office for various calls and meetings. One of the things I have been working on was a roadmap to Education 4.0, which is proving somewhat challenging.
The week started off in London with a day looking at and thinking about next generation learning environments. Before I got there, as I sat on the train I thought and reflected about what we even mean when we say next generation learning environment. Are their generational changes in learning environments, as in big changes from one generation to the next? Or do they merely evolve gradually over time? Could we enable these big shifts? Do we even want big shifts?
In London we discussed a range of challenges and issues in relation to next generation learning environments. What is the future of education? Will teaching be transformed? How can create personalised adaptive learning? How do we re-imagine assessment? How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment? What are the foundations that need to be put into place before you can start building the infrastructure, the design, the staff development required to enable those future challenges?
In order to understand what needs to happen, we framed some questions independently, so see what commonality there was and what differences there were. This is an useful exercise when deciding that question needs to be answered.
Some of my questions included:
What does adaptive learning look like from the view of students and staff?
Is personalised learning possible? Is it desirable?
How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment?
What are the differences between the student experience of 2020 and that of 2030?
Wednesday morning, after some coffee, I was in the office and had an initial discussion was had about possible themes for Digifest 2020, though this event won’t be happening until March 2020, like most big events the planning started almost after the last one finished (if not just a bit before).
The afternoon was off to the University of Bristol for a meeting about the One City Bristol project, elements of which are very much in the realm of the smart city. In my previous role I did do some initial research into the various smart city initiatives across the UK and we published a smart city use case on the Intelligent Campus blog.
The interdependent challenges of growing an inclusive, sustainable city that both breaks down our social fractures and inequalities and reaches carbon neutrality sit at the heart of the future we must deliver. They are stitched throughout the plan.
In the plan there are six themes, one of which is connectivity.
The lifeblood of Bristol is connectivity. Our connectivity is considered the template for contemporary city living. Whether our people connect in person or in virtual spaces, whether they connect in their physical communities or their global communities, our city infrastructure helps bring them together. Bristol connectivity means multimodal connectivity – we designed our infrastructure around the human condition. Anchored yet free, our people are able to draw on the experience of others in their communities and peer groups, and live independently and spontaneously.
Connectivity is synonymous with productivity and Bristol is the regional epicentre of productivity. The South West Economic Region grew on the back of investment in transport and digital connectivity.
The Bristol-Cardiff high speed, high frequency rail link benefits both cities equally – time and travel no longer impinge productivity as they once did. Talent, ideas, energy and enthusiasm flow between the cities and across the region. High-speed rail links connect Bristol with other cities and when the mass transit system was completed in the 2030s, connections between Bristol, Bath, Bristol airport and North Fringe and East Fringe were complete. Our traffic management has cut congestion times and many of our deliveries are made by driverless freight vehicles.
Throughout the 2020s ultrafast broadband was rolled out without exception to social housing, businesses, in public spaces and through city Wi-Fi services. Tactile and immersive virtual and augmented realities reduce the need to travel and are commonplace at work and at home. They also bring together like-minded communities for shared social activities and entertainment.
Our city has managed bus lanes, cycle lanes, congestion controls and programmes to educate school children about safe travel. More than half the city cycles and active travel is the preferred mode of transport for many commuters. Domestic deliveries often arrive by drone. Nobody has been killed or seriously injured as a result of an avoidable road traffic accident in Bristol for years.
We strategically removed the obstacles and barriers to people connecting. The city moves on renewable energy, our people are free to create their own pathways, connected in person or virtually. Our lifeblood flows locally, regionally and globally.
This certainly is an aspiration that hopefully will come to fruition.
Following a request, based on my experience of working on the Jisc Digital Apprenticeships project, Thursday saw me working on some desk research on the current provision of Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeships across the UK.
One thing that was apparent was how “popular” this degree apprenticeship is.
Chartered manager and digital and technology solutions are the two most implemented standards across each English region, with at least 43 and 33 institutions, respectively, providing them.
You can find more information about this specific degree apprenticeship on the government’s apprenticeships website.
One of the key requirements of my role is engaging with the Office for Students and the funding they provide Jisc to support higher education. As a result I attend and participate in various meetings that enables us to demonstrate value for money for the OfS, as well as how Jisc is supporting their strategic aims.
I spent some time this week reviewing the Office for Students Strategy 2018 to 2021 and their business plan for 2019-20 in preparation for a meeting on Friday morning.
One thing that I noticed was the target to Launch and oversee a ‘what works’ centre, Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education.
The Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) will use evidence and evaluation to understand and show how higher education contributes to social justice and mobility. TASO will exist as an independent hub for higher education professionals to access leading research, toolkits, evaluation techniques and more, to help widen participation and improve equality across the student lifecycle.
It made me think about how this could be done, how it will probably be done and what the actual impact will be.
I tweeted out about the Jisc Futures R&D quarterly learnings webinar for summer 2019
R&D quarterly learnings webinar – This is the third in a series of update webinars for Jisc members to discuss the progress of our R&D work and share what we are learning during our projects.https://t.co/lG7XoFZ7g5
We had a debrief about the Agile Implementation Workshop I helped run last week. One outcome from this workshop was to run a knowledge call or workshop on using Jira for projects and business processes.
I spent part of Friday, clearing the inbox, reviewing my scrum boards and planning work for next week.
Monday I was off to London for a workshop looking at Education 4.0 as well as a meeting discussing strategy. The workshop was looking at Jisc’s work in the Education 4.0 space and what others are doing in this space.
I published another couple of use cases for the Intelligent Campus blog.
Working from home on Tuesday I had a couple of calls, though technical problems with VScene meant I didn’t get into one conference. I have no idea what the problem was, usually I don’t have an issue with VScene.
Wednesday I was into the office for an early meeting to discuss progress and objectives for my new role. I will be continuing some existing objectives on thought leadership (I know, I also hate the term); looking at the learning and research technical career pathway in Jisc; increasing member understanding of Jisc’s learning, teaching and student experience portfolio. In addition I am reviewing the HE and student experience strategy for 2020 onwards. Review our portfolio for the OfS and support a value study at the University of Hertfordshire (I discussed this back in March).
I had similar technical problems with VScene again, I was even using a different computer and browsers. I think I may have narrowed down the problem to my Bluetooth wireless headset. So next time I am going to use a wired headset and see if that makes a difference.
Had a meeting to discuss some future ideas in a space that is new to me and to Jisc. Where could we apply our work in digital capabilities and analytics in new spaces.
Most of the afternoon I was doing a dry run through the Agile Implementation Workshop I am helping run next week in London. I am talking about reporting and also doing an introductory demo of JIRA. Sometimes the value of a tool such as JIRA is not the value it adds to the individual using the tool, but the combined and added value you get when everyone in a team uses that tool. Reporting is something else that often is seen as a process between two people, but aggregated reports are valuable to a range of stakeholders in an organisation.
Had an interesting discussion with Lawrie on Thursday morning following a demonstration he had seen the day before.
Microsoft Teams is the digital hub that brings conversations, content, and apps together in one place. Create collaborative classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, and communicate with all staff – all from a single experience in Office 365 Education.
I’ve not looked in detail at all aspects of what makes Teams a possible VLE, though there are some key aspects of Teams that make it appealing as a VLE or LMS. It has all the functions you expect from a VLE or LMS, such as content, communication (individual and group) and assessment. You can connect a wide range of apps to Teams, you like using Twitter for tweetchats, connect it in.
This reminds me of the concept of the VLE I proposed at the infamous VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C in 2009 (was that really ten years ago now). I saw the VLE still being the centre of the student online learning environment, but other tools and services would plug into it.
Today we have the technology to make that a reality. It can be done with Teams, but similar connectors and connnections exist for tools such as Moodle. From a student perspective, they will be using a tool (and a suite of tools connected to that) they will potentially be using in the future. Yes of course the skills that you gain using tools such as Moodle and Blackboard (and Google Apps) are skills that are transferable, but not everyone sees them in that way, both students and employers.
There are already universities and colleges out in the sector using Teams as their VLE, I am interested in not just who is using Teams as their VLE, but also how they are using it, and how embedded it is into practice.
One thing that I noted was that, it’s all very well having a great tool, it’s quite another thing to understanding and knowing the potential of the functionality of that tool to enhance and enrich the student experience. It’s also another thing to have that functionality exploited by staff and students.
I spent some time setting up a Confluence Site and JIRA project for the Agile Implementation Workshop next week, I didn’t want to do something “not real” so will be using the sites and boards for work I am doing for our Learning & Research Technical Career Pathway.
A shorter week this week, due to the Easter holiday weekend, so also means a later start next week as well.
After a busy week last week with three days in London, this week is nearly as busy with another three days in the big smoke. On monday I attended an ideas workshop in London. There were two identical sessions looking at two grand challenges. I enjoyed both sessions and felt that I both learnt stuff and contributed stuff.
The following day I was preparing for my presentation on Thursday and the slidedeck I prepared was just images. I like to do that now and again. Back in 2006, which for me feels like last week, but was some time ago, I remember a senior manager commenting on the amount of text I had on my slides I gave for a presentation. I realised that despite having initially a minimalist approach, I had started to have “text creep”and my slides were filling with text. I usually try and keep the number of words on my slide to a minimum, but now and again I miss words out completely and go just for images. So from then on I tried to do as little text as possible.
One meeting I was in was about Jisc’s student partners. I have always thought that the student voice is important and should inform your planning and development. Having students participate is really informative and useful, but as we do, consider what the student gets out of the experience as well.
Another meeting was discussing a development session we are running for staff towards the end of April on implementing agile. This was originally something I said I would do in my previous role, but am happy to do
Wednesday I was back in London for a workshop on looking at how Jisc can influence the influencers. This was an interesting day and again it reminded me how much I enjoy working in the London office. This was followed by a management meeting. A later finish and an earlier start the next day meant I was staying over in London. Gave me a chance to walk around the area near the hotel (close to BBC Broadcasting House) and have a nice meal at Wahaca.
On Thursday Waking up earlier than planned gave me a chance to have an early morning walk around Regent’s Park, there are some lovely green spaces in London and if I have the chance (and the time) I do like to explore some of them now and then.
I was presenting on Thursday the keynote I prepared earlier in the week for the Association of Colleges and The Education and Training Foundation Data Science Conference. My session entitled What is required of us as educators for the future was an insight into fourth industrial revolution, Education 4.0 and what FE Colleges might need to consider to meet these exciting challenges and opportunities.
I also showed the Jisc Education 4.0 video.
The rest of the day was stimulating and informative. The hands on workshop run by my Jisc colleagues sparked a lot of interest from delegates.
Friday was a chance to update my colleagues on Jisc the state of play of the sector strategies that we have in place and are developing. I lead on the HE and student experience sector strategy and this was an chance to discuss progress on the existing strategy and where we may be heading in the future. You won’t be surprised to hear that Education 4.0 is on that horizon. I spent part of the day clearing out my inbox of e-mails, making sure I was up to date and planning for the next couple of weeks as well.
In my previous role I spent a fair amount of time working from home, this week I was out every day, three days in London and two days in Bristol. This was unusual, but was mainly as I am stlll transitioning from one role to another. Two days were focused on the Intelligent Campus, three in my new role.
The week started in London. I was leading a Senior TEL working group that advises and informs the work of Jisc. I see talking and importantly listening to the sector an important aspect of my role. This meeting was a great opportunity to introduce myself to some key stakeholders, but also find out the challenges they currently face and what their priorities are.
On Tuesday I had an initial meeting about a future Education 4.0 and student experience internal workshop. I also did some planning for a keynote presentation I am doing next week.
Wednesday was another visit to London, the main reason for my visit was to be available for an overview meeting of the Intelligent Campus, which in the end I did not need to participate in. I find our new London office a really nice place to work, with a variety of spaces for different kinds of working. Though some of the chairs in some of the spaces are not conducive for long term working, which I guess is a good thing.
I made my way to the Bristol office on Thursday to have a meeting with Axians to discuss Jisc’s work in the Intelligent Campus space. A key part of the project is to work with vendors and others who work in this space, to see how we can collaborate.
Despite having a new role, there is still a phased transition from my previous role, in regard to my work on the intelligent campus. I published some new use cases in the intelligent campus space.
As I said in a previous weeknote, these use cases which have been written in collaboration with Hapsis provide universities and colleges with an insight into the potential of the possibilities of the intelligent campus. In the same way you should reflect on the pedagogy before hitting the edtech, with the intelligent campus it’s useful to know what you want to do, before thinking about the technical possibilities.
The week ended in London, where I was participating in an Advance HE event, Brave New World: Is the HE Sector ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
With my colleagues Martin Hamilton were part of the world café session of the event which allowed participants engage in debate around 4IR and understand some of the current good practice and thinking in this area. We were talking about Education 4.0 in the context of the fourth industrial revolution. Made me think about how we take this discussion further in the future.
So there’s me thinking hopefully next week will be less busy, no it isn’t.