At the weekend I read this article on facial recognition.
The European Commission has revealed it is considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public areas for up to five years. Regulators want time to work out how to prevent the technology being abused.
This does have implications for those universities and colleges who are thinking about using facial recognition technologies as part of any initiative (say intelligent campus) in the next five years. Of course after five years the EU may ban such technologies, what that means for the UK, well we will have to wait and see.
Monday I was writing, preparing and designing a presentation for a keynote I am giving next week in London. I am using only images.
You can tell winter is coming, but I did enjoy having an extra hour on Sunday. I watched this video on Sunday morning about how university students in Europe and the US are paying Kenyans to do their academic work for them.
The global market for academic writing is estimated to be worth $1bn (£770m) annually.
Findings from the largest dataset gathered to date on contract cheating indicate that there are three influencing factors: speaking a language other than English (LOTE) at home, the perception that there are ‘lots of opportunities to cheat’, and dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment (Bretag & Harper et al., 2018).
These influencing factors could be mitigated, could we assess in the learner’s native language? Culd we improve satisfaction with the overall teaching and learning environment? Often easier said than done.
This contract cheating or collusion is a major headache for universities in the UK, but I wonder if the answer isn’t about creating systems or processes that can identify when cheating or collusion is taking place, but ensuring that assessment is designed in a way that means there is no incentive to chat, collude or pay someone else to undertake the assessment.
I spent the weekend at a family wedding down in Sussex and I got my first taste of campanology, when I was asked to ring the bell in the church at the end of the wedding service, why I was asked I have no idea, but my family now have an amusing video of me being pulled up and down by the bell rope! The wedding was lovely and we had a great time.
Nine years ago on the 19th October 2010 I took this photograph of one of the offices in the college I was working in.
We had been having a lot of discussions about desks and offices. One particular group of staff were adamant they needed their own desks to work on and that they didn’t want their space changed.
What you should notice from the photograph above was that though everyone had their own desk, what they were actually using them was for, was storage. No one was really using their desks for working at. The result was a room which was not conducive to working, so no one worked in there. No one could find anything… well some could.
I remember having discussions about replacing the space with fewer desks, more storage and some nicer seating and comfortable areas. The reaction was (as expected) no, I need my own desk.
The staff in this office spent the majority of their working week teaching in classrooms, when they were not teaching, they wanted space to mark and prepare, research as well as somewhere to relax, drink coffee and discuss stuff with colleagues. They also needed space to store materials and resources, as well as student work. Their needs were being overshadowed by the need for their own space, a space they could call their own.
An academic timetable is a way co-ordinating four elements:
Academics or teachers
Currently the timetable is something that is often done to teachers, academics and students, over which they have minimal input or control.
In the world of Education 4.0 where we want to transform teaching, provide a personalised adapter learning experience and re-imagine assessment, all within a fluid digital and physical campus, the timetable as it stands now is something that constrains and blocks this potential vision.
As a student at school, college and university I had no control or influence over my timetable. When I first started teaching, I was given my timetable, I wasn’t asked to input into the process. It told me what I was going to teach, who I was going to teach, where I was going to teach and when I was going to teach..
As a programme manager in another job I had a bit more input into the whole process. We didn’t have a system or mechanism for creating the timetable, just large sheets of graph paper. It felt like some kind of three dimensional chess combing the four elements outlined above. What I do remember about the process, the first static aspect was the rooms, then the part time cohorts, after that everything else was just fitted into what was left.
Back then following student feedback, it was apparent that some of our timetables for our full time students weren’t exactly student friendly. They were expected to be in every day, and there were large gaps in the day between lessons. The end result was a fair bit of absence and a fall in retention.. So one year we decided to build the timetable around the student, we condensed their week into three (longish) days. Then we fitted in the rooms and teachers into the process. The end result was an improvement in attendance and retention.
These days we have timetable systems, some are based around Excel, others databases and some proprietary timetabling systems. There main focus is to avoid clashes, and enable people to discover when to if rooms are free. However in my experience they are still quite static systems that are still done to students and academics.
You have a cohort of students, you have a number of weeks to deliver your subject and you are assigned a room or space for that year. If you want to do something different than you normally do, you sometimes have to make do, and undertake it in the same space, or you have to struggle to find a space, do things out of hours or just give up. You want to deliver online, then you still find you have to retain using the space, because otherwise you might lose it!
We need to build an intelligent timetable, one that adapts and changes to the changing requirements of different subjects, teachers, spaces, cohorts and individual students. This is easier said than done.
So what is the current landscape like? Most timetable systems operate in a silo, a fixed point in time. It is hard to make dynamic changes to the timetable, as it is rather inflexible. Once it is set up, because the fact it inflexible, only very small changes can be made, but making a large number of changes wouldn’t be possible.
So could we build a smart timetable? A smart timetable would be able to flex and change as the demands placed on it allow rapid shifts and changes. I need a larger room, the timetable would be able to accommodate it, whether it be for one week or the rest of the year. A smart timetable would inform decisions about space.
An intelligent timetable would be able to make changes in advance, based on information gathered from across the college. It could predict what spaces would be available and what changes would be needed, based on data and make changes as required. So as a cohort increases, it would automatically assign a bigger room. As a curriculum changes, they change the cohort to the most appropriate space.
There are some challenges on this, especially if the campus is diverse and large. Students may not know where specific spaces are, going to a different space each week. A smart timetable would need to know how long it can take to move between different rooms to accommodate room changes. Students would need some kind of way finding process to find the rooms. So in order to build a smart or intelligent timetable you need to have already created a digital map of your campus. You need to have already identified route mapping, timings and accessible routes.Similarly students may need to receive notifications about which rooms they will be in, how will these be sent?
If you are changing the curriculum, how would the intelligent timetable system know what the space needs are for different kinds of activities? So you then need to be able to define the curriculum in a way so that the timetable can interpret that and make appropriate decisions about spaces.
What spaces are appropriate for what activities? How do we know this? Does the space have a huge impact on learning? How do we describe this from a digital perspective?
When you start down the road, moving from a static timetable to a smart timetable, and then onto an intelligent timetable, you start to realise that the timetable is actually a small part of the work involved. There is a whole lot of data needed to enable the timetable to make smart or intelligent decisions.
Of course with a whole lot of data, you can then start to think about timetabling analytics. Can we start to use our spaces better? Can we improve the timetable for students? Can we improve the timetable for staff? Can we utilise resources for efficiently? What interventions do we need to make to enable this?
We need more detailed advice and guidance on why we need an intelligent timetable and how it could support the future that is Education 4.0.
We need to design the data infrastructure required to feed into any future intelligent timetable product.
Could we even build a prototype of a smart timetable, or even an intelligent timetable.
With institutions re-evaluating their teaching and thinking how best to invest, it’s a great time to consider whether we really understand how students are using informal educational spaces outside of the classroom. The student perspective combined with novel use of occupancy data is bringing us closer to answering that conundrum.
Reminded me of this blog post that I wrote this back in 2017 on designing informal learning spaces that would encourage informal learning.
Well the key really is to think about what actually facilitates and encourages informal learning.
It’s a combination of factors and can include design of learning spaces and the learning activities undertaken by the learners.
Creating the right contexts and environments for informal learning, will ensure that the concept of learn anywhere and anytime is encouraged and enhanced.
Though I wouldn’t have called it ethnography (and I certainly wouldn’t call it ethnography today) my blog post was based on my experiences in designing and running libraries, as well as developing the use of digital and virtual learning. I would spend a lot of time observing how learners would use our spaces, what they were doing in those spaces and I felt importantly what they weren’t doing as well. I would talk to learners, more importantly I would listen to learners. We would also measure space utilisation and activity in our spaces and all this would inform how we would design and change the space.
When we originally designed the spaces, an important aspect to me was flexibility, being able to change the space as demands on that space changed, in how people wanted to use it and how many wanted to use it. All our shelving for example was on wheels, could be moved easily and quickly around. So following observation and listening, we would adjust the space accordingly.
The premise of that article was you couldn’t design informal learning (as that would formalise it) but what you could do is create spaces that would encourage informal learning.
It is more challenging to create learning spaces that encourage informal and social learning. As demands on space continues to grow and demand for more learner-led learning, it is important that institutions consider much more how their spaces can be used for informal learning.
Monday I was into the office in Bristol for various meetings and some training on culture. One of the things I did finalise was my performance objectives for the year ahead. One thing which I ensured was that my objectives were derived from the strategic objectives of the organisation. This way everything I do is contributing to the organisational strategic priorities. This process was something we did on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme and I also illustrated in this sketchnote.
I also had a discussion about writing an article about Education 4.0, but with a copyright lens. At this time we’ve not really looked into the copyright implications of the changes that could happen in the world of education.
Alas when leaving the office later that day, it was pouring rain and I got rather damp walking back to my car. I realised my waterproof coat was in fact no longer waterproof.
Illness in others and terrible rain, meant that meetings were changed, so I was able to change my plans from going into the Bristol office to working from home on Tuesday and avoid the rain.
I saw a video in the Twitter on the fourth industrial revolution which I thought was rather good so I blogged about it.
Wednesday saw an interesting anniversary, as ten years ago on the 2nd October, I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.
Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general. I wrote a nostalgic blog post looking back at the event, my presentation and the impact it had.
I spent a lot of time on Thursday interviewing prospective student partners for Jisc. We like to know what is important to students regarding their use of technology in education and research. What skills they think they need and how they want to learn. So every year we get a group of students from across HE and FE and work with them in a variety of different ways. Some attend our meetings, others our events, they participate in podcasts, panel sessions and workshops. I have always felt it was important to listen to the student voice to inform my work.
Friday I had various meetings, but managed to make a lot of progress on our Learning Technologist technical career pathway. We will be piloting this with individuals over the next twelve months.
My top tweet this week was this one.
It was on this day sixteen years ago that I was at Bristol Zoo and I took this photograph of a meerkat. Four years later I needed a picture for an avatar and the rest is, as they say, history. pic.twitter.com/Ax6jfyOFKE
We spent Saturday visiting Longleat Safari Park and the weather was great. However on Monday I was, as a result of a last minute change, off to London, I had intended to catch the train, but due to problems with our online travel system (affecting just me it appears) meant that in the end I drove to London.
My diary that day included a relatively early morning conference call. So I stopped at the services, and with only a minute to spare, missed getting coffee and I took the call sitting in my car over 4G. The connection was pretty good and the video I was getting was quite high quality so all was well. I was quite pleased not to have to do the call on the train, as previous experience has shown that generally it works, but too many tunnels and blackspots means that participating in a conference call (especially with video) can be problematic and a bit of a nightmare. I rarely drive to London, usually I take the train, so I parked in West London and took the tube to the office, just in time for my second conference call.
I was in London to meet with the Consultant who had undertaken the University of Hertfordshire Value Study back in May prior to a presentation later in the week.
Tuesday I was off to our office in Bristol. I had no meetings, but my colleague Lawrie was down in Bristol so it was a good chance to catch up and see what was happening in his area.
He is organising an event at Keele, I was intending to attend the event, alas I now have to be in London on that date.
This one day event will explore the use of Microsoft Teams to support learning and teaching practices in universities, and the ways in which students want to communicate, collaborate and learn in a modern university.
In the podcast, John Cartwright, director of computing services at the University of Liverpool, talks about how his team are improving the student experience and saving staff time with technology. In the episode we explore the world of data, looking at how better use of it can transform teaching and power technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence.
However the key message I wanted people to take from the discussion is that, transformation is about people first.
Wednesday I was presenting in front of the Jisc Board on Education 4.0 and what universities and colleges need to do to start down the road to the vision which is Education 4.0. Is say presenting the majority of the session was an activity discussing the issues and themes of Education 4.0.
As with the podcast the key feedback from the Board was the importance of the human element when it comes transformation.
I think the challenge we face in preparing for a roadmap, is the expectation that the roadmap delivered will be complete. If we knew what was needed and what was going to happen, then I suspect we would either a) already have a roadmap or b) not need one! So the first phase for the roadmap is researching and developing the roadmap. I did think should we even be using the term “roadmap”?
Thursday I spent some time reading the Advance HE report, On the Horizon.
This report focuses on the perceptions of change and challenge for the learning and teaching agenda in higher education (HE) providers around the world over the next five to ten years. A selection of people with executive or senior leadership roles in both the UK and overseas were interviewed about the challenges their institutions faced.
There was one section on evidence of effective practice, which reminded me of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.
In the report it states there is a lukewarm enthusiasm for change in teaching practices.
This is something we covered on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme about change.
Part of the challenge, according to the report, is a lack of interest.
Some colleagues express worry about a general lack of interest in pedagogy from academics more comfortable with the established practices of their particular discipline.
But others show a definitive lack of faith in the evidence, because it is often based on small-sample studies.
Others wonder whether the quality of such research really matches up to the high standards expected elsewhere, not least because the research findings often derive from small-sample studies.
However all is not lost…
Many think there are real opportunities now for a step-change in pedagogy and improved student learning: ‘it’s time to start thinking much more seriously about the collective will for real pedagogical innovation and how it can be sustained.’
Friday I had a couple of online meetings and spent a fair amount of time developing the assessment criteria for one of our Technical Career Pathway paths.
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.