Well after two weeks leave it was back to work, and 179 emails in my inbox. I used an Inbox Zero approach and cleared them out before the end of the day. I left the emails form mailing lists in their folders and marked all as read.
Went to London for me end of year review having finished off the preparation for this earlier in the week. This is where these weeknotes can be useful for reminding me of the different things I have done and events I have attended.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. Reflecting on this quote though, I did start to think about breakfast, and wondered if I could use breakfast as an analogy for effective strategy implementation. As well as strategic objectives, what else do people need to know in order to deliver those objectives successfully.
I had a fair few cancelled meetings and sessions this week. Not too surprising as these were often planned when people were on leave and then other priorities take precedence.
I was in Harwell on Thursday and saw the autonomous self driving bus they have there. It had got slightly confused on one of the roundabouts.
Thursday was A Level results week and the press was packed with news stories about the results. I was reminded that I had written this blog post in 2017, You too can be a millionaire!
I was asked about the future of learning and the role of technology, and I referred back to a piece I wrote on the duality of digital teaching.
When we talk about online and in-person many of us think of this as a dichotomy, either we are online, or we are in-person. The reality is though as we know, that this can be more of a spectrum, a range of possibilities, with varying depths to which online or digital can be embedded into an in-person experience.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Back from two weeks leave and 179 emails in the inbox. It was empty when I left and the target for today is it will be empty again. https://t.co/CveLf9Kf0m
I use to say things like “I can teach anywhere”. What I meant by this, wasn’t that the environment or space I was using wasn’t important, but I could overcome the disadvantages of the different spaces I had to play with, and still deliver an effective session.
So though I might be able to teach anywhere the reality is that all those challenges and issues I face in an inappropriate space, may well result in poor quality learning, despite the quality of my teaching.
Big news this week was that the QAA was to step away from designated role in England. Over on Wonkhe, David Kernohan tries to make sense of it all.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) will no longer consent to be the Designated Quality Body (DQB) in England, as of the end of the current year in office (March 2023). The reasoning is straightforward – the work that QAA does in England, on behalf of the OfS, is no longer compliant with recognised quality standards – namely the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) as monitored by the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). For this reason, the QAA registration with EQAR was recently suspended – a decision that highlights international concerns about procedures in England but has an impact in the many other nations (including Scotland and Wales) where QAA needs that EQAR registration in order to fulfil a statutory quality assurance role.
Once more we are seeing more divergence across the UK for higher education.
I revisited and revised a blog post on voice assistants I had written back in 2018.
Voice assistants have become widespread and are proving useful for a range of uses. The cost has fallen over the years and the services have expanded.
The use of voice assistants and smart hubs has certainly continued, and they have become embedded into many digital ecosystems. Their use in education though is still limited and I will be looking at that in a later blog post.
Attended a session on impact this week, which was interesting, but not necessarily that useful. How do you evidence impact of what you do? I wonder for example of the 1,828 blog posts published on this blog have had any impact on the way in which people work, support others or plan their work. For example one of the most popular blog posts on the blog, which though written in 2011, is still regularly viewed, is this one 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip, which was one of a series of blog posts on improving or enhancing the use of the VLE.
One use of graphic that can enhance the look of a VLE course or as a mechanism to engage learners is to embed a comic strip into the VLE course.
What has been the impact of this? Has is changed practice? Has it improved the student experience? Has it improved student outcomes? How would I know?
I don’t think I can evidence the impact of this, but other work I have done I can sometimes see the evidence, however I don’t know if their has been actual impact.
I quite liked these tweets from August 2021 from people who had attended the digital leadership consultancy I had delivered for Leeds.
Me too! I’m crediting this partially to my participation in the Jisc Digital Leaders programme. @DigitalJisc
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 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.
However what I don’t know is, has the change had a positive impact? And what was that impact?
I spent some of the week reviewing our new guide to the Intelligent Campus, and the revamped guide to the Intelligent Library. The library guide was never published but has been updated for 2022. I also reviewed our updated use cases, as well as drafting plans for some additional use cases. I am aiming for publication of these in the autumn.
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.
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.
Me too! I’m crediting this partially to my participation in the Jisc Digital Leaders programme. @DigitalJisc
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.
This week saw the continual increase in covid-19 cases, sadly increasing deaths and many areas of the UK entering Tier 3 lockdowns. The threat of a national lockdown was getting discussed, whilst in Wales they were already in lockdown.
Monday I went into the Bristol office to work, it was quiet and I managed to get some work done.
Tuesday I spent the day writing, but I did find it hard that day to be creative. The weather was frightful.
Wednesday I was back into Bristol and in our office to work, I did meet up with a couple of colleagues as well for working meetings.
Concerns have been raised over a lack of mandatory face masks for students and staff at the University of the West of England (UWE). One lecturer said staff “don’t feel safe” and he felt “insulted” at the suggestion staff were “happy to go to Sainsbury’s and the pub but not work”.
University students are struggling with loneliness and anxiety due to campus lockdowns, with the risk that their mental health will deteriorate further unless urgent action is taken, counsellors and charities are warning.
Students could be told not to return home at Christmas if the spread of the coronavirus has not been controlled, the deputy first minister has said.
Amongst all this I have been planning the programme for the Jisc, QAA and HESA Data Matters 2021 conference which is taking place in January and will be an online conference. I have a history of doing online conferences and I am planning to take advantage of the affordances that an online conference can bring to such an event. I am hoping to do podcasts, pre-recorded presentations, blogs and more, as well as streaming live keynotes and presentations. Find out more here about the conference.
Thursday I was on leave. It was nice though to see this tweet from Lawrie. Excellent news.
Really pleased! Chatted to @rafehallett from @KeeleInnovation today. and I am being conferred as an Hon. Professor in Digital Education, leadership, and practice. Excited to be associated with a great team and the benefits it will bring to my Jisc research work.
Friday I was working from home. Having left an empty inbox on Wednesday I was quite surprised to see 51 unread e-mails in my inbox. It actually didn’t take too long to process the e-mails. Some I read and then deleted, others I marked as spam, from some I created Jira tasks, and some I just did what was being asked.
My top tweet this week was this one.
So just me then when I saw Tucker trending thinking that it was about Tucker Jenkins.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here's a question for you? What is your university saying about attending external events (physically) in the next academic year? Are you getting any guidance about attending meetings, conferences, training, etc?
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 my inbox, but in the end there were 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.
Monday I was off to our Bristol office. There was quite a bit of disruption across the city with Extinction Rebellion demonstrating across the centre.
I was into the office to deliver some training on Jira for personal use. Though Jira and Confluence make great tools for projects I have been using it myself over the last few years to manage my work and individual projects.
As the main focus was on productivity, we did discuss manging e-mail and tasks. I use an Inbox Zero approach that I discovered back in 2007 when listening to a podcast.
I recently wrote two blog posts on Inbox Zero on my tech stuff blog, the first I discuss how I deal with e-mail.
Confluence is a wiki platform for creating documentation and some companies even use it for their actual website. Jira is an issue tracking system. You can embed macros in Confluence that can show details about your Jira issues.
I did manage to get out of the office and get a coffee at a new coffee place that has opened this year.
This week on my technology stuff blog I published a post about a QR Code which failed to work ten years ago with a specialised QR Code reader on my iPhone 3GS, but worked fine with the in-built QR Code reader in the iPhone 8 camera.
In the next few weeks I have a fair few meetings in London, so I have been booking travel and hopefully it will be slightly cooler than recently, as travelling in this heat is a real nightmare.
Last week I followed my colleague, Lawrie, on Twitter as he attended an event on Microsoft Teams.
“ #MicrosoftTeams is not a VLE/LMS replacement – why would we replace like for like” my reading? “We want to be something different, but we think we are a learning environment.” Just my feeling about what I am hearing and seeing.
I could argue various points, but these are my early thoughts. I’m remaining engaged with Microsoft Teams, I’m looking to see if this can be a “Digital Ecosystem” as we envisaged during the Co-design work.
I have always seen the VLE as a concept more than an individual product and I do like the term “Digital Ecosystem” as it kind of describes that viewpoint. If you say VLE or LMS then people think of products such as Blackboard, Canvas or Moodle. For me the VLE was something more than an individual product, it was a series of ways of working online using a range of online tools and services that were inter-connected. Teams is one such tool that can be connected into such a VLE concept.
Facial recognition was again in the news, this time the The House of Commons Science and Technology committee expressed their concerns on the technology.
The police and other authorities should suspend use of automatic facial recognition technologies, according to an influential group of MPs. The House of Commons Science and Technology committee added there should be no further trials of the tech until relevant regulations were in place. It raised accuracy and bias concerns.
Also this week everyone was talking about FaceApp with lots of different news outlets reporting on the app and concerns people had about it. There was concerns about the biased algorithim that the app used to make people “hot” was in fact racist. There was worry over privacy and security over the use of images and even if there was Russian collusion! Of course some people thought it was all a bit of fun!
My top tweet this week was this one.
With the introduction of the new @GWRHelp IET trains we now have these wonderful HST 125 trains as our local commuter services around Bristol and North Somerset. Ace. pic.twitter.com/R2fjBrVavo
Monday I was back in the office, I do like going to the office. You can interact with people online quite easily these days, and I have been doing that for years. However there is a different kind of interaction you get in the physical office environment. Our Bristol office was shrunk due to an impending merger and move, so it can get crowded and noisy, even so I do like being there. I also like the fact that as it is in the heart of Bristol, I can go for a walk at lunchtime around the city centre.
I published a new Intelligent Campus use case on the Intelligent Campus blog.
In it are some interesting findings, though of course, it’s not a representative survey of HE students, as students chose to fill in the survey.
74% of HE students rated the quality of digital teaching and learning on their course as above average (choosing to rate it as either good, excellent or best imaginable). This doesn’t mean that the digital teaching and learning was of a high quality, as the responses are very personal and subjective. My high quality experience, may not be the same as your high quality experience. Having said that, three quarter of HE students who filled in the survey felt the experience they were having was good or better.
Seven in ten HE students used digital tools on a weekly basis to look for additional resources not recommended by their lecturer.
The survey also found that HE learner use lots of personal devices for learning, for example 94% of HE students own a laptop. Over 80% use a smartphone to support their learning.
Universities may want to think about ensuring that they are providing reliable wi-fi not just across their campuses and buildings, but in all those places that students use for learning and research. In a similar vein, are your online services are mobile-friendly and work effectively on mobile platforms.
I spent Tuesday working from home, mainly as the weather was predicted to be wet and cold. As well as finishing the slides I was working on I spent some time preparing for the panel session I was doing in Nottingham on Wednesday.
I had a few technical issues with Outlook not sending e-mails in a timely manner. I can never work out why that Outlook will send some e-mails, but with others leaves them in the Outbox waiting for something. In the end I had one e-mail stuck in there for four hours before it was sent.
I wrote a blog post on the discussion on the ALT mailing list about what we call learning technologists. As you might expect the predominate response from a list of members of Association for Learning Technology who in the main are learning technologists was that these “learning technologists” should be called learning technologists.
Wednesday I travelled to Nottingham for Networkshop, where I chaired a panel session. The session was entitled, What will the university look like in 2030?
The background to the session described what we wanted to discuss.
What we hope to discuss and share our views on is about what the student experience will look like in 2030? What are the challenges students and staff will face in the future. Our panel of experts will discuss which emerging technologies offer the most promise in helping with the challenges universities and colleges face. The session will highlight the horizon report and Jisc’s view of education 4.0. This session is aimed at helping managers understand the future student experience, and what it potentially could look like and the challenges that may arise. What emerging technologies will help to meet these challenges, and how do they integrate these into the current and future institutional strategies. As you might expect with a somewhat technical audience some of the panellists will focus and discuss the technical aspects. How do we ensure we have the infrastructure and bandwidth to meet these challenges? How do we ensure security of the growing network, which takes advantage of the cloud and the internet of things?
I really quite enjoyed chairing the panel session, we had a great diverse panel with different backgrounds and experiences. We even had a student (which shouldn’t really be a big issue, but sometimes is at these conferences). We had a wide ranging discussion covering not just the student experience, but also opinions about the infrastructure needed to enable this. We had a good range of questions from the audience.
As it was scheduled the end of the day, it was a late finish. Nottingham isn’t in the middle of nowhere, but is a bit of a hike from Weston-super-Mare and back in a day.
Thursday was the final day of the week, a shorter week this week for me, as I am on leave on Friday. I was interviewed by Sophie Bailey and recorded for The EdTech Podcast in which I discussed my role, but also some of my thoughts on Education 4.0 and how we get there. I enjoyed the interview and reminded me of how much I enjoyed recording the elearning stuff podcast.
In between calls I looked at openetc which Lawrie had forwarded me the link, having attended a presentation about it at the OER conference which is taking place in Galway this week.
I did consider going to OER19, but in the end decided not to. Not because it wasn’t going to be interesting and informative, but I am still relatively new in the role and the timeframe was quite short. Also it clashed with some home stuff.
Reading and reflecting on openetc, it reminds me of the PLE/VLE discussions we had ten years ago, when there would be these tools that students would use to create their own learning environment. My view back then was that the VLE would be at the hub of a learner’s online envruonment, and then they would plug in other tools. The use of LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) which was initially developed back in 2008 with the final specification launched in 2010 made this much easier for people using tools such as Moodle, to then plug in other tools such as WordPress or Mahara.
The incarnation of openetc as a community also reminds me of the “offer” from ULCC of managed services that integrated Moodle and Mahara, the real advantage for FE was that it was a) managed so they didn’t need the skills and knowledge to maintain the service b) secure – they managed the security and patching. It is something that people may want to look at.
I had another meeting later about the future strategy, which was interesting and informative. One key thing we discussed was the importance of a robust data estate to fully exploit the advantages of analytics, across all aspects of the university.
Slightly annoyed that the meeting following that got cancelled at relative short notice. Something I need to reflect on, as it appears to be happening a lot with my diary.
I spent the rest of the day clearing through my inbox, nothing like Inbox Zero to end the week on. I also spent time planning for next week.