I have decided to take next week as leave, not that we’re going anywhere, but apart from the odd long weekend (bank holidays) I’ve not had any time off working since the lockdown started, actually I don’t think I’ve had leave since Christmas! I had planned to take some time off at Easter and go to London for a few days, as we had tickets for the Only Fools and Horses musical at the Royal Haymarket. I had bought tickets for my wife as a Christmas present and it was something we were all looking forward to. Then all this lockdown happened and the theatre cancelled all the performances as required by the Government.
I did consider keeping my leave, but with leading a taskforce, it was apparent that I might not have the time to take some (and where would I go).
So this week I was winding down slightly as I wanted to ensure I had done everything that people needed before I was off.
I published a blog post over the weekend about making the transition to online and to not make the assumption that though there are similarities in delivering learning in classrooms and online, they are not the same.
If we are to make the move a combination of online, hybrid and blended than we need to ensure that the staff involved in the delivery of learning have the right capabilities and skills to deliver effectively online.
For a few years at Jisc I was working on the Intelligent Campus project and then got a new role as Head of HE and Student Experience. I still have an interest in the space and when I read this recent post from WonkHE, Can we plan for a socially distanced campus? interesting and useful for the planning for September.
We know how to operate a traditional on-campus model, and we are very quickly developing a better understanding of how to facilitate off-campus working and learning, but how can we best support social distancing on a functioning campus?
Is this what social distancing looks like in a lecture theatre? via WonkHE Seminar.
I was reflecting how if the concept of the intelligent campus was further advanced than it is, how potentially helpful it could be to support universities planning for a socially distanced campus.
I published a use case a year ago, on people flows and congestion,and it gave me an idea of updating it to reflect the current challenges that universities and colleges will face in September.
With the impact of the coronavirus and the need for social distancing and tracing contacts, if there was ever a use case for the concept of the intelligent campus then this is it.
What’s the issue?
The flow of people through campus and beyond is complex and not well understood outside of known peak times such as class changes or lunchtime. The density of people at any one place and time, and the speed of their movement, can have a big impact on how easily people can get in and around campus buildings and facilities. This can have an impact on the need for effective social distancing. Universities need to avoid situations arising which result in large numbers of people congregating in areas which could result in failure to maintain social distancing.
What could be done?
Pedestrian flow could affect the time for journeys between classes, waiting times at cafes or sudden changes in how busy the library is. Location trackers such as used by mobile phones can provide data on flow, and also people counters, such as using video systems, can be placed around campus to collect data on the numbers of people in that location at any time. Such data can have a number of applications, including combining with other contexts to improve services, as well as ensure social distancing.
Monitoring the increasing numbers of people towards a known destination could anticipate potential problems with congestion and queueing. For example, students heading towards the cafeteria could indicate an unusually high demand for food and trigger staffing or stocking changes to cope with higher numbers. You could also use the information to alert students that the space will be busier than normal and due to social distancing there would be longer queues and waiting times.
Timetabling data indicates when classes are scheduled to end, but real time data on movement could indicate that some classes finish earlier or later, leading to changing patterns in availability of services. This could be critical if you are using timetables to stagger the movement of people to ensure social distancing and avoid congesting and crowding.
Usage data could show that the library is already busy when one class ends, and students could be directed towards other study areas or computer rooms that have more availability and more space.
Where campuses interact with local towns and cities, for example crossing roads or using transport services, or where students are using their cars. The changing flow of people could be used to increase the capacity or timing of pedestrian crossings, to avoid congestion. Likewise thefrequency of transport services could ensure that sufficient public transport is in place for both local people and students. Real time traffic information could allow students to make decisions about when to arrive for university on time or when would be the best time to leave.
Over time the data may suggest interesting patterns of behaviour that could be used to further predict, anticipate and respond to congestion. One example might be the impact of weather – on sunny days students may spend more time outside, whereas when it’s rainy they may congregate in specific spaces. This behaviour will impact on those trying to ensure social distancing in spaces such as corridors and learning spaces such as the library.
Using room utilisation data, spare rooms could be opened up to accommodate social interaction and refreshment breaks, or pop up library or IT services could be opened. Ensuring that social distancing guidelines are kept to.
What examples are there?
Many of the existing examples are from “Smart cities”, involving vehicular and pedestrian traffic, to aid safety, improve health and environmental concerns, and also inform retail and business. However, such applications can be easily applied to campus routes and facilities.
Google maps is one of the best known examples of tracking the location of mobile devices (typically in cars) to show congestion on traffic routes. The mapping service then can suggest the best/quickest route for the traffic conditions at the time and provide alternatives if congestion is estimated to lead to a slower journey time. Waze (owned by Google) does something similar, but allows individuals to add information about congestion. This type of system could be really useful in a campus context.
Other methods of “people counting” include video cameras, which can also combine with CCTV, recognising an image of a person and transmitting the numbers (usually not the images). Such systems could be used to flag spaces which are getting congested or filling up.
In Las Vegas, not only do they track vehicles through a junction but also count the number of pedestrians crossing the streets and also “jaywalking”, and then re-routing vehicular traffic when the numbers of pedestrians is high. Could a similar system ensure that students are re-routed when their chosen route is getting crowded.
People counters are often used in business and retail areas for example in Manchester to better understand queuing time and which areas of a store are popular. The data also contributes to strategies to improve walkability and transport, understand the impact of events and marketing campaigns, and assist businesses and community services in adopting appropriate staffing and security arrangements. These systems could be adapted to ensure safe spaces for students on university campuses.
What about ethical and other issues?
In principle, data on people movement tends to be aggregated to use the total numbers and changes to those numbers rather than knowledge about a specific individual. This is similar to the way google uses your location to provide mapping data, and is widely accepted. However, images of individuals may be being captured along with their movements and this information could be used inappropriately without strict controls and clear consent rules. Similarly, as data becomes combined, it begins to create a picture of a person’s behaviour that could be considered more of an invasion of privacy – for example which cafe are they going to, who else is there and what do they drink?
It’s important that the ethical aspects of this are taken seriously, and the excuse “it’s a crisis” shouldn’t be used to increase surveillance of individuals and impact negatively on privacy. Transparency of what the university is doing and why is key.
With the impact of the coronavirus and the need for social distancing and tracing contacts, if there was ever a use case for the concept of the intelligent campus then this is it.
For me Monday was very much thinking about how HE will need to plan for the unknown for the Autumn.
The BBC reported on how students would still need to pay full tuition fees.
University students in England will still have to pay full tuition fees even if their courses are taught online in the autumn, the government has said.
We know many universities are planning for either full online degree programmes or hybrid programmes, but also that many are planning for potential coronavirus second (or even third) wave of infections and subsequent lockdowns.
It got me thinking about how this looks from a prospective student perspective, and the impact on those universities which are reliant on local (and commuting) students and those for whom it’s a place where students travel to study there.
We already have an understanding of the impact of the massive fall in the international student market on some universities, but the domestic situation is still highly volatile and unknown. Some surveys say 5% of prospective students have already decided not to go to university this autumn, and another 20% who are changing their plans. If we see a loosening of lockdown measures between now and September, then maybe fewer will change their plans, but we could see lockdown come back and enforced more stringently; this will of course impact on those prospective student plans.
It doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t always work the way you expected. Here are some of the strategies I have used in creating, building, developing and maintaining a community.
Recently I have been talking with others about community and building communities, something I have done in the past with some success (and sometimes not so much success). I don’t believe there is any one way to build a community, but in a similar way I don’t think doing one thing such as a mailing list, or an event, or a Twitter hashtag will result in a community. I have found you need to do a range of things, as some stuff works for some people and other stuff works for others.
In this blog post I will discuss some of the ways in which I have had to build communities as part of my professional practice. Though the communities were different, there were some key things that I did to build those communities. Also there are some aspects that were features of all these communities
What is a community? Why do you want to build a community? Who will be part of your community and why would they want to be part of your community?
Its also worthwhile thinking about the life of the community, is this an ad hoc pop-up community, or are you trying to establish a more permanent community.
In this context it is worthwhile to write down the vision for the community, what is it you are trying to achieve through the community. It is also useful to establish some objectives as well. Over time you can re-visit these, but having them written down does help in the process of building a community and determining if you are being successful or not.
Back in 2008 or so, when I was a MoLeNET Mentor working with people such as Lilian Soon, Dave Sugden and Ron Mitchell (and others) I was helping to build a community of FE people interested in mobile learning. We wanted to start a community as part of the MoLeNET programme, but did not expect that we would continue to support the community beyond the life of the MoLeNET programme. This doesn’t mean that the community wouldn’t or couldn’t continue, but as part of the planning, this wasn’t a key objective. The funding was planned for three years, so we expected the community to be around for that length of time.
Whereas when I was building the Jisc Intelligent Campus community, I wanted this to last as long as Jisc was working in this space, so it was important to think about both the short term objectives, but also the longer term objectives as well.
When starting to build the community, it’s useful to lay the foundations for that community. What tools are you going to use, what services will you be using and how do you expect others to use those tools.
The sort of things I did for the MoLeNET community included using tools such as Jaiku (and then the Twitter) to use micro-blogging to connect and communicate. We also did online webinars, which were interesting and fun to do. We did a lot of podcasting as well. Another thing we did was blogging. Those were in the main broadcast mechanisms, we also used e-mail to tell people in the community what was happening and what they could do.
For engagement we ran workshops and events. It wasn’t just one kind of event either, there were workshops, as well as conferences and meetings. The key I think was about connecting, communicating and sharing. What was challenging at the time (well it was 2008) was building online engagement and discussion. Today that might be easier.
I did a similar thing when I started to build the Intelligent Campus community. I started off using Twitter in the main, using a hashtag #IntelligentCampus to connect what I was saying. I posted relevant and interesting links (well I thought they were interesting) to Twitter as well. I also blogged a lot, sometimes it was about what the project was doing, but I also blogged about stuff other people were doing. These posts were shared on Twitter, but also through an embryonic mailing list, well people still like e-mail. I made a point too of posting a monthly digest to the mailing list. I also ran community events where as well as me presenting, I also got members of the community to present as well.
Another thing is to attend other events and present, something I did for both MoLeNET and the Intelligent Campus. This enables you to introduce the community to others and hopefully get them to join and engage with the community.
There are various tools and services in any community toolbox that can be used to build, develop and maintain a community. Thinking about the different stages of building a community is also critical to successfully building a community.
When you start, you have no community, you need to bring together people who have an interest in this space. Building a community is hard, so now I use a range of tools, such as social media (well in the main Twitter), also mailing lists and for me blogging. Interesting and useful blog posts can engage people and get them to participate in the community. It also acts as a way of helping people to understand what the community is about and what they will get from the community.
Communities don’t just grow, they need to be cared for and nurtured. This means you need to plan to bring people onboard to the community. This doesn’t need to be done alone, as you start to build a community you will meet others, and using their expertise and knowledge can help. Get others to write blog posts for you, as well as using the Twitter hashtag for example.
Maintaining a community is an important task. As I mentioned sending regular digests of news and links was one thing I did for the Intelligent Campus community, but also posting questions to the mailing lists to stimulate discussion (when things were quiet on the list). When I was running the Digital Capability project at Jisc, I would write regular blog posts about digital capability, but would also present on the subject at external events.
For me the success of the communities was when I became less important and was less of a focus for the community and others started to put themselves forward. They were posting stuff on the Twitter, publishing their own blog posts and even running their own events.
Determining the success of your community enables you to decide if you should continue or let the community die. Do you want to put metrics on your activities for example? For some of my communities measuring activity was important, so I did look at data and analytics of visits to the website and the blog, but also recording who was using the community hashtag.
Starting and building a community is not an easy task, but one thing to recognise, rarely does it just happen…
Monday was a lovely day, as it was the first day that the new Jisc offices on Portwall Lane in Bristol were open. The new office was lovely, not quite finished, but the main working areas were open for business and it was a fantastic working environment. Lots of choice of different places to work, open plan, quite spaces, not a library quiet working space, small meeting rooms (ideal for silent working), social working spaces, light, bright and airy. Loved it.
I spent time putting together a presentation I was delivering later in the week. Though it was mainly images I did put together some explanatory graphics.
The talk was only ten minutes, so I hoped the graphics would explain the concepts more easily and faster. I also wrote a blog post about the presentation, which helped me formulate what I wanted to say in the talk. I wrote this in advance and scheduled it for publication later on the same day as the presentation.
As I had an early start in London on Wednesday I travelled up on the Tuesday so I wouldn’t be late for the event. In the end due to some travel issues I missed the start of the event, but was on time to present my piece and listen to some others from the first half.
I enjoyed delivering the presentation and a due to a last minute illness I was asked to chair the second half of the event.
My overall takeaway was that developing an intelligent campus (even a smart campus) involves a range of stakeholders and users, and that all departments across an university need to be involved.
Thursday I was on leave, so Friday was more about catching up on missed e-mail from the week and doing some preparation for the Data Matters 2020 conference, ready for meetings next week.
Over the last few years I have been working on a project at Jisc, called The Intelligent Campus. Though I left the project in March, in my new role and as part of Jisc’s work on Education 4.0, I still have an interest in that space and what is possible and what benefits it could bring universities and colleges.
At the weekend we went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The first time I went to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour was in 2015, just after they had added the Hogwarts Express and Kings Cross set to the tour. We made a return visit, mainly to see how different it was dressed for Christmas and with snow. Last time we were in the foyer waiting to go in, suspended from the ceiling was the magical flying Ford Anglia. This time there was a dragon!
The week started off in London for my Jisc Senior TEL Group meeting. This is an invited meeting in which we discuss various issues and technologies relating to teaching and learning. We had an informative discussion in the morning on curriculum analytics, what it is, what it isn’t, what it could be used for and some of the serious and challenges in analysing the curriculum. In the afternoon we were discussing some of the challenges relating to Education 4.0 and what the potential issues are in relation to preparing for the future that may be Education 4.0. Continue reading Netflixisation, is that even a word? – Weeknote #40 – 6th December 2019→
A rather short week for me, as taking some leave. This week started for me on Wednesday as we had a bank holiday here in England and I took some additional leave.
I was off to London again, this time for an internal meeting about the Intelligent Campus, in which I provided some insights into the work I did on the project over the last few years. It reminded me about how much I enjoyed working on that project and the sheer quantity of ideas, use cases, blog posts I created and wrote over that time.
It also reminded me of how the presentation I created for the project evolved and developed over the life of the project.
When I ran the first community event at Sheffield Hallam in March 2018 the presentation was very wordy.
When I spoke about the Intelligent Campus in March 2019 at Digifest, the presentation was nearly all images.
I delivered variations of the presentation many times in that twelve month period, including a keynote in France, as well as versions at events and at meetings with universities. The more confident I got with the content and the details, meant I reduced the words and replaced them with images.
I have also been working on the assessment criteria for the Learning Technologist Technical Career Pathway using the SIFA framework.
I think it needs more work and some extra non-SIFA units to make it more aligned to the Learning Technologist role within Jisc.
I was only working two days this week, and Friday I was back in the office for more meetings and tying up loose ends from my growing inbox.
We have moved to a self-service model for booking travel and accommodation, which means for me less back and forth when booking hotels in cities I don’t know or have not stayed in before. Having booked a hotel for a trip to Leeds, my next booking will be for a meeting in Edinburgh.
I did find this article from Wonkhe interesting and insightful
I remember a long time ago, getting a job, not just because I matched the criteria and did a good interview, but because the panel felt that I was someone they could drink coffee with first thing in the morning. In other words I fitted their expectations of a colleague they could both work with, but also fit into their culture.
I doubt back then “unconscious bias” was even thought about, let alone even considered as an issue. Did the other candidates make them feel uncomfortable? Did they even understand why that was?
Interesting it was in that job, that I started to realise as white middle class male that I had privileges that came to me just because of my gender and ethnicity. I started to recognise that when working with people that they had different backgrounds, cultures and challenges, that were nothing like mine, so I had to ensure I didn’t let this impact on the decisions I was making.
So the week started with a 9am meeting, which was cancelled 15 minutes before it started… This seems to be happening a lot more in this new role than in my previous role. I appreciate that illness and other problems can result in the cancellation of a meeting at the last minute, but I find that a lot of the meetings I am scheduled to attend are cancelled for no obvious reason. Many times I have travelled, booked rooms, turned down other meetings or even events, then I find out that the meeting has been cancelled! I have started to notice patterns and I have started to de-piroritise certain meetings. What this means is that I have accepted them (sometimes tentatively) in my diary, however I will put in new meetings or events that clash when required.
Spent some time planning a series of knowledge calls for the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway. These will involve looking at digital ecosystems, presentation skills and Jira training.
Our infrastructure people were running a drop in session for any Office 365 problems. I was having issues with adding Twitter to a new team in Teams. We want to use the Twitter App as we want to have tweets with a specific hashtag posted to the Teams stream. However it wasn’t working very well. When you added the Twitter app to the team it resulted in a connection error. My initial thought was that certain apps were being blocked, but that wasn’t the case. We solved this problem, thanks to the drop in SharePoint/0365 surgery. The issue appeared to be a corrupt team (well it was me, Lawrie and Andy McG so no surprises there then). The solution alas was to delete the team and start a new one. This was not too much of a hardship as it was a new team we created anyhow. So now we have a nice shiny new team to which we can add apps.
Thursday I was off to Hatfield, with the University of Hertfordshire Value Study starting on Friday at 9am there was no practical way of getting there in time travelling up in the morning, so I went up the day before. This job does require a fair bit of travelling, I have been to Scotland, Ireland, across England, Wales and event Brittany in France. I generally (now) go to London about once a week. There was one week where was there for six days in a two week period, so travelled up and down a lot on the railway. I am lucky in that we have a great team for booking travel and accommodation, which makes life a lot easier. In a previous job, there was no such luxury.
Friday was all about the first day of the University of Hertfordshire Value Study. A 9am start and a 5pm finish, meant that the day was long and quite tiring (especially combined with a 150 mile drive home afterwards) but rewarding. We covered a range of topics, with a focus on the Janet network and the supporting services. I delivered a session about the Intelligent Campus describing how our R&D work supports the sector through community events, guides and blog posts and a mailing list.
These have been used for Hertfordshire in their smart campus plans.
A team has found that giving a human touch to chatbots like Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa may actually disappoint users.
Just giving a chatbot human name or adding human-like features to its avatar might not be enough to win over a user if the device fails to maintain a conversational back-and-forth with that person…
This reminded me of a conversation I had at an Intelligent Campus workshop where the idea of trying to make chatbots appear human was probably not a good idea, and maybe they should intentionally make their chatbot non-human.
There are potential challenges as Microsoft found out with their paper clip assistant, but was that because it was a paper clip or because it was annoying?
In many ways Clippy was the ancestor of Siri, Cortana and other modern day assistants.
A non-human chatbot could also avoid some of the gender issues that occur when deciding if your chatbot is female or male.
This Guardian article from March discusses this contentious issue, of gender for voice assistants.
Providing assistance has long been considered a woman’s role, whether virtual or physical, fictional or real. The robots that men voice, meanwhile, tend to be in positions of power – often dangerously so. Think Hal 9000, or the Terminator: when a robot needs to be scary, it sounds like a man.
Patriarchy tells us that women serve, while men order, and technology firms seem content to play into stereotypes, rather than risk the potentially jarring results of challenging them.
The article talks about EqualAI
EqualAI, an initiative dedicated to correcting gender bias in AI, has backed the creation of Q, what it says is the first genderless voice.
So if you do have a non-human chatbot, if you want to extend it to be a voice assistant, at least soon you will be able to have a genderless voice behind it.
So what (rather than who) should be your chatbot? Well it could be an anthropomorphic animal or maybe something else that is special to your university or college.
So what would your chatbot be?
news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…