Tag Archives: lawrie phipps

Netflixisation, is that even a word? – Weeknote #39 – 6th December 2019

Gringotts Dragon
Gringotts Dragon at Harry Potter Studio Tour

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!

Fetter Lane
Fetter Lane

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 #39 – 6th December 2019

Digital should be a choice…

Bananas - Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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 recently read an article on the BBC News website An experiment in shopping via app reveals consumers are not quite ready for till-free grocery buying about an experiment that the Sainsbury supermarket had been undertaking at one of their stores in London. It didn’t end well…

The branch of Sainsbury had removed all their tills and allowed shoppers to scan their goods with their phones and pay for them through the app. Removing the tills allowed them to have a wider range of goods on display.

The challenge was that a lot of people were going to to the help desk to pay for their goods as they didn’t want to, or couldn’t use the app. The result was long queues.

I suspect some people when they popped into to get some food and stuff didn’t realise that the only way to pay was though an app and assumed despite the posters that they could pay through a traditional checkout (or even one of the self-scan checkouts). When they couldn’t find one they went to the helpdesk. Not everyone wants to install an app either.

I think it also reflects that people like to have a choice. When we go “digital by default” we forget that this doesn’t mean “digital only” it means that the primary choice for people will be digital, but that other choices (analogue) should also be available.

This has implications for universities and colleges who are in the process of moving services to digital, whether that be self-service kiosks, chatbots, or using digital assistants like Alexa.

If 20% of the population don’t use the internet (as reported in this article) how is this reflected in the students who go to university? How many of them don’t use the internet, or have made the choice not to engage with internet services or apps. Some may not even have the devices required for access.

Then we need to be aware that not all of our potential users will want to use the internet, let alone use an app. They may not want to use a kiosk or ask Alexa.

Amazon Echo
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Digital by default means making the first option digital, but there needs to be a second option, one that may require the use of people to deliver the service.

I am also reminded of this blog post by Lawrie Phipps The Darker side of Digital. Lawrie describes some of the darker aspects of digital by default. In the BBC article I link to, it means people were annoyed when doing their shopping. Lawrie points out how moving a service to digital only can be harmful to people’s welfare and their physical or mental health.

He quotes from an UN report on poverty in the UK.

“One wonders why some of the most vulnerable and those with poor digital literacy had to go first in what amounts to a nationwide digital experiment.”

When creating digital services, we need to remember that we are trying to enhance and increase access. This also means that we shouldn’t be constraining or reducing access.

The VLE is still dead… #altc

Arnos Vale

Can you believe it has been ten years since we had The VLE is Dead session at ALT-C.

It was Tuesday 8th September 2009 at 13:40 at Manchester University that The VLE is Dead symposium was kicked off by Josie Frasier.

2009 was also the year that delegates at ALT-C discovered the Twitter! In 2008 there were roughly 300 tweets and about forty people tweeting, in 2009 the amount of tweeting went through the roof!

I personally remember 2009 as the year I won Learning Technologist of the Year. I was well chuffed to receive this prestigious award.

Most people though remember that year as the year I allegedly said the VLE was dead! We had certainly over the months leading up to the conference trailed the debate with blog posts, tweets and even a trailer.

The debate was huge, with hundreds of people in the room, sitting on the floor, standing by the walls and we also live streamed the debate over the internet (which was quite revolutionary at the time). Overall an amazing experience and an interesting debate that still goes on today.

If you watch the video of the debate and discussion you will see that my view was that the VLE was more of a concept a place where a learner starts their journey and other technologies could be plugged into the institutional VLE to enhance and enrich it.

I still hold that viewpoint that the VLE is a construction of different tools and services.

The abstract for the Death of the VLE Symposium was about the future of e-learning.

The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

The session was chaired by Josie Fraser and as well as myself, we had three panellists.

There respective viewpoints were described as follows

The first panel member, Graham Attwell, will argue that many VLEs are not fit for purpose, and masquerade as solutions for the management of online learning. Some are little more than glorified e-mail systems. They will argue that VLEs provide a negative experience for learners.

The second member of the panel, Steve Wheeler, believes that the VLE is dead and that the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is the solution to the needs of diverse learners. PLEs provide opportunities for learners, offering users the ability to develop their own spaces in which to reflect on their learning.

The third panel member, James Clay, however, believes that the VLE is not yet dead as a concept, but can be the starting point of a journey for many learners. Creating an online environment involving multiple tools that provides for an enhanced experience for learners can involve a VLE as a hub or centre.

The fourth panel member, Nick Sharratt, argues for the concept of the institutional VLE as essentially sound. VLEs provide a stable, reliable, self-contained and safe environment in which all teaching and learning activities can be conducted. It provides the best environment for the variety of learners within institutions.

The symposium began with an opportunity for attendees to voice their opinions on the future of the VLE. Each member of the panel then presented their case. The panel, with contributions from the audience, then debated the key issues that arose from the presentations.

So where did the whole concept of the debate come from?

Well it was an idea that had been around for a while

Martin Weller published a blog post in November 2007 “The VLE/LMS Is Dead”

Well there was a paper published a couple of years earlier by Mark Stiles, called “Death of the VLE – a challenge to a new orthodoxy”.

The VLE has become almost ubiquitous in both higher and further education, with the market becoming increasingly ‘mature’. E-learning is a major plank in both national and institutional strategies. But, is the VLE delivering what is needed in a world where flexibility of learning is para- mount, and the lifelong learner is becoming a reality? There are indications that rather than resulting in innovation, the use of VLEs has become fixed in an orthodoxy based on traditional educational approaches. The emergence of new services and tools on the web, developments in interoperability, and changing demands pose significant issues for institutions’ e-learning strategy and policy. Whether the VLE can remain the core of e-learning activity needs to be considered.

A year later, Lawrie Phipps, Dave Cormier and Mark Stiles published a paper in Educational Developments – The Magazine of the Staff and Educational Development Association Ltd (SEDA) entitled “Reflecting on the virtual learning systems – extinction or evolution?”

What is the role of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) in the modern university? How are students using them? And are they as important as we once thought they would be? These are questions that a lot of people are now asking, given the rapid developments that can be characterised as the read/write web or Web 2.0.

So this wasn’t a new idea, it built on the shoulders of those who went before us.

One aspect of the debate was the publication of blog posts before the conference, the use of Twitter and even trailers…

One of my blog posts from August 2009 gave an insight into my viewpoint.

Using an institutional VLE does not preclude using other Web 2.0 services and tools, on the contrary, a VLE and web tools can be used together. For example this blog has an RSS feed which feeds directly into my institutional VLE.

It was certainly hyped up in a way that I hadn’t seen before at ALT conferences, and to be honest not since either.

Today though I see many people using their blogs and the Twitter to promote their sessions at conferences, so maybe we did start something.

I was planning to run a session at this year’s conference, but alas circumstances were against me, so a follow-up session never materialised.

So ten years later is the VLE dead?

It’s still here and still being used and people are still trying to get people to use it.

Will it still be here in another ten years?

Who knows!




Future of Teaching – Weeknote #23 – 9th August 2019

Doctor Johnson's House
Doctor Johnson’s House in Gough Square

Monday was another trip to London, I had been expecting to participate in a workshop, but this was cancelled late last week, and I already had train tickets and another meeting in the diary so decided to head up anyhow. The weather was changeable, raining whilst on the train, but this cleared up by the time I arrived in London.

I saw this link in my news feed and it did make me think more about how we could use AI to support learning, but also reflect on some of the real challenges in making this happen. Also do we want this to happen!

China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns. – MIT Technology Review

I wrote a blog post about some thoughts I had on this.

Is this the future of “teaching”?

In the afternoon in the office we were discussing Education 4.0 and how we are going to move this forward in terms of expert thinking and messages.

Tuesday was a busy day, first a meeting in the Bristol office, before heading up to Cheltenham for a meeting the HESA office.

CrossCountry train at Cheltenham Spa Railway Station
CrossCountry train at Cheltenham Spa Railway Station

I haven’t been on a CrossCountry train for a while now, so travelling to Cheltenham Spa from Bristol Temple Meads I was interested to see how the 3G connectivity issues I’ve always had on that route would be like, especially as I now have 4G with Three. Well same old problems, dipping in and out from 4G to 3G as well as periods of No Service. I would like to blame the train, but the reality is that there is poor phone signal connectivity on that route. As there is no incentive for mobile network providers to improve connectivity.

If I do go to Cheltenham again, I think I will take a book!

We were discussed the Data Matters 2020 Conference, which is now in my portfolio. Still a work in progress and the proposal needs to be signed off by key stakeholders.

Pub in Cheltenham
The Vine Pub in Cheltenham

Whilst I was in Cheltenham I bumped into my old colleague Deborah from Gloucestershire College and we had a chat about stuff. What was nice to hear was the number of my team and colleagues in that team that had started there in learning technology and were now doing new and more exciting jobs at universities across the UK.

Wednesday there was rain. I spent today preparing for a meeting in the afternoon and tidying up my inbox. Though I did find time for a coffee.

Flat White
Flat White from Hart’s Bakery

Thanks to Lawrie for the link, I read this report on the iPASS system, which uses data and analytics to identify students at risk.

The three institutions increased the emphasis on providing timely support, boosted their use of advising technologies, and used administrative and communication strategies to increase student contact with advisers.

This report shows that the enhancements generally produced only a modestly different experience for students in the program group compared with students in the control group, although at one college, the enhancements did substantially increase the number of students who had contact with an adviser. Consequently, it is not surprising that the enhancements have so far had no discernible positive effects on students’ academic performance.

Looks like that it didn’t have the impact that they thought it might.

In a couple of weeks I am recording a podcast and met with the organiser today to discuss content and format. Without giving too much away, we will be covering the importance of people in any digital transformation programme and ensuring that they are part of the process, consultation and are given appropriate training in the wider context of their overall skills and capabilities. You can’t just give people new digital systems and expect them to be able to use them from day one or with specific training. Familiarity with digital in its wider context is often critical, but is equally often forgotten.

Whilst writing a blog post about online learning I wrote the following

Conversations are really hard to follow in e-mail, mainly as people don’t respond in a linear manner, they add their comment to the top of their reply.

When I first started using e-mail in 1997, well actually I first started using e-mail in 1987, but then got flamed by the e-mail administrator at Brunel University, so stopped using it for ten years….

When I re-started using e-mail in 1997, there was an expectation when replying to e-mail that you would respond by writing your reply underneath the original e-mail, bottom posting, which really was something that I got from using usenet newsgroups. This from RFC 1855.

If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting be sure you summarize the original at the top of the message, or include just enough text of the original to give a context. This will make sure readers understand when they start to read your response. Since NetNews, especially, is proliferated by distributing the postings from one host to another, it is possible to see a response to a message before seeing the original. Giving context helps everyone. But do not include the entire original!

By the early 2000s lots more people were using e-mail and most of the time they were replying at the start of the e-mail, top-posting. There were quite a few people in my circles who continued to bottom post their replies, which made sense when reading a threaded conversation, but confused the hell out of people who didn’t understand why someone replied to a conversation, and from what they could see, hadn’t written anything!

Today top-posting appears to be the norm and I can’t recall when I last saw someone responding to an e-mail by replying at the end of the quoted reply.

Here is the blog post I wrote, about how online learning doesn’t just happen.

Online learning doesn’t just happen

Friday was about planning, planning and even some forward planning. One thing that has puzzled me for a long time was the difference between forward planning and planning. Thanks to Google I have a better idea now.

Forward planning is being pro-active, predicting the future and then planning to achieve that prediction.

The opposite is backward planning, which is more reactive, you wait until you get a request or management decision then create a plan to achieve it.

So what is plain and simple planning then?

Wikipedia says that planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal.

So some of what I am doing in my planning is responding to both requested goals and planning for some predicted goals.

We had our weekly meeting about the Technical Career Pathways we are developing at Jisc. I am responsible for the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway.

My top tweet this week was this one.

I’m melting…. – Weeknote #21 – 26th July 2019

Valentine Bridge in Bristol
The view from Mead Reach Bridge looking towards Valentine Bridge in Bristol.

This week, we melted, we had a new Prime Minister, we had a new government and I didn’t go to London.

Monday I was back into the office to do what I initially thought was going to be a demonstration of Jira and Confluence, but in the end turned more into a discussion on how people are using the tools across Jisc.

Had to make a phone call on Monday, something which in work I don’t actually do that often. I make lots of audio conferences and skype calls, but I don’t use the phone as much as I have in other roles. I am part of a telephony project at Jisc and as a result I am now using Teams for making and receiving calls. It was a seamless experience, and it was nice making a call using a sound cancelling headset with microphone, rather than holding a handset or mobile phone to my head! I did feel that it was somewhat odd to use my laptop to dial the number rather than a number pad. A few years back I was looking a telephony and I remember thinking back then that there was a real culture shift needed by organisations moving from traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system to a modern telephony system used through Teams. Even now I think there is still need for a culture shift that isn’t easy for some people to just get and then move on.

This week, eleven years ago I wrote a blog post about the CherryPal mini PC which cost $249.

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

It was funded by advertising…

Today you can buy a better specified Raspberry Pi for under £35 and no advertising.

How things change….

Decided that I would become a Thought Leader and luckily for me, and thank you to Lawrie Phipps for the link, there is a course to do this on LinkedIn Learning…

I’ll let you know how I get on.

I wrote a blog post in response to a tweet I had seen earlier this year about using facial and emotion recognition with gauge the degree of student engagement in a lecture.

This week ten years ago I saw this video from Steve Boneham about something called micro-blogging…

Wonder if it ever caught on….

Crowd
Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay

Talking about data, read this Guardian article, ‘Anonymised’ data can never be totally anonymous, says study.

“Anonymised” data lies at the core of everything from modern medical research to personalised recommendations and modern AI techniques. Unfortunately, according to a paper, successfully anonymising data is practically impossible for any complex dataset.

The article discusses the how data which has been anonymised data can in a number of methods be deanonymised to identify real people.

This has implications for universities and colleges, who are looking at using deanonymized data for intelligence and informed decision making.

If you think of anonymised data tracking students movement across campus, using wifi, this could be easily deanonymized using attendance data, swipe card data, PC logins, library card data.

Something to think about. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Thursday, I was going to go to London for a meeting with colleagues from the DfE. However due to the heat we decided to have the meeting virtually. Though there are advantages in meeting face to face, the fact we now have the technology to make meetings virtual means that we don’t need to cancel or re-schedule meetings. There are also affordances with virtual meetings, I like using the chat to post relevant links rather than interrupt the flow of the meeting. The fact the links are “live” and saved, means people don’t a) need to copy them down or b) wait until the links are e-mailed to them after the meeting.

microphone
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

I spent some time working on abstracts and proposals for various conferences I am attending in September. Working for an organisation like Jisc, I obviously need to talk about stuff we’re doing at Jisc. I kind of miss the keynotes I was doing ten years ago, when I had a lot more freedom on the topics and subjects I was presenting on. Back then I spent a lot of time talking about the future of learning, which the main thrust was that change is going to happen, but the important part of that journey was people, academics and students. The technology facilitates and provides affordances, but in the end it’s people who will want to change the way they do things and people will need to demonstrate leadership if they want change to happen. For the conferences in September I will mainly be talking about Education 4.0.

Friday I was back in the office in Bristol working on my preparation  for my end of year review. This year has been interesting as I changed roles in March so did not complete my previous objectives and inherited a number of new objectives.

I was reminded of the problems heat can cause this week with this photograph from seven years ago in 2012, my Google Nexus One got so hot I had to put it in the fridge….

my Google Nexus One got so hot I had to put it in the fridge....

My top tweet this week was this one.

 

Doing the Inbox Zero – Weeknote #20 – 19th July 2019

Extinction Rebellion in Bristol
Extinction Rebellion in Bristol

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.

Do you do the Inbox Zero?


In the second post I expand on that with more detail and some further thoughts.

Not quite Inbox Zero


I found the Atlassian documentation really easy to follow and provides a good starting point for users of both Jira and Confluence.

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.

Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop
Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop

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.

Ten years later, it works….

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.

He published a blog post about the event.

Thinking in the open about Microsoft Teams

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.

The view from St Phillips Bridge
The view from St Phillips Bridge

Facial recognition was again in the news, this time the The House of Commons Science and Technology committee expressed their concerns on the technology.

MPs call for halt to police’s use of live facial recognition – BBC News

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.

Inexcusable – Weeknote #19 – 12th July 2019

St Nicholas Market stall
St Nicholas Market stall

Monday I was off to Lumen House, location of the Jisc offices in Harwell. This was for me, my first meeting of the Jisc Group Senior Leadership Team. In my new role I am now part of GSLT. We are going to be discussing strategy.

During a break I did read this article from BBC News.

Reminded me of last week’s weeknote, in which I said about the Guardian article on the same subject, Police face calls to end use of facial recognition software.

…independent analysis found matches were only correct in a fifth of cases and the system was likely to break human rights laws.

Relying on new technology for some stuff can be excused, but using unproven technology that could result in negative impacts on people’s lives is inexcusable. Actually relying on technology without a human element is also inexcusable. The number of times we hear the phrase “well the computer says…”.  We need to remember that computers and software are designed by people and people can be wrong, biased and will make mistakes.

Temple Way in Bristol
Temple Way in Bristol

Tuesday I was back in our Bristol office and had a few meetings across the day on various subjects from our student partner programme to the Twitter.

The meeting about the Twitter was interesting as it reminded me of the many blog posts I have written about using Twitter. My overall perspective after using the Twitter for over twelve years now is that I still don’t know how to use the Twitter and saying “the Twitter” really annoys people.

Wednesday with no meetings in the diary, I decided to work from home. The office when busy can be noisy and distracting. Sometimes that is a positive thing, and sometimes distractions allow you to interact and engage with people, sometimes though you just need to crack on and get the writing done.

One of the main things I have been working on this week is mapping the Learning and Research TCP to the SIFA Framework. This will allow us to have consistency across all the TCPs in Jisc. However one area which the SIFA is lacking in is the research side, so further work will need to be done in that space.

Despite having left the project six months ago, I still get the odd e-mail about the Intelligent Campus project, having been linked to the project for so long I am not surprised. It’s an area which still interests me and I do like to keep on top of what is happening in this space not just in the HE sector, but also wider as with Smart City developments.

The University of Bristol tweeted out this week

They have been awarded £100million by Research England to research and develop cutting-edge tech, which will benefit society and change the world, at the new Bristol Digital Futures Institute, which will be in Bristol’s new Temple Quarter development.

Lots of discussion about the recent announcement that Alexa will start offering NHS Health Advice.

People will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices, under a partnership with the NHS, the government has announced.

Certainly the use of voice assistants has been growing in recent years, but also concerns about privacy, and this will only add fuel to that fire.

On Thursday I followed my colleague, Lawrie, on Twitter as he attended an event on Microsoft Teams.

It certainly sounded an interesting event and from what I hear Teams is gaining traction with the sector.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Realising the potential…. – Weeknote #15 – 14th June 2019

Senate House

Another Monday and another day back in London. The weather was awful, it’s June, it’s supposed to be dry and sunny, but all I had on Monday was rain and then more rain.

Tuesday was going to see me flying off early to Edinburgh for a meeting on Wednesday, however a last minute cancellation, meant that I changed my travel plans. I was also supposed to be going to our Harwell office on Friday, but that meeting was cancelled as well.

We had a short meeting about place, I mentioned in a previous weeknote about the Bristol One City project.

Weeknote #09 – 3rd May 2019

Having more time this week, enabled me to crack on with some reading and writing, as well as reflection about future events and meetings I am attending. I was reading and reviewing a range of internal documents.

One document I reviewed again was the government’s EdTech Strategy.

Realising the potential of technology in education: A strategy for education providers and the technology industry

DFE Edtech Strategy

For me some key areas need further discussion and development, how does technology support learning and teaching and the importance of digital leadership (which is not quite the same thing as leadership).

Friday saw us discussing the usage of Teams in higher education as a… Well I was going to say replacement for the VLE, but that implies that the VLE is one thing and Teams is another thing, but they are not the same thing.

I have always thought of the VLE as more of a concept rather than a specific product. A virtual learning environment (VLE) can have a range of functions and services. Certain products and fulfil some of these functions, others may plug into the product or live alongside it. So you could have Moodle as your core within your VLE, but have WordPress connected in to provide a blogging platform and Mahara to be the portfolio tool.

Microsoft Teams has many functions that enable it to be used as a core of the VLE, into which other functions could be connected or plugged in. It has all the functions you expect from a VLE or LMS, such as content, communication (individual and group) and assessment.

Teams Apps

The Apps ecosystem certainly enables a much wider range of functions, though certainly apps and functions appear to be “missing”.

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.

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 of the feature of Amazon Photos which I use to back up my digital image archive is it shows what photographs you took on the same date in previous years.

Twelve years ago in 2007 I was drinking coffee at my desk in the old Gloucestershire College Brunswick building in the heart of Gloucester Anyone else remember BBC Jam?

BBC Jam mug

Fifteen years ago this week I was taking photographs of a building site to demonstrate the differences between a range of digital cameras.

This photograph was taken with a Sony Cybershot camera.

construction site

This one was taken with the digital photo feature of a digital video camera.\construction site

This was taken with a Canon EOS 300D DSLR.

construction site

I also used a proper DSLR lens with optical zoom to show the difference between optical and digital zoom.

construction site

This was taken from the same location as the photos above.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Understanding the value more – Weeknote #12 – 24th May 2019

So the week started with a 9am start at the University of Hertfordshire. This meant travelling up the day before on Sunday. This was the second day of the University of Hertfordshire Value Study following the first day on Friday.

I was asked to facilitate various sessions, on Friday I did a session relating to that old chestnut of mine, the Intelligent Campus. Monday saw me supporting sessions on Learning and Teaching and Next Generation Learning Environments.

Whilst preparing for this session a few weeks back, I was reminded of the reports that have been published in this space by Lawrie Phipps.

The first was the report on the Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

The report was a response to the challenge of the following questions

  • What would an environment do for staff and students?
  • What kind of learning experiences would an environment need to support?
  • What learning and teaching practices aren’t currently supported in environments?

The report makes for interesting reading

The second report which was researched as a result of the earlier work, with the aim to gain a detailed understanding of current teaching practices in universities and colleges.

Listening to teachers: A qualitative exploration of teaching practices in higher and further education, and the implications for digital

Listening to teachers: a qualitative exploration of teaching practices in HE and FE and the implications for digital

I would recommend you read the whole report. One comment from an academic in the room was that they preferred to base their practice on academic papers rather than reports. So it nice to be able to say “and here is the link to the full paper.

Overall the day was extremely useful for both Jisc and I think Hertfordshire as well.

Tuesday was another travelling day, this time to Manchester, though I left it till the early evening to travel up.

Before I left I hosted a knowledge call on Digital Ecosystems, delivered by my colleague Lawrie Phipps.

On Wednesday I was in Manchester, I was staying in a hotel close to MediaCity, so caught the Metrolinktram into the centre of the city. I arrived in St Peter’s Square and decided to take a few photographs, including this one of a council building.

I have recently been using Amazon Photos as an online backup service for my photographs. One of the nice features is that in the app it shows you photos from the same date in previous years So I was amused to find that two years ago to the day, not only had I being in Manchester, but I had also taken some photographs including this one the same council building I had taken on Wednesday.

Mentioning this on the Twitter resulted in some amusing comments from people.

My main reason for coming to Manchester was to discuss with colleagues possible ideas about , what would probably be described as career analytics. Using a wider range of data sources and datasets to help careers staff be informed and better understand how to support students in what they want to do in the future, or even planning what degree to take.

I had a couple of other meetings in Manchester before heading home.

After a fair few days travelling it was nice to not have to do this and work from home, however it was an earlier start than normal as I had a meeting with some European colleagues about a workshop we’re running at TNC in June in Tallinn in Estonia.

This was followed by a meeting about Technical Carerer Pathways and the progress we are making with these within Jisc. In my new role I am leading on the Learning and Research career pathway and the best way to describe what these are is a mechanism for people to progress their careers from a technical and skills perspective rather than through managing people.

Over the week I have been working on our HE Learning and Teaching strategy which emcompasses the student experience.

Friday I was in our Bristol office with a day packed full of calls and meetings. Some of these were about future events and conferences. The office was busy for a Friday, with a flexible working culture, sometimes the office can feel somewhat quieter than other days of the week.

My top tweet that week was this one.

What we’re actually saying is… – Weeknote #10 – 10th May 2019

Corn Street in Bristol
Corn Street in Bristol

With  the bank holiday, a shorter week starting on the Tuesday. It was a pity the weather wasn’t better for the bank holiday weekend, so was slightly annoyed as I arrived for work in bright sunshine.

Tuesday was very much about touching base with people in person. Yes you can do this online or remotely, but there is something about that happenstance that occurs within an office environment.

There was some discussion about the ALT Conference this year, which is taking place in Edinburgh. Alas I won’t be going this year as I will need to be close to home as my youngest starts secondary school, and as most people know, transition is a challenging time for all. I have been going to ALT since 2003 when I presented at the conference in Sheffield. Since then I have been to virtually every conference , except 2004 in Exeter and 2013 in Nottingham. I missed Exeter in the main as I wasn’t presenting and I hadn’t really enjoyed the 2003 experience. I missed 2013 as I had just started a new job at the beginning of September in 2013, so couldn’t get funding. Since joining Jisc in 2015, I did go to Manchester that same year, Warwick in 2016, I enjoyed Liverpool in 2017 and returned to Manchester in 2018. This blog post describes my #altc journey.

I had an interesting discussion over lunch on wellbeing and mental health, and the potential of data and analytics in supporting (staff who support) students in this space.

As I said in a previous weeknote:

Weeknote #05 – 5th April 2019

I think it’s important that when we say something like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can support mental health and well-being for staff, students and researchers.

That what we’re actually saying is something more like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can provide insight, intelligence and inform those staff and services that work in this space and support the mental health and well-being of staff, students and researchers.

Later in the week, HEPI published a policy note on Measuring well-being in higher education. For me one of the key points was this.

The conflation of mental health and well-being is not helpful for tackling either low levels of well-being or supporting those suffering mental ill-health.

 The two issues are related, but they are not the same thing. Interventions can support both issues, but different approaches often need to be taken in order to increase well-being compared to supporting those with mental health issues.

Next week I am off to the University of Hertfordshire to participate in a series of workshops looking at the value of Jisc to our members. I was asked to facilitate sessions relating to that old chestnut of mine, the Intelligent Campus, but will also be supporting sessions on Learning and Teaching and Next Generation Learning Environments. Whilst preparing for this session on Wednesday I was reminded of the reports that have been published in this space by Lawrie Phipps.

The first was the report on the Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

The report was a response to the challenge of the following questions:

  • What would an environment do for staff and students?
  • What kind of learning experiences would an environment need to support?
  • What learning and teaching practices aren’t currently supported in environments?

The report makes for interesting reading

The changing nature of student and staff behaviours was something highlighted by many commentators; technology-led pedagogies, and emphasis on system features was another; and of course many people in the sector were commenting on the rise of analytics and the role that data may play in future systems.

As Technology Enhanced Learning continues to develop, it is clear that some form of digital learning environment will remain core to institutional practices; the levels of integration, features and porosity will continue to change, driven, and potentially driving the behavioural shifts we see in staff and students.

The second report which was researched as a result of the earlier work, with the aim to gain a detailed understanding of current teaching practices in universities and colleges.

Listening to teachers: A qualitative exploration of teaching practices in higher and further education, and the implications for digital

Listening to teachers: a qualitative exploration of teaching practices in HE and FE and the implications for digital. The concluding remarks make for interesting reading and provide food for thought for all those who are supporting and embedding the use of technology for learning and teaching.

Practitioners are struggling with the disconnect between what they need to do in the spaces their institution provides and what is possible. Staff have to work harder to deliver the kind of teaching they want to in spaces that are not always appropriately configured. Some of this difficulty is a result of limits on space as a resource, however, there is also an element of staff not always knowing what is possible in the spaces available.

Interviewees identified a lack of opportunity to reflect on and analyse their teaching practice. While there are forums and staff development opportunities, limited time is officially allocated to formatively evaluating how a course was delivered and received, beyond the metrics used for more formal summative evaluation.

The organisational distance between instructional designers, education technologists and the people teaching in HE and FE is clearly present in (the) data.

Institutionally provided systems are not single-stop places for practitioners, who use open web and commercially provided platforms as teaching and learning places. This is not new6, but it continues to have implications for the ways that institutions support and recognise teaching practices that leverage digital places and platforms.

 I would recommend you read the whole report.

Also too some time looking at various university documents in preparation for a visit to the University of Hertfordshire next week. They certainly have some interesting ambitions for their student experience.

traffic jam in the rain
Image by Holger Schué from Pixabay

I smiled at the Wonkhe article on university car parking rankings.

Our calculations are based on the supply of parking (the number of spaces on campus) divided by the demand for parking (based on the percentages of students and staff driving or carpooling to campus). Such a clear methodology means we can ignore the qualitative opinions of students and staff, which are messy and difficult to put on a league table. 

The environmental considerations appeared to be missed, but then you realise it’s just a parody. I once left a job, because of the car parking (well it was one of the reasons). We were moving campuses from a suburban campus with free parking, to a city centre campus where there was limited on-site parking and all day parking was (as it was right in the heart of the city) expensive. My hours were changing as well, so I would be teaching until 9:30pm, at which point I would be expected to use public transport (two buses) to get home. At this point I started looking for another job. Ironically I got a job at a city centre museum that had no parking either…

Even today my job with Jisc, our head office in Bristol has no staff parking, so I do the train instead, which actually is frequent, reliable (a lot of the time) and about the same price of parking and the cost of petrol. The main difference is that I don’t need to be in the office everyday, so commuting is much less of headache.

Spent some time reviewing my personal objectives for the rest of the year (which is the end of July 2019) as well as reflecting on potential objectives for the following year. In theory we use a platform called Fuse for our objective setting, I though put most of the detail into Confluence, and then using reporting on Jira tasks to pull out and provide the evidence for those objectives. I can also pull out a report of tasks I have done that are not related to objectives. This evidence is useful when pulling together end of year reviews (and mid year reviews too).

My top tweet that week was this one.