Tag Archives: london

Shorter – Weeknote #131 – 3rd September 2021

Another shorter week as there was a bank holiday on Monday, which of course marked the end of summer.

Term starts for most schools in England (and Wales) this week, though Scottish schools and universities are already back. We are seeing high levels of infection in Scotland where term started earlier, will we see similar levels of infection across the rest of the UK?

With universities ramping up for the start of term, many are now reflecting to the experiences of when the academic year started last year and the challenges of covid infections and self-isolation.

Spent much of the week in London having in-person meetings with people, now there’s something I don’t do very often these days. I drove up to London on Monday evening, had to return home fifteen minutes into the journey as I had forgotten my laptop charging cable. Stopped at Membury Services for a bite to eat. The food court was packed with unmasked queues of people. Felt very pre-COVID. Left with my mask on very quickly. Starbucks drive thru was much quieter inside so grabbed a flat white and left hungry.

Did some thinking about innovation and published a blog post on this.

For me true innovation in educational technology is change which has significant impact across the whole organisation. However this isn’t always exciting and shiny! Too often we focus on the new and the shiny and less on those innovations, that are holistic, organisation-wide and would have a greater impact on the learner experience.

I left London on Thursday after having some (in-person) meetings in the London office. Stopped off at Starbucks at Membury Services. Place was empty. However I still wore a mask as I ordered my flat white and only took it off when I was sat drinking it.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Equity of experience – Weeknote #130 – 27th August 2021

A shorter week as I was on leave for a couple of days this week.

Spent the weekend in London, visiting relatives and seeing places. Really impressed with the eduroam availability at Kew Gardens. I wasn’t actually expecting there to be eduroam, I wasn’t even expecting there to be wifi. However using the phone to take photographs, I realised that I was connected to wifi and eduroam. It struck me how seamless and transparent the experience was for me, compared the recent experiences of connecting to hotel and train wifi.

I also bumped into Rod Stewart as one does…

As might be expected in the middle of August, lots of people on leave, taking breaks, as a result very few meetings and e-mails.

We did have a thought leadership meeting on Wednesday and we discussed dual-mode or hybrid teaching. I asked the internal group at Jisc what their definition of hybrid teaching was and as expected there was little consensus and a range of definitions.

Firstly, what is it? Well Durham has a nice definition.

At its best, dual-mode teaching combines the face-to-face and online experience into one cohesive whole. It keeps the class together, providing a shared learning experience that works for students who are on campus and those joining remotely at the same time. It allows you to include and draw on the full diversity of your students and their experiences to date.

They add though…

The challenge is to provide an equitable experience, to engage with the people in the room and those joining remotely, using spaces and technologies that were not designed for this.

That final thought is really what we need to think about, the equity of experience. This is challenging to do at the best of times when doing separately, doing is synchronously in-person and online is really, really challenging. A simple solution is that that the lecturer or presenter is online and the students can either be together in-person, or online. Together could be small groups or one large group. You certainly then get the equity of experience.

Thursday I was in the Bristol office, we had a wash-up meeting about the last year. It reminded me how different in-person meetings can be compared to the Zoom calls we’ve had over the last 18 months. I do miss the online chat that you have in online meetings when meeting in-person, but having had so many Zoom and Teams calls, to do an in-person meeting was a real refreshing change.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Once more to London – Weeknote #128 – 13th August 2021

Well after a week off work, it was back to work. As with a couple of weeks ago I spent the best part of the week working in our London office. It was also a shorter week as I was on leave on the Friday. London was not very busy, but I was expecting that following my previous time in London. The office was even less busy, I was the only person in the office. It was obvious that many staff were still working from home. I don’t mind working from home. There were a few articles about the shift back to office working. Whitehall was looking to remove the London weighting for staff according to this article in the Guardian.

Whitehall officials have held high-level talks about taking away a salary boost awarded to London-based civil servants amid efforts to encourage workers back to the office.

Whilst on the BBC website an article asked: Should I be working from home or going back to the office?

People in England are no longer being asked to work from home. Instead the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is recommending a “gradual return to work”. However, in the rest of the UK, people are still being advised to keep working at home where possible.

I had quite a bit of flexibility on where I worked before the pandemic, so there is less pressure to return to the office. I have been working in the office though, I like the change in scenery and routine. After eighteen months being forced to work from home, I like the option of choice. Also during the summer holidays it makes more sense for me, when working, to be away from home.

First job was to clear that inbox full of e-mail, which to be honest didn’t take too long.

We had a team wide call on Monday, which was interesting. There will be changes in the team from September (a new manager) and we have a new CEO from mid-September.

We had an interesting meeting about the evaluation of Connect More, which people seemed to enjoy and got a lot out of.

Wednesday I had an interesting review and discussion about assessment, and what Jisc can do to support the sector to transform assessment. Despite the opportunities of digital in regard to assessment, many of the issues relating to the digital transformation of assessment, are much more about the transformation of assessment, with digital just being a catalyst. What is the purpose of assessment for example.

On Thursday I had a catchup with our (newish) HR contact. In my role I have no line management responsibilities (though plenty of matrix management responsibilities). We had a great discussion and chat about how we can make that matrix management more effective and efficient going forwards. So, we can move people from one area of Jisc to another to work on projects more easily. Something that a company like Apple do quite often.

I had a useful and interesting meeting with a university talking about our Powering HE document and the possible opportunities and challenges that universities will face over the next few years.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Silver rain was falling down upon the dirty ground of London town – Weeknote #126 – 30th July 2021

In a complete contrast to last week where I spent the week working from home and didn’t go into the office, this week I spent the first part of the week in our London office.

I had a (real) in-person meeting on Monday, so decided that I would take advantage of the fact and spend some time away from home working in London. This was the first time I had been to London for work since 13th March 2020.

I did think about travel and in the end booked a hotel in the west of London (Brentford) and drove down to London on Sunday evening, to find the news dominated by floods across London.

Where I was staying it was just light rain, so lucky me.

So Monday after a terrible hotel breakfast I caught the train into London. As might be expected with Covid-19 restrictions that breakfast at hotels might not be the same as they were pre-pandemic. However I was very disappointed with the small croissant, cappuccino in a paper cup, orange juice in a bottle and no butter! Just thankful that the hotel room had a Nespresso machine so I could at least have some more decent coffee.

As for the train journey I was surprised by how quite the train was, compared to Bristol where trains appear to be just as busy as they were pre-pandemic, the train to Waterloo was deserted.

I have travelled on South Western Railways before and pre-pandemic they were always busy and during rush hour full and standing. This time though the train was pretty much deserted. The tube was quieter as well.

In the part of London where our office was, it felt quiet and empty, again compared to Bristol which is much busier and more crowded. The streets were deserted and there was very little traffic. I was not surprised to see many of my coffee haunts and places I would go for lunch were either shut or had closed down. However there were still some places operating, but a lot less busy than eighteen months ago.

It was very quite in the office with just one other person working in there when I arrived.

Jon B, my line manager arrived later that day and we did our end of year review meeting. We then followed this with a meal and a beer in a local pub – now I haven’t done that for a while either.

Tuesday I caught an earlier train into London from my hotel and it was quiet, by the time we arrived at Waterloo there was about four people in my coach. Surprisingly quiet for rush hour. The tube was busier. There were more people about as well, which made me think that with some people working from home part of the week Mondays would be quiet.

I had no meetings today, but the office was much busier, with (virtually) all our ELT members in attendance. I sat at a desk in the office and cracked on with work. I did meet and say hello to our incoming new CEO, Heidi Fraser-Krauss who was attending the ELT meeting.

Some aspects of the office felt quite busy as a result.

The BBC published this article: Can better tech make video meetings less excruciating?

On most video conference calls, only one person gets to speak at a time. It’s a deliberate, designed feature of platforms such as Zoom. But as Susan D Blum’s linguistic anthropology class found out, it makes having a natural conversation practically impossible.

Though the technology can be a limiting factor with this, part of the problem is we are trying to replicate what we do in-person and do it online using a tool such as Zoom. The reality is that the nuances of what made the in-person experience so effective are lost when we translate to digital and we also don take advantage of the affordances that digital can bring.

So technological solutions are only part of the solution, the other key aspect is transformation.

Wednesday I went back to the office, had a quick chat with Jon, who then left to catch a train. In the end there was only two of us in the office, one of whom had online meetings all day so stayed in a meeting room. So I had the entire office to myself. Wasn’t quite what I planned on doing. In the afternoon when there was a break in the heavy rain which was coming down I headed home.

Thursday I had a 9am call updating about a project. Spent some time organising some work about curriculum design.

Friday was about making sure I had nothing outstanding for the week head.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

Dunes
Over the weekend we went to Brean Sands, won’t be going back for a while….

The office was still closed and Jisc had asked all staff to not to travel for work. It certainly felt like all the days were merging into a muddle of days. Even though I work from home a lot compared to others, I still had quite a bit of structure to my week, being out and about at least once a week if not more.

Last week I was supposed to be in London three times for example…. The week before I was in London for one day and Birmingham for two. This week, all at home….

This was also the day that all the schools were closed and as might be expected, school online learning services such as Doddle and Hegarty are not really coping with the demand for their services. Creating extra stress during these stressful times. We also need alternatives.

There was considerable strain on these services, which meant that I suspect a lot of children gave up and may not even try again.

I had a meeting discussing the Education 4.0 roadmap that I have been working on, this meeting was booked weeks ago, I was going to to Manchester to do this face to face, but of course now it was done online via Teams. Continue reading Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

Digifesting – Weeknote #54 – 13th March 2020

Monday I was making some final preparations for the Jisc Digifest conference this week, where I am charing a panel on Smart Cities.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was off to Birmingham for Jisc’s annual Digifest event.

There were some worries about if it would go ahead because of the coronavirus, but in the end it did go ahead

We had a good session “How can smart city technologies impact education of the future?”

This panel will explore how smart education can be a key ingredient to smart city development, uncovering what roles universities and community colleges, e-learning infrastructure and innovation in education technologies could play in defining a smart city.

It will look at what the university and college role may look like to improve cities for the people who live, work and visit there and as the need for lifelong learning increases, how can smart learning environments be equipped to meet people’s demands?

Alas one of the panellists had dropped out, but even so we had a good discussion and lots of questions from the floor.

Thursday I was in London for a meeting with London Higher about a mental health and wellbeing project. This was going to be the last face to face meeting I think I will be having in a while and even at the meeting a key individual was taken outside to attend a coronavirus meeting.

I wasn’t sure if London was quieter than normal, as my earlier meeting had been cancelled so I had arrived later in the day.

I published a post over on my productivity and technology blog about some thoughts on working from home.

I do a fair amount of remote working and location-independent working and am quite happy about doing this, I have working from home on a regular basis for about the last twenty years. Even so with the possibilities of forced home working to reduce the risk of transmission, this is going to be a different experience to what I am use to. For those who don’t do this often  or rarely, they may find it challenging.

It was some thoughts I had been thinking about in response to lots of tweets and e-mails about working from home.

Friday I was at home, and working from home, and the coronavirus situation was worsening. We started to see a lot more universities start to close for teaching.

We also made the decision to cancel Data Matters.

After careful consideration and because of the ongoing and unpredictable developments around coronavirus (COVID-19), this year’s Data Matters will not go ahead.  It was a difficult decision to cancel but the health and wellbeing of our members, staff, exhibitors and suppliers is our top priority. We also want to ensure we play our part in containing and delaying the spread of the virus. For delegates who have already paid for their ticket, we will fully refund all conference fees.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Making preparations – Weeknote #53 – 6th March 2020

Most students get a big pay-off from going to university – but some would be better off financially if they hadn’t done a degree according to this article.

While about 80% of students are likely to gain financially from attending university, we estimate that one in five students – or about 70,000 every year – would actually have been better off financially had they not gone to university.

Wednesday I was in London for a drop in session on our Technical Career Pathways. The session demonstrated the challenges we face as an organisation due to the wide range of positions and jobs people hold in Jisc. I also had a meeting about international issues and the challenges our universities face in TNE.

I had a discussion call about the panel session I am chairing at Digifest next week. The session is entitled “How can smart city technologies impact education of the future?”

This panel will explore how smart education can be a key ingredient to smart city development, uncovering what roles universities and community colleges, e-learning infrastructure and innovation in education technologies could play in defining a smart city.

It will look at what the university and college role may look like to improve cities for the people who live, work and visit there and as the need for lifelong learning increases, how can smart learning environments be equipped to meet people’s demands?

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I did some thinking about preparations that universities may be considering if the coronavirus situation worsens.

Technical solutions are only one aspect that universities and colleges need to consider when moving to virtual platforms and solutions.

Many people will know running an online meeting is very different to running a face to face meeting. There are tactics and nuances that need to be considered when

It’s a similar story with differences in how one delivers a lecture and how one delivers an online presentation.

There are affordances and advantages (as well as challenges) in moving from a physical model to a virtual model.

Once more on Friday I was off to the big smoke, as I had a couple of meetings in London.

I found this article on the BBC News interesting.

University applications ‘dictated by train fares’

This is peak season for university open days, when tens of thousands of teenagers and their families are criss-crossing the country viewing places where they might study.

A return trip by train from north to south can cost £200 or even £300. And even with railcard discounts, when there might be four or five universities to visit, the open-day season can soon become an unaffordable closed door.

For those driving, there are still fuel costs. And longer journeys by coach can mean having to pay for an overnight stay.

But these costs seem to have slipped below the radar – even though they might be directly limiting the choices of disadvantaged students.

I wrote a blog post on building communities.

Building a community

My top tweet this week was this one.

Data issues – Weeknote #48 – 31st January 2020

Paddngton Station in London

Monday I was off to London once more. On Tuesday I am presenting a keynote at an Inside Government event. The event takes place in the City of London, which can be challenging to get to for a 9:30am start, so I went up on Monday to stay overnight. I popped into our London office for a quick meeting before heading off to my hotel. I was intending to walk from the office to the hotel, but it was pouring with rain so I caught the tube.

Tuesday was the Inside Government event and my presentation was called Education 4.0 – Key Trends in the Current Digital Landscape

My presentation covered stuff I have talked about before.

  • Reflecting on what we understand by Education 4.0 and the potential impact on universities?
  • Discussing how universities should harness the power of their data and use analytics to tackle some of the big strategic challenges within the organisation
  • Asking the key questions: How will teaching be transformed? What does personalised adaptive learning look like? Could we re-imagine assessment? How do we build an intelligent campus?
  • Designing a strategy that will enable organisations to start laying the foundations for the future that is Education 4.0

Compared to other Inside Government events I have attended, I thought attendance was quite low. However I got some positive feedback and some interesting questions.

I think we are also starting to see more resistance and wariness of the use of data and analytics for learning and teaching. The ethical and secure use of data is critical, but even so, there are still concerns that need to be addressed, and might never be addressed.

The BBC reported on a recent fine imposed on UEA for a data breach.

University students whose personal details were emailed to hundreds of their classmates have been paid more than £140,000 in compensation.

A spreadsheet containing student health problems, bereavements and personal issues was sent to 298 people at the University of East Anglia in June 2017.

Insurers have since paid out £142,512 to affected students from UEA, which said it had reviewed data practices.

Talking to colleagues, there use to be rectification notices for these kinds of breaches, now we are seeing the ICO making decisions like this one.

These kinds of news stories demonstrate challenges with data and the use of data by universities and colleges, as well as possible data literacy issues amongst staff.

Central Hall, Westminster, London

Thursday I was back to London for a meeting with the Department for Education. Jisc meets regularly with our funders across the United Kingdom.

The Parsnip in Weston-super-Mare

Friday I didn’t have far to travel, as I went to Weston College, for a Microsoft Teams event. This event, part of a roadshow run by Microsoft demonstrated some of the key functions of the tool and how some academics were using it. I did feel that I had heard many of these conversations before, with other tools such as Virtual Campus, Moodle, Slack, even the Twitter. I think what was missing is the strategic approach to the embedding use of these tools across the whole of the organisation. How do you get everyone to use the tools you provide effectively.

My top tweet this week was this one.

You’ve got mail – Weeknote #46 – 17th January 2020

Harris and Hoole
Harris and Hoole in London

Monday I was off to London for a discussion about the Education 4.0 Roadmap I have been working on. I am having meetings with colleagues from various universities about their thoughts and feedback on the roadmap. Initial feedback has been positive and that the initial concept is on the right lines and could be useful for the sector.

After that meeting I headed off to our London office for some ad hoc meetings and working on the programme for Data Matters 2020.

On the train home I read this article from Wired Magazine, How Slack ruined work.

It was heralded as the product that would kill internal email chains. Instead, it’s changed how we behave while in the office

This does article does echo some of the feelings I have about IM style platforms (not just Slack, but also Teams and other platforms), that they can be a distraction if used badly. Slack doesn’t solve the problem of “doing e-mail” versus “work” as it is merely a platform and can replace e-mail, but doesn’t solve the problem of distraction of e-mail.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

There were a couple of articles on grade inflation that caught my eye this week:

Grade inflation: new survey looks at degree algorithms

Universities UK (UUK) is asking higher education providers to take part in an online survey about their use of degree algorithms in an attempt to reduce the number of top-class degrees.The new survey will shed light on how degree classifications are decided. It is the latest stage in a sector-wide initiative led by UUK to tackle grade inflation and the perception that degrees are ‘dumbing down’.

and

‘Grade inflation’ in top degree grades stopping

The sharp increase in university students in the UK getting top degree grades seems to have stalled, according to annual official figures. It follows warnings from ministers of the need to prevent “grade inflation” devaluing degrees.

During the same period they asked universities to improve the quality of their teaching and learning which may have resulted in “higher” grades across the board. Many of the “unexplained” increased in grades were when some universities decided to align themselves with how other universities were grading their degrees.

It can be challenging to balance the need to improve the quality of education, and not to be seen to be dumbing down in the same breath.

Next week is Bett in London. My first Bett Conference was in 2000 and then I didn’t go again until 2007

Ten years ago I blogged that I wasn’t going to Bett in 2010.

I’m not going to BETT

I have been to BETT twice in my life and that was two times too many!

I had good reasons for not going.

The reason why I won’t be going is that the focus of BETT is too much on the technology rather than what people do with it. It is much more an event based on educational technology suppliers than educators using technology. It is this reason that I won’t be going.

Since then, though the focus is still on educational technology, there was more about how people were using technology.

I was kind of forced to go in 2013, partly against my will, but did see some interesting stuff. With a change in role I did go again in 2014 and saw a lovely VW Bus.

VW Bus at Bett 2014
VW Bus at Bett 2014

I know I went again in 2015, but then missed 2016, but did go in 2017, mainly for a team meeting, but due to train issues saw very little of the show itself!

I actually presented at BETT in 2018 on the Intelligent Campus, which was fun, but a little bit of a logistical nightmare, as I was in Leicester at the time running the Digital Leaders Programme, so I had to leave Leicester at lunchtime, catch a train to London, make my way across to the Excel Centre, before heading home, by way of Leicester again to collect my car.

BETT 2018

Thursday I was travelling to Cheltenham for a meeting with a colleague. We recently merged with part of HESA and so we now have an office in Cheltenham where the former HESA, now Jisc, staff work. I worked in this area for seven years when I worked for Gloucestershire College, which had a campus in Cheltenham. Well though I was regularly in Cheltenham, two to three times a week, the campus was in the suburbs of Cheltenham (close to GCHQ) so I rarely if ever went into the heart of Cheltenham. So though familiar, it wasn’t that familiar.

BBC Television Centre

Friday was another trip to London for a meeting between key staff from the University of Sussex and Jisc. We discussed a range of subjects and topics including the intelligent campus and intelligent libraries.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Hello Portwall Lane – Weeknote #41 – 13th December 2019

Jisc's Portwall Lane Office, Bristol
Jisc’s Portwall Lane Office, Bristol

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.

Latest trends in intelligent campus design

Latest trends in intelligent campus design Event
Latest trends in intelligent campus design event

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.

James Clay speaking at the Latest trends in intelligent campus design Event
James Clay speaking at the Latest trends in intelligent campus design event

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.

My top tweet this week was this one.