Tag Archives: office for students

Not quite a four day week – Weeknote #35 – 8th November 2019

Big Wheel in Cardiff

I was working from home for a lot of the week. I had originally planned to attend Wonkfest, but some administrative technicalities meant I didn’t manage to book a place at the event and I had to glance in remotely.

Following my meeting last week in London at the Office for Students I was interested to see the following press release from them on mental health issues in higher education.

Today the Office for Students has published an Insight brief, Mental health: are all students being properly supported? Our Insight briefs give an overview of current issues and developments in higher education, drawing on the data, knowledge and understanding available to us as the regulator for universities and colleges in England. Mental health is consistently among the top concerns raised by students and the OfS has an important role in identifying systemic gaps in student support or advice. Alongside the Insight brief, we have published an analysis of access and participation data for students with declared mental health conditions.

With the rise in students reporting mental health problems, there is a real challenge in supporting these students. We know that many support service staff are seeing many more mental health emergencies compared to a few years ago. More funding for support services is of course one solution, but there is also the need to consider the well being of students overall and ensuring that those students who are at risk, are supported much earlier. Does the current structure of higher education courses contribute to well being or negatively impact on it?

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I have discussed with colleagues the concept of the four day week, allowing employees to take advantage of the efficiencies that technology can bring to productivity. Interestingly in Japan, Microsoft found that productivity jumped 40% following a four day week experiment.

The other thing that Microsoft Japan do is restrict meeting to 30 minutes only. Do you have long meetings or do you try and keep them short?

Talking of Microsoft,  I participated in a meeting with Microsoft talking about the educational use of Teams following the successful event last week organised by Jisc at Keele University. There are some interesting new features coming to Teams, which were announced at the Microsoft Ignite Conference including private channels and bookings. Though not really a VLE, even Microsfot are keen to point out that it isn’t a VLE, it has quite a bit of the functionality you would look for in a VLE. The ability to plug in other tools and services, can make Teams the heart of a digital ecosystem.

Image by HeikoAL from Pixabay
Image by HeikoAL from Pixabay

Alexa and other voice assistants can be useful (as well as annoying), but did you know you can silently issue ‘voice commands’ using a laser?

Lasers can silently issue ‘voice commands’ to your smart speakers | Engadget 

On Thursday I was going to be going to a meeting at our Bristol office, alas the person I was going to meet was ill and cancelled. I thought about still going to the office, well I had a desk booked, but it was raining, so decided to work from home.

I finished off the agenda for my Senior TEL Group meeting that is happening in December. This group consists of a mix of people including PVCs Teaching and Learning, as well as TEL people, students and a few Jisc staff as well.


I posted a post on the Twitter to the blog.

So is the Twitter taking over your life?

Image by Julia Phillips from Pixabay
Image by Julia Phillips from Pixabay

Friday I was off to Cardiff for a meeting with the Welsh Government on their funding of Jisc. Over the last few months I have had similar meetings with funders in Scotland and England.

My top tweet this week was this one.

This is all my own work – Weeknote #34 – 1st November 2019

Thames House in London

You can tell winter is coming, but I did enjoy having an extra hour on Sunday. I watched this video on Sunday morning about how university students in Europe and the US are paying Kenyans to do their academic work for them.

The global market for academic writing is estimated to be worth $1bn (£770m) annually.

I recalled earlier this month looking at this Australian study on contract cheating or collusion. The findings make for interesting reading.

Findings from the largest dataset gathered to date on contract cheating indicate that there are three influencing factors: speaking a language other than English (LOTE) at home, the perception that there are ‘lots of opportunities to cheat’, and dissatisfaction with the teaching and learning environment (Bretag & Harper et al., 2018).

These influencing factors could be mitigated, could we assess in the learner’s native language? Culd we improve satisfaction with the overall teaching and learning environment? Often easier said than done.

This contract cheating or collusion is a major headache for universities in the UK, but I wonder if the answer isn’t about creating systems or processes that can identify when cheating or collusion is taking place, but ensuring that assessment is designed in a way that means there is no incentive to chat, collude or pay someone else to undertake the assessment.

However as indicated in the Australian study:

It would be a dream to be able to individualise assessment tasks or have an innovative approach where students can be assessed in class doing individual oral presentations. We make do…

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I took some leave early in the week, so it was a shorter week than normal. Even so, it felt like a quieter less busy week that previous weeks, but I think it was about undertaking focused work.

I finished an article on Education 4.0 which I started last week and sent it off for editing (and approval).

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I wrote up our workshop that we did at the Jisc Board Away Day. For some people, the message of Education 4.0 is confusing. There is a disconnect between the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution and the four themes of Education 4.0 in the messaging. We talk about the technologies as though they are Education 4.0, when they are in fact the technologies that will enable Education 4.0, but still clarity needed on what Education 4.0 looks like. The more immersed you are in the Education 4.0 space, the less confusing it looks, but for others looking in form the outside, you might not know what is being said.

I have been focussing my recent presentations on the four core themes of Education 4.0

  • Transforming teaching
  • Personalised adaptive learning
  • Re-Imagining assessment
  • Digital and fluid campuses

Underpinning these are things like leadership and the overall student experience.

Part of my current work is thinking about the foundations that institutions need to start building to prepare them for the future which is Education 4.0.

Image by dewikinanthi from Pixabay
Image by dewikinanthi from PixabayImage by dewikinanthi from Pixabay

The Register always has interesting articles and a tone that I like. I enjoyed reading this article:

Here’s our latest summary of AI news beyond what we’ve already covered. It’s all about two favourite topics in machine learning today: facial recognition and deepfakes.

Many organisations are looking not to use facial recognition. Which isn’t surprising as it still doesn’t really work, unless you are a white male.

Amazon’s facial recognition tool fails on black athletes: Amazon’s controversial Rekognition software mistook the faces of 27 black athletes competing in American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, as suspected criminals in a mugshot database.

Wednesday I was off to London. I had been invited to be part of the Office for Students Safeguarding and Welfare Expert Advisory Panel, and we had our first meeting at their offices in London. Part of the discussion was about agreeing some terms of reference for the panel. Due to purdah, some of the outputs from this group will not happen until after that election.


Thursday I was back into our Bristol office for a meeting, but it was nice to touch base with a range of people from different parts of the organisation. Though I might not get as much work done when working in isolation, I sometimes like to be in the office to have those informal an adhoc conversations which are challenging to re-create virtually. Part of the reason to be in the office was to access our finance system to book myself onto some events.

When I got home from work I carved a pumpkin for Halloween,


Seven years ago this week I wasn’t happy about the use of the word “appropriate”.

Missed Opportunities

I spent part of the week working on the career pathways and assessment criteria, which is always more challenging that I think it should be. What does appropriate evidence look like for a specific outcome?

I also reviewed some earlier Jisc work on portfolios as part of this work. Staff who are part of a technical career pathway need to demonstrate evidence of their outcomes and assessment criteria.

Here are some of the work I looked at.

A portfolio involves skills essential for 21st century learning – organising and planning material, giving and receiving feedback, reflecting, selecting and arranging content to communicate with a particular audience in the most effective way.

My top tweet this week was this one.

All together now – Weeknote #31 – 11th October 2019


A busy week with travels to Bristol, Reading and Birmingham this week.

Monday I was in Bristol for a meeting with the Office for Students, one of the funders of Jisc. Following that I was back in the main office for further meetings.

There was an interesting long read on the Guardian website.

‘The way universities are run is making us ill’: inside the student mental health crisis

A surge in anxiety and stress is sweeping UK campuses. What is troubling students, and is it the universities’ job to fix it?

We know that there is a student mental health crisis and the reasons for this aren’t necessarily clear. We know there has been increase in the demand for mental health services at universities. The article notes that there has been research into the causes of this, but lays the blame for the crisis on the way in which universities are managed and run, leading to students not being in control of what they do and saddled with debt.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Another article I read this week was this one.

Exams could be replaced by artificial intelligence in the future, private school chief predicts 

Rather than being awarded grades for individual GCSEs, 16-year-old students could in the future be given performance reports which contain far more detailed information about their abilities.

“Rather than a grade summarising your ability in science, it might be that it is much more precise,” Mr Buchanan said.

“A report could talk about your knowledge of science but also your capacity to hypothesis, to assimilate and synthesise evidence, and your ability to present orally.

Generally from what I have read, technological change may start in that way, but before long there are new ways of doing things.

The printing press replaced the way in which bibles were published, moving from handwritten copies to printed copies. Though the real benefit of the printing press was not the mass production of bibles, but books, then newspapers. It made information and knowledge more accessible.

I think we will see similar step changes with artificial intelligence, moving away from fixed problems with current assessment methods and thinking differently about what assessment actually is and what it is for.

Problem of course with the article is that it is easy to say what could happen, much more challenging to understand how to make it happen.

University of Reading
University of Reading

Tuesday I was off to the University of Reading. I was accompanying one of our Account Managers and met with their TEL lead and their IT (now called Digital Technologies) team. It was nice to be in a university and talking about what they do and how they use technology. I would like to visit other universities, so let me know if you want to invite me in, to talk and chat about how technology can enhance and improve the student experience, as well as learning, teaching and assessment.

The ICC in Birmingham
The ICC in Birmingham

Wednesday was our all staff conference in Birmingham at the ICC. It was nice to see all (well a lot of) our staff together in one place. Got a chance to chat to a range of different people.

Thursday was a time for catching up with stuff and preparing for some events and meetings next week.

I did attend an online demonstration of PebblePad and it reminded me of how the concept of the e-portfolio is a difficult thing to narrow down and define.

I did have a chance to reflect on one of the questions I was asked earlier in the week on how students can connect their Alexa devices to Eduroam. The simple answer is they can’t.

I had initially forgotten that I had blogged about this earlier this year.

Alexa, what’s on my timetable today?

The current solution is for managed devices, ie the university centrally manages the Alexa devices as in this case study.

Amazon Echos to be installed in dorms

Amazon have WPA2 Enterprise support for shared echo devices. However it does require the devices to be centrally managed.

This is how some universities have put Echo devices on their campuses. There is another (much larger) piece of work on creating the data structures and content to answer the questions students would be asking their devices.

I planned, designed and created a presentation for a conference next week. It got me thinking about how I (currently) design my presentations and started to document the workflow, which I will hoefully post to the blog.

Friday was a day to discuss our technical career pathways. I feel we have made significant progress on this and will be launching by the end of the month.

My top tweet this week was this one.