A lot of news over the weekend on grade inflation. I was at an event last November where this was discussed and there was some despair about the issue, on one hand everyone is expecting the quality of teaching to be better, but at the same time they don’t want students to get better grades.
I spent a fair amount of time writing some proposals this week.
We’ve also been working on where Jisc goes next with Learning and teaching reimagined following the publication of the most recent report.
This report is the result of a five-month higher education initiative to understand the response to COVID-19 and explore the future of digital learning and teaching.
As the directorate I am now in is responsible for moving things forward, the key issue is how we move from a series of challenges and recommendations to a plan for change and transformation. We have a vision, we know where we are, it’s less about where we want to be, much more about how do we get there, what do we need to do to make it happen.
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.
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 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.
I am reminded how i created a culture of innovation at the place I worked. It was never about the technology it was always about the mindset and the culture.#DigiFest20
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.
…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.
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
We have been awarded £100 MILLION by @ResEngland, our partners and philanthropists!
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.
WOW really interesting conversations over coffee at #MicrosoftTeams event with IT Directors facing what they describe as “price hike” from @echo360 and are thinking about switching to Teams – anyone already on this path – would love to chat
“ #MicrosoftTeams is not a VLE/LMS replacement – why would we replace like for like” my reading? “We want to be something different, but we think we are a learning environment.” Just my feeling about what I am hearing and seeing.
The week started off in London with a day looking at and thinking about next generation learning environments. Before I got there, as I sat on the train I thought and reflected about what we even mean when we say next generation learning environment. Are their generational changes in learning environments, as in big changes from one generation to the next? Or do they merely evolve gradually over time? Could we enable these big shifts? Do we even want big shifts?
In London we discussed a range of challenges and issues in relation to next generation learning environments. What is the future of education? Will teaching be transformed? How can create personalised adaptive learning? How do we re-imagine assessment? How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment? What are the foundations that need to be put into place before you can start building the infrastructure, the design, the staff development required to enable those future challenges?
In order to understand what needs to happen, we framed some questions independently, so see what commonality there was and what differences there were. This is an useful exercise when deciding that question needs to be answered.
Some of my questions included:
What does adaptive learning look like from the view of students and staff?
Is personalised learning possible? Is it desirable?
How do you enable a merged digital and physical learning environment?
What are the differences between the student experience of 2020 and that of 2030?
Wednesday morning, after some coffee, I was in the office and had an initial discussion was had about possible themes for Digifest 2020, though this event won’t be happening until March 2020, like most big events the planning started almost after the last one finished (if not just a bit before).
The afternoon was off to the University of Bristol for a meeting about the One City Bristol project, elements of which are very much in the realm of the smart city. In my previous role I did do some initial research into the various smart city initiatives across the UK and we published a smart city use case on the Intelligent Campus blog.
The interdependent challenges of growing an inclusive, sustainable city that both breaks down our social fractures and inequalities and reaches carbon neutrality sit at the heart of the future we must deliver. They are stitched throughout the plan.
In the plan there are six themes, one of which is connectivity.
The lifeblood of Bristol is connectivity. Our connectivity is considered the template for contemporary city living. Whether our people connect in person or in virtual spaces, whether they connect in their physical communities or their global communities, our city infrastructure helps bring them together. Bristol connectivity means multimodal connectivity – we designed our infrastructure around the human condition. Anchored yet free, our people are able to draw on the experience of others in their communities and peer groups, and live independently and spontaneously.
Connectivity is synonymous with productivity and Bristol is the regional epicentre of productivity. The South West Economic Region grew on the back of investment in transport and digital connectivity.
The Bristol-Cardiff high speed, high frequency rail link benefits both cities equally – time and travel no longer impinge productivity as they once did. Talent, ideas, energy and enthusiasm flow between the cities and across the region. High-speed rail links connect Bristol with other cities and when the mass transit system was completed in the 2030s, connections between Bristol, Bath, Bristol airport and North Fringe and East Fringe were complete. Our traffic management has cut congestion times and many of our deliveries are made by driverless freight vehicles.
Throughout the 2020s ultrafast broadband was rolled out without exception to social housing, businesses, in public spaces and through city Wi-Fi services. Tactile and immersive virtual and augmented realities reduce the need to travel and are commonplace at work and at home. They also bring together like-minded communities for shared social activities and entertainment.
Our city has managed bus lanes, cycle lanes, congestion controls and programmes to educate school children about safe travel. More than half the city cycles and active travel is the preferred mode of transport for many commuters. Domestic deliveries often arrive by drone. Nobody has been killed or seriously injured as a result of an avoidable road traffic accident in Bristol for years.
We strategically removed the obstacles and barriers to people connecting. The city moves on renewable energy, our people are free to create their own pathways, connected in person or virtually. Our lifeblood flows locally, regionally and globally.
This certainly is an aspiration that hopefully will come to fruition.
Following a request, based on my experience of working on the Jisc Digital Apprenticeships project, Thursday saw me working on some desk research on the current provision of Digital & Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeships across the UK.
One thing that was apparent was how “popular” this degree apprenticeship is.
Chartered manager and digital and technology solutions are the two most implemented standards across each English region, with at least 43 and 33 institutions, respectively, providing them.
You can find more information about this specific degree apprenticeship on the government’s apprenticeships website.
One of the key requirements of my role is engaging with the Office for Students and the funding they provide Jisc to support higher education. As a result I attend and participate in various meetings that enables us to demonstrate value for money for the OfS, as well as how Jisc is supporting their strategic aims.
I spent some time this week reviewing the Office for Students Strategy 2018 to 2021 and their business plan for 2019-20 in preparation for a meeting on Friday morning.
One thing that I noticed was the target to Launch and oversee a ‘what works’ centre, Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education.
The Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) will use evidence and evaluation to understand and show how higher education contributes to social justice and mobility. TASO will exist as an independent hub for higher education professionals to access leading research, toolkits, evaluation techniques and more, to help widen participation and improve equality across the student lifecycle.
It made me think about how this could be done, how it will probably be done and what the actual impact will be.
I tweeted out about the Jisc Futures R&D quarterly learnings webinar for summer 2019
R&D quarterly learnings webinar – This is the third in a series of update webinars for Jisc members to discuss the progress of our R&D work and share what we are learning during our projects.https://t.co/lG7XoFZ7g5
We had a debrief about the Agile Implementation Workshop I helped run last week. One outcome from this workshop was to run a knowledge call or workshop on using Jira for projects and business processes.
I spent part of Friday, clearing the inbox, reviewing my scrum boards and planning work for next week.