This week we saw our third prime minister this year take office and a new cabinet and another new education secretary. So how long to the next one then?
Well I go on leave last week and come back to a full and bursting inbox (which was empty when I left) with over 140 emails to read, review, and act upon.
I had some more thoughts about what universities could do in the event of blackouts or on the impact of the energy crisis on changing student behaviour.
I spent most of the week in London.
I had some discussions on future content (what we use to call thought leadership) that would inspire digital transformation, provide insights into current practice and imagine what the future possibilities are. As a result, I spent some time scoping out some concepts and ideas on what this could look like, across our HE strategy.
Our HE strategy says for example
We will, in partnership with universities, develop approaches and digital solutions to improve and enhance the student experience and greater equity in access and participation in the UK and abroad.
If we think about insight, this is what is happening now, case studies, exemplars, commentary from sector, review, what good looks like now. So, for an insight into enhancing the student experience, university could explain how they are reviewing the student journey, so to enable them to use digital tools and services to enhance the student experience.
As for inspiration, this is what you could do in the near term, what you need to do to achieve the potential of digital and technology, what good could look like in the next 2-5 years. So, an overview of the near future student journey illustrated with specific examples from the sector of how digital solutions are enhancing and improving that experience.
As for the future, we can imagine through horizon scanning, visions for the future, what good would look like in the next 5-10 years, what could be different, why would it be different. An example of this could be the 2035 student experience? How can digital and data enhance that experience and what does this mean for universities?
What was important to me, was to provide some scope and ideas on what we could do, not necessarily what we will do. Across the strategic themes and the concepts of insight, inspire and imagine, there are lots of opportunities for developing inspirational transformative content. Of course this had to be all backed up with toolkits, frameworks, support, advice and guidance, and a range of products and services that enable all of this.
On Tuesday I had a planning meeting, which demonstrated the importance of underpinning foundations and a clear vision to enable functional and effective planning.
One of my reasons for being in London, apart from some meeting was to undertake some research and ideation in the Intelligent Campus space. This involved some conversations, desk research, and field work across various campuses (in this case) across London.
I had some more conversations about learning spaces, for further scoping and research.
I continued with the Senior Education and Student Experience Group logistics and preparation for our meeting in December and further meetings next year.
I also continued with my preparation and planning for events in Scotland and Germany in November.
I did a quick skim of the OfS Blended Learning Review, might spend some time on this next week.
I spent Monday having internal meetings discussing various things. One meeting was how our Directorate could communicate more effectively what we do, with the rest of the business on our intranet. I do think that often people assume that others in an organisation know and understand what other parts of the organisation do. Of course, when you are immersed and close to what you and your team do, it can be easy to assume that others are also just as clear about your role and the work of your team. Most times they’re not. I am thinking about how I can communication the work I do, to the rest of the organisation. In some ways these week notes do that in one way.
Another meeting was about setting some priorities in the public affairs space. With all the changes that are taking place in Government, it can be dynamic and changing landscape. A new prime minister, a new secretary of state and new ministers; does mean making new connections and new relationships. It is also very likely that there will be no policies as well.
I spent time on Tuesday preparing for a presentation that I was delivering in Dublin. It did involve reviewing existing presentations and documentation; as well as designing and producing a presentation.
I flew out to Dublin on Wednesday.
I have been to Dublin four times before. I was there in August 1998 when I was on a day trip, we were camping in Pembrokeshire and caught the ferry to Rosslare and then the train to Dublin. I do remember going on an open top bus, and then visiting the Guinness museum.
I went to MoodleMoot 2012, which was in Dublin, however I never go further than the conference hotel which was next to the airport.
My last visit to Dublin was in 2016, where I was keynoting at LiLAC 2016. I saw many different parts of Dublin on that visit. Mainly as I was out at University College Dublin and staying at the St. Helen’s Hotel which was quite far south of Dublin. We did have a nice conference dinner at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. However I did not make it into the city centre on that visit.
So arriving in Dublin and catching a bus to the hotel, I did have time before the dinner in the evening to explore the heart of Dublin.
In the evening I was at a dinner with the HEAnet Advisory Group.
On Thursday I was attending and presenting at the HEAnet Advisory Group.
After a presentation on the strategic direction of HEAnet and EduCampus, we had a presentation from Dr Orla Flynn, President of Atlantic Technological University (ATU), called Digital transformation from the perspective of institutional leader. ATU is a multi-campus technological university in the west and northwest of Ireland that delivers a rich combination of academic and research excellence. It covers a wide area, over 37% of the geographical area of Ireland. It was a really interesting talk and the issues of digital transformation echoed many of the experiences I have heard about in the UK.
I delivered my presentation, Digital transformation: Analytics to support student experience and success; a perspective on good practice in UK HEIs, to the group was well received and opened possibilities for further collaboration, provision of services, consultancy, as well as invites to institutions to share UK experiences and practices.
My presentation focused on what Jisc is doing in the learning analytics space, and then the core requirements that UK HEIs need to address in delivering in this space. I also covered some of the core challenges and issues that UK HEIs face, such as privacy and ethics.
After an interesting workshop on digital transformation, and a lunch,
I had some time before my flight back to Bristol. What I didn’t realise, until I was pass security, was that my flight was delayed, so I had to wait in Dublin Airport for over five hours. This was exhausting.
With the energy crisis, what is the potential impact of shorter weeks on education, also enery blackouts. How do you deliver digital and online learning when the students lack connectivity or power. Something I think I will write about in the next few weeks.
I had an interesting meeting on the original background to the history of HE thought leadership at Jisc over the last two years and where we are, and the current situation. It was agreed that past work using the term thought leadership wasn’t what thought leadership is, using the accepted term for Thought Leadership, but was much more about inspiring transformative content. This is the start of a conversation about where Jisc goes next in this space.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Well baggage drop at Bristol was very quick. Security, not so much, took over an hour to get through security.
Well the week ended with a red weather warning, our offices were closed, I worked from home and my afternoon online meeting was cancelled because of the weather.
I spent most of the week in London. The last time I was in London was at the end of November.
This was also my first opportunity to take advantage of 5G (new phone and all that). What they don’t tell you with 5G is how slow the upload speeds can be. Fine for streaming. Rubbish for online video conferencing.
I had planned to attend WonkHE’s Making Sense of HE event on Monday, but the end result was I wasn’t booked onto the event, so I headed into the office in London. Our office was relatively quiet and so I did managed to get lots done, but missed the social aspect of the office.
On Tuesday I did attend WonkHE’s The Secret Life of Students. This was a real in-person event in central London. I have not done one of those for a while. I think my last in-person (external) event was Digifest back in 2020.
The opening session was on diversity the key takeaways from the event for me were that diversity needs to be done differently than what we have been doing before. We need to think more about the individual rather than just fixing issues for identified “groups”. It was apparent that there was a need in the sector to think about transforming their approach to diversity. I was reminded of how there have been changed approaches to accessibility and digital in the higher education sector. There is now much more consensus about a whole organisational approach to challenges, and thinking about a more personalised approach to accessibility for example.
There was lots of commentary about unusefulness and lack of evidence for generational stereotypes, therefore we should avoid using terms such as Generation Z or Millenials.
The Pearson report on belonging was interesting and could be relevant to universities as they attempt to rebuild their communities following the pandemic restrictions.
The afternoon sessions focussed on the main on student outcomes. Lots of references to Student Futures report. There were a fair few sessions on digital as well. There are opportunities and concerns about digital.
As you might expect from an event where the audience was very much seated in student support (and SU) the focus of discussion was very much on how universities could and should support wellbeing and mental health. A fair amount of concern expressed about using data and digital to do this, the human factor was seen as critical.
Again feedback about having a shared understanding of key terms such as personalisation, hybrid, etc… This wasn’t so much about having a national discussion on the definitions, but ensuring locally everyone understands what the university is trying to do in terms of hybrid, personalisation, blended learning, etc… The fact that they started referencing multi-modal teaching as an alternative to hybrid, shows again the sector likes to spend time discussing definitions rather than solutions.
Institutional technical debt came up in presentations (from people like Mary Curnock Cook) however the audience were not engaged with it so much (probably as they are not directly involved in this. Though we saw it is an issue with many (see Twitter thread) outside the event. There are data and technology legacies out there that are stifling progress, but universities struggle to know how to get out of technical debt.
I found the session on supporting students and enabling them to cope with university interesting. Assumptions are made about their “readiness” obviously links here with digital capabilities and skills.
Overall, I really enjoyed the event, it was nice to experience the eventedness of an in-person event. Something I have found missing from online events. I think part of the reason is that most online events I have attended during the pandemic have been poor translations of physical in-person events Losing all the nuances of what makes those events so engaging and not taking advantage of the affordances that digital platforms can provide. Though the coffee was awful.
Wednesday I was in the London office again, there were a lot more people in on that day, which made it much more social. It was really nice to catch up with colleagues, who I wouldn’t generally interact with much as part of my role. I spoke to one of our service directorates in the afternoon about the HE strategy and what it means for them.
Thursday I had a meeting with the Office for Students as part of their funding of Jisc. I updated them on some of the work we have been undertaking in the teaching and learning space.
Glad to return home on Thursday as there was travel chaos on Friday because of storm Eunice.
I spent part of the week working on how we can improve and enhance our thought leadership offer. I actually don’t like the term thought leadership, so rarely use it externally (there is an exception here for example), however it is a term I use internally (as it is in our core strategy). It should be noted that many in the HE sector actually don’t like the term thought leadership. However if you ask people from the sector about the actual content that is produced that we would think of as thought leadership, then there is a different story as they find this useful, inspiring and helps them think. Similarly, members will often ask for specific people within Jisc who are experts in their field for help and support. Or they will find presentations and articles from individuals inspiring. This is something we need to work on further.
I also did a fair bit reflecting on the Student Futures Manifesto. One of their recommendations is for a new national technology infrastructure strategy.
We recommend that Jisc build upon their leadership work first to review the existing technology estate in HE, and then, as a matter of urgency, produce further guidance to help universities more rapidly modernise their systems architecture and applications. While many universities already have ‘digital transformation’ plans underway, further guidance to universities about the basic architectural building blocks and data systems to support a digital university, and how to plan and execute a transformation, would be welcomed.
The recommendation continues
The centrality of technology now means there is a case for this sector leading approach, because this remains a core strategic capability which leadership teams struggle with.
Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Jisc CEO, said: “I wholeheartedly support today’s report by the UPP Foundation, which goes a long way to address the pandemic-related concerns and needs of students. I also welcome the Student Manifesto to help students rebuild their confidence, regain control of their studies and plan for a successful future after graduation. “The report is right to recommend action on tackling digital and data inequities. Jisc’s digital experience insights surveys of university students and academic staff showed the detrimental effect on teaching and learning experiences from not having access to reliable connectivity, technology and digital skills. “I will be keen to action any Jisc-related recommendations to help support universities in modernising digital infrastructure as well as digitally transform learning, teaching and assessment to improve the experiences staff and students seek. As we move towards established models of hybrid learning, we have an opportunity to transform education through technology. Never have digital, data and technology been so important in meeting the multiple challenges and opportunities that UK universities face.”
First thing Monday morning I was on the radio, Radio Bristol, discussing the food and restaurant scene in Weston-super-Mare with the imminent opening of the new bowling alley in Dolphin Square, despite the closure of nearly all the restaurants in the same complex.
Again spent a fair amount of time this week discussing, thinking about and reflecting on digital transformation.
Last week, despite the rising covid infection rates I’ve not had much or seen much discussion about the impact this will have on higher education and students. Then Nadhim Zahawi says there are ‘no excuses’ for online learning at universities.
Well that’s helpful and constructive.
More than a hundred universities including twenty-three out of the twenty-four universities in the Russell group are reportedly online teaching this term. It was reported in the media that Durham University would teach all classes online in the first week of term, Queen’s University Belfast will hold most classes online this month and King’s College London has also moved some classes to online. Across the media and the sector this move has been termed blended learning, online learning and remote learning.
One of things I have noticed is how often much of what was done during the numerous lockdowns was described as online learning, sometimes it was called blended learning, or remote learning.
Can we just agree that what we are seeing is not online learning? I wrote a blog post back in November about this issue.
The reality is though that despite the hard work, there wasn’t the training, the staff development, the research, the preparation undertaken that would have been needed to deliver an outstanding online learning experience. Combined with that, the fact that the academic staff were also in lockdown as well, the actual experiences of students and staff are in fact quite amazing. However it wasn’t online learning.
I caught some of the You and Yours radio programme about student life during the pandemic and as you might expect most callers were phoning in, to complain. Without focussing on the individual complaints, I sometimes think that there was an assumption that universities were ring-fenced from the pandemic. Yes students had, in many ways could be called a terrible experience, however the entire country was suffering during the pandemic, and university staff were in there too. They also had to deal with the lockdown, the restrictions, illness and everything else. It was a difficult time for everyone and we need to remember that.
Have been planning our Thought Leadership on learning and teaching this week. I actually really don’t like the term Thought Leader but it is the term in the Jisc strategy, so internally I will use that term to ensure what I am talking about is aligned with the strategy. It should be noted that many in the sector actually don’t like the term thought leadership. However if you ask universities about the actual content that is produced by Jisc, that we would think of as thought leadership, then there is a different story as they find this useful, inspiring and helps them think. Similarly, universities will often ask for specific people within Jisc who are experts in their field for help and support. Or they will find presentations and articles from individuals inspiring.
These priorities have come from the sector, and we will use articles, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and case studies to bring them to life for universities. We want to create and deliver content that in some cases is longer term in outlook, visionary; transformative yet possible, it should inspire and make people think differently about the area. We also need shorter actionable pieces that should be more practical, replicable and something that could be implemented in a shorter time frame.
Had an interesting discussion during a risk assessment meeting about the importance of strategy and embedding strategy into an organisation. You would think that this is a given, but too often I see strategies developed at a high level, but the actual operational activities are mapped to the strategy, rather than being derived from the strategy. The same can also happen at a personal objective level too. This was something we worked on during the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme about how to expand and develop a (digital) strategy.
We started planning the themes for Connect More 2022 this week.
Got a little too obsessed with Wordle.
Another one I found challenging, mainly as I disagree with the spelling of the correct word. I also had to use pen and paper.
Most of this week I was on leave, returning to the office on Thursday. The Government announced plan B on Wednesday, they asked for people to work from home from Monday. So on Thursday I decided to work from home instead.
I had a fair few meetings on that day, quite exhausting really.
Planning to reboot the elearning stuff podcast in 2022. This will be a weekly podcast on learning, learning technologies, digital leadership, and probably some other stuff I am interested in like the intelligent campus. Will be looking for panellists and experts. The last episode I did was back in 2018, and it was way back in 2013 when I was publishing the podcast regularly.
I have spent some time this week discussing thought leadership, though it is a term I don’t like, the concept of articles and blog posts that inspire transformation is very much part of Jisc’s strategy. For me a coherent and planned approach that engages with our target audience is key, but easier said than done.
I also see having a spectrum of content, media and channels. You will notice that I publish blog posts on this blog (as well as the weeknotes like this one). I see those as part of the spectrum. Recently I published Looking through that digital lens which is based on a session from the digital leaders programme, the strategic work I have done with universities and working with Advance HE on a leadership session back in the summer.
Success in digital teaching and learning is much about understanding about what is required for transformation to take advantage of the affordances and opportunities that digital can offer and not about taking what works in-person and making digital copies of existing practices.
This for me is part of what thought leadership is.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Planning to reboot the elearning stuff podcast in 2022. This will be a weekly podcast on learning, learning technologies, digital leadership, and probably some other stuff I am interested in like the intelligent campus. Will be looking for panellists and experts.
I was asked to produce some crisp presentation slides, crisp as in sharp I believe and not ones on a savoury snack.
I have been working on a (revised) implementation plan for the HE sector strategy: Powering UK higher education at Jisc. This is very much about operationalising the strategy, so much so that I started planning a blog post about operationalising strategies based on the content of a session I use to run on the digital leaders programme.
I did write a blog post this week, Looking through that digital lens which is also based on a session from the digital leaders programme, the strategic work I have done with universities and working with Advance HE on a leadership session back in the summer.
The digital lens approach can enable effective and transformational behaviours to emerge by helping staff to understand and develop their capabilities and confidence in the context of their own work.
Looking at strategies through a particular lens isn’t a new thing, but as we move beyond the pandemic, the use of digital has become so embedded into practice and working that the concept of a separate digital strategy is no longer the option it once was for organisations.
I have spoken about transformation a lot over the last year, so it was interesting to read this article talking about the importance of transformation when it comes to embedding technology. Though it does talk about generational generalisations it does talk about transformation.
Faculty roles and the processes of teaching and learning are undergoing rapid change. Most faculty members did not seek careers in the academy because of a strong love of technology or a propensity for adapting to rapid change; yet they now find themselves facing not only the inexorable advance of technology into their personal and professional lives but also the presence in their classrooms of technology-savvy Net Generation students.
Then you find it was published fourteen years ago in 2007….
Ah well transformation can be slow.
Wednesday I went to our Bristol office, though my train into Bristol was delayed by half an hour. That was something I haven’t missed during the pandemic.
I booked a meeting room for my calls, so I wouldn’t disturb others in the office. Still nice though to be back in the office now and again.
I had planned to go to the office on Thursday as well, however plans were changed at the last minute. Had some interesting discussions about thought leadership though it is a term I don’t like, the concept of articles and blog posts that inspire transformation is very much part of Jisc’s strategy. For me a coherent and planned approach that engages with our target audience is key, but easier said than done.
Well the end of last week kicked off with a petrol crisis so had to rethink my planning for travelling for next week. Though there was plenty of supply local to me, I was a little wary of travelling north in case there were ongoing shortages there.
What was noticeable was how little (visual) impact this was having on universities and colleges. If this fuel crisis had happened before covid, I would have suspected (as happened with snow) that university campuses would have closed and teaching would have been cancelled. However these days with flexible working in place for many, it was just as easy to work from home and use the tools we have been accustomed to, to teach, have meetings, discuss, collaborate and so on. Lack of fuel rarely came up in conversations I was having over the week, for many it was a worry, but it wasn’t a big issue unless they actually needed to travel.
Like last week, most of the week was spent reading, analysing and writing.
Had a meeting about digital leadership. I spoke about the work I had done in this area over the years I have been at Jisc. As well as working on designing and developing the Digital Leadership Programme with Lawrie, we have also written and spoken about digital leadership at different events and conferences. More recently I have also delivered digital leadership consultancy to various universities. One thing that is often missed is the connection between leadership and strategy.
Had a meeting about thought leadership, I actually don’t like the phrase and would not consider myself to be a (so-called) thought leader! However it is a term we use in Jisc and as a result I often have conversations and meetings about thought leadership.
Digging into this a little deeper, in Jisc’s strategy, we do thought leadership, because it is a critical part of our role is to stimulate transformative change in the sector’s use of technology to improve teaching, learning and research.
A critical part of our role is to stimulate transformative change in the sector’s use of technology to improve teaching, learning and research.
It should be noted that many in the sector actually don’t like the term thought leadership. Universities have said a thought leader is more likely to be perceived as an individual than an organisation. Universities are more likely to look to other universities, peers and colleagues for thought leadership than a member body, company or organisation (like Jisc).
However if you ask universities about the actual content that is produced by Jisc that we would think of as thought leadership, then there is a different story as they find this useful, inspiring and helps them think. Similarly, universities will often ask for specific people within Jisc, who are experts in their field for help and support. Or they will find presentations and articles from individuals inspiring. So though internally in Jisc we may call is thought leadership, the reality is that universities are looking to Jisc for inspiration, and we know that our articles, blog posts, guides are helping universities and colleges to transform. In our recent surveys respondents agreed we provide trusted advice and practical assistance to support their needs.
I have been contributing to the themes for next year’s Digifest conference, not sure how much of what I have said has added.
Was part of a panel for the SCONUL webinar on Blended Learning and the Shape and Design of Library Services. I spent my five minutes (rapidly) talking about the transition from in-person to emergency remote delivery, and that much of this was translation rather than transformation. Moving forward with the delivery of library services, we may want to think about as we move to online and digital models, what do we translate and what do we transform?
Still can’t get my head around the fact that the film That Thing You Do! Is twenty five years old now… twenty five years…
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.
“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.
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….