I did some more planning for Senior Education and Student Experience Group Meeting on the 20th March.
I spent time reviewing and having discussions on the Connect More themes.
I did some planning , working on ideas for the Intelligent Campus community event which is taking place on the 24th May 2023. Bookings are now open.
This community of practice gives people a chance to network, share practice and hear what various institutions are doing. You will have the opportunity to discover more about intelligent campus projects and our work in this space. The focus of this community event will be where do we go next? You can read the new guide to the intelligent campus and reflect on your own journey in this space, and where you feel we can provide help and support. This will be an opportunity to discover more about the history of our past and current work in the intelligent campus space as well as hear from others about their work on this exciting topic.
I did some reflecting and reviewing potential priorities for next year, as well as some budgetary planning to support it. Much of what I am planning to do, builds on the work I have done this year and am doing this year.
There was some excellent sessions and I made some sketchnotes for lots of them.
Belonging in a cost of living crisis
The stats are dire and the initiatives have come thick and fast – but what sort of impact is the cost of living crisis having on the student learning experience? Do efforts to enable students to succeed in these circumstances normalise a thin and stretched student experience?
The real risks to equality of opportunity
Tacking equality gaps in higher education remains a huge concern – particularly when some initiatives and efforts seem to fall foul of government guidance and preference. In this session we’ll bust some myths and seek to understand what really works when it comes to narrowing the gaps.
How to (re)calibrate the needle of trust
Post-Covid, there’s been lots of debate about the extent to which safety-net shifts in trusting students should be rolled back in the name of academic standards, as well as discussion about assessment methods that both appear to narrow awarding gaps and exacerbate allegations of cheating. How viable is it in 2023 to maintain the idea that every student should achieve a standard at the same pace? Where is the line between cheating and collaboration? And what could new AI tools mean for teaching, learning and assessment?
Cracking the code
So your department has a difficult NSS score on assessment fairness, and the Dean wants you to turn things around – fast. Or a flag goes up on your engagement analytic dashboard – what now? In a field teeming with data, finding out what is going on with the people behind the numbers can make the difference. In this session we’ll consider the role of the qualitative in turning data to action – and share new insight from our new student survey platform Belong on what students are really thinking.
Why are students so left wing?
The political leanings of students have been central to the free speech debate that has played out in recent years – but is it nature, or nurture? Some would argue that the past decade has seen a huge expansion in higher education participation, opening up opportunity to more students than ever. Others would argue that politics is increasingly skewed away from students and young people’s economic interests. What’s really going on – and what should universities, SUs or governments do about it?
Secrets of the student experience
Increasingly universities are expected to have a handle on “difficult” aspects of the students’ experience: alcohol and drugs, sexual harassment, and sex work. In this session, we will think through the various frames available for managing behaviours and the implications for students, university policy, and the competencies of university staff.
Spent a lot of time this week reading, digesting, reviewing, and reflecting. Also attended a few meetings and spent time having conversations on Teams.
On Tuesday I went to our Bristol office. The train was delayed, so I started attending a meeting on my phone, which I find weird, but it worked.
Attended an internal meeting about Microsoft – Mixed Reality (MR) and Metaverse. There is some excitement around the Metaverse. As I said last week industry perspectives on the metaverse and immersive platforms are varied. Meta, Google are all laying off technical staff in this space, Apple have delayed their AR/VR product again. Lots of confusion between immersive games and the Metaverse. Apart from some niche areas (such as education) what is the unique selling point of the metaverse? As Paul Bailey in a recent blog post said, the “effective” metaverse is probably decades away…
Had an interesting discussion about the Office for Students and its future. There is criticism that they have been receiving from members and member organisations (such as GuildHE and the Russell Group). Labour (who are likely to win the 2024 election) have been quiet on HE and the OfS. Also found and read this Can Labour de-Commodify Higher Education? It has a Minor Problem.
The education system in Britain is in the mud. That is scarcely news. But would Labour have the courage and values needed to revive it? The trouble they would have if they win the next General Election is due partly to their Party’s legacy and partly to a personal problem.
Last week I was in London (oh and a bit of Bristol). This week I worked from home at the beginning of the week and spent the end of the week working in our Bristol office. I think this was the first time in ages that I had actually spent three days in a row working out of the office. Well it was warm.
I spent some time this week organising and planning the Jisc Senior Education and Student Experience Group. This meant organising attendance at meetings, expanding the group, responding to queries, booking rooms and locations. Also rejigging and renaming the Jiscmail list for the group.
I am organising a cross-Jisc conversation to discuss and join up activity across Jisc in the intelligent and smart campus space. We have quite a few projects and ideas in this area.
The news is full of stories on the possibility of winter blackouts as the energy crisis continues to hit home. With the continuing prospect of restrictions in gas supplies across Europe, there is a strong chance with a extreme cold spell in the UK that there will be power rationing. This means that some parts of the UK will be dark. Students will face learning without light, power, heat or connectivity. How can you deliver high quality online learning without power or connectivity? So I wrote a blog post exploring this.
People in England, Scotland and Wales are braced for the possibility of rolling power cuts this winter after a warning on Thursday from National Grid. The electricity and gas system operator has said households could face a series of three-hour power cuts…
Wonkhe was reporting on the cost of living crisis.
The cost of living crisis will be worse than the impact of the pandemic for some students, a Welsh university Vice Chancellor has warned. Ben Calvert, vice chancellor at the University of South Wales, made the comment as he gave evidence at the opening of a Senedd committee inquiry into mental health in higher education. Calvert told the committee: “I actually think for some of our students that will be harder, particularly where we have got populations of students who are older.”
These concerns have been expressed by many universities at meetings I have attended. What could universities do, and what should universities do?
We potentially could see shifts in attendance patterns on campus by students, as they take advantage of the warm rooms and opportunities to charge devices away from their rented student homes.
We noticed that many articles tend to mislead in similar ways, so we analyzed over 50 articles about AI from major publications, from which we compiled 18 recurring pitfalls. We hope that being familiar with these will help you detect hype whenever you see it. We also hope this compilation of pitfalls will help journalists avoid them.
This sentence implies that AI is autonomously grading and optimizing coursework. However, it is only being used to assist teachers in a small part of grading: identifying the answer that a student wrote and checking if it matches the answer provided by the teacher.
I think that the article and analysis is not just useful for journalists, but anyone looking at AI in education (and beyond).
I have been thinking about the keynote I am delivering for Moving Target 2022 in Berlin in November. Planning a short video for the conference organisers social media for next week as well.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Is it just me, but weren't cars more brightly coloured in the 1980s?
I use to say things like “I can teach anywhere”. What I meant by this, wasn’t that the environment or space I was using wasn’t important, but I could overcome the disadvantages of the different spaces I had to play with, and still deliver an effective session.
So though I might be able to teach anywhere the reality is that all those challenges and issues I face in an inappropriate space, may well result in poor quality learning, despite the quality of my teaching.
Big news this week was that the QAA was to step away from designated role in England. Over on Wonkhe, David Kernohan tries to make sense of it all.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) will no longer consent to be the Designated Quality Body (DQB) in England, as of the end of the current year in office (March 2023). The reasoning is straightforward – the work that QAA does in England, on behalf of the OfS, is no longer compliant with recognised quality standards – namely the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG) as monitored by the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). For this reason, the QAA registration with EQAR was recently suspended – a decision that highlights international concerns about procedures in England but has an impact in the many other nations (including Scotland and Wales) where QAA needs that EQAR registration in order to fulfil a statutory quality assurance role.
Once more we are seeing more divergence across the UK for higher education.
I revisited and revised a blog post on voice assistants I had written back in 2018.
Voice assistants have become widespread and are proving useful for a range of uses. The cost has fallen over the years and the services have expanded.
The use of voice assistants and smart hubs has certainly continued, and they have become embedded into many digital ecosystems. Their use in education though is still limited and I will be looking at that in a later blog post.
Attended a session on impact this week, which was interesting, but not necessarily that useful. How do you evidence impact of what you do? I wonder for example of the 1,828 blog posts published on this blog have had any impact on the way in which people work, support others or plan their work. For example one of the most popular blog posts on the blog, which though written in 2011, is still regularly viewed, is this one 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip, which was one of a series of blog posts on improving or enhancing the use of the VLE.
One use of graphic that can enhance the look of a VLE course or as a mechanism to engage learners is to embed a comic strip into the VLE course.
What has been the impact of this? Has is changed practice? Has it improved the student experience? Has it improved student outcomes? How would I know?
I don’t think I can evidence the impact of this, but other work I have done I can sometimes see the evidence, however I don’t know if their has been actual impact.
I quite liked these tweets from August 2021 from people who had attended the digital leadership consultancy I had delivered for Leeds.
Me too! I’m crediting this partially to my participation in the Jisc Digital Leaders programme. @DigitalJisc
I had as part of the programme delivered a session on e-mail. It incorporates much of what is in this blog post on Inbox Zero and this follow up post. Always nice to see the impact that your training has had on the way that people work, they didn’t just attend the training, engage with the training, but are now acting on what they saw and learnt.
However what I don’t know is, has the change had a positive impact? And what was that impact?
I spent some of the week reviewing our new guide to the Intelligent Campus, and the revamped guide to the Intelligent Library. The library guide was never published but has been updated for 2022. I also reviewed our updated use cases, as well as drafting plans for some additional use cases. I am aiming for publication of these in the autumn.
I started off the week with a cross-sector agency meeting on widening participation.
I spent most of the week travelling. I was visiting various places and universities as part of a scoping piece of work I am doing in the Intelligent Campus space. It was also an opportunity to look at the physical campuses of various universities following two years of conversations over Zoom.
Dave Foord on a mailing list posted a link to a blog post he had written last month on three organisations he was supporting to return to Moodle having switched to a different VLE and then finding that the “problems” that the new VLE was supposed to solve, hadn’t actually been solved. It reminded me of many similar conversations I have had in the past about changing VLEs. Often lack of engagement with a VLE is placed at the door of the VLE, so the conclusion is that switching the VLE is the answer. It usually isn’t.
Jim Dickinson (of WonkHE) created and crowdsourced a really interested and useful Twitter thread.
OK folks let's do a bit of crowdsourcing on how universities might help reduce students' costs this coming year. All ideas – big and small – welcome. Let's get this thread to 100 policy ideas.
I spent some of the week reviewing our new guide to the Intelligent Campus, and the revamped guide to the Intelligent Library. The library guide was never published but has been updated for 2022. I am aiming for publication of these in the autumn.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Supporting organisations who dropped Moodle, but are now switching back – Dave Foord’s Weblog https://t.co/GVmP8e0j9b
This week I attended the Learning at City Conference, an in-person event in London. It was like a blast from the past, as I travelled up on the day on the train and went across London. Easier though than on previous visits to City, as the Elizabeth Line is much smoother and faster than the Tube trains I would usually take. One of my reasons for attending was to find out more about their approach to hybrid teaching, which I had read about online.
It was a good conference and I enjoyed it, I am writing a more detailed blog post about the day. I did managed though to do one sketchnote on the opening keynote on assessment.
I am currently working on reviewing, revising and developing a range of reports related to the intelligent campus. This includes an updated version of the Intelligent Campus Guide, which we originally published back in 2017. A lot has happened in this space since then. We also took the opportunity to update the many use cases which were on the blog. Still thinking about the best format for these going forward. One thing we did draft back in 2017 was an Intelligent Library Guide. In the end it didn’t get published, but this time we have updated and revised the guide ready for publication later in the year.
I am also working on an Intelligent Campus Learning Spaces Scoping Study. Looking at how learning spaces are being used, and what are the issues are in the context of the intelligent campus.
I attended an HE & Research Leadership Team Coaching session. We looked at our internal processes, systems and structures, and reflected on how we would work going forward.
I published a blog post, Predicting an uncertain future about thinking about the future. Predicting is hard, and we can get it wrong. Actually, most of the time we do get it wrong.
Today we can also talk about possibilities and what it could mean for the student experience in the future. The purpose of this is not to predict what the university of the future will be but provide an envelope of possibilities that would allow us to plan for that potential future and build in appropriate resilience and responsiveness.
I attended Wonkhe’s Education Espresso – Telling the story of changing pedagogy event online. It was a stark contrast, from an experiential perspective to the in-person City event I had attended earlier in the week.
My top tweet this week was this one.
My original thinking about “chunking” of video into shorter sessions, I did think, don’t students have a pause button? I was later reminded about the importance of being able to update “chunks”, rather than having to update the whole video. #LearningAtCity22
Is it getting harder to get a university place? David Kernohan on Wonkhe certainly thinks it is, in his recent article.
UCAS snuck some data out yesterday that appears to confirm what many have been hearing for a while – for certain subjects and for certain providers this years’ A level and Higher candidates are finding it harder than ever to secure a place at their chosen university.
Spent most of the week working from home, the train strike had a little impact on my working. I published a blog post about working and location and my own experiences and what my practices are.
For many people, including myself, what we do changes over the day, during the week and over time. Sometimes my work is about reading and making notes, add in there writing. Other times I am facilitating workshops, attending meetings, running meetings, having conversations, and so on. Throw in their online versions of these as well to complicate the mix.
In a recent Jisc report, many staff across higher education have similar complex working patterns and the concept of hybrid working is embedded into universities across the UK.
On Tuesday I attended the UCISA online event Embrace Digital: promoting the use of digital technology in HE. It was interesting to hear how the university presenting were promoting and embedding digital technologies across their staff. I wrote up some of my reflections from the event in a blog post.
I recorded an internal blog post with a colleague about innovation. I have written about innovation before.
We may think we are innovative, but we’re probably not. Innovation for me means new or different. It doesn’t necessarily mean better or improved. Innovation is all about change, and change is all about culture and leadership. If you want people to go and be more innovative, then you will need to think about the leadership required to deliver that, and the impact you want to achieve.
In another post I discussed how innovative practices can be embedded into organisations.
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.
Where I have seen true innovation in universities (and colleges) it has been in the main for something quite dull, but it is embedded across the entire organisation and is having an impact.
Spent some time sorting out entries on our CRM.
Have been reviewing our updated guides on the Intelligent Campus and a new guide on the Intelligent Library.
My top tweet this week was this one.
I remember seeing this socket once. I never worked out if it was only to be used by the cleaners, or they wanted the cleaners to use only this specific socket. Despite the advice I did use it, my laptop still works. pic.twitter.com/AEE1WJ9vbX
Spent the best part of the week in London and actually had in-person meetings. Also gave me a chance to try out the new Elizabeth Line which was fast and smooth.
On Monday we had some teach coaching which was, well let’s just say it was interesting.
Tuesday we had the first of our new PVC Education and Student Experience Group meetings. This is an evolution of the Senior TEL Group I use to run, but now with a more strategic focus. I am hoping that we grow and evolve the group over time, but the participants did provide us with useful and valuable insights into the challenges and issues that universities face. There was also an implicit validation of the Jisc HE sector strategy.
The next day I had a meeting with the University of Leeds about their plans for some future collaboration.
Wednesday also saw me running a drop in session on our sector strategy. These sessions are about supporting staff at Jisc to see how their work supports the delivery of the strategy.
Thursday I focused on planning for next year. Looking at various parts of the HE sector strategy that may need further support and development.
Michelle Donelan announced that the government was appointing a student mental health support champion (or wellbeing tsar) in response to findings that mental health is the main reason given by students who are considering leaving university. Universities would be expected to use supermarket customer-tracking software to identify struggling students.
Universities are to be told to electronically track students to get early warning on mental health and reduce drop-out, as the government appoints a new student mental health leadership role. The Times this morning reports that a speech from Further and Higher Education minister Michelle Donelan is expected to respond to findings that mental health is the main reason given by students who are considering leaving university by appointing Nottingham Trent vice chancellor Edward Peck as a student new mental health support champion, who will provide leadership on ensuring students remain supported and engaged with their course.
Donelan is expected to say that a student becoming disengaged with their course is not just a problem in its own right, “student disengagement is a critical warning sign for mental health issues which, as we know, when left unchecked can have devastating consequences. These critical warning signs present an opportunity for prevention, hitting the problem at the source and helping to defend students from mental health issues before they strike. Ensuring that we are focused on combating student disengagement will result in better attainment and better outcomes, too.”
Friday was about preparing papers for a meeting coming up, so that the participants can have the papers in advance.
Monday morning, I was off to Queen Mary University of London for their VLE Expo. This was very much a QMUL focussed event, though they had invited a range of VLE vendors. I liked how the focus of the event was about, what do we want to do to achieve our strategic aspirations, how will the VLE help us to do that, and which platform (or platforms) will enable us to do that.
There were some excellent presentations from the academic staff on the different ways in which they were using technology including virtual reality, mixed reality and H5P. I sat on the final panel session answering questions from the floor on a range of issues. A lot of the questions were more about the use of technology for learning and teaching, than VLE specific topics. However, I did get into a few discussions about the VLE on the Twitter as a result of attending the event.
Someone just said the VLE is Dead and it wasn’t me… #QMULVLEExpo
Most institutions will (probably) have equipment which staff can use, but if there is a strategic approach to building a sustainable approach to the use of video and audio, then universities will need to reflect if they have sufficient resources to support the increased demand for cameras and microphones.
Tuesday I was still in London for a briefing session, well as it happened it got cancelled, so I worked in the office.
Apple have announced that they are going to stop selling the iPod once the current stocks of iPod touch run out. So did you have an iPod and if so which one?
Wednesday, I did two all-staff briefings for two directorates on the Jisc HE sector strategy. From the feedback I got they seemed to be well received.
I was reminded on the Twitter about when I took my bike to work. I made a video back then.
Mike Sharples posted an excellent Twitter thread on how AI can be used to write essays. I agree with Mike, if we are setting students assignments that can be answered by AI, are we really helping students learn?
Thursday, I made my way to Harwell for a drop in session I was running at the Jisc offices there, alas an accident the closure of the M4 meant I spent nearly four hours sitting the car rather than sitting in a room talking to Jisc staff. In the end I had to abandon my visit to the office.
Friday, I had a scoping call about learning spaces in higher education. Interested in the kinds of learning spaces higher education is using, flexibility, technology and the kinds of activities spaces are being used for.
Traditional providers can expect to find themselves facing the difficult job of rethinking existing assurance processes that are designed for coherent, longitudinal programmes of study, so that they can accommodate a new pick-and-mix landscape of highly portable and stackable micro-credential learning.
My top tweet this week was this one.
A1 sometime my presentations are just images, no text, no bullets