Tag Archives: wonkhe

The VLE is not dead – Weeknote #167 – 13th May 2022

Image by drippycat from Pixabay

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.

I posted another blog post in my Lost in Translation series this time with a focus on the technical aspects of recording videos or audio files.

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.

video recording
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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?

iPod
Photo by Cartoons Plural on Unsplash

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?

I enjoyed the #LTHEchat on images in presentations in the evening.

These two blog posts from 2005 (and 2007) were very influential on my presentation style: Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic and Learning from Bill Gates & Steve Jobs. I also posted  a link to a presentation from an internal TEDx event about delivering presentations – A duck goes quack.

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.

I found this WonkHE article interesting – Learning design is the key to assuring the quality of modular provision in which Nick Mount talks about building quality assurance into the design of modular programmes and micro-credentials.

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.

Getting it wrong – Weeknote #160 – 25th March 2022

I spent the week working from home, there was a combination of factors which influenced this decision, from home-schooling, builders, and plumbers. Next week I am in Manchester for the UCISA Leadership conference.

I spent some of the week working on a new sector group that can provide feedback to Jisc. This group will advise on Jisc’s strategic direction in the support of learning, teaching and assessment, and the student experience in higher education, and help to inform and shape the implementation of the HE sector strategy:

  • Advising on the current state of play and future direction of learning, teaching and assessment in the HE sector
  • Reflecting the views and user needs of senior managers in learning, teaching and student experience, as Jisc members and stakeholders
  • Helping to define the kinds of (digital) products, services, support, and sector engagement/advocacy which will be most beneficial to universities.

The Office for Students (OfS) launched their new strategy targeting quality and standards.

The OfS’s work on quality and standards aims to ensure that students receive a high quality academic experience which improves their knowledge and skills. Much provision in the English higher education sector is excellent – the focus of the OfS will be on challenging provision that falls short, and taking action as needed. On access and participation work, the OfS will encourage higher education providers to work in partnership with schools to raise attainment. These two areas of focus are mutually reinforcing, with effective regulation of quality helping to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the support they need to succeed in and beyond higher education.

From my perspective in supporting the OfS strategy is how digital and technology can support improving the quality of the student experience and widen participation in higher education.

OfS has also commissioned a report on the quality and impact of blended learning. I found this Wonkhe articleinteresting on how David Kernohan still hasn’t got over the last one

A notably independent review chair has been asked to produce a report drawing on evidence from the sector and from the wider literature. Because we need to know what “good” looks like in this mode of provision, so the regulator can ensure students are getting value for their fees.

David reminds us that a year ago the OfS published Gravity Assist.

Gravity Assist

Michael Barber could cite literature suggesting that blended learning may lead to better learning outcomes than in person alone, but as far as the national conversation is concerned this is now a deliberate ploy by universities to educate students on the cheap.

David continues…

Enter Susan Orr. Shortly to take up a Pro Vice Chancellor role at De Montfort University, and a creative arts educator and researcher of some repute, she – alongside an expert panel with membership yet to be determined – will report in the summer on: concerns that the poor quality of the online experience for some students during the pandemic has undermined the positive potential of mixing in-person and online course delivery

David’s conclusion is that Michael Barber must have got it wrong.

Campus
Image by Edgar Winkler from Pixabay

I had a meeting about updating the Jisc guide to the intelligent campus. We originally published the guide in 2017. This was at the time well received by the sector and continues to be the core guidance in this space. Since then, universities across the UK have been exploring how they can make their campuses smarter and intelligent.

Dr Kris Bloomfield (at the time CIO Durham) said of the guide This is an outstanding piece of work and massive kudos is due to those that contributed to the development and publication of this document.

As well as the guide there were numerous use cases that showed how the higher education sector could benefit from the intelligent campus concept.

Though I changed roles in March 2019, I have been talking about the intelligent campus space at various events. In July 2021 I spoke at the QAA conference with a presentation entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses? Last month I spoke at The Future of the Higher Education Estateonline event.

Obviously the covid pandemic had a huge impact on the university campus and how it was and will be used in the future. In last few years I have written some more posts about that aspect.

Intelligent Campus and coronavirus planning was a blog post on how the concept of the Intelligent Campus could help universities in their planning. I was reflecting how if the concept of the intelligent campus was further advanced than it is, how potentially more helpful it could be to support universities planning for a socially distanced campus.

The Intelligent Learning Space was a post based on my experiences on the Intelligent Campus project. As we design learning spaces, we can add sensors and mechanisms to collect data on the use of those learning spaces. It then how we analyse and use that data that allows those spaces to be initially smart and then intelligent.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

Since the guide was published, there have been many changes to the landscape, as well as the covid-19 pandemic, there have been advances in smart campus technologies, and a new range of use cases.  We know from sector intelligence, member voice and Learning and Teaching Reimagined that the future of the campus is an important component when it comes to digital transformation. This has shown the need for Jisc to update their advice and guidance in this area.

This work would:

  • update the guide to reflect current thinking
  • add additional case studies from current practice
group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I expanded on my previous post on personalisation by looking at Jisc’s sector strategy perspective of personalisationand what Jisc may do in this space. So why is this space important to the sector? When we developed the HE strategy, we listened to what the sector was saying, what it was telling us, what we saw, and we also looked at the wider sector context, the regulatory space, the political space and importantly the student voice in all this.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Making it personal – Weeknote #157 – 4th March 2022

For the first time in at least two years (if not longer) I spent three days in a row at our Bristol office. The office was much busier than it has been on previous visits, and there was a (little) bit of a buzz in there. I did have a few in-person ad hoc interactions with people, who I might not interact with online. You can create these online, but it isn’t easy.

I was asked if I preferred working from home, or working in the office. My response was I prefer to have the choice. The challenge I found with lockdown, was that I had no choice. Though I have preferences about space when I have specific things I need to do, I really quite like working in different environments and spaces.

I had to upgrade the Twitter client on my iPad. The old one, which I liked kept crashing and I couldn’t get it to stop. The new one, I do not like.

group
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I posted a blog post on my early thinking about personalisation.

What do we mean by personalisation, what can we personalise, what should be personalise and what are the challenges in personalisation?

I have been looking at how data and technology can deliver a personalised learning journey and we have in our HE strategy the following ambition statement.

We will explore and develop solutions to help universities deliver personalised and adaptive learning using data, analytics, underpinning technologies and digital resources.

We know that there are very different opinions and views of what personalised learning is. One of the things I do need to do is to take that ambition statement and expand it into a clear explanatory statement, so that key stakeholders are clear about what we mean and why this space is important to higher education.

The ICC in Birmingham
The ICC in Birmingham

I have been preparing for Digifest next week where I will be attending both days.

I am also speaking at Digifest on Wednesday9th March 2022 from 11:45 – 12:30 in Hall 7B.

In this session, James will showcase Jisc’s HE sector strategy, Powering HE, and why and how we developed the strategy. He will explore what Jisc is doing and planning to do in the HE teaching and learning space. He will bring the session together with the impact the strategy is having on university members across the UK.

I enjoyed the WonkHE 404 page.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Eventedness

I was recently reminded of the importance of eventedness when it comes to events and has similar implications in the delivery of teaching both in-person and online.

One of my favourite presentations from the EdTech space is this one by that Dave White at ALT-C 2010.

Dave with his extensive experience with TALL at the University of Oxford certainly well qualified to understand the benefits and limitations of online delivery. However he discussed during his talk the importance of the social benefit that physical lectures provide for a community of learners. This is though not impossible to recreate online, is very challenging. Dave demonstrated through his delivery and content that the lecture in itself can be a useful way to stimulate discussion and debate.

Here we are twelve years later and much of what he spoke about resonates today with experiences across the pandemic. We know that with the emergency switch to online, that we lost the lecture and replaced it with online zoom calls. Many felt that this was a poor substitute for the in-person experience, and they were right.

David’s talk followed a keynote by Donald Clark who had opened the conference with his keynote, and riled people and annoyed them with a blanket attack on the lecture. What Donald Clark did was to challenge our perception of the lecture, and it appeared to me that the over-whelming consensus of the audience was that the lecture still had some place in the delivery of education. This was reinforced for me by Dave White who gave a wonderful (unplanned) response to Donald’s lecture, with an invited talk on the eventedness and social impact of coming together to learn.

The phrase “eventedness” has stayed with me since that talk back in 2010.

This was something that came back to me when I attended WonkHE’s The Secret Life of Students. In London. 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 back in early 2020.

There was some great content in the event, I liked the use of different formats across the sessions. Mark Leach’s interview with Nicola Dandrige of the OfS was a highlight for me. I also liked the mix of panel sessions and keynote presentations.

There was something else though, in sharing these experiences with others. With the laughter at Mark’s humour, the weirdness of the B3 Bear, the in-person interactions with strangers. This was something I hadn’t really engaged with online events during the pandemic.

I really enjoyed the WonkHE 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.

I liked the interview format, something I don’t think we see enough of in both in-person and online conferences. The only thing missing for me was more audience interaction and discussion.

Zoom
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Next slide please!

Too often in online events I have seen people talking to Powerpoint slides, often this turns into a monologue. Having done presentations myself online, I have recently tried to avoid using slides and spend the time talking to camera. I also make an effort to up my game, or Partridge’ise my presentation, recognising that presenting online can flatten the performance somewhat.

I have also found online that few people take advantage of the chat function, actually I have also noticed that few people take advantage of the Twitter when attending online events. You almost get the feeling that the event is on in the background and delegates are working on their e-mails. Having that focus of the physical in-person event was useful for me and though tempted I did avoid doing “work” whilst engaged with the sessions.

Back in the 2000s I attended and participated in many online conferences and the technical limitations meant we couldn’t do live streaming. As a result we made use of recorded video, audio, and textual discussions. Once the bandwidth allowed live streaming, it was interesting to see that the engagement with the conference declined.

I do think you can have eventedness with online events, but it takes work and effort and thinking differently about how you will create that for the event. Similarly you can see similar thinking needs to happen with online teaching and learning. There is more to teaching than presenting.

Should note though that the coffee was awful at the in-person event, so much so I had to pop out for a real coffee.

Nice to see you, to see Eunice – Weeknote #155 – 18th February 2022

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.

There was some discussion about the WonkHE Kortext report which I blogged in last week’s Weeknote.

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.”

My top tweet this week was this one.

Presenting online – Weeknote #154 – 11th February 2022

chromebook
Image by 377053 from Pixabay

This week I worked from home. I did think about heading into our office in Bristol, but in the end with no in-person meetings, I decided to have those at home, rather than sit in an office.

I found this WonkHE article, The challenge for HE leaders – wellbeing and inclusion in the age of blended learningrather interesting.

Our research suggests that for leaders the pandemic raised or intensified serious strategic questions – on wellbeing, on digital infrastructure, on pedagogy – but offered few conclusive answers.

The leaders we engaged with expect a significant degree of change in learning and teaching in the next five to ten years, with changes anticipated to staffing, technology, the physical estate, administrative infrastructure, culture, and resourcing.

Despite the rhetoric from politicians, there was a positive view of blended learning.

Four in five (80 per cent) agree that post-pandemic most institutions will aim to adopt a more blended approach to learning.

The one constant that comes out from the article is that there will be change and then some more change, and that as well as that challenge

… most leaders are wrestling with the tensions between their aspiration for every student to experience their learning as personally enriching, within a supportive learning environment, and the challenge of building cross-institutional systems that can achieve this at the scale required, with the resource available.

I don’t think I’ve done an online presentation for some time, probably July last year. This week I delivered two online presentations.

campus
Image by 小亭 江 from Pixabay

The first was at The Future of the Higher Education Estate 2022 conference where I was presenting on the connected campus.

The abstract for the talk was

The Decline of Location, The Rise of Digital Infrastructure: Delivering the Connected Campus

  • Developing a smart campus strategy that leverages unified platforms to deliver a consistent university experience
  • Delivering joined a joined up digital architecture between teaching provision, student services and the estate
  • Eliminating the digital infrastructure boundaries between being on and off campus
  • Examining the roles of data analytics to inform estate usage, demand and the needs of service users

I talked about the student experience and the possibilities of the intelligent campus.

microphone

The second was for the Business School at the University of Exeter. There I did an updated version of a talk I have done before on moving from translation to transformation.

We have been interviewing students and staff about their experiences across the pandemic and what practices have worked and what hasn’t worked. As part of Jisc’s work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period we have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff and students. In this session James will describe how many universities who translated their practice are now reflecting on how they can transform their practice to enable an enhanced approach to digital teaching and learning.

I got some positive feedback, and the experiences of other universities echoed the experiences at Exeter.

I attended The Future of the Higher Education Estate 2022 conference as well as presenting there. It was interesting to hear from presenters about their thoughts about the future of the university campus. I did think very little thought though was given to the potential impact of universities moving towards a more blended delivery model.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Extreme Heat Warning – Weeknote #125 – 23rd July 2021

I had planned to go to the office on Monday, but with 31°C plus temperatures forecast and an Extreme Heat warming decided that though the office was air-conditioned and would be fine to work in, the thought of driving and then walking, or catching the train and then walking in the heat wasn’t very appealing.

Had a couple of meetings with universities, both via Teams. I do wonder if I will ever be invited to physically attend a meeting at a university in the next twelve months.

meeting
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

What can we see in the 2021 National Student Survey?  Was published by Wonkhe.

As expected, students were less satisfied than ever during the last academic year, with creative arts students particularly unhappy.

Jisc is doing some new value studies and we had a meeting about progress.

Introducing OfS’ new proposals on quality and standards | Wonkhe

The OfS published today a consultation setting out proposals for new conditions of registration for quality and standards. The proposals clarify the focus of our regulatory interest. We care about high quality courses – the courses themselves, rather than the processes institutions have in place to produce their courses. And we care that rigorous standards are maintained in practice, with degree classifications reflecting student achievement.

University of Leeds - Leeds Business School
Leeds Business School

I delivered the final digital leadership session for Leeds this week, which has gone really fast, but the delegates did provide some really positive feedback.

I had planned to go to the office on Thursday, but as with Monday, with 31°C plus temperatures forecast and an Extreme Heat warming decided that though the office was air-conditioned and would be fine to work in, the thought of driving and then walking, or catching the train and then walking in the heat wasn’t appealing.

I wrote an abstract for a presentation I am delivering in November, which is planning to be an in-person event in Scotland.

The physicality of online learning is an issue that will impact on university campuses as we move to a blended programmes containing elements of online and digital learning and physical in-person learning.  This session will explore the challenges that growth in blended learning will bring to learning spaces and the university campus. What is required for, in terms of space for online learning, but will also consider the implications of delivering online teaching as well. Examples will be given of what universities are doing today to meet these challenges. The session will reflect on a possible future maximising the use of our space as students have the flexibility to learn online, in-person and across a spectrum of blended possibilities.

I delivered the final (final) digital leadership session for Leeds on Friday, this went well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Day 26: Best recent EdTech Read

This post is part of the #JuneEdTechChallenge series.

Probably this recent blog post by @Lawrie  and @nicwhitton.

looking through a telescope
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).

Well what did you get? – Weeknote #118 – 4th June 2021

Well a shorter week for me, as Monday was a Bank Holiday and I took leave on Wednesday. As it was half term, I has planned to go to the office for the other three days. So it would have felt in some ways like a normal working week. However personal circumstances resulted in working from home instead.

I liked this Wonkhe article by Nic Whitton and Lawrie Phipps: Why the teaching legacy from the pandemic must be more than digital.

As we start to emerge from this prolonged period of change, many university leaders are thinking about how to keep the best elements of digital and embed them in future practice; “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is a mantra we’ve heard on many occasions. This reflection is necessary and welcome: something we must do as we develop a “new normal” after the heady pace of change over the past year-and-a-half. However as we reflect, it is important to remember that more has changed about how we teach than the digital tools we use. To torture the metaphor somewhat, we might need to take a whole new approach to baby hygiene.

I took a day’s leave on Wednesday and we went to Legoland, which we haven’t done in a few years now. In theory they were limiting numbers, but it felt very much to me busier and more crowded than visits in previous years.

I read this article from the BBC News: Working from home: Call to ban out-of-hours emails from bosses.

…Prospect is calling for the government to give employees a legally binding “right to disconnect”. This would ban bosses from “routinely emailing or calling” outside set working hours.

The long hours and out of hours culture we see in many organisations is rife and the pandemic has made this worse.

When I managed a large team I was always keen to point out to my staff that though I was e-mailing early in the morning or late into the evening, I never expected them to do this and I never expected them to respond either. My reason for the odd hours was that I was commuting to Oxford back and forth and spent about 4-5 hours on the train. I worked quite a bit and did a lot of e-mail during that commute, as I was catching an early train and arriving home late, the timing of those e-mail was out of hours. What I did do was manage expectations of my staff about responding or not to those e-mails.

Now in a very different role, we have quite a flexible approach to working, and though less so recently (down to the pandemic) when I was travelling I would often work in the evenings in hotels if I was away from home. Again I had not expectations about responses, e-mail is for me an asynchronous form of communication and that is its main feature. Even in pandemic lockdown, working flexibly allows me to do stuff in the middle of the day and catch up either first thing or later. I don’t expect other people to work in this way.

I have a few things I do to keep my e-mail in check. I absolutely keep home and social e-mail separate from work e-mail. I turn off that notification feature on e-mail so I don’t have badges with ever increasing numbers. I don’t check e-mail when I am not working, so when I am on leave or at weekends, but I have the choice if I want to.

The issue I have with legislating e-mail sending is that it doesn’t actually solve the real problem. You need to solve that problem first.

Spent a lot of the week working on a couple of bespoke Digital Leadership Development programmes. One will be a series of online sessions, alas no in-person sessions for this, the other will be a self-directed study programme.

Since last working in this space, a lot has changed, the elephant in the room is obviously the impact of covid, lockdowns and the emergency response to all this. However much of what digital leaders need to do is still there as it was before. It is about becoming an effective digital leader, modelling the behaviour you expect in others and leading and influencing digitally-driven change.

Interviewed a member of academic staff about their digital practices this week and it was interesting to see the parallels and reflections of their practice which I have also seen across other interviews at other HEIs. The importance of effective (digital) support was brought up again, and this is a wide ranging issue for academic staff, for whom the support might be technical support, application support or practical support. This tool isn’t working, how do I do this with this tool and how can I use this tool for teaching and learning? In most universities this support is provided by different teams, the question you need to ask, does the academic know who to ask when they need support?

At our regular Higher Education monthly team call I talked about our experiences with consultancy, some of our wins and some of our challenges.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Affordances of digital – Weeknote #115 – 14th May 2021

earth
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

On Monday I was reflecting with an international lens on our HE strategy. Jisc is not funded to support non-UK universities, but we do work closely with other NRENs overseas, sharing practice, advice and where we can collaborating on projects.

Tuesday I delivered a formal presentation to a university executive about a project we have done for them, they were very pleased with the final report, the presentation and the work we had done.

Later I was doing another presentation to another university with some thoughts about digital governance. My main point was that digital isn’t just a thing, nor does it just within its own silo within an university. Often the benefits that digital brings to a department or professional service won’t be within that service but will benefit the university as a whole. For example, when you bring in a digital HR system, the real benefits of such a system are not for HR, but for the efficiencies it brings managers across the university. However often those benefits are not always realised, and the affordances of such systems are also not realised.

Wednesday I was catching up with stuff and preparing for other meetings.

Universities could face fines over free speech breaches as reported by BBC News.

Universities in England could face fines under new legislation if they fail to protect free speech on campus. Visiting speakers, academics or students could seek compensation if they suffer loss from a breach of a university’s free speech obligations.

To be honest I am not sure how much of a problem and issue this is in higher education that it requires legislation.  There was then a kerfuffle as the Universities Minister and Downing Street debated about what was allowed (as in free speech) and what wasn’t (as in hate speech). To be honest if the Government can’t work this out, what does this mean for universities?

Wonkhe asked the question Should student recruitment stay digital-first post Covid?

On Thursday I was presenting at the QAA Conference, my presentation was entitled: How will the growth in online learning shape the future design of learning spaces and our campuses?

 The physicality of online learning is an issue that will impact on university campuses as more institutions move to a blended programmes containing elements of online and digital learning and physical in-person learning. In this session James Clay from Jisc will explore the challenges that growth in online learning will bring to learning spaces and the university campus. He will explore what is required for, in terms of space for online learning, but will also consider the space and design implications of delivering online teaching as well. He will discuss what some universities are doing today to meet these challenges and requirements. He will reflect on a possible future where we are able to maximise the use of our space as students have the flexibility to learn online, in-person and across a spectrum of blended possibilities.

So true Lawrie, so true.

So next week our offices re-open, not quite a normal reopening, but we can now go into the office. I will be visiting our offices for various meetings, but also for a change of scenery.

My top tweet this week was this one.