Tag Archives: wonkhe

Goodbye Castlepark – Weeknote #38 – 29th November 2019

Ramsay Garden in Edinburgh
Ramsay Garden in Edinburgh

It was a much busier week this time, with a lot more travelling, including trams, planes, trains, buses, cars and walking. At least the weather wasn’t too bad, but there was certainly some rain and wind about.

University of South Wales
University of South Wales

Monday I was in Wales for one of Jisc’s Stakeholder Forums. It was interesting to talk to colleagues form universities and colleges about how they felt about Jisc and the services we provide them. I really enjoyed the session delivered by my colleague on big challenges and co-design and on my table we had a really insightful and interesting discussion about  a Netflix style model for education.

Landed at Edinburgh Airport
Landed at Edinburgh Airport

Tuesday I was off to Scotland, staying overnight in Edinburgh, before heading off to Glasgow for a meeting with QAA Scotland. Continue reading Goodbye Castlepark – Weeknote #38 – 29th November 2019

Presenting, presenting, presenting – Weeknote #32 – 18th October 2019

Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

Monday I was undertaking the final preparations for some presentation training I am delivering on Thursday. This included printing some postcards as well as designing activities.

I took advantage of Pixabay to find images for my postcards, this is a great site for images, and due to their open licensing, you can use them in a variety of ways. Though I often attribute the site for the images I use, it’s not a requirement, so if you use them later or forget, it’s not really an issue.

Tuesday I was off to London for a meeting to discuss some future collaborative work that Jisc may undertake. What are the big challenges that HE (and FE) are facing for the future. One comment which was made I thought was interesting, was how challenging it was to get people to think about long term future challenges. Most people can identify current issues and potential near-future challenges but identifying the really big challenges that will impact education in the medium or long term, is really hard. Part of the challenge is that there are so many factors that can impact and predicting the future is thus very hard.

Reminded of this challenge of predicting the future, this week with the imminent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago. Watching the haunting nuclear war TV film, Threads in 1984, I had no idea that the Cold War was every going to end, it looked like it would last forever and we would always be living under the threat of nuclear war. Five years later on the 9thNovember 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. I remember watching it on the news in my student accommodation, thinking, what’s happening, how is this happening? Back then we didn’t have social media, mobile phones or the web, so the only way for news to filter through was by television and newspapers. A year later we had the reunification of Germany. A year after that the USSR was dissolved. Continue reading Presenting, presenting, presenting – Weeknote #32 – 18th October 2019

Reflecting on the informality of learning – Weeknote #30 – 4th October 2019

The view from St Philip's Bridge in Bristol
The view from St Philip’s Bridge in Bristol

Over the weekend I saw this article on WonkHE called  Learning in the spaces in between,

The final paragraph said:

With institutions re-evaluating their teaching and thinking how best to invest, it’s a great time to consider whether we really understand how students are using informal educational spaces outside of the classroom. The student perspective combined with novel use of occupancy data is bringing us closer to answering that conundrum.

Reminded me of this blog post that I wrote this back in 2017 on designing informal learning spaces that would encourage informal learning.

 Well the key really is to think about what actually facilitates and encourages informal learning.

It’s a combination of factors and can include design of learning spaces and the learning activities undertaken by the learners.

Creating the right contexts and environments for informal learning, will ensure that the concept of learn anywhere and anytime is encouraged and enhanced.

Though I wouldn’t have called it ethnography (and I certainly wouldn’t call it ethnography today) my blog post was based on my experiences in designing and running libraries, as well as developing the use of digital and virtual learning. I would spend a lot of time observing how learners would use our spaces, what they were doing in those spaces and I felt importantly what they weren’t doing as well. I would talk to learners, more importantly I would listen to learners. We would also measure space utilisation and activity in our spaces and all this would inform how we would design and change the space.

Sofa's in the library at Gloucestershire College
Sofa’s in the library at Gloucestershire College

When we originally designed the spaces, an important aspect to me was flexibility, being able to change the space as demands on that space changed, in how people wanted to use it and how many wanted to use it. All our shelving for example was on wheels, could be moved easily and quickly around. So following observation and listening, we would adjust the space accordingly.

That blog post was inspired by another one I had written in 2010 on designing informal learning.

The premise of that article was you couldn’t design informal learning (as that would formalise it) but what you could do is create spaces that would encourage informal learning.

It is more challenging to create learning spaces that encourage informal and social learning. As demands on space continues to grow and demand for more learner-led learning, it is important that institutions consider much more how their spaces can be used for informal learning.

Victoria Street in Bristol
Victoria Street in Bristol

Monday I was into the office in Bristol for various meetings and some training on culture. One of the things I did finalise was my performance objectives for the year ahead. One thing which I ensured was that my objectives were derived from the strategic objectives of the organisation. This way everything I do is contributing to the organisational strategic priorities. This process was something we did on the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme and I also illustrated in this sketchnote.

Vision

I also had a discussion about writing an article about Education 4.0, but with a copyright lens. At this time we’ve not really looked into the copyright implications of the changes that could happen in the world of education.

Alas when leaving the office later that day, it was pouring rain and I got rather damp walking back to my car. I realised my waterproof coat was in fact no longer waterproof.

Illness in others and terrible rain, meant that meetings were changed, so I was able to change my plans from going into the Bristol office to working from home on Tuesday and avoid the rain.

I saw a video in the Twitter on the fourth industrial revolution which I thought was rather good so I blogged about it.

What is Industry 4.0?

Wednesday saw an interesting anniversary, as ten years ago on the 2nd October, I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.

James Clay presenting at FOTE09
James Clay presenting at FOTE09

Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general. I wrote a nostalgic blog post looking back at the event, my presentation and the impact it had.

The future of learning… ten years later!

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I spent a lot of time on Thursday interviewing prospective student partners for Jisc. We like to know what is important to students regarding their use of technology in education and research. What skills they think they need and how they want to learn. So every year we get a group of students from across HE and FE and work with them in a variety of different ways. Some attend our meetings, others our events, they participate in podcasts, panel sessions and workshops. I have always felt it was important to listen to the student voice to inform my work.

Friday I had various meetings, but managed to make a lot of progress on our Learning Technologist technical career pathway. We will be piloting this with individuals over the next twelve months.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Looking back – Weeknote #18 – 5th July 2019

The beach at Sand Bay
The beach at Sand Bay

A busy and confusing week for me with various non-work activities taking place, resulting in a more agile and flexible way of working.

On Monday, that Amazon Photos reminded me that on the 1st July in 2007 I was taking photographs of our brand new library at the new Gloucestershire College campus on the quays.

Gloucestershire College Library

What really impressed me back then was that my library team came in over the weekend to unpack everything and ensure that the library was ready to open. They didn’t tell me they were going to do that, as they wanted to surprise me (and everyone else as it happens). The library was welcomed by staff and students. It would take a little time to embed the use of the library across the student body, but within a year or two we were there.

At Gloucestershire College I was responsible for TEL, the libraries and learning resources from 2006 until 2013. Ofsted at our March 2013 inspection. Ofsted said “Teachers and learners use learning technologies extensively and creatively inside and outside the classroom. Most courses provide a good range of materials for learners through the college’s VLE. Outside lessons, many learners make constructive use of the college’s libraries and resources.” This was achieved by working with curriculum teams and students on show how the library and technology could be used to support learners and enhance the learning experience. I was very proud that all the work myself and my team had put into the use of learning technologies, the VLE and the library was recognised.

I quite enjoyed the tweets this week from Microsoft celebrating the 1985 initial release of Windows.

My first experience of Windows was some time later with Windows 3.0 and remembering the big advance that Windows 3.1 brought to computing. It was probably Windows 3.1 that really made me appreciate the affordances that technology could bring to teaching.

I remember the huge fanfare that was Windows 95 and what a step change it was from 3.1. We even had video now on Windows, though it was quite small.

I never really moved to Windows 98 and moved straight to Windows 2000 when I started a new job in 2001. Well the laptop I was provided with did use Windows Me, but I soon moved over to 2000. I liked Windows XP and thought it was a huge improvement over previous versions of Windows.

After that I was more of a Mac person and rarely used Windows. I did have to use Windows 7 for a while, but found it confusing as I hadn’t used Windows for a long time. Today I have been known to use Windows 10, but my main computing platform these days is still OS X.

David Kernohan of Wonkhe wrote an interesting blog post Visualising the national student survey 2019.

I’ve long argued that NSS by institution only isn’t helpful for prospective students or others – you include so many different student experiences l that an average doesn’t offer much help for understanding how your experience may compare.

He then goes through a range of visualisations including results that allows you to get as close to results for an individual course as the data allows.

I liked the use of Tableau to enable you to interact with the visualisations.

Another news item this week caught my eye. Police face calls to end use of facial recognition software.

…independent analysis found matches were only correct in a fifth of cases and the system was likely to break human rights laws.

Relying on new technology for some stuff can be excused, but using unproven technology that could result in negative impacts on people’s lives is inexcusable.

Actually relying on technology without a human element is also inexcusable. The number of times we hear the phrase “well the computer says…”.

We need to remember that computers and software are designed by people and people can be wrong, biased and will make mistakes.

On Thursday, that Amazon Photos once more gave me a blast from the past and reminded me that thirteen years ago in 2006 I had presented at the EU e-Learning Conference in Espoo in Finland. I was presenting on behalf of Norton Radstock College (now part of Bath College) about a joint European project they had been working on. At the time I was Director of the Western Colleges Consortium of which Norton Radstock was the lead college. I was on holiday when I got the call to see if I could attend, so it was a somewhat mad rush to sort out the travel. I started off in Bristol Airport and then there was a bit of a mad rush at Schiphol where I had to change to a flight to Helsinki. Schiphol is one huge airport…

Schiphol Airport

Having arrived at Helsinki, I needed to get to Espoo and travelled by shared taxi to the hotel. I spent part of the evening walking around the area, before ending up in the hotel restaurant.

Espoo

It was lovely and sunny, and as being so far north, the sun never really set. I also remember trying to access the BBC News website connected to the hotel wifi and being surprised by the advertising all across the BBC site. I then connected to the VPN in my office in Keynsham and all those adverts disappeared…

The conference was opened by a string quartet which I remember been something I hadn’t seen before at an e-learning conference. My presentation went down well, but the humour didn’t!

EU e-Learning Conference 2006

The conference meal was a little disappointing, I had been expecting a meal that would be full of Finnish delicacies and national dishes. What actually happened was we went to an Italian restaurant and had a buffet of Italian food.

It’s quite happenstance that I was reminded of that conference and trip, as in my new role I am now working with NREN colleagues across Europe on different projects,

Helsinki Tram

I had some time the following day before my flight to have a quick look around Helsinki. I caught a bus to the centre and back.

Helsinki

As I didn’t know any Finnish I thought I did quite well to not get lost.

Helsinki

Spent some time reviewing and planning the Data Matters 2020 conference. I presented on the Intelligent Campus at Data Matters 2019 and in my new role the responsibility for planning the next conference falls of my shoulders.

I also spent a fair amount of time working on the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway I am working on at Jisc.

My top tweet this week was this one.

What we’re actually saying is… – Weeknote #10 – 10th May 2019

Corn Street in Bristol
Corn Street in Bristol

With  the bank holiday, a shorter week starting on the Tuesday. It was a pity the weather wasn’t better for the bank holiday weekend, so was slightly annoyed as I arrived for work in bright sunshine.

Tuesday was very much about touching base with people in person. Yes you can do this online or remotely, but there is something about that happenstance that occurs within an office environment.

There was some discussion about the ALT Conference this year, which is taking place in Edinburgh. Alas I won’t be going this year as I will need to be close to home as my youngest starts secondary school, and as most people know, transition is a challenging time for all. I have been going to ALT since 2003 when I presented at the conference in Sheffield. Since then I have been to virtually every conference , except 2004 in Exeter and 2013 in Nottingham. I missed Exeter in the main as I wasn’t presenting and I hadn’t really enjoyed the 2003 experience. I missed 2013 as I had just started a new job at the beginning of September in 2013, so couldn’t get funding. Since joining Jisc in 2015, I did go to Manchester that same year, Warwick in 2016, I enjoyed Liverpool in 2017 and returned to Manchester in 2018. This blog post describes my #altc journey.

I had an interesting discussion over lunch on wellbeing and mental health, and the potential of data and analytics in supporting (staff who support) students in this space.

As I said in a previous weeknote:

Weeknote #05 – 5th April 2019

I think it’s important that when we say something like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can support mental health and well-being for staff, students and researchers.

That what we’re actually saying is something more like…

Working on how data and analytics and other technology related approaches can provide insight, intelligence and inform those staff and services that work in this space and support the mental health and well-being of staff, students and researchers.

Later in the week, HEPI published a policy note on Measuring well-being in higher education. For me one of the key points was this.

The conflation of mental health and well-being is not helpful for tackling either low levels of well-being or supporting those suffering mental ill-health.

 The two issues are related, but they are not the same thing. Interventions can support both issues, but different approaches often need to be taken in order to increase well-being compared to supporting those with mental health issues.

Next week I am off to the University of Hertfordshire to participate in a series of workshops looking at the value of Jisc to our members. I was asked to facilitate sessions relating to that old chestnut of mine, the Intelligent Campus, but will also be supporting sessions on Learning and Teaching and Next Generation Learning Environments. Whilst preparing for this session on Wednesday I was reminded of the reports that have been published in this space by Lawrie Phipps.

The first was the report on the Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

Next generation [digital] learning environments: present and future challenge.

The report was a response to the challenge of the following questions:

  • What would an environment do for staff and students?
  • What kind of learning experiences would an environment need to support?
  • What learning and teaching practices aren’t currently supported in environments?

The report makes for interesting reading

The changing nature of student and staff behaviours was something highlighted by many commentators; technology-led pedagogies, and emphasis on system features was another; and of course many people in the sector were commenting on the rise of analytics and the role that data may play in future systems.

As Technology Enhanced Learning continues to develop, it is clear that some form of digital learning environment will remain core to institutional practices; the levels of integration, features and porosity will continue to change, driven, and potentially driving the behavioural shifts we see in staff and students.

The second report which was researched as a result of the earlier work, with the aim to gain a detailed understanding of current teaching practices in universities and colleges.

Listening to teachers: A qualitative exploration of teaching practices in higher and further education, and the implications for digital

Listening to teachers: a qualitative exploration of teaching practices in HE and FE and the implications for digital. The concluding remarks make for interesting reading and provide food for thought for all those who are supporting and embedding the use of technology for learning and teaching.

Practitioners are struggling with the disconnect between what they need to do in the spaces their institution provides and what is possible. Staff have to work harder to deliver the kind of teaching they want to in spaces that are not always appropriately configured. Some of this difficulty is a result of limits on space as a resource, however, there is also an element of staff not always knowing what is possible in the spaces available.

Interviewees identified a lack of opportunity to reflect on and analyse their teaching practice. While there are forums and staff development opportunities, limited time is officially allocated to formatively evaluating how a course was delivered and received, beyond the metrics used for more formal summative evaluation.

The organisational distance between instructional designers, education technologists and the people teaching in HE and FE is clearly present in (the) data.

Institutionally provided systems are not single-stop places for practitioners, who use open web and commercially provided platforms as teaching and learning places. This is not new6, but it continues to have implications for the ways that institutions support and recognise teaching practices that leverage digital places and platforms.

 I would recommend you read the whole report.

Also too some time looking at various university documents in preparation for a visit to the University of Hertfordshire next week. They certainly have some interesting ambitions for their student experience.

traffic jam in the rain
Image by Holger Schué from Pixabay

I smiled at the Wonkhe article on university car parking rankings.

Our calculations are based on the supply of parking (the number of spaces on campus) divided by the demand for parking (based on the percentages of students and staff driving or carpooling to campus). Such a clear methodology means we can ignore the qualitative opinions of students and staff, which are messy and difficult to put on a league table. 

The environmental considerations appeared to be missed, but then you realise it’s just a parody. I once left a job, because of the car parking (well it was one of the reasons). We were moving campuses from a suburban campus with free parking, to a city centre campus where there was limited on-site parking and all day parking was (as it was right in the heart of the city) expensive. My hours were changing as well, so I would be teaching until 9:30pm, at which point I would be expected to use public transport (two buses) to get home. At this point I started looking for another job. Ironically I got a job at a city centre museum that had no parking either…

Even today my job with Jisc, our head office in Bristol has no staff parking, so I do the train instead, which actually is frequent, reliable (a lot of the time) and about the same price of parking and the cost of petrol. The main difference is that I don’t need to be in the office everyday, so commuting is much less of headache.

Spent some time reviewing my personal objectives for the rest of the year (which is the end of July 2019) as well as reflecting on potential objectives for the following year. In theory we use a platform called Fuse for our objective setting, I though put most of the detail into Confluence, and then using reporting on Jira tasks to pull out and provide the evidence for those objectives. I can also pull out a report of tasks I have done that are not related to objectives. This evidence is useful when pulling together end of year reviews (and mid year reviews too).

My top tweet that week was this one.