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  • How do you deal with a problem like reproducibility?
    Marcus Munafò, professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, describes the efforts underway to make sure that research is robust and reproducible. Science advances by providing insights into the natural world and theories are built on robust observations. There is now growing interest in turning the scientific method on to itself and using this approach to understand the factors that influence the behaviour of scientists, and the robustness of the research they generate.There has been a lot of interest in research reproducibility over the last ten years, particularly in the biomedical sciences, and this debate is now mainstream. Recently, the focus has shifted towards identifying ways in which science can be made more efficient, by improving the quality of the work we produce and the speed with which self-correction occurs. Jisc has also just published a report on the digital tools and services which will help the replicability of research (pdf).So, what can we do to ensure that the practice and methods of scientific research are rigorous and the outputs robust and reproducible?The power of networksA group of researchers recently launched the UK Reproducibility Network, supported by Jisc and a range of other stakeholders, including funders and publishers.Our aim is to bring together colleagues across the higher education and research sector, forming local networks at individual institutions to promote the adoption of initiatives intended to improve research.[#pullquote#]This is very much a peer-led, grassroots initiative that will allow academics to coordinate their efforts and engage with key stakeholders. [#endpullquote#]There are many people in the UK who have been working on this topic, but we sensed a need to bring them together and harmonise activity to make the most of our collective efforts. This is very much a peer-led, grassroots initiative that will allow academics to coordinate their efforts and engage with key stakeholders.The network will operate across three main areas:Meta research: we will conduct research into the factors that influence research reproducibility, and the effectiveness of initiatives intended to improve thisThe network itself: it will help advocate locally and nationally for the adoption of key initiatives such as the use of open research practicesProviding training, disseminating better practice, and engaging with stakeholders: the success of the network depends on having a range of different people from different disciplines involved to meet the needs of all stakeholders, and ensure we can learn from each otherReproducibility in a nutshellIf you’re reading this blog as a researcher, and this issue is one that could impact your career, then you may find our manifesto for reproducible science, published in Nature Human Behaviour last year, interesting.The proposals within the manifesto give all of us in research professions and academic leadership positions a helpful reference list to keep reproducibility at the forefront of our approach:Protect against cognitive biasesImprove methodological training and independent supportCollaborate through the team science consortiaPromote study pre-registratioImprove the quality of reportingProtect against conflicts of interestEncourage transparency and open scienceDiversify peer reviewReward open and reproducible practicesReporting and disseminationPart of the issue with ensuring that research is reproducible is in how it’s published.For example, results that are viewed as “uninteresting” (eg null results) are less likely to be published and the data and analysis code underlying published results is often not available for scrutiny.[#pullquote#]It’s also important to ensure that these approaches actually improve the quality of our work, without creating unnecessary bureaucracy. [#endpullquote#]Various solutions to these problems have been proposed, such as the pre-registration of study protocols and analysis plans, and the publication of data alongside articles. However, these approaches require training as well as platforms to support, for example, open data. It’s also important to ensure that these approaches actually improve the quality of our work, without creating unnecessary bureaucracy.This is just one example that illustrates the need for a peer-led network that works with stakeholders.If new initiatives are introduced that have not been developed in collaboration with end-users, they are much less likely to succeed. Widespread adoption of these incentives will require a cultural change that will be accelerated if there are researchers actively advocating for them.How do we incentivise change? There is some positive work already taking place, from the Royal Society’s campaign and guidance around changing the research culture, to projects such as the research data champion scheme run by Jisc.The champions are working to support colleagues within institutions and spread the word about how we make research open. Jisc has also just launched their open research hub service which will make it easier for researchers and research managers to showcase open data. If data are findable and reusable, then we are one step closer to being able to assess the reproducibility of research and reassess the value of research outputs.People choose careers in science to have impact, improve lives, and to tackle some of the major challenges of our times. As a community, we need to make sure that the methods we ask early career researchers to adopt open doors for both them and their research. Reproducibility is central to making this a reality and to creating a sustainable research economy as we exit Europe.Want to know more?To find out more about the work of the reproducibility network, contact marcus.munafo@bristol.ac.uk or follow the network on Twitter (@ukrepro).
  • Member stories: giving students opportunities to work with primary sources
    How can we best use primary sources in a digital age? I recently wrote a blog about how the universities of Cardiff, Liverpool and Loughborough are inspiring students to take control of their learning by giving them opportunities to work in innovative ways with digital archives. Now, I’d like to share some of the other new stories that follow a similar theme.Here, you can read about the University of Bradford’s recent partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) on the digitised diseases project. Together, they’re creating 3D models of human bones as a rich open access resource for students and researchers studying medicine, physical anthropology and palaeopathology.Developing discipline-specific technical skillsWe were proud to play our role in laying the foundations for the digitised diseases project in 2011-13, as part of a Jisc-funded mass digitisation programme. Since then, the university has taken that work on to a whole new level. Using 3D laser scanning, computed tomography (CT) and radiography, the university and its partners are building a collection that so far comprises more than 1,600 scanned specimens and more than 1,400 descriptions.This creates a digital dataset of more than seven terabytes and has generated a great deal of interest world-wide. In the week following its launch, the digitised diseases project had more than a million hits from 14,000 different visitors in 119 countries.Much closer to home, Bradford’s students are using the resources – and the facilities in the university’s impressive Integrated Life Sciences Learning Centre – to investigate structures and systems in the human body and to explore anatomical specimens and models.[#pullquote#]Masters’ students are gaining skills in analysis and interpretation ... that will stand them in good stead for professional or research careers.[#endpullquote#]Masters’ students are gaining skills in analysis and interpretation of archaeological human remains that will stand them in good stead for professional or research careers. The university also has plans for new modules teaching digital imaging and visualisation techniques that will be of value to those who want to find jobs in areas as diverse as optics and animation.It’s no wonder that the MSc in human osteology and palaeopathology scored 90% for student satisfaction in the 2015 postgraduate taught experience survey. Download the University of Bradford case studyStudents building archives for studentsLess technologically advanced, but just as relevant for building discipline-specific digital practices, is the University of Hertfordshire’s story demonstrating how digital archives are used in the humanities.Hertfordshire is empowering history undergraduates to take control of their learning by sending them to search digital archives for text and images that relate to specific questions posed by teaching staff. They use the materials that they find to create new archival collections for future cohorts of students to use and develop. This inherited learning programme aims to “leave learning resources richer than we found them”.[#pullquote#]it puts the digital abilities that students already have to work, turning learners into creators[#endpullquote#]By and large, it puts the digital abilities that students already have to work, turning learners into creators rather than simply users of digital archives. The programme is enabling students to develop a richer understanding of how history is made and of how archival collections are created – what gets in, what gets lost or left out on purpose, what gets suppressed and why. They learn, too, how to write and present content for a diverse audience and they leave the programme with tangible outputs for their portfolios.As one recent graduate from the programme says in the case study:“The inherited learning project helped me develop many useful skills to add to my 'historian's toolkit' while looking for a job in an academic/heritage organisation.” Download the University of Hertfordshire case studyUnderstanding how history is madeSome people may already know something about the University of Sussex’s observing the 80s project. During 2013-14, a group of graduates and undergraduates worked with teaching, library and IT staff to create a digital collection based on original materials gathered together by library staff 30-plus years ago. They’re available to all as an open educational resource (OER).Within the history department, the resources are widely used in teaching – notably for the module ‘1984: Thatcher’s Britain’. Project lead Professor Lucy Robinson says that, in this case, digital resources are not being used to do things bigger or faster, but to give undergraduates unprecedented access to original materials so they can get a better sense of how history is really made. Lucy points out that the process is “raw and messy” and as one student says:“The authenticity of the sources has been maintained. As the diary entries have been made available in their original format, a number of them are handwritten and most of them are largely unedited. This leaves them open to interpretation and also offers further insight into the lives of the respondents by alluding to their age, social status or level of education."It’s clear from Sussex’s story that the history department remains keen to innovate and to explore digital archives in new ways. You can also read about their experiments with augmented reality (AR) and social media, and find out what they might do next. Download the University of Sussex case studyFind out moreAll the case studies are available to download and If they’ve inspired you to do more with your own digital collections, take a look at our guide to making your digital collections easier to discover. It offers techniques to help you extend their reach and evaluate their use and impact.You might also be interested to read about building digital capabilities and our building digital capabilities service.
  • What does the FE college of the future look like?
    In the same way that machines changed the lives of our ancestors in the 19th century, so technology is transforming our world in the 21st century. Here, we imagine a day in the life of a further education principal in a few years' time. It’s first thing on a weekday morning. The learner progress dashboard you asked the data analytics system to provide after last night’s governors’ meeting is live on your desktop. Powered by the systems your IT team has put in place, your request took up no valuable teaching time because data collection is automatic.You also notice an auto-generated report (using artificial intelligence), highlighting a significant "closing of the gap" in achievement for male black and minority ethnic (BME) learners, which you tag to include in the college equality and diversity report.Inspiring teachingThrough a classroom door, you see 11 out of 12 learners receiving one-to-one help. Your "students at risk" dashboard had identified they were struggling, enabling the tutor to intervene in time to help these learners succeed.Your staff are using the technology to collaborate with each other, leading to better record management and access to the right information, when and where it’s required. This reduced burden frees up tutors to develop their skills and you’re pleased to see a digital leaders training session taking place down the corridor.[#pullquote#] Your students’ learning is immersive, interactive, flexible, fun and, most importantly, personalised to meet their needs – enabling them to excel. [#endpullquote#]Animated GCSE English learners are using VR headsets to immerse themselves in a novel, which brings characters’ challenges and motivations to life. Your students’ learning is immersive, interactive, flexible, fun and, most importantly, personalised to meet their needs – enabling them to excel.Personalised learningThrough the library windows you see students working in collaborative groups, researching coursework and checking their progress through online quizzes and games.[#pullquote#]it’s stretching and challenging the most capable while providing constructive scaffolding for less able learners. [#endpullquote#]You observe computer-aided differentiation, with a small group of learners, supported by machine-based learning. From the different tasks in hand you see "the system" recognises individual’s strengths and areas for improvement and it’s stretching and challenging the most capable while providing constructive scaffolding for less able learners.The librarian is adding the latest e-books to the online library catalogue and directing his team to add the titles to curriculum VLE courses. He’s pleased because all learners can access digital resources at the same time, whenever and wherever they are. And, because he no longer handles book collections or access management tasks, he has time to give learners personalised support.In the staffroom, tutors have time to put real thought into marking because the technology has done the legwork – the cognitive language assistant pre-marks the assignments and identifies any attempts at plagiarism.Saving timeOne of your admin team mentions that the college chatbot is currently engaging in nearly 1,500 conversations with students and staff. They’re asking it questions such as “what are my results?” and “what time is this class at?”. The chatbot has access to the entire college dataset, so it can respond immediately, leaving the admin team to focus on more important questions.[#pullquote#]everyone is ready to find solutions to issues because nobody has had to spend time wading through board papers [#endpullquote#]As soon as your SMT meeting starts, everyone is ready to find solutions to issues because nobody has had to spend time wading through board papers – all the information is clearly highlighted on dashboards.The second item on the agenda is a report from your pastoral support manager on learners who’ve been identified through your data intelligence system as suffering from wellbeing issues. A local professional athlete who experiences similar problems recently visited to share his story; a couple of anonymised extracts from the learners’ reflective journals pop up on the screen and it’s evident how much his visit has helped them.As you leave your meeting, your phone buzzes to inform you 73 prospective students have been touring the campus virtually in advance of their transition next year. They’re keen to find out more because further education is becoming the place to go to become digitally skilled and ready to succeed in the world of work.Tomorrow's tech in today's collegesThis may sound like pie in the sky, but some of it is already happening in colleges across the UK. Some of you are using technology to streamline data collection and centralise administrative systems. This is enabling you to reduce travel between campuses and to hold virtual meetings with employers and higher education partners.Beyond this, some colleges are blazing a trail, using digital technologies to speed up the arrival of an exciting and achievable future.[#pullquote#]In this vision, all FE colleges are vibrant, human-centred, productive, sustainable centres of learning, set up for the future. [#endpullquote#]In this vision, all FE colleges are vibrant, human-centred, productive, sustainable centres of learning, set up for the future.The available technology is exciting, but it is not the story, it’s a tool. It’s what you do with these tools in your colleges that will make the difference for your learners (whether they’re on campus, working at their employer’s premises or studying elsewhere), tutors, IT managers, librarians and administrators – as well as local employers and other partners.If we all work together now, we can make sure FE becomes the destination of choice for learners who want to develop digital skills to prepare them to shine when they join the world of work.To find out more, come and speak to us at the AoC Conference on Tuesday 20 November, 11:30-12:40.
  • Member stories: using digital archives to inspire students
    What are the benefits of co-creating a curriculum with digital archives? In my role at Jisc I often talk about the different ways in which digital technologies can enhance learning and teaching when they’re designed effectively into a course. To give just two examples – teaching and support staff can use digital technologies to help students become active learners and co-creators of knowledge; in doing so they can support the development of students’ digital skills for both study and employment.But what does that look like on the ground? We’ve put together a new set of HE member stories so that you can delve into some of the detail of recent effective digital learning implementations.Taken together, the case studies cover too much ground for a single blog post so here I want to look at just three, from the universities of Cardiff, Liverpool and Loughborough.  Each of these institutions is exploring working with digitised archival collections and taking its own distinct approach to using them to provide richer learning experiences and to engage students as active, independent learners and researchers.‘Google for dead people’The University of Liverpool has developed a new undergraduate module, taught for the first time in 2017/18, called ‘panopticon and the people’. It uses a range of digital archives containing text, images and other forms of content to give students an opportunity to engage directly with primary resources while exploring the history of crime and punishment.In this module the 60 or so students each use the free Digital Panopticon archive to identify a single offender to study – and then go on to learn techniques that enable them to explore contemporary news reports and other sources across a variety of digital archives, so they can uncover their subject’s previously hidden, cradle to grave life story. The Digital Panopticon offers them plenty to choose from – it contains millions of records from around 50 datasets relating to 90,000 people convicted at the Old Bailey.Perhaps surprisingly, students carry out their archives-based research together in campus-based labs: lecturer Dr Zoe Alker says this makes it easier to support students face to face and it allows them to discuss emerging findings as well as any issues that crop up. The students on Zoe’s module can also explore a 3D model of an 18th century prison design using virtual reality headsets.[#pullquote#]“the process de-centres the classroom dynamic and invites students to get hands on with primary research”[#endpullquote#]One student likened this digital search and analysis process to ‘Google for dead people’. The richer understanding of crime and punishment that the process supports has been widely welcomed by the students on the programme. Zoe has had plenty of positive feedback; she highlights the fact that “the process de-centres the classroom dynamic and invites students to get hands on with primary research”. The new skills in digital research and in communicating their findings will support them in their ongoing studies and also make them more attractive to future employers. Download the Unversity of Liverpool case studyTurning students into scholarsWhile the University of Liverpool created a new module for its experiments with digital archives, Cardiff University is looking at ways to embed digital collections into its existing history curriculum. Here, second year students studying the history of medicine have been working with the UK Medical Heritage Library (a three year initiative, joint funded by the Wellcome Library and Jisc, to digitise over 15m pages of 19th century medical texts) and using the material as part of a programme to, as Professor Keir Waddington puts it, “develop their abilities as active researchers rather than consumers of information”. The history department wants to investigate whether students at this level can engage successfully with the opportunities that digital archives present – can they learn the disciplines of historical study and research as well as the digital techniques that they’ll need? Is this too much for them to tackle? The Cardiff case study suggests not.[#pullquote#]students are learning how to build on any pre-existing digital skills and transfer them into an academic environment[#endpullquote#]Keir reports that students are learning how to build on any pre-existing digital skills and transfer them into an academic environment, and also showing clear evidence of greater engagement. He tells us that group discussions are becoming increasingly animated and more students are staying behind after classes to take the conversation forward and develop their ideas.Cardiff’s experience shows us not only that undergraduate students can learn and apply the necessary techniques – but also that they embrace the opportunity enthusiastically. It’s too soon to say how this fresh burst of enthusiasm will affect outcomes. But, within the university, lessons are already being learned and some activities (notably those connected with geomapping) are being revised and redeveloped so that future cohorts at Cardiff will have an even better learning experience. Download the Cardiff University case studyGaining new skills and confidenceMeanwhile at Loughborough University lecturer in digital history Dr Melodee Beals is taking her own approach to using digital archives with undergraduate students. And here, as students get to grips with primary sources and develop confidence in their own ideas and critical skills, they’re starting to push for more such opportunities. As one student says in the case study:“[I] gained so many new skills through this module and really enjoyed applying history in other ways using these skills”.Melodee’s broad aim is to develop good, independent academic skills among the students and so they are being taught to develop a profound understanding of what resources are, how to identify the ones you need, how to evaluate them and how best to analyse their content. And in putting this new knowledge to work the university is taking a creative approach, for example, by using gaming techniques and role playing to help students develop their understanding of what motivated historical figures to act and behave as they did. Download the Loughborough University case studyI’d urge you to take a look at the three case studies above for some useful insights into embedding digital archives into teaching. While each university takes its own approach, some of the take-home messages are common to all. I’d sum the main ones up as follows:Have a clear idea of what learning and teaching outcomes you want to achieve – digital technologies are tools to help you get there, not an end in themselvesDon’t assume students have appropriate digital skills - treat them all as ‘digital apprentices’ and teach them the specific skills that will help them while they study and then make them more attractive to employersMake sure that teaching staff have access to any support they need in developing their digital skills or incorporating digital learning and research activities into their teachingBe prepared to experiment and accept that sometimes you’ll try things that don’t workEven when it’s difficult the benefits are worth it. One student at Loughborough summed up the experience:“This has been one of the most helpful modules of the whole degree. If the module was undertaken at an earlier period of the course it would have been a great benefit to the rest of my degree. It has more than prepared me for further study.”Find out moreAll of the case studies are available to download. You might also be interested to read about building digital capabilities and our building digital capabilities service
  • Chatbots - now is the time
    With chatbots active in some institutions and minimal investment required to get them up and running, now really is the time to explore this technology. When is my next assignment due? How much leave do I have left this year? When is the next bus into town?One thing these questions have in common is they can all be answered relatively easily by a chatbot. In some institutions, they already are.These examples come from a project my colleague Paul Hopkins and I have been conducting, co-sponsored by Jisc and UCISA, to survey the opportunities that chatbots offer and what further and higher education institutions can do – and are doing – to exploit these.How institutions are using chatbotsFollowing a survey in the summer to assess activity in this field, we had more than 20 positive responses. The majority are actively exploring options, but seven are developing, or have already deployed, chatbots.Other examples we encountered include chatbots that support student recruitment, helping to make open days as effective and user-friendly as possible. The main developments involve supporting all parts of the student journey.Helping students to learnInteresting developments are happening to support students in learning.This could include giving them a revision aid and helping them to formulate their answers during assessment. This is perhaps the most exciting and contentious use, but it shows the potential for this technology to radically change the very core of institutions’ activities.Our chatbots and digital assistants report outlines maturity models for chatbots, the current state-of-the-art in respect of some of the major vendors’ technologies and gives some tips and pointers for getting started in this field. Chatbots are adding valuePerhaps the key point is that institutions should start now. There are live examples in this sector and in other sectors, where chatbots are adding value.It really is possible to get up and running with a small investment. We have seen quite impressive examples developed in a matter of days, but it is possible to develop a simple chatbot in minutes.There are a few platforms available: we have engaged most heavily with Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft, which are all very keen to support institutions in their developments. These are all substantially open, interoperable and interchangeable services, which means that there’s no need to decide which to use up-front; you can get going and swap horses later.Chatbots have some real positives:They are scalable when a cloud service is used (which is the most common approach) so can handle seasonal and unexpected peaksThey are consistentThey are available round the clockTheir impersonality can be an advantage - a chatbot will not judge anyone if they are strugglingIf they are integrated well into other systems and have access to a good, well-ordered source of data, they can offer a personalised and context-sensitive service, for example, “Your assignment is due in next Wednesday, but remember you also have deadlines on Thursday and Friday.”Learnings so farOf course, there are aspects to beware of. Some of the key lessons we’ve learnt so far include that, when it comes to developing a full-scale service that can operate effectively with a wide audience, careful preparation and design is needed.It’s also important to have a well-ordered knowledge base – the corpus of knowledge that underpins the chatbot. This might require some preparatory work for some institutions. The role of service owners, outside of IT, is also crucial, and getting them involved in assessing and developing chatbots is a good step to take early on.The project continues into 2019 and I’d be very keen to hear from institutions that are working in this field or considering doing so.Read our chatbots and digital assistants – getting started in FE and HE report (pdf).
  • Implementing Plan S – a welcomed announcement
    The Wellcome Trust announced its new OA policy this week, a next step since joining cOAlition S, the policy gives us our first sight of an implementation approach in line with Plan S. Plan S is currently a set of ten principles, prefaced with important remarks, and supported by 13 European research funders known as cOAlition S keen to implement open access (OA) to research publications, both quickly and cost-effectively. The plan sets out a clear direction, but many details of implementation will need to be resolved by the cOAlition S funders, such as how the start of the implementation periods is handled.The 1 January 2020 is proposed as the official launch date of this new era of open access, but it remains to be seen whether this will apply to research funded, evaluated, or published after that date, and whether funders will align their interpretations in their own policies. The Wellcome Trust is clear that it is research submitted for publication after that date which needs to adhere.Significant weight is given to the idea of "platforms" within Plan S which are likely to include the existing OA repository network, but we await a decision as to whether these will include services like ResearchGate, or the European Commission’s new “Open Research Europe”. So what will plan S mean in practice for other organisations and institutions in the UK?What Plan S means for JiscWe have been considering the implications and actively engaging in discussions with all stakeholders about Plan S. Our role at Jisc is to support our members through providing services and contributing to policies, to make sure implementation is achievable for them.[#pullquote#]Our role at Jisc is to support our members through providing services and contributing to policies, to make sure implementation is achievable for them.[#endpullquote#]Working with our members and sector agencies, we have published our 2019 requirements for transformative open access agreements. These requirements are focused on the ‘hybrid’ model and provide clear unequivocal statements to publishers on what the sector regards as acceptable terms for hybrid journal agreements.Our focus is on negotiating agreements to meet these requirements, and where these are met, the Wellcome Trust has signalled an agreement will be compliant with their policy when it comes into effect in 2020. Additionally, to enable compliance with future UKRI policy, we will make provision for re-negotiation a part of all agreements. But it is not just about hybrid models and helpfully, leading experts at the Utrecht University have put together a summary of the eight routes they see to implement Plan S. These include the different routes which all of us could take, from librarians, to researchers, to funders, to ensure we bring Plan S to life.At Jisc, we are working, and intend to work much more, with smaller learned society publishers who might feel that “read and publish” deals are a heavy burden and difficult to implement for publishers with a small number of journals. We will also increase our work with Gold publishers. It is worth remembering, though, that OA, via repositories, is likely to remain an option; it certainly is in the Wellcome Trust policy.Further policy considerationsThe release of the Wellcome Trust policy is a good first step in helping all stakeholders to see what an implementation of Plan S looks like, and as a sector we wait to see how UKRI’s review of its OA policy, which will likely continue into 2019, will play out in terms of implementation.While these policies and implementation plans are being developed, some voices have raised concerns. A few researchers have already expressed concerns about the implications they see in needing to publish in line with Plan S ideas. [#pullquote#]A few researchers have already expressed concerns about the implications they see in needing to publish in line with Plan S ideas. [#endpullquote#]Some publishers have also expressed reservations and, while these are couched in terms of researchers’ interests, they do also point to changes that might impact on publishers’ revenues. In addition, libraries have been feeling uncertain about how Plan S will affect current agreements and those that are under negotiation, in terms of what will be deemed compliant or ‘transformative’.We will make sure we provide clear information on which agreements are compliant with funders policies, as they are released.Our services and possible changes aheadMany of our services are already in a good place to support implementation. For example, with RoMEO and FACT, we have widely used tools documenting existing OA policies and providing decision support. With KB+, we have a record of the deals, including transformative OA deals, with publishers, and which institutions have participated in. Taking these together, we have the basis for a straightforward tool for members of cOAlition S to provide to their grant-holders, informing them whether and how to align their publishing with OA policies, and their local context. We might expect to see a transformation in the repository landscape, with greater use of solutions that integrate a range of research outputs including papers, software and data. While EuropePMC and the EBI databases will clearly remain vital in the life sciences, other solutions such as Jisc’s research data shared service, nearing a soft launch later this month, should also help universities realise the benefits of open science and OA.[#pullquote#]There is a lot going on in OA and Plan S could be a game-changer.[#endpullquote#]There is a lot going on in OA and Plan S could be a game-changer. We are keen to talk with our members and other stakeholders, and will stay close to research funders while respecting the independence of the UKRI policy review. At the moment we’re having conversations with some key experts, but intend to broaden that conversation out as soon as we can.Jisc has been at the forefront of OA for nearly 20 years, and some of us have seen events that looked like tipping points before. However, we are optimistic that this time we really are on the cusp of something transformative in scholarly communication.For futher updates on our work in this area visit the Jisc scholarly communications blog.
  • Working with colleges to understand what our services mean to staff and students
    Earlier this year, as part of our ongoing engagement process with members, we commissioned independent consultants to determine what Jisc services mean to the FE sector. The information will help us refine and develop what we do for our members now and into the future. At three very different colleges the consultants looked at all Jisc services, the most important being connectivity to the Janet Network, its in-built cyber security protection, and digital resources such as e-books for FE.The reports, which will be shared with members, will help us understand the value of our services and how the costs stack up against alternative providers.The first report from Strode College is complete. Here, some of the people who work and study there give their views:Tim Blake, head of IT at Strode CollegeI trust the Janet Network absolutely. When we connect to the internet and the students and the academics are doing their work, we just know that the network is going to carry on working and we don’t have to worry about it.The loss of connectivity would cause chaos very quickly. The entire range of education is done here and we need the technology and the connectivity to do that. It can’t fail. If it fails, we fail.Having been a customer of Jisc for many years, there is a feeling that working with a not-for-profit organisation that is built on the right ethos of education and research is a good thing; we have absolute faith in Jisc’s ability to do the right thing.In terms of cyber security, we feel protected, but we are not complacent. We know that there are risks, but we also know that, when there are issues, Jisc is on the case quickly, protecting us and other institutions. I don’t think anybody could improve on that.FE is also different to HE and, in some ways, FE is more challenging technology-wise because we have a lot more in the way of duty of care. Web filtering and monitoring and managing firewalls effectively is critical to us surviving. The challenges are huge, with much, much less in the way of resources.The number of students who bring in their own devices has increased exponentially, and the expectation is that, from the moment they arrive in the morning until college closes in the evening, they can access good quality, high-speed and secure connectivity. Beyond college open hours, there is also a significant demand by students, staff, and key partners to access learning resources remotely, and again, the reliance that the college places on the service provider, is key to its success.  He also said: Our budget is always under review and we don’t have the time, resources or skills to be field experts in all of the technology that we use, so having a good quality, reliable service means a huge amount to us.This is becoming significantly more relevant as we are increasing our use of online resources, including remote assessment and online examinations. The system helps us to cope with the demand for our limited resources.Read more of Tim's story (pdf)Angela Leavens, head of learning resources and e-learning at Strode CollegeWithout Jisc I would spend a lot more time negotiating our digital resources, which means I’d probably need more staff and I wouldn’t be able to offer the same breadth of products for learners.The fact that we get e-books for FE for free through Jisc is absolutely fantastic! E-books are so much easier from our point of view than a hard copy. We get the title quickly, everyone can use it at the same time and we can have one ebook that will service the entire student body; you can’t say that of a paper book.It’s a seamless service too because we use Shibboleth, so learners authenticate with their college username and password - we don’t have to give them a whole raft of passwords they need to remember.Our students access the resources they need from home or on the move. That’s really important to us as we are quite rural - we have students commuting on buses for up two hours to and from the campus.Read more from Angela (pdf)Innes Davidson, a maths, physics and geography A-level student at Strode CollegeE-books are easy to access and I can have different tabs open at the same time, so I can look through different things easily and access them from different locations or on my phone.If I didn’t have e-books I’d probably have to buy text books, which is expensive, heavy and awkward.Dominic Cumberland, computing, physics and photography A-level student at Strode CollegeHaving e-books on my phone means that I’m more likely to read them and go through them, especially when I have a spare moment.On the bus I just put some headphones on, listen to some music and get the revision book out. It has saved money, too, because the textbooks are quite expensive - £20 each - but this way I can have them for free.Read more about Dominic's experience (pdf)
  • How we’ve been designing equitable foundations for open knowledge
    It’s open access week, and the pace of change in the world of open access (OA) shows no sign of slowing down. Whilst this is a time of uncertainty, there are exciting developments and possibilities afoot... “Plan S” aims to make open access a reality for Europe by 2020. On 4 September 2018, a group national research funding organisations, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council, announced an initiative to make full and immediate access to research publications a reality. Plan S consists of one target and ten principles.  We recently welcomed the radical new move. While reactions have been varied and there is much to discuss regarding implementation, we believe in the power of shared knowledge, and we’re looking forward to supporting our members as we shift towards an OA world.[#pullquote#]we believe in the power of shared knowledge[#endpullquote#]This year’s open access week theme is: “designing equitable foundations for open knowledge”, which aims to explore the question “how can we can design open systems to ensure that they are inclusive, equitable and truly serve the needs of a diverse global community?”Here are some examples of what we’ve been doing in this vein to support our members and researchers around the globe.Making research available to everyone around the worldWe pride ourselves on supporting the research community, and our service that we run with the Open University, “CORE”, does just that. CORE is a fantastic service that collates open access content from worldwide repositories and journals; facilitating free, unrestricted access to research for all.  Efficient, comprehensive, and effective discovery is at the heart of making open access materials inclusive and equitable, serving the needs of users all around the world.CORE can get information out to schools, colleges, universities, and developing countries that don’t have as many resources, and, in fact, absolutely any institution in need of content and information. As of May 2018, CORE has aggregated over 131 million article metadata records, 93 million abstracts, 11 million hosted and validated full texts and over 78 million direct links to research papers hosted on other websites.Guides and clear informationWe know the world of OA can be complicated and a bit daunting, so we provide plenty of free guides on open access, from the open access good practice handbook, to advice on how to manage your open access costs and managing research data in your organisation.As the implementation of Plan S becomes clearer, we will support our members by facilitating discussions, identifying best practice, and acting as a voice for the community to funders, publishers and other policymakers to achieve the most efficient transition.Providing technical foundations that ease workloads and make content discoverableOf course, we provide the Janet Network, the UK’s world-class research and education network. Moreover though, we pride ourselves on our services that help organisations and researchers alike to source the information they need to do their jobs well.Open systems to support open access use need efficient infrastructure services for holding, preserving, curating, and providing access to information.For example, our research shared data service (RDSS) will allow researchers to easily deposit data for publication, discovery, safe storage, archiving and preservation. This means that they are able to provide easy and open access to research data so it can be re-used.Continuity is keyIn terms of the nuts and bolts, we promote the use of common infrastructure with our OA services, as we want to ensure that it doesn’t matter which systems are used, outputs can still be made open access. So the ‘piping’ that we use between our systems (the parts that allow information to flow from one to the other) involves the use of common standards and identifiers, such as ORCID.This infrastructure is largely governed by the community meaning that our members can have a say in its development and feel more confident in its long-term future. Helping to build skills for future generations of researchersThe advantages of open access to research reaches wider than the immediate research community. The government’s industrial strategy recently called for a rethink in order to close the skills gap.Access to open knowledge will have a hugely positive impact on future generations of students and researchers alike, opening access to cutting-edge research for a wider audience than now, and allowing experimentation and innovation in its use in teaching, training, and research. We see the use of open access as underpinning developments and opportunities for training and a strong future workforce for the UK.Next stepsWe’ll continue our work to support you in the move to OA. Our next steps are to continue to support institutions in complying with funders’ open access policies, in particular for the research excellence framework 2021 (REF2021).We will be keeping a very close eye on the policy implementation of the Plan S principles, and the implications for our members and the UK (and global) infrastructure, and will continue to:Offer events and webinarsProvide professional skills development for library and research staffIntegrate our open access services with institutional and third party commercial systemsWork to ensure our services reflect Plan S developmentGet involvedVisit our open access page for guides, services, and our OA newsletter.Join in the discussion on Twitter @Jisc or #jiscoa.
  • Will edtech take-up in further education produce the digitally-savvy workforce the UK needs?
    When I first started to develop a learning technology strategy for my then college employer, edtech was in its infancy.  Today, more than 15 years later, the latest tech has more power than ever to be transformative, both to college business and the student experience.Our new report, breaking through: stories of effective digital practice from UK further education (FE) and skills, showcases the brilliant uses some colleges are finding for tech in teaching, especially emerging tools such as augmented and virtual reality.Sadly, such best practice examples are not yet the norm in the further education (FE) sector. Many colleges have yet to begin the necessary journey to a digital-first strategy, so the positive influence of edtech is not available to all students. Lack of funding has much to do with this.Keeping up with technologyResults from the recent AoC college IT and digital technology survey show, for example, that 36% of devices in colleges are already more than five years old, and, by 2020, 33% of devices will be obsolete.If any of you have five-year-old iPhones or iPads, you’ll know how frustrating it is to use something so slow and clunky.We believe that, if the sector is to survive and thrive, and colleges are to meet the government’s expectations for upskilling today’s and tomorrow’s workforces, investment in technology must be a priority. So, what’s the hold-up?Overcoming obstaclesThe two biggest obstacles, of course, are lack of funding and time – which in turn impact staff skills.[#pullquote#]only 35 colleges felt digital technology was a budget priority[#endpullquote#]The AoC’s survey (with results from 75 colleges) found that only 35 colleges (48%) felt digital technology was a budget priority, and 33 (44%) admitted to having to downgrade planned IT investments for 2018/19.When asked to list the main barriers to the use of edtech, 93% cited practitioners’ lack of confidence and digital skills, 77% cited a lack of practitioner time and 54% blamed a lack of money. Jisc helps its members get the best value from technology and we can also help plug the staff skills gap, too, through our new service, building digital capabilities.What do students think?It’s not all doom and gloom though. Jisc’s digital experience insights survey of 2018, with answers from more than 14,000 FE students, showed that 74% rated their college’s digital provision as above the midpoint in the scale, and 72% rated the quality of digital teaching and learning as above average.[#pullquote#]64% agreed they are more independent in their learning when digital technology is used.[#endpullquote#]However, about a third (32%) of FE students wanted digital technologies to be used more on their course and 64% agreed they are more independent in their learning when digital technology is used.A further 57% of college students agreed that digital approaches help them to fit learning into their life – remote access to the virtual learning environment, digital resources and online assessment, for example. Technology like this allows students to learn independently at a time, pace and place to suit them, which is just as important, if not more so, for adult learners, especially those who work and need to juggle study with earning.Plugging the skills gap through technologyAmong the aims of the AoC-led Love Our Colleges campaign is to increase lifelong learning opportunities for adults. Jisc is already engaging with the government on the role technology can and should play in delivering adult education and the new T-levels, and we also advocate digital apprenticeships where, again, the maximum use of online study and assessment builds a flexible learning model that suits apprentices and their employers.As things stand, we know there is a clear demand for technology in colleges – most responders to the AoC’s questions (73%) say it’s important for data management and for teaching, for independent learning and course content (68%), assessment (66%) and learning management (65%).[#pullquote#]the government has put FE front and centre in the race to plug the UK’s technical skills gap[#endpullquote#]Through its industrial and digital strategies, the introduction of T-levels and Institutes of Technology, the government has put FE front and centre in the race to plug the UK’s technical skills gap and give the economy the shot in the arm it needs to keep pace on the world stage.Colleges are trying to respond positively to government demands, but without sufficient funding, they won’t be able to keep pace with the changes in technology and will not, therefore, be effective in producing the digitally-savvy workforce the UK needs.
  • Campus visitors come in from the cold
    Within the Nordic languages is a concept that could be called a "hierarchy of foreignness". Someone not from your own family or village, but whose background largely overlaps with your own might be classed as utlänning ("foreigner"). A person from the same culture, but with differences of background, such as a visitor from a distant city, would be främling ("stranger"). Someone from a completely alien culture with no shared language or traditions would be described as varelse ("being").Historically, where unexpected visitors fell within this hierarchy determined the strength of welcome they received, from shared shelter to swords drawn.Our "hierarchy of association"Something like this hierarchy maps rather nicely to the way Jisc provides connectivity to people who visit our members’ campuses. Our particular "hierarchy of association" might look something like this:1. Local membersStaff and students on their own campus enjoy the maximum levels of trust and might use organisation-only production wireless local area networks (WLANs) for day-to-day connectivity.2. Federated visitors - "utlänning"Visitors from the public sector associated with colleges, universities or research centres, who are bound by similar policies of acceptable use and device management, can be connected via a federated roaming service such as our eduroam or govroam options.The benefit of federated roaming is that the absolute minimum of personal information is required to grant access, so the overheads of achieving General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance are minimal.3. Associate visitors - "främling"Somewhere between federated visitors and the public are visitors who have some association with the college or university, such as a delegate to an academic conference.You might know something about them in advance and could offer a more comprehensive network experience than you would to a stranger.The litmus test here is whether they are visiting because yours is an education organisation – for example attending a conference you are hosting.If, however, they are on campus to visit a café or to stay in student accommodation during holidays, then presumably any other café or hotel locally would do just as well. You can’t argue that providing enhanced connectivity services to them is linked to your educational mission.If an associate visitor passes this test, then it is likely that you may provide them with extended network services, such as eduroam Visitor Access without risking your status as a private network. Were you to provide such services to a member of the public, you risk your network as a whole being classed as public, and incurring various legal responsibilities as a result.4. General public guest - "varelse"Members of the public may be passing through campus on a right of way, or visiting campus shops or recreational facilities.They can be provided with a connectivity option that is appropriate to their limited level of association with your organisation. You choose the degree of personal data you gather from them when providing such services under the GDPR. For example, you might request contact details so that you can follow up with a satisfaction survey, or you might require sufficient information to charge for the connectivity provided.These categories do not have rigid boundaries - you might choose to treat people who log in to eduroam from your own organisation differently than you do eduroam visitors from elsewhere. Similarly, the prospective student visiting for an open day might be an associate visitor,  but you might not extend that same level of access to accompanying family or friends.Here’s how our portfolio of network access services map on to this new model for visitor and guest provision:[[{"fid":"8201","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Janet support for visitors to your campus","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Janet support for visitors to your campus","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":507,"width":729,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Unwanted visitorsThere’s a final category in the hierarchy of foreignness - the djur ("beast") - a hostile thing that lacks rationality and self-awareness and can’t be befriended.Perhaps that can stand as a reminder that however we structure our connectivity solutions, there may be wolves at the door who will do harm if we let them in. Understanding our visitors and their relationship with us, and providing the right access for their needs will go a long way towards keeping the wolves at bay.To find out more about Jisc’s connectivity services, contact your account manager.
  • Government shows further education is key to closing the UK’s technical skills gap
    Through its industrial and digital strategies, the introduction of T-levels and institutes of technology, the government has put further education (FE) centre stage in closing the UK’s technical skills gap. Last week’s announcement from government to create a package of measures to support business to boost skills, growth and prosperity in the economy, may well help meet some of the challenges in these policies. For example, the National Retraining Scheme (NRS) is promised a £100m boost, which presents an opportunity for investment in technology and blended learning.Edtech will enable the current workforce to access the focused, flexible, micro learning opportunities which will help them upskill while they continue to work. Technology within pedagogy will be critical to making the NRS a tool which can be embedded within FE.[#pullquote#]Edtech will enable the current workforce to access the focused, flexible, micro learning opportunities which will help them upskill while they continue to work. [#endpullquote#]The government has also announced a new careers guidance service, where again, technology will be key to providing up-to-date information, advice and guidance for the current and future workforce. This kind of service should also create a snapshot of local, regional and national skills gaps, and the job opportunities therein...As a sector, FE could link this data to educational pathways, ensuring that courses arm students with the right skills, knowledge and behaviours they will require for jobs of the future.Understanding the skills employers needEnabling people to understand the qualifications and skills current employees in a particular professions have (and what they earn) is vital for debunking myths around careers. Clarity and openness around job roles will enable UK citizens to explore the types of occupations they would prefer, as well as understanding how many likely vacancies there will be.As we read the stories in the media about AI robots taking our jobs in years to come, shining a light on the reality of employment opportunities can only be a good thing.Investing in technology for a thriving workforce of the futureJisc is already engaging with the government on the role technology can and should play in delivering adult education and the new T-levels, and we also advocate “digital apprenticeships” where, again, the maximum use of online study and assessment builds a flexible learning model to suit apprentices and their employers.We believe that, if the sector is to survive and thrive, and colleges are to meet the government’s expectations for upskilling the workforces of today and tomorrow, investment in technology is another priority.[#pullquote#]the recent survey from the DfE and AoC identified 33% of digital devices in colleges will be obsolete be 2020.[#endpullquote#]In fact, the recent survey from the department for education (DfE) and the Association of Colleges (AoC) identified 33% of digital devices in colleges will be obsolete be 2020.As education secretary, Damian Hinds, said in his speech at the Conservative party conference this week: “If you think about artificial intelligence, voice computing, the internet, advanced robotics, any of these on their own could constitute a revolution. But right now they are happening all at the same time. And so we’ve got a pace of change that is truly unprecedented.”Supporting colleges to achieve this visionFundamentally though, FE and skills providers need to be fully supported in order to keep pace with such change, and meet the target of 500 apprenticeship standards by the end of 2019.As part of our efforts to support further education colleges, we’ll be looking to see that the £38m funding boost for equipment and facilities for the first T-level providers makes the best of technological solutions, and we are already in discussions with the DfE.Whichever route learners take, a digital-first education that supports them both now, and in their careers to come, is going to be increasingly important for students, colleges, and the economy.
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about chatbots (but were afraid to ask)
    Building a chatbot may be cheaper and easier than you think – but it needs careful planning to get it right. Last month, Jisc’s London office was invaded by chatbots during a hackathon attended by developers from universities and colleges.At the event on 24 September, three of the leading vendors of chatbot platforms - Amazon, Google and IBM - demonstrated in detail how their technology could tackle typical challenges facing colleges and universities.It is part of a project Jisc is running with UCISA to help further and higher institutions to get started with chatbot technology. Using anonymised data from the Jisc service desk as a basis for their workshops, each platform demoed their technology and how it can be used to help create a virtual assistant to front conversations with website users.What we learned at the hackathonThe next step is for developers to start the task of creating a chatbot to work in their own institution. They will no-doubt be reflecting on some of the take-away messages from the hackathon, which provide valuable lessons for anyone considering this type of technology.1. It really is easy to get up and runningAll of the platforms shown were able to ingest question and answer documents and conduct simple support calls using the information they contained.2. Automating conversations with people exposes the gaps and inconsistencies in your informationStaff providing first line support can “paper over cracks” using their own knowledge and common sense. An automated agent probably won’t, so there may be work to do to complete the knowledge base for the chatbot.3. Time needs to be invested in planning and architecting the solution to get it rightOnce you get beyond the simple FAQs, you need to clear where information is coming from and how it fits together.4. Training the system can be where the real investment is … but it pays offThe more time your staff, and sometimes willing volunteers (“guinea pigs”) spend with the system, refining the language it understands and uses and how it conducts conversations, the better the service will be.5. People have no tolerance for a broken robotWhere we are prepared to forgive another person for a mistake or a pause, we are not with an automated system - our patience and trust disappears in an instant…6. So… think carefully about where to start with chatbotsChoose a good service area to begin, where you have a sound source of information. Don’t be over-ambitious: if the chatbot can only reliably handle one in three calls, then that has to be the basis for the service, otherwise look elsewhere.A detailed report of this phase of the project will be published in the coming weeks.Come and meet a chatbotThe next step is for a more detailed look at each of the main vendor platforms in one-day events hosted by an institution that has implemented services using each of these platforms, which can share the lessons they have learned. 23 October at Lancaster University - focusing on the use of Amazon chabot technology, which started with a chatbot aimed at staff dealing with questions around their development and training procedures, and now focusing on development of bots to support parts of their student experience.9 November at Bolton College, where a small team have developed a comprehensive set of services using IBM’s Watson toolset at the core, Amazon’s Echo devices, and Apple’s iOS mobile platform to provide voice interaction. The team is now looking at automated assessment and support for online tutorials.To register for these free events, visit the events pages.
  • Bringing augmented and virtual reality to the classroom on a budget
    It’s easy to think that augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are only for organisations with hefty budgets and cash to splash. It’s true that a top-of-the-range piece of tech, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, is certainly impressive and could set you back thousands of pounds. However, there are opportunities for organisations on a budget, such as colleges, to take advantage of immersive edtech without breaking the bank.  Using what you already haveLast year, I was put in touch with Preston's College, and set the task of arming it with some budget-level, but still impressive edtech.I took along the HTC Vive (a VR system), and demonstrated a virtual reality version of a futuristic Bodleian library. I also showed off a Structure Sensor, which can scan objects and load them into a repository like Moodle, so they can be displayed as 3D objects.We also discussed other 3D and VR software that might suit the college, and how existing resources and technology could be used to best enhance teaching, rather than forking out for expensive new kit. This approach will save a fair amount of money in the long run. The team invested in some 3D cameras, and I left feeling excited to see what they might produce.Putting skeletons onlineI returned to Preston's College to attend an e-learning day and was incredibly impressed with what I saw. Old anatomical models that had previously been gathering dust had been scanned into the virtual learning environment (VLE). These can now be accessed online by students, wherever they are.The models had even been made interactive, so they’re not only excellent for flexible learning, but are immersive and engaging, too.Watching back drama assessments in 360Practical music performance assessments were recorded in 360 VR, allowing invigilators to annotate the recordings and pinpoint moments that needed feedback or praise.[#pullquote#]Students can now review their assessments in an immersive way[#endpullquote#]Students can now review their assessments in an immersive way, while linking feedback to their performance, allowing them to improve more rapidly.Creating VR environmentsVR can help organise and plan learning spaces too, and I worked with the college to design a new learning space for a dormant room, using virtual reality.[[{"fid":"8341","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Example of a virtual classroom","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"3":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Example of a virtual classroom","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":473,"width":1280,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"3"}}]]This sort of technology really helps the designer to see what the new space might look like, allowing furniture and teaching paraphernalia to be placed in a way that works for everyone who might use the space. It also allows students to experience the learning space and to make sure it is appropriate for their use.[[{"fid":"8342","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Example of a virtual classroom","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"4":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Example of a virtual classroom","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":473,"width":1280,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"4"}}]]Why should we integrate edtech?The feedback from staff and students at Preston's College when it came to these new technologies was truly great – they were full of energy and appreciative of what the new tech could help everyone to achieve.[#pullquote#]Today’s students will probably be using technology that is just emerging now when they start their first jobs[#endpullquote#]Today’s students will probably be using technology that is just emerging now when they start their first jobs after graduating from college or university, so it’s important that they get to grips with it now.While VR and AR can sometimes be seen as futuristic, they’re actually very much of the moment and are already being used to train surgeons, for example. The initial cost of a VR camera might seem daunting, but take a look around you, I bet there’s so much you could do with one to enhance the learning experience for students and staff alike.Get in touch with Matt (matt.ramirez@jisc.ac.uk) if you’d like advice on what your college could do with AR and VR.
  • What does best practice look like for using learning technology in colleges?
    Five years on from the Further Education learning Technology Action Group’s (FELTAG) first report, my colleague Ros Smith and I have been talking to leaders and practitioners in colleges across the UK to see how they have implemented the report’s recommendations and how today’s use of technology is helping to improve student experience and prospects.   Many colleges have put foundations in place for a successful digital strategy, such as renewing learning management systems and the way that they make use of student information.Some have made great strides in innovative use of emergent technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) for teaching and learning.As an update to the original FELTAG report, we have put together a new guide showcasing the many examples of best practice.[#pullquote#]making sure that the appropriate technology is in place to support learners is a challenge that never ends! [#endpullquote#]It is clear from our conversations with the further education (FE) sector that making sure that the appropriate technology is in place to support learners is a challenge that never ends! This is in partly due to the ever changing legislative and policy framework that surrounds FE. As Debra Gray from the Grimsby Institute Group puts it: “For many years now, change has been the only constant in FE – so keeping agile in essential.”Colleges must also keep up with the tech tools their students are already using. David Jones, from Coleg Cambria, puts in succinctly: “We need to catch up with our learners.”David and Debra both believe that college leaders should lead by example and are visible in their engagement with digital improvement initiatives and in sharing their own digital journey.[#pullquote#]colleges need to be agile in the way they tailor the kind of digital solution they put in place for their courses. [#endpullquote#]It is also clear that colleges need to be agile in the way they tailor the kind of digital solution they put in place for their courses. The use of emergent technologies such as AR and VR for wide-ranging courses such as food processing, land studies and welding allows students to develop skills and experience without exposing them to hazardous situations, or using expensive materials.If your college is considering a journey of digital transformation, there’s a very important aspect to get right before you start. Ken Thompson, principal at Forth Valley College, points out that although infrastructure isn’t the most exciting part of introducing new tech, it is “crucial to get the information management systems right – they are the rock on which other initiatives can be built”.Our thought leadership and case study examplesThe guide kicks off with six thought leadership articles by senior leaders that set the strategic scene. David Jones OBE, DL, chief executive, Coleg CambriaDebra Gray, principal, Grimsby Institute for Further and Higher Education, and deputy chief executive, Grimsby Institute GroupDr Ken Thomson, principal and chief executive, Forth Valley CollegeSimon Barrable, principal, Portsmouth CollegeJamie Smith, formerly director of strategy and infrastructure, South Staffordshire CollegeGraham Razey, principal and chief executive, East Kent College (EKC) GroupDetails of how digital technologies can make a difference in the delivery of an excellent student experience are covered in more than 25 case studies and vignettes covering six subject areas, below:Strategy and visionForth Valley College – making learning workGrimsby Institute Group – becoming an entrepreneurial organisationBelfast Metropolitan College – laying the foundations for college-wide blended learningColeg Cymoedd - building a digital workplace: a whole college approachEngaging learnersSolihull College and University Centre - bringing the impossible into the classroomBasingstoke College of Technology - GCSE revision with a differenceDundee and Angus College - inspiring exploration, innovation and creativity with 21st century technologyHarlow College - engagement is the key to successNorth Lindsey College - Digitally-enhanced learning and teachingBuilding digital capabilityMilton Keynes College - digital capabilities for a digital worldEpping Forest College - digital voice experts (DVX), a student-staff partnership to improve digital capabilitiesSouth Eastern Regional College (SERC) - a whole college approach to developing digital capabilitiesCity and Islington College - student digital ambassadors set the paceCardiff and the Vale College - designing accessible learningPlumpton College - 21st century digital tools raise the stakes in land-based learningHarlow College - Developing digital capability in partnership with staff and learnersEmployabilityCity of Glasgow College - transforming the image of construction through games-based learningGoole College - enhancing the employability of vocational learners with technologyPortland College - mobile tech boosts student progressionGrimsby Institute Group - mixed reality brings a new dimension to trainingAssessment and feedbackBlackburn College University Centre - digitally informed assessment designBasingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) - closing the feedback loop with social mediaISA Training - the Learning Assistant e-portfolioBarnsley College - rethinking assessment of work-based learningSupporting a flexible curriculumDoncaster College and University Centre - a tutorial programme for the digital ageIsle of Wight College - a digital environment that works for allHeart of Worcestershire College - a holistic approach to embedding technology in curriculum designBolton College - the future is conversationalWeston College - digital innovation in adult educationThe real apprenticeship company (TRAC) - a paperless apprenticeship journeyTo sum up, there are a few straightforward themes: plan ahead, get the infrastructure right, lead from the front and keep up to date with what your students are using and expecting to use to support their learning.Having ticked those boxes, empower your staff to experiment and to learn and help each other to develop excellence in their practice. And never forget the reason for all this good work is to equip students with all the skills they will need to be successful in their studies, to thrive in their careers and make a meaningful contribution to the UK economy.  
  • Learning analytics and GDPR: what you need to know
    Universities and colleges are having to adapt their policies and processes to meet the requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Worried about the impact of GDPR on learning analytics?Well I have some encouraging news - it’s perfectly possible to carry out learning analytics in the interests of students while complying with the new legislation, though careful consideration needs to be given to issues such as whether you should ask students for their consent.  Here are some questions that you might be asking: Do you need consent from students under GDPR to collect their data for learning analytics? You’ll already be collecting much of the data used for learning analytics. Much of it is necessary for providing students’ education or for statistical purposes - date of birth, prior qualifications, modules studied, grades and use of IT facilities, for example. Often, it’s simply not possible for students to opt out of collecting such data, so asking for their consent isn’t meaningful and is not acceptable under GDPR. [#pullquote#]You must ensure though that the collection is justified under one of the lawful bases for processing provided by GDPR. [#endpullquote#]You must ensure though that the collection is justified under one of the lawful bases for processing provided by GDPR. For example: Meeting a legal obligation  Collection is in your institution’s legitimate interests  Required to fulfil contractual obligations with the studentAre there any exceptions? While consent is not needed for collecting most of the data associated with learning analytics, if you’re collecting data specifically for that purpose (such as asking students how much time they’re spending studying), you must ensure that students have consented to this. Also, if you plan to collect special category data , such as students’ ethnic origin, you must first obtain consent.Do students need to give consent to carry out learning analytics on their data? The UK's Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is clear that organisations should avoid over-reliance on consent to justify data processing.Using a justification such as “legitimate interests” for the processing of student data instead requires the institution to minimise the risk to individual students and therefore provides students with better safeguards than when using consent. There are, however, two circumstances when consent must be obtained: Where special category data is used When you make interventions with individual students based on their analyticsWhen do you need consent to make personal interventions with students based on learning analytics data? The analytics may, for example, suggest that a student is at academic risk.[#pullquote#]Initial contact with the student can be justified under the legitimate interests of the institution [#endpullquote#]Initial contact with the student can be justified under the legitimate interests of the institution, without consent. But when you intend to carry out an intervention based on this data then, yes, you do need to request the student’s consent. Examples might include: An email to the student (justified under legitimate interests) which offers an informed choice of whether to attend an extra class. The class is the intervention to which they would need to give their consentDiscussion in a routine tutorial meeting (legitimate interests) suggesting that an extra class could be helpful (consent needed)How should you ask students for their consent? The requirements of GDPR for requesting consent include: Keeping consent requests separate from other terms and conditionsGiving clear and specific information to students about what they’re consenting toInforming them of any third-party data controllers who will rely on their consentMaking clear the consequences of either providing or withholding their consent. Requiring clear, affirmative action by the student; the use of pre-ticked boxes  is not be acceptable. As students have the right to withdraw their consent at any time, putting in place mechanisms to enable them to easily do soKeeping records of any granting, withholding or withdrawal of consent by studentsWhat should you tell students? You need complete transparency about the processes of learning analytics and the data because it is important to ensure legal compliance, as well as acceptance by staff and students.Jisc has produced a code of practice which can be adapted for institutional use and discussed in relevant committees with student representation. You should provide additional information to students when inviting them to provide special category data, or when seeking their consent to carry out interventions based on learning analytics.
  • Seven quick wins with e-books for FE practitioners short on time
    Like any teaching and learning resource, the great library of free e-books available to further education colleges is only of value when it's in use, books are being read and learners' needs are met. The opportunities presented by e-books are great.They can fulfil shortfalls in libraries' physical resources (and budgets), provide up to date and curriculum-focused titles at no extra cost, and make texts accessible to remote learners as well as those on site.Getting used to using e-books and encouraging learners to do the same, however, might feel like just another thing for the to-do list, another thing to look at when you get a spare five minutes (ie never).[#pullquote#]we've been speaking to our FE members already working extensively with e-books to solve challenges across their colleges[#endpullquote#]So, we've been speaking to our FE members already working extensively with e-books to solve challenges across their colleges, to find and share simple ways to turn free e-books for FE from a resource with potential to one that delivers great value.1. Ready-made visualsDiagrams, tables, graphics or text can be projected on to the whiteboard to annotate and build on throughout a lesson.This can save time creating a presentation, plus you'll be using a resource that learners can access themselves at a later date.2. Flipped learningE-books make it easy for learners to access texts ahead of a lesson, particularly if you rely on a number of different textbooks throughout the year. This means you can set learners the task of reading the relevant material before the lesson, increasing contact time in class. This frees up valuable time in lessons to teach effectively, and students will become more competent independent learners.3. Printed editions as sign-postsIf you have a printed edition of the book, a QR code or URL on the cover can direct users to the e-book so that, when they go to read it or check it out of the library, they'll see how to access it online - ideal when an entire cohort needs access to the same text and you only have one or two copies.4. Mobile handouts without hassleReplace photocopying pages of textbooks with sending learners a URL and a page number.This saves time and resources, plus it'll make the materials easier for learners to access and harder for them to lose.Learners with tablets and smartphones can access them from their own devices, helping them to become more confident with studying independently.5. Accessible revision resourcesFor learners who spend the majority of their time off site, or tend to choose the twilight hours to start revision, not having access to books straight away can be a significant obstacle.Revision plans that include resources in e-books remove those barriers and encourage more non-conventional learning.This can also maximise your time spent teaching and supporting students by reducing time spent creating revision resources that already exist.6. Posters for the classroomMaterials for promoting e-books to learners are freely available from ProQuest. Print them out, put them up. This will help students get the most out of this free service.7. Join the JiscMail list for e-booksA simple way to stay up-to-date with the latest news about e-books for FE is to join our JiscMail list.As well as a monthly newsletter from Jisc, you'll also become part of a FE community of e-book users sharing success stories and suggestions for best practice.And one for students…The better students' digital literacy, the more effective their independent study will be. Being well-versed with the e-books on offer can reduce the amount of time students spend on Google sifting through a range of blogs, wiki pages and texts to find reliable material.Many online resources can be helpful, but they do not always provide the information that students need for their exam board. With e-books for FE, you can be certain that your students are accessing high quality, reliable, academic information that is tailored to their required exam board, and often endorsed by the exam board too.
  • Cyber attacks on colleges and universities: who, when and why?
    It’s notoriously difficult to identify individual cyber criminals, but data that Jisc has collected over the past few years has built up a picture of who may be launching attacks on the UK’s colleges and universities based on when they do it.  When the data is collated into graphs, clear patterns emerge.This graph, below, shows the number of DDoS attacks (designed to slow down or disrupt our members’ networks) that have been seen on the Janet Network past year. It also shows the peaks and troughs within the year.The troughs, when the number of attacks decreases dramatically, always appear during holiday times.[[{"fid":"8243","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Graph showing cyber attacks over time"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"3":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Graph showing cyber attacks over time"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Graph showing cyber attacks over time","height":1991,"width":3050,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"3"}}]]Black bars indicate holiday times – summer 2017, Christmas; Easter, May half term, summer 2018[#pullquote#]This pattern could indicate that attackers are students or staff [#endpullquote#]This pattern could indicate that attackers are students or staff, or others familiar with the academic cycle. Or perhaps the bad guys simply take holidays at the same time as the education sector.Whichever the case, there’s no point sending a DDoS attack to an organisation if there’s no one there to suffer the consequences.Finding patterns in attacksAnother interesting finding is that the usual dip in attacks during summer 2018 started earlier than the same time last year.The heat wave weather this year could have been a factor, but it’s more likely due to international law enforcement activity - Operation Power Off took down a ‘stresser’ website at the end of April.Stresser sites basically sell DDoS packages to customers who want to attack internet services under the pretence of “testing” them to see how well they would cope with a DDoS attack. Operation Power Off also targeted owners and customers of the stresser service, leading to other similar illicit businesses going offline as well.This resulting dearth of attacks for hire, alongside the deterrent effect of the police operation, could explain the reduction in attacks we have seen on the Janet Network since April.In the graph below, the distribution of attacks over the day shows that it’s quieter at night, while the number of attacks start to ramp up at 08:00, peak between 09:00 and early afternoon, and then die off again.[[{"fid":"8245","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Graph showing times of cyber attacks per year"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"4":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Graph showing times of cyber attacks per year"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Graph showing times of cyber attacks per year","height":893,"width":1367,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"4"}}]]Interestingly, when comparing the time distribution for the first eight months of 2018 to January to August 2017, there have been slightly fewer attacks starting in the early hours, but more in the core of the day and also the peak continues for longer. Last year the number of attacks started to wane from 13:00, this year it is 14:00.Part of our role is to monitor the network and we noticed several attacks at a college earlier this year, which started at 09:00 and finished at 12:00, began again at 13:00 and finished at around 15:00-16:00. This suggested that the perpetrator was someone who wanted to get online at lunchtime, but didn’t want to do any work during the day.Could a member of staff get away with that, or was a student to blame?Why do people carry out these attacks?We can only speculate on the reasons why students or staff attack their college or university - for the “fun” of disruption and kudos among peers of launching an attack that stops internet access and causes chaos, or because they bear a grudge for a poor grade or failure to secure a pay rise.Occasionally, we can pinpoint the exact reason for an attack.A while back we noticed a DDoS attack against a university, so we activated the mitigation service, which reduces the impact of an attack. A couple of hours later the same institution was targeted again.The attacks went on for four days and most were occurring at night, so we worked with the university to identify the target. This turned out to be the halls of residence, which raised further questions. We looked at what else was happening on the network at the same time as the attacks and we found a lot of traffic going to online gaming websites.Further investigation showed that a student in halls had been playing an online game and had attacked another gamer to try and secure an advantage. What we were seeing coming over the network and into the hall of residence was a revenge DDoS attack.[#pullquote#]There are several examples of students attacking colleges or universities, and their motivation varies.[#endpullquote#]There are several examples of students attacking colleges or universities, and their motivation varies. One student convicted of offences connected to the TalkTalk incident in 2015 stated he was “just showing off to [his] mates”. That student had also targeted the University of Manchester and Cambridge University Library.Adam Mudd was also prosecuted for cyber attacks against his college. Mudd admitted to attacking West Herts College, where he was a computer science student. This attack also affected 70 other institutions in the region, including the universities of East Anglia, Essex and Cambridge. Mudd’s explanation for one of his attacks is that the college had not acted when he had reported that he had been mugged.PunishmentIf a student is caught engaging in illegal online activity like this, it would be up to the college or university to discipline that student. If they want to try and prosecute, they can ask us to help provide evidence, but this doesn’t happen often.[#pullquote#]Most of the time when cyber attackers are caught and convicted it’s because they make mistakes.[#endpullquote#]Most of the time when cyber attackers are caught and convicted it’s because they make mistakes. For example, a former student from Stockport who was in court last year for attacking the Janet Network, the National Crime Agency and several multi-national businesses was identified because he failed to cover his tracks.We operate a zero-tolerance policy to attackers and gave evidence to the police which helped trace and convict this young man. In his case, the motivation was money: Jack Chappell was working with a criminal gang.Time to get seriousSo, there is evidence both circumstantial and from the justice system to suggest that students and staff may well be responsible for many of the DDoS attacks we see on the Janet Network.Jisc’s security operations centre is there to help mitigate attacks on our members, but colleges and universities are responsible for their own cyber space and should not underestimate the potentially huge financial and reputational impact of a network outage.[#pullquote#]some of these more sophisticated attacks are designed to steal intellectual property, targeting sensitive and valuable information[#endpullquote#]Unfortunately, there are far more serious criminal players at work that organisations ignore at their peril. It’s likely that some of these more sophisticated attacks are designed to steal intellectual property, targeting sensitive and valuable information held at universities and research centres.The blame could lie with criminals intent on selling information to the highest bidder, a business wanting to uncover a competitor’s secrets, or a foreign power trying to gain political leverage. Security agencies, including the National Cyber Security Centre and the FBI, have already warned of state-sponsored attacks by countries including Russia, and the education sector is just as much at risk as any other in the UK.However, despite these very real and serious threats, our 2018 security posture survey among members showed such cyber attacks were not considered a priority by our members, and they should be.[#pullquote#]When it comes to cyber security, complacency is dangerous.[#endpullquote#]When it comes to cyber security, complacency is dangerous. We do everything we can to help keep our members’ safe, but there’s no such thing as a 100% secure network.
  • The potential of Education 4.0 is huge – the UK must take the lead, now
    We can own the opportunity created by Industry 4.0 in education and our UK universities are ready to be a global leader in making that leap into the future a reality. While it’s hard to avoid the hype around industrial revolution 4.0, behind this is a real shift in technology capability that will change the world around us; just as previous revolutions transformed our ancestors’ lives.A key difference with this revolution is the impact it will have on intellectually intensive jobs rather than the manual activities that were affected in the past - 95% of accounting tasks, 94% of paralegal jobs, for example, are predicted to be impacted by technology.So what could Education 4.0 look like? There are early examples across the world of these technologies being deployed in this space.Nexus of trendsWe see a number of trends that are driving this change, based primarily on the nexus of artificial intelligence, robotics, big data, internet of things and mixed reality applied to education.As with any technology trend there are alternative futures, some which bode less well for this sector.[#pullquote#]One dystopian future trend could see students plugging in and a year or so later, unplugging fully qualified[#endpullquote#]One dystopian future trend could see students plugging in and a year or so later, unplugging fully qualified with all their learning being managed by machine – life imitating the Matrix, but potentially feasible.More near-term, is universities becoming learning hotels and concierges, helping their students get the best learning from across the world, accumulating credits and I suspect quite a different - and less attractive to the institution - fee regime from today.This may seem a bit extreme, but we are already seeing moves in this direction. The Stanford spinout Udacity, launched a self-driving car engineering nanodegree in autumn 2016. There are no academic institutions involved in this course – learners are assigned industry mentors and most of it happens online over several months. Almost overnight, Udacity had over 30,000 people from all over the world wanting to take this course.Lifelong learningWhile we do see a place for this ‘unbundled’ university, we think it is in addition to mainstream degree education, probably having a bigger place in lifelong learning. Flexibility and pace are what students want and it’s critical we adapt to their needs.In mainstream first-degree education we see a much more positive scenario than either of these two. It is not a far off utopian dream but firmly grounded on technology we have today. It’s the one we are working with universities to make happen and it’s something I firmly believe we can achieve together in coming years.[#pullquote#]we predict the end of the predominance of the lecture[#endpullquote#]In this world, we predict the end of the predominance of the lecture - lecturers will rarely lecture because the new technologies can teach the knowledge better.Learning is immersive and interactive and most importantly responsive to students’ needs. The technology understands how each student learns best and adapts to them. It pinpoints where they are struggling and intervenes to help them succeed. It also challenges students to try activities they are less confident in; supporting them to take risks that pay off. And not only that.Assessment is no longer causing heavy workloads and stress for staff and students because the technology knows how to mark consistently and will probably do it continuously.Virtual assistantsStudents are free to explore the most meaningful tasks to them; virtual assistants support students to navigate this world of choice and work with them to make decisions that will lead to future success.Staff spend more time with students, to help those in need and, most excitingly, to really focus on ensuring their years of wisdom are passed on.In this world there are paradoxically more contact hours, focused on working with students to embed their learning, and critical thinking; adding human value to the machines. In many ways this is a democratisation of higher education, so every university can afford to be closer to the tutorial systems of the elite.[#pullquote#]this is a democratisation of higher education, so every university can afford to be closer to the tutorial systems of the elite.[#endpullquote#]The immersive learning is experiential; mixed reality gives students experiences they can’t have in the real world - and it may even allow them to collaborate globally. Because the learning of knowledge is covered by the AI-led teaching, active, student-centred learning such as project work and problem-solving prevails.This is a university campus where staff are liberated from the daily grind of essential administrative tasks - to do what they do the best– engaging with their students when and where they most need it. Data even works out how to automatically optimise learning spaces, adjusting lighting levels for the tasks taking place. Lecturers are notified when the systems notice a student is starting to show signs of suffering from mental health or other wellbeing issues and preventative action is taken immediately. You can’t get more human than that.The potential of Education 4.0 is huge. Imagine if we all pulled together to harness the power of this technology for good in our institutions? A lot of this is already in motion. It’s now up to us to take the lead. The time really is now, as otherwise we risk being left behind.Science fiction?In case you are thinking that this is a bunch of hyperbole and science fiction nonsense, other sectors have undergone this radical transformation. Indeed, I’ve personally been involved in many of the banking techniques we take for granted today. I regularly pay for things with my watch – I know it would have been laughed at only ten years ago when one of my teams pioneered the payment technology used.So what are the implications for universities and how will lecturers evolve to acquire the skills and attitudes they will need in this world? That’s primarily as mentors/wisdom givers, comfortable with bought-in teaching content. And what about university campuses? Or the curricula? How will they enable Education 4.0 to thrive? Then there’s lifelong learning – is this something universities want to embrace? How about micro-credentials?Most importantly, how will universities differentiate themselves in this new world when technology could be a driver to uniformity? Indeed, there’s lots to think about.[#pullquote#]It is education’s time to be transformed[#endpullquote#]It is education’s time to be transformed – students will expect it and if we in the UK don’t, someone else in the world will. I’ll be astonished if there aren’t Chinese universities working on this as we speak. So, at Jisc, we are working to make this happen, and we encourage universities to join us to get their institutions ready to start on this journey. If we assume it will happen and remain in control of the change, we will not only remain top of the league tables but make education in this country brilliant.This blog is based on Jisc chief executive Paul Feldman’s speech to Universities UK’s annual conference on 5 Sepetember 2018.
  • Announcing the results of our student digital experience survey
    This year, universities minister Sam Gyimah opens our student digital experience survey. Launched today, the report contains the opinions of 37,000 students on their digital experiences in further and higher education. Here's what the minister has to say in the foreword. "I am delighted to share with you a summary of the findings from the Jisc 2018 student digital experience survey. This report provides a unique national picture of how students are using technology in universities and colleges across the UK."With over 37,000 participants drawn from 83 higher and further education organisations, it is the largest sample of data looking at students’ digital experience of its kind. A welcome increase in the number of organisations taking part this year also demonstrates a growing commitment to engaging students in meaningful discussions on their digital experience."This year’s analysis builds on the 2017 report, delving even deeper into areas such as how students rate the quality of their institution’s digital provision and the digital teaching and learning on their courses."Key findings include the importance of digital in supporting the transition of learners into different stages of education, as well as into work. The need for universities and colleges to offer further support around digital wellbeing, online safety and data privacy is also prominent. Ensuring students’ mental health and wellbeing is one of my priorities. This report makes clear the need for universities and colleges to take steps to ensure technology continues to be employed in the best interests of students, not exposing them to further risk.[#pullquote#]Most importantly, students continue to express concerns that their courses do not fully prepare them for a digital workplace. [#endpullquote#]"Most importantly, students continue to express concerns that their courses do not fully prepare them for a digital workplace. This issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency if universities and colleges are to deliver for students, employers and the country as a whole."I want all educational leaders to look closely at this report and consider how they can improve their own provision through the effective use of technology. I also urge them to take full advantage of the expert advice and ‘on the ground’ support provided by Jisc to take a fully digital approach to issues such as curriculum design and the learning environment."Finally, I call on all universities and colleges to work in partnership with their students to ensure they are providing the best possible education experience – one in which digital technology is fully integrated and offers opportunities for all learners to develop the skills they need to thrive in today’s ever-changing world of work."Find out moreRead the digital experience insights 2018 report (pdf) Read the summarised "at a glance" report (pdf)Register your interest in our digital experience insights serviceLearn how we help you improve the digital experience for students and staff
  • Good digital teaching practices support easier learning for disabled students
    While a virtual learning environment (VLE) is a vital resource for all students, it can also be an effective assistive technology for disabled students allowing them to be more independent learners. Getting the best use from such technology is dependent on the ability of lecturers to be creative and innovative. Teaching staff with good digital skills can have as much of a positive impact on the progress of disabled students as the quality of the specialist support on offer.As far back as 2010, Ofsted research identified that where the best teaching was noted, “the need for excessive additional interventions was reduced, enabling the most specialist staff to have more time to provide additional support for the smaller group of…young people who were the most in need”.Inspiring best practiceJisc’s accessibility and inclusion specialists visit member organisations up and down the UK giving their advice, not only to help members comply with legal obligations to support disabled students, but also to inspire best practice in this area. They cover elements including the website and prospectus, but here we concentrate on the attributes of the VLE.[#pullquote#]One of the benefits of being a member of Jisc is that best practice can be easily shared across the sector [#endpullquote#]One of the benefits of being a member of Jisc is that best practice can be easily shared across the sector, so we’ve collated a few examples of how VLEs have been put to good use for the benefit of all students.1. A range of mediaDifferent media suit different learners, so, when collecting information on the VLE, teachers should include a range of media and ensure that each is as accessible as possible.For example, Word documents or pdfs should be easily accessible via the navigation pane or bookmark panel respectively. Podcasts and videos should have accompanying transcripts or key point summaries.Bishop Aukland College's media-rich VLEThe Bishop Auckland College VLE incorporates media-rich resources with integrated questions and pause/start elements. As well as providing learners with “stopping points”, this interactive approach helps break down learning into digestible chunks and promotes engagement and active learning. [[{"fid":"8157","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of ClickView - Bishop Auckland College VLE","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"13":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of ClickView - Bishop Auckland College VLE","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":300,"width":729,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"13"}}]]Glasgow Kelvin College's use of videoGlasgow Kelvin College presents a video-based introduction to support services on the VLE and its website. Accurate captions/subtitles are embedded as a core feature rather than less accurate auto-generated captions.2. Step-by-step learningIt may be obvious to teachers how one topic leads to another, but it may not be obvious to all learners, especially those from diverse educational or cultural backgrounds or neurodiverse students.[#pullquote#]The VLE should be a story, not a store cupboard. [#endpullquote#]Use the VLE to make links to prior learning, or to build complex ideas step-by-step. The VLE should be a story, not a store cupboard.The University of Westminster's weekly resourcesThe University of Westminster's construction technology and innovation course has clearly identified week-by-week resource collections, with an overview of the content.[[{"fid":"8158","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of the University of Westminster's course resources","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"14":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of the University of Westminster's course resources","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":300,"width":729,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"14"}}]]The University of East London's traffic light systemThe University of East London sports therapy skills course has a simple but highly effective traffic light system to help students identify requirements for different outcomes.3. Clear languageEnsure assignments are accompanied by plain English marking criteria.[#pullquote#]A range of model answers related to the marking scripts helps all students[#endpullquote#]Exemplify not just model answers, but weak answers as well. This is especially imcportant for those who lack confidence, or come from diverse backgrounds. A range of model answers related to the marking scripts helps all students develop metacognition.The University of Staffordshire's table of tasksThe University of Staffordshire’s course - introduction to law and practice - has very clear expectations that involve both self-assessment and reflective journaling.[[{"fid":"8162","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of the University of Staffordshire's learning materials","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"15":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of the University of Staffordshire's learning materials","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":300,"width":729,"class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"15"}}]]Anglia Ruskin University's useful announcementsAnglia Ruskin University's digital marketing communications course uses the announcements feature in the VLE to reinforce deadlines, provide feedback and disseminate opportunities.[[{"fid":"8163","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of Anglia Ruskin University's announcement feature","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"5":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of Anglia Ruskin University's announcement feature","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":300,"width":729,"style":"font-size: 13.008px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"5"}}]]4. Active learningUse the VLE creatively so that students don’t merely consume content, but they adapt, improve and critique it, too. Creative tasks play to the skills of different students. For example, a student with dyslexia or ADHD may struggle with passive consumption of reading lists yet excel in active tasks that demand more than simple notetaking.North Shropshire College's interactive activitiesNorth Shropshire College's anatomy and physiology in sport module makes elegant use of Word documents to create active drag-and-drop exercises from what might otherwise have been passive handouts.[[{"fid":"8164","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of North Shropshire College's drag-and-drop exercises","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"6":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of North Shropshire College's drag-and-drop exercises","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":300,"width":729,"style":"font-size: 13.008px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);","class":"media-element file-default","data-delta":"6"}}]]Glasgow Clyde College's collaborative podcastGlasgow Clyde College collaborated with other organisations to work with teen asylum seekers, refugees, ex-prisoners and mental health survivors who do not have English as a native language.Students worked collaboratively in English to create their own "sound art" podcasts.5. Collaborative learningMost VLEs provide tools for learners to work together on discussion threads. Alternatively, link out to external collaborative tools like Google Docs/Slides/Spreadsheets, or Office tools. Collaborative tasks can develop peer support networks, especially if the groups are created by the tutor, not chosen by students, which can be isolating for some. Tutor-allocated groups can help include students with disabilities, anxiety issues etc, and collaborative work allows disabled students to play to their strengths. For example, a deaf student may be good at research or organisation, but feel vulnerable when making presentations.The University of Wolverhampton's discussion forumThe University of Wolverhampton's song writing course uses a discussion forum to engage students in group work on song analysis.5. Reflective learningGive students confidence by using feedback effectively. This might include generic feedback on assignment submissions, self-testing opportunities, discussion-list reflection or links to external blogs for reflective posts. This benefits all students, especially those with short term memory issues or anxiety.The University of Reading's group feedbackThe University of Reading's neural networks course uses information from individual feedback to provide a generic summary. This is a highly effective way for students to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of others as well as their own.The University of Portsmouth's useful news feedThe University of Portsmouth’s social context of policing course has direct links to relevant news, helping students reflect on course materials in the light of current affairs.[[{"fid":"8165","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of University of Portsmouth's useful news feature","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"12":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Screenshot of University of Portsmouth's useful news feature","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":219,"width":232,"style":"width: 232px; height: 219px;","class":"media-element media-left file-default","data-delta":"12"}}]]How can we help?To get the most from your investment in the learning platform a number of things need to work together:A robust and reliable digital infrastructure, including good wifi connectivity, and a simple and quick log-on processAn organisation-wide strategy for teaching, learning and assessment so that student experience is consistentThe student experience needs to be at the heart of planning and investmentA range of high quality digital resources need to be availableOur subject specialists can help you pull all this together. For more information, get in touch with your account manager.