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  • Taking pride in who you are: a personal coming-out story
    At the start of Pride month, our executive director of technologies, Tim Kidd, talks about the difficulties of coming out, what it is like working at Jisc, and his passion for helping young people through his role as the Scouts' UK chief commissioner People have the capacity to build boxes around things they don’t want to admit to themselves, and I buried something very important very deeply for 33 years. I knew I was gay from the age of 13, but I didn’t admit it to myself until I was 46 and it took another year before I could pluck up the courage to actually tell people.A horrible yearThe year between admitting it to myself and telling others was really horrible and very stressful. The more I stewed, the bigger it became. My experience, and certainly everyone else I’ve spoken to about this agrees, is that, when thinking about coming out, I thought of all the worse possible outcomes. I didn’t spend time thinking ‘there will be rainbows and glitter and everything will be wonderful’; I thought about how it would feel if I wasn’t accepted by all the people I care about.[#pullquote#]coming out was the hardest thing I’ve ever done[#endpullquote#]Although I’ve done a lot of things in my life, some quite difficult things, and there isn’t that much I’m scared of, coming out was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. People who’ve never gone through the experience of coming out might not really know what that means. But the moment that you are about to say something that might cause you to lose friends or change a relationship is very significant. Once it is done, it really does feel like a weight is lifted. Having to lie and pretend is hard and very wearing.Telling peopleThe first person I told was a scout friend, who I chose because I thought he would be very ‘factual’ about it – I didn’t want lots of hugs and sympathy and for someone to say “there, there”. But it still took me three attempts to say the words “I’m gay” because my throat closed up. This friend’s reaction was really good, so that was fine, but then I had to tell the family.I have a twin brother, three sisters and my parents and I told all of them in a week, one night after the other. That was an interesting week! They were all fine about it, so none of my dire predictions came true. I have 13 nephews and nieces, and I left it to their parents to decide if they were old enough to know, but it turns out that having a gay uncle is quite cool. Who would have guessed!The response at JiscThe reaction at Jisc when I came out was very good. I had told friends and family first, which was useful because I was pretty rubbish at telling people at the start.Edging around it at the beginning of a conversation must have sounded like I was about to tell people something really awful, like I was going to die, so when I said “I’m gay” they were quite relieved! By the time I got to telling people at Jisc I was a bit better at it, but still scared. The reaction was generally understated – I kind of hoped there’d be a bucket of glitter, but it was a damp squib in a good way, which was important. I have experienced only acceptance and support at work which, believe me, is great.[#pullquote#]The reaction was generally understated – I kind of hoped there’d be a bucket of glitter[#endpullquote#]There are many LGBT+ people who work for Jisc and such is the culture here that they can have pictures of their partners on their desks and nobody cares a jot, any more than if a staff member were part of a straight couple. I think Jisc is a very accepting place.Society needs to changeHowever, my sense is that across society there is still prejudice and ignorance – people thinking for example that you can choose to be gay. I haven’t experienced much of that myself, but I know people who have.Unlike many LGBT+ folk, I managed to navigate growing up without prejudice or bullying. At school I was stereotypically gay in one sense because I loved singing, while sport was horrendous for me, but I was also good at maths and technical stuff. Socially, I was careful never to speak with anyone about relationships, or women, and I didn’t grow up with a bunch of lads who wanted to discuss relationships, so I was either lucky, or charted my way through all that stuff very well.As an adult, I notice that people make assumptions and use language that can make things awkward. No-one expects people to say “by the way, I’m straight” because the assumption is that they are straight because most people in the world are straight.People might ask “have you got a wife then?”, when it would be better to ask “have you got a partner?”. It feels difficult because I don’t have a partner – if I did then I could say, “no, I’ve got a boyfriend, or a husband”. Correcting people becomes awkward and I hate making people feel uncomfortable, so changing the way people think, and the sort of language they use is important. It’s one reason why a lot of LGBT+ people talk about constantly having to come out to new people they meet.[#pullquote#]we shouldn’t assume that simply because being gay is not illegal and we have equal marriage rights in the UK that being gay is always simple. It isn’t.[#endpullquote#]For me the key message is that we shouldn’t assume that simply because being gay is not illegal and we have equal marriage rights in the UK that being gay is always simple. It isn’t.Inspiring young peopleI’m particularly concerned how young people cope with confusion or difficulties around their sexuality and I’m proud to say that scouts, as an inclusive organisation, can be a safe place for them to talk.The scouts’ equal opportunity policy came in in the late 80s and it was quite controversial at the time. Over the past five or six years we’ve been involved at Pride marches and the family-friendly parades are good recruitment grounds for adult volunteers.We now have over 800 scout sections running in the most deprived areas of the UK, and young people who thought they could never do anything are now achieving all sorts of things. We are continually giving young people opportunities. Scouting did that for me since I joined at the age of eight, and I’m proud that I am now passing on that ethos.Why I love working at JiscOctober marks my 20th anniversary working at Jisc and what keeps me here is very simple – I know that what we do makes a real difference to students, to universities, colleges and research centres, and to the UK economy. Without Jisc’s work to maintain and advance the national research and education network, a lot of research at universities would either be impossible, or it would cost the state more, and without the research we wouldn’t have UK universities up there in the world rankings.[#pullquote#]It’s important to me that Jisc is a not-for-profit[#endpullquote#]It’s also important to me that Jisc is a not-for-profit; I couldn’t work for a purely commercial organisation that was all about making money and it’s the same for many staff. The bit that really gives me a glow is that we run a very large set of services for the sector, we work really hard behind the scenes and we continually look for the next thing we can develop to help our members and the young people they educate. That’s really neat.How did I get here?I never had any ambitions. Things happen to me and it’s always a constant surprise, so I’ve never thought about, expected or envisaged doing the job I am doing. At the start of my career I was writing software, which I loved, I always thought I’d have a technical job, but I don’t now.Instead, I‘m a manager, but I never had a plan to be responsible for a large number of people and for making sure we deliver a large number of services; it happened by accident. My Myers Briggs profile says: “Find yourself in charge and have no idea how you got there”. That’s me to a T. I am now responsible for scouting across the whole of the UK and I have no idea how I got there either.I don’t think I’m any better because I happen to be executive director of technologies for Jisc or UK chief commissioner for scouts, than anything or anyone else, but I can point to things I’ve done as part of those roles and say, “I’m proud of that”. The titles are just a thing.Getting my OBE in 2016 for services to young people was a surprise. It’s lovely that people who nominated me thought about it, but I am embarrassed by it. I don’t use it because it feels like boasting, but I was happy to accept it on the basis it’s recognition for all the good things scouts does for young people.[#pullquote#]I’m really grateful to my colleagues at Jisc for accepting me for who I am[#endpullquote#]As a final thought, I’m really grateful to my colleagues at Jisc for accepting me for who I am – and I guess, at times, I can be quite complex! We achieve more at Jisc by combining the ideas and skills of people with different views and different backgrounds and together creating services of which we are truly proud.
  • A robust cyber security strategy is one of the top priorities for my college
    As a college leader there are many concerning issues to consider, including the pressure on funds, doing the best I can for staff and students and keeping up with ever-changing shift in government policy. But right up there on my list of priorities is cyber security, particularly protection of the college network and the countless online systems which depend upon it. The national research and education network, Janet, is central to everything we do, so losing that connection would be a disaster: pretty much everything would grind to a halt.Just imagine – no email, no admin or finance systems, no wifi or internet, no virtual learning environment and no access to learning resources. There’s also a risk that students could lose their work and we’d have to revert to a style of teaching we’ve taken years to modernise. Last, but by no means least, it could be a PR nightmare.Students don’t hang about when something like this happens. There’d be no hope of keeping such a huge problem quiet, since students used to smartphones and 24/7 internet access will be quick to vent on social media, just as soon as they can get connected. Their comments are bound to be picked up by the media, and your comms team will be doing their best to limit the reputational damage.[#pullquote#]my advice is to concentrate on preventative measures, which are expensive, but still cheaper in the long run[#endpullquote#]Then there’s the obvious disruption and loss of productivity for the duration of outage, not to mention the cost of extra personnel hours to deal with the clean-up and repair. There is some research which puts the cost of a network outage at around £3,300 per minute, but I’d rather not think too much about that! Instead, we recognise something like this is avoidable and my advice is to concentrate on preventative measures, which are expensive, but still cheaper in the long run.However, I know cyber security isn’t always a priority for college leaders, and that must be a frustration and a worry for staff in many colleges who realise that it doesn’t pay to skimp on this issue.For colleges like Forth Valley, which are thinking about upgrades to digital systems or infrastructure, it’s important to consider cyber security as an integral and inter-dependent part of all college systems. A college-wide strategy sets clear goals and outlines how you’re going to achieve them, but for this to work effectively, buy-in from senior decision-makers is essential.[#pullquote#]it’s important to consider cyber security as an integral and inter-dependent part of all college systems[#endpullquote#]At Forth Valley College, we have recently launched a creative learning and technologies strategy, with six “ambitions”. One of these is that our IT infrastructure is safe, secure, robust and agile enough to embrace changing needs and practices. This places cyber security at the heart of both our strategy and our thinking.As part of this strategy, and as we move into a new headquarter campus, we are planning to re-invest in our infrastructure, ensuring that we take advantage of advances in technology.During this process, many companies are keen to talk to us, and tell us how good their products are. Getting good and, crucially, impartial advice can be tricky, and potentially costly if you go down the private consultancy route. This significant role is performed for us by the sector’s not-for-profit technology solutions organisation, Jisc, which acts as both an impartial and critical friend.[#pullquote#]Jisc acts as both an impartial and critical friend[#endpullquote#]We have worked closely with Jisc for some time and benefit hugely from its advice and guidance. Staff on the Janet Network computer security incident response team (CSIRT), for example, are always available to help us deal with security problems. And our IT staff are often signposted to Jisc experts, who in turn may put us in touch with other further education institutions which can demonstrate best practice on projects that are already in place and we can emulate or learn from.Steps you can takeAs a result, we know what we must do to keep our staff, students, network and systems safe. If you’re not sure what a good cyber security strategy looks like, contact Jisc, check out the National Cyber Security Centre website, or go through the following check list:What are the risks?Start with a risk assessment. What are you trying to protect against? Criminal gangs, disgruntled students and staff, 'hacktivists'? Does your institution have relationships with organisations or industrial partners that might make you an attractive target? And where are your biggest vulnerabilities?Network securityPut measures in place to defend the network perimeter, and to filter out unauthorised access and malicious content. Monitor and test these security controls. Segment your network so if one machine gets infected with malware you limit the ability for it to spread across the whole institution.User educationProduce security policies for all users clearly setting out acceptable and secure use of your systems. Maintain awareness of online security risks by providing ongoing training for staff and students, covering on-campus and remote access.MalwarePut in place anti-malware defences such as anti-virus software, end-point protection solutions. Make sure they are turned on and kept up to date.PatchworkMake sure you know what software and hardware you have in place, so you can easily and quickly update as soon as new security patches are released.Managing user privilegesNot everyone needs full admin access, so only provide privileged access to those who need it.Incident managementAccept that bad things will happen, and encourage a culture where people know how to report things that seem suspicious. Set up protocols so everyone knows what to do in the event of security incident and practice it. Know who to call if you need help when you are attacked.MonitoringEstablish a monitoring strategy and produce supporting policies. Continuously monitor all systems and networks. Analyse incident logs for unusual activity that could indicate an attack.Share intelligenceJoin CiSP (Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership) and encourage your staff with responsibility for cyber security to network with peers. Make use of existing capabilities. For example, if you teach cyber security courses, encourage those students to become security champions/ambassadors for others. Jisc members will be automatically plugged into its sector-specific intel sharing system.Set the standardOnce the basics are in place, aim to reach the government’s Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus standards. These provide assurance that you are on right track and can demonstrate to stakeholders that you are cyber security aware.Finally, remember that the threat landscape is ever changing, so it’s important to regularly review and evolve your cyber security strategy and to adopt a digital infrastructure that can evolve to accommodate the latest technology. At the end of the day, the principal and/or chief executive must understand the risks and responsibilities of cyber security; ultimately, it’s their job to ensure the cyber safety of their college, their data and their people.
  • What are the key challenges facing FE college governors?
    When I thought about the key challenges currently facing FE college governors, the first thought in my head was: “Where should I begin?” MergersAs a governor of an FE college that merged with another institution last July, the challenges presented by that process seemed a good starting point.[#pullquote#]Governors must accept that it takes time to win hearts and minds[#endpullquote#]Creating a one-college culture from two is never going to be an easy task. Governors must accept that it takes time to win hearts and minds, while still driving the new organisation forward towards improved performance.Merging college systems and processes is a necessary but time-consuming and resource-heavy challenge that can divert staff at all levels from the path of achieving core strategic objectives.Governors in many colleges that have gone through, or are still contemplating, a merger will know (or should be warned) that it will have a strong influence on progress for at least the first year.At governing body level, the challenge is, as always, to bring the right level of detail to the board and any committees.This task is made more complex by a merger, which necessitates the need to report on larger and more complex college curriculums and provision across multi-sites.[#pullquote#]All this at a time when Ofsted inspectors could call at any time[#endpullquote#]I’m sure many boards are still finding their way in newly merged colleges in this regard, trying to find a balance between enough information and too much; they will need to clearly define the wood from the trees. And all this at a time when Ofsted inspectors could call at any time, as is their prerogative for newly merged colleges.FundingFunding, or the lack of it, remains a priority.As was emphasised at the AoC Governance Summit (March 2018), there is:Limited growth in the national economy, which meansLimited taxes, which in turnLimits public fundingThe FE sector has felt this squeeze for some years now, and the problem shows no sign of abating.FE colleges and their boards attempt to set strategic objectives around government strategies (such as Train to Gain (T2G) and, more recently, apprenticeships), but if employers don’t universally buy in to such strategies, the FE college that doesn’t have alternative cards up its sleeve will live to rue the day.[#pullquote#]Diversification of income is imperative [#endpullquote#]Diversification of income is imperative to avoid this scenario, but difficult to achieve when staff and other resources have been cut to the bone after so many years of effective funding cuts, and against a background of an ever-more competitive environment.Student experienceWhile dealing with mergers and finding financial solutions are important, for me the most important aspect of my governing responsibilities is to stay focussed on the needs of our students.There are many distractions both locally and nationally that consume governor time, but the thing that we must never lose sight of, and must devote our time to most, is the quality of the student experience.[#pullquote#]They deserve and need the best we can give them. [#endpullquote#]Our students may only be with us for one year, but they deserve and need the best we can give them.Does the curriculum meet student and employer needs? Will it lead to meaningful employment or higher education? Will students want to come to college and to engage in all that it can offer? Will they both enjoy and benefit from the highest possible quality of teaching? Are we doing everything we can to make college accessible to all, though our support services and our resources?These are questions that we have always asked ourselves at governing body level and they continue to be paramount, whatever else may be trying to steal our attention.Future student experienceIt’s no good focussing purely on present issues.[#pullquote#]We must strategically look ahead, to what our students will want of us in the future [#endpullquote#]We must strategically look ahead, to what our students will want of us in the future and how we are going to deliver.In particular, when creating and approving curriculum strategies, a board will do well to look beyond the core offer and ask questions about the part that technology could and will play in the student experience going forward.[#pullquote#]Are we doing all we can to keep our systems and our students safe from cyber criminals? [#endpullquote#]What technology and supporting systems do our students expect of our college, both in the classroom and in social spaces? Is our college using technology that is focussed on making continuous improvements to the quality of teaching and learning, and assessment? Can learners access resources and systems from home or their workplace as well the college campus? Are we doing all we can to keep our systems and our students safe from cyber criminals? Are all teaching and support staff digitally adept?How can Jisc help?Jisc's guide, key technology questions college governors should ask, expands on the questions and issues I have highlighted above and is a helpful checklist for any board reviewing a curriculum and/or technology strategy.The few challenges I mention are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg for FE governors, but has it not always been thus?[#pullquote#]For me, the issues governors face do not detract from it being a rewarding role [#endpullquote#]For me, the issues governors face do not detract from it being a rewarding role where I feel that, even as an individual and in a small way, I can make a contribution and make a difference.
  • The fourth industrial revolution: how can universities respond to the rise of the robots?
    It’s official - up to 800 million global workers will be replaced by robots and AI by 2030. A rethink of education is needed to keep humans employed, but should universities be concerned about the robotic takeover? It seems that everywhere you look these days there are articles about AI. It’s certainly the matter of the moment, but how can we best prepare our learners for the new careers that are being ushered in by these technologies? Moreover, how do universities need to change, and should we be concerned?Dame Wendy Hall’s 2017 review of artificial intelligence concluded that “industry should sponsor a major programme of students to pursue masters’ courses in AI, with an initial cohort of 300 students”.Further recommendations include creating an additional 200 PhD places dedicated to AI at leading universities, and the recently published Industrial Strategy white paper earmarks £30m funding to test the use of AI and innovative education technology in online courses.What will future courses look like?We can learn a lot from the Stanford online education spinout Udacity, which launched a self-driving car engineering nanodegree in autumn 2016.This short, $2,400 course is roughly equivalent to a masters’ degree and aims to take learners through key aspects of using AI to process images and sensor data from a self-driving car. This is one of the most challenging applications for AI, because real-world road conditions can be so unpredictable.The nanodegree demonstrates how different AI courses could be to traditional graduate or postgraduate courses.[#pullquote#]Perhaps most significantly, there are no academic institutions involved in this course – learners get assigned industry mentors [#endpullquote#]The course is largely self-paced learning from online material and is only several months long. Perhaps most significantly, there are no academic institutions involved in this course – learners get assigned industry mentors from the likes of Mercedes, BMW and Uber.A wake up callThe real wake-up call for our universities is that, almost overnight, Udacity had over 30,000 people from all over the world wanting to take this course.Could traditional degrees learn from the nanodegree’s flexibility and fast pace? It seems that’s what students want.[#pullquote#]22,000 students have told us recently that they want staff to be better with digital, not use more of it [#endpullquote#]At Jisc, 22,000 students have told us recently that they want staff to be better with digital, not use more of it, and that they strongly value the convenience of online systems.How could institutions replace people with AI?Robotics and AI are also set to have a transformational effect on the business of being a higher education institution, too.San Francisco startup Knightscope has been in the news recently after one of its robots was apparently being used by a customer to discourage homeless people from sheltering near their premises. Will we see our universities and colleges replacing their security guards and manual labour roles with robots?[#pullquote#]Could machines eventually sweep dorms, serve pints in the SU, or even do the day-to-day organisational admin? [#endpullquote#]This might seem farfetched, but Knightscope has priced its robots very competitively. At just $7 an hour, they’re far cheaper than hiring a security guard and the robots work all day and night with just the occasional break for charging. Could machines eventually sweep dorms, serve pints in the SU, or even do the day-to-day organisational admin?We’ve already seen some signs of institutions using AI in a targeted way to help students, such as when Ashok Goel, a Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology introduced his new assistant Jill Watson, who would field questions from students to reduce his workload.Yes, you’ve guessed it, Jill was actually an AI ‘bot’ using the award-winning Watson software from IBM.Using AI to assist learningCloser to home, at Jisc we have worked with around 100 institutions to develop a national learning analytics service that uses AI to:Improve retentionEnhance the student experienceMake the organisation itself more productiveThe service uses the data from institutional IT systems like the library catalogue and virtual learning environment, which would historically have been discarded, but can actually give us some very useful indicators of student engagement over time and correlation with learning outcomes.The futureUniversities are a bit like ocean liners – they tend to struggle with sudden course changes.[#pullquote#]It’s clear that institutional agility is becoming an increasingly important topic[#endpullquote#]In my job as a Futurist I often work with senior leadership teams that are devising or implementing a digital strategy, and it’s clear that institutional agility is becoming an increasingly important topic. This may involve new ways of working such as fully online delivery and blended learning, but just keeping track of key technologies can be quite a challenge as they keep evolving at a very fast pace.So yes, the robot revolution is coming, and things won’t ever be the same again.The jobs sector will change, and so then, must universities. If institutions keep up, our students will be prepared for the robotic future ahead. Technology doesn’t wait for anyone, so we may as well jump on board. It’s going to be a wild ride!
  • From plagiarism detection to academic integrity
    After two decades in which our technology has played an important role, we are now seeing universities deploying new tactics in the fight against plagiarism. You know that something is just not right, but you don’t have enough evidence to suggest that a student’s work is not their own. You now need to decide whether it’s worth the time and effort to pursue or just let it go. In an age of increasing competition between education providers, upholding a university’s reputation and the integrity of the awards it offers has never been so important. In this new environment, the last thing any university needs is students failing due to academic misconduct or to hit the headlines for ‘cheating’.New and emerging academic misconduct threats, combined with the sector’s focus on new measures, the National Student Survey, and supporting and improving the student experience, puts increasing pressure on teachers and leaders. [#pullquote#]students are still looking at new ways to help them to get the results they want, which is why universities are not relying on technology alone.[#endpullquote#]Our journey as Turnitin began over 20 years ago to tackle the issue of copying and pasting directly from internet sources, and as different types of plagiarism emerged our solution evolved. However, students are still looking at new ways to help them to get the results they want, which is why universities are not relying on technology alone. They are shifting their focus to the development and reinforcement of academic integrity skills - through actively promoting the benefits and expectations to students - as opposed to just detection.From plagiarism detection…Checking final assignments for unoriginal content helps universities to protect their reputation and identify students who have copied work intentionally or unintentionally. However, what many have quickly realised was that checking work at this stage, whilst essential, is happening too late in the process to do anything about.[#pullquote#]checking work at this stage, whilst essential, is happening too late in the process to do anything about.[#endpullquote#]Assessing writing skills at the beginning of the course and identifying students who are struggling is far more effective, but due to class sizes and demands on educators, it’s not always possible to provide detailed guidance and instruction every time.This is when we started to look at the root cause of plagiarism and how technology could support teachers to identify and address problem areas. By checking originality of students work, identifying sources that are being used and providing tools to enable teachers to feedback quickly, we were able to help educate students and reduce the risk at final assessment time.…to academic integrityThrough working in partnership with the sector, we’ve seen an increasing shift in how universities are addressing academic integrity. What was previously a one-off committee meeting to implement a policy and update in the student induction process, is now transforming into a continuous and more formalised programme with positive reinforcement at its core. The focus is shifting from risk detection to helping students learn the skills they need, whilst protecting the reputation and values of the university.[#pullquote#]The difference between detection and academic integrity is the focus on educating students[#endpullquote#]The difference between detection and academic integrity is the focus on educating students and promoting the positive benefits and expectations of integrity. Academic integrity is a learned skill that needs to be reinforced throughout education.In working with this expert community, it’s clear to see that achieving excellence in academic integrity requires a fine balance between policy, education and technology and one without the others will not suffice. Tackling new emerging academic misconduct threatsContract cheating - students engaging a third-party individual or service to complete their assessments - is becoming an increasing problem. As the recent coverage of the undercover Panorama report shows, students are walking away with qualifications that are way beyond their capabilities.[#pullquote#]research suggests between 2-10% of student submissions are not students’ own work. [#endpullquote#]Some 800 to 1,000 websites selling essays/dissertations have been identified by experts and research suggests between 2-10% of student submissions are not students’ own work. We’ve been working with experts in the field of contract cheating to understand this issue and we will be introducing a new solution, later this year, to support institutions in identifying and investigating potential contract cheating incidents.
  • FE and social media make the perfect match
    The UK’s further education (FE) sector is known for its capacity to adapt and innovate; its ability to morph in response to the changing demands on post-16 education. Which is perhaps why it so often finds a bedfellow in social media – flexible, ever-evolving, and for the most part free. Since the days of early social media, the platforms themselves have always been evolving: pokes have gone extinct; walls became pages; favourites switched to likes; and threads have become home to any online interaction worth its salt.How these changing functionalities are applied to achieve communication goals and interact with audiences, has only ever been limited by users’ creativity. And creativity is something FE has in spades. Which brings me to the Jisc social media superstars competition for FE.How do you use social media in teaching?We’re on the hunt for the best uses of social media by FE practitioners. That could be managing social media groups across a cohort, sharing resources on Twitter, or re-thinking how Instagram could be used as a learning aid. If you’re using social media for the good of teaching and learning, or education and the sector more broadly, we want to hear from you.[#pullquote#]We will be compiling a list of the top ten social media superstars in FE to shine a spotlight on the innovative work that’s being done across the sector.[#endpullquote#]We will be compiling a list of the top ten social media superstars in FE to shine a spotlight on the innovative work that’s being done across the sector. What type of thing are we looking for? Anything and everything that makes effective use of social media to support your work in FE.Which platforms do you use?Mainstream platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are ideal as informal mechanisms for disseminating information or bringing cohorts together to discuss hot topics, projects and social events.There are lots of great examples of course-level Facebook groups. One in particular I was involved with saw second-year students organically take on responsibility for supporting first years with ideas, reading suggestions and resources. The group became a really valuable space for both teachers and learners, evolving year-on-year as students progressed through the course.Other platforms that are more restrictive, and which are more typically associated with social lives, such as Instagram, can require a more creative approach. But get it right and the rewards can be great. An excellent example of this was a winner in our HE social media superstars competition at the end of 2017. Vikas Shah’s innovative use of Instagram has enabled him to make radiology accessible to his tens of thousands of followers.Similarly, Instagram stories, although not particularly the new kid on the block anymore, do present interesting new possibilities for creative educators connecting with 16 to 18-year-olds. As the platform has seized the monopoly on the temporary, instant-sharing market, it’s the place to be right now. And if your audience is there, why wouldn’t you be? So do you have learners or peers hanging off every one of your perfectly crafted stories?[#pullquote#]do you have learners or peers hanging off every one of your perfectly crafted stories?[#endpullquote#]Then there are those platforms that may require some outside the box thinking. Strava for training routes? Goodreads for reading lists? Snapchat for tutorials?Tell us about your successWhether you’re taking on more alternative platforms, or mastering the mainstream options, we want to hear about your successes, the challenges you’ve overcome, and the problems social media has enabled you to solve.[#pullquote#]we want to hear about your successes, the challenges you’ve overcome, and the problems social media has enabled you to solve.[#endpullquote#]Just fill out this short form before midnight on Thursday, 29 March, 2018, and you’ll be put forward for the Jisc top ten list of social media superstars. Each of our winners will receive a visit from Jisc’s Digi Lab to their class, complete with virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), an Emotiv Insight EEG brain reader and a robot.Enter the competitionFollow us on Twitter and join in with #JiscTop10.
  • How do you keep students safe from cyber crime? By teaching them to behave like a stealth bomber!
    While most college or university students have grown up using internet-enabled devices, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are savvy and careful about online safety. With the explosion of the internet of things (IoT), there are now more connected devices than there are people in the world, which provides an exponentially growing opportunity for cyber criminals to steal, disrupt and exploit.Perhaps the most effective defence against criminals’ activity is knowledge of their tactics and how to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.Jisc research (2017) found that:83% of universities provide training for staff, which is compulsory in 46% of cases40% offer training to students, but only 8% insist that students take a courseInstruction on good security practice is essential for all end users – that’s staff and studentsI’d argue that instruction on good security practice is essential for all end users – that’s staff and students. They need to be able to spot dodgy websites, iffy emails and other common attack vectors. For universities and colleges, it’s about extending the scope of student care to enable their learners to live an easier and safer life.When unattractive is a good thingReducing risk in this context is about making your environment as unattractive as possible to criminals. In the physical world, if your house is the only one in the street surrounded by a high fence, with anti-climb paint on the drainpipes and prickly shrubs under every window, burglars will probably look for an easier target.The same principle applies to online property; if you protect your accounts, (particularly email), your privacy, and your devices as best you can, then your attack surface is minimised – a bit like a stealth bomber. If you protect your accounts, your privacy, and your devices as best you can, then your attack surface is minimised – a bit like a stealth bomberThese aircraft are designed to have a very small area visible to radar. If you can minimise that radar blip and look like a seagull nobody is going to pay much attention, but a massive plane is a different thing altogether.What more can universities and colleges do to help?In my view, the more that organisations can do automatically to protect end-users, the better.Let’s take the machines owned by universities and colleges: they should be covered by advanced versions of anti-virus and anti-malware and probably a web filtering service, which takes out some illegal material. If you don’t use web filtering you’re potentially leaving yourself open to reputational damage. Email content filtering will pick up some spam and a few of them will pick up phishing attempts too.If people are going to use your systems, they have to adhere to the rules, and ignorance is not an excuseSomething that adds a complication is that students are often using their own devices, which may not be as secure as those owned by the university or college. Many institutions will have deals with software providers for student to use on their own devices for discounted rates – and that’s a good idea.Institutions need to be advising students on appropriate protection methods and putting that in a code of use and their security policies. If people are going to use your systems, they have to adhere to the rules, and ignorance is not an excuse.Seven steps to staying safe online:Suss out suspicious apps: Why, for example, would a calculator app be asking to access your phone’s camera? It doesn’t need to, so it probably has an ulterior spying motive. Apply common sense.Avoid the phisherman’s hook: One of the recent scams that first-year students are subjected to is an email telling them they’ve won a bursary and all they need to do to get it is to hand over their bank account details. The rule is, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.Take care what you click: If you receive an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know, or a strange email from someone you do know that contains a puzzling attachment or a link, it’s best avoided – it could be a virus, or a spoof website.Resist temptation: Students are often targeted to use as mules to launder money. It sounds great – hand over your bank details and you get £50 a week, no questions asked – but you’d be breaking the law by allowing someone to use your account for illicit purposes.Beef-up passwords: Use a separate password for your email account, which if breached, can often provide access to many of your other online accounts. A solid password is one that comprises a short phrase of at least three words, plus numbers and/or other characters. Avoid using obvious passwords such as children’s or pets’ names, which criminals may be able to guess after looking at your social media accounts – so be careful what you post. It’s best never to repeat password and, so you don’t have to remember them all, use an online password safe, which will store them all securely. The government's Cyber Aware campaign has further advice.Keep computers healthy: Install anti-virus software (a free package is better than nothing), back-up regularly, and update software when prompted to do as they often contain security patches.Preserve privacy: be very careful of communicating personal or sensitive information when using public computers, or a pubic wi-fi network, which are vulnerable to hackers. Your name and address maybe all that’s required to steal your identity, for example. Be similarly warey what you post on social media and check your accounts’ privacysettings to limit who can see what. Ideally, use a VPN (virtual private network) which uses data encryption to hide internet activity.Think you’re playing safe online? Take our short quiz to find out.To find out more about Jisc's work in cyber security, go along to Networkshop, 27-28 March,2018, in Birmingham.
  • Think virtual reality surgery is a thing of the future? Think again…
    I’m on a mission to merge the world of medicine, global education and immersive technology, and here’s why… Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be a surgeon? For many, working in medicine was a childhood dream. It was certainly one of mine, and now I’m a cancer surgeon at The Royal London and St Bartholomew’s Hospital.[#pullquote#]I never thought that I’d be the ‘most watched surgeon in human history’[#endpullquote#]I never thought though, that I’d be the ‘most watched surgeon in human history’, but hey, technology is full of surprises."Digital is on our side"An enormous amount of people worldwide don’t have access to safe, affordable surgery.  If the outlook is going to improve, we’re going to need a lot more medical professionals worldwide, and fast. Luckily though, digital is on our side.I’m the co-creator of Medical Realities, the world’s first VR interactive surgical training module. Our company mission is to solve big problems in surgical training using immersive technology. We use virtual reality to train surgeons, saving money, and scaling surgical education to make it accessible to everyone.Sounds pretty exciting right? That’s because it is, and you can even try the platform for free to gain an insight into the operating theatre for yourself.Livestreaming surgeryIn 2013, I got my hands on a shiny pair of Google Glass (much earlier than most), and used them to livestream the removal of a liver cancer from a surgeon's point of view to over 13,000 students from all over the world.[#pullquote#]The great thing about them being that students can ask questions live, and everyone gets a good sight of what’s happening[#endpullquote#]There have been many more livestreams since then; the great thing about them being that students can ask questions live, and everyone gets a good sight of what’s happening. Often in the traditional training operating theatre students end up craning their necks for hours, and bobbing around to try and get the best view.A future full of potentialThe VR module is only the start of the technology revolution for medical field though, there’s a lot more to come.Imagine a world where surgical students can actually perform computer simulations of operations that look and sound very, very real. There might even be gloves that give students real-time feedback so it truly feels like they’re making incisions, or holding a surgical implement.[#pullquote#]Imagine a world where surgical students can actually perform computer simulations of operations that look and sound very, very real[#endpullquote#]Training could become so much easier, and so much more accessible globally, all thanks to technology.Meet me at DigifestI’m happy to report that this year I’m a keynote speaker at Digifest, Jisc’s annual celebration of digital and technology being used to enhance and transform education – something that as you can tell, I’m enthusiastic about to say the least.I’m looking forward to hearing from other people on the ground about the latest ways that technology is being used to overcome challenges around the education sector, and trying out the latest edtech too.  See you there!
  • Is your email account well protected against hackers? Not sure? This is what you need to know
    Do you use the same password across all your online accounts or share personal details via email? If so, you’re not alone, but it's a habit you need to break. A new survey from the government’s Cyber Aware campaign and global information services company Experian has revealed that more than half of respondents (52%) aged 18-25 and 27% of respondents from all age groups reuse their email password across multiple accounts. This leaves them vulnerable to hackers.More worryingly, over three quarters (79%) of all Britons with an email account who were surveyed have sent personal information – such as their address or bank details – over email.As our lives are increasing lived online – whether learning, keeping up with friends, shopping, buying a home, job-hunting or dating – keeping our online space secure is crucial.You wouldn’t leave your house open for a burglar, so why give criminals an open invitation to your inbox and all the personal information contained in it?[#pullquote#]You wouldn’t leave your house open for a burglar, so why give criminals an open invitation to your inbox and all the personal information contained in it?[#endpullquote#]A simple cyber resetCyber Aware’s new #OneReset campaign aims to highlight how weak passwords are leaving email accounts wide open to hackers. Criminals who gain access to your emails can rifle through a treasure trove of information that can be used to access many of your other personal accounts.By exploiting your personal information, such as your bank details, address or date of birth, cyber criminals can steal your identity or commit fraud.This is why Cyber Aware’s #OneReset campaign is encouraging people to consider adding a simple cyber reset to their existing list of life changes.Sometimes we crave a lifestyle change - a pause to reflect while we take a closer look at a particular aspect of our life we might want to ‘reset’. Whether that’s getting to grips with our finances or embracing healthy eating. Cyber Aware and Experian’s survey highlighted the most popular resets - improving fitness levels (48%), eating a healthier diet (41%), getting more sleep (37%), gaining control of finances (25%) and even changing hair colour (14%).People might worry about cyber security, but the reality is that doing something about it is often bottom of the list.Only 8% of those surveyed wanted to improve their cyber security.[#pullquote#]Only 8% of those surveyed wanted to improve their cyber security[#endpullquote#]How you can take actionThe good news is that it’s simple to take action to help protect you and your family online by ensuring you have a strong and separate password for your email account.Tips for a strong email password include:Use three random words as your passwordUse two-factor authentication, where available, on your email accountSo, next time you consider the areas of your life most in need of a reset, reflect on how important your personal data is and the simple action you can take now to make a big difference to your cyber security and prevent you falling victim to cyber crime.For advice on simple ways to be more secure online, visit the Cyber Aware website. And to test your knowledge of online security, take our quiz.
  • Our edtech competition win, and why you should enter this time around
    Have you got an edtech idea that could solve a sector problem or enhance the student experience? We won funding and support for our idea, and you could too… Hands up if you fell into a university course without really knowing if it was the one for you?It’s more common than you might think. Personally, I had no idea what to study, and after considering law, psychology, and criminology, I ended up studying computer science at Bangor University in 2012 (having gone through clearing).During my studies, I witnessed one of my closest friends falling out of love with his course, and eventually dropping out entirely. After speaking with him it was clear he had chosen his course simply because he had studied it at A-level, and wasn’t sure what else to pick. (Did you know that recent Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data shows that, in 2016, more than 29,000 full time students (7.4% of the intake) were no longer in higher education after 12 months?)[#pullquote#]After numerous interviews, and a handful of offers, I did a complete turnaround and decided I wanted to start my own company.[#endpullquote#]Two years later, I was in my last year at university, and amongst exams, dissertations, sports commitments, and the usual turbulent university lifestyle, I started the dreaded procedure of job hunting. After numerous interviews, and a handful of offers, I did a complete turnaround and decided I wanted to start my own company.After a short while I met my now co-founder Chris Worsey, and, based on our experiences at university, we decided to set up a business tackling the lack of engagement in higher education career advice - something we were both passionate about.[#pullquote#]we came up with the idea for Coursematch, an app that allows students to find the right university course for them.[#endpullquote#]Chris has a background in politics and chairing a commission on youth unemployment, which gave him some fantastic insights into the sector we were hoping to break into. So in March 2016, whilst still in my final year of university – we came up with the idea for Coursematch, an app that allows students to find the right university course for them.Concept in hand, we entered a Jisc competition that is now called the edtech launchpad, a competition that gives winning edtech ideas and startups the financial and business support to make their ideas reality, and improve and/or enhance the sector in some way.  We were thrilled when we found out that we were one of the winning ideas![#pullquote#]The support that we were given by Jisc after our win was completely invaluable. [#endpullquote#]The support that we were given by Jisc after our win was completely invaluable. Not only did we receive an initial £2,000 grant, but we were able to attend a week of outstanding workshops that focused on honing our ideas, and early stage customer development. This was something I hadn’t done with Coursematch yet, and quickly realised was of utmost importance.The £2,000 grant also allowed me to focus my efforts full time on Coursematch, which was a significant contributing factor to how fast I was able to develop the app and get the all-important first version launched.After our support from Jisc, we were accepted onto the three month Manchester Ignite Accelerator, which upon completion saw us start our seed fundraising efforts. Over the next few months we managed to raise £140,000 of funding from a collection of incredible angel investors across the UK, and have just closed another £140,000!We have made some big improvements to the app, but know there is still a long way to go before we find the solution to the problem that we’ve set out to resolve, but we’re well on our way.[#pullquote#]It’s great to know that our app is already making a difference[#endpullquote#]Over 10,000 students have downloaded and are benefitting from our app already, and we’ve had some really positive feedback. It’s great to know that our app is already making a difference, and that our business plan has been a success, too! I’d like to take a moment to thank Jisc for all of their help, efforts, and ongoing support with both myself and Coursematch.For anybody who is thinking of applying to the Jisc competition - do it! You never know where you might end up a year later!The student ideas competition is open now to all students over 16 years from sixth forms, further education colleges and universities. Follow the conversation on Twitter using #studentideas.
  • The top five things about Digifest for attendees
    Digifest is a great way to hear from other educators from around the UK and share and learn from like-minded people.  I was honoured to be part of the steering group for this annual event and think that Jisc has continued to listen, to and be led by, pedagogy and industry needs with Digifest 2018.Why attend?Here are five reasons why I think you should attend...1. Meeting people in personI only use digital to free up my time to work with students and co-design ideas with other teachers - it’s important we don’t get distracted from the use of digital and meet face to face with people when we can.Digifest is great for networking at breakout sessions (sit away from your friends - you know them already), peer meetups, hosted lunch tables to build your network, share experiences, and set up collaborations as well. It goes quickly so use your time well by downloading the free Digifest event app (anyone registered will receive a link as soon as it the app is ready) before you arrive, and message your fellow attendees to organise a meet up.[#pullquote#]Digifest is great for networking at breakout sessions (sit away from your friends - you know them already)[#endpullquote#]2. Hearing best practice from across the UKIt is a unique opportunity to see and hear the latest thoughts and edtech advancements from across the further and higher education sectors and to explore what is going to be happening next. The workshops, lightning talks and keynotes are all good, so you'll need to cherry pick what is best for you and your students.Hearing from peers (people who actually do it) and other sector experts (people who genuinely want to help us) from across the UK is a unique opportunity. I like hearing how others in the sector are improving education using digital and want to come away inspired with at least ten new ideas.[#pullquote#]I like hearing how others in the sector are improving education using digital and want to come away inspired[#endpullquote#]3. Sampling new technologyThe exhibition space is a nice place to play with new tools and think about how they can enhance teaching and learning; with helpful experts keen to chat and share - as opposed to simply selling you units.The Digi Lab is where you can try all the latest edtech aimed at improving education. This year’s Digi Lab will offer a ‘seed to oak’ route (I like that phrase) explaining each product from research and development, to technology available to use in your teaching now. [#pullquote#]The exhibition space is a nice place to play with new tools and think about how they can enhance teaching and learning[#endpullquote#]4. Learning about learning analytics, and what they can do for youBig data and learning analytics will be a big talking point in 2018 to help us use our data in a productive way to improve student retention and grades as well as the effectiveness of our teaching.This year’s Digifest promises to illuminate the topic in an accessible way through live demos exploring intelligent campus data in real time, learning analytics debates, eg how analytics supports student wellbeing, and other innovative approaches that help streamline and evolve our practice.Find out more about Jisc’s developing learning analytics service.[#pullquote#]Big data and learning analytics will be a big talking point in 2018[#endpullquote#]5. Engaging with Jisc As well as meeting peers, sector experts and businesses, Digifest is a good opportunity to find out about Jisc's plans for the next year. You can also get support and advice on topics such as GDPR, and explore the products and services they have available to enhance your teaching. Jisc are there to help us and can be an invaluable ally as we all seek to develop our respective institutions in 2018/19.[#pullquote#]Digifest is a good opportunity to find out about Jisc's plans for the next year[#endpullquote#]Collaborate with usI want to take this opportunity to extend an open invitation to all other colleges using blended learning approaches to visit Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) and potentially collaborate with the digital team as we embed meaningful and relevant digital learning in every curriculum.We love collaborating with others and it’s thanks to events like Digifest that we continue to benefit from meeting other inspiring educators and grow each year.About DigifestDigifest is taking place in Birmingham on the 6-7 March 2018. Find out more and book your free place. You can join the conversation on Twitter using #digifest18. Scott Hayden is the digital innovation specialist / lecturer of creative media production, at Basingstoke College of Technology.
  • Ten top tips to make your university accessible to all learners
    The University of Kent has been leading the way in designing systems and ways of presenting content to make it easily accessible to as many learners as possible. I worked with Alistair McNaught, one of Jisc's accessibility and inclusion subject specialists, to put Jisc's sector-level guidance into practice in a living, breathing university and worked strategically to embed recommendations into normal university processes.Here's how we did it – and how your university could too – in my top ten tips for taking a strategic approach to improving access to information for everyone.1. Scan the horizonGet a sense of the best practices across the sector.The real value of our relationship has been the constant liaison, shared ideas and learning that has enabled us to seek (and achieve) far more than just the dissemination of information. Something fundamental has occurred where accessibility considerations have now permeated to nearly all key sections of the university.[#pullquote#]Something fundamental has occurred where accessibility considerations have now permeated to nearly all key sections of the university[#endpullquote#]With Jisc’s help, we have explored our institutional culture and adapted our approaches to achieve scalable and lasting change.2. Build a caseIdentify risks and opportunities, recognise potential efficiencies and savings.Branding this work as the OPERA project (Opportunity, Productivity, Engagement, Reducing barriers, Achievement) was significant.It became a university-wide accessibility project supported by advice and guidance from Jisc with a prime focus on improving opportunities for everyone. This enhanced buy-in while still having disproportionate benefits for students with disabilities.3. Find a sponsorGet buy-in from a senior manager with the vision and authority to ‘grease the wheels’.I found a strong ally in our head of student services at Kent who championed the work at high levels within the institution and helped bring together a steering group.4. Listen and learnFind out where good practice already exists and identify pockets of expertise in different roles and departments.Relationship building has been key – liaising with different people across every part of the university from student services to e-learning teams, procurement, libraries and academics.[#pullquote#]If everyone does their little bit, the institutional impacts can be huge[#endpullquote#]Optimising accessibility isn't necessarily a great deal of work for individual departments if it is done as a whole. If everyone does their little bit, the institutional impacts can be huge.5. Build alliesExplore synergies where you can add value to another’s work and they can add value to yours.There were a number of projects across the university – from lecture capture and Student Success projects – that fitted really well with what I was trying to achieve and it made sense to work together.It’s great when other people see the value accessibility brings to their own processes.6. Assemble a team Bring together people who can represent different views, influence different areas and share responsibilities/actions.The OPERA steering group has been very important in representing different interests and opportunities. It has also allowed us to weave together accessibility practices so they integrate into existing systems, policies and practices.7. Seek critique and invite improvementsMany people find change difficult and threatening...It is crucial to listen respectfully to people who are finding change difficult. I found that asking for their opinion about how to improve practices and make things better for everyone worked well.[#pullquote#]It is crucial to listen respectfully to people who are finding change difficult[#endpullquote#]Expect to be misunderstood from time to time but recognise that it’s rarely personal. By being open to difficult conversations and aware of conflicts of interest it is easier to make the compromises that are sometimes necessary to move forward.8. Be realisticBetter to make a small change soon that benefits people straight away than spend years negotiating bigger changes that thousands miss out on in the meantime.Quite early on we incorporated Sensus Access into our processes for information delivery to enable everyone at Kent to have access to accessible file conversion technology (which gave far greater independence to people who prefer materials in alternative formats). As we explored new assistive technologies we decided to make them available to everyone through our productivity tools pages.9. Be strategic - get the quick wins done quickly Publicise them and monitor their impacts. Use this intelligence to keep momentum with the deeper and slower changesBeing inclusive is about offering services that work well for everyone. Kent Inclusive Practices (KIPs) offer guidance on simple but powerful mainstream adjustments to learning and teaching delivery at Kent and are informed by analysis of our most frequently requested Inclusive Learning Plan (ILP) adjustments.Embedding these adjustments will improve the learning environment for all students, reduce the need for retrospective adjustments and lessen the reliance upon Inclusive Learning Plans (ILPs). KIPs reinforce the measures for inclusive design that the university has also incorporated into module and programme design processes.10. Be publicMove from private adjustments for individuals to public entitlements for all – the things any student (disabled or not) should be able to expect of a 21st century institution.Identifying a few accessibility entitlements (eg all documents should be online and accessible) can give focus and momentum to other agendas (digital capability, bring your own device, sustainability etc).Ben Watson is the accessible information adviser at the University of Kent. Having recently moved into the sphere of inclusive information design, he is currently undertaking a project in partnership with Jisc researching and developing approaches to accessible information and technology provision at the University of Kent.
  • The top challenges for the UK’s HE leaders - revealed
    The results are in from our second annual higher education leadership survey, exploring what is looming large on the horizons for those in senior leadership positions in UK higher education. Six challenges facing HE leadersWe asked leaders to assess the importance of six challenges we know are currently of concern (see results below). With uncertainty over Brexit, competition from overseas providers, and the regulatory environment in English higher education (HE) poised to undergo significant changes over the next couple of years, it’s no surprise to find creating and sustaining a viable financial and funding model in top spot for the sector as a whole.[#pullquote#]it’s no surprise to find creating and sustaining a viable financial and funding model in top spot for the sector as a whole.[#endpullquote#]Running at a very close second was meeting the changing needs and expectations of today’s local and global students, confirming findings elsewhere in the survey which identify students as the most important stakeholders to the future success of HE institutions.Leaders from research-intensive institutions seemed most keenly aware, among the groups we talked to, of the importance of protecting their institution from threats, both from cyber criminals. It follows our cyber security survey earlier this year, which revealed a rise of 132% in the mean amount assigned to cyber security between 16/17 and 17/18 to a projected figure of £797,500.Institutions in Scotland and Northern Ireland highlighted the challenges around student expectations, while in Wales delivering a complete learning experience was most important.Here are the six priorities ranked in order of importance according to the responses: Creating and sustaining a viable financial and funding model that can adapt to market changesMeeting the changing needs and expectations of today's local and global studentsCreating the optimum environment to create and sustain learning excellence and deliver the complete learning experienceCreating a truly agile organisation that can anticipate, influence and react to change and manage the risks and complexity that comes with changeProtecting the institution, its brand, its IP and its reputation from cyber criminalsProtecting the institution, its brand and reputation from all other threats such as competitorsAs a membership organisation, it’s really important for us to understand the challenges our members face, so that we can best assist with solutions. The data collected will add focus to how we help universities respond to changing student expectations and government priorities, to help them to continue to compete at an international level.What’s going to be hardest to achieve?We also asked leaders which of these six challenges would require the most effort to overcome.Overall, leaders identified creating an agile institution as the hardest hill that they have to climb, slightly ahead of creating and sustaining a viable financial and funding model.[#pullquote#]leaders identified creating an agile institution as the hardest hill that they have to climb[#endpullquote#]Compared to last year’s survey, the two areas in which additional effort was felt to be needed were; meeting the changing needs of students, and creating the optimum environment for teaching excellence and delivering a complete learning experience - perhaps reflecting the influence of the national conversation around teaching excellence and the holistic student experience.We’ve also been seeing this focus reflected in very high levels of sign-ups to our 2018 student digital experience tracker, which enables universities and colleges to explore what their students think about many aspects of their digital learning experience.What would help universities to improve their attractiveness to individuals, employers and other stakeholders in a highly competitive market?We asked the same question last year and, since then, two possibilities in particular have increased in importance - tools to enhance teaching capabilities were mentioned by 68% (up from 58% in 2016) and access to data to aid decision-making, mentioned by 59% (up from 50%).These were both themes which our co-design work with stakeholders flagged as emerging needs from 2014 onwards, so we have been developing services to support institutions in these areas.One example which could help here is a learning analytics service we’re developing as part of our effective learning analytics programme. A number of universities have already signed up and it is helping them to collect, process and analyse data to inform business decisions and to improve student wellbeing, retention and attainment.Data-informed decision making is also supported through our analytics labs process, which enables agile multi-institutional teams to get hands-on with national datasets to derive insights and build data capability.We’re also working on building digital capability to ensure that staff have the skills and confidence to exploit the potential of digital technologies. We offer a digital leaders training programme to enable leaders to guide their organisations through digitally inspired change – the next sessions are in January 2018.Continuing to meet our members’ needsIn total, more than three quarters (78%) of respondents to this year’s HE leaders survey said that Jisc’s products and services align with their organisation’s needs. That proportion is higher than last year and we’ll be responding to the latest findings to make sure the figure is higher still in 2019, but also, that Jisc is helping to support the education and research sector as a whole.[#pullquote#]more than three quarters (78%) of respondents to this year’s HE leaders survey said that Jisc’s products and services align with their organisation’s needs.[#endpullquote#]Over the coming months we’ll continue to share with our members all the products and services available to help overcome a range of challenges faced across the education and research sectors. Part of how we’ll be sharing solutions and best practice includes a programme of events such as Digifest, our stakeholder forum and Networkshop46.Download the survey (pdf)For further information on the HE leaders survey, please contact Nick Beevors ( For information on the 2018 student digital experience tracker, please contact Sarah Knight (
  • The next generation of research – it’s online and open to all
    Research is changing, with calls on academics to make research open and collaborate across sectors. So how is technology helping to meet these demands? It’s time to meet the startups answering these calls. The open access movement has digital at its heart and we shouldn’t forget that it wouldn’t even be possible without the world wide web, allowing for huge amounts of information to be freely shared, and fast.But with this unprecedented opportunity to share knowledge, there are new challenges researchers must now consider. Some of these are costly, in terms of time, money, and content – the startups we’ll meet below are all about surfacing, and in some cases translating complex information, for non-academics and the commercial world.Changing demandsThere is a general gap within research practice which tech startups, with their entrepreneurial approach, are starting to bridge; there’s a lot of interesting research that’s not being put to use, because it's either very difficult to find or understand. The UK government has cross-sector collaboration on the wish list within the Industrial Strategy and for this collaboration with academica to work well, having accessibility to research findings is fundamental.[#pullquote#]If research publications are hard to find and understand, data is even more complex[#endpullquote#]We are already seeing an increase in research data, and the calls from our members have lead us to focus on where we can ease the burden of managing that data. If research publications are hard to find and understand, data is even more complex, because of the different formats and forms it can take – it also cuts across disciplines, which is both a blessing and a curse.There's an expectation that something like the research data shared service will become the place that surfaces all the data produced by intense hours and years of research. The discovery service is adding a layer of aggregation, of data from all universities. We are also working with other organisations in the sector that are building the links between academic research and the world outside higher education.In the future we will likely see an increase in the quantity of research, as well as more innovative uses of technology to help meet the open access requirements of funders. But the next generation of research is about so much more than meeting standards in order to comply with policies such as the Research Excellence Framework.[#pullquote#]the next generation of research is about so much more than meeting standards in order to comply with policies[#endpullquote#]Current solutionsThe exponential expansion in technology means there are exciting times ahead, but the startups below are changing what’s possible when it comes to sharing research, right now. They vary greatly, engage people in a wide variety of content, and some of those on offer which we’ve been impressed by include:Sparrho Sparrho's mission is to make science more discoverable, understandable and shareable. Set up by women and invested in by a women-based venture capital company, they certainly embrace the notion of cross-sector collaboration when it comes to research. As their website states, they ‘combine artificial intelligence and human experts to democratise science’ with over 45,000 journals and repositories checked hourly.Reveal DigitalReveal Digital are helping to bring collections of specialist content, such as Independent Voices, into the digital age. Through a crowd-funded approach, universities who pledge to support digitization of content, also receive digital copies of all of the material they provide to a collection. Independent Voices will become fully open access and available to the public from January 2019.KonferKonfer have recently crossed over from start-up to fully funded service, working with the National Centre for Universities and Business. Described by its founders as ‘Google meets LinkedIn’, it’s a huge resource to start conversations about collaboration across sectors, and to realise the full impact of research potential.Future possibilitiesIt might make us think of robot-run classes of the future, but edtech is already said to be the new fintech and the next generation of open research certainly lends itself to a groundswell in innovation. There’s an opportunity now to do things differently – new software and online platforms are being developed all the time, and with new means of (crowd) funding, we can bring citizen science to life, one project at a time.[#pullquote#]There’s an opportunity now to do things differently[#endpullquote#]Part of the programme of work we do in the futures directorate includes the edtech launchpad. Our aim with this R&D project is to support the entrepreneurs of the moment help meet the challenges being faced across post-16 education.Previous winners of our student ideas competition, Know it Wall, wanted to create a one stop shop for outreach in academia and through working with us they’ve recently launched this platform. To sum up, and in their own words:“It is estimated that well over two million academic papers are published each year and there are countless more university lectures. Who is accessing this knowledge? Academics within the same disciplines and their students. Why should it only be them? We couldn't think of a good reason either!”
  • Colleges that fail to place digital technology at their strategic core must prepare to fail
    Why I'm advocating investment in technology to meet the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce. The government has put the further education (FE) sector at the forefront of a drive to equip students with knowledge and experience they will need in the workplace and to deliver relevant courses that will help close the UK’s technical skills gap.UK businesses will need an estimated 1.2 million new digitally skilled workers by 2022According to the education secretary, Justine Greening, in a speech on 30 November, 2017 and, while I have no doubt the FE sector can help hit this target, the challenge is how to keep pace with this changing policy landscape and meet the needs and demands of students and employers. And all on a very tight budget. It’s a big ask, so what are the priorities?Student experienceFirstly, we must always strive to provide an exceptional learning experience and there’s no denying the benefits of education technology (edtech) in this arena. It brings teaching to life – think mixed reality and gamification; it allows flexible and personalised learning and assessment, so students can study at a time and place to suit them; and it equips learners with digital skills for the future.[#pullquote#]Tech is not simply a matter for the director of IT; it should be a priority for every leadership team[#endpullquote#]Decisions about what edtech to invest in should be part of each college’s core strategy. To me, adopting such a strategy is a key to keeping colleges solvent, vibrant and relevant. Tech is not simply a matter for the director of IT; it crosscuts every department, driven by the changing landscape of the workplace and it should be a priority for every leadership team.Share best practiceTechnology can also supply data that informs future decisions, offering a number of solutions around business efficiency and connectivity. At Richmond upon Thames College we will rapidly build upon our investment in intelligent systems towards the use of the learning analytics, mixed reality simulations and the Internet of ThingsWikipedia defines the Internet of Things as "the network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to connect and exchange data." Read more: through the creation of a highly-connected, smart campus.[#pullquote#]There are many other examples of technological best practice in the sector that we could all learn from[#endpullquote#]There are many other examples of technological best practice in the sector that we could all learn from, so long as colleges don’t act in isolation, but instead disseminate their knowledge and experience. To that end, a new special interest technology group has been founded by myself, David Corke, the Association of Colleges (AoC) director of education and skills policy, and Paul McKean, Jisc’s head of FE and skills. To date, the group, which will also lobby government, comprises 20 members from across the UK.Our aspiration is to foster communication between institutions in order to share best practice and innovation. We also want this group to act as a national platform for appraising emerging trends and their application, identifying barriers to adoption and implementation.Lobby government for change - and moneyOne fundamental strand of this work will be the digital skills component of the new T-levels. We must assess how they will be impacted by digital and how we can lobby to make the digital skills component work across all employment sectors, for us, for students and for their future employers.Change doesn’t come cheap and this group will also aim to discuss with government our concerns about the capital expenditure in technology that will be required to meet its specific expectations on T-levels, apprenticeships and institutes of technology and the more overarching need to produce an employable workforce.[#pullquote#]We’d all have the latest tech if we could, but affording it is another matter altogether[#endpullquote#]We’d all have the latest tech if we could, but affording it is another matter altogether. Some colleges will also need careful guidance on best value investments, and this is where the sector’s not-for-profit technology expert, Jisc, can help.Digital skills for tomorrow's workforceMoney and time must be set aside for the associated upskilling of the workforce in terms of pedagogy, creative use of edtech and digital confidence. We can’t produce young people equipped to contribute to the future UK economy if their teachers cannot pass on appropriate digital skills.Finally, curriculum reform: given that all jobs require some use of digital technology, we need to be considering the use of technology linked to all courses, not just in relation to computing or digitally creative curriculums.Some colleges which have already been through, or are on, a pathway to technological change, will be ahead of the curve here, and my call to them is to share that experience. Please inform, encourage and support your FE colleagues.[#pullquote#]We need to be considering the use of technology linked to all courses[#endpullquote#]In a few years from now, I’d like to see a digital-first sector, where learning and assessment is accessed ubiquitously using a range of interactive activities, digital assistants, bots and AI. I envisage this approach embedded for all courses, vocational or academic, and delivered by a digitally confident staff. Colleges that fail to place digital technology at their strategic core must prepare to fail.Robin Ghurbhurun is principal and CEO of Richmond upon Thames College. He has been a member of Jisc's board of trustees since January 2016.
  • Citation metrics are making headlines, but what does citation really mean?
    It would probably come as a surprise to most researchers, working with assumption that citation counts as the one true measure of research excellence, that there is no accepted theory of what it is we are doing when we reference a work. As noted in a recent blog post, it is pretty clear that, when authors reference other works, they are doing many different things. To dig further into this and try to understand the implications in the current policy arena, I’ve taken a closer look at these competing theories to try to find out what we do – and don’t – know about the motivation behind the practice of referencing.References are not citationsOne of the most valuable distinctions is between in-text references and citation database entries. Most recently, Paul Wouters has drawn this distinction: an in-text reference is a marker in a text that refers to another text. These markers, occur in the text itself, generally matched with an entry in a bibliographic reference list (or in a footnote), and are the result of actions by authors.By contrast, the line in a citation database that states that a reference exists is the result of an action by the database provider. It also strips all the author's meaning and intent. This abstraction may seem like hair splitting, each of them being reflections and inversions of each other, but the stripping of meaning is crucial because it is used to make citation database entries countable.[#pullquote#]the stripping of meaning is crucial because it is used to make citation database entries countable.[#endpullquote#]Having countable database entries is critical to constructing quantitative indicators. Even the humble “citation count” for an article is a construction, dependent on the workings of the database, and only indirectly on any decisions by authors.At each stage we strip away meaning and also start to construct new meaning. Wouters has argued that, rather than needing a theory of referencing or citation, we need a theory of indicators.Theories of theoryThe above distinction in terminology is useful because it helps us highlight a key point: Most of the social theories we have about why authors choose to refer to a specific work are theories of referencing. The argument that citation databases are a reasonable basis on which to evaluate research has looked at correlations between citation counts. These are studies of data from citation databases.[#pullquote#]Most of the social theories we have about why authors choose to refer to a specific work are theories of referencing. [#endpullquote#]We have little, if any, theory of indicators, either ones that provide a strong framework for building them and understanding their limitations, or of how they actually affect the behaviour of researchers and institutions. We have plenty of anecdotal claims and occasionally a little bit of data, but no robust way to predict how changes in indicator design actually play out in practice.What about the power of choice?Another issue to examine is what an author chooses to reference, and how they respond to indicators; these are issues of individual behaviour, while most of the work on citation data looks at correlations and association, not an individual’s choice.While we often use correlations at the collection level to help us analyse or test a theory about individuals, it is a logical and statistical fallacy to work in the opposite direction. Where variances are low and correlations high – notably absent for citations – such associations might be useful as proxies or even predictors, but they cannot show causation.Goodheart’s law, that when something is measured it becomes the target, is often cited as the source of our problems in the world of research evaluation. But it can only apply if the measure is only a proxy. If there were a grounded causal link then measurement would not lead to a change in behaviour. These abstract arguments really matter on the ground, both to understand how measurement affects behaviour and also to ask whether changes to incentives can affect behaviour.Individuals and groups; normative and constructivist motivationsIt may seem we’re no closer to an understanding of what is going on in the world of citation metrics, but the observation of differences between group attributes and individuals may offer a way in.[#pullquote#]Broadly speaking, the social theories of referencing break into two categories.[#endpullquote#]Broadly speaking, the social theories of referencing break into two categories. Normative theories state that scholarship is capable of working towards creating valuable insights because scholars observe a set of norms of behaviour. These include, importantly, the acknowledgement of others' contributions to work and the provision of supporting evidence that allows validation of that work.Social constructivist theories focus on the process of persuasion and how authors navigate networks of power. They often focus on how references are deployed to persuade, to neutralise criticism and to defend claims, and are critical themselves of the outcomes of scientific endeavour. Neither strand of theory is satisfying in its extreme form, but several scholars have tried to bridge this divide. (Leydesdorrf (1998) and Small (2004)).In my view, the way to pull these together is to identify how individuals in their own socially constructed context are motivated to identify with the norms of any one group. In turn, these norms are part of a culture that has survived over time because it is successful in producing value. Understanding how our current policy culture draws in the individual – as well as the institution - and its ability to enforce the normative behaviours is worth further examination.But what does citation really mean?A more recent strand of work on referencing and citations focuses on the question of meaning. This is what led Paul Wouters to analyse the differences between authors’ acts of referencing and an index’s creation of a citation database. This new strand of theory can help us to understand both where meaning is stripped away, but also where it is being constructed. It also offers us understanding of how stages in processing citation data add or remove meaning.[#pullquote#]these discussions give us a rigorous way of examining how individuals are exchanging signs and meaning with the community. [#endpullquote#]Perhaps most importantly, these discussions give us a rigorous way of examining how individuals are exchanging signs and meaning with the community. That is, what is the exchange process by which an author is seeking identity with a community and how does the community create a culture of social norms?Understanding how and where meaning is constructed and whether or not it is underpinned by exchange of information will be crucial to developing an understanding of the varying motivations for referencing and the varying responses to indicators well beyond the implementation of the REF. More importantly, they will affect the choices that researchers and institutions make for years to come.Cameron Neylon is an advocate for open access and professor of research communications at the Centre for Culture and Technology at Curtin University. You can find out more about his work and get in touch with Cameron via his personal page, Science in the Open.
  • Online safety - five years on
    In 2013, we published our top five tips for improving your e-safety. With Safer Internet Day 2018 approaching in the new year, we revisit the challenges facing universities and colleges. Much has changed in the educational landscape five years on but some of the key drivers to address online safety remain the same; namely, ensuring learners take advantage of the affordances of digital technologies to prepare them for the digital workplace and can thrive in a digital world. Fresh challenges also present themselves, such as developments with the Prevent agenda and new legal guidelines to deal with internet trolling.A brand new top fiveHere's our five top tips for improving your online safety:1. Engage with your learnersAs a start it is important to look at what students’ experiences and expectations of technology look like in education. In the summer of 2017 we published the results of the student digital experience tracker (pdf), which paints a national picture of the student digital experience.Key questions, such as the following, are instrumental in identifying how your students feel supported when making the most of digital technologies and ensuring aspects of their digital safety and wellbeing are met:Do learners know where to get help if they are bullied or harassed online?Can they access health and wellbeing services online?How does their learning provider help them to stay safe online?Many universities and colleges that took part in the tracker used the information their students shared to improve the services they offer. You too can do the same. The tracker serves as an excellent starting point to create an open dialogue with your learners and there are a variety of resources from the digital student project available to facilitate conversations with learners about their digital safety and wellbeing.If you're interested in taking part in the 2018 tracker, register your interest before 30 November 2017. 2. Implement robust web filtering processesHaving proper web filtering processes in place enables organisations to safeguard potentially vulnerable learners from inappropriate or illegal content on the web, while helping to comply with the Prevent agenda.You can access guidance on the Prevent for Further Education and Training site, which also includes our detailed guidance on web filtering and monitoring (pdf). Find out how our web filtering and monitoring service could help you.3. Understand what is criminal behaviour onlineUnderstanding what is recognised as criminal by law is important for anyone who supports teaching staff and learners to navigate social media. It's essential to ensure, for example, that harassment and bullying are recognised and that there is a transparent procedure in place to allow reporting of criminal activity.This guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) tackles the offences commonly committed via social media and identifies four distinct categories of offences:Threats - communications which may constitute threats of violence to the person or damage to propertyTargeting specific individuals - any communication that specifically targets an individual or individuals and which may constitute harassment or stalkingCommunications which may amount to a breach of a court order or a statutory prohibitionCommunications which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false4. Ensure staff are kept up to dateAll staff need to be kept up to date, not only with the organisation’s processes and procedures for dealing appropriately and proportionately with online safety issues, but also with regular training opportunities that help to reinforce good practice.We offer a number of training solutions to help, such as our Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP), designed by HM Government, which provides staff with an introduction to the Prevent strategy and an individual’s role in safeguarding vulnerable people.We also offer online workshops on supporting learners’ digital identity and wellbeing, to equip participants with an understanding of the issues learners face when developing digital identities. The workshop provides participants with a range of activities to use with learners, so they can in turn make informed and responsible choices when using digital technologies that help them thrive in a digital world. The next course takes place on 14 December 2017. 5. Make online safety everyone’s businessRegardless of role within the organisation, everyone needs to be involved to ensure learners’ online safety needs are addressed and acted upon. We offer a tailored consultancy service around addressing online safety needs, where we work with your online safety lead and work around the specific requirements of your organisation.As part of your Jisc membership, we’ll get you started in the right direction, focusing on an informed and impartial diagnosis of your current situation to help you benchmark your current position and identify key issues to address. Find out moreThe next Safer Internet Day takes place on Tuesday 6 February 2018. Join the discussion on Twitter using the #SID2018 hashtag.To find out more about how we can help you with online safety, contact your account manager or email 
  • Our top ten higher education social media superstars of 2017
    The results are in! We’ve been on the lookout for our top ten social media superstars in higher education (HE), and we had some great entries! A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to apply.The competition celebrates the excellent social media work being done by sector professionals out there – and the most innovative ways of using social media to add value to their practice.The final line-up was chosen by a panel of HE and social media experts, including; our social media team, Sarah Knight (our head of change – student experience), and award-winning social media editor for Times Higher Education, Chris Parr.The top ten are fantastic examples of social media use in HE that others could take inspiration from. Each winner will receive an edtech visit for their class (robot included) – and of course, they’re celebrated in our top ten list, too! Why not give them a like, share, and follow.Congratulations to our winners!The Jisc top ten HE social media superstars of 2017Andy Tattersall, information specialist at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of SheffieldAnastasia Denisova, journalism lecturer and researcher in viral cultures, University of WestminsterDr Christina Stanley, lecturer in animal behaviour and welfare, University of ChesterDr Glenn Hurst, department of chemistry lecturer, University of YorkKardi Somerfield, senior lecturer in marketing, University of NorthamptonKeith Brown, software developerPablo the library penguin, library penguin, University of PortsmouthDr Peter Klappa, reader in biochemistry, University of KentRoger Kerry, associate professor, faculty of medicine and health sciences, University of NottinghamDr Vikas Shah, academic champion in clinical radiology/imaging, University of LeicesterAndy Tattersall, information specialist at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield[[{"fid":"6977","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]":"Andy Tattersall"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"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]":"Andy Tattersall"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Andy Tattersall","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]] @Andy_TattersallCreator and contributor to ScHARR’s YouTube channel, Andy’s video series’ include ScHARR Bite Size series – which teaches the viewer “something new in 20 minutes”. His Research Hacks series contains 44 helpful videos, and the more recent Cite Hacks series features engaging illustrations and information – such as this video that covers blogging about your research. “Higher education is now in a continual state of change thanks to the web and social media (…) it offers a wealth of new opportunities for teaching and learning, knowledge sharing and opening up of our resources across the globe. Video plays an important part of that change as it allows bite size, cheap, accessible knowledge that is shared on all platforms and in the classroom, lab, or even on the bus.”As well as @Andy_Tattersall, Andy can be found tweeting from @ScHARRSheffield and @MultiMediaIT .Judges’ commentsAndy’s use of YouTube playlists to give bite-sized information is a really effective way to share knowledge simply with colleagues and peers across the world. We thought the Cite Hacks series was particularly good.Anastasia Denisova, journalism lecturer and researcher in viral cultures, University of Westminster[[{"fid":"6978","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]":"Anastasia Denisova"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"2":{"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]":"Anastasia Denisova"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Anastasia Denisova","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"2"}}]] @AnaDenisova Anastasia practices what she preaches – as she shares and discusses her own research, research updates, and the wider news agenda on Twitter. Her conversations spark interest and engagement from her students, fellow researchers, and even journalists looking for commentary.“Tweets act as light bulbs, putting the exciting points on the spot. The feedback from other users further enhances this understanding – if anything receives likes retweets and any kind of attention – I know that I am on the right track. My research is of worth to the public.At the end of the day, we as academics have to oppose the waterfalls of ‘fake’ news, rushed judgements and toxic bias. By making our studies and balanced viewpoints more accessible for wider publics – via social media – we are serving the community. This is more important than ever in our turbulent times.”Judges’ commentsUsing Twitter as a sounding board for immediate feedback on research is a great use of the platform. Anastasia’s approach to the multi-benefits of Twitter sets a valuable example that others in HE could follow.Dr Christina Stanley, lecturer in animal behaviour and welfare, University of Chester[[{"fid":"6980","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]":"Christina Stanley"},"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]":"Christina Stanley"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Christina Stanley","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"3"}}]] @crstanley_rsrchWhen asked to design a new module in line with her research interests, Dr Christina Stanley’s first thoughts were: “Brilliant! But how can I ensure this is fun and engaging?” Realising the importance of embedding employability skills into teaching, and after inspiring conversations with colleagues, Christina realised an innovative use of Twitter was the answer.Christina shared relevant papers with her students, and inspired them to do the same, even using Twitter as an assessment tool, using the hashtag #BI6192. The Twitter feed was embedded on the module’s eLearning site.“I think this is a great example of how social media can be easily used by other HE professionals. In addition to helping students to improve valuable communication skills, they engaged with wider reading on their subject (student reluctance to do this is something we often struggle to overcome) and reported to me they had gained inspiration, even replies, from scientists all over the world.They also graduated with concrete evidence of their ability to both engage with the wider community and promote new material, key employability skills. Try it yourselves!”Judges’ commentsDespite Christina confessing to not always having been a Twitter ‘believer’, we thought her use of Twitter as an assessment tool was very innovative and had the incredibly valuable benefit of helping students develop their communication skills.Dr Glenn Hurst, department of chemistry lecturer, University of York[[{"fid":"6981","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]":"Glenn Hurst"},"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]":"Glenn Hurst"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Glenn Hurst","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"4"}}]] @GlennAdamHurst As well as using Twitter to engage with students and the academic community, Dr Glen Hurst uses social media to enhance the quality of his teaching - by empowering students to create their own YouTube videos of organic chemistry mechanisms. Students then tweet their videos to him to receive feedback so they can improve.“This has allowed me to provide students with even more feedback than other mechanisms such as tutorials/workshops and in doing so enables them to improve their communications skills.”Glen also uses Snapchat to signpost students during inductions, allowing them “to contextualise the chemistry concepts we teach in lectures to the real world and to provide them with a glimpse into conducting chemistry research in a laboratory and beyond. This is very easy and free for facilitators to try.”In collaboration with colleagues and students, Glen has also contributed to the construction of a 'Chemistry@York' app for applicants and visitors to the Department of Chemistry. The app has been downloaded by in excess of 500 individuals from across the globe.Judges’ commentsSnapchat has plenty of potential to reach a student audience and we were really excited to read about how Glenn uses it to give students a glimpse of chemistry research in a laboratory – a really clever use of the platform.Kardi Somerfield, senior lecturer in marketing, University of Northampton[[{"fid":"6982","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]":"Kardi Somerfield"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"5":{"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]":"Kardi Somerfield"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Kardi Somerfield","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"5"}}]] @kardisom Kardi uses Twitter in several ways to help her students to keep up with advertising and marketing practice. The AdStudent Picks list is a set of accounts for students to follow. It keeps students up to date with the trade press and breaking campaigns, whilst building familiarity with agencies, clients and issues. Kardi promotes the use of #AdStudents, to highlight posts from the advertising student community across the three years of study and beyond to alumni.“The particular benefits of using Twitter this way are that the students begin to understand the research capabilities of this platform, and also acquire the good habit of including bite-size industry content in their daily media consumption. This addresses the specific challenge of the way digital natives selectively process information.”Her use of social media has resulted in the launch of a ‘student takeover’ of the university social media accounts. Final year students will be given the experience of working in the digital team, as well as being matched with skilled practitioners who will continue to mentor them into their first roles in industry: “We anticipate this will positively impact their employability and the student experience.”Kardi has also invited community organisations to have social media content created for them by digital marketing students, an initiative recently shortlisted for a Changemaker Award.Judges’ commentsKardi provides a brilliant example of how to integrate social media throughout a programme – from a resource of industry news to using it to provide real-world experiences. The AdStudent Picks Twitter list is a great way to get students engaging with the platform.Keith Brown, software developer[[{"fid":"6983","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]":"Keith Brown"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"6":{"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]":"Keith Brown"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Keith Brown","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"6"}}]]Demonstrating that there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to social media, Keith has created Study-Space, a private social media app. The app includes the options to post quizzes, surveys and voting competitions, as well as posting questions and text.Study-Space proves useful for students and lecturers alike, especially for those who do not wish to use their own personal social media account for work or study, or who might have had negative experiences with social media in the past.“Study-Space provides a safe virtual learning space for students and teaching staff. It overcomes the obstacles identified with mainstream social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and enables active learning in a safe, secure and private environment.Our results have shown that the app enables a vibrant community of students and academics working together, with most students posting anonymously. It facilitates teacher/student and student/student communications, both inside and outside the classroom.”Judges’ commentsSocial media can present a number of barriers to people, so we thought Keith’s bespoke Study-Space platform was such a creative and useful solution that many others in the sector would want to hear about.Pablo the library penguin, library penguin, University of Portsmouth[[{"fid":"6984","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]":"Pablo the library penguin"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"7":{"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]":"Pablo the library penguin"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Pablo the library penguin","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"7"}}]] @uoppenguinPablo works with the University of Portsmouth Library to build trust and engagement between university students and library services and facilities. He proactively enhances the library brand across social media, lowering barriers to service engagement, and engaging students, whilst demonstrating empathy and providing a quirky take on often serious messages.Establishing himself as a trustworthy source of advice on Twitter, he happily helps students and clients with their library queries.An ever increasing pace of service change means Pablo always has new or different services, products, and developments to remark upon, explore, or otherwise engage with – keeping his followers up-to-date with the evolution of the library. Behind the scenes, he has provided opportunities for staff at the University of Portsmouth Library to explore and rediscover their own library from new angles, as well as boosting morale through challenging times of change.Through his interaction with services and facilities Pablo offers a humorous sideways look at the library – you can even watch his movie on YouTube.Judges’ commentsAs he’s done with his 1,000 followers on Twitter, Pablo the library penguin stole our hearts. A truly fantastic way to engage students with library services and facilities.Dr Peter Klappa, reader in biochemistry, University of Kent[[{"fid":"6985","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]":"Peter Klappa"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"8":{"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]":"Peter Klappa"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Peter Klappa","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"8"}}]] @pk_kent Dr Peter Klappa is a keen user of Facebook Live, harnessing the power of social media to expand traditional teaching and learning spaces. “Most students already use social media for communication and therefore it is only logical to use live-streaming as an extension of traditional face-to-face lectures and workshops.“Facebook Live streams (FLS) can make learning more accessible for students, who find it difficult to attend face-to-face sessions or who are studying remotely - for example, on placements. FLS can be watched on a plethora of devices, which students already possess, and no further software is needed to be installed on the user side.Live-streamed lectures can be easily scheduled and deployed, thus reducing timetabling constraints - eg, availability of large lecture theatres.”Student feedback for Peter’s livestreaming has been extremely positive - demonstrating that it can make learning on the go a lot easier and more accessible.He states that it’s important to note, that for some students the direct interaction with the lecturer and peers is very important, and suggests that a blended approach with face-to-face lectures and live-streamed sessions might be most beneficial. Furthermore, not every student uses Facebook and Peter is currently investigating other platforms, such as YouTube Live.Judges’ commentsPeter is a shining example of how to make learning more accessible with technology. Facebook Live hasn’t had massive adoption in HE learning yet but maybe Peter’s success will help to change that.Roger Kerry, associate professor, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Nottingham[[{"fid":"6987","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]":"Roger Kerry"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"9":{"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]":"Roger Kerry"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Roger Kerry","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"9"}}]] @rogerkerry1Inspired by his earlier research into the educational use of Twitter amongst undergraduate physiotherapy students (sponsored by the Higher Education Academy), Roger has created a model of Twitter use which can be implemented into any programme to “enhance and expedite learning and access to knowledge and debate”. The project is called TWEED (Twitter in education). Find them on Twitter at @UoNTweed.“Following this, I went one step further and three years ago introduced a blogging assignment as part of the summative assessment for a postgraduate module I run. The underpinning theory for this is all about developing student’s critical writing and thinking skills via their awareness that what they write will be immediately open to wide public scrutiny.”Roger reports that the development of critical writing, compared to more traditional assessments, is remarkable. The assessment has now been taken up by a number of other physiotherapy programmes in the UK and USA.“Naturally, the international links were made on Twitter, which was a primary dissemination tool for the blogs!I believe that social media offers a unique and progressive dimension to the world of education. Like everything, there are limitations and misuses, but the more we learn about these, the more we can harness and develop the true power of the media.”Judges’ commentsRoger is a great ambassador of social media in education. He has been able to prove its value many, many times, not least with students securing employment from the networks they are encouraged to build.Dr Vikas Shah, academic champion in clinical radiology/imaging, University of Leicester[[{"fid":"6988","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]":"Vika Shah"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"10":{"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]":"Vika Shah"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Vika Shah","height":200,"width":200,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"10"}}]] thexraydoctor @DrVikasShah With his impressive Instagram following, Dr Vikas Shah is bringing radiology to the masses. In addition to image and video posts, he’s an active user of Instagram Stories, using them to post new teaching material every few hours. Vikas has used the new “polls in stories” feature since day one, increasing engagement with his quiz posts.“When Twitter rolled out the ability to tweet multiple images, I exploited the feature to create #radquiz which is a radiology image with three options which can be selected as potential answers. In 2015 I blogged a weekly case study, promoted using the hashtag #xrayoftheweek on multiple networks.”His expertise in the field led to co-authoring an article in Academic Radiology on the use of #SoMe (social media) in radiology education, with promotion of this article on various social platforms, yielding the highest Altmetric score for any article in that journal this year.“My knowledge of the platforms and their new features enables me to exploit them for the benefit of learners. My learners come from a variety of professional backgrounds and countries, often with poor access to formal education, and the ability to provide open access to knowledge is my primary motivation.”Judges’ commentsWe thought Vikas provided the perfect example of how to carve a niche on a social media platform and build an audience. His Instagram profile provides a fascinating look at the world of radiology.
  • How can libraries adapt more effectively to the use of digital technologies? By learning from global examples.
    I had the pleasure of attending the Library Global Excellence Tour in Cardiff Central Library where this was the pivotal question of the day. An inspiring event that showcases global excellence and ambition in library service, the tour aims to share best practice, and inspire professionals across the world.Working in WalesThe scene for the day was adeptly set by Alun Prescott, operations manager at Newport City Council and vice-chair of Society of Chief Librarians Wales. Alun celebrated the fantastic work already happening in libraries and within the wider community in Wales, highlighting the need for developing the Welsh libraries portal, and the migration to a single ‘public library management system,’ which is scheduled for 2019.The new system will start the ball rolling for the development of more robust analytics and benchmarking, all very positive and exciting indeed.Learning from developments overseasNext was an update from much further afield. Geoff Strempel, the associate director of public library services at the State Library of South Australia, gave an overview of the innovative work happening across the pond. Gone are the days of a physical library card, engagement has been upped by the introduction of an app instead, so users can receive library updates instantly too.[#pullquote#]Gone are the days of a physical library card[#endpullquote#]With this in mind, a central internet service provider (ISP) providing wifi to all the libraries has been contracted, achieving a seamless experience across all locations, with an overarching aim to create the opportunity to remove any physical barriers to library use.User experience (UX) must be centralWith so much activity happening online every day, your average library has a hard job competing, despite the quality resources worthy of sharing. Keynote speaker Jeff Penka, vice-president of product management at Zepheira, was on hand to discuss ideas surrounding the propagation of the data, and the need for a data strategy to do this successfully.[#pullquote#]libraries need to start thinking of web presence in terms of data[#endpullquote#]Jeff explained that libraries need to start thinking of web presence in terms of data, and proposed thinking about the following questions: Are you managing your web presence effectively? Are you registered with Google business? Do you have a Wikipedia page? These are the best places to start linking data and making it searchable.Library users as the focusOur next keynote speaker, also from Australia, was Jane Cowell, the director of engagement and partnerships at the State Library of Queensland. She highlighted the need for better library UX and that the user, not the library, needs to be at the centre of everything.[#pullquote#]Personalisation of library services for the library user is key.[#endpullquote#]Personalisation of library services for the library user is key. Netflix was used as a prime example, as it spends a fortune on its recommended engine to push content to the user. Privacy was an initial concern amongst the audience, but Jane immediately debunked any worries by suggesting that we should let users know what privacy is, what we will use their data for and let them choose. This is a commonly accepted practice, and something users are familiar with.Technology can also help with collection management by changing the rules ad hoc to suit the user, for example, different borrowing periods (Jane queried why libraries across the world had only one borrowing period - as this is distinctly archaic now).WHELF’s shared library management systemThe day was rounded off with a presentation from Emma Adamson, director of learning services at the University of South Wales and chair of the Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum (WHELF). Emma talked about the WHELF shared library management system that has now been completed and showed us a sneak preview into the results of the Jisc-funded benefits realisation report which has just been published by Cambridge Econometrics).[#pullquote#]one of the key things learned and explored further at the event was that it was about people and not products[#endpullquote#]I have previously blogged about the report, but one of the key things learned and explored further at the event was that it was about people and not products, and that WHELF kept people central throughout the process. WHELF are looking to build on this great work by looking at piloting reciprocal borrowing, data management, and linking to the Jisc learning analytics project among other things.How we’re helpingOverall this was an interesting day that got me thinking about how to get the rich data in libraries out there and visible to everyone, and how our projects like learning analytics and the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase can do just that.In Wales we’re working on a digital strategy for post-16 education, which will help to pull together a lot of threads for library users, ensuring more joined-up digital services. We also offer consultancy from our subject specialist teams to ensure we explore issues and support our members through them, ensuring that any solution found is accessible to all.If you would like to know more, get in touch with your account manager or watch this space!
  • Get up to speed with our faster cyber defence services
    We have just launched a set of faster services to combat a specific type of cyber attack. For more than a year, we have been operating a foundation service, which can mitigate against a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, typically within a few hours. Our new automated services are faster, either cutting the response time to just a few minutes, or preventing any disruption to the network.How does the present system work?In a DDoS attack, the network is flooded with data with the intention of bringing it down. If we detect such suspicious traffic, our security analysts will, in consultation with the affected institution, filter out the threat traffic before it reaches the core of the Janet Network and send the clean traffic onwards to the customer. This process of detection, verification, consultation and mitigation is often manually applied by analysts.[#pullquote#]Available for all members connected to the Janet Network as part of their subscription, this foundation service deals with large attacks that affect network connections[#endpullquote#]Available for all members connected to the Janet Network as part of their subscription, this foundation service deals with large attacks that affect network connections and its importance cannot be underestimated.Over the past year, there were 1,000 inbound DDoS attacks potentially affecting 221 different members. The biggest attack we dealt with was nearly 46 Gbps, which could have disrupted even the largest of our members’ network connections if not mitigated.Although the threat landscape is always changing, over the last year we have seen that higher education (HE) and research institutions are more likely to experience a DDoS attack than further education (FE) organisations. About a third of universities were affected, compared to a quarter of colleges and skills providers.[#pullquote#]Over the last year we have seen that higher education and research institutions are more likely to experience a DDoS attack than further education organisations[#endpullquote#]How will the new services work?We have now developed a further layer to the DDoS mitigation service to defend against attacks which target specific systems within an organisation’s network.The first of these services involves setting up pre-configured profiles for different systems, such as web servers, email and telephone systems. The profiles provide more finely tuned alerts and specific mitigations. We have doe this in consultation with our members; we wanted to know the services members most want defended, and feedback on how to best configure the profiles.[#pullquote#]We wanted to know the services members most want defended, and feedback on how to best configure the profiles[#endpullquote#]The benefit of creating pre-configured profiles is that we don’t have to produce unique profiles for each organisation, which means it’s cheaper for us to apply and more affordable for members.Members can also choose a bespoke profile if none of those we produce are suitable.  This option gives members the power to customise the sensitivity of alerts, the types of mitigation applied, and provides more detailed reporting on any actions.Because we will have already configured the alerts and reactions for each of the agreed service profiles, or a bespoke profile, mitigation is launched automatically once an attack has been detected, rather than manually applied. This takes reaction time down to about four minutes.[#pullquote#]A new top-tier, instant service can mitigate attacks immediately[#endpullquote#]For very sensitive or valuable services, a further level of protection is available. A new top-tier, instant service can mitigate attacks immediately. Again a cost effective option of pre-configure profiles will be available, alongside the higher level custom options.Threat intelligenceThreat intelligence is a valuable resource for any cyber security service. The more we know about how our members’ services are attacked and how we can best react to them, the better we get at defence.General threat intelligence is available from global and national sources, but the information we gather about  threats and attacks is a unique intelligence set specific to the organisations that make up the Jisc community.  It more accurately reflects the environment that we need to defend and the job we need to do. The more members that sign up to our DDoS mitigation service, the better the threat intelligence we generate, and that’s good for everyone.[#pullquote#]The more members that sign up to our DDoS mitigation service, the better the threat intelligence we generate, and that’s good for everyone[#endpullquote#]We introduced these new, enhanced DDoD mitigation services at our security conference in November 2017 and they were launched on February 26, 2018. Our objective is to make them affordable for all members, including smaller institutions and the FE sector, where funds are under most pressure.If you’d like to know more about the service and how you can sign up, contact, or call the Jisc service desk on 0300 300 2212.Update - 26 February 2018This blog was updated due to the launch of the DDoS mitigation service.