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  • The Internet of Things is transforming education – but we mustn’t lose sight of security
    Internet of Things (IoT) innovation is becoming a critical enabler for digital transformation in further and higher education. But as colleges and universities transform to a student-centric smart campus and the number of devices surges, so do IoT security concerns. This content is sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE).Security and innovationFirstly, making sure that all IoT devices are securely onboarded and assigned to the right network resources is essential.This means that all devices can be monitored to ensure they’re working properly, and that only authorised individuals and authorised systems have access to them. This provides another layer to what we call the ‘defence in depth’ campus security strategy, minimising the institution’s exposure to cyber-attacks.[#pullquote#]Being able to identify each IoT device is also an important element of a college or university’s security strategy.[#endpullquote#]Being able to identify each IoT device is also an important element of a college or university’s security strategy.Defining device profiles can automate this process so that when new devices are added to the network, they are automatically recognised, classified, and assigned to their respective virtual service containers – which keeps them secure.  Managing these devices is another important consideration. Each authorised device on an IoT network is stored in an inventory, which is a list of everything connected to the network. This means the IT department knows how many devices are connected to the network at any one time, as well as the type of device, its serial number, exact location, and status on the network. Device management allows the network managers to make sure all IoT devices and applications are functioning as desired.Segment for greater IoT securityCyber security risks can also be mitigated at the device level with a layered security approach.[#pullquote#]Cyber security risks can also be mitigated at the device level with a layered security approach.[#endpullquote#]Using policy-based rules and network profiles, devices can be properly authenticated and authorised with the right level of access, and data packet inspection, where any data moving over the network is automatically inspected and logged, ensures network traffic is constantly monitored and anomalies are addressed immediately.Some IoT devices, such as IP cameras (an alternative to CCTV), door entry systems, fridges, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units deliver mission-critical information, requiring a certain level of quality of service (QoS). Ensuring service reliability for these devices is paramount, and needs proper bandwidth reservations to maintain service reliability. If these devices don’t have access to enough bandwidth, they can cease to work properly, or even stop working entirely, causing major problems.The Internet of Things holds great promise for enhancing the student experience and improving the efficiency of campus operations.[#pullquote#]The Internet of Things holds great promise for enhancing the student experience and improving the efficiency of campus operations.[#endpullquote#]Implementing a plan that automatically and securely onboards and monitors IoT traffic allows the institution to confidently invest in IoT while also be a part of the defence in depth campus security architecture.[[{"fid":"10890","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]":"Alcatel Lucent Enterprise logo"},"link_text":null,"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]":"Alcatel Lucent Enterprise logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Alcatel Lucent Enterprise logo","height":100,"width":361,"style":"height: 69px; width: 250px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]For more information on how to deploy this vision, please see the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) solution brief.ALE was a sponsor of Networkshop48. View a recording and transcript from the presentation 'IoT-driven digital transformation'. 
  • Translation vs transformation: facilitating positive change through a crisis
    The impact of COVID-19 has been felt throughout the education sector, not least in universities, which are juggling a swift move to online delivery with dwindling budgets and uncertainty about how lockdown might be eased in the coming weeks and months. As universities start to consider reopening campuses in September, and how online learning will fit into the new landscape, thinking about pedagogy and digital strategy will be important. A good place to start could be making a clear distinction between online delivery and true online learning. This can help enable institutions to use the technology at their disposal to improve the student experience.[#pullquote#]A good place to start could be making a clear distinction between online delivery and true online learning.[#endpullquote#]Online learning isn’t just a matter of translating established techniques onto new platforms without altering delivery – it requires real transformation. Where institutions are already modifying their pedagogies and methods of delivery for online learning, they report good engagement from learnersvan Ameijde, J; Weller, M and Cross, S; Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, vol 6, issue 2, (2018) pp. 41-50.But translation is simple; transformation demands an adjustment in thinking. For example, if a class usually happens in the form of a 60-minute lecture, when shifting to online delivery, the lecture could be split up into different sections with activities throughout the day, or even throughout the week. Digital technology allows us to break free of the 9-5 mentality.[#pullquote#]But translation is simple; transformation demands an adjustment in thinking.[#endpullquote#][[{"fid":"11313","view_mode":"default","fields":{"alt":"Illustration showing the transformation phase of online learning","height":576,"width":1024,"class":"media-element file-default l-shift-right","data-delta":"1","format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Translation","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing the translation phase of online learning"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"alt":"Illustration showing the transformation phase of online learning","height":576,"width":1024,"class":"media-element file-default l-shift-right","data-delta":"1","format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Translation","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing the translation phase of online learning"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Illustration showing the translation phase of online learning","height":576,"width":1024,"class":"media-element l-shift-right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]][[{"fid":"11314","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Transformation","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing the transformation phase of online learning"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"2":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Transformation","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing the transformation phase of online learning"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Illustration showing the transformation phase of online learning","height":576,"width":1024,"class":"media-element l-shift-right file-default","data-delta":"2"}}]]The flexibility enabled by this technology demonstrates that much can be done with approaches such as asynchronous learning. This is of particular importance for students who may be finding remote learning a strain.Through the pandemic, many have been forced into spaces that may not always be conducive to study. Some won’t have the bandwidth they need, or may have conflicting responsibilities that mean they can’t sit down for an hour uninterrupted to attend a lecture. This is where the agility of asynchronous learning comes into its own.[[{"fid":"11315","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Synchronous learning","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing synchronous learning"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"3":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Synchronous learning","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing synchronous learning"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Illustration showing synchronous learning","height":576,"width":1024,"class":"media-element l-shift-right file-default","data-delta":"3"}}]][[{"fid":"11316","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Asynchronous learning","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing asynchronous learning"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"4":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Asynchronous learning","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Jisc","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Illustration showing asynchronous learning"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Illustration showing asynchronous learning","height":576,"width":1024,"class":"media-element l-shift-right file-default","data-delta":"4"}}]]University College of Estate Management (UCEM) is an example of an institution that has successfully transformed its delivery. Over the last four or five years, UCEM has transitioned to be 100% online, and in doing so has focused on developing its pedagogical approaches for an online environment and building programmes to allow for flexibility of learning. Ruth Grindey, director of development at UCEM, says:“A lot of our students come to us as career-jumpers, when they’ve been in industry and want a qualification or as apprentices. Many are studying part-time and have very busy lives. We are very mindful of their circumstances, and we take all this into consideration when designing learning programmes. Digital technology allows us to provide this flexibility.”But as Ruth also says, online delivery tools need to be intuitive, otherwise they can act as a barrier to learning. She says:“Nobody taught you to use Amazon. And that’s how our learning should be. A lot of the work we’ve been doing as part of our transformation has been centred on being intuitive, obvious, and consistent.”The different methods of delivery afforded by technology also allow for varying approaches by different courses, departments, and tutors. For example, a maths lecture is very different to a humanities lecture, which is very different to a chemistry lecture, or a creative arts lecture. This is true whether classes are taught in-person or online.It may be useful here, then, to question what tools might create effective online learning experiences that reflect different students’ needs, considering the kind of space they have access to, the subject they’re studying, the size of the cohort, and so on. For instance, at UCEM, approaches differ depending on which module is being taught, to ensure teaching and delivery is specific to each cohort’s needs.[#pullquote#]Taking advantage of digital tools and evaluating pedagogies mean online learning doesn’t have to be a poor experience.[#endpullquote#]Taking advantage of digital tools and evaluating pedagogies mean online learning doesn’t have to be a poor experience. When experiences and delivery are transformed, rather than translated, digital technology can facilitate positive change, supporting institutions, staff and students as they make the most of unforeseen circumstances.Looking towards a post-coronavirus future for the HE sector, Jisc is partnering with UUK, Advance HE and Emerge Education in a research programme that will produce a roadmap to tech-enabled learning and teaching from 2021/22 and beyond. More information on the project is available here.
  • What we can learn from the graduate outcomes data and why it’s important
    A red-letter day for many within and outside the higher education sector, the annual Graduate Outcomes (GO) survey is published today. It shows what graduates from the 2017/18 academic year were doing 15 months after they left university. As the UK’s largest annual social survey, it contains a wealth of interesting data on graduate destinations, how much they earn and their attitudes towards study.Of course, in a post COVID-19 world, the question arises of how relevant all this is.Although the jobs market has been highly disrupted by the pandemic, that disruption will not persist indefinitely. The graduate labour market looks to be less seriously affected than other areas of the economy. While some things will change, students will still graduate from university, they will still go into the labour market, and they will mainly make similar choices to graduates pre-pandemic.[#pullquote#]The graduate labour market looks to be less seriously affected than other areas of the economy.[#endpullquote#]In fact, the next few surveys will be invaluable in tracking how the economy changes in the wake of the social and economic disruption of COVID-19.Overseen by HESA and outsourced to IFF Research, GO is gaining attention today because it is used as the basis of many metrics in HE and in particular in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Over the coming weeks and months GO will be used to examine statistics on graduate employment, unemployment and underemployment.Importantly, data from the next few years will be used to examine the impact of COVID-19 on graduates and will form crucial parts of the key information set that is used to inform anyone thinking of applying to university about the prospects of those graduating from the courses they want to apply for.[#pullquote#]data from the next few years will be used to examine the impact of COVID-19 on graduates[#endpullquote#]The data published today tells us that, 15 months after graduation, 71% of leavers were working, 10% were combining work and study (so doing one or the other full time and the other activity part time), 9% were in further study, 5% were unemployed (including those who had a job to go to in the future – about 20% of those unemployed) and 6% were doing something else, usually travelling or caring for family members.But there’s a great deal more to GO than just a set of metrics, and there’s a great deal in it that will be of interest to the Jisc community.Taking a look at historical data is interesting too. UK universities have been collecting statistics on graduate outcomes for a considerable period. Some institutions have figures going back into the Victorian age, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s and early 1960s that a concerted effort was made to collect data on a national level. UK university graduates were surveyed six months after they had left university to find out which jobs they were doing.Reading these reports is a fascinating window into universities’ past and what they saw as their purpose.[#pullquote#]the number of men entering the clergy was tracked separately as was, rather embarrassingly in the modern age, the number of women graduates moving on to secretarial college.[#endpullquote#]For example, the number of men entering the clergy was tracked separately as was, rather embarrassingly in the modern age, the number of women graduates moving on to secretarial college. The survey continued with the same basic format, with additions over the years to gather information on further study and a separate output for polytechnics.By the 90s, HESA was producing an annual First Destination Survey (FDS) of graduates six months after leaving university. It had evolved into an exercise that formed some of the crucial bedrock upon which a good deal of careers and employability guidance rested.The later Destination of Leavers of Higher Education Survey (DHLE) was a further development that incorporated part-time learners for the first time. DLHE continued as a survey of all leavers – at any level, from HND right up to PhD – from every accredited UK HE institution.[#pullquote#]Things changed significantly with the introduction of the TEF in 2017.[#endpullquote#]Things changed significantly with the introduction of the TEF in 2017. Metrics derived from DLHE became central to performance indicators for institutions. DLHE captured the interest of stakeholders across the sector: in planning offices, registry, senior management and policy functions.To more effectively serve the needs of a new group of users, to position the survey more towards performance measures and to address certain questions about quality and data consistency, the new GO was developed, surveying graduates 15 months after graduation.Crucial changes included that switch in reference date, which means it is no longer possible or desirable to compare to DHLE. Institutions no longer collect and code their own data.For more information on the background to these decisions, HESA has a guide examining the context for the switch to a 15-month survey, and another guide looking in depth at the methodology.The GO is a massive round-up of everything new graduates did. This means it provides a comprehensive picture of all the jobs and courses that were available to graduates in the 15 months after graduation and which route they decided upon.[#pullquote#]The data can be sliced in a myriad of ways, but from the student-facing perspective, it has particular uses in looking at the way jobs markets and job-seeking evolve, in how graduates move around the country, and how graduates view their choices.[#endpullquote#]The data can be sliced in a myriad of ways, but from the student-facing perspective, it has particular uses in looking at the way jobs markets and job-seeking evolve, in how graduates move around the country, and how graduates view their choices.Our data and analytics and student experience teams will be making heavy use of this data, but there’s plenty in there to interest us all.
  • How can colleges and universities keep critical services running smoothly during clearing and enrolment in lockdown?
    There’s never a ‘good’ time to suffer a cyber attack, but there are certainly a few dates in the year when the financial and reputational effects of a website or email failure will be more damaging than others. One of those key periods is approaching right now for the further and higher education sector: clearing and enrolment.During this time, institutions need to ensure all internet-facing systems such as websites, virtual private networks (VPN), SIP/telephone and email systems are running smoothly and uninterrupted.During July and October 2019, our security operations centre (SOC) noticed 197 DDoS attacks against the further and higher education sector, which represents about two thirds of all such attacks on the Janet Network in this period. These attacks are designed to bring down a network by flooding it with data.Because of the coronavirus, which has forced almost all staff to work at home, VPNs - which protect data by encrypting it before it travels over the internet - are more important than ever. As more people are using them, they have become more of a target in the last few months.[#pullquote#]It’s a sad fact that cyber criminals always find ways to take advantage of global disasters and during the COVID-19 pandemic is no different.[#endpullquote#]It’s a sad fact that cyber criminals always find ways to take advantage of global disasters and during the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. There’s been much in the media about phishing attacks connected with the virus, and the National Cyber Security Centre has encouraged the public to flag such scams.  [#pullquote#] the threats remain the same, it’s the methods and targets that tend to adapt to new situations.[#endpullquote#]But none of this recent nefarious activity is unusual in cyber space. Indeed, our security operations center (SOC), which monitors and protects the Janet Network, reports that it’s business as usual; the threats remain the same, it’s the methods and targets that tend to adapt to new situations.Colleges and universities that have robust cyber security measures in place should be as safe as they can be at any time of year, including during clearing and enrolment, but not all institutions are as well protected as they could be.  This unprecedented lockdown presents some additional challenges for IT and security staff who have had to respond at speed to support thousands of staff and students to work and study remotely, while keeping data safe.[#pullquote#]For many, clearing and enrolment is also going to be very different this year, with the need for reliable alternative approaches in place[#endpullquote#]For many, clearing and enrolment is also going to be very different this year, with the need for reliable alternative approaches in place for processing these requests.So, universities and colleges looking for that ‘extra’ bit of DDoS security and/or peace of mind through clearing and enrolment this year can benefit from our one-off critical services protection package running between July and October 2020.This new DDoS protection package is being offered as part of our existing critical services protection service (previously known as enhanced DDoS mitigation) to protect a range of business-critical services including web, SIP, VPN, VLEs and firewalls.To find out more, email securityservices@jisc.ac.uk or speak to your speak to your account manager.
  • A window into humanity: how learning analytics can support remote delivery
    Learning analytics systems typically measure data on resource usage, attendance, and so on. This is no different during lockdown, it’s just that the data collected is a bit different. Universities have been using digital tools such as virtual learning environments (VLEs) for years, but with the sudden move to remote delivery, they are being used in different ways.Keeping students engagedLearning analytics not only tracks whether students are using a VLE, but what specific resources are being accessed, such as whether they are using digital tools like blogs, wikis, journals, discussion boards, recorded lectures, etc.It can also track which library resources are being used most, whether they are e-books, journals, or audio-visual content. This can help universities understand what sources students are using most and which are not as popular.[#pullquote#]This is especially important when face-to-face feedback and physical interaction with students is not possible. [#endpullquote#]This is especially important when face-to-face feedback and physical interaction with students is not possible.For example, Wrexham Glyndwr University has been using learning analytics to investigate how its Moodle VLE is used, and how students are interacting with materials and assessments. Around 25 per cent of the student body has a declared disability and/or additional learning requirements, which means that learning analytics is an important piece of the puzzle in giving these students the best experience possible while face-to-face interaction is limited.Lecture capture is also something that has been growing in popularity over the last few years and is one of the ‘newer’ elements of learning analytics. It is currently used in two main ways.Firstly, in the delivery of synchronous classes, in which students 'attend' a class in real time as they might in a traditional lecture theatre, only via online streaming tools. Sessions are recorded and uploaded to the VLE so that students can revisit them.;Secondly, lecture capture is also commonly used for asynchronous classes. This means that lecturers create a pre-recorded lecture that students can access in their own time, rather than watching it live. This can be preferable for various reasons, such as scheduling conflicts for lecturers who may be in different time zones to students, or for those who are uncomfortable delivering live sessions.[#pullquote#]Capturing data on the interest and attendance of virtual classes gives staff insight into what content most engages students [#endpullquote#]Capturing data on the interest and attendance of virtual classes gives staff insight into what content most engages students, helping them to understand the methods of delivery that are hitting the mark.Knowing how students react to online learning is also a key motivator for universities now more than ever. Not only because of the recent forced change, but also because this move to increased online delivery is creating a greater shift in HE.There are institutions whose staff may have previously been reluctant to engage with digital technology, but now are forced to use it. Staff may, therefore, realise it’s not as scary as once thought, and are perhaps encouraged to incorporate more of a blended approach to learning in the future. So, having systems in place to harvest and analyse data on usage and engagement will pay off long after lockdown ends. Supporting mental health But it’s not only academic support that students need. Being able to understand how learners are coping psychologically is also essential.[#pullquote#]As learners may be struggling with feelings of isolation, there is an increased focus on helping them maintain good mental health and wellbeing.[#endpullquote#]As learners may be struggling with feelings of isolation, there is an increased focus on helping them maintain good mental health and wellbeing. Learning analytics systems can support here.As well as understanding how students are engaging with course materials, being able to see when they’re accessing their learning, or if there are periods of no engagement, can be an important indicator of whether a student is struggling mentally.In fact, the original raison d’etre behind our learning analytics service, back when it was co-designed, was to inform tutors or pastoral staff about what was going on with students, so that they would have some background for their face-to-face conversations.Sometimes students aren’t comfortable bringing up the fact that they are struggling directly, so if tutors have an inkling from the engagement data, there is a greater likelihood that they can then approach students to check in with them. Of course, it is essential that any personal data collection has the prior consent of students.Universities will deal with this support in their own individual ways. Some will have a specific personal tutor that focuses on a handful of students, whereas others will have a combination of academic and pastoral support from various staff teams. Either way, having an insight into how students operate day-to-day can be an invaluable starting point.[#pullquote#]Data is often seen as something cold and removed from the human element, but in reality, it’s a window into that very humanity [#endpullquote#]Data is often seen as something cold and removed from the human element, but in reality, it’s a window into that very humanity, and can form an essential foundation for keeping students on track.  
  • 'Online learning is here to stay - so we must work out how to do it well'
    The rapid shift to online work and study has forced providers to extend already over-stretched budgets. ‘Emergency’ IT infrastructure and software have been brought in at pace, and we’ve seen fast-track digital upskilling for staff and students. Such upheaval posed a challenge for many, but most prevailed with their best endeavour. Now, three months later, the dust has settled and it’s time to take stock – and to take advantage of the lessons learned about how technology can be used for teaching, learning and for the business of running learning and skills provision in the second half of 2020 and beyond.[#pullquote#]What can the sector take forward and implement to elevate the experience for learners, staff and stakeholders?[#endpullquote#]What’s worked well and what hasn’t? What can the sector take forward and implement to elevate the experience for learners, staff and stakeholders?There are plenty of questions, and Jisc is leading a research programme from June to October to find the answers. In partnership with the Association of Colleges (AoC), we are holding a series of webinars and roundtables with sector leaders, sector bodies, curriculum and support staff, edtech experts and students. We are calling it Shaping the digital future of FE and skills.The digital landscape in further education pre-lockdown was patchy and varied. In some providers there are pockets of innovative practice, but years of under-funding has hampered progress and left digital infrastructure across the sector largely inadequate.A recent AoC and Department for Education (DfE) IT survey found that only 38% of respondents felt their college wifi was completely fit for purpose, while 61% judged connectivity in the same way. Similarly, only 36% of respondents said desktop devices were up to scratch. We’d all like to see those figures rise considerably, but we know the financial impact of coronavirus on providers has been severe.[#pullquote#]it’s vital that our research project defines what ‘good’ looks like.[#endpullquote#]A partial opening of campuses in September means that many learners and staff must continue to work from home and, while lockdown has shown that this is possible, it’s the quality of that experience that’s important. That’s why it’s vital that our research project defines what ‘good’ looks like.Data from an AoC survey during lockdown shows that 70% of providers are delivering online lessons for most subjects and 91% are providing materials for most courses through websites or via email.So, most learners can log into live-streamed lectures, or later watch the recording; they can download e-books, videos or other resources; they can submit work online and get feedback from their teachers via video conferencing platforms. During lockdown, this kind of studying is typical, but the use of tech is often simplistic and may not always be as engaging, exciting or collaborative as it could be. It’s OK as a stopgap, but unsustainable as a model for the future.[#pullquote#]At its best, learning in the physical world is social, emotive, personal and tactile - all attributes that are currently difficult to transition through a digital experience.[#endpullquote#]And at present, in the absence of readily-available, affordable and accessible digital material, such as immersive virtual reality, there are courses, such as engineering, construction or health and social care, which are impossible to deliver entirely online. At its best, learning in the physical world is social, emotive, personal and tactile - all attributes that are currently difficult to transition through a digital experience.We can do better. However, improving education will require a huge shift from merely transferring courses online to transforming teaching, learning and assessment. Which brings us back to investment.[#pullquote#]improving education will require a huge shift from merely transferring courses online to transforming teaching, learning and assessment.[#endpullquote#]I hope that evidence emerging from shaping the digital future of FE and skills, and the collective clout behind this initiative, will help us demonstrate to government the need for greater funding – and to persuade the Department for Education that at least some of that money should arrive now.For example, the Government had committed to £1.8bn for capital investment in FE and the AoC has asked that £75m of this is released now so colleges can get their digital infrastructure in place ready for September. Without a decent digital foundation, improving college functions and stakeholder experience with technology is almost impossible.Beyond that, there are several other ‘asks’ that we think are essential not only to secure a quality learning experience, but also to reduce staff workload and help streamline business operations.[#pullquote#]Increasingly, learning and assessment will follow the learner, accessible at the point of demand, but on-site and remotely.[#endpullquote#]These include funding for a national digital content repository for high-quality, accessible resources - especially for vocational and skills-based courses; to guarantee resilient and reliable connections to the Jisc-run Janet Network; and for new assessment methodologies designed for secure, remote delivery. The present archaic system, often still with pen and paper, is simply not fit for purpose. Increasingly, learning and assessment will follow the learner, accessible at the point of demand, but on-site and remotely.We’re also hoping to be able to support talent in the sector to develop technology such as digital assistants (already in use at Bolton College) automated workflows, data analytics and flexible working systems. This plugs into Jisc’s Education 4.0 agenda, where we encourage the use of emerging technology such as machine learning and augmented and virtual reality for the benefit of students, staff and business operations.Finally, Jisc is backing another AoC call for the government to make a ‘September Promise’ - guaranteeing training or study places for all those young people whose hopes of a job have been dashed by the pandemic.Want to know more about shaping the digital future of FE and skills? Sign up for the first webinar on 15 June, which is free to attend.Jisc is also leading a research project for the higher education sector called learning and teaching reimagined.
  • Reviewing your response to lockdown? Our checklist can help
    Supporting universities and colleges as they pause to reflect on early responses to COVID-19 and start to plan their next steps, we've created an organisational review checklist. The story so farSince early March, universities and colleges have made an unparalleled transition not just to the online delivery of teaching and learning, but to their entire business operations.[#pullquote#]universities and colleges have made an unparalleled transition not just to the online delivery of teaching and learning, but to their entire business operations[#endpullquote#]New platforms have been launched and existing ones reinvigorated. Creative processes and innovative ways of working have been put in place - many of which would have seemed unthinkable just a few months ago. And approaches to learning and teaching we imagined taking many years to come to fruition have rapidly become the norm.To creatively re-invent a Churchill quote, never, in the field of e-learning has so much been put online, for so many, by so few.Taking stockNow, understandably, many institutions are taking stock: pausing (albeit while still running!) to reflect on this maelstrom of activity. Universities and colleges are asking:"Did we make the right decisions? ""Are the changes we made having the impact we hoped for?""How can we be sure?""Did we cut any corners along the way and, if so, do they need sticking back on?"And, crucially, "are we comfortable that what we have put in place is both fit for purpose and sustainable for the next academic year?"Review and reflectionWith this need in mind, we have created a COVID-19 organisational review checklist that seeks to support members through this reflection.This resource doesn’t provide any answers in terms of what an institution or education delivery ‘should’ look like, because we know that every organisation is different, with different benchmarks for success. Instead, the checklist prompts members to ask questions and look carefully at the measures they’ve taken, to consider whether they still work, and ask on what evidence that judgement is being made.[#pullquote#]the checklist prompts members to ask questions and look carefully at the measures they’ve taken, to consider whether they still work,[#endpullquote#]We hope this resource will provide a good starting point and invite members to use it – whether that’s by a central group or team that has been tasked with reviewing your institution’s response to COVID-19, or locally by individuals wishing to consider the effectiveness of the measures that they, or the teams they lead, have put into place.It’s available as a downloadable spreadsheet so that members can adapt it as they see fit, to suit their circumstances. I'd like to thank...This has been – and will continue to be – a challenging time of rapid change, and we have created the checklist in line with feedback from members of our coronavirus community of practice. We’d like to thank everyone who volunteered to be a reviewer for us. They’ve indicated, overall, that this checklist would be useful to them and potentially beneficial for peers.It could always be better, and we could always spend more time trying to make it so - but we believe this isn’t a time to make the long-term quest for perfection the enemy of the deliverable good. We hope you agree. Looking towards a post-coronavirus future for the HE sector, Jisc is leading a research programme that will produce a roadmap to tech-enabled learning and teaching from 2021/22 and beyond. There’s a similar programme for the further education sector too.
  • Why price transparency is important when buying academic journal access
    It's often not clear how much a university needs to pay to access scholarly articles. For Anna Vernon, the move away from paywall publishing offers the opportunity to reexamine these costs. Earlier this month, cOAlition S, consisting of 22 research funding organisations, including the Wellcome Trust and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), announced that from the 1 July 2022 they will no longer fund publishing fees in journals which do not adhere to one of two approved price transparency frameworks.At least £18.3 million of Research Councils UK (now UK Research and Innovation) funding in 2016-17 was spent on publishing fees for fully open access (OA) and subscription journals, so there’s a significant financial imperative in meeting this requirement. There are also fresh opportunities to foster a deeper understanding between publishers, funders and universities and to fix long-standing structural issues.[#pullquote#]greater price transparency is central to informed and data-driven collection management.[#endpullquote#]Already under considerable financial pressure, greater price transparency is central to informed and data-driven collection management. Ensuring that “publication fees are commensurate with the publication services delivered” (see principle 5 of Plan S) will be key to decisions around investment of funds to support open access publishing in what is expected to be an exceptionally difficult period for university and public finances.Why price transparency?Under subscription arrangements, most major journal agreements consist of bundled collections of titles for a single fee, rather than individual subscriptions priced per title.This has led to price obfuscation in two ways: the journal list price as advertised on publisher websites is rarely the price actually paid by universities; and the price paid for access is often based on the amount spent on print subscriptions (plus annual price increases) from when that university originally took out a subscription – often 20 years ago. This has created a situation where the amounts paid for access to the same content by similar institutions can be wildly different – and often do not correspond with the value universities derive from these agreements, their teaching or research profile, or their finances.[#pullquote#]the amounts paid for access to the same content by similar institutions can be wildly different [#endpullquote#]Scholarly publishing is, to increasing degrees, a shared endeavour between publishers, societies, academics (authors and editors), institutions, and funders. Their respective contributions are long acknowledged but the contribution each makes to the process, and the costs associated with each process, are often not fully understood. Particularly important when institutions and funders are picking up the bill.From paying for restricted access to paying to support open accessThe transition from the paywall system to full and immediate open access provides the opportunity for the sector to move from inequitable pricing structures to arrangements that better reflect the value and true cost of publication. The agreements Jisc are negotiating on behalf of the sector seek to break the link with historic spend by assigning expenditure to clearly defined access and publishing services. One of the means of doing this is through transitional agreements.We are pleased that several publishers, including Wiley, Sage and IOP Publishing have agreed to share their longer-term vision for transitioning to OA with a new group, the Transformative Agreements Oversight Group. This group chaired by Anne Horn, director of library services and university librarian at the University of Sheffield, will provide insight to UUK/Jisc content negotiation strategy group and will work alongside publishers to review impact and progress on implementing transitional agreements and “flipping” their portfolios to OA.Participating publishers will seek the group’s input into the development of their OA policies and share commercially sensitive data with the group on a confidential basis. This will also include the criteria used for determining whether hybrid journals can be flipped to OA. By doing this we want to encourage greater scrutiny of transitional agreements, their efficacy as a tool for an open access transition and to build confidence that the prices charged for publishing services are fair and reasonable.[#pullquote#]we want to encourage greater scrutiny of transitional agreements[#endpullquote#]We’ve already seen through publisher library advisory groups and initiatives like the Open Library of the Humanities that an open dialogue between universities and publishers can improve publishing processes and drive innovation. The cOAlition S transparency frameworks and the new Transformative Agreements Oversight Group will allow universities, research institutes and funders to get a true understanding of the costs of publishing services, allow them to make more informed decisions and use their investment (that may have previously been tied up in bundled subscription agreements) in the most effective manner.
  • From the battlefield to the boardroom, influence and teamwork are key to building information security
    In the military, you need to have a keen awareness of threat and risk management. The pressure is on informed leaders to direct their teams to make great decisions as part of protocol. Otherwise, mission success is at risk, which could cause serious damage to individuals, property, values, and beyond.  There are keen similarities in the world of information security, where there is a critical need to protect people and the information which, in the wrong hands, could do untold damage.The best line of defence begins with identifying your own weaknesses, and then building them up with a team of experts and well-maintained infrastructure to fortify your position. Without a doubt, strong leadership and goal-driven teams are imperative to achieving strong capabilities in both fields.  Journeying to civvy street After 28 years as a military surveyor, intelligence officer, and a bomb disposal officer, I took up a post at an ultra-secure data centre start-up company, looking after its operations, ISO27001 physical security, cyber security, and service desk. This propelled me into my next role as the lead security planner for the London 2012 Olympic park and athletes village, where I worked across business continuity, disaster recovery, security, data centre security design, information security, and more. Eventually, I felt it was time to leave the corporate world and look for a new challenge. So, in 2013, I joined Brunel University London. Building security from scratch In 2013, the status of cyber protection and cyber resilience was not in good shape following decades of underinvestment in architecture, cyber tooling, process, and training skills.  It quickly became clear that much of the cyber operating model would need building from scratch, with a sound business-enabled capability development programme. It was a major undertaking. As we drew into an era where the cyber risk and cyber threats were at an existential level, I realised that we needed to get a grip on security and privacy.[#pullquote#]we needed to get a grip on security and privacy.[#endpullquote#]Data breaches at the university could lead to fines and putting its reputation at risk. Rightly, our students expect a high level of protection of their data, and our intellectual property is a valuable target, too. Convincing the board Once we had assessed and promulgated the gaps and risks, there was a new challenge: convincing our non-techy but savvy executive board that updating our info-security infrastructure, architecture, and processes was a worthy investment that would pay off. In our pitch to the board we led with business benefits, resulting in a five-year strategy that had business enablement at its core. Fortunately, we had an executive champion in our chief operating officer, who worked with me and my growing team to communicate the business value of the changes we needed to make to our infosec practice and the smart investment that was required. He helped prove that the thought leadership behind our initiatives was balanced, intelligence-driven, and commensurate with the risk. [#pullquote#]we weren't just doing this for IT - this was across the whole university.   [#endpullquote#]With the executive board approval of my strategy came the investment for me to build capability: training the workforce, recruiting an infosec and privacy team, building a unified cyber security platform, embedding sound risk and governance practice, and making more people aware that we weren't just doing this for IT - this was across the whole university.   Developing strategic partnerships I knew that we couldn’t achieve our goals alone, so we developed strategic partnerships with industry leaders Cisco, Exabeam, and Khipu, which have become ‘critical friends’.  They helped me steer the vision that I have for the university, especially in developing the technical ‘unified cyber security platform’ which was the first of its kind in the UK academic sector. Jisc continues to be a vital component of our wider industry partnerships to support our posture. Its technical capabilities for cyber risk reduction, and ever-increasing intelligence and warn-and-inform capability via the computer security incident response team (CSIRT) and the security operations centre (SOC) is crucial to maintain our own level of situational awareness for the risk, threats and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) from protagonists we face.  [#pullquote#]Jisc continues to be a vital component of our wider industry partnership to support our posture.[#endpullquote#]Alongside our other partners, Jisc is great to reach out to when we need to analyse information and threats. It provides a highly professional service for the education and research community that we’re keen to develop and mutually improve.   In addition, some of the tech instrumentation from our partners provided superb analytical intelligence for our analysts to work with, and our flash to bang time of threat to action is much reduced.It’s not all done though; the next stages are crucial to mature the cyber security operations centre and include developing playbooks, maturing our incident management processes, and arranging joint exercises with incident response teams. [#pullquote#]Another valuable lesson was the power of simulation exercises to find vulnerabilities that threat actors could exploit. [#endpullquote#]Another valuable lesson was the power of simulation exercises to find vulnerabilities that threat actors could exploit.  Setting a strong foundation Together, we've conscientiously built upon basic foundations to establish next-generation technology in our data centres, cyber security operations centre, and across our digital environment.  We've shifted to a position of intelligence collection that allows us to monitor nefarious activity or anomalous activity and take swift action. That's a huge step because we're now able to interject and contain problems quickly.  It’s also crucial that the people operating all the instrumentation have training which keeps pace with both the technology and the tactics of potential attackers. Now, our staff appreciate their part in the process and the investment we're making in them.  Positive culture change One of the biggest positive changes we saw was the boost to morale. It was important to show the university and the workforce that we could quickly transition from nothing to best-of-breed technology and the team of infosec analysts - who monitor 24/7 -  are improving incident response rates.  One of the more tangible differences is in data handling. Business units are now recognising that we will support them to put security and privacy controls in place around their applications.  [#pullquote#]Our security team now touches all parts of the university and staff have come to rely on us because we act as problem solvers, not policemen. [#endpullquote#]People are also better at reporting breaches; they're flagging privacy near-misses and causes for concern on the security of data. As a result, our security team now touches all parts of the university and staff have come to rely on us because we act as problem solvers, not policemen. Our staff now understand the seriousness of infosec and the ramifications of failing to secure their data and the risk of data privacy breaches.  Peer pressure is in full force; people are routinely checking themselves and their teams.  The executive team is happy because we have the metrics to show that we have reduced business risk quite considerably over the last two years and built a unified cyber security platform that our cyber researchers can use to collaborate with us [#pullquote#]There have been a lot of challenges, but we fought through as a cohesive unit.[#endpullquote#]It's not been easy all the way. There have been a lot of challenges, but we fought through as a cohesive unit. It really will be worth it, I told the team, and I think they’re proud now of all that we’ve achieved, although  there is still so much to do and two and a half years to go until our five-year strategy is complete in 2022. Joining forces to achieve goals Now, we're going into phase two, which focuses on optimisation and the implementation of zero trust environments, data loss prevention technology, and micro-segmentation to help create the safe data havens we envisage. It was a profound moment when I realised just how much I trust the intentions, capabilities, and strategic insights of the team which helped shape the future for the university - everyone from the IT teams, our critical friends, the executives, project managers, procurement, privacy teams and each college and directorate. It’s always nice to have great people standing together to achieve big goals.  And so the mission continues to evolve and will become more complex, as we deal with the constant bombardment of new threats.  But we act as one unified team, with strong leadership and excellent collaboration, so we can stand at ease knowing that we are the best line of defence for Brunel University.  [#pullquote#]COVID-19 has enhanced the cyber risk globally to all organisations, and now we must adjust to new working at home practice and new service deployments to support that. [#endpullquote#]As I write, a new risk challenge has come along requiring a shift in posture. COVID-19 has enhanced the cyber risk globally to all organisations, and now we must adjust to new working-at-home practice and new service deployments to support that.  This brings a security risk that must be identified and managed which most certainly for us is an ongoing effort to protect our assets in a new dimension of threat, and with an expansion of its threat surface.  Managing all this requires time, effort and a full organisational approach, with senior leaders recognising the very real risk we face through this period. 
  • Technology can reduce exam stress - for both candidate and invigilator
    The coronavirus crisis increases pressure for teaching and learning over the internet, and online exams will follow. It's time to assess the value of ‘e-proctoring’. What is the purpose of an exam? What format should it take? And what might the future of assessment look like?Change may be imminent. Where candidates previously gathered in large halls, we’re increasingly seeing assessment using computers - and, through this transition, the role of the invigilator (also known as the proctor) remains important.The power of technologyI see great potential for technology to assist this move to online assessment, yet some of the systems that are being proposed appear to weaken and contradict the role of the invigilator. These require careful scrutiny.I worry they could have a negative impact - which is why, when considering ‘e-proctoring’, it’s important that we don’t start with the tech. Instead, it’s about understanding the role and asking how can technology can help – and even improve – invigilation.[#pullquote#]when considering ‘e-proctoring’, it’s important that we don’t start with the tech.[#endpullquote#]Proctoring and e-proctoringProctoring is about helping candidates complete exams in as supportive an environment as possible. Invigilators do this through time-keeping (providing warnings when there is one hour or ten minutes to go), by investigating candidates’ questions (if the examination paper appears to have an error or is unclear), and by managing or recording unexpected situations. In a physical exam hall, this might be a fire alarm or water spill. In an online context, perhaps it’s a loss of internet connectivity.Then there’s the detection of improper conduct. Invigilators confirm that those sitting the exam are who they claim to be, ensure that candidates aren’t using unauthorised materials, and prevent or detect candidates' prohibited attempts to communicate with others.Most importantly, invigilators should avoid actions that students perceive as intrusive, disturbing, stressful, or otherwise harming their performance within the exam rules.During a traditional exam, invigilation consists of a combination of continuous observation from a distance and occasional close-focus inspection. To reduce stress, the candidate is aware when the latter is taking place, as a candidate who feels under continuous close-focus human surveillance or recording is unlikely to perform their best.[#pullquote#]digital invigilation shouldn’t simply be a continuous video-conferencing link that effectively seats the invigilator on the candidate's desk.[#endpullquote#]For this reason, digital invigilation shouldn’t simply be a continuous video-conferencing link that effectively seats the invigilator on the candidate's desk. That approach fails everyone: the invigilator has to do at least as much work, the candidate is placed in a more stressful environment, and the technology is badly under-utilised.More tech, less stressTechnology should contribute to the invigilation process, not merely allow it to be conducted remotely. It should become a part of the invigilator's alerting and record-keeping process. It should reduce stress for both candidate and invigilator - and work more effectively than a physical human presence.For example, an e-proctoring system might take a snapshot of the candidate's work at the point of an alert, break, or interruption. This allows the work to be checked for sudden bursts of ‘creativity’ or correction afterwards, that might suggest a candidate had been consulting unauthorised materials or another person.An e-proctoring system might also detect unexpected sounds - such as the turning of pages - changes in typing cadence (suggesting that the individual is no longer the intended candidate), unusual patterns of system or network activity (that may suggest the candidate is engaged in unauthorised activity), or environmental changes (such as loss of network connectivity). The system could record and alert the human invigilator to these.[#pullquote#]‘E-proctoring’ systems that do no more than reproduce, badly, the face-to-face invigilation process should be regarded with suspicion.[#endpullquote#]Overall, digital invigilation systems are most helpful for continuous, ‘distance’ monitoring, raising an alert if they detect behaviour they do not understand or find suspicious, to be checked by a human. ‘E-proctoring’ systems that do no more than reproduce, badly, the face-to-face invigilation process should be regarded with suspicion.Care, caution and visionInvigilation is not the only thing that prevents candidates cheating. Therefore, proctoring must be part of an assessment system that is designed to be resistant to cheating – one that considers alternative ways of assessing or verifying performance, and designs assessment so that it is hard for candidates to benefit from collusion, such as ‘open book’ exams.[#pullquote#]proctoring must be part of an assessment system that is designed to be resistant to cheating[#endpullquote#]Moderation after assessment is crucial too, identifying candidates whose exam performance differs significantly from their expected grades, and reviewing invigilators' records for anything that might affect performance (either negatively or positively).Personally, as a lifelong student, I’ve gone through teaching, learning, assessment and exams both online and in traditional physical settings. I know these environments demand different ways of working. As our education systems respond to the rapid move to remote working demanded by the COVID-19 pandemic, e-proctoring ought to be part of the conversation.Approached with care, caution and vision, there’s much to be gained with technology – both for today’s candidates and for those of the future.
  • Five things researchers need to know when working from home
    Looking at the risks associated with working from home from a researcher’s point of view. Most of us have been displaced from our normal work environment for a while now. After a few teething problems, we’ve got the home office set up, the caffeine on tap, communications apps installed and the broadband connection purring (if not running red hot). And although the days tend to merge into each other, we’re starting to feel we’ve got it sussed.We can do this! We can continue our research from home! No problem!Well, actually, it’s not quite that simple.There are a few things to consider in order to keep your data protected and funder compliant.1. Access and copyright rulesIt is worth checking if working on your research away from the normal workplace is allowed.In the face of government advice that we should all work at home if we can, it may sound like a silly question, but some institutional policies explicitly prohibit it, especially where sensitive information is concerned.[#pullquote#]unless the policy explicitly allows for working at home, seek guidance and permission first.[#endpullquote#]At the very least, check the policies before transporting that enormous data file containing millions of sets of personal and identifying information off site. I would even go so far as to suggest that, unless the policy explicitly allows for working at home, seek guidance and permission first.2. Computer securityNext, let’s look at the home computing environment. Some researchers will be using a computer supplied by their employer, while others will be using their own equipment.[#pullquote#]Whatever equipment is in use, security must be a top priority to protect data from unauthorised viewing, theft and accidental loss. [#endpullquote#]Whatever equipment is in use, security must be a top priority to protect data from unauthorised viewing, theft and accidental loss.Start by making sure the operating system and application software security patches are installed, along with up to date anti-virus and anti-malware from a trusted source. Your IT department should be able to advise on installation and use.Avoid mixing research documents and data with personal data. If possible, use a separate computer that isn’t used by other members of the family. At the very least, don’t share logins and keep your account safe with a strong password and multifactor authentication. It’s worth checking if your operating system encrypts data too.[#pullquote#]remain vigilant for phishing emails and suspect links and don’t hesitate to raise the alarm if you think you’ve made a mistake[#endpullquote#]Try to remain vigilant for phishing emails and suspect links and don’t hesitate to raise the alarm if you think you’ve made a mistake and fallen for a scam.It may still be possible to work on data held at your institution even if you’re elsewhere. If you don’t already have the facility to connect to your institution and utilise a remote desktop, ask the IT department for help. As a general rule, storing or working with personally identifiable information (PII) on a personal computer is a no, no.If you must move data (and are allowed to) using encryption is essential. This can take many forms, including running a virtual private network, which encrypts data passing through an internet connection. You can also encrypt individual files or collections using widely available tools like Zip, 7Z and Veracrypt. A word of warning though: make sure you back up the encryption key!3. Back up plansCreate a backup on a regular basis.Ask yourself: when was the last time you backed up your home machine? Have you got multiple copies of data in multiple locations? When was the last time you tested that you could retrieve information from the back-up? How far back can you go?4. How about cloud and data sharing rules?They’re surely useful for researchers? Well yes and no.You need to ask yourself "where is my data located and who can access it?" This is where the general data protection regulation general data protection regulation (GDPR) and other data protection issues come to the fore. Many grant conditions and, indeed, some institutional policies, will have rules about where data is kept, who has access and so on.[#pullquote#]Typically, research data must be kept within Europe and, in some cases, regulations may also stipulate that it’s encrypted at rest too.[#endpullquote#]Typically, research data must be kept within Europe and, in some cases, regulations may also stipulate that it’s encrypted at rest too. If your institution has a cloud solution, such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc. you’re probably covered as your institution will almost certainly stipulated that the data storage follows these rules (but check). And when you publish, a reasonable repository (such as Jisc's open research hub) will also help keep things safe and secure.Be careful not to break the rules by sharing data with people through other channels—such as sending information to a contact in the US via a personal Gmail account.5. Video meetingsSome video conferencing technologies are more secure than others.Jisc has shared a blog on this (or check out the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) advice on how to do it safely).[#pullquote#]it’s all about balancing risk (reputational and financial) with the ability to keep on keeping on.[#endpullquote#]To sum up, it’s all about balancing risk (reputational and financial) with the ability to keep on keeping on. I’m not suggesting that everyone undertakes a full-blown data impact analysis for every adjustment, but at least pause to consider the risks.I could go on. For instance, I haven’t even touched on the question of whether your computer is up to all that number crunching?But I won’t.Stay safe, keep your data safe.
  • Online safety: helping staff and students get it right
    Disruptors and criminals always take advantage of world disasters and the COVID-19 outbreak is no exception.   As the education sector has swiftly shifted to work and study online, we’ve reported virus-related phishing scams and the media has highlighted incidents where students have publicly posted offensive material and abused their peers in group chats.[#pullquote#]The need to ensure online safety – and prevent abuse – is in sharp focus.[#endpullquote#]Now that relationships between staff and students, and learners and their peers are almost exclusively online, encouraging decent online behaviour is more important than ever, so the need to ensure online safety – and prevent abuse – is in sharp focus.So, what policies and procedures can colleges and universities put in place to get it right?The good news is that most of the risk assessments and support measures that institutions already have in place before the COVID-19 lockdown are still appropriate. These include policies on anti-bullying and harassment, equality and diversity and safeguarding.But there are a few aspects of online safety that may need review:Code of conduct and acceptable use policies for students and staffDocuments setting out acceptable use may refer to campus networks or the Jisc-run national research and education network, Janet.However, now users are logging in from home – and particularly where an institution makes significant use of cloud services – neither of these networks may be involved.Policies and guidance may need amending to refer specifically to any use of institutional systems or for institutional purposes, such as accessing the virtual learning environment, email, the library’s digital resources or the use of collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom.Web filtering and monitoringColleges and universities can prevent access to illegal, harmful or inappropriate websites with filtering software, but this may not protect staff and students who access the internet from home or mobile networks – especially if using their own devices.This is particularly concerning for institutions with a cohort under 18, for which web filtering is an Ofsted requirement under safeguarding guidelines.Fortunately, filtering systems are available as cloud or end-device solutions that can be made available to off-campus users. Guidance could also be issued to staff and students on how to use filtering functions provided by their home internet service provider (ISP).Student engagement in developing safeguarding policies and practiceInstitutions should make sure that discussions can continue using online systems.ReportingIf staff or students experience a problem, such as harassment or bullying, or fall victim to a phishing scam, it's important that they are able to report the issues online or via telephone.It’s worth publicising these reporting channels too. If institutions previously offered anonymous reporting, online systems need to provide for this too.This advice is based on a 2019 project by the University of Suffolk, with support from the Office for Students, which developed a tool to help higher education institutions self-review their online safeguarding practice (pdf). Read Andrew's quick guide on how your digital policies can support online safety. Jisc has also produced advice for colleges on web filtering, and has a framework for web filtering solutions.
  • What can colleges do to protect homeworking students from harmful online content?
    Like thousands of other students, 16-year-old Ryan is studying remotely while his college campus is shut during lockdown. This fictious student is researching the Tudor period and wants to know the story behind Anne Boleyn’s famed decapitation. Searching for “beheading”, up pops a bunch of unsavory links referencing modern-day ISIS videos and a detailed eye-witness description of an execution.Such potentially traumatic discoveries would be avoided if Ryan were working on campus, where web filtering protects him from accessing harmful, inappropriate and illegal content.[#pullquote#]Potentially traumatic discoveries would be avoided if Ryan were working on campus[#endpullquote#]But while almost the entire student cohort is studying from home, can colleges still fulfill their duty under Ofsted’s safeguarding guidelines to prevent learners from stumbling across illegal content?The short answer to the latter question is yes, if they use college-owned laptops. Things are more complicated and less certain if learners work on their own devices, particularly hand-held ones.Now, as the government prepares to distribute laptops to disadvantaged college learners, I have pulled together these web filtering guidelines for colleges, which will be responsible for allocating the devices. Adhering to these guidelines will be especially pertinent at this time, as disadvantaged learners are more likely to be vulnerable.What should be blocked?For a start, any filtering solution must include block lists from both the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and Counter Terrorist Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) and the software manufacturer should be a member of the IWF.Besides the mandatory categories covering illegal content, filtering solutions for under 18s should also provide non-mandatory categories, such as gambling, pornography and social media, which can be selected from a list by the institution’s administrator. This capability means administrators can very easily set up policies differentiating between what is appropriate for staff and for students, and even between students of varying ages or taking different subjects.[#pullquote#]filtering solutions for under 18s should also provide non-mandatory categories, such as gambling, pornography and social media[#endpullquote#]Administrators should also be able to manually set allow and deny rules, which provides fine-tuning, for example to allow YouTube, which contains many educational clips, while blocking gaming and live-feed sites.Similarly, picking a solution that enables filtering of search terms, means for example, that words such as Essex and Sussex can be allowed, but not the word sex.Reporting activityFiltering solutions for under 18s must also include the ability to report suspect internet activity, usually through an email alert to named staff, which is particularly useful if devices are used off campus. What the receiving member of staff does with the alert should be outlined in the institution’s safeguarding policy.As a minimum, reporting should include user credentials, and the time and the type of activity, such as requests to reach blocked websites. Ideally, the identity and location of the device should be reported, too.Public networksDuring lockdown, learners will almost certainly be using public internet service providers such as Virgin Media or BT. These network providers do filter illegal content based on IWF and CITRU lists, but privately-owned machines aren’t usually as well supervised and are more susceptible to users finding ways to get around these controls.Bearing in mind the limitations above, it would be sensible to install web filtering software directly on to college-owned laptops used by learners, whether they are studying on or off site. The other alternative is to use a cloud-based service, through which all internet traffic can be directed from any device.What about hand-held devices?It’s far more difficult to control access to illegal or inappropriate content through a smartphone or tablet, because these can link to the internet through means other than a browser.[#pullquote#]It’s far more difficult to control access to illegal or inappropriate content through a smartphone or tablet[#endpullquote#]Colleges that choose to provide tablets to learners should consider using mobile device managers, which allow the owner (the college) to determine which apps can be installed.This gives control over apps that link to the device’s GPS location signal, camera or contacts list and which could be used to groom, stalk, harass or bully.Policy and procedureColleges have no control over whether web filtering software is in place on devices privately owned by students or their family members and used for study off-campus.When on campus, a bring your own device (BYOD) policy should cover ‘acceptable use’, alongside more specific acceptable internet usage and security policies, which users must agree to prior to using the college facilities. Such policies and guidance could be amended to refer to any use of institutional systems or for institutional purposes – even off-site – and, indeed, at a time of public stress, good behaviour online is to be encouraged.[#pullquote#]If the web filtering system flags an incident, perhaps multiple attempts to access banned sites, there must an agreed process on how to deal with such problems[#endpullquote#]If the web filtering system flags an incident, perhaps multiple attempts to access banned sites, there must an agreed process on how to deal with such problems. When is it acceptable to investigate an issue, and how will that be conducted?Finally, while some of these measures might seem a bit ‘big brother’, filtering solutions are not about catching people out. Rather, the aim is to protect users and help them avoid accidental access to material that could prove traumatic.Remember that requests to look at banned content are not always deliberate; they may result from pop-ups, malicious emails, misdirected links, or simply typos.Jisc’s web filtering framework will be updated by early summer 2020, with a more diverse and comprehensive offering. Find out more about our cyber security services.
  • How we are supporting research dealing with COVID-19
    The spread of the COVID-19 virus has presented unparalleled challenges for academia and research. Here's how we are supporting research during this pandemic.  As universities across the UK and the world have halted teaching activities, closed campuses and moved to online forms of working, individuals have had to make major changes.Rest assured that we are continuing to provide a range of services to support members working in research. This includes the Janet Network, the UK’s only dedicated research and education network that interconnects with other global research and education networks.Open access servicesOur open access services also continue as normal but are proving pivotal in this time of crisis. These include:CORE, which provides unrestricted access to millions of research papers from around the worldSherpa, which helps authors and institutions make informed and confident decisions in open access publicationsCompliance and discovery services like Zetoc, which enable researchers to keep pace with their peers and stay up-to-date with new research by searching over 52 million journal and conference papers and set up alerts on British Library data, library hub discover and Archives HubResponding to the current pandemic we’ve put additional support in place. Help for collaborative COVID-19 researchWe're prioritising e-infrastructure support for national and international collaborative research initiatives and have delivered enhanced connectivity to several COVID-19 research projects. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how we can support your organisation too.Access to publisher contentWe’ve produced a list of publishers and content providers who are widening access to their resources. This includes access to specific COVID-19 research.Free access to content servicesUntil 31 July 2020, non-subscribing members will have free access to:Historical Texts - providing access to over 400,000 texts from four key collections, dating from the late 15th century to the First World War, including the UK medical heritage libraryJournal Archives - providing access to over 600 journal backfiles from eight publishers' archives including ProQuest, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Taylor and Francis Demonstrating the value and impact of making scholarly content open accessOur IRUS-UK service provides information about usage (downloads) of open access scholarly content in institutional repositories.Usage stats conform to the COUNTER standard, enabling the review of usage across a range of repositories using a comparable unit of measurement.The service highlights that some research papers are attracting significant usage on a daily basis. For example, a paper on coronavirus authored by N. Ferguson at Imperial College London has had 100,000+ downloads since publication on 17 March 2020.Future research environmentsIt’s clear that the current challenges will have knock-on effects for academic research going forward, especially in the area of technology.We’re working with independent think-tank Demos on a report which will asses the impact of industry 4.0 technologies on the future of research.An interim report was published in October 2019 and the final report will follow in June.Working with other bodiesFollowing on from the Demos report, we will be working with a range of research organisations including - Research England, Universities Scotland, the British Academy and Royal Academy of Engineers - to determine a vision for future research environments and understand the capabilities required to reach that vision.
  • Not all foreign students are home from home
    During the current pandemic, not all students studying from home have the same access rights to scholarly content. That’s especially true of learners that are studying abroad at a partner organisation or foreign campus for a UK qualification. Many UK education providers are grappling to understand whether they can provide legitimate access to licensed published content for such international students.International students also include those who have been repatriated to their home countries and are now having to access learning materials from home which, in the majority of cases, means that they're now remote learners.Representatives of SCONUL, Research Libraries UK, Universities UK International and the UK higher education (HE) library community have asked us for guidance around providing such remote access to licensed content to students based outside of the UK.Providing access to licenced content to students outside of the UKThe key question that has come to the fore is whether libraries can legitimately provide access to licensed content to students when they are outside of the UK? And, if so, can this be done when they are studying at home?[#pullquote#]are they registered with the UK education provider, or not?[#endpullquote#]For Jisc agreements, the answer lies in the underpinning educational contract that covers the relationship between transnational education (TNE) or international students and the awarding UK education provider – are they registered with the UK education provider, or not?Where students are registered with the UK education provider, access to scholarly content for these students can be provided.[#pullquote#]that contract for educational services is not always with that UK provider; sometimes, this resides with an overseas partner institution.[#endpullquote#]However, while all the students based outside the UK in question are studying for an award from a UK HE education provider, that contract for educational services is not always with that UK provider; sometimes, this resides with an overseas partner institution.For instance, a student studying from home at a Malaysian university may be on a programme of study that leads to an award from a UK university, but the Malaysian university may be responsible for delivering educational services and, therefore, the party the student is registered with.Working with key publishersIn light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are contacting key publishers to discuss access rights for students based overseas. This supports universities by reducing the burden on institutions which may also need to work directly with other publishers to establishing legitimate access under their other existing content licenses. Furthermore, as we approach publishers, we also seek to support overseas scenarios where students are studying for an award from a UK university but are not registered with them. We are doing this via a Licence Addendum to Jisc content agreements. We are approaching publishers to agree to the use of this licence addendum in order to confirm legitimate access to content for such students for a limited period through the pandemic. Jisc welcomes questions from member institutions wanting specific help in navigating their response to transnational education and international student-related content licensing challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Please get in touch by emailing help.digitalresources@jisc.ac.uk.Read our guidance on delivering remote access to Jisc licensed content to students outside of the UK (pdf). 
  • Managing the release from lockdown
    When colleges and universities open their doors once more, what lessons will have been learned from the COVID-19 crisis? And, asks Chris Thomson, when is the right time to start planning the next steps? Since the very first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the UK, members of government, scientists and health advisers have been aligned on one key message: when it comes to our national response, timing is all. In March, that meant closing universities, colleges, schools, restaurants, pubs and many workplaces - but for how long will doors remain bolted?Some say it’s too early to start planning a get-out strategy from the effects of COVID-19 – but I think we need to see some light at the end of the tunnel. When colleges and universities open their doors once more, what will they have learned from this crisis? While there are many ‘known unknowns’, these needn’t prevent education leaders thinking about what the future may look like.Step 1: PauseTaking time to recognise what colleagues have achieved through this crisis is important. While many solutions to the enforced lockdown will have been imperfect, a huge collective effort has gone into responding quickly and, often, in radical ways.[#pullquote#]now is not the time to rush in with solutions.[#endpullquote#]There have been emotional and financial costs, but now is not the time to rush in with solutions. People are exhausted and dealing with trauma. Staff and students will need time to decompress and take stock of their new environment – social, economic, personal, as well as physical.Step 2: ListenAt any time, but particularly during and immediately after a crisis, leaders have lots to gain from listening to staff and students. What has the experience been like for them? What worked well to support teaching and facilitating learning? What hasn’t? What had a positive effect on wellbeing? What thoughts do people have about the future, and what next steps would they recommend?[#pullquote#]leaders have lots to gain from listening to staff and students. [#endpullquote#]Hearing these stories will not only enable leaders to gather intelligence, it will help everyone make sense of their experience, allowing them to take back agency and re-establish a sense of control that was taken from them when the pandemic tipped normality upside down.It’s easy for voices to get lost in this process. Making listening an active and collaborative process, Jisc recently spoke with teaching and learning practitioners (pdf) throughout the UK, hearing about their professional practice. Jisc colleagues and sector experts are now undertaking a similar exercise in light of the COVID-19 situation. We plan to share our findings and methodology to support institutions wishing to model their own conversations.Step 3: ReflectWhen the crisis is over, a ‘start-stop-continue’ exercise may support immediate decision-making, if approached in a spirit of collaboration and appreciative enquiry, rather than as a fault-finding exercise. For example:Start (or increase)What, in hindsight, would have been helpful to have in place before the emergency? Perhaps circumstances meant organisations weren’t aware of a specific need, or perhaps there was a lack of resource or opportunity to make an important changeIf this all happens again tomorrow, what must be in place?Stop (or reduce)Did aspects of the former ‘business as usual’ prevent the organisation from responding to the crisis in the way leaders envisaged?To keep the show on the road, were any new systems adopted or did any practices emerge that, on reflection, won’t be sustainable once the emergency is over?Look through the lens of organisational and personal values. Does it reflect tensions? What are the implications of turning off the elements highlighted above?Continue (or improve)What has happened, or what has been done, that is worth preserving?What resources are required to enable these things to continue?Step 4: PlanEventually, leaders will need to develop a long-term, get-out strategy – but that will only be possible once the new environment becomes clear. Some ‘knowns’ might emerge quickly while other impacts take years to become apparent. And timing, as we know, is crucial.[#pullquote#]Some ‘knowns’ might emerge quickly while other impacts take years to become apparent. [#endpullquote#]Jisc has produced guidance on developing a PESTLE analysis - finding ways to balance political, economic and social impacts with technological tools, new legal frameworks and environmental considerations. This could provide ideas on how to plan ahead.But however college and university leaders approach the end of lockdown, the impacts of COVID-19 will be fundamental and systemic.
  • In the switch to online teaching, we must consider the implications for wellbeing
    As national stress awareness month draws to a close, Julia Taylor highlights the need to focus on student and staff mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. The sudden switch to online teaching and learning prompted by the coronavirus pandemic is challenging the accepted mechanics of teaching delivery.In the initial flurry to ensure continuity for learners, the focus was, inevitably, on delivering emergency teaching materials. It’s now time to consider the longer-term implications, not just on teaching, but on wellbeing and inclusivity too.Getting betterAfter any disruption or trauma, it’s human nature to hanker for a return to ‘normality’ - but leaders in education have a responsibility to make sure that doesn’t mean falling back into bad habits or reinstating flawed structures and systems. Now, there’s an opportunity to improve and adapt content for the digital classroom, to address inequalities in access and skills, and to support the mental health of learners and teachers.Wellbeing – already a concern in the sector – is a crucial consideration through these unsettling and stressful times. April is national stress awareness month. Before it’s over, let’s take the opportunity to reconfigure in ways that support both students and staff to develop resilience. This will help them thrive in their changed education environment, not just ‘manage’.Stronger connectionsAlthough more than a quarter of the students that responded to Jisc’s digital experience insights survey 2019 say they work alone online, we know that feeling connected is important, not least because it’s linked with academic success - and employers really want students to gain better digital collaboration skills for work. During lockdown, many of us have learned to use platforms such as Teams and Zoom which allow multiple users, and this is something we should encourage universities and colleges to build upon.Students also say they want to be in control of their learning. An inclusive approach to digital planning that ensures access for all can provide crucial independence for students – especially those with disabilities and differences.[#pullquote#]Simply maintaining engagement during difficult periods might deliver much-needed continuity, reassurance and company.[#endpullquote#]Most students can benefit from well-constructed group learning activities. Simply maintaining engagement during difficult periods might deliver much-needed continuity, reassurance and company. It could even keep some learners from dropping out.Developing resilienceThrough this experience, teachers will be rethinking how best to use their contact time with students. They will need to choose tools and prepare activity carefully to suit the constraints of the virtual classroom.[#pullquote#]Through this experience, teachers will be rethinking how best to use their contact time with students. [#endpullquote#]Structured CPD to enhance digital teaching linked to the professional framework is crucial to encourage best pedagogical use of available technology, and suitable measures to support students through this time of rapid and unforeseen change. Now is the time to make full use of engaging interactive tools on the virtual learning environment (VLE).Full recoveryThe implications of moving all learning online will be complex and far-reaching - from the acute technical headaches for institutions to the painful adjustment of teaching and assessment techniques for staff and the academic and emotional fallout for students. This will impact on recruitment, participation, retention, attainment, quality assurance and ultimately the viability for the sector.We should, however, be optimistic. Digital delivery allows for more individualised activities that play to students’ strengths, build their confidence and hone their capacity to problem-solve. The latter is, arguably, the most critical human skill as we face an uncertain future.[#pullquote#]Digital delivery allows for more individualised activities that play to students’ strengths, build their confidence and hone their capacity to problem-solve.[#endpullquote#]More targeted, personalised, effective learning could even begin to address worrying statistical gaps in academic outcomes for under-represented and disadvantaged groups.Monitoring progressCoping with an unavoidable but fundamental change in the way we measure achievement and performance across the sector seems like the biggest challenge ahead. It is also a chance to review established assessment procedures to see if they are fit for the widest of purposes and audiences.Online education will evolve as learning merges with everyday life. This is our chance to make sure it – along with our learners and teachers - is in the best of health.
  • Playing FAIR – balancing data analysis and security for real-world impact
    Data can save lives, but it needs a robust and secure digital research model to do so. From tracking apps to vaccine research, there is an increasing amount of coverage in mainstream media of how data can be used to help understand and react to the spread of COVID-19. It is natural, then, that there is a focus right now on how research capabilities are changing the world for the better.AI plumbingIt’s not just media-friendly elements such as advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated models that make this happen. Behind the scenes, it’s infrastructure that allows it all to work.Computing powerful enough to crunch the data, software to derive insight from that data, and governance to provide permission to access data sets all play an essential role in getting research off the ground.[#pullquote#]It’s the nuts and bolts that underpin computational science and digital scholarship in the UK[#endpullquote#]You could call it AI plumbing. It’s the nuts and bolts that underpin computational science and digital scholarship in the UK – the supercomputers, clouds, networks, software and related skills.Supercomputing: the next generationWhen it comes to computing power, exascale, the next generation in supercomputing, is on its way, too.It is opening up exciting possibilities and is enabling researchers to run simulations and models at scales showing whole molecules and sections of DNA in unprecedented detail. We can also now try things out virtually, before implementing them in the real world. We call this idea ‘digital twins’. This is helped along through advanced collection of data (telemetry) from the internet of things[#pullquote#]But with enhanced computing power comes with inherent responsibility for the data it is generating[#endpullquote#]But with enhanced computing power comes with inherent responsibility for the data it is generating and we should always be mindful of the sensitivity of this data.For instance, whether personally identifiable patient data in health research, or industrially sensitive data in engineering, we need to make sure that we can build advanced computing and data facilities that can handle sensitive data appropriately, and ensure that data providers feel confident in its security.But it’s also important to be able to pursue playful, curiosity-driven research, without filling in a ten page form every time we want to share code.So, how do we make research data as accessible as possible while taking confidentiality and security incredibly seriously? FAIR data – that is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable – is a good start.FAIRness and cultureFAIR data relies on people: to run the systems in such a way that they’re easy to use and accessible and to turn scientific algorithms into reliable software.[#pullquote#]Digital transformation through the creation of super computing and networks also begs for a new way of working.[#endpullquote#]Digital transformation through the creation of super computing and networks also begs for a new way of working. There is an inherent need to build cultures that will support research technology professionals and enable the sharing of cross-disciplinary knowledge.For example, the Arts and Research Humanities Council project, Living with Machines, with which I have been involved, is about technologists, AI researchers and historians working together, which has involved some interesting cultural adjustments – and has been all the better for it.[#pullquote#]We need to continue to create places in academia for all kinds of team-based research to flourish[#endpullquote#]We need to continue to create places in academia for all kinds of team-based research to flourish, as different sets of skills are often not served particularly well within traditional academic career structures.I want to enable this at the UKRI level now.PoliticsTechnological advancement in research is also often politically controversial and can easily be used or abused.In order to make sure research and data is not used as a political football, but is legitimately employed to tackle global issues such as climate change and, of course, the current health crisis, we need to develop professional best practices around the encoding of analyses.And we need to make sure that everything is auditable, especially if we’re going to be making important, possibly life-affecting decisions using data and computers.If data is to achieve its full potential in all its fields, then we need a transformation to multi-skilled team-based research that emphasises FAIR practices in data science, traceable and auditable data and analyses, and secure infrastructure.[#pullquote#]If we continue to work towards these methods of working, data really can save lives.[#endpullquote#]If we continue to work towards these methods of working, data really can save lives.This article is based on James’ keynote address at Networkshop48 on 24 April 2020.
  • Barriers to online learning must be removed to tackle COVID-19 crisis
    Whatever happened to the carefree hedonism of youth? That stereotype feels quite hollow at the moment. Under lockdown and unsure what the future will bring, today’s students are burdened by worries, and the rapid move to online and remote learning prompted by COVID-19 is highlighting the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Government is under pressure to respond. In higher education, the NUS claims that 80% of undergraduates ae worried about how they will cope financially and is calling for a £60m hardship fund to support university students through this crisis. Meanwhile, a cross-party campaign seeks emergency maintenance grants for learners from low-income backgrounds.Supporting our most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners at this time is huge concern, and I’m anxious that we do all we can – particularly for those who will struggle to continue learning or keep in touch with friends and teachers while their institution is closed.Working togetherThat’s why the chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) and I wrote to the education secretary suggesting a scheme to give learners in need free access to mobile devices so they can continue their studies from home through this period of uncertainty. We were delighted to hear the government commit to delivering this for further education (FE) students – but providing laptops and tablets is only part of the problem; access to the internet requires data, and that costs money.[#pullquote#]providing laptops and tablets is only part of the problem; access to the internet requires data, and that costs money.[#endpullquote#]Working to remove this financial barrier to learning online, telecoms providers in the Republic of Ireland have agreed to make access to educational resource websites ‘zero-rated for all customers where technically feasible’. I’m working with the chief executives of Universities UK (UUK), the AoC, and ucisa, offering to collaborate with government and telecoms companies to support further and higher education (HE) students in the UK by removing mobile data charges for education websites during lockdown.'A critical time'Universities face a critical time financially in the coming months. According to a report published this week, the higher education sector faces a £600m black hole in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as prospective undergraduates plan to defer the start of their course.This is forecast to have a significant impact on jobs and the economy, with universities hit by a £2.6bn shortfall in the next academic year. Overall, the report suggests there will be 230,000 fewer students entering UK universities in 2020-21, as compared to 2019-20 – and it predicts a devastating impact on 91 of the 125 universities it examines.[#pullquote#]It’s a worrying time, and the impact for students, staff and the future of some institutions could be huge.[#endpullquote#]In response, Labour has asked the government to underwrite HE funding through this crisis. In the meantime, university and college leaders, including those at King’s College London, the University of Edinburgh and St Andrews University, are taking voluntary pay cuts. It’s a worrying time, and the impact for students, staff and the future of some institutions could be huge.Challenges and inspirationThrough all this, I know that, using technology, colleges and universities are continuing to deliver the exceptional standards of education they’re famed for – yet, in the short-term, there are challenges for many. We’ve heard of online lectures being hacked, sometimes with extreme and disturbing content, prompting some academics to warn that the switch to digital learning during the pandemic may increase harassment at universities.More broadly, there are fears around high costs involved in moving courses online and, in some cases, concerns over a lack of preparedness. But we’ve seen amazing successes through this rapid and sometimes dramatic move online too. Experiences, such as those at Wolverhampton College, are inspiring - and the long-term benefits of online and digitally-enhanced education are being highlighted, with the former universities minister Jo Johnson noting increased potential to reach global audiences, for example. Jisc is ready to collaborate with the sector to support this change.[#pullquote#]we’ve seen amazing successes through this rapid and sometimes dramatic move online too.[#endpullquote#]Overall, during this unsettled and unsettling time, I’ve been pleased to see education bodies, technology organisations, government and others coming together to help everyone move productively to working online. As researchers at Oxford, South Wales and other universities make steps towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19, I like to reflect on the positives we might all draw from this situation.Perhaps we could take inspiration from the environmental student campaigners who’ve succeeded in banning investment in fossil fuels at Oxford University, and heed the advice of PhD student Bethan Cornell, who is so impressed with the process of conducting PhD vivas online she feels there will be no need to return to excessive flying habits.For all the anxiety about the future, I hope we’ll see a positive environmental impact emerge from lockdown. Already, as I open the window of my home office, I notice the absence of aeroplanes overhead. Instead, I now hear birdsong.This article was also published on mediafhe.com.
  • Coronavirus helped our staff embrace online learning. Here’s how...
    Coronavirus has forced colleges into unchartered territory, with online learning integral to further education, not optional. Our main focus at Wolverhampton College has been to support students and staff during this tricky time, resulting in some surprising cultural shifts... When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it was clear that staff would need the right digital skills to deliver online learning, and that they’d need to get to grips with them fast. Since campuses have closed, we’ve found that staff are embracing e-learning technologies like never before. They’ve gained huge amounts of confidence, and students are notably impressed, too.[#pullquote#]Since campuses have closed, we’ve found that staff are embracing e-learning technologies like never before. [#endpullquote#]That’s not to say that the process hasn’t been challenging, it has - and we’ve had a few stumbling blocks along the way. On 3 April, we had 496 classrooms actively running on Google Classroom and more on Moodle. That’s something I never thought I’d see.I can, hand on heart, say that the success of the transition has been down to three things: staff have been given the time and support to upskill; the IT department was backed-up by senior management to implement the change smoothly; and, of course, the crisis has given staff that extra push to be brave and embrace technology. Where did we start?Week commencing 9 March, the IT manager and I knew that we had a week (at most) to decide which platforms would work best to provide resources to learners and deliver live face-to-face teaching too.  Before Covid-19, 70% of our learners accessed their resources via Moodle, while the other 30% where on Google Classroom, and all staff use Office 365. We decided on Office 365 for staff, with Teams as the central place for communication, collaboration and also live face-to-face meeting with staff and students. Staff would create a Teams meeting and post the link on the college virtual learning environments (VLEs) Google Classroom or Moodle.We planned that students would demonstrate their knowledge through a variety of edtech tools such as Google and Microsoft quizzes, Flipgrid videos, and that assignments and worksheets would be received and marked via Google Classroom and Moodle.During the second week, training began in full force. Firstly, we ensured staff had the right resources at home, from wifi to laptops. We trained staff in person, helping them to quickly gain confidence, hosting roleplay meetings and ironing out questions face-to-face.On 25 March, all our campuses were in lockdown, and it was time for students to begin learning from home.How we’ve supported staffThe transition to online teaching was understandably daunting for staff as the change was so abrupt and it happened during a time of such worry and uncertainty. There are several measures we put in place to protect staff wellbeing and to help them to get the most out of the situation:We have dedicated Teams groups for IT support and for staff wellbeing. Managers check in daily with staff to see how they’re getting on, in terms of their wellbeing, engagement and the technology. A culture of question-asking is encouragedStaff are helped to switch off, literally and metaphorically. During training they were shown how to turn off notifications, helping to separate work from home lifeThe careful curation of college timetables further encourages a work-life balance, as we understand that many teachers are parents too, making teaching from home that bit more trickySafeguarding for staff and students has always been incorporated into our online learning strategy, even before COVID-19, so staff record all one-to-one sessions with students. We’re also on-hand to answer any questions staff might have about protecting themselves and students onlineConstantly learning and adaptingA primary concern of ours was engagement. Would students want to learn online? Would staff be comfortable delivering teaching this way? It turns out we needn’t have worried at all. Both have engaged with online learning exceptionally well, even enjoying the sociable element during the coronavirus lockdown.[#pullquote#]The important thing to remember is that we’re all new to this process, students included, so it’s a game of learning from mistakes and carrying on. [#endpullquote#]We’re only a few weeks in, and there will be hurdles along the way. The important thing to remember is that we’re all new to this process, students included, so it’s a game of learning from mistakes and carrying on. Every bump in the road is an opportunity to improve our e-learning offer.Thriving (as much as possible) in a time of crisisDigital skills have always been at the forefront of my role. While we are working in an extremely challenging period, it’s been a joy to see staff given the time and support to upskill.Once this is over and going forward, the hope is that we’ll adopt a blended approach, giving everyone a bit more flexibility when it comes to teaching and learning. It’s also been heartening to learn about what other colleges are doing during the COVID-19 crisis.One thing’s for certain, we’re all in this together.