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  • Putting digital skills, content and connectivity at the heart of long-term plans for FE and skills
    While less revolutionary than we’d hoped for, with ambition clearly tempered by short-term fiscal settlements, the FE and skills white paper paints a progressive picture of the future for our sector, putting skills at the heart of our nation’s recovery.   In the frame are welcome improvements in infrastructure to enable better links with local economies, and an emphasis on cultivating the digital skills of learners and teachers alike. What’s lacking, however, is fine funding detail to give these broad brushstrokes tangible form. We will continue to push for that - to ensure that FE providers can keep pace with the digital evolution that the pandemic has finally kickstartedRead my previous blog post: 'Online learning is here to stay - so we must work out how to do it well - https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/online-learning-will-continue-so-we-must-do-it-better-11-jun-2020.   %5B#pullquote#%5DWhat’s lacking, however, is fine funding detail [...]. We will continue to push for that - to ensure that FE providers can keep pace with the digital evolution[#endpullquote#]Reflecting some of the aims of Jisc's FE and skills strategy and the final report from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, the white paper fuels conversation for change. The policies, funding and plans that ensue must better meet the demands of all learners and employers, and to positively impact personal and economic wellbeing. Links with employers Connecting FE providers to their communities and the regional economy is highlighted in the white paper as a priority. Jisc is well-placed to strengthen this ambition through its world-class digital infrastructure, the Janet Network, and secure, seamless  connectivity.  That includes providing reliable and ubiquitous wifi – still sadly lacking for an alarming number of FE campuses. Only 68% of FE learners responding to our annual survey said they had access to reliable on-campus wifi and even less - 63% - agreed that their organisation gave them access to online systems and services from anywhere.  FE providers that have begun their technological transformation, particularly those with multiple campuses, are finding that extra digital capacity is only possible with reliable connections to Janet. With increased demand for cloud storage and online communications, bandwidth upgrades must keep pace.  [#pullquote#]With increased demand for cloud storage and online communications, bandwidth upgrades must keep pace[#endpullquote#]Jisc protects colleges’ connections to Janet, but providers still need to put in place robust measures to defend their own systems and networks against cyber attacks, or risk potentially catestrophic consequencesJisc feature on Dundee and Angus College 2020 ransomware attack: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/ransomware-attack-how-one-college-pulled-together-to-rebuild-and-recover-29-oct-2020.   If an extra incentive were needed, employers are more likely to work with providers if they can demonstrate digital maturity, have sufficient bandwidth and are serious about cyber protectionRead Jisc blog post from Milton Keynes College's head of information services, Jonathan Wilson, 'Implementing a security standard needs a mandate from the top' - http://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/implementing-a-security-standard-needs-a-mandate-from-the-top-03-aug-2020. Digital skills Our 2020 digital experience insights survey of FE staff finds that more needs to be done to build up skills and confidence using technology in teaching - a necessity if education is to prepare learners for the digital workplace and lifelong learning, as the white paper indicates. The Jisc and Association of Colleges research project report, shaping the digital future of FE and skills, published in September 2020, has a plan to meet that aim: it recommends that Jisc, the Education Training Foundation and the College Development Network (Scotland) develop a digital pedagogy CPD programme for staff. In the meantime, there’s some excellent peer-to-peer upskilling going on within the edtech demonstrator programme, which I’m pleased to see that the government is extending beyond its original March deadline. Digital content At last, Ofqual looks to be starting the conversation on digitising the out-of-date assessment systemUK Government briefing paper: Online and on-screen assessment in high stakes sessional qualifications - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/943395/Barriers_to_online_briefing_paper_111220.pdf for high-stakes exams - and we have advice to shareJisc report: the future of assessment: five principles, five targets for 2025 - https://www.jisc.ac.uk/reports/the-future-of-assessment on that, too. The sector must prepare for this by working hand-in-hand with employers to develop standardised digital content to support learning on all courses.  While the white paper makes a similar point and says the government will ‘support’ that aim, what’s lacking is a commitment to fund a centralised FE and skills digital content search and discovery platform, as the shaping the digital future of FE and skills report suggests. A handful of colleges, PlumptonJisc feature on Plumpton College 'Getting students ready for the changing workplace' - https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/getting-students-ready-for-the-changing-workplace-18-nov-2019  and USPFeature: USP College ‘Virtually connected classroom network would save time, money and solve the teacher shortage’ - https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/virtually-connected-classroom-network-would-save-time-money-and-solve-the-teacher-shortage-19-jan-2021, for example, are leading the way here, but centralised support is required if the whole sector is to benefit. [#pullquote#]what’s lacking is a commitment to fund a centralised FE and skills digital content search and discovery platform[#endpullquote#]Strategic thinking Providing a framework for the future, the white paper’s aims can only be realised if all FE principals and CEOs show digital leadership and understand the fundamental culture change they must manage as part of that. As the pandemic brought home, technological evolution is no longer an option – and Jisc will continue to support members to reach that destination and beyond. As the UK’s digital body for lifelong learning, we will play a pivotal role in connecting FE providers to their communities, each other and employers, focused on developing a sustainable sector, serving technically skilled and digitally confident citizens. Find out about Jisc’s strategy for supporting FE and skills members. Read our report, shaping the digital future of FE and skills.  
  • Jisc’s vision for supporting research and innovation 2021 – 2023 
    The demands on and priorities of the UK research and innovation sector are evolving at pace. We see increased pressure on financial sustainability, an increased focus on improving research culture, and the need to prioritise on integrity and transparency, while accelerating routes to application.    Our support of the research and innovation sector stems from our position as the UK’s national research and education network (NREN), providing infrastructure and facilities including the Janet Network.Janet is the fastest computer network in the world and is essential for meeting the demands of research. It connects UK higher education institutions and research establishments to the rest of the digital research world, securely moving huge volumes of research data and providing the high-speed connection for collaborative research.We also provide solutions around cyber security, cloud, data, licensing, content and discovery to empower our members with the technology and data they need to succeed.In  response to changing demands of the sector and after extensive engagement with our members we have identified seven  themes that will shape our support of the UK research and innovation sector in the coming two years.   These themes will direct our activities and will support our vision: for the UK to be a world leader in technology for education and research.[#pullquote#]In  response to changing demands of the sector and after extensive engagement with our members we have identified seven  themes that will shape our support of the UK research and innovation sector in the coming two years[#endpullquote#]Theme one: Supporting a new national data infrastructure for researchNever before has research and innovation been so dependent on infrastructure, on the capacity of network, security, connectivity and access management. This dependency will continue to grow.We commit to supporting a new national data infrastructure for research, underpinned by our existing Janet network, cyber security, cloud and data infrastructures and will coordinate the implementation of a flexible set of solutions for institutions and research collaborations.Theme two: UK research analytics: understanding systems, cultures, resources and decision-makingThe data produced through the processes of research management could be used on a greater scale to transform research systems, cultures and decision-making. Exponentially-upgraded analytical capacity is needed to build the strategic capabilities of UK research.We will examine the potential for a new UK research analytics platform and service, enhancing our existing analytics capabilities. [#pullquote#]Exponentially-upgraded analytical capacity is needed to build the strategic capabilities of UK research[#endpullquote#]Theme three: Recording the UK’s ‘research estate’ in support of a UK-wide research capabilityThe ability to identify, deploy, share and reuse physical and intangible assets that comprise the research estate are central to delivering efficiencies, the civic agenda, levelling up, open research and achieving net-zero. These assets also include the significant infrastructure which gives access to research, including content, library and archival collections.We will explore expanding the well-established digital approaches to the management and use of these assets. Theme four: Accelerating the achievement, delivery and monitoring of the journey to open researchOpen research extends beyond the boundaries of open access articles to all research outputs, including metadata, data, code, algorithms and software, as well as the processes of research itself. It will continue to be a high priority for the UK research base, for funders and for Jisc.We commit to helping the UK embrace the full potential of open research by removing barriers, embedding open practices and developing infrastructure to support this potential. Theme five: Applied research and knowledge exchange: supporting commercialisation and deploymentThe interconnected systems producing world-class research and innovation are increasingly reliant on shared and secure infrastructure to enable their growth. The breadth of academic-industry collaborations and commercial spinouts from academic research is set to grow.We commit to further supporting the acceleration of the impact of and knowledge exchange from research commercialisation through the enhanced use of shared research infrastructure.[#pullquote#]The interconnected systems producing world-class research and innovation are increasingly reliant on shared and secure infrastructure to enable their growth[#endpullquote#]Theme six: Rapid innovation in research management and active researchResearch integrity, reproducibility and reuse, evaluation and assessment, new and inclusive forms of excellence and the responsible use of metrics are all areas that offer significant potential for greater efficiency and interoperability.We commit to exploring and building on innovative approaches in research management, including enhanced system interoperability, common data repository standards and metrics aggregator models.Theme seven: ‘Research 4.0’ and realising the art of the possibleAdvanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, 5G, quantum computing and biotechnologies are set to impact the UK’s world-leading research and innovation sector in the years ahead in ways yet to be imagined.We propose a technical enablers programme focusing on exemplifying leading-edge specialisms and a ‘research reimagined’ programme to better understand this future potential with and on behalf of our members.Our research and innovation sector strategy has been shaped by our engagement with researchers, research managers and research enablers. The strategy will continue to evolve and develop in the next two years to address the needs of the ever-changing research environment.[#pullquote#]Our research and innovation sector strategy has been shaped by our engagement with researchers, research managers and research enablers[#endpullquote#]Continuing conversations  around  Research 4.0: Research in the Age of Automation (as outlined  in a report by the independent thinktank, Demos) we are working closely with the research community, bringing innovative ideas together to form  a new  digital  research  community  group. Read our research and innovation sector strategy 2021-2023.
  • Serving students in times of COVID is challenging for us librarians
    Always at the heart of the university, the library during lockdown is a lifeline for many students. But library directors are struggling to balance the needs of their students and staff. It’s been a tough few weeks, since we reopened after the Christmas break.The most recent Scottish Government guidance allows university libraries to open in the context of education and a reason for essential travel. But many students remain on or near campus and lack good study spaces or technology, so it is really important that we try and provide an environment and information resources to them.However, to minimise contact under the tightest Scottish restrictions (‘level four') we are required to prevent access to our shelves. As a result, students are now solely reliant on our click and collect service, whether or not they choose to stay in the library to study or return to their accommodation. Welcoming but safeWe have done a huge amount of work to make sure the library is safe and have liaised very closely with the university’s health and safety team. But having to restrict access, and prevent our students browsing, flies in the face of what libraries are for, so we find this hard to do. At the same time, we totally understand that they make our buildings safer for both students and library staff. [#pullquote#]having to restrict access, and prevent our students browsing, flies in the face of what libraries are for[#endpullquote#]We want our libraries to be welcoming spaces; and social environments that promote scholarly studying, learning, exploration, and discovery. We continue to try to help our students thrive when they visit by delivering more and more digital content and support to them when they are learning online. Limiting numbersSo, stripping back our services has been hard.Due to the very latest restrictions, we have had to keep two of our libraries closed and only our main building (the Sir Duncan Rice Library) is open at the moment. We’ve also had to reduce occupancy, which in normal times would allow more than 1,000 visitors. Last year we reduced this to about 260, and now we are limiting it further to 150. We’ve had to tape off our shelves and put notices up saying ‘do not touch the books’. This feels ridiculous on one level: a library preventing access to its books. But we understand why we must do all we can to limit the risk of viral transmission. We also quarantine books for 72 hours on return, in line with international guidelines.[#pullquote#]We’ve had to tape off our shelves and put notices up saying ‘do not touch the books’. This feels ridiculous on one level: a library preventing access to its books. But we understand why we must do all we can[#endpullquote#]Helping where we canWe are seeing a few hundred students come through our security gates every day, and as we have asked them to ensure they have an essential need we want to do our best to provide for them.I feel so sad for students experiencing university like this and am so pleased we can do something to help them. At the same time, my colleagues are very concerned about working in this environment, so I am trying to ensure many can work from home, and those who need to come in have at least some days working from home.I believe we are striking a good balance at the moment between student needs and staff confidence. We do need to remind some of our students that they must wear face coverings at all times (this is a legal requirement in libraries in Scotland) but on the whole they are doing the right thing, which helps reassure staff.TiredWe have now removed study spaces on the floor where front desk staff offices are based, and they feel more secure knowing that they aren’t surrounded by students at study spaces. We also carry out risk assessments with all staff before they come back to campus and the university is very sympathetic to concerns; we seek to reassure people that it is safe rather than insisting they return if they aren’t sure that it is. These challenges are very demanding on all of us and we are often exhausted by them. Even just having to wear a face covering all day while doing your job is really hard, which is another reason to ensure people can also work from home for at least some of the time. [#pullquote#]These challenges are very demanding on all of us and we are often exhausted by them. Even just having to wear a face covering all day while doing your job is really hard[#endpullquote#]Balancing act So we are doing our best and I think we are doing it very well indeed, especially as the rules change, regularly and often at very short notice. There is an impact on our strategic work while we respond to what is urgent.We need to find time to support the university’s Research Excellence Framework submission, of course, but further development of our scholarly communications service is hard to find time for.I’m also concerned about the time needed for very important publisher negotiations this year; not just for me and my colleagues but for the academics and committees we will be coming to and asking for time and feedback.Supporting student and staff wellbeing is now more important than ever. We’re committed to helping organisations protect the wellbeing of staff and students by using technology. Learn more about how to support staff and student wellbeing by using technology. You can also sign up to our series of wellbeing events, to hear about and share best practice : 
  • FE and skills white paper is a welcome boost for a sector on the cusp of a digital revolution
    Today’s FE and skills white paper is a welcome boost for a sector that’s poised and ready for a digital revolution – and has been waiting for government direction and investment to help make that happen.  Reflecting some of the aims of Jisc's FE and skills strategy and the final report from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, the white paper provides a blueprint for change that should better meet the demands of learners, employers and, ultimately, the economy.[#pullquote#]The white paper provides a blueprint for change that should better meet the demands of learners, employers and, ultimately, the economy[#endpullquote#]I’m pleased that the government has taken on board the evidence and advice provided by the sector and that this paper will at last help to strengthen FE provider’s positions in the economic landscape.There are a number of key points that Jisc will be working to support and advise on:Connections to communities and the regional economy is highlighted as a priority and will need strengthening through digital infrastructure and secure, seamless connectivityThe FE workforce will need upskilling if it is to prepare learners for the digital workplace and lifelong learningIf the FE sector is to respond to qualification and assessment reform and employer demand, it must have access to high quality and accessible digital content across all subjects and levelsFind out more about how Jisc supports the FE and skills sector.
  • Lessons learned from six years of learning analytics at The Open University
    Three key lessons learned from The Open University’s award-winning use of data. It’s a common assumption with learning analytics (LA), that just getting hold of data is enough, and that the magic will happen all by itself. But that’s certainly not the case.Start smallFully integrating learning analytics into an organisation takes a lot of time and effort, and small steps are a great way to start.[#pullquote#]Fully integrating learning analytics into an organisation takes a lot of time and effort, and small steps are a great way to start.[#endpullquote#]Back in 2014, when we started to launch our first learning analytics dashboards at the Open University, we spent a lot of time investigating what was working for our organisation, what wasn’t working, and figuring out where we could do better. If we noticed, for example, that the data reflected students were particularly struggling during a certain week or a certain module, we would then focus in on what was different about that week or module; could learning design be improved? Is the student dealing with other external factors? This kind of exercise seems like a small, niche investigation, but it has wide-ranging implications, and is an essential step in the implementation of LA.Similarly, the OU has a very flexible approach to what modules students can take within their degree pathways. This sometimes means that, for example, student A could do really well in module 1, but then struggle with module 2. This allows teachers to look at how they might better advise module pathways, or transitional content.[#pullquote#]Through our use of learning analytics, we can follow students’ journeys, and at the same time data is fed back to teachers and people who are responsible for curriculum design[#endpullquote#]Through our use of learning analytics, we can follow students’ journeys, and at the same time data is fed back to teachers and people who are responsible for curriculum design to see what can be done to improve the overall teaching and learning experience.This small start allowed us to develop our use of LA without overwhelming staff or students, and now this is business as usual – we call it ‘Analytics4Action’ and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of.Use evidence-based research to help shape the narrativeThere will always be some sceptical members of staff through a technological transformation. And it’s understandable – many education professionals have seen tech come and go throughout their careers, sometimes causing more harm than good.[#pullquote#]The best way to make sure that learning analytics doesn’t fall into the same trap is to show real-world evidence of where it has worked and made a real impact.[#endpullquote#]The best way to make sure that learning analytics doesn’t fall into the same trap is to show real-world evidence of where it has worked and made a real impact.In the good old days before COVID-19 when we could physically meet in the same room, we would bring teachers together with other members of staff across the organisation – those in libraries, and anyone that worked with student data – and we would literally sit down and look at the data dashboards on screen together. We’d talk through patterns we noticed, discussing what was working and what wasn’t going so well. It was a great way to get an understanding of what data is useful for these staff members to improve services, and to inform their decision-making.It also meant we were – crucially – able to contextualise what the data was telling us. For example, if there was a drop off in student engagement during a certain week, a teacher might say that they had given the students a break, and so instead of reflecting a crisis, the data would in fact indicate normal fluctuations in students’ learning journeys. So, by having these perspectives, we’re getting a dialogue, and the data then starts to tell an understandable story within the context of our organisation.[#pullquote#]Our learning design team also continuously works with staff to ensure they have the data knowledge they need.[#endpullquote#]Our learning design team also continuously works with staff to ensure they have the data knowledge they need.By keeping up with training and professional development, the idea is that eventually staff becomes self-sufficient in their use and interpretation of data. There are always the early adopters, who are keen to innovate, but the vast majority of people will only be convinced once they see that it works. Making sure to use evidence-based research and keeping all relevant members of staff involved in the process of implementation can go a long way to smoothing the transition.Celebrate your successesBecause implementing a resilient learning analytics programme takes time and a lot of effort, it can be easy to continuously focus on the next step and forget to celebrate your successes along the way.[#pullquote#] these celebrations are essential to keep the motivation and momentum going - because the big things don’t happen overnight. [#endpullquote#]But these celebrations are essential to keep the motivation and momentum going - because the big things don’t happen overnight. They are the result of months, often years, of cumulative effort.It’s easy to compare yourself and your organisation to those that are ahead of the curve, too. For instance, universities like Monash in Australia are doing great things with analytics, but that doesn’t negate the amazing, if smaller, projects happening elsewhere.It’s important to remember that even though there will likely be some, or many, institutions ahead of you, all progress is good progress, and should be celebrated. A good example from my own experience is that recently The Open University won the DataIQ Award for Best Predictive Learning Analytics. And that journey was almost six years in the making.[#pullquote#]You can forget all the little successes that led up to that big one, but when you look back, you can see that an amazing amount of ground has been covered in that time [#endpullquote#]You can forget all the little successes that led up to that big one, but when you look back, you can see that an amazing amount of ground has been covered in that time, made up of many, many smaller projects. So yes, celebrate those wins – they're worth it.To hear Bart discuss more lessons he’s learned through implementing learning analytics, book your place at Data Matters, running online from 26-27 January 2021. You can also learn more about harnessing the power of your data.
  • Using data to help prepare for an uncertain future: a vision for HE
    As universities face 2021 with optimism, robust data visions and collaborative working can help them achieve their objectives. 2020 has been a rollercoaster for education, and as we move into 2021, there is still a lack of certainty around what restrictions might look like - and what impact they will have on teaching and learning.One thing that has become more apparent this year is the importance of data in supporting both student and staff experiences. However, sometimes making wish lists for the future is the easy part; what is often harder is figuring out that vision and the steps required to get there.[#pullquote#]One thing that has become more apparent this year is the importance of data in supporting both student and staff experiences.[#endpullquote#]Using data for decision-making is a journey, and knowing both where you are in the present, and the direction you have come from, is an important part of the planning process. In the past, universities have been able to rely on historical data sets to compare against current data and observe trends. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the sector in ways we’ve never seen before, and therefore historical data is not relevant to the current circumstances. This means that journey-planning needs to start from scratch, and so having clean data and a robust strategy in place will be essential as the higher education (HE) sector continues to emerge.Breaking out of the siloData, and its uses and implications, have had increasing amounts of mainstream media coverage in recent years. From social media collecting personal data, to revelations about intelligent assistants in the home, conversations about data are becoming more common. But understanding how to create and implement a data strategy can be complicated, and institutions can benefit from sharing ideas and best practice.[#pullquote#]There is an assumption that everybody understands the ins and outs of data, but despite pockets of extensive knowledge throughout the HE sector, not everyone is a data expert – nor should they have to be.[#endpullquote#]There is an assumption that everybody understands the ins and outs of data, but despite pockets of extensive knowledge throughout the HE sector, not everyone is a data expert – nor should they have to be.Most people know how data factors into their specific role - within a silo - but implementing an organisation-wide data strategy means breaking out of these siloes and coming together with peers to discuss how to ensure interoperability between systems and processes. A single source of truth is essential when using data to inform strategy and vision, and it’s important to ensure that that source is readily and securely available to relevant areas of the organisation.Computer says...Data provides a foundation on which to build a narrative. Being able to decipher a human-led story can help universities understand more about the uncertainty they are facing, and the human impact. They can also use this narrative to identify ways in which they can ready themselves and move forward. Preparing for uncertainty may sound like an oxymoron, but developing flexibility and agility within an organisation will allow for swifter action when things change.[#pullquote#]Considering an ethical framework, GDPR requirements, data cleanliness and other aspects of a robust data foundation will help to ensure that an organisation’s view of data is as clear as possible. [#endpullquote#]Considering an ethical framework, GDPR requirements, data cleanliness and other aspects of a robust data foundation will help to ensure that an organisation’s view of data is as clear as possible, and that any subsequent decision-making is as accurate as it can be.What is certain is uncertainty. But if data is used in the right way, and if organisations work together to understand how HE can best utilise the skills and tools at its disposal, there is an exciting future ahead.For further discussion about the use of data in education and research, book your place at Data Matters, running online from 26-27 January 2021.
  • Reflecting on 2020 – and getting ready for 2021
    COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to digital learning and teaching and a tremendous amount of work has taken place to make this shift happen. We look back at some of the highlights of 2020 in supporting this rapid transformation in teaching, learning and research. One of the first challenges was how to give students access to learning materials while campuses were closed. Jisc together with sector partners, published a call to action asking academic publishers to open up access to content and worked with textbook publishers and suppliers including Kortext and BibliU to make textbooks freely available without restrictions. In the space of just a few weeks, suppliers agreed on a nationwide programme to ensure all 2.4 million  university students and 217,000 academic staff could access their key learning resources.Most publishers responded positively to our call, and direct negotiations with suppliers that did not make additional materials available resulted in additional access to learning materials and research.On the software front, when the pandemic first took grip, we ensured that all institutions were aware of the home use rights available under their current agreements. We also initiated discussions with Adobe, which resulted in free student home use licences for all institutions in the UK until the middle of the summer.Critical accessAs the pandemic progressed, it was apparent that retaining access to existing content in light of increased costs and reduced income was going to be a critical challenge. In June, the  Universities UK Jisc content negotiation strategy group called on major academic publishers to provide reductions to reflect the pressures put on library budgets due to the pandemic. After months of intense negotiations, 27 publisher agreements were reduced in price, saving the sector £7.1m.[#pullquote#]After months of intense negotiations, 27 publisher agreements were reduced in price, saving the sector £7.1m.[#endpullquote#]Our transnational licensing service clarifies and implements licensing provision for UK HEIs which deliver content to students associated with transnational partnerships. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed guidance to address questions raised by Jisc member institutions - along with those brought to us on their behalf by SCONUL, RLUK & UUKi - relating to providing remote access to Jisc-licensed content to students based outside of the UK.Welcome reliefA further welcome relief to institutions was the removal of VAT on electronic publications, including academic journals. In response we evaluated the VAT status of all our 2500 agreements and asked publishers to review their rates accordingly. Since May we have worked with internal and external tax advisors, publishers and sector bodies such as BUFDG to encourage greater consistency and to ensure that our members can benefit from the VAT relief.The pandemic and the challenges of shifting to online further highlighted the value of open access to research. At the start of 2020 the Wiley transitional open access agreement was launched, converting 50% of UK subscription spend to support OA publishing. In just a year, the agreement has rapidly increased the amount of OA in hybrid titles from 30% to 78%.[#pullquote#]In just a year, the agreement has rapidly increased the amount of OA in hybrid titles from 30% to 78%.[#endpullquote#]One of the main vehicles to achieve rapid and cost-effective open access are the transitional agreements which include ‘read and publish’ agreements negotiated by Jisc. These allow for a sustainable transition for publishers whilst offering institutions online reading access to each publishers’ full portfolio and OA publishing for researchers. Jisc has secured 24 transformative agreements supporting the transition from paywalled to immediate and openly available research.New publishing modelsThe read and publish model doesn’t work for every publisher so we’re also trialling other OA models. The ‘Subscribe to Open’ model, which relies on maintaining revenues from the subscriber base to enable all content to be made OA, is the basis of our agreement with the European Mathematical Society (EMS) Press as well as one of the innovative article processing charges (APC)-free agreements with not-for-profit OA publisher, PLOS. Green OA continues to have an important role in ensuring funder compliance and was the approach favoured by members for our Emerald agreement.[#pullquote#]Green OA continues to have an important role in ensuring funder compliance[#endpullquote#]Throughout all of this, the Jisc licensing team continued to evaluate, negotiate, license and make available over 160 agreements, constraining costs and reducing administrative effort for our members.What’s on the cards for 2021?Next year, UK universities will commence negotiations with Elsevier, one of the world’s largest for-profit publishers, for a new ScienceDirect agreement that supports funder policies on open access and reduces and constrains sector expenditure. With thanks to our UUK Jisc content negotiation strategy group, our content expert group and our members, the sector has identified and agreed the key principles and strategy underlining the negotiations for 2021 and we look forward to working with all our members as we progress through the negotiation.At the start of 2021, we will continue to work with institutions to establish their immediate priorities and their future ambitions in providing a student learning experience as identified in the learning and teaching reimagined report. We will be evaluating the data from the Kortext and Bibliu agreements and continue discussions, alongside partners, to engage with publishers and suppliers on affordable and sustainable models.The long-term effects of the pandemic on public and institutional finances are yet to be seen, and it is clear that further turbulence lies ahead. Institutions will continue to do more with less whilst providing even  greater support for teaching and learning  and  enhancing the research  culture. However, with over 50% of UK research output now covered by a Jisc-negotiated transitional agreement, we’re on the right track to see radically increased access to research.[#pullquote#]we’re on the right track to see radically increased access to research.[#endpullquote#]More information about all available OA agreements that comply with the new Wellcome Trust OA policy can be found on our OA page.
  • The National Data Strategy – a golden opportunity to level up the use of data and innovation for education and research
    How the government’s new strategy will help drive the next phase of education and research development. The aim of the UK government’s National Data Strategy (NDS), published in September 2020 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is ‘to drive the collective vision that will support the UK to build a world-leading data economy’.For us at Jisc, an essential part of that collective vision is ensuring robust data standards for education and research, as well as a renewed focus on interoperability and trust.This requires a strong and resilient digital infrastructure, allowing for world-class connectivity and the capability to transfer the increasing volumes of data necessary within these sectors. Our Janet Network already enables high levels of connectivity and data transfer, while providing professional cyber security, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only re-emphasised digital infrastructure’s role as a foundation for the digital future.Getting the right conditions in place to enable better and more confident use of data could deliver unprecedented benefits both to learners and the economy, and make the UK a global leader in its use of technology.Detox your dataBeing able to gather and analyse data is one thing, but making sure that data is 'clean’ and meaningful is quite another.[#pullquote#]Being able to gather and analyse data is one thing, but making sure that data is 'clean’ and meaningful is quite another.[#endpullquote#]The computational adage of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is at its most relevant here – for data to provide meaningful insight, strong foundations must be in place. The NDS refers to data foundations as ‘data that is fit for purpose, recorded in standardised formats on modern, future-proof systems and held in a condition that means it is findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.’ Government can help to enable education and research providers in developing data foundations, particularly by supporting the importance of embracing common data standards.Currently, data standards in university settings are largely defined by those within sector bodies such as HESA, the Office for Students (OfS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). But there are several other data sources which do not use these common standards or structures, and do not have the same level of quality assurance, resulting in a significant amount of time and effort spent on cleansing data.As detailed in our consultation response – readable in full here - we would welcome government helping us at Jisc to make improving data foundations easier for providers and data users such as enabling them to collect data once and use it in multiple ways (data minimisation), and to link between internal systems and external data sources that already use common data standards.This enhanced level of data analytics would improve forecasting, business and benchmark modelling for education providers, assisting in strategic and operational planning, and decision-making.Universities and colleges would also be able to move from descriptive to prescriptive and predictive analytics, covering all aspects of core activity including business operations, course planning, research and student success.From streamlining resources through to course delivery and wellbeing, efficient use of clean, reliable data is a bedrock for improving the educational experience for staff and students alike.Enhancing global education and researchThe COVID-19 pandemic has also increased the spotlight on the importance of digital and data interoperability.[#pullquote#]The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased the spotlight on the importance of digital and data interoperability.[#endpullquote#]Being able to track learner achievements across regions, domestic and international borders would help support ongoing global student mobility, in line with the UK’s international education strategy. This is especially pertinent as it is likely that transnational education (TNE) will increase in the medium term, with students possibly deciding to stay in their home countries for further and higher education.One way to support this tracking is to better the use of Unique Learner Numbers (ULNs). We would support the issuing of a ULN to all UK learners by government, similar to the current mandate for a UK Provider Reference Number (UKPRN), and encourage the increased use of ULNs beyond the secondary and further education sectors.Similar to a national insurance number, ULNs are portable and secure, and would deliver long-term benefits to learners, education providers and government, playing a vital role in lifelong learning and increased use of microcredentials.[#pullquote#]Similar to a national insurance number, ULNs are portable and secure, and would deliver long-term benefits to learners, education providers and government[#endpullquote#]ULNs could allow learners to log their learning achievements in one place throughout their lives, resulting in a coherent portfolio even if they use multiple learning providers.In data we trustData must be treated with the utmost care, and institutions need to be confident that students are fully informed as to why and how their data is being collected. Findings from our Digital Experience Insights Survey 2020 showed that only 36% of HE students and 37% of FE students surveyed believed their organisation told them how their data was used.It is therefore essential that the National Data Strategy considers plans to increase understanding and trust in how data is being processed and analysed, and ensure that in the case of education, both learners and staff are being provided with the skills to use data confidently.[#pullquote#]It is therefore essential that the National Data Strategy considers plans to increase understanding and trust in how data is being processed and analysed[#endpullquote#]We have also worked with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on a code of practice for learning analytics, which provides guidance to universities and colleges exploring the use of data analytics to support teaching and learning. The code of practice highlights universities’ and colleges’ responsibilities to carry out learning analytics in an ethical and legal way, including making sure students are aware of what data is required, and the purpose of learning analytics; namely, to improve the student experience.In addition, this year we have also worked with the ICO on a code of practice for wellbeing and mental health analytics, possible applications of which cover a very wide range, from screen-break reminders to alerts when a student appears to be at risk of suicide.Data as the key to innovationData goes beyond learning analytics and can enable advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).Facilitating these technologies through better use of data will in turn open up opportunities for real social and economic impact, helping to drive and sustain the next phase of education and research through the fourth industrial revolution.[#pullquote#]Facilitating these technologies through better use of data will in turn open up opportunities for real social and economic impact[#endpullquote#]Now is a golden opportunity for public sector organisations to come together, supported by government, for a common goal and unlock the innovation we know we’re capable of. And it all starts with data.For further discussion about the use of data in education and research, book your place at the Data Matters conference, running online from 26-27 January 2021. Early bird booking is available until December 31 2020.
  • Now is the time to reimagine the research estate
    When COVID hit and the demand for equipment became a pressing issue, local governments and universities across the UK mobilised their equipment and facilities to combat the virus. This exercise showed that a review of the research estate is essential. As we move towards a programme of vaccination, we recall examples from earlier in the pandemic where UK higher and further education institutions supported the response to COVID-19, working with the NHS, government, industry and local authorities to respond rapidly.Many of these institutions offered their expertise and assets in a range of ways, including designing and testing products, analysing data, and sharing buildings, laboratories and facilities.Complex landscapeThe equipment, facilities and infrastructure landscape across the sector, in particular in research-intensive universities, is diverse and complex. Maintaining a holistic, representative and current understanding of that landscape can be challenging.It soon became clear that there is potential for the development of open asset registers that bring together this information at a national level.[#pullquote#]There are many examples across the sector of initiatives that bring together information about institutional research equipment and data.[#endpullquote#]There are many examples across the sector of initiatives that bring together information about institutional research equipment and data. For instance, several groups of research-intensive institutions have come together in geographically-oriented clusters.Bringing assets together in one placeHelping to bring together knowledge about research equipment, Jisc has run the equipment.data service since 2014. It’s an open digital database of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded research equipment and enables institutions to improve the visibility of their research equipment and infrastructure facilities by harvesting and aggregating data.The platform was created in response to funder mandates such as the UKRI’s grant requirement, which obliges “all new equipment purchased over £138,000 to be registered on the equipment.data national database”.Originally funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council, the service now provides details and contact information on more than 17,000 items of equipment at nearly 60 research institutes and universities, including the virus spot machine at University College London and the cell counter at Sheffield Hallam University.[#pullquote#]The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an opportunity to better support the UK research and innovation sector in the management of its research estate.[#endpullquote#]The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an opportunity to better support the UK research and innovation sector in the management of its research estate.Our members reported:“There is much potential to identify every lab in the UK and its specification. If another crisis arises, we need to know what we have and allow institutions to draw the information together systematically.”The physical and intangible assets which comprise the ‘research estate’ such as equipment and software, are also central to the civic agenda, discussions focused on place and levelling up and form are seen as vital components of the open research and net-zero ambitions.Sector viewsJisc is seeking input to garner community views on the potential for a next-generation digital approach to the management of the research estate. What are the opportunities to provide better utilisation, encourage higher quality multidisciplinary research and reduce costs?[#pullquote#]What are the opportunities to provide better utilisation, encourage higher quality multidisciplinary research and reduce costs?[#endpullquote#]What is the potential to bring together persistent identifiers and to create standardised metadata in support of greater transparency, visibility and reproducibility of the physical and intangible assets which comprise the ‘research estate’?These are questions Jisc seeks to address by working with our members and funders and by engaging the Jisc research strategy forum which is a group of pro vice-chancellors for research from institutions across the UK and involving the newly formed digital research community.Policy callsThere are strategic drivers that support the development of an enhanced research infrastructure, too. For example, the UK Government research and development roadmap includes the ambition to “champion the development of a truly strategic, national laboratory capability and identify opportunities to strengthen their capabilities and ability to collaborate, especially with the private sector, devolved administrations and local civic authorities”.The recent Spending Review aims to “ensure that the government matches the ambitions of a global Britain. This includes reinforcing the UK’s role as a scientific superpower by investing in research and development (R&D).”Part of the overall uplift for research and development of the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) includes the “Up to £17 million in 2021-22 to support the exploitation of government-owned intangible assets by launching a new unit and fund to scout for and develop government ‘knowledge assets’ (IP, data, R&D, tech and other intangibles).”Higher education institutions (HEIs) have requested support to deliver against these requirements, in association with industry. Support for the digital management of the research estate will be pivotal for a thriving research sector.[#pullquote#]Support for the digital management of the research estate will be pivotal for a thriving research sector.[#endpullquote#]Meanwhile, UKRI has announced it will invest £88 million to modernise research laboratories and expand world-leading facilities to equip scientists working on research challenges, such as climate change and COVID-19.On the road to clarityA review of the management of the research estate, whether it concerns bricks and mortar such as equipment or intangible things like metadata or persistent identifiers, will be the first step toward a holistic and more efficient research sector.Anyone interested in joining the discussion about the development of an enhanced approach to the management of the research estate should get in touch with me.
  • How institutional repositories support the transition to open research - and reduce admin burden for librarians
    Publisher and funder mandates and the desire to embrace best practice in open research, reproducibility and research integrity means universities now need to carefully manage, store and share their digital research outputs. The policies, mandates, legal directives and the amount of good practice guidance relevant to research outputs is increasing and librarians are faced with growing workloads while budgets are squeezed.With effect from 2021, the open access initiative Plan S requires that “from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant open access journals or platforms or made immediately available through open access repositories without embargo.” Also following the principles of Plan S, major research funder Wellcome, will no longer cover the costs of OA publishing in subscription journals.[#pullquote#]“from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant open access journals or platforms or made immediately available through open access repositories without embargo.”[#endpullquote#]And the UK’s 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) now also requires all work submitted to this system for assessing the quality of UK research to sit in a repository.But not just the REF, Plan S and Wellcome are demanding open access to research. Global initiatives including Open Access 2020, the World Health Organisation and the UK government and are all pushing for a fully open research environment. This is reflected in our forthcoming research strategy which aims to “accelerate the achievement, delivery and monitoring of the journey to open research.”For most authors, this means using an institutional repository (IR) - an archive for collecting, preserving, and disseminating digital copies of the intellectual output of an institution.Storing research outputs in an institutional repository ensures that the published work of scholars is available to the academic community in the long term, even after increases in subscription fees or budget cuts within libraries prevent scholars from accessing the content.[#pullquote#]Storing research outputs in an institutional repository ensures that the published work of scholars is available to the academic community in the long term[#endpullquote#]However, the majority of research is still not published as open access which means new research is hidden behind paywalls until embargoes are lifted. IRs can help drive the transition toward open research without incurring the high costs publishers charge to make research freely available. They can also give access to scholarly communications systems and tools – components that have become key elements for increasing visibility and measuring impact of open access research.Research repositories became a cornerstone for publishing open access when funders allowed research to be published via a "green" route to open access. This means that authors also post their work to a website, their research institution, or to an independent central open repository, where anyone can download their work for free.This vision of increased collaboration through the use of IRs has been adopted by most research and education institutions. For instance, in 2008, the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard University announced that it required the whole faculty to give the university copies of research, along with a non-exclusive license to distribute the work electronically. In the media, Harvard University librarian Robert Darnton proudly spoke of “reshaping the landscape of learning" and “fixing a damaged, overly expensive system of scholarly communication”.According to a qualitative study from the University of Oxford into academic engagement with open access and their institutional repositories, “many researchers and repository managers struggle with a tedious and difficult administrative task that may require many iterations to complete”.[#pullquote#]“many researchers and repository managers struggle with a tedious and difficult administrative task that may require many iterations to complete”[#endpullquote#]Recognising the sector’s frustration, Jisc has developed a new research repository. The service has been developed in partnership with the UK research sector and lifts some of the administrative burden of open access publishing carried by librarians.The Jisc research repository is a multi-content repository that manages all institutional research outputs (research articles, datasets and theses) including metadata-only records and those outputs that don’t have access to subject or funder data repositories.The new service is the most interoperable system on the market and permits integration with a wide range of Current Research Information Systems, research management systems and digital preservation systems, making it easier to report against funder mandates whilst creating automated workflows that transfer data objects and metadata, which reduces re-keying information between systems. The new service will allow institutions to meet all Plan S mandatory requirements and other funder and publisher mandates for open scholarship and includes an inbuilt ‘FAIR checker’ making sure that research data is ‘findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable’.[#pullquote#]With the transition to open research, the management and conduct of research itself is changing radically.[#endpullquote#]With the transition to open research, the management and conduct of research itself is changing radically. Beyond publications, research outputs such as data, software, and detailed methodology or workflow descriptions all need to be captured in order to assess the quality of research.Interoperable research repositories will become crucial for institutions to centrally oversee the management of all research outputs and to ‘join up’ digital research management platforms to reduce escalation and duplication of effort and report impact beyond the article.Digifest 2021If you are interested in how today's technologies can have an impact on tomorrow's libraries, join us at Digifest 2021. Take a look at the libraries content in the Digifest programme.
  • If we don’t upskill teachers in digital skills, learners will suffer
    There are too few providers in the UK whose staff have the technical expertise, support and vision to realise the potential of digital technology in teaching practice. Most are not digitally-transformed organisations, but rose to the pandemic challenge as best they could. Staff made enormous efforts under challenging conditions to support learners during mass disruption, usually by switching lessons to video conferencing platforms.This is not an inclusive or sustainable model, however; it excludes disadvantaged learners who don’t have easy access to devices or wifi and can result in lack of engagement over time.To give today’s learners the best chances in the workplace of tomorrow, the sector can do better and, to do that, teachers need support to upskill.[#pullquote#]To give today’s learners the best chances in the workplace of tomorrow, the sector can do better[#endpullquote#]Over the summer, Jisc and the AoC conducted a joint research project comprising three webinars and two senior leader roundtables attended by more than 400 practitioners, learners, senior leaders and edtech experts.It gave insight into the impact of lockdown on moving teaching and learning online - with data on subjects, including the digital divide, wellbeing, assessment and digital leadership - all collated in the project’s first report, shaping the digital future of FE and skills (pdf).The report highlights a range of responses about the shift to remote learning and teaching:“Many [staff] have felt positive about the shift, with feedback in webinars indicating that 66% of respondents thought the digital shift had a positive impact on their team and 55% highlighting an increase in their levels of productivity.“However […] others struggle with digital capabilities and confidence. Staff confirmed that a significant minority of teaching staff were not confident and were concerned that they would not be able to deliver the quality of teaching they expected of themselves (49%).”Learners attending the webinars had observed some teachers struggling with technology, echoed by comments from participants in the latest Jisc survey on learner digital experience insights (DEI) 2020 (pdf).“Some teachers do not have the adequate technological knowledge or confidence to make full use of such technology.”“We timed one of the lecturers on how long it took for them to access the learning materials they needed and it took 35 minutes of a two-hour lesson.”Confidence is keyThe learner DEI survey, collating responses from more than 19,000 FE students, found that, when asked what one thing could organisations do to improve the quality of digital teaching and learning, among the top answers learners gave was ‘help teaching staff to develop digital skills’.Meanwhile, the equivalent survey of FE staff finds that more needs to be done to build up skills and confidence using technology in teaching. It’s good to note that the vast majority (95%) of respondents either enjoy trying out new and innovative technologies or were comfortable using mainstream technologies. However, fewer (70%) are ‘very’ or ‘quite’ confident experimenting with new technology and 11% were either ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ confident.This survey also finds that a disappointing proportion (38%) agree their organisation provides guidance about the digital skills they need and only 22% agree they have time to explore new digital tools and approaches.Support for developmentSenior FE leaders taking part in the summer research also identified the need for digital professional development and coaching for staff struggling to cope with the transition to online teaching.To help, the shaping the digital future of FE and skills report recommends the development by Jisc, the Education Training Foundation and the College Development Network (Scotland) of a digital pedagogy CPD programme for staff.[#pullquote#]providers should give staff sufficient time to learn, practice with, and implement technology.[#endpullquote#]A further recommendation advises that providers should give staff sufficient time to learn, practice with, and implement technology. Fortunately, the sector can learn from those few colleges which are ahead on the journey to digital.Best practiceDuring lockdown, Grimsby Institute gave staff an online 'teaching and learning remotely' guide, including videos showing how to create and organise lessons including, discussions, online resources, integrating apps, virtual teaching, online assessment and recording attendance.And at Harlow College, significant investment in infrastructure and devices has been supported by the creation of a digital innovation team to boost development and training, recruitment of digital ambassadors and leaders, both students and staff, and a strong CPD programme.[#pullquote#]providers are at the forefront of the government’s drive to close the UK skills gap.[#endpullquote#]Learners need excellent digital skills to thrive in today’s workplace, and providers are at the forefront of the government’s drive to close the UK skills gap. But meeting those goals is only possible if FE teachers are digitally and pedagogically confident. Now we need to pull together to ensure that no member of staff – or learner – is left behind.To find out more about how Jisc supports the FE and skills sector, visit our further education and skills pages.
  • Is it worth investing in cyber insurance?
    Whether or not a college or university takes out cyber insurance is a question to be considered as part of a wider security and risk management strategy. That was the message delivered to delegates of the Jisc security conference earlier this month by speakers from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) - and one that we endorse, too.It's foolhardy to consider any aspect of security - including insurance - in isolation because it has implications across organisations, which is why we encourage board-level executives to consider cyber security as a strategic priority.Not even the most comprehensive cover can beat strategic investment in good security practices, although no combination of either measure provides a cover-all safety net against cyber attacks.[#pullquote#]Not even the most comprehensive cover can beat strategic investment in good security practices[#endpullquote#]Even if an organisation believes that it is well protected, with all the right technical controls, policies, certifications and training in place, insurance could still be sensible.Where the balance sits between the expense of premiums versus the cost of a cyber incident will likely be different for each provider.So, what role does cyber insurance have to play, and should colleges and universities invest in such policies?Time, money and peace of mindDepending on attitude to risk, one of the biggest plus points of cyber insurance has got to be peace of mind that practical and financial help will be given to recover from attacks.Members tell us that one of the biggest costs incurred in the event of cyber attacks is the extra staff time required to deal with the initial fall-out and recover. Some smaller institutions may not have the resource or in-house skills to cope, so could benefit from cyber insurance that covers the use of external personnel.For example, forensic experts could get to the root of the problem and help prevent an incident from spreading. This is also something our Janet Network computer security incident response team (CSIRT) can assist with as part of Jisc membership.[#pullquote#]working closely with the sector-specialist Janet CSIRT team could save time, money and effort.[#endpullquote#]If an insurance company appoints a third-party incident response or digital forensics company as a result of a successful claim, working closely with the sector-specialist Janet CSIRT team could save time, money and effort.Insurance could also cover the cost of specialist negotiators in the event of a ransomware attack (though Jisc and the NCSC advise not paying ransoms), or PR support to manage reputational risk.It can also help with legal fees, damage claims in the event of a data breach, or regulatory actions that need completing after an attack – such as fulfilling recommendations of the Information Commissioner’s Office.[#pullquote#]It’s clear then, that falling victim to cyber criminals can be extremely costly[#endpullquote#]It’s clear then, that falling victim to cyber criminals can be extremely costly. Although the precise fall-out is difficult to measure, our November 2020 cyber impact report attempts an assessment. For the first time, it brings together research on the impacts to staff resources, students, researchers, budgets and reputation.The picture across educationStats from Jisc’s 2020 cyber security posture survey find that the instance of insurance across the further and higher education sectors is not uniform.The study shows that 41% of responding higher education institutions (HEIs) and 60% of further education (FE) providers have some form of cyber security cover. There may be some provision as an add-on to business continuity insurance, for example. HEIs are more likely to have specific cyber security insurance (27%) than FE (15%).Interestingly, cyber insurance take-up in the education sector is greater than for other sectors, with only 11% of businesses and 6% of charities reporting in the 2019 DCMS cyber security breaches survey that they had a specific cyber security insurance policy.[#pullquote#]Education and research sectors are no more a target for cyber criminals than other sectors[#endpullquote#]Education and research sectors are no more a target for cyber criminals than other sectors, but perhaps, as public sector organisations, colleges and universities are more cautious about the possible financial implications of a cyber attack. With the extra pressure on budgets brought to bear by the pandemic, that caution may be heightened.What cover to choose?When exploring which cover to choose, it’s important to have accurate knowledge of baseline capability, resource and skills.Brokers will want to understand the level of protection in place and many will offer favourable rates to universities and colleges that can demonstrate certain defensive measures, such as earning Cyber Essentials certification. Be warned though – policies may not pay out if the insured fails to meet agreed protection standards.When considering cyber insurance for the first time, there will be a number of people in the organisation to check with; technical experts, anyone responsible for security and business continuity, and those responsible for contracts.Collectively, this team will need to decide what is covered and what is not. Which business-critical systems must have protection, and which are less important?[#pullquote#]Which business-critical systems must have protection, and which are less important?[#endpullquote#]Remember the threat landscape is constantly evolving so any policy will need regular review to reflect that, and to take into account changes to the organisation. If the defence capability increases, or the expertise and resource in the security and IT teams develops, could the cover be reduced? That’s an incentive to keep improving security posture.The NCSC’s guide to cyber insurance provides comprehensive advice, a checklist and also a warning: “Do not limit yourself to meeting the minimum cyber security requirements specified by an insurer; these might not adequately protect the things your organisation cares about.”That’s a sentiment we wholly support.Colleges, universities or research centres that suffer a cyber attack are urged to contact Janet CSIRT, even if assistance is not required; intelligence about current attacks may help other organisations. Jisc’s annual Networkshop conference (27-29 April 2021) has more information about the technology and infrastructure to help future-proof your college, university or research centre.
  • Let’s ‘build back better’ on post-COVID digital transformation
    Speaking alongside the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, tonight, Paul Feldman explains why students must be at the heart of tech-enabled teaching. 2020 has been a year like no other. It has brought challenges, it has brought change – and, for all the difficulties, I’ve been inspired to see it bring great collaboration, showing just how much the tertiary education sector can achieve when we pull together.The learning and teaching reimagined initiative is a perfect example of the good that can come from collaboration. Led by Jisc, with Emerge Education, Universities UK, and Advance HE, the project gathered research from more than 1,000 representatives from UK universities. Its report not only sets out the current challenges for the sector, it also imagines and plans an exciting, inclusive, technology-enabled future - and gives universities tools for delivering change in 2021/22 and beyond.From lecturer to learner, the view from the UK ‘frontline’ is that the future is blended. While it’s amazing to reflect on how fast institutions have moved to deliver high-quality teaching and learning this year, it’s also important to recognise the enthusiasm to learn from experience, build on successes and move forward to a place where learning takes place both online and in person.[#pullquote#]From lecturer to learner, the view from the UK ‘frontline’ is that the future is blended.[#endpullquote#]Increased engagement and supportThis must help all learners. I’m encouraged that the report finds 78% of lecturers see online learning as breaking down geographic barriers to learning - although 53% of staff think that disadvantaged students will find it harder. We can’t afford to widen the gap between the digital haves and have nots: this requires collaboration at a greater scale, including support from the government, to ensure a fully inclusive future.At the same time, students are seeing the benefit of being taught online and there is already evidence – highlighted in the learning and teaching reimagined report - of greater engagement and greater support. One proposed solution to getting it right for our students is for universities to include them in the design and delivery of what and how they are taught. [#pullquote#]Pressure is now on universities to build back better.[#endpullquote#]Pressure is now on universities to build back better. Government reforms may deliver a high-quality, more flexible system of higher technical education. Workplaces are digitising, and COVID-19 continues to fast-track the demand for skills that match the tech-enhanced jobs of now. Redefining universities’ purpose, ensuring learners can access a range of flexible options for learning throughout life, is vital in today’s world. This is where higher education (HE) can leverage technology to deliver its USP and enable the lecturer to educate and nurture resilient, creative students with skills in critical thinking, and the ability to collaborate. Building a tech-enabled futureThat is the basis of our Education 4.0 vision, where using the full potential of advanced technologies can personalise learning to the students' needs and wellbeing, modernise assessment and harmonise the digital and physical campus. So, what do we need to do in the decade ahead? The pivotal role of artificial intelligence (AI) is clearer than ever. Yet while our national GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is predicted to grow by 10.3% by 2030 due to AI, the tertiary education sector is yet to meaningfully embed it within courses. The UK is behind in the global pecking order of AI in education – China leads the way. We must look ahead to 2030 and ensure that the UK keeps its reputation as an international destination for HE, and technology could be the golden ticket.Despite the lack of a strategic spending envelope, we must look to invest if we are to catalyse our university sector as a global leader in technology-enabled education. That is why Jisc is calling for a new national centre for AI in tertiary education that will deliver real AI solutions at 60 colleges and 30 universities within five years, growing the tertiary education sector by £365m. Looking ahead, I believe with the right investment - and with collaboration between universities, Jisc and technology providers - we can lead the way in delivering the education model of the future, from personalised learning to exam-free assessment.[#pullquote#]we can lead the way in delivering the education model of the future[#endpullquote#]By drawing together our collective ability in technology and higher education, we’re breaking new ground. The sector is invigorated with a drive to engage students and deliver future-proofed skills. Now is the moment to support institutions and leading-edge programmes to promote and progress the UK’s global status.Paul Feldman is speaking alongside universities minister Michelle Donelan at a Foundation for Science and Technology event on the future of education tonight, 25 November 2020, with a supporting podcast streaming tomorrow, 26 November 2020.
  • Bringing together mission and money
    In this era of post truth and fake news, access to primary sources of history is becoming more and more important. Making this information accessible costs lots of time and money, but there are novel ways to do it. Libraries preserve vast amounts of original papers, books and artifacts that have shaped the way we think about the world. From ancient manuscripts to the more recent calculations on the discovery of black holes, they document our understanding of the world around us.To keep step with the rise of the information-led society, and the requirements of researchers, teachers and learners, libraries have had to find ways to disclose this information digitally while coping with shrinking budgets. Now, because of the pandemic, librarians are preparing for another wave of cuts – while demand for high quality digital content becomes more important than ever.[#pullquote#]librarians are preparing for another wave of cuts – while demand for high quality digital content becomes more important than ever[#endpullquote#]How then can university libraries afford to digitise more of their collections?Large institutions tend to work with publishers to digitise their often unique or rare collections. The underpinning financial model helps universities with substantial and high-profile collections unlock their materials through digitisation and capitalise on it through royalties from sales. However, the trade-off is that the resulting digital products are not openly available to all.Publishers take on the cost of digitisation, and related costs in the packaging of the final product, and in return they sell the new digital collections to libraries. The library whose collection is digitised will typically get free access to digital copies from their own material, but other universities have to pay expensive feesLibrary collections; navigating the payment for access minefield - Jisc blog by Peter Findlay, September 2019 - https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/library-collections-navigating-the-payment-for-access-minefield-09-sep-2019 to purchase these primary source archives.Alternatively, libraries may invest in the digitisation of their collections themselves, but this can be quite costly, or apply for external grants to make their materials openly available for all, which can be very time-consuming and not always successful. Libraries seem to be caught between “mission and money”, on the one hand the desire to make their collections more widely available through digitisation and on the other hand being subjected to financial pressures.Mission of institutions[[{"fid":"12168","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Notes on optics: square coloured card showing dancing figures for use in an optical instrument - created by Sir Charles Wheatstone","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"King's College London","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"Wiley Digital Archives: British Association for the Advancement of Science—Collections on the History of Science (1830s-1970s)","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Notes on optics: square coloured card showing dancing figures for use in an optical instrument - created by Sir Charles Wheatstone","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"King's College London","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"Wiley Digital Archives: British Association for the Advancement of Science—Collections on the History of Science (1830s-1970s)","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":523,"width":500,"class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]To bring together the best of these two models, Jisc has worked with publisher Wiley on a new model and a new history of science digital collection. Once complete, this collection will contain one million pages of documents drawn from the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) and complementary materials from the University of Leicester, Oxford, Leeds and Liverpool, University College London, King’s College London, the University of London, the University of Glasgow  and the Mathematical Associaction, all of whom were invited to put forward their collections for digitisation.[#pullquote#]Once complete, this [history of science] collection will contain one million pages of documents[#endpullquote#]Content comes from collections big and small. For example, Liverpool University has only submitted 5,000 items for inclusion in the project while King’s College London over 200,000 pages. Content contributors will gain free access to the full final collection. Under the normal publisher model, such smaller collection holders would be less likely to feature in a commercial product and content contributors would not always have free access to the whole final collection.Jisc’s co-investment in this new digital archive has ensured that all UK libraries have free perpetual access to the final product, they could put forward their collections for inclusion and all content will become openly available after 10 years from publication, when all exclusive content licences expire. Jisc can recoup its investment through rest of the world sales so that it can channel it in future digital content products.Measuring impact[[{"fid":"12167","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Sir Charles Wheatstone","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"King's College London","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"Wiley Digital Archives: British Association for the Advancement of Science—Collections on the History of Science (1830s-1970s)","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"2":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Sir Charles Wheatstone","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"King's College London","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"Wiley Digital Archives: British Association for the Advancement of Science—Collections on the History of Science (1830s-1970s)","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":475,"width":300,"class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"2"}}]]However, we need to assess sustainable approaches in the round- not just from a financial viewpoint. According to a report - evidencing the impact and value of digital collections - from Research Libraries UK (pdf), institutions are increasingly looking for new ways to meet their impact goals as well as investigate how they can evidence impact resulting from relevant services and activities.In these extraordinary times, a great opportunity for academic libraries and archives arises: to show in practice the positive impact and value that digital collections and resources can have on the broader society, its health, wellbeing, and progress.The Jisc-Wiley collection, British Association for the Advancement of Science (Collections on the History of Science: 1830-1970) was created as a way to connect the brilliant minds of the past with the researchers shaping the future. Once the collection is in use, we will be able to measure the value of this resource in terms of its reach, use and impact.All Jisc members can sign up for the collection through the Jisc licence subscriptions manager and get a preview of its content by taking part in the free event Old world science, new world science: 150 years of British history of science collections in the UK, on Thursday 19 November at 15.00.Digifest 2021If you are interested in how today's technologies can have an impact on tomorrow's libraries, join us at Digifest 2021. Take a look at the libraries content in the Digifest programme.
  • ‘Now is the time to embrace digital as a force for inclusion’
    As the FE sector faces major reform in England, supporting colleges’ digital transformation is critical to the future of inclusive lifelong learning. Although England is mid-way through a second lockdown, our colleges are open, welcoming students onto sites - albeit with additional measures regarding social distancing and facemasksGuidance on face coverings in education on UK Government website - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-in-education/face-coverings-in-education. I have no doubt that being able to meet in person with their peers and teachers will have a positive impact on learners’ education as well as their wellbeing.  While there is much to look forward to in the coming year, uncertainty still fogs the FE sectorWhat is it like for students to be back in class? Student article in Times Education Supplement (TES), September 2020 - https://www.tes.com/news/coronavirus-colleges-what-it-students-be-back-class , and many of the learners who’ve missed out on five months of high-quality education earlier this year are likely to need additional support. Government advice still encourages face-to-face teaching and learning, but - regionally and nationally - no one can predict the future when it comes to COVID. The only certainty is that nothing is off the table.That said, there is also huge opportunity to embed long-term conditions for colleges to thrive, delivering the skills for a post-pandemic economy as well as rebooting the lifelong learning model we expect to see in the government’s forthcoming FE Reform White Paper.[#pullquote#]there is also huge opportunity to embed long-term conditions for colleges to thrive[#endpullquote#]Now is the time to rethink approaches to teaching, learning and assessment. We need flexibility built into college delivery, facilitating engaging experiences, whether students are on campus, learning off-site at home, or in the workplace. Blended and hybrid learning are becoming the norm, and colleges are already leading in the delivery of technology-enhanced learning. The problem is, they have done so to date without the financial certainty or confidence to invest in real, long-term digital transformation.The golden thread  The good news is that, in the fast-changing, post-COVID landscape, the FE sector is galvanising, pulling together research and expertise to forge a better future. Jisc is collaborating with college leaders, teachers, learners, sector bodies and edtech experts to gather insights and forecast issues through their shaping the digital future of FE and skills initiative.[#pullquote#]The good news is that [...] the FE sector is galvanising, pulling together research and expertise to forge a better future[#endpullquote#]I am proud to be part of this work, and equally so to contribute to the Independent Commission on the College of the Future’s expert panel, which today publishes the first in a series of nation specific reports, supporting an ambitious vision for the FE and skills sector. Today’s report for England puts ’people, productivity and place’People, productivity and place is the title of the College of the Future's vision, launched in July 2020 http://www.collegecommission.co.uk/blog/2020/7/20/launch-of-our-vision at the heart of recommendations that include a statutory entitlement to lifelong learning and three-year grant funding for English colleges to operate and plan strategically. I see digital as the golden thread that can elevate the ambitions within and make them a reality.The digital divide  As this plays out, how do we ensure that no citizen is left behind?  FE learners are often among the most disadvantaged, and coronavirus has compounded that; some learners’ parents have been made redundant, and many learners have lost work themselves. There’s also a vulnerability that goes beyond income into mental health and wellbeing. Throughout the UK, I sense great anxiety.   [#pullquote#]FE learners are often among the most disadvantaged, and coronavirus has compounded that[#endpullquote#]So, when government talks of levelling upFor context, watch the virtual speech by Gavin Williamson - The forgotten 50%: Why further education is vital to economic recovery - on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eZnr5tqRkI , colleges know that must mean increased inclusion and greater access to learning. If learners don’t have enough data on their mobile phone to access course materials remotely or can’t watch a recorded lesson off-site because they don’t have reliable wifi, that’s a priority issue.We’ve seen the impact of digital and data poverty laid bare these past few months, and the AoC announcing just last week that 100,000 FE learners are still without devices. We know it’s not just an inner-city issue but one that also hinders learners in regions where connectivity is poor.   Jisc has raised the issue in positive discussions with government and some telecoms companies to explore solutions that can enable parity of connectivity for those learners at a particular ‘data disadvantage’.Flexible and future-proofed  Digital is the enabler that supports colleges in their local community, drives economic regeneration, and enables a more accessible and inclusive culture for teaching and learning. Colleges have an opportunity now to address the digital divide, opening up further opportunities and supporting skills to prepare learners for the increasingly digital workplace.It’s about more than boosting employability; digital supports colleges to connect people, maximise productivity, and reach learners wherever they are. These are aims that unite the sector, and this is the time to embrace change, build on what we have learned through lockdown, and deliver technology-enhanced, flexible, future-proofed education for all.    Robin Ghurbhurun sits on the expert panel for the Commission on the College of the Future Commissioner, which published its UK-wide report in October. The Commission today sets out recommendations for realising its vision for the college of the future in England. 
  • ‘VLE success is not about tech, it’s about practice and people’
    One of the most common types of software employed in universities and colleges are virtual learning environments (VLEs). Used in many ways, they throw up many different concerns, challenges, and questions.   But as with all types of technology, reviewing a VLE means reviewing not only what it is capable of, but also how it is used; it’s not about the platform, but about practice and people.  Replacing VLEs At Jisc, a big part of VLE reviews is usurping assumptions. The review process is used to get to the bottom of what challenges an institution is up against and figure out what they want to achieve. We often hear from universities or colleges that are keen to replace their VLEs because they’re too ‘slow’ or ‘clunky’, or because they aren’t getting good engagement from students.[#pullquote#]A lot of the time, the challenge lies in how the platform is being used, rather than the technology itself.[#endpullquote#]A lot of the time, the challenge lies in how the platform is being used, rather than the technology itself.  Our recent VLE review report highlights the VLE review service’s findings within the sector and aims to help highlight common mistakes, misconceptions and good practice. As the report shows, lots of elements need to come together to ensure a VLE is meeting an institution’s needs.  All on board A key need is for all staff to buy into a clear approach for any kind of technology or process. This includes teaching staff, IT teams, and leadership. Where there is a lack of leadership and direction, we find there is often a real lack of drive and enthusiasm from staff. For instance, in many of the reviews we saw the VLE used in very different ways across organisations, which meant that some staff were unsure of how or why a particular function or method was being used. Some felt this stemmed from an unclear direction from the organisation’s leadership or unclear strategy around digital use. Many staff did not believe in or know what the strategy was for using the VLE. Student needs also require careful consideration. [#pullquote#]One of the biggest things we’ve learned from talking to students through the review process is that they hate inconsistency.[#endpullquote#]One of the biggest things we’ve learned from talking to students through the review process is that they hate inconsistency. But again, it’s rare that we recommend a complete change of VLE platform. It’s much more common to have recommendations about practice and staff support, so that the platform can be used consistently and in a way that meets the institution’s needs. That’s why we recommend that leaders first define what they want to achieve before adjusting or changing their VLE.  Expert users lead by example Historically, VLEs haven’t been prioritised in a strategic way. But as with so many parts of education, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important they are. In the past, we have heard staff comment that they have been teaching the same way for 'x' number of years and feel like they don’t need to change anything. And what they’re doing could be brilliant in terms of knowledge – their teaching ability hasn’t changed, but student expectations of delivery and accessibility have. There is also the issue of staff not having the time to play around with different platforms and become familiar with their capabilities. When resources are constrained, learning to use something new on top of everything else can just seem too much. This is why our recommendations often include increased training or action mapping to address particular issues. Staff need safe spaces where they can experiment without fear of consequences. Again, this needs to be backed up by leadership.  [#pullquote#]A VLE is as much a part of an institution as its brick-and-mortar estate.[#endpullquote#]A VLE is as much a part of an institution as its brick-and-mortar estate.Digital learning spaces are becoming increasingly central to a good learning and teaching experience, and we need to be able to use them to the best of their capability. But the right changes need to be made for the right reasons – it all comes down to asking questions about what an institution’s strategic goals are, and where the VLE can fit in to help achieve them.  A lot of the time, digital is not about capability, it’s about confidence. When people and practices are put at the centre and staff are given the space to develop their skills, great things can happen.  Read the full VLE review report 2020. 
  • Keeping up with deteriorating data
    Deciding to do nothing about preservation could be a disaster, says Paul Stokes, senior co-design manager at Jisc. Introducing digital preservation to an organisation is not a task for the fainthearted. There’s data to be found, people to convince, policies to be written… and that’s before a single system has been procured or a single byte preserved. World Preservation Day, 5 November, is the ideal time to make a start.Delaying is not really an option because of the alarming hike in the amount of data that is being created. According to the World Economic Forum, an astonishing 90% of the world's  data  has been generated in the last two years alone. It says that 2.5 quintillion bytes of  data  are  produced  by humans every day and 463 exabytes of  data  will be generated each day by humans by 2025, that’s the equivalent of 212.765.957 DVDs per day![#pullquote#]2.5 quintillion bytes of  data  are  produced  by humans every day[#endpullquote#]Sometimes a backup is not enoughFailure to preserve data properly can pose a significant reputational risk and could result in the loss of unique and irretrievable knowledge, as the server crash in 2016 at the Memorial University in Canadahttps://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/mun-digital-archives-wiped-out-1.4787960 shows.In July 2016, staff at the Queen Elizabeth II library at Memorial University were undertaking routine maintenance that required power to the building to be cut and switched to a backup system, which failed. The back-up to the back-up power (big batteries) came online and lasted about 40 minutes, which wasn’t long enough. More than 70 terabytes of data was lost. Luckily, physical documents and objects still existed, but it all had to be digitised again.Rescuing the bronze age in YorkFailing to adapt to rapid change in systems and technology is another risk to consider when preserving data - something that York University understands only too wellhttps://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2000/archives-rescued/.It’s often put about (in archaeological circles at least) that archaeologists destroy their primary evidence as they discover and catalogue it. There’s no going back for a second bite of the cherry. After archaeologists had finished work on almost 180 sites in north east London, all that remained were the archives stored in the vaults of local museums. Those archives included data from a large number of unpublished excavations, with very impressive Bronze Age material discovered on the banks of the Thames.But when the project finished, the archaeologists discovered to their horror that their irreplaceable data was running on obsolete technology using outmoded software and file formats. Some of their magnetic media was also corrupted. Luckily, a team of specialists managed to retrieve most of it.Getting started with preservation can be a daunting thing but to ensure access to digital materials is maintained in the long run, it’s important to ensure all systems are equipped to keep up with technology and organisational change.[#pullquote#]Getting started with preservation can be a daunting thing but [...] it’s important to ensure all systems are equipped to keep up with technology and organisational change[#endpullquote#]One means of automatically keeping systems aligned and ‘speaking to each other’ is to use clever tools, such as Jisc’sPreservation. This tool automatically reformats files, so they are readable with new and yet-to-be-invented software. Once in the Preservation system, the files are automatically ‘recognised’ and processed according to pre-set rules into an appropriate format that is as future-proof as possible.Nothing human is alienHowever, no matter how cleverly technology is deployed, there’s no absolute defence against human error, which remains one of the major risks to digital content. After hardware failure, the most common cause of data loss is user mistakes (at least it was in 20033, 20094 and 2015https://www.techradar.com/how-to/world-of-tech/management/how-to-recover-lost-business-data-1304303/2 ). It is not uncommon that users will unintentionally move files or delete content inadvertently. Strict user policies that separate “archives directories” from “working directories” where users can still edit and actively work with content, can protect against this risk.So, what to do now?Preservation is about identifying and managing risk. There are a number of useful questions to answer to help with that: has a data asset survey been completed? Who is generating data and who uses it, where it’s stored, what it’s worth? Finally, put policies in place to manage the preservation process.Watch a recording of our online event - what is digital preservation and should you be worried?
  • Firmly putting cyber security ‘on the radar’ - Cyber Essentials for education and research
    Cyber Essentials has been on the lips of anyone concerned with cyber security since the government introduced the scheme in 2014. Organisations in all sectors and of all sizes can benefit from Cyber Essentials, but it is mandatory for government contracts involving the handling of personal information and provision of certain ICT products and services. This has various implications across the public sector, including Jisc’s members in education and research.Cyber Essentials for education funding and researchThe number of education organisations achieving cyber security certifications has increased significantly in the last year. In November 2019, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reported an increase from 14% to 40% of UK universities achieving Cyber Essentials certification over the preceding 12 months, and our 2020 cyber security posture survey shows that in 2017, only 7% of further education (FE) organisations had Cyber Essentials in place, compared to 49% this year. That’s another huge increase.So what’s behind this rise?Progress has been largely driven by government policies and funding requirements. For example, in January 2020, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) announced that they had reviewed the requirements for data security in their FE funding agreements and organisations must gain Cyber Essentials certification for the funding year 2020/21, with progression to Cyber Essentials Plus for 2021/22. So, money. A big driver for any institution.[#pullquote#]Progress has been largely driven by government policies and funding requirements. [#endpullquote#]Cyber Essentials Plus is now also included in the Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPT) which applies to research groups that require access to NHS Digital’s health data for English patients. Whilst Cyber Essentials Plus isn’t mandated directly, the DSPT states that organisations must have the equivalent to the certification. Where Cyber Essentials Plus has already been achieved by an organisation, some of the assurances needed to obtain this NHS data are automatically covered. Therefore, it is worth considering completing the certification in good time for the March 2021 timeline. Compliance here is another big incentive.Certification as a ‘good exercise’Burnley College required Cyber Essentials Plus for its National Careers Service (NCS), which offers resources and advice to young people seeking the right career after college. The certification was a stipulation from the parent company that hold the contract for the NCS and in order to comply quickly, the IT team at Burnley decided to initially limit Cyber Essentials Plus to this separate NCS network, which consists of a number of clients, staff members, and has a separate internet connection and firewall.Supply chain confidence is another good reason to get Cyber Essentials.Last year, following the positive experience of the NCS certification and an onsite Cyber Essentials Plus assessment, Matthew Nuttall, the network services and IT support manager, and Nick Williams, the network administrator at the college, decided to go the whole hog and get the rest of the college network certified for Cyber Essentials. They say:“Benefits of the initial project included understanding more about how using Microsoft Azure for patch management and multi-factor authentication, updating policies and procedures to include more detail on security expectations - such as a ‘clean desk’ policy - would be of value to the wider organisation”.“The process of becoming Cyber Essentials certified was a good exercise, and firmly put cyber security on senior management’s radar,”This included highlighting the need for funding and support to onboard a cyber security partner, to help bolster the coverage already offered by existing college staff.Broader cyber security buy-in and investment are on every cyber security professional’s wish list!Unexpected winsMilton Keynes College also underwent Cyber Essentials Plus certification for their Prison Education Framework (PEF), which is a contractual requirement in delivering education programmes in 19 prisons across England. Jon Wilson, head of information services at the college said:“As well as allowing us to maintain our prison education programme over the past three years, obtaining Cyber Essentials Plus has also included some unexpected wins.”Patch and vulnerability management were of particular interest, as the robust policies that came about as part of the Cyber Essentials Plus journey allowed the college to pursue a risk-based approach and secure all hardware and software assets. Jon continues:“Since obtaining Cyber Essentials Plus for the PEF, we have rolled it out across the entire organisation. We have realised the wider benefits of the certification process in managing information security risks, and it has also been a useful milestone on the path to ISO27001 certification.”ISO27001: the elephant in the room. Anything that helps pave the way for that kind of undertaking has got to be a good thing.Steps towards improved cyber securityWe know that for our members' cyber security is a key concern and is appearing more widely on company risk registers. Security is growing in terms of budgets, resources, training and senior management attention, especially given recent high-profile breaches in the sector. Members we have spoken to about Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus are often using the assessments to develop a baseline for their security controls, either for a particular project scope as mentioned above, or for a whole network or organisation, which we highly recommend where possible.[#pullquote#]We know that for our members' cyber security is a key concern and is appearing more widely on company risk registers.[#endpullquote#]But don’t be daunted. There is support available to our members. If you’re going to take the plunge and implement these steps to protect your organisation against the most common cyber-attacks, there’s plenty of things we can do to help you through it.To find out more, sign up for the free-to-attend Jisc security conference, 3-5 November 2020, where Sue Rogers, IT director at St John's College, University of Cambridge, will be talking about the Cyber Essentials accreditation experience. We are also running a Cyber Essentials clinic during day one, run by the experts.
  • Open with purpose
    This week is Open Access Week and this year's theme 'taking action to build structural equity and inclusion' prompts us to reflect on what this means and why it's important to the open access movement. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that open access is essential in providing fast, unrestricted access to research. At the same time, it has exposed and exacerbated many inequalities in academia and society. Rebuilding our research ecosystem to be open by default presents us with an opportunity to build more equitable foundations.As a global community, this means recognising that structural inequalities, discrimination and exclusion continue to persist, even in spaces where open principles are valued.[#pullquote#]It means committing to action in order to make real progress. [#endpullquote#]It means committing to action in order to make real progress. Moreover, it’s an opportunity to rethink the status quo and build resilience by coordinating efforts and engaging all stakeholders.At Jisc, our vision is for the process and outputs of all research to be as open as possible, so that it can provide the maximum possible benefit to all. In support of Open Access Week 2020, I outline some of the steps we are taking as an organisation to advance open access and build structural equity and inclusion in the research ecosystem.[#pullquote#]it is important to ask ourselves challenging questions. Who is missing? Who is excluded from the business models we serve? And whose interests are being prioritised?[#endpullquote#]In thinking about open research infrastructure, it is important to ask ourselves challenging questions. Who is missing? Who is excluded from the business models we serve? And whose interests are being prioritised? This is critical in building sustainable infrastructure that can be truly depended upon for scholarly communication.What steps are we taking at Jisc?We’re committed to accelerating the transition to open access and open research, through our range of services that help automate workflows, assess policy compliance and embed good practice, as well as securing innovative open access publishing agreements with publishers.Below are some recent examples of actions we are taking to build more structural equity and inclusion.Working in partnership with the global communityOur role in open access is not limited to the UK and we have long contributed at the global level.This week, in partnership with the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), we have released a roadmap for ensuring that OpenDOAR is developed in line with the needs of the repository community. OpenDOAR is more than just a directory and we look forward to increasing its comprehensiveness and utility globally, via our LocalDOAR initiative, repository assessment toolkit and beyond.Our SHERPA services, which help the community in navigating the changing policy environment, also continue to be used globally. We have been working on several enhancements to increase the coverage of journals in under-represented regions, including South America and Canada.Opening up the data behind repositories and journalsWe’re proud to make the data underpinning SHERPA openly available for non-commercial use, and we continue to hear about innovative ways in which the data is being used to facilitate open access compliance.We’re also pleased to share that IRUS-UK, which provides institutional repositories with usage data, has also recently integrated with DSpace. Responding to user feedback, we’ll soon be releasing a new version of IRUS that is fully open and supports easier access to data and tools.Promoting diversity in the marketplace and removing barriersAs well as offering our own low cost, community-driven repository services, we now provide a free purchasing framework for repositories to our members. It simplifies the procurement process and, importantly, surfaces a growing mix of repositories from a range of commercial and non-commercial suppliers that meet minimum criteria, levelling the playing field.Cost also undoubtedly plays a major role in the open access movement and is intrinsically linked with inclusivity. Jisc continues to lead the way in working with the sector to increase transparency and reduce costs via innovative agreements with publishers such our recent agreement with the Public Library of Science (PLOS).  Embodying best practice in all that we doAs of this month, we’re delighted to have become an adopting organisation of the principles outlined by the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC). We plan to embed these principles in all of our activities - from how our services are built to how we use governance structures and organise community discussions.Next stepsAs a membership organisation, we recognise how vital it is to be led by the needs of the sector and engage all stakeholders and groups.Beyond 2020, we will continue to improve our processes and we welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas for collaboration, as we work towards a more open, equitable and inclusive research ecosystem. 
  • Cyber security in universities and colleges is improving, but there's no room for complacency
    Results of Jisc’s fourth annual survey of cyber security in the education and research sector continue to demonstrate the increasing efforts made to combat cyber crime. There are positive signs that the levels of expertise, technical controls and training at universities and colleges are rising, year on year, showing that providers are taking cyber security seriously.This year, for example, the vast majority - 82% of higher education (HE) respondents and 87% of further education (FE) respondents - indicate that cyber security is a priority within their organisation.[#pullquote#]82% of HE respondents and 87% of FE respondents indicate that cyber security is a priority within their organisation.[#endpullquote#]It’s important though, to set these gains against an ever-evolving threat environment. Cyber criminals are flexible and respond quickly to exploit social or economic factors.There are many instances of phishing scams taking advantage of the fear around COVID-19, freshers are commonly a target for scammers, as the government has recently warned, and the sector has recently suffered a spate of ransomware attacks.Threats and trainingThis year’s survey, the results of which have been distributed to Jisc members, was issued in June/July 2020, while the sector was in lockdown and before the ransomware attacks in late summer. And yet ransomware has, quite rightly, still emerged as a prime threat.[#pullquote#]As in the 2018 and 2019 surveys, phishing/social engineering is the top concern identified by both HE and FE respondents[#endpullquote#]As in the 2018 and 2019 surveys, phishing/social engineering is the top concern identified by both HE and FE respondents, with 72% of HE institutions and 74% of FE selecting this as the top-ranked threat.Ransomware/malware and unpatched security vulnerabilities are ranked second and third by both HE and FE.[#pullquote#]Among ‘other’ threats listed, human error and accidental data breaches by staff were most mentioned[#endpullquote#]Among ‘other’ threats listed, human error and accidental data breaches by staff were most mentioned, again reflecting the responses from 2019. This suggests that implementing controls against phishing alongside training and awareness raising among staff/students is still a key priority for organisations.Mandatory training for staff has increased for both FE and HE providers over the four years we’ve been running the survey – up from less than half to more than 80%. Colleges lead the way when it comes to compulsory security training for learners, with 30% insisting on it this year compared to just 8% of universities.CertificatesThere has been a big jump in the proportion of organisations achieving cyber security certifications. Only 21% of HE and 7% of FE had Cyber Essentials in place in 2017 compared to 69% and 49% respectively this year; 8% of HE gained Cyber Essentials Plus in 2017 compared to 31% in 2020.No FE organisation reported having Cyber Essentials Plus in place in 2017, while 19% have earned it in 2020 and a further 36% are on their way towards it.This progress has been largely driven by government policies and funding requirements. Cyber Essentials is already a prerequisite for organisations hoping to win government contracts; achieving certification was a key action in the Scottish cyber resilience public sector action plan and it is also a requirement for those funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency in 2020/21, while Cyber Essentials Plus will be a requirement from 2021/22.Expertise and benchmarkingThe majority (86%) of HE organisations report having dedicated cyber security staff in 2020 versus 69% in 2017, while the figures for FE are 28% this year compared with just 3% in 2017.[#pullquote#]Security in colleges has tended to be carried out by IT staff wearing multiple hats, so it is encouraging to see the growth in FES providers with dedicated security staff.[#endpullquote#]Security in colleges has tended to be carried out by IT staff wearing multiple hats, so it is encouraging to see the growth in FES providers with dedicated security staff.Almost all universities (90%) use third-party services to test their defences, with almost three-quarters using some form of penetration testing. At 68%, these tools are less commonplace in FE organisations, although over half (53%) report using penetration testing. The effects of COVID-19 This year’s survey was distributed in June/July 2020, while the sector was in lockdown because of the pandemic. Beyond the survey results, my team’s regular communication with security staff at colleges and universities indicates that members have largely risen to the challenge of supporting the rapid shift to online working.  However, survey respondents said workload for IT and security personnel had increased, for example to expand virtual private network (VPN) capacity and managing the security of devices remotely.   While some IT projects were delayed due to campus closure or changing priorities, both FE and HE organisations report that security-related projects, including implementation of multi-factor authentication, had been brought forward or instigated.  [#pullquote#]Because cyber security is seen as a priority, minimal staff were furloughed, and additional security controls or monitoring were necessary.[#endpullquote#]Because cyber security is seen as a priority, minimal staff were furloughed, and additional security controls or monitoring were necessary. There are also mentions of increased awareness raising and training for staff and students.   Impact of attacks Cyber attacks can be catastrophic events, potentially causing weeks of disruption and incurring heavy costs, not to mention the reputational damage. Among the most common impacts reported to the survey were that attacks stopped staff from working and required additional staff time and extra money to recover.Some organisations also report that attacks had led to investments in extra security controls, but prevention is always better than cure and there is no room for complacency.Implementing robust technical controls and processes is certainly essential to defend against threats, but is not a cover-all solution. Security is a board-level responsibility and should be embedded across organisations.To hear more, book your place at Jisc's free online security conference, 3-5 November 2020. Dr John Chapman will be speaking about the cyber security posture survey at 13:00 on 3 November 2020.