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  • From atoms to bits – edtech strategy sets the stage for Education 4.0
    Earlier this month, the much-awaited education technology (edtech) strategy for England was launched with a speech by education secretary Damian Hinds at the Schools and Academies Show 2019. The focus of the edtech strategy is on how tech can be used to make a positive difference in schools, colleges and universities. What changes might be envisaged as the new strategy beds in? In this article, I’ll try to map a path between the direction of travel set in the edtech strategy and the vision of  Education 4.0 that Jisc is developing with members.As Wonkhe's David Kernohan notes, it’s 14 years since the previous edtech strategy, and a lot has changed in that time. Not only has the internet become pervasive and all-encompassing, but the bulky beige boxes we used to have to use to get on to it have shrunk into svelte slabs of glass and aluminium.The importance of literacy and numeracyApps and websites have proliferated to fill just about every need; instantly, and on demand.But education isn’t like that; tight budgets can mean that equipment is used until it breaks, and let’s face it, nobody wants their kids to be experimental test subjects. And until the skill pill is invented, we have to face the facts that it takes time to learn stuff. And everyone learns in their own way, at their own pace.  Nowhere could this matter more than literacy and numeracy, where, in spite of numerous well-intentioned policy interventions, the UK still struggles to get a third of its 11 year olds up to speed. And for some learners the outcomes are far worse – at a school near me, two thirds of pupils fail to reach expected standard at Key Stage 2.[#pullquote#]job roles that might once have been regarded as wholly vocational have increasingly been academicised[#endpullquote#]At the same time, job roles that might once have been regarded as wholly vocational have increasingly been academicised, with degree-level entry requirements now the norm in areas like nursing and midwifery.As I said in my evidence to the Education Select Committee inquiry into the Fourth Industrial Revolution in January, there is a crisis brewing here - literacy and numeracy underpin the digital skills required by the near-future industries that will be the backbone of the UK’s economy in future decades. And those ‘expected’ levels of literacy and numeracy are also becoming essential for everyday life, as the high street and public services alike move from the world of atoms to the world of bits – from bricks to clicks.[#pullquote#]it’s important to acknowledge that there are millions who risk being left behind - and need a leg up[#endpullquote#]So, while digital skills are seen mainly as an opportunity for people to find their way into new careers and even new industries, it’s important to acknowledge that there are millions who risk being left behind - and need a leg up. The British Chambers of Commerce found that three quarters of UK businesses already had a shortage of staff with key digital skills like word processing and spreadsheet editing, and a survey by Barclays found that nearly half of UK adults lacked these core digital skills.Commoditised computing and pervasive connectivity have already transformed so many areas of our lives; when did you last plan a journey on a paper map, consult a printed timetable, or visit a travel agent to book a holiday? Education has been changing too, but much more cautiously.Ten grand challengesThe edtech strategy focusses on immediate practical steps such as helping to build the evidence base for effective edtech and helping educators to learn from their peers. At the same time, it sets out ten grand challenges on which edtech companies and educators are encouraged to collaborate, supported by a £10m innovation fund.These challenges include reducing teacher workload by at least two hours a week and showing how technology can facilitate flexible and part-time working.[#pullquote#]Do we take cautious incremental steps or bold leaps into the future? [#endpullquote#]We’ve heard from Jisc members that Industry 4.0 technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) have huge potential in education, with AI especially starting to be used in everything from admissions to assessments. Looking ahead, perhaps the key question now for our policy makers and institutional leaders is really about risk appetite. Do we take cautious incremental steps or bold leaps into the future?Read all about our Education 4.0 vision and how members can get involved.  
  • Opening up immersive technologies to education
    Using immersive technology, student nurses can perfect their stitches and criminals see the consequences of their actions. In this post, I explore today’s practical applications of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) to see how it may benefit education. Using new electroencephalogram (EEG) technology, which records brain activity, it’s possible to drive a car using your mind or make an object on a screen smaller just by thinking about it. There’s so much to be excited about with this and other emerging technologies, but in education it’s only really the champions – the early adopters – that are currently benefiting. It doesn’t have to be that way.[#pullquote#]The EEG technology that’s used to do those mind-blowing things is easy to set up[#endpullquote#]The EEG technology that’s used to do those mind-blowing things is easy to set up, and there’s no need for power, so it has myriad uses. A VR simulator, for example, could be used to train cabin crew on an aeroplane that’s flying through turbulence, while the EEG technology measures stress. Trainees might be very anxious the first time, but learn to manage their stress effectively by the fifth rotation. This gives a better understanding of what people are experiencing, which could improve training methods.Healthy preoccupationsWe've worked with AR at the University of Manchester Medical Centre role-playing practical examinations. Medical students must show they’re competent at communicating effectively with patients, taking blood, administering antibiotics and stitching wounds. AR is used to give them an understanding of the equipment, reinforcing how to use it properly with limited supervision.[#pullquote#]we’ve worked with AR at the University of Manchester Medical Centre, role-playing practical examinations[#endpullquote#]Other organisations are doing great things in this space, too. A problem in medical schools is that students have limited access to cadavers, so a company called Medical Holodeck is using simulated patients with real MRI and CT scans from anonymised patients to allow students to diagnose and recognise conditions virtually.Immersive technology is also being used to help humanise experiences. For example, nurses could be placed into a virtual situation to practice giving bad news to a patient - then the situation is flipped, so the nurse can embody the patient.Research shows that we empathise more if we can experience a situation such as homelessness through another's eyes. It’s the same for criminals: someone who’s been arrested for racist behaviour could use VR to place themselves in their victim’s position. This method has been shown to reduce the amount of racial bias, at least in the short term.Learning from Pixar, Disney and AppleIn the futures team, we spend time talking about good practice across a multitude of areas. I met people at Pixar to see what we can learn from their processes, about the dynamics between teams and the technologies that they use to streamline their approach in filmmaking.[[{"fid":"9385","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez at Disney Pixar","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez / background shows scene from Disney Pixar's Finding Dory","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez at Disney Pixar","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"Matt Ramirez / background shows scene from Disney Pixar's Finding Dory","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":false}},"attributes":{"height":263,"width":350,"style":"font-size: 13.008px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Disney does a lot of research in immersvice technology too, looking to monetise its computer generated assets beyond films, in areas such as VR, allowing experiences to prevail across multiple viewing mediums. In addition, Disney has developed Project Cardinal, a tool to dynamically translate initial scripts to VR for draft pre-visualisations.And when Apple recently launched its AR toolkit (ARKit), I was able to talk to software engineers directly. I told them about Jisc, showed them what we’ve done and discussed how they might link with education.  [#pullquote#]I told [Apple] about Jisc, showed them what we’ve done and discussed how they might link with education[#endpullquote#]AR and VR are often best as 20-minute supplementary experiences. They don’t usually work in isolation, but instead complement conventional teaching and learning approaches. These technologies are efficient in communicating subject matter that is traditionally theoretical and abstract. That’s where I think immersive experiences will take over in learning in future – especially when we can deliver them in any browser, device or wearable items. That’s when massive waves of people will adopt AR and VR  in education.A pedagogic backboneWe’re currently putting together an AR/VR immersive technology service. This has been ad hoc before now, so institutions could collaborate with us, but there wasn’t a nailed-down offer. We’re now developing advice and guidance, pulling together a framework of companies to recommend to our members.Often, what we see in institutions is that the first project acts as a catalyst. For example, some of the VR work we did with Preston’s College spawned a number of other initiatives, which the college was able to scale up internally. We showed what was possible with the technology at a low cost, and the college staff took it from there.[#pullquote#]We’re looking to solve problems, not just show shiny new technology[#endpullquote#]Now, we’re collaborating to develop immersive tech with a pedagogic backbone. We’re looking to solve problems, not just show shiny new technology – and now, as well as working with champions - we’re reaching out to other institutions that want to dip a toe in the water. It’s not about short-termism. We aim to look beyond the horizon and explore how future technologies can potentially disrupt the education space.Find out moreIf you are interested in learning more, you can book a place on our training course: introducing augmented and virtual reality in education, which takes place on 14 May at Weston College in Weston-super-Mare.
  • Why ethical debate is crucial in the classroom
    As digital technology transforms our world, computer scientists must consider the ethical impact of their work. In her powerful Digifest workshop, Miranda Mowbray illustrated why this is so important. Here, she shows how universities can keep up with the pace of change. Life was different in the 1970s. In those days, computer scientists didn’t, for the most part, have to make difficult ethical choices as part of their jobs. They were in basements tending to machines, making sure their code worked well. Today, they’re in boardrooms making decisions that may affect democracy.Because of the rising power, influence and importance of computer systems – which are embedded into pretty much every aspect of modern life - they now have greater capacity for producing good and bad outcomes. Social media, for example, exerts a big influence on the way we work, play, interact, and on our politics. That’s exciting for computer science.The world has changedBut it means that our teaching has to change. At Bristol University, I've been giving guest lectures on ethics for computer science. Students asked for this topic to be in the curriculum.The British Computer Society (BCS) has interest in it too. In order to gain BCS accreditation, in fact, computer science degrees are now required to have content on legal, professional, social and ethical issues. But the method of teaching it is important. I have seen ethics courses that just say ‘do this, don’t do that’.[#pullquote#]it’s important that students learn to apply ethical reasoning themselves[#endpullquote#]In the workshop I ran at Jisc’s recent Digifest event, I explained that it’s important that students learn to apply ethical reasoning themselves, so that when they come up against a new ethical issue in their professional life, they can analyse it independently.Part of the problem is that this requires discussions, and computer science students don’t have a reputation for liking discussions. Also, it’s really hard to build efficient computer systems that output the right results and don’t crash all the time.Learning to do that at university takes at least three years of work, so it’s understandable why traditional computer science degrees just teach the technical skills. But we need to develop ethical reasoning and communication skills too.'All interesting ethical questions are dilemmas'I start by telling students that there may not be a single correct answer to a discussion question. If anyone shows a view which is unpopular, I say that’s fantastic; we have a disagreement. I did this at the Digifest workshop too, because even Jisc’s delegates – many of whom are lecturers and educationalists – may be reluctant to openly express an opinion that others may not share.I try to hold myself back from revealing my own opinions upfront too, so as not to intimate people who think otherwise, and to allow an exploration of different ideas. All interesting ethical questions are dilemmas with arguments on both sides. If you disagree with someone, in order to persuade them of your point of view, it really helps to see where they’re coming from; and if you can do that, if your opinion was actually wrong, you may be able to discover that.[#pullquote#]The ability to have respectful, rational discussion with people with whom you disagree is a highly transferable skill[#endpullquote#]The ability to have respectful, rational discussion with people with whom you disagree is a highly transferable skill. It’s important for life as a citizen and as an employee.I draw on real-life examples in my class. I saw the video of Christopher Wylie talking about what it was like to be the research director for Cambridge Analytica, and how he now strongly regrets what he did. He thinks it was very unethical. But he was under huge pressure to deliver at the time, and he was only 24!Computer science graduates can very quickly find themselves in a position where they’re affecting the quality of democracy, and they may have no training and no support in this ethical decision-making position. We talk about these dilemmas in my classes.For example, in some judicial systems, after a criminal has been convicted, in order to help a judge decide whether they need to be locked up or not, a machine learning algorithm is used to predict whether or not they are likely to reoffend. That machine prediction is more accurate, on average, than predictions made by humans in the justice system. Should we leave the decision entirely to the algorithm? Most people say no. Why?Looking beyond the lawEthical considerations need to go a lot further than just asking whether or not an action is legal. Some things are commonly considered unethical but aren’t actually illegal. Laws tend to say whether something is permitted, but ethical analysis can indicate which of two or more options would be better, and so can help improve systems that are already OK.[#pullquote#]Ethical considerations need to go a lot further than just asking whether or not an action is legal.[#endpullquote#]One of the three main ways ethical philosophers have suggested to tell whether an action is good is to see whether it conforms to rules. But there are two others: look at whether it’s in line with positive values; and consider the likely outcomes for stakeholders. I encourage students to use all three ways of looking at an ethical problem.Although there are arguments on both sides of interesting ethical questions, that doesn’t mean that it’s all relative and just a matter of opinion. Students need to be able to reach a decision on whether something is good or bad, taking into consideration the arguments on both sides. They should talk about ethical questions with their peers, and with their colleagues when they’ve moved into industry. If there is a potential ethical issue in a company, it’s easier to address it as a group than as a single employee.Too often, computer scientists feel that discussing ethics isn’t part of their job. Well, it is – and it’s fascinating and important.
  • The perils of big data
    Speaking at Jisc’s forthcoming Networkshop 47 conference, Kieron O’Hara warns that even anonymised data can reveal sensitive personal information. We must ensure data is both safe and useful, he says. Anonymisation is controversial. Even if a dataset is nicely anonymised, if someone comes along with extra information, they may well be able work out who is who.For example, you may have an anonymised medical dataset, but you know that the prime minister has been in hospital over a certain period of time for some mysterious ailment. You just need to look out for a woman of Theresa May’s age and add in the common knowledge that she has diabetes. If diabetes is mentioned in the dataset you can, with a reasonable degree of probability, identify the prime minister's visits.The data environmentAnonymisation is an ongoing process, because as more data gets published - on the web, for example - it may become easier to crack a dataset. The anonymisation that was perfectly safe two years ago may not be adequate now.[#pullquote#]anonymisation that was perfectly safe two years ago may not be adequate now.[#endpullquote#]The environment data sits in is crucial too. Who's got access to it? What other datasets might be relevant? What are the security and governance arrangements? Anonymisation is about manipulating these aspects, as well as taking out obvious identifiers such as addresses and names. The problem nowadays is that there is so much information around that almost anything could potentially be an identifier.With this in mind, you've got to be very, very careful as to how you manage personal data, how you anonymise it, and what context it sits in. We call this environment-sensitive method functional anonymisation.So I might say, for example, that you can see some data, but you have to come my offices and analyse it on a standalone computer without access to the internet. Or I might not let you see the data but say, if you give me some queries, I'll send the answers back. Our approach at UKAN isn’t about making data 100% safe, because that's just not possible. What we’re trying to do is reduce the risk of anything going wrong.Assessing the risksThe trouble with GDPR is it tends to produce a box-ticking mentality. The focus is on compliance, not on reducing risk. The easy solution is to simply decide not to share your data with anybody. That's totally safe – or, at least, as safe as your security systems are. But then, there's a lot of value in the data that's not being exploited.[#pullquote#]The focus is on compliance, not on reducing risk.[#endpullquote#]So how do we balance utility against risk? At UKAN, we look at what we want to achieve and do with the data. Then we ask questions, such as what's the minimal amount of data I need? You start to tailor your requests and think about the risks.Suppose I share data and an intruder manage to get a copy. What could other people do with it? What would that cost them? Would it take an immense amount of processing power, or could they do it on a simple laptop? We’re thinking hard about the data and the potential impact of a hack.Protecting people, not 'data'Ethical and responsible data stewardship is about taking the risks seriously - not only to yourself, your company and the liabilities that your company might find itself with, but also to the people who are represented in the dataset themselves. They’re significant beings, not simply data points. Then there’s your ethical responsibilities to wider society. If data can be used for social good, look for opportunities to share it in a way that will provide social gains.[#pullquote#]If data can be used for social good, look for opportunities to share it in a way that will provide social gains.[#endpullquote#]I would like those who are worried about GDPR to think more positively about the possibilities of sharing data. Meanwhile, those people who have been taking a lot of risks with their data might want to think rather more seriously about it.I want to communicate the sense of an ethical framework that applies not only to data, but also to the people that the data is about.[[{"fid":"8376","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Networkshop47 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Networkshop47 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Networkshop47 logo","height":247,"width":300,"style":"width: 121px; height: 100px;","class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]This blog is based on an interview from the Networkshop magazine 2019. Delegates can hear Kieron's presentation on data anonymisation at 15:30 on day one of Networkshop, on Tuesday 9 April, in Lecture theatre 2.
  • What can we learn from the Myspace data loss?
    A major data loss by file sharing platform Myspace is a timely reminder about trust and the permanence of online content platforms Last week, Myspace publicly admitted to a huge data loss.It told users: “As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from Myspace. We apologise for the inconvenience.” That amounts to a loss of 13 years of user generated content, estimated at more than 50 million tracks.The loss of Myspace data calls into question the notion of trust in open content sharing platforms but data loss is not the only issue. Changing business decisions such as those seen with Flickr and Google+ remind us that what appears to be permanent may not always be so.When is forever not forever?Initially a slow burning story highlighted by Reddit, the news that Myspace has lost its data pre-2015 is as a wake-up call on the reliance and resilience of content sharing platforms.Founded in 2003, Myspace quickly grew as a platform for emerging artists and musicians. Bands such as Arctic Monkeys embraced Myspace to promote their music and grow a fan base before they were signed to a record label. All photos and events on their Myspace page now appear to have disappeared and music files no longer stream.[#pullquote#]this huge loss of data, of cultural heritage, highlights the shifting sands that can underpin such platforms. [#endpullquote#]Whatever the current user base in comparison to the early years of the platform, this huge loss of data, of cultural heritage, highlights the shifting sands that can underpin such platforms.Imposing restrictionsMyspace users are not the only ones affected. Flickr announced in November 2018 that it was removing the 1TB per user on its free accounts, limiting users to 1000 images.Cultural, government and non-profit institutions using Flickr Commons were exempt from these decisions, however not all libraries and special collections use Flickr Commons.Following lobbying from Creative Commons, SmugMug (the owners of Flickr) belatedly revised their position on free accounts.In early March 2019 they came to the welcome decision that all freely licensed images, including creative commons, public domain etc, would be exempt from upload limits. Those users choosing other licenses such as ‘all rights reserved’ would continue to be subject to the 1000 limit.Another tech giant that has had to warn users about the potential loss of data is Google, which recently announced the closure of its social media platform Google+ for consumers as of 2 April 2019. It recently emailed users instructions to delete their accounts and an FAQ detailing what would and wouldn’t be saved.[#pullquote#]It highlights the loss of control over our content when we place it on social media platforms. [#endpullquote#]These are just a few notable examples of social media sites changing during their lifetimes, with a real impact on users at both a personal and institutional level. It highlights the loss of control over our content when we place it on social media platforms. Choosing the channels to promote your digital materialsShould we then stop using social media platforms to promote digital materials for learning, teaching and research?The answer is no, but there are lessons to be learned:1. Know your audienceKnowing your audience is key to deciding where you place content online. Is Flickr Commons, Wikimedia, Twitter, etc. where your audience really is? Do these platforms support your institutional mission?2. Know your rightsCentral to this is an understanding of the terms and conditions of those platforms at a data-in and data-out point. Are you giving up rights to content by posting them? What license is suitable for your content? What recourse do you have if you want to remove content?3. Be conscious that things can changeAll of this is part of the risk assessment at the beginning of the process to post materials on any platform and with it should be an underlying acceptance that things may change in the future. While this may deter some from engaging with social media platforms, posting content online enriches learning and teaching opportunities for all.4. Keep up to date with changes to platformsAs far as longevity of content on social media platforms is concerned, how can you keep abreast with changes to platforms to ensure you can protect your content over the years?There’s no quick way to do this. Companies often keep quiet until they have no choice but to go public, such as the data breach that led to the demise of Google+.The Myspace story has shown that full disclosure about its data loss was over a long period of time, often through individuals asking questions as to where their content had gone before the bigger picture emerged. It would be impossible to monitor content daily, so what can we do?My suggestions would be to:Periodically spot search and check functionality of the content on that platformDirectly query platforms if you spot issuesCheck news updates on the social media platforms themselvesBackup you content and data where possibleYou can find more advice on platform choice and copyright considerations in our guide, making your digital collections easier to discover and our accompanying training course.During the past 15 years social media platforms have become a ubiquitous part of our culture, opening access to content and myriad ways to engage with that content and with each other.We shouldn’t lose our trust in social media platforms; however, we need to acknowledge their potential transient nature and treat them with the appropriate watchfulness.
  • Making AI ‘the best thing ever to happen to humanity’
    How can higher education institutions (HEI) best embrace technology to benefit staff and students? A theme that emerged at Digifest 2019 was the need for humans and technology to support one another. Technology is crucial to the future of education, industry and society - but it’s nothing without humans.This theme came up again and again at our Digifest event last week, whether speakers were discussing skills the tertiary education sector should be nurturing, or highlighting issues facing students and educators and asking how HEIs may work to resolve them.I felt our keynote speakers were particularly strong this year. Joysy John, director of education at Nesta spoke passionately about using technology to offer a broader, fairer and smarter education system. This is about developing human skills, such as communication and problem-solving, while using technology and data to make education more accessible. Human growth is at the heart.Using technology to support staff and studentsA key piece of research, Jisc’s Horizons report, echoes this message. Compiled by the Horizons group – comprising representatives from 30 institutions (HEIs, FEIs and national bodies, together with Jisc), this report outlines a number of strategic challenges facing UK universities and colleges, from finance to cyber security then focuses on the escalating mental health challenge in education.Technology is already playing a role in supporting student and staff wellbeing, with learning analytics increasingly being used to identify students at risk and enable early intervention.In her Digifest presentation, Dr Dominique Thompson – a former campus GP who is now director of Buzz Consultancy for student wellness – addressed possible causes and potential solutions for the increase in mental health issues within HEIs. Concerns such as finances and employability, she believes, are heightened in today’s hyper-competitive, digitised world.[#pullquote#]What message do we send young people when they can have pizza delivered to their door in minutes but have to wait six weeks or more for mental health support? [#endpullquote#]What message do we send young people when they can buy shoes online at 3am or have pizza delivered to their door in minutes but have to wait six weeks or more for mental health support? Dominique stressed the importance of humans and technology coming together to support leaders and students in their mental health.At Nottingham Trent University, for example, a dashboard generates an alert if a student doesn’t engage for 14 consecutive days, allowing tutors to follow up. Online services and apps are also supporting students’ wellbeing, and chatbots are now entering this space too. Bolton College’s chatbot, Ada, for example, responds to students’ wellbeing concerns with links to appropriate online information and contact details for the college’s student support teams.[#pullquote#]meaningful support comes from human beings, and we believe this will be the model in future.[#endpullquote#]In these examples meaningful support comes from human beings, and we believe this will be the model in future. While it’s important and valuable to recognise that technology, such as learning analytics, can help to identify wellbeing and mental health issues early on, it must be used wisely to help the people at colleges and universities understand the problems their students and staff struggle with, and offer timely support.Collaboration will also be crucial. Of course, it will have to be done in a legal and ethical way, but one can imagine the benefits of a world where data was shared between schools, colleges and universities, and across services from healthcare to accommodation, so that key information about a student follows them throughout their education journey.This could highlight potential areas for concern or awareness as young people enter FE or HE, alerting their new institution to support that may be needed.We need to be positive about technologyAnother theme of the Digifest presentations, panel debates and workshops was the need for humans to welcome technology with positivity and optimism.All too often, said Dave Coplin, CEO of The Envisioners, in his keynote presentation, people perceive new technology as a threat – especially AI and robots. We at Jisc believe the emerging technologies of the fourth industrial revolution applied to the academic world will lead to the new paradigm we are calling Education 4.0.This is about doing some things in a completely new way – for example, introducing new immersive learning activities via augmented and virtual reality or via gaming, that could not be experienced in any other way.[#pullquote#]Education 4.0 technology frees up educators’ time to focus on areas where the human interaction will always be key[#endpullquote#]Another key feature will be highly personalised courses and curricula, tuned to aptitudes, aspirations and career paths and giving due weight to wellbeing of the learner. New ‘on the fly’ assessment, based transparently on data, will avoiding plagiarism concerns and stressful, high-stakes assessment activities. And, arguably most importantly, Education 4.0 technology frees up educators’ time to focus on areas where the human interaction will always be key: problem-solving, creativity, emotional intelligence, and motivation.Stephen Hawking warned that powerful new AI will be “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity.” At Jisc, through Education 4.0, Jisc will help ensure that it is the former of those scenarios that prevails.
  • Digital leadership report highlights progress in universities
    In the last few years, the education sector has been evolving at pace to take advantage of new technologies to help save costs, meet rising student expectations, and compete with online learning institutions, and rightly so. As technology adapts at an exponential rate and becomes more and more ingrained in people’s day to day lives, it will continue to be  a key asset that higher education  institutions (HEIs) must make the most of to help with these and other goals. HEIs also have a responsibility to prepare students for the changing job market as we enter the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. In our sector, we call this Education 4.0. Enabling student contact with new and emerging technologies as part of learning will help equip them for the workplace and teach them how to adapt to the next wave of digital innovation.[#pullquote#]Enabling student contact with new and emerging technologies as part of learning will help equip them for the workplace[#endpullquote#]But what technologies do universities see as the most important for their organisations, and how are they using these technologies to support organisational strategies?Developed with UCISA, Jisc's new report, digital leadership in HE: improving student experience and optimising service delivery (pdf),  addresses these questions, using a survey of 50 UK university leaders and interviews/focus groups with 25 HEIs.What’s top of wish lists? Our research finds that 68% of respondents identified online learning tools as the most important technology, with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in second place (32%). I believe all the technologies identified could be used to improve experiences and provide greater accessibility for a wider range of students.[#pullquote#]68% of respondents identified online learning tools as the most important technology[#endpullquote#]Indeed, in the report, John Beaver, director of IT services at Bath Spa University, spoke about how AI could help a student with research and module/course selection:"For us, AI is a big interest, both as a technology that we may apply for student experience purposes, such as an AI that might find books of interest in the library for a student knowing what they're doing or recommend particular modules or courses that may be of interest to them."Progress on digital strategies It’s heartening to see HEIs throughout the UK increasingly making progress with digital strategies; the research shows that more than half (53%) have a digital strategy in place, while a further 21% have integrated a digital strategy with other strategies.[#pullquote#]it is important to take a whole-campus approach to a digital strategy before implementing new tools[#endpullquote#]Innovation must have a purpose, and it is important to take a whole-campus approach to a digital strategy before implementing new tools; technology initiatives work much better when aligned with an organisation’s business and teaching and learning plans.Digital leaders in HE must now work out how ‘disruptive’ technologies can be introduced into methods of working in a way that encourages engagement from academic and support staff.Thanks to all of those who were involved in the research of this report. I hope that it encourages university leaders to keep engaging with technology, but also remember it’s only a means to an end, not the end itself.Download the report (pdf)
  • Humans and technology must work hand in hand to beat plagiarism
    We welcome education secretary Damian Hinds’ call yesterday to beat the cheats by tackling the use of so-called 'essay mills' by students. His challenge to tech giants, including PayPal, Google and Facebook, to stop promoting and facilitating essay writing services is eye-catching. But it will be effective?We hear much about the powerful artificial intelligence (AI) employed by these companies, but the sad reality is they fail to prevent obvious images and discussion of self-harm from being widely shared; how would they be able to identify and deal with far more subtle adverts and promotional material for essay writing services?But the second part of Hinds’ statement did resonate with me: his call for education providers to introduce honour codes and to leverage the strong cultural power of peer pressure and the academic community.[#pullquote#]students are not only cheating themselves, but also each other. [#endpullquote#]After all, students are not only cheating themselves, but also each other.Community powerWhat may be less obvious is that technology can play a strong role in cementing that 'community power'.I am not talking here about students suspected of using essay mills 'trolling' each other online, reverting to the digital equivalent of the lynch mob that we see in other walks of life. Rather, we may employ 'nudge techniques' like those found in our learning analytics service to promote the positive benefits and expectations of integrity to students.[#pullquote#]academic integrity is a learned skill that needs to be reinforced throughout education.[#endpullquote#]In the week her organisation launched its new Authorship Investigate tool, I am reminded of the words of Turnitin’s Gill Rowell in a blog she wrote last year, that academic integrity is a learned skill that needs to be reinforced throughout education.Carrots and sticksIn an age when almost all student essays are submitted electronically, the 'sticks' of online plagiarism detection and digital writing style 'fingerprint' evaluation can be effectively complemented by the 'carrots' of nudge technology and greater integration of academic integrity issues into the curriculum and face-to-face teaching.[#pullquote#]humans and technology can come together and provide an unbeatable solution to this problem. [#endpullquote#]In this way, humans and technology can come together and provide an unbeatable solution to this problem.As we look for a topic for our next Horizons group meeting in June - where we discuss how emerging technologies can tackle the biggest challenges in education - we see this area as an obvious candidate.Please email us with any ideas you have about how we can innovate to beat the cheats. 
  • Giving seamless internet access for public sector campus visitors makes practical and financial sense
    Aside from staff and students, university campuses are visited by many different people every day - all expecting to be able to connect to the internet.  Making wifi available to all is not straightforward, but allowing seamless access to regular public sector visitors would make life much easier.Maybe a local MP holds surgeries on campus to support students, like in Birmingham. Perhaps an NHS medical practice is based on campus, or there are regular visits from a blood donation scheme. Community police officers could also be based on campus, such as an initiative funded by the University of Northampton.  All these functions can be made more efficient and delivered cost effectively by making the “zero touch” connectivity option of our govroam service available to university visitors.[#pullquote#]Public sector staff coming to campus can work faster and deliver a wider range of services to staff and students by accessing network resources in the same way they would when back at base[#endpullquote#]Public sector staff coming to campus can work faster and deliver a wider range of services to staff and students by accessing network resources in the same way they would when back at base. It also saves the university time not having to validate, issue and revoke temporary credentials for each individual every time they visit.[#pullquote#]Education organisations are at the heart of their communities and play a role in many large-scale community activities[#endpullquote#]Education organisations are at the heart of their communities and play a role in many large-scale community activities. As a result, they frequently liaise with other public services in both the planning and delivery of events. From a Rag Week to a Tour de France stage visiting town, there may be a role for a shared network to help bring the various parties together and coordinate efficient and safe delivery on the day.The education sector already has eduroam, a pioneering federated roaming service that we developed more than 15 years ago, which has delivered huge savings for, and has transformed collaboration between, colleges and universities.It’s sister service, govroam, is an exercise in technology transfer by Jisc to realise those same benefits in the wider public sector of the NHS, government and blue light services.The two roaming services are separated in governance and at the infrastructure level due to the differences in funding model and stakeholder concerns.We strongly recommend that education organisations with eduroam also carry the visited-only form of govroam alongside it.There’s potential for a virtuous circle in the world of federated roaming, with educational sites increasing the available footprint of govroam, and public sector venues similarly offering eduroam coverage in relevant locations.London offers a great example, where the lobbying group Connectivity for London encouraged universities in the capital to deploy govroam alongside existing eduroam services to help bolster the case for the borough councils to carry govroam,  because there would already be coverage across the capital for them to benefit from.That engagement has led to some of those councils deploying more instances of eduroam at relevant venues, which in turn has increased the connectivity opportunities for staff and students as they consume council services and facilities in their borough.[#pullquote#]It’s in the interests of a campus to offer a connectivity option to the wider public sector in its region, as it opens the doors to mutual benefits aligned with its core mission[#endpullquote#]So, in summary, it’s in the interests of a campus to offer a connectivity option to the wider public sector in its region, as it opens the doors to mutual benefits aligned with its core mission. The good news is the effort needed to realise these benefits is minimal if the infrastructure exists for eduroam.For more information, contact your account manager, or get in touch with the govroam team.
  • Supporting autistic students at university through technology
    2019 Digifest speaker, Dr Marc Fabri, led a project to help autistic students starting out at university. Here, he explains how universities can develop a more inclusive experience for these young people. University life is challenging for any student, but those who are on the autism spectrum can find it even tougher.Through the Autism&Uni research project, I have been working with autistic students to find out what they need, and to develop effective support.Autistic students in higher education have so much to offer. They’re often very committed to their chosen subject, academically strong, and highly focused on their work - so they’ve got the potential to do very well.[#pullquote#]Autistic students... are often very committed to their chosen subject, academically strong, and highly focused on their work - so they’ve got the potential to do very well[#endpullquote#]Unfortunately, though, a significant proportion struggle with the transition from school. The three-year, EU-funded Erasmus Lifelong Learning project, Autism&Uni, was developed to address this issue.I led this project in the UK, and since it ended in 2016, I’ve continued to develop it at Leeds Beckett University. Autistic students have been involved throughout, and their unique perspectives have informed and shaped a set of project outcomes. One of these is a digital toolkit for new students that’s now being rolled out by a number of universities, including Birmingham, Portsmouth, Trinity College, Dublin and Leeds Beckett itself.So, what do autistic students often struggle with? Many of their challenges are the same as those that affect every student, such as whether the course matches their expectations, how to live away from home for the first time, and how to establish helpful routines. There are others, too. Understanding unwritten social rules, social isolation, and sensory overload can all be overwhelming.[#pullquote#]The biggest challenges can be around how to live well and rub along with other people, whether that’s in class or in shared accommodation.[#endpullquote#]Another issue is institutionally-provided support in HE, which can be patchy. In contrast, many secondary schools provide strong and consistent support to help autistic students achieve well, so they often come to university expecting to fly high. However, all too often, they find that the safety network is no longer there.The disabled students’ allowance (DSA) covers extra support with academic needs but, for autistic students, the biggest challenges can be around how to live well and rub along with other people, whether that’s in class or in shared accommodation.Extra support is needed, but feedback from our workshops with autistic students show that a ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t work. You can’t make assumptions. These young people need consistent, individually tailored support - which is a big ask.[#pullquote#]feedback from our workshops with autistic students show that a ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t work.[#endpullquote#]That’s where the Autism&Uni online toolkit can help. It’s designed to help students prepare for university life both before they arrive and afterwards, and to offer strategies for overcoming problems. It covers issues such as choosing a subject, accessing the right support at the right time, reducing anxiety, studying independently, finding your way around campus, speaking up for yourself, and managing tricky situations. There’s also a range of resources, including guides for staff, offering help and ideas for how to support autistic students.It’s essential that universities reframe the way they think about autism when they’re planning services. Thinking about autism support simply in terms of helping to overcome perceived deficits sells students short.Autistic students have important strengths. By celebrating these and designing support that helps them shine, we show them (and others) that they’re both welcome and valued. This is, after all, what we’d do when planning support for any other group of students.[[{"fid":"8742","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2019 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2019 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2019 logo","height":250,"width":250,"style":"height: 100px; width: 100px;","class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]This blog is based on an article in the Digifest magazine 2019. Delegates can hear Marc's presentation, part of the ‘developing a more inclusive student experience’ session, at 13:45 on day two of Digifest, Wednesday 13 March, in Hall 6.
  • How to create a broader, fairer and smarter education system
    Girls and people from disadvantaged backgrounds are currently less likely to choose subjects that develop the skills needed for digital and data science careers.  If our world is going to be driven by artificial intelligence algorithms, yet huge sections of society are underrepresented when deciding how these are programmed, then we have a problem.This has to change. Our education system must be multi-disciplinary and based on real-life problem-solving. Students need technical and creative skills. Colleges need better links with industry to give their students the academic and vocational skills needed for the jobs of the future.Gone are the days when you could study until the age of 18, then work in one job forever. Kids today are going have 11 different jobs, if not more. We need to instil the resilience to adapt to change, the ability to learn and evolve, and a lifelong learning attitude.We must also make sure that teachers, learners and the education system use technology, such as artificial intelligence and big data, to make better decisions. Education must be accessible, personalised and engaging.[#pullquote#]so many students graduate without any exposure to the world of work.[#endpullquote#]We also need more opportunities in vocational education for work experience and placements, because so many students graduate without any exposure to the world of work. We need to build that in, so that every student has an opportunity to develop their skills and gain valuable access to employers.There are issues around equity here. Social capital matters and a lot of people get their jobs through connections. For those who don’t have those connections, work experience and use of technology to connect with people are crucial. Technology can be a great force for good in addressing this equity challenge.People say that the lack of role models deter women from studying and working in technology - but, while role models are powerful, I think it's more than that. We need to build women’s technical skills, creative skills, social and emotional skills to enable them to really thrive in the workplace. It’s also about confidence. A lot of girls, even though they outperform boys in school, don't go on to study or work in technical fields, because they are not confident. We have to bridge that gap.[#pullquote#]how can we change hiring practices so that employers are aware of their unconscious bias?[#endpullquote#]Another important area is around opportunity; how can we change hiring practices so that employers are aware of their unconscious bias, and are recruiting people not based on their name or gender or ethnic or racial background but based on their skills and capabilities? For that, Nesta has invested in a company called Be Applied. It doesn't show the CV or name of the person, it just shows answers to certain questions. Based on that, employers decide whether to interview them. The more we can use technology to overcome biases and unfair practices, the better the outcome is going to be.The future of AI in education is uncertain. To a large extent, it depends on decisions we make now – from investment in R&D to training of teachers, governance of data, and managing the ethical implications of AI tools. If we don't make changes to prepare young people for the future, we are not helping learners realise their true potential.Rather than focusing on the skills that make us truly human – creativity, empathy, problem-solving and social skills - we are preparing students for rote-learning. This has huge consequences for the economy, productivity levels, and our wellbeing.[[{"fid":"8742","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2019 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2019 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2019 logo","height":250,"width":250,"style":"height: 100px; width: 100px;","class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]This blog is based on an interview from the Digifest magazine 2019. Delegates can hear Joysy's keynote presentation, ‘how to create a broader, fairer and smarter education system’, at 09:30 on day two of Digifest, Wednesday 13 March, in Hall 1.
  • How to be human in a machine world
    Hannah Fry, author of Hello World, an exploration of how we live our lives in the age of artificial intelligence, considers the kind of future we want – and how education can help to get us there. Hannah will be speaking at Networkshop47, 9-11 April 2019, in Nottingham. In my book, Hello World, I tell the story of a man who trusts the algorithm in his sat nav to such an extent that he literally drives his car almost over a cliff. For me that sums up the really rather strange relationship we currently have with algorithms.On the one hand, we enthusiastically adopt them and trust them far beyond what we reasonably should – I have many stories, as I’m sure we all do, of people who blindly do what a computer tells them without ever applying rational thought.On the other hand, as soon as an algorithm or technology is shown to be flawed, we have a habit of dismissing it as complete junk. I certainly swear at my Alexa regularly. The absolutely phenomenal achievement of having a voice recognition system in my own home that can turn lights on lost in the incredible irritation I feel when it slightly mishears the name of the lighting system.An eye-opener in BerlinThe implications of algorithms for humans, however, go beyond having to reach over and turn our own lights on.I discovered this in Berlin a few years ago when I gave a talk about a research project I had been working on with the Metropolitan Police, looking at the London riots of 2011. [#pullquote#]The premise was that data and algorithms could be used to pick up on patterns in the way rioters behave[#endpullquote#]The premise was that data and algorithms could be used to pick up on patterns in the way rioters behave, with the intention that if these patterns were detected in the future then they could be stopped much sooner – the police would be able to pre-empt the way that people were about to behave.I gave a very optimistic overview of this research on stage, enthusiastically declaring to the audience how wonderful it was that we could use data and algorithms to, essentially, control an entire city of people.I naively didn't stop to think that if there was one place where citizens were likely to be quite cautious about surveillance, police powers and state control, it was Berlin.The resulting Q&A was an absolute blood bath.Ethical implicationsThat was the moment I realised that, even as a theoretical mathematician or computer scientist, I am not working in isolation and cannot simply ignore the ethical implications of my work.[#pullquote#]If I am building algorithms, I have to really think about how they are going to be used – both now and in the future[#endpullquote#]If I am building algorithms, I have to really think about how they are going to be used – both now and in the future – and have to put them in the context of the humans who will be deploying them.Ultimately, I think that we need to be much more realistic about the limitations of our technology, but also more cognisant of the benefits.The role of education and educators in recognising this and determining whether the human, rather than the technology, is at the centre is crucial. I’d like to see these conversations come out much more into the open.But there’s a problem with the word algorithm – people hate it. It tends to make them either fall asleep or run away screaming. This needs to change, given how pervasive and influential algorithms now are in dictating the decisions that are made about us and by us, and how there are important choices to be made about how we live with, and regulate, this technology.What kind of future do we want?It is very easy to imagine that there are clear-cut answers to these issues and that the world we have to look forward to is either a dystopia – where evil AI is ruling us, having taken all our jobs – or to imagine that it's an optimistic utopia with real positives. There are people shouting very loudly on both sides of that argument.What really surprised me as I researched Hello World is that there are no clear-cut answers in any of these areas. It's all about trade-offs and sitting down and deciding what we actually want the world to look like.[#pullquote#]There needs to be a national debate about what we want our future to look like, and how education and educators can help deliver that. [#endpullquote#]We can't hide from those questions much longer. There needs to be a national debate about what we want our future to look like, and how education and educators can help deliver that.Remember – the future doesn’t happen to us, we create it.This blog post is based on an interview with Hannah, which will appear in the Networkshop47 magazine, available to all delegates.Hannah is our opening plenary speaker at Networkshop47 on Tuesday 9 April at 14:00.
  • Always on: how to live in a 24-hour social media world
    Using social media to keep in touch with students can encourage a culture where teaching staff are expected to be on call 24/7.  Possibly because I’ve worked in sound editing for film and television, I’m very aware of intrusive noise. It’s distracting, making it hard to focus when we’re meant to be at work, and making it impossible to switch off when we’re not.Social media and digital communications tools bombard us with interruptions so, while I’m all in favour of staying connected, I’m also thinking about ways to set some limits. These are my top tips:Lay down some rulesIf people know you won’t respond to messages after 6pm, for example, they’re less likely to chase you for answers. Make it clear what these limits are in your email footer and on your profile.Step away from the technologyIf you don’t have your devices with you all the time, you won’t be tempted to check who’s been in touch. Think about leaving your phone, tablet and laptop in another room when you go to bed. At very least, switch notifications off before you go to sleep.Encourage people to believe you’re not always onlineIf you want to work late, that’s fine. But consider waiting until the following day to send emails and messages about it. If the recipients are up too, and they respond, your working day might suddenly become even longer.Look for alternativesUsing social platforms that are specifically for work collaborations allows you to keep work and leisure separate and helps you avoid sharing sensitive student information more widely than you meant to.I’m experimenting with Yammer and Slack with my students and setting up specific groups for individual projects. It’s an added bonus that working on these platforms will help them use social media in a professional way and get them used to tools they might use when they get a job.[#pullquote#]University and college staff, as well as students, feel huge pressure to be working constantly[#endpullquote#]University and college staff, as well as students, feel huge pressure to be working constantly – or at least, to be constantly available to work if asked.It isn’t the best way to be productive and it isn’t good for physical and mental wellbeing. In France, workers have the legal right not to check emails outside working hours, and a growing number of companies in the UK are introducing rules of their own.As yet, limits like these aren’t widely in place in the UK’s HE and FE institutions but I’d like to get people thinking about it.[[{"fid":"8742","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2019 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2019 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2019 logo","height":250,"width":250,"style":"height: 100px; width: 100px;","class":"media-element media--left file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]This blog is adapted from an article in the Digifest magazine. Daniel will deliver his lightning talk ‘how to live in a 24-hour social media world’ at 14:00 on day two of Digifest, Wednesday 13 March.
  • Quick and easy method for students to register to vote
    Jisc has developed a student voter registration service designed to increase the number of students on the electoral roll. It aims to do this by making the registration process as simple and quick as possible though leveraging existing services that Jisc runs on behalf of the higher education sector.The main part of the service consists of a desktop and mobile-friendly web application. Students will, as a part of their enrolment process within their university, be securely and transparently directed to the service, where they will be greeted with a voter registration form.[#pullquote#]Students will, as a part of their enrolment process within their university, be securely and transparently directed to the service[#endpullquote#]On the form, as many of the fields as possible will be pre-populated using details already gathered by the university, such as the student’s name and date of birth.  The student simply needs to fill out any missing information (eg National Insurance number) and submit the form.This information will be transported using the UK Access Management Federation - a Jisc shared service for the sector designed to enable secure authentication of users and secure interchange of information about those users across organisations.This part of the service will be hosted on public cloud infrastructure to give the reliability, flexibility and automated capacity management that such an important national service requires.Data securityAll information about users of the service will be stored in a registrations database held in a Jisc secure data centre and will be held for as short a time as possible (no longer than 28 days). A secure direct virtual private network (VPN) connection between the public cloud and Jisc's secure data will be in place. This means that, after a student submits their information to the web application, all transmission of this information is encrypted and never traverses the public internet. Encryption of the data at rest in the database provides an additional layer of security.[#pullquote#]After a student submits their information to the web application, all transmission of this information is encrypted and never traverses the public internet[#endpullquote#]The second part of the service is a web application for electoral registration officers (EROs) at each local authority. This will securely authenticate them as users and allow the download of student registration information in batch form for their locality, at which point they will process the registration as normal.Benefits for universities and councilsUniversities benefit from the use of this service in several ways. Principally, Jisc is able to provide anonymised statistics detailing the number of students who started the registration process against those who actually submitted a registration. Additionally, we can report in more detail on completion percentage, eg, which fields the user entered compared to which were pre-populated, helping demonstrate the effectiveness of the release of identity attributes, and highlighting any fields the student is having difficulty filling in.EROs benefit because it reduces their workload.  For example, the address information coming from authoritative student record systems will be checked (by the student) and attached to a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) by our system, thus removing the need for  EROs to carry out further manual address validation.The new service is going live on 1 April 2019. Universities that want to find out more should contact their Jisc account manager.
  • Survey results benchmark students’ attitude to technology in teaching and learning
    Those of us in developed countries are operating in an increasingly connected environment where digital technology already impacts hugely on almost all aspects of our lives. In the years ahead, emerging tech, such as robotics and machine learning, will likely have an even greater influence, not least in the sort of jobs we do. It is anticipated that, within 20 years, 90% of jobs will require digital skills, so it’s important that universities are in a good position to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workplace. Understanding how students use technology and their attitudes towards its use in learning is a good place to start. 83 UK institutions have taken part in our digital experience student insights survey (which last year gathered more than 37,000 responses) and a similar survey we undertook with Australian and New Zealand universities (pdf) has thrown up some interesting comparisons.Between November 2017 and May 2018, 12 universities in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) ran the survey, collecting 21,095 responses from their students. What did the survey reveal?In many ways, the ANZ results mirrored those of the UK. Because there are strong similarities between our education systems and practices it’s perhaps unsurprising that technology is introduced in similar ways.[#pullquote#]There is a growing awareness of the need for universities to do more to support their students when it comes to data protection and wellbeing [#endpullquote#]In both the UK and ANZ there is a growing awareness of the need for universities to do more to support their students when it comes to data protection and wellbeing. The ANZ report found that eight in ten students agreed that their university supported them to use their own digital devices, but only around half said their university helped them stay safe online, gave them access to online health and wellbeing services, or kept their data secure.For comparison, the UK report found that 95% of students regularly sought information online, almost identical to ANZ at 96%. However, a far higher percentage of ANZ students regularly worked with others online compared to the UK (14% higher). This may be because group online learning is presented as being part of, and not additional to, the learning experience in ANZ.74% of ANZ students agreed that digital skills would be important in their chosen career: however, only 44% agreed that their course prepared them for the digital workplace. Only three in ten students agreed that they were told what digital skills they would need before starting their course, or that that they were given the chance to be involved in decisions about digital services. This shows the importance of staff being explicit about the importance of digital skills within the course but also for their future careers.Further findingsResults showed that distance learners regard online learning as of lower value, despite their greater dependence on it. Taking account of these students’ anxieties is key in supporting them to get the most out of digital learning activities, and to be successful.Another result to emerge from the survey was that ANZ students felt let down by some basic issues. Having to queue for printers, struggling to find charging points and overly complex sign-in arrangements were all flagged as problematic. Signposting all the facilities and support available is a simple way to help show students that the university is listening to their concerns.[#pullquote#]65% of today’s students will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet [#endpullquote#]“65% of today’s students will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet, and more than 500,000 highly-skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles by 2022 – three times the number of UK computer science students who graduated in the past ten years.” - World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs and Skills 2018What our digital experience insights service providesWhile the main purpose of the insights survey is to allow organisations to collect valid, representative and actionable data from their students and staff and use the data to begin conversations with students about their digital experience, there are other important benefits.Chief among them is that this kind of data can be used to gain efficiencies, for example to avoid investment in costly technology that students are not using. Conversely, bringing in technology into the learning process can only help transform and improve the student experience and contribute toward their success.You can find out how to participate in our digital experience insights service from digitalinsights.jisc.ac.uk.Download the digital experience insights survey 2018: findings from Australian and New Zealand university students (pdf).
  • AI will revolutionise education, but it could worsen inequalities
    At our annual edtech showcase Digifest, 12-13 March 2019, delegates can experience the latest technologies and learn from edtech experts. Rose Luckin, professor of learner centred design at University College of London, shared some of her hopes and fears for artificial intelligence (AI) at last year's event. When I look at what is possible with AI, my optimistic side - which usually takes over - sees the huge possibilities it brings for people all over the world, both for those who are privileged to have experienced a good education and those who have not.Universities have put much effort into widening participation and AI technology has been discussed as a means of helping those hardest to reach, including adult returners and others who don’t live on campus.  What AI can bring to the classroomThere are many benefits that AI can bring to teaching and learning. It is great at helping us to analyse data and allow us to better understand students. It’s consistent and doesn’t make the mistakes a human being could. If designed in a way that is informed of our knowledge of how people learn, it can adapt well to an individual learner.[#pullquote#]Well-designed AI that uses machine-learning improves the more it supports learners, so it is constantly getting better at individualising support effectively. [#endpullquote#]Well-designed AI that uses machine-learning improves the more it supports learners, so it is constantly getting better at individualising support effectively.But AI has its limitations. Humans are way more sophisticated in their intelligence. For example, being able to accurately know what we don’t know, as well as what we do know is important and it is part of our metacognition.AI can mimic emotional intelligence, but it is not emotionally intelligent - a teacher teaching one-to-one is still the gold standard.AI teaching assistantsSo, AI can’t replace teachers. Although I can see a role for an AI teaching assistant.I can imagine that for budget-constrained decision-makers, an AI tutor that is never off sick, never goes on strike, is always accurate and consistent and can deliver individualised content in the core curricular subjects sounds very attractive. The initial outlay cost is high, but the ongoing costs are low.The combination of being able to collect masses of data as we interact in the world, and smart AI algorithms that can process this data to reveal the nuances of our learning progress across a whole range of skills, abilities and knowledge means that we really can start to shine a light on people's talents, beyond those we traditionally value.This opens the door to people who are currently not able to demonstrate adequately how they are progressing.Supporting students with AII was a school “refuser” at 14. I didn’t go to university until I was 32, so I have a little bit of understanding of what it’s like to be that kind of “non-traditional” person that doesn’t get on a straight and narrow road at an early age.If we move to a system whereby everybody was provided with their own AI assistant that provided AI-driven, continuous, formative assessment and support, then someone who hasn’t received teaching that would allow them to pass an exam could, with the right support, be able to demonstrate their skills and abilities.For example, if that person had overcome a lot of challenges and had the evidence and data to demonstrate that to an employer, it could give them the edge over someone who has had an easier path.By demonstrating a richer set of knowledge, understanding, skills and abilities than we currently can, such data would be valuable for learners from lots of different backgrounds.Could this lead to further division?But I worry about the extremely dystopian possibility - which is a technical possibility – that AI could exacerbate the divisions that already exist in education.I can foresee a situation where we have classrooms and lecture halls with lots of young people interacting with these AI systems, while only the more privileged keep the human interaction.[#pullquote#]if used badly, AI could actually make inequalities worse.[#endpullquote#]There is also a risk that, if used badly, AI could actually make inequalities worse. Just look at the way in which we have allowed many people to own sophisticated technology, whether a television or a mobile smartphone, without necessarily enabling them to use it to better their chances in life.Communicating AI’s benefitsWe must find ways of communicating effectively to everybody what the technology can do and how best it can be used safely to better their chances.[#pullquote#]The education system is short of money and short of human teachers, so I think it is something that we should be particularly vigilant about. [#endpullquote#]The education system is short of money and short of human teachers, so I think it is something that we should be particularly vigilant about.It’s up to educators to get the conversation going with the tech companies and teachers about AI in education. We do it in a small way here at UCL with our EDUCATE project, which is all about getting edtech companies to talk to educators, researchers and students. But we need to make that happen elsewhere.We need AI developers and teachers to work together to co-deign the AI systems for education. EDUCATE has developed a model for this type of inter stakeholder collaboration.We then need to focus our education system on helping people to become knowledgeable and skilled at the things that are not possible for AI to do. A mass AI education programme for anyone, whether they are in university, college, school, work or out of work, will enable people to understand how to protect themselves against competition from AI and to be able to use this technology wisely.The description of AI and machine learning as the fourth industrial revolution is not wrong. It is a revolution and we need to prepare people for it.This blog is based on a question and answer session following Rose Luckin’s presentation at Digifest 2018. Read about her vision for how educators can draw on AI in her book, Machine Learning and Human Intelligence.Booking is now open for this year's Digifest, 12-13 March 2019.
  • Jisc welcomes publication of open research reports
    As research becomes ever more digital, the ways in which it tackles transparency and accountability must change. These changes are cultural, organisational, legal, technological and social; government, research funders and universities have important roles in shaping the environment in which they take place. The health of that environment is vital in attracting the international staff, students, collaboration and investment that will determine whether, or not, the UK meets its target of investing 2.4% in research and innovation by 2027.In a move which could further this aim, the government has just released advice from Professor Adam Tickell on moving toward greater open access (OA) to research publications, and the report of the Open Research Data Taskforce (ORDTF).Advice and guidanceBoth pieces of advice are important in themselves, and inform longer term national exercises that, together, will influence how the UK pursues open science. Tickell’s advice will, no doubt, be considered by UKRI in its review of OA policy, and the ORDTF recommendations will surely influence the roadmap for research and innovation infrastructure, also being drafted by UKRI. While we wait for those exercises to complete, the advice has more immediate implications for the UK research sector, for universities and for Jisc.[#pullquote#]the advice has more immediate implications for the UK research sector, for universities and for Jisc.[#endpullquote#]Taking the Tickell advice first, perhaps the key point is the unambiguous emphasis on the “financial sustainability for research performing organisations, and value for money on public investment in research”. Plan S starts from the same constraints, and now frames the discussion on OA, certainly for journal articles and published conference papers. To realise OA here, within these constraints, the advice highlights Jisc’s roles as negotiator, sector representative and provider of digital services and infrastructure.A clearer way forwardWith the sector, we have developed a clear set of conditions for the kinds of agreement now needed with journal publishers – they need to be transitional, constrain costs, help implement funder policies, be transparent, and improve workflows to reduce administrative burden. [#pullquote#]we have developed a clear set of conditions for the kinds of agreement now needed with journal publishers[#endpullquote#]We pioneered both offsetting and ‘read and publish’ agreements that have been world-leading steps in this direction, and are working hard to improve on those in the next round of negotiations, both with large commercial publishers but also, importantly, with smaller and society publishers. Tickell also recommended that university leaders should be more involved in these negotiations and, working with Universities UK, we have revised sector engagement in the negotiations to make sure this happens. Via the European University Association, we are also liaising closely with consortia in other countries and, in particular, as recommended, have paid close attention to difficult negotiations in Germany, during which journals were unavailable to universities for an extended period. While we hope no UK negotiations would come to that point, the German experience, which is repeated elsewhere, suggests that some loss of access to publisher sites is not fatal to a nation’s research.One of the drags on progress to OA has been that it involves completely changing several workflows and parts of the journal supply chain, and Tickell recommends that “Jisc, with the support of sector leaders, [should] set out a roadmap for developing a suite of tools which, as far as possible, reduce the burden of administration underpinning open access for institutions”. We have been developing OA tools for some time, for example recently announcing Elsevier participation in our Publications Router service. However, this recommendation goes further and, in our regular meetings with sector bodies, we will now draft an OA infrastructure roadmap that will enable universities more easily to meet funder policies and will exploit, as recommended, a set of agreed unique identifiers.Report recommendationsThe ORDTF recommendations are less specific, and instead draw from a wealth of evidence to provide a strategic steer. Some, in effect, overlap with Tickell’s recommendations:Better incentives, such as via revised research assessment practices, to share and use research dataHarmonised funder policies on open science, and the provision of adequate funding to support the transition to more open scienceMore user-friendly services for research data management, reducing the administrative burdenThe need to maintain strong international engagement in pursuing open scienceOther recommendations are more specific to research data infrastructure. The report advocates a set of principles for negotiation with commercial providers of research data infrastructure to maximise interoperability, retain data ownership and reduce the risk of ‘lock-in’, and also that the costs, business and funding models of current data services be reviewed. On that, it is worth noting the recent soft launch of the Jisc open research hub, for universities managing, preserving and sharing research data. [#pullquote#]The report advocates a set of principles for negotiation with commercial providers of research data infrastructure[#endpullquote#]The UKRI research and innovation infrastructure roadmap will likely address these priorities, which together point to the UK taking a much more coordinated and strategic approach both to research data management, and to the procurement of research data infrastructure.Engagement on an international stage, with activities such as Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) and the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI), is important and, if we are able to participate in the European Open Science Cloud, to further our collaborated and coordinated approach, this too is worth pursuing.And, at this time, it is that international engagement in open research that is perhaps the key takeaway from both the Tickell and ORDTF advice. UK research, and our infrastructure, must maintain and strengthen a global outlook if the benefits of, for example, the industrial strategy are to be realised.
  • Members risk falling offline if they do not comply with new domain name system (DNS) protocols
    For people who worry about the plumbing and inner-workings of the internet, this week is really important. Friday 1 February 2019 is DNS Flag Day, and if you’ve never heard of it don’t assume it shouldn’t be in your calendar.Flag Day marks the evolution of DNS to a new implementation known as EDNS (enhanced domain name system), a faster, more efficient and potentially more secure level of compliance.[#pullquote#]If websites and domain names are not hosted by an EDNS compliant service before the beginning of February they could fall offline.[#endpullquote#]If websites and domain names are not hosted by an EDNS compliant service before the beginning of February they could fall offline.So, pause scrolling for a second and run a quick check.What are the changes?Changes are coming about after DNS service and software providers announced that they would no longer accommodate non-EDNS protocol compliant systems following Flag Day.Major open source resolvers will release updates that will stop accommodating non-standard responses from authoritative DNS servers which do not correctly implement EDNS.[#pullquote#]DNS software providers have already released versions fully compliant with EDNS [#endpullquote#]DNS software providers have already released versions fully compliant with EDNS, so for DNS services running current versions of software there should be little to worry about.Not to be overlooked from 1 February, it is also important that firewalls do not drop DNS packets with EDNS extensions. This would prevent DNS resolution and requires configuration changes before the deadline.Some would say that there has been surprisingly little publicity in the run-up to the long-awaited DNS Flag Day. For the less vigilant (or just busy) administrators, we think a reminder to check all essential services is well worth it.What to do nextFortunately, thanks to the Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) it’s very easy to find out more and check whether your domains are all ready to go, or if you need to make some quick changes this week.The DNS Flag Day website offers a simple way to check your domain for compliance and has plenty of advice for domain or DNS service owners.For more detail and background, the ISC has covered all the bases in their post, DNS Flag Day - will it affect you?
  • Data matters, and so do ethics
    There are many positive arguments for the use of data in education, but data collectors have a responsibility to ensure it really does benefit students and their institutions. At last week’s Data Matters conference, organised by QAA, HESA and Jisc, we heard Harrods’ customer insights director, David Boyle, argue that data collectors need a "why?" and a sense-making story - not just a load of data.To me, this means that collectors have a moral duty to ensure that the data we gather is used to benefit the life chances of those we work with, not simply collect it "just in case".[#pullquote#]There is a delicate balance to be struck between data protection, sharing data for analytics purposes and acting on what that data can reveal[#endpullquote#]In the context of education, this means making sure that student data is well protected and only used to the advantage of the student and their education journey. There is a delicate balance to be struck between data protection, sharing data for analytics purposes and acting on what that data can reveal to support students throughout their university journey.Ensuring we get the balance rightFirstly, our approach must be consensual. Indeed, our success relies on it being consensual.Many universities and colleges use learning analytics to collate a vast amount of existing data from sources including virtual learning environments, library systems and other student records.[#pullquote#]We must not abuse that trust and should do our best to make sure that students’ data is protected [#endpullquote#]Universities, colleges and organisations like Jisc are held in a position of trust. We must not abuse that trust and should do our best to make sure that students’ data is protected and not misused.Educational institutions in the UK already have information management practices and procedures in place and have extensive experience of handling sensitive and personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. Following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, universities will also have to examine the procedures for processing personal data.Data handlingWhen Jisc developed a learning analytics system in collaboration with universities and colleges, we also established a code of practice for learning analytics along with providers and the National Union of Students.This sets out the responsibilities of educational institutions to ensure that learning analytics is carried out responsibly, appropriately and effectively. It is now being used as a checklist for the issues they need to think about when rolling out a project.[#pullquote#]Its underlying philosophy is that learning analytics should be carried out for the benefit of students, with the students’ views in mind.[#endpullquote#]The code ensures that institutions address ethical and legal issues in their collection and retaining of data. Its underlying philosophy is that learning analytics should be carried out for the benefit of students, with the students’ views in mind.Improving the student experienceBut it is not only learning analytics that we must think about. The Data Matters conference also heard about a number of innovations from around the sector, including projects to make more efficient use of location data on campus.Jisc’s intelligent campus project uses the data collected on campus to improve the student experience. From the beginning, we were mindful of the fact that ethics, along with security, are perhaps the biggest concerns of campus users when aspects of the intelligent campus are discussed.We have always emphasised the importance of an ethical, transparent approach to gathering student data. Our code of practice for learning analytics covers in some depth a number of the topics relating to campus data and is a useful reference for those wanting to explore this further.Safety onlineAnd it is not just data directly relating to the student experience that we must think about.Students interact with a wide variety of online systems in addition to those provided and managed by their universities. We need to ensure that they have the digital capabilities and knowledge to make informed judgements about what they share in order to keep themselves and their data safe online.Jisc offers a digital capability service that can support staff and students in developing these skills. Resources are also available to help institutions grapple with the challenges posed by GDPR.[#pullquote#]we have been keen to work with the government to raise awareness of and tackle some of the ethical concerns that emerge [#endpullquote#]The rise in automation, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) as part of the so-called fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is transforming the way in which people engage with the economy and public services more generally. As a result, we have been keen to work with the government to raise awareness of and tackle some of the ethical concerns that emerge.That’s why we have supported the Technology and Data Ethics Inquiry called by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics, which seeks to make some broad-based recommendations on how trust can be placed at the heart of emerging technology.We are pleased that education will be one of the areas that the committee will scrutinise and will consider the recommendations as we develop our vision for Education 4.0 – the sector’s version of Industry 4.0.All new innovations come with safety considerations and risk. We are taking steps to mitigate these risks because we believe that the latest developments in technology will produce transformational benefits for students and the sector, when used in an ethical way.
  • Minister's call to improve support for disabled students is a welcome move toward an equal university experience
    Today's call (The Guardian, 18 January 2019) by universities minister Chris Skidmore for universities to do more to improve support for disabled students is a welcome boost in moving further toward an education system that offers genuinely equal opportunities.  Perhaps the most important thing to highlight is the minister’s insistence that universities have a “collective responsibility to break down these barriers one by one and make our universities work for everyone”. There are many ways to improve support for disabled students that are holistic, joined up and seamlessly piggyback on existing priorities and initiatives.Reducing barriersAs far back as 2010, Ofsted's special special educational needs and disability review identified that: “Where the best teaching was seen, the need for excessive additional interventions was reduced, enabling the most specialist staff to have more time to provide additional support for the smaller group of children and young people who were the most in need.” In other words, where barriers can be shrunk, smaller ladders are required to get over them. Improved support for disabled students is not necessarily about putting more interventions in place. It might be about reducing barriers to learning in the first place.Jisc has been advocating this approach for years and the University of Kent recently demonstrated its effectiveness when it won the 2018 THE award for outstanding student support.Kent’s Opera project (Opportunity, Productivity, Engagement, Reducing barriers, Achievement), supported by Jisc, rethought how best to help students with a disability.[#pullquote#]Kent adopted a proactive approach that anticipated student requirements [#endpullquote#]Instead of the traditional method of asking students to declare a disability and then providing bespoke assistance, Kent adopted a proactive approach that anticipated student requirements. One staff member explained,“The Opera project has achieved one of the most difficult things of all – making the support we have invisible, which means that students do not have to ask for help because we have anticipated the most common requirements and put them in place for everyone." Using technology effectivelyMany of the interventions are very straightforward. Crucially, many can be made easier by involving technology, although not necessarily bespoke or expensive tech.[#pullquote#]Used effectively, learning platforms and virtual learning environments (VLEs) are an assistive technology.[#endpullquote#]Used effectively, learning platforms and virtual learning environments (VLEs) are an assistive technology.I’m a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology that recently published a report on accessible VLEs and some of the key recommendations about staff digital skills would fit effortlessly into existing digital capability programs.  Meanwhile, existing mainstream tools, such as Office 365, have excellent accessibility and productivity features built into them. Browsers have a range of brilliant accessibility plug-ins, many of the e-books and journals that students access are available in formats that offer a wide range of personalisation opportunities, and most students’ mobile phones have helpful accessibility features that can reduce barriers and improve productivity.  Spreading the wordThe problem is one of knowledge. Are the digital skills of the staff who support students sufficient? Who supports students to acquire the digital skills that will help them be independent and flexible beyond their course and into employment?Another challenge lies in lack of investment, and university leaders should consider whether they have allocated sufficient resources to deliver on their obligations. Many support staff, for example, are reporting high levels of stress due to their workload, performance targets and restricted budgets. Appropriate staff training is also vital.[#pullquote#]Digital accessibility is not difficult but it does require effective contextualised training appropriate to different staff roles[#endpullquote#]Digital accessibility is not difficult but it does require effective contextualised training appropriate to different staff roles.  A holistic approachNobody disputes the importance of improving support for disabled students, but a holistic approach has to be taken, which is why this call for action by the universities minister is a great step in the right direction.Reducing digital barriers caused by uninformed procurement, inaccessible documents, a monoculture of text-based resources, lack of staff training and resources and the absence of student digital skills must be considered as part of the bigger picture. Jisc can help with all of that. See our training courses on benchmarking digital accessibility, or our accessibility snapshot service.