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  • A researcher’s guide to the galaxy - and the world of data sharing
    This year's research data network event was a huge success, with sector experts gathering to discuss global issues in research data management. The consensus? There are challenges, but we’re excited about meeting them. The great thing about the annual event is that it welcomes anybody with an interest in research data management. This means that you really do get a well-rounded view of what’s going on in the area.This summer’s event was the fourth of its kind for us and went on for a day longer, meaning plenty of time to network, discuss and debate.So why share research data?If we don’t share research data, what will we miss out on?Well, obviously there are different views here, but think about it - if we could bring together all sources of oncological data and easily compare them, perhaps the cure for cancer would be faster to arrive.Astronomy and citizen scienceOur keynote speaker Mark Humphries gave a great example of data sharing. Within astronomy, data is collected automatically by very expensive telescopes available in a few places around the world. The data is shared widely and astronomers around the world benefit from the huge investment.[#pullquote#]There’s so much data about space that some researchers actively engage citizens to work with it[#endpullquote#]What’s more, astronomy is an excellent example of ‘citizen science’. There’s so much data about space that some researchers actively engage citizens to work with it. A project that we originally funded, Galaxy Zoo – helps researchers to categorise pictures by way of crowdsourcing.Astronomy is an example of open data already leading to better research, with less duplication and more progress. However, open mustn’t mean 'available to anyone at any time', to avoid data being used for negative purposes and ensure that sensitive data is handled correctly.[#pullquote#]Astronomy is an example of open data already leading to better research, with less duplication and more progress[#endpullquote#]Furthermore, just having all the data out there can make it harder to explore - open simply means that data is both discoverable and reusable.RDM challengesArguably, one of the biggest challenges facing research data management (RDM) at the moment is compliance with funder open research data policies that recommend intelligent openness, discoverability and reusability of data. This compliance raises both technological and cultural issues.Technological issuesTechnological issues can be about interoperability between systems and a lack of adequate preservation tools.Both of these issues can be tackled by our research data shared service (and more RDM services are listed at the end of this blog).Cultural issuesCultural challenges within RDM are also rife. Resistance to using new tools or sharing data openly, along with differing opinions about what sharing means, and what research data actually is, all cause problems.Mark Humphries highlighted that in his field of neuroscience, researchers feel a stronger ownership over data, as it is trickier to collect, and therefore seen as more valuable.[#pullquote#]Researchers feel a stronger ownership over data, as it is trickier to collect, and therefore seen as more valuable[#endpullquote#]To become a notable researcher and to get tenure, you need to prove your worth in order to get research grants. These grants rely on the quality and frequency of your publications, and publications rely on data, so it's easy to see why open research data can be a sensitive subject.Tackling the challenges: helpful resources and informationWe know that solid data management is invaluable for research. The question is – what can be done to help?The Open Research Data Taskforce has been established by Jo Johnson (minister of state for science) to tackle the open research data infrastructure in the UK, and to make recommendations on the direction of travel, so in terms of what is coming next, this is the group to watch – and we’ll be playing our part at JiscResearch Data Network is a site that we established for the sector at the demand for help pulling together all the resources, tools and services. It is open for anyone to contribute to and it supports the research data network events as well, so all the resources from the past four events are there tooResearch data shared service is a service for universities that allows researchers to manage most of their data smoothly. It helps universities to ensure that they are complying with funder requirements and are preserving data, whilst making as much of it open and accessible as possibleResearch data discovery service is a searchable catalogue of research data from HE and research institutions across the UKResearch data metrics for usage is a service that can track and add up how many times data sets have been downloaded and citedResearch data business case and costing was a project that defined a framework to understand the costs that an institution will have to incur when setting up an infrastructure for sharing and preserving research is a search engine for research equipment across the UK, aimed at researchers and technicians working with kit that is more expensive than £10kStay up to dateKeep an eye our work in the research data space by visiting our dedicated web page, follow us on Twitter using #jiscrdm or email
  • As challenges for the FE sector continue, leaders acknowledge technology as a way forward
    As the further education (FE) sector continues to battle through difficult and ever-changing conditions, our second survey of FE leaders gives us a clear picture of the most difficult current challenges and, more importantly, how we can assist with solutions. The data, collected in AprilThe online survey was sent to college principals and leaders in finance, teaching and learning, technology and learning resources on 24 April and was live for two weeks. Responses were received from 99 individual leaders representing 22% of colleges (89 out of 413), will help focus how we help colleges respond to changing student expectations and government priorities, and the need to demonstrate value, and to emerge as successful organisations.Six big challenges for FE leadersWe asked leaders to rank six challenges in order of importance (see results below) and, in view of the continued funding squeeze, it is no surprise to learn that the biggest problem for FE leaders is still financial viability. Coming in at number two this year is the need to create an agile organisation that can anticipate and react to change.How further education leaders ranked the six challengesCreating and sustaining a viable financial and funding model that can adapt to market changesCreating a truly agile organisation that can anticipate, influence and react to change and manage the risks and complexity that comes with that changeCreating the optimum environment to create and sustain learning excellence and deliver the complete learning experienceDelivering more from less by simultaneously cutting costs and achieving more effective outcomes for employers and learnersMeeting the changing needs and expectations of learners of all ages to deliver lifelong learningPartnering with local employers to ensure that the curricula meet the changing needs of employers, individuals and the communityImportantly, leaders feel the amount of effort needed to meet all challenges has increased since the last survey in 2016. There is little doubt then, that FE needs our support more than ever.How can colleges deal with the challenges?Leaders say that better use of data and technology are key factors which could help them face down problems. When asked which of several suggested elements would make their college more attractive to individuals, employers and other stakeholders, these two factors in particular have grown in significance since 2016.[#pullquote#]Providing greater access to data [...] was this year cited by 58% of respondents as crucial[#endpullquote#]Providing greater access to data, which will better inform decision making and develop skills, was this year cited by 58% of respondents as crucial compared to 45% in 2016. This year, better data access is judged to be the most important factor in making an organisation more attractive - while in 2016 it was third.Enhancing technology as a way of meeting new government expectations is seen by 46% of respondents as a priority in 2017, compared to 33% in 2016. This is now the third most important factor for increasing attractiveness – up two places on last year.Meanwhile, the second most important factor overall (agreed by 56% of respondents – a figure unchanged from 2016) is ensuring learners can access any learning resource, anytime on any device from anywhere.The way forwardSo, it appears that, while FE leaders acknowledge making good use of technology in both administration and teaching processes is crucial to the future success of colleges, funding constraints continue to hamper innovation.But colleges can’t afford not to invest in technology – the advantages to staff, learners and organisations make it a no-brainer.Spending money on embedding digital practice and digital infrastructure can only be advantageous in the long term. Not only will cutting-edge IT systems, including cloud computing and shared data centres, save time, money and physical space, there are measurable benefits to learners too.[#pullquote#]Students who are routinely exposed to technology for learning, feedback and assessment will be gaining digital skills vital in the workplace[#endpullquote#]For example, colleges can improve student wellbeing and retention rates by using learning analytics to detect those who are not engaging with study and could be at risk of dropping out. And students who are routinely exposed to technology for learning, feedback and assessment will be gaining digital skills vital in the workplace.Colleges that embrace these technological tools will be best-placed to be competitive and attractive to the widest range of students, including adult and distance learners and apprentices.Getting the message acrossWe're already working with colleges across the UK, but there are many more that could benefit from our expertise. Fortunately, we’ve made decent headway in engaging the FE sector over the past year, which is reflected in the larger number of responses to the 2017 leaders’ survey (22% of colleges) compared with 2016 (18%).[#pullquote#]Jisc’s satisfaction level has crept up this year, too, to reach 80%[#endpullquote#]Jisc’s satisfaction level has crept up this year, too, to reach 80%, up from 79% last year. And the “very satisfied” score has risen from 23% (2016) to 35%.In terms of opportunities, we have a little more work to do to promote the Jisc brand: 18% of respondents are not very familiar or not at all familiar with Jisc and what we do, which is broadly similar to the 2016 figure of 16%.Improve your digital leadership skillsTo help FE leaders discover how technology can help their college transform we run a digital leaders programme. The next workshops are taking place in September and November.
  • Celebrating digital innovation at the THELMAs
    “If you win a THELMA, don’t let it overwhelm ya!” – Bill Bailey. The Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (known as the THELMAs), are an annual showcase of the best examples of innovation, teamwork and enterprise in higher education (HE). This year’s awards were as impressive as ever, with leaders from all over the sector coming together for a fantastic night of sector celebration.[#pullquote#]This year’s awards were as impressive as ever, with leaders from all over the sector coming together for a fantastic night of sector celebration[#endpullquote#]This year, Bill Bailey hosted the event in style, even performing a song: "If you win a THELMA, don’t let it overwhelm ya!” – setting the tone for an exciting and entertaining evening.  The Jisc awardFittingly, we sponsored the award for outstanding digital innovation– recognising the innovative use of digital technology to improve an institution’s teaching, learning or research activity. Entries were varied and impressive, addressing key issues such as access to learning opportunities and research, widening participation, and student wellbeing. Our winner: Open University - OpenSTEM labsOpenSTEM labs connects geographically-distributed students to state-of-the-art instrumentation for practical enquiries over the internet, blending real and virtual space. Students are able to connect remotely to various technical equipment such as microscopes, robotic-rovers, telescopes, and a satellite, engaging with a range of environments from analytical labs to a Mars-analogue landscape, and even a mountain-top observatory and a low Earth orbit.[#pullquote#]OpenSTEM allows learners to access all sorts of places and spaces that they might never have dreamed of being able to experience[#endpullquote#]Their use of blending virtual reality marks a step towards making education truly immersive, whilst completely eradicating the barrier of distance for students. OpenSTEM allows learners to access all sorts of places and spaces that they might never have dreamed of being able to experience, by using mixed reality - something that stands to be a real gamechanger in both the HE and further education space.We wish the OpenSTEM team all the best with their future endeavours, and to congratulate them on all of their outstanding achievements so far. A shortlist of impressive calibreA tough category to judge – we’d like to pay tribute to all of the shortlisted institutions.Here are the rest of the entries, who are using digital technology to support recruitment, student wellbeing, improve the student experience and increase the reach of their research.University of Liverpool - 'Scholars apply' online recruitment toolAn automated online recruitment tool for the university’s existing outreach programme, which  provides a range of support, guidance, and mentoring activities for year 12 students from under-represented backgrounds.The online application process makes processing applications quicker, freeing up staff time to review qualitative information such as references, and widen the recruitment pool.University of Portsmouth – 'WhatsUp' wellbeing appThis entry is an app - WhatsUp - that aims to support student wellbeing. It includes functionality for students to track their moods and leave diary entries, with the option of sharing them with the institution’s student wellbeing service. It also offers direct messaging from the student to the wellbeing service, to ask questions and receive support.The app has notably had some take-up among males and international students, who are less likely to seek help through traditional routes.University of Salford – course 'MatchMaker'The aim of this entry was to attract students to Salford during clearing in 2016.The MatchMaker tool had a ‘Tinder’-style functionality to enabled students to ‘find their perfect match’ in a course. Students simply entered their UCAS points and interests and were shown courses that suited them – allowing them to swipe left or right and to save their favourites.The tool created a stir, increasing web traffic to the university website and grabbing the headlines too.University College London – UCL Press, an open access publisherUCL Press has an open access approach that supports open science by enabling access to its works by researchers all round the world. Their publications are distributed on global platforms in a range of formats, as well as on their own platform.The approach has dramatically increased the reach of the publications: UCL Press books and journals have been downloaded over 190,000 times in over 200 countries, compared to typical traditional sales of 300-500 print copies globally in a book’s lifetime.University of Warwick – 'HearNow' feedback platformHearNow is a digital community feedback platform – delivered your mobile. It gets instant student reactions to questions about a broad range of on-campus facilities and services. Students can opt-in, with preferences on topic, and receive financial rewards for completing survey questions.HearNow appears to be combatting survey fatigue: it saw an average 40% response rate across nearly 50 polls in the 2015/16 academic year, and the number of active users has grown from 200 to over 13,000. More from the THELMAsFind out more about the THELMA awards and all this year's winners on the THELMA Awards website. You can browse photos from this year's event (including Bill Bailey in full swing) via the THELMAs 2017 Flickr album. 
  • Tracking what your students really think about your organisation’s digital environment
    Development of the digital environment is one of the big ticket items on your college or university’s budget sheet, so you need to know how effective that investment is.  Is it having a positive impact on students’ learning and their experience of digital technology? Could it be better spent?Study results and reportOur student digital experience tracker uncovers students’ experience of digital and captures their thoughts in their own words. Our report from the 2017 tracker study offers insights that participating organisations are using to inform their future investment.Download the report (pdf)Andy Jaffray, head of the office for digital learning at Ulster University, told us:“I cannot over-emphasise how much more credibly these results are perceived by senior stakeholders in comparison to local surveys. The tracker has exceeded my expectations in terms of benefits and I have already cherry-picked aspects for business cases and papers.”The tracker asked students in further education (FE), higher education (HE), adult and community learning (ACL) and skills as well as online learners about their digital experiences. We received responses from 22,593 learners.[#pullquote#]We received responses from 22,593 learners[#endpullquote#]Access to wifi for allSeveral of the questions explored the digital environment and students’ access to digital services in the places where they usually learn.One thing that we discovered is that only 69% of FE students have reliable access to wifi compared with 80% in HE, 90% in ACL and skills and 96% of online learners. Not surprisingly this is a big frustration.Comments from learners included:“If everything is going digital we need better wifi”"[Institutions should] have reliable wifi and computers that work. The majority of college desktops take five minutes to log in and can’t handle basic tasks such as three browser tabs open at once”“I think wifi should be […] equal across the campus”Digital equipment provisionThe study also showed that even those students who like to use their own digital equipment in their learning still expect their organisation to provide devices for their use, especially printers but also desktop computers and a range of other devices.[#pullquote#]65.5% of HE students use institutional desktop computers and 62.9% use institutional printers[#endpullquote#]We found that 65.5% of HE students use institutional desktop computers and 62.9% use institutional printers; students stressed that this is really important to them and they want to:“Have more computers available”“Have access to computers in lesson time”“Have faster computers”We need to do more research on this. Students often want to use their own devices but they do still want to access institutional devices on campus. For one thing, their own devices may not have the necessary software and then there are other students who won’t have personal devices.It’s important that their colleges, universities or learning providers can offer everyone the same experience and the same opportunities.It’s also very important that IT support staff are involved in this evolving area so they can understand the range of devices being used and line up the right kinds of support. The study has opened up a dialogue that will be really useful in ensuring that this support can be put in place.Digital activities - for better and for worseThe tracker looked at how often learners complete digital activities on their course and what kinds of activities these are. It asked which digital activities learners feel positive about as well as the ones they don’t like.[#pullquote#]the majority value digital technologies for the flexibility and convenience they offer[#endpullquote#]We found that the majority value digital technologies for the flexibility and convenience they offer.Over 90% of all the students have access to online course materials; 70% in HE and FE say digital technologies help them to learn more independently and enable them to fit learning into their lives better.80% of HE (62% of FE) respondents say they like the convenience of submitting their assignments electronically.Collaboration: yet to reach full potentialFar fewer said they valued the collaborative possibilities. Only 50% said they felt more connected to others when they used digital tools and only 40% claim to enjoy using the collaborative features of their virtual learning environment (VLE):"I haven’t ever done a course digital activity other than read articles online”“I don’t like digital activity. I don’t believe in it”This is an area where we uncovered some real opportunities that are being missed.If you read the report you’ll see that students happily find information online and produce work in digital formats but it would be valuable to create more interactive opportunities in lectures, for example, with polling tools to encourage students to listen actively.[#pullquote#]Polling can help them formulate their thoughts and it can give lecturers a heads-up when there’s an aspect of the lecture where students are struggling[#endpullquote#]Polling can help them formulate their thoughts and it can give lecturers a heads-up when there’s an aspect of the lecture where students are struggling. We’ve got some really strong case studies that show how valuable this approach can be and a number of comments we’ve recorded in the report echo this:“Using [the] responseware polling app in lectures is really useful, more lectures should use it as it means you actually try to work it out...”“The polling device questionnaire at the end of practicals is quite fun and makes sure you pay attention"Gaming and simulations are also developing into useful learning tools for some disciplines that require visualisations, such as healthcare and engineering.Provision of digital skillsWe included some questions to find out what students understand about how digital technologies can support them in their learning and how digital capabilities will help them in their life after study. Where do they go for help with their digital skills and do they acknowledge that they may need help with this?We found that 46% of learners in FE, ACL and skills go to their tutor first for help and advice, while HE learners mostly look online first.Across all groups, informal support from friends and family is collectively most common and relatively few search out specialist support staff in the first instance.[#pullquote#]Informal support from friends and family is collectively most common and relatively few search out specialist support staff in the first instance[#endpullquote#]Support, advice and guidance is often held across lots of different places in an organisation but we found that many students are unsure about where to access it. What’s more concerning, a significant proportion said they weren’t sure what skills they’d need for their course or for their career afterwards.So there’s some development work needed here. It’s really important to set out expectations right from the start - explain to students what skills they’ll need during the course, how they can acquire them and the value that they can expect to get from having these skills in terms of employability in their future careers.Students' influence on their digital learning experienceWe also asked students whether they felt their college or university involves them as change agents in developing the digital environment. 35% of HE and 44% of FE students agreed that they were.We’ve done a great deal of work on developing students as change agents and showing the benefits that working in partnership brings. Students contribute creativity, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective on how technology can enhance their learning. Students develop their own digital capabilities together with a host of other skills that enable them to get more out of their learning and make them employable.[[{"fid":"6358","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]":"Report cover: student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners"},"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]":"Report cover: student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Report cover: student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners","height":396,"width":300,"class":"media-element media--right media--has-border file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Next stepsIt’s been good to see how colleges and universities involved with this year’s study have harnessed the enthusiasm of their students to champion the tracker and get their peers to take part. Students have also worked with staff to analyse the results and suggest ways in which the findings can be taken forward.We’re continuing to analyse the tracker data and especially the large volumes of free text comments to make sure we capture their richness. We’ll be producing a series of briefings including those targeted at the particular interests of IT, library and other relevant staff groups so that they can come together to develop better informed institutional digital strategies.[#pullquote#]We’ll start the next run of the student digital experience tracker in the latter half of 2017[#endpullquote#]We’ll start the next run of the student digital experience tracker in the latter half of 2017 and produce a fresh report in 2018 so that we can track the changes in the digital experiences of students.How to get involvedIf you’d like your organisation to take part, sign up for the 2018 student digital experience tracker. You can also join our tracker mailing list.Join the conversation on Twitter using the #digitalstudent hashtag. 
  • From next generation research environments to digital apprenticeships – our five new priority areas as chosen by you
    Time for an update. The last time I wrote about our co-design project, I let you know that we’re pursuing five exciting ideas, as chosen by you. Since then, we’ve been working with experts and those on the ground to gather research and draw conclusions, and generally work out where to take the projects from here. As the majority of our effort in R&D is currently focused on three major projects: learning analytics, digital capability and the research data shared service, we’re preparing the ground and gathering the right information so that when there’s capacity, we can move onto any of the five new projects and be raring to go. Here's an update:The intelligent campusIt’s now possible to gather data from nearly every aspect of our buildings and our environments – and to use that data to find improvements for the user experience and to manage our campuses more efficiently. For the intelligent campus project we are currently trying to work out what we can do, and where our efforts would be best focused.[#pullquote#]There are a wealth of opportunities that could emerge from the intelligent campus[#endpullquote#]There are a wealth of opportunities that could emerge from the intelligent campus, from controlling building temperature and lighting to make them more efficient, to providing students with location-based recommendations of things they should be doing. There could even be artificial intelligence control of room allocations.We have started to publish some of the information which will be used to create our guide to the intelligent campus. You can see examples of the ways that intelligent campus technology can be used, and can see interesting examples from outside the education sector. We are compiling our guide at the moment and will be publishing drafts on the intelligent campus blog.Once all the content has been collected we will publish the final guide in an easy to read format on the Jisc website, so stay tuned!Read more about the intelligent campus challenge.Digital apprenticeshipsFor this challenge we decided to focus on helping to manage the new influx of apprentices due to the government’s new initiative. A lot of apprenticeships are managed using paper instead of digital. We plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships that provides institutions with a dashboard, an employer dashboard and an app for apprentices.[#pullquote#]We plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships[#endpullquote#]We aim to release an outline of the dashboards towards the end of May, and we’ll be asking for feedback to see if our plan would be helpful to the apprenticeships landscape. See the sketches of the dashboards that we have so far.Read more about the digital apprenticeships challenge.Next-generation learning environmentsFor this idea, we’ve been busy exploring the idea of connecting the digital learning environment with some of the tools used for learning outside of the institution.[#pullquote#]we’ve been busy exploring the idea of connecting the digital learning environment with some of the tools used for learning outside of the institution.[#endpullquote#]The next generation digital learning environment is a huge area, so we’re looking into institutions who are already trialling innovative activities outside of standard virtual learning environment (VLE) implementations with the idea of promoting these more widely.We’re also working with institutions to see how we can enhance student engagement by linking existing learning environments with other tools. Further ahead, we’re starting a detailed inquiry into online learning and teaching practices. The purpose of the inquiry will be to gather information around existing practice and document the sector needs and wants from digital learning environments that will feed future and ongoing development work.Read more about the next-generation learning environments challenge.Research skillsThere is a clear demand for sharing good practice around research skills, so for this co-design area, we recently ran a workshop with 21 sector experts to identify what needs to be done and what Jisc could do. The results from this workshop are described in this blog post.[#pullquote#]There is a clear demand for sharing good practice around research skills[#endpullquote#]The outcome from this workshop was that there are clear opportunities for Jisc and strong support for us to pursue those opportunities as long as we do so in partnership with other key organisations in this area.Read more about the research skills challenge.Next-generation research environmentsThere is evidently a strong demand for a research environment from researchers and research managers, but still a huge amount of questions over exactly what shape this should take. We are on the cusp of releasing a report on our initial investigations in this area.This report has a number of clear recommendations. Perhaps the most important is that there is no demand for Jisc to develop a research environment as a service. It is clear that any research environment will be made up of diverse components from a wide range of providers.[#pullquote#]It is clear that any research environment will be made up of diverse components from a wide range of providers.[#endpullquote#]It also recommends that Jisc should focus on the standards and identifiers necessary for these components to work together. Additionally this should be considered in a global context rather than a UK one. Read more about the next-generation research environments challenge.Building on learning analyticsOne interesting overall trend that is emerging from exploring these ideas is how the learning analytics service we are developing could be expanded to address some of the issues we are encountering.For the next generation learning, intelligent campus and digital apprentice, we are starting to see how the infrastructure we are developing for learning analytics could be expanded to include new types of data that will allow us to deliver new services that meet the use cases that are emerging.We will continue to explore each of these areas and will provide an update in another three months on how that exploration is proceeding.
  • Connect with technology, connect with your audience, and Connect More
    Lectures and presentations that I’ve been to have been quite predictable affairs. The teacher or presenter typically stood at the front and talked while everyone else sat quietly and listened (or nodded off). But now digital technologies are making it much easier to create engaging presentations that are more rewarding for students and teachers alike. Stand and deliverAt this year’s Connect More events, taking place at locations around the UK during June and July, we’ll be mixing things up a little. Many of our speakers will be abandoning the old-style ‘stand and deliver’ approach, and some will be presenting in a PechaKucha format; a method where 20 images are shown on the screen with each one talked about for 20 seconds. The slides change automatically to give a total running time of under seven minutes.The PechaKucha stops people from talking for too long or in too much detail and it pushes people to create better, more visually appealing presentations in which the key messages don’t get buried or lost – a must for audiences with smartphone attention spans. The real beauty of this approach is that it keeps the energy in the room high and encourages active listening.[#pullquote#]The real beauty of this approach is that it keeps the energy in the room high and encourages active listening.[#endpullquote#]Improving student presentation skillsPechaKucha is a format that can work well for teachers – students could benefit from trying it too. Distilling information into this tight format requires a presenter to think very clearly about their subject so it could help learners to develop a deeper understanding of their topic and to become more effective, creative speakers; it could also give students a much more active role in their own learning. But how can we unlock the presentation skills of more diffident students?[#pullquote#]Distilling information into this tight format requires a presenter to think very clearly about their subject[#endpullquote#]PechaKucha Nights, which are now held in cities around the world, are supportive, inclusive events at which anyone can have a try - like a comedy ‘open mic’ night but probably with better jokes. It’s a hallmark of these events that, once the clock starts ticking at the start of a talk, the audience is usually willing the speaker to make it through their talk in time with the slides. That’s the kind of supportive atmosphere that could get even reluctant speakers up on their feet.Better, harder-working presentationsCreating an engaging PechaKucha talk is simple – you can use tools that we’re all familiar with, including Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Apple’s Keynote. Even though we often think of these as supporting more formal presentation styles both lend themselves very readily to this more creative and collaborative approach.[#pullquote#]Creating an engaging PechaKucha talk is simple[#endpullquote#]Amongst the other tools that you can use to develop all sorts of dynamic presentations, there’s Prezi, which makes it simple to produce a very conversational style of presentation and supports quality interactions with listeners. It means a talk can be adapted in response to the feedback and questions that come from the room. Where many kinds of slide presentation are linear Prezi is not – so you don’t have to scroll back and forth through your material to find the slide that will help you respond to a particular comment.Looking to boost your hold over the audience? You could also try emaze, which makes it easy to include videos, gifs and live social feeds. A cloud-based tool, emaze allows you to access and share your presentations online wherever you are.Using tools such as SlideShare will enable you to share your talks more widely via social networks and products such as Xerte toolkits allow you to add rich content including video and even tailor-made animations - GoAnimate can help to demystify that process if you’re a novice – and to include interactive materials like quizzes to help the audience digest what you’ve talked about.And when you’ve created a talk that has been well received, think about how you could give it a wider audience via webinar software such as Google Hangouts or our own Vscene, and consider putting it in a repository like Xpert, which is part of the Xerte suite of toolkits. People will then be able to find and re-use the content in new and exciting ways.Digital capabilitiesWe’re all aware that digital learning is an important element in the government’s higher education reforms and the findings from our own student digital experience tracker show that students want their teachers to model confidence with digital technologies and to demonstrate digital skills and good practice, so Connect More this year is focusing on how to boost teacher’s digital skills to pass these on to the students.[#pullquote#]Connect More this year is focusing on how to boost teacher’s digital skills to pass these on to the students.[#endpullquote#]There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from colleges and universities that some students don’t engage wholeheartedly with digital technologies in their learning - this recent article in the Guardian says that this is often because they need to see compelling reasons to do so. Teachers are no different. With already busy working lives they need a good and pressing reason to develop their digital capabilities.Now that there is such a variety of user-friendly tools to help teachers create engaging lectures and talks, perhaps these could offer a practical way for colleges and universities to make some quick wins with developing staff digital capabilities?You can find lots more information on more ways to do this in our new guide to developing organisational approaches to digital capability.If you’d like information on more tools to help you create engaging lectures and lessons, take a look at the presentation and multimedia technologies pages in our guide to technology and tools for online learning.And if you haven’t registered to attend a Connect More event yet then find an event near you.
  • A year to get your act together: how universities and colleges should be preparing for new data regulations
    It’s out with the old and in with the new in May 2018 as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sweeps into effect to replace the Data Protection Act (DPA). As the world moves into an ever more digital direction, our personal data, how it is used and who has access to it has become a global concern for all of us. The GDPR is the first legislative change in recent years that will address these concerns, with a broad aim to invoke a cultural shift in the way businesses and institutions manage personal data.It has been hailed by the EU as an essential step to strengthening citizens’ fundamental rights in the digital age and allows individuals to object to certain processing and have their personal data corrected, deleted and its use restricted.The UK government has stated that the GDPR will apply within the UK after Brexit and, in any case, it will continue to cover all processing of Europeans’ personal data. Institutions must be well advanced with their compliance preparations by 25 May 2018, or risk being on the wrong side of the law.What implications will the GDPR have for colleges and universities?The biggest change is that institutions will be held far more accountable for the data they hold. As well as records of what personal data exist within the organisation, the GDPR requires a documented understanding of why information is held, how it is collected, when it will be deleted or anonymised, and who may gain access to it.[#pullquote#]the biggest change is that institutions will be held far more accountable for the data they hold[#endpullquote#]This information lifecycle approach is also fundamental to international standards on quality and information security, so should contribute to institutions’ achieving those goals as well as to compliance with the GDPR.Institutions are still required to apply appropriate organisational and technical measures to keep information secure and there are new duties to report security breaches to the Information Commissioner’ Office (ICO) and, in some cases, to the individuals affected. Planning what to do in case of an incident could well be done as part of developing information lifecycles.The GDPR introduces new requirements on the way new information-handling processes and systems are developed. Data protection must be designed in from the start; systems must have default settings that protect privacy.[#pullquote#]Data protection must be designed in from the start; systems must have default settings that protect privacy.[#endpullquote#]For large-scale or risky processing, formal data protection impact assessments must be performed as part of the design process. Draft guidance from European regulators suggests that this “data protection by design” approach should be extended to existing systems within three years.Where institutions rely on consent to process individuals’ personal data, they must be able to demonstrate that this consent was “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous”. For example, the common practice in the services sector of making access to public Wi-Fi conditional on granting consent to receive marketing information will no longer be lawful, since the two are unrelated.Designed to reduce the overuse of consent, this change may well require institutions to consider whether data collection and processing is in fact necessary under another legal basis – contract, legal obligation, vital interests, public interest, or legitimate interest of the organisation – and, if so, adjust processes to meet the relevant requirements.Finally, breaches of data protection are already becoming more damaging to organisations. Recent failures of security and inappropriate practices by businesses and charities have been widely publicised and criticised, damaging the reputations of the affected organisations and raising questions for their entire sector.[#pullquote#]The GDPR is intended to increase individuals’ awareness of their rights, so organisations handling personal data are likely to face higher expectations.[#endpullquote#]The GDPR is intended to increase individuals’ awareness of their rights, so organisations handling personal data are likely to face higher expectations. And fines for breaches are likely to increase, as the GDPR raises the upper limit from the UK’s current £500,000 to as much as €20m.What must colleges and universities be doing now to ensure they are ready for May 2018?PrepareSeveral of the required changes – notably the information lifecycle audit and the adoption of data protection by design – are likely to be time-consuming. Institutions should have already started work on those but, failing that, the sooner work starts on planning, the better. Raise awareness throughout the institution and ensure key people and decision makers are aware of the law change.The larger the institution, the more resource implications there are likely to be when implementing the GDPR, so it is important to use the rest of the lead-in period effectively. Read our advice on the steps to take.Be in the knowKnow what information you hold, what you use it for, where it came from and who you share it with. Consider what you would do if a security breach occurred.This will bring your institution in line with the GDPR’s accountability principle which requires you to be able to prove how you comply with its data protection values. Conducting an information lifecycle audit might be a good idea. Read our advice on information lifecycles.Assign a data protection officer (DPO)Having someone take responsibility for compliance with the GDPR will make things a lot easier, and may even be a legal requirement. With the relevant knowledge and authority, a DPO can provide support to others and oversee a smooth transition.The Article 29 Working Party of Data Protection Regulators has published draft guidance on DPOs.Review your privacy noticesUnder the GDPR there are some additional details people must be told when obtaining their personal data: the legal basis for processing the data, the retention period and the individual’s right to complain to the ICO if they think there is an issue with the way their personal info is handled. This is usually by way of a privacy notice, so review the notice and put a plan in place to make any necessary changes.The ICO sets out the minimum information a privacy notice should contain.Ensure an individual’s rights can be upheldUnder the GDPR, individuals’ rights have been enhanced. These include rights to:Subject accessHave inaccuracies correctedHave information erasedPrevent direct marketingPrevent automated decision-making and profilingData portabilityEffective implementation of these rights should also improve the quality of the institution’s data and processes. Institutions would be wise to give the above scenarios a dress rehearsal on systems before the GDPR takes effect. The ICO website has more information on these rights.Review how consent is givenThe way institutions seek, obtain and record consent to process personal data is likely to come under scrutiny under the GDPR, so a review of current practices is essential. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and be a positive indication of agreement – not inferred from silence or inactivity.An alteration in mechanisms that record consent to data processing may be necessary in order to make proving consent easier.  Read our analysis of the ICO’s draft guidance on consent.Data breach drillsThe GDPR will introduce a blanket policy for all organisations, obliging them to inform the ICO within 72 hours of suffering a personal data breach, whenever this creates a risk to the affected individuals. For serious risks, such as an identity theft or financial loss, organisations may also need to inform individuals directly.Institutions must ensure they have the right procedures in place to detect, investigate and respond to a personal data breach when one occurs. Start by identifying the types of data held and note the ones that, if jeopardised, would necessitate contacting the ICO. The UK Commissioner has already fined organisations, under existing laws, for poor handling of data breaches. These fines seem likely to increase considerably under the GDPR. The ICO website has more information on breach notification.[#pullquote#]The GDPR will change a lot of the rules, regulations and processes surrounding the collection, processing and protection of personal data. [#endpullquote#]The GDPR will change a lot of the rules, regulations and processes surrounding the collection, processing and protection of personal data. In many cases these changes will benefit both individuals and organisations; better understanding of information flows, more accurate information, and improved security will help everyone.While the upheaval and reorganisation required to come in line with the new regulation will be a burden for institutions throughout the EU, the reasons behind it and its results will be beneficial to all. With enough preparation, resources, knowledge and initiative, institutions should have few problems come May 2018.Jisc runs two courses - Certified EU GDPR Foundation and Certified EU GDPR Practioner. You can also find out more in our quick guide on data protection.
  • Creating learning experiences, and spaces, for future students
    What do the next generation of digital learning environments look like? Given the time and thought that they have already invested in developing digital learning spaces – would colleges and universities be better off making best use of the ones they have?  Most online learning environments were conceived during the 1990s and what was optimal back then reflected the pedagogical thinking that was current; but now, when we’re more connected through mobile technologies and excellent connectivity, there have been transformations to how we live, learn and work.Future digital offers – what’s to come?At Digifest last month, I chaired a debate that raised these questions with representatives from two universities with very different student cohorts, to find out their ideas on the future of their digital offers.Elizabeth Ellis, product development manager in learning innovation for learning and teaching solutions at The Open University (OU), described the OU’s long established and well developed digital learning environment, which underpins the university’s mission to provide flexible higher education to distance learners.The OU knows it can’t stand still, and she expects that development work will deconstruct the OU digital learning environment. Faced with the question of what it will look like in future she said:“It won’t look like anything. Instead, it’ll be a series of spaces and application programming interfaces (APIs) so that it won’t be a thing in itself”This, she said, will ensure that the OU’s online learning spaces can be more responsive and will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of students and employers. It might be supposed that the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge has very different thoughts about its digital learning environment. It has started from a very different place - with few distance learners it created its online learning spaces relatively recently.But Ange Fitzpatrick, the business school’s information and library services manager, told us her organisation knows that this is the time to push ahead, and the business school is as committed as the OU to involving students, teachers and employers in making sure that systems and course modules can continue to be developed and delivered in ways that meets their needs.The business school’s intention is to create an online space that is less like a content repository and that becomes a dynamic, adaptive space where students take control of their own learning.Take-home messagesThe take-home message from our session with Ange and Elizabeth was that a radical shake-up of digital learning environments is inevitable, driven not by technological change, but by the behaviours of both staff and students.[#pullquote#]a radical shake-up of digital learning environments is inevitable[#endpullquote#]They agree that there’s a need to engage all stakeholder groups in the change, whether that is a series of iterations toward a new digital learning environment, or something more radical. They also report that both institutions and staff could usefully become more willing simply to try things out and see what happens. The results may provide new insights, and will inevitably lead to innovations in our practice.At Jisc, we’re working on several projects to help colleges and universities develop their digital learning environments and we’re exploring a range of exciting options including the co-design challenges around the next generation digital learning environment (and the intelligent campus).As these projects develop we want you to tell us what you think; so, what do you want digital learning environments of the future to do? Get in touch via Twitter and let me know.
  • Cybersecurity: why the education sector can't afford not to invest
    Cybercrime is high on the political agenda and is attracting considerable government investment, but are universities and colleges doing enough to protect their data and reputation, not to mention their staff and students? The increasing number of cyber threats reported in the UKThe Office for National Statistics’ latest annual crime report states that digital devices were used in 47.4% of all crime in the UK. aren’t just newsworthy, they’re also very real. National Security StrategyGiven this increase, it’s not surprising that the government’s 2016 National Security Strategy reaffirmed cyber threats as one of the most significant risks to UK interests. [#pullquote#]it’s not surprising that the government’s 2016 National Security Strategy reaffirmed cyber threats as one of the most significant risks to UK interests[#endpullquote#]The strategy comes with a significant investment of £1.9bn over five years to “support work to keep the UK protected from cybersecurity attacks”, including £860m for education and research to provide knowledge and skills in cybersecurity for the future workforce.In addition, the government has published a green paper on its industrial strategy, which crucially, for the cybersafety of the education sector, includes further investment in digital infrastructure and scientific research. Janet network securityUsed by almost all universities and colleges and research establishments, the high-speed Janet network, developed and operated by Jisc, is the UK’s national research and education network. It is, therefore, crucial to the sector and a major part of the UK's critical infrastructure. To maintain its health, we help our members (universities and colleges and researchers) secure their cyberspace as well as protecting ours. [#pullquote#]It's important not to treat security as a one-off event, but instead as something that needs continuous review and investment[#endpullquote#]No network, however, is infallible. Our computer security incident response team (CSIRT) sees many types of attack on Janet daily. The attack we faced on our own infrastructure in December 2015, which affected the network for a total of six hours over an eight-day period, marked a change in hackers’ tactics and we accelerated our planned enhancements in the Janet network. The first part of the system upgrade went live on 4 October 2016, but between that date and 30 March 2017, Janet was subject to 583 attacks across 153 organisations.Protecting your organisationNothing we do will ever stop cyber-attacks completely, but if our members continue to focus on managing risk, detecting vulnerabilities and patching systems regularly, breaches can be detected and fixed quickly.[#pullquote#]The threat landscape is increasing and, with it, the requirement for assurances that data is secure. [#endpullquote#]Implementing cybersecurity controls to protect systems seems obvious, but can be expensive, with return on investment difficult to quantify. But don’t underestimate its importance; the threat landscape is increasing and, with it, the requirement for assurances that data is secure. An organisation that practices good risk management not only protects its reputation, intellectual property and data, but it will also offer its customers a measure of assurance, making them attractive to do business with. Current and emerging technologies present many opportunities for new ways of learning and collaborating, but universities and colleges must also meet the associated challenge to ensure their learners behave safely and responsibly in the digital space.[#pullquote#]universities and colleges must also meet the associated challenge to ensure their learners behave safely and responsibly[#endpullquote#]Safeguarding and the Prevent agendaThere are several safeguarding measures to consider, with Prevent training for staff the political hot potato at present, and in the spotlight again following the terror attack on Westminster earlier this month. Designed to detect and tackle extremism in its infancy, Prevent is part of the government’s anti-terrorism strategy, although it is under review at the moment.In addition, education institutions should install a web filtering system to help safeguard users from inadvertent exposure to illegal or inappropriate material. It’s also a good idea to educate users to be aware of phishing emails to defend against threats such as ransomware and compromised accounts.Internet safety policyFinally, it’s worth developing (and regularly reviewing) an internet safety policy that takes into account current technologies and social media. Under this policy, be clear about what is expected of staff and students and deliver relevant training.You may want to cover areas like the legalities of copyright and music downloads, plagiarising content from the web, explicit material, and online bullying.My top five tips for maintaining cybersecurity: Identify your organisation’s critical assets or key information and assess the risk of exposure of which would have a major impact on the organisationThere's little point investing in securing your devices, networks, and services if you don't maintain and enhance their cybersecurity throughout the period that they are deployedThe most important activity to prevent common cyber attacks is to keep your technology up to date, and to apply the latest security patches as they're made availableCybersecurity mitigations will not be infallible; occasionally attackers will be successful. Taking steps to ensure that you can detect when cyber attacks have occurred (and knowing how to quickly recover from them) will pay dividends in the long runIt is essential that you always back up your important information and have a plan for recovering from a system failure. An attacker could crash a network or computer's operating system, or data may be corrupted or wiped out by a hardware problem
  • Beating Brexit: why we must build more bridges towards borderless education
    Overseas’ students are a key part of the UK economy, but Brexit is already having an effect on the numbers from the EU who want to study here. To ensure the UK remains a world leader in delivering education and research internationally we must now capitalise on developing opportunities for “borderless” study [#inlinedriver right light#] [#inlinedrivertitle#] Podcast [#endinlinedrivertitle#]Listen to the accompanying podcast.Play audio [#endinlinedriver#]While it isn’t very British to blow one’s trumpet, it’s absolutely true to say that the UK in general and Jisc in particular are already at the forefront of global education. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Quite the opposite, in fact.Let me put our position into context: the UK is the world’s second largest (11% of market) and fastest growing (6% pa) provider of transnational education (TNE). In 2013, UK education exports were worth approximately £20bn to our economy, making education the fifth largest export for the UK, behind insurance services and computer and information services.[#pullquote#]the UK is the world’s second largest and fastest growing provider of transnational education (TNE). [#endpullquote#]And here’s another interesting fact: Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) research found that a quarter of countries globally have a president, prime minister or monarch who was educated in the UK tertiary education system.The government is on record saying that higher education (HE) will be a central plank in the strategy for boosting the export industry of post-Brexit Britain. Speaking at the International Higher Education Forum in London in March 2017, the under-secretary of state at the Department for International Trade, Mark Garnier, also said that, through TNE, UK universities had provided a British higher education experience to more than 300,000 people in Asia alone in 2014-15.A survey unveiled at the same forum showed that international students have a considerable appetite for study linked to UK universities; 76% of EU respondents said they would be likely to study at an EU branch campus of a British university in a country other than their own. Of prospective international students outside the EU, 69% said they would be likely to choose to study at an EU outpost of a UK university.A few universities have opened satellite campuses abroad, but it’s not feasible or affordable for all and some people, myself included, would argue it’s not necessary. Advancing technology means that students and researchers can work effectively with teachers or collaborators even though they may be thousands of miles apart.Why the urgency?International students bring huge economic benefit to the UK, along with fresh talent, ideas and skills, but the Brexit vote is already having an impact on the higher education sector.[#pullquote#]the Brexit vote is already having an impact on the higher education sector.[#endpullquote#]In January 2017, UCAS 2016/17 EU application figures showed that applications to the UK were down by 7% year on year. Meanwhile, the findings of the 2016 HEPI report warned that a tougher stance towards overseas students could cost the UK as much as £2bn a year.Students based overseas and studying for UK degrees in 2015/16 numbered more than 700,000. The UK's offshore education activity is growing at more than five times the rate of the number of international students coming to the UK to study (which has remained largely flat at around 450,000 since 2009) and, if this trend is to continue, technology will be at the centre of its success.Against this backdrop, it’s imperative that borderless education becomes the new norm.  As a minimum, all UK universities should be reviewing and building upon their existing international strategies, including all forms of inwards and outward student mobility.[#pullquote#]It’s imperative that borderless education becomes the new norm[#endpullquote#]It is important to remember that the success of such complex strategic partnerships is built on mutually beneficial relationships that need time to nurture. While we are committed to building bridges, we must not miss the boat when it comes to building on our success. Time is of the essence: Brexit is looming.What are we doing in the international arena?Historically, Jisc offerings have been delivered almost exclusively within the UK, but in direct response to the government’s strategy, and to meet the growing needs and demands of our members, we have made a strategic decision to improve the support we offer for TNE activities.Integrated with our UK-based operations, including the Janet network and Jisc’s range of services, we have already enhanced our portfolio to enable overseas campuses and partnerships to be connected to institutions here.UK institutions (mostly in higher, but also in further education) already have extensive international overseas partnerships, and Jisc and its international peers are now working to extend collaboration. Such partnerships, with European research and education network, GÉANT, for example, can only become more important in the lead up to, and after, Brexit.[#pullquote#]partnerships, with European research and education network, GÉANT, for example, can only become more important in the lead up to, and after, Brexit.[#endpullquote#]In China, we partnered with the local research and education network (CERNET) to improve connectivity and make use of a GÉANT-funded network link between Beijing and London. In Malaysia, we used our procurement expertise and contractual relationship with Telecom Malaysia to develop connectivity solutions. We are also working with the local research and education network (REN) to establish resilient connections. This has enabled two UK HEIs and a private school based in the EduCity knowledge hub there to improve quality of provision, resilience and cost efficiencies. In addition, we also negotiated a connection to Heriot-Watt University’s growing campus in Putrajaya, which also resulted in a significant reduction in costs.Jisc also supports other forms of mobility, such as overseas student recruitment offices for UK universities and is in discussion with institutions in India, Africa and the Middle East that are interested in forging new links or improving existing links. Watch this space![#pullquote#]Improving connectivity certainly accounts for a large slice of our international work, but we have fingers in several other pies.[#endpullquote#]Improving connectivity certainly accounts for a large slice of our international work, but we have fingers in several other pies. Jisc is also facilitating provision of eduroam in overseas campuses, exploring how we could develop global mechanisms for end-to-end performance and monitoring between sites. Looking to the future, we are exploring how we can incorporate products that Jisc is developing for the UK market, with particular reference to learning analytics – a powerful tool that could support remote, global learning. Similarly, it’s possible some of our other digital tools could help overseas and local staff make the most of technology in the delivery of international education.While we focus here on supporting TNE through reliable, high-performance connectivity and services between the UK and campuses abroad, we must also acknowledge the relationship and influence TNE has with inward and outward student mobility globally, research collaboration and international recruitment. International education has become less of a two-way street and more of a multi-laned highway, with junctions on several continents. Our partnerships allow students to study anywhere in the world, maybe over several countries, and technology has become ever more important for such seamless access to information and resources, whether that be the virtual learning environment, or Netflix![#pullquote#]Our partnerships allow students to study anywhere in the world[#endpullquote#]With our sister RENs, we are already enabling global research on subjects including particle physics, astronomy and climate change and, in the future, we could be supporting genomics research. Jisc recently hosted executives from both AARNet (Australia) and Internet2 (USA) to discuss collaboration and partnership opportunities, as well as delegations from Japan, Singapore and India. We’ve also talked to Malaysia and Ethiopia about federated access, and been involved in two proposals for the Department for International Development’s Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) bid, working with Sudan and Africa respectively.So, we are already at the forefront of a wealth of international work and now is the time for us to be focused, strategic and to deliver cost-effective international services – and that's why we’re developing our international strategy.We are a world leader and need to stay ahead of the game.
  • How universities can use learning analytics to boost fair access and retention
    Universities pulling together access agreements for next year should have learning analytics in their sights. [#inlinedriver right light#] [#inlinedrivertitle#] Podcast [#endinlinedrivertitle#]Listen to the accompanying podcast.Play audio[#endinlinedriver#]In recent years, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) – which regulates fair access to higher education (HE) in England – has promoted a “student lifecycle” approach to access. This means, in the words of OFFA’s director, Professor Les Ebdon, that “an effective approach to access should not stop at the front door when a person enters higher education”.In practice, this means OFFA encourages institutions to ensure that students from non-traditional backgrounds are successful following enrolment. Since students from under-represented groups are more likely to drop out of their studies, there should be a focus on retention – still a significant problem for the UK HE sector. Latest Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data shows that, last year, more than 29,000 full-time students (7.4% of the intake) were no longer in higher education after 12 months.[#pullquote#]Latest HESA data shows that, last year, more than 29,000 full-time students were no longer in higher education after 12 months.[#endpullquote#]Boosting retention is an area where learning analytics could have a big part to play in supporting fair access. Evidence from around the world shows that effective use of insights from learning analytics can be used to achieve statistically significant increases in retention.When learning analytics were employed at Columbus State University College in the US, retention rose by 4.2% (and 5.7% among low-income students.) In Australia, pilot schemes at the University of New England saw drop-out rates fall from 18% to 12%, while in the UK, Open University pilots have resulted in a 2.1% boost in retention. We have produced a more comprehensive briefing on the current evidence on learning analytics and student success.There are two main ways that learning analytics can help power universities’ efforts in these areas:1. Identification and interventionFirstly, analytics are a powerful tool for identifying students at risk. Learning analytics systems draw data from across an institution into a single learning records warehouse. This might include usage data from the library and the virtual learning environment, as well as attendance records and grade data.[#pullquote#]analytics are a powerful tool for identifying students at risk[#endpullquote#]A learning analytics processor then compares data on individual learners with current and historical data to identify any students who might be at risk of dropping out, or not meeting their full academic potential. Research has shown that the predictive models used are generally reliable – in one case correctly predicting three out of every four students not progressing to the next academic year.Interventions can then be put in place to support the students identified. This might be as simple as informing students that they are at risk, or might involve prompting tutors to communicate with students to discuss how they can best be supported.2. EvaluationSecondly, because data on student engagement with learning can be monitored in near real time, the effectiveness of interventions with students can be quickly assessed (and, if necessary, adapted) without having to wait for final examination and/or assessment results.[#pullquote#]the effectiveness of interventions with students can be quickly assessed[#endpullquote#]At a time when there is increasing focus on the efficacy of spending on access and student success, this can help institutions to review and demonstrate the effectiveness of their student support. We expect this will inform improvements to the guidance and support available across the board to whole cohorts of students, as well as interventions offered to individual students at risk.Access agreementsIn addition to the benefits of increasing retention, we think that effective use of learning analytics data insights could also become part of institutions’ commitment to OFFA in their access agreements.[#pullquote#]learning analytics data insights could also become part of institutions’ commitment to OFFA in their access agreements.[#endpullquote#]Our analysis of 2017/18 access agreements found that 14 institutions explicitly mention learning analytics. Buckinghamshire New University, for example, highlights that it “intends to introduce learning analytics to inform the support, learning, engagement, retention and success of its students” as part of its efforts to establish a stronger culture and practice of data usage across the institution. Exeter University’s access agreement states that it is “developing effective learning analytics tools to enable both students and tutors to monitor performance more effectively and identify strategies to improve”.We also believe that there is a compelling case for some of the funds that institutions are spending on learning analytics to be designated as “access agreement expenditure”, where institutions can demonstrate that learning analytics is part of their strategy for improving the outcomes of under-represented and disadvantaged groups. What next?We are encouraging institutions we are working with to consider how learning analytics data might feed into the development of their annual access agreement with OFFA – as well as more general efforts to promote fair access and student success within their institution.Jisc has argued that all institutions which do not currently have learning analytics in place should give consideration to adopting it at the earliest opportunity. If your institution is interested in finding out more about learning analytics, please get in touch.
  • Fresh perspectives on delivering a digital student experience in FE
    We launched our report, the evolution of FELTAG, last spring to celebrate effective digital practice in colleges and skills organisations, and to inspire others. Here, two colleges discuss how they're getting to grips with the FELTAG recommendations. The bulk of the report is made up of case studies from colleges and skills providers and we also included a series of interviews with thought leaders in some of the organisations that have really pushed ahead with the FELTAG agenda. It draws out their successes and highlights the insights that they have gained.Since its publication, other colleges and organisations have used the report to help them make faster progress with their own digital journeys, by identifying strategies that have been proved to work and avoiding diversions down paths that have proved to be dead ends.Digital journeyAs the report’s title suggests, there is no arrival point on this journey - only the opportunity for ongoing progress. So we have continued to add new case studies and, at Digifest earlier this month, we published a new version of the report with a fresh set of thought leader stories to guide and inspire.[#pullquote#]there is no arrival point on this journey - only the opportunity for ongoing progress.[#endpullquote#]To whet your appetite, I’d like to draw your attention to just two:Supporting students and staff to work successfully with digital technologies[[{"fid":"5869","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]":"Michelle Swithenbank"},"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]":"Michelle Swithenbank"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Michelle Swithenbank","height":100,"width":131,"class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]“Further education has to take a lead from the retail sector where you have choices over what you buy and how, with as few obstacles in your way as possible.”So says Michelle Swithenbank, deputy CEO at Hull College Group. Her interview offers an eloquent description of how her organisation is using digital technologies to offer learners quality training in ways that are accessible and relevant to more people, regardless of their personal circumstances or life stage.Michelle drew her analogy with the retail sector because, as she points out, today’s shoppers expect to be able to choose whether to buy things in store in person, to browse online, or to pick and choose between the two. They want to do what is most practical in their own personal circumstances. In exactly the same way learners – especially adult ones - have commitments to fit their study around, so college staff must now be able to offer greater choice and flexibility and to make learning accessible.[#pullquote#]college staff must now be able to offer greater choice and flexibility and to make learning accessible.[#endpullquote#]Michelle says that the college group is blessed with some very innovative teaching staff who are keen to make all this happen - but their innovation can’t happen on its own. They need their organisation to provide support in a number of areas. Suitable infrastructure is one of these, and this comes with a cost and some significant timescales attached so this work continues.It is encouraging to read about the realistic stance the college group has taken on that, and enlightening to find out about some of the solutions that they’ve hit upon to make large and meaningful strides quickly. These include the introduction of Microsoft Office 365 so that every user can access the same virtual desktop on any device.Staff also need their college’s support in the form of encouragement to innovate and digital skills training - you can’t do something to people; you have to do something with them. That’s the best way to get people on board. If you read Michelle’s case study you’ll find out how this is progressing at Hull College Group, get some ideas for your own organisation and discover why her advice to any college leader thinking about implementing the FELTAG recommendations is to “lead the way, empower your staff and celebrate their success”.Digital leadership[[{"fid":"5866","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]":"Ken Thomson"},"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]":"Ken Thomson"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Ken Thomson","height":100,"width":131,"class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]In other words, you need to inspire confidence and Ken Thomson, in his thought leader story, also cites confidence as a critical factor in his college’s digital journey. Ken is principal and chief executive of Forth Valley College. For me, one of the stand-out comments in his interview is this:“I said to staff two years ago when we started the drive for more creative learning and teaching that I was taking responsibility for what happened. This meant they were free to experiment without blame.”Forth Valley College became Scotland’s first regional college when it merged in 2005. It is currently focused on an ambitious plan to create new learning experiences that give learners the job-specific skills they need but to go further - to develop each individual into a fully rounded potential employee with generic digital skills and digital confidence so that they can grow, adapt and innovate in future.Ken’s own watchword for the college’s digital future is ‘interconnectedness’ and he explains that “everything works when it is joined together and interconnected”. Getting the college’s staff to the point where they feel confident to innovate, and have more time to do so, has involved lots of interconnected groundwork to improve infrastructure and provide staff training and accreditation.[#pullquote#]The decision to ditch a plethora of software tools in favour of a single platform has brought about significant savings in cost, labour and time.[#endpullquote#]The decision to ditch a plethora of software tools in favour of a single platform has brought about significant savings in cost, labour and time. And with the basics now efficiently managed – registers available in real time, timetabling streamlined and feedback from employers happening automatically – the road is clear for the college’s staff to focus more attention on their teaching and learning ambitions.The new thought leader stories and case studies are inspirational stuff, so even if you’ve had a look at the evolution of FELTAG report before, it’s well worth taking a fresh look at the latest version.We’re keen to hear about how your own organisation is responding to the FELTAG recommendations, so please do get in touch if you have a story to tell – email me at, or tweet @sarahknight.
  • Boosting skills from roots to shoots
    At Digifest 2017, we announced a suite of new resources to help university and college leaders and staff make sure they have the digital skills they’ll need in their increasingly digital environment. These resources include a digital capabilities discovery tool that will make it much simpler for individual staff – in many different job roles - and their managers to think clearly about their current digital capabilities, to identify skills gaps and create improvement pathways. The development of the discovery tool, and the resources that accompany it, is timely as digital capabilities climb higher up institutional agendas.[#pullquote#]Enhancing the digital capabilities of staff has increasingly become a strategic priority for universities and colleges[#endpullquote#]Enhancing the digital capabilities of staff has increasingly become a strategic priority for universities and colleges since we began our digital literacies R&D programme in 2011, although even then there were already many pockets of innovation and good practice.Preparing for the uncertainBut now, staff digital skills are recognised as a cornerstone as institutions build strategies to improve student experience, to boost their employability and to help them develop the digital mindset they’ll need in an uncertain future. And no wonder.As Kerry Pinney, an academic technologist at the University of Warwick said in her Digifest talk on ‘digital capability: preparing for employability’, “we have to prepare students for a world that may not be what they expect”. We can’t simply prepare learners for the job they think they want, when technological change might have made that job obsolete by the time they pick up their degree certificate.It’s great to see that many universities and colleges are now taking a strategic approach to digital capabilities and interesting to see the different approaches that they are adopting. In 2015 we developed a digital capabilities framework that identifies the digital skills that staff across an academic organisation need.[#pullquote#]It’s great to see that many universities and colleges are now taking a strategic approach to digital capabilities[#endpullquote#]We knew the framework and associated resources had been well received and so, in 2016, we followed up 14 organisations to see how Jisc resources were being used, and what approaches were proving successful. The project has shown us that digital practices are widely embedded now, but we’ve also found that even a fully committed institution can sometimes struggle to keep momentum going when competing priorities intrude, budgets get tighter or key individuals move on to other responsibilities.Case studiesWe’ve recently published change stories from these 14 organisations and they offer some really valuable insights and ideas. Together with a synthesis report on the lessons learned, these make a useful resource for other organisations that are thinking about developing their own digital capabilities strategies.And we were lucky to be able to welcome representatives from five of the participating organisations at Digifest to share some of their experiences to date.Persistence pays offRoss Anderson from North Lindsey College told us that his college has staff with specific responsibility for digital literacies as well as a digital literacies working group, but that the college’s culture is for staff to take the initiative with their own development and also that of their teams. Already there are staff digital champions in each subject area and soon the college will also have student digital leaders to partner with staff and help them improve the digital learning experience for their peers.[#pullquote#]Already there are staff digital champions in each subject area and soon the college will also have student digital leaders[#endpullquote#]Of course, engagement is crucial and Ross told us that they are trying lots of different approaches to see what works best. For him, it is about being persistent and enabling staff to take small steps. They’ve been trying simple, bite-size interventions such as:‘Lunch and learn’ drop in sessionsA digital learning blogDigital toolkitsOnline bite-size courses in key topicsA regular app clubMeasuring the impact of these can be tricky, so North Lindsey College is working with Jisc’s student digital experience tracker pilot to help in identifying what is successful and what is less so. One initiative that looks popular is a new, gamified personal development app called DPDGo! that enables staff to map their progress against areas of the Jisc framework. It’s about showcasing achievements rather than highlighting weaknesses. Crucially, everyone can start to see their own progress quickly. The college is exploring digital badges as a way to motivate staff to learn and celebrate their developing capabilities.  Read more about North Lindsey College’s approach.A clear framework fosters understandingWe also heard from Fiona Handley and Fiona MacNeill of the University of Brighton who told us that the university launched its own digital literacies framework in 2014 and refreshed it in 2016, to place a clear focus on supporting the professional development of academic staff. It describes a range of literacies across four categories:Learning and teachingCommunication and collaborationResearchAdministrationThe framework is closely mapped to the Jisc version and, because it has been in development for some time, there has been a chance to learn lessons about what works. It provides consistency and clarity across the university because it offers agreed definitions and a shared visual language, but it is deliberately not prescriptive.The University of Brighton offers support such as regular workshops on topics including social media and mobile technologies. However, it leaves its schools free to respond to the framework in their own way and to identify practices that are relevant to their subject area and their own development needs. Now, increasingly, staff are cascading the things they have learned to students.[#pullquote#]Now, increasingly, staff are cascading the things they have learned to students.[#endpullquote#]The framework has a clear identity and web presence and there are plenty of associated resources and sources of support. In a clear mirroring of North Lindsey College’s experience, persistence appears to be important: the university has found that engagement with the digital capabilities agenda ebbs and flows but there is always a resurgence when new material is added to the framework’s resources. Read more about the University of Brighton’s approach.Ongoing supportNottingham Trent University's (NTU's) digital practice manager Elaine Swift stressed the importance of ensuring that staff across the college or university are well supported and that this support is signposted clearly.After participating in Jisc’s changing the learning landscape programme, the NTU team made a business case for an ongoing investment in digitally confident staff and students. The result was NTU’s digital capabilities framework, closely based on Jisc’s with the addition of four levels for each area of activity and sample activities at each level. The areas of practice, levels and associated development resources are available to staff and students from an NTU Online Workspace (NOW) learning room.The NTU deputy vice chancellor recently recognised the impact of the framework, saying that “it gives us that common vocabulary [and] allows us to have the conversations on the ground.” Read more about the approach NTU is taking.At Digifest, Fiona MacNeill gave participants this advice for engaging academics: “Take a multi-pronged approach and find lots of different ways to engage with them – give them no escape”.[#pullquote#] “Just start chipping away. Make small wins and bank the bits you can do easily so you just start moving forwards.”[#endpullquote#]The final word on this went to Ross Anderson, who said, “Just start chipping away. Make small wins and bank the bits you can do easily so you just start moving forwards.”The 14 case studies are well worth a read and you can find them, along with all the other resources, on the building digital capability project page.The digital capabilities discovery tool is currently being piloted with 16 institutions with a final enhanced version being launched in the autumn after the end of the pilot. You can see the current guidance on its use.
  • What I’m most looking forward to at Digifest 2017
    Digifest is our annual must-attend event that celebrates the power digital has to revolutionise learning and teaching. Each year the event is packed full of exciting talks and debates, and the chance to investigate ideas and explore sector issues, and a buzzing atmosphere fuelled by people ready to learn and share ideas.  This year promises not to disappoint. I’m particularly excited to be involved in Digifest 2017, as we’ll be celebrating the power of digital, its potential to transform and its capacity to enhance learning and teaching.For me, at its core, Digifest is about people. It brings together sector experts and peers to discuss real issues and breakthroughs, try out new technology, and network, and support connections. This year’s sessions are set to inspire as well as challenge the way we currently do things. This year we’ll be focusing on: digital content and resources, data and learning analytics, digital (and physical) spaces, and digital skills.[#pullquote#]For me, at its core, Digifest is about people.[#endpullquote#]With so many exciting opportunities available, how do you decide which sessions to attend? They all sound fascinating and thought-provoking. I’ve chosen my top five to give you an idea of what I’m looking forward to most this year:1. Institutional visions for a digital student experienceI am privileged to be chairing this debate, and am looking forward to hearing all the panel members share their visions for a digitally-enhanced student experience. They all have very different contexts in terms of their institutions, so it should make for an interesting debate. Panel members include:Professor Helen O'Sullivan, associate pro-vice-chancellor for online learning, University of LiverpoolDarren Moon, senior learning technologist, LSEJane Harvell, head of academic services and special collections, University of SussexRos Parker, director of learning, Prospects College of TechnologyKaren Spencer, principal and chief executive, Harlow CollegeSimon Barrable, vice principal, Portsmouth CollegeIt is so important to hear senior leaders champion technology and to share how they see their institutions supporting students with a digital student experience. We have been interviewing senior leaders for our new thought leadership interviews for our evolution of FELTAG guide.2. Building digital expertise in your organisation This covers such a crucial topic and is a workshop not to be missed – digital capabilities are key in enabling us to live, learn and work in a digital society.We know staff need to have the confidence and capabilities to fully utilise the affordances technology offers and require support from their organisation to be able to develop their skills. I’m really looking forward to hearing from Elaine Swift, Nottingham Trent University; Fiona McNeil and Fiona Handley, University of Brighton and Ross Anderson, North Lindsey College on how they are supporting the development of their staff.In addition, Helen Beetham will present an overview of her research into the current state of play for digital capabilities and we will also launch our new suite of resources on organisational approaches to digital capabilities to support others with their practice.3. How does technology-enhanced learning contribute to teaching excellence? As the Teaching Excellence Framework is on everyone’s minds for those working in higher education, this talk will offer insightful perspectives from highly regarded experts Dr Rhona Sharpe. Deputy HR director and head of OCSLD (Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development), Oxford Brookes University and Professor Paul Bartholomew, pro vice-chancellor student experience, Ulster University.Having followed Rhona and Paul’s work over many years I know they will bring fresh thinking to this topic and share from their experiences how the effective and pedagogically sound use of technology is contributing to teaching excellence.4. Learner engagement - how can you overcome the challenges and develop opportunities to create a creative curriculum?This workshop interests me as I am keen to hear how practitioners are designing their curricula to encourage learner engagement.In this workshop I am looking forward to hearing from staff at Forth Valley College on how they are using a range of technologies, including virtual reality, to bring the curriculum to life and to offer authentic learning opportunities across a range of subject areas. Dr Ken Thomson, principal and chief executive of Forth Valley College, shares his vision for supporting a digital student experience.5. What are students’ expectations and experiences of technology?I have saved my favourite session until last! I am delighted to be chairing this workshop where we have six FE and HE students sharing their views and experiences of how technology is supporting their learning. We will hear how Epping Forest College, Bexhill Sixth Form College, Stirling University and Northampton University are gathering students’ views of technology and importantly how they are working with students to co-develop their digital environment.It is becoming more evident that student–staff partnerships are driving forward digitally enhanced curriculum change. You can read our digital learner stories on our blog. So don’t miss this session as if we are talking about the power of digital – our students should be there leading these discussions.[#pullquote#]I am hugely looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible[#endpullquote#]I am hugely looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible at Digifest and to have conversations and hear about innovative practice which will inspire us to do things differently and harness the power of digital.Take a look at the programme for details of the sessions available.
  • Metadata: the key to collaboration and a national bibliographic knowledgebase
    A new partnership puts the UK one step closer to a shared digital library collection. In his recent blog, Neil Grindley, Jisc's head of resource discovery, outlined Jisc’s case for a ‘national bibliographic knowledgebase’ (NBK) to help libraries make informed, data-driven, collection management decisions at a time of diminishing resources.Now, they’ve announced a new partnership initiative designed to accelerate work to make the NBK a reality.  The British Library welcomes this exciting new initiative and we look forward to collaborating with Jisc, Research Libraries UK (RLUK) and the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) to build the NBK and deliver greater value, savings and efficiencies for the wider library community.[#pullquote#]We look forward to collaborating with Jisc, RLUK and SCONUL to build the NBK and deliver greater value, savings and efficiencies for the wider library community[#endpullquote#]How does the NBK fit with British Library strategy?The British Library's Collection Metadata Strategy 2015-18 stresses the need for libraries to unlock metadata’s full potential as an enabler of efficient collection management and effective service provision. The aim to “collaborate to do more than we could by ourselves” is also a key element of the library’s Living Knowledge 2015-23 strategy. Therefore a collaborative initiative such as the NBK, with its objective of combining new technology, rich metadata assets and the collective experience of leading library community members, fits perfectly with the library’s own strategic aims.Why do we need the NBK now?UK libraries are currently experiencing a ‘perfect storm’ in which user expectations continue to rise and technological and licensing options become ever more sophisticated, while budgets decline. At the same time publishers continue to wrestle with the full implications of a hybrid print/digital marketplace and the new opportunities it offers. The result is that long-established practice and processes for managing collections is rapidly being rendered obsolete.[#pullquote#]Long-established practice and processes for managing collections is rapidly being rendered obsolete[#endpullquote#]This unprecedented combination of factors has resulted in libraries struggling to determine how best to navigate the transition and efficiently manage their new hybrid collections.Publishers and publicationsIn the rapidly-evolving digital landscape the very concepts of ‘publication’ and ‘ownership’ are regularly challenged by new forms of licensing, remote access and increasingly fluid or complex content.The fact that digital publishing is so flexible and relatively inexpensive enables publishers to generate numerous variants or packages of content. Publishers may offer entire back catalogues, open access content, individual titles or chapters via individually tailored options for perpetual or temporary access.The need for accurate metadataUnfortunately, the rapid evolution of digital content has not been matched by a parallel development in the quality of metadata available to describe it. Some e-book publishers can even see long established standards – for example, International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) - as irrelevant if they sell directly via the web.[#pullquote#]Unfortunately, the rapid evolution of digital content has not been matched by a parallel development in the quality of metadata available to describe it[#endpullquote#]The poor standard of publisher metadata is already recognised by the book trade and targeted by trade bodies such as Book Industry Communication (BIC), keen to stress the financial benefits of high quality metadata.Libraries and standards bodies are also attempting to influence publishers in this area due to the wasted effort caused by inaccurate or missing metadata.A strategic partnership to build the NBKIntroducing the national bibliographic knowledgebase (NBK)The scale of the various challenges means that only a large scale initiative capable of pooling library resources and expertise can hope to address the issues involved.  The strategic collaboration of Jisc in partnership with the British Library, RLUK and SCONUL will provide the firm foundation needed to begin building the NBK and collectively influence publishers.This partnership is further strengthened by the recent appointment of OCLC as service providers for the work. OCLC’s long experience of managing large, complex collaborative datasets and technical expertise in matching and clustering records will be invaluable for the delivery of the project’s objectives.Wider collaboration is keyAs Neil Grindley  noted in his blog post, development of the NBK will require several years and is dependent upon the active participation of the wider library community, service providers and content suppliers. The NBK will therefore be a community enterprise with the potential to offer libraries a transformational range of collection management services in return for their resource investment.[#pullquote#]if Jisc’s ambitious service vision is realised, the NBK will undoubtedly become a core component of the UK’s information infrastructure in the years ahead[#endpullquote#]Effective collaborative action will be essential to build the NBK and deliver efficiencies for libraries and users. However, if Jisc’s ambitious service vision is realised, the NBK will undoubtedly become a core component of the UK’s information infrastructure in the years ahead.Further informationTo find out more, visit the national bibliographic knowledgebase project page, or join the conversation on Twitter using #uknbk.
  • New digital resource to reveal the hidden possibilities for library collections
    Researchers and librarians face a common concern: how can we ensure sustainable access to special collections to deliver better research? Access to information is a 21st-century currency, and with a digital world at our fingertips it’s an exchange of data that we often take for granted. Academic researchers on the other hand, may not be feeling that we’ve quite landed in the golden age of information.Despite progress with the open access (OA) movement, and the requirements of funders to make published research publicly available, providing wider access to the primary materials from libraries’ special and archival collections still presents a big challenge for institutions.[#pullquote#]providing wider access to the primary materials from libraries’ special and archival collections still presents a big challenge for institutions.[#endpullquote#]Traditionally, the treasures residing in many of our academic libraries, such as collections of texts, manuscripts, images, audiovisuals and archival records, have been digitised and made available to the academic market by publishers, at a cost. This puts pressure on already tight library budgets and can make access to this type of content unaffordable to the majority of institutions.At the same time, over the last 20 years, much digitisation of special and archival collections has been carried out by academic libraries and heritage organisations with the support of public funding, making content available for everybody to enjoy. However, sustainability of digitisation is still a big problem, especially in the context of providing open access.[#pullquote#]sustainability of digitisation is still a big problem[#endpullquote#]Although there is plenty of evidence of the positive impact engaging with this material can have on research, teaching and learning, as testified more recently by the Jisc-ProQuest study on the impact of digital collections, institutions still find it financially challenging to either purchase commercial archives or identify the resources to support digitisation activity.So how do we reveal the hidden possibilities?In creating sustainable digital content, there is a solution that can help bring specialist research to life, one collection at a time; and this is how Reveal Digital have approached the challenge.The support for digitisation of materials through an innovative library crowdfunding model is already underway on the other side of the pond, with collections such as Independent Voices achieving wide popularity and support.[#pullquote#]The support for digitisation of materials through an innovative library crowdfunding model is already underway on the other side of the pond[#endpullquote#]This collection includes complete runs of newspapers, magazines and journals from the special collections of about 30 source libraries and will compile the largest digital collection of twentieth century North American alternative press supporting research and study in the arts and humanities, women’s and gender studies, English literature, poetry and North American studies.Hosted on the Reveal Digital platform, over 100 pledging libraries to date have controlled access until the collection moves to open access (in 2019) following a two-year embargo period, as per its cost recovery-open access model. The platform provides page image-based access with full-text searching, hit-term highlighting, searchable title and issue-level metadata and browsing by series, title and issue.Michigan State University were an early advocate of the Reveal Digital model, providing part of the content that sits on the Reveal platform.Peter Berg, head of Michigan State University's special collections library found that the popularity of radicalism texts for undergraduate researchers created an issue for the library – print papers would get damaged and didn’t allow students access to the materials at the hours they were studying, but by becoming a source for Independent Voices, these issues were resolved.Pledging the way forward: a model for the UK?We have collaborated with Reveal Digital to introduce Independent Voices to UK institutions and invite them to contribute to this new initiative. A survey Jisc conducted last year on academics’ priorities for digital content highlighted the need to improve access to twentieth-century texts in a digital format, as well as primary sources to support the humanities and social sciences, making Independent Voices an ideal fit.[#pullquote#]A survey Jisc conducted last year on academics’ priorities for digital content highlighted the need to improve access to twentieth-century texts in a digital format[#endpullquote#]Jisc has negotiated particularly favourable pledging fees for UK institutions to enable as many institutions as possible to access Independent Voices and support its innovative approach. In addition, we have agreed with Reveal Digital that half of the amount pledged by UK institutions will go towards digitisation of UK material to add to the Independent Voices collection, which Jisc can help coordinate.We have already received a number of expressions of interest from UK institutions in Independent Voices following an initial webinar at the end of last year. The University of Sussex was already an early supporter of Independent Voices and was recently followed by the University of Sheffield and the University of Bristol.[#pullquote#]We have already received a number of expressions of interest from UK institutions in Independent Voices[#endpullquote#]Pledging for UK institutions is open until 31 July 2017 and can be done through the Jisc Collections website, where there is also more information on the collection and Reveal Digital’s crowdfunding model. Alternatively, I’m happy to take enquiries from researchers or librarians keen to know more.Reveal Digital follows a similar approach to other community-based initiatives such as the Open Library of the Humanities and has been very successful in the US with Independent Voices. Might this be a model for sustainable and accessible digitisation in the UK too?
  • You helped us to identify our new priorities, so what are they, and what next?
    Our R&D effort is currently focused on three major projects: learning analytics, digital capability and the research data shared service. However, it’s important for us to keep an eye on what comes next after these endeavours, so that we’re able to move quickly to develop new projects as soon as effort is released from our current ones. For the past couple of months we’ve been working with our members and other experts to identify potential new ideas for the sector, using our collaborative innovation model known as co-design. We’ve had input from around 600 people from nearly 300 organisations and we have learned a lot![#pullquote#]We’ve had input from around 600 people from nearly 300 organisations[#endpullquote#]We started off by suggesting six challenges that emerged from our R&D visions (these came as a result of working with a selection of core stakeholders). There was a rich discussion around each challenge and from this we identified ideas for how we could help with five of the six challenges.Once we’d finalised all the ideas we made them public and asked for our members and other experts to let us know which ideas they supported, and whether they would be interested in working with us on them. The votes were not thin on the ground to say the least!165 people from 89 different organisations expressed their support for one of the ideas. There was one clear winner from the voting but it has still left us with some difficult decisions to make. Fortunately, we convened a group of experts to help us analyse these votes and decide what to do next, and we decided to explore an idea under each of the five challenges in more depth.The challenges we’re going to exploreNext-generation learning environmentsWe will be focusing on exploring the idea of connecting the virtual learning environment with some of the tools used for learning outside of the institution. We think that the idea of a pop-up VLE will be enabled by this approach but we will not be focusing on that for now. The intelligent campusWe decided that the three ideas were use-cases which would be enabled if we could develop the basic data infrastructure for the intelligent campus. However that is a big, long-term development so we decided that our immediate goal should be to analyse in more depth the potential use-cases as well as the technical, ethical and business implications of this approach. Doing this will give us a better idea of where best to get started on developing the data infrastructure for the intelligent campus.Digital apprenticeshipsFor this challenge we decided the most important area to focus on was the area of delivery of apprenticeships so we plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships that provides a provider dashboard, an employer dashboard and an app for apprentices. This will help with the employability idea too. Whilst the assessment idea will not be explored further at the moment, we will be producing and disseminating online guidance later this year.Next-generation research environmentsThere is obviously a strong demand for a research environment from researchers and research managers but still a huge amount of questions over exactly what shape this should take. We will take some time to explore these questions in more depth with experts to develop an understanding of an outline for a research environment that Jisc can help develop.Research skillsThere is demand for sharing good practice around research skills so Jisc will work with other organisations active in this area to identify researcher requirements, collate what is already available and identify where there are gaps in current provision. As part of this we will try and develop a proof-of-concept hub that meets researcher requirements using material already available.What happens next?It has been an interesting few months. We've learned a lot and are very excited about the new ideas we are about to explore. Don’t expect these ideas to be delivered soon, these are ideas for the future and we are getting started on them now in preparation for when we have delivered our current projects. But do expect to hear more about our exploration.[#pullquote#]We've learned a lot and are very excited about the new ideas we are about to explore.[#endpullquote#]We plan to consult with those who have expressed an interest in working with us to explore the idea in more detail and find out what users want, who we should work with and what is technically feasible. We will report back in three months with news of that exploration.Thank you to all involvedThank you very much to everyone who took the time to contribute to our co-design consultation. Your contributions were so interesting that we think it is worth sharing a report on the major themes that emerged from the discussion around each challenge.We are working on that now and expect to release a version for comment soon, so keep an eye on our co-design page.
  • Deep dreaming of AI in education and using data to improve teaching
    We look back on Bett 2017, the world’s largest education technology event. [#inlinedriver right light#] [#inlinedrivertitle#] Podcast [#endinlinedrivertitle#]Listen to the accompanying podcast.Play audio [#endinlinedriver#]Every year some 35,000 people from around 140 countries working in the education sector gather to experience and observe ideas, practices and technologies that allow educators and learners to fulfil their potential. This year, as to be expected, it did not disappoint, with some very exciting talks and lots of great new products and technologies.The best of Bett, by Martin HamiltonWhere else can you listen to Heston Blumenthal discuss how food and cooking can unleash creativity in the classroom, and see Sir Tony Robinson share stories about his love of history and his personal quest for learning, not before enjoying a talk by Sir Ken Robinson about his views on the necessity for new approaches in the education system.[#pullquote#]Where else can you listen to Heston Blumenthal discuss how food and cooking can unleash creativity in the classroom?[#endpullquote#]At this year’s event, Microsoft vice-president of worldwide education said: ‘We’ve got to make technology available, but to bring it all together we have to raise the bar for how we can drive innovation and transformation’, a statement that we at Jisc fully support.AI-generated curriculumAlongside the excitement of trying out new tech, chatting with peers and chairing the higher education leaders summit, I gave a talk from the Learn Live HE stage: ‘Deep Dreaming of AI in Education’.We’ve all seen the generative art produced by Google’s Deep Dream project. What would a curriculum generated by an AI look like? Could we use the digital exhaust of learner and institutional data to improve teaching and learning outcomes, and what new ethical issues would this raise? Alexa, what phase of the moon is it?Artificial intelligence and machine learning is all around us now, and we increasingly take it for granted. It powers tools that we use every day like Google Photos, but we’ve not even begun to scratch the surface of what it can do for us. I’m particularly interested in how it could help in teaching and learning, for example by coaching and mentoring learners in a way that is difficult for lecturers and teachers to do with today’s large class sizes.[#pullquote#]We are probably making more use of AI in education than we realise[#endpullquote#]Even now, we are probably making more use of AI in education than we realise. For example, my daughter recently came home from school with a homework assignment to observe the phases of the moon. We’ve had a lot of cloudy nights lately, and the moon was often nowhere to be seen, so we found ourselves asking Amazon Echo: "Alexa, what phase of the moon is it?" and getting a full and comprehensive response.It’s at times like this that you realise that AI embodied in digital assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Home is probably already helping countless children with their homework.Learning analytics, improving the student experienceAI techniques like machine learning can play a key role in learning analytics systems, which take their cues from the digital exhaust of student and institutional data.For example, a learning analytics system might flag a student who hasn’t attended a lecture or signed in to IT systems for a while as being at risk, and recommend that their personal tutor gets in touch. When we add AI into the mix it becomes possible to make predictions about learning outcomes, retention and attainment.[#pullquote#]When we add AI into the mix it becomes possible to make predictions about learning outcomes, retention and attainment[#endpullquote#]At Jisc we're working on a learning analytics service for the sector that will give learners and institutions alike some insights into ‘what works’ and help them to adapt their approaches to teaching and learning. There are over 50 universities and colleges signed up to the initial phases, and we’re even working on an app for students to use in order to maximise their learning potential. More from Phil on this later...AI-powered humanoid robots, no longer a fantasyPepper is a working robot described by Aldebaran as a ‘humanoid companion created to communicate with humans through his voice, touch, and the expression of his emotions’. He’s even already being used in schools and features in this recent BBC article: Robots and drones take over classrooms.You can meet Pepper at our annual Digifest, which takes place on 14-15 March 2017.Pepper isn’t the only robot out there, Amazon already uses over 30,000 robots in its warehouses and distribution centres, and 90,000+ Telsa cars with AI powered autopilot are already on the road. Google DeepMind AI, has even learned to play the game Breakout, and its self-driving car division (Waymo) is now partnering with multiple car manufacturers to bring its technology to market.Taught by robots?AI might seem quite alien, but it will have a huge impact on work and society, and it’s already clear that we will need to keep upskilling in order to understand and exploit this new technology.It’s easy to conjure up dystopian images of robots and AI taking over even quite highly-skilled jobs but, at the same time, these new technologies also open up all sorts of new opportunities. Just as, for example, today's smart homes need plumbers and electricians with new or updated skillsets. And AI could actually play a key role in helping people to both learn and upskill.[#pullquote#]AI could actually play a key role in helping people to both learn and upskill[#endpullquote#]In my talk I asked the audience to consider how AIs might help support a population and workforce that is increasingly adopting portfolio careers and using bite-sized learning to top up their skills.Following up what I said earlier about Alexa and learning analytics, does this mean that our children will end up being taught by robots? When we consider everything from Alexa to search engine recommendations powered by AI, perhaps to some extent they already are…Bett and learning analytics, an update from Phil RichardsThis year’s Bett coincided with our announcement that we are extending our learning analytics vendor partnership to include DTP Solutionpath and Excelsoft. Tying in with this, I presented the talk: Can data help improve the way we teach?DTP Solutionpath provide the system used by one of the UK pioneers of learning analytics, Nottingham Trent University (NTU), helping establish for example that 27% of NTU students changed their learning behaviour in response to being exposed to data on a learning analytics dashboard.[#pullquote#]27% of NTU students changed their learning behaviour in response to being exposed to data on a learning analytics dashboard[#endpullquote#]In my presentation, I was pleased to reference this and other firm evidence that learning analytics can give an early alert for students experiencing difficulties, with targeted interventions improving success. The end of the lecture theatre?I also chaired a talk by David Hill, faculty outreach coordinator, University of Portsmouth, and Tilly Harrison, principal teaching fellow, University of Warwick: Bid farewell to the lecture theatre? The evolution of learning spaces in higher education.We had an interesting and lively discussion that looked at various approaches to moving away from the traditional lecture, and barriers to effecting those, both from academic and professional services staff, while a number of questions and points were raised from the audience using the Glisser online platform.Looking ahead from Bett to Jisc's DigifestWhile at Bett, I took every opportunity network with my peers, and the learning analytics vendor community. I feel it will be an exciting couple of years in the edtech space; or, as the Bett website puts it: ‘Bett 2017 is over but the education revolution is just beginning.’[[{"fid":"5558","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 2017 logo"},"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 2017 logo"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2017 logo","height":100,"width":135,"class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]At this year’s Digifest, we’ll be celebrating the power of digital, its potential to transform and its capacity to revolutionise learning and teaching. Tickets are free to Jisc-supported organisations and are still available to book.Find out more about Digifest 2017.
  • Response to the Bell review
    We welcome the Bell review, which is designed to make sure we’re adapting along with other agencies to best support the sector while they also go through change. Many of the recommendations made in the report will go a long way towards giving people in the higher education sector the support they need.[#pullquote#]Data is at the heart of what universities deliver and we believe that this data, used well, can transform the higher education experience[#endpullquote#]Jisc fully supports the recommendations made for us and we’re already making progress. We share Bell’s opinion that data is at the heart of what universities deliver and we believe that this data, used well, can transform the higher education experience.What we've done so farWe have already taken on the recommendation to work with the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU), HESA and Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and we’ve all been meeting to explore innovative ways to utilise data for this purpose.  Last year we also formed the M5 Group with HESA and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to create a partnership which saves money and delivers the best possible service to the higher education sector.[#pullquote#]It’s great to see this report acknowledges the world-class connectivity that our network brings to students and researchers[#endpullquote#]It’s great to see this report acknowledges the world-class connectivity that our network brings to students and researchers, continually increasing capacity to meet ever-shifting demand. Without reliable connectivity, students, researchers and teachers wouldn’t be able to make the most of opportunities to collaborate globally and access what they need to make the most of the student experience.We also continue to work with publishers on behalf of UK universities and researchers to develop faster, more cost effective routes to accessing academic research – something we’re glad to see highlighted.Further sector consultationWhile these kind of reviews are important, we also think that it’s important for agencies to constantly learn from the sector to improve their own work. That’s why we’re consulting with our members on our subscription model, to give the sector more options.The 'Bell review' is a report of the review group on UK higher education sector agencies, chaired by Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor of the University of Reading.
  • Digital justice for all
    It’s been a little over two years since the Scottish Government launched its Digital Strategy for Justice, aiming to deliver ‘fast, simple and effective justice at the best cost’.  High time, then, to take a look at the progress so far and  - a few weeks ago - I made my own contribution to the conversation when I accepted an invitation to speak at the Digital Justice conference in Edinburgh.I’d been asked to bring delegates up to date on what Jisc’s digital student project has discovered about how technology can be used to support prisoner learning.A golden opportunity – missed?Using technology in this way is a key part of the wider digital strategy for justice, because we know first-hand how it can improve learning and attainment.  Time in prison offers another opportunity for offenders to learn and make a fresh start when earlier efforts to engage them have often failed.As the UK government’s Open Justice web pages remind us,“equipping offenders for life after prison is one of the main challenges. Preparing them to find employment is a known way to reduce the likelihood of reoffending…”The same web pages show that 59% of UK prisoners who are sentenced to less than 12 months in prison go on to offend again but it needn’t be like this. In the Netherlands prisons are closing down because re-offending rates are so low.Particular challengesRegrettably, however, prisons and prisoners face particular challenges when it comes to accessing and using digital technologies.One of the most intractable is the fact that prisoners aren’t allowed internet access. This makes them wholly reliant on teaching staff when it comes to finding resources.What’s more, even the most digitally skilled find themselves falling behind when they can’t get online to keep up with new techniques and new apps. The majority of the prisoners we spoke to are frustrated by this; they feel that supervised or restricted access would be a very positive step in the right direction.But there is real cause for optimism. In the focus groups we conducted with prisoners we were encouraged to hear how positive many were, and interested to hear their very practical ideas for making things better.[#pullquote#]There are some simple and effective digital technologies that prison authorities can adopt easily to bring about real improvements in prisoner education and outcomes[#endpullquote#]We came away with the conclusion that there are some simple and effective digital technologies that prison authorities can adopt easily to bring about real improvements in prisoner education and outcomes. These include the following three areas:Skype and other video chat appsResearch by the Prison Reform Trust and other organisations suggests that prisoners who keep in touch with friends and family while they are inside are many times less likely to find themselves back in trouble with the law after they have been released, but about 50% of prisoners lose that vital contactKeeping in Touch: The Case for Family Support Work in Prison, Nancy Loucks, 2005 - .Enabling prisoners to have regular video chats in place of visits would save their friends the time, expense and upset that can make visiting impossible. It would also enable prisons to make better use of staff time – fewer personal visits means less time spent overseeing them.E-readersSadly, very many prisoners still struggle with basic literacy, but providing them with access to e-readers would encourage more of them to improve their reading skills.[#pullquote#]Providing [prisoners] with access to e-readers would encourage more of them to improve their reading skills[#endpullquote#]Way cooler than a book and also more discreet, an e-reader makes it much harder for people to see if you are reading War and Peace or A Street Cat Named Bob. And now that e-readers cost in the region of just £30 to £40, this should be a cost-effective move.Virtual Campus A way of providing (admittedly limited) internet access for learners, the Virtual Campus is a virtual learning environment (VLE) that enables prisoners to find some resources for themselves and so empowers them to take more control of their learning. It’s available in some prisons already and is now being rolled out to more offender institutions (although in England only).This will help to improve the current situation at least south of the border; too often, prisoners who are moved to a new institution by the authorities can find that their new prison does not, yet, enable them to access the Virtual Campus to continue their learning journey.Assistive technologiesThese days we’re spoiled for choice with the range of practical assistive technologies such as text-to-speech and graphic organisers that can help learners who have additional needs.[#pullquote#]It’s really a no-brainer to ensure that teaching staff understand the range of tools that they already have access to[#endpullquote#]Many of them are available at no or low cost and it’s really a no-brainer to ensure that teaching staff understand the range of tools that they already have access to, as well as how to make the best use of them to enable learning for the high proportion of prison learners who have added difficulties such as dyslexia.Find out moreOne of the questions I was asked in the Q&A and also during the networking sessions at the conference was “where can we get help with making better use of digital technology in prisons?”Our digital skills sector report (pdf), which is one of the key outputs from the, now complete, digital student project, offers some more details on the ideas I’ve highlighted here. It includes recommendations specific to offender institutions as well as others that are relevant to the wider adult learning and skills sector.There are many resources on the Jisc website including this guide to enhancing the digital experience for skills learners. Jisc's national and regional customer services teams are also able to offer solutions tailored to your institution and its needs.Keep an eye on the website for updates on work we’ll be doing with organisations such as the Education and Training Foundation to take this initiative forwards.