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  • How will automation impact UK research?
    Independent thinktank Demos has launched an interim report for Research 4.0 which looks at the potentially transformative impact of fourth industrial revolution technologies on the research sector. The world of research is rapidly changing. The past 20 years have seen huge developments in the way research is conducted, with dramatic changes in tasks across the research lifecycle.Much of this change is driven by the start of the fourth industrial revolution driven by the rise of the Internet of Things, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, 5G, new forms of energy storage and quantum computing.Artificial intelligence (AI), and deep machine learning in particular, stands out as a class of fourth industrial revolution technologies likely to be impactful. This is due to their position as a general purpose technology.The changing face of researchToday, artificial intelligence is an increasingly influential part of our daily lives and is developing at a rapid pace. This is no less the case than in the research sector, where we found researchers have developed and deployed a wide range of AI methods to augment their research practices.[#pullquote#]Researchers at MIT have developed an NLP tool that can read scientific papers and produce a short summary in plain English. [#endpullquote#]Natural language processing (NLP), a technique that makes common use of AI, is the analysis of unstructured language data, essentially enabling computers to extract meaningful information from language as used by humans. Researchers at MIT have developed an NLP tool that can read scientific papers and produce a short summary in plain English. This can be used by researchers to scan a large number of papers and get an understanding of what they say.Lancaster University researchers have used Tagtog, an AI platform that utilises NLP and machine learning, to annotate and extract information from historical documents that relate to early colonial Mexico. Previously it would take scholars years to fully understand just a small section of these documents.However, the use of computational techniques such as NLP can allow for much quicker analysis, enabling previously impractical or cost-prohibitive research to be undertaken.Changing research processesTechnological advances are not only changing the way that research is conducted but also how data is captured, shared and evaluated.AI-assisted technologies could speed up the bid writing process for researchers. At present these tasks can be extremely time-consuming with significant administrative burdens, taking researchers away from research. Natural language processing mean machines are able to analyse unstructured data, such as written content for bids, and generate content themselves.[#pullquote#]an automated system that reviews data standards and other methodologically laborious elements of the review process could free up time for other more qualitative tasks[#endpullquote#]They could also dramatically increase the effectiveness of peer review. Today, humans are at the centre of the peer review system for academic papers. The current review process can be incredibly time-consuming. However, an automated system that reviews data standards and other methodologically laborious elements of the review process could free up time for other more qualitative tasks, such as ensuring the research sits in the broader context.Considering the risksHowever, it is critical that the risks posed to the research sector and wider society by the rise of automated research are given proper consideration.Deep-learning algorithms allow humans to take a step back in analysing information, as computers are given the task of finding meaningful relationships in the data. However, as researchers become more distant from the analysis, they lose understanding of the underlying processes and may not be able to explain exactly what an algorithm is doing; the systems are black-boxed.[#pullquote#]50% of AI researchers in a 2018 survey forecasted that high-level machine intelligence would be achieved within 45 years[#endpullquote#]More alarmingly, 50% of AI researchers in a 2018 survey forecasted that high-level machine intelligence (HLMI) would be achieved within 45 years.HLMI is achieved when machines can accomplish every task better and more cheaply than human workers. Reaching that threshold in research tasks has the potential to spark exponential technological progress, with AI systems quickly becoming vastly superior to humans in all tasks. The survey acknowledges the risks associated with this; researchers gave a 15% probability to a bad or extremely bad outcome (eg ‘human extinction’).Looking forwardFrom finding new solutions to speeding up research processes, research is already being reshaped around the world by the emergence of a fourth industrial revolution.[#pullquote#]it is vital to consider how these changes can be harnessed for the good of the research sector and wider society.[#endpullquote#]However, it is vital to consider how these changes can be harnessed for the good of the research sector and wider society. The second phase of Research 4.0 will explore how this can be achieved, setting out a number of forecasts and policy recommendations for government.
  • How to navigate the new digital accessibility regulations
    The new digital accessibility regulations that came into effect last week will affect all public sector websites – including those of Jisc members. Official advice and sector guidanceChange can be confusing and difficult to navigate, but advice is available from the Government Digital Service (GDS), which is responsible for monitoring the new regulations. This includes links to useful resources, such as guidance on constructing an accessibility statement, and details of need-to-know dates and requirements.  In addition, the Further and Higher Education Digital Accessibility Working Group has prepared a digital accessibility toolkit that contains sector-sourced guidance.While these new regulations will take time and resource to implement, having apps, digital content and websites fully accessible can help improve student engagement with learning and, consequently, improve outcomes.Advanced technology helps create and shape exciting new teaching and learning tools, and making sure accessibility is considered from the start will help widen participation across colleges and universities. This is a key part of Jisc’s Education 4.0 vision.Support from JiscAs the new digital accessibility regulations come in, the crucial information members need to take away is that all new websites and resources – including both those that are newly created and those that are substantially reviewed - must be compliant. Jisc has therefore prepared an accessibility landing page, linking to resources that members may find useful.[#pullquote#]the crucial information members need to take away is that all new websites and resources [...] must be compliant[#endpullquote#]We have also been running monthly webinars, each attracting representatives from between 50 and 70 organisations. The last webinar focused on accessibility statements, and future sessions will be publicised through the digital accessibility regulations Jiscmail list.Shaping the futureMore is being done to support this work. As well as actively engaging with GDS around the implementation of these regulations, Jisc is working with the Department for Education (DfE) on the implementation of its edtech strategy. Our CEO, Paul Feldman, is on the leadership group, and I am a member of the DfE’s assistive technology (AT) experts’ group, which provides advice and feedback to ensure assistive technology is considered throughout the rollout of the edtech strategy.[#pullquote#]As well as actively engaging with GDS around the implementation of these regulations, Jisc is working with the Department for Education (DfE) on the implementation of its edtech strategy[#endpullquote#]As an organisation, we are also active in the review of provision for students in higher education (HE) through the House of Lords’ HE Commission for disabled students’ experience. Further, Jisc is supporting the AT network - a practitioner-led group of staff from both higher and further education.‘The difference between failing and flying’My personal interest in this sector goes back to the 1990s, when I gained work experience at the independent specialist Beaumont College in Lancaster. There, I saw how AT can make the difference between failing and flying.When I first saw a student using a voice output communication aid (VOCA) as their voice, it was a key moment. I made AT central to my career and became an assistive technologist at Beaumont College in 2000, working to provide services to students and developing a number of national-scale projects - including one that utilised off-the-shelf tablet PCs as communication aids.I left the college in 2015 to join Jisc and am now providing AT support to our members.Putting members firstIn addition to policy engagement work at Jisc, we’re working hard to renew our accessibility and assistive technology offer, following two well-known colleagues moving to new roles.We are in the process of recruiting to fill these vacancies to offer a renewed service, while also collaborating with colleagues in other organisations, such as the Natspec TechAbility service. I look forward to taking this forward, engaging with members to support and inform their accessibility work and use of assistive technology.Rohan Slaughter is a Jisc subject specialist (network, technologies and infrastructure). He can provide support to Jisc members on assistive technology. A programme of training, various renewed web resources, and bespoke consultancy will support this area of work over the coming months. The Jisc accessibility web page will be updated as these offers are made available. In the meantime, members may be interested in attending the TechAbility Annual Conference on Thursday 21 November 2019 in Birmingham.
  • Why should academics trust “lecture capture” to enhance teaching?
    When we introduce lecture capture into an institution there is always one key barrier to adoption; staff concern. Until staff feel that their worries over lecture capture have been listened to, adoption rates will always be low, regardless of institutional policy.Another large consideration must also be the model to which the technology is applied. Are you going for opt-in or opt-out? Are you recording video of the classroom or just audio and screen elements? Are you focusing purely on recording lectures, or are you expecting more blended teaching as a result?This last question is probably the most overlooked - the focus is often heavily around “we must record lectures”, and this is a significant barrier for academics. While we know that capturing lectures can provide significant benefit to students, this is only a single usage case for this technology.'Other' uses for lecture capture technologyThere are many more applications to which it can be applied:Narrated screen recordings provide a great way to highlight information about software, web sites, documents and other resourcesYou can review content that has generated multiple questions in- and out-of-class, recording summaries or re-visit the subject in more depthSet activities before and after class, and demonstrate key aspects that can be handled more effectively through videoMore widely, this technology can offer the opportunity to record content away from campus. For example, conducting interviews with subject matter experts who can't otherwise attend campus, such as the local MP, the Court of Appeal judge, the football coach or the SAS doctor. Or you could explore geographic-dependent topics such as building architecture, exploring the setup in the back of an ambulance or emergency room, or demonstrating the physical makeup of a volcano, river or forest. This can bring content to the students that they would never normally be able to access[#pullquote#]this technology can offer the opportunity to record content away from campus[#endpullquote#](And we haven't even covered what can be achieved when you give the students the option to record themselves…)Yet we still refer to this type of service as “lecture capture”. This places this single usage case, seen as the most concerning to many academics, at the heart of the service, and immediately creates a larger hurdle for institutions to overcome by putting their core user group on the defensive.Promoting the benefits of the technologyAt Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) we’ve tried to approach the rollout slightly differently. Our YuJa-powered ReCap service (being rolled out this semester) is marketed as Digital Learning Capture, and we try hard in our conversations with staff to balance the lecture capture model with other usage models. Yes, the focus of our initial training is still around lecture capture specifically, but the conversations within those sessions highlight the opportunities that the technology presents beyond the physical classroom.After the service has been in place for a first semester, which will be used as a "settling-in" period, we are adopting an opt-out model, but here too we've tried to put the academic at the centre of our thinking. The academic is the only person who can really understand the impact of recordings within their class, and therefore the only one who can make the decision on whether to opt-out.[#pullquote#]The academic is the only person who can really understand the impact of recordings within their class, and therefore the only one who can make the decision on whether to opt-out.[#endpullquote#]Given the workload our academics have to undertake, it is important that we don't add to this needlessly, so it is important to provide the academic with very simple processes that require minimal engagement when they are making these decisions.Our approach has been to avoid creating central processes, but rather put the decision process in the hands of local academic leadership, either at the programme or school level. These decisions must be pedagogic in nature, and the academic should be at the heart of that process.[#pullquote#]Our approach has been to avoid creating central processes, but rather put the decision process in the hands of local academic leadership[#endpullquote#]Settling-in beginsBy acknowledging the academics' concerns around "lecture capture", placing the power firmly in their hands (while minimising an increase in their workload) and focusing the introduction of the technology on a wider aspect of "learning capture", it is possible to alleviate staff concerns and help them to become comfortable with this sometimes controversial technology.How has this affected take-up at CCCU? Ask me this time next year...
  • As a sector, we need to lose our fear of failure
    I have a very simplistic approach: if technology makes a positive difference, use it. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing to be gained by stubbornly continuing down a path. Tech doesn’t need loyalty. In further education (FE), we should be ready to change anything for the sake of our students – and that means losing our fear of failure. Risk-taking has got to become part of our culture. Otherwise, we’re denying ourselves the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t.Students at the forefrontFifteen years ago, when I was at Crossways Academy in Lewisham, we rebuilt the old school into a new college, putting in a robust new IT infrastructure.We became a world reference site for Cisco. We ran a pilot with Dell, giving students handheld devices. We brought in things that were cutting-edge back then – like a great building management systems (BMS) that enabled us to control our windows with computers and so on, and a proper virtual learning environment (VLE).[#pullquote#]it’s not about the tech, it’s about the outcome. [#endpullquote#]What I learnt is: it’s not about the tech, it’s about the outcome. Because we had a technologically-enhanced environment, people visited from all over the world. That raised our learners’ aspirations, so they shifted from thinking they were at the back end to taking their place at the forefront. Some got to Oxford and Cambridge. In certain local wards, was the first time anyone had done that.Learning togetherI’ve got no original ideas – so I ask people for help when I’m stuck, and I’m all about sharing.I’m interested in technology but I’m no expert – and I’m definitely not alone in that, so soon after joining Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) in 2009, I ran a survey to find out how happy the staff were with technology. It was clear from the responses that there was a skills gap. So I found IT and media students who were articulate and friendly, and I paid them on a part-time basis to train a volunteer group of teachers on how to use technology better.[#pullquote#]Eventually, the digital apprentices became digital leaders.[#endpullquote#]When that went well, we developed the students into full-time digital apprentices (using our levy money), and we introduced the expectation that every subject would have at least one hour of blended learning a week. Eventually, the digital apprentices became digital leaders.Showcasing and sharingThis all made a huge difference. My mission and mantra at BCoT is to put technology at the heart of the college - and now, we have an online dashboard that enables teachers to monitor student progress, the VLE, these new ways of working.[#pullquote#]My mission and mantra at BCoT is to put technology at the heart of the college[#endpullquote#]Recently, we’ve been getting really excited about AI, VR, AR and gamification. We’re winning awards, and we recently ran a conference with Apple, Century Tech and other leaders in technology, showcasing and sharing. We’re finding smarter ways of doing things. When all the little things come together, they’re better than the sum of their individual parts.As we develop the tech-enhanced future of FE, the key questions must be: what’s going to have impact, how will it support learners, and is it worth the disruption?Getting bang for your buckIn FE, our core mission is to get people into work with the skills they need to contribute to UK plc. Technology is an enabler. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it can make processes better and help colleges get more bang for their buck.We’re seeing real change for the FE sector. There’s more interest from government, and we’re told there’s more money coming. But right now, the challenge for a lot of colleges is they don’t have the cash to invest in tech.[#pullquote#]right now, the challenge for a lot of colleges is they don’t have the cash to invest in tech.[#endpullquote#]I’m always looking for ways to deliver a great learning experience at good value. We used our apprenticeship levy for the digital leaders, we saved on the teaching budget with the blended learning hour. The aim was to improve student experience with cost-neutral changes.We also looked at mitigating risk – so we worked with Jisc on a simulated phishing attack at BCoT. Six months after we’d done that training, we were attacked for real – but only two people fell for it. That’s compared with a third of the entire staff the first time round.Working together for a better futureI'm now chair of the Association of Colleges' Technology Special Interest Group (SIG) - which is a forum to discuss how technology can have impact, enabling FE to move forward with a technology-enhanced vision for ‘Education 4.0’.That might mean sharing specific products as well as discussing strategic ideas. How about having one shared, unified, sector-wide, sector-specific management information system, for example? What about if we all got together for product purchasing? The Technology SIG can be a conduit to advise the Association of Colleges (AoC), partners and stakeholders about the needs of FE.[#pullquote#]We can learn from each other, learn from industry – and just make the world a better place.[#endpullquote#]We can learn from each other, learn from industry – and just make the world a better place.Therapy for techiesMost college principals don’t want to be leading-edge. We want to look around and learn from what we see.One of the important functions of the Technology SIG is that pooling of ideas. Another is, it’s therapy. If you’re interested in something but not an expert, it’s good to be completely immersed. It makes you think differently. We can all get pulled into the shape of our job, mould ourselves around the technology we have.We need a space to get all the big ideas out and see what’s new and innovative – then take it back and anchor it down. That’s what the FE sector needs: some big-thinking, blow-away-the-cobwebs therapy.
  • Transitioning textbooks to open, lessons and insights
    A growing number of universities are exploring the use of open access text books. Are they the future teaching and learning materials?  Universities are leading a grassroots rebellion shaking up the ecology of the scientific publishing sector. A growing number of universities and academics have set up their own presses in an attempt to take back control and autonomy away from the large commercial publishing houses.[#pullquote#]A growing number of universities and academics have set up their own presses in an attempt to take back control and autonomy away from the large commercial publishing houses[#endpullquote#]A 2017 report by JiscChanging publishing ecologies: A landscape study of new university presses and academic-led publishing http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6666/1/Changing-publishing-ecologies-report.pdf found that in the past five years, 21 new university presses (NUPs) have become operational and this number may rise to 30 over the next five years. Many of these presses are considering adding open textbooks to their journal and monograph portfolios in a bid to open up scholarly information outside publisher’s subscription paywalls.In addition, academic-led publishers such as Open Book Publishers have been publishing open textbooks for some time.Rising costs The cry for independence is fuelled by a growing discontent about business practices and huge profit margins of large publishers which can exceed that of companies like Amazon and Facebook. With the industry accounting for $25 billion a year, it is taking up a fair chunk of universities’ budgets.[#pullquote#]The price of textbooks has increased by 90 percent from 1998 to 2016[#endpullquote#]Another incentive for universities wanting to take charge of publishing content, is the rising cost of textbooks. The price of textbooks has increased by 90 percent from 1998 to 2016, according to the American Enterprise Institute. It’s a significant barrier to access.Lara Speicher from UCL Press says:“Textbooks are very expensive for students to buy on top of their fees and living expenses, and buying large numbers of print textbooks is increasingly challenging for squeezed library budgets. And now these issues are starting to bite as textbook sales are in decline.”Trialling new waysIn recognition of the discontent in the sector, Jisc commissioned four projects at the universities of Liverpool, Nottingham, Highlands and Islands with Edinburgh Napier University, and University College London to trial in-house publishing of open and affordable e-textbooks.[#pullquote#]Jisc commissioned four projects [...] to trial in-house publishing of open and affordable e-textbooks[#endpullquote#]The project resulted in the publication of eight textbooks and in December 2018 the institution as e-textbook publisher toolkit was launched to help universities and academics to publish their own open and affordable e-textbooks.Professor Frank Rennie and Professor Keith Smyth from University of the Highlands and Islands who took part in the pilot share three lessons they took away from the e-textbook publishing project:The process of e-textbook production is relatively simple and can be applied to a very wide range of publication formats, which will consequently add value to learning and teaching, especially in online and blended learning modes of deliverMost universities already have most of the capacity to publish e-publications by repurposing materials from academic staff, but some jobs (e.g. proofreading and publication control) may require to be brought in from outside, as these skills are not a normal part of most university mainstream activity.The key factor is in the means of distribution of the final product. We chose to utilise Amazon as a distribution service, which ensured a fast and efficient global distribution. The e-textbooks retailed at £1.99, so technically they were not ‘open’ books, but few would claim that the books are not affordable, and this is clearly demonstrated by the large number of downloads achieved by the project.However, you do not have to set up your own new university press to start publishing high quality open and affordable textbooks. Two of the four projects did not have their own presses.[#pullquote#]You do not have to set up your own new university press to start publishing high quality open and affordable textbooks[#endpullquote#]The open access textbook agenda is gaining traction in the UK but is on a rather small scale when compared to North America.Author motivation A recent piece of research conducted by JiscMotivations for textbook and learning resource publishing: Do academics want to publish OA textbooks? - by Ellen Collins and Graham Stone - https://www.liberquarterly.eu/article/10.18352/lq.10266/ looked at the motivations for textbook and learning resource publishing to understand whether open access would motivate authors to publish learning materials and thereby support a transition to open access for e-textbooks.It found that although there was support for open, there were also concerns around copyright and IPR as well as cultural issues within universities regarding rewarding textbook publication and buying out staff time. It is hoped that the results from this study will encourage conversations regarding open textbooks, particularly with funders and institutions.If the sector does not take the opportunity to investigate and engage with open textbook publishing, then an increasing amount of institutions’ budgets will continue to be spent with the large commercial textbook publishers rather than creating personalised course content by the sector for the sector.Wind of changeHowever, institutional cultural attitudes and author motivation to write open textbooks can seem insurmountable hurdles. But now is the time to utilise the expertise within the UK HE sector, to capitalise on the current interest in the growing new university press movement, to start having serious sector wide discussions and action towards the creation of UK-wide open and affordable textbooks. [#pullquote#]Now is the time to utilise the expertise within the UK HE sector, to capitalise on the current interest in the growing new university press movement[#endpullquote#]The challenge as always is realising the potential and making it something viable and achievable, hence the need for a new approach to be endorsed and adopted by the sector as a whole, not just the libraries. 
  • Dealing with cyber security threats to universities and colleges
    Cyber security attacks have emerged as one of the most significant threats to universities and colleges in recent years.  Informed by my experience of two significant data breaches at the University of Greenwich, where I am vice-chancellor, this blog describes the most significant cyber security risks and offers advice for senior leaders and board members about how to mitigate cyber threats and the potential impact.The rising threat of cyber security attacksMany senior university leaders and board members are increasingly worried about the rising threat of cyber security attacks. Ciaran Martin, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has clearly stated that cyber security is one of the major business risks to organisations, not least because cyber crime is ubiquitous and growing rapidly. [#pullquote#]while some university and college leaders are confident they have a high-level executive view of cyber security, many are concerned that they need to know more. [#endpullquote#]This is a very serious, highly technical and rapidly evolving topic and, while some university and college leaders are confident they have a high-level executive view of cyber security, many are concerned that they need to know more. The top risks for educational institutions include phishing, harassment, ransomware, IP theft (piracy), account hacking, credit card fraud and denial of service attacks. How many senior leaders know what these are and what risks each poses to their organisation?Taking a step back for a moment, universities and colleges are at high risk of such threats because they typically have open, permissive, and highly distributed IT systems. These systems have very large numbers of users and deal with very valuable and sensitive information. [#pullquote#]Cyber crime is hard to see and touch, it’s growing fast and universities are especially exposed to its impacts[#endpullquote#]Cyber crime is hard to see and touch, it’s growing fast and universities are especially exposed to its impacts, as the recent publication of a report by the NCSC shows.My experience of data breachesAs mentioned, I have a bit of experience of cyber security and cyber crime. In 2016, Greenwich had two security breaches that were of sufficient seriousness that they needed to be reported to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). Although it is clear that the information breaches occurred, there is no evidence that people were directly affected in any material way. [#pullquote#]we had to upscale our technology, training, insurance, auditing and general awareness[#endpullquote#]However, the consequences for the university were significant. Firstly, we were fined a substantial sum (£120k, reduced to £96k for early repayment). Secondly, we had to respond quickly to ensure that similar breaches did not occur again. Thirdly, we made rapid changes to digital policy, access and training and restricted rights that inconvenienced and annoyed some people. Finally, we had to upscale our technology, training, insurance, auditing and general awareness, which consumed a lot of resources and directly impacted staff right across the organisation. In the aftermath of these data breaches we took a number of specific actions:Required all staff to undertake General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and information security trainingMoved all at-risk IT systems under central controlInstalled addition security softwareIncreased the level of password protectionUndertook penetration testingAcquired specific cyber crime insurance coverHad an independent audit reportAdded a cyber security risk to our risk registerSimilar problems also occur in the corporate world and over the course of the past 18 months, some of the biggest, most widespread, data breaches in the history of the Internet have hit the headlines.Recent high-profile examples include attacks to Marriott and British Airways (BA). In the case of the BA data breach, some 380,000 credit card transactions were taken and the initial fine was £183m. In the aftermath, BA not only had to deal with the financial costs of investigating the breach, but the cost of additional security (eg penetration testers, consultants, security vendors, public relations and legal advice). BA will also be aware of the reputational and brand damage associated with the breach, and potential litigation. All this is a major distraction for companies, impacting their overall strategic aims and objectives – something we should all consider when drafting resilience and business continuity plans.Cyber security: key questions for university and college senior leadersAs a senior leader it may be helpful to consider the following questions when assessing cyber security risks:Do you have a good understanding of cyber security threats and their potential impact?Have you commissioned an honest and detailed independent assessment of your vulnerability to cyber security threats?Have you considered adding cyber security to your risk register?Have all your staff been trained in information security and cyber security?Do you have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan in the event of a major cyber security incident and have you tested it?Do you have cyber security insurance?It’s also worth reading the NCSC's information for board members.[#pullquote#]it is clear that cyber security is a critical business risk for universities and colleges, so it is vitally important that senior executive teams and governing bodies have a grasp of its significance[#endpullquote#]In summary, it is clear that cyber security is a critical business risk for universities and colleges, so it is vitally important that senior executive teams and governing bodies have a grasp of its significance and take appropriate actions to avoid becoming a victim.Find out more about our cyber security offering or join us in Newcastle for the Jisc security conference 2019 on 5-6 November 2019.
  • Share and share alike – survey finds barriers to pooling research equipment
    Why is expensive research equipment not always used to its full potential? This blog explores some of the challenges to sharing equipment more frequently.  What is the most effective way to make money from an expensive asset, such as a house or a car? It’s sharing - listing your spare room on Airbnb, for example, car-pooling or even selling a passenger seat on your daily commute.Similarly, universities and research organisations are recognising the benefits of sharing expensive equipment such as MRI scanners, genome sequencers, super-computers and satellites. But, despite support for this concept from institutional leaders and research funders, a recent Jisc survey (pdf) found that there are a range of barriers which mean that sharing is still not as common as it could be.Many funders require universities and other research institutions to maximise the use and visibility of publicly funded research assets. These requirements prompted the establishment in 2014 equipment.data.ac.uk, the national academic equipment data portal, developed by the University of Southampton with support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and now operated for the research community by Jisc.A national equipment databaseEquipment.data now provides detail and contact information for more than 17,000 items of equipment at 57 research institutes and universities, like the Nikon super-resolution imaging system at the University of Manchester and the DNA Foundry at Imperial College.[#pullquote#]Equipment.data now provides detail and contact information for more than 17,000 items of equipment at 57 research institutes and universities[#endpullquote#]However, in the survey by Jisc of the equipment sharing portal’s users, half of the 108 respondents said their equipment was shared less than five times a year.Several reasons emerged for this and one common factor, given by 22 per cent of respondents, was that equipment’s owners had not given enough information about what they were offering and how it could be used. Some microscopes, for example, need specialised and time-consuming preparation and calibration before they can be used; some analyses can only be run on a specific make and model of a piece of kit.From supercomputers to flume cupboardsMany institutions are deploying lab management systems which include booking and scheduling components which could make it easier to organise sharing of a facility both internally and externally.[#pullquote#]lab management systems which include booking and scheduling components...could make it easier to organise sharing of a facility both internally and externally[#endpullquote#]Ideally these would permit “self-service” bookings by researchers, however the responses to the Jisc survey showed that careful attention needs to be paid to those cases where a technician needs additional time to prepare the equipment to ensure that equipment is properly set up in time for use.One respondent, Chris Wilkinson, equipment-sharing project manager at Cambridge University highlighted this issue, along with the need for consensus on how to define, record and measure users, utilisation and capacity in equipment sharing.A significant factor, mentioned by 14 per cent of respondents, is that not enough institutions offer their equipment for sharing. Coverage can also be somewhat variable, with some institutions listing only equipment valued over the European Journal (OJEU) threshold of £138,000, as required by the EPSRC. Other institutions have taken a more comprehensive approach, listing everything from supercomputers to fume cupboards.Raising awarenessOf the other barriers mentioned by respondents, the most significant was simple ignorance of the equipment database, equipment.data. For example, when Sarah Aldridge, a PhD student at Swansea University wanted help analysing DNA samples from the remains from Henry VIII’s sunken flagship the Mary Rose, she asked around. Colleagues recommended the Chemical Characterisation and Analysis Facility at Bath University. The facility was listed on the portal, but Aldridge did not know the portal existed.Geography is another factor. Most equipment sharing happens locally, to save time and money on travel. However, for research where the investigator only needs the resulting dataset, more remote sharing is feasible, with data delivered via Jisc’s Janet Network, which connects UK universities and research organisations. Regional research consortia such as the GW4 alliance, Science and Engineering South (SES) consortium and Midlands Innovation also have their own view of showing equipment.data and their portfolio equipment available to researchers and industrial collaborators.Researchers can also sometimes be territorial about their equipment. Antony Jones, head of infrastructure and facilities for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences  at Birmingham University, says that encouraging equipment and facility sharing is sometimes like “pushing a rock up a hill”.Even though senior management, at pro-vice-chancellor level, support sharing, the Jisc survey shows that it is still the case that researchers and lab managers are not wholly signed up. Many are protective of what they perceive to be “their” kit and worry that sharing it will limit their own use. There is also concern over who pays for repairs if equipment is damaged by a user from another organisation, and who is responsible for running and maintenance costs. Organisations sharing their equipment want to pass on these costs to visiting academics and research groups.The double VAT trapUniversities can create cost-sharing groups (CSGs) to supply VAT-exempt services to other member organisations, by setting up separate CSG company that exists outside each university’s VAT group. But as most funded capital equipment must be owned by a university, this prohibits the CSG from owning equipment. And leasing equipment to a company outside a VAT group incurs VAT. The N8 group of research-intensive universities reported that they had found these barriers insurmountable.Whilst many of the barriers we have looked at in this article are ultimately down to the institutions themselves to work around, this is a problem that only central government can resolve.
  • Library collections; navigating the payment for access minefield
    How hidden costs can occur when disclosing digital archival collections and my top tips on how to prevent these unwanted charges. The importance of visibility and discoverabilityIn the mind’s eye, library collections conjure images of row upon row of books, from the latest novels to valuable, leather-bound first editions and irreplaceable historic publications yellowing with age. So-called special collections, including primary source material and archives of particular historical value, have always been harder to access due to their rarity, high value or fragility.Physical resources will always be important, but in today’s online world, visibility and discoverability are most important and publishers are increasingly digitising analogue collections of texts, images and audio-visuals held in libraries to make them available for scholars and students.[#pullquote#]publishers are increasingly digitising analogue collections of texts, images and audio-visuals held in libraries to make them available for scholars and students[#endpullquote#]Digital access: balancing the booksPublishers know all too well that digital access offers great advantages and capitalise on the accessibility of their digitised collections by charging libraries for the content itself as a one-off cost, rather than a yearly subscription. However, they then often charge again for continued access to that content on their own delivery platforms through yearly ‘platform’ or ‘hosting fees’.A recent Jisc survey of senior librarians and collection managers reveals that 42% of the 67 institutions that took part spent on average up to 100K or more over the last 5 years on one-off purchases from publishers; platform fees ranged from up to £5,000 to over £15,000 per year, and the majority of institutions felt that the platform/hosting fees they were charged were not very good value for money.These digital collections are typically bought by research libraries and teaching focused higher education institutions (HEIs) as one-off perpetual purchases, but there’s a catch: most licences don’t state that the fees will increase over time and HEIs find they often do so erratically. Institutions may be unable to gain access to content, even after forking out for a digital collection, without incurring extra costs. Having to pay unexpected ongoing fees puts strain on stretched resources.[#pullquote#]Having to pay unexpected ongoing fees puts strain on stretched resources[#endpullquote#]The survey also reveals widespread discontent with the lack of transparency around these charges. As one of the respondents put it:“Some hosting fees seem set at a reasonable nominal rate while others can charge thousands while offering little in the way of updates to the resource. The business reasons for the charges are often not made clear.”Another problem is multiple access charging. HEI libraries are charged per collection, which means those with more than one collection on the same publisher’s platform can be charged several times.Of course, libraries could consider refusing to use certain platforms, but it’s hard to justify cancelling access to a collection that has cost significant money. And they have already paid the one-off cost for acquiring the collections in the first place, so that investment would be lost.[#pullquote#]Of course, libraries could consider refusing to use certain platforms, but it’s hard to justify cancelling access to a collection that has cost significant money[#endpullquote#]Another area of concern relates to charges made by publishers to enable data-driven research of these collections. Publishers are supposed to enable text and data mining (TDM) but again they will often apply charges to provide access to data sets institutions have already purchased.HEIs are keen that their academics and student can undertake such research, but there are significant challenges to be overcome before the sector can fully embrace this due to there being no standard approach to how TDM is facilitated. The majority of HEIs who access such data sets for text and data mining activities say they experienced associated fees.One respondent commented:“We have been charged by one publisher for data to be sent to us on a hard drive in order for a user to carry out TDM on a newspaper archive which we had already purchased.”An added problem is that libraries are not always aware of the level of TDM activity that takes place in their institution, as requests for data sets to publishers are often made by researchers directly to the publishers, thus by-passing the library. According to the survey, 89% of respondents have either never conducted data mining on their collections, or do not know if this has taken place.If libraries don’t have full visibility of the requirements for TDM in their institutions, they can’t support researchers adequately.Driving down costs with our group purchasing schemeIn response to members’ concerns and to support institutions with the purchasing of digital collections, Jisc has set up a new service, the digital archival collections group purchasing scheme, which has transparent pricing and drives down costs.[#pullquote#]To date participating institutions have saved over £600,000 on the list price of the products offered[#endpullquote#]Higher education institutions collectively benefit from lower prices for digital collections based on the simple market principle: the more products that are purchased from a publisher, the lower the price for those participating. There is no need to negotiate as prices have been Jisc banded to allow all members to participate, and there are no recurrent platform fees. To date participating institutions have saved over £600,000 on the list price of the products offered.We're working with our members on a set of principles that will help guide purchase agreement negotiations for digitised collections. We have put together the top six things to consider when negotiating such a deal.  Top tips for negotiating when purchasing digitised collections Make sure that publisher agreements provide price transparency on all the costs associated with one-off purchases, including any recurrent annual hosting fees.Agree price rises for ongoing charges. Fees should undergo only a moderate increase to reflect genuine developments in the service.Ask publishers to agree to ‘bundle’ recurrent annual hosting fees within the one-off purchasing price.Where content is added to a collection on a platform, costs should be available as a top-up purchase, not a hosting fee arrangement.All digitised public domain materials should ideally be released into the public domain after any exclusive licence period has been agreed between a publisher and an HEI.Ensure that text and data mining is an integral part of any digital collection purchasing deal.
  • Giving staff the skills and confidence to deal with distressed students
    Over the past few years, awareness of mental health issues has grown and the wellbeing of students and staff is never far from the media. There seems to be general agreement that better support is required, which means equipping more people at colleges and universities with skills to deal with those in distress.  There are specialist wellbeing services, with counsellors and GPs, and education providers are among many organisations, including Jisc, which also train staff as Mental Health First Aiders. But during their time at university, many students will likely spend more time around frontline staff such as receptionists, administration or facilities assistants, than their tutors, lecturers or wellbeing staff. It’s important that these invaluable individuals feel confident to manage distressing situations well because those experiencing distress can really benefit.   Mental health training: taking the right approachNow, following requests from members and a successful pilot in July, Jisc has developed a new training course to help frontline staff at colleges and universities grow this confidence and build understanding of the human emotional experience. This takes time and there is no substitute for experience, as I know only too well. [#pullquote#]Jisc has developed a new training course to help frontline staff at colleges and universities [...] build understanding of the human emotional experience[#endpullquote#]My first role in mental health was as a volunteer with a service running self-help courses about emotional difficulties. I had no specialist training and I didn’t know much about mental health, but I frequently received positive feedback and praise, simply because by default I tend to be calm, friendly and empathetic.  I welcomed people, helped them get to the right room, made drinks and met panic, aggression and tears with kindness and patience.  Being nice seemed like the best option. Later, having completed my training and gained a few years’ experience as a mental health practitioner, I began to understand why my approach had generally been successful. I also greatly appreciated the significant role frontline staff play in how - or whether – distressed people engage with support.   I treated a young woman who had been on the verge of leaving while she waited for her first appointment and was persuaded to stay by a kind receptionist; and a very angry man who would never have sought help if it weren’t for a caretaker at his son’s school who hadn’t got defensive when the man ranted about parking spaces. Developing understanding and resilienceBut it isn’t just the wellbeing of the person in turmoil that matters. Despite anyone’s best efforts, some situations don’t work out well and even those that do can leave the helper with difficult feelings and thoughts. Part of the reason for developing this course was to ensure that staff have the knowledge and tools they need to support themselves and to understand the normal (yet often unspoken) ways in which distressed people commonly react.  [#pullquote#]Part of the reason for developing this course was to ensure that staff [...] understand the normal [...] ways in which distressed people commonly react[#endpullquote#]I recall an aggressive, opinionated and offensive individual who was very disruptive. While I was able to calm him, I was left feeling angry, belittled and frustrated and, worse, I was ashamed of those feelings; this person had been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition and it felt ‘wrong’ to be angry with someone so vulnerable.  It took years to develop the courage to be open about these reactions, but once I talked about it and was able to understand why I reacted as I did and that it was quite normal, I vowed that I would never again shame myself for being a perfectly ordinary human being. Our training, which takes a broad look at all sorts of emotional difficulties, as well as mental health conditions, provides the opportunity to build skills and knowledge, with space to practice, discuss and gain understanding using example scenarios.  We will also be encouraging people on the course to share best practice, so members can learn from each other.  Steve James, who has ten years’ experience as a mental health practitioner in the NHS and a national military charity, will deliver the next training course across two two-hours sessions on 24 and 27 September.  You can book your place now, or for more information email training@jisc.ac.uk or call 01235 822242. 
  • Considered and visionary: a grown-up approach to lifelong learning
    Responding to the Education Committee's inquiry into adult skills and lifelong learning, in this blog, I outline Jisc’s vision for an agile, joined-up, data-driven approach.  Change is happening – and fast. The fourth industrial revolution is disrupting old business models before our eyes, bringing new challenges and new ways of working. Shifting labour market requirements and rapid developments in technology require agility.It’s a far cry from thinking of employability as a fixed set of qualifications delivered through vocational courses; adult skills and lifelong learning (ASALL) are key to the future success of individuals and the economy.  [#pullquote#]adult skills and lifelong learning are key to the future success of individuals and the economy[#endpullquote#]A joined-up approachIndustry 4.0 requires an education system to match. Jisc’s vision for Education 4.0 explores the effect of emerging technology on teaching and learning now and into the future and calls for a joined-up approach to ASALL and flexible opportunities to learn through a variety of routes.As part of this work, Jisc is supporting the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and is working with members to meet the challenges of Education 4.0.Digital technologies, better data management, and shared sector-wide e-infrastructure are the enablers, and all FE and skills providers must equip their learners with the abilities and attributes to thrive. Jisc is helping them do just that.Perceptions vs realityAccording to the government's industrial strategy, ‘within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills’.Jisc’s 2019 student digital experience insight survey, published on 3 September 2019, found that less than half of the 13,389 FE students surveyed (49%) thought digital skills would be needed in their chosen career. Further, only 40% of students in FE agreed that their course prepares them for the digital workplace.[#pullquote#]we must address learners’ workplace awareness, and perhaps that of their teachers[#endpullquote#]These are sobering statistics. As around 90% of all new jobs require digital skillsTaken from the government review of publicly funded digital skills qualifications - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-publicly-funded-digital-skills-qualifications, we must address learners’ workplace awareness, and perhaps that of their teachers.  Teaching supportASALL providers need a comprehensive digital strategy, with technology ‘designed in’ from the outset to the overall pedagogic approach. Teaching staff should be given opportunities to ‘upskill’ and ongoing support to develop their digital capabilities. This is crucial. Jisc's 2018 digital experience insight staff survey of 1,921 university and college teaching staff found only 18.9 per cent of college-based respondents agreed they had time and support to innovate with technology. Only 44.2 per cent said they had regular opportunities to develop their digital skills.Delivering with dataA rich and complex lifelong learning journey can be supported from pre-enrolment to alumni and across sectors, learning providers and employers – but it will require cross-sector datasets, intelligent unbundling of education, and a robust credit system that is recognised by employers.[#pullquote#]We work with our members to help them make evidence-based decisions [...] and encourage ASALL providers to take this approach to curriculum-planning[#endpullquote#]We work with our members to help them make evidence-based decisions informed by data, and encourage ASALL providers to take this approach to curriculum-planning as a means of responding to labour market changes and skills needs.Together, we need to utilise local, regional and national labour market intelligence (LMI), local enterprise partnership priorities, other local and national provider curriculum and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)’s outcome-based success measures to guide people through their learning and working journey. Short courses and micro-credentials As more people retrain while remaining in employment, fewer may complete a qualification over a single, prolonged and uninterrupted period. Short courses aimed at upskilling people in work at level 2 and 3 - as opposed to two to three-year commitments - could help address the UK’s skills gaps.  In addition, a sound, shared digital infrastructure to underpin micro-credentials and cooperation between providers could help join up the system and stimulate a more dynamic market.[#pullquote#]a sound, shared digital infrastructure to underpin micro-credentials and cooperation between providers could help join up the system[#endpullquote#]As part of our learning analytics service, Jisc has already developed a national learning data hub, making sense of the patterns in student records and data. This is hosted on secure, resilient servers.A similar digital system could support skills and lifelong learning, underpinned by micro-credentials.     Widening accessLearning in a digital environment has the potential to be a great leveller. Although there are hurdles to overcome as access to technology is still far from ubiquitous, digital resources bring flexibility, and can enable people from all backgrounds to access valuable knowledge.Technically, all anyone needs to learn online is an internet connection and curiosity. Although the reality isn’t always this straightforward, Jisc can support providers to deliver quality ASALL through technology, seeking to deliver Education 4.0 from cradle to grave that supports individuals and the economy, and grasps the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0.The results of Jisc’s 2019 digital experience insights student survey were announced on 3 September 2019, with the results of the staff survey following in November. You can now register to participate in the 2019-20 surveys by subscribing via the digital experience insights service website.
  • Students are helping to shape the digital experience for future learners
    Launching tomorrow, Tuesday 3 September, Jisc’s 2019 digital experience insights student survey report will show how learners at UK colleges and universities experience technology. Shakira Martin reflects on the value of the survey. We know that 60% of jobs not yet created will be digital - which is why it’s essential to immerse digital technologies within learning environments, equipping students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to thrive in the workplace.During my time as NUS president, I saw first-hand the ways in which digital technology is already being used to enhance teaching, learning and inclusion. Students are not just training for a job, but for a global career.[#pullquote#]Students are not just training for a job, but for a global career.[#endpullquote#]Sharing insightsThis year, 29,531 participants from 50 institutions – including further education colleges, sixth form colleges, universities and higher education institutions - have told us about the technologies they encounter.They’ve shared their attitudes towards digital technologies and described their digital learning experiences. Their voices contribute to the data set that has been collected annually since the initial survey was launched in 2016. More than 100,000 students have now had their say and are helping to shape the digital experience for future learners.Maximising valueColleges and universities already invest heavily in technology and digital, so it is vital that they understand how their students are using the technology– what works well and where improvements can be made.[#pullquote#]this report will reveal that, while student satisfaction levels are generally high, there are areas where we all need to work together to address issues[#endpullquote#]At a national level, this report will reveal that, while student satisfaction levels are generally high, there are areas where we all need to work together to address issues - such as improving students’ knowledge, understanding and confidence in understanding data privacy and protecting their wellbeing.Embracing changeEducation leaders can use this report to better understand and enhance their students’ digital experience. I also recommend universities and colleges take advantage of the advice and support provided by Jisc to embrace a digital approach to issues such as curriculum design and the learning environment.Finally, I call on all universities and colleges to work in partnership with their students to ensure they are providing the best possible education experience – one in which digital technology is integrated. We must offer opportunities for all learners to develop the skills they need to thrive in today’s ever-more connected and fast-changing world.Sign up now to run Jisc digital experience insights surveys for students, teaching and professional services staff from October 2019.
  • Could transparency drive better deals for transnational education?
    Universities should be able to offer the same access to content to transnational students as to those studying a degree in the UK. It's not always an unpleasant experience to hear that a competitor is worse off than yourself, but what if you don’t have a clue what colleagues are paying for a similar service? This is the issue faced by the majority of universities which are paying publishers to give transnational students and staff access to academic content.Currently, each of the UK higher education institutions (HEIs) catering for transnational education (TNE) students needs to negotiate contracts with a myriad of publishers to give those students the same access to journals, databases and e-books as they do to their registered students in the UK. There’s little transparency and consistency around the licencing content agreements between libraries and publishers which leads to confusion and inconsistency.The growth of transnational educationTNE is growing - a UK degree is held in high esteem and is internationally recognised as a viable ticket to work.[#pullquote#]The UK is now the second largest provider of international education[#endpullquote#]Behind the US, the UK is now the second largest provider of international education, with a 10% share of the global market and 707,000 TNE students. With the number of HEIs delivering UK education overseas growing, universities face a challenge. Negotiating directly with publishers for library resource access for students and support staff located abroad is a time-consuming and confusing process, often with disproportionate financial consequences with regard to the typically small numbers of students involved.Currently, library services at UK HEIs are trying hard to comply with publisher’s licensing agreements when offering content access to TNE students. However, there is no shared language or single standardised process. This is where confusion creeps in, often creating uncertainty and producing unpredictable, inconsistent and sometimes unfair outcomes.Creating a level playing fieldUsing a simple, evidenced and shared framework, Jisc’s licensing approach creates a level playing field. It maps out the wide variety of TNE student affiliations that results from the complex contractual relationships alongside the wide range of educational modes and their partnerships with educators overseas.Jisc has established that TNE students, when registered with the UK HEI, are equivalent to those students registered with UK HEIs but living and studying in a UK context. It follows, therefore, that they should also be considered 'authorised users' in content agreements and be given parity of access to content. These students are part of the UK HEIs population and it would be unreasonable to consider them apart or charge them differential fees in comparison with students registered with a UK HEI in a TNE context.We have also established that some TNE produces a more complex licensing situation. This is the case when students study overseas for an award from the UK HEI, but are more closely affiliated with an overseas partner educator. In these instances, Jisc seeks to agree with publishers a reasonable and transparent fee on behalf of its members - UK universities.Wiley is a publisher who has approved Jisc’s TNE licensing approach as a solution, and in doing so has helped bring clarity and transparency to this area of content licensing, evidenced by government-reported TNE data, collected from universities by HESA.The Jisc licensing approach is built on the licensed HESA data representing all UK HEIs delivering TNE. This takes trust. Universities have not entrusted their TNE data to a third party to streamline licensing agreements with publishers before. But initiatives like the new transnational education licencing service create sector insight and a platform to take this work forward with publishers.[#pullquote#]Universities making use of this centralised licensing service will no longer have to broker separate content access agreements [#endpullquote#]Universities making use of this centralised licensing service will no longer have to broker separate content access agreements with Wiley, or further agreements that follow it, saving both time and money. The unified and transparent approach creates a welcome level playing field for HEIs offering TNE students' access to scholarly publications.Get involvedThere are 35 libraries subscribed to the new transnational education licencing service. If you would like more information or updates via the JiscMail group, please contact greg.ince@jisc.ac.uk. Alternatively,  sign up for the service via the Jisc Collections website.
  • ‘Learners will inherit the future’ - let’s help them
    The current, traditional model of education does not address the needs of a knowledge-based economy. It’s time to seize the opportunity to rethink education and redesign learning. We live in a world where the largest taxi company doesn’t own cars (Uber), the largest movie provider doesn’t own cinemas (Netflix), and the largest social media network doesn’t create content (Facebook).For today’s businesses, agility is everything - and only the bravest innovators flourish.The pace of change presents education with a real challenge. In our efforts to try to close the attainment gap, are we widening the relevance gap? No country wants to offer skills and qualifications for jobs that may not be in demand in years to come. The focus in the UK needs to shift to ensure we equip learners with future-ready skills.Unlearning and relearningWorking with teachers and educators, at South Eastern Regional College (SERC) we have started to reshape learning. In the past, education focused on logic and recall. Now, it’s about helping students thrive in an increasingly complex landscape where change is the one constant. Society shouldn’t simply reward people for knowledge, but for what they do with what they know.Digital transformation is revolutionising industry and changing the ways we work as we move through the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. The education sector needs to respond with an innovative approach where technology is central. Jisc calls this Education 4.0.It’s increasingly difficult to imagine how students will succeed without digital skills, and a workforce that has such skills presents opportunities to boost economic growth. Our education system must be sufficiently agile to embrace this ethos, and our teachers must become active agents for change. As educators, we have to unlearn and relearn.  The push and pullTraditional education has focused on ‘push’ not ‘pull’, relying on extrinsic factors, such as achieving a qualification (which may be several years away) to motivate learners. Learners have been told that if they work hard, they will get a good qualification, and then a job. Do students today believe that? At SERC, we have sought to create the ‘pull’ - engaging students by helping them see the relevance of what they are learning.Starting the year with an enterprise fortnight, students work in groups on specific industry challenges, uploading their solutions in a web portal. Peers review these and vote on the most effective solutions. Groups present to both internal and external judges at enterprise fairs. They are tackling real challenges that are relevant to them. That means they start their course believing that what they do has impact.EmployabilityStarting with industry-related challenges, rather than from knowledge to be imparted, highlights the skills and behaviours needed for the careers our learners want to enter and the community they are part of.We want them to see that what they do in college counts and show them they have the potential to be entrepreneurial and innovative. Working collaboratively, showing initiative, dealing with conflict and persisting through challenges while meeting deadlines are essential attributes employers value.Teaching transformedThis has required a cultural shift for staff. Recognising that teachers are active agents for change, SERC has encouraged innovation, assessing across modules, working on interdisciplinary industry challenges and harnessing digital technology.Here, we could see performing arts and engineering students working with computing students on real-world projects, reflecting the experiences they might face in industry. This focus on enterprise and project-based learning has seen learners’ horizons expanding and an enhancement of transferable skills.Staff recognise their role as facilitators rather than just imparters of knowledge. It’s bottom-up, top-down - and it’s not just theoretical; we support staff with peer mentors, development days, and opportunities to create and innovate. We encourage a growth mindset, providing scaffolding and ensuring a whole-college approach. We run weekly webinars: Moodle Mondays (sharing ideas around blended learning), Webinar Wednesdays (sharing good practice across the organisation) and one-minute CPD (microlearning hints and tips).Assessment on the flyAnother key change is that we map assessment against learners’ experiences within the context of project-based learning. Awarding bodies are becoming more open to these ideas, such as harnessing mobile technology so we’re able to capture evidence of students’ skills in the workplace in real time. It is a quicker and more accessible way of authentically documenting skills.Embracing changeOur approach has meant some adjustment, because any innovation can seem disruptive. However, feedback from students is positive and teachers value the opportunity to influence change.Philosopher Eric Hoffer said, "In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists". At SERC, we’re equipping our staff and students for an ever-changing world. The questions we base ourselves on now are: what is worth knowing and what will we do with that knowledge? That’s our legacy. That’s our ‘why’.Paula Philpott is head of the learning academy at South Eastern Regional College. Hear Paula discussing the future of teaching, learning and assessment in FE in a webinar, 11:00 on Wednesday 2 October 2019.
  • Drive your data dashboard with analytics labs
    Higher education (HE) professionals will discover the power of data dashboards in a new continuing professional development (CPD) service launching this month. Catherine O’Donnell, who has already sampled analytics labs as a beta service, describes how the programme benefited her. During 20 years in HE as a teacher, trainer, learning technologist and a manager, I had never created my own interactive data dashboards. That changed when I joined analytics labs.As a research and impact manager for widening access and participation (WAP) at Ulster University, I was familiar with working with data to create visualisations, but joining this programme allowed me to pick up a host of new skills.Analytics labs is a CPD programme that brings together teams of data analysts from HE to learn how to use dashboards to help problem-solve some of the key challenges the sector is facing. I first heard about them at a Jisc Connect More event in Belfast in 2017 and was inspired to apply.Meaningful dashboardsAt the time of my application I was chairing a data working group in my institution. Part of our remit was to consider how we should best go about developing meaningful dashboards for WAP.Our main goal was to provide data that would help staff make data-informed WAP decisions to support student success and result in learning gain. We wanted to provide access to a range of WAP data that helps support students throughout their entire learner journey from pre-entry, through their university studies and into employment.[#pullquote#]The labs are designed to allow participants to work collaboratively on a defined project[#endpullquote#]The labs are designed to allow participants to work collaboratively on a defined project that provides opportunities to gain skills in data visualisation, including using Tableau, Alteryx and other tools. It was also an opportunity to participate in agile development, collaborate digitally – with the chance to use tools to enable remote working - and understand the data landscape.When I signed up, I had to agree to dedicating 13 days of my time over three months. The first session was a showcase event which provided an opportunity to meet my team members, who were drawn from several different institutions, and to see outputs from previous participants.I found the dashboard walk-throughs particularly beneficial and was excited to be a part of it.My team was assigned the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF21) topic. Initially, I and others did not know much about REF21, but we had a fabulous leader who helped us get up to speed. If I’d been given a choice of topic, I probably would have picked learner analytics, but I found that working on something I wasn’t familiar with didn’t detract from what I gained in taking part.Around a dozen further sessions followed with my team, including face-to-face meetings at different locations with the rest remote. These meetings provided great opportunities to share practice, advice and feedback.Jisc and HESA provided the data we needed and gave us access to Alteryx and Tableau, which allowed us to analyse the data effectively. Lots of support was available on-demand from peers and Jisc experts.Talented peopleTaking part allowed me to meet some talented people with different areas of expertise who were all willing to provide support and share skills. We soon got to know everyone’s strengths and areas of interest and regularly evaluated each other’s contributions.The final session involved us showcasing our dashboard outputs to other groups, including the new cohort joining the programme, and to an expert panel.[#pullquote#]I was super-impressed with the quality and diversity of the dashboard outputs in such a short space of time and left feeling really inspired and motivated[#endpullquote#]I was super-impressed with the quality and diversity of the dashboard outputs in such a short space of time and left feeling really inspired and motivated, with lots of ideas about what I wanted to do next for WAP. I was very proud of what our team, ‘The REFengers’ produced and I was delighted with our feedback.We used data including research income, staff characteristics and postgraduate research student numbers to create the dashboards. These explored the national and institutional picture of REF14, the strength of research environments and made predictions regarding what REF21 might look like.TransformationalFor me, participating was transformational. It gave me opportunities to learn new skills and develop confidence. What I gained personally also benefited my institution. I have since been able to create many dashboards using both external data available in the public domain and internal data for WAP objectives.Some of the dashboards I’ve been able to create using external data include primary and post-primary free school meal entitlements, special educational needs profiles, GCSE and A-level attainment and WAP comparisons. Using internal data has enabled me to create dashboards which are allowing Ulster University to better explore WAP data at university, faculty, school and programme level.[#pullquote#]Using internal data has enabled me to create dashboards which are allowing Ulster University to better explore WAP data[#endpullquote#]Initially, analytics labs pushed me outside my comfort zone and, if I am completely honest, at times I thought I was further behind than I actually was. But when I had time to use Tableau with my own data after the programme ended, the dots connected, and I now use Tableau daily to create dashboards for WAP.When my analytics labs time came to an end, I signed up to become a member of the alumni forum to keep up to date. I was recently asked to sum up my experience of analytics labs in three words - and I picked transformational, inspirational and motivational - and I would strongly recommend this programme to others.
  • One giant leap? Imagining the University of Mars
    I was just a baby when Neil Armstrong took that one small step from the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar lander to the surface of the Moon on 20 July 1969.  As a kid I often wondered about that giant leap for mankind, which was already starting to seem like something from a bygone era. Just picture how NASA’s Gene Cernan felt about being the last man on the Moon, the last human to set foot on another world. Finally, 50 years later, it feels like we’re back on track at last.As we celebrate the anniversary of the first moon landing, a grand total of just 571 people have been into space. Why is this? Well, until recently space travel has been eye-wateringly expensive, with launches typically costing hundreds of millions of dollars.Now, technical advances from companies including Virgin, SpaceX and Blue Origin are set to dramatically reduce the costs of getting people and things into space. How so? It’s simple, really: land the rocket and fly it again. Figuring out how took a while, though - SpaceX alone spent 13 years working on this.Space is the placeWhile we can’t yet nip off for a weekend break in outer space, within the next decade we will start to see more and more people routinely living and working off-world.[#pullquote#]within the next decade we will start to see more and more people routinely living and working off-world.[#endpullquote#]This will have huge implications for research and innovation because we will need to work out how to build the infrastructure and the industries that will sustain human life in space and on other planets. And yes, one day the first students will attend lectures at the University of Mars.Let’s not underestimate what all this means, though. Everything we take for granted on Earth will ultimately have to be created from scratch on other worlds. From food and drinking water to power generation and creating an interplanetary internet that the colonists and their robots can use to communicate.Picture an asteroid-belt mining habitat, a Lunar hotel (dare you risk a night on the dark side?), a Martian colony. Somewhere off-planet, a seed is germinating, a shoot is growing, a leaf is forming - and a plant is starting to grow…Research that’s out of this worldThis might all seem like something that happens somewhere else, to someone else, but the UK is actually a world leader in space – we just don’t like to shout about it. We made around 40% of the small satellites in Earth orbit right now, and will soon be launching them into space ourselves as Virgin Orbit begins operations at Spaceport Cornwall in 2020. Whoosh![#pullquote#]the UK is actually a world leader in space – we just don’t like to shout about it. [#endpullquote#]At Jisc, where we’re delighted to be supporting the UK’s space innovation community through key digital infrastructure, such as the national research and education network, Janet, and our eduroam wireless roaming. Space is in our DNA, with our Janet team based at Harwell Campus, home of RAL Space and the European Space Agency. Janet also connects key UK space sites such as the Goonhilly earth station.It may be a while before we have interplanetary Janet up and running, but I was delighted that, in a world-first, we were able to demonstrate eduroam over 5G to the University of West London’s vice-chancellor this week.The services we run and the support we provide are constantly evolving to meet the needs of our further and higher education members and customers, and to keep abreast of new technological developments – from 5G to artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality to the quantum internet.How could new technologies such as artificial intelligence and mixed reality transform research? We’d love to hear from you – take our edtech challenge, and we’ll work with the winners to bring their ideas to life (closing date 31 July 2019).
  • Preparing frontline staff to deal with students in distress
    Would you know what to do if a student launched into an angry tirade in the library, or dissolved into tears during a tutorial? How should you deal with the immediate situation? What is the safeguarding policy? How and when should you contact student wellbeing services?  Frontline staff are often first to see or hear of students in distress, but this can be emotionally challenging. It’s important, therefore, that employees feel confident in their ability to handle such situations and provide the right support for students at the right time. To help, and in response to calls from members, we are just about to launch a free, pilot course. [#pullquote#]members at our stakeholder forum identified student wellbeing as a priority for their colleges and universities[#endpullquote#]Earlier this year, members at our stakeholder forum identified student wellbeing as a priority for their colleges and universities and feedback from our account managers showed a need for staff training to support that theme. We know that many frontline staff have completed Mental Health First Aider training, which is very good at providing an overview of recognised mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Our training, which takes a broad look at all sorts of emotional difficulties, as well as mental health conditions, provides the opportunity to build upon and broaden these skills and knowledge, with space to practice and discuss them using example scenarios. [#pullquote#]We aim to boost confidence in decision making, reduce stress reaction and provide a safe please to practice mental health first aid.[#endpullquote#] Our aim is for frontline staff to gain confidence in their existing ability and to develop new skills to support their role, which can also be helpful outside the workplace. We aim to boost confidence in decision making, reduce stress reaction and provide a safe please to practice mental health first aid. We will also be encouraging people on the course to share best practice, so members can learn from each other. Steve James, who has ten years’ experience as a mental health practitioner in the NHS and a national military charity, will deliver the free online pilot training course, which takes place over two afternoons, 23 and 25 July. There are still some places left. For more information, email training@jisc.ac.uk or call 01235 822242.
  • College applies "any time, any place, anywhere" studying principle to its digital transformation project
    Remember that cheesy 80s advert for Martini which encouraged us to enjoy it “any time, any place, anywhere”? Three decades later, minus the booze, the slogan perfectly captures how our young people expect to study today. Achieving this ideal is only possible with rock-solid IT infrastructure to support resilient connectivity coupled with a large measure of cross-campus digital strategy all under a senior management umbrella. Voila! The perfect FE cocktail!Seriously, though, once you’ve got the key ingredients in place, your students will have the tools to thrive. And isn’t that why we all work so hard – to give our learners the best possible experience and chance in life?Even more seriously, mixing the cocktail is not a defined art and each college and learner cohort will have different needs. My own experience started in September 2016 when I began leading a digital transformation at one of the largest further education organisations in the UK, Leeds City College, with more than 30,000 learners across six campuses.[#pullquote#]The college was having to think of innovative ways to save money and space, while also increase the quality of our offer[#endpullquote#]The college was having to think of innovative ways to save money and space, while also increase the quality of our offer and technology was part of the answer.The power of rewardsIt was certainly a challenge, but it’s paid dividends in so many ways.[#pullquote#]We’ve improved our Ofsted rating, improved maths and English outcomes, extended our student reach, reduced teacher workload and saved money.[#endpullquote#]We’ve improved our Ofsted rating, improved maths and English outcomes, extended our student reach, reduced teacher workload and saved money.We estimate “server” savings of £750,000 because 25,000 students now have access to unlimited storage in Google Drive, and the difference in cost between 4,500 laptops versus the same number of Chromebooks is a huge £1.35m. Money is tight for us all in FE, and for us, these changes were a no-brainer.The college has also climbed from an Ofsted report stating “requires improvement” to – in 2018 – “good, with outstanding features”. Previous feedback noted we were using too many digital tools and platforms, which was confusing, so we decided to focus on Google’s production and collaboration toolkit, G Suite, which has features to help teachers be more innovative and less tied to admin tasks.The result is a shift in pedagogy and delivery to more independent and online learning, and increased accessibility, with that flexible “Martini mentality” approach to study.Sell it!Achieving successful change in a large organisation, however, requires a culture shift. You can expect push-back from some critics, usually those who say “but we’ve always done it like this”, and others will bury their heads in sand, but don’t be afraid to be tenacious in your approach.Winning over the naysayers at every level is essential because every member of staff needs to be invested in giving our learners the best possible experience.[#pullquote#]technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will probably replace those who don’t.[#endpullquote#]We’ve all seen the headlines about robots taking our jobs, so there’s a fear factor to overcome too. It sounds harsh, but teachers must get on board; technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will probably replace those who don’t.My advice is to package the use of edtech as a means of saving time on admin and other mundane tasks, leaving teachers space to help those students who need most support.Support for learnersAnd giving students more support was behind one of the first physical changes we made to the college as a means of breaking down barriers to learning. We knocked down walls to create huge spaces where we set up “independent learning zones” and “break-out zones” to encourage study outside the classroom.In these areas we provide access to Chromebooks, while maths and English teachers are on hand to give one-to-one help to those taking resits. We soon found an improvement in digital literacy and research and study skills, and the focus on English and maths paid dividends too; since we started this model in September 2016, results have risen from below to above the national benchmark.Staff developmentFor students to gain maximum benefit from technology, staff need to be comfortable and confident with digital tools and we provide a range of training options, from short, sharp bursts of 20 minutes to full-day workshops, all delivered in a variety of ways – face-to-face and online, with live streaming an option too.At sessions on campus we provided refreshments and small prizes, and those who do really well (and are nominated as such by their peers) are rewarded with a visit to one of the Google offices. We try to make it fun!Want to know more? Steve is talking about the Leeds City College digital journey at our Connect More event in Manchester on 27 June. Can’t make it? Steve has an open-door policy, so you’re welcome to visit. Contact him by emailing steven.hope@leedscitycollege.ac.uk.
  • How do monographs fit with the open access agenda?
    In the UK, the push towards open access (OA) monograph publishing dates back to at least 2013. That was the year the Wellcome Trust included monographs and book chapters in its OA policy and the former higher education funding body for England, HEFCE, posed a number of questions relating to open access monographs in its Research Excellence Framework consultation. The trend since then has been clear. The revised guidance on Plan S, the international push towards OA mandates, published on 31 May, states that:“cOAlition S will, by the end of 2021, issue a statement on Plan S principles as they apply to monographs and book chapters, together with related implementation guidance”. The four UK HE funding bodies have signalled the intent to mandate OA for monographs submitted to the Research Excellence Framework beyond the 2021 assessment and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a signatory of Plan S, has launched its own open access policy review, which will include monographs and book chapters.Therefore, by 2021, the major UK funders will have implemented policies and mandates on OA monographs, joining a growing international list. But each country in Europe is at a different stage of enabling OA for monographs. As yet, there is no unified solution for this transition, but we can learn from each other, coordinate activities and help to build a better system.[#pullquote#]By 2021, the major UK funders will have implemented policies and mandates on OA monographs, joining a growing international list[#endpullquote#]The Knowledge Exchange (KE) partnership of six national organisations in Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Denmark and the UK is behind an effort to provide just such coordinated support for open access monographs.One of the key questions that remains is how to encourage more authors to publish their monographs OA. The Jisc KE survey (pdf) revealed that concerns over sustainability, copyright and third-party rights, quality issues and trade and crossover titles are high on authors’ agendas. It is key to engage authors in a debate around these issues.[#pullquote#]One of the key questions that remains is how to encourage more authors to publish their monographs OA. [#endpullquote#]In May, the partnership published its latest report, towards a roadmap for open access monographs (pdf). The new report includes recommendations and best practices around the themes of policy development, author engagement, technical infrastructure and the monitoring of OA monographs. The UUK monographs working group (of which Jisc is a member) has recently reported on two events, the first for arts and humanities learned societies and subject associations, the second was a workshop for publishers.There is a major concern among authors that funder mandates will require them to publish OA without the funding to do so. For example, a model where book processing charges (BPCs) are made to the author, funder, or institution to cover the publishing costs. It is important to explore different types of models and to think carefully about the pros and cons of each of them and the effects this might have on the scholarly monograph. A single business model is not desirable for a diverse ecosystem of OA publishing. What we need most are policies supported by sustainable business models and clear paths for researchers to apply for the necessary funds.[#pullquote#]To encourage further take-up and to support policymaking it is also important to articulate the benefits of open access monographs. [#endpullquote#]The KE initiative and the recent flurry in funder activity show that open access is important to the future of long-form scholarly communication. To encourage further take-up and to support policymaking it is also important to articulate the benefits of open access monographs. To this end, Jisc has started a new project (part of our open metrics lab) that aims to show how mining references from OA monographs can help researchers to understand new research fields.The project is also put in context by a review of existing related initiatives (pdf). We are also very pleased to be part of the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) partnership led by Coventry University, which has been awarded £2.2m by Research England to improve and increase OA publishing.[#pullquote#]For many academics, OA might present an opportunity to rethink their approach, rather than viewing it merely as something that is happening to their research disciplines.[#endpullquote#]For many academics, OA might present an opportunity to rethink their approach, rather than viewing it merely as something that is happening to their research disciplines. However, there is still much work to do in defining policy and addressing misunderstandings and concerns.  Join our free event, OA monographs: policy and practice for supporting researchers, taking place on 4 July 2019 in York. 
  • Governing body encouraged to take responsibility for cyber security
    As the number and sophistication of cyber incidents increases, senior managers are under growing scrutiny to provide evidence showing how their businesses are protected. According to the latest Cyber Security Breaches Survey from the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, two-thirds (65%) of medium to large businesses identified at least one breach or cyber attack in the last 12 months. It is therefore no wonder that nine in ten (89%) directors or senior managers say that cyber security is a high priority.But too often cyber security is managed solely by IT departments, which makes it difficult to join up the overall governance of digital services. Cyber risks affect wider operations and should be included and addressed by the governance and management processes across the organisation.[#pullquote#]too often cyber security is managed solely by IT departments, which makes it difficult to join up the overall governance of digital services.[#endpullquote#]The risk can no longer be delegated away from the governing body, and the executive management are more accountable than ever for cyber resilience and the costs incurred by cyber crime. Being able to produce evidence of appropriate action taken to protect the business will be key in meeting the expectations of an organisation's stakeholders and regulators.The recently introduced British Standard 31111 was developed by the  BSI Risk Management Committee  to help top executives better understand and manage the cyber risks to their organisations. Assessment against this standard is a new service offered by Jisc’s cyber security team, which carried out one of the first high-level applications of this standard at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland. Can your organisation meet the BS 31111 cyber security standard?You’ll be well on the way if you can comprehensively answer the following four questions:What are your levels of cyber risk and what are the levels of investment to mitigate them for each department?What is the level of prevention and response capability available to manage a cyber incident?How does your organisation manage and understand change across the cyber landscape?What resources (eg financial, human, information, technology) are needed to meet the principles and objectives defined in your cyber risk management and resilience policy?BS31111 audit and assessment is a component of our wider cyber security assessment service.
  • Is your college future-ready?
    Ahead of his talk at the Aoc/Jisc Technology Summit on Monday 17 June, Robin Ghurbhurun encourages FE leaders to prepare for Industry 4.0. Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming science fact rather than science fiction. Alexa is everywhere from the house to the car, Siri is in the palm of your hand and students and the wider community can now get instant responses to their queries. We as educators have a duty to make sense of the information out there, working alongside AI to facilitate students’ curiosities.Embrace innovationOur sector should not simply try to keep up with the latest innovation. Fads come and go. We have all experienced technology disruptors - the written word and books were at one time considered a threat to power through knowledge. Video didn’t kill the radio star, it made radio stars more accessible.Both these examples provided educators with the sensory tools to enhance engagement and create experiential learning platforms. Now, we all have unimaginable instant access to data and information - and that’s a game-changer.'Always on'Ignorance is inexcusable. Today’s Gen C students are always connected - in their friendship groups, for their news services, their social arrangements and engagements. We would be foolhardy to ignore that.[#pullquote#]Instead of banning mobile phones on campus, let's manage our learning environments differently[#endpullquote#]Instead of banning mobile phones on campus, let's manage our learning environments differently for the betterment of all. Let’s set boundaries, decide which tools to use, ask when technology can help and when it isn’t appropriate. It’s our duty, as leaders and teachers, to understand where our students are sourcing their information from, how credible it is, how they can apply it, and how they can benefit from it now as learners and in future as employees and employers.The realisation of 5G will unleash further the ubiquity of access, placing increasing demands on facts, reality and appropriate application. Are you ready?Change for goodAs we are on the cusp of the second decade of the 21st century, technology should be making education more accessible, and it should be helping our teachers teach. We must use it wisely to narrow the social divide, not widen it.[#pullquote#]We need to plan strategically to avoid a future where only the wealthy have access to human teachers, whilst others are taught with AI.[#endpullquote#]We need to plan strategically to avoid a future where only the wealthy have access to human teachers, whilst others are taught with AI. We want all students to benefit from both. We should have teacher-approved content from VLEs and AI assistants supporting learning and discussion, everywhere from the classroom to the workplace. Let’s learn from the domestic market; witness the increasing rise of co-bot workers coming to an office near you.We have to think carefully about our pedagogy moving forward, and scrutinise the role technology plays in preparing Gen C for their future employability.Infrastructure is still the priority. At Richmond upon Thames College, we aim to integrate Internet of Things (IoT) gateways to support devices - from wearables to learning and customer analytics. This ‘big data’ environment will be supported through a high-density wifi infrastructure across our new campus.We’re also thinking about how people will engage with technology, personalising each student’s learning experience, and using augmented reality maps to help students navigate the building so they always feel comfortable and confident.Walking the talkPreparing successfully for the fourth industrial revolution - Industry 4.0 - is about understanding what digital transformation means to you and your community. How are you, as a leader, walking the talk? How can developments such as augmented reality and AI improve your stakeholder experience?Strategically, our collective journey must be the shift from where colleges are currently in terms of learning analytics to where we want to be around cognitive analytics and artificial intelligence. Most crucially of all, can you define what success will look like?[#pullquote#]We must start with transforming the culture of our organisation to be digital-first.[#endpullquote#]We must start with transforming the culture of our organisation to be digital-first. In the past, the education sector has been behind the curve with technology – and, to an extent, that’s been ok. Today, we have reached some limitations. To be prepared for tomorrow, we should equip our organisations to leap from Education 2.0 to Education 4.0. Robin Ghurburhun is delivering a talk, ‘leading and driving technological change through an intelligent campus’ at the AoC/Jisc Technology Summit at Google in London, 17 June 2019.