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  • 'Positive change starts with disruption'
    In embracing technology the further education (FE) sector, its teachers and learners can thrive. If you’ve heard that robots are taking over the world, don’t panic. While the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s 2018 Future of Jobs report urges businesses to identify areas of work that computers can do as well if not better than humans, it also predicts that machines will do the more mundane, repetitive tasks, leaving people to innovate, create, analyse, and have productive debate with other humans.Far from stealing your job, as Industry 4.0 takes shape, robots will be doing your admin and inputting spreadsheets.Change is comingLots of jobs are already changing with automation. If computers are ‘bean counting’, accountants’ time can be spent on analysis and offering personalised advice.Our paralegals’ knowledge and critical thinking remain essential while less humanistic aspects of their role are being done by robots. And in customer services, while straightforward questions are addressed by chatbots, humans can deal with issues that require flexibility and empathy. Those sectors aren’t seeing a decline in human recruitment.Teaching transformedJisc’s response to this changing landscape is Education 4.0 - a technology-enhanced vision for today and tomorrow. As teaching changes, artificial intelligence and automation present both challenges and opportunities.[#pullquote#]I believe that by embracing digital evolution, the further education sector, its teachers and learners, will thrive. [#endpullquote#]I believe that by embracing digital evolution, the further education sector, its teachers and learners, will thrive.Recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) research backs this up. It states that 1.5m jobs in England are at ‘high risk of some of their duties and tasks being automated in the future’ – and teaching is highlighted as an area to watch. This doesn’t mean we’ll need fewer teachers. Rather, it predicts that around a fifth of teachers’ workload can, potentially, be automated – and that will release practitioners to focus on interpretive and empathetic work.The dotted line between the ONS’s forecasts and Education 4.0 boils down to one simple question: what kinds of things do teachers currently do that they’d rather not? I think it’s things like registration, quantitative assessment and paperwork – all of which can be automated. In recognising the role of educators, we can see how their working lives can be transformed for the better.Personalised and adaptive learningEvery teacher knows that 30 learners on a programme won’t all start or finish in the same place, or experience learning in the same way. Yet in a didactic, traditional classroom, everyone is taught the same thing at the same time.[#pullquote#]Machines can release learning content at a time that’s appropriate to each individual student[#endpullquote#]With Education 4.0, adaptive systems allow students to learn at their own pace. Some aspects of assessment may be automated and AI may help teachers understand how learners are progressing. Machines can release learning content at a time that’s appropriate to each individual student – whether that’s video or a simulation or written documents.We’re approaching an era where learning is almost 24/7 and where, in FE, a teacher may have different types of learner all studying for the same qualification in the same cohort. A 16-year-old coming through from school will bring different skills and experiences to, say, a 50-year-old who’s studying around employment.Personalised and adaptive learning will tailor the pace and type of learning so that everyone is challenged. Decisions are made by a teacher and discussions take place between educators and learners. AI can sort the allocation and admin.The heart and soul of teachingPeople working in FE sometimes tell me that they’re losing interest in their job because they aren’t in the classroom doing the work they love, spending time with the learners they want to support. They go into teaching to teach but find they’re buried in bureaucracy. The aspiration with automation – reflected in the government's 2019 edtech strategy - is that it cleans up the audit trail.[#pullquote#]If you think the robots are coming, you may be right – and in the future they will free-up teachers to teach. [#endpullquote#]If you think the robots are coming, you may be right – and in the future they will free-up teachers to teach.
  • Students must be made aware of responsible data use as we move towards Education 4.0
    We are on the cusp of a digital learning revolution where the availability of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies can help transform teaching and learning.  This relies on the safe and intelligent use of data.HEPI/Tribal’s survey, Students or data subjects? What students think about university data security, published today, finds that students are generally willing for their data to be used anonymously to improve the experience of other students.Through Education 4.0, Jisc is working to support universities to transform education using data-intensive technology to meet the demands of Industry 4.0. To support this transformation, students must be fully aware of what data universities need from them and the benefits that data analysis can offer.Supporting learnersOne way in which universities are using data to benefit students is learning analytics. Jisc has developed its own service in partnership with universities and colleges, which brings together existing data which staff can use to support learners with their studies. Jisc is also working with universities to explore how data analytics can be used to improve student wellbeing and to develop a base of evidence showing the benefits of learning analytics.However, the HEPI/Tribal survey also reveals concerns about how student data is used, particularly around the handling of information that identifies students as individuals and data confidentiality. Jisc’s own 2019 digital experience insights survey of more than 30,000 students found that less than one third of university students (31%) agreed that they were told how their personal data is stored and used. There is clearly room for improvement in this area and it is critical that universities can be confident and capable in deploying data analytics to support teaching and learning, while knowing that students trust them with their data.Code of practiceTo address this, Jisc has worked with the National Union of Students on a code of practice for learning analytics, which provides guidance to universities and colleges exploring the use of data analytics to support teaching and learning. The code of practice highlights universities and colleges’ responsibilities to carry out learning analytics responsibly and addresses legal, ethical and logistical issues which are likely to arise. These include making students aware of what data is required and the purpose of learning analytics: to benefit students in their academic journey.By developing our code of practice further, we hope to help institutions investigating the use of student activity data to improve their provision of student support services. Earlier this year, Jisc was selected by the Information Commissioner’s Office to participate in the ICO Sandbox, which will allow us to draw on the ICO’s expertise in data protection to make sure that our guidance represents best practice. We hope that the code is helping universities to make students aware of how their data is used for learning analytics. We would welcome hearing from universities and students to explore how confidence in data governance can be improved further.If you have any comments on the responsible use of data in higher or further education, or ideas for how students can be made more aware of it, please contact Andrew Cormack (andrew.cormack@jisc.ac.uk).
  • Invest in the digital skills of teaching staff
    As those working in education attest, technology is an important part of everyday life. It is no longer an optional add-on to teaching and learning. Because of this – and sometimes also driven by a desire to get ahead of the curve – many colleges are rightly making large investments in infrastructure and the digital environment. The crucial question is: are they simultaneously investing in their teaching staff?Unless those working within education institutions are supported to develop digital skills and given time and encouragement to innovate in the curriculum, digital investment is unlikely to translate into positive experiences for staff – or for students. Recently, Jisc published the results of its national survey exploring how teaching staff are currently using technology, how teaching staff feel organisations are supporting their technology needs, and how they are developing digital professional practice. This feedback is invaluable; it can inform the educational digital environment and the broader college experience.Equipped for the digital workplace?Students need opportunities to develop digital skills throughout their educational journey, ensuring that they are equipped for the increasingly digital workplace. There is also evidence that substantial numbers of learners look to their teachers for support in using digital technology. Therefore, teaching staff must be equipped to respond. That means supporting them as they build confidence with digital tools and encouraging them to develop their own uses of technology.[#pullquote#]ensuring that all staff have sufficient time to be creative and develop their practice is increasingly challenging. [#endpullquote#]Of course, with stretched resources across the education sector, ensuring that all staff have sufficient time to be creative and develop their practice is increasingly challenging. However, teaching staff feel their organisations could do better: alarmingly few respondents to Jisc’s survey agree they receive reward or recognition when they develop digital aspects of their role, or agree that they have time and support to innovate.Closing the digital skills gapWith the identified digital skills gap in the UK, teaching staff need guidance about the capabilities they are expected to have and regular opportunities to develop them. While it’s true that individuals have a responsibility to develop their own professional practice, both in their discipline area and in relation to their use of technology, there must be an organisational culture in which this is nurtured, recognised and rewarded.[#pullquote#]teaching staff must be equipped with the resilience to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape.[#endpullquote#]To prepare for the technology-enhanced future – manifested in Education 4.0 and Industry 4.0 – teaching staff must be equipped with the resilience to navigate the ever-changing digital landscape. The Independent Commission on the College of the Future is learning a huge amount from institutions throughout the UK, asking what is working well already and assessing how colleges can play a co-productive role in future innovation. It is clear that the sector can meet the challenges it faces if creativity and curiosity in our educators is fostered.Let’s continue to enable a world-class student experience for all and inspire and support the sector’s most valuable asset – its staff.
  • Electric Dreams and Industry 4.0
    Times change. Growing up, I could not have imagined the internet, cashless transactions and other ideas that have become commonplace. Part of my job as a college leader is to give learners snapshots of what their life might look like in the future.  Back then...When Phil Oakey recorded ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ in 1984, I was a scuff-kneed 11-year-old living on a Sheffield council estate with my mum. We had no phone, no washing machine, and only a small black and white telly. The highlight of my week was watching Star Trek. If I was really lucky (or if we had enough money spare) I might be allowed to share a beef Vesta curry on a Friday night, or watch Return of the Jedi at the cinema.You don’t need to get out the world’s smallest violin; I still watch Star Trek and I have the local Indian restaurant on speed dial! I even have my own Jedi costume and light saber. Back then,  I could not have conceived of how technology would transform the very fabric of society. I couldn’t have imagined the internet, robotics, mobile phones, artificial intelligence (AI), cashless transactions and so many more revolutionary ideas that have become commonplace today. Part of my job as a college leader is to give learners snapshots of what their life and work might look like in 10 or 20 years’ time - and to show them how best to prepare for changes so they don’t get left behind. Technology is key to those developments, just as it has been throughout history.[#pullquote#]Part of my job as a college leader is to give learners snapshots of what their life and work might look like in 10 or 20 years’ time [...] so they don’t get left behind[#endpullquote#]We know that technology is transformative and disruptive, we know that it effects how industries operate, and we know that adaptability and flexibility will be essential for students to thrive. In this fourth industrial revolution – and in the tech-enhanced vision of Education 4.0 that’s required to match it - anything that can be automated, will be automated.Curriculum changeGrimsby Institute primarily operates in deprived coastal areas and we work closely with employers regionally, nationally and internationally to develop future-focused programmes, initiatives and projects that give learners a taste of the world as it might be in the future.Our business team works with cryptocurrency and blockchain experts, travel and tourism students are exploring the rise in dark tourism and virtual reality (VR), public service students are using thermal imaging drones for reconnaissance and rescue, the beauty department is exploring biotech for leisure and salon applications, and the arts team is pioneering projection mapping technology.[#pullquote#]...the beauty department is exploring biotech for leisure and salon applications, and the arts team is pioneering projection mapping technology.[#endpullquote#]But we are also considering human skills that are harder to automate. Adaptability, creativity, innovation, leadership, empathy, communication, critical thinking and flexibility will always have value to an employer. These are the skills underpinning new and emergent technologies of the next decade.By exploring these ideas, and the principles behind emerging technology, we are preparing learners not just for jobs that may not yet exist, but for a life that will look very different - and supporting them on that journey.A lifelong approachWhen young people move out of home, their parents or guardians normally keep a place for them at the table and expect them to stay over from time to time. At Grimsby, we operate on a similar basis. If at any point our former learners need to refresh their knowledge, upskill, or try something different, they can drop back in. That is what ‘family’ is for.However, we have found that, all too often, the people who need training the most have the least access to it.We’ve worked very hard with our community learning centres to focus on IT skills development. That’s no longer just about teaching people to use Word, Excel or how to access the internet – although these remain important starting points for some. We have considered how we can elevate and enhance tech skills to put people into sustainable work that will not be lost to automation. In many respects, our mission is cultural rather than technological.[#pullquote#]We have considered how we can elevate and enhance tech skills to put people into sustainable work that will not be lost to automation[#endpullquote#]Embrace not knowingIn our college, future-proofing is about making educated guesses using information from leading-edge industry. If we do nothing, we’ll see our learners hit by changes they don’t know how to cope with.The best alternative for us is to carefully consider the future challenges our students may face and try to predict the skills they’ll need. Whether the specific knowledge we deliver is accurate or not, the ability to adapt, to be empathetic and flexible, to create and innovate with technology will stand the test of time. The specific details may not come to fruition – and I’m still waiting for a real light saber - but the underlying skills absolutely will.On the journey through Education 4.0, I can safely say that Grimsby Institute and its learners will always be together…together in electric dreams.
  • Prediction markets: a new tool to help assess research quality
    Assessing the quality of research is difficult. Jisc and the University of Bristol are partnering to develop a new tool that may help institutions improve this process. To attract government funding for their crucial research, UK universities are largely reliant on good ratings from the Research Excellent Framework (REF) – a process of expert review designed to assess the quality of research outputs. REF scores determine how much government funding will be allocated to their research projects. For instance, research that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour will be scored higher than research that is only recognised nationally.Considerable time is spent by universities trying to figure out which research outputs will be rated highest (4*) on quality and impact. The recognised “gold standard” for this process is close reading by a few internal academics, but this is time-consuming, onerous, and subject to the relatively limited perspective of just a few people.[#pullquote#]it would be far better to include the insights of more people – which is where prediction markets come in.[#endpullquote#]But it would be far better to include the insights of more people – which is where prediction markets come in. This online, crowd-sourcing mechanism has been gathering steam in assessing academic research, and has, for example, been remarkably accurate at predicting which social science experiments will replicate, or how various chemistry departments would rank in the REF.How prediction markets workPrediction markets capture the “wisdom of crowds” by asking large numbers of people to bet on outcomes of future events – in this case how impactful a research project will be in the next REF assessment. It works a bit like the stock market, except that, instead of buying and selling shares in companies, participants buy and sell virtual shares online that will pay out if a particular event occurs – for instance, if a paper receives a 3* or above REF rating.[#pullquote#]It works a bit like the stock market, except that, instead of buying and selling shares in companies, participants buy and sell virtual shares online[#endpullquote#]Markets usually run over the course of a few days or weeks, during which time participants can update their bets and compete to earn points by buying low and selling high. After the market closes, the final output is a list of “market prices” (one for each paper). A paper’s market price represents the group’s collective confidence that the paper will achieve a certain threshold of ratings.Benefits over other assessment methodsPrediction markets have several advantages over other assessment methods. Crucially, the fine-grained market prices allocated to various elements of the research assessed allow the papers to be ranked against each other.And, in comparison to most other assessment methods, such as surveys or close-reading panels, prediction markets have a built-in mechanism for weighting participants’ confidence in their own ratings. Namely, participants can choose to bet (or not bet) on whichever papers they like, plus they see real-time information on the group’s overall confidence in each paper, which they can use to inform their bets.Our Jisc pilot projectOver the past six months, Jisc ran three pilot markets at the University of Bristol, in the psychology, biology and chemistry departments. The pilots showed promising results: the outcomes (market prices) from all three correlated highly with the ratings that were given by the internal REF panel.[#pullquote#]the outcomes (market prices) from all three correlated highly with the ratings that were given by the internal REF panel.[#endpullquote#]The psychology market was also compared against a machine learning algorithm trained on various metrics; the machine learning results correlated at similar levels with both the prediction market and the internal REF panel. Crucially, these levels of correlation suggest that all of these methods are picking up relevant information, but the underlying information that each reflects is somewhat different.Judging by our discussions with the REF coordinators from these Bristol University departments, we envision that the results of the prediction markets will not take the place of the traditional close-reading approach, but instead will be most useful as an extra source of information for cases that are uncertain or borderline.User-friendlyWe also measured participants’ feedback on the experience of taking part in the markets. After all, these are busy academics, who are often deluged with requests to fill out surveys or help with assessment exercises.We were pleased to find that, overall, participants reported that they felt engaged with the process and found it enjoyable – one even reported playing the prediction market for fun instead of checking football scores![#pullquote#]We were pleased to find that, overall, participants reported that they felt engaged with the process and found it enjoyable[#endpullquote#]Future directionsWe are currently expanding our series of pilots beyond Bristol to explore how the prediction market tool works in various types of institutions and departments. We still have bandwidth to include more institutions in the pilots, so please do contact us if you think your institutions may want to take part.Once these are complete, we plan to publish the results from the full set of studies in an academic paper, with our collaborators at the University of Innsbruck and Stockholm School of Economics.Over the next year we also aim to develop a more specialised and optimally user-friendly interface for the prediction market tool through Jisc, based on user feedback.Ultimately, we hope that the prediction market tool may be useful for other areas of research assessment outside the REF - after all, the REF isn’t the only context where research quality is difficult to assess! We’re betting that in all sorts of areas, the old adage may prove to be correct: two heads are better than one.
  • New survey shows appetite for immersive tech in teaching and learning
    Responses to Jisc’s inaugural survey into uses of augmented reality and virtual reality in tertiary education, published today (pdf), provide much food for thought. In working to shape a technology-enhanced vision for Education 4.0, Jisc is always looking for ways to collaborate with members, listen to their experiences, and learn from their ideas. It’s in this spirit that we launched our survey into the use of immersive technologies in teaching and learning.Experiences and aspirationsMore than 100 lecturers, researchers and learning technologists at universities and colleges responded to what we believe is the first survey of its kind in the UK. The results offer powerful insights into the value of immersive tech.The findings highlight an appetite for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). In fact, 82% of all respondents said they were very interested in their institution making more use of AR and VR technologies in future (rated 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5).[#pullquote#]The findings highlight an appetite for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).[#endpullquote#]The key benefits of these new technologies are described as the immersive and engaging learning experience (32% of respondents), and the opportunities for situated and experiential learning (28% of respondents). Meanwhile, 8% said using AR and VR improves learning outcomes.Working towards Education 4.0Asked to specify the most important action Jisc can take to support organisations’ use of immersive technology, respondents suggested showcasing best practice, supporting a reduction in costs, providing advice and guidance, and offering community/peer support.I’m proud to say we have already begun this work by introducing new training opportunities, developing case studies with institutions at the leading edge of practice, and creating opportunities for interested parties to meet in person. Looking ahead, we hope to help our members embed immersive technologies in teaching and learning practice. Our AR/VR project will pilot a range of new Jisc services, such as 3D scanning, providing access to equipment and expertise.[#pullquote#]Looking ahead, we hope to help our members embed immersive technologies in teaching and learning practice.[#endpullquote#]We’re grateful to everyone who took the time to respond to this survey, and to our friends at the Universities and Colleges Information Services Association (UCISA), the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and the Heads of eLearning Forum for supporting this work.By collaborating and acting on feedback from members, we hope to build on this survey to continue to support educators as they embrace the possibilities of Education 4.0.To find out more and get involved, visit our project page or contact innovation@jisc.ac.uk.Download the full report (pdf)
  • Four ways to make research more open
    Digital technologies and collaborative tools are affecting the whole of the research cycle calling for everyone in research to consider how research 4.0 technologies can help improve research.  Scientific research is using new ways of diffusing knowledge. We need to move away from opaque research conducted on PCs, using closed software and reported in pdf documents, to more open research created in a digital environment that is designed for that purpose. Technologies such as open source scripting languages and open sharing of data and code, for example, are techniques that support this trend.The importance of metadataThe research sector is in a transition marked by a renewed interest in metadata used in research. The use of metadata is one of the key pillars of the recently launched Research on Research Institute which will analyse research systems and experiment with decision and evaluation data, tools and frameworks.Metadata is data that describes other data which can make finding and working with particular data sets easier. For example, metadata tools can gather information on authors, date created, date modified and file size.[#pullquote#]Metadata tools give the research community the opportunity to gather insights in previously undisclosed territory.[#endpullquote#]Metadata tools give the research community the opportunity to gather insights in previously undisclosed territory. Here are four research projects that focus on metadata showing the potential use of technology to improve research integrity.1. Pre and post outcome comparisonA clinical trials review reported in 2019 in the JAMA Network found that a third of clinical trials that had a different primary outcome from what was pre-registered were also more likely to have a higher (16%) intervention effect.This significant finding leads me to wonder whether a tool to compare pre-registered with published outcomes might provide useful feedback to make sure that the intervention effect is not skewed by selective reporting, research bias or any other variable that might compromise the research integrity.2. Reporting compliance dashboardSimilarly, a 2019 study of pre-clinical animal trials showed that there is a real lack of reporting on basic metadata. Information about basic reproducibility and ethical practices, such as blinding, sample size calculation, control group allocation and compliance with guidelines such as ARRIVE is often missing.It could be useful for institutions, researchers, funders and publishers to access a dashboard that shows gaps in reporting.3. Data availability tracking toolAnother example of where technology might offer greater transparency, is a 2018/2019 study of genome wide association studies that Jisc was involved with.It showed that only a minority of the studies included useful data availability statements. We are now exploring whether we can develop a tool to identify where these data availability statements are and whether they really do point to data that can be accessed and reused.4. Reliability and confidence through AIFinally, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on the Systematizing Confidence in Open Research and Evidence (SCORE) project.DARPA is using AI and machine learning to give an estimate of reliability and a confidence score for social and behavioural studies. These AI tools will assign confidence scores about behaviour patterns with a reliability that is equal to, or better than, the best current human expert methods.The scores will inform the way the US military uses social and behavioural science research to inform their investments and models of human social behaviours to safeguard national security.Digital collaborative environmentsTools and applications that improve existing research communication practices are paving the way toward a more robust and open science culture. But more fundamentally, we need changes upstream creating digital collaborative environments that embed academic norms and practices such as pre-registration and open code into the research design and practice.[#pullquote#]We need to make it easy for researchers to do the right thing during the research process as well as when reporting it afterwards.[#endpullquote#]We need to make it easy for researchers to do the right thing during the research process as well as when reporting it afterwards.For example, we’re in conversations with researchers at the universities of Bristol and Bath, who conduct interdisciplinary research into the built environment, the physical environment and the ways that human beings interact in those. This intrinsically interdisciplinary work involves civil engineers, scientists, psychologists and others.Those conversations are about what would be an appropriate digital environment in which all these disciplines can bring together data from the internet of things, from sensor networks and from mobile networks - a way that enables hypotheses to be pre-registered and embedded into software agents that could then interrogate these data in a responsible and reproducible way.There are already providers who deliver such technology such as the Open Science Framework which is a free, open platform supporting open research and collaboration. Another helpful tool is the Force11 Scholarly Commons initiative which provides a set of principles, concrete guidance to practice towards inclusivity of diverse perspectives from around the globe.[#pullquote#]What we need are changes in research assessment to enable these best practice applications to be rewarded[#endpullquote#]What we need are changes in research assessment to enable these best practice applications to be rewarded, to reward the publication of interactive models and more imaginative ways of reporting science that are truer to the research process. We also need changes in research study design and funding, for example to recognise longer study set-up times, and changes in research teams and skills so that coding becomes as mainstream as authoring papers and bids.
  • The life changing magic of edtech – beyond the hyperbole
    When we look at technology in education – or edtech - there is a risk that we fall victim to magical thinking and tech solutionism.  From smart whiteboards to kids coding, it can feel like we are leaping into action because we can, without knowing why or what we’re looking to achieve.As HEPI director Nick Hillman says on the HEPI blog, nowhere is this more true than with hot button technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and virtual reality.For educators it can be instructive to ask what the real value of new product or service is to them. I would venture to suggest that this is very rarely in the technology itself. For example, does the fact that it “uses advanced AI techniques”, or “is built on the blockchain with smart contracts” at all relevant to the outcomes that it delivers? I don’t think so.[#pullquote#]We should rightly be suspicious of products whose key selling point is the technology and not the outcomes. [#endpullquote#]We should rightly be suspicious of products whose key selling point is the technology and not the outcomes. For me, the tangible benefits provide the value, such as improved wellbeing and mental health and learning outcomes. And if it’s not heretical to say this, perhaps we should also expect our edtech to spark a little joy too?At Jisc we work with our members and customers in a co-design process to arrive at a result that everyone can feel ownership of, and which meets a genuine need. Where we use technologies like machine learning or augmented reality, it’s as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. It might seem like a little thing – a change of emphasis, perhaps – but really this is what separates user-led design from the breathless hype of tech solutionism.Turing’s red flagDuring the recent All-Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics enquiry into Data Ethics, which Jisc supported, a key concern was the potential lack of transparency about when a decision is made by a machine. A possible remedy suggested in the resulting report was a user-friendly means to show when and how a decision is taken by machine intelligence - such as a kitemark or the “Turing Red Flag” proposed by AI professor Toby Walsh.[#pullquote#]These issues of data ethics and integrity are far more important than any one technology like AI or blockchain. [#endpullquote#]These issues of data ethics and integrity are far more important than any one technology like AI or blockchain. That’s why we have worked with colleges and universities to develop a learning analytics code of practice, which sets down some guiding principles around the ethical use of personal data. What’s crucial here is that data is used to assist rather than automate decision making, for example in helping a personal tutor understand whether a student they are supporting looks like they are at risk of disengaging.Technologies with names like machine learning and robotic process automation tend to conjure up images of humanoid robots taking over from human teachers and lecturers – exciting and terrifying in equal measures. All too often, though, the reality has been something much more mundane like swapping authentic assessments for multiple-choice questions. Little in the way of joy to behold here![#pullquote#]we are specifically looking into key challenges that have emerged as part of our dialogue with the sector about Education 4.0[#endpullquote#]As part of Jisc’s latest round of co-design, we are specifically looking into key challenges that have emerged as part of our dialogue with the sector about Education 4.0 - how technology can transform teaching and learning for the better. For example, perhaps we can use AI to help determine when a student has achieved mastery of the subject material in a way that reduces workload and makes the whole process of assessment more resistant to essay mills and plagiarism.In all of this the technology itself is just another tool in the edtech toolbox – the real issue is about how it’s employed and ensuring that the data that drives it is used in a responsible way.Find out more about co-design at Jisc and how you can get involved – we’d love to hear from you.Watch our video of a virtual student called Natalie, where we've brought to life what the student experience could look like under Education 4.0.
  • How a small learned society is paving the way for a big change in open access
    In the same way that microbiology research answers big questions by studying small organisms, the Microbiology Society is now showing us how small learned societies can address the big challenge of open access (OA). The journeyThis society’s journey towards open access began, as it did for many, with the introduction of an open access option within its subscription journals, a model that has become known as the ‘hybrid’ open access model. In 2014 the society launched its first open access journal, and it continues to add new titles to its portfolio, which operate under the gold open access model where an author publishes their article in an online open access journal.However, in September last year, Plan S was launched by cOAlition S stating an intention to stop funding publication in hybrid open access journals from 2020. Its plan allowed for a transition period where cOALition S agreed to funding in hybrid journals, so long as those journals were part of a transformative agreement with a commitment to ‘flip’ to a fully open access model by 2024.[#pullquote#]in September last year, Plan S was launched by cOAlition S stating an intention to stop funding publication in hybrid open access journals from 2020.[#endpullquote#]This plan posed a significant risk to learned society publishers which had widely adopted the hybrid model as well as green OA routes to spur the move to more open science. Plan S triggered a collective response from not-for-profit publishers, and the formation of the Society Publishers’ Coalition (SocPC), of which Microbiology Society was a founding member.The SocPC responded to the consultation on Plan S and, with the help of its representative trade body, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), it engaged with funders to feedback concerns. In February 2018, SocPC published a position statement in which it called for the opportunity to develop transformative agreements with consortia.Importance of small learned societiesRecognising the importance of societies to the scholarly communication ecosystem, and in response to the SocPC statement, the Wellcome Trust and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), in partnership with the ALPSP, initiated the Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S project (SPA-OPS). At the same time, the Wellcome Trust agreed to fund extra resource for Jisc, specifically to work with small learned society publishers to enable them to develop compliant transformative agreements.[#pullquote#]the Wellcome Trust agreed to fund extra resource for Jisc, specifically to work with small learned society publishers[#endpullquote#]I took on this task at Jisc in May of this year and have so far reached out to more than 30 smaller and society publishers to talk about different models for compliance with Plan S and transforming to open access.Working with all stakeholders to develop a pilot modelThese discussions resulted in the development of a cost-neutral, ‘read and publish’ model, which we then took to our members to ask for feedback.The biggest concern among institutions was the up-front fees for the publishing element of these deals. While funders had stated their support in principle for transformative agreements, the institutions were keen for guidance from funders to reassure them that block grants could be used for up-front fees for transformative agreements, as opposed to article processing charges (APCs) for individual articles, which is how they are currently used.[#pullquote#]The biggest concern among institutions was the up-front fees for the publishing element of these deals.[#endpullquote#]Jisc has been working with funders to feedback concerns from institutions and develop guidance for institutions as to how to finance transformative deals. Just last week, Wellcome updated its website by stating that it is supporting these agreements with up-front fees. Detailed guidance will be published in due course.Jisc will be piloting the model with a number of society publishers keen to be at the forefront of the transition to OA. The pilots will run for two years from January 2020. Following the signing of the first agreement with the Microbiology Society earlier this month, I am close to finalising deals with Portland Press, IWA publishing, European Respiratory Society and The Company of Biologists.The Microbiology Society’s director of publishing, Tasha Mellins-Cohen, said:“The move to finding better OA solutions needed funders and library consortia to get pilots off the ground and we are thankful for their help. We also need that engagement and support to continue as these models are a starting, rather than an end point. Working with SPA-OPS opened doors and provided some practical tools to achieve our goals.”Simplicity is keyThe pilot model focuses on simplicity and increasing value to institutions. The fixed, up-front fee allows subscribers unlimited open access publishing (in born OA as well as hybrid journals), as well as access to the society’s full portfolio, for their current spend.[#pullquote#]The pilot model focuses on simplicity and increasing value to institutions.[#endpullquote#]The publishers are keen to move to a workflow free of APCs, removing barriers for authors. The model has no individual transactions, caps or discounts, ensuring as little administrative burden as possible for all stakeholders and allowing 100% of output to be published open access for corresponding authors at a participating institution.Blueprint for other learned societies?The model is a pilot model and intended to be transitional. Jisc and the societies participating in the pilot recognise that we need to work hard to develop a sustainable model of pricing for an open access future.[#pullquote#]Jisc and the societies participating in the pilot recognise that we need to work hard to develop a sustainable model of pricing for an open access future.[#endpullquote#]However, we also recognise that this model is not viable for all society and smaller publishers and we are keen to talk to other societies to develop further transitional models to pilot from 2021 in line with the revised Plan S timetable. For more information, contact me at kathyrn.spiller@jisc.ac.uk.
  • Foxing the phishers remains a constant dog fight
    With huge datasets and highly sensitive and valuable research information, further and higher education institutions are an increasingly attractive target for criminal cyber activity. Indeed, there have been several high-profile phishing attacks this year against our sector, including at Lakes College.Meanwhile, the government warned the sector in June about the risk from phishing emails, and the National Cyber Security Centre’s 2019 report on the cyber threat to universities also cites phishing.Why phishing is a major concernOne of the biggest cyber security threats to UK colleges and universities is phishing. These malicious emails, and the fake websites recipients are encouraged to click on to, are becoming more and more sophisticated and, therefore, difficult to identify.Organised criminals at home and abroad are using phishing attacks in the hope that, by harvesting the username and password of individuals, they can steal money, or access sensitive data for industrial espionage or political gain.When news of such a breach leaks out, the financial and reputational fall-out cannot be underestimated.[#pullquote#]We know that phishing is a major concern for members; it has been named as one of the top three threats in all three of our cyber security posture surveys[#endpullquote#]We know that phishing is a major concern for members; it has been named as one of the top three threats in all three of our cyber security posture surveys (2017-2019). To help members keep abreast of this evolving crime, we gather intelligence from various sources, which allows us to spot trends that we can share with the sector.For example, during 2018, we noticed phishing attacks becoming more sophisticated and better targeted towards the education sector.[#pullquote#]Around the beginning of term, particularly at the start of the academic year, there is an increase in student grant fraud.[#endpullquote#]Around the beginning of term, particularly at the start of the academic year, there is an increase in student grant fraud. This is where students are sent phishing emails purporting to offer free grants or requesting bank details so that loans can be “paid”.Examples of common attacksSpear phishing attacks, where specific individuals are targeted with requests for information, are also more common. One example is ‘CEO fraud,’ where criminals send urgent requests via email to finance departments, impersonating senior members of staff in an attempt to trick recipients into transferring funds into the fraudster’s bank account. Jisc’s chief executive and finance department have been attacked in this way and our security operations centre is aware of similar attempts on education institutions.In one case, fraudsters used a senior staff member’s name via a Gmail account to try and convince a more junior staff member to purchase a gift voucher on their behalf. The fraudster stated the voucher was an urgent birthday present and cited an all-day meeting as the reason they were unable to buy themselves. Images of the voucher, including the PIN code, were requested too. In this instance, the spelling and grammar was noticeably poor, so the email was recognisable as a fraud attempt.Another phishing email asked the recipient to review an attached document, which contained a link to ‘unlock’ the document and led to a web page that asked the victim to enter their log-in details.In both these cases, the criminal used the name of senior staff and sent phishing emails to people who worked closely with them. They were easily able to identify the staff because the universities’ departmental structures were published on their websites.Making sure students and staff are informedIt’s probably true that awareness of phishing has grown over the past few years, but it does not follow that everyone in colleges or universities will be able to spot a suspicious email, a dubious link or a spoof website. A simulated phishing campaign will serve to establish a benchmark and to raise awareness, safely giving users an experience of what a phishing attack might look like and the confidence and skills to spot any future suspicious emails.With our help, Basingstoke College of Technology ran a simulated phishing campaign which paid dividends, as principal Anthony Bravo explains:“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.”In addition, one of the best ways to minimise human error is a rolling programme of security awareness training.[#pullquote#]We advocate compulsory training for all students and staff and the sector has begun moving in this direction.[#endpullquote#]We advocate compulsory training for all students and staff and the sector has begun moving in this direction. Our first cyber security posture survey in 2017 showed that 48% of universities and 41% of colleges had mandatory training in place for some or all staff, which rose to 57% and 55% respectively in 2018. Although this year’s figure for HE is now an impressive 81%, the number of FE organisations with compulsory staff training has remained static at 55%.Far fewer organisations insist on security training for students, however. In 2017, 10% of both higher and further education said this training was mandatory for students. In 2018, this dropped to only 3% of universities, but there was an increase, to 31%, in the figure from colleges. This year, 8% of HE insist on all or certain students taking training and there has been a drop to 24% of FE providers.[#pullquote#]Some phishing emails are so sophisticated that they are almost impossible to distinguish from genuine mail, so it’s essential to also put in place technical solutions.[#endpullquote#]Although awareness training is a helpful defence against phishing campaigns, it won’t solve the problem by itself. Some phishing emails are so sophisticated that they are almost impossible to distinguish from genuine mail, so it’s essential to also put in place technical solutions. The NCSC has some detailed guidance on the type of controls to choose. These include:DMARC, SPF and DKIM - a method of preventing phishers from spoofing your domainReducing publicly available information about staff and students that could be used to target themImplementing your email provider’s filtering serviceUsing multi-factor authentication – requiring an addition safeguard to a username and password to log on to key systems will reduce the risk of a threat actor accessing a sensitive systemIn conclusionCyber security is the responsibility of all individuals, with every user making decisions about how they access and store their own data and how they behave when interacting with computer systems and networks. This is best achieved when there is a culture throughout the organisation that supports robust cyber security.So, it is critical that university and college leaders consider whether their cyber protection governance is sufficiently robust. Organisations that do not adequately protect themselves risk the loss or exposure of personal student and staff data and commercial, institutional and research data that are valuable to cyber criminals operating domestically and internationally.The governing body and executives must provide the leadership that best ensures staff, students and researchers can protect themselves, the institution and their stakeholders from the consequences of accidental information security breaches and malicious cyber attacks including phishing.Useful resources:A new British Standard, BS31111:2018, has been developed to help governing bodies and executive management better understand the risks associated with IT activities and support decision making that ensures good cyber resilienceSee the National Cyber Security Centre's advice on protecting your organisationFind out more about our cyber security services and the Jisc security conference 2019
  • The open access needle in the discovery haystack
    Neil Grindley, head of resource discovery, discusses the obstacles for libraries to earmark freely available, open access content.  The transition towards making scholarly communication openly available and accessible for all is a high priority for funding organisations. A tremendous amount of work is underway by libraries to disclose new sets of data to ensure that their collections can be searched and found.Supporting this trend, Jisc has recently launched the library hub discover offering a fast and convenient way to search for publications held by UK libraries.[#pullquote#]135 academic and specialist libraries have contributed, adding up to more than 102 million catalogue records.[#endpullquote#]The amount of data brought together by this service is growing daily, but at the time of writing, 135 academic and specialist libraries have contributed, adding up to more than 102 million catalogue records. But here’s the rub: among those 102 million records, it’s not easy to find out which electronic books under which topic are free, unrestricted and legally accessibly.  No mean featIf only it were as simple as typing appropriate keywords, setting a filter for open access, and asking for electronic materials. Well, perhaps it should be that simple, but the reality is somewhat different - and it’s not just Jisc that struggles with this issue. The very large knowledgebase systems, such WorldCat Discovery, Primo, Summon and the EBSCO Discovery Service, all face challenges in making open access materials (particularly monographs) sufficiently visible and discoverable in their systems.There are a number of obstacles that need to be tackled. One big issue is that the records libraries receive from sources that list and describe open access publications are often described in ways that make it difficult for libraries to seamlessly incorporate them into their catalogues.For instance, if the name of the publisher is abbreviated or absent, or if any data is inserted into a non-standard field, the chances decrease of that record subsequently being found in a search. If the data is then shared with an aggregator such as Jisc, it can cause problems downstream when an attempt is made to match records across multiple libraries to identify who owns the same item.[#pullquote#]If the record doesn’t contain an accurate and persistent URL pointing to an openly accessible full-text version of the publication, then there is no way the user will get all the way to their destination. [#endpullquote#]If the record doesn’t contain an accurate and persistent URL pointing to an openly accessible full-text version of the publication, then there is no way the user will get all the way to their destination.Linking systemsAnother problem is that publishers tend to work with ONIX format data, which is optimised to support commercial transactions, while libraries rely mostly on Machine Readable Cataloguing (MARC) format data, which is more richly descriptive for the purposes of discovery and research. Conversion between the formats is possible but tends to result in an unsatisfactory record. Yet another (perhaps surprising) issue is that there has not historically been a standard way of flagging whether something is open access in a MARC format record.Flagging open contentThere is good news, however! A lot of different people and organisations around the world are focused on finding ways forward.[#pullquote#]A lot of different people and organisations around the world are focused on finding ways forward.[#endpullquote#]In addition to all the work that Jisc has done, the OAPEN initiative has been active for some years and the Knowledge Exchange has undertaken surveys and released reports. The British Library is leading on work and, more recently, the COPIM project has received a substantial amount of funding to pursue solutions in this space.And just to prove that progress is being made, there has been recent agreement (based on a proposal by OCLC and the German National Library) on the insertion of an open access flag into a MARC record. Anyone interested in the detail can read more from the Library of Congress.[#pullquote#]we have plans to build and release a tool that will help smaller libraries and open access publishers to more easily create good quality bibliographic records[#endpullquote#]As part of the Jisc library hub roadmap, we have plans to build and release a tool that will help smaller libraries and open access publishers to more easily create good quality bibliographic records that will be optimised for visibility in discovery systems. ‘Library hub create’ will be an easy-to-use cataloguing tool for creating new records in a variety of formats. It will be developed alongside ‘library hub contribute’ which is another tool that will enable libraries, publishers and other contributors to more easily upload records and to keep track of their data as it flows into the national bibliographic knowledgebase.We are hoping to gather requirement insights and prototype these tools during the next year and will be continuing to work with the community to think carefully about how to ensure that the data we rely on is fit for purpose and maximises the chances of pinpointing open access materials amid the vast haystack of other publications.
  • Taking the detective work out of supporting mental health and wellbeing
    Over the past few months I feel like I’ve been an amateur detective. Every day I read news about the mental health “crisis” affecting students and young people, and how already pressed specialist services are struggling to cope. As a parent of teenagers who will be ready for higher education in a couple of years, I had two main questions that I needed to answer: why is this happening and what can I do to help?[#pullquote#]As a parent [...] I had two main questions that I needed to answer: why is this happening and what can I do to help?[#endpullquote#]The why?Talking to others, it’s clear that something has changed since I was a teenager in the 1980s. Many of the young people I know are struggling with depression and anxiety in some form and are asking for more support. At least, that’s my experience as a parent, but it is likely to be the experience of school counselling staff and GPs too.Then there are the conversations I find myself having with people I’ve never met before – with parents having to text their child reassurance hourly to keep anxiety under control and panic attacks at bay, and about the growing set of disorders affecting young men that seem to be more prevalent, such as eating disorders.So what is going on?My first question was whether mental health conditions are more prevalent or whether they are just being talked about more. Are people more likely now to medicalise and label “problems” that are actually a normal, if painful, part of growing up?In the past, parents would simply have taught their children what we would now call resilience. When sad or worried, we would have reassured children that such feelings were quite normal and advised them to wait patiently until things got better.While there is still something in this advice – which is exactly what I would have my told younger self if I had a time machine – for young people now, this stuff really won’t wash.  My real lightbulb moment came when I heard Dominique Thompson speak at Jisc's Digifest this year. As a former university GP who has seen thousands of cases at the University of Bristol, she had illuminating insights about what could be behind the struggles facing today’s students.For her, it’s the heady cocktail of the ‘you can do and be anything’ culture, the expectation of instant answers from Google or Alexa, increased loneliness and a lack of opportunity to develop actual rather than virtual social skills, in the 24/7 always connected society where you co-exist with glimpses of others’ carefully curated, seemingly perfect lives. And all of this is happening at a time when young people might be away from home and living independently for the first time.Times have changed and we are all struggling to respond.What can we do to help?Technologies such as social media might be part of the problem, but other technologies such as data analytics could be part of the solution. The next part of my detective work was meeting James Murray. James is the father of Ben Murray, a student who tragically took his own life at university in 2018.[#pullquote#]Technologies such as social media might be part of the problem, but other technologies such as data analytics could be part of the solution[#endpullquote#]I wanted to meet James because my team at Jisc had already started talking to him about prototyping and testing a version of a data analytics dashboard concept he envisioned could create ‘suicide safer’ universities. I wanted to understand practically what Jisc could do next, but there was another, more personal reason. I am also a member of the club that no-one wants to join, that is for people who have lost someone in their immediate family to suicide and been profoundly changed by that experience. As others who have been bereaved by suicide will know only too well, the waves may die down but the ripples are infinite.My reaction to that loss was probably not unusual in that grim days and weeks were spent analysing the past in the search for the signs that had been missed. James has insisted that there were some warning signs that Ben was in distress, many of which existed or could have existed as data. If there had been a way for support staff at the university to see those indicators in one place, then perhaps action could have been taken sooner and maybe Ben’s life could have been saved.This idea was very relevant to Jisc’s work because we have already been looking at how students and staff can benefit through better data and analytics about students’ academic performance and engagement with their course. This is the cornerstone of our approach to learning analytics, which we launched as a service in autumn 2018.We had also already made the link that the sorts of insights it is possible to gain through learning analytics – such as when someone is struggling with their course or starting to disengage – might also highlight students who are having other difficulties including with mental health. And we agree with James Murray and others, notably Universities UK, who argue for a more holistic and systematic approach to using systems and data to support students and see that there are potentially big gains to be made by deploying a whole university approach.Soon after I met James, I found out that I was not alone in my detective work. Talking to three universities about the concept of an early alert system for students in crisis revealed that much time and effort can be spent piecing together what is happening to a student based on data that is currently locked into different systems and in the heads of staff in different departments.We shouldn’t blame universities for this. Over the past 20 to 30 years, IT and data-based systems have proliferated, not just in universities but across all organisations, public and private, which rely on many systems to perform different functions.[#pullquote#]Most staff we spoke to realise that they could support students better and more quickly if they could make better use of the data that students have already agreed to share[#endpullquote#]Most staff we spoke to realise that they could support students better and more quickly if they could make better use of the data that students have already agreed to share. Analytics can be used to spot patterns and staff also see the potential for a better, single system, integrated with institutional workflow and linked to a customer relations manager-type functionality to ensure communications are streamlined and consistent.So what does this all mean? Will a better grip on data at universities mean we can save lives? It’s what James Murray believes can happen and the case he makes is compelling.Of course, every student and every situation is different and any solutions that Jisc or other providers put in place will only succeed if they work for the whole university and their staff and students, recognising their particular challenges, systems and workflows.Right now, the most helpful thing we can do as the higher education sector, and as a larger community of parents, teachers, counsellors, doctors and students, is to talk about data and what it can do, being clear about what we should do and what the ethical and legal limits are.[#pullquote#]We owe it to our students and young people to see what we can do to take the detective work out of mental health and wellbeing[#endpullquote#]There are some tricky issues – university students are adults and we need to respect their privacy and make sure we support them with sensitivity and care. However, that does not mean we should not talk about the value of data-informed approaches. We owe it to our students and young people to see what we can do to take the detective work out of mental health and wellbeing.This blog originally appeared on HEPI's website to mark World Mental Health Day. Read more about our new project to develop mental health and wellbeing technologies and analytics.Anyone in the sector who has ideas about how technology could be harnessed to improve mental health and wellbeing support for students can join a dedicated mailing list by emailing: tech4wellbeing-request@jiscmail.ac.uk.
  • 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.