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  • Crack that code! This could be the week the magic happens...
    At Jisc we believe that education technology (edtech) can improve education, research and student life – and not just in the classroom or lecture theatre. However, most of us are consumers of technology rather than producers. What would it take to learn how to code, or get into hardware hacking? This can be especially challenging if you are no longer in formal education, but a wide range of schools, colleges, libraries and hackspaces are throwing their doors open this week for National Coding Week (18-24 September), with the aim of helping adults to learn some digital skills.Ever wondered how to design a website, create an app, or maybe something shiny and new like augmented reality (AR) or artificial intelligence (AI)? Why not find a National Coding Week event near you and have a go?I’ll pick out some examples of the sort of things you could be doing, drawn from Jisc’s Digi Lab, where we explore the potential of new and emerging technologies.Build your own “seeing eye” AIImagine an AI that helps blind and partially sighted people to retain their independence, by recognising and speaking out loud the names of objects that were placed in front of it.This might sound a bit like science fiction, but in fact it’s possible using a cheap (£25) Raspberry Pi computer and some free AI software from Google called TensorFlow. This “machine learning” software is open source, which means the source code is available to all, allowing developers to enhance and change it.[#pullquote#]there's lots you can do with a Raspberry Pi that won't break the bank.[#endpullquote#]If you're a pupil or an adult learner who wants to get to grips with AI, there's lots you can do with a Raspberry Pi that won't break the bank. Perhaps you already have a keyboard or a mouse from an old PC? And you can plug it into any screen that has an HDMI input, like most modern TVs. What will you create? For more information, check out my blog and video on DIY AI.Make your own Mycroft AI open source digital assistantWouldn’t it be great if you could make your own digital assistant – a bit like Siri or Alexa, except that you could also get under the hood and see what makes it tick. The Mycroft team has built a prototype open source AI that does just this. Now you can tinker with it to create new “skills” that extend its built-in capabilities, and make Mycroft do things that its creators never envisaged.[#pullquote#]it’s easy to see Mycroft being used as a hook for teaching advanced hardware and software concepts and project work[#endpullquote#]I’ve posted a blog and video that shows what Mycroft is capable of, using their prototype device - a clever combination of off-the-shelf hardware like Raspberry Pi and Arduino. However, you can also run the Mycroft software on your existing Raspberry Pi, or on a conventional PC or laptop. From an edtech perspective, it’s easy to see Mycroft being used as a hook for teaching advanced hardware and software concepts and project work.Mycroft "skills" and the TensorFlow image classification code are both written in the Python programming language, which is becoming popular in schools as kids move from basic coding environments like MIT Scratch to more advanced coding concepts. There's nothing BASIC about Python, however, as it drives real-world software used by billions of people every day.[#pullquote#]it’s also becoming increasingly common for further education colleges to offer introductory programming courses.[#endpullquote#]So, if you're a teacher, why not give Mycroft or TensorFlow a try to help get pupils engaged with coding in Python. Challenge them to think of new things that the AI could do, and have a go at implementing them.There are lots of open source examples that they can learn from, like these Mycroft skills on GitHub. And if you’re an adult learner, there’s lots you can pick up online, and it’s also becoming increasingly common for further education colleges to offer introductory programming courses.Explore augmented reality with Apple’s ARKitARKit is being released right now as part of iOS11, the latest version of the operating system software that drives iPads and iPhones. AR has been around for years, but in quite a limited way – point your phone/tablet camera at a picture that has special markers on it, and the AR app will typically do something like activate a video or show you a 3D model.Until now, anyone wanting to develop an AR app has had to fend with a couple of big problems – firstly the hardware in phones and tablets hasn’t quite been up to the job and, secondly, there hasn’t been a standard way of adding AR capability to an app.ARKit on Apple devices and the upcoming ARCore on Android devices provide that capability as standard, and now the hardware is much more powerful. I’ll stick my neck out and say that, by Christmas 2017, there will be hundreds of AR apps in the App Store. One catch, though, is that you need to have an Apple computer to develop ARKit apps. [#pullquote#]by Christmas 2017, there will be hundreds of AR apps in the App Store.[#endpullquote#]I’m very excited about how people could use ARKit in research and education. Imagine holding your phone up to find that the equipment around you in the STEM lab is all tagged with names, documentation, “reserve me” buttons and the like – maybe with a graphical status indicating whether you have had the health and safety induction to use the kit.Or imagine a prospective student visit where the would-be students can hold their phones up to see what happens in each building, and giant arrows appear directing them to the next activity, induction session, students union etc. The blog and videos on ARKit should give you some more inspiration.So that’s a whistlestop tour through some interesting new technologies that you might want to explore if National Coding Week gets you all fired up.I’d love to hear from you about what you discover, and what you plan to do next. Why not get in touch or leave a comment below?
  • Four take-home thoughts from the ALT Conference
    Last week’s Association of Learning and Technology (ALT) Conference, also known as altc, was a great opportunity to catch up with learning technologists. This event and Digifest are our two big opportunities to meet with practitioners, look at developments and share ideas. And altc 2017 certainly delivered!Here are four key thoughts we’ve taken away after three packed days.Learning technologists are helping to shape better learning spacesPeter Goodyear's ‘shaping spaces’ keynote talked about the ways in which “we shape our spaces and then they shape us”. The ongoing transformation of how learning takes place means that learning providers need to look again at physical delivery spaces – what learners actually do in these spaces (not what we think they do in them).  This will, he argues, help to make sure that people can learn optimally and also ensure that the best use is made of available space.[#pullquote#]The ongoing transformation of how learning takes place means that learning providers need to look again at physical delivery spaces[#endpullquote#]Good examples of this kind of thinking emerged in several other sessions including one in which the University of Leeds showed how its lecture theatres are being redesigned to support more group work and interactive learning.At Jisc we’ll be keeping these ideas and developments in mind as we work on two new projects of our own – the intelligent campus and next generation digital learning environments.Partnerships with students are bringing about big changesThe idea of students as agents of change within colleges, universities and skills providers isn’t a new one but at altc this year, for the first time, we heard many excellent examples of developments that resulted directly from collaborations with learners.Speakers on this subject included Fiona Handley who talked about her research into the role of student technology ambassadors in three universities and Chris Gratton, who described the good and surprising things that can happen when you recruit postgraduates to help in developing learning materials for undergraduate and graduate students.If you’d like to find out more about student partnerships and how they can drive curriculum change explore the Change Agents' Network.Gathering data is easy – it’s what you do with it that mattersThe current buzz around learning analytics reflects the fact that it’s a powerful tool for learners and teachers, as well as other professionals within an organisation. It enables students to benchmark their progress and set themselves targets and helps teachers to tailor interventions with individual learners so that their experience of learning meets their needs better. But it also raises new challenges for both staff and students.Sian Bain’s keynote, 'the death of a network: data and anonymity on campus' encouraged us to think about learning spaces and data from a different angle. She has been looking at how students respond to anonymity online and how this can encourage more creativity and different behaviours.[#pullquote#]The emerging tension between students having safe spaces to be anonymous if they want to, and the tracking and monitoring which learning analytics enables, is one that institutions are starting to explore[#endpullquote#]The emerging tension between students having safe spaces to be anonymous if they want to, and the tracking and monitoring which learning analytics enables, is one that institutions are starting to explore. The emotional impact that can result from constant oversight and frequent exposure to data is an area that needs more research.The important message here is that it is becoming easier to develop working dashboards that offer valuable data but we need to think carefully about how staff use them, what resulting interventions are made, how this affects the design of the curriculum and how learners respond. Our learning analytics network provides a forum for institutions working on learning analytics to discuss these issues – find out more on the learning analytics blog.Technology-enhanced assessment is still a hot topicSessions looking at technology-enhanced assessment were popular and talks from the universities of Essex, Liverpool and Reading described the strides each is making towards fully electronic assessment management and the challenges of scaling up their practice.It emerged that, while the language around assessment still needs to become clearer to help learning providers make better use of technology for assessment, this does seem to be happening now. The University of Reading is just one institution that said it has been using the lifecycle developed by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to enable conversations about electronic management of assessment and to support transformation.If you missed the presentations about this at altc there’s a useful MMU case study that can fill you in on the details.In summary...Learning technologists are shaping better learning spacesStudent partnerships are bringing changeData: it's what you do with it that mattersTechnology-enhanced assessment still mattersSo that’s it! A brief round-up of four messages from this year’s ALT Conference that resonated strongly with us.If you attended this year’s conference please let us know what interested you most in the comments box below or join the conversation on Twitter using @Jisc and #altc.If you weren’t able to attend, you can find out more and catch up on the sessions that were recorded on the ALT Conference website.
  • The benefits of tech for students' financial literacy
    As the UK population becomes digitally-savvy from an increasingly younger age, it’s easy to assume tech take-up is evenly shared across every aspect of our lives.  In fact, while digital banking becomes ever more useful and user-friendly, students are as likely to be ignorant of the benefits as they are to feel clueless about money management.[#pullquote#]The obvious way forward is to educate students in the use of technology for financial planning[#endpullquote#]The obvious way forward is to educate students in the use of technology for financial planning. Here are some of the key aspects to consider:Low-tech optionsAn old-school spreadsheet is a simple way to introduce the basic concepts of balancing income against expenditure and provides an opportunity to get students thinking about:Life + money goals: what do students want their cash to do for them now, in six months’, a year and five years from now?Priorities in daily spending and saving, and the bank account features that meet those needsProblem solving (or predicting future issues), and where to find advice or generate extra incomePrivacy and security: the low-tech option may have fewer frills, but doesn’t require third-party access to bank accounts or personal data[#pullquote#]An old-school spreadsheet is a simple way to introduce the basic concepts of balancing income against expenditure[#endpullquote#]Starting out with a spreadsheet demonstrates what banking software can automate, without abdicating financial awareness or assuming a bot can replace financial responsibility!Using tech to manage moneyDigital banking has evolved far beyond budget trackers. Tools now straddle multiple devices, accounts and platforms.DashboardsExample: Money Dashboard.Typically, a read-only service which puts the balance and transactions from multiple bank accounts in one place.It shows categories for spending, and lets you add and track savings goals. It also encourages organisation and motivates saving.Online-only banksExample: Monzo.These are current accounts with real-time balance updates (and phone alerts), quick customer support, and anytime access.They’re built around mobile phone access, making them intuitive and familiar to younger users.Traditional banksThe big UK banks have their own apps, offering balance checking, money transfers and savings, but some other functions may still require logging in via PC, phone or even visiting in person.Third-party money transfer apps (see Payfriendz) gamify the process through gifs and rewards for peer sign-up; they also actively promote money management as ‘fun’.Auto-savingsOffered by standalone apps (some even operate via Facebook messenger) as well as the big banks: it’s an automated process which connects to a bank account to monitor spending, identifies ‘spare change’, then moves that amount to a savings account.[#pullquote#]For students who struggle to put cash aside, this removes the effort and mental blocks to saving.[#endpullquote#]For students who struggle to put cash aside, this removes the effort and mental blocks to saving.Prepaid cardsExample: Revolut.Born from the foreign currency market, prepaid Mastercard functionality is useful at home or abroad. The cards work like any debit card, but you can only spend what you first load on to them, making them perfect for budgeting.Considerations for digital bankingPrivacyWhat kind of personal and spending data is collected and why? What are the implications? How safe is your data?SecurityConsider about the significance of Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) membership.It's also important to think about who else will help if something goes wrong (and what might go wrong?)ShoppingIt’s easier than ever to spend cash online; prepaid cards (or services like PayPal) can give an extra layer of data protection if a retailer is hacked.On the other hand, credit cards offer Section 75 protection.Credit Digital banking isn’t yet inclusive of overdrafts and other student-friendly facilities, so there’s a conversation to be had about the pros and cons of alternative types of credit.Cost Some providers and services are free, some aren’t. What’s the cost implication, and when is it worth paying?Using tech to be better offDigital technology can make money easy to think about and organise, which in itself is a solid reason for up-take, but it can also leave students better off.With fewer overheads, some online-only products come with bonuses for opening accounts and in-credit interest rates far higher than with traditional high street banks.Users already familiar with incentives for peer sign-up (the FarmVille effect!) can secure better interest rates, rewards and bonuses for getting friends and family to sign up to apps and banking products.As well as encouraging saving, the new breed of banking apps are competitively-priced, with fewer charges for shopping, spending or receiving money from abroad. Over time, that can add up to substantial savings.Digital banking will continue growing. As with traditional banking, credit/debt and student finance, those who find out how it works, and how it can work for them, are likely to be better off.[#pullquote#]Getting – and staying – on top of your money still relies on the same attitudes and awareness[#endpullquote#]While digital banking promises new functionality, the basics haven’t changed. Getting – and staying – on top of your money still relies on the same attitudes and awareness. Now’s the time to have the conversation!
  • Our six not-to-be-missed sessions at this year’s ALT Conference
    Are you coming to the Association of Learning and Teaching (ALT) Conference? We’ll be there and bringing you up to date on the latest developments in education technology.  Here’s some more detail about our sessions...Tuesday 5 SeptemberVirtual learning environment (VLE) to personalised learning environment (PLE): the next generation of digital learning environmentDevelopment of next-generation digital learning environments is key if we are to put learners more in control of their own learning and their life on campus. [#pullquote#]Development of next-generation digital learning environments is key if we are to put learners more in control of their own learning[#endpullquote#]This session with Simon Thomson of Leeds Beckett University takes a fresh look at personalised learning environments (PLEs). Development of these has proved somewhat challenging so it will be useful to explore recent work to create a practical PLE space through Leeds Beckett’s Personalised User Learning and Social Environments (PULSE) projectOne of 67 projects being supported by HEFCE. Details of all the projects, including PULSE can be found on the HEFCE website - It’s not a new learning platform; it is a hub that connects your students’ existing online learning spaces with those in use at your university. We’ll explore the hub in detail and hear the experiences of the staff and students who are using it.This session takes place at 13:30.Developing digital capability: organisational journeysThis workshop session will look at what’s being done now within universities and colleges to develop staff digital capability.Non Scantlebury of the University of Hertfordshire and Andy Beddoe of Hartpury College will describe how they are developing digital skills within their own organisations and all participants will have an opportunity to try out our resources to support the development of digital capability.This session takes place at 13:30.Digital learners’ stories: are we listening?Explore 12 new and compelling stories and videos from learners in higher education, further education and skills to see how access to digital technologies has removed barriers to learning and helped individuals to achieve their personal educational goals.[#pullquote#]Explore 12 new and compelling stories and videos from learners [...] to see how access to digital technologies has removed barriers to learning[#endpullquote#]Discover how students use digital technologies to keep their motivation levels high, connect with their peers and keep themselves safe. You will be impressed by these learners’ understanding of the skills and capabilities they will need when they get a job and by the online professional identities and networks that they are already carving out for themselves.The session will take you through the stories and provide pointers to help you build your own collection of learners’ stories that you can use to promote staff development, institutional change and staff/student partnerships.This session takes place at 15:30.Wednesday 6 SeptemberTracking learners’ digital experience: the benefits and impacts?This is an opportunity to catch up on what’s been happening with our student digital experience tracker – a survey tool that 74 universities and colleges have used this year to gather information from over 22,000 students. Participants in this session will hear from Emma Thompson of the University of Liverpool library and Vikki Liogier from Epping Forest College about how their organisations are using the tracker to engage more closely with students, to analyse their learners’ digital experience, to inform future strategy and to benchmark their organisational quality performance.You’ll be able to try out the tracker and be among the first to hear some new insights from this year’s study. This session takes place at 13:00.Evidence bases and business casesThis panel session builds on a discussion that started at this year’s Digifest about the role of evaluation evidence in decisions to implement learning technology and it looks at how decisions about learning technology get made in universities. Amber Thomas (University of Warwick), Melissa Highton (University of Edinburgh), Don Passey (Lancaster University), Neil Morris (University of Leeds) and Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou (Bath Spa University) will all present their perspectives on this.[#pullquote#]You should leave the session with ideas for how to influence decisions at practitioner and institutional levels.[#endpullquote#]You should leave the session with ideas for how to influence decisions at practitioner and institutional levels.This session takes place at 13:00.If the walls could talkAn introduction to our work on the intelligent campus looking at the benefits that could emerge for learning and teaching if we can make learning spaces ‘intelligent’.Definitely NOT another hype-filled look at emerging technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, this is a practical exploration of how colleges, universities and skills providers could start to gather and use information from learning and teaching spaces to help them use their buildings better to improve student experience and attainment.It is an interactive session and we’d like participants to help us take our ideas forward. Join in and be prepared to consider a few scenarios, think about solutions and vote on the ones that you think could work best.This session takes place at 13:00.Find out moreOur event page has details of all our activity at the ALT 2017 conference or you can explore the entire programme on the ALT Conference website.Visit our stand to hear more about our projects and how to get involved, keep an eye on the student experience blog for updates on progress and join the conversation on Twitter using #altc.
  • Managing audiovisual research data – five things you need to know
    Recently, a number of colleges and universities have asked for advice on how to manage the digital elements (pictures, recordings, etc) of their research data projects.  To help answer your questions we’ve created a new guide to audiovisual research data. It's not just for creative arts research, but advice for any subject area.I’ve picked out my top five tips to get you started…At a glanceMake it a team effortEnsure researchers know what they wantReview your data management planPlan your project curation approachPlan for the long-termMake research data management a team effortYou’ll need the different skills and insights of researchers, information managers and media technology specialists to curate audiovisual research data effectively.Assemble a team, involve them from the start of the research project and keep them engaged long after it ends to ensure that the data remains both available and reusable for the many different communities that may want it in future, possibly using tools that haven’t even been developed yet.Make sure researchers know what they want to get from their dataThis will help them to get a clear idea of what data they’ll need to create or collect, what formats to use and how to store data so that they can use it in the short term.This is the first step in developing a data management plan (DMP) for the research project and you’ll need one to keep everything on track.  Once you’ve got a DMP, keep reviewing itEncourage researchers to take a fresh look at the plan at regular intervals, certainly every time they write something up or reach a project milestone.Do they still want the same things from the data that they did at the start? Do they need to collect different data or to work with it differently? All these are things that could scupper your digital data management efforts if you aren’t ready to make adjustments to your plan.Plan out your approach to project curationThere are lots of potential risks that could hamper storage and use of multimedia data during the project phase from ethical and privacy issues through to intellectual property rights (IPR), and licensing. So it’s really important to set out the likely storage needs.There’s more information on the risks in the new guide to audiovisual research data and you can also explore our guide to metadata for ideas on how metadata can help you to administer digital resources and ensure that they remain accessible and sustainable throughout the research project.And then plan long-term data curationWhere will the data end up after the end of the initial project? This is an important compliance issue now that some research funders mandate preservation of research data for many years.The ideal solution would be to place it in a repository, data centre or other appropriate archive. But before this can happen you’ll need to make the case for its long-term value for research and to ensure that it complies with the selection and appraisal policies of the home you’ve chosen for it.Since it is relatively costly to archive multimedia material it’s not a foregone conclusion that the repository or datacentre will accept it and you might have to make some compromises – for example, on file size and quality. This need not have an adverse effect on its suitability for reuse in future if you take steps to preserve the significant properties of the material – talk to the specialists at the repository or datacentre about this and have a look at the UK Data Archive's advice on suitable file format.Find out moreIf you’d like more information on any of these issues, and pointers on where to get more detailed information, the new guide to audiovisual research data is the first place to look.Your Jisc account manager will be able to offer practical advice and guidance to help you develop your own research data management processes to accommodate multimedia.
  • The smart home reloaded - welcome to the intelligent campus
    Smart homes are impressive, there’s no denying it. More and more devices can be hooked up to your wifi in order to do various ‘smart’ things – from smart lights to smart thermostats and of course Google Home and Amazon Echo, all set to become run-of-the-mill (are listening hairbrushes and emotional cars also on the horizon?). This is all very well, but why aren’t we harnessing this technology to improve the campus or classroom? Answer? We already are, and we’re planning on taking it to the next level too – by using data.By taking the data retrieved from sensors, tracking and the internet and combining it with data from other sources (library management systems, virtual learning environments, even restaurants and catering), we can interpret patterns and learn how to improve the student experience.[#pullquote#]We can interpret patterns and learn how to improve the student experience[#endpullquote#]What are the possibilities for universities and colleges?The potential improvements really are endless:Socialising with others, whether for academic collaboration, social activities or mutual supportIdentifying and sharing events and activitiesProviding real time contextual information that improves decision makingRaising issues and problems as they arise and linking to supportMoving around the physical environment and accessing facilities easilyMaking the physical environment more comfortable and healthyIn short, anything that can make life easier for students, improve their academic progress, enhance their emotional wellbeing or make the environment more comfortable.Smart buildingsSmart buildings on campus are old news (automatic temperature gauging for example), but have always been very expensive, which is why many institutions just don’t have them. What we haven’t done though, is link the smart buildings with smart learning: using the data collected through learning analytics (explored later in the blog), to inform decisions about teaching and the space in which it takes place.[#pullquote#]If the timetable ‘knew’ what a lecturer planned to teach, it could select a more suitable room for that particular class[#endpullquote#]Intelligent timetabling is another possibility. Sitting in the same lecture room or theatre for every class could become a thing of the past. If the timetable ‘knew’ what a lecturer planned to teach, it could select a more suitable room for that particular class, for example – even providing directions to the room to each students’ devices.Wayfinding your way aroundWayfinding (information systems that guide you through a physical environment, enhancing your understanding and experience of the space) is another component that could enhance campus life.For example, imagine heading to a lecture if you were in a wheelchair. A wayfinding system on a mobile app could direct you to an alternative route that avoids tricky steps or difficult terrain.I know how you’re feelingCan the performance of students and tutors be improved by a combination of emotion recognition and artificial intelligence?A number of universities are already looking at to the possibilities of using video monitoring and webcams along with emotion recognition software. In lecture theatres and learning spaces, disengaged or struggling students, could be identified and feedback provided to their tutor or lecturer.[#pullquote#]In lecture theatres and learning spaces, disengaged or struggling students, could be identified[#endpullquote#]The Sichuan University in China has been using facial recognition technology for attendance monitoring for some time and is now investigating emotion recognitionRead more in this article from September 2016: The aim is to determine the student’s interest level, identify sadness, happiness and boredom. This data can then influence teaching techniques and content to ensure that students are stimulated and paying attention.Student wellbeingLearning analytics aims to use data about students to make informed decisions particularly in the areas of student satisfaction, retention and attainment. It is seen as having the potential to improve understanding in student performance and interaction with university resources, as well as helping to spot students at risk of dropping out/those who might be struggling.In the UK, Open University pilots have resulted in a 2.1% boost in retention. See how Jisc is developing learning analytics.Addressing the ethicsOf course, students can be cautious when it comes to their data being tracked. At Jisc we take the ethical aspects of analytics seriously – and have created a code of practice that sets out the responsibilities of educational institutions to ensure that learning analytics is carried out responsibly, appropriately and effectively.[#pullquote#][Our] code of practice [...] sets out the responsibilities of educational institutions to ensure that learning analytics is carried out responsibly, appropriately and effectively[#endpullquote#]What next?The intelligent campus guide from Jisc is on its way, and will provide advice, ethics information and guidance on implementing intelligent campus ideas, as well as looking at what other industries are doing in terms of intelligent data collection.We’re still deciding the role that we’ll have to play when it comes to the intelligent campus, and there’s a lot of research to be done. Regardless, we’re excited to be investigating the space, and enthusiastic for what’s to come.Still interested?Listen to our podcast series on solving the ethical and legal issues around learning analytics and take time to read our code of practice for learning analytics.We’re also looking for feedback on our draft intelligent campus guide, so please do get involved.
  • A researcher’s guide to the galaxy - and the world of data sharing
    This year's research data network event was a huge success, with sector experts gathering to discuss global issues in research data management. The consensus? There are challenges, but we’re excited about meeting them. The great thing about the annual event is that it welcomes anybody with an interest in research data management. This means that you really do get a well-rounded view of what’s going on in the area.This summer’s event was the fourth of its kind for us and went on for a day longer, meaning plenty of time to network, discuss and debate.So why share research data?If we don’t share research data, what will we miss out on?Well, obviously there are different views here, but think about it - if we could bring together all sources of oncological data and easily compare them, perhaps the cure for cancer would be faster to arrive.Astronomy and citizen scienceOur keynote speaker Mark Humphries gave a great example of data sharing. Within astronomy, data is collected automatically by very expensive telescopes available in a few places around the world. The data is shared widely and astronomers around the world benefit from the huge investment.[#pullquote#]There’s so much data about space that some researchers actively engage citizens to work with it[#endpullquote#]What’s more, astronomy is an excellent example of ‘citizen science’. There’s so much data about space that some researchers actively engage citizens to work with it. A project that we originally funded, Galaxy Zoo – helps researchers to categorise pictures by way of crowdsourcing.Astronomy is an example of open data already leading to better research, with less duplication and more progress. However, open mustn’t mean 'available to anyone at any time', to avoid data being used for negative purposes and ensure that sensitive data is handled correctly.[#pullquote#]Astronomy is an example of open data already leading to better research, with less duplication and more progress[#endpullquote#]Furthermore, just having all the data out there can make it harder to explore - open simply means that data is both discoverable and reusable.RDM challengesArguably, one of the biggest challenges facing research data management (RDM) at the moment is compliance with funder open research data policies that recommend intelligent openness, discoverability and reusability of data. This compliance raises both technological and cultural issues.Technological issuesTechnological issues can be about interoperability between systems and a lack of adequate preservation tools.Both of these issues can be tackled by our research data shared service (and more RDM services are listed at the end of this blog).Cultural issuesCultural challenges within RDM are also rife. Resistance to using new tools or sharing data openly, along with differing opinions about what sharing means, and what research data actually is, all cause problems.Mark Humphries highlighted that in his field of neuroscience, researchers feel a stronger ownership over data, as it is trickier to collect, and therefore seen as more valuable.[#pullquote#]Researchers feel a stronger ownership over data, as it is trickier to collect, and therefore seen as more valuable[#endpullquote#]To become a notable researcher and to get tenure, you need to prove your worth in order to get research grants. These grants rely on the quality and frequency of your publications, and publications rely on data, so it's easy to see why open research data can be a sensitive subject.Tackling the challenges: helpful resources and informationWe know that solid data management is invaluable for research. The question is – what can be done to help?The Open Research Data Taskforce has been established by Jo Johnson (minister of state for science) to tackle the open research data infrastructure in the UK, and to make recommendations on the direction of travel, so in terms of what is coming next, this is the group to watch – and we’ll be playing our part at JiscResearch Data Network is a site that we established for the sector at the demand for help pulling together all the resources, tools and services. It is open for anyone to contribute to and it supports the research data network events as well, so all the resources from the past four events are there tooResearch data shared service is a service for universities that allows researchers to manage most of their data smoothly. It helps universities to ensure that they are complying with funder requirements and are preserving data, whilst making as much of it open and accessible as possibleResearch data discovery service is a searchable catalogue of research data from HE and research institutions across the UKResearch data metrics for usage is a service that can track and add up how many times data sets have been downloaded and citedResearch data business case and costing was a project that defined a framework to understand the costs that an institution will have to incur when setting up an infrastructure for sharing and preserving research is a search engine for research equipment across the UK, aimed at researchers and technicians working with kit that is more expensive than £10kStay up to dateKeep an eye our work in the research data space by visiting our dedicated web page, follow us on Twitter using #jiscrdm or email
  • As challenges for the FE sector continue, leaders acknowledge technology as a way forward
    As the further education (FE) sector continues to battle through difficult and ever-changing conditions, our second survey of FE leaders gives us a clear picture of the most difficult current challenges and, more importantly, how we can assist with solutions. The data, collected in AprilThe online survey was sent to college principals and leaders in finance, teaching and learning, technology and learning resources on 24 April and was live for two weeks. Responses were received from 99 individual leaders representing 22% of colleges (89 out of 413), will help focus how we help colleges respond to changing student expectations and government priorities, and the need to demonstrate value, and to emerge as successful organisations.Six big challenges for FE leadersWe asked leaders to rank six challenges in order of importance (see results below) and, in view of the continued funding squeeze, it is no surprise to learn that the biggest problem for FE leaders is still financial viability. Coming in at number two this year is the need to create an agile organisation that can anticipate and react to change.How further education leaders ranked the six challengesCreating and sustaining a viable financial and funding model that can adapt to market changesCreating a truly agile organisation that can anticipate, influence and react to change and manage the risks and complexity that comes with that changeCreating the optimum environment to create and sustain learning excellence and deliver the complete learning experienceDelivering more from less by simultaneously cutting costs and achieving more effective outcomes for employers and learnersMeeting the changing needs and expectations of learners of all ages to deliver lifelong learningPartnering with local employers to ensure that the curricula meet the changing needs of employers, individuals and the communityImportantly, leaders feel the amount of effort needed to meet all challenges has increased since the last survey in 2016. There is little doubt then, that FE needs our support more than ever.How can colleges deal with the challenges?Leaders say that better use of data and technology are key factors which could help them face down problems. When asked which of several suggested elements would make their college more attractive to individuals, employers and other stakeholders, these two factors in particular have grown in significance since 2016.[#pullquote#]Providing greater access to data [...] was this year cited by 58% of respondents as crucial[#endpullquote#]Providing greater access to data, which will better inform decision making and develop skills, was this year cited by 58% of respondents as crucial compared to 45% in 2016. This year, better data access is judged to be the most important factor in making an organisation more attractive - while in 2016 it was third.Enhancing technology as a way of meeting new government expectations is seen by 46% of respondents as a priority in 2017, compared to 33% in 2016. This is now the third most important factor for increasing attractiveness – up two places on last year.Meanwhile, the second most important factor overall (agreed by 56% of respondents – a figure unchanged from 2016) is ensuring learners can access any learning resource, anytime on any device from anywhere.The way forwardSo, it appears that, while FE leaders acknowledge making good use of technology in both administration and teaching processes is crucial to the future success of colleges, funding constraints continue to hamper innovation.But colleges can’t afford not to invest in technology – the advantages to staff, learners and organisations make it a no-brainer.Spending money on embedding digital practice and digital infrastructure can only be advantageous in the long term. Not only will cutting-edge IT systems, including cloud computing and shared data centres, save time, money and physical space, there are measurable benefits to learners too.[#pullquote#]Students who are routinely exposed to technology for learning, feedback and assessment will be gaining digital skills vital in the workplace[#endpullquote#]For example, colleges can improve student wellbeing and retention rates by using learning analytics to detect those who are not engaging with study and could be at risk of dropping out. And students who are routinely exposed to technology for learning, feedback and assessment will be gaining digital skills vital in the workplace.Colleges that embrace these technological tools will be best-placed to be competitive and attractive to the widest range of students, including adult and distance learners and apprentices.Getting the message acrossWe're already working with colleges across the UK, but there are many more that could benefit from our expertise. Fortunately, we’ve made decent headway in engaging the FE sector over the past year, which is reflected in the larger number of responses to the 2017 leaders’ survey (22% of colleges) compared with 2016 (18%).[#pullquote#]Jisc’s satisfaction level has crept up this year, too, to reach 80%[#endpullquote#]Jisc’s satisfaction level has crept up this year, too, to reach 80%, up from 79% last year. And the “very satisfied” score has risen from 23% (2016) to 35%.In terms of opportunities, we have a little more work to do to promote the Jisc brand: 18% of respondents are not very familiar or not at all familiar with Jisc and what we do, which is broadly similar to the 2016 figure of 16%.Improve your digital leadership skillsTo help FE leaders discover how technology can help their college transform we run a digital leaders programme. The next workshops are taking place in November.
  • Celebrating digital innovation at the THELMAs
    “If you win a THELMA, don’t let it overwhelm ya!” – Bill Bailey. The Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (known as the THELMAs), are an annual showcase of the best examples of innovation, teamwork and enterprise in higher education (HE). This year’s awards were as impressive as ever, with leaders from all over the sector coming together for a fantastic night of sector celebration.[#pullquote#]This year’s awards were as impressive as ever, with leaders from all over the sector coming together for a fantastic night of sector celebration[#endpullquote#]This year, Bill Bailey hosted the event in style, even performing a song: "If you win a THELMA, don’t let it overwhelm ya!” – setting the tone for an exciting and entertaining evening.  The Jisc awardFittingly, we sponsored the award for outstanding digital innovation– recognising the innovative use of digital technology to improve an institution’s teaching, learning or research activity. Entries were varied and impressive, addressing key issues such as access to learning opportunities and research, widening participation, and student wellbeing. Our winner: Open University - OpenSTEM labsOpenSTEM labs connects geographically-distributed students to state-of-the-art instrumentation for practical enquiries over the internet, blending real and virtual space. Students are able to connect remotely to various technical equipment such as microscopes, robotic-rovers, telescopes, and a satellite, engaging with a range of environments from analytical labs to a Mars-analogue landscape, and even a mountain-top observatory and a low Earth orbit.[#pullquote#]OpenSTEM allows learners to access all sorts of places and spaces that they might never have dreamed of being able to experience[#endpullquote#]Their use of blending virtual reality marks a step towards making education truly immersive, whilst completely eradicating the barrier of distance for students. OpenSTEM allows learners to access all sorts of places and spaces that they might never have dreamed of being able to experience, by using mixed reality - something that stands to be a real gamechanger in both the HE and further education space.We wish the OpenSTEM team all the best with their future endeavours, and to congratulate them on all of their outstanding achievements so far. A shortlist of impressive calibreA tough category to judge – we’d like to pay tribute to all of the shortlisted institutions.Here are the rest of the entries, who are using digital technology to support recruitment, student wellbeing, improve the student experience and increase the reach of their research.University of Liverpool - 'Scholars apply' online recruitment toolAn automated online recruitment tool for the university’s existing outreach programme, which  provides a range of support, guidance, and mentoring activities for year 12 students from under-represented backgrounds.The online application process makes processing applications quicker, freeing up staff time to review qualitative information such as references, and widen the recruitment pool.University of Portsmouth – 'WhatsUp' wellbeing appThis entry is an app - WhatsUp - that aims to support student wellbeing. It includes functionality for students to track their moods and leave diary entries, with the option of sharing them with the institution’s student wellbeing service. It also offers direct messaging from the student to the wellbeing service, to ask questions and receive support.The app has notably had some take-up among males and international students, who are less likely to seek help through traditional routes.University of Salford – course 'MatchMaker'The aim of this entry was to attract students to Salford during clearing in 2016.The MatchMaker tool had a ‘Tinder’-style functionality to enabled students to ‘find their perfect match’ in a course. Students simply entered their UCAS points and interests and were shown courses that suited them – allowing them to swipe left or right and to save their favourites.The tool created a stir, increasing web traffic to the university website and grabbing the headlines too.University College London – UCL Press, an open access publisherUCL Press has an open access approach that supports open science by enabling access to its works by researchers all round the world. Their publications are distributed on global platforms in a range of formats, as well as on their own platform.The approach has dramatically increased the reach of the publications: UCL Press books and journals have been downloaded over 190,000 times in over 200 countries, compared to typical traditional sales of 300-500 print copies globally in a book’s lifetime.University of Warwick – 'HearNow' feedback platformHearNow is a digital community feedback platform – delivered your mobile. It gets instant student reactions to questions about a broad range of on-campus facilities and services. Students can opt-in, with preferences on topic, and receive financial rewards for completing survey questions.HearNow appears to be combatting survey fatigue: it saw an average 40% response rate across nearly 50 polls in the 2015/16 academic year, and the number of active users has grown from 200 to over 13,000. More from the THELMAsFind out more about the THELMA awards and all this year's winners on the THELMA Awards website. You can browse photos from this year's event (including Bill Bailey in full swing) via the THELMAs 2017 Flickr album. 
  • Tracking what your students really think about your organisation’s digital environment
    Development of the digital environment is one of the big ticket items on your college or university’s budget sheet, so you need to know how effective that investment is.  Is it having a positive impact on students’ learning and their experience of digital technology? Could it be better spent?Study results and reportOur student digital experience tracker uncovers students’ experience of digital and captures their thoughts in their own words. Our report from the 2017 tracker study offers insights that participating organisations are using to inform their future investment.Download the report (pdf)Andy Jaffray, head of the office for digital learning at Ulster University, told us:“I cannot over-emphasise how much more credibly these results are perceived by senior stakeholders in comparison to local surveys. The tracker has exceeded my expectations in terms of benefits and I have already cherry-picked aspects for business cases and papers.”The tracker asked students in further education (FE), higher education (HE), adult and community learning (ACL) and skills as well as online learners about their digital experiences. We received responses from 22,593 learners.[#pullquote#]We received responses from 22,593 learners[#endpullquote#]Access to wifi for allSeveral of the questions explored the digital environment and students’ access to digital services in the places where they usually learn.One thing that we discovered is that only 69% of FE students have reliable access to wifi compared with 80% in HE, 90% in ACL and skills and 96% of online learners. Not surprisingly this is a big frustration.Comments from learners included:“If everything is going digital we need better wifi”"[Institutions should] have reliable wifi and computers that work. The majority of college desktops take five minutes to log in and can’t handle basic tasks such as three browser tabs open at once”“I think wifi should be […] equal across the campus”Digital equipment provisionThe study also showed that even those students who like to use their own digital equipment in their learning still expect their organisation to provide devices for their use, especially printers but also desktop computers and a range of other devices.[#pullquote#]65.5% of HE students use institutional desktop computers and 62.9% use institutional printers[#endpullquote#]We found that 65.5% of HE students use institutional desktop computers and 62.9% use institutional printers; students stressed that this is really important to them and they want to:“Have more computers available”“Have access to computers in lesson time”“Have faster computers”We need to do more research on this. Students often want to use their own devices but they do still want to access institutional devices on campus. For one thing, their own devices may not have the necessary software and then there are other students who won’t have personal devices.It’s important that their colleges, universities or learning providers can offer everyone the same experience and the same opportunities.It’s also very important that IT support staff are involved in this evolving area so they can understand the range of devices being used and line up the right kinds of support. The study has opened up a dialogue that will be really useful in ensuring that this support can be put in place.Digital activities - for better and for worseThe tracker looked at how often learners complete digital activities on their course and what kinds of activities these are. It asked which digital activities learners feel positive about as well as the ones they don’t like.[#pullquote#]the majority value digital technologies for the flexibility and convenience they offer[#endpullquote#]We found that the majority value digital technologies for the flexibility and convenience they offer.Over 90% of all the students have access to online course materials; 70% in HE and FE say digital technologies help them to learn more independently and enable them to fit learning into their lives better.80% of HE (62% of FE) respondents say they like the convenience of submitting their assignments electronically.Collaboration: yet to reach full potentialFar fewer said they valued the collaborative possibilities. Only 50% said they felt more connected to others when they used digital tools and only 40% claim to enjoy using the collaborative features of their virtual learning environment (VLE):"I haven’t ever done a course digital activity other than read articles online”“I don’t like digital activity. I don’t believe in it”This is an area where we uncovered some real opportunities that are being missed.If you read the report you’ll see that students happily find information online and produce work in digital formats but it would be valuable to create more interactive opportunities in lectures, for example, with polling tools to encourage students to listen actively.[#pullquote#]Polling can help them formulate their thoughts and it can give lecturers a heads-up when there’s an aspect of the lecture where students are struggling[#endpullquote#]Polling can help them formulate their thoughts and it can give lecturers a heads-up when there’s an aspect of the lecture where students are struggling. We’ve got some really strong case studies that show how valuable this approach can be and a number of comments we’ve recorded in the report echo this:“Using [the] responseware polling app in lectures is really useful, more lectures should use it as it means you actually try to work it out...”“The polling device questionnaire at the end of practicals is quite fun and makes sure you pay attention"Gaming and simulations are also developing into useful learning tools for some disciplines that require visualisations, such as healthcare and engineering.Provision of digital skillsWe included some questions to find out what students understand about how digital technologies can support them in their learning and how digital capabilities will help them in their life after study. Where do they go for help with their digital skills and do they acknowledge that they may need help with this?We found that 46% of learners in FE, ACL and skills go to their tutor first for help and advice, while HE learners mostly look online first.Across all groups, informal support from friends and family is collectively most common and relatively few search out specialist support staff in the first instance.[#pullquote#]Informal support from friends and family is collectively most common and relatively few search out specialist support staff in the first instance[#endpullquote#]Support, advice and guidance is often held across lots of different places in an organisation but we found that many students are unsure about where to access it. What’s more concerning, a significant proportion said they weren’t sure what skills they’d need for their course or for their career afterwards.So there’s some development work needed here. It’s really important to set out expectations right from the start - explain to students what skills they’ll need during the course, how they can acquire them and the value that they can expect to get from having these skills in terms of employability in their future careers.Students' influence on their digital learning experienceWe also asked students whether they felt their college or university involves them as change agents in developing the digital environment. 35% of HE and 44% of FE students agreed that they were.We’ve done a great deal of work on developing students as change agents and showing the benefits that working in partnership brings. Students contribute creativity, enthusiasm and a fresh perspective on how technology can enhance their learning. Students develop their own digital capabilities together with a host of other skills that enable them to get more out of their learning and make them employable.[[{"fid":"6358","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Report cover: student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Report cover: student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Report cover: student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners","height":396,"width":300,"class":"media-element media--right media--has-border file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Next stepsIt’s been good to see how colleges and universities involved with this year’s study have harnessed the enthusiasm of their students to champion the tracker and get their peers to take part. Students have also worked with staff to analyse the results and suggest ways in which the findings can be taken forward.We’re continuing to analyse the tracker data and especially the large volumes of free text comments to make sure we capture their richness. We’ll be producing a series of briefings including those targeted at the particular interests of IT, library and other relevant staff groups so that they can come together to develop better informed institutional digital strategies.[#pullquote#]We’ll start the next run of the student digital experience tracker in the latter half of 2017[#endpullquote#]We’ll start the next run of the student digital experience tracker in the latter half of 2017 and produce a fresh report in 2018 so that we can track the changes in the digital experiences of students.How to get involvedIf you’d like your organisation to take part, sign up for the 2018 student digital experience tracker. You can also join our tracker mailing list.Join the conversation on Twitter using the #digitalstudent hashtag. 
  • From next generation research environments to digital apprenticeships – our five new priority areas as chosen by you
    Time for an update. The last time I wrote about our co-design project, I let you know that we’re pursuing five exciting ideas, as chosen by you. Since then, we’ve been working with experts and those on the ground to gather research and draw conclusions, and generally work out where to take the projects from here. As the majority of our effort in R&D is currently focused on three major projects: learning analytics, digital capability and the research data shared service, we’re preparing the ground and gathering the right information so that when there’s capacity, we can move onto any of the five new projects and be raring to go. Here's an update:The intelligent campusIt’s now possible to gather data from nearly every aspect of our buildings and our environments – and to use that data to find improvements for the user experience and to manage our campuses more efficiently. For the intelligent campus project we are currently trying to work out what we can do, and where our efforts would be best focused.[#pullquote#]There are a wealth of opportunities that could emerge from the intelligent campus[#endpullquote#]There are a wealth of opportunities that could emerge from the intelligent campus, from controlling building temperature and lighting to make them more efficient, to providing students with location-based recommendations of things they should be doing. There could even be artificial intelligence control of room allocations.We have started to publish some of the information which will be used to create our guide to the intelligent campus. You can see examples of the ways that intelligent campus technology can be used, and can see interesting examples from outside the education sector. We are compiling our guide at the moment and will be publishing drafts on the intelligent campus blog.Once all the content has been collected we will publish the final guide in an easy to read format on the Jisc website, so stay tuned!Read more about the intelligent campus challenge.Digital apprenticeshipsFor this challenge we decided to focus on helping to manage the new influx of apprentices due to the government’s new initiative. A lot of apprenticeships are managed using paper instead of digital. We plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships that provides institutions with a dashboard, an employer dashboard and an app for apprentices.[#pullquote#]We plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships[#endpullquote#]We aim to release an outline of the dashboards towards the end of May, and we’ll be asking for feedback to see if our plan would be helpful to the apprenticeships landscape. See the sketches of the dashboards that we have so far.Read more about the digital apprenticeships challenge.Next-generation learning environmentsFor this idea, we’ve been busy exploring the idea of connecting the digital learning environment with some of the tools used for learning outside of the institution.[#pullquote#]we’ve been busy exploring the idea of connecting the digital learning environment with some of the tools used for learning outside of the institution.[#endpullquote#]The next generation digital learning environment is a huge area, so we’re looking into institutions who are already trialling innovative activities outside of standard virtual learning environment (VLE) implementations with the idea of promoting these more widely.We’re also working with institutions to see how we can enhance student engagement by linking existing learning environments with other tools. Further ahead, we’re starting a detailed inquiry into online learning and teaching practices. The purpose of the inquiry will be to gather information around existing practice and document the sector needs and wants from digital learning environments that will feed future and ongoing development work.Read more about the next-generation learning environments challenge.Research skillsThere is a clear demand for sharing good practice around research skills, so for this co-design area, we recently ran a workshop with 21 sector experts to identify what needs to be done and what Jisc could do. The results from this workshop are described in this blog post.[#pullquote#]There is a clear demand for sharing good practice around research skills[#endpullquote#]The outcome from this workshop was that there are clear opportunities for Jisc and strong support for us to pursue those opportunities as long as we do so in partnership with other key organisations in this area.Read more about the research skills challenge.Next-generation research environmentsThere is evidently a strong demand for a research environment from researchers and research managers, but still a huge amount of questions over exactly what shape this should take. We are on the cusp of releasing a report on our initial investigations in this area.This report has a number of clear recommendations. Perhaps the most important is that there is no demand for Jisc to develop a research environment as a service. It is clear that any research environment will be made up of diverse components from a wide range of providers.[#pullquote#]It is clear that any research environment will be made up of diverse components from a wide range of providers.[#endpullquote#]It also recommends that Jisc should focus on the standards and identifiers necessary for these components to work together. Additionally this should be considered in a global context rather than a UK one. Read more about the next-generation research environments challenge.Building on learning analyticsOne interesting overall trend that is emerging from exploring these ideas is how the learning analytics service we are developing could be expanded to address some of the issues we are encountering.For the next generation learning, intelligent campus and digital apprentice, we are starting to see how the infrastructure we are developing for learning analytics could be expanded to include new types of data that will allow us to deliver new services that meet the use cases that are emerging.We will continue to explore each of these areas and will provide an update in another three months on how that exploration is proceeding.
  • Connect with technology, connect with your audience, and Connect More
    Lectures and presentations that I’ve been to have been quite predictable affairs. The teacher or presenter typically stood at the front and talked while everyone else sat quietly and listened (or nodded off). But now digital technologies are making it much easier to create engaging presentations that are more rewarding for students and teachers alike. Stand and deliverAt this year’s Connect More events, taking place at locations around the UK during June and July, we’ll be mixing things up a little. Many of our speakers will be abandoning the old-style ‘stand and deliver’ approach, and some will be presenting in a PechaKucha format; a method where 20 images are shown on the screen with each one talked about for 20 seconds. The slides change automatically to give a total running time of under seven minutes.The PechaKucha stops people from talking for too long or in too much detail and it pushes people to create better, more visually appealing presentations in which the key messages don’t get buried or lost – a must for audiences with smartphone attention spans. The real beauty of this approach is that it keeps the energy in the room high and encourages active listening.[#pullquote#]The real beauty of this approach is that it keeps the energy in the room high and encourages active listening.[#endpullquote#]Improving student presentation skillsPechaKucha is a format that can work well for teachers – students could benefit from trying it too. Distilling information into this tight format requires a presenter to think very clearly about their subject so it could help learners to develop a deeper understanding of their topic and to become more effective, creative speakers; it could also give students a much more active role in their own learning. But how can we unlock the presentation skills of more diffident students?[#pullquote#]Distilling information into this tight format requires a presenter to think very clearly about their subject[#endpullquote#]PechaKucha Nights, which are now held in cities around the world, are supportive, inclusive events at which anyone can have a try - like a comedy ‘open mic’ night but probably with better jokes. It’s a hallmark of these events that, once the clock starts ticking at the start of a talk, the audience is usually willing the speaker to make it through their talk in time with the slides. That’s the kind of supportive atmosphere that could get even reluctant speakers up on their feet.Better, harder-working presentationsCreating an engaging PechaKucha talk is simple – you can use tools that we’re all familiar with, including Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Apple’s Keynote. Even though we often think of these as supporting more formal presentation styles both lend themselves very readily to this more creative and collaborative approach.[#pullquote#]Creating an engaging PechaKucha talk is simple[#endpullquote#]Amongst the other tools that you can use to develop all sorts of dynamic presentations, there’s Prezi, which makes it simple to produce a very conversational style of presentation and supports quality interactions with listeners. It means a talk can be adapted in response to the feedback and questions that come from the room. Where many kinds of slide presentation are linear Prezi is not – so you don’t have to scroll back and forth through your material to find the slide that will help you respond to a particular comment.Looking to boost your hold over the audience? You could also try emaze, which makes it easy to include videos, gifs and live social feeds. A cloud-based tool, emaze allows you to access and share your presentations online wherever you are.Using tools such as SlideShare will enable you to share your talks more widely via social networks and products such as Xerte toolkits allow you to add rich content including video and even tailor-made animations - GoAnimate can help to demystify that process if you’re a novice – and to include interactive materials like quizzes to help the audience digest what you’ve talked about.And when you’ve created a talk that has been well received, think about how you could give it a wider audience via webinar software such as Google Hangouts or our own Vscene, and consider putting it in a repository like Xpert, which is part of the Xerte suite of toolkits. People will then be able to find and re-use the content in new and exciting ways.Digital capabilitiesWe’re all aware that digital learning is an important element in the government’s higher education reforms and the findings from our own student digital experience tracker show that students want their teachers to model confidence with digital technologies and to demonstrate digital skills and good practice, so Connect More this year is focusing on how to boost teacher’s digital skills to pass these on to the students.[#pullquote#]Connect More this year is focusing on how to boost teacher’s digital skills to pass these on to the students.[#endpullquote#]There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from colleges and universities that some students don’t engage wholeheartedly with digital technologies in their learning - this recent article in the Guardian says that this is often because they need to see compelling reasons to do so. Teachers are no different. With already busy working lives they need a good and pressing reason to develop their digital capabilities.Now that there is such a variety of user-friendly tools to help teachers create engaging lectures and talks, perhaps these could offer a practical way for colleges and universities to make some quick wins with developing staff digital capabilities?You can find lots more information on more ways to do this in our new guide to developing organisational approaches to digital capability.If you’d like information on more tools to help you create engaging lectures and lessons, take a look at the presentation and multimedia technologies pages in our guide to technology and tools for online learning.And if you haven’t registered to attend a Connect More event yet then find an event near you.
  • A year to get your act together: how universities and colleges should be preparing for new data regulations
    It’s out with the old and in with the new in May 2018 as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sweeps into effect to replace the Data Protection Act (DPA). As the world moves into an ever more digital direction, our personal data, how it is used and who has access to it has become a global concern for all of us. The GDPR is the first legislative change in recent years that will address these concerns, with a broad aim to invoke a cultural shift in the way businesses and institutions manage personal data.It has been hailed by the EU as an essential step to strengthening citizens’ fundamental rights in the digital age and allows individuals to object to certain processing and have their personal data corrected, deleted and its use restricted.The UK government has stated that the GDPR will apply within the UK after Brexit and, in any case, it will continue to cover all processing of Europeans’ personal data. Institutions must be well advanced with their compliance preparations by 25 May 2018, or risk being on the wrong side of the law.What implications will the GDPR have for colleges and universities?The biggest change is that institutions will be held far more accountable for the data they hold. As well as records of what personal data exist within the organisation, the GDPR requires a documented understanding of why information is held, how it is collected, when it will be deleted or anonymised, and who may gain access to it.[#pullquote#]the biggest change is that institutions will be held far more accountable for the data they hold[#endpullquote#]This information lifecycle approach is also fundamental to international standards on quality and information security, so should contribute to institutions’ achieving those goals as well as to compliance with the GDPR.Institutions are still required to apply appropriate organisational and technical measures to keep information secure and there are new duties to report security breaches to the Information Commissioner’ Office (ICO) and, in some cases, to the individuals affected. Planning what to do in case of an incident could well be done as part of developing information lifecycles.The GDPR introduces new requirements on the way new information-handling processes and systems are developed. Data protection must be designed in from the start; systems must have default settings that protect privacy.[#pullquote#]Data protection must be designed in from the start; systems must have default settings that protect privacy.[#endpullquote#]For large-scale or risky processing, formal data protection impact assessments must be performed as part of the design process. Draft guidance from European regulators suggests that this “data protection by design” approach should be extended to existing systems within three years.Where institutions rely on consent to process individuals’ personal data, they must be able to demonstrate that this consent was “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous”. For example, the common practice in the services sector of making access to public Wi-Fi conditional on granting consent to receive marketing information will no longer be lawful, since the two are unrelated.Designed to reduce the overuse of consent, this change may well require institutions to consider whether data collection and processing is in fact necessary under another legal basis – contract, legal obligation, vital interests, public interest, or legitimate interest of the organisation – and, if so, adjust processes to meet the relevant requirements.Finally, breaches of data protection are already becoming more damaging to organisations. Recent failures of security and inappropriate practices by businesses and charities have been widely publicised and criticised, damaging the reputations of the affected organisations and raising questions for their entire sector.[#pullquote#]The GDPR is intended to increase individuals’ awareness of their rights, so organisations handling personal data are likely to face higher expectations.[#endpullquote#]The GDPR is intended to increase individuals’ awareness of their rights, so organisations handling personal data are likely to face higher expectations. And fines for breaches are likely to increase, as the GDPR raises the upper limit from the UK’s current £500,000 to as much as €20m.What must colleges and universities be doing now to ensure they are ready for May 2018?PrepareSeveral of the required changes – notably the information lifecycle audit and the adoption of data protection by design – are likely to be time-consuming. Institutions should have already started work on those but, failing that, the sooner work starts on planning, the better. Raise awareness throughout the institution and ensure key people and decision makers are aware of the law change.The larger the institution, the more resource implications there are likely to be when implementing the GDPR, so it is important to use the rest of the lead-in period effectively. Read our advice on the steps to take.Be in the knowKnow what information you hold, what you use it for, where it came from and who you share it with. Consider what you would do if a security breach occurred.This will bring your institution in line with the GDPR’s accountability principle which requires you to be able to prove how you comply with its data protection values. Conducting an information lifecycle audit might be a good idea. Read our advice on information lifecycles.Assign a data protection officer (DPO)Having someone take responsibility for compliance with the GDPR will make things a lot easier, and may even be a legal requirement. With the relevant knowledge and authority, a DPO can provide support to others and oversee a smooth transition.The Article 29 Working Party of Data Protection Regulators has published draft guidance on DPOs.Review your privacy noticesUnder the GDPR there are some additional details people must be told when obtaining their personal data: the legal basis for processing the data, the retention period and the individual’s right to complain to the ICO if they think there is an issue with the way their personal info is handled. This is usually by way of a privacy notice, so review the notice and put a plan in place to make any necessary changes.The ICO sets out the minimum information a privacy notice should contain.Ensure an individual’s rights can be upheldUnder the GDPR, individuals’ rights have been enhanced. These include rights to:Subject accessHave inaccuracies correctedHave information erasedPrevent direct marketingPrevent automated decision-making and profilingData portabilityEffective implementation of these rights should also improve the quality of the institution’s data and processes. Institutions would be wise to give the above scenarios a dress rehearsal on systems before the GDPR takes effect. The ICO website has more information on these rights.Review how consent is givenThe way institutions seek, obtain and record consent to process personal data is likely to come under scrutiny under the GDPR, so a review of current practices is essential. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and be a positive indication of agreement – not inferred from silence or inactivity.An alteration in mechanisms that record consent to data processing may be necessary in order to make proving consent easier.  Read our analysis of the ICO’s draft guidance on consent.Data breach drillsThe GDPR will introduce a blanket policy for all organisations, obliging them to inform the ICO within 72 hours of suffering a personal data breach, whenever this creates a risk to the affected individuals. For serious risks, such as an identity theft or financial loss, organisations may also need to inform individuals directly.Institutions must ensure they have the right procedures in place to detect, investigate and respond to a personal data breach when one occurs. Start by identifying the types of data held and note the ones that, if jeopardised, would necessitate contacting the ICO. The UK Commissioner has already fined organisations, under existing laws, for poor handling of data breaches. These fines seem likely to increase considerably under the GDPR. The ICO website has more information on breach notification.[#pullquote#]The GDPR will change a lot of the rules, regulations and processes surrounding the collection, processing and protection of personal data. [#endpullquote#]The GDPR will change a lot of the rules, regulations and processes surrounding the collection, processing and protection of personal data. In many cases these changes will benefit both individuals and organisations; better understanding of information flows, more accurate information, and improved security will help everyone.While the upheaval and reorganisation required to come in line with the new regulation will be a burden for institutions throughout the EU, the reasons behind it and its results will be beneficial to all. With enough preparation, resources, knowledge and initiative, institutions should have few problems come May 2018.Jisc runs two courses - Certified EU GDPR Foundation and Certified EU GDPR Practioner. You can also find out more in our quick guide on data protection.
  • Creating learning experiences, and spaces, for future students
    What do the next generation of digital learning environments look like? Given the time and thought that they have already invested in developing digital learning spaces – would colleges and universities be better off making best use of the ones they have?  Most online learning environments were conceived during the 1990s and what was optimal back then reflected the pedagogical thinking that was current; but now, when we’re more connected through mobile technologies and excellent connectivity, there have been transformations to how we live, learn and work.Future digital offers – what’s to come?At Digifest last month, I chaired a debate that raised these questions with representatives from two universities with very different student cohorts, to find out their ideas on the future of their digital offers.Elizabeth Ellis, product development manager in learning innovation for learning and teaching solutions at The Open University (OU), described the OU’s long established and well developed digital learning environment, which underpins the university’s mission to provide flexible higher education to distance learners.The OU knows it can’t stand still, and she expects that development work will deconstruct the OU digital learning environment. Faced with the question of what it will look like in future she said:“It won’t look like anything. Instead, it’ll be a series of spaces and application programming interfaces (APIs) so that it won’t be a thing in itself”This, she said, will ensure that the OU’s online learning spaces can be more responsive and will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of students and employers. It might be supposed that the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge has very different thoughts about its digital learning environment. It has started from a very different place - with few distance learners it created its online learning spaces relatively recently.But Ange Fitzpatrick, the business school’s information and library services manager, told us her organisation knows that this is the time to push ahead, and the business school is as committed as the OU to involving students, teachers and employers in making sure that systems and course modules can continue to be developed and delivered in ways that meets their needs.The business school’s intention is to create an online space that is less like a content repository and that becomes a dynamic, adaptive space where students take control of their own learning.Take-home messagesThe take-home message from our session with Ange and Elizabeth was that a radical shake-up of digital learning environments is inevitable, driven not by technological change, but by the behaviours of both staff and students.[#pullquote#]a radical shake-up of digital learning environments is inevitable[#endpullquote#]They agree that there’s a need to engage all stakeholder groups in the change, whether that is a series of iterations toward a new digital learning environment, or something more radical. They also report that both institutions and staff could usefully become more willing simply to try things out and see what happens. The results may provide new insights, and will inevitably lead to innovations in our practice.At Jisc, we’re working on several projects to help colleges and universities develop their digital learning environments and we’re exploring a range of exciting options including the co-design challenges around the next generation digital learning environment (and the intelligent campus).As these projects develop we want you to tell us what you think; so, what do you want digital learning environments of the future to do? Get in touch via Twitter and let me know.
  • Cyber security: why the education sector can't afford not to invest
    Cybercrime is high on the political agenda and is attracting considerable government investment, but are universities and colleges doing enough to protect their data and reputation, not to mention their staff and students? The increasing number of cyber threats reported in the UKThe Office for National Statistics’ latest annual crime report states that digital devices were used in 47.4% of all crime in the UK. aren’t just newsworthy, they’re also very real. National Security StrategyGiven this increase, it’s not surprising that the government’s 2016 National Security Strategy reaffirmed cyber threats as one of the most significant risks to UK interests. [#pullquote#]it’s not surprising that the government’s 2016 National Security Strategy reaffirmed cyber threats as one of the most significant risks to UK interests[#endpullquote#]The strategy comes with a significant investment of £1.9bn over five years to “support work to keep the UK protected from cyber security attacks”, including £860m for education and research to provide knowledge and skills in cyber security for the future workforce.In addition, the government has published a green paper on its industrial strategy, which crucially, for the cybersafety of the education sector, includes further investment in digital infrastructure and scientific research. Janet network securityUsed by almost all universities and colleges and research establishments, the high-speed Janet network, developed and operated by Jisc, is the UK’s national research and education network. It is, therefore, crucial to the sector and a major part of the UK's critical infrastructure. To maintain its health, we help our members (universities and colleges and researchers) secure their cyberspace as well as protecting ours. [#pullquote#]It's important not to treat security as a one-off event, but instead as something that needs continuous review and investment[#endpullquote#]No network, however, is infallible. Our computer security incident response team (CSIRT) sees many types of attack on Janet daily. The attack we faced on our own infrastructure in December 2015, which affected the network for a total of six hours over an eight-day period, marked a change in hackers’ tactics and we accelerated our planned enhancements in the Janet network. The first part of the system upgrade went live on 4 October 2016, but between that date and 30 March 2017, Janet was subject to 583 attacks across 153 organisations.Protecting your organisationNothing we do will ever stop cyber-attacks completely, but if our members continue to focus on managing risk, detecting vulnerabilities and patching systems regularly, breaches can be detected and fixed quickly.[#pullquote#]The threat landscape is increasing and, with it, the requirement for assurances that data is secure. [#endpullquote#]Implementing cyber security controls to protect systems seems obvious, but can be expensive, with return on investment difficult to quantify. But don’t underestimate its importance; the threat landscape is increasing and, with it, the requirement for assurances that data is secure. An organisation that practices good risk management not only protects its reputation, intellectual property and data, but it will also offer its customers a measure of assurance, making them attractive to do business with. Current and emerging technologies present many opportunities for new ways of learning and collaborating, but universities and colleges must also meet the associated challenge to ensure their learners behave safely and responsibly in the digital space.[#pullquote#]universities and colleges must also meet the associated challenge to ensure their learners behave safely and responsibly[#endpullquote#]Safeguarding and the Prevent agendaThere are several safeguarding measures to consider, with Prevent training for staff the political hot potato at present, and in the spotlight again following the terror attack on Westminster earlier this month. Designed to detect and tackle extremism in its infancy, Prevent is part of the government’s anti-terrorism strategy, although it is under review at the moment.In addition, education institutions should install a web filtering system to help safeguard users from inadvertent exposure to illegal or inappropriate material. It’s also a good idea to educate users to be aware of phishing emails to defend against threats such as ransomware and compromised accounts.Internet safety policyFinally, it’s worth developing (and regularly reviewing) an internet safety policy that takes into account current technologies and social media. Under this policy, be clear about what is expected of staff and students and deliver relevant training.You may want to cover areas like the legalities of copyright and music downloads, plagiarising content from the web, explicit material, and online bullying.My top five tips for maintaining cyber security: Identify your organisation’s critical assets or key information and assess the risk of exposure of which would have a major impact on the organisationThere's little point investing in securing your devices, networks, and services if you don't maintain and enhance their cyber security throughout the period that they are deployedThe most important activity to prevent common cyber attacks is to keep your technology up to date, and to apply the latest security patches as they're made availableCyber security mitigations will not be infallible; occasionally attackers will be successful. Taking steps to ensure that you can detect when cyber attacks have occurred (and knowing how to quickly recover from them) will pay dividends in the long runIt is essential that you always back up your important information and have a plan for recovering from a system failure. An attacker could crash a network or computer's operating system, or data may be corrupted or wiped out by a hardware problem
  • Beating Brexit: why we must build more bridges towards borderless education
    Overseas’ students are a key part of the UK economy, but Brexit is already having an effect on the numbers from the EU who want to study here. To ensure the UK remains a world leader in delivering education and research internationally we must now capitalise on developing opportunities for “borderless” study [#inlinedriver right light#] [#inlinedrivertitle#] Podcast [#endinlinedrivertitle#]Listen to the accompanying podcast.Play audio [#endinlinedriver#]While it isn’t very British to blow one’s trumpet, it’s absolutely true to say that the UK in general and Jisc in particular are already at the forefront of global education. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels. Quite the opposite, in fact.Let me put our position into context: the UK is the world’s second largest (11% of market) and fastest growing (6% pa) provider of transnational education (TNE). In 2013, UK education exports were worth approximately £20bn to our economy, making education the fifth largest export for the UK, behind insurance services and computer and information services.[#pullquote#]the UK is the world’s second largest and fastest growing provider of transnational education (TNE). [#endpullquote#]And here’s another interesting fact: Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) research found that a quarter of countries globally have a president, prime minister or monarch who was educated in the UK tertiary education system.The government is on record saying that higher education (HE) will be a central plank in the strategy for boosting the export industry of post-Brexit Britain. Speaking at the International Higher Education Forum in London in March 2017, the under-secretary of state at the Department for International Trade, Mark Garnier, also said that, through TNE, UK universities had provided a British higher education experience to more than 300,000 people in Asia alone in 2014-15.A survey unveiled at the same forum showed that international students have a considerable appetite for study linked to UK universities; 76% of EU respondents said they would be likely to study at an EU branch campus of a British university in a country other than their own. Of prospective international students outside the EU, 69% said they would be likely to choose to study at an EU outpost of a UK university.A few universities have opened satellite campuses abroad, but it’s not feasible or affordable for all and some people, myself included, would argue it’s not necessary. Advancing technology means that students and researchers can work effectively with teachers or collaborators even though they may be thousands of miles apart.Why the urgency?International students bring huge economic benefit to the UK, along with fresh talent, ideas and skills, but the Brexit vote is already having an impact on the higher education sector.[#pullquote#]the Brexit vote is already having an impact on the higher education sector.[#endpullquote#]In January 2017, UCAS 2016/17 EU application figures showed that applications to the UK were down by 7% year on year. Meanwhile, the findings of the 2016 HEPI report warned that a tougher stance towards overseas students could cost the UK as much as £2bn a year.Students based overseas and studying for UK degrees in 2015/16 numbered more than 700,000. The UK's offshore education activity is growing at more than five times the rate of the number of international students coming to the UK to study (which has remained largely flat at around 450,000 since 2009) and, if this trend is to continue, technology will be at the centre of its success.Against this backdrop, it’s imperative that borderless education becomes the new norm.  As a minimum, all UK universities should be reviewing and building upon their existing international strategies, including all forms of inwards and outward student mobility.[#pullquote#]It’s imperative that borderless education becomes the new norm[#endpullquote#]It is important to remember that the success of such complex strategic partnerships is built on mutually beneficial relationships that need time to nurture. While we are committed to building bridges, we must not miss the boat when it comes to building on our success. Time is of the essence: Brexit is looming.What are we doing in the international arena?Historically, Jisc offerings have been delivered almost exclusively within the UK, but in direct response to the government’s strategy, and to meet the growing needs and demands of our members, we have made a strategic decision to improve the support we offer for TNE activities.Integrated with our UK-based operations, including the Janet network and Jisc’s range of services, we have already enhanced our portfolio to enable overseas campuses and partnerships to be connected to institutions here.UK institutions (mostly in higher, but also in further education) already have extensive international overseas partnerships, and Jisc and its international peers are now working to extend collaboration. Such partnerships, with European research and education network, GÉANT, for example, can only become more important in the lead up to, and after, Brexit.[#pullquote#]partnerships, with European research and education network, GÉANT, for example, can only become more important in the lead up to, and after, Brexit.[#endpullquote#]In China, we partnered with the local research and education network (CERNET) to improve connectivity and make use of a GÉANT-funded network link between Beijing and London. In Malaysia, we used our procurement expertise and contractual relationship with Telecom Malaysia to develop connectivity solutions. We are also working with the local research and education network (REN) to establish resilient connections. This has enabled two UK HEIs and a private school based in the EduCity knowledge hub there to improve quality of provision, resilience and cost efficiencies. In addition, we also negotiated a connection to Heriot-Watt University’s growing campus in Putrajaya, which also resulted in a significant reduction in costs.Jisc also supports other forms of mobility, such as overseas student recruitment offices for UK universities and is in discussion with institutions in India, Africa and the Middle East that are interested in forging new links or improving existing links. Watch this space![#pullquote#]Improving connectivity certainly accounts for a large slice of our international work, but we have fingers in several other pies.[#endpullquote#]Improving connectivity certainly accounts for a large slice of our international work, but we have fingers in several other pies. Jisc is also facilitating provision of eduroam in overseas campuses, exploring how we could develop global mechanisms for end-to-end performance and monitoring between sites. Looking to the future, we are exploring how we can incorporate products that Jisc is developing for the UK market, with particular reference to learning analytics – a powerful tool that could support remote, global learning. Similarly, it’s possible some of our other digital tools could help overseas and local staff make the most of technology in the delivery of international education.While we focus here on supporting TNE through reliable, high-performance connectivity and services between the UK and campuses abroad, we must also acknowledge the relationship and influence TNE has with inward and outward student mobility globally, research collaboration and international recruitment. International education has become less of a two-way street and more of a multi-laned highway, with junctions on several continents. Our partnerships allow students to study anywhere in the world, maybe over several countries, and technology has become ever more important for such seamless access to information and resources, whether that be the virtual learning environment, or Netflix![#pullquote#]Our partnerships allow students to study anywhere in the world[#endpullquote#]With our sister RENs, we are already enabling global research on subjects including particle physics, astronomy and climate change and, in the future, we could be supporting genomics research. Jisc recently hosted executives from both AARNet (Australia) and Internet2 (USA) to discuss collaboration and partnership opportunities, as well as delegations from Japan, Singapore and India. We’ve also talked to Malaysia and Ethiopia about federated access, and been involved in two proposals for the Department for International Development’s Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) bid, working with Sudan and Africa respectively.So, we are already at the forefront of a wealth of international work and now is the time for us to be focused, strategic and to deliver cost-effective international services – and that's why we’re developing our international strategy.We are a world leader and need to stay ahead of the game.
  • How universities can use learning analytics to boost fair access and retention
    Universities pulling together access agreements for next year should have learning analytics in their sights. [#inlinedriver right light#] [#inlinedrivertitle#] Podcast [#endinlinedrivertitle#]Listen to the accompanying podcast.Play audio[#endinlinedriver#]In recent years, the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) – which regulates fair access to higher education (HE) in England – has promoted a “student lifecycle” approach to access. This means, in the words of OFFA’s director, Professor Les Ebdon, that “an effective approach to access should not stop at the front door when a person enters higher education”.In practice, this means OFFA encourages institutions to ensure that students from non-traditional backgrounds are successful following enrolment. Since students from under-represented groups are more likely to drop out of their studies, there should be a focus on retention – still a significant problem for the UK HE sector. Latest Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data shows that, last year, more than 29,000 full-time students (7.4% of the intake) were no longer in higher education after 12 months.[#pullquote#]Latest HESA data shows that, last year, more than 29,000 full-time students were no longer in higher education after 12 months.[#endpullquote#]Boosting retention is an area where learning analytics could have a big part to play in supporting fair access. Evidence from around the world shows that effective use of insights from learning analytics can be used to achieve statistically significant increases in retention.When learning analytics were employed at Columbus State University College in the US, retention rose by 4.2% (and 5.7% among low-income students.) In Australia, pilot schemes at the University of New England saw drop-out rates fall from 18% to 12%, while in the UK, Open University pilots have resulted in a 2.1% boost in retention. We have produced a more comprehensive briefing on the current evidence on learning analytics and student success.There are two main ways that learning analytics can help power universities’ efforts in these areas:1. Identification and interventionFirstly, analytics are a powerful tool for identifying students at risk. Learning analytics systems draw data from across an institution into a single learning records warehouse. This might include usage data from the library and the virtual learning environment, as well as attendance records and grade data.[#pullquote#]analytics are a powerful tool for identifying students at risk[#endpullquote#]A learning analytics processor then compares data on individual learners with current and historical data to identify any students who might be at risk of dropping out, or not meeting their full academic potential. Research has shown that the predictive models used are generally reliable – in one case correctly predicting three out of every four students not progressing to the next academic year.Interventions can then be put in place to support the students identified. This might be as simple as informing students that they are at risk, or might involve prompting tutors to communicate with students to discuss how they can best be supported.2. EvaluationSecondly, because data on student engagement with learning can be monitored in near real time, the effectiveness of interventions with students can be quickly assessed (and, if necessary, adapted) without having to wait for final examination and/or assessment results.[#pullquote#]the effectiveness of interventions with students can be quickly assessed[#endpullquote#]At a time when there is increasing focus on the efficacy of spending on access and student success, this can help institutions to review and demonstrate the effectiveness of their student support. We expect this will inform improvements to the guidance and support available across the board to whole cohorts of students, as well as interventions offered to individual students at risk.Access agreementsIn addition to the benefits of increasing retention, we think that effective use of learning analytics data insights could also become part of institutions’ commitment to OFFA in their access agreements.[#pullquote#]learning analytics data insights could also become part of institutions’ commitment to OFFA in their access agreements.[#endpullquote#]Our analysis of 2017/18 access agreements found that 14 institutions explicitly mention learning analytics. Buckinghamshire New University, for example, highlights that it “intends to introduce learning analytics to inform the support, learning, engagement, retention and success of its students” as part of its efforts to establish a stronger culture and practice of data usage across the institution. Exeter University’s access agreement states that it is “developing effective learning analytics tools to enable both students and tutors to monitor performance more effectively and identify strategies to improve”.We also believe that there is a compelling case for some of the funds that institutions are spending on learning analytics to be designated as “access agreement expenditure”, where institutions can demonstrate that learning analytics is part of their strategy for improving the outcomes of under-represented and disadvantaged groups. What next?We are encouraging institutions we are working with to consider how learning analytics data might feed into the development of their annual access agreement with OFFA – as well as more general efforts to promote fair access and student success within their institution.Jisc has argued that all institutions which do not currently have learning analytics in place should give consideration to adopting it at the earliest opportunity. If your institution is interested in finding out more about learning analytics, please get in touch.
  • Fresh perspectives on delivering a digital student experience in FE
    We launched our report, the evolution of FELTAG, last spring to celebrate effective digital practice in colleges and skills organisations, and to inspire others. Here, two colleges discuss how they're getting to grips with the FELTAG recommendations. [#inlinedriver right light#] [#inlinedrivertitle#] Podcast [#endinlinedrivertitle#]Listen to the accompanying podcast.Play audio[#endinlinedriver#]The bulk of the report is made up of case studies from colleges and skills providers and we also included a series of interviews with thought leaders in some of the organisations that have really pushed ahead with the FELTAG agenda. It draws out their successes and highlights the insights that they have gained.Since its publication, other colleges and organisations have used the report to help them make faster progress with their own digital journeys, by identifying strategies that have been proved to work and avoiding diversions down paths that have proved to be dead ends.Digital journeyAs the report’s title suggests, there is no arrival point on this journey - only the opportunity for ongoing progress. So we have continued to add new case studies and, at Digifest earlier this month, we published a new version of the report with a fresh set of thought leader stories to guide and inspire.[#pullquote#]there is no arrival point on this journey - only the opportunity for ongoing progress.[#endpullquote#]To whet your appetite, I’d like to draw your attention to just two:Supporting students and staff to work successfully with digital technologies[[{"fid":"5869","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Michelle Swithenbank"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Michelle Swithenbank"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Michelle Swithenbank","height":100,"width":131,"class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]“Further education has to take a lead from the retail sector where you have choices over what you buy and how, with as few obstacles in your way as possible.”So says Michelle Swithenbank, deputy CEO at Hull College Group. Her interview offers an eloquent description of how her organisation is using digital technologies to offer learners quality training in ways that are accessible and relevant to more people, regardless of their personal circumstances or life stage.Michelle drew her analogy with the retail sector because, as she points out, today’s shoppers expect to be able to choose whether to buy things in store in person, to browse online, or to pick and choose between the two. They want to do what is most practical in their own personal circumstances. In exactly the same way learners – especially adult ones - have commitments to fit their study around, so college staff must now be able to offer greater choice and flexibility and to make learning accessible.[#pullquote#]college staff must now be able to offer greater choice and flexibility and to make learning accessible.[#endpullquote#]Michelle says that the college group is blessed with some very innovative teaching staff who are keen to make all this happen - but their innovation can’t happen on its own. They need their organisation to provide support in a number of areas. Suitable infrastructure is one of these, and this comes with a cost and some significant timescales attached so this work continues.It is encouraging to read about the realistic stance the college group has taken on that, and enlightening to find out about some of the solutions that they’ve hit upon to make large and meaningful strides quickly. These include the introduction of Microsoft Office 365 so that every user can access the same virtual desktop on any device.Staff also need their college’s support in the form of encouragement to innovate and digital skills training - you can’t do something to people; you have to do something with them. That’s the best way to get people on board. If you read Michelle’s case study you’ll find out how this is progressing at Hull College Group, get some ideas for your own organisation and discover why her advice to any college leader thinking about implementing the FELTAG recommendations is to “lead the way, empower your staff and celebrate their success”.Digital leadership[[{"fid":"5866","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Ken Thomson"},"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Ken Thomson"}},"link_text":null,"attributes":{"alt":"Ken Thomson","height":100,"width":131,"class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]In other words, you need to inspire confidence and Ken Thomson, in his thought leader story, also cites confidence as a critical factor in his college’s digital journey. Ken is principal and chief executive of Forth Valley College. For me, one of the stand-out comments in his interview is this:“I said to staff two years ago when we started the drive for more creative learning and teaching that I was taking responsibility for what happened. This meant they were free to experiment without blame.”Forth Valley College became Scotland’s first regional college when it merged in 2005. It is currently focused on an ambitious plan to create new learning experiences that give learners the job-specific skills they need but to go further - to develop each individual into a fully rounded potential employee with generic digital skills and digital confidence so that they can grow, adapt and innovate in future.Ken’s own watchword for the college’s digital future is ‘interconnectedness’ and he explains that “everything works when it is joined together and interconnected”. Getting the college’s staff to the point where they feel confident to innovate, and have more time to do so, has involved lots of interconnected groundwork to improve infrastructure and provide staff training and accreditation.[#pullquote#]The decision to ditch a plethora of software tools in favour of a single platform has brought about significant savings in cost, labour and time.[#endpullquote#]The decision to ditch a plethora of software tools in favour of a single platform has brought about significant savings in cost, labour and time. And with the basics now efficiently managed – registers available in real time, timetabling streamlined and feedback from employers happening automatically – the road is clear for the college’s staff to focus more attention on their teaching and learning ambitions.The new thought leader stories and case studies are inspirational stuff, so even if you’ve had a look at the evolution of FELTAG report before, it’s well worth taking a fresh look at the latest version.We’re keen to hear about how your own organisation is responding to the FELTAG recommendations, so please do get in touch if you have a story to tell – email me at, or tweet @sarahknight.
  • Boosting skills from roots to shoots
    At Digifest 2017, we announced a suite of new resources to help university and college leaders and staff make sure they have the digital skills they’ll need in their increasingly digital environment. These resources include a digital capabilities discovery tool that will make it much simpler for individual staff – in many different job roles - and their managers to think clearly about their current digital capabilities, to identify skills gaps and create improvement pathways. The development of the discovery tool, and the resources that accompany it, is timely as digital capabilities climb higher up institutional agendas.[#pullquote#]Enhancing the digital capabilities of staff has increasingly become a strategic priority for universities and colleges[#endpullquote#]Enhancing the digital capabilities of staff has increasingly become a strategic priority for universities and colleges since we began our digital literacies R&D programme in 2011, although even then there were already many pockets of innovation and good practice.Preparing for the uncertainBut now, staff digital skills are recognised as a cornerstone as institutions build strategies to improve student experience, to boost their employability and to help them develop the digital mindset they’ll need in an uncertain future. And no wonder.As Kerry Pinney, an academic technologist at the University of Warwick said in her Digifest talk on ‘digital capability: preparing for employability’, “we have to prepare students for a world that may not be what they expect”. We can’t simply prepare learners for the job they think they want, when technological change might have made that job obsolete by the time they pick up their degree certificate.It’s great to see that many universities and colleges are now taking a strategic approach to digital capabilities and interesting to see the different approaches that they are adopting. In 2015 we developed a digital capabilities framework that identifies the digital skills that staff across an academic organisation need.[#pullquote#]It’s great to see that many universities and colleges are now taking a strategic approach to digital capabilities[#endpullquote#]We knew the framework and associated resources had been well received and so, in 2016, we followed up 14 organisations to see how Jisc resources were being used, and what approaches were proving successful. The project has shown us that digital practices are widely embedded now, but we’ve also found that even a fully committed institution can sometimes struggle to keep momentum going when competing priorities intrude, budgets get tighter or key individuals move on to other responsibilities.Case studiesWe’ve recently published change stories from these 14 organisations and they offer some really valuable insights and ideas. Together with a synthesis report on the lessons learned, these make a useful resource for other organisations that are thinking about developing their own digital capabilities strategies.And we were lucky to be able to welcome representatives from five of the participating organisations at Digifest to share some of their experiences to date.Persistence pays offRoss Anderson from North Lindsey College told us that his college has staff with specific responsibility for digital literacies as well as a digital literacies working group, but that the college’s culture is for staff to take the initiative with their own development and also that of their teams. Already there are staff digital champions in each subject area and soon the college will also have student digital leaders to partner with staff and help them improve the digital learning experience for their peers.[#pullquote#]Already there are staff digital champions in each subject area and soon the college will also have student digital leaders[#endpullquote#]Of course, engagement is crucial and Ross told us that they are trying lots of different approaches to see what works best. For him, it is about being persistent and enabling staff to take small steps. They’ve been trying simple, bite-size interventions such as:‘Lunch and learn’ drop in sessionsA digital learning blogDigital toolkitsOnline bite-size courses in key topicsA regular app clubMeasuring the impact of these can be tricky, so North Lindsey College is working with Jisc’s student digital experience tracker pilot to help in identifying what is successful and what is less so. One initiative that looks popular is a new, gamified personal development app called DPDGo! that enables staff to map their progress against areas of the Jisc framework. It’s about showcasing achievements rather than highlighting weaknesses. Crucially, everyone can start to see their own progress quickly. The college is exploring digital badges as a way to motivate staff to learn and celebrate their developing capabilities.  Read more about North Lindsey College’s approach.A clear framework fosters understandingWe also heard from Fiona Handley and Fiona MacNeill of the University of Brighton who told us that the university launched its own digital literacies framework in 2014 and refreshed it in 2016, to place a clear focus on supporting the professional development of academic staff. It describes a range of literacies across four categories:Learning and teachingCommunication and collaborationResearchAdministrationThe framework is closely mapped to the Jisc version and, because it has been in development for some time, there has been a chance to learn lessons about what works. It provides consistency and clarity across the university because it offers agreed definitions and a shared visual language, but it is deliberately not prescriptive.The University of Brighton offers support such as regular workshops on topics including social media and mobile technologies. However, it leaves its schools free to respond to the framework in their own way and to identify practices that are relevant to their subject area and their own development needs. Now, increasingly, staff are cascading the things they have learned to students.[#pullquote#]Now, increasingly, staff are cascading the things they have learned to students.[#endpullquote#]The framework has a clear identity and web presence and there are plenty of associated resources and sources of support. In a clear mirroring of North Lindsey College’s experience, persistence appears to be important: the university has found that engagement with the digital capabilities agenda ebbs and flows but there is always a resurgence when new material is added to the framework’s resources. Read more about the University of Brighton’s approach.Ongoing supportNottingham Trent University's (NTU's) digital practice manager Elaine Swift stressed the importance of ensuring that staff across the college or university are well supported and that this support is signposted clearly.After participating in Jisc’s changing the learning landscape programme, the NTU team made a business case for an ongoing investment in digitally confident staff and students. The result was NTU’s digital capabilities framework, closely based on Jisc’s with the addition of four levels for each area of activity and sample activities at each level. The areas of practice, levels and associated development resources are available to staff and students from an NTU Online Workspace (NOW) learning room.The NTU deputy vice chancellor recently recognised the impact of the framework, saying that “it gives us that common vocabulary [and] allows us to have the conversations on the ground.” Read more about the approach NTU is taking.At Digifest, Fiona MacNeill gave participants this advice for engaging academics: “Take a multi-pronged approach and find lots of different ways to engage with them – give them no escape”.[#pullquote#] “Just start chipping away. Make small wins and bank the bits you can do easily so you just start moving forwards.”[#endpullquote#]The final word on this went to Ross Anderson, who said, “Just start chipping away. Make small wins and bank the bits you can do easily so you just start moving forwards.”The 14 case studies are well worth a read and you can find them, along with all the other resources, on the building digital capability project page.The digital capabilities discovery tool is currently being piloted with 16 institutions with a final enhanced version being launched in the autumn after the end of the pilot. You can see the current guidance on its use.
  • What I’m most looking forward to at Digifest 2017
    Digifest is our annual must-attend event that celebrates the power digital has to revolutionise learning and teaching. Each year the event is packed full of exciting talks and debates, and the chance to investigate ideas and explore sector issues, and a buzzing atmosphere fuelled by people ready to learn and share ideas.  This year promises not to disappoint. I’m particularly excited to be involved in Digifest 2017, as we’ll be celebrating the power of digital, its potential to transform and its capacity to enhance learning and teaching.For me, at its core, Digifest is about people. It brings together sector experts and peers to discuss real issues and breakthroughs, try out new technology, and network, and support connections. This year’s sessions are set to inspire as well as challenge the way we currently do things. This year we’ll be focusing on: digital content and resources, data and learning analytics, digital (and physical) spaces, and digital skills.[#pullquote#]For me, at its core, Digifest is about people.[#endpullquote#]With so many exciting opportunities available, how do you decide which sessions to attend? They all sound fascinating and thought-provoking. I’ve chosen my top five to give you an idea of what I’m looking forward to most this year:1. Institutional visions for a digital student experienceI am privileged to be chairing this debate, and am looking forward to hearing all the panel members share their visions for a digitally-enhanced student experience. They all have very different contexts in terms of their institutions, so it should make for an interesting debate. Panel members include:Professor Helen O'Sullivan, associate pro-vice-chancellor for online learning, University of LiverpoolDarren Moon, senior learning technologist, LSEJane Harvell, head of academic services and special collections, University of SussexRos Parker, director of learning, Prospects College of TechnologyKaren Spencer, principal and chief executive, Harlow CollegeSimon Barrable, vice principal, Portsmouth CollegeIt is so important to hear senior leaders champion technology and to share how they see their institutions supporting students with a digital student experience. We have been interviewing senior leaders for our new thought leadership interviews for our evolution of FELTAG guide.2. Building digital expertise in your organisation This covers such a crucial topic and is a workshop not to be missed – digital capabilities are key in enabling us to live, learn and work in a digital society.We know staff need to have the confidence and capabilities to fully utilise the affordances technology offers and require support from their organisation to be able to develop their skills. I’m really looking forward to hearing from Elaine Swift, Nottingham Trent University; Fiona McNeil and Fiona Handley, University of Brighton and Ross Anderson, North Lindsey College on how they are supporting the development of their staff.In addition, Helen Beetham will present an overview of her research into the current state of play for digital capabilities and we will also launch our new suite of resources on organisational approaches to digital capabilities to support others with their practice.3. How does technology-enhanced learning contribute to teaching excellence? As the Teaching Excellence Framework is on everyone’s minds for those working in higher education, this talk will offer insightful perspectives from highly regarded experts Dr Rhona Sharpe. Deputy HR director and head of OCSLD (Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development), Oxford Brookes University and Professor Paul Bartholomew, pro vice-chancellor student experience, Ulster University.Having followed Rhona and Paul’s work over many years I know they will bring fresh thinking to this topic and share from their experiences how the effective and pedagogically sound use of technology is contributing to teaching excellence.4. Learner engagement - how can you overcome the challenges and develop opportunities to create a creative curriculum?This workshop interests me as I am keen to hear how practitioners are designing their curricula to encourage learner engagement.In this workshop I am looking forward to hearing from staff at Forth Valley College on how they are using a range of technologies, including virtual reality, to bring the curriculum to life and to offer authentic learning opportunities across a range of subject areas. Dr Ken Thomson, principal and chief executive of Forth Valley College, shares his vision for supporting a digital student experience.5. What are students’ expectations and experiences of technology?I have saved my favourite session until last! I am delighted to be chairing this workshop where we have six FE and HE students sharing their views and experiences of how technology is supporting their learning. We will hear how Epping Forest College, Bexhill Sixth Form College, Stirling University and Northampton University are gathering students’ views of technology and importantly how they are working with students to co-develop their digital environment.It is becoming more evident that student–staff partnerships are driving forward digitally enhanced curriculum change. You can read our digital learner stories on our blog. So don’t miss this session as if we are talking about the power of digital – our students should be there leading these discussions.[#pullquote#]I am hugely looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible[#endpullquote#]I am hugely looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible at Digifest and to have conversations and hear about innovative practice which will inspire us to do things differently and harness the power of digital.Take a look at the programme for details of the sessions available.