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  • To navigate a crisis, co-ordination is key
    This is a stressful and complicated time for colleges and universities, demanding unprecedented change. The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown us into unchartered territory.   Dealing with unexpected and rapidly accelerating crises often demands a rethink of behaviours, operating procedures and working practices. University and college leaders may feel compelled to take immediate action - and while knee-jerk responses may be essential in situations involving immediate danger, they can be counter-productive, sometimes resulting in conflicting messages and duplication of effort. A more measured approach can be powerful. Empowering teams to be creative, finding ways to overcome challenges, releases know-how. It enables team members to coordinate and implement effective solutions in their areas of expertise. No single person can solve all the problems - but with the combined wealth of knowledge across an organisation, most answers can be found. Taking a few hours to develop a well thought out approach can save a significant amount of time in the long run.  The essential elements Before instigating any change or formulating plans, it’s important that leaders ensure all members of a team are clear and in agreement about desired outcomes and impact. These provide a set of values to refer to when resolving any conflicts of interest. [#pullquote#]it’s important that leaders ensure all members of a team are clear and in agreement about desired outcomes and impact[#endpullquote#]An analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) can help assess a team’s capability to deliver outcomes. Furthermore, it highlights where resources need to be rebalanced in order to achieve targets. With a large department or team, leaders might consider dividing people into subgroups and tasking each to produce a SWOT analysis. This will provide a much richer picture of aggregated strengths and gaps.  Don’t sweat the small stuffWhat are your university or college’s priorities? Does every member of staff fully understand the purpose and benefits of intended outcomes, and their potential effects?Setting clear priorities enables leaders to consider the relative importance and urgency of each element, as well as the practicalities of resourcing and financing actions. Explaining why aims and objectives have been set also supports teams to focus on what really matters and consider variables that might impact on, for example, time, finance or availability of a resource.Keep talkingAt this time of flux, it’s crucial that universities and colleges keep communication channels open and facilitate collaboration. This will enable the coordination of actions and allow resources to be pooled and shared.  [#pullquote#]it’s crucial that universities and colleges keep communication channels open and facilitate collaboration. [#endpullquote#]The initial communications to staff, communicated by senior leaders, is about keeping all stakeholders apprised of the situation and in touch with the overall organisational approach. It can also define which channels of communication will be used by the senior management team, and determine the teams involved in addressing the situation. Communication channels exist to enable the sharing of, and feedback on, information about experiences, practices, ideas, issues and lessons learnt and, where appropriate, information from other organisations. In praise of expertsPeople working in universities and colleges are experts in their roles. In every functional area, there will be examples of creative thinking and good practice. When addressing an unexpected situation, making this expertise available ensures that efforts are not wasted in developing knowledge that already exists. Moreover, connecting people with similar ideas and concerns across different departments and areas will ensure that the best ideas are aggregated and available centrally. [#pullquote#]connecting people with similar ideas and concerns across different departments and areas will ensure that the best ideas are aggregated and available centrally. [#endpullquote#]Microsoft Teams or Google G Suite have productivity tools such as video conferencing and document collaboration. These tools allow people to collaborate in real-time. Mutual supportAs universities and colleges settle into new ways of working necessitated by coronavirus, the process of capturing information will embed into everyday practice. When reflected on later, careful consideration of how this crisis was handled will inform the review of organisational goals, policies and procedures. Ultimately, encouraging teams across the organisation to actively seek opportunities for mutual support will help identify supporting actions and mitigate barriers to progress. Facilitating improvements at this level, with the support of specialist staff, reinforces the values of ownership and continual improvement for all aspects of an organisation. Empowering team members to make improvements to the processes they support will be important as this unprecedented situation evolves. Mentoring and coaching can support teams to learn from their experiences for the benefit of all. The Jisc responding to coronavirus blog includes a number of links to resources and blogs, and recordings from recent online briefings. For further advice and guidance across a broad range of subjects, Jisc members can contact the subject specialist team.
  • Why the sector urges publishers to allow greater access to their content
    As the COVID-19 outbreak worsens, universities are under exceptionally challenging circumstances whilst publishers are asked to give greater access to their content. Now all face-to-face teaching has ceased, universities are moving at pace to deliver all their teaching, research and digital scholarship online whilst keeping their staff and students safe.Higher education libraries have a long-standing record of adopting technologies to deliver an excellent student experience, delivering content and highly tailored support to the 2.3 million students, postgraduates and researchers at UK universities.Moving onlineThe immediate concern for university libraries is ensuring that staff and users can continue to work as smoothly as possible under the circumstances.Staff and students require full digital, remote access to the software, tools and content they would normally have normally have been able to access regardless of whether they were on or off campus. This means moving all on-campus support to online modes at a time when support staffing is lower and unpredictable.[#pullquote#]content that cannot be accessed remotely and by multiple users at the same time is no longer useful.[#endpullquote#]Software and content that cannot be accessed remotely and by multiple users at the same time is no longer useful. Libraries also need to find the means to get library content that is held in print to all its users in a way that is usable and legal.Access to content held in printIn contrast to journals, many books are not available in an electronic format.Libraries have previously managed access to book content in various ways, from buying multiple print copies to providing access via e-textbook platforms or, in rare cases, providing copies of e-textbooks to each user.Libraries also use the CLA UUK/GuildHE Higher Education Licence to copy sections of books, magazines, journals and websites. In practice, this is mostly used to digitise extracts for use in teaching.[#pullquote#]many universities would prefer to purchase e-book content digitally in its entirety but are unable to because the licences are unsuitable, too expensive or both.[#endpullquote#]As identified in the ‘Understanding the value of the CLA Licence’ report, many universities would prefer to purchase e-book content digitally in its entirety but are unable to because the licences are unsuitable, too expensive or both.Calling on publishers and library providersAs university campuses close to protect staff, researchers and students from coronavirus, universities are racing to scale up their service delivery to provide access to content and software.[#pullquote#]We are asking providers and licensors to help make this happen by temporarily removing paywalls or other barriers to use.[#endpullquote#]We are asking providers and licensors to help make this happen by temporarily removing paywalls or other barriers to use.Whilst universities appreciate offers of free library trials, they do not have the capacity to set up authentication and discovery to each individual publisher’s separate content offers. Publishers can help remove manual intervention by offering extended free trials and by adding content to ‘subscribed’ content lists without universities or their users needing to individually register.We are particularly impressed by the efforts of e-textbook aggregators including Kortext, BibliU, VitalSource and participating publishers that have granted access to textbooks, monographs, and other core learning materials at no cost to universities.We call upon all remaining publishers to adopt the measures set out in the statement on access to content so all students can access all their materials remotely and researchers can continue to work, collaborate and innovate in these difficult and exceptional circumstances.Over the coming days we will contact publishers and library providers to capture access arrangements and communicate these arrangements to institutions. In the medium term we want to work with publishers to put in place clear exit arrangements so that users are not cut off from core material too quickly.If you are a publisher or contact provider and want to let us know about the measures you’re taking, please contact jisc.licensing@jisc.ac.uk.
  • Coronavirus scams: how to spot them
    Phishing scams are on the rise due to hackers taking advantage of the fear and anxiety caused by the global pandemic. But what can you do to stay vigilant?   Cyber criminals exploiting the concerns and fears of those facing stressful situations is nothing new.But the current coronavirus pandemic is providing a new avenue for these criminals to steal credentials and distribute malicious software.[#pullquote#]There has been a noted increase in phishing scams and malware being circulated over the past couple of months under the guise of information about coronavirus.[#endpullquote#]There has been a noted increase in phishing scams and malware being circulated over the past couple of months under the guise of information about coronavirus.The rise of coronavirus-related phishing emailsCyber security firm Kaspersky told the BBC that it has detected more than 513 different files with coronavirus in the title, which contain malware. There have been many more articles appearing in the media from outlets such as Wired, ZDNet, Cofense and UN news reporting this phenomenon, since January.The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also revealed many of these attacks and is urging people to follow online safety advice, while taking its own measures to automatically discover and remove malicious sites.David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky told the BBC that he expects the number of coronavirus-related phishing emails and those containing malware and ransomware as the biological virus also continues to spread.This seems very likely, and as such people need to be extra vigilant during these times.[#pullquote#]cyber criminals are preying on public fears and anxiety which make people much more susceptible.[#endpullquote#]What is particularly nasty is that cyber criminals are preying on public fears and anxiety which make people much more susceptible.Emails purporting to contain information on cures, or links to alleged ‘government’ information are things to look out for: researchers from Malwarebytes identified malicious code in a website that claimed to show an up-to-date global heatmap of coronavirus reports. A public health sector website in the United States has also been hit with a ransomware attack.The attack took down a website providing valuable medical information at a time when it is needed most.The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CHUPD) website was taken hostage by a ransomware called NetWalker, and as such the health district is urging people to follow its Facebook page for ongoing information on coronavirus.[#pullquote#]These attacks all underline the importance of staying vigilant and making sure security measures are up to date and that systems are protected [#endpullquote#]These attacks all underline the importance of staying vigilant and making sure security measures are up to date and that systems are protected, not least because with the possibility of isolation measures, digital communications channels become more vital than ever.It’s very important to keep on the lookout for possible phishes and scams.Key tips to spot scams Do not click on links from emails that appear to be from bodies such as the WHO or the NHS - instead, go to their websites independently and check if the information in the email is corroboratedCheck legitimate websites for things that organisations will not do. For example, many websites will state that they will never ask you for your password or payment details via emailBe wary of emails or messages offering cures or new information on the coronavirus. Again, check websites independently instead of clicking on links or replyingMembers’ IT support or network staff can report concerns to our CSIRT team. They are on hand to help should you be concerned about your organisation’s cyber security. The Janet CSIRT team can be contacted on 0300 999 2340 or at irt@csirt.ja.netThe immediate concerns are the volume and nature of phishing attacks, and the risk of malware and ransomware taking key systems offline. It’s important therefore to make sure your systems are properly up to date with security, and that information is backed up so you can restore systems in the event of an attack.Find out more information about cyber security.
  • Don’t forget the human side of homeworking
    For some, working from home is already an established and welcome way of life, whilst for others a sudden and enforced period of homeworking can feel like a daunting disruption to normality. With the current coronavirus situation, homeworking finds itself in the news again. Coronavirus information for membersGuidance for for members around planning for coronavirus (COVID-19).Technology is clearly the enabler here but, amongst the encouragement for folks to suddenly be video conferencing, virtually meeting and remotely collaborating with confidence, it is worth pausing to think about the human element here. For no matter how seamless and connected technology can enable us to be, it alone can’t magically help us all make the transition to happy homeworkers.   Tips for homeworking (speaking from experience)Having been a permanent homeworker since 2006 and having managed a team of fellow homeworkers since 2015, I’ve been reflecting on what seems to work well (and what doesn’t). To a large degree it’s about finding what works best for you. And you will only discover that through trial and error. 1. Set some rules I’m a creature of habit when it comes to my working day. I like to start at the same time and, where possible, take my breaks at the same time. This provides a structure that avoids the need to blur work time and home time.  Some like to leave the house in the morning, go to the shops or walk the dog, and then return home to start the working day. Others carry out a symbolic act such as putting on 'work' clothes or simply closing the door behind them when they enter the homeworking area. This creates a clear signal that the working day has started. My working day starts by making a cup of tea in my ‘work mug’ before heading off to my desk… Rules at the end of the day are also important. If you can close the working day when you close your laptop, great. But if you can’t and find yourself checking emails well into the evening, at least have a cut-off point (no devices after 8pm, for example) or establish device-free zones in the house to maintain balance.  [#pullquote#]I’m a creature of habit when it comes to my working day [...] This provides a structure that avoids the need to blur work time and home time.  [#endpullquote#] 2. Embrace interruptions (to a degree!) When I first started working from home, I revelled in the relative peace and tranquillity. The lack of interruption.  The opportunity to really get your head down and stuck in to something substantial. I discovered that although I seemed to be super-productive in the mornings, by early to mid-afternoon I would suddenly grind to a mental halt, seemingly incapable of concentrating on anything but the simplest of tasks.   It didn’t take long to realise that the lack of interruption was to blame. For as we all know, in the average office environment people are forever popping over to ask a quick question, or even just to pass the time of day. And, as well as serving an important social function, such mini-interruptions kept my mind sharper for longer. Once I started viewing my working day as a marathon, not a sprint, I started to actively embrace opportunities to break it up. The odd ten minutes spent unloading the dishwasher, putting the washing on the line or tidying the lounge seems to make all the difference to staying productive through to the end of the working day. [#pullquote#]Once I started viewing my working day as a marathon, not a sprint, I started to actively embrace opportunities to break it up[#endpullquote#]3. Don’t be shy In an office, many conversations begin through happenstance. Bumping into the right person at the right time.  Overhearing your name mentioned in someone else’s conversation. Discovering an unrealised overlap between your work and someone else’s whilst waiting for the kettle to boil leading to fruitful collaborations.  This kind of serendipity is much harder to realise when working remotely. You have to make a concerted effort. Tune into it, seek it out and then actually do something to make it happen. Whether its writing the email, picking up the phone, or pinging the instant message. Unless you do so the connection is far less likely to be made. I’ve also discovered that your webcam is your friend. Sure, you can talk to someone just as well with your camera turned off, but it’s so much more social, more ‘human’, to turn it on and to be able to see the person you are talking to. Believe me, if you do end up working from home for any length of time, seeing a friendly smile from a colleague can make a huge difference to your day. [#pullquote#]If you do end up working from home for any length of time, seeing a friendly smile from a colleague can make a huge difference to your day[#endpullquote#]4. Retain the ties that bind Emails are too formal (and too numerous). An unscheduled phone or skype call can feel an imposition. But a quick ‘hi, are you free’ nudge on Skype or Teams often feels just right. It’s the remote equivalent of the knock on a colleague’s office door with a ‘do you have five?’ plea. Sometimes the question can be asked and answered in the exchange of a few quick messages, other times it seems to lead quickly and naturally to an agreement to ‘have a quick chat’.  In addition, Yammer, Slack and similar platforms provide an opportunity to create social groups around specific interests, or even just places to share experiences or vent frustrations around working from home. [#pullquote#]A quick ‘hi, are you free’ nudge on Skype or Teams often feels just right[#endpullquote#]5. Ask for help, don’t wait for it We are often all too good at hiding our feelings, stresses and worries from those around us, even when we see our colleagues face-to-face. Working at home, often alone for long periods of the day, can both exacerbate feelings of isolation and anxiety and make them even easier to conceal. Don’t wait, ping that message to your colleague!  [#pullquote#]Working at home [...] can [...] exacerbate feelings of isolation and anxiety[#endpullquote#]6. Trust your team Perhaps I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve never found managing a home-based team a problem. It may have been different if I had felt the need to endlessly check in with what they were up to at any given moment, or spent my time obsessing over them starting late, leaving early or having two hour lunch breaks every day. I never did. I trusted – and still trust – the team to know what is required of them and to manage their time accordingly.   Checking in regularly with my direct reports is vital, as is the time we spend together each week as a whole team and in sub-teams. Clarity on goals and workload is important and so I operate a ‘virtual open door’ policy. Yes, my diary is punctuated with meetings, but beyond those I try not to block out large portions of my calendar to work on particular tasks. Doing so can give the impression to others that I am ‘busy’ and shouldn’t be disturbed. Whereas I would far rather face the odd interruption and know that the team feel I am there if they need me. [#pullquote#]Clarity on goals and workload is important and so I operate a ‘virtual open door’ policy. [#endpullquote#]Find what works for you - homeworking trial and error I mentioned at the beginning that finding what works for you is important. One way of doing this can be through spending a couple of minutes at the end of the working day asking yourself the following three questions: What worked well today? What didn’t? What might I try tomorrow? Then, a simple rule of thumb can be applied:  Do more of what is working for you and actively change that which is not. I hope this gives you a few ideas for things to try, and good luck! 
  • Creating the next generation of digital leaders
    Technological progress and innovation is happening at an unprecedented pace. It’s reshaping every aspect of our lives as humans. Everything from the way we live, work, learn and teach is changing. This impacts the skills students need to succeed in classrooms today and in the workplaces of the future. Schools, colleges, and universities need to evolve in order to deliver the best learning outcomes for students.[#pullquote#]Schools, colleges, and universities need to evolve in order to deliver the best learning outcomes for students[#endpullquote#]Where to startAs educators, you’re tasked with the critical role of equipping students with the skills they need for the future digital workplace and to be the next generation of leaders. Not only does everyone need to learn the skills required to live and work in a world that is increasingly digital, but we need more computer science, data science, and cyber security skills to build future products and services (this is reflected in Jisc’s work around Education 4.0, a theme we’re looking forward to exploring at Digifest this year).It can all seem like an impossible task at times with an increased pressure around funding and student numbers, but we see many great examples of how colleges and universities are finding smarter ways of working, enabling students to take control of their learning whilst freeing up teachers to spend more time helping them overcome challenges.The future of work and skillsThe workplace of today and the future is more collaborative, productive, and diverse. It empowers employees to work how they see best, wherever they are. Technology is an integral part of the workplace today, and as technologies like IoT (the internet of things) and AI (artificial intelligence) grow, the role of technology will also expand.[#pullquote#]It’s important we build up students soft and digital skills to ensure they can walk into these roles with confidence[#endpullquote#]It’s important we build up students soft and digital skills to ensure they can walk into these roles with confidence. The World Economic Forum listed analytical thinking, innovation, active learning, creativity, problem solving, and collaboration as some of the most important emerging skills of 2022Key findings from the World Economic Forum report - Future of Jobs 2018: https://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2018/key-findings/. Students will also need to be committed to lifelong learning, to ensure they upskill, as there are new technology gains and jobs, and industries evolve with new skills requirements.Empowering educators with digital skillsFor students to reach their full potential, they need educators at their full potential. Teachers who develop digital skills are empowered to use technology to improve their wellbeing and work better.Office 365 gives educators access to time-saving tools that simplify marking and makes collaboration between students and peers easy. Predictive analytics can be used to predict student performance, improve learning outcomes, and provide customised support to students who need it.Only 38 percentStatistic taken from Microsoft and The Economist infographic presenting key findings from an international survey of student teachers and early-career teachers: http://edudownloads.azureedge.net/msdownloads/Microsoft-Staff-2030-Infographic.pdf of teachers feel their training has equipped them with the skills they need​. Equipping educators with the tools and skills to leverage technology in the classroom will ultimately help students develop vital digital skills that will help them succeed in the future. It will also empower educators to use technology to amplify their own work to improve their wellbeing. Our Microsoft Educator Community is a hub for educators to learn and explore resources to build those skills.Technology in the classroom49 percent of teachers surveyed by us said that technology made a positive impact on student-teacher collaborationRead full details on Microsoft website - Youngsters risk leaving school unprepared for workplace, Microsoft research reveals: https://news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2019/01/23/youngsters-risk-leaving-school-unprepared-for-workplace-microsoft-research-reveals/. One of these tools – Microsoft Teams is helping schools increase both peer-to-peer and student-teacher collaboration.At City of Westminster College, the use of Teams empowered students to take responsibility for their own learning and encouraged collaboration amongst learners. Learning extends beyond the classroom, with teachers posting resources that students can view at any time – whether in class or studying at home. It’s also helped eliminate communication barriers faced by students with hearing impairments.[#pullquote#]Learning extends beyond the classroom, with teachers posting resources that students can view at any time – whether in class or studying at home[#endpullquote#]I’m incredibly proud of the work our customers are doing with our technology to support a learning environment that is both accessible and inclusive.Over the next three years we have committed to train 30,000 teachers on how technology can help build an inclusive classroom, with our free built-in and non-stigmatising learning tools. Immersive reader, for example, helps students with dyslexia by reading out text, breaking words into syllables and increasing spacing between lines and letters.As an education community, we all have a huge opportunity and responsibility to prepare students for a digital future and continued change.Visit us at Digifest 2020Join our sessions at Digifest or pop by our stand to discover how we’re helping other educators use technology to transform student and teacher outcomes.We’ll be showcasing our Hololens 2 headsets, as part of the digital campus, which promises to be an impressively immersive example of what the future holds for education, and in particular, for Education 4.0.Find out moreHelp your students prepare for their careers with MicrosoftDiscover more education blogs from MicrosoftCatch up with all things Education 4.0 – how Jisc is working to transform education to match Industry 4.0Keep up to date with news from Digifest by following #digifest20 on Twitter
  • Check your tech as part of your coronavirus planning
    Are you making contingency plans in case coronavirus prevents students and staff attending campus? First start by looking at the technology you already have at your disposal. Where do we start?No one can predict how this will play out or how widespread or long-term its impact will be. We know staff and students are already ‘self-isolating’.Coronavirus information for membersGuidance for for members around planning for coronavirus (COVID-19).This is beginning to raise serious questions about how universities and colleges can continue to deliver teaching, learning and assessment if staff and students are not able to attend campus.Organisations already offering extensive distance learning opportunities to learners, supported by staff who can work and teach remotely, are more likely to adapt easily to the kind of scenario that coronavirus may present.But what if you are still nearer the start than the finish line in your digital journey? Don’t worry as there are plenty of practical steps you can take.[#pullquote#]Many of you have access to a range of technologies which could power you to function during any disruption that coronavirus may bring.[#endpullquote#]Many of you have access to a range of technologies which could power you to function during any disruption that coronavirus may bring.Here are a few, taken from our new guide on ensuring continuity of learning during enforced absence, launched today.Continue collaboration with the right platformsMicrosoft Office 365 and Google G-Suite can provide many features for keeping in touch with colleagues and students.Video conferencing functionality will live stream lectures or capture for viewing later. Just be sure staff have access to good mics/headsets.Microsoft Teams is free for all staff and students in higher education, supporting meetings of up to 250 attendees. Microsoft has produced a guide for getting started with remote learning via Teams, as well as a series of free education-focussed webinars for educators and IT staff.  You can also sign up to join a global community for education in Teams, which has channels dedicated to academics and learning instructors, IT professionals, phone system and meetings, teaching and learning.To see how universities are using Teams meeting and guest access for international research in practice, check out Dr Michael Johnson's presentation, 'research collaborations'.Jisc’s cloud solutions team offer expertise in getting the most out of Microsoft Office 365.Carry on delivering learning and content via your VLEMake sure all staff feel confident in using the VLE now, even if they haven’t before, or not for some time. It may be prudent to remind all staff of their login details, point them at ‘beginner level’ sources of guidance and provide opportunities for them to learn from each other and from colleagues with more advanced skills.Access digital content wherever you areDon’t forget that all the digital content you licence from Jisc, be they books, journals or multimedia resources can all be accessed off campus.[#pullquote#]Don’t forget that all the digital content you licence from Jisc, be they books, journals or multimedia resources can all be accessed off campus.[#endpullquote#]You can check on your current subscriptions, or view the catalogue for all the content that is available from Jisc via licence subscriptions manager, or speak to your account manager.Support your most vulnerableA stressful situation will be made worse if staff and students feel isolated and/or confused by rumour and misinformation.[#pullquote#]A stressful situation will be made worse if staff and students feel isolated[#endpullquote#]Clear and consistent approval processes for content and not relying on a single means of transmission will help communicate the right messages to the right people. Pay attention to the needs of your most vulnerable staff and students who may suffer most from isolation and the anxiety this can cause, guaranteeing they have direct access to people they can contact.Retain access to your core systems and dataIf you have already invested in disaster recovery or business continuity planning, these are likely to be a useful guide as to what systems and data you will need constant access to function as an organisation. Once they and their required users have been identified, virtual private networks (VPNs) can offer a means of remote access for staff with work-issue laptops.You could also consider enabling a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) which can provide a more secure means of access to corporate systems when using a domestic PC or laptop.Empower technical support staffMore remote staff and students will put more demands on your IT team. If you don’t have them already, it may be worth investing in applications that allow technical support staff to remotely control workstations to resolve problems.[#pullquote#]consider setting up a remote online helpdesk for students for the duration of the incident.[#endpullquote#]You may also want to consider setting up a remote online helpdesk for students for the duration of the incident. This can include up-to-date FAQs based on the kinds of questions that students are asking, as well as provide links to relevant internal or external sources of information, eg to local or central government guidance on travel, personal safety or public health.Spaces for wellbeingGiving staff virtual spaces via platforms such as Yammer or Slack for them to share experiences, voice concerns and generally retain their social ties can all help people cope with stressful situations while protecting their wellbeing.Our new guide goes into more detail and we hope it is a practical starting point for all of you, regardless of where you are.This was produced very quickly to support you with the current situation caused by coronavirus, so we will keep iterating it based on your feedback.Please let us know what you think and get in touch by emailing steve.bailey@jisc.ac.uk or contacting your account manager.
  • ‘Data is the new currency’: supporting students into the workforce
    The path into the workplace is paved with potential obstacles, so how can data help universities provide smooth passage for students?  The information we have about students while they’re in study is growing, but it’s not enough. In a world of hyper-personalisation, it’s time for universities to take the plunge and start gathering more granular data. In doing so, organisations will be able to offer students more of what each individual wants and needs from their academic experience. Most of the data we collect at the moment is systematic engagement data, for example how often students engage in different online systems such as VLEs. What do students really want? What I think universities really need is feedback from students themselves. Institutions need to know not only how learners are getting on in terms of academics, but whether they’re enjoying their course, what their career plans are, and whether their chosen path lines up with those goals.A student may come into the university with aspirations to work in a certain sector, and the majority of students tend to be wired into the right kind of degree, but some students’ choice of course may be out of sync with their long-term goals. Armed with the right data, teaching staff are better placed to offer the support and guidance those learners need. Knowing students' own targets is essential. Are they looking for a 2:1? Are they looking for exposure to industry skills? Should they be on a course that provides a year in industry?Universities need to know what students want to get out of those three or four years, and help them to align their career aspirations with their experiences at university.  [#pullquote#]Universities need to know what students want to get out of those three or four years, and help them to align their career aspirations with their experiences at university.  [#endpullquote#]Treating feedback as data The student is at the centre here, and anything they feed back is data. That’s business intelligence, or student intelligence, or whatever you want to call it - and it can be used to shape each learner’s experience.But it’s a movable feast, so data also needs to be collected in real-time, with consistent checks to keep on top of goal changes or particular difficulties. Universities also need to check on students’ aspirations as they move through their course to see if and how they evolve, reconfiguring their experience to match their new goals.  Using technology in a more intuitive way to engage with students will also drive this data capture. Some feedback apps, including Study Goal, can also be embedded within other university apps so that everything is kept in one place, and students can then build in giving feedback into their regular use of the app. Honesty is the best policy But it’s also essential to be transparent with the data you’re collecting, and clear about what it’s being used for. For instance, if software such as Jisc’s Study Goal app is being used to gather feedback data, universities need to make sure that they have the right consent and legalities in place so that students have the option to opt-out.It’s about legitimate use of data, but also about having a mechanism within the software to gain consent. [#pullquote#]It’s about legitimate use of data, but also about having a mechanism within the software to gain consent. [#endpullquote#]Data is everything Data is the new currency and it has massive potential for guiding students through their next stage of life, after university. But it also needs to be handled carefully, and it’s essential that students are put first.Getting students to open up and provide feedback on how they’re feeling is the goal – but there’s a science to it, and a sensitivity. It’s about hitting the sweet spot where not only universities have access to data, but students have ownership over it. To hear more about how data can support your institution’s goals, visit the Data Matters conference on 5 May 2020, run in partnership with HESA, QAA and Jisc. Find out more and book your tickets.  Find out how you can support the workforce of the future.
  • Tech has disrupted the workplace: digital-first lifelong learning is the answer
    Our skills system must be flexible and ongoing if we are to give people the best possible chance.  Tech is transforming industryAccording to a 2018 World Economic Forum report, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are transforming business models and job profiles.This means required job skills will have shifted significantly by 2022; 54% of all employees will need re-skilling and upskilling. The World Economic Forum calls for all businesses to have an augmentation strategy, “an approach where businesses look to utilise the automation of some job tasks to complement and enhance their human workforces’ comparative strengths and ultimately to enable and empower employees to extend to their full potential”.A need to embrace vocational skillsAs jobs start to augment, if employees are to truly to deliver their full potential there will be a fundamental need to embrace the digital vocational skills which will become more and more abundant in the workplace. As head of further education and skills at Jisc, I’m acutely aware of these changing needs. Through Policy Connect’s Skills Commission, I have worked with colleagues across the sector to identify the biggest challenges and opportunities facing skills.Launched today, Policy Connect’s report on the future of skills makes clear recommendations for how the sector can create a more coherent skills ecosystem, address the challenges posed by an evolving workplace, and foster greater collaboration between employers and colleges.[#pullquote#]Policy Connect’s report on the future of skills makes clear recommendations for how the sector can create a more coherent skills ecosystem[#endpullquote#]Digital is a disruptor, driving structural change in the labour market. We anticipate people switching careers multiple times in their working life – and that means they will have to become more flexible, able to learn, unlearn, relearn and upskill as they move from place to place in a new economic climate. It will also mean a dramatic increase in bitesize, just-in-time, micro-accredited learning, which can only really be delivered and supported with technology.Enhancing lifelong learningThese new ways of working – and a population that is retiring later than ever before – points towards technology-enhanced lifelong learning. At Jisc, we support colleges and universities to explore new ideas and emerging opportunities, helping them to deliver digital skills throughout an individual’s lifetime. This is about bringing people into employment and supporting workers’ growth, using technology to adapt learning to suit each individual’s needs in a way that’s accessible and right for them.For example, rather than attending a year-long programme delivered module by module, an employee should be able to ‘pick and mix’ modules based on their existing knowledge and skills gaps. Attaining new knowledge, skills and behaviours in a ‘just in time, just for me’ fashion will make a big difference to their confidence, success and employability.[#pullquote#]Attaining new knowledge, skills and behaviours in a ‘just in time, just for me’ fashion will make a big difference to their confidence, success and employability.[#endpullquote#]Moving towards micro-credentialsThe careers advice and guidance space will become more nuanced as people move away from long-term formal qualifications to a mix of micro-credentials as labour market needs change rapidly.This presents an opportunity to use the attributes of big data and AI, to interrogate up-to-date local, regional and national labour market intelligence and demographics to help deliver informed careers/jobs advice that helps young people, adults and employers. Helping them navigate an increasingly complex labour market and skills system by identifying a variety of educational pathways into existing and new and emerging jobs markets based on the educational footprint of the current workforce.Keeping pace in FETo ensure the FE curriculum keeps pace with an ever-increasing rate of disruption and transformation, FE leaders and their teams will need to immerse themselves back into industry so they can see first-hand how fourth industrial revolution technologies are impacting and driving innovation. And we must utilise technology to bring industry experts into the classroom to share their expertise and inspire learners.[#pullquote#]we must utilise technology to bring industry experts into the classroom to share their expertise and inspire learners.[#endpullquote#]The rise of Industry 4.0 in the workplace highlights the importance of educators embracing their own augmentation strategy, which reduces their workload and supports new ways of teaching, learning and assessing. I hope it will support the delivery of a lifelong learning approach which empowers people of all ages and backgrounds with the skills they need to succeed in our increasingly digital future.The Skills Commission is an independent body comprising of leading figures from across the education sector that meets every month in Parliament to discuss important issues in skills, training and further education policy. Read Policy Connect’s report on the future of skills.
  • Is our relationship with digital technology true love or an unhealthy obsession?
    Technology is neither good nor bad, it is simply an amplifier of whatever we, as society and individuals, choose to use it for. That’s the view put forward by writer and speaker Dave Coplin in his book ‘The Rise of the Humans’ - but it isn’t universal. Media headlines, academics and researchers regularly warn of the negative aspects of our relationship with technology.A disciplined approachI work in IT, have a passion for digital technology, and love the convenience of my digital devices and streaming services. Positive applications of technology can save lives, help us protect the planet, bring people together, and deliver convenience and efficiency to our working, social and family lives.Today’s young people have every bit as much talent, promise and potential as those of any other generation, but they also benefit by having technological advancements and information literally at their fingertips, providing a wealth of potential advantages and opportunities.As part of my academic research, I spent six months considering these conflicting discourses on the impacts of digital technology on millennial students and their ability to focus their attention and retain information.[#pullquote#]My findings revealed that, if left unchecked and unmanaged, some potential negative impacts could be exacerbated.[#endpullquote#]My findings revealed that, if left unchecked and unmanaged, some potential negative impacts could be exacerbated. There is certainly an argument for encouraging discipline in technology use and design. However, there’s also evidence to suggest that those who efficiently use social media and other technologies stand to do well in today’s digital society and workplaces.Dangerous liaisons?Neuro-economist Adam Penenburg’s research draws parallels between the chemicals released when using social media and those released when falling in love.Is it possible that, as a society, we are so enamoured with technology - so wrapped up in those heady, magical early days of our relationship with it - that we overlook bad habits and potential problems? Indeed, smartphone addiction is now a recognised social issue, and 78% of Ofcom 2018 Communications Market Report’s respondents declared they ‘couldn’t live without’ theirs.[#pullquote#]smartphone addiction is now a recognised social issue[#endpullquote#]Adam Thilthorpe, director of professionalism at the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) describes these negative side-effects as ‘unintended impacts’ of technology. He asks where the responsibility lies in pre-empting, identifying and mitigating against these. Technology companies? Government? Educational establishments? Parents? Individuals? Perhaps it’s all of us - but how do we do this when dealing with new, disruptive, previously-unseen technologies being released into an ever-changing society? Who should – or could – take the lead?Champions of ethical changeWorking as a senior business analyst (BA), my colleagues and I are well-placed to challenge, to push back, to think about the wider environment and be champions of ethical change.BAs use techniques such as ‘design thinking’, empathising with users and considering not only the ‘happy path’, but also the unexpected and undesirable ‘unhappy paths’. Different users’ desires and objectives are identified and contexualised, considering the environment in which they engage with digital experiences. This gives us the opportunity to not only build a great customer experience, but also to consider ‘unintended impacts’ and develop contingencies.[#pullquote#]As a society, our relationship with digital technology is set to be long-term and multi-generational [#endpullquote#]As a society, our relationship with digital technology is set to be long-term and multi-generational – and we may be emerging from the honeymoon phase. That’s why it’s so important that, as with any relationship, we work out what we want from it, how to manage and balance it, and how to ensure that it is a beneficial, happy and healthy partnership for everyone involved.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 80px; width: 80px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Hear Rachel’s session, ‘digital neuroscience 101 and the importance of empathy in digital experience design’ at Digifest 2020, at 11:00 on 11 March at the ICC Birmingham. Register by 1 March 2020.
  • Top tips for a sustainable approach to innovation
    These days, we usually associate the word ‘sustainability’ with the environment, but colleges and universities also need to keep their technology sustainable. Planning ahead is key. That’s why all good institutions take stock from time to time, gathering staff together to assess potentially dominant future trends in education.‘The playlist degree’When we last did this at Manchester Met, two key trends stood out.First was the idea of what we call the ‘infinite university’, which predicts the dominance and importance of mixed reality, artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).Second was what we called ‘the playlist degree’ - that’s the school of thought that suggests a future fragmentation of HE; the idea that students will take a ‘grab bag’ of modules and development experiences from multiple organisations, rather than complete a traditional three-year degree at one institution.These things might not happen, but it’s important to know what they might mean from a technological point of view.So, fast forward to present day, and we’re now building a VR and AR centre of excellence, working with natural language interfaces (with a focus on supporting student progression and attainment), employing student analytics, and enhancing the staff and student experience with a smart campus.Innovation vs optimisationBut are we creating digital transformation, or simply repurposing what we already have?Transformation is a buzz word that’s used a lot in the sector – but actually, a lot of the time, we aren’t doing anything new. Rather, we’re building a better, more technologically advanced version of what we have.[#pullquote#]We’re using digital optimisation, and we’re using it very well indeed.[#endpullquote#]We’re using digital optimisation, and we’re using it very well indeed.There are plenty of examples of digital optimisation globally – but old institutions with heritage and age-old knowledge, such as universities, are entirely different beasts to the younger technology companies out there, such as Google.[#pullquote#]in my opinion, the challenges facing the UK’s education sector are different to those facing growing younger and often global businesses.[#endpullquote#]Both can, and frequently do, achieve wonderful things - but in my opinion, the challenges facing the UK’s education sector are different to those facing growing younger and often global businesses.So how do you leverage the vast capabilities and knowledge of a university or college, while creating new services to suit today’s students and staff?Five tips for a sustainable approach to using technology1. Adopt a zoom-in/zoom-out approach to strategyFocus on developing a good, detailed plan for the next 12 to 18 months, and a clear vision for the future of the organisation, looking at least five years ahead. Don’t spend too much time worrying about years two to four as whatever plans you develop for this time period will need to change anyway, probably significantly.2. Tinkering is not innovationGood ideas can start small, but if it can’t scale to work in the near future for a significant portion (or preferably all) of your students and staff, then it’s probably not worth pursuing.3. Innovation must be at the heartSteve Jobs allegedly said that the surest way to identify a non-innovative company is if they have a senior manager with ‘innovation’ in their job title. Innovation needs to be at the core of the way the organisation works. Projects run at arms’ length might initially deliver quicker results, but make it more difficult to create a sustainable innovation culture.4. Don’t lose sight of your valuesJust because you can do something, should you? Ask your students and staff what they think of using innovative technologies, such as natural language processing and extended reality. They’ll help you identify ethical pitfalls that you might not have seen yourselves.5. Faculty engagement is essentialAcademics can be an incredibly valuable source of insights into key areas of innovation, and this needs to be delivered on their terms.Kurt Weideling is director of information systems and digital services at Manchester Metropolitan University. Register before 1 March 2020 to see his presentation, 'The degree playlist and the infinite university - scalable and sustainable innovation in Education 4.0', at Digifest at the ICC Birmingham on Wednesday 12 March 2020.
  • Degree apprenticeships can reach diverse learners in new ways
    Launched in 2015, degree apprenticeships (DAs) are still relatively new – and I believe they offer exciting opportunities for the higher education (HE) sector. Introduced by then-business secretary Vince Cable, DA courses originally sought to reduce the UK’s skills gap while also raising the reputation of apprenticeships.They hold great promise to do both, while also extending access to education; DAs can reach diverse learner in new ways, attracting students who previously thought a degree programme was ‘not for me’ - or simply not possible.A win-win solutionStudents embarking on a DA course work full-time while, generally, attending university one day a week. They don’t pay any tuition fees as courses are funded by a levy payable by all large employers. This makes them an affordable option.For students, it’s a win-win: they end up with an apprenticeship and a degree without accruing the debt often associated with university fees. In terms of course material, the university-taught content of a DA is the same as that studied by students following a traditional degree programme – but DA learners also need to meet requirements set out by the Institute for Apprenticeships.[#pullquote#]For students, it’s a win-win: they end up with an apprenticeship and a degree without accruing the debt often associated with university fees.[#endpullquote#]Digital literacy and safetyDigital literacy and security is vital. Where I work, at the University of Portsmouth, many of our learners are drawn from the military and other industries dealing with highly confidential information, such as the NHS and the defence sector. The documents they are required to submit to academic staff and assessors for their DA must therefore be shared on a safe online system.[#pullquote#]Digital literacy and security is vital. [#endpullquote#]In terms of digital literacy, meanwhile, the fact that the students are on campus for only a day per week – or, in the case of learners working in the army, for just two weeks a year - means that staff and students must be able to work and communicate together remotely. Rising to the challengeTo meet these technical challenges at Portsmouth, we have made extensive use of Google apps - particularly Google Sites for e-portfolios (which most DA students are required to build) and Google Docs for sharing information.Surprisingly, we find that many learners arrive at university with little or no experience of Google beyond the search engine, so we run a series of sessions on sharing documents securely. Remote communication, particularly with soldiers posted in remote areas of the world, has proven to be the most challenging area for us. Thus far, we have relied on Cisco’s Webex system to overcome this. We’re now exploring new options, such as Zoom.‘A valuable asset’In 2016, Portsmouth launched its first DA with just seven students. Today, we have 600 across the university. In a 2019 survey of our DA business students (using the Jisc digital insights survey) 73% said they felt well-supported as distance learners – and, among this cohort, we have a 100% retention rate. But for evidence of success, it’s best to hear from learners themselves.[#pullquote#]In a 2019 survey of our DA business students [...] 73% said they felt well-supported as distance learners[#endpullquote#]As Tom Sherratt, one of our military DAs, says: “I have discovered tremendous amounts of new data, literature and learning environments - but above all else I believe that when I complete my DA, I will be a valuable asset to the army and to any future employer due to the transferability of the skills learnt.”[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 100px; width: 100px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Andrew Taggart is an online course developer at Portsmouth University. His Digifest presentation, ‘degree apprenticeships - meeting the technical and teaching challenges’ takes place at 12:10 on 10 March 2020. Registration for Digifest 2020 is now open and free for staff, students and researchers at members organisations.
  • People not technology: the role of leadership in digital transformation
    Most UK universities want more direction from leadership in terms of digital transformation, but what should this leadership look like?  What makes a great digital leader? As part of our digital leaders programme at Jisc, we define being an effective digital leader as understanding your own practice and constructing a plan to develop it. Leading an effective digital organisation is also about understanding the impact and implications of digital and using these tools to respond to challenges and opportunities.  There are various elements that make up this process, one of which is to look at the digital tools you use and notice where your skills lie. For example, if an academic is using a VLE to upload and share content with students, being a digital leader could mean reviewing the VLE use and developing the skills you need to use the platform as a more interactive tool.  Identifying these gaps in your skillset is an important step to becoming a digital leader.  [#pullquote#]An essential point to understand, is that digital transformation isn’t about technology. [#endpullquote#]It is also essential to understand how to select the tools you need, rather than just using digital technology because it’s there. An essential point to understand, is that digital transformation isn’t about technology. It’s more about working collaboratively with others and adapting your working approach as processes change and culture shifts.  Why is leadership important in digital transformation? Leaders are essential due to the impact that digital transformation has on a working culture and individual members of the team. Digital transformation is a journey and without a leader, team members can become lost and opportunities can be missed – especially for utilising the best that both technology and people have to offer. But leadership in this context isn’t about rushing out ahead and leaving your team behind. Digital transformation is a collaborative process and is about taking people along with you.  [#pullquote#]Every person within your institution can be a digital leader by taking ownership of their own practice. This is the only way that an organisation can move forward together.[#endpullquote#]Leaders aren’t necessarily those at the top of the organisation’s hierarchy, either. Every person within your institution can be a digital leader by taking ownership of their own practice. This is the only way that an organisation can move forward together.  In fact, a recent report we created in partnership with UCISA showed that in HE, the “three areas in universities – besides IT – which have embedded a great deal of digital thinking and practice are, respectively, library (59.09%), marketing (40.91%) and frontline services (27.27%). In contrast, the three departments with the least amount of digital embedded in them are academic staff (0%), legal and procurement (4.55%) and the leadership team (9.3%).” Ultimately, a digital leader is someone that understands that people are the most important factor in digital transformation, and that technology is just there to enable those people to achieve their desired outcomes more effectively. Digital leaders also help to nurture an environment in which skills are appreciated and developed, and in which the working culture makes the most of those skills. 
  • Paper-driven processes belong in the last century: cloud tech and digital transformation
    How cloud technology can help you embark on your digital transformation journey  When it comes to digital transformation for our members, it has a lot to do with using available technology to streamline processes to improve the learning and teaching experience for both students and staff.Leaders are not only looking outwards in terms of student experience, but are also considering a more inward approach, especially how to make internal processes faster and more seamless.What do you want to achieve?An important starting point is to consider exactly what it is you’re looking to achieve with digital transformation. Cloud platforms are all about reducing burdensome tasks so you can focus on service delivery or the development of services your organisation needs the most.[#pullquote#]Start by asking what services your organisation is most in need of and go from there.[#endpullquote#]Start by asking what services your organisation is most in need of and go from there.For instance, are you interested in expanding your use of VLEs? Implementing online document sharing for staff and students? Streamlining and analysis of student data?Pick your top priorities and then investigate how cloud can help you achieve them.How can cloud help get you going?Tools and services such as document sharing, cloud drive storage and integrated email clients are often available through vendors licencing models and can be used on several platforms as well as the web.Software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology such as G Suite or Microsoft 365, therefore, is often a good starting point for your digital transformation and can enhance collaboration and reduce paper-based systems, whilst also providing a foundation for new innovative digital services.As a starting point, an enterprise collaboration platform – typically SaaS technology – is a great springboard into the cloud and a way to start utilising other affinitive public cloud technologies as your needs grow.Taking it up a notchEventually, you may also want to consider whether you need to rethink your operating model.For instance, the rapid development allowed by cloud technologies fits well with agile methodologies, and can help you develop new workflows, integrations, insights and experiences by exploring the capabilities and APIs your core information systems offer to developers. These include:Management information systems (MIS)Student record systemsVirtual learning environments (VLE)Enterprise collaboration and productivity (such as G Suite)What is a successful digital transformation programme?Each institution will likely have a slightly different path through the digital transformation journey, depending on its own particular needs and priorities.Goldsmiths, University of London, is in the process of a major cloud implementation, and Jamie Lee, head of infrastructure services at the university emphasises the need to keep actions aligned with desired practical outcomes. Jamie says:“We have to keep asking ourselves: why are we doing cloud? Is it some cool IT thing or are there genuine strategic benefits?“We have to keep reviewing those benefits. In our case, it means focusing our cloud adoption on what we can enable – creating a platform for innovation as part of our digital strategy.”A successful digital transformation, then, hinges upon building a digital platform that works for your students and staff.Behind the scenes, establish some architectural principles so your platform can take advantage of cloud-native techniques to support secure interactions with people, applications, data and things.What are the main challenges?Many of our members have concerns about governance and compliance in the cloud.[#pullquote#]SaaS solutions and enterprise cloud platforms provide a number of robust mechanisms to ensure resources and information remain secure and compliant[#endpullquote#]Both SaaS solutions and enterprise cloud platforms provide a number of robust mechanisms to ensure resources and information remain secure and compliant, with an ability to add fine-grained controls as needed.Useful resourcesIf you’re interested in learning more about how cloud migration could help your organisation begin its digital transformation, email our specialist team cloud@jisc.ac.uk. You can also read more about how we can help you with cloud computing.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 80px; width: 80px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]For more insights into real stories of digital transformation, visit Digifest at Birmingham ICC from 10-11 March 2020. Find out more and book your ticket.
  • Is lifelong learning the defining issue of our age?
    According to Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) “adult learning is heading in the wrong direction at precisely the wrong time for our economy and our society”. “Technology is rapidly changing the world of work and driving up demand for new and higher skills,”he added – noting that nine in ten workers will need some form of reskilling by 2030.To address this ticking timebomb, lifelong learning must move up the agenda – and this is recognised by organisations including the Office for StudentsRead more in the article: How the Office for Students will drive change on the Office for Students website http://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/press-and-media/how-the-office-for-students-will-drive-change/ and Universities UKRead more on the Universities UK response statement: Response to widening participation in higher education statistics https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/news/Pages/Response-to-widening-participation-in-higher-education-statistics.aspx. Both list widening participation among their strategic objectives.This is part of a broader recognition that education for today and tomorrow means supporting people of all regions, sectors and demographics, helping them to develop and maintain relevant, up-to-date skills.The case for digitalThere is currently a gap in digital skills in particular. This impacts on both earning potential and social mobility – and, as the employment landscape shifts and workplaces become ever more tech-driven, it’s likely that these problems will get worse.[#pullquote#]There is currently a gap in digital skills in particular. This impacts on both earning potential and social mobility[#endpullquote#]Happily, in tertiary education, the benefits of digital delivery are two-way; done right, it gives learners greater choice, ease of access and flexibility while also giving colleges and universities the ‘reach’ to support community engagement, skills delivery, and their own business development. Technology enables institutions to put themselves at the heart of adult learning – including within hard-to-reach and underrepresented communities. Diversity and inclusionSome projects focus on targeted fields of study in the hope of reaching the most learners.A current collaboration between the Open University, the University of Leeds and the University of Plymouth, for example, seeks to embed inclusive practices in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses, evaluating module design and delivery to support learning. This responds to evidence that the proportion of students with disabilities registered on undergraduate STEM programmes has increased significantly over the past decadeEquality in higher education statistical report 2015 from the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU): http://www.ecu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Equality-in-HE-statistical-report-2015-part-2-students.pdf. How can education providers best support them?[#pullquote#]the proportion of students with disabilities registered on undergraduate STEM programmes has increased significantly over the past decade[#endpullquote#]Over at Gateshead College the BRIDGE project is investigating the reasons why low numbers of female, disadvantaged, BAME, disabled, and, crucially, mature and part-time learners enrol on construction-related degree courses.Both of these projects mark a shift in perception. Institutions are adopting a baseline belief that education supports every stage of every person’s personal and professional development - and UK colleges and universities are thinking creatively about how they can support inclusive educational experiences.Time to reach outFor people that don’t naturally gravitate towards continuing their learning at university or a college, online learning can be a game changer, offering flexible, modular and personalised education. It has the potential to deliver education that’s ongoing and user-led, re-skilling and upskilling diverse communities of adults for the workplaces of today and tomorrow.[#pullquote#]For people that don’t naturally gravitate towards continuing their learning at university or a college, online learning can be a game changer[#endpullquote#]Blackburn College’s Community Open Online Courses (COOCs), for example, seek to engage more adults in learning and deliver new and different opportunities for people from all walks of life. Such outreach projects target people who may not have participated in post-16 education before, as well as those facing the logistical and financial challenges of fitting in face-to-face learning around childcare, travel or work commitments.In reframing our vision of education to provide flexible and relevant opportunities, UK institutions can and should lead the way. As Matthew Fell at the CBI said,“lifelong learning will be one of the defining issues of our age. Countries who get it right will have an exceptional competitive advantage”.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 90px; width: 90px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Lifelong learning is a key theme of Digifest- our edtech event which is taking place at the Birmingham ICC, 10-11 March 2020. Registration is open and is free for Jisc members.
  • Technology can enhance education. Here's how
    From the virtual learning environment that underpins the day-to-day study activity at many UK colleges and universities, to the use of digital lecture capture, enabling students to review and absorb information anytime and anywhere, technology is embedded within today’s student experience. It has changed – and will continue to change – the ways in which we live, learn and work. And as technology permeates most aspects of our lives, the case for it to play a more prominent role in how we organise our education system grows ever stronger.Supporting humansDigitisation is no longer the “added bonus” that helps elevate a college or university from the crowd. We already live in a world where teachers can use artificial intelligence (AI) to generate reports and to track learners’ progress on a digital dashboard created by a data analytics system.Students might immerse themselves in a novel or take a field trip using a virtual reality (VR) headset, benefitting from interactive and personalised learning. Apps, digital content and websites that are fully accessible can boost engagement, bringing improved outcomes and widening participation.[#pullquote#]Apps, digital content and websites that are fully accessible can boost engagement, bringing improved outcomes and widening participation.[#endpullquote#]In these ways and more, humans are already using technology to support collaboration, reduce the administrative burden, and ensure easy access to the information we need, when we need it. Applied well, we also know that technology can help bring better value for money. And it has great potential to help us create education environments in which students feel safer and more satisfied.Jisc’s Education 4.0 vision celebrates cutting-edge use of tech at colleges and universities and considers how we may go further, imagining scenarios in which staff and student experiences are not just enhanced but transformed by technology.Engagement and feedbackA good example of Education 4.0 in practice is Unitu. Implemented at Swansea University, this online platform was initially developed with funding and support from a Jisc edtech competition. Using cloud-based software, Unitu is a digital forum; a space where students and staff can collectively raise and resolve both academic and more general issues.It has a discussion board with two areas. In the first area, students can ask questions and post ideas. Topics that attract enough comments and “likes” are moved into the second area, which is divided into three sections (open, in progress, and closed). Here, staff can interact with the discussion and work with students to resolve problems and develop ideas further.This multi-device student voice platform earned Swansea University the Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year 2019 accolade from the Times Higher Education Awards. It has been described as transformative, with users praising the way it challenges the cultural norms around feedback and changes staff and student views of how to engage with each other. The platform has also been instrumental in providing a voice for students who are often hard to reach, stimulating student-led debates on topics such as gender equality, and effective learning and assessment.Furthermore, Unitu has helped to increase Swansea’s National Student Survey (NSS) metrics, with improvements in the university’s Learning Community and Student Voice categories.Data and analyticsAnother emerging area in which technology supports education practice is data and analytics. Colleges and universities already have access to a huge range of data about their students and their estates and analysing this to support strategic planning is now common in the sector. Learning analytics are also being used extensively to help identify students at risk of failing a course, and to improve student outcomes more broadly.Curriculum analytics might be the next step, which is why Jisc is currently exploring ways of using data to improve institutions’ understanding of how students respond to different learning designs. Monitoring attendance or offering the opportunity to give feedback in real time, for instance, may give staff – who are often time-poor – a quick and concise review of what does or doesn’t work for different people.Beyond that, institutions may soon start to analyse and utilise physical data about campuses, for example by checking that the environment is supportive of the learning activity by monitoring temperature, air quality, noise or occupancy; and to explore data about assessment to personalise learning for individuals or groups of students.[#pullquote#]Integrating information from a range of different university sources [...] could offer significant improvements to the student experience – if handled with sensitivity and care[#endpullquote#]Integrating information from a range of different university sources, as well as from edtech services, could offer significant improvements to the student experience – if handled with sensitivity and care, managed in a way that is ethical, and driven by student needs. Balancing these aspects is likely to be one of the key challenges the sector faces over the next few years.The future of learningFor all its great potential, technology is a tool, not a solution. UK colleges and universities are led by human creativity, human innovation and human analysis. In that context, technology has a fantastic supporting role to play. As Industry 4.0 emerges (the fourth industrial revolution), it brings new needs, demands, possibilities and opportunities.[#pullquote#]For all its great potential, technology is a tool, not a solution. [#endpullquote#]By embracing technology and valuing human skills, Education 4.0 holds great promise to support teaching staff, deliver cost and time savings, enhance and transform the student experience, and provide connectivity for lifelong, flexible learning. When considering new ways to deliver positive experiences for students and staff in tertiary education, the future is tech-enhanced and always human-led.
  • For universities and colleges, survival depends on agility
    The world is changing - rapidly. Expectations of education are shifting. Requirements for learning are diversifying as people work longer, retire later, gain skills, re-skill, and up-skill. This places new demands on lifelong learning as professional lives grow more complex. Education will face multiple supply and demand challenges. Greater expectationsA survey carried out by Jisc in 2018-19 consisting of 37,000 students from both HE (62%) and FE (38%) showed that almost 70% of university students thought that digital skills would be significant for their chosen career path, but only 41% of them believed that their courses adequately prepared them for a digital workplace. Pearson's The Global Learner Survey (2019) surveyed 11,000 learners across 19 countries and highlighted the growth of learner-driven change - with demands for virtual learning, online degrees, micro and stackable credentials for adults, and on-demand learning.Similarly, Skills Development Scotland's Skills 4.0: A skills model to drive Scotland’s future (2018) emphasised lifelong learning, online learning, and more integrated use of digital learning within the mainstream curriculum, and also a gig economy fuelling demand for shorter ‘stacking’ courses, and increasing competition among course providers.A new mindsetBetween 2014 and 2018, my role involved managing postgraduate clinical education, working in a partnership between the University of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. I saw enormous growth in demand for new courses in varied formats, creating challenges for academics, managers, administrators and technical staff alike. Meeting that challenge required all of us to work together. [#pullquote#]A new mindset is reshaping education.[#endpullquote#]A new mindset is reshaping education. The 40-year career is gone and confidence in traditional educational institutions is wavering, with younger workers increasingly believing a degree is not essential. These people are open to alternative pathways, and they expect both digital and virtual learning.To prosper - to meet and to exceed expectations from industry, government, employers and employees alike - will require new management approaches that alter our operational structures and facilitate continuous change. Reaching beyond ‘business as usual’We must diversify beyond ‘business as usual’. To truly maximise the potential of digital innovation requires the perceptive management of human factors.[#pullquote#]Creative digital engagement needs effective operational management. [#endpullquote#]We will need to communicate, collaborate, and work in multi-skilled teams. Creative digital engagement needs effective operational management. Top-down project management approaches are just too slow. Moreover, taking any initiative out of ‘business as usual’ means that ‘culture as usual’ remains oblivious to change.It simply isn’t going to be fast enough or reactive enough. [#pullquote#]Transformation leaders must support change agents, orchestrators and, above all, teams. [#endpullquote#]Change needs grassroots-level responsiveness. Transformation leaders must support change agents, orchestrators and, above all, teams. Our focus must be on skills development, management development, culture shifts, incentives and customer engagement. Adopting an agile approachAgile is about continuous activity: learning, changing, and adapting. It’s a continuum of development in several iterations. It’s creative and exciting - and that shows in new and varied outputs.Teams must feel a sense of ownership, have an end-to-end view, and a stake in the development process - they’re key to delivering something of real value.[#pullquote#]But simply maintaining is no longer enough. Survival depends on agility. [#endpullquote#]In a sense, colleges and universities are victims of their own success, because when you do the same thing successfully for a very long time, it defines you. The structure of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees has become core to the operational status quo. But simply maintaining is no longer enough. Survival depends on agility.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 120px; width: 120px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Hazel Hynd is a researcher in business administration at Glasgow Caledonian University. Her Digifest presentation, Calling all agile leaders - education needs YOU! takes place at 10:30am on 11 March 2020. Registration for Digifest 2020 is now open and free for staff, students and researchers at members organisations.
  • Are we ready for AI?
    With our lives increasingly affected by artificial intelligence (AI), there's a need for a big conversation that reaches beyond technologists. I'm a huge science fiction fan – but I recognise it when I'm watching or reading it. The more I research artificial intelligence (AI), the more I'm concerned about the blurring of the line between fact and fiction.As an anthropologist, I find AI fascinating. That’s partly because it’s such a slippery term, treated differently in different contexts. To those who work in the field, it can mean a very specific, narrow tool. For the general public, it can mean many different things, not least the assumptions driven by science-fiction narratives.The press often hypes up even the most banal AI story and illustrates it with Terminator pictures, which gives the impression that AI has possibly malevolent capabilities already.On the other hand, I once took a taxi with a very chatty driver who asked me what I do. I replied that I work in AI and his response was ‘oh, artificial insemination’.[#pullquote#]But while we're being distracted by such narratives and misunderstandings, actual applications right now are potentially quite dangerous.[#endpullquote#]But while we're being distracted by such narratives and misunderstandings, actual applications right now are potentially quite dangerous.When we focus on big, scary futures and the robo-apocalypse, we’re not thinking about the big, scary present, the personal robot apocalypse and the less visible forms of AI that are already being implemented and are affecting people.Losing trustWe've seen the influence of AI on social media and democracy. Now we're seeing the problem of deep fakes, which will further erode trust.[#pullquote#]Issues of trust don’t just lie in deliberate manipulation. Unconscious bias is having some very specific demographic impacts. [#endpullquote#]But issues of trust don’t just lie in deliberate manipulation. Unconscious bias is also having some very specific demographic impacts. There’s the well-known example of people trying to use a soap dispenser that has a sensor which doesn't recognise their skin colour because the people who were building the technology weren't from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.Part of the problem is that the stereotypes about tech companies do hold true in a lot of instances: they're often white, male, of certain generations – and that can limit perspectives.While there is pushback against that, with more efforts to welcome people from different backgrounds - and while some larger tech companies have been good at forming connections with universities that have arts and humanities scholars - it's not always apparent how much they’re listened to. Sometimes, it’s simply ‘ethics washing’.Biased neutralityWhile unconscious bias is an issue, whether an algorithm can ever be fair or unbiased is a difficult question because our definition of fair and unbiased is, in itself, never unbiased.[#pullquote#]Absolutely everything that goes into an algorithm - every dataset, every formulation of the algorithm - comes with our assumptions.[#endpullquote#]You can say an algorithm is being neutral - but how do we define neutrality? Who gets to define what is a neutral response? Absolutely everything that goes into an algorithm - every dataset, every formulation of the algorithm - comes with our assumptions.Amazon ran a CV application app for human resources with AI in it and tried to make the application process gender neutral. But the dataset included successful applicants and those successful applicants tended to be men, who tended to do ‘hockey’ at university rather than ‘women's hockey’. So despite the process never asking if candidates were male or female, the unsuccessful candidates, who did women’s hockey, were more likely to have the word ‘women's’ in their CV and the algorithm picked up on this.It was biased because it was built on human presumptions that we'd already fed into the data without even knowing.AI in educationWith AI in education there’s a balance, as in almost any application of AI, between opportunities and risk.[#pullquote#]We're at a crisis stage of underfunding, where teachers are faced with classrooms of 30-plus children and not enough time[#endpullquote#]In the UK, the opportunity seems to be the personalisation of education. We're at a crisis stage of underfunding, where teachers are faced with classrooms of 30-plus children and not enough time to give dedicated personal attention to every single learner, who all have very different needs. It makes sense to do what is automatable in order to catch children's needs and requirements better.Meanwhile, some AI edtech companies, such as Squirrel AI in China, are focused on personalised pathways for education. In these products, the AI recognises each module that interests the student and then suggests the next module and the next. So the syllabus is less teacher-driven or even state-driven: it is a personalised syllabus.My concern is that to silo children's interests, based on them showing interest in one topic, could be detrimental. One of the wonderful things about schools and universities is the opportunities they offer to explore new subjects and find new areas of interest that you didn't know you could possibly even have.This kind of AI-based recommendation system can also go terribly wrong. Or it can just be poor technology.For example, on Amazon, the system sometimes recommends you buy similar things to something you’ve already bought … well, I don't want 20 rugs. I've just bought one rug so why would I still be looking at rugs?Voices in the roomThe answer to all of this is having a variety of voices in the room. You cannot leave it to one group of people because it will have impact on many different types of people: the integration of AI into our lives, day to day, is more than just a technological application.It's going to impact people's choices, their lives and the directions they take their lives in. It's not possible to reflect on that impact purely from a technological standpoint. That doesn't take on board the human element.[#pullquote#]We need anthropologists and social scientists, historians and people from the arts and humanities to be part of this conversation.[#endpullquote#]We need anthropologists and social scientists, historians and people from the arts and humanities to be part of this conversation.Speaking as an anthropologist, we’re particularly useful because we're so engaged with human communities and ideas. We can see some of the repercussions and see, in advance sometimes, when the knowledge isn't there in the technological sphere to say what this application will do in a community.That's not prediction. It's having a cultural understanding of interactions between humans that may not be immediately apparent in the application of technology.Time for the conversationWe know that humans are the creators of bias. We've relied on human judgment without AI for centuries and we know it’s flawed.But if we get enough humans into the conversation, we can try to find the least bad solution. We can stop blindly relying on the output of any algorithm and instead critique it, deal with AI’s black box issues, and ask how it came up with the decision that emerged.What are the elements in the data that have created this decision? If those elements are collectively decided to be bad in our current society and we don't want to see that bias, we should push back against the algorithmic decision, using critical thinking, cultural interactions and common sense.[#pullquote#]Are we ready for AI? We have to be: a lot of the applications are already here, embedded and having an impact on our society.[#endpullquote#]Are we ready for AI? We have to be: a lot of the applications are already here, embedded and having an impact on our society. So instead of asking that question, we've got to keep talking about it and making it visible when it's invisible.We have to engage the people who, like my taxi driver, don't even think about AI as a topic. We have to spread that conversation wider - and we're absolutely ready for. Beth Singler is a keynote speaker at Networkshop48, 15-17 April 2020. You can save 10% with our early bird discount if you book before 31 January 2020.
  • Three ways to combat peer review bias
    New peer review models show promising results but need careful consideration. Effective peer review is a key component of scholarly communication. It evaluates research through close scrutiny by experts and funders and journals rely on it to determine the robustness of research findings or grant proposals.While the peer review process continues to play a pivotal role in validating research results, it has also been widely criticised - it slows down the dissemination of research findings, sometimes fails to detect errors and studies suggest that it can introduce many types of bias.[#pullquote#]new ways of applying technology to the peer review process show promising results.[#endpullquote#]However, new and innovative open peer review models have been developed to address these issues and new ways of applying technology to the peer review process show promising results.Open peer reviewNew peer review models are winning ground, but it is important to examine the benefits and potential biases that newer open systems of peer review may introduce.[#pullquote#]New peer review models are winning ground, but it is important to examine the benefits and potential biases [#endpullquote#]The version of the open-access scholarly publishing platform F1000Research is an example of full open peer review. This model discloses the identity of authors and reviewers and manuscripts, reports and comments are all publicly available throughout the review process.To explore the extent of judgement bias in the F1000Research model, we have set up a joint project with the University of Wolverhampton and F1000 to test if reviewers would judge research papers differently if they can see who else has reviewed the paper and what they have fed back.Since reviewers can view and read other reviewer reports before submitting their own for the same article, there is the possibility that previous comments influence subsequent reviewers. However, we have found little evidence that this is the case.We also looked at whether a reviewer based in a specific country would assess the work of an author based in the same country more positively. We found a slight tendency for this. The most likely reason for this bias is that reviewers could be more likely to help or avoid problems with other researchers who they know.While the results of our study are tentative and would need to be compared with other peer review models, we hope that it will contribute to an evidence base to inform decisions on how open peer review could be best applied.Using AI to support the peer review processAnother way traditional peer review is challenged is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). In recent years there has been growing interest in making the peer review process more efficient and effective.[#pullquote#]Numerous initiatives have looked at how elements of the peer review process can be automated through AI. [#endpullquote#]Numerous initiatives have looked at how elements of the peer review process can be automated through AI. For example, there are now AI-based tools that can help identify inconsistent statistical test results, detect plagiarism or find appropriate reviewers.TripAdvisor algorithmOne aspect that can affect the effectiveness of peer review is the lack of consistency between reviewer comments and the overall recommendation.For example, if a reviewer provides a list of deficiencies and required improvements to the author of a manuscript and then recommends that the paper should be accepted for publication, or the reviewer is only positive about a research proposal and then recommends that it should not be funded.Working with the University of Wolverhampton, we have experimented with sentiment analysis of F1000Research open peer review reports to build PeerJudge - a tool which can detect positive and negative evaluations in reports.[#pullquote#]Sentiment analysis software can identify patterns in a text which are related to positive or negative words or phrases.[#endpullquote#]Sentiment analysis software can identify patterns in a text which are related to positive or negative words or phrases. Sentiment analysis has been widely used to automatically rate online user opinions about a product, such as comments left on TripAdvisor. Detecting judgements in peer review reports is a broadly similar exercise.Open peer review prediction toolIn the F1000Research open peer review model research articles are published after editorial checks but before peer review. The peer review reports are published alongside the article and when an article receives at least two reports with the overall rating of ‘approved’ it is submitted for scholarly indexing in bibliographic databases such as PubMed or Scopus.PeerJudge can help predict the overall reviewer decision and whether a paper will be ‘approved’, ‘approved with reservations’ or ‘not approved’.If further developed, the tool could be useful to notify reviewers that their peer review report and overall judgment are potentially inconsistent. It could help with journal reviewing consistency checks more generally, for example to compare different subsets such as between reviewers from different countries.[#pullquote#]Crucially, PeerJudge uses a transparent AI approach to detect judgments in the peer review reports. [#endpullquote#]It could also help with monitoring whether female authored articles in individual journals receive more critical evaluations. For example, recent research indicates that women in the field of economics are held to higher standards in peer review which might contribute to women publishing fewer papers. Crucially, PeerJudge uses a transparent AI approach to detect judgments in the peer review reports.The project also includes a briefing paper that gives an overview of recent developments in the automation of the peer review process (pdf) and discusses the opportunities for AI to support editors and reviewers. It also addresses some of the ethical challenges that arise with growing automation and the use of AI.The use of automation can support peer review in unexpected and promising ways but we need to tread carefully not to create unintended and potentially unwanted effects in the process.
  • It’s time to take state-sponsored cyber attackers seriously
    The volatile nature of geo-politics - particularly in the Middle East - means that as I write, it’s a difficult time to identify the existential threats of nation state cyber crime to our sector. And very tricky indeed to invest smartly and wisely to provide a balanced approach to cyber resilience.   There is much to be done. It’s clearly important that university executive leaders understand that their institutions are very much the target of nation state actors - especially those with high-grade intellectual property connected to research, and, of course, personal data that can be used to generate income for the state actors and the organised crime gangs with which they are often affiliated.Beware the dark webThese nefarious actors are often in parts of the world tucked safely away from law enforcement, but part of the nexus of nation state and organised cyber crime. In Russia for example, the state will pretty much turn a blind eye to organised cyber crime gangs – so long as they do not touch the state apparatus.[#pullquote#]"some nation states allow their cyber actors to generate income by stealing data and selling it on the dark web to self-fund their own criminal machinery" [#endpullquote#]What’s more, some nation states allow their cyber actors to generate income by stealing data and selling it on the dark web to self-fund their own criminal machinery. It really is an industry out there – an industry that allows people on the dark web to connect with cyber-brokers who will offer anything from a simple hack, to a denial of service operation, to targeted brute force attacks. All for payment, of course.Researchers are targetsOver the past couple of years, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has publicly warned of several such incidents involving Russia, North Korea and most recently Iran, which targeted university researchers, but we can expect more.In September, the NCSC’s first report on the cyber threat to UK universities specifically mentioned state-sponsored attacks where espionage is likely to cause greater long-term harm. This could lead to damage to the value of research, notably in STEM subjects, a fall in investment by public or private sector in affected universities, and damage to the UK’s knowledge advantage.[#pullquote#]Britain has seen multiple probing attempts on its critical infrastructure from nation states[#endpullquote#]What this shows us is that the threats are global and highly capable. It’s not been widely reported, but Iran has come under considerable attack over the last six months and the US has seen attacks on infrastructure to the extent where a state of emergency was called in New Orleans in December 2019. Also, Britain has seen multiple probing attempts on its critical infrastructure from nation states.Criminals are watching and waitingBefore I joined Brunel University as chief security information officer, I worked in counter-intelligence. One of my roles in defence intelligence was what was known as Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB).[#pullquote#]We have to be familiar with [criminals'] tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) [#endpullquote#]Nowadays, I’m more interested in what other adversaries are doing in the intelligence preparation of cyberspace – IPCS. This is where the adversary is plumbing into our networks and routers, persistently gathering intelligence, waiting for the point in time when they can trigger a specific action to achieve an effect, conduct an exfiltration, or worse, a complete denial of service through ransomware or similar. So, we have to be familiar with their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).Most of my counter-terrorist and bomb disposal work operated with the same doctrine as we use today to counter cyber crime.The 'kill chain’ is a term used within cyber defence to explain the varying phases of attack, from reconnaissance, deploying the payload, right through to executing the bomb or ‘cyber bomb’. Defenders seek to exploit the phases to predict, detect, mitigate, and contain attacks.Intelligence is keySuccessful defence is heavily reliant upon up-to-date cyber intelligence. This allows cyber analysts to recognise what TTPs might be in play and counter the range of attacks and indicators of compromise (IOC) in an effective manner to initially contain the threat, mitigate it and then exploit the intelligence from the threat once forensic analysis has taken place.It’s a game of cat and mouse. The adversary continues to develop new TTPs, and the defender has to play catch-up, or learn from similar attacks or IOCs across other sectors. This is an area Brunel’s cyber security operations centre (CSOC) is moving into.  [#pullquote#]Universities must also care about protecting intellectual property, commercial interests, the privacy of people, and the personal data they all hold[#endpullquote#]All universities need to care that they are a target, that they are being probed and infiltrated. Universities must also care about protecting intellectual property, commercial interests, the privacy of people and the personal data they all hold. Certainly, the adversary cares. A lot.They want to steal our data, disrupt our services when it suits them, use us as a piggyback to infiltrate other sectors and they want to embed hidden and quiet command and control nodes that wake up and collect intelligence or execute an action.It’s here, it’s real, and they’re probably already doing this in your organisations.  Know how to build defencesOrganisations need to invest and future-proof their defensive and detection capabilities – to identify threats, to collect attack and actionable intelligence, and to contain threats.  It’s quite a tricky game to navigate in terms of using smart investment that is intelligence led, risk-based and therefore quite balanced against the business posture of the organisation. It most certainly requires smart and agile thinking, a strategic roadmap to optimise defences and executive-level thought leadership.  Secure support from the boardOne of the most crucial elements is to warn and inform the executive on the enduring threats their business and institution faces.Regular threat bulletins for the executive board, risk dashboards, and vulnerability notes tailored to your institutional risk appetite can have a remarkable effect. [#pullquote#]Often, it’s hard for the cyber practitioners to influence the top-level of leadership, but it’s crucial to break through the divide[#endpullquote#]Often, it’s hard for the cyber practitioners to influence the top-level of leadership, but it’s crucial to break through the divide and secure the executives’ buy-in. Try to be the critical friend of the board, which helps to develop trust and ensure they listen to advice that fits with and best defends the business.  Once you’ve got senior leader buy-in, it’s much easier to secure investment for the kind of activity required to build good defences.One of the most valuable activities is to conduct a professional simulated attack exercise. This is best achieved using a well-regarded and competent third party which can accurately simulate the current attack trends and methods.  Learn the value of simulated attacksThe value of this approach is astonishing as it will highlight all weaknesses across the kill chain. Conducted regularly, such exercises will identify the defensive gaps that need to be closed and inform the strategy for capability building in the infrastructure and instrumentation needed to maximise cyber-resilience.   You also get great bang for your buck through what we call blue and red team exercises - simulated cyber attacks that divide your staff into defenders (blues), and attackers (reds) in scenarios which could include an attack on a research data receptacle.   Beyond that, it’s back to sound risk management and IT hygiene. Establishing cyber controls is vital, along with regular auditing, maintaining patching and penetration testing regimes and implementing a governance regime such as BS 31111 or ISO 27001.Importantly, we need to develop close relationships with researchers to help and support them in understanding the threat and the ways that their data could be stolen.  [#pullquote#]Know your enemy, prepare your defences, rehearse your responses, and train hard, fight easy [#endpullquote#]I can only really finish with an old adage that was driven into me as a counter IED2 and intelligence specialist; know your enemy, prepare your defences, rehearse your responses, and train hard, fight easy. Meaning exercise, exercise, and exercise some more so you are confident you can resolve the incident and can conduct consequence management effectively.  Want to know more? Read more useful information on cyber security. 
  • Looking after your own, and others’, digital wellbeing
    Digital technologies have brought great opportunities: new methods of communication, different ways to connect with others, and easy access to information. In this blog, I explore how to manage the negative side of digital interactions. According to Ofcom data, the average adult spends more than 22 hours online per week and our mobile phones have become integral to everyday life, with 51% of adults indicating that they would miss their mobile phones the most out of all their devices.[#pullquote#]the average adult spends more than 22 hours online per week[#endpullquote#]Living in a digital worldWith the positives that digital technologies present also come negatives:53% of internet users encountered hateful content online in the past year"Gaming disorder" was identified as a mental health issue by the World Health Organisation in 2018The NHS opened its first specialist gaming addiction clinic in 2019With digital technologies becoming ubiquitous with modern work, education and entertainment, it is increasingly important to identify strategies that promote positive digital wellbeing.Exploring digital wellbeingI first got interested in exploring the various facets of digital wellbeing back in 2016,  initially due to a personal need to address digital interactions that were causing me stress and anxiety.However, I soon realised that digital wellbeing couldn’t be explored just from a personal perspective; our wellbeing is impacted by our interactions with others, how we connect with broader society and the underlying design principles of the apps and platforms that we interact with.[#pullquote#]our wellbeing is impacted by our interactions with others, how we connect with broader society and the underlying design principles of the apps and platforms that we interact with[#endpullquote#]I used this definition of digital wellbeing, which has emerged from Jisc's building digital capability work, as a basis for my investigations. It picks up on the need to explore this topic from a broad range of perspectives. It’s important to reflect on personal behaviours, understand our responsibilities as employers and educators, and to identify broader societal and environmental perspectives. As part of my explorations of digital wellbeing, I worked with colleagues from across the University of York. I encountered academics from a range of disciplines, whose research included the use of technologies to treat anxiety, gamification to encourage civic engagement and behaviour change, and the impact of data and metrics on democracy. What was clear from my interactions with the researchers was that digital wellbeing is a complex and multifaceted topic.  I think Lina Gega summed it up best when she said:“When it comes to mental wellbeing and mental health, digital media is like a gust of air; it can fuel as much as blow out a fire.”Personal digital wellbeingAs identified in the aforementioned definition of digital wellbeing, from an individual perspective the first steps towards improvement is to identify the positive and negative impacts of digital interactions on emotions and relationships. We need to understand our habits and what works for us.[#pullquote#]the first steps towards improvement is to identify the positive and negative impacts of digital interactions on emotions and relationships[#endpullquote#]While I was reflecting on my own digital wellbeing I drew on techniques from positive psychology. I found useful ideas for change on Action for Happiness and used Martin Seligman's PERMA Model (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishments) to reflect on my digital interactions.The bad habits that I identified were my tendency to check work emails in the evening and in social situations and work on documents and presentations outside of working hours. For example, I once wrote a presentation on my phone while out for a birthday meal with my husband. I was ‘always on’ and often felt anxious and resentful that work was permeating all areas of my life.From recognising my own habits and reflecting on which activities caused positive and negative emotions, I indentified some positive steps I could make to change my behaviours and manage digital distractions. One of the most simple but effective changes was turning off alerts on my phone to combat my tendency to check email outside work.My colleagues and I have shared our learning, the research from academics on digital wellbeing and our own reflections in a free digital wellbeing online course. We have included information about broader societal perspectives and technological design principles to enable staff and students to make informed decisions about the technologies they adopt. There is guidance on how to deal with digital distractions, combating cyberbullying and how to implement ethical universal design principles so learners can improve their digital wellbeing.Staff and student digital wellbeingJisc identified some areas to consider when supporting other people’s digital wellbeing in two sets of briefing papers launched before Christmas. As a sector, we need to think about the inclusivity and accessibility of our services and systems and we must enable our staff and students to develop the skills and understandings to effectively manage the impact of digital technologies on wellbeing.[#pullquote#]There is no one-size-fits-all; instead, it’s better to reflect on the impact that digital technologies have on our emotional and physical wellbeing, to enable us to make positive changes[#endpullquote#]From our work on this at York, we have found it important to avoid being too prescriptive in any guidance to promote positive digital wellbeing. There is no one-size-fits-all; instead, it’s better to reflect on the impact that digital technologies have on our emotional and physical wellbeing, to enable us to make positive changes that will improve our own and others' relationships with technology.[[{"fid":"10218","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"},"link_text":null,"type":"media","field_deltas":{"1":{"format":"default","field_additional_information[und][0][value]":"","field_rights_owner[und][0][value]":"","field_resource_home[und][0][value]":"","field_other_license[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"Digifest 2020 logo"}},"attributes":{"alt":"Digifest 2020 logo","height":300,"width":300,"style":"height: 120px; width: 120px;","class":"media-element media--right file-default","data-delta":"1"}}]]Susan will be hosting a session on 'becoming a digital citizen: research, opinion and fairytales’. at Digifest 2020, which takes place in Birmingham on 10-11 March 2020.  Book your place to hear this, and a host of other sessions, workshops and experiences. Tickets are free for Jisc member institutions.