Adopting a New Style of Project Management and Initiation

Graham Francis
Director of Continuous Improvement
Havering Sixth Form College

A Continuous Improvement Approach

Introduction

If you search for “Why do projects fail?” you will find all sorts of reasons for their demise but running throughout the results is a ‘lack of communication’, a ‘lack of detailed planning’ and ‘scope creep’.  Each of these has the ability to bring any project to the point of failure in a very short space of time.  To combat this Havering Sixth Form College (HSFC) has altered its project management process in an effort to prevent this.

Like many establishments, HSFC had experienced projects which failed to achieve the intended result due to poor preparation and implementation.  Projects would be poorly defined with no one person really understanding what the final outcome of the project was (due to a lack of communication) to be.

Projects would often drift aimlessly due to a lack of planning or continue beyond their anticipated completion date due to poor management (and a lack of detailed planning).  Even worse the requirements of the project would often be changed without any due process (resulting in project creep).  In order to combat this, the College has developed a methodology with clearly defined steps, prescribed documentation and a series of systematic reviews to ensure that each project is managed with the aim of being completed on time, on budget and is as required.

Plan-Do-Check-Act

To support this process the College introduced the role of Director of Continuous Improvement and adapted an approach to Continuous Improvement based on the ‘Deming Cycle’.  Deming describes the cycle as an iterative process consisting of four-parts Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA).  This process has been used to support ‘Total Quality Management’ and has been used with great success within the production process of Toyota.

Early efforts to embrace these principles often appeared quite primitive.  In order to visualise the progress of each projects, a ‘Kanban’ board approach was adopted.  Initially, this contained four columns Waiting, Definition, Production and Evaluation.  Which loosely mapped to the four stages of the Deming Cycle.  With the exception of Waiting, each section was further subdivided into three further columns, To Do, In Progress and Done.  Sticky Notes were used to monitor projects but these would often get knocked off or dry out and fall off and had to be repositioned when this occurred.

 

 

 

 

 

This early image of the ‘board’ shows a number of projects at the ‘Waiting’ stage.  At this stage the project is nothing more than an idea such as Increase Storage Infrastructure capacity or Asset Management.  During this stage, an initial exploration of the idea is explored to ascertain if it is viable and what budget the project might require.  To support this process, budget remains unallocated from a central ‘pot’ until the project has passed the next stage of Definition.

In the next blog, we will explore what takes place during the Definition stage and what documentation has been developed to support this.

A presentation on this subject, originally presented at the UCISA London Group meeting in September 2017, can be found here 

The USICA London group provides a forum for London institutions to meet, to identify and share best practice and to identify opportunities for collaboration and potential shared services.

UCISA and the London Metropolitan Network are working in partnership to create a UCISA London regional group which will take up and extend LMN’s London-based activities, including local opportunities for training, professional development and peer exchange and advice on strategies for the best use of scarce resources – including new or existing shared services – in order to provide exemplary IT services for staff and students.

Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)

 

 

Sara Henderson
Graduate Intern (Student Champion),
Student Systems Project (Corporate Information and Computer Services)
University of Sheffield

UCISA SSG17: Reflections from a bursary scheme winner

This is the moment of truth.  I take to the stage to speak on my first ever conference panel session, an extremely popular fixture at UCISA-SSG .  As I meet my fellow panellists, I’m half-waiting for someone to yell “INTRUDER” and haul me off the stage, but before I know it my name flashes up on the screen and all eyes are on us.

The questions roll in, some wackier than others, and I do my best to answer them honestly, but with many falling outside of my remit, I find it difficult to feel completely at ease.  I’m in the strange position of being a recent student and new staff member, meaning I have a slightly diluted experience of both roles.

Nevertheless, the panel really coloured my reflections of the conference and beyond.  It also tied together some themes which came out of the week – that people come before technology, services need to be user-focused and the tech industry ought to be a collaborative space.

To borrow Francesca Spencer’s poignant acronym DISC (Dave, Ian, Steve and Chris), alluding to the lack of diversity in IT (which she affectionately Room 101-ed), it was difficult not to contemplate this reality as the only woman panel member at a conference of mostly men.  This is not to bash the conference or its attendees, but simply to acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do.

So if you’re yet to be a believer in the power of diversifying IT, let’s call this my manifesto.

  1. It’s good for business

Beyond a moral impetus, crudely speaking, a diverse team is a more effective one.  Looking at the demography of the industry, we are only making use of a limited cross-section of society within our teams, leading to a major skill-shortage despite growing demand.  So – diversify, or get left behind.

  1. Challenge is good

A homogenous group is less likely to be critical of each other because of their shared experiences. Imagine asking two identical job candidates to critique each other – it would be a bit like playing spot the difference.  But by broadening your team’s demography, you embed the opportunity for challenge in its make-up.  The right kind of challenge drives success.

  1. Stop! in the name of users

Perhaps you’re with me so far, and you’re wondering “what does this have to do with me and my team’s work”?  But there is another, more nuanced point to be made for the case of diversity within IT, regarding the diversity of users’ experiences with technology.  Asking an IT expert about an IT question is going to get you a professional answer.  But asking a “layman” might get you a more interesting one. Take the example of me sitting onstage at the panel session and feeling like an imposter – maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to have someone there who was agnostic to the cause.

  1. Students know what they want (and they’re not afraid to say it)

 That the panel got such a positive and enthusiastic reception is just a reminder of how keen university staff are to hear the “student voice”.  So if you’re aching to hear how to provide the best support services to students – just ask them!  You can only ‘put yourself in their shoes’ so many times before you hit a dead end, and it’s dangerous to make assumptions.  As Kerry Pinny so passionately expressed, there is no such thing as a digital native: being a millennial doesn’t mean you come out of the womb holding an iPhone, and students have a diverse range of experiences to offer you.  So maybe I wasn’t the best user for that panel, or maybe there isn’t such a thing.

Follow me on LinkedIn

(Presentations and video catalogue are available on the conference website)

(Further information on Sheffield’s Graduate internship scheme, can be found at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/recruitment/graduateinternship)

 

Part 1: Fresh meat and learning about user involvement

 

 

Sara Henderson
Graduate Intern (Student Champion),
Student Systems Project (Corporate Information and Computer Services)
University of Sheffield

 

 

UCISA SSG17: Reflections from a bursary scheme winner

I should start by introducing myself.  I’m Sara and I work as Student Engagement Officer on a major business change project at the University of Sheffield.  I began in January on the University’s Graduate Internship Scheme, before being extended in my role.  A colleague encouraged me to apply to UCISA’s bursary scheme as a junior member of staff, so that I did.

I am interested in technology but motivated by people, so SSG17 presented the perfect opportunity to learn from others in the sector and gain a wider perspective on the work I’m doing.  Now that’s out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.  I present to you my diary (of sorts) from the conference, showcasing some of my thoughts and favourite moments.

Day 1

11:30am

Fuelled by coffee and adrenaline, I find myself in the conference exhibition space, perusing the exhibition but avoiding eye contact.  I glance around the room to see pockets of conversation forming; for some this is an opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, whereas the rest of us are fresh meat.

13:10pm

Neil Morris from the University of Leeds captures the delegates’ imagination with his presentation ‘Reimagining Traditional Higher Education in the Digital Age’ , focused on how to embed technology-enhanced learning in partnership with students.  “We don’t involve students in projects, we don’t seek their feedback in ways they are interested in giving it, or make use of their intelligence and creativity”.

Neil’s talk affirms why I wanted to come to this conference, challenging the status so often assigned to students – as being passive receivers of knowledge and services, rather than intelligent consumers.  We ought to be involving students in project work, fundamentally and authentically.

15:50pm

Room 101 proves a fantastic way to end the first day, with an all-female panel and some very funny moments.  Did someone say Apple Genius Bar?

11:20am

The day kicks off to an unnerving start when I find out that the panel I am shortly appearing on is one of the most popular sessions of the conference.  To find out more about my experience, head over to my second post – ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’.

12:20pm

Now for perhaps my favourite talk of the conference: ‘Technophobe Testing’ by Francesca Spencer (Leeds Beckett University).  The basic premise is that in IT of all places, we ought to be involving technophobes, because they can actually be a help rather than a hindrance to our work.  Francesca had the brainwave of recruiting some self-confessed technophobes, and observing their use of AV equipment in a judgement-free zone to determine how to make it more user-friendly.  We need to embed our users in the process of implementing technology (before it’s too late).

Day 3

9:00am

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to climb down from my pedestal during breakfast, on what is affectionately known as “fuzzy Friday”. Unlike some of the conference-goers making a beeline for a fry-up, I opted to for a sensible night in after a case of conference-fatigue…

12:30pm

Paul Boag closes SSG17 by informing us ‘How to Create a User Experience Revolution’ .  His insistence that “if you don’t speak to your users once every six weeks, you don’t get to be a stakeholder in a project” certainly rung true, and he comfortably drew together some key themes from the conference, about collaborative working, establishing shared values and cultural change.

So there we have it – my experience in a nutshell.  Thank you to UCISA for having me, and if you want to hear more from me, head over to my second post ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’, or follow me on LinkedIn:

(Presentations and video streaming available at the conference website)

EUNIS 2017 Day 1 Digital Insights

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

 

So, day 1 of EUNIS 2017 in Münster and I packed a lot into a very busy but great day!!
It started with a brisk walk from my hotel to the University of Münster campus, made all the brisker through a slight error of direction on my part. No problem, I just got to see a little more of this beautiful city than I’d bargained for at that time of the morning. That said, it was worth reminding myself to be mindful not to get run over by the hundreds of cyclists whizzing around in “the wrong direction”

 

 

 

 

Opening addresses

Following an early registration session we were straight into the programme at 9AM with the conference’s opening addresses  from Professor Johannes Wessels, the Rector here at University of Münster, EUNIS President Ilkka Siissalo and Dr. Raimund Vogl, the IT Director and CIO at University of Münster.

Prof. Wessels set the scene nicely for those of us unfamiliar with Münster. The university, he tells us, has 45,000 students and approaching 8,000 staff! That’s a bit bigger than I’m used to at Leeds Beckett (for reference we suggest we have approximately 30,000 students and 3,200 staff). The University of Münster has a not unsubstantial €610M budget, 15 departments and 238 buildings which make the their claim of “The City is our Campus” seem not far off the mark. See the campus map

Ilkka Siissalo is the CIO at Helsinki University as well as current EUNIS President and made reference to the state of a growing EUNIS community. He also identified upcoming EUNIS events including two analytics workshops  in Lisbon this December and a Rectors conference due to take place in Porto next spring.

Dr. Vogl opened his address with a look at the University of Münster’s IT Governance which has been in place in some form since the 1990s. A diagram of this can be found below:

 

 

 

 

 

Key points of the IT Governance structure are that:

  • The IT commission acts as a parliamentary institution (a larger body with members nominated by the senate of the university). It also allows them to obtain wider feedback inclusive of the student point of view.
  • IT steering decisions are formed within the IT Board which previously acted effectively as a commission CIO but;
  • A CIO position was recently created and subsequently filled by Dr. Vogl alongside his position as IT Director.

 

Keynote 1: NMC’s Higher Education Horizon

Eden Dahlstrom – Executive Director at the New Media Consortium 

Eden offered some very interesting insights into the findings within the ‘NMC Horizon Report’ detailing the developments, trends, challenges and anticipated time to adoption of technologies within higher education over the next 5+ years. The report can be found here with additional related resources here.

 

 

 

 

 

I suspect we all recognise that actively making change within organisations can be very difficult. Eden referenced a quote by Dr Peter F. Drucker which seemed only too fitting:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Get the attitudes and everyday principles right and the intended changes can become easier.

No paper available

Keynote 2: Digital Humanities 

Dr. Torsten Hiltmann – Associate Professor at the Institute for Medieval History, Münster University

I understand that this was a late addition to the EUNIS 17 agenda  but you wouldn’t have recognised it, Dr. Hiltmann certainly proved that he knows his area of specialism well. Now, Digital Humanities  or Digitale Geisteswissenschaften as I believe the locals call it is new to me but I certainly feel like I came away from this Keynote having learnt something.

Digital Humanities is “the use of computer-based tools and methods to answer existing questions to elaborate new questions in the domain of Humanities”. It is believed to have all started as far back as 1949 with data being transferred onto punch cards before making the transition onto magnetic tapes in 1955. Prior to the digitisation of information, projects had to be digitised in order to be able to be processed. Now, however a large portion of material is already accessible in a digitised form and thus making it much easier, quicker and more efficient to use.

Dr. Hiltmann went on to cover the importance of some of the methods in Digital Humanities with reference to mediaeval coats of arms. Understanding that there were over 1 million different coats of arms in the Middle Ages, it’s important to recognise and understand the differences. Dr. Hiltmann very knowledgeably broke down the anatomy of a coat of arms and identified the importance of a standard to describe them.

 

 

 

 

 

No paper available

Parallel Session 1: Leadership & Management – Building a Digital Roadmap for Greater Engagement and Success

Chris Bridge – ITS Director Queensland University of Technology 

This was quite literally a standing room only session…

 

 

 

 

 

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is another substantial university by students and staff numbers with over 47,000 students and nearly 13,000 staff and in 2013 its IT strategy had expired. Chris informs us that there was an appetite for change, having recognised a shift in the sector and QUT took a new strategic approach to digital leadership.

QUT positions itself at the forefront of technology and innovation and identified that it needed to be agile in order to respond effectively to new challenges. It was therefore decided to build a new Digital Roadmap to ensure its competitiveness in the HE market. Their Digital Roadmap focused on three key areas; Students, learning and teaching; Research and innovation; People, culture and sustainability.

Chris referenced that the successes of the Digital Roadmap have been the improved alignment between IT investments and business strategy, funding now better balanced between innovation, strategy and BAU also common and well understood business language has been adopted across the roadmap in place of technical language ensuring that all parties understand it clearly.

A link to Chris’ “Building a Digital Roadmap for Greater Engagement and Success” paper can be found here. 

Parallel Session 1: Leadership & Management – Digitalization of Higher Education from a Student’s Point of View 

Anne Thoring – Centre for Information Processing, University of Münster

Anne and colleagues at the University of Münster have undertaken qualitative interviews with small groups of students to gather information on service requirements. The 3 categories identified as priorities for students related to IT were: study organisation, online literature and software provision.

Interestingly (although potentially not too surprisingly), findings from the interviews identified that students’ most important requirements from IT solutions are that they offer integration and standardisation with existing university services. Additionally, students identified that IT Services should simply enable them to focus on their studies and ensure that relevant resources are easily accessible. The study also asked students to rate services and systems such as Münster’s e-learning platform, exam administration system and 3rd party provided cloud based services https://www.oclc.org/en/news/releases/2017/201701oberhaching.html on a positive, neutral or negative scale whilst allowing them to pass additional comments.  It became clear that students are keen for IT departments to utilise services such as those available from Microsoft and Google as opposed to bespoke in-house offerings. The overall findings though allowed Anne and colleagues to make an assessment that students are taking a more pragmatic view on digitisation developments than has been suggested by a range of professional parties.

 

 

 

 

 

A link to Anne’s “Digitalization of Higher Education from a Student’s Point of View” paper can be found here.

Parallel Session 1: Leadership & Management – Essential IT capabilities for a Successful Digital Transformation in Higher Education 

Pekka Kahkipuro – Chief Information Officer at Brunel University London

In order to successfully complete a digital transformation in HE, Pekka proposes a 3 layered capability model for structuring the required IT capabilities.

  • Basic capabilities – current best practices in traditional IT form the foundation for digital transformation.
  • Standard capabilities – needed to maintain competition with other HE peers.
  • Advanced capabilities – institutions looking at using digital business as competitive advantage.

Pekka illustrated the typical IT function using Gartner’s “Four Futures of IT Organisations” model as below and recognised that whilst undoubtedly we work within all four quadrants, we commonly focus more regularly within the bottom left “Engine room” as in Figure 2. In here we are too commonly internally focused around operational activities (BAU) and in order to successfully complete a digital transformation it is important to look outside of this quadrant (Figure 3).

 

 

 

 

 

Digital transformation provides different options for different institutions and so, no two implementations will be the same. At the advanced capabilities level however is where the main differentiation will occur. These may be related to elements of the institution and not simply IT but if you get it right here you can maximise the competitive benefit.

A link to Pekka’s award nominated “Essential IT capabilities for a successful digital transformation in Higher Education” paper can be found here

Parallel Session 2: ICT Infrastructure & Security – Achieving a Trust Relationship Model in eduroam – The Case of an RadSec Pilot Implementation in Portuguese Higher Education Institutions 

Pedro Simoes – FCCN, Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT)

Now it would be very fair to say that this was a technical session!! Not one my expertise are specifically aligned with, however I thought it would be useful to learn more. In truth, this may have been a technical step too far for me… read the paper linked below if you don’t believe me, Pedro knows his stuff

 

 

 

 

 

Eduroam  originated as a service in 2002 and spread rapidly across 85 countries allowing students, researchers and educational staff free, secure wireless access at any participating institutions. Pedro and colleagues have been piloting RadSec (Secure RADIUS)  in Eduroam.pt amongst a subset of Portuguese institutions. They have taken a heterogeneous approach across the piloting institutions as a model for best practice for adoption nationally. Alongside this they’ve also been trialling Radiator, FreeRadius  and RadSecProxy  for authentication.

To really get to the depths of the study without the limitations of my understanding I would recommend checking out the paper as below.

A link to Pedro’s “Achieving a trust relationship model in Eduroam – the case of an RadSec pilot implementation in Portuguese Higher Education Institutions” paper can be found here.

Parallel Session 2: ICT Infrastructure & Security – Device Specific Credentials to Protect from Identity Theft in Eduroam 

Bernd Decker – RWTH Aachen University

As I always seem to personally be interested on the scale of an institution, here is RWTH Aachen University by numbers:

  • Approximately 45,000 students
  • Approximately 8,500 international students
  • Approximately 9,000 staff
  • Approximately 540 professors
  • 9 faculties offering 152 courses

This study was initiated due to the threat / possibility of Eduroam credentials being retrieved by a man in the middle attack. Mobile devices were identified as particularly vulnerable due to them persistently trying to find known WLANs and with the ever increasing growth of the Eduroam userbase combined with the fact that account passwords are too commonly used for non-university accounts, it was deemed a valid objective at RWTH Aachen University.

A web app was developed that allowed students and staff to create unique device based credentials. It was highlighted though that the drawbacks of this, whilst more secure, would require a uniquely generated username and password to be applied at the point of connection to the Eduroam service. This method allows devices to be granted/declined access to Eduroam and through a web interface, devices/location/time logs could be accessed for the last 14 days connections where it was possible to revoke access.

 

 

 

 

 

This was certainly a new method of Eduroam connection to me and whilst the security aspect was certainly improved, it left me with concerns (rightly identified by Bernd) that it was not intuitive and that students/staff would find it complicated to configure. It is certainly one for the security vs usability debate and whilst I, as a techie may come down on the secure side of the argument, being pragmatic I suspect it might be a tough sell to students, staff etc.

A link to Bernd’s “Device specific credentials to protect from identity theft in Eduroam” paper can be found here.

Parallel Session 3: Parallel Session 3: Sponsor Track – Panopto: Using Video to Enhance Informal, Formal and Blended learning approaches 

Denis Staskewitsch – Area Sales Manager DACH, Panopto

Adrien Bourg – Account Executive at Panopto 

The focus of this workshop was on the use of video with Panopto when used as a capture tool to enhance the formal, informal and blended learning approaches in HE. The session was low on attendees but this allowed for greater interaction between those of us that were present. At this session, and indeed as it has felt throughout the conference so far, I was one of a few representing institutions from the UK. Scandinavian institutions seem to be here at EUNIS17 in quite some number and this was evidenced by 75% of those at the session representing institutions from Norway and Finland.

Video is becoming a standard which our students are expecting or even demanding. Within the next 3 years, 80% of all internet traffic will be video content online. YouTube as an online social video sharing platform now has more than 1 billion users and over 300 hours of video content being uploaded to it every minute. To scale Panopto, it hosts more than 2 million videos within their cloud offering and actively streams more than 100 years’ worth of video every month. They also serve more than 5 million end-users all around the globe. This is clearly a growing market and not one that we within HE should sidestep.

Panopto have conducted a poll which identified over 90% of its users use the service to enhance their overall student experience. They recognise that it enables them to engage with distance learners (43%) and also see it as a tool to help increase student recruitment and retention (33%). Given how students use the service, it was also recognised by nearly 50% that it helps them improve their grades and can be used to train staff and enhance CPD (24%).

A breakdown of how it is being used in universities offers some interesting insights:

 

 

 

 

When students were surveyed regarding those views on technology to enhance their learning, 89% agreed that technology helps them improve their ability to learn. 75% had used an online platform such as YouTube or Vimeo to learn a new skills. Another interesting finding was that students felt almost in equal measure, that a formal and informal mix of learning approaches was most desirable:

 

 

 

I certainly see the use of video for educational delivery, whether via a lecture capture service alone or complimented by other means, continuing to grow and given some of the findings discussed, HE institutions would be wise to invest and reap the multitude of benefits.

No paper available

Parallel Session 3: Sponsor Track – Inspera: Digital Assessment in Norway – A Case Study from the University of Bergen 

Sofie Emmertsen – Executive Education Consultant, Inspera 

So, as it turned out I didn’t know a hell of a lot about digital assessments, at least not on the scale that seems to be commonplace across Scandinavian HE institutions. Sofie referenced that there are currently very few UK HE institutions that have taken up the digital assessment offerings from Inspera or any of their competitors. That said, I was advised that fellow EUNIS17 speaker Pekka Kahkipuro has encouraged / supported the adoption as CIO at Brunel University in London.

A case study of the University of Oslo in Norway referenced that 6,000 students sat digital assessments in 2014. This figure rose to 45,000 in 2017. It is certainly a fast growing market within the HE sector.

What are the benefits??

  • Markers and moderators have fast and secure access to all submissions
  • Reviewers and externals can be easily included in the assessment process
  • Markers can offer better feedback
  • Students use a media that they are used to during assessment exams
  • Student satisfaction is increased
  • Administrative work hours are reduced
  • Management have better control and insight into the assessment process

The University of Bergen, faculty of Maths and Science have gone from 48% of assessment digitised over 7 disciplines in 2015 to 55% of the assessments digitised over 35 disciplines in 2016. They also have the aim to have 100% of assessments digitised by the end of 2017. Bergen are seeing very swift movement in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biology whilst the Department of Maths are slower to take up the digital assessments. This in part was referenced as being due to the mathematical workings being commonly made by hand on paper and requiring of inclusion within the assessment. So, there are some limitations/challenges (namely those in red below) but please note the faculty strategy to overcome them below:

 

 

 

No paper available

 

 

Keynote 3: Digital Campus Management and Student Information Systems – A Customer’s Perspective 

Dr. Malcolm Woodfield – Global Vice President and Head of the Higher Education and Research Industry at SAP

Björn Kemmoona – Director of Marlin Consulting

Eva Mundanjohl – Head of the Department for Academic and Student Affairs, University of Münster

Unfortunately, I was tied up in conversations with other conference delegates and so did not make it to this session however, a summary of what was covered is outlined here.

Keynote 4: Maximizing Productivity and Learning Time – Fundamentals and Requirements in the Usage of AV Technology 

Frank Boshoven – Sales and Key Account Manager at the Crestron (Germany) & Crestron EMEA Education Program Manager

Now, I had wondered if Frank was coming to sell us a particular brand of kitchen appliance but it turns out he’s a bit of an AV evangelist so I quickly got over that and focussed on his keynote… Sorry, getting the obvious jokes out of the way first.

Frank started out in the AV business back in 1982 as an R/F technician but subsequently moved into sales. Crestron are big players in the AV market and with their headquarters in New Jersey and a range of global offices in over 90 other countries. As a company they were established in 1969, and now employ over 4,000 staff and have had the same management team for 40 years. Frank went on to offer us a journey through Crestron’s innovative company history. Since the first graphical programming language and colour touchscreen control panels were introduced in the early ’90s, through with the integration with PDAs, tablets and computers in the early ’00s and more recently the distribution of scaling of 4K/60 content.

Crestron have taken on the challenge of combining different manufacturers products and platforms into a centralised AV management solution. Crestron Fusion  is intended to maximise productivity and reduce overall costs through remote monitoring and management and control of all classroom AV technology. Live data feeds into Fusion allow relevant parties to identify room occupancy and through appropriate power management seek to offer maximum energy-efficiency / environmental gains.

A typical installation in a lecture theatre was suggested to consist of more than 30 power supplies, a multitude of connections and the requirement for time and effort to be spent programming devices. It was referenced that this places unnecessary expense on the business. Standardisation in hardware and configuration is the way forward to obtain maximum efficiency and usability.

Frank summarised the challenges within a professional AV business as below:

 

 

 

No paper available

 

Civic Reception – Historical Town Hall, Münster

It was a very enjoyable end to a very busy first day at EUNIS17. The event opened with some short speeches and allowed to delegates to mix whilst enjoying a little food and drink. The location could not have been more beautiful in the Historic Town Hall in Münster. This is the location that the “Peace of Westphalia” was signed in 1648 ending the Thirty Years’ War and marking the beginning of a long period of peace in Europe. We were even fortunate to be offered a formal tour of the building to gain some real insights into the history that it held.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/

Embarking for EUNIS

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

 

Today is the day…I’m all packed and ready to go! I can’t wait to get over to Münster and get started. Sadly my flight is getting in pretty late this evening meaning I’m unlikely to make it to tonight’s Fusion event but will be up bright and breezy in the morning ready for registration before the 9:00AM opening addresses. Hope everyone is enjoying today’s workshops; they’re looking great from what I’m able to see on the #EUNIS17 twitter hashtag.

 

 

 

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/.

Is Jill Watson after your job?

She began work as a teaching assistant at Georgia Tech in January 2016, helping students on a masters level artificial intelligence course. At first, she needed help from her colleagues but she soon learnt and it wasn’t long before she was providing support to all students without assistance. Human assistance that is. “Jill” was the creation of course leader Ashok Goel – an artificial intelligence tutor developed using IBM’s Watson platform.

The course was entirely online and questions were submitted via an online forum. Initially the AI derived answers weren’t so good so the human tutors responded. But as time went on “Jill”’s answers improved so the tutors took the answers and posted them to the forum. Within a short space of time, the answers were near perfect and the AI instance was responding directly to the students. The students were not aware that they weren’t dealing with a real person – but then, do they really care if they are getting good advice?

This isn’t the only form of AI that I have seen applied in the education environment. At EDUCAUSE last year, I saw a demonstration of an AI based chat bot that guided an applicant through the process of identifying a suitable course at university and ultimately the application process itself. I was driving the questions, playing the role of the applicant – the responses were reassuring and at the end of the process, I felt satisfied that I had been given good advice.

In both instances, the AI instance will have had to learn from real life examples to build up its knowledge bank in order to make informed decisions. In the case of Jill Watson, that learning took little time; with the AI applications assistance there was more initial programming which was underpinned by some clear rules and expectations. But given that in both examples, the AI instance learnt from patterns of behaviour exhibited by real people, is there scope for using artificial intelligence at the service desk?

The answer has to be yes. The service desk system has a wealth of information about problems and their solutions that can be drawn upon and used to address submitted problems. There are many repetitive questions that get asked of a service desk which could easily be handled by an AI instance. Many service desks have identified these – password resets being an obvious example – and have sought to reduce the impact of these through FAQ sections and similar channels. But how effective are these mechanisms? Do they help deliver a one stop shop?

Could AI further aid service desk staff? It could – dealing with repetitive queries is one thing but artificial intelligence could be deployed to recognise similar questions from the bank of queries in the service management system and identify solutions. The service desk staff would then be able to give a quicker response rather than having to re-learn how to deal with a problem or seek out the expert that dealt with it last time around. Alternatively, the AI system might identify the person with the most expertise and route the query accordingly.

AI is far quicker at identifying patterns than people. As a result an artificial intelligence based system would give an earlier indication of an incident or bug and so help the service desk respond more quickly (perhaps before some realised there was a problem).

So where will that leave the service desk? Will the use of AI allow service desk staff to focus on the really meaty problems that are more satisfying to solve or will it give staff the opportunity to focus on new areas? Alternatively, will it lead to a deskilling of staff, an unrewarding role reduced to passing on solutions that are drawn down from a vast body of previous experience? Is Jill Watson going to take your job?

Windows 10 community day

 

On Wednesday 12th April over 50 IT staff from Universities all over the UK, from Glasgow to Brighton, met at Edge Hill University’s central Manchester campus to discuss the shared challenge posed by the move to Windows 10.

The event began with presentations from four organisations ahead of the curve on the migration – Leeds Beckett University, University of Liverpool, Lancaster University and York St John University – all of whom shared the approach they’d taken, the keys decisions they’d made and the lessons they’d learned.

During the Q&A that followed, we were able to dig a little more into shared concerns like admin rights for users, project resourcing and managing applications.

After lunch, we were joined by representatives from IT service provider Softcat, who shared some of their experience and tips in planning a move to Windows 10, delving into some of the more technical questions that need answering such as choosing a branch and the challenges posed by Microsoft’s new update and support model for the operating system.

The day ended with a workshop structured to help delegates think about, discuss and record the key points picked up during the day. Considering questions around planning, infrastructure and ongoing support, small groups produced prioritised lists of the issues that they wanted to take back to the office and consider while plotting their own migrations.

We’d like to say a big thank you to the representatives of Leeds Beckett, Liverpool, Lancaster and York St John who gave excellent presentations during the morning session and continued to offer their expertise throughout the day. Without their input the day would not have been possible.

Thank you also to Softcat for their input and support for the day and to the staff at Edge Hill University for hosting us and making us feel welcome.

Recordings, presentations and photos from the day are available from the Resources page

Gareth Edwards
Head of IT, Engineering Science
University of Oxford
Member of UCISA-SSG committee

HERB, TEF and Brexit – a maelstrom of change

In this post to accompany the Exhibitor briefing for the UCISA17 Conference, UCISA Executive Director Peter Tinson considers the current political landscape and its impact on the education sector.

The machinations of leaving the European Union continue to feature strongly in the news headlines and this is likely to be the case at least until there is some clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the remainder of the EU (and probably for some time after that). However, the impact of Brexit is already being felt by higher education institutions. The number of EU students applying for undergraduate study through UCAS fell by 7% from last year contributing to an overall decline in applications at the January UCAS deadline. Although UCAS receives a good proportion of applications after this deadline, since most of these come from groups that have seen the steepest decline in applications (international, EU and older (19+) students), there are little grounds for optimism that the numbers will recover.

In addition to Brexit, the Government policy of placing tighter restrictions on visas for non-EU students has also had an impact. Since 2010, when the Coalition Government came to power, the number of international students has fallen by around 43,000. The fall has been concentrated in the middle and lower ranking institutions and contrasts with other higher ranked institutions that have increased their international student intake, in some cases substantially. In England, this compounds the effect of competition for undergraduate places that resulted when the cap on student numbers was withdrawn. The more successful institutions have managed (and in many cases, planned) to increase undergraduate student numbers with the lower ranked institutions failing to attract their target numbers. As a consequence, the gap between the most successful and those that depend on student recruitment will continue to grow.

There is potentially some good news for the sector with the publication of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. Although the full details have yet to emerge, universities will benefit from both investment in innovation, technology and research and from a strengthened regional development agenda. In addition, there are proposals for new Institutions of technology that will deliver vocational focused qualifications in STEM subjects. What the relationship will be between such institutions and their local universities and colleges remains to be seen – given the developments in the further education sector (see below), partnerships between institutions of technology and universities cannot be ruled out.

The Government announced a number of amendments to the Higher Education and Research Bill. These may appease some of the Bill’s critics, particularly in the House of Lords, and subsequently ease its passage through Parliament. The Bill has not been watered down completely however – there remain some potential disruptors to the sector and Jo Johnson’s desire to see new entrants to the market remains strong. There is a strong push towards the provision of accelerated degrees. It will be interesting to see if those institutions that are currently suffering falling student numbers take the opportunity to develop accelerated degree programmes or whether alternative providers will see a gap in the market to develop new offerings.

There is reference to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) within the Bill with the amendments deferring implementation of a subject level TEF to 2019/20. The TEF will continue to evolve – the suggestion is that this year will be one to see the effect and impact with any lessons learned giving rise to change in subsequent years. Any changes may have to take into account the sector’s response to the new measure. The TEF can apply to any higher education provider, be it a traditional institution, a further education college providing HE, or an alternative provider. There appears to be some dissention in the ranks – WonkHE has identified six institutions, including two alternative providers, that opted out of the first stage and reported that thirty three institutions have opted out of TEF2 in spite of being eligible. Is this an indicator that an exercise that was initially badged as being light touch has now become sufficiently burdensome that the burden outweighs the value to the institution?

Finally, the reports on the further education area reviews in England have been being published since November. The reviews invited colleges, employers and other local representatives to review provision and make recommendations to “ensure employers and young people get the skills and training they need to help their local area thrive”. Most recommendations centre on mergers, consolidations and strategic collaborations. Whilst many of the proposed mergers have been between further education colleges in a given area, there have been a number of collaborations proposed between further and higher education institutions and at least one merger between an FE college and university. The proposals in England are similar to recent changes made to the further education sector in both Scotland and Wales – with both higher and further education now under the same Government department, could this be the precursor to closer collaboration and an integrated skills and higher education policy?

Sources:
Times Higher: UK’s ‘lower ranked’ universities take non-EU student hit (23 February)
WonkHE: Path clears for HE Bill as Government announces major changes (24 February)
WonkHE: TEF1, TEF2 and a complex game of snakes and ladders (20 February)

Review of the year

In what has been an extremely turbulent year UCISA, through the work of its Executive, its Groups and the UCISA Office, has sought to address the needs of our community in these uncertain times. Brief highlights of this work are given below.

UCISA’s work continues to be cited and our expertise sought by others:

  • The report from the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons into the technology issues of the Investigatory Powers Bill reflected the concerns expressed in UCISA’s response about the scope and cost of implementation of the Bill. Now the Bill has been passed by both Houses of Parliament, UCISA will be looking at the implications for UK universities and colleges;
  • UCISA’s Model Regulations and suggested amendment to accommodate the Counter Terrorism legislation were referenced in the Advice Note accompanying HEFCE’s revised framework for monitoring the Prevent duty in higher education institutions in England. UCISA will continue to review guidance and recommendations to ensure that it meets the needs of both the legislation and the sector, and is effective and proportionate;
  • UCISA was represented on the Advisory Board for the Higher Education Data and Information Improvement Programme (HEDIIP) and is represented on both the Programme and Advisory Boards for the HESA Data Futures Programme;
  • UCISA continues to have representation on the UCAS Council.

We have provided advice and guidance to our members through:

  • The provision of an online Information Security Awareness Training course free to our Full members. The course can be downloaded free of charge from the UCISA website as a zipped SCORM 1.2 package which may then be imported into a VLE. We are currently reviewing an updated version of the course and expect to make an announcement on its availability early in the New Year;
  • The UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit, a collaboration between UCISA, AUDE and SCHOMS, our sister organisations for Directors of Estates and Media Services staff, was published in February. The Toolkit provides guidance for Audiovisual, IT and Estates teams and demonstrates why the provision of excellent learning spaces should be a strategic, institution wide concern. UCISA are collaborating further with SCHOMS, AUDE and a number of other organisations to develop case studies based on the Toolkit content;
  • The Effective Benefits Management for IT and Business Change Projects Toolkit provides an overview of the principles behind achieving Benefits Realisation and tools for use in projects;
  • The Government has advised that General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will become law in the UK in May 2018 as planned. We published a number of pieces on the regulation and will be publishing a briefing paper on the implementation of the GDPR in 2017.

In 2016, we have promoted the sharing of good practice through:

  • Running seven face to face events including five multiday conferences, all of which were fully booked. Every event, bar one, included participation from our corporate members through exhibition stands and presentations. 2016 saw the first conference organised jointly between the Corporate Information Systems Group and the Project and Change Management Group. Feedback from the event was extremely positive and highlighted the benefit of bringing different specialist groups together;
  • Running seven webinars covering topics as diverse as data security and cloud based applications. We recognise that not everyone can afford the time to travel and will be looking to continue offering occasional webinars throughout 2017.
  • Recognising the excellent work that takes place in our member institutions through the Award for Excellence. The Award always attracts entries covering a wide range of topics. 2016 was no different with the Award going to the University of St Andrews for their apprentice scheme;
  • Publishing case studies to supplement the 2016 Technology Enhanced Learning Survey and the 2015 Digital Capabilities Survey;
  • Publishing a best practice guide for Establishing Process Improvement Capability in a higher education environment;
  • Awarding bursaries for individuals within the UCISA membership to attend a wide range of conferences and update the community on the practices highlighted.

We have conducted a number of surveys to allow our members to benchmark themselves against their peers, and to establish the level of maturity of activity within the sector. In addition to the annual Higher Education IT Statistics and Corporate Information Systems survey, this year we:

  • Published the results of the eighth survey on Technology Enhanced Learning. The results from previous surveys have been presented to audiences across the world;
  • Carried out the second Service Desk Benchmarking survey in collaboration with the Service Desk Institute and TopDesk;
  • Discussed ways of benchmarking IT departments in institutions internationally with our partner organisations across the globe.

The list above highlights just some of the work that our Committees and the UCISA Office has carried out on behalf of our members. A more formal annual report will be published in the New Year and presented at the Association’s AGM at the UCISA17 Conference at Celtic Manor on 9 March.

2017 promises to be another challenging year. The Government’s plans for Brexit will be published and the process to leave the EU will begin. UCISA will monitor developments and provide access to information and guidance as the process begins. The Higher Education and Research Bill will pass through Parliament and bring with it changes in the governance structure for higher education in England. UCISA will provide guidance for institutions beginning to implement the changes required for when the GDPR becomes law in the 2017-18 academic year. And that is all in addition to the normal tasks of deploying systems to enhance teaching and learning, to improve the student experience and to facilitate research and manage the data and outputs associated with it. We recognise that many of these challenges require a collaborative approach. We will continue to work with Jisc, with our sister professional associations both within the UK and abroad, and with our growing corporate membership.

I should like to take this opportunity to remind you that bookings are open for the UCISA17 Conference in March. Bookings are also open for three other events taking place in the first half of the year.

Finally, thank you for your support in 2016. I wish you, on behalf of the UCISA team, all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

Peter Tinson
Executive Director
21 December 2016

UK vs. US HE – Blockchain and student engagement

liz_ellis

 

 

Elizabeth Ellis
Product Development Manager
Learning Innovation, Learning and Teaching Solutions,
The Open University

Cross-pond impressions from EDUCAUSE 2016

EDUCAUSE 2016 in Anaheim was a really valuable and thought provoking experience, especially as a stranger in a strange land.  I’ve wanted to attend this conference for a long time – having been to ALT C a number of times and attended EDEN, this felt like it would provide me with a trifecta. Because of my role as a product development manager in Technology Enhanced Learning Innovation, I often find myself with a foot in both the technology camp and the pedagogy camp of learning and teaching (I don’t actually think they’re camps – I think they’re symbionts and crucial to students being successful in their higher education careers, but I digress).

I have attended other US-based conferences, and it’s always a bit of a culture shock. The sheer scale of EDUCAUSE was quite unnerving: 8000 colleagues from 1800 institutions across 46 countries. The queue for lunch was terrible.

The conference hashtag provided an invaluable backchannel for discussion and arguments, and is worth a visit (#EDU16). If you would like to see the day by day account of my experience, then do feel free to grab my notes. But this article is more a personal reflection on the three things that stood out for me from EDUCAUSE – where the US Higher Education sector is ahead, where the UK Higher Education sector is ahead, and where we are about level.

Where the US Higher Education sector is ahead

One of the most attended and talked about sessions was on ‘Why the blockchain will revolutionise credentials’. One of the speakers was Chris Jager from Learning Machine. A transcript is available from the link.

It struck me that the presentation and ensuing conversation about blockchain certifications was far more developed than the conversations that have happened locally to me at The Open University, or from what I have gathered in the UK sector. The work that the Knowledge Media Institute at the OU has been doing on blockchain is still in the realms of research and innovation, whereas the HE sector in the US appears to be already beginning to tackle the cultural shifts of implementation. The temperature on blockchain credentials in the sector is still lukewarm in places, with some claiming there is a fear that giving students control of their credentials may undermine those credentials. A more mercenary view is that HEIs are loathe to transition to blockchain certification as there is a market for transcripts and money to be made when students request theirs.

MIT’s Open Standards for Blockchain Certificates are being used, and the advent of interoperable standards represents a shift from idea to reality, and a new infrastructure of trust between students, institutions and employers. This is interesting when compared with criticism of the Open Badges movement, which employers have been fairly sceptical about. UK HEIs have made more use of badges, but predominantly in informal learning spaces or for soft skills.

Blockchain certification could be more compelling within the US HE sector, by virtue of its legacy of for-fee qualifications, and also the high degree of transfer between community, state and private colleges.

In the UK, with the recent advent of tuition fees, the onus has perhaps been less for more mainstream HEIs. However, The Open University has always charged a fee, and is also seeing an increase in student transfers both in and out of the institution. OU students are also more unconventional in routes through education and employment, and blockchain certifications could be a valuable string to the University’s bow.

In an article in the Times Higher Education magazine, Martin Hall points out that blockchain certifications ‘could be an effective way of providing Britain’s Advanced Apprenticeships, for which components of the programme have to be delivered by a number of organisations’. (THE, 28 November 2016)

In The Open University’s Innovating Pedagogy 2016 horizon scan, Blockchain has been identified as High Impact but with a long timescale (4 plus years). The US feels ahead in this particular game.

Full disclosure: I have become borderline obsessed with student engagement, partnership and co-creation this year. I have been co-administering and organising a student consultation and engagement panel, running Hack Days to get students involved in future developments, and generally trying to find ways to not only give our students more direct access to the creation of learning and teaching content and tools, but also to give the Open University’s academic and academic related staff more direct access to students eager to be involved in practical ways.

My colleague David Vince and I published a paper on our work on this in September, outlining our approach to involving students in Technology Enhanced Learning Innovation, referring to the key frameworks that underpin ‘student as partners’ and ‘students as change agents’ in UK HEIs, from Jisc, the Higher Education Academy, and covered in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

‘The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is a catalyst to rethink the role of the student in modern Higher Education Institutions. The Higher Education Academy in the selection criteria for the National Teaching Fellowship defined personal excellence as ‘evidence of enhancing and transforming the student learning experience’ (HEA, 2015).

Part of teaching excellence should therefore be the proactive engagement of students in matters relating to their learning experience, beyond assessment outcomes. More recently within the higher education sector, engagement initiatives such as ‘students as partners’ and ‘students as change agents’ have emerged.

Students as partners is characterised by active student engagement and collaboration ‘[…] in which all involved – students, academics, professional services staff, senior managers, students’ unions and so on – are actively engaged in and stand to gain from the process of learning and working together. Partnership is essentially a process of engagement, not a product. It is a way of doing things, rather than an outcome in itself.’ (Healey et al., 2014)

Students as change agents sees students being actively involved in the change process. In 2015, Jisc launched the ‘Change Agents’ Network’ which is a ‘highly active community of staff and students working in partnership to support curriculum enhancement and innovation’. (Jisc, 2015)’

In two sessions during the conference where I would have expected a robust argument for the involvement of students in the design and implementation of educational technology, there was no mention from presenters, and even the floor seemed largely truculent about the idea when it was brought up.

Design Thinking Process: Edtech Adoption’, an otherwise useful session from Edsurge, didn’t refer at all to the importance of testing new tools and technologies with students in implementation, much less involve them during ideation.

It was a similar experience in the ‘Trends Spanning Education’ session, despite having a great quote – ‘Democratisation of education innovation, it’s starting to happen with people rather than to people’ – people in this sense appeared to be academic and institutional staff rather than students.

Several comments that emerged during out of conference conversations and the Twitter backchannel featured the kneejerk reaction of students not knowing what they need, a conversation that has evolved now in the UK to understanding the balance between need, want and institutional responsibility towards them.

Some US colleagues talked about consultancy processes that include students, but there does not appear yet to be the drive to formalise student partnership as an approach. The emphasis is on institutional collaboration and partnership for student success, rather than partnership in the sense of student engagement as co-creators and co-owners of their learning experiences.

Where the UK and US Higher Education sectors are about level

Almost as soon as I hit the pre-meetings and the Twitter backchannel at EDUCAUSE the term NGDLE started to permeate. Not a new term, certainly, but Next Generation Digital Learning Environments as a concept suddenly seemed to be everywhere. And then I returned home and almost immediately fell in with an online consultation activity being coordinated by Lawrie Phipps, senior co-design manager at Jisc, using a combination of Twitter and blogs, on what NGDLEs and by extension co-creation could mean for the future of learning and teaching.

It also corresponds closely with my work, which is focused heavily on digital learning environments, as well as student engagement in learning and teaching tools and platforms development.

The UK and US higher education sectors appear to be level on this concept, as the discussion moves further way from current vendors and current platforms and tools, and more towards the use of technology in its purest sense for the furthering of learning and teaching, and how students are both key users and contributors in that space.

The key questions for me around this important and innovative concept are:

  • What does next generation mean for online and distance education, and what does it require of it?
  • How can NGDLEs be a vehicle for the best parts of online and distance education: the open web, co-creation, student engagement, technology, and digital capability?
  • What does student success look like in a NGDLE?
  • What do NGDLEs signify about innovation in online education?
  • How is the Teaching Excellence Framework creating a space for NGDLEs and how is it restricting it?

None of which I have any answers for yet, but I’m enjoying the conversation, and it’s allowing me the space to stop and consider the opinions of colleagues, the layering of experiences over my own, and generally the ongoing realisation of that best part of attending conferences: being part of a community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A version of this blog post originally appeared on the Learning Innovation blog