Digital practices and educating for change

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day 1

After lunch on Day 1 of DigPedLab (the catered food was probably the best I’ve ever had at any conference-type event, btw), we headed back into the classroom for more…

A ‘guest lecture’ from David White on the Visitors and Residents continuum gave me a chance to nurse my jetlag for a bit – not because it was boring, but because since experiencing a full V&R workshop delivered by David and Donna Lanclos in 2015, I’ve run several sessions on it myself at the OU. If you’re not familiar with V&R, https://www.youtube.com/ is a good place to start, but essentially it’s a counter to Prensky’s digital natives shtick.

As well as the maps, a couple of excellent questions were asked that I’ve never heard at any of the V&R sessions I’ve been involved in:

  • Is it about intention? Where do you put ‘accidental’ public actions, for example inadvertent sharing of Fitbit data?
  • Should ‘leaves no social trace’ be ‘leaves no public social trace’?

Bonnie wrapped up the first session by asking us to think about literacies and practices as currency, and consider:

  • What kinds of currency do you want?
  • Which forms of digital currency operate in your institutions?

Keynote: Rusul Alrubail

‘Educating for change: activism, organizing, and resisting through storytelling’

The final session of Day 1 was Rusul Alrubail’s keynote,which you can see for yourselves here (a 90-minute watch).

The following abstract describes Rusul’s session more eloquently than I can (emphasis added by me though):

“How do youth want to be supported by educators/adults in building and sustaining student movements? Social justice struggle grows from students’ own goals and feelings about their education, community and world. As educators it’s important that we provide the opportunity to cultivate and nurture student voice. The storyteller wields power in creating a story that allows the listener to empathize and understand and by doing so storytelling inadvertently becomes a mode to free ourselves from oppression. It is now more than ever a necessary time for us to focus on student activism and cultivate the necessary conditions for students to organize, and more importantly, to tell their stories for larger impact.”

Rusul covered an astonishing amount of ground and had most of the room in tears at some point after sharing her own experiences of emigration/immigration, followed by many examples of creative and inspiring student activism, such as:

  • #studentsnotsuspects – ‘schools should be like our second homes, not prisons’
  • Muslim Girls Making Change – a multicultural slam poetry activist group, founded because its members felt their voices were not heard in the classroom

She emphasised that it’s important as educators for us not to expect that students are willing or able to lose part of themselves to assimilate/conform to society’s norms, and talked about establishing a culture of connectivity – creating the right conditions for developing student voice, considering who’s listening in the classroom, and who’s speaking/who’s allowed to speak.

Rusul encouraged us to ‘connect globally with educators to disrupt the status quo’ and ‘shed light on injustice, even in our own communities – if we’re silent, we’re complicit’.

Her closing message? Focus on students!

And relax…

Day 1 ended with a bit of socialising – first a reception at Kwantlen, and then somehow I ended up being the one to find a local restaurant that could accommodate a whole bunch of us! The food and beer were good, but the best part was getting to chat with participants from the other tracks.

Huge thanks to UCISA for giving me the incredible opportunity of travelling to Vancouver and fulfilling my ambition to experience a DigPedLab Institute first hand – not just via Twitter.

In my next posts, I’ll cover Day 2. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, you’ll always find me at https://twitter.com/dresdeb

 

Tips from a 2017 bursary winner on applying for the UCISA bursary scheme

Hina Taank
Programme and Projects Officer
Brunel University

Member of the PCMG

 

I was funded to attend the Gartner Program and Portfolio Management Summit in London in June this year.

Here are some tips to help you with the UCISA bursary application process, should you wish to apply for future schemes. Information about the 2017 scheme is available here.  You can discover more about previous award schemes on the UCISA website and from the bursary thread on the UCISA blog.

The 2018 scheme will be launched at the beginning of the year.

Pre-application:

  1. Bear in mind the closing date of the scheme and the date that the UCISA bursary judging panel will meet. This allows time for you to discuss the event with your institution, to get sign off from your manager, for judging to take place and for the UCISA team to process the application.
  2. Ensure that all the details are fully completed on the UCISA bursary application form, including all the estimated hotel costs and the travel expenses.
  3. Ensure that you talk to your departmental administrators or finance office so that they can make payments for your trip according to the funding conditions UCISA set. In short you make arrangements as you would any other travel for your university, including being reimbursed directly by your institution. Then, separately, and once you have begun to share experiences of attending the conference, your university invoices UCISA.
    On selection:
  1. Organise yourself as to which session/talks you want to attend. Importantly, have a back-up plan in case your chosen session(s) does not run or if it has changed. Time spent preparing will be very valuable, as it will allow you to focus on the sessions.
  2. Have your gadgets and chargers all sorted to allow you to communicate on the social media.
  3. Liaise with colleagues and any other communities of practice you belong to about the event and ask if they have any sessions they are particularly interested in you attending. Think about how you will feed back what you have learnt to colleagues either at the time or after the event.

At the event:

  1. Try and attend as many sessions (including different ones) as possible
  2. Take your card/contact details to share with attendees
  3. Importantly – have fun and enjoy the event!

To follow Hina visit LinkedIn or Twitter @HinaTaank.

Breaking the ice and digital literacies at DigiPedLab 2017


Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

 

 

 

DigiPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day 1

Breaking the ice

(One minor quibble though: not enough coffee on Day 1!)

At any really cool educational event these days, there has to be Lego, right? Well DigPedLab was no exception. As an icebreaker, each table was given a box of bricks and bits, we were instructed to introduce ourselves to our neighbour and, based on what we said and the available Lego, they had to create an avatar for us. The lovely Greg Chan gave me abundant shiny hair and a dog: what more could I ask for? NB My less-than-beaming smile below is due to horrific jetlag and a dislike of being photographed, not dissatisfaction with my avatar!

 

I can’t resist sharing this one with you too…

A speech and a song

To formally kick off the institute we were treated to an amazing, inspiring speech and a traditional song from a Kwantlen First Nation elder (the institute was sponsored by and held at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Richmond campus, just outside Vancouver).

DigPedLab co-founder Sean Michael Morris then made us laugh by commenting that this event wouldn’t have happened without Trump – the Virginia Institute,  which took place a week or so after Vancouver’s, was meant to ‘bring everyone together in one place’, after three separate DigPedLabs in 2016, but the President’s travel ban made it impossible for some key participants to get to the USA in 2017.

Morning session – Literacies track

Bonnie Stewart kicked off the digital literacies track with a bit of activity: getting us to vote with our feet (Runaround style!) on a digital literacies ‘survey’ and emphasising (with reference to Lisa Simpson) that there were no ‘right’ answers.

 

(Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

These were my favourite questions/answers…

I need to find resources to teach/write with. I do the following:
0=nothing. Last year’s notes are fine.
1=check the library
2=Google stuff
3=crowdsource my digital network

I know what the following mean/do:
command f
404
PLN
swipe right
LMGTFY

When I Google myself I find:
0=Google myself?
1=An ax-murderer with my name
2=Vaguely embarrassing pictures my buddy tagged on FB  3=Traces of my work on the first search return page
4=A fair & cultivated representation of who I am and what I do.

As you can probably imagine, this activity caused lots of laughter and a few revelations.

We then sat down and went round the room briefly introducing ourselves and explaining our experience/interest in digital literacies. The Literacies track had proved extremely popular, so rather than being a small group, there were actually nearly 30 participants for Bonnie to wrangle. Two Brits apart from me – David White from The University of the Arts London, and Penny Andrews, a PhD student at the University of Sheffield (and a brilliant follow on Twitter) – a professor from Puerto Rico, an educator based in the Austrian Alps, and the rest from North America, a mix of librarians, academics, educational project managers, IT folk, and even a practising attorney. This diversity was one of the many things that made DigPedLab so attractive to me: I wanted my western European, middle-class, middle-aged, cis white female perspective to be thoroughly challenged. Over the course of the weekend, it certainly was.

Digital literacies defined?

Having let off some steam and started to get to know one another, the teaching began in earnest. As I write this, I’m looking at Bonnie’s PowerPoint, and wondering what I can possibly say that’s more useful/informative than just sharing her slides verbatim, but I’ll try to limit myself to just a handful, and share my observations/responses to them.

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

The cluster at the top left represents the institutional model, whereas the bottom rightish cluster is the present. The idea of education as market is not necessarily progression, and these shifts are only loosely tied. Dealing with data/ information/ knowledge abundance is arguably the biggest challenge for digital literacies to overcome.

 

 

 

Key points to remember in the context of digital literacies:

  • (access to) content does not equal literacy
  • web does not equal digital
  • tech does not equal digital literacy.

The concept of ‘literacy’ is changing, because there’s so much more than literature now, and the goal of education is handling data, rather than just accumulating it.

Bonnie then summarised what she planned for us to explore over the next three days.

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

She gave us a timeline of literacy: from considering it as a threat to the knowledge of classical scholars in 400 BCE, to the control of knowledge via the spread of printing presses throughout Europe in 1500 CE, to the management and synthesis of knowledge we’re dealing with in the present day. A quote from educational researcher Doug Belshaw neatly encapsulated this:

 

 

“Digital literacies are not solely about technical proficiency but about the issues, norms, and habits of mind surrounding technologies used for a particular purpose.”

Or, as I noted it down at the time, thinking about technologies vs being a techie!

Bonnie highlighted more benefits of developing your digital literacy:

  • improving your capacity to analyse a medium’s affordances
  • identifying ‘thinking tools’ to help you manage knowledge abundance – I think this is a particular challenge for those of us working at the interface of education and technology, where abundance can all too easily become overload.

This led us on to thinking about networks…

The power of networks

 (Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

…and another fun stand-up activity about one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many interactions, and how we become network nodes, forming webs of visible (and invisible) connections.

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart. Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

Finally, we discussed the ‘price of admission’ to these networks: public identity. Bonnie’s references here ranged from Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to Walter Ong’s work on oral traditions vs literate traditions:

  • oral traditions – participatory, situational, social, formulaic, agonistic (conflict based), rhetorical (vs the ‘artificial memory aid’ of writing)
  • literate traditions – interiorised, abstracted, innovative, precise, analytical, indexed.

If I understood correctly, how this relates to social media is that we experience the instant message, the tweet, in an oral way – although they are textual verbal exchanges, they register psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange (Ong, 1996). But the flipside of this is that because these ‘speech-based activities’ on social media can be captured as if they were print literature, we end up with a call-out culture that treats flippant remarks like gospel.

 

(Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

The takeaway from this session for me? Digital literacy is about knowing how to manage audience, visibility and publics.

 

Setting the scene for reflections on DigPedLab Vancouver 2017

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Background

A bit about me….

I’m Beccy Dresden, a Senior TEL Designer (TEL = technology enhanced learning) at The Open University, where I’ve worked for nearly 18 years. I joined the OU from a professional publishing background, and have supported the development of modules on subjects as diverse as law, languages, social work, and English grammar.

My department – the TEL Design team – works in partnership with academic experts, Learning and Teaching Innovation portfolio colleagues, and students and tutors, to design, produce, support and evaluate OU modules. The team’s work draws on and contributes to the learning, teaching and innovation evidence base of the University, and embodies emerging technologies and research to reinforce the OU’s position as the UK leader in supported online and distance learning. The modules we produce are now digital by default, but we are keen to ensure that the online experience we offer our students is driven by pedagogy, not technology. Within the TEL Design team, my particular areas of interest and scholarship are:

  • the use of social media in HE (both in terms of student-facing content, and as a tool/platform in the continuing professional development (CPD) of academic and professional support staff), and
  • developing digital capabilities (again, in terms of both students and staff at the OU).

Those areas of interest are what led me – via Twitter, Martin Weller, and Lawrie Phipps, among others – to discover Hybrid Pedagogy and their Digital Pedagogy Lab Institutes, or DigPedLab for short.

About DigPedLab Institutes

Ever since I applied for the UCISA bursary back in April, I’ve struggled to explain clearly and concisely to people quite what a DigPedLab Institute is – even those working in the ed tech sector have given me slightly puzzled looks – and each institute is slightly different, so it’s not even a single thing. To focus on the one I attended, in the organisers’ words:

DPL Vancouver is a three-day institute that explores the role and application of digital technology in teaching. Three tracks offer intensive peer-driven learning with and discussion of open education, new media, and critical digital pedagogy.

Participants choose between one of three tracks and work collaboratively in small workshop-style classes. Each track is open to all backgrounds and skill levels. Each day of the institute begins with discussion that will play into the day’s work. A continental breakfast will be provided before sessions begin mid-morning, followed by lunch. Afternoons will be split into multiple sessions and will include keynote presentations, workshops, and other activities. Each day will end before dinner. The learning community we create together will be welcoming to a wide range of skill levels and interests.”

The tracks on offer in Vancouver were:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose Digital Literacies led by Bonnie Stewart.  This track was described as:

“focused on the development of participatory, networked literacies that enable collaboration, contribution, and critical sense-making within information abundance. It fosters a critical orientation toward tools, portfolios, and digital presence within networks. Participants will discuss and experiment with various technological tools from the chalkboard to moveable chairs, computers, mobile devices, social media platforms, and learning management systems. Individual sessions and workshops will focus on teaching philosophies, discernment practices for using digital tools in courses, emergent learning, digital composition, and discussions of the impact of the digital on traditional and critical pedagogies.”

Apart from wanting to be taught by Bonnie, whom I have long admired for her clear-sighted and thoughtful-yet-practical approach to complex digital pedagogy issues, I thought that learning about new critical perspectives for evaluating digital tools and approaches would be invaluable for me and my department.

My further blogs are really just an overview of an intense, inspiring, and challenging weekend that – nearly five months later – is still affecting how I approach my work and my social (media) interactions every day.

A manifesto for fun at work

Kathryn Woodroof
Business Analyst
University of York

 

 

 

Lessons from the IRM Business Analysis Conference Europe 2017

This year I was able to attend the annual Business Analysis Conference Europe thanks to a bursary from UCISA.  The three day conference was held in London and brought together Business Analysts from all sectors. I expected to gain more knowledge of our practice, learn from other BAs and perhaps get a new perspective on managing change.

But what I didn’t expect was to have so much fun!  I had fun in workshops and seminars, during coffee breaks, and when listening to guest speakers such as Graeme Simsion and Miles Hilton-Barber.  Creativity and fun were everywhere you looked and the importance of having fun at work was my most valuable takeaway from the conference.

During a workshop co-facilitated by our business analysis colleague Tina Lovelock from the University of Leeds, we learned that having fun builds engagement, promotes learning and increases productivity. But we also learned that more than a third of workers had not taken part in any fun activities during the past six months. We realised that, as Business Analysts, we have more opportunity than most to have fun and be creative at work. Tina, Debra, Lawrence and Sandra led the way with a Top Trumps game for BA techniques.

Since the conference, I’ve been reflecting on how I can enable the customers, users and developers that I work with to have fun at work and realise some of those benefits. I’ve come up with a fun manifesto, which is now on the wall next to my desk. Here it is:

1.  Treat fun as a measure of success

I use a visual agenda to set the tone in workshops that I facilitate and I’ve often “have fun” as an outcome of the workshop.

2.  Create an open environment where fun and creativity can happen

Consider how to use the space that you have in a different way in order to experience different thinking. For example, designate each corner of a room to a stakeholder (e.g. student, academic) and ask people to move around the room and consider a problem from each perspective.

3.  Get physical

Move around as much as possible during the working day and especially during workshops and meetings.  Go outside.  Fun and inspiration are rarely found at your desk.

4.  Use visuals, games and activities to have fun

During the 4pm slot at a recent HE BA Forum, I used a Kahoot! quiz and imaged-based slides to keep everyone engaged.

5.  Break out the tunes

Listening to music can elevate your mood, lead your thoughts to somewhere else, and connect you to other people.  I often play background music during workshop activities – it’s also useful for keeping to time.

6.  Eat, drink and be merry

Celebrate successes, milestones and ordinary days with shared food and drink.

Of course, I can’t apply this manifesto in every situation.  But where I can, I will, because I believe that we should all be able to experience the benefits of having fun at work.

I’ll leave you with this final thought from Richard Branson. “Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

 

 

Technology Enhanced Active Learning and Active Learning Spaces

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University

EDUCAUSE 2017

At the recent EDUCASE 2017 conference, which I was able to join courtesy of a UCISA bursary, I was able to attend a session on Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs), named by EDUCAUSE as the top strategic technology of 2017 due to the popularity and innovation of ALCs. Active learning classrooms (ALCs) are designed to create affordances that support active learning pedagogies (which research has demonstrated are better when compared with more passive types of learning).

Presented by D. Christopher Brooks and Malcolm Brown (from EDUCAUSE), Melody Buckner  (University of Arizona), Adam Finkelstein (McGill University) and Sehoya Cotner (University of Minnesota), the session explored the research around ALCs as well as looking at the teaching practices that work best in them. There were examples from research, at the University of Minnesota, where the traditional teaching (large lectures) was compared with smaller ALC style teaching. This showed that students in traditional classrooms achieved as expected, however ALC students outperformed against their expected grades. One message that came out of the session was that potential of ALCs can only be realised if you have good teaching. Changing the space may mean that the instructor doesn’t know how to teach in the new space (teachers may try and use the traditional lecture style in the new spaces so, for example, students would have their back to lecturers) and active learning gains are achieved by academics teaching to fit the learning space.

Goals of the Active Learning Initiative

The third day of the EDUCAUSE conference, had a  further technology session presented by Virginia Lacefield, Enterprise Architect at University of Kentucky, looking at ‘Evaluating the Impact of Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms on Students and Instructors: Lessons from our First Full Year’.

Between 2014 and 2016, the University of Kentucky had opened 17 new Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) spaces at the university and carried out an evaluation of the impact of these on teaching, student learning outcomes and retention. The data collected consisted of surveys from both students and instructors as well as classroom observations and course grades. The classroom observations (adapted from the University of Minnesota developed instrument) were timed observations where every five minutes they marked down what the students and instructor were doing.

The observations showed a great deal of variation between classes. The findings of the staff survey showed that 18% of staff did not plan to use active learning strategies and 29% of staff planned not to use the TEAL equipment. 126 of the courses taught in TEAL had enough data points for comparison, 35 of these courses had significant grade differences for all students (29 had a positive difference favouring the TEAL sections, six had a positive difference favouring the non-TEAL sections). When they looked at retention, they found that there was significant correlation between number of TEAL courses taken and second year retention. As a result they are increasing the support for staff to help support the use of TEAL, such as technology/pedagogy open houses, scheduled one-on-one support appointments, giving advance notice of classroom assignment and communicating about available support resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other highlights of the EDUCAUSE conference included:

 

 

 

Preparation for EDUCAUSE 2017 #EDU17

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University

 

 

 

As a UCISA bursary winner for 2017, I got the opportunity to attend the annual EDUCAUSE conference, this year held in Philadelphia, PA.

Before setting off for America, I downloaded the EDUCAUSE app, which was invaluable over the course of the conference. This allowed me to look at the agenda for the conference and start to identify some of the sessions I wanted to attend. The conference had general sessions as well as parallel sessions over the three days I was attending. The sessions were divided into tracks, with driving innovation in teaching and learning being the main one I focused on. Inevitably, whilst attending the sessions I chose, I worried I had selected the ‘wrong’ ones!

I arrived in Philadelphia a few days before the conference, to allow me to acclimatise and get my bearings. This was my first trip to America. Philadelphia itself is a lovely city – I would definitely recommend a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The conference location was a short walk from my hotel, so I headed there bright and early on Wednesday morning to register and collect my badge (which I personalised with stickers at the ribbon station). The venue itself, the Philadelphia Convention Centre, was huge! My step count over the course of the conference can attest to this! The EDUCAUSE staff were friendly and welcoming, with someone on hand to point you in the right direction (which was likely with such a sprawling venue and a number of parallel presentations).

 

HE survey on business analysis and making the most of the UCISA bursary

Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

 

As business analysts, we are constantly learning how people perform their jobs roles. Gaining an understanding of how they capture, process and output information in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We capture this information so that we can identify areas of improvement. We also help to implement new ways of working, new software systems or processes that enable our organisations to achieve their strategic goals. As business analysts how often do we take a step back and analyse our own ways of working? Do we stop and benchmark ourselves against other Business Analysts working in the HE community or beyond in the corporate world?

In 2016 as part of my role on the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) committee, I carried out a survey to measure the maturity of the business analysis community within the higher education (HE) sector. This informed our understanding of where we were as a community in terms of maturity.

The survey which was sent out to all members of the PCMG mailing list received a 32% response rate, which falls well within the expected response rate for an email survey. The survey results showed that every responding institution was undertaking business analysis activities, with over 65% having a dedicated business analysis team. This clearly shows that there is a recognised need for business analysis activities in the sector. When we looked at the average size of the business analysis teams, we found that it came in at around five members of staff on average, which shows that it is still considered a relatively small area of operations for most organisations. The majority of business analysis teams had been in existence for less than ten years, however most institutions had been undertaking analysis activities prior to the formation of a dedicated business analysis team. The question that gave us a real insight into the maturity of the business analysis function, showed us that 70% of organisations still see the business analysis function as an IT related one. In a mature organisation, we would expect to see the business analysis function sitting with and supporting the senior management team of the organisation. One may argue that just because they are located in an IT function they still may be closely aligned to senior management.  However, evidence shows that most organisations still consider them to be an IT asset with half of business analysts in the sector only working on IT change projects.

Overall, the survey results show us that as a sector we have not matured enough to be in a position to assist in driving the business strategy. As a sector, we are still working mainly on IT driven change initiatives and are based within the ITS function. The majority of business analysts are not undertaking market and competitor analysis or getting involved in pre-project work, such as feasibility studies and business case development.

In 2011 and 2012, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) undertook a similar survey in the UK. The results showed that the average maturity levels for business analysis functions based in industry matched those found from our 2016 survey of HE institutions. However, as the IIBA survey was four years older than the HE one I carried out, we can hypothesise they have made some progress in maturing as a sector in those intervening years.

The question then arose, how do we as a community compare against business analysts working in the commercial sector?

I wanted to get an understanding of the tools and techniques they were using, to see if they were ahead of the game compared to the HE sector. Do they experience the same issues when undertaking their analysis, did they have the same frustrations as us and encounter the same blockers? What methods did they employ to attempt to overcome obstacles?

Through UCISA’s Groups and Communities of Practice, the HE community is offered an excellent platform to share knowledge, experience and good practice. To step outside this community and gain knowledge of the commercial field, the UCISA bursary scheme allows you the opportunity to attend conferences such as the IIBA conference. This gives you the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand from Business Analysts working outside of the HE sector.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the IIBA conference in London. I found the experience gave me an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge on the role of a business analyst working in the corporate world. Listening to presentations from speakers who came from a mix of corporate backgrounds on the topics that mattered to them, gave me an insight into the issues they faced, the tools they used and solutions that had worked for them.

The main recurring theme of the conference was not one of the newest tools, or methodologies but one of the age old issues that faces every business analyst, one of capturing the requirements effectively. I saw several speakers that presented this topic in unique ways and from different angles but the message boiled down to the same fact. As analysts when capturing requirements, we must listen to what our stakeholders really want and stop trying to solutionize and jump to conclusions without capturing the real facts.

The second topic that seemed to be prevalent at the conference was of course, Agile. I know from personal experience in the HE sector many of us are only just starting to dip our toe into the world of Agile project delivery. I found that while the corporate world had been using Agile for a number of years they were still struggling with the same basic issues of trying to fit Agile into organisational structures that were not designed to support this type of delivery. For example:

  • Off shore development teams supporting project managers and analysts working in the UK.
  • Trying to fit Agile delivery into project management structures where the supporting processes were originally developed to support waterfall delivery of projects.
  • Gaining real buy in from senior management to support Agile delivery and provide the Agile teams with someone from the business that would be not only a dedicated resource to the project, but one with the authority to make the business decisions required by the development teams.

Of course, the conference providers ensured there were lots of chances to network in between sessions and this gave me the perfect opportunity to chat one-to-one with other business analysts and delve a bit deeper into their experiences.

The key learning point for me from the whole experience is that there are very little differences between our worlds. Yes, our products or services may differ but the challenges we face as business analysts remain the same. We all struggle to get recognition for the importance of the analyst’s role, we are all bought in too late to projects to have a real impact on the outcome, and we are all given too little resource to undertake the analysis effectively. The funding from the UCISA bursary to attend the conference informed my knowledge of the business analysis sector outside of the HE environment. I believe this knowledge is invaluable to business analyst working in HE as it enables us to mature and grow beyond the confines of our own sector.

 

Learning, networking and discussing

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University 

EUNIS 2017 overall reflections

I feel highly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend EUNIS17 through the success of my bursary application to UCISA and will be forever grateful for this opportunity. The conference has been a great place to not only learn new technologies and techniques that can be implemented to benefit our home institutions, but also a fantastic opportunity to network with a broad range of IT professionals working in higher education throughout Europe. I have personally found it very interesting to share stories of our own successes and challenges which encourage further discussion amongst peers from their own perspective. It has been comforting to see that a range of challenges are shared by many of us and also to see where we at Leeds Beckett University are working at the forefront in HE. Everyone that I met through attendance at the keynotes and parallel sessions as well as the social opportunities, were fantastically welcoming and open to honest discussion around their own institution’s IT implementations. It has proven to be eye opening and given me plenty of food for thought to bring back and discuss further within my own institution.

It was my first time visiting Munster and my experience in Germany has been entirely positive. Munster is a very beautiful city with plenty of interesting historical architecture. However, my first impression which struck me on my first night of arrival was that is seem to be a bit of a ghost town. Having arrived after 10 pm and walked from the train station to my hotel there was next to nobody around, which is very different in my experiences elsewhere. Thankfully the next morning demonstrated the natural hustle and bustle of busy city life. The main difference I witnessed immediately from my experiences back home was simply the thousands of cyclists buzzing around the streets at some speed, it felt like being in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

The conference felt well organised and the flow from session to session worked very well. It was clear that plenty of planning had been conducted to ensure that we delegates got the best experience from the three days (four for some who attended the pre-conference sessions). Reviewing it from my professional perspective, there were no obvious technical issues experienced throughout the sessions I attended and any minor glitches were proactively picked up by the local support team, which I thought was impressive. Overall, it has been a very enjoyable conference experience and one that I would highly recommend to others in the future. Given that next year’s conference is due to take place in Paris, I would imagine that there may be more UK representation in the delegation as I was the only one (at least that I encountered) representing a UK university. This primarily had a number of benefits however, with a range of questions from European peer institutions directed towards me, and equally allowed me a cross-European perspective on topics of interest.

All relevant information relating to EUNIS 17 can be found on the official site here.

… and a book of all EUNIS 2017 proceedings including all papers can be found here.

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

 

Bitcoin: trust and technology


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University 

EUNIS 2017

The final keynote session of the EUNIS 2017 conference from Nikolas Guggenberger, RWTÜV Foundation Assistant Professor of IT Law at University of Münster School of Law, took on an interesting look at ‘Trust by technology from a legal perspective’ in the form of a deeper investigation into public Blockchain, the technology behind crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin. Very early in the presentation, Nikolas had us asking ourselves “what causes us to trust something or someone?” which seemed quite an intriguing question as it isn’t one that I had particularly spent time thinking about before. My initial thought was simply that it is something I personally build through experience but is that really an option in the anonymous world of virtual currencies?

Nikolas gave a number of us less educated on the workings of public Blockchain, an insight into what it is and how it functions. Blockchain is a distributed, decentralised database, which particularly came into the public domain since the origin of the most successful crypto-currency, Bitcoin. It uses maths, cryptography and a network of distributed users (PCs) to ensure the authenticity of a transaction that can be verified by the whole community. The members of the community that verify this authenticity can take a small transaction fee for playing their part in the process (this is known as mining).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The huge potential of a public Blockchain is yet to be fully unlocked but the principle in use removes the need to trust third parties such as banks during transactions and instead relies on the trust of the Blockchain itself. The scope of trust by Blockchain was illustrated by Nikolas in the diagram below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikolas offered us a very interesting insight into the potential of Blockchain and some of the legal considerations from his professional view point. It became evidently clear that there is a huge scope for benefits to be realised beyond that currently using Blockchain and that these could become a standard in our future. I found it a highly interesting keynote and one to investigate further in the coming weeks and months.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/