Award winner reflects on the value of a UCISA bursary

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University



EDUCAUSE 2017 Conference, Philadelphia

Emma Fletcher was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Receiving a UCISA bursary allowed me to attend the EDUCAUSE annual conference in Philadelphia during November 2017. I believe it has had a number of positive effects on my personal development in higher education, for the directorate I’m a part of, and for colleagues within the university that I work with to support and advise.

Professional development

In terms of benefits to my personal CPD, I chose a number of relevant and useful sessions to attend at the conference. I selected sessions that aligned well with my role (and the University’s foci) to ensure it was a worthwhile experience. Some of the sessions have impacted on my practice at the University, such as the sessions focussing on video and recording academic staff. One of my team’s current projects is the digital transformation of a particular school, which involves recording staff talking about key themes in their modules. I have used some of the suggestions and ideas from the conference to develop these recordings which have been beneficial to the academic staff, along with the students who will be using the videos.

The overall experience and the information I gained from attending Educause has helped me in my own career and I have since applied for a technology enhanced learning (TEL) role at another institution. I used reflections from my time at the conference during the interview process and was successful.


Prior to attending the conference, the Director of my directorate was extremely positive about my being awarded the bursary and told me that Deputy Vice-Chancellor knew about it and was impressed. After the conference, I was given time during the directorate team meeting to speak about the conference with my colleagues. The team includes our educational developers, who work with academic staff on their teaching and learning. The team showed a real interest in some of the sessions and as a result I have had one to ones with some colleagues within the directorate about the sessions I attended and have shared some of the resources I collected whilst I was there.

I have spoken with my line manager about my experiences at the conference. We discussed the learning spaces and active learning sessions, as the former session was one I was asked to attend. Learning spaces is a particular area of interest, with my line manager overseeing a project at the University involving a redesigned learning space.

I have been able to informally present a number of times to colleagues at the university about some of the sessions I attended that relate to them. Along with the UCISA blogs I produced covering areas such as active learning spaces and universal design for learning (UDL) and learning management systems (LMS), I wrote a separate blog for the University, which highlighted sessions that I thought would be more relevant to the institution such as: learning spaces, universal design for learning and learning management systems, active learning, microlearning and social media, video creation and working with academic staff for technology innovation. When meeting colleagues across the University, I have spoken about the conference or sessions that I feel are relevant to them and hope this has impacted positively on them.

HE IT community

My attendance at the conference has broadened my knowledge and understanding of TEL, particularly from an international context, and allowed me to draw comparisons with the UK sector, and in particular the external factors influencing decisions we make about TEL (for example, Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), apprenticeships etc.). This has impacted on my interaction, for example when speaking with colleagues across the university. I feel more confident in my knowledge of HE and Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) (something which has been a steep learning curve after spending most of my career in secondary education) and I believe colleagues have seen the benefits.

I found the scale and programme of the conference made it difficult to connect with other attendees, however I discovered a lot of great people on Twitter and have developed my personal learning network a great deal. It has been particularly interesting to see TEL in an international context and I hope to cement some of the links I made over time.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.

The UCISA UK HE Capability Model

A UCISA-backed project to unravel the DNA of UK university business capabilities has mapped out a ground-breaking model that promises to revolutionise HE business planning and resource investment.

For the first time, UK HEIs can now predict how pulling on one lever in the organisation will affect all other components across the entire business architecture, as Ian Anderson, head of the UCISA’s Enterprise Architecture Community of Practice, explains:




The UK HE Capability Model is about mapping what a university, or other HE provider, is at its core. A business capability defines “what” a business does and differs from “how” things are done, where, or by whom. Business capabilities are the core of the any enterprise architecture.
When it comes to planning change, if you know all the contributing factors and all the variables to take into consideration in terms of the impacts on the rest of the organisation, then you can better judge and plan where to invest time, money and resource.
I work at Coventry University which is a big £300 (+) million business. Like many other large organisations, it’s not always easy to ensure one end of the businesses always know what’s going on from the other.
Take a simple example. If you want to run a part-time course in the evening, the course content isn’t the only thing to consider. Do you know if the car park is open in the evening? Is catering available? There is seldom one place you can go and find out and one place to let everyone else know what you are planning.
The UK HE Capability Model sets out to allow HEI’s to be more ‘situationally aware’; to allow better assessments of threats and opportunities and plan in a much more consistent manner. Through the model, Senior Managers and planners have a mapping architecture that allows HEIs to plan holistically across the entire business.
For example, if you wanted to break into the American market, what are all the processes and all the data sets that you already have that you should take account of? And how might they need to change? The Capability Model provides you with a baseline to access all the things that you need to consider going forward.
And just one of the many things we discovered in putting the model together, is that while we may all work in the same location, we all come at problems from a different perspective. And we don’t all speak the same language!
For instance, the model has a box for ‘domestic student recruitment’. Something every HEI does. We had to define and map this capability and that led to one university partner asking the simple question: “Who owns the messaging?” The recruitment office said, “Well, we own it.” But a college off-shoot said, “No, we own it.” And the Faculty said, “Actually, we think we own it.”
We had all these people thinking they owned recruitment, a number of systems running it and god knows how many spreadsheets in the background. Mapping and modelling the capability made them realise they were not doing it in a joined-up way.
We also uncovered the language problem. Some people would refer to student invoicing, some to academic fees management and others to student billing. Through the UCISA model, we have created a common language for use not only between the business and IT, but across the organisation.
The aim of the UK HE Capability Model has been to create a generic UK HE model that is very much in line with the UCISA ethos of collaboration and sharing the benefits with the sector.
One or two universities have had a go in the past for their own organisations and models exist for the sector in Australia, New Zealand and Holland – but we wanted to create something specific to the UK sector and to take our model further. Including, for example, commercial activity as a value stream alongside teaching and research and so reflecting the kind of work done at many Universities in areas such as ‘Technology Parks’ etc.
We’ve put in the time, defining something like 230 capabilities and grouping them logically, so you can take our model and put in your data and your information. You may wish have to tailor it to your individual circumstances (that’s fine it’s a generic model) but the bulk of the work has already been done – saving you time and making planning that much easier.
UCISA’s UK HE Capability Model is thus essentially a check list across five core groupings to confirm you have all your building blocks in place before you take anything forward. It ensures that you’ve taken account of all the ripples your plan may cause and that you know exactly what opportunities, impacts and improvements it will create – not only in the area you are working on but right across the rest of the university.
The essence of the model is the repository system. It tells you exactly where to collate and store information and data sets associated with a particular capability. It shows you the links to other capabilities so you can quickly assess the potential impact on them when planning and all the factors you should take into consideration.
That is the sort of work that a business analyst would spend many hours trying to identify. But having that repository of information about how the ecosystem of the organisation is put together, allows you to adapt and change the environment you’re operating in that much quicker.
The starting point is something we’ve called POLDAT. For each capability, ask yourself what are the Processes that support it? What is the Organisation and the people that support it? Where are they Located? Then what is the Data? What is the Application? And finally, what is the Technology?
If you start defining and collating that, you will find you can start to plan much more holistically
HESA contributed because they were doing some work around HESA data sets and felt the model matched what they were trying to do. If you have a capability around, say, enrolment management, then you will identify the dataset that sits there and the processes that create and manage that data and the governance that sits around it. When you look at the UCISA Capability Model you can see there are definitely links to the generic UCISA capability model.
It’s a stretch —but in future you may be able to benchmark your performance on one capability against other universities using such data.
I see enterprise architecture as the glue that links what we do as individual UCISA members back to the core business and mission of our universities and colleges. If we’re changing a technology or promoting a technology, the model can help us understand which capabilities or groups of capabilities are affected and how that benefits the organisation overall.
I see it helping to move us away from the old-fashioned view of IT as something that works in a tins and wires sort of environment to being absolutely a part of changing the way the business operates. It is very much about being a trusted partner in that process.
And looking to the future in a fast-changing world, the Capability Model is also durable. If you go back 30 years, people paid fees to their university and we had a capability in student fee management. The difference is that people paid by cheque whereas now they pay online.
Thirty years on, the capability is still the same. Once you’ve tailored the model to your institution, you’ll probably be able to say, even in 30 years’ time, that even if the attributes and component parts may be different, we still do most of these things.

Key take-outs:

  • UCISA’s UK HE Capability Model is freely available to all UCISA member institutions

  • The Model enables you to plan holistically across the entire organisation

  • The Model saves planning time, improves decision-making and encourages common
    terminology across the organisation


UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via


The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.


Next steps from a UCISA bursary winner

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Inaugural Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

My next steps from attending the Lean HE Conference are to:

  • Engage with Rachael McAssey (Chair of UCISA’s PCMG group) to deliver knowledge exchange and drive forward good practice using Lean methodology
  • Submit a presentation for inclusion at the CISG-PCMG Conference in November 2018 (Glasgow). At the CISG-PCMG conference, UCISA’s Corporate Information Systems Group (CISG) partners with its Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) to provide a joint conference covering all aspects of delivering change in organisations
  • Investigate appropriate Association of University Administrators (AUA) events to showcase Lean
  • Present at the University of Aberdeen’s Digital & Information Services Enlightening Lunch in February
  • Investigate a summer intern for the BI team (to help train future lean champions)
  • Continue to network with delegates that I met (22 new LinkedIn connections)
  • Invited Haley Macdonald (Manager Organisational Capacity), CQ University, Australia, to visit the University of Aberdeen in Spring 2018 to share best practice.

Alongside presenting at the conference, I had a key set of objectives to meet in attending the event, and came away from it with some key learning and a network of new colleagues.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.

Marketing and the digital generation – Part two of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is generating even greater collaboration between university and college marketing and IT teams.

In the second of our series of three blogs on the topic, Iain G. Morrison, Chief Marketing Officer at the University of Greenwich, offers his views on a productive approach to partnership while UCISA Executive Committee member Paul Butler adds insight on how to achieve the best possible partnership.




“You’ll very often hear people working in marketing, and even in other roles in HE, talking about digital first or mobile first. Whatever the fashionable term of the day — it’s human first,” says Iain G. Morrison. “However brands evolve and change, I think that unless you put human needs first you risk failure.”
“In my view, brands that succeed have a single uniting factor in common and that is an absolutely relentless focus on their respective customers and prospects. If you have that relentless focus, then everything else naturally comes second — whether that is digital, mobile or other priorities to improve the customer experience.”
“For me, it’s people first always. I think particularly in the space of student recruitment which is a life choice for students and young people. It can be daunting. It can be exciting. You can run through a whole gamut of emotions whatever age you are when coming, or thinking about coming, to university.”
“That’s why meeting emotional needs as well as helping toward a future career is so important.”
“While it happens in many other industries, I think close collaboration in terms of marketing and IT in this sector is key. There should be an aligned business strategy that looks at where the business is and where it needs to get to. Marketing, IT, and other stakeholders then work together to review, plan and deliver that through a shared roadmap. “
Paul Butler, Greenwich’s Director of Information & Library Services and a UCISA Executive Committee member, agrees: “I think it’s important to make sure that your entire organisational model for professional services is pitched at the right level.
I meet with our marketing director regularly and we share and have trust – having that ability to have those day-to-day safe, trust-based conversations outside the formality of committees but within the same reporting structure, makes for a healthy and productive relationship. It’s the same healthy rapport from top to bottom within all levels of marketing and IT services,” says Paul.
Iain continues the theme: “It often works best when project teams are created, as we are doing here at the University of Greenwich. Workstreams are identified within the overarching business strategy; and collaborative multipurpose teams are then formed. One I’m leading at the moment brings together various elements of marketing with our IT team so we can move our website on significantly.
“Likewise, we’re not working in silos but as a single team when it comes to other aspects of our digital transformation. Helping drive projects forward successfully comes from working together.
“One of the common themes that runs through a successful collaboration of this kind is communication. In the early days, teams probably need to over-communicate because marketing and IT still tend to speak slightly different languages.
“If you over-communicate, collaborate and work together from the perspective of the user with a relentless focus on improving the customer experience, I don’t think you can go far wrong.”
“However, IT has started to move away from the traditional gamekeeper role around infrastructure and protection. They are moving much more into the delivery of the customer experience and facilitating growth. So, now it’s about communicating to ensure we’re all on the same page and all understand what’s coming next.
“Personally, I’m making an effort to actually learn more about IT’s barriers and challenges. If you can understand where someone is coming from and fully understand their perspective, it makes for better collaboration.”

Key take-outs:

  • Whatever platform you are using, focus first on the customer needs of students in a human way

  • Consider how organisational structures can foster a positive and co-operative culture

  • Learn to talk the same language or over-communicate until you are on the same page


UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via


The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

Marketing and the digital generation – Part one of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is generating even greater collaboration between university and college marketing and IT teams.

In the first of a series of three blog posts focusing on the benefits of partnership, UCISA Executive member Adrian Ellison, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Information Officer at the University of West London, outlines some of the trends and future opportunities along with insights from UWL Marketing colleague Susan Vittery.



“IT at UWL has always had a strong, close-knit relationship with marketing,” says Adrian. “In fact, we’re almost co-located as there is only a glass partition between the two teams.”
“In terms of both student recruitment and the support for the overall student experience, I think it’s imperative that marketing is engaged with technology development projects such as CRM and our student record system, right from the outset.
“When it comes to student recruitment, there is a genuine market out there and it is a buyers’ market. It is real competition — which is why clever intelligent marketing is so important.
“Students are definitely shopping around. They are looking for quick, compelling information. We recently invested in a whole raft of course-based videos because students don’t want to read the equivalent of a prospectus each time. Real engaging content, delivered by course tutors and students already on the course, has had a huge impact. This includes an 11% increase in page views of our clearing and home page once they were mobile-optimised. Marketing and IT are currently co-leading a project to continue the latest phase of developing our website.
“For me, the key is getting students involved. If you are building a website to recruit 18-24 year-olds you want to make sure you’ve got that age group offering input. We have students in our working groups to help us refine things, not only in terms of design and functionality but also in terms of the tone of content and how it is framed.”
“You have to move with the times. Technology is pervasive now, it’s the basis of how everything works and we are talking to young people that don’t know another way of doing things. Digital content needs to be integrated, easy-to-use, mobile and written from the student perspective. We’re trying to embed that into everything we do.
“One big influence, both in recruitment and supporting the student experience, is in use of data and analytics. Universities have amassed lots of data about students but we’re never really used it properly. We were more concerned with complying with HESA statutory reports than we were in looking at the value of that data to us. Now it is about joining these systems up and harnessing the power of this huge amount of data and seeing where we can put some machine intelligence behind it.
“For example, we have an online chat system supporting the student recruitment process on our website. There is no reason why 90% of questions can’t be answered by a robot with only the more complex needing to go to a person. There would be a better experience for applicants as they could get more questions answered more effectively and 24/7.
“More importantly, we could use big data and machine learning to learn more about our students to then help us deliver better support going forward. A learning analytics system has been in place at UWL for over a year now and is really beginning to show that we’re having an impact — it’s looking at our attainment data, attendance, looking at our VLE data and then harnessing it to be able to start predicting things about potential student outcomes. That means we can start making interventions much, much earlier.
“Digital content needs to be integrated, easy-to-use, mobile and written from the student perspective. We’re trying to embed that into everything we do.”
Susan Vittery, Head of Digital and Web at UWL, finds close proximity and cross-departmental working vital: “What marketing brings to the table is an understanding of our users and what will engage them while IT has the expertise in establishing infrastructures and systems that are sustainable. As marketing becomes more and more based around technology and digital, we are working together on projects more, regardless of line management structures.
“However, having moved from times when we had little technology to a time when we have a lot, I think the challenge is not so much about the platform as getting the content right and understanding the audiences. Whether you’re doing that in print or via webinars or social media, the key is speaking in the right way and making sure you are engaging with issues the audience is interested in.
“I also think you shouldn’t try to be everything to everybody. There are so many platforms now and that’s something that’s both a challenge and an opportunity for all education institutions. Spreading yourself across all of them might be less effective than making informed choices about where your user groups are looking and where you can best engage with them.”

Key take-outs:

  • Involve students in outreach content and platform discussions.

  • Consider how data can be used proactively to improve the student experience.

  • Make informed choices and limit platform use to what works for your target audiences.

  • Use the power of data and machine learning to improve the support offered to students and ultimately their outcomes


UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via


The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

ITSM Tools

Sally Bogg, winner of Business Role Model of the Year in the 2018 Women in IT Awards, offers her insights on breaking the cycle of ITSM tool frustration. Head of end-user services at Leeds Beckett University, Sally is Chair of the  UCISA’s Support Services Group and holds the award for Inspirational Leader 2017 from the IT Service & Support Awards.



It’s not me – it’s you? From conversations with other UCISA members and colleagues across the HE and FE education sectors, there seems to be a great deal of dissatisfaction with our IT Service Management tools.
Is that just because ITSM tools tend to be pricey so our expectations of what they will deliver are sky high? Or is it that we’re simply failing to fully leverage the significant investment we make in them?
My take is that they are often purchased as an unrealistic silver bullet and seen as a catch-all solution for implementing ITIL-related processes and creating a service culture.
The problem as I see it is that a tool is still just a tool. It can’t change embedded behaviours or culture and it can’t fix broken support processes.
And because of that, we often get stuck in a non-productive cycle. We buy a new tool, go through the pain of implementation and then walk away with very little investment in development.
A year or two down the line, we’re frustrated and disappointed that it has failed to meet our needs. What does it seem we typically do? We start thinking about buying a new one.
Some organisations have got dedicated development resource for their ITSM tool. But many don’t. Is it any wonder that they are not meeting our requirements and delivering return on investment?
It seems time for a new approach. Time to get the most from the ITSM products we’re using by working more closely with vendors and suppliers. Most ITSM tools have very similar functionality so my advice is to find a vendor that you want to work with — someone you can build and develop a long-term strategic partnership with.
Start by spending lots of time mapping the processes and understanding where the tool can be best used and, if possible, where activities and tasks can be automated, for example password resets.
I know starting with the processes rather than the product isn’t very IT. But while we may want to get our hands on the system as soon as we can, I think first deciding how, where and why we can maximise its use is a prerequisite for ending the cycle of ITSM fatigue.
For example, trying to retrofit and tack on reporting after implementation can be a costly, time-consuming mistake that may require a complete redesign — easily avoided if you think about what reports you want early on in your process-mapping.
And remember that success usually is about people, not things. Spending time and investing in training will result in the tool being used cohesively and consistently.
Finally, look ahead and keep that forward momentum. Implementing a continual service improvement roadmap for your ITSM tool means development activities can be recorded, developed, prioritised and implemented.

Key take-outs:

  • Develop a strategic relationship with your ITSM tool supplier

  • Start by considering processes, not products

  • Look ahead. Invest time into a continual service improvement roadmap for your ITSM tool


UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via


The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.


Jeni Brown has been IT Training Manager for the London School of Economics and Political Science since 2006 and a member of the Digital Capabilities (formerly User Skills) group, with a couple breaks for maternity leave, since 2008.



As I write this, it’s International Women’s Day, and I’m reflecting with optimism on the ways that I, my team, my division and institution have made a #pressforprogress in the past 12 months. A month ago, I was honoured to receive the Academic Award for my work in digital capabilities at LSE, and share the stage with some amazing and inspiring women at the FDM Everywoman in Technology awards. The awards recognise the most inspirational women in technology, with the goal of promoting female role models within the STEM industries. It was truly humbling to hear about the amazing achievements of the assembled finalists, often in spite of casual sexism and unconscious bias in their organisations or schools. This year I have also been lucky enough to take part in the Leadership Foundation’s Aurora programme, and meet more incredible women taking on leadership positions within HE and pushing through some of the subtle and not-so-subtle barriers in the way of greater gender equality. Here again, female role models were important, with past participants acting as role models and facilitators for the sessions.
So I’ve been reflecting on the importance of role models. Seeing ourselves represented in our field of expertise and in our institutions is powerful. I felt a surge of hope when LSE hired Dame Minouche Shafik as Director, and discovered a renewed interest in my role when Laura Dawson joined as the new Director of Information Management and Technology. And I want to play my part in inspiring women as well. I’ve signed up for the Modern Muse network and joined the mentoring programme at LSE. I’m thrilled to have the chance to be a role model, as well as benefit from the female role models in my organisation.
But as optimistic as I am, there is a lot more to do, and even ardent feminists like myself will get it wrong sometimes.
My division recently took the decision to name our meeting rooms, in addition to their number designations. I was heartened and excited when the suggestion to celebrate technology pioneers was refined to celebrate female tech pioneers. My division was being so progressive! A female colleague and I quickly set out to create a shortlist for our colleagues to vote on and presented it to our engagement group. And then another colleague pointed out that all our picks were white women. And I was ashamed, but so very grateful, to be called out for our unconscious bias. Because representation isn’t only about gender, or sexuality, or even race – we need to be actively seeking to highlight the range of contributions made by all people and keeping each other honest about the process. It wasn’t hard to find further contributions by a more diverse range of women, but I hadn’t actively thought to do it. We can all do better, be more aware, and work harder to address our unconscious biases. Those of us with the most privilege (and higher education has quite a lot of privilege), need to do the most work.
LSE, like a lot of other HE institutions, is working on this issue. And in the IT Training team, we’re doing what we can to ensure we’re meeting the needs of our students. A couple years ago, we were dismayed at the lack of female candidates for our Student Training Advisor position, so we started examining our processes to see if we could improve representation at the application stage. We reviewed our job description and realised we had a strong focus on technical skills, and not as much focus on the communication and teaching or tutoring skills. But our actual experience with student trainers was that the most technical candidates weren’t necessarily the best. Some of the most amazing student staff came to us with low technical skills but an excellent understanding of how to communicate clearly and structure learning for different skill levels. Evidence shows that not only do women suffer from a confidence gap, especially in tech, but it is easier to teach someone technical skills than to teach a technical person about the industry they are entering. We revised the job description to de-emphasize technical skills (after all, what kind of training department can’t teach their staff the required technical skills?!) and focus on practical experience in communicating complex information. We ran the job description and advert through a gendered language online tool, to ensure we weren’t using masculine-coded language that puts off female candidates.
And it worked – in the next recruitment round, 40% of our applications were from women compared to no female candidates the year before, and we saw some stellar candidates. We got a higher calibre of male talent as well. Our interview processes have always relied heavily of giving students a chance to show us what they can do, with at least half of the time spent on practical tasks or a teaching audition – one of several ways recommended to reduce bias in your interviewing process. We also advertised heavily amongst the current programme participants, where over 60% of participants are female. We still have some way to go, but we’re committed to having more women in the role of technical expert. Even the way we’ve designed our training programme reflects our commitment to a wider range of people successfully leveraging technology. Our focus on digital literacy, self-sufficiency, transferrable knowledge, and confidence in solving technical problems – not just learning a set of specific technical skills – helps everyone engage confidently with technology.
We’d love to talk to you about what we’ve been doing, and hear about what works (and doesn’t) at your institutions. The Digital Capabilities Group is running a webinar about events that recognise women’s achievements in technology on 6 June (see the website nearer the time for details), or you can hear about our engagement with our student trainers at the Change Agent Network conference in Winchester in April. Finally, I’ll be presenting about how our training programme develops digital capabilities and confidence at the Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event in May. You can also get in touch with me at


Supporting student learning in a digital world – opportunities and obstacles

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University




DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

Beccy Dresden was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

For the first half of the afternoon on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017, we had a choice between one of five workshops delivered by the DigPedLab Fellows:

or a lightning talks session.

Three of the five workshops appealed to me, but Leonardo was happy to share the resources used in his, and Penny and Kris were both in my track, so I figured I could pick their brains another time (especially Penny, who is based in the UK), so I went for the lightning talks. These are detailed at the link above, but to save you clicking, I have included the summaries here in italics.

Interdisciplinary Solutions

Michelle Clement, Associate Faculty in the School of Business at Royal Roads University, will offer a talk and case study about how tackling homelessness isn’t a one disciplinary approach. The case study will show how sociology, marketing, mental health and nursing students worked together across disciplines and cultures to better understand homelessness in their community.

I noted the following:

  • Working in multidisciplinary teams, students felt that sharing different perspectives deepened their understanding of the problems.
  • Michelle is now living their experience by participating in the Writing track here!
  • Organising this kind of thing is administratively complicated, but focusing on making it a meaningful experience for students is key.

New Media and Pedagogy

Hannah McGregor, Assistant Professor in Publishing at Simon Fraser University will offer a lightning talk as a provocation: to explore how new media forms (podcasts, social media feeds, etc.) allow pedagogy to take place beyond the university. What would happen if we thought of our role, as academics, to be pedagogy (not research) first? How do forms like the podcast allow us to enact a public-pedagogy-first praxis? How the heck will we convince universities to get on board?

I noted the following:

  • Hannah loves podcasts, but hates the male-dominated maker culture, coding-boot-camps stuff.
  • Maker culture can be too focused on the production of a thing, as opposed to processes, community building, pedagogy, etc. (Is this a male vs female thing?)
  • Where are the women in podcasting? (Hannah referred to an article in Forbes that seems to claim people hate the sound of women’s voices.)

Open Pop Ups

Verena Roberts, Learning Specialist at Rocky View Schools, will discuss open learning networks. From September 2017 to June 2018 she will be connecting learning communities with open learning networks by facilitating serendipitous and planned ‘Open Pop Up’ learning activities with a K-12 contextual lens. She will be completing a pilot version of the ‘Open Pop-ups’ at her school district in the hopes of using the pilot to inform her doctorate research the following year.

I noted the following:

  • Um, what is K-12?! (I Googled it for you:–12)
  • We need to keep talking about the differences between OERs and open(ing) learning
  • Stick metaphor – what children see (same with cardboard boxes?) [sorry, I have no idea what I meant by this!]
  • ePortfolios for high school students – not résumé building, but creating relationships and apprenticeships
  • Verena gave a couple of examples of her open pop-ups:

– Kindness ninjas – promoting sharing behaviours among children in underprivileged area

– Assembling diverse groups of students.


Carolyn Steele, Career Development Coordinator at York University, Toronto, will discuss Daagu. Daagu is an online platform that offers holistic and collaborative eLearning opportunities to students. Developed at York University in Toronto, Daagu is designed to promote student choice and engagement, community dialogue and meaningful application of conceptual content. It’s very much a self-directed way of learning. This session will introduce Daagu and provide information on how to learn more.

I noted the following:

  • Carolyn has been working in blended classes for the last 5 years, and teaches 7–10pm – she tries to end at 8.30/9pm so the rest – the reflection part of the learning, mainly – can be done online. [This interested me because some Open University (OU) students complain about the timing of synchronous online teaching events.]
  • Daagu was developed for the nursing programme at York.
  • To me, students’ posts look like a combo of Pinterest and OpenStudio [an OU collaboration tool]
  • Students could provide emotional feedback, but they’re very resistant to doing that.
  • Quality vs quantity of posts? Assessing/grading that? How do you create a rubric for that?

Overcoming Digital Obstacles

Christina Chavez-Reyes, Professor in the College of Education and Integrative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona) will discuss digital obstacles to learning and teaching. In her teaching, she has discovered college students’ fear of the digital domain (distraction and breach of privacy) impedes their use of and ability at digital media, particularly social media, to become 21st-century college-educated citizens and professionals. This circumstance undermines the concept of students as ‘digital natives’ and begs the question how colleges can better prepare students with the necessary digital skills and knowledge of the digital domain. An added element is college faculty’s resistance to develop their digital skills to incorporate tech appropriately in classrooms. These converging factors create an equity crisis for first gen college and low-income students (perhaps all students) who likely do not readily have available social and cultural capital in their homes and communities to supplement the lack of learning in college. Many will earn a degree without a model of professional and civic engagement for the digital age.

I noted the following:

  • Christina is a Faculty member plus department chair. She feels working class at heart and, being in a new leadership position, has to play two different roles/apply two different lenses.
  • Social mobility for its students is a key achievement of her institution.
  • The focus is on educating students to undo inequalities and inequities when they become educators.
  • Use of social media: 30% like it, 60% fear it as a distraction, and 10% have privacy concerns
  • Risks are real – going online involves a third party, and creates a ‘non-rival, non-excludable good’
  • To sustain democracy, there needs to be a clear and protected boundaries between civil society and markets
  • Empowerment—intention—confidence is a key continuum.

How Christina described her students really chimed with the challenges I know many OU students faced – demographically they are quite similar, I think, which was interesting, as my impression was that many of the other participants work with students who more closely resemble the UK stereotype of undergraduates than OU students do.

Net Neutrality

Brian Weston, Director of Distance and Accelerated Learning at College of the Canyons will discuss strategies for keeping information accessible for online education.

The main thing I noted from Brian’s presentation was his question ‘What happens if students don’t have top-tier internet access?’. This is a problem that many OU students in rural/remote parts of the UK still face – contrary to government claims of widespread high-speed broadband availability!

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.

UCISA bursary winner presents at Lean in Higher Education conference

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

The aim of my presentation, ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’ (2.56MB) at the Australasian Lean HE Conference was to show why Business Improvement teams need to change their model of working during organisational change to ensure that they continue to deliver good lean practice in a relevant way. The Business Improvement (BI) Team at the University of Aberdeen in its initial stages were involved in a significant number of initiatives across the organisation. However, as the university entered a period of restructuring, it experienced a change in people’s availability and motivation to be involved in non-strategic initiatives.

The presentation summarised how the BI team at University of Aberdeen has used Lean training to train and support project teams on strategic programmes as well as kick-start other business improvement initiatives. As part of the presentation, I highlighted case studies to show the journey from the training to the project development and implementation e.g. Student Recruitment and Admissions (SRAS) have undertaken reviews of their key processes and have made changes:

  • to enhance the enquirer/applicant experience
  • to achieve better integration with other sections in the university (reducing duplication etc.)
  • to consolidate IT systems when various systems were used previously, allowing for much better planning and reporting, amongst other benefits.

Delegates’ feedback was that they found the practical examples in the session helpful and came away with some useful ideas on how to train across their organisations, and how to make Lean stick.

A wide variety of interesting and useful speaker talks from the conference are available here.

I had a key set of conference objectives to meet in attending the conference, and came away with some key learning from the event. I will be blogging further about my intended next steps following what I learnt at the conference.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.

UCISA bursary helps award winner advocate for lecture capture

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University


EUNIS 2017 Conference, Münster, Germany

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Having been very fortunate to be selected for a UCISA bursary in 2017, I was delighted to have had the opportunity to attend EUNIS17 in Münster, Germany. The event is a very well attended European conference and I quickly noted that there were only a select few delegates representing institutions from the UK. This offered me a valuable opportunity to network with peers from across Europe and obtain some positive insights into Higher Education in other European institutions. A key discussion point that particularly sparked my professional interest surrounded a session entitled “Panopto: Using Video to Enhance Informal, Formal and Blended Learning Approaches” presented by Denis Staskewitsch highlighting the use of video in academic delivery. Whilst currently, we at Leeds Beckett University offer an ‘opt in’ service for lecture capture using Panopto video platform, this currently does not include video capture. The session was primarily attended by peers from Scandinavian HE institutions where their strategy appears to fully support the use of video for lecture capture and delivery. The benefits were thoroughly discussed and I took a lot from the level of delegate engagement during this session.

Since returning to the UK, I have been keen to promote the benefits of video capture realised in other institutions by seeking conversations and/or meetings with key influencers within my home institution. I hope to positively influence change for our students and encourage the benefits that were so enthusiastically highlighted by peer institutions. Whilst these conversations have been very positive, there is still more to be done before video lecture capture becomes a standard within Leeds Beckett University. I am however, encouraged that select technical and academic colleagues are now more positive about the potential of video enhanced lecture capture/delivery and the fact that I am helping to shape discussion around future university strategy is highly satisfying.

Following my attendance at EUNIS17, I returned to Leeds Beckett University to report lessons learnt to colleagues and team members through our IT Services Weekly Management meetings and more localised team meetings along with many related, ad hoc discussions. In preparation and application for the UCISA bursary, I had committed to ensuring that I share the knowledge and key elements learnt with both colleagues and the wider UCISA community. I therefore decided that one of the best ways to communicate and indeed remember the diverse range of sessions was to actively blog about my experiences during the conference. My blog posts can also be found at I found that blogging was not only good for sharing my thoughts and opinions of the conference topics but also really helped to cement my understanding of the discussion points. My blog was circulated via a departmental report to colleagues across IT Services at Leeds Beckett University and this furthered interest from some colleagues who read it and wished to understand more about specific topics. Additionally, within our department we formally review and report back to a Development Panel on our experiences on any training, conference or event that we attend, to ensure that we maximise any future benefit for both departmental personnel and financial resource.  I had encouraged a member of my team to also apply for a UCISA bursary for the SCHOMS conference which he went on to thoroughly enjoy and I continue to encourage colleagues to apply for the new bursary round.

Whilst in Münster at the conference, I found it really easy and enjoyable to network with other IT professionals from a diverse range of European institutions. The event was set up in such a way that there were plenty of opportunity to meet and discuss common interests with peers both within formal and informal surroundings. Most of the delegates were very forthcoming in conversations and the beauty of HE sector sharing was prominent in almost all interactions. I found it highly enjoyable to discuss professional similarities and differences with others and came away from my four day experience with an enhanced enthusiasm for potential technical solutions to common challenges within our sector. I made a few contacts from my attendance at EUNIS17 and it was interesting to learn how our home institutions are confronting comparable challenges.

As one of my next steps after the conference, I have been in contact with another bursary winner, Ben Sleeman, from the University of Greenwich. Ben has blogged about his visit to the AETM conference in Australia and about visits to a number of Melbourne universities, including Deakin University. At Deakin he interviewed, using Panopto, the Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution team about a range of the university’s AV solutions, which may help areas of focus at Leeds Beckett.

In addition to my advocacy of further developing our Panopto lecture capture service at Leeds Beckett, I also took away the importance of identifying key strategies to enhance our digital transformation in order to stay competitive within the sector. I heard great evidence of how digital assessments are helping to improve both student and academic satisfaction particularly in Scandinavian universities both through the “Inspera: Digital Assessment in Norway – A Case Study from the University of Bergen” presentation by Sofie Emmertsen and associated conversations. I therefore intend to keep abreast of opportunities within this area that would enhance our technical delivery to the student experience at Leeds Beckett University.

Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme 2018.