Category Archives: Bursary

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.

UK vs. US HE – Blockchain and student engagement

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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

What kind of Business Analyst are you?

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day Two

The keynote speaker on day two of the Business Analysis Conference 2016 was Bjarte Bogsnes from Statoil  who gave an interesting talk titled Beyond budgeting – An Agile Management Model for the New Business and People Realities. The premise of his talk was how, if we remove the concept of budgets in the workplace and empower people with their own spending power, they would take greater ownership. Transparency was a key part of this process which encouraged people to make smarter spending decisions. While I found this an engaging talk and interesting idea I don’t feel many UK HE institutions are ready for this as yet.

Next up was Adrian Reed, President of the UK chapter of the International Instituteadrian-reed-_blog_1_image4 of Business Analysis  who gave a fun talk on what Business Analysts can learn from the world of magic. The talk even included a couple of successfully pulled off magic tricks from Adrian himself. Adrian questioned whether as Business Analysts we too often focus our efforts on reaching the end goal successfully and forget about the journey we take both ourselves and our stakeholders on to get there. He asked us to consider the whole performance and not just the “wow” of the trick at the end. If we involve our stakeholders in the journey every step of the way, then we will reach the end together, and even if the end isn’t quite as planned, the stakeholders will be comfortable with the process and come back to work with us time and time again. He reminded us of this by saying, “You can deliver the best system in the world but if you deliver it in a bad way then users will hate it forever.”

To iiba-bcs_blog_1_image5finish the morning off, I attended a talk from Allianz on the IT BA and Business BA.  The speakers discussed how, at Allianz, the IT and Business BAs successfully worked together to eliver solutions. During the lunch session Lucy Ireland from the British Computer Society and Stephen Ashworth from the IIBA gave a fireside chat on how the BCS and IIBA want to work together in the future. One of the main questions from the floor was how as Business Analysts we decide on which, out of the qualifications they both offer, we should do, and whether we see a time when they will bring the two together? The response was that they felt both offered and suited a different set of skills and experiences, that for the time being they would stay on separate paths, and that you, as a Business Analyst, would have to decide which route to take.

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Nigel Risner kicked off the afternoon session with a very lively presentation titled How to create massive impact and be an effective zookeeper.  Nigel’s presentation style was a cross between Michael McIntyre and Alan Sugar. It certainly revitalized the audience and woke us up for the last afternoon of the conference. Nigel gave two key pieces of advice:

1) If you are in the room be in the room. Give whoever you are speaking to your full attention as, for that moment in time, they are the most important person in your life.

2) You can spend all the time in the world analysing who you are and what type of person you are but in business it doesn’t really matter. What matters is walking into a room of stakeholders and quickly being able to recognise what type of person they are and how to communicate with them in a style that will suit them.

Nigel breaks people down into four categories;

  • The visionary, single-minded lion
  • The playful, extroverted monkey
  • The careful, analytical elephant
  • The caring, supportive dolphin

Next up was Ryan Folster from Britehouseryan-folster_blog_1_image7 who talked about being The indispensable BA This was another talk about how as Business Analysts we often reach for solutions without fully understanding the requirements, which just goes to show what an important topic it is for the community.

 

To finish off the conference I attended a talk by Simon Lynch from Aviva Health on Impact Mapping.  Simon’s talk was agile focused, explaining how before creating your epics and then breaking those down into stories, you should start with a session impact mapping. The impact maps should show why you want to do something, how it will impact a stakeholder and what you want to achieve. Simon explained that while this had taken them awhile to get the hang of, it has really helped them when creating the epics and user stories to consider all aspects of the impact.

And that was the end of my first ever IIBA Business Analysis conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of attending the conference from meeting other Business Analysts to hearing all the interesting and somewhat rather lively presentations. I can thoroughly recommend attending this conference to any fellow Business Analyst, and if you get the chance to apply for the UCISA Bursary, it is well worth the effort. I hope I will be able to attend in future years and may even pluck up the courage to speak and share a story of my own to a future audience.

Listening to customer need

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Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University
Member of UCISA-PCMG

Day One

As a UCISA bursary winner for 2016 I attended the Business Analysis Conference 2016 hosted by IRM. The conference was attended by over three hundred and fifty Business Analysts from a diverse range of industries: there was a mixture of experienced Business Analysts and people fresh to the industry. As a Business Analyst with over ten years’ experience in the HE sector, I often get to meet colleagues from other institutions to share knowledge, different experiences and best practice. This conference, however, gave me a chance to meet analysts from outside my peer group. I really enjoyed hearing about the projects they were working on and what they consider to be their best practices, as well as the usual horror stories of being bought onto a project too late in the day and customers’ requirements changing part way through a project. The benefits from these opportunities to chat with other attendees between sessions are hard to quantify, but I personally find them one of these best parts of attending a conference.

The conference was opened by keynote speaker Gavin Esler.gavin-esler_blog_1_image1
Gavin is an award-winning broadcaster, author and journalist and gave an engaging speech about ‘trust’. Trust is something we give to people every day, whether it be in our personal or professional lives. We place trust in leaders who tell us what is in our best interests using facts and figures to back up their arguments. The question is why do we place our trust in some people and not in others? Why as Business Analysts should we expect our customers to trust us when presenting our results and analysis? As Gavin said, “If facts were king, then Spock would have been captain of the Enterprise.” How we deliver a message is just as important as the analysis and facts of our case. As great leaders have shown us we need to become storytellers when presenting our case to the business, so we connect with our audience and gain their trust.

Virgin Media presented the next session titled Share Knowledge, Perform Stronger, Better Together – Evolving a BA practice. They explained how they had developed their BA practice over the years and survived several organisational restructures and rebrands. They had developed a BA toolkit which included templates, tools and techniques that supported their delivery framework as well as also utilising the SFIA capability model for developing their team.

mohamed-bray_blog_1_image2Next up was Mohamed Bray from Saratoga Software who came all the way from South Africa. Mohamed’s talk was titled Think like an Analyst, Act like a Consultant.  Mohamed was an engaging speaker who told us a real life story of when he failed to think about the customer needs first; how he had assumed what they wanted and what he had learned from this experience. As Business Analysts we often fall into the trap of thinking of solutions before we really understand what the problem is and what the customers’ needs are. Often we jump to a technology that we think will solve a problem when technology should only ever be the enabler of a solution, and not the solution itself. If we fail to listen to our customers and truly understand their problem, we will fail to engage them in our solutions. By actively listening to their problem the customer will become the co-creator of the solution taking ownership of the change and become the catalyst driving it forward in the organisatkim-bray_blog_1_image3ion.

After a very tasty lunch, we were welcomed to the afternoon session by a keynote from Kim Bray from Nationwide. Kim took us through her thirty-year career as a Business Analyst. Kim explained how she may not have always held the job title of Business Analyst, but that did not stop her from undertaking business analysis activities for her organisation. Kim described herself as being ‘professionally nosey’ and at the start of her career her naturally inquisitive nature meant she was capturing information on issues and analysing the data before presenting solutions to her organisation without even knowing what a Business Analyst role was. However, one of the key messages Kim left me with was ‘You don’t get something if you don’t ask.’ How often in both our professional and personal lives do we not pluck up the courage to ask for something we want or need simply because we are scared of hearing the answer ‘No!’

The afternoon session was, for me, dominated by Agile.  I attended a talk from Ashley Watson of the NHS Blood Transplant service and Menaka Priya Shanmugavadivelu from Aviva. Ashley talked about UAT and Menaka talked about delivering Agile development when your customers, business, Business Analysts and developers are spread across the globe. Menaka stressed the importance of visiting your dispersed teams to get to know them and build relationships, finding common ground and continuing to build on the relationship after your return back to base.

 

Getting into the zone for Educause 2016

liz_ellis

 

 

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

So, here I am, in a hotel in Anaheim, California, getting into the zone for my first Educause experience. To say that Educause has been a bit of a holy grail for me conference-wise would be an understatement. All the information I’ve received about the conference from colleagues who have attended before has been that it is a unique intersection between edtech, IT, and learning and teaching practice.

I’ve identified already the tracks

that I’m going to focus on and which have the most immediate relevance to my work. I’m hoping to bounce between ‘Driving Innovation in Teaching and Learning’ and ‘Transforming the Student Experience’. As a product development manager in Learning Innovation/Technology Enhanced Learning at The Open University, you get used to having to slightly squint to see the direct relevance of approaches, methods, and findings to your own situation. But increasingly over the last few years, that squinting has had to become less and less as the sector has moved more into the OU’s realm of Supported Online Learning (SOL). So, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the sessions have to offer.

My work in particular over the last year has come to focus not just on the development of new tools and technologies for our students to use, but also on new methods to involve them in that process, in an appreciative and empathetic way.

Perhaps the most challenging part of these types of events is running the vendor gauntlet. But this time I’ve come prepared, and have put some thought into the sorts of criteria I can use to make assessing new technologies more useful over the long term (and also make reporting back to my colleagues more helpful).

  • Is this technology a disruptive or incremental innovation
  • Does this technology support:
    1. Participative learning (students contributing in non-assessment ways)
    2. Learning to learn (students becoming more digitally confidence and creative)
    3. Deeper engagement with learning materials (new strategies for immersive learning)
    4. Collaborative learning (the ongoing curse and joy of group work)
  • Does this technology demonstrate:
    1. Improvements in student attainment
    2. Improvements in student progression
    3. Improvement in student retention

At the very least, it will hopefully spark a useful conversation or two.

 

digital detective #playlearn16

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Sue Watling
Academic Advisor,Technology Enhanced Learning
University of Hull
Member of the UCISA Digital Capabilities Group

 

This week I’m at the Birley Campus of MMU attending the Playful Learning Conference #playlearn16. Thank you @UCISA for the bursary which made this amazing experience possible.  I say amazing because playing games takes me right out of my comfort zone.

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Youngest son works here at Birley and while we were chatting about the conference, he reminded me how playing board games was an integral part of his childhood. Before this week I can’t remember the last time I opened a board game box. There’s lots of them here  week but now – as then  – computers are competing for attention.

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We used to have a ZX Spectrum when that was cutting edge – and a shoe-box full of games. Today eldest son still plays WarHammer but youngest is a digital gamer. Thanks to him I can talk about Grand Theft Auto, Heavy Rain and Witcher. Love the graphics but still much to learn about the multitasking demands of an Xbox console! I’m more of a vicarious game-player rather than a real one and with regard to play it’s more the creativity aspects which interest me. I’m part of the #creativeHE network and we’ve just finished another open online week. With the conversations still fresh in my mind, of the questions I arrived with on Wednesday was how play and games might link up with creative approaches to HE. In particular, could I find ways to be more creative with introducing staff to TEL and developing digital capabilities.  The conference isn’t over yet so there’ll be blog posts to follow which try and answer this. In the meantime I’m reflecting on the power of crowd sourcing to find things forgotten things.

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This week I was defeated by Google. It started with a poet and the title of a book of poems. I couldn’t remember either. All I knew was male with a cancer diagnosis, northern England, something to do with a year spent in a sheep pen or shepherd shelter, within the last decade and I thought I’d read about him in the Guardian.  I didn’t expect it to be a problem. After all you can find anything with Google – can’t you?

But it was and I couldn’t. On and off for a couple of days I tried variations of all the bits I could I could remember, confident Google would pick up something which would trigger what I needed.  It didn’t. Instead it was an lesson in how Google makes overt decisions based on popularity and how this can prevent any covert, deeper connections from taking place. William Wordsworth and James Rebanks  came up again and again. I learned some interesting asides like Yan Tan Thethera, an old english counting method, but could not discover my poet.

Then I thought – Library!

So I sent a tweet to @HullUni_Library who shared it with @hull_libraries from where it was picked up by @BookjacketsHQ who gave me the answer – all within minutes. Could it be Glyn Hughes ‘A Year in the Bull Box’. Not sheep but cattle. Yes – it could and it was!

image of a tweet with correct answer Glyn Hughes

Wrong beast but I’m not convinced it would have made much difference. When I briefly tried the same search terms, substituting cattle for sheep, still no luck. So thank you Lyn Fenby. I have the book of poems I needed for the final year of my creative writing course as well as discovering the rest of the work of Glyn Hughes who died in 2011 The Guardian Glyn Hughes Obituary.

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With hindsight the library (shown above reconstructed in Minecraft) may have been the most obvious place to start but turning digital detective was an automatic conditioned behaviour.

The implications for learning and teaching are reassuring. One of the affordances of VLE is alleged to be supporting student independence so using search engines is part of induction processes while a core element of digital literacy is the authentication and validation of online resources. Of course, the internet doesn’t have the answers. It’s how we use it that counts. With regards to my poet, it was people who made the difference and, like reliving the value of playing board games at this Playful Learning event, it’s good to be reminded how being human in the digital age is what matters most of all.

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This blog post originally appeared on the Digital Academic Blog

Review, Reflect and Remember – Playful Learning

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Sue Watling
Academic Advisor,Technology Enhanced Learning
University of Hull
Member of the UCISA Digital Capabilities Group

 

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The Hull team arriving at the Playful Learning Conference, 13-15 July 2016.

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On arrival* participants were inducted into the marble game which ran throughout the three days. Clutching our marble winnings we were able to register and inspect the construction – a bit like mousetrap for marbles – which we were invited to add components to.

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This was supplemented with text message tasks and challenges in return for – yes – more marbles. It was indicative of the amazing amount of preparation work which must have gone into planning and setting up the Playful Learning Conference.

Everywhere you looked  on the Spanish Steps on the ground floor of MMU’s Birley Campus there was something to do.

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The steps homed an assortment of objects and board games while over on the registration desk the ‘Sea You Sea Me’ activity buckets were waiting. Each bucket contained 30 items, all designed for teams to create a beach (with real sand, shells and water!) while having conversations and solving puzzles. 30 buckets = 900 individual component parts! Did I mention the phenomenal amount of work which went into setting up this conference?

Three Keynotes over three days and a total of 25 parallel sessions were interspersed with whole conference activities like the Storybook. I wish I’d recorded Nikky’s vibrant retelling of the process of  creating stories.  It ended too soon.

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Unsurprisingly Storybook involved yet another set of challenges. This time it was to unlock the chest whose treasures included a set of keys for yet more games!

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It was difficult to choose from the variety of parallel sessions; I went to six in total. Having recently experienced Lego Serious Play, https://digitalacademicblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/bricking-it, I was interested to compare this with the PlayDoh Plaza. Maybe it’s in the name but it felt strange to be asked to take part in activities so reminiscent of childhood yet they were both underpinned with constructionist and kinaesthetic pedagogies. When PlayDog was introduced to bio-medical students they’d also been unsure. The words in the images below show their feelings before and after a PlayDoh session. It shows the value of being prepared to try something different. We were asked to choose a colour and make a model which represented our work. The purple chains are my digital networks while the face is the digital monster – the one which appears in our worst technology nightmares when everything goes wrong in front of a room full of students. Interestingly, everyone I spoke to knew exactly what this felt like!

It was a time of new discoveries. I came across the word Shonky, discovered Makey Makey clips, answered questions with clues gained from QR Codes, used Poll everywhere and competed in a quiz using Kahoot. One of the most memorable workshops was Ugg-Tect; a game which uses gestures instead of words to give instructions for building models from coloured shapes. Ungungdo!

I also learned about data encryption; one of those topics you know about without really understanding the detail. We began with the Caesar Cypher; a mono alphabetic transposition code (and we got to keep the encryption wheels). We then moved onto the Diffie-Hellman Ken Exchange to generate an encryption key which was theoretically more difficult to intercept. This used an app which didn’t seem to be working as well as it could do or maybe it was just the digital monster rearing its scary PlayDoh head again!

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Other sessions included a digital form of Exquisite Corpse as an aid to creative storytelling, the application of pedagogical theory to a teaching practice card game, and exploring creative methods for solving learning and teaching problems. These involved dressing up (hat and sunglasses to go incognito), choosing objects (it had to be the ammonite) and making things (not sure what my pipe cleaner mesh represented but I found it therapeutic to shut out the world and focus on its construction).

There were also the escape room experiences, the Board Game Cafe demonstrations, different sporting activities including Neon Badminton, and Inbox Zero – which I missed completely – as well as the Treasure Hunt on the last morning. Meanwhile the marble challenges continued to run alongside everything else.

By the end of the conference I’d joined in so many different activities yet still only experienced a part of the whole event. I’d arrived with a number of questions about the role of play in learning and teaching e.g. how digital would it be, had the organisers assumed we’d all have wifi connected devices, how inclusive and accessible were the activities, as a non-game player would I have ‘fun’ and above all else what would I learn.

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Play is a misnomer. Because of its association with fun and games, rather than the ‘serious’ business of higher education, you almost need to ‘permission’ to do something so different. Yet what is play other than an alternative way to describe creative approaches to learning and teaching? Getting around the discontinuity can be a simple as re-framing an activity within a pedagogical theory. Maybe we need to find more ways to play in disguise!

Stepping outside the box – or recreating the size and shape of the box – can often mean taking a risk but if we don’t take risks now and then, everything stays the same. It’s only by challenging ourselves that we can develop and grow. A key message I took away was how it can be good to venture outside your comfort zones and do something you wouldn’t normally do. A ‘feel the fear and do it’ scenario. Only then do you discover what feels strange at first can soon become normalised if we repeat it often enough. The conference participants were a unique mix. They included computer scientists, gamers, creative writers and other artists, academics, academic developers and librarians. This made for some interesting exchanges of thoughts and experiences.

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I’ve taken away not only new connections but reinforcement of the value of having time and space to discuss learning and teaching. I loved how the parallel sessions were so interactive. There was very little traditional sitting and listening and I don’t think I’ve been to such an activity based conference before. For me, this definitely added to its value. With regards to the play element, if you interpret this as creative thinking then all educational conferences would benefit from its inclusion. At minimum it could be a strand or a themed component while at best it would be threaded throughout.

When we engage with ‘playful’ situations we seemed to have more discussion than we would have otherwise. It was particularly useful for beginning and continuing conversations with strangers. Whether you were staff or student facing, involved in supporting the student experience or working with CPD/academic practice elements, there was something at Playful Learning for everyone.  It was an inaugural conference. For something so new and innovative, this first time around felt like a resounding success. I’m sure I’m not the only one to hope there will be more to come.

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My thanks to UCISA for the bursary which funded my attendance. 

This blog post originally appeared on the Digital Academic Blog

UCISA bursary – some helpful tips (hopefully!)

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Rachel McAssey
Head of Process Improvement
The University of Sheffield
(Joint Vice-Chair Project and Change Management Group)

 

 

This was the second year that UCISA awarded bursaries, with the aim of helping UCISA members attend an event they would not usually be able to attend

I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of the bursaries, and I’ve just come back from the conference (you may wish to refer to some of my earlier blog posts if you’re interested in change management in Higher Education).

I thought I would use this blog post to share my ideas on how to make the most of the bursary.

  • Apply – you never know you might be successful, ensure you refer to key publications (UCISA’s strategic challenges was this year’s key text), and ensure that your senior management is supportive of your application.
  • Cost – make sure that you include accurate and an up to date costing in the application
  • Preparation – if you are lucky enough to be awarded a bursary prepare. If you are going to be blogging or tweeting, make sure that you have the blog login information and that you share any conference hash tags with the UCISA team, they will want to support any social media presence that you use
  • Preparation – think about how much knowledge about UCISA other event attendees are likely to have. At my conference, I suspected that people’s knowledge would be limited, so I added some sticky labels to the back of my business cards with a link to the UCISA website (I also included a link to PCMG)
  • Attend absolutely everything you can. I appreciate that this can be tiring, but attending all scheduled sessions and any networking events means that you learn as much as possible and meet as many people as possible.
  • Take lots of notes and collect the hand outs, events and conferences can be tiring so adequate note taking is vital to ensure that all of the good practice can be captured.
  • Talk to people! This seems obvious, but often it can be daunting, there will always be individuals and groups that will warmly welcome you and be interested in hearing about your role and UCISA, it’s sometimes a numbers game, so if one person is not very chatty, move on and find someone else.
  • Eat, drink and be merry. Make sure that you eat regularly and rink lots of water, it will help you stay alert
  • On return – make sure that you fill out the claim for reimbursement – this will be important to your home institution
  • Tell other people about the bursary scheme, it’s a fantastic opportunity, and if it were to be available in the future encourage people to apply.

Suffice to say, I found the experience incredibly rewarding, and I would like to take the opportunity to thank my institution and UCISA for making this wonderful chance available to me.

Network for Change and Continuous Innovation Conference

rachel_m

 

Rachel McAssey
Head of Process Improvement
The University of Sheffield
(Joint Vice-Chair Project and Change Management Group)

 

 

 

 

Day 3

 

The final day of the conference and it has not been a disappointment

First session of the day was “Using Balanced Scorecards, Lean and Liberating Structures to Accelerate Strategic Planning and Implementation” with Ruth Johnson, Associate Vice-President, and Jeff Fillmore, Senior Organizational Analyst both from University of Washington

This was a very motivational. For more information about liberating structures as a change approach go to the website. Liberating Structures in combination with lean processes have helped the University of Washington to actively engage staff with understanding and implementing the strategic plan. It was a very important methodology for helping the institution change and innovate. I think we all came away wanting to liberate some structures!

Next, a really informative session from three people from Institutions in California “Taking the Mystery out of Managing Change”. They had received change management training from ©Prosci and I was very grateful that they provided us with lots of tools to take away. In my opinion the most useful visual tool was one for measuring strength of sponsor, project management and change management in a project – so that the project team can agree what mitigations need to be taken. Very simple yet incredibly effective and useful. Among the many takeaways also included a really useful checklist tool for project sponsors – I’ll be amending this and use it with my project sponsors.

The final keynote address was wonderful. Allison Vaillancort, Vice President, Human Resources and Institutional Effectiveness, University of Arizona gave a visually pleasing presentation. She challenged the group to look beyond incremental change to respond to the changes in HE, and identify where and when a rebellion would be helpful. Her slides gave us a how to guide about how to ensure that bold change can be actively delivered within our institutions. I tweeted a copy of one of the slides about change sabotage and lots of followers on twitter recognised the behaviours.

The final session of the conference “Leading from Inside the Whirlwind: Creating the New Vision for Public Ed” University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
This was a really interesting case study of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire who along with the rest of the institutions in the state received a multi-million dollar budget drop. It followed the change steps the institution took from the moment the news broke in January 2015 to current period. The staff had chosen to thrive rather than just survive, it was a fascinating case study about the opportunity change can bring (most dramatically the decision to undertake 8 change projects simultaneously) and how a difficult situation can lead to beneficial improvements for an institution (markedly better student retention and increased enrolments)

It was a wonderful opportunity to attend the NCCI conference. I met so many interesting people and had some very insightful conversation about managing change projects in higher education. My heartfelt thanks to UCISA and my own institution for allowing me to have this opportunity. I’ve got so many ideas for things I can try now that I’m back in the UK.

Change and Continuous Innovation

rachel_m

 

Rachel McAssey
Head of Process Improvement
The University of Sheffield
(Joint Vice-Chair Project and Change Management Group)

 

 

 

 

 

Day two of the Network for Change and Continuous Innovation in HE conference.

A slight downside of the day was the very sporadic Wi-Fi access in the conference hotel. I was only able to reliably tweet until mid-morning. Hopefully it will be better for day 3…

The keynote this morning was very inspiring: Professor Maxi from McGill University “Besieged and Beleaguered, Down but not out: Planned Change at Universities in 21st Century”. The keynote addressed the drivers for change in universities (funding, internationalisation, multiple purposes of mission) and spoke about ways of addressing and supporting the changes. His message about being consultative, using data to identify appropriate changes and measuring impact subsequently was well received.

Next up, I went to implementing a Lean Shared Services Operation. Very quickly, I realised that the challenges we face at the University of Sheffield when thinking about shared services are very different to many American colleges who have multiple campuses, and often very separate technologies to support the administrative work.. I was a little worried about how relevant the session would be. However, the very practical advice about:

  • Establishing a benchmark prior to undertaking the change
  • Have discussions to better understand what good looked like
  • Share the message that no. 1 private organisations are customer focused
  • Focus on process simplification and automation
  • Identify the common and routine services (stop being all things to all people)
  • Identify root causes
  • These are all transferable concepts to managing change.

There was an interesting discussion about gaining trust – a key informal theme that has been running through the conference. The discussion identified that lack of trust can lead to lack of standardisation and work-a-rounds. Gaining and maintaining trust is key to successfully managing change.

After lunch, I want to an excellent panel discussion: three women who had received the Leaders of Change Award from the conference. It was a really interesting opportunity for us to question the panel about how they had successfully implemented lean in order to make major changes and improvements at their universities. Key themes from the session were integrity, resilience, identify champions in certain areas and maximise this potential. Each approach had been slightly different, and for me the learning was about understanding the needs and challenges of your own organisation and address this, rather than implement a one size fits all approach.

Two more sessions in the afternoon: “Using Customer satisfaction and Employee Climate data to drive impactful decisions”. This session demonstrated how the University of California is using its staff and student survey data to identify changes and subsequently measure and manage the changes. The team that support this are incredibly proactive with their support for data analysis, rather than just providing the raw data to departments, this rigorous and methodical approach is a useful way of ensuring that institutions have standard ways of identifying and prioritising changes, and then monitoring the level of success.

The final session had lemon jellybeans – so gave me a well-needed sugar boost “From lemons to Culture Change: moving from a SACS Monitoring Report to a Culture of Continuous Improvement”. The key message is if something is a problem, do not try to deny that it is a problem, recognise it then recast it to identify what opportunities the problem can offer.