Category Archives: Educause

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.

 

Project management tools and project management offices

michelle

 

 

Michelle Griffiths
ITS Project Manager
IT Services
University of Oxford
Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

This Educause session presented by Randall Alberts, Assistant Director, Ringling College of Art and Design, was led as a discussion session, which was started off by all attendees logging onto a direct poll website and answering questions about their organization and what topics they would like to discuss during this morning’s session.

Randall told the group about the committee that he chaired, the Educause Project Management Constituent Group (PMCG) . The group brings together like minded people who have the same interests and areas of focus, sometimes referred to as “birds of a feather”. You can post questions to the group and get answers from your peers. This seems a very similar setup to the UCISA Project and Change Management Group. He also went onto say that they have monthly call-ins with guest presenters on various topics. The website contains past archive information so that you can tune in and watch past presenters.

The direct poll stated that the top topic that the group wanted to cover was project management tools.

Project management tools
Randall suggested that you must first start with pen and paper to define your user processes before you touch on tools. He stated that at his institution they use spreadsheets and share point. Each of their projects will have a share point site that they use as a document repository and to host project plans and schedule information.

The discussion was then opened up to the floor, and the following points were made:

  • Different departments tend to use different tools; it is difficult to get an institutional strategy rolled out so that they could all use common tools. People don’t tend to use the tool if it’s not in their culture.
  • Dynamics and Trello seem to be a commonly used combination of tool sets, along with Microsoft Project online and Office 365.
  • The culture of the Project Management is very important, along with resource allocation tools, which would prove to be very useful.
  • Plan view is another tool that was mentioned (resource & portfolio management tool, capacity planning, scorecards and dashboards)
  • Google Gantt was also mentioned.
  • If you want to roll out a project management office (PMO), you need full support from the CIO.
  • Timesheets are submitted on-line.
  • Service Now  was also mentioned, but with a caveat to say that there are better tools out there, such as Team Dynamix.
  • Tools are not just tools.

What defines a project?
Randall asked: “What defines a project?” The answer from the floor was that whatever is on the CIO goals list will be run. This is defined by a set of categories, which form the basis for project prioritisation. The group discussed categories of projects and what defines a small, medium and large/strategic project. A substantial project was seen as being more than 80 hours and consisting of cross-departmental working.  Returning to theme of what defines a project, Randall suggested that it could be defined as a “Temporary or new endeavour to deliver a service”.

Project management offices
The topic of discussion moved onto project management offices (PMOs), which resulted in the following points:

  • It is important to get buy in from the top when establishing and funding a PMO, difficult to justify the cost of setting it up and on-going.
  • Some institutions don’t call it a PMO as it is seen as a fashionable buzz word
  • Vendors can charge up to $175 per hour for a contract project manager who that essentially manages your internal project management. If the vendor thinks it’s important, then so should we!
  • Academic affairs don’t trust IT Services to manage their projects for them!
  • A lot of the time, IT Services is expected to fund business systems projects. Randall Alberts gave an example of one department that he loaned a server to, which they wanted to keep and use to host a critical worldwide deployed web site.
  • Project managers need to get involved on day one to gather requirements and start off on the right track.

Insights from US and Canadian institutions on risk management and information security

michelle

 

 

Michelle Griffiths
ITS Project Manager
IT Services
University of Oxford
Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

Here are some highlights from a session I attended today about the application of practical risk management strategies, presented by the University of Tampa and the University of Saskatchewan.

    Overview – University of Tampa

  • Tampa – 8000 students from 50 states and 140 countries
  • 65% of full time students live in campus housing
  • Information security programme was started three years ago
  • CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) reports to the UT President
  • Co-manages a cyber security lab
  • Only school in the States that has reached full ISO/IEC 27001:2013 accreditation
    Overview – University of Saskatchewan

  • Member of Canada’s U15, top 15 research universities
  • 22,500 students from 100 countries
  • 16:1 faculty to student ratio
  • Info security programme formed in June 2012
  • Three representatives – ICT Security, ICT Compliance and ICT Access
  • Risk based programme not enforced
  • SSO (Single Sign-On) – for all systems that is managed by five staff
  • Cyber security challenges – Profit, risk and loss
    Risk management should focus on:

  • Lack of executive support
  • Inadequate investment
  • Inefficient investment
  • Inefficient info security leadership
  • Info security gaps
    Risk management challenges:

  • Things you don’t know/realize
  • Things you realize you don’t know
  • Things you realize you know
    Practical approach to risk management:

  • Answers are at your fingertips
  • Don’t worry about adopting every aspect of a rigorous standard approach
  • Focus on Info security lifecycle
  • Get Exec level buy-in
  • Get the stakeholders’ perspective on risk – admin staff and faculty

Resource:
Educause security awareness resources

Conversations and opportunities – the American way

Tim Banks
Faculty IT Manager
University of Leeds

Reflections on Day 1 at Educause 2015

Observation 1: This conference is big…really big. Over 7,300 delegates are attending this year’s Educause conference, which is being held in the Indianapolis Convention Centre. The venue is mind-bogglingly big, covering an area of 120,000m2 (1.3m square feet), including 50,000m2 (566,000 square feet) of open exhibition space across six blocks. IMG_8891There are 71 separate meeting rooms, which have been used by over 30,000 Star Wars fans during the two Star Wars Conventions that have been held here in recent years.

The exhibition hall is vast, with stands from over 250 suppliers, from small start-ups to global IT giants. There are up to 30 parallel sessions at any one time, making selection of the right one based on a short text description quite daunting.

Observation 2: The conference is very well organised (and sponsored). Despite the huge numbers of people and enormous scale of the venue, everything runs very smoothly, with few or no queues. The venue and organisers seem to have struck the right balance between the number of people attending and quantity of essential facilities on offer (catering, toilets, drinks stations etc.). Sessions start and end on time (by and large), and there is enough time built into the programme for the 10 minute walk between rooms.

Observation 3: The quality of the parallel sessions is variable. Some parallel sessions are most definitely better than others, although I have not found one today which I would class as truly ‘excellent’. This situation is helped by the fact that if you are really not getting on with a particular session, then nobody bats an eyelid if you stand up in the middle of it and walk out; it seems to be quite normal practice, and something which I have put to good use today on more than one occasion.

Observation 4: The people are very friendly and approachable. Conference delegates are happy to just talk to you if you approach them. I spent lunchtime sat on a table with attendees with varying degrees of hearing impairment, and we had a very interesting (sign-language interpreted) conversation about delivery of IT services and optimisation of hearing aids for listening to music. I was fondly referred to as ‘UK Guy’ by another attendee in the one of the sessions, so am thinking of a requesting a new conference badge proudly displaying my new pseudonym.

Observation 5: We are not going to starve or go thirsty. Cans of Coke, Sprite and other hot and cold drinks appear at regular intervals throughout the day; at lunchtime, enough food to feed several armies appeared from nowhere; cakes, pastries and chocolates were provided during the mid-afternoon break, and then during the early evening canapes, mini burgers, pasta and nachos were being served…

IMG_8898Observation 6: The suppliers’ fair is very useful. Due to the size of the conference, anybody who is anybody in the world of IT delivery is represented here with their top sales and marketing teams. I have had many extremely useful conversations with major global IT suppliers that just wouldn’t be possible if I tried to make contact by phone or e-mail. The quality of the freebies seems to be significantly better than previous conferences I have attended.

Observation 7: The US Universities are quite some way behind the UK in several key areas of IT service delivery. It is clear from listening to both speakers and delegates from the USA that they are several years behind the UK in areas such as Information Security, IT Service Management, implementation of the ITIL framework, and splitting budgets into ‘business as usual’ delivery and project work. This came as quite a surprise to me, as I had assumed that US institutions were at the same level of maturity or better than the UK sector.

It has been an exhausting, but very productive day. My next blog post will give a detailed overview of today’s sessions.

2014 Technology Exchange – Day 2 by Matt Cook

matt_c

 

Matt Cook
Head of Infrastructure and Middleware
Loughborough University
Chair of UCISA-NG

 

FIRST Robotics Competition

The Monday evening welcome reception included a contest based on robots developed by high school students. The students were given six weeks to raise funds, design, develop, brand and program a robot – not an easy task! It was great to see such innovation from our students and colleagues of the future. I wish we had these opportunities back when I was at school; the best we experienced was BigTrak and writing Logo programs. However at least we were taught programming in BBC Basic, and not simply how to use the Microsoft Office suite.

2014TechExDay2

The USA is promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects in a similar manner to the UK. It will be interesting to see how successful this initiative is in providing the education required for our fellow colleagues of the future and plugging the current skills gap. Talking to the students, they are extremely enthused about the creator, maker, hacker opportunities being given through these programmes.

This is another one of those opportunities which demonstrates the value in the jobs we perform in our respective organisations to support education. I recently undertook a job shadow of a technician in one of our academic schools at Loughborough, and it was one of the most eye opening experiences I had all year.  It was extremely valuable to see the challenges they face within the school, how central IT policy affects their work and the innovation and creative ideas being developed by their students. I would certainly encourage everyone to get out into the wider university more to put everything into perspective.

Central IT vs Research Perspective on Information Security

There was a very interesting panel discussion mid-way through the Tuesday schedule investigating the challenges faced by both the central IT function and research centres in managing Information Security. Rob Stanfield from Purdue University provided an overview of the provision at his organisation and one thing that stood out was the scale of some of the US based education organisations that dwarfed most of the largest UK universities. The scale of operation also brought increased scale of both staffing, and following a coffee break discussion, of budget too. Purdue are currently recruiting a Security Risk Analyst and see an important element of their future service to be able to be better placed to advise on Information Security impact across their business.

There is a growing move to work with researchers to define strategy that allows Information Security to be an enabler and an active component in winning research grants. The panel all agreed that there was a need to form better relationships between research and central IT; something that I’ll personally be working on at Loughborough University over the coming years. There was an agreement that the era of silo’d departmental research email servers and wireless networks was not effective and the future is centralisation and collaboration. Closing comments focused on “…there is nothing like a good data breach to bring about change!” and “…some people are more concerned with IDS appliances than the balance of risk.”

Over coffee a number of people who attended the session were interested in the current UCISA activities to develop an Information Security Management System (ISMS) implementation guide and the update to the popular ‘Exploiting and Protecting the Network’ document; both set to launch in early 2015. Keep an eye on the UCISA website for more information!

As suggested, I will be posting details about these activities to the EDUCAUSE Security Constituent Group mailing list as well. This list may also be of interest to UK colleagues who are looking to get a wider perspective on Information Security concerns within global education organisations. Whilst the remit for security falls between both the Network (NG) and Infrastructure (IG) groups within UCISA, some readers of the blog may not be aware of the UCISA-IS Information Security mailing list. Although currently low traffic, it is a growing area of discussion.

For those with larger security teams, it may also be of interest to explore the TERENA TF-CSIRT group.

Privacy in Access and Identity Management

Dr Rhys Smith (Janet) delivered the final session I attended on Tuesday. I’ve not personally been involved in the Access and Identity Management (AIM) side of IT at Loughborough; however I was eager to see what was on the horizon for Moonshot, especially what it can offer the research community. It was nice to see some friendly faces: Rhys Smith, John Chapman and Rob Evans from Janet; and Nicole Harris from TERENA when I arrived at the conference; I’ve also since met quite a few people I’ve spoken to by email before or have seen posting on mailing lists from.

Rhys gave a gentle introduction to AIM before describing how we should be adopting privacy by design, as it is so difficult to retrofit. As part of a privacy vs utility discussion; Rhys provided the example that the routing of IP network packets outside of the EU is breaking EU data protection guidelines as an IP address is deemed to contain personally identifiable information. Whilst this example is simply unworkable, the categorisation of IP addresses has caused some interesting consequences for our Computer Science researchers.

Following a narrative of the difference between web based federation (SAML) and network based federations (like eduroam); Rhys outlined the timescales for the Moonshot trial and official service. Being able to unify many technologies from simple SSH through to Windows desktop authentication opens many possibilities for secure research collaboration in the future.

Other Thoughts

There were lots of interesting conversations through the conference today about the development of common shared tools or building blocks to solve future challenges. From the infrastructure that supports eduroam through to the Kuali HE software suite. Many felt that through collaboration, a better solution can be developed with less resource; however there were concerns that high workloads in recent years had removed a lot of these opportunities for some.

Another common theme was the adoption of standards, rather than closed proprietary technology, avoiding vendor lock-in where possible and using the infrastructure as a live research aid for students within our organisations.

Learning Points

• Get out into the wider university to put your role into perspective;
• Turn Information Security policy and strategy into an enabler that wins research grants;
• Seek collaboration and closer relationships with our research community;
• Explore opportunities for privacy by design;
• Keep a watching brief on Janet Moonshot developments;
• Support the development of common shared tools and building blocks where appropriate.

Matt Cook