Category Archives: Digital education

The beast from the East

Lisa McDonald, User Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh and UCISA Support Services Group Committee Member, offers tips on service continuity and lessons learned after ‘Beast from The East’ snow caused widespread travel-to-work disruption.

HOW OUR BCP BEAT THE BEAST FROM THE EAST

“We’ve all heard the terms Business Continuity and Service Continuity and you likely all have business continuity plans you hope you never to have to use,” writes Lisa McDonald, User Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh.
Recently, the University of Edinburgh IT Service Desk had to become far more familiar with their BCP plans than anyone would want to.
In late February and early March 2018, the central belt of Scotland was hit by what the media termed “The Beast from the East”. And a beast it was, causing widespread chaos which unfortunately included the complete closure of the University of Edinburgh for nearly three days — a nightmare scenario for any Service Desk manager.
But we got through those three days and managed to keep our IS Helpline Service running throughout — handling 352 calls and resolving all bar four second line calls. We did this while spread geographically over an area covering a 127km radius of Central Scotland.

Figure 1: User Support team home locations (Argyle House in red)

We were organised, made the most of the tools we had and showed amazing team spirit. We learned many lessons on the way and this post is a “Top Five Tips for Service Continuity”
  1. Preparation 
    Have a Working from Home policy for all users. Create an Adverse Weather register showing team ability to travel in adverse weather and their ability to work from home. Ensure your key services like VPN have capacity to cope with an increased load from off-campus connections
  2. Communication
    Ensure your users understand the level of service to expect during this period. Set communication times in the day so staff and users know when to expect updates. Communicate with other first and second line teams so that you’re all aware of the level of underpinning support available.Your team might have tasks they need to see to at home during a weather emergency (playing in the snow doesn’t count!). They might face connection issues or find it hard to keep focus in a home environment. Make sure you continue to communicate to the team on a regular basis but don’t be tempted to micromanage.
  3. Tools
    Use Skype to hold meetings. Use chat tools to keep everyone focussed as a team while they’re geographically spread. Group chat is also a great morale booster ­– my team co-wrote a Helpline theme tune: “The Helpline Blues (I’ve got snow in my shoes)”. If you have out-of-hours cover from a 3rd party, ensure you use it as much as possible.
  4. Time Management
    You may not need as many staff on duty as usual. Review and revise your rotas so the team know when you expect them to be handling support calls. Have other tasks for them to do such as updating documentation, reviewing your website or completing their personal development paperwork.
  5. Review
    Ensure you review the event afterwards and discuss successes and learning points — not just within your own team but across the wider university or college.
No Business Continuity will ever be perfect, but with a good team and some organisation you can turn a Snowpocalypse into a Winter Wonderland!

Pictured: Lisa working from home during the ‘snowpocalypse’

Key take-outs:

  • Be prepared – Have policies guiding your users on working from home and ensure you do regular checks on your team’s ability to travel or work from home in adverse weather

  • Set expectations – Use automatic replies or standard solutions to explain to your users that service quality and speed will differ from normal running. Distance learners may not be impacted by the weather

  • Use the tools available to you – Cloud services, VPN, Chat tools and Remote Assistance tools

  • Communicate – make sure you clearly communicate at all stages of the event

 

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 manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

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

Expanding horizons with a UCISA bursary

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

 

 

 

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017

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

HE TEL/IT community

Probably the biggest and most lasting benefit of receiving a UCISA bursary has been the impact that participating in DigPedLab Vancouver has had on me feeling part of a worldwide HE Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)/IT community: my Twitter timeline now has a decidedly international flavour! The Literacies track included nearly 30 participants – two Brits apart from me, a professor from Puerto Rico, an educator based in the Austrian Alps, and the rest from North America, a mix of librarians, academics, educational project managers, IT folk, and even a practising attorney. This diversity was one of the many things that made DigPedLab so attractive to me: I wanted my western European, middle-class, middle-aged, cis white female perspective to be thoroughly challenged; over the course of the weekend, it certainly was. Each track had a dedicated Slack channel, and many of the participants have generously shared their own digital literacies resources via that medium, which I in turn have been able to share with Open University (OU) colleagues and, where those resources were publicly accessible, with the wider community (e.g. via links in my bursary blog posts). And of course the bursary also gave me an opportunity to share my work and that of my team/institution with the North American (and wider) HE TEL/IT community, an international visibility that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

Institutional impact

While there have been fewer institutional opportunities than I had hoped to disseminate what I learned at DigPedLab Vancouver (they have mainly been restricted to knowledge-sharing activities within my team, and colleagues in our Learning and Teaching Innovation Portfolio), one exciting benefit to come out of it is that I am currently supporting faculty colleagues to deliver our own mini DigPedLab here at the OU. Having experienced their teaching first hand, I am a strong advocate for the critical digital pedagogy approach promoted by Jesse Stommel, Sean Michael Morris, and their associates, and I am looking forward to developing a network of support for this approach across my institution.

Since this year’s bursary scheme was launched I have been actively encouraging other OU staff to apply for it – by promoting it via email and other internal communication channels, and putting up posters across the campus.

Personal/professional development

I remain connected to many of the DigPedLab participants via Twitter, and the time difference between the UK and the US means my day often starts by reading their posts and following their links. Participating in such a challenging (but supportive) ‘summer school’ with innovative and inspiring practitioners has really boosted my confidence in what I have to offer around digital literacies as a TEL professional, as well as dramatically increasing my understanding of the challenges faced by my peers in North American HE institutions. My horizons could not have been expanded in this way without the opportunity provided by the UCISA bursary, which is why I have a tweet encouraging others to apply for it pinned to my Twitter profile.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K–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.

Daagu

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 finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Educating students for media literacy

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

Back to the classroom on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017 and Bonnie Stewart, Co-ordinator of Adult Teaching, University of Prince Edward Island and leader of the Digital Literacies track, warmed us up with a couple of images that generated horrified laughter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

These images illustrate all too clearly that media messages are constructed, so rather than accepting (mis)information presented as fact at face value, as media literate educators (and/or students), we need to be asking the following key questions:

  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are being used to attract my attention?
  3. Who is the audience?
  4. What values and points of view are represented and omitted?
  5. Who gains profit or power if I accept this message?

These prompted a brief sidebar about snopes.com an on-line fact checking site – a site that, I confess, I only became aware of en route to Canada when various people I follow tweeted about it. (UK readers, is it more of a North American resource? I don’t recall ever hearing about it over here.)

Two more important questions to ask about the ‘news’ we’re served up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

What’s interesting to me about this is the language: any news report that includes the phrase ‘hulking brute’ immediately sets off my credibility-questioning alarm! It takes me back to one of my favourite undergraduate English modules on stylistics, an area that I don’t hear mentioned much these days, but one that I think has a lot to offer media literacies

The aesthetic fallacy

Next Kris Shaffer talked to us about the aesthetic fallacy. My notes on this are a bit thin, so I just Googled the term and found this:

Put simply, the aesthetic fallacy is the belief that if it looks convincing, it is convincing; or, to refine it slightly, if it looks scholarly, then, agree or disagree with it, it is scholarly and must be taken seriously and allowed a place at the scholarly table.

(Source: Trueman, Carl R. (2010) Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, Illinois, Crossway)

I’m not sure if this is how Kris would describe it, but certainly looking beyond plausible surfaces, using the questions noted above, seems like a key aspect of media literacies. Or, as Bonnie put it: ‘what does this do to our democracy if we don’t educate students to recognise and deal with the crap?’.

Another new-to-me angle was that of ’empire literacies’ – empires are constructed from money, territory and information. Consider…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

… and then ask yourself, who owns them? Follow the money! In relation to that, Penny Andrews talked us through a slide that showed how the neutral-seeming information provider you rely on for your work could actually be funded by rather less benevolent backers…

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

(I’m pretty sure that in the midst of that Penny explained why Ashton Kutcher may be evil – hopefully I’ve expressed that vaguely enough to avoid either of us being sued – but I was too busy laughing to note the detail, so you’ll have to ask Penny if you want to know more!)

 

 

 

 

 

The point is, some messages have way more power and money behind them, and way more reach than may initially be apparent (e.g. you and Trump both have twitter accounts, but…). However, there is a degree of democracy on some media platforms, e.g. Twitter may be the only space where you can directly speak back to Rupert Murdoch.


(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Contribution literacies – e.g. how to use Twitter for activist public speaking

 

 

 

(Screenshot courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Catastrophe literacies – e.g. the ‘breaking news consumer’s handbook’

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this might be my favourite…

Crap detection literacies

Another participant, Sajni Lacey Learning and Curriculum Support Librarian, University British Columbia, Okanagan, talked us through an activity she runs in her first and second year classes when she is asked to come in and teach ‘the library stuff’. Rather than giving a traditional point-and-click session on accessing Library resources, she likes to try to get students thinking about the information that they consume in their own lives, and how that relates to what they are being asked to do for academic research.  She kindly shared this activity on the DigPedLab Slack channel, so these are her words.

Activity

“I start by having students get into small group, anywhere from 2 to 5 depending on the size of the class and come to consensus in their groups of the top 3–5 places they go in their personal lives to get information. I stress to them that I would like to see where they actually go for information not where they think I want them to tell me they go (i.e. the library website, books etc.). I ask them to rank these places from the most frequented places to the least. I then, when possible, ask the students elect one person to go to the board and write out the list. You could easily do this in a Google Doc, or Padlet if you have a large group or want to start keeping a record.

I then ask the entire class to tell me what stands out for them on these lists. Usually this is that Google and Wikipedia are at the top, followed by YouTube and various social media sites; currently the most frequent is Instagram.

I then ask them (depending on time) what it is they like about getting information on these platforms. Sometimes I do this in groups, and sometimes I just have a class discussion about it. I use their responses to get an idea of what, how, and why they like to consume information in this way. I use this to start the conversation on thinking about how they smell the crap in the information they are getting. Here I ask them to get back into small groups and list 3–5 criteria they look for in ‘good’ information on the sites they had previously listed and how they ‘smell the crap’ of bad information. Of course, this is very subjective as to what is ‘good’.

I bring the groups back, and through a class discussion start constructing a list of what they identified in their groups as good and bad information. These lists are usually pretty good, and I can use this to start a conversation about why we need to be critical of the information we consume, any authority structures that appear here (depending on what pops up in the list), and how this applies to academic research as well as their own lives.”

One point Sajni made in our class that stuck with me was that, as a librarian, she can’t professionally recommend Wikipedia, but actually it’s a really good resource for gaining broad context on an unfamiliar subject.

Incidentally, some of the things that Sajni’s students question are:

  • Breadcrumb trails
  • Location/domain
  • Media bias
  • Adverts
  • Visual literacy – aesthetic fallacy.

Deepening media literacy practices

The session ended with Bonnie asking us which media/digital literacies we could deepen in our own practices or classes.

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Within our table I said I was struggling to link a lot of this stuff to the Open University context. David White from The University of the Arts London, challenged that and I said it felt like we were often ‘hiding the vegetables’, when I wanted us to more explicitly acknowledge that students should be ‘eating their 5 a day’, and to find engaging ways to support them in that. Is that a challenge at your institution?

Après ski

In the evening I sampled the delights of Seto Sushi. If you ever find yourself in Richmond, I highly recommend it: wild salmon for the price of the farmed stuff in the UK, yum!

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The five social media literacies

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

Following on from a busy Day One of DigPedLab Vancouver, by Day 2 my jetlag had subsided, and I’d got my bearings in Richmond, so I was ready for some serious learning!

Morning session: media literacies

Our main focus for the Day Two morning Digital Literacies session was reviewing and responding to some of the suggested readings that had been provided.  Bonnie Stewart, Co-ordinator of Adult Teaching University of Prince Edward Island, who was leading the Digital Literacies track, asked us to think about how our chosen article(s) shaped our perspective on what it is to ‘be’ in digital culture. We broke into small groups to do this, and my group spent most of the session analysing the Rheingold (2010) article.

Rheingold focuses on what he calls five social media literacies:

  • attention
  • participation
  • collaboration
  • network awareness
  • critical consumption.

We took one of those each, and I noted the following…

Attention

Rheingold’s starting point is that people in class should be paying him attention! This led us to briefly discuss differences between acceptable behaviour in face-to-face (F2F) educational environments and ‘remote’ behaviours; the latter was of particular interest to me, as Open University students have relatively little F2F contact with their educators, and it’s quite normal for them to have multiple demands on their attention while they are studying.

Participation

The digital literacy aspects of this section were about:

  • how to participate with value
  • being active citizens rather than passive consumers
  • creating vs consuming
  • assumptions about education of citizens, and ‘proper behaviour’
  • moving from the literacy of participation to a literacy of collaboration.

Collaboration

This was the section I looked at, so I didn’t take many notes! The one thing I did write down was ‘negotiating goals – positive or negative’: make of that what you will!

Network awareness

This section tied in quite nicely with Bonnie’s literacy timeline from Day 1. Rheingold’s key points were that:

  • networks essentially amplify and extend our abilities and capacities – for better or worse, and that
  • basically technology itself is an amplifier – going all the way back to the printing press.

We briefly discussed differences between networks and communities (with reference to a recent online debate between Kate Bowles and Stephen Downes), speculating that perhaps communities change, as well as amplify? One member of the group suggested that shared values and beliefs are required for true collaboration – that it’s easy to be communal but harder to be collaborative. Do you agree?

Critical consumption

This section seemed to buy into the cliché that print (offline) resources are innately trustworthy, and online resources innately dubious: as a group we vehemently disagreed with this.

We had a bit of time left, so we also looked briefly at the Tressie McMillan Cottom (2017) article, focusing on one of her six takeaways, ‘master platforms’, and the concept of micro-celebrity.

Master platforms

The article states that ‘social media platforms are designed to facilitate certain kinds of behaviors. Twitter amplifies. Facebook brands. Tumblr remixes. Instagram illustrates’. We agreed that what was important for digital literacy was to think about strategies for dealing with the negative aspects of each platform.

Academic microcelebrity

We identified a tension between the desire to take academia into the public, and achieving effective communication, when ‘lots of academia is deliberately pointless and esoteric’.

We also talked about:

  • gaining currency through identity
  • achieving impact vs social change, and
  • claimed values vs demonstrated behaviours.

After the session, participants shared related resources via our teaching in digital Slack channel – you might like to take a look at the following:

 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Interview: Deakin University’s support of hearing impaired users in teaching and learning spaces

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

 

 

AETM Conference 2017 and university visits, Melbourne, Australia

Ben Sleeman was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

I attended the Audiovisual and Education Technology Management (AETM) Conference in Australia in November as part of the UCISA bursary scheme. During my trip I also visited a number of Melbourne universities including Deakin University.

At Deakin University, I met with Jeremy West, Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution Team, and we discussed the university’s AV solutions for hearing impaired users.

Deakin are considering a range of new technologies and in collaboration with the digital futures team, they are looking at audio over IP solutions to give users access to audio streams via their mobile devices.

I have blogged about my conversations with Jeremy on a range of AV developments at Deakin University.

 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Time for IT at the top table

The exponential rise of technology-driven change means digital strategies are no longer merely support acts to primary university and college strategic plans. Here, UCISA Chair David Telford argues that, with digital transformation key to the future student experience and learning journey, it’s time for CIOs and Vice Chancellors to push digital strategies into pole position in business planning:

 

Here’s a bold statement. Digital strategy is not just about the numbers or how much it costs to run your IT. Unless and until your university fully gets to grips with technology’s contribution to the student experience and the learner journey, both will be severely impaired.
IT is now fundamental to the student experience and learning. Technology use is about far more than IT-driven processes and an aid to organisational efficiency and effectiveness. It’s integral to the whole student lifecycle.
Today, the knowledge of how best to leverage technologies to enhance teaching and the academic and research agendas is not coming from the academics, it’s coming from the IT department. In integrating our academic agenda at my own institution, we’re spending more and more time in the classroom and supporting students, even early in their studies and as postgrads, in leveraging technology to access information and research materials.
The digital literacy and digital skills gap in universities that’s growing year-on-year is well documented – but this is not knocking the lecturers. Things are moving so quickly that the skills of academics are just not keeping pace. Like many other sectors, we are in transition. Digitisation is growing and technology brings change. It is disruptive to past ways of working. Taking best advantage requires not only skills but a cultural shift to a change-ready and agile mindset.
So what’s the future of your university? How can a digital strategy ensure that value is best provided to students, lecturers and researchers?
There are a few lessons from the wider world. In less than a decade, Netflix has transformed from a DVD sales and rental business, to media streaming and latterly film and television production and online distribution. They have successfully leveraged advances in technology and been shrewd in understanding changing customer expectations and unmet needs.
How does this link to our university communities and their expectations? Well it’s clear that they live in a connected Netflix world. Our smartphone students inhabit multiple online communities and communicate via Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. They collaborate and share instantly and naturally. Established systems like email and intranets are clunky in comparison. Our business systems often lack the immediacy of app-based solutions and the ability to collaborate on joint decision making or visualising the data.
And what about staff? A recent Facebook-sponsored Deloitte survey of business managers showed only 14 per cent of those responding were fully satisfied with their organisation’s ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with 65 per cent citing digital technologies as the way forward. Would the statistics for higher education alone really be that much different? Certainly, both TEF and the NSS highlight the need for IT to be actively involved in the staff and student experience at all levels.
Working in a multi-campus university, one of the issues I’ve faced is that we’ve yet to get our communities fully joined up. We don’t have a fully-fledged research community and we also don’t have a strong sense of community around the subject areas we are known for. Going forward, it is technology that is going to make the difference in these areas. But even in this, we have to collaborate. This is not a nut IT can crack alone.
Trying to predict the future is a fool’s errand – but we can prepare for it and an effective digital strategy that looks beyond the three or five-year horizon of a typical university business strategy is crucial. While it’s important to bring on the skills of individual academics, we also need to promote recognition of the fact that IT is now very much a part of learning delivery systems. Pedagogy is no longer the sole domain of the lecturer.
The future is very much about collaborative delivery alongside other institutional agencies. Depending how you are structured, that can be as much with library colleagues and learning technologists as with academics and students. For all of us, it’s about thinking across multiple disciplines and multiple service boundaries. It’s about getting out of our comfort zones and addressing questions of collaboration and service delivery that engenders skills development and makes a tangible contribution to the digital learner journey.
The role and dimension for IT in student success is huge and this is a theme that I know some fellow UCISA members have already included in TEF submissions using evidence of digital literacy and engagement with IT systems to show how they have contributed to improved learning outcomes. This is digital strategy linked to powerful strategic programmes with real teeth.
My digital strategy for my own university runs to 2025, five years beyond the university’s current strategy, because the question I asked myself was not only how we could support what’s happening now but how can we inform the next planning cycle and be prepared to meet the challenge of change – both in the sector and the marketplace. It’s about raising the flag now and saying IT will have to be a key strategic theme in all future university strategies.
It’s a new role – and one all of us in IT leadership roles should take on with relish. It’s never been more important for universities to support their IT people, recognise their strategic importance and focus on the contribution of IT to the learner journey.
Taking best advantage of disruptive technology is an issue that goes beyond UCISA’s membership and is on the table for many people. But we’re here to play our part. UCISA’s own Strategic Plan provides for much greater engagement with IT staff at all levels in future. Student success is a business we are all in now and whether you work in IT or not, we’re here to signpost you not only to resources and best practice but a network of contacts that have been there, done that.

Key take-outs for CIOs:

• When crafting your institution’s digital strategy, consider the impact of digital in the broadest sense. An effective IT strategy should fully embrace its effective contribution to student success and student outcome

• Think beyond the current university business plan horizon. What trends and scenarios can new and emerging use of technology capitalise on in support of the student lifecycle

• Integrate the digital strategy with the institutional strategy – not least in the value added to the student journey and later student entry and contribution to the workplace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Telford
UCISA Executive Chair and Director of Information Services 
Edinburgh Napier University

UCISA welcomes blog contributions from members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective on a current topic of interest, please contact the website team via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

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

Breaking the ice and digital literacies at DigiPedLab 2017


Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

 

 

 

DigiPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day 1

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

Breaking the ice

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

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

 

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

A speech and a song

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

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

Morning session – Literacies track

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

 

(Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

These were my favourite questions/answers…

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

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

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

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

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

Digital literacies defined?

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

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

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

 

 

 

Key points to remember in the context of digital literacies:

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

Bonnie highlighted more benefits of developing your digital literacy:

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

This led us on to thinking about networks…

The power of networks

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

(Click on image to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

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

 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Setting the scene for reflections on DigPedLab Vancouver 2017

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Background

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

A bit about me….

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

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

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

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

About DigPedLab Institutes

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

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

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

The tracks on offer in Vancouver were:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of digital literacy and digital diversity for students and staff

Dee Vyas
Classroom Technology Teaching Adviser
Learning Innovations
Manchester Metropolitan University

Reflections from the UCISA conference Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I am employed by Manchester Metropolitan University as a Classroom Technology Teaching Adviser and I am a member of the Learning Innovation Team, based in the Department of Learning and Research Technologies. My primary responsibilities are to support academic colleagues across the university in their use of institutionally supported technologies for learning teaching and assessment, and to research and to provide advice on emerging technologies that may have a role in higher education.

The UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event was a two day conference held at the Austin Court from 25-26th May. I had applied for a UCISA bursary to attend the conference and was amazed when I was awarded one.

The conference theme was of particular interest to me as in a world of fast changing technologies, it is important to enable staff and students to develop and apply them in effective and efficient ways within their teaching and learning environment.

I have worked in the IT related field for over twenty five years, and the development and use of technology within HE, changes at an exponential rate. We have gone from having no PCs in the classroom to now being able to submerse students within virtual worlds and immersive experiences. Was my generation digitally naïve, as we didn’t use technology as an all-inclusive aspect of our childhood, education and adulthood?

The Spotlight on Digital Capabilities conference offers an insight into how to enable staff and students to keep up with the pace of change in using technologies. It is not simply about introducing a technology within a classroom setting but it is also about the effect it will have from the organisational perspective.  With a wide range of technologies similar in features, how do we choose which technology to implement, develop and highlight to staff and students in order to provide an inclusive experience.

Within my organisation, there are many pockets of innovation, implementation and development, and examples of use of technology within the classroom to enhance the student experience. There are areas where the use of technology and development of digital skills is engrained, and areas where lectures are simply delivered traditionally. Addressing these issues is important, and highlighting good practice and trying to engage students and staff to develop these skills forms, are a fundamental aspect of the work I do.

Digital literacy

Do we all need digital skills, but with a difference in the level and range of skills required? How do academics interpret having a digital capability? Is it the ability to use Twitter, LinkedIn, training for Word or using Padlet? Should the effective use of technology by institutions provide a comparable experience for students?  These are questions that arose from the conference and further research into developing answers for them is required. James Clay, Jisc, in his presentation Building digital capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency  highlighted the fact that three key areas need to be developed for digital literacy to be effective:

  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Support for learners.

Participation in digital teams and working groups based on development of the curriculum and review

Effective collaboration in digital spaces sharing calendars, task lists and building shared resources

Support for learners for collaboration using digital tools and work effectively across all boundaries.

Institutional change is organic rather than transformational, where communication and resilience are cornerstones of change. It’s not about the shiny new technology, as changes in technology can often have a diverse effect on the stakeholders. The language we use to describe technology is not common to all, and providing a discourse and bringing externality (sector specialist/companies) into universities, is an important issue to consider. There is therefore, an important need to share a common language. Scott (2016) highlights how the use of the word “very good” to describe programmes at the University of Toronto in feedback to the Vice-President for Research, resulted in being chastised when the outcome “world-beating” was expected.

The key to implementing change includes the need for a communication plan, a dialogue that is open for all, and an understanding of the cultural, emotional and personal processes which will be affected. How do we inform our stakeholders? If we are to change the future of technology enhanced learning, do we use blog posts, email, notices a month in advance, or digital champions, to provide a sustained process?

Student engagement

Student digital literacy is defined by Jisc (2015) as:

“the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society.”

Without a clear definition of the term “student engagement” or an equivalent shared framework for action and enhancement, a higher education institute may not be able to provide a uniform approach. Is student engagement about the level of investment students make in their learning i.e. as autonomous learners? Student engagement as a policy priority within universities is relatively recent and there is a need to move beyond systems and instead, to describe a concept whereby students are seen as partners. This new concept is based on the opportunity for students to have an influence in determining what their learning should look like, rather than the current traditional approach.

This partnership should exist as a culture within higher education to produce more than a fuzzy feeling. Similar to many partnerships, this new approach will result in changes and enhancements that aim to build a more inclusive learning community.

How can technology enhanced learning (TEL) be used to support the student voice? One of the requirements highlighted as part of the analysis carried out in the Student Engagement Partnership, was how could TEL be used to support the student voice. The availability of adequate wifi within institutions was highlighted as a major factor.

To assess whether things that are being called partnerships can actually provide an opportunity for ongoing conversations to determine people’s needs and expectations, requires some form of assessment criteria. One approach highlighted could be to develop an optional set of questions specifically targeting the use of technology within the learning environment, to be an integral part of the National Student Survey (NSS) and furthermore, an internal institute specific ISS.

Ultimately, some form of change must occur if these partnerships are to be seen as constructive, and whereby students are able to determine that their ideas are being listened to and incorporated into the decision-making process. Avenues of engagement must be kept open for a continuous dialogue between students and the institute.

Finding and minding the gaps: digital diversity

Digital capabilities do not always match reality. The battle we face is a major challenge, as technology is constantly changing. Metathesiophobia is the fear of change and is apt in describing resistance to changing the way we work digitally. Digital literacy is about the concept rather than the technology, whereby it is seen as a functional tool (without our thinking of how to use it). Therefore, development is required in engaging academic staff to build a digital residency where the web becomes the focal point of interest, and an active online presence is not seen as being pervasive. To carry this out, a programme of inclusive CPD and teacher education should become a part of the skills enhancement process. Developing a synergy between pedagogical frameworks and teaching that allows ‘good practice’, as highlighted by a QAA strand, to be disseminated to colleagues, should be seen as the norm rather than the exception.

Sue Watling, University of Hull, highlights the term “digital diversity” as including those who are digital visitors and see the web as a tool and are not actively engaged online, or those who have no online presence and are not digitally immersed. We are all focussed on doing the same work, using the digital skills we are familiar with, but we must not forget those who are wedded to traditional roles – like teaching.  How do we address the digital skills for staff who are employed without these skills? By increasing shared practice as outlined above, through internal and external processes and organisations, such as UCISA, JISC, local events and networks.

Academics may not be aware of how social media can enhance the student experience, how to make the technology relevant to their content, or understand how it can improve their teaching and student learning. There is a need to move away from using generic terms for literacy such as media, numeracy etc. and concentrate on the core abilities of what staff need to know. The Alexandria Proclamation (2005) highlights that literacy should be a human right:

Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion of all nations.”

How we achieve this as part of the educational experience can, I believe, only enhance the knowledge-sharing society and skills universities aim to deliver within the twenty first century. Some may say that digital is a red herring, but is it an opportunity we should all grasp and for which we should endeavour to determine a solution? The government recognises it as an integral part of the economy, and companies are using it, but there are many who do not engage with it. To achieve collaboration between departments is important, as is developing an innovative approach to delivering training, which may include incentives such as prizes and tokens. It is important to work with students as partners to develop a joint literacy that allows teaching to be carried out in an informal manner. The bottom up approach has worked, as has asking students what they use.

References:

Scott, P. (2016) Beware, the central control that grips schools is heading universities’ way. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/04/control-schools-universities-knowledge-business  (Accessed: 02 June 2016).

Jisc (2015) Scott Hibberson. Available at: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-students-digital-literacy (Accessed: 06 June 2016).

UNESCO. (2005). The Alexandria Proclamation “Towards an information literate society” Retrieved June12, 2016 from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/11876051.pdf