Monthly Archives: January 2016

Benefits of receiving a UCISA bursary

Vicky Wilkie DSC_0007



Victoria Wilkie
IT Support Specialist
University of York






Six months ago I was awarded funding from UCISA to attend the CILIP conference in Liverpool. At the time I was on secondment to the IT support office at the University of York, but my previous (and now current) position was as a senior library assistant at the University Library. I was particularly interested in finding out how the two teams could work more closely together, and also how I could support colleagues in doing this. One key area I looked at when I returned from the conference was ways of merging best practice from both teams and integrating these systems to assist staff with the changes. Lending Services already had a wiki where they stored and updated information for staff. I worked with colleagues in the IT support office to develop an ITSO wiki that could be used by library and IT staff in the day to day running of the merged desk.

Social media

One of the main things I took away from the conference was how useful a resource social media can be. This usefulness took place on two levels; the first was with our interactions with users. At York we are fortunate enough to already have a communications team that look after our social media accounts. They take the time to interact with our users, but also with other universities and related services. They make sure that enquiries are answered, but they also keep the interactions fresh, funny, and relevant, which has resulted in some very positive feedback. In order to complement and promote the work our comms team are already doing, I took inspiration from one of the conference talks to focus on informing our users about the different methods of social media we use to interact with them, and how this might assist them with their studies.

The second level focused on how useful social media can be to professionals wanting to share and research new ideas in the field. During the conference, I used Twitter to disseminate my ideas and engage in debates around the subjects that were raised. I started following a range of different people in the sector, and saw the issues that were impacting on them and their users. One real benefit of social media was that it allowed me to follow themes and ideas at conferences that I was not able to attend, and find out issues that were impacting service desks from different counties as well as from a range of different sectors, from Twitter users around the world.


Andy Horton and Chris Rowell’s talk ‘The Twelve Apps of Christmas’ was especially interesting to me, given that I knew one of my tasks upon returning to the library would be helping with the integration of basic IT support at the library helpdesk. Their enthusiasm really inspired me, and made me assess the different training we could give to staff to help them integrate the new processes. Although we have only just started with this, the overall feedback from staff has been very positive, and we are keen to take this on board to find more ways of updating and improving training, and ensuring that it is as efficient as possible to help staff develop their skills. Collaboration was something I was very interested in, and I was surprised to see how much collaboration was already taking place, especially between library and IT departments. What I took away from the conference was that collaboration is the way forward for service desks; we strengthen each department by working together, and it was wonderful to see how many other places are already doing this.

The final major point that I took from the conference, and that has really impacted on my approach to work, was the idea that we need to celebrate our successes more. As a service desk sector, we have a tendency to focus on what we could have done better and how we can constantly improve. Whilst it is very important to ensure that we continue to progress services, it is also important to focus on what we have done well and where we are really standing out. Since returning to the library, I have worked hard to highlight times when I think that staff have been doing an exceptional, job as this motivates and encourages the whole team.

To sum up, going to the conference allowed me to look at my colleagues and really appreciate the successes we have. Looking at it from an organisational point of view, it made me assess the ways in which our different teams could work more closely together to ensure that our users get what they really need. In terms of the sector, it made me more aware of what my colleagues around the world are doing. It allowed me to share ideas with other people who are working in libraries and IT. It also made me look at the different types of service desks in education. Before  the conference, I had a tendency to focus on HE desks, but since then I have been in contact with colleagues who work in public libraries and FE colleges, looking at what they are doing and how we can work more closely together to improve the sector.

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

Benefits of receiving a UCISA bursary






Salman Usman
Academic E-learning Developer
Kingston University London



I attended the EUNIS Congress 2015, and a pre-conference workshop on electronic management of assessment (EMA), from 9-12 June 2015. Both the events were hosted by Abertay University, Dundee. My attendance at the aforementioned events was made possible by the UCISA bursary scheme. This report details the benefits that receiving a UCISA bursary had to my professional development, to my institution, and potentially to the HE IT community.

The conference and associated workshop have contributed greatly to my professional development. They have provided me with valuable insights into current and emerging trends in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), as well as approaches to research in TEL. With the fast-changing world of technology, and my workload over the last few months, it has been hard for me to keep on top of the latest developments in TEL. In view of this, the conference provided me the time and opportunity to catch up. With a recent move to online coursework submission and feedback at my institution, and an increased emphasis on providing students with formative assessment opportunities through technology, the EMA workshop was particularly useful for comparing, evaluating, and informing my institutions’ approaches and practice.

The highlight of the event was the fact that it was pan-European, with delegates from over 20 EU countries. Therefore, I was provided a rare glimpse into the European TEL landscape. I also received some useful tips on taking notes electronically, and on travelling to conferences. Additionally, although I have been supporting academics in using Twitter in their teaching practice, it was the first time that I had used Twitter myself at a conference. I have realised that it is a great way to not only keep up with other concurrent sessions and the audience response, but also to remain in touch with fellow delegates – the Twitter handle is the new business card. I met some great people, and feel that I am better placed to identify partners for funding bids and future collaboration on TEL projects.

I wrote four blogs for the UICSA website detailing my account of and reflections on the conference and workshop. The process of writing blogs was very useful, as it prompted me to reflect on what I have learnt and gained. The blogs were disseminated by UCISA through Twitter and the UCISA JISC mailing list, and also through the EUNIS website. I hope that the blog posts were found useful by those who read them. The blogs were also shared with members of my faculty’s education committee. I also shared some of the e-learning and learning design tools that I came across at the conference and workshop with my faculty through a monthly newsletter on TEL, and with colleagues in a central university department related to academic development.

The conference hosted a wide range of suppliers and service providers of e-learning services. These included learning management systems, lecture capture, assessment and feedback tools, and plagiarism detection tools. My institution was carrying out a review of its learning technology provision at the time, and, being a member of the learning technology review group, the conference and exhibition provided timely insights in current technologies and trends.

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

Impact of a UCISA bursary…six months on





Roisin Cassidy
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St. John University




In June of last year, I was fortunate to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend a conference of my choosing. The purpose of the bursary fund is to provide UCISA members with the means to go to an event that they would not usually have the opportunity to attend. Six months on, I’ve reflected on the impact of the ePIC 2015 conference on my institution and my own development.

I chose the ePIC conference (8-10 June, Barcelona) because its two main strands of open badges and eportfolios aligned with my interests and current priorities in my role as a Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor at York St John University.  Three days of presentations, workshops, posters, and networking events addressed a whole gamut of badge issues, including the value and devaluing of open badges, options for issuing and displaying, and approaches to meaningful design. The purpose and value of eportfolios was scrutinised, and theoretical models and implementations were presented. Attendees spanned the school, further, and higher education sectors, as well as national representative bodies and international humanitarian organisations.  Throughout the conference, I tweeted useful resources and projects at the #ePIC2015 hashtag, and my thoughts on individual sessions can be found on my three blog post reports and Storify of the event.

The benefits of attending were evident later in the summer, with the launch of a collaborative open badge project at my institution. At the time of the conference, I had been approached by our Student Services team about the potential for open badges to be used as a means of recognising the work of Residential Support Assistants (RSAs) at the University. RSAs are generally second- and third-year students who are appointed to help provide a safe, supportive, and inclusive living environment.  The role is one of responsibility, leadership, and teamwork, and the University is keen to acknowledge these students’ contributions to life in the Residences, and to enable them to articulate their achievements in the future. Prior to the conference, the badge pathway, criteria, and means of issuing were all yet to be decided, and the final outcome has been heavily influenced by my attendance. A collection of five badges aligned to the RSAs’ training sessions, and the skills, values, and attributes they are expected to exhibit, were designed. The badges can be earned in any order, and culminate in a York St John Residential Leadership Award milestone badge – a model frequently discussed at the conference. You can read more about the project on the York St John TEL Team’s blog.

Residential Leadership Award Badge Pathway

Residential Leadership Award Badge Pathway






ePIC 2015 also served as a forum for launching the Open Badge Passport (OPB), which is a free, open source, cloud-based service allowing individual users to receive, share, and organise their open badges, and the Open Badge Factory, a badge issue and management service based on the Mozilla open standard, and operating a freemium model. York St John subsequently purchased a licence for the Open Badge Factory, initially for use for the RSA badges, but our collection is growing. Amongst other positives, this approach enables students to easily apply for badges with supporting evidence, and the evidence can be reviewed by the Residences Officer before issuing. It also allows for the creation of milestone badges, where several badges contribute to an overall award or badge. So far, the system has proved very useful and intuitive. Our next step – once the plugin has been tested further – is to integrate the Passport with Mahara so that students can easily display badges in both.

Since attending, I’ve been able to incorporate examples from the conference into subsequent open badge information sessions that I’ve delivered to staff, and referred to ongoing projects (for example, JISC’s Prospect to Alumnus (P2A) project) which could raise the profile and currency of badges amongst UK employers – something badge sceptics (rightly!) query regularly. I was also energised to begin a review of ePortfolio use at York St John, particularly its use and impact as an assessment method, and attempted to recruit a student researcher to work alongside me on this. Unfortunately, there were no takers for the role and it has since stalled, but I haven’t abandoned the idea yet!

The conference was smaller than expected, the positive side of which was more opportunity for prolonged discussion in a smaller crowd. As a result, I’ve widened my network of open badge enthusiasts, and have several contacts I can draw upon for support as I navigate new territory. If you’re a newcomer to open badges, I recommend following the work (and Twitter accounts!) of these badge enthusiasts:  Serge Ravet (conference organiser), Eric Rousselle (CEO of Discendum Inc., makers of Open Badge Factory), Don Presant, Doug Belshaw, and Fiona Harvey.

I’ll also be attending the upcoming Open Badges in Higher Education Conference (8 March, Southampton), where I expect to catch up with many familiar ePIC faces – hopefully see some of you there!

Many thanks again to UCISA for sponsoring my attendance.

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

Benefits of a UCISA bursary – six months later

Allister Homes Profile pic - small



Allister Homes
Senior Systems Architect
University of Lincoln




I have attended a number of HE-sector EA events over past few years, and applied for the UCISA bursary hoping that the Gartner EA summit would help me learn more from experts outside the HE sector, and perhaps help me to consider different perspectives. I didn’t see official figures, but I estimated that there were roughly 400-600 attendees. The same summit also takes place in the USA on different dates (with, I would imagine, an even larger number of delegates). As you would expect, there were a lot of sessions running in parallel, so it was impossible to get to everything, and I cherry picked what I thought likely to be the most interesting and useful sessions.

It wasn’t surprising to find that the EA practice of universities is more modest than that a lot of other organisations represented by delegates at the conference. I mentioned in the reflections blog post that there was often an unvoiced assumption that delegates were part of teams with significant numbers of architects and developers, with suggestions such as “when you get back, why not assemble a small team of 5 people to go and investigate X, Y and Z”. It’s good to see how EA is being done outside the sector, but equally important to remember that we need to use it appropriately by learning and adapting from billion-pound organisations, rather than hoping to replicate.

I found the summit helpful to maintain my thinking as an architect on how the architecture we implement now can support the changes that we will need to implement in coming years. Nobody knows exactly what these changes will be, but nonetheless we need to make the best decisions we can now in order to be flexible for whatever change comes along later.

Cloud maturity

Gartner’s views on cloud maturity were interesting and seemed sound. Things such as breaking through vendor fog and hype to get the real information about what offerings are available, the fact that many vendors now offer new services as cloud first, the need to frequently update cloud strategies, and the fact that it’s a case of the “degree of cloudiness” rather than whether to take a cloud approach or not, all ring true.

There was useful insight into changes that Gartner Analysts expect to see over the next few years. Information about strategic trends was also interesting and useful as background information to keep in mind when considering enterprise architectures over the next few years. So too was the session on making sure the architecture is flexible enough to respond to business moments as rapidly as possible; in a setting such as HE, I think getting to that point of the intuition’s architecture being flexible is itself a significant undertaking that will take a long time to achieve, and has to come about gradually, but with deliberate direction, as things are introduced, removed and changed.

Software architecture

In retrospect, I’d categorise several sessions as being about software architecture rather than enterprise architecture; for example, more than one session looked at designers splitting applications into smaller applications and using micro-services for massive web-scale SOA.  Cases in point included Netflix and Facebook, but I think the enterprise architect would be more interested in the services Netflix delivers, how it interacts with other services and how people interact with it, than the detailed software architecture of how Netflix works internally.


Unlike many of the HE events I’ve attended, I didn’t make any useful contacts at the conference with whom I could occasionally keep in touch to share information. I mentioned in the reflections blog that conversations appeared to be mainly limited to people who already worked together, and a bit of people-watching seemed to reveal that others who, like me, tried to strike up conversations with ‘strangers’ didn’t get much of a flow going. This may well be the norm for a large conference with people from diverse organisations, the vast majority of which would be profit making entities less inclined to openly share.

Attending the summit has not fundamentally changed what I (or we at the University) do or how I think, and it’s a conference that would be useful to attend every two or three years rather than annually, but overall it was beneficial and an interesting experience.

Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking things was that Gartner estimates that by 2017 60% of global 1000 organisations will execute at least one revolutionary and currently unimaginable business transformation effort. Of course, there are no universities in that list, but I wonder – what the proportion of universities that will undergo such a transformation by 2017 will be, and what that transformation will be?

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

Somebody will go to jail

The start of a new year is always a time for predictions and forecasts for the year to come – one that caught my eye was the Top 10 Cybersecurity predictions from Richard Starnes. The list makes some grim reading, starting as it does with Somebody will go to jail.

Second on his list was a prediction that information security management training will become the new silver bullet. Citing the IBM 2015 Cyber Security Intelligence Index he notes that over 40% of the average companies’ breaches were mostly due to inadequately or improperly trained personnel. UCISA has taken steps to try and address this, as Jerry Niman advised in an update in December to the UCISA Directors list, by reaching agreement with Leo to make the licence for their Information Security Awareness Learning Suite available to all UCISA full member organisations in perpetuity. The agreement includes reasonable updates for the first three years. This will be fully funded by UCISA, and will be available for institutions to host on the LMS of their choice. There will be no cost to institutions unless further customisation or hosting is required. We are working towards making the suite available in the first quarter this year.

Making the training available is one part of the solution – making sure those that need to take it do is another challenge. A number of institutions have policies that state that all staff should take information security training but not all follow it through and ensure that the policy is fully implemented. Chapter 9 of the UCISA Information Security Management Toolkit highlights the role awareness activities play in managing risk within the institution and highlights how the effectiveness of such activities can be demonstrated.

Starnes’ list highlighted particular challenges around health data but he noted that one implication of an increased focus on cyber security was that the market for information security professionals will tighten, making recruiting experienced professionals more costly. As personnel become more expensive, so the need to understand the importance of the roles and the functions they perform and support increases. Clearly this understanding requires context; that context being provided by recognition of the value of the information and the risk to the institution of a breach of security or loss of data. Will it take somebody going to jail to focus minds?