Monthly Archives: March 2016

Bursary review – Educause

michelle

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

 

 

 

I applied for and was extremely delighted to be awarded a UCISA Bursary to attend the conference of my choice in 2015. I chose to attend Educause 2015 , based on very extremely good feedback from fellow UCISA_PCMG committee members who had attended in previous years.

Educause is a non-profit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of Information technology. It is based in North America, but has global reach, with members in Europe, Africa and Australasia. Each year the Educause annual conference is attended by upwards of 7000 higher education professionals. Oxford University has been a member of Educause for a number of years, and has presented at past conferences.

The main areas of interest from the Educause programme based on my current projects were in the areas of identity management, smart cards, and risk management. The organization of the event was extremely good; there was a mobile app that you could download and schedule which presentations you wanted to attend, which then formed your own customized conference schedule. The event was vast: with approximately 7000 attendees, you need to be really well organized. The “First timer pit stop” area was a must on the first day of the event after registration. The “International Welcome lounge” became my home from home after attending the presentations. I used the IT equipment in the International Lounge to type up my blogs, ready to be posted onto the UCISA blog site:

The keynote speakers in particular were really inspiring and engaging. I was particularly moved by the closing keynote speech by Emily Pillotan.

Emily runs a non-profit design company and shared a few of her project stories with the audience. These included a farmers’ market public space, a middle school library, two homes for the homeless, creating a space for young girls, and creating items to be used in a domestic abuse centre. After explaining each scheme, Emily provided quotes from individuals that worked on the project. This was by far the focal point which really underlines why Emily does what she does and the value she helps put back into people’s lives and communities.

The general session was presented by Daniel Pink from MIT, who described motivation from the perspective of science. Daniel said that everyone in the room was an expert in motivation, they just may not realise it yet! He also said that we all have an explicit knowledge of physics without having studied it as a major. Daniel discussed when you should reward good behavior and bad behavior, and whether this changes behavior. I think I will be adding one of his books to my reading list: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

One of the sessions that made me think outside of the box a little when it comes to career aspirations was the panel discussion “From IT Support to CIO: A journey of three women” The career path from support to CIO is not a usual one, in my experience; however, the experiences shared by the panel made it clear that if you are motivated and think big, you can succeed to the highest heights!  Originally, I was not planning to attend this presentation, but whilst looking for another room, I came across this, which seemed more appealing!

Since attending Educause a number of Identity Management suppliers have been in contact with me, which is near perfect timing for the IAM programme. I have passed onto the programme manager in charge of IDM all the contact details I gathered whilst attending Educause, which will be used to help source an IDM solution.

I would like to thank UCISA for giving me the opportunity to attend Educause 2015. It has helped me broaden my networking and knowledge base, learn from my peers, gain a useful insight into how International institutions work, and bring all that I have learnt back to Oxford University and UCISA_PCMG to share with colleagues and peers.

Day Type of Session Presenter(s) Title
1 Session 1 – Opening keynote Daniel Pink (MIT) How small wins can transform your organization (blog post)
1 Session 2 – Presentation Lawrence Bobranski (University of SasKatchewan) A practical approach to risk management that delivers results  (blog post)
1 Session 3 –Poster Myles Darson – JISC National BI Service for UK education
1 Session 4 – Panel Clint Davis, Mike Carlin and Thomas Hoover (UNC and UTC) Transforming IT – a tale of two institutions
2 Session  1- Direct poll Randall Albert (AD, Ringling college of art and design) Project Management (blog post)
2 Session 2 – Keynote speaker Andrew McAfee (MIT) The second machine age: work, progress and prosperity in the time of brilliant technologies 
2 Session 3 – Panel discussion Melody childs, Cathy O’Bryan, Wendy Woodward and Sue B. Workman From IT Support to CIO: A journey of three women  (blog post
2 Session 4 – presentation Emory Craig, Mike Griffith and Maya Georgeiva Wearable tech and augmented vision – Pedagogy in the future
3 Session 1 – presentation Ron Kraemer, Kevin Morooney and Anne West Trust and Identity in education and research identity for everyone  (blog post
3 Session 2- Closing keynote Emily Pillotan If you build it: The power of design to change the world  (blog post)

Climbing the DIKW Pyramid: Applying Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom principles at the University of Leeds

Tim Banks
Faculty IT Manager
University of Leeds

One of the many areas of knowledge that the EDUCAUSE conference  helped me to develop was the importance of metrics and monitoring. All good metrics are based upon accurate data, but data isn’t useful on its own or in isolation. Here is one concrete example of how my attendance at EDUCAUSE 2015 has helped to shape my professional development and bring benefits to my institution.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework makes reference to the DIKW pyramid (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom) as can be seen below. Wisdom is based on sound knowledge, which in turn comes from useful information, which is based on accurate data.

final blog image

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s take an example of a typical automated monitoring system. An example of each level of the DIKW pyramid is as follows:

Data
09/01 18:29:45: Message from InterMapper 5.8.1

Event: Critical
Name: website-host.leeds.ac.uk Nagios Plugin
Document: Unix: Webhosting
Address: 129.11.1.1
Probe Type: Nagios Plugin
Condition: CRITICAL – Socket timeout after 10 seconds

Time since last reported down: 39 days, 3 hours, 12 minutes, 47 seconds Device’s up time: N/A

Information
This alert relates to one of our website servers.
This is not normal behaviour.

Knowledge
There is a planned network upgrade in one of our datacentres between 18:00 – 19:00 which is expected to cause network outages.
The server is part of a clustered pair with only one node affected, so service to end users will not be interrupted.

Wisdom
No action is required.

Most systems will generate endless data records. With some careful filtering of the data, it is possible to automatically generate ‘Information’. However, in most cases, ‘Knowledge’ (and in all cases ‘Wisdom’) will need some level of human intervention.

My team have recently started using the University of Leeds IT Service Management system (ServiceNow) and as part of this move, we have updated all of our automated monitoring systems so they now report into one shared email account. Previously,  they were going to various individual and shared email accounts, so we didn’t have a single view of everything. This single shared email account is our data store in the DIKW model. We have then applied a number of rules to identify the subset of alerts from the general notifications. We have defined alerts are something which we have defined as requiring human intervention. This takes us to the information level. These alerts are automatically entered into our Service Management system as incidents, where they are reviewed by a human and acted on as appropriate.

The ultimate goal is to use the configuration management database (CMDB) and change management records to try and automate some of the ‘Knowledge’ layer. e.g. Approved change X will affect the network between 07:00 and 07:30 on 5th May in Data Centre 1 in which server Y is located, so ignore any warnings from this server on this date between these times.

Accurate monitoring is the basis of building meaningful metrics. You cannot generate a useful metric on the ‘number of unplanned service outages in the last six months’ based on data alone. By ensuring that we have a model which allows us to record useful knowledge based on the raw data, we will be able to build some accurate and meaningful metrics.

The sessions I attended on data monitoring and metrics, in particular the one by led by the Consortium for the Establishment of Information Technology Performance Standards (CEITPS), really helped to define this approach and stopped me from falling into the trap of generating endless metrics (of little value) based on data alone. Hearing from other institutions that are further ahead on this journey than us and having the benefit of their advice on what approach to take and what pitfalls to avoid has been invaluable. I am also part of a small group at the University who are responsible for defining the institution-wide IT configuration management standards for recording and managing IT assets. Again, I will be bringing information and knowledge from EDUCAUSE sessions to these discussions.

The current environment

The run up to the General Election in 2015 saw very little in the form of legislation and little change in the sector. The year since has been far busier with the publication of the Green Paper Teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice, the introduction of the Counter Terrorism duty on higher and further education institutions (the PREVENT duty), the drafting of the Investigatory Powers Bill and consultations on the information provided to students and the HESA Data Futures programme. The proposals within the Green Paper require refinement – it is not clear what the impact will be on institutions and it is anticipated that there will be further consultation during 2016. Although the Paper only applies to higher education in England, it is probable that a number of the measures proposed will also be introduced in time in the other countries of the UK.

The publication of the Green Paper in November demonstrated that the Westminster Government is looking to shape the English Higher Education sector rather more than it has in the past with emphasis on teaching excellence, better information for students and widening participation. The Green Paper contained little detail and it is not clear how soon detailed proposals will be presented. The BIS Select Committee, whilst welcoming the approach in principle in its recent report, urged caution over the pace of implementation, noting that the second stage of the Teaching Excellence Framework “should only be introduced once Government can demonstrate that the metrics to be used have the confidence of students and universities”. The Green Paper also noted that universities needed to be more accountable for how student fees are spent. This reflects a theme first visited in a Private Members Bill tabled by Heidi Allen, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire so it is perhaps not surprising to see elements of her proposals feature in the Green Paper.

Despite the emphasis on a light touch approach, it is evident that universities and colleges will need to make effective use of data in order to meet the anticipated requirements of the Green Paper. There are a number of other developments that will place similar demands on our institutions. The HESA Data Futures programme is seeking to redesign and transform the collection of student related data. The programme is in its early stages with a recent procurement to appoint an organisation to design and deliver the future business process, technology and application architecture. UCISA will continue to ensure that suppliers of student records systems are engaged with this initiative. Further, the Higher Education Commission’s report From Bricks to Clicks notes that data analytics has the potential to transform the higher education sector, but cautions that UK institutions are currently not making the most of the opportunities in this area.

There continues to be funding pressure on all UK higher education institutions. In Northern Ireland funding has reduced by 28% in real terms since 2010/11 leading to downsizing by the universities in the province. In Wales, a cross-party review of higher education funding and student finance arrangements is due to report in the autumn. Although funding cuts proposed by the Welsh Government have been rescinded, it is likely that there will be some rationalisation within the sector over the coming year. The Scottish Funding Council has also cut the level of funding with some institutions noting that continued cuts put “pressure on institutional viability”. In England, the introduction of competition has resulted in some big winners and losers – those institutions which have seen a fall in student numbers are now having to cut their cloth accordingly. In the Further Education sector, the outcome of the Area Reviews is expected to be mergers between further education colleges.

There may be a lull in the development of policy as elections for new administrations in Scotland and Wales take place in May followed by the referendum on the UK’s EU membership in June. It remains to be seen if changes in the constituency of those Governments are reflected in changes in education policy. It goes without saying that a vote to leave the EU will also have a significant impact on universities and governmental policies. 2016 promises to be an interesting year.