Monthly Archives: September 2016

Scotland and Brexit

I attended a seminar last week considering the impact of the Referendum result in Scotland. As UCISA is a UK wide organisation it is important to understand the range of views across the UK and the potential impacts on the devolved nations. In Scotland, along with Northern Ireland, the majority cast their votes in favour of remaining in the EU. Nicola Sturgeon has made the Scottish Government view clear – they wish the majority view in Scotland to be respected and for Scotland to remain in the EU. To what extent that can be achieved isn’t clear, partly because the new cabinet at Westminster is still defining its approach to leaving the EU.

The lack of clarity stems from before the referendum. There was no White Paper to outline the proposed action in the event of a vote to leave – this contrasts with the approach taken with the Scottish independence referendum where options for both outcomes were known. Further it has become evident that there were no plans or contingencies for a leave success. It isn’t clear how the exit will be triggered or who needs to be consulted – and this might not be clear until a number of legal challenges have been addressed later in the year. Finally, the notion of leaving the EU means different things to different people – there remains a great deal of negotiation between constituents within Government for a clear picture to emerge.

What are the options for Scotland? Given that there appears to be reluctance to hold a further referendum on independence, it will probably be limited to trying to influence a move to a least worst option. David Davies, in his address to Parliament on 5 September, stated that the devolved administrations would have an important role to play (but that they would have no veto). So Scotland will need to lobby hard for a softer Brexit with continued access to free trade against the hard line Brexiteers within the UK Government. An alternative might be for Scotland to build stronger relationships with the EU post exit in certain areas such as agriculture or higher education. However, this may require a further Scotland Act to devolve more powers to Holyrood in order to be achievable. A further option could be for Scotland and Northern Ireland, as the two nations within the UK that voted to remain, to take over the UK’s EU membership but the constitutional challenges that would present within the UK makes that extremely unlikely.

The result of the Referendum on June 23 will have an immediate impact even before negotiations begin. The demands placed on the Civil Service to inform the negotiations and manage the process will cost, both financially and in terms of time spent away from business as usual. So it may be prudent for those organisations that receive direct or indirect Government funding to budget for a reduction in income. Further, it may mean that some issues that might have occupied parliamentary time will be pushed further down the queue.

So what will be the impact on higher and further education in Scotland? Whilst education remains a priority for Holyrood, it is way down the list in the Westminster Government’s Brexit considerations and it will be some time before the full impact is understood. The risk to research through the loss of EU funding and collaboration opportunities is well documented. In the short term, there is the risk of further reduction in central funding and a risk to student numbers. Brexit has given added impetus to the Home Office perspective on international students and the potential damage to applications from beyond the EU. EU student numbers may also decline amidst the uncertainty.

UK universities and their representative bodies will need to be effective in lobbying and influencing Government over the coming months and years. In the short term this will be needed to remove uncertainty (for example, reassuring EU students applying now for 2017 that their fees won’t rise during their course); longer term it will be needed to ensure the continued global success of the sector. What is clear is that the uncertainty means that universities will need to plan for a range of potential scenarios – the need for quality data and systems to support this has never been greater.

(Previously published on Peter Tinson’s blog page)

UCISA TEL Survey

Key messages from the 2016 UCISA TEL Survey

At this year’s ALT-C conference, Richard Walker led a discussion session on: ‘Open and flexible learning opportunities for all?  Findings from the 2016 UCISA TEL survey on learning technology developments across UK higher education.

The slides for the workshop are available here and as the title of the workshop suggests, they cover some of the key messages emerging from the 2016 Technology Enhanced Learning Survey of the UK higher education sector. The full report for the Survey has been published on the UCISA website at:  https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel

The Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Survey is the eighth of its kind that UCISA has conducted, and offers a longitudinal perspective of TEL developments over a 15-year period within UK higher education, focusing on the provision already in place within institutions and the current, emerging and planned patterns of learning technology use across the HE community. Of particular interest in this year’s Survey was the progress that institutions were making with the implementation of lecture recording and learning analytics services, as well as developments in open learning provision. The Survey also sought to keep track of longitudinal developments in strategies and drivers for centrally managed TEL services, focusing on the range of TEL tools used by students, as well as staffing provision in support of these services. The Survey is typically completed by institutional heads of e-learning and for this year’s Survey 110 out of a possible 160 UK higher education institutions responded – a response rate of 69%.

So what were the headline findings?

(i) Drivers and barriers to institutional TEL development

The principal institutional driver for TEL development remains unchanged since 2003 with a continuing focus on the use of learning technologies to enhance the quality of learning and teaching.  Unsurprisingly student expectations have a key influence on strategic thinking when it comes to the development of institutional TEL services. Meeting student expectations, improving student satisfaction and establishing a common user experience for TEL services all appear in the top five list of driving factors for institutional TEL development.  Indeed Student learning experience and engagement strategies now represent the second most commonly cited category of institutional strategy informing TEL development after the Teaching, Learning and Assessment strategy, and have a higher profile than Corporate, Library or dedicated TEL strategies in this respect.

Lack of time continues to be the leading barrier to TEL development, with departmental / school culture rising up the list to second place. Institutional culture also features, along with Lack of internal sources of funding and Lack of staff commitment in the top five barriers to TEL development. Lack of support staff remains one of the lowest ranked barriers  with the majority of institutions reporting an increase in TEL support staff since the last Survey; further staffing changes are foreseen over the next two years, primarily relating to increasing numbers as well as the restructuring of their services.

(ii) Modes of course delivery supported by TEL services

How then are TEL tools being used by institutions to support the various modes of course delivery?

Blended learning delivery, focusing on the provision of lecture notes and supplementary resources, remains the most common mode of course delivery using TEL. The key change from 2014 has been the increasing institutional engagement in the delivery of fully online courses, with over half of the responding institutions to the Survey now supporting some form of delivery through their schools or departments.  This represents a key change from previous Surveys, where fully online delivery has previously been reported as a niche activity conducted by specialist distance learning providers.

In contrast, institutional engagement with open learning delivery has not progressed from the picture recorded in 2014, and only 11 institutions confirmed that they have an open learning strategy. The most popular open online learning format is online courses for all registered students at an institution – commonly referred to as OOCs! Despite the increasing adoption by institutions of open learning platforms such as FutureLearn and Open Education by Blackboard, less than half of responding institutions to the Survey are currently engaged in the delivery of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Where MOOC delivery is taking place, it tends not to be integrated with campus-based course delivery, with the majority of institutions opting to use a separate platform from the main institutional VLE to deliver their public courses. For a fuller discussion of the TEL Survey findings on open learning developments, take a look at the YouTube summary video by Martin Jenkins (Coventry University).

(iii) Centrally supported TEL tools and services

Have there been any notable changes in the range of TEL services that institutions are now offering to support the student learning experience since the last Survey?

The key change since the last Survey has been the increasing deployment of e-submission tools within HE institutions. After the main institutional virtual learning environment, e-submission tools are now the most common centrally-supported TEL service across the sector, rising above text-matching (plagiarism detection) services in the list of supported services. Over half of responding institutions now deploy e-submission tools in 75% or more of the courses that they deliver to students. There have also been notable increases in the adoption of formative e-assessment and document sharing tools and a broader implementation of lecture capture solutions across the sector since the last Survey, with at least 50% of members from all university mission groups now supporting such a system.

In contrast to these developments, only 20 institutions reported that they have established learning analytics services which are used by students, with 17 institutions linking their services to the main VLE. These services typically have only been deployed across 1% – 4% of their courses, representing a small-scale implementation at this stage. However, we may expect further developments in service provision in the future, with 29 institutions confirming that they will be reviewing analytics systems over the next two years. If you would like to find out more about what the Survey tells us about learning analytics developments across the sector, take a look at the following YouTube summary video. (For a summary of the discussion on Day 1 of the 2016 ALT conference on the current state of play with learning analytics across the UK higher sector, take a look at the following blog post.)

(iv) Approaches to TEL service management and support

Outsourcing of institutional services continues to grow, primarily for student email, e-portfolio systems, VLEs and staff email. The type of outsourcing model is dependent on the platform being outsourced, such that institutions are more likely to use a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud-based model for email services, and to use an institutionally managed, externally hosted model for TEL related tools, such as e-portfolios and the VLE for blended and fully online courses.

There has been little change since the last Survey in the optimisation of TEL services for access by mobile devices.  The percentage of institutions optimising access to lecture recordings has stayed at the same level as 2014, despite the steady investment in lecture capture systems which has been taking place across the sector.  This may be largely due to commercial solutions providing users with their own mobile app, as is the case at York with our own hosted Panopto service, which comes with a dedicated app for iOS and Android devices to support the viewing access and the upload of video recordings.  Course announcements, email and course materials are the leading categories of services which have been optimised for mobile devices (iOS, Android and Windows), with Russell Group institutions leading the way in optimising access to library services.

(v) TEL developments making new demands and future challenges for TEL service management and support

Finally, what are the TEL developments making new demands on support services across the sector? Taking the increasing implementation of e-submission services into account, it comes as no surprise to see that the electronic management of assessment (EMA) now tops the list of TEL developments making new support demands.  Lecture capture is the second most commonly cited development making support demands, with mobile technologies dropping down to third place. Distance learning and fully online course provision and learning analytics enter the top-five list of developments for the first time, with MOOCs dropping out of the picture.

Staff development is identified as the leading challenge to TEL development over the next two to three years, and no doubt this is related to increasing academic staff engagement with new TEL services such as EMA and lecture capture, which are becoming central to learning and teaching activities across the sector.  As we observed after the 2014 Survey (blog post here), teaching staff are now expected to use a wide range of technologies as part of their academic practice, well beyond the uploading of course notes to the institutional VLE platform. This finding underscores the importance of investment in staff development in future years – specifically with the development of digital literacies for teaching staff.

To access the full 2016 UCISA Survey findings, please download the report at: http://www.ucisa.ac.uk/tel

here.

TEF and digital capabilities – do you measure up?

The second Digital Capabilities Survey will be open for responses in early October. It will be interesting to compare the results with the 2014 Survey and see what now influences the development of digital capabilities within our institutions.

One possible influence (although it may have come too late to have a significant impact on this Survey) is the Teaching Excellence Framework. The Technical Consultation outlined the number of criteria that institutions will need to demonstrate that they are meeting if they are to achieve Excellent or Outstanding ratings. So what are the areas where policies and activities relating to digital capabilities are likely to have an effect?

The first criterion listed under the Teaching Quality aspect is Teaching provides effective stimulation and encourages students to engage. Student satisfaction surveys are listed as a key piece of evidence, not only to demonstrate that the students feel that their teaching is stimulating and engaging, but also to demonstrate the way that such surveys and other student feedback relate back to staff development. Students expect lecturers to be able to teach using current technology; how good is the institution at equipping those lecturers with the skills they need? The need to provide continuing professional development for both academic and support staff is also highlighted in another criterion, that the Institutional culture recognises and rewards excellent teaching.

The focus of the TEF isn’t entirely on staff skills and abilities – there is a significant focus on student outcomes too. Two criteria in particular focus on this area – that students achieve their educational and professional goals and that they acquire knowledge, skills and attributes that prepare them to their personal and professional lives. Whilst the evidence for the former will be largely based on employment outcomes (I would expect the replacement for the Destination of Leavers return to be a key measure here), suggested evidence for the latter includes employer engagement in the curriculum, course accreditation by professional regulatory or statutory bodies and extra-curricular activities designed to enhance employability and transferable skills. Digital capabilities are an essential part of the skills and attributes a graduate will need – the emphasis an institution places on digital capabilities may depend on the level of external influence on employment outcomes. As the TEF matures, it will be interesting to see whether those institutions with a strong focus on student digital capabilities will achieve better ratings than their peers.

Finally, the TEF reinforces the Government’s commitment to widening participation. Institutions are required to demonstrate that Positive outcomes are achieved for students from all backgrounds, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who are at greater risk of not achieving positive outcomes. In this aspect disadvantaged can have a multitude of meanings – institutions will need to identify and make provision for those who are digitally disadvantaged.

It may be too early for the TEF to have a major effect on digital capabilities strategies and activities. The 2017 Digital Capabilities Survey may identify those looking to steal a march on their competitors by implementing measures to improve their students’ and staff skills levels. Alternatively it may show that the TEF is not going to be a major influence with institutions already having measures in place. Time will tell. The survey opens in early October and we are currently identifying the lead respondent for each institution. If you are unsure as to whom the lead respondent is for your institution, please contact admin@ucisa.ac.uk.

digital detective #playlearn16

sue_watlington

 

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

 

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

IMG_0711

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

IMG_0674

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

sad emoticon

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

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

Then I thought – Library!

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

image of a tweet with correct answer Glyn Hughes

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

library

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

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

playful learning

This blog post originally appeared on the Digital Academic Blog

Review, Reflect and Remember – Playful Learning

sue_watlington

 

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

 

playful learning

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

team hull

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

IMG_0760

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

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

IMG_0815

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

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

IMG_0812

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

IMG_0813 IMG_0814

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

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

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

IMG_0806

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

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

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

IMG_0673

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

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

IMG_0764

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

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

proxy

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

This blog post originally appeared on the Digital Academic Blog