Yearly Archives: 2018

How using empathy can help build better systems and products

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
University of Coventry

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Following on from my earlier posts about convergence, creativity and customer focus, today’s article looks at another of the themes which were prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018.
There was still a hint of summer in the air even as the first of the leaves were changing when I found myself in Westminster attending the conference courtesy of UCISA’s annual personal development bursary for those working in the education sector. Sitting writing this in my festive jumper just days before Christmas, September feels like a long time ago.
Given the time of year, in the words of Charles Dickens “a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; … when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely”, it is perhaps apt that today’s subject is empathy. It seemed that the concept of empathy was touched upon explicitly or implicitly in every session I attended at the conference.

Empathy in design thinking

Given that the first stage of design thinking is ‘Empathise’ (see below) and one of the other key areas of focus at the conference was customer experience, it is perhaps not a surprise that empathy was discussed frequently and in some depth in this context.

Design thinking is defined by Gartner as a “multidisciplinary process that builds solutions … in a technically feasible, commercially sustainable and emotionally meaningful way”. Activities undertaken, particularly in this first stage, seek to understand the thoughts, emotions and feelings of a customer or user on their journey with an organisation and its digital touchpoints.
In their Digital Customer Journeys workshop, Andrej Gustin (CREA Plus) & Igor Smirnov (NETICA) presented a useful approach and template for capturing these emotions at various touchpoints of the user’s journey to identify focus areas for improvement. At a very high level, the approach can be summarised as follows:
  1. Identify key touchpoints, then for each touchpoint:
  • Understand current process and user experience
  • Identify current customer emotion/feelings
  • Identify desired customer emotion/feelings and experience
  • Prioritise processes for improvement based on a gap analysis of current to desired customer state.
  1. For prioritised processes, brainstorm improvements.
I was particularly interested in this prioritisation of focus area by customer experience, rather than a traditional quantifiable benefit, which I felt demonstrated a real paradigm shift towards customer and user-centric systems design.

Empathy as a skill of the future

Empathy was also discussed from a social perspective, as we explored the human factor in a digital society, where robots, AI and interactions driven by algorithms are fast becoming a part of our everyday lives.
It is undeniable that many jobs formerly carried out by humans are now carried out partially, if not entirely, by machines. This has been increasingly evident in the manufacturing sector with progressively more elements of manufacturing production lines being automated since the 1970s. Footage of a car manufacturing plant in the early 20th century, compared to a modern-day plant illustrate the transition from a busy factory thriving with human workers, to a rather clinical environment where robotic arms move in an eerily human manner to select and assemble components.
However, this automation is not restricted to the manufacturing sector, which has traditionally been an early adopter of automation technologies. The service industry, a sector perhaps traditionally associated with human-delivered customer service, is also automating roles. When I visit a supermarket, I often choose to use the self-scan tills, interacting with (often quite frustrating) AI rather than a human cashier. Where eight members of staff would have processed transactions and exchanged pleasantries with customers ten years ago, one member of staff can supervise the same number of self-service tills, only intervening when the somewhat rudimentary AI (inevitably) reaches its limitations. When shopping online, I am as likely to consult a chatbot or self-service customer support tool as a member of the customer service team.
Thirty years ago such sophisticated technology belonged to the fantasy world of sci-fi movies. It was unthinkable that real-life technology would progress at such a rate to replace jobs with such a key human element to them. Yet with technological advances and the rate of change at an all-time-high the media, researchers and technological commenters are now speculating about the next tranche of job roles to be replaced by robots in the coming years and decades.
So, should we be concerned that we will one day be replaced by robots, rendered redundant by such seductive promises as “a jetliner pilot who never makes a mistake, never gets tired, never shows up to work with a hangover”*?
Meryl Streep once said “the greatest gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy”. Though significant research is being undertaken to develop synthetic empathy in AI, developing facial expression recognition technology and crunching millions of data points to build increasingly intelligent algorithms and so-called learning capabilities, for now it seems that true empathy remains a uniquely human ability. Shortly before the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018, The World Economics Forum released their ‘Future of Jobs Report 2018’. In his Day 2 opening keynote speech, the IIBA’s Nick De Voil highlighted the top ten key skills trends for today and projections for 2022. It was notable how many ‘soft’ and ‘human’ workplace skills were listed as those which would endure despite predicted technological advancements. These key skills include emotional intelligence, initiative and social influencing, all of which require empathy. This perhaps implies an expectation that our technological advancements will continue to fail to satisfactorily emulate and replace such human abilities; those intrinsic traits of human nature of relating to others, reading non-verbal cues and making ‘human’ decisions.

Empathy in wellbeing

There was also emphasis on remembering that we and our co-workers are not suit-wearing robots. We are humans, with great potential for creativity, innovation, love and resourcefulness, but we are also subject to emotions, feelings, health problems and complicated personal lives.
Oxford Dictionaries succinctly define empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. In his exciting Stakeholder Skills for Drug Busts session, National Grid’s Charlie Payne introduced the behaviour/attitude cycle (see below) when explaining the importance of being aware of the impact a person can have on others.

He explained that an individual’s attitude is reflected in their behaviour. This behaviour then influences the attitude of others, which in turn influences their behaviour and so on. Whilst this can be used positively, it all too often can have negative consequences on relationships and communication when the individuals involved are not practising Emotional Intelligence (EI).
With the recent societal drive to remove the stigma often traditionally associated with mental health, it was encouraging to find the subject addressed and discussed openly by a number of speakers at the conference.
Craig Rollason, also of National Grid, in his inspiring The BA Bucket List keynote advocated the benefits of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in understanding colleagues and stakeholders and the reasons for their behaviour.
Rollason also presented a challenge/support matrix model which he explained can be used to analyse and grow awareness of an individual’s current work and career state. The model indicates that the best environment for career and personal development would be one where an individual is feeling challenged but supported. Rollason was however careful to note that some individuals may be experiencing high challenge and low support in their personal lives and subsequently may be in need of what Rollason coined ‘the duvet zone’ at work (low challenge and high support).
For me this was a rather unexpected example of empathy in such a professional setting, where sometimes there is an expectation of ‘leave your personal life at the door’ and ‘always be professional’. It was a welcome recognition that in reality, as humans, it is not always possible to switch emotions and personal distractions on and off at will, particularly in the modern world where technology has blurred the lines between work and personal time and space.

Empathy as an holistic practice

In summary, my top empathy takeaways were that whilst we can use empathy as a tool to better understand our customers and users to build better systems and products, we can also use it to understand our colleagues and understand their motivations, beliefs, attitudes and the root causes behind these. This enables us to build stronger working relationships, understand how to better interact and deal with our stakeholders and how to care for our colleagues when they need extra support.
We can also exercise empathy towards ourselves, valuing and appreciating our skills, finding our place in the world, respecting and drawing on our experiences and being proud of these. When practising emotional intelligence, self-awareness is also important as we consider how our behaviour and attitude influences that of others.
So, in the words of William S. Preston and Theodore Logan, this festive season and into the new year, “be excellent to each other” (and “party on dudes”)*. A very happy Christmas to you all and your families.

*Ten points if you get the movie references – and some classic 90s movie recommendations for the holidays!
Coming Soon…
In addition to convergence, creativity, customer focus and empathy, the following concepts arose time and again at Business Analysis Europe 2018, being discussed and explored in the majority of the sessions I attended:
  • Continuous Learning
  • Catastrophising
Watch this space in the New Year for the next installment!
This blog was originally published at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-analysis-conference-europe-2018-empathy-rachel-drinkwater.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Connecting on virtual reality through the UCISA bursary

David Vince
Senior Product Development Manager, Learning and Teaching Innovation
The Open University

Six months on from Realities 360 2018, San Jose

This year the UCISA bursary scheme enabled me to attend Realities 360. The conference, only in its second year, attracted an international audience of hundreds of colleagues working in education and interested in augmented, virtual and mixed reality. Having searched for an event closer to the UK, without success, it simply wouldn’t have been possible to attend the conference without UCISA’s support.
At the time of the conference, I was in the early stages of a project exploring the affordances of VR in education. As a distance university, our students at The Open University are geographically dispersed and study asynchronously. This poses us some unique challenges, particularly when introducing new or emergent technologies like VR. At the time, we had undertaken two small scale VR pilots to refine our VR production process. One of these pilots was a presentation practice tool for law students which gave them the opportunity to present virtually and take questions from a virtual audience. This gave students the opportunity to practice applying the law to near real-world problems and receive analytics data to aid their reflection before undertaking the task in person. I soon learned that VR demanded a new approach to design and construction over established media due to its uniquely immersive properties. I’ve used my experience of the conference to learn from other’s practice and refine our production processes. I’m now leading the project at a phase where we need to transition from a discreet R&D project to operating at greater scale.
One of the key takeaways from Realities 360 was to see how others were approaching the design and creation of VR experiences. It helped me to better understand immersion as a new form of narrative. There is a need to consider how users might interact (i.e. the interface being used – not forgetting voice, gesture and haptic interfaces) with virtual objects, as well as how those objects behave, so as to go beyond the affordances of established media.
Sharing my conference experience with my immediate team has led us to consider how we can enhance the design of our VR experiences. There’s a gap in evaluation of VR in education and we’re exploring how analytics might infer where students are becoming more proficient with tasks, and therefore eliminate the need to present them with text-based questions and interrupt their experience.
Learning from the conference has been shared internally at our annual university-wide Learn About Fair. This has enabled us to connect with faculty staff who see the potential for using VR in their discipline. It’s also helped us to attract support from a senior stakeholder!
Last week, my team presented at the ‘Immersive Environments’ event organised by UCISA’s Digital Education Group. This gave us the opportunity to share an output of the project, which is a VR suitability toolkit intended to support the design and creation of pedagogically viable VR.
Undoubtedly, the biggest benefit from the bursary has been the opportunity to connect with, and learn from, colleagues both nationally and internationally. This has given us a forum to share our experience and develop a support network, and learn how others are solving some of the technical challenges and issues of scale associated with producing VR.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

A change in approach to educational technology projects for a bursary winner

Matt Goral
Educational Technologist
City, University of London

Media and Learning 2018 Conference – Leuven

It’s been several months since I attended the Media and Learning conference in Leuven, courtesy of a UCISA bursary. Whilst I was very inspired by the cutting edge projects with 360 video and interactive video, and would love to do something similar, it was the less visible threads that I noticed running through the discussions that had the biggest impact on me and the projects that I’ve been involved with since I came back from the conference.

Pre-production and handover

The importance of pre-production and planning were mentioned by a lot of people during the conference, but in a rather understated way I felt. It was acknowledged as something that we all know is important and should be done, but something which is rarely the focus of presentations. Lots of sharing of successes, sometimes of failures or obstacles, but almost never any detailed discussion of the planning stage, what documentation is important, how to ensure pedagogical effectives at the point of delivery.
I recently completed a large project that resulted in about an hour of footage and took over three months to finish. The direction and scope changed a few times, there were technical problems and decisions which we couldn’t anticipate, illness and holidays meant people were unavailable and dates slipped, etc. Normal project stuff. Without planning we would have struggled a lot of course, and location scouting, shooting cut-aways, sharing of interview questions beforehand was essential. However, it was only when some project members got ill I realised a lot of the editing, design and implementation decisions, were not written down anywhere and made handover impossible. I have made recommendations to our Project Office for such fail-safes to be included during pre-production on critical projects, so that in case of project members being unavailable, someone with similar skills could pick up the project.

Presence and presentation

The other idea I still think about months after the conference is the fact that presentation is a skill and that some people are more “watchable” than others. It seems obvious but has some implications which changed the way I approach video shoots.
The most important consideration is that not every video needs to have the presenter visible if they are not comfortable with appearing on screen. Screencasts, animations, podcasts, etc., are all great options if it is not possible to have the expert appear in person. Furthermore, studio setups with lots of hot lights, hanging microphones and multiple people can intimidate people. The results whilst maybe having perfect light, will be found lacking. Lots of people who ask for video, imagine themselves talking to camera from a teleprompter both of which are hard things to do and require lots of practice, not realising that a much simpler approach could be potentially more effective.
Keeping this in mind, I started to make decisions about how to approach projects by thinking about the subject matter and the skills and personality of the participant first, rather than pushing for best quality every time. It also made me behave differently when filming, where I try to make the person feel as comfortable as possible at the expense of ideal setup. The results have been very positive so far with people being pleasantly surprised by the experience even if they were dreading it to begin with.
Those two ideas have greatly influenced the way I approach projects nowadays. Whilst seeing finished projects and innovative ideas has been inspiring, often it is difficult to implement projects we’ve seen at conferences immediately. There isn’t always someone who would be interested in using 360 video in their module, for example, and pushing for it can lead to the medium not fitting the message and using new tech for the sake of it. For me the most valuable aspect of this conference were the ideas about planning and setup, rather than specific tech. In the future I will be looking out for similar threads.
Thanks again to UCISA for not only making it possible for me to keep developing my practice, but also as a result of attending the event, my conference reflections are being fed into a review of video and multimedia at City.
My blogs from the conference as a whole can be found here.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

How technological change is shaped by people

Karl Luke
Business Change Officer, University IT
Cardiff University

ALTC 2018 conference reflections

Thanks to the UCISA 2018 bursary scheme, I recently attended the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018 in Manchester.
This post shares some themes and highlights from the conference, together with emerging ideas I am keen to take forward at Cardiff University.

Technological change is… inevitable

A common topic throughout the three day conference concerned technological transformation and how change is managed by organisations, divisions and individuals. In the keynote address on Day Two, Amber Thomas (Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick) fascinatingly reflected on her personal and professional experiences of using educational technologies over the past two decades. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.
Amber highlighted that throughout history there have been many examples of disruptive technologies and offered parallels to some initiatives involving education (use of virtual learning environments, lecture capture). However, as Amber stressed, change takes time and is not about the technology, but the people. This chimes with my experiences as Business Change Officer at Cardiff University and reinforces the importance that Learning Technologists, and others involved in implementing learning technologies, need to carefully prepare and manage the “people side of change”.
Related to the topic of change management, Jessica Gramp and Tim Neumann offered a captivating insight into how UCL developed, implemented and reinforced an e-learning strategy. Their presentation is available here and highlights some key areas that need to be considered for successful adoption of a change. In supporting a change, the presentation stresses the importance of communities of practice. Intriguingly, UCL have established a Teaching Administrator (TA) Network, whose membership include staff who make a significant contribution to the student experience. The presentation highlighted many helpful change management strategies and I have obtained lots of ideas which I am keen to explore at Cardiff University.

Lecture recording is a popular topic

During the conference I presented on my experiences of working in partnership with students to research how lecture recordings are used by learners.  I have previously written about this subject here and my ALT-C presentation can be viewed here.

The area of lecture capture appears to be a current institutional priority for many UK HE institutions. During the conference I also attended five separate sessions devoted to the subject of lecture recording and capturing educational activities. These included:
Many of the themes arising from the sessions have been documented in Martin Weller’s excellent blog post here. However, any discussions around lecture recording cannot escape the obvious questioning around pedagogical value and possible negative effects on physical attendance. It is therefore essential that those involved in the implementation of technologies, such as lecture capture, maintain critical engagement with emergent case studies and original research. There were plenty of rich case studies presented in the ALT-C sessions and some compelling research which advances discussions. For example, Stuart Phillipson presented data from Manchester University which demonstrates no correlation between the introduction of lecture capture provision and actual occupancy of teaching rooms (using data on room occupancy between 2007 and 2016). You can watch Stuart’s talk here and read more here.
However, lecture recording is a contested area. As Tressie MacMillan Cottom’s keynote from Day One proclaimed, “context matters”. The arena of educational technologies is messy, and Tressie reminded us technological tools are non-neutral; they are socially shaped and negotiated by a range of actors and interests “both in their construction and procurement and in their realization and use in practice” (Selwyn & Facer 2013 p.10). As such, technologies should also be considered in a social, political and commercial light. Moreover, both the domains of “education” and “technology” are intrinsically linked with the social, cultural, economic and political aspects of society.
In the case of lecture recording, context does indeed “matter”. Melissa Highton discussed how recent employment and political issues have manifested itself within the implementation and adoption of widespread lecture recording. Learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum and we have a responsibility to critically unpack the assumptions embodied in technologies and their use.

Reflections on the role of a Learning Technologist

The event was full of insightful sessions. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and the opportunities to network with professionals involved in using technologies to enhance teaching and learning. There are emerging opportunities for collaborations with other institutions on the subject of lecture recordings, arising from my involvement at the conference. In particular, it was great to connect with fellow UCISA bursary recipient, Marieke Guy. Marieke has written a great reflection of the conference here.
I also have left reflecting on my professional role as both a Change Officer and Learning Technologist. Technology should be viewed in terms of the “process and practices” that unpin the availability and affordances of devices, systems, software etc. Technologies can be the impetus for transformative change; helping human endeavour, agency and progress human activity. Technology should be used to enable us to explore otherwise impossible tasks, or do them more efficiently, however this is not always the case in practice. As mentioned, it is important those involved in implementing or supporting the adoption of learning technologies consider the human side of change.
Moreover, we occupy a unique position within institutions whereby we are not easily pigeon-holed. I could easily relate to Amber Thomas’ reflections that Learning Technologists suffer from imposter syndrome and we operate across many overlapping divisions. However, as Amber argues, we are increasingly occupying roles where we have to balance priorities between embedding technological practices which not only offer pedagogical value, but also offer scalability, sustainability, institutional benefits, and align to strategies and polices.

Amber Thomas ALT-C presentation available at: https://youtu.be/XOPkC311rvY
Finally, there was also personal celebration as I was awarded my CMALT certificate during the conference. If you want to know more about CMALT please read this post.

For further insights into the content of the conference search of #altc on Twitter
Reference
Selwyn, N., & Facer, K. (Eds.) (2013) The politics of education and technology: Conflicts, controversies, and connections Palgrave Macmillan
This blog first appeared in the Cardiff University Learning Technology blog
This blog is also available in Welsh: Myfyrdodau ynghylch Cynhadledd ALTc 2018

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Making a difference in education beyond technology at DigPedLab 2018

Marcus Elliott
Digital Practice Adviser
Nottingham Trent University

 

 

Digital Pedagogy Lab 2018

In July 2018, I travelled out to the USA with the generous funding of UCISA to attend the Digital Pedagogy Lab 2018 (DPL18). This blog post will be some of my reflections about what I took part in, learned, and applied.

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Bursary winner given Cardiff University ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’

Rhiannon Gillespie
Service Desk Advisor
Cardiff University

 

 

CISCO Live conference reflections

In June 2018 I was lucky enough to receive the UCISA bursary to go to the CISCO Live conference in Orlando, Florida. The conference brought together thousands of IT network professionals from all over the world to learn and discover new technologies. Five months later I have been reflecting on the benefits of the bursary and the conference.
As an individual it has helped me grow as a person as well as with my work. My main aim was to attend the ‘CISCO Empowered Women’s Network’ track and in doing so it has helped, especially with regards to my work. I always felt like I wasn’t allowed to fail and because of this I often didn’t try new things. The opportunity the bursary provided enabled me to push myself and when I returned to work I started a secondment in the network team. I felt far more confident in my abilities and it reflected in my work. I wrote about the ‘CISCO Empowered Women’s Network’ track in my UCISA blog.
I shared a lot of what I had learnt with my colleagues in the network team and my original team, the IT service desk, on my return from the conference. I discussed various new products that I had hands on experience with in the ‘World of Solutions’ and discussed future CISCO innovations and products that would be of use to our team. I am also looking at sharing what I learnt in a Q&A session at our university IT staff conference in January.
Everything I learnt has helped with my work and as a result I was nominated for and won an ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’ at Cardiff University.
Following on from my experience of the bursary, I recently contributed to a session about potential future UCISA bursary schemes. I would encourage anyone to apply for the bursary, you learn so much and it gives a massive sense of achievement both in getting the bursary and then attending a conference you would have not been able to attend otherwise. It also really does make a difference to your personal and work life.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Communities matter

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

Any conference attendee will know that the real value lies in networking. The ALT community are a very friendly bunch and I met some great people at ALTC. Special mention goes to my UCISA bursary buddy Karl Luke from the Cardiff University. We definitely bonded through our bursary.
In the lightening talk session I presented my ‘From little acorns’ poster on my experience of being a one-person Learning Tech team at the RAU institution. I had lots of positive feedback on the work we are doing and requests to link up when back in the South West.
Presenting my poster – photo by Jenny Crow, University of Glasgow

 

 

 

 

I’m not alone though. I took inspiration from an earlier talk by Michael Egan from the Northern School of Art who offered some great tips in his talk ‘Witchcraft to Wonder’ on how you can win hearts and minds:
  • learn the academic calendar
  • show don’t tell
  • be the person people want to see rather than the one they run away from
  • consider ‘nudge’ strategies.
Here’s hoping we get lots more Learning Technologists visiting us at RAU before next year’s event.
I had a great conference and want to say a big thanks to UCISA for allowing me to attend!

Networking
This blog first appeared in the ‘Digital Transformation at RAU’ blog.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

International lessons in applying continuous improvement

Leah March
Process Improvement Facilitator
University of Sheffield

 

 

Lean HE 2018 Conference

I recently returned from the beautiful Tromsø where I attended the Lean HE 2018 Conference, thanks to being one of the very lucky beneficiaries of the UCISA bursary scheme. It was a brilliant week with many informative, interesting and applicable sessions.
The sessions included key notes from Niklas Modig, researcher, Center for Innovation and Operations Management, Stockholm School of Economics (author of ‘This is Lean’ about ‘How to generate change and engagement’) and Tove Dahl, Professor at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, on courage and the importance of inspiring and rewarding courage throughout change activities. The following sessions covered many topics including: incorporating visual management into everyday working, games to encourage idea generation, using institutional risk to drive change and inspiring Lean at the leadership level and within teams, to list but a few. Myself and Mark Boswell form Middlesex University will be drawing together a guide over the next couple of weeks with links and descriptions about the key tools shared, useful software used and signposting to details about next year’s conference.
There was lots of learning to take-away, particularly the similarities around the current
situation/climate/ issues many of the delegates institutions from across the world were facing. These related to difficulties finding operational staff the time to engage in change activities, uncertainty about what the future might hold in relation to funding, student numbers and student expectations and the high level of change occurring within their organisations. I found meeting delegates from other institutions and discussing how they are applying continuous improvement and overcoming obstacles in their institution a really valuable part of the conference.
Key learning points from the conference:
  • There is a huge support network within HE both UK based and across Europe, Australia and the Americas, reaching out to this network can provide you with great insights, reassurance and ideas about how to optimise your work.
  • Senior management support is crucial in driving continuous improvement within organisations and getting buy-in from senior leaders should be a key priority
  • We need to put customers at the heart of the changes and improvements we drive, on both an institutional and team level
  • Many organisations are embracing a multi-methodology approach (combining lean, service design, continuous improvement etc.) but all at maintain, at their heart, the importance of respect for people
  • It takes courage to drive and embrace change and this courage needs to be recognised and rewarded
  • As well as reaching out to colleagues within the sector we can also learn a lot by adopting open process innovation. Looking towards other industries for ideas and best practice.
  • Stories can be used as powerful tools to encourage analytical thinking in a ‘safe’ way.    
I would like to say a huge thank you to the Lean HE Europe committee and of course, to the team at The Arctic University of Norway for organising such a brilliant conference. Everyone I spoke to remarked on the wonderful and open atmosphere and interesting and engaging topics.
I would also like to say a huge thank you to the UCISA bursary scheme for enabling me to attend and learn so much and to the UCISA PCMG community for their support and interest.
Next steps, myself and Mark will share our summary guide to the conference and key tools shared, and Mark will be blogging about his conference experience and key take home points.

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

Open scholarship challenges

Alice Gibson
Research Publications Officer
Library & Archives Service
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Post-conference reflections on FORCE2018

Introduction

Further to my post ‘Planning to get the most out of FORCE2018‘, written before attending the conference through a UCISA bursary, I have been back from Montreal for over a fortnight now and have had time to reflect on the key points I have learned from the experience, as well as how I wish to integrate this into my professional work moving forwards.
I participated in a publisher-led conversation about what support we might want to see from them regarding open access books and was encouraged to submit a poster at the conference, which I found to be a beneficial experience. Standing by this during the poster sessions led to several engaging discussions with people from across the open scholarship environment, from a lawyer, a fellow researcher, librarians and publishers. I found it encouraging that people with a variety of outlooks, coming from a variety of professional backgrounds and personal interests, could also appreciate the positivity of Creative Commons licences and consider the ways in which their use can be extended beyond academia, in addition to across the research and teaching process.
In my previous write-up, I said I was particularly looking forward to Asura Enkhbayar’s presentation linking Wittgenstein and scholarly communications. I found this humorous and insightful, and it was great to see it appreciated by a room full of enthusiastic attendees on the first session of the first official day.

Asura Enkhbayar presenting ‘Throwing away the ladder. Wittgenstein’s philosophy and and scholarly communication’

Central Themes

Over the course of the workshops and presentations (from October 10-12, 2018), I was struck by the proportion of the challenges that were discussed in an international setting that are the same as those that we face in the UK. This convinced me that the move towards open scholarship is a global challenge that we must tackle from both local and international settings.
What follows is a brief summary, in which I seek to highlight my conviction that the academic reward structure must be revisited as a matter of priority to ensure that the effect of associated procedures are not detrimental to the progression of open scholarship or the mental wellbeing of academics. The failure to protect either of these is also the failure to ensure the flourishing of the pursuit of knowledge in our societies. It seems to me that one constructive way we might confront such a challenge is by doubling down on our efforts to further existing commitment for essential initiatives like the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA).

Open Access and Academic Reward and Recognition Policies

A theme that struck me throughout the conference was the need to ensure that mission statements of institutions and reward procedures align with initiatives prioritising open research.
Erin McKiernan’s excellent presentation demonstrated the extent of the disparity between academic promotion procedures and open research. I was alarmed by the results, which showed that words that appeared regularly within tenure review documents include ‘public’, ‘community’, ‘public engagement’ and ‘community engagement’, all of which have close affiliations with open research, whilst only 5% of analysed documents directly mention ‘open access’. Moreover, when such documents mentioned ‘open access’, they often did so with neutral or even negative connotations. This highlighted to me that the challenges we face in Europe are shared by institutions in North America, and most likely, also elsewhere. It consequently convinced me of the need to direct extensive efforts in this area, particularly towards encouraging a culture shift in those who are empowered to revise reward procedures.

Erin McKiernan presenting ‘A look at public engagement, publication outputs and metrics in the tenure review process’
We ought to combine this ongoing effort with those that guide researchers who are earlier on in their careers, who are most receptive to adopting good practice, which can have a ripple effect, informing the practice of their colleagues. As such, Dominique Roche’s presentation ‘Open data: nice people can’t share!’ (summarised in his poster to the left) touched upon a welcome topic by examining why researchers might be hesitant to share their work. An understanding of this can help drive a culture change that works from the ground up.

San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

Returning to the findings of Erin McKiernan’s presentation, these led me to consider a theme that emerged at an open access meeting in London (known as the ‘London Open Access Network’, or ‘LOAN’ meeting) the week prior to the conference.
At this meeting, a colleague shared thoughts on an event that took place in September, ‘Mapping the Future of Research Assessment’ at Imperial College London. This event (#ImperialDora) associated the theme of review procedures with the need to consecrate the ethos of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) (of which London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a signatory) with institutional policies. Many stakeholders are working to improve good practice within this area, striving to promote real change in research assessment, but challenges remain. The Imperial College event highlighted, as outlined in Elizabeth Gadd’s post on the LSE Impact Blog, the need to ensure that such practices are not in conflict with the necessity to protect and foster mental health within Higher Education environments, amongst staff and students alike. This seems to me an area that we at LSHTM, a School that underlined our commitment to tackling stigma surrounding mental health by signing the Time to Change Employer’s Pledge, have to take seriously.

LSHTM Open Access Week – Screening ‘Paywall the Movie’

One event that LSHTM ran for our open access month series was a screening of the movie ‘Paywall: the Business of Scholarship’ (in which many attendees of FORCE2018 are featured!). In the post-screening discussion, one member of staff noted the continued and problematic use of impact factors in review procedures. This prompted an interesting discussion within the room similar to that which took place during many of the presentations at FORCE2018, notably, during the questions after Elisabeth Shook’s presentation ‘Thanks, Sci-Hub!’.
This too convinced me of the global commonality of such issues within Higher Education. The theme of impact factors (created by Eugene Garfield for selecting journals to include in the Science Citation Index in the 1960s,) which are no longer deemed credible, was examined in another engaging session at FORCE2018 by the bibliometrician Stefanie Haustein, who ran a metrics literacy quiz on Twitter during her talk. Within her talk, Stefanie highlighted that the impact factor is mentioned by one fifth of Canadian and US universities in review, tenure and promotion documents, despite having widely been recognised to cause harm to scholarly communication by causing ‘salami publishing’, ‘citation cartels’ and fostering a problematic ‘publish or perish’ mentality.
Overall, the event reminded me of the shared work that we have to do as a community concerned with open scholarship. It left me feeling lucky to reside in London (although Montreal was beautiful to see in the Autumn!) where participating in such a community can occur with relative ease thanks to networks like ‘LOAN’ bringing together workers promoting open research in various institutions. In the meantime, I would encourage individual researchers and organisations to read and sign DORA and express these values when they hear of the use of impact factors to make unjustified claims for the quality of research.
This blog first appeared in the LSHTM Library & Archives Services blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

What is content management, and how do we support it?

James Cox
Customer Success Analyst – Web CMS
University of Oxford

Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) 2018

This summer, with the aid of the UCISA bursary scheme, I attended the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) in York. This was my first conference since I started working in HE Digital 16 months ago, when I became part of an in-house software development team in the University of Oxford’s central IT services department.
My team built and develops a University-wide platform which comprises two distinct elements: a ‘toolkit’ to build and host websites; and a service, which responds to queries which users have raised, and provides a set of resources for users, such as live demos, documentation, and how-to guides. Ultimately, our team provides a potential solution to anyone in the university who needs to quickly create engaging web content and to make their administration of their website as painless as possible. No small task when you’re serving a highly-devolved organisation containing a wide array of use cases and user needs!

IWMW17 Ruth Mason, Matthew Castle by Kevin Mears is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
I have the reassuringly positive title of Customer Success Analyst, which situates me somewhere between the developers and business analysts – both of whom work with project partners to move the toolkit forward – and our users, who so far in the platform’s short life (the full service became operational two days after I joined the team) have created almost every kind of website a university could expect to host: from individual academic and research group sites to new web presences for academic faculties and museums.
As a customer-facing person in a technical team, I get to see both sides of the software creation and usage coin. And, as someone new to web management in HE and working on a relatively new service, I’d like to know what challenges similarly-positioned professionals are facing. As a result, IWMW seemed like a convivial space where HE Digital folk could share their experiences wrestling with similar considerations, such as supporting the creation of engaging, on-message content within their organisations, and how to make a technical solution like a CMS useful and usable to people whose day-to-day work includes only peripheral technical engagement with systems.
So, what struck me most from my first conference since working in this new sector? Which messages resonated strongest with me? And what lessons have I tried to put into my work in the four months since?

It was my first conference whilst working in HE Digital; what struck me most?

The balance between content-focused talks and ones centring on the technical parts of institutional web management differed to what I anticipated. Although the technical and management side of maintaining web services within HE was touched upon, there was a strong emphasis on content, and how to create it in a way that strengthens an institution’s brand and ultimately establishes a space for an audience to identify with it – as showcased by this promotional video for ETH Zürich, mentioned in a talk by Dave Musson. Reflecting on this during the conference, it seemed that one reason for this balance might be that technical offerings available to universities now often mean turning to SaaS solutions, which bring with them a reduced need for in-house technical expertise – allowing for greater resource allocation to the parts of web management where demand is now greatest: content and user experience.

Which talks did I enjoy and which prompted some lightbulb moments?

Telling the Birkbeck story: How customer journey mapping helped us develop our new approach to web

  • Brand identity through customer journey mapping: I enjoyed the unpacking of customer journey mapping and how it was used to design the UX of Birkbeck’s new website, and how this approach was undertaken as a foundation in promoting the Birkbeck brand: beginning with understanding the brand you have, and importantly “how your brand is no longer what you say it is, but what your users say it is”. This means you better give them a good experience or else you’re going they’re going to tell you about it – most likely through the amplification of social media.

Old school corporate identity: Blackbeard’s brand promise.
Reproduced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pirate_Flag_of_Blackbeard_(Edward_Teach).svg, CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
  • Mapping customer journeys and where the experience can be improved: The mapping process was presented in detail (key events and stages in the journeys; user feelings; touchpoints, friction, opportunities for improvement), which resonated with work that our team is currently going through, working with our administrative division.
  • Guidelines for the design process: Birkbeck adopted five design guidelines: simplify and clear clutter; push content up within the navigation and reduce user steps; connect content and surface related content on every page; flatten navigation hierarchy; don’t be afraid of long pages. Presenting good web design and information architecture practice is central to our team’s work so it’s interesting to see another institution’s take on what principles to follow.

Understanding invisible labour: University of Greenwich

  • Think about the cost of the ‘invisible’ work: A huge amount of time is lost during task switching. A Microsoft study of one of its development teams and the effect of task switching found an average increase in the time to complete a task of 226%. Think about the process a user has to undertake to complete a task using the system you support. How many steps are there? How many times does the user encounter ambiguities or increases in cognitive load, where they need to make a decision which could result in an error being made? How likely is a support request going to be raised under these circumstances? Can a change to something within the service remove this problem for the user and reduce the support load?
  • Learn the art of nudging: some users won’t jump; you need to give them a gentle push. Make tutorials (good documentation, videos, how-to docs) so users can easily engage with the system you are supporting but they need to operate. Turn it into a user experience exercise – ‘how would I have wanted to learn about that?’
  • Manage how users interact with your system: provide the basic config options and hide the rest. There is often a lot of advanced functionality in CMSs – features the average content editor isn’t likely to need. Keeping them all on display is at best confusing for users who will never need these features and at worst can result in the web-equivalent of ‘Leeroy Jenkins’, i.e. an editor clicking on the option which makes a major adverse change to the site – our team learnt that this is a thing last week, when a new content editor unfamiliar with the editing options deleted their organisation’s homepage. As a result, we’re going to make a change to prevent homepages from being deleted.
HE Digital is a small community and IWMW does an amazing job of bringing together web management professionals into a supportive community to share experiences and lessons learned. Head over to the IWMW website to see some videos of the plenary talks this year.

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