Monthly Archives: January 2019

Thinking outside the box with CPD

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

Following on from my earlier posts about convergence, creativity, customer focus, and empathy, this article looks at another of the themes which was prevalent throughout the Business Analysis Europe Conference 2018: Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
As the first month of the year draws to a close, with the threat of freezing temperatures and snow, many of us may find our resolve to stick to a new year programme of healthy eating, more exercise and quitting our vices of choice tested. The desire to curl up in front of the fire with a drink and some comfort food may well become harder to resist as temptation knocks on the snow-laden window.
But not all resolutions are about quitting bad habits. Many of us will have started the year with goals to learn a new skill, gain a new qualification or simply to learn something new and certainly many of the speakers at last year’s Business Analysis Conference 2018 appeared to advocate this as a personal goal.

CPD outside the box

Indeed much of the focus of Sir Clive Woodward’s inspiring keynote talk on the morning of Day 2 was on ‘relentless learning’; a lifelong practice of curiosity, seeking out new knowledge and dedicating time and energy to Continuing Professional Development (CPD). However, Sir Clive advocated thinking outside of the box with your learning as skills and knowledge which may initially seem irrelevant to your role, may give you unexpected benefits. I believe that this is particularly true today, with an unprecedented rate of technological change and new entrants to almost every industry seeking to disrupt the status quo, it is difficult to predict what skills any job role will require in the future.
Further to my earlier blog on convergence, I find it quite exciting that twelve years ago, the job roles of ‘Digital Marketing Manager’ or ‘Social Media Content Producer’ didn’t really exist. Where traditionally marketing and IT were somewhat separate entities, technological developments and the adoption of web technologies and digital marketing, have caused the two to converge. Many marketing roles require more technological knowledge and business-facing IT roles require more of an understanding of customer behaviour than perhaps ever before.
Sir Clive’s example of developing skills outside of your immediate field, was his experience of managing the England rugby team. When he took over management of the team, he bought a laptop for each team member and insisted that they learned how to use it; an unusual ask perhaps in an era where device ownership was significantly less pervasive than it is today. Facing scepticism from the team and critics alike, Woodward argued that ‘those that win at technology, tend to win’ and he was proved right.
In due course, a sophisticated sports monitoring software package arrived on the market, enabling video playback of a match, overlaid with data and analytics which could provide insight into player behaviour, strategy and tactics from both teams. With their new-found IT skills, the entire team were able to analyse, learn and understand their – and the opposing team’s – gameplay and input recommendations for improvements to tactics and strategy based upon this. Had the team constrained their skills development to the core skillset needed for playing rugby, it is likely that they would not have been able to embrace this technology, leverage its capabilities and collectively gain so much benefit and competitive advantage from its use.

Time and cost hacks for CPD

When it comes to finding ways to develop your skills, particularly when self-funding, it may seem that cost is prohibitive, but learning doesn’t need to be expensive. Platforms such as FutureLearn and the OU’s OpenLearn have a plethora of free, online courses at all levels, many of which are modules taken from current degree courses. There are also a number of free conferences and networking events for many industries and areas of interest. Jisc’s annual Digifest the Education sector is a personal favourite. Tools such as Eventbrite, Meetup or simply Google can all help you to find free events near you. Viewing videos on YouTube or TED can be another way of learning quickly and informally.
Time may be another factor that poses a barrier to CPD, but this is where digital technologies can really help. Many courses are now delivered digitally and can be consumed in bite-sized chunks at a time to suit you. This micro-learning is one of many trends towards digitisation and consumer-centred demand in learning technology and is brilliant for busy people to squeeze in some structured personal development throughout the course of the day. Do you find yourself scrolling endlessly through Facebook or LinkedIn? Why not switch one of those scrolling sessions to viewing a short training video? Better still if ‘spend less time on social media’ was one of your new year’s resolutions!
Learning doesn’t need to be structured either. The old adage ‘you learn something new every day’ is quite true, but often we don’t realise that we’re picking up new skills and learning new things. Putting aside a few minutes at the end of the day to consider what you’ve learnt and how you can apply it helps to identify these ‘on the job’ development opportunities. But what if you’re finding that you’re not learning anything new? Well, perhaps it’s time to start looking for new opportunities in or out of work to stretch, develop and grow yourself. Learning a new skill as a hobby can also open doors or show you new paths. You may enjoy your new sport, art or community hobby so much you may decide to make a career from it, or find a way to incorporate your new skillset learned from your hobby to enhance your job and career. For example, in my spare time, I perform as an actor in a theatre group. At work, I use the skills I’ve learned in my acting training when approaching public speaking or facilitating workshops. I also run training courses on this for my colleagues in order to share my somewhat unconventional skillset!
So to summarise, learning doesn’t necessarily need to be related to your day job. All new skills are valuable and as demonstrated by Sir Clive and the England rugby squad, you never know when you will use something that initially seems completely unrelated to your job. Take control of your own development by being mindful of opportunities when they present themselves to you and using digital platforms for free, quick micro learning that can fit into your life when and where it suits you.

Coming Soon…

We’re nearly at the end of my series of ‘Top Takeaways from the Business Analysis Conference 2018’, so thank you to everyone who has been following these blogs and commenting. For the final instalment on the theme of ‘Catastrophising’, I will be trying something a little different and not only creating my first vlog, but doing so from Death Valley in California and Red Rock Canyon in Nevada! Watch this space and all will become clear!
This blog first appeared on Rachel’s Linkedin blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Bursary helps winner gain Erasmus funding and secure a new role

Sarah Ames
Library Learning Services Support Officer
University of Edinburgh

Digital Humanities Congress 2018 – UCISA report

I was fortunate to be funded by UCISA to attend DHC2018 in Sheffield this year – the UK’s biennial digital humanities conference, which draws together a range of researchers, cultural heritage professionals and IT support workers.

Why DHC2018?

With the increasing use of computational methods in academic studies, research and teaching requires new modes of IT and library support, as well as new approaches to dealing with data: traditional divisions between technical services and libraries are conflated, leading to new ways of working and new areas to support.
I wanted to attend this conference to find out more about digital humanities research currently underway, and to learn about the new technologies, methods and approaches that characterise the field. The event provided an opportunity to hear from researchers and students working in this field to learn about their needs, as well as the chance to learn from other IT and library professionals, to share ideas, solutions and current best practice. Furthermore, I wanted to further understand the collaborative nature of digital humanities work, and how it could provide opportunities for Edinburgh’s converged library and IT services (‘Information Services Group’).

Professional development

The huge range of papers presented at the conference – from vast, collaborative research projects, to smaller individual studies – and the range of methods and technologies used by researchers, reiterated the many challenges and opportunities of this area for libraries and IT support.
The conference has inspired me to learn more about many of the tools and technologies being used, and to consider uses for these within the library, and as such has been a brilliant CPD opportunity – as it has helped me to identify even more CPD opportunities! Talking to people at DHC2018 highlighted other conferences in this area that I’d like to attend, and papers using programming languages such as Python and discussing issues cleaning large datasets have encouraged me to revisit and further my understanding of these topics. Furthermore, the event enabled me to meet other library and information professionals, including from Oxford and the British Library, and to discuss the similar challenges we all face, as well as to gain a greater understanding of researchers’ needs when accessing and using library and IT resources.

Sharing the experience

As well as testing my succinctness with tweeting from the event, UCISA encouraged me to blog about the event, which proved to be a really useful experience as this provided a useful opportunity to reflect on the main topics of the conference and sort through the wide range of topics presented.
Despite the variety of studies, a number of key themes emerged within the papers presented and discussions afterwards, enabling me to apply the topics at the conference directly back to work and discussions currently underway in the Library at Edinburgh University about how digital scholarship should be supported and considering potential uses of our new Digital Scholarship Centre.
Furthermore, the event has inspired a group of us from Edinburgh University to apply for and secure Erasmus funding to visit library ‘labs’ setups in the Netherlands (library labs are spaces – physical or digital, or both – which encourage and support the innovative use of library digital collections), to learn even more about how we can support the types of digital humanities research presented at DHC2018. And, as of 2019, I’ll be starting a new job working in digital scholarship and libraries: this has been a brilliant opportunity to learn more about the field and its challenges.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Sweet Phone Chicago – innovation and disruption at mLearn 2018

Dominic Pates
Senior Education Technologist
City, University of London

Reflections on the 17th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning

Opening keynote: on innovation and disruption

The keynotes for mLearn 2018, which I was able to attend courtesy of a USICA bursary, were given by Drs Tom Jandris, Helen Crompton and Rob Power (IAmLearn President). Jandris gave the opening address, on innovation, disruption and mobile technologies, inviting delegates to make his presentation more of a conversation than a monologue. Crompton spoke on integrating mobile devices into teaching and learning, packing her keynote with useful considerations and frameworks. Power closed proceedings with a call to action, pointing out that the technology was already sufficiently advanced to be transformative in education, and suggesting that now was the time to fully harness the affordances of mobile devices in teaching and learning.

Opening keynote by Dr Tom Jandris

Opening keynote by Dr Tom Jandris

Jandris had been in teaching for over 50 years and recalled having seen enormous changes in educational technologies during that time, suggesting that the technology had finally caught up with the theory. Citing Clayton Christenson, he deconstructed the term ‘disruptive innovation’, pointing out that the idea of disrupting something is to break it apart, and that innovation means to make something new where it previously didn’t exist. He spoke extensively about differentiation in teaching, and what mobile brought to this, suggesting that ‘mobile learning’s greatest gift is differentiated instruction’. Proposing that gifted learners tend to fall through the cracks right across the educational spectrum, he quoted Jesse Jackson, who supposedly once stated that ‘In this country, we educate like we slop the hogs’. Equating industrial era educational practices with feeding pigs was quite the rich metaphor!
He listed nine ways that he considered mobile as disrupting learning, as follows: 1) personalisation, 2) transformed environments, 3) adaptive environments, 4) accelerated, 5) relevant, 6) real-time assessment, 7) convenient, 8) engaging, and 9) connected. Jandris also talked about pioneers as those that follow in the tracks of the real innovators, suggesting that it was better get in second with new initiatives, in order to allow someone else to make the mistakes first. This certainly chimed with me – while there can be a degree of kudos with being first through the door with something new, it can also be highly risky and it’s rare to get the credit for doing so. It is also demonstrated by Apple’s lateness to smartphone development only to go on to dominate the technology category, as outlined in my ‘Towards Wireless Collaboration’ blog. Learning from others’ mistakes can be a helpful path towards affecting meaningful and sustainable change.
His keynote ended with the suggestion that mobile learning accelerates ‘everything’, and imagined an example of a TED Talks audience watching a newly published video, with an AI-driven interface that reacted to the interactions that emerged around the video and then developed learning materials in response to those interactions. In an event likely packed with enthusiasts, he sounded a helpful word of caution too. Given that ‘mobile learning natives’ (as he called them) get most of their learning through connected devices, he suggested that it was important to consider the distance that personalised learning in a digital format can create between learners and their instructors. He also cited the impact that mobile learning has on the ‘tangibles’ of learning, from the touch of paper to the presence of instructors. This is something that, in my experience, can apply to many digital technologies when applied to teaching. The loss of tangibles following a move to more digital approaches to teaching is really quite hard to quantify, much less explain by those feeling the loss.

Crompton’s frameworks

Second keynote, with Dr Helen Crompton

Second keynote, with Dr Helen Crompton

Crompton’s keynote was loaded with useful tools and frameworks for effective integration of mobile devices into education. She opened with her take on the unique affordances of mobile computing that differentiates them from tethered technologies, suggesting that they are contingent, situated, authentic, personalised, and context-aware. She reminded the audience present of the value of the TPACK and SAMR frameworks, as well as a few of her own too – her mlearning integration framework and mlearning integration ecological framework, and a set of co-developed ISTE Standards.
The TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) framework looks at the complex interplay between three primary forms of knowledge, and can be a way to think about effectively integrating technologies into learning environments. SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) is a model for determining the impact that introducing a technology can have on learning, looking at both enhancement and transformation. Both of these tools can be used for educator development and learning design purposes, and can be used as complements to each other or as standalone tools.

Image of TPACK model (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge)

TPACK model

 

Crompton’s own mlearning integration framework comprises four main categories: beliefs (what beliefs does the educator hold toward technology?), resources (what physical and mental resources does the teacher have at their disposal?), methods (what teaching methods are chosen for class type or personal choice?) and purpose (what is the technology being used for and can other non-technologies be used instead?). Although these are listed separately, she suggests that they are highly interconnected. The mlearning integration ecological framework is based on Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Framework for Human Development, which shows how the development of a child is mediated by various systems. Her version puts the educator at the centre, with concentric circles to represent how different systems determine how that educator integrates technology into their teaching. Both of these frameworks can be useful for institutions looking to better integrate mobile learning into their educational offers, with useful insights into the educator perspective.
Finally, the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Standards are a framework for implementing digital strategies in education to positively impact learning, teaching and leading. They have been designed to work with models such as TPACK, and are often affiliated with educational approaches like blended learning or the flipped classroom. Each standard is accompanied by a series of indicators, and seem to be applicable across the educational spectrum. In signposting these particular models and educational approaches, Crompton gave enough rich source material for those looking to better support the integration of mobile devices into teaching and learning to last several years.

A closing call to action

The future is already here…’ Power claimed, stating that ‘we have everything in our pockets to do what we want already’ as he opened his closing keynote. His talk centred around where he saw mobile learning should be going next, and how to get there. Citing Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory that breaks technology consumers down into five distinct categories (Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards), he pointed out that critical mass for acceptance of a new technology is reached within the Early Majority category and that there are big challenges for getting to critical mass for mobile learning.

Dr Rob Power and the Diffusion of Innovation categories, from the mLearn2018 closing keynote

Dr Rob Power and the Diffusion of Innovation categories

Key amongst these challenges, Power felt, were educators abilities, confidence and pedagogical knowledge in making more effective use of mobile devices in teaching and learning. ‘Early adopters must share more what they’re doing’, he went on, adding that ‘we need to share more stories of how it can work’. This included sharing failures as well as successes. Referencing Crompton’s address on the previous day, he suggested it was important to move beyond the substitution stage (of the SAMR framework) in order to fully use mobile technologies for transforming teaching. I felt that addressing the mobile learning paradox is another one of these challenges.
Power acknowledged other constraints and challenges that he saw as holding educators back from harnessing the affordances of mobile technologies in teaching. Highest amongst these is that teachers across the educational spectrum simply have far too much to do besides teaching, with ever-increasing administrative burdens. There was a need to both target the policy makers and to gather more large-scale qualitative evidence that mobile learning works. He also addressed practises like the banning of laptops in class (see my previous post for more on this), suggesting that it was far more effective for supporting learning to use tech in class and be ‘on task’ with it rather than either banning it outright or allowing a free-for-all. Power concluded that there was plenty of social rhetoric about digital citizenship, but this counts for little without more or better usage.
These three keynotes provided much food for thought. The next post wraps up the mLearn review, with reflections on some of the other sessions and a little more on the visit to Chicago.
This blog first appeared at the Learning at City blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Sweet Phone Chicago – mLearn 2018

Dominic Pates
Senior Education Technologist
City, University of London

Reflections on the 17th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning

Back on unfamiliar ground

Chicago skyscrapers, seen from the train tracks

Chicago skyscrapers, seen from the train tracks

What are you doing in the United States?’ asked the border guard at O’Hare International, after I’d passed through some initial electronic checks. ‘I’m here for a conference…’ I offered, continuing with ‘…on mobile learning’ when prompted for more information. The border guard softened his tone and started telling me about his wife delivering English lessons to students in China, via her smartphone. Evidently a technological development that a man like him was somewhat taken aback by. And with that exchange, I was back into the United States for the first time in 25 years and all set for a mobile-phone-driven adventure, and the next stage of my wireless collaboration quest. The path for getting there had been laid courtesy of a very generous bursary from UCISA, a fund that allows members to travel to an event that they would not usually have the opportunity to travel to. These reviews of the conference are therefore for the benefit of the UCISA community as much as for the Learning at City readership and my own reflections.

Academic poster shrinkwrapped to a suitcase, in a motel.

Still life on a Chicago motel floor

I was heading to the 17th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning (hereafter mLearn), where I’d managed to also get myself onto the event line-up with my first poster presentation. Aside from presenting, I was driven to find out more about how mobile devices are being used in teaching and learning, particularly in HE.
In the run-up to the event, it was a race against the clock to get everything completed on time, which also meant some rapid upskilling in both Adobe InDesign and Premiere Pro. The next challenge after that was figuring out how to take the printed poster with me in such a way that it wouldn’t get damaged. After multiple alternative considerations, it turns out you can shrink wrap these things to your suitcase. So that is just what I did.
The US felt very much like terra incognita at first, having been away from it for so long. The airport was clearly showing its age, but friendly faces welcomed me back onto American soil and I began to feel a little more settled. With a little help from Google’s Search app, I managed to get myself onto a Chicago Transport Authority train and out to Oak Park, the outer suburb where I was staying. As I’d been led to expect, it was bitterly cold on the streets of Chicago, made all the more evident by the faint flurries of snow that the sidewalks were dusted with. I checked into my motel, got my bearings, settled down for a big plate of food nearby, then slept for almost ten hours – much needed after the intensive preparations beforehand.

A conference on mobile learning

mLearn describes itself as the ‘leading international conference on mobile and contextual learning’, and is organised by the International Association for Mobile Learning (IAMLearn). Having previously been hosted as far apart as Australia, South Africa and Finland, in 2018 it was the turn of the United States to host an event.
mLearn is not the only event of its kind. Hamilton, Ontario, welcomed the 12th International Conference on Interactive Mobile Communication, Technologies and Learning in 2018. The 14th International Conference Mobile Learning also happened last year, in Lisbon, Portugal, an event seemingly organised by the International Association for the Development of the Information Society (IADIS). UNESCO runs Mobile Learning Week annually in Paris, as the UN’s flagship ICT in education conference, an event dedicated to using mobile devices to accelerate learning for all, and with a particular focus on development issues. mLearn appeared to have the longest pedigree as a specialist conference dedicated to mobile learning, however. It turned out that I’d cited items from their previous conference proceedings in the Compass piece linked to in a previous post. I was also drawn to visiting a conference in North America, plus the date of the conference coincided nicely with my own timings.
For a gathering dubbed as a world conference, mLearn was surprisingly smaller than I’d anticipated, with 13 people in the initial workshops and only about 25 overall for most of the event. Part of this was reflective of the fact that IAMLearn was trying to build up some capacity in North America and of course that Chicago in November is a very cold place to be. It was also perhaps indicative of the struggle a relatively niche academic event can face in keeping going, particularly having been doing so for this long.

Conference freebie - a 3D-printed robot phone holder, plus iPhone 6s

Conference freebie – a 3D-printed robot phone holder

It did actually mean though that I was able to have a really quality experience, see almost all of the sessions, get to know people well, and go deep into the themes. It also meant that the event was able to deliver a nice attention to detail. A 3D-printed robot phone holder was given free to delegates. Delegates were encouraged to go into Chicago and learn more about the city for small group workshop activities that ran as a strand throughout the event. Early on, a meet-and-greet was arranged at a restaurant on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center Building, affording spectacular night time views across the city whilst getting to know other delegates. I was also able contribute to the AGM, through voting on new positions within the organisation and contribute to the discussion on sustaining and growing the organisation.
The next post covers the three keynote talks by Drs Tom Jandris, Helen Crompton and Rob Power.
This blog first appeared at the Learning at City blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Getting the best out of Educause

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Team Manager
Loughborough University

Conference round-up

As I sit on the A-Train (officially called the University of Colorado A Line for sponsorship reasons) from Denver to the airport, I’m reflecting a little on the events in Denver at Educause, which I was able to attend courtesy of a UCISA bursary. It has been the most rewarding conference experience. The younger me would have been overawed at the sheer size of this event, but after having presented at and attended conferences for the last 20 years, I felt ready for it.
The backdrop to this conference is of a world which has various parts in chaos. In the UK HE sector, it’s been a tricky year, with a once-in-a-generation strike affecting much of the sector (concerning pensions), and institutions looking for more and better systems to support and improve their student experiences. Blockchain is background noise. Cloud is commonplace now. The MOOC bubble has burst a bit (in the UK at least).
One of the big themes of the conference was around diversity, equity and inclusion. These are areas that have resonated in many places in the last few years, with politics in the UK and the US appearing to veer off in the opposite direction to this right now.
I’ve thrown myself in headlong to each day, up at silly o’clock every day to take part in “braindates”, sharing experiences of learning technology with international colleagues from universities, and a nice guy from a start-up who are looking to get into the world of online learning with an interesting web tool. The tables and chairs inside the corrugated cardboard booths were perfectly pleasant. The 1970s “Barbarella” style swinging chairs were less conducive to a friendly chat.
However, nothing was as bad as the chairs made out of skis, which were massively uncomfortable and almost impossible to get out of! You might also spot some swings in the background – it’s hard to talk about serious subjects when wobbling around on a swing.

 

 
The conference schedule was absolutely crammed with loads of conflicting sessions, and it’s the sign of an engaging conference when there’s so much to go to and too much to choose from. I hope I made the right choices, but I’ll never know. Sessions on learning analytics dashboards, student data, accessibility, ITIL, change management, projects and relationships, privacy and ethics and onboarding were certainly a varied bunch, with a good mix of listening and more interactive sessions.
The exhibition was enormous. There were 333 of them to choose from, with multiple Google stands (including half a basketball court), an enormous Service Now stand and plenty of the usual suspects with massive stands. Technology has become a tool which guides change.
Far more interesting to talk to the smaller providers and those in “start-up alley”. Once you’ve seen the latest laptop from Lenovo or Dell or a Microsoft Surface once, you’ve seen them enough. Some familiar faces on the Moodle stand and there were a few other suppliers there to chat with about existing projects. It was very handy for one project we were currently working on, as I could show something to the supplier which they could relay back to their implementation team, as we both happened to be in the same time zone for once!
There’s so much still to reflect upon and that will happen naturally over the next year when thinking back to some of these conference experiences and the presentations that were shared. There’s been a very lively social media community on the #edu18 hashtag too. Communication and collaboration have been key themes that I will try to take into 2019.
I’ll leave you with a last image of Colorado, a slightly blurry view of the Rocky Mountains that have always been visible from somewhere each day. This was the view from the train on the way to the airport.
A fantastic conference experience in an amazing city. Before coming here I would never have put Denver on my “cities to visit” list. Having been here, I’m eager to come back and explore more. It’s very much an “outdoor city” with so much provision for walking and cycling, far more than I’d been expecting. You can explore so much on foot, or catch trains, buses and trams.
Au revoir Denver. Thanks again to UCISA and the UCISA bursary scheme for giving me this opportunity. Look out for the 2019 edition of the scheme around February/March for your chance to attend an event that you might otherwise be unable to attend. You can read all of my posts here.
This first appeared on the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Reflecting on change in IT

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Team Manager
Loughborough University

Educause 2018 – Day Three

Day Three of Educause, I say “day”, it’s more of a half day, and the numbers are rather thinning out after yesterday. With exhibitors packing up and going home (or taking half day trips to the mountains in the case of those I had dinner with last night) we are down to the hard core of attendees. We’re still talking a couple of thousand people, but the 8am (a lie-in!) session on change management was sparsely attended compared to the standing room only at some of the other sessions in the last few days.
Change management is an ever important topic, and it’s a process that is evolving and maturing at many UK universities. If it is introduced in a way that appears too heavy-handed to your IT specialists, you risk disengaging them, so it is something that needs to have a nuanced approach, with changes around certain times of year subject to more scrutiny, and a lot of team/service manager discretion built in to the process for more regular/routine changes. A robust and engaged change management board is important, and if they are not paying enough attention to changes then this kind of negates their usefulness. It’s a process that needs to be designed with the input of many stakeholders in IT, not just those at senior management level. There was plenty of lively debate during this session.
The next session was on the topic of “onboarding”, or in plain English, “what happens when someone joins your organisation/department/team”. This is something that I’ve been interested in for a while. Thinking back to my own experience way back in 1996 (yes, I’ve been with the same organisation for over 22 years, in different roles), I think it’s fair to say that this is one process that hasn’t really moved with the times. This was an interesting session from Dartmouth College. That’s in Hanover, New Hampshire, as opposed to the one that I’ve been to, the town on the western bank of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon.
Dartmouth have some famous alumni, with perhaps the most notable being Nelson Rockefeller (Gerald Ford’s vice president). The journey that they take their new staff on is quite an interesting one, and certainly seems to be an enriching experience for new employees. How much of it might translate to a smaller country and institution is something to reflect upon, but there was plenty of food for thought. I’ll come back to food in a moment.
After a break to grab a final coffee, we find ourselves back in the Bellco Theatre, and the wings are not as full as on the first morning.

(click on image to enlarge)
We are here for Alexis Ohanian, aka Mr Serena Williams, aka the co-founder of Reddit. His presentation was entitled “Make Something People Love” and was a very interesting delve into the olden days of the modern web (some of us are old enough to remember the 1990s web), featuring lots of early screenshots of popular sites and social media platforms. Do you remember the first days of Twttr (when it had no vowels)?
Alexis had a lot to say on this, and lots of insight. Nowadays we can go out to lunch, take a photo of our smashed avocado on rye presented on a slate, and then share that using an app with a beautifully designed user experience.
When we get back to lunch, we then have to interact with an ugly HR or finance system which seems to have had no thought given to the user experience. Why is it that Instagram is a more pleasurable experience than Oracle E-Business Suite Financials?
A genuinely engaging keynote, so much to think about. Maybe over lunch which can then be shared on social media? Not today I’m afraid, as this was the close of the conference. No lunch today, so several thousand delegates streamed out of the Bellco Theatre, and in to the surrounding streets to find something to eat, whilst digesting the conference proceedings. I’ll digest them and produce a brief summary tomorrow.
This first appeared on the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Ooh digital is a place on earth

Kat Husbands
Digital Content Officer
University of Glasgow

Explaining user experience design with metaphors from construction

In November I shared some more UX Week takeaways in a talk at UCISA’s CISG-PCMG18 conference. It was UCISA’s bursary scheme that got me to San Francisco in the first place so it was great to meet the people behind it, along with 300 corporate information systems people and project/change management people from unis around the UK. Here’s the video of my 10min talk, and I’ve expanded on it a little in the write-up below.
My first recorded talk! Is this really my accent?

Inspiration

At UX Week I learned that designers love to do things in threes. By sheer coincidence, my talk was inspired by three things:
  1. The theme of CISG-PCMG18: Building Foundations for the Future
  2. My new favourite motto from UX Week: Build the Right Thing & Build the Thing Right
  3. The University of Glasgow’s ongoing campus development.
Maybe being surrounded by cranes, hoardings and the excitement of big building sites every day has made me hyper-aware of the metaphors from construction that show up again and again at UX and tech conferences: people talk about blueprints, foundations, scaffolds, platforms, information architecture​…
What if we fully commit to the analogy and think of our systems and services as literal places​? How might that help us design them in user-centred ways?​
At UX Week, three speakers went deep on this.

1. Digital as…public places

In his talk Living in Information (watch video)​, Jorge Arango looked at the broad, open digital systems intended for wide ranges of users — in HE that would include our Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), intranets and informational websites​ — and the places where people interact such as forums and chat services.
“These digital systems are more than products or tools…in many ways, they function like places: information environments that create contexts that change the way we think, act and interact…” — Jorge Arango
…so much so that we can directly apply architectural concepts.
Jorge originally trained as an architect then went into IT, and for many years was Director of the Information Architecture Institute​.
He highlighted three concepts:
  • Structure = design to support people’s existing mental models
    First we need to uncover and understand those mental models through exploratory research​ such as user interviews.
  • Systems = the key focus of design
    Architects don’t just design buildings for their own sake: they design whole environments for people to use. User journey mapping can help us recognise that our place forms part of the larger system of our University. This technique also shows us how the places we’re designing link with others in the local and wider information environment.
  • Sustainability = don’t pollute the information env​ironment
    We must consciously design content to avoid building in biases; avoid duplicating information​; and be careful not to damage useful concepts by using in inappropriate ways​.
Jorge’s example of the latter: “Breaking news” used to mean ‘Everyone needs to know this right now!!’ But now #Breaking is broken.
#Breaking is broken

2. Digital as…homes

Focussing in on the more personal places like homepages, dashboards and portals, visual designer Claudio Guglieri discussed HOME: Our everyday relationships with digital.
“For a vast group of people, home is no longer a physical space…many of us find comfort in digital environments.” — Claudio Guglieri
At the time, this quote immediately made me think of our youngest students, the so-called digital natives. For many, University is a massive life change, perhaps their first time away from home. You can imagine how the only bit of continuity they can rely on for comfort might be the familiar platforms they brought with them on their phones and laptops.
This idea applies much more widely too: our research for UofG UX showed that students and staff of all ages default to digital for connection and communication, entertainment, travel, shopping and to access support.
To this we’re adding a heap of new digital homes, so it’s important to consider how ours compare to the commercial places people go to for everything else. If they could choose, would they choose to use our system? But they can’t choose — we have a captive audience — so let’s put lots of care and respect into the homes we build for our students and colleagues, with the help of another set of three concepts:
  • Repetition = acknowledge that homes are for regular, repeated use
    Optimise for speed and don’t waste people’s time; kill pointless splash screens; automate out annoying repetition.
  • Evolution = minimise the impact of behavioural changes
    Claudio referenced a brilliant article by service designer Christina Wodtke: Users don’t hate change, they hate you. Change is inevitable but don’t just barge in and rearrange furniture: communicate carefully to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Ownership = reinforce people’s perception of control
    Localise, personalise and allow people to customise (but also set good defaults). And don’t get between intention and action: Claudio talked about poorly placed ads interrupting tasks but the same advice applies to comms: a message is only effective in the right context and when it offers value relevant to a person’s needs at time they see it.
To help defeat our assumptions and inform our decisions, the most helpful pointer is contextual inquiry: we must observe people’s actual behaviour in their digital homes.
We might think “Surely everyone knows how to find lecture slides in the VLE, it’s as easy as drinking a glass of water…” Claudio Guglieri won gif-of-the-week.

3. Digital as…escape rooms

The third type of place comes from Laura E Hall’s talk Caring for Players in Real World Spaces and Beyond. Laura is a game designer, famous for her real-world escape rooms, where you get locked in with a group of pals and have to solve puzzles and decipher clues to escape before the time runs out.
“A good puzzle tells you how to solve it, inherent in its design.” — Laura E Hall
Our digital escape rooms include registration and enrolment, online coursework submission, expenses, uploading results — anything where our captive audience has to complete a complex task to a deadline…all of which adds up to STRESS!
Laura talked about cognitive overload and ‘deep focus’, where people can’t see the wood for the trees.
There’s a key difference though: Laura aims to design IN the right level of stress to make game challenging and fun, while we want to design the stress OUT. Fortunately there are 3 handy concepts we can apply:
  • Simplify the process
    This is where UX merges with service design. Does the process really need to be this complex? Can we remove or automate any steps?
  • Simplify the interaction
    Through careful content design, represent the process as simply as possible, providing exactly what people need to complete their task and nothing more. See gov.uk for 100s of excellent examples.
  • Make it intuitive
    It’s always a good idea to apply usability heuristics but in our digital escape rooms more so than ever. Consistency, validation and error prevention and recovery are essential, as is maintaining the match between our system and real world by using the same language our users use.
And of course multiple rounds of usability testing and tweaking are essential to help our students and staff escape with confidence.
Image from Room Escape Artist’s review of the Edison Escape Room in SF. Laura called it one of the best in the world so a group of us went on the free evening in UX Week: it was SPECTACULAR 😀

4?! Digital as…boundaries and junctions

Time to break the rule of threes — gasp! This one’s not even from UX Week.
At UX Scotland in June, Kevin Richardson — a UX consultant with a background in cognitive psychology — gave a fascinating workshop on UX and the Spaces in Between. He explained how UX design can make the most difference at points of interface, highlighting three areas of tension in the ‘interaction ecosystem’:
  • Where an application meets a business process, especially legacy processes. ‘But we’ve always done it this way’ is no excuse for a poor user experience.
  • Where a person has to pass information between two systems: for goodness sake automate it!
  • Where a system meets the real world: why do students have to queue up for a print-out, which they then scan and email to their bank or council?

And finally…

The last quote goes to Mike Monteiro, the cantankerous UX evangelist, who sadly I didn’t manage to meet in SF.
“They don’t let just anybody walk in off the street and design a building.” — Mike Monteiro, speaking on the Voice of Design podcast
The same is true in digital: people want their places designed by professionals.
Whether we think of ourselves as architects, home-builders, game designers, city planners or just the IT crowd, every decision we make — or choose not to make — has an impact on the university experience for our students and colleagues, whatever type of place we’re building.
This blog first appeared on the UofG UX blog.
A copy of Kat’s slides from CISG-PCMG18 is available here.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Key themes at Educause

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Team Manager
Loughborough University

Educause 2018 – Day Two

So Day Two of the main Educause conference and it feels like it’s been going for a lot longer after Wednesday’s Day One, and events on Tuesday too.
Another 7:30am “braindate” kicked things off, and then the opening session in the big Bellco Theatre at 8am on AI.
In the blink of an eye, it’s 9:45am and the parallel sessions are up and running again. As the holder of an ITIL Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management (quite a mouthful), I was interested to attend the IT Service Management session, to see where other institutions are at on their ITIL journey. Lots of people (including me) stood up to share plans, stories, issues and achievements in this area. It’s fair to say that a lot of people are adapting ITIL to fit with their processes in order to try and get the best out of it. No-one really seems to be using it “off the shelf”.
Unfortunately, the end of that session clashed with the start of some of the next sessions, so there were around 12 parallel sessions that were then not available. That did leave time for another braindate, this time talking about our ten plus years of Moodle experience, and the different activities and their uses in relation to the electronic management of assessment. It was interesting to reflect on how far we have come with our Moodle journey (being one of the early adopters in UK HE) and where other institutions are at.
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After another efficient lunch (see my previous post), it was on to the next session, which was around relationships and working with lots of groups across an institution in order to drive projects forward with informed decision making.
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The theme of IT Services as a trusted partner came up quite a lot, and it seems to be a key area for institutions who want to deliver projects with stakeholders from around the institution.
There was another session around privacy and ethics in relation to learning analytics, and this is going to be a big topic in 2019. There’s lots of data that we might already hold, or be able to collect, on our students, but should we use this data, and how do we form a partnership with the student voice in order to explore a way forward?
The conference continues tomorrow, but the exhibition hall closed this evening, so it will be rather odd to go back tomorrow with an enormous part of the overall experience missing. The queues for the UPS Store (inside the convention centre itself) were enormous as we were leaving this evening. Everyone is clearly keen to get their exhibition equipment packed up and shipped out as soon as possible!
This first appeared on the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.