Marketing and the digital generation – Part one of three

Competition for the attention of the digital generation is generating even greater collaboration between university and college marketing and IT teams.

In the first of a series of three blog posts focusing on the benefits of partnership, UCISA Executive member Adrian Ellison, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Information Officer at the University of West London, outlines some of the trends and future opportunities along with insights from UWL Marketing colleague Susan Vittery.

 

DIGITAL NEEDS TO WORK FROM THE STUDENT PERSPECTIVE

“IT at UWL has always had a strong, close-knit relationship with marketing,” says Adrian. “In fact, we’re almost co-located as there is only a glass partition between the two teams.”
“In terms of both student recruitment and the support for the overall student experience, I think it’s imperative that marketing is engaged with technology development projects such as CRM and our student record system, right from the outset.
“When it comes to student recruitment, there is a genuine market out there and it is a buyers’ market. It is real competition — which is why clever intelligent marketing is so important.
“Students are definitely shopping around. They are looking for quick, compelling information. We recently invested in a whole raft of course-based videos because students don’t want to read the equivalent of a prospectus each time. Real engaging content, delivered by course tutors and students already on the course, has had a huge impact. This includes an 11% increase in page views of our clearing and home page once they were mobile-optimised. Marketing and IT are currently co-leading a project to continue the latest phase of developing our website.
“For me, the key is getting students involved. If you are building a website to recruit 18-24 year-olds you want to make sure you’ve got that age group offering input. We have students in our working groups to help us refine things, not only in terms of design and functionality but also in terms of the tone of content and how it is framed.”
“You have to move with the times. Technology is pervasive now, it’s the basis of how everything works and we are talking to young people that don’t know another way of doing things. Digital content needs to be integrated, easy-to-use, mobile and written from the student perspective. We’re trying to embed that into everything we do.
“One big influence, both in recruitment and supporting the student experience, is in use of data and analytics. Universities have amassed lots of data about students but we’re never really used it properly. We were more concerned with complying with HESA statutory reports than we were in looking at the value of that data to us. Now it is about joining these systems up and harnessing the power of this huge amount of data and seeing where we can put some machine intelligence behind it.
“For example, we have an online chat system supporting the student recruitment process on our website. There is no reason why 90% of questions can’t be answered by a robot with only the more complex needing to go to a person. There would be a better experience for applicants as they could get more questions answered more effectively and 24/7.
“More importantly, we could use big data and machine learning to learn more about our students to then help us deliver better support going forward. A learning analytics system has been in place at UWL for over a year now and is really beginning to show that we’re having an impact — it’s looking at our attainment data, attendance, looking at our VLE data and then harnessing it to be able to start predicting things about potential student outcomes. That means we can start making interventions much, much earlier.
“Digital content needs to be integrated, easy-to-use, mobile and written from the student perspective. We’re trying to embed that into everything we do.”
Susan Vittery, Head of Digital and Web at UWL, finds close proximity and cross-departmental working vital: “What marketing brings to the table is an understanding of our users and what will engage them while IT has the expertise in establishing infrastructures and systems that are sustainable. As marketing becomes more and more based around technology and digital, we are working together on projects more, regardless of line management structures.
“However, having moved from times when we had little technology to a time when we have a lot, I think the challenge is not so much about the platform as getting the content right and understanding the audiences. Whether you’re doing that in print or via webinars or social media, the key is speaking in the right way and making sure you are engaging with issues the audience is interested in.
“I also think you shouldn’t try to be everything to everybody. There are so many platforms now and that’s something that’s both a challenge and an opportunity for all education institutions. Spreading yourself across all of them might be less effective than making informed choices about where your user groups are looking and where you can best engage with them.”

Key take-outs:

  • Involve students in outreach content and platform discussions.

  • Consider how data can be used proactively to improve the student experience.

  • Make informed choices and limit platform use to what works for your target audiences.

  • Use the power of data and machine learning to improve the support offered to students and ultimately their outcomes

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

ITSM Tools

Sally Bogg, winner of Business Role Model of the Year in the 2018 Women in IT Awards, offers her insights on breaking the cycle of ITSM tool frustration. Head of end-user services at Leeds Beckett University, Sally is Chair of the  UCISA’s Support Services Group and holds the award for Inspirational Leader 2017 from the IT Service & Support Awards.

 

ITSM TOOLS, IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU!

It’s not me – it’s you? From conversations with other UCISA members and colleagues across the HE and FE education sectors, there seems to be a great deal of dissatisfaction with our IT Service Management tools.
Is that just because ITSM tools tend to be pricey so our expectations of what they will deliver are sky high? Or is it that we’re simply failing to fully leverage the significant investment we make in them?
My take is that they are often purchased as an unrealistic silver bullet and seen as a catch-all solution for implementing ITIL-related processes and creating a service culture.
The problem as I see it is that a tool is still just a tool. It can’t change embedded behaviours or culture and it can’t fix broken support processes.
And because of that, we often get stuck in a non-productive cycle. We buy a new tool, go through the pain of implementation and then walk away with very little investment in development.
A year or two down the line, we’re frustrated and disappointed that it has failed to meet our needs. What does it seem we typically do? We start thinking about buying a new one.
Some organisations have got dedicated development resource for their ITSM tool. But many don’t. Is it any wonder that they are not meeting our requirements and delivering return on investment?
It seems time for a new approach. Time to get the most from the ITSM products we’re using by working more closely with vendors and suppliers. Most ITSM tools have very similar functionality so my advice is to find a vendor that you want to work with — someone you can build and develop a long-term strategic partnership with.
Start by spending lots of time mapping the processes and understanding where the tool can be best used and, if possible, where activities and tasks can be automated, for example password resets.
I know starting with the processes rather than the product isn’t very IT. But while we may want to get our hands on the system as soon as we can, I think first deciding how, where and why we can maximise its use is a prerequisite for ending the cycle of ITSM fatigue.
For example, trying to retrofit and tack on reporting after implementation can be a costly, time-consuming mistake that may require a complete redesign — easily avoided if you think about what reports you want early on in your process-mapping.
And remember that success usually is about people, not things. Spending time and investing in training will result in the tool being used cohesively and consistently.
Finally, look ahead and keep that forward momentum. Implementing a continual service improvement roadmap for your ITSM tool means development activities can be recorded, developed, prioritised and implemented.

Key take-outs:

  • Develop a strategic relationship with your ITSM tool supplier

  • Start by considering processes, not products

  • Look ahead. Invest time into a continual service improvement roadmap for your ITSM tool

 

UCISA welcomes blog contributions and comment responses to blog posts from all members. If you would like to contribute a new perspective or opinion on a current topic of interest, simply contact UCISA’s marketing manager Manjit Ghattaura via manjit.ghattaura@it.ox.ac.uk

 

The views expressed on UCISA blogs are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of UCISA.

#pressforprogress

Jeni Brown has been IT Training Manager for the London School of Economics and Political Science since 2006 and a member of the Digital Capabilities (formerly User Skills) group, with a couple breaks for maternity leave, since 2008.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF FEMALE ROLE MODELS IN TECHNOLOGY AND HIGHER EDUCATION

As I write this, it’s International Women’s Day, and I’m reflecting with optimism on the ways that I, my team, my division and institution have made a #pressforprogress in the past 12 months. A month ago, I was honoured to receive the Academic Award for my work in digital capabilities at LSE, and share the stage with some amazing and inspiring women at the FDM Everywoman in Technology awards. The awards recognise the most inspirational women in technology, with the goal of promoting female role models within the STEM industries. It was truly humbling to hear about the amazing achievements of the assembled finalists, often in spite of casual sexism and unconscious bias in their organisations or schools. This year I have also been lucky enough to take part in the Leadership Foundation’s Aurora programme, and meet more incredible women taking on leadership positions within HE and pushing through some of the subtle and not-so-subtle barriers in the way of greater gender equality. Here again, female role models were important, with past participants acting as role models and facilitators for the sessions.
So I’ve been reflecting on the importance of role models. Seeing ourselves represented in our field of expertise and in our institutions is powerful. I felt a surge of hope when LSE hired Dame Minouche Shafik as Director, and discovered a renewed interest in my role when Laura Dawson joined as the new Director of Information Management and Technology. And I want to play my part in inspiring women as well. I’ve signed up for the Modern Muse network and joined the mentoring programme at LSE. I’m thrilled to have the chance to be a role model, as well as benefit from the female role models in my organisation.
But as optimistic as I am, there is a lot more to do, and even ardent feminists like myself will get it wrong sometimes.
My division recently took the decision to name our meeting rooms, in addition to their number designations. I was heartened and excited when the suggestion to celebrate technology pioneers was refined to celebrate female tech pioneers. My division was being so progressive! A female colleague and I quickly set out to create a shortlist for our colleagues to vote on and presented it to our engagement group. And then another colleague pointed out that all our picks were white women. And I was ashamed, but so very grateful, to be called out for our unconscious bias. Because representation isn’t only about gender, or sexuality, or even race – we need to be actively seeking to highlight the range of contributions made by all people and keeping each other honest about the process. It wasn’t hard to find further contributions by a more diverse range of women, but I hadn’t actively thought to do it. We can all do better, be more aware, and work harder to address our unconscious biases. Those of us with the most privilege (and higher education has quite a lot of privilege), need to do the most work.
LSE, like a lot of other HE institutions, is working on this issue. And in the IT Training team, we’re doing what we can to ensure we’re meeting the needs of our students. A couple years ago, we were dismayed at the lack of female candidates for our Student Training Advisor position, so we started examining our processes to see if we could improve representation at the application stage. We reviewed our job description and realised we had a strong focus on technical skills, and not as much focus on the communication and teaching or tutoring skills. But our actual experience with student trainers was that the most technical candidates weren’t necessarily the best. Some of the most amazing student staff came to us with low technical skills but an excellent understanding of how to communicate clearly and structure learning for different skill levels. Evidence shows that not only do women suffer from a confidence gap, especially in tech, but it is easier to teach someone technical skills than to teach a technical person about the industry they are entering. We revised the job description to de-emphasize technical skills (after all, what kind of training department can’t teach their staff the required technical skills?!) and focus on practical experience in communicating complex information. We ran the job description and advert through a gendered language online tool, to ensure we weren’t using masculine-coded language that puts off female candidates.
And it worked – in the next recruitment round, 40% of our applications were from women compared to no female candidates the year before, and we saw some stellar candidates. We got a higher calibre of male talent as well. Our interview processes have always relied heavily of giving students a chance to show us what they can do, with at least half of the time spent on practical tasks or a teaching audition – one of several ways recommended to reduce bias in your interviewing process. We also advertised heavily amongst the current programme participants, where over 60% of participants are female. We still have some way to go, but we’re committed to having more women in the role of technical expert. Even the way we’ve designed our training programme reflects our commitment to a wider range of people successfully leveraging technology. Our focus on digital literacy, self-sufficiency, transferrable knowledge, and confidence in solving technical problems – not just learning a set of specific technical skills – helps everyone engage confidently with technology.
We’d love to talk to you about what we’ve been doing, and hear about what works (and doesn’t) at your institutions. The Digital Capabilities Group is running a webinar about events that recognise women’s achievements in technology on 6 June (see the website nearer the time for details), or you can hear about our engagement with our student trainers at the Change Agent Network conference in Winchester in April. Finally, I’ll be presenting about how our training programme develops digital capabilities and confidence at the Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event in May. You can also get in touch with me at j.l.brown@lse.ac.uk.

 

Supporting student learning in a digital world – opportunities and obstacles

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

 

 

 

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

Beccy Dresden was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

For the first half of the afternoon on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017, we had a choice between one of five workshops delivered by the DigPedLab Fellows:

or a lightning talks session.

Three of the five workshops appealed to me, but Leonardo was happy to share the resources used in his, and Penny and Kris were both in my track, so I figured I could pick their brains another time (especially Penny, who is based in the UK), so I went for the lightning talks. These are detailed at the link above, but to save you clicking, I have included the summaries here in italics.

Interdisciplinary Solutions

Michelle Clement, Associate Faculty in the School of Business at Royal Roads University, will offer a talk and case study about how tackling homelessness isn’t a one disciplinary approach. The case study will show how sociology, marketing, mental health and nursing students worked together across disciplines and cultures to better understand homelessness in their community.

I noted the following:

  • Working in multidisciplinary teams, students felt that sharing different perspectives deepened their understanding of the problems.
  • Michelle is now living their experience by participating in the Writing track here!
  • Organising this kind of thing is administratively complicated, but focusing on making it a meaningful experience for students is key.

New Media and Pedagogy

Hannah McGregor, Assistant Professor in Publishing at Simon Fraser University will offer a lightning talk as a provocation: to explore how new media forms (podcasts, social media feeds, etc.) allow pedagogy to take place beyond the university. What would happen if we thought of our role, as academics, to be pedagogy (not research) first? How do forms like the podcast allow us to enact a public-pedagogy-first praxis? How the heck will we convince universities to get on board?

I noted the following:

  • Hannah loves podcasts, but hates the male-dominated maker culture, coding-boot-camps stuff.
  • Maker culture can be too focused on the production of a thing, as opposed to processes, community building, pedagogy, etc. (Is this a male vs female thing?)
  • Where are the women in podcasting? (Hannah referred to an article in Forbes that seems to claim people hate the sound of women’s voices.)

Open Pop Ups

Verena Roberts, Learning Specialist at Rocky View Schools, will discuss open learning networks. From September 2017 to June 2018 she will be connecting learning communities with open learning networks by facilitating serendipitous and planned ‘Open Pop Up’ learning activities with a K-12 contextual lens. She will be completing a pilot version of the ‘Open Pop-ups’ at her school district in the hopes of using the pilot to inform her doctorate research the following year.

I noted the following:

  • Um, what is K-12?! (I Googled it for you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K–12)
  • We need to keep talking about the differences between OERs and open(ing) learning
  • Stick metaphor – what children see (same with cardboard boxes?) [sorry, I have no idea what I meant by this!]
  • ePortfolios for high school students – not résumé building, but creating relationships and apprenticeships
  • Verena gave a couple of examples of her open pop-ups:

– Kindness ninjas – promoting sharing behaviours among children in underprivileged area

– Assembling diverse groups of students.

Daagu

Carolyn Steele, Career Development Coordinator at York University, Toronto, will discuss Daagu. Daagu is an online platform that offers holistic and collaborative eLearning opportunities to students. Developed at York University in Toronto, Daagu is designed to promote student choice and engagement, community dialogue and meaningful application of conceptual content. It’s very much a self-directed way of learning. This session will introduce Daagu and provide information on how to learn more.

I noted the following:

  • Carolyn has been working in blended classes for the last 5 years, and teaches 7–10pm – she tries to end at 8.30/9pm so the rest – the reflection part of the learning, mainly – can be done online. [This interested me because some Open University (OU) students complain about the timing of synchronous online teaching events.]
  • Daagu was developed for the nursing programme at York.
  • To me, students’ posts look like a combo of Pinterest and OpenStudio [an OU collaboration tool]
  • Students could provide emotional feedback, but they’re very resistant to doing that.
  • Quality vs quantity of posts? Assessing/grading that? How do you create a rubric for that?

Overcoming Digital Obstacles

Christina Chavez-Reyes, Professor in the College of Education and Integrative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona) will discuss digital obstacles to learning and teaching. In her teaching, she has discovered college students’ fear of the digital domain (distraction and breach of privacy) impedes their use of and ability at digital media, particularly social media, to become 21st-century college-educated citizens and professionals. This circumstance undermines the concept of students as ‘digital natives’ and begs the question how colleges can better prepare students with the necessary digital skills and knowledge of the digital domain. An added element is college faculty’s resistance to develop their digital skills to incorporate tech appropriately in classrooms. These converging factors create an equity crisis for first gen college and low-income students (perhaps all students) who likely do not readily have available social and cultural capital in their homes and communities to supplement the lack of learning in college. Many will earn a degree without a model of professional and civic engagement for the digital age.

I noted the following:

  • Christina is a Faculty member plus department chair. She feels working class at heart and, being in a new leadership position, has to play two different roles/apply two different lenses.
  • Social mobility for its students is a key achievement of her institution.
  • The focus is on educating students to undo inequalities and inequities when they become educators.
  • Use of social media: 30% like it, 60% fear it as a distraction, and 10% have privacy concerns
  • Risks are real – going online involves a third party, and creates a ‘non-rival, non-excludable good’
  • To sustain democracy, there needs to be a clear and protected boundaries between civil society and markets
  • Empowerment—intention—confidence is a key continuum.

How Christina described her students really chimed with the challenges I know many OU students faced – demographically they are quite similar, I think, which was interesting, as my impression was that many of the other participants work with students who more closely resemble the UK stereotype of undergraduates than OU students do.

Net Neutrality

Brian Weston, Director of Distance and Accelerated Learning at College of the Canyons will discuss strategies for keeping information accessible for online education.

The main thing I noted from Brian’s presentation was his question ‘What happens if students don’t have top-tier internet access?’. This is a problem that many OU students in rural/remote parts of the UK still face – contrary to government claims of widespread high-speed broadband availability!

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

UCISA bursary winner presents at Lean in Higher Education conference

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

The aim of my presentation, ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’ (2.56MB) at the Australasian Lean HE Conference was to show why Business Improvement teams need to change their model of working during organisational change to ensure that they continue to deliver good lean practice in a relevant way. The Business Improvement (BI) Team at the University of Aberdeen in its initial stages were involved in a significant number of initiatives across the organisation. However, as the university entered a period of restructuring, it experienced a change in people’s availability and motivation to be involved in non-strategic initiatives.

The presentation summarised how the BI team at University of Aberdeen has used Lean training to train and support project teams on strategic programmes as well as kick-start other business improvement initiatives. As part of the presentation, I highlighted case studies to show the journey from the training to the project development and implementation e.g. Student Recruitment and Admissions (SRAS) have undertaken reviews of their key processes and have made changes:

  • to enhance the enquirer/applicant experience
  • to achieve better integration with other sections in the university (reducing duplication etc.)
  • to consolidate IT systems when various systems were used previously, allowing for much better planning and reporting, amongst other benefits.

Delegates’ feedback was that they found the practical examples in the session helpful and came away with some useful ideas on how to train across their organisations, and how to make Lean stick.

A wide variety of interesting and useful speaker talks from the conference are available here.

I had a key set of conference objectives to meet in attending the conference, and came away with some key learning from the event. I will be blogging further about my intended next steps following what I learnt at the conference.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

UCISA bursary helps award winner advocate for lecture capture

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

 

EUNIS 2017 Conference, Münster, Germany

Ed Stout was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Having been very fortunate to be selected for a UCISA bursary in 2017, I was delighted to have had the opportunity to attend EUNIS17 in Münster, Germany. The event is a very well attended European conference and I quickly noted that there were only a select few delegates representing institutions from the UK. This offered me a valuable opportunity to network with peers from across Europe and obtain some positive insights into Higher Education in other European institutions. A key discussion point that particularly sparked my professional interest surrounded a session entitled “Panopto: Using Video to Enhance Informal, Formal and Blended Learning Approaches” presented by Denis Staskewitsch highlighting the use of video in academic delivery. Whilst currently, we at Leeds Beckett University offer an ‘opt in’ service for lecture capture using Panopto video platform, this currently does not include video capture. The session was primarily attended by peers from Scandinavian HE institutions where their strategy appears to fully support the use of video for lecture capture and delivery. The benefits were thoroughly discussed and I took a lot from the level of delegate engagement during this session.

Since returning to the UK, I have been keen to promote the benefits of video capture realised in other institutions by seeking conversations and/or meetings with key influencers within my home institution. I hope to positively influence change for our students and encourage the benefits that were so enthusiastically highlighted by peer institutions. Whilst these conversations have been very positive, there is still more to be done before video lecture capture becomes a standard within Leeds Beckett University. I am however, encouraged that select technical and academic colleagues are now more positive about the potential of video enhanced lecture capture/delivery and the fact that I am helping to shape discussion around future university strategy is highly satisfying.

Following my attendance at EUNIS17, I returned to Leeds Beckett University to report lessons learnt to colleagues and team members through our IT Services Weekly Management meetings and more localised team meetings along with many related, ad hoc discussions. In preparation and application for the UCISA bursary, I had committed to ensuring that I share the knowledge and key elements learnt with both colleagues and the wider UCISA community. I therefore decided that one of the best ways to communicate and indeed remember the diverse range of sessions was to actively blog about my experiences during the conference. My blog posts can also be found at http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/. I found that blogging was not only good for sharing my thoughts and opinions of the conference topics but also really helped to cement my understanding of the discussion points. My blog was circulated via a departmental report to colleagues across IT Services at Leeds Beckett University and this furthered interest from some colleagues who read it and wished to understand more about specific topics. Additionally, within our department we formally review and report back to a Development Panel on our experiences on any training, conference or event that we attend, to ensure that we maximise any future benefit for both departmental personnel and financial resource.  I had encouraged a member of my team to also apply for a UCISA bursary for the SCHOMS conference which he went on to thoroughly enjoy and I continue to encourage colleagues to apply for the new bursary round.

Whilst in Münster at the conference, I found it really easy and enjoyable to network with other IT professionals from a diverse range of European institutions. The event was set up in such a way that there were plenty of opportunity to meet and discuss common interests with peers both within formal and informal surroundings. Most of the delegates were very forthcoming in conversations and the beauty of HE sector sharing was prominent in almost all interactions. I found it highly enjoyable to discuss professional similarities and differences with others and came away from my four day experience with an enhanced enthusiasm for potential technical solutions to common challenges within our sector. I made a few contacts from my attendance at EUNIS17 and it was interesting to learn how our home institutions are confronting comparable challenges.

As one of my next steps after the conference, I have been in contact with another bursary winner, Ben Sleeman, from the University of Greenwich. Ben has blogged about his visit to the AETM conference in Australia and about visits to a number of Melbourne universities, including Deakin University. At Deakin he interviewed, using Panopto, the Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution team about a range of the university’s AV solutions, which may help areas of focus at Leeds Beckett.

In addition to my advocacy of further developing our Panopto lecture capture service at Leeds Beckett, I also took away the importance of identifying key strategies to enhance our digital transformation in order to stay competitive within the sector. I heard great evidence of how digital assessments are helping to improve both student and academic satisfaction particularly in Scandinavian universities both through the “Inspera: Digital Assessment in Norway – A Case Study from the University of Bergen” presentation by Sofie Emmertsen and associated conversations. I therefore intend to keep abreast of opportunities within this area that would enhance our technical delivery to the student experience at Leeds Beckett University.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Educating students for media literacy

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

Beccy Dresden was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Back to the classroom on Day Two of DigPedLab 2017 and Bonnie Stewart, Co-ordinator of Adult Teaching, University of Prince Edward Island and leader of the Digital Literacies track, warmed us up with a couple of images that generated horrified laughter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

These images illustrate all too clearly that media messages are constructed, so rather than accepting (mis)information presented as fact at face value, as media literate educators (and/or students), we need to be asking the following key questions:

  1. Who created this message?
  2. What creative techniques are being used to attract my attention?
  3. Who is the audience?
  4. What values and points of view are represented and omitted?
  5. Who gains profit or power if I accept this message?

These prompted a brief sidebar about snopes.com an on-line fact checking site – a site that, I confess, I only became aware of en route to Canada when various people I follow tweeted about it. (UK readers, is it more of a North American resource? I don’t recall ever hearing about it over here.)

Two more important questions to ask about the ‘news’ we’re served up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

What’s interesting to me about this is the language: any news report that includes the phrase ‘hulking brute’ immediately sets off my credibility-questioning alarm! It takes me back to one of my favourite undergraduate English modules on stylistics, an area that I don’t hear mentioned much these days, but one that I think has a lot to offer media literacies

The aesthetic fallacy

Next Kris Shaffer talked to us about the aesthetic fallacy. My notes on this are a bit thin, so I just Googled the term and found this:

Put simply, the aesthetic fallacy is the belief that if it looks convincing, it is convincing; or, to refine it slightly, if it looks scholarly, then, agree or disagree with it, it is scholarly and must be taken seriously and allowed a place at the scholarly table.

(Source: Trueman, Carl R. (2010) Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, Illinois, Crossway)

I’m not sure if this is how Kris would describe it, but certainly looking beyond plausible surfaces, using the questions noted above, seems like a key aspect of media literacies. Or, as Bonnie put it: ‘what does this do to our democracy if we don’t educate students to recognise and deal with the crap?’.

Another new-to-me angle was that of ’empire literacies’ – empires are constructed from money, territory and information. Consider…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

… and then ask yourself, who owns them? Follow the money! In relation to that, Penny Andrews talked us through a slide that showed how the neutral-seeming information provider you rely on for your work could actually be funded by rather less benevolent backers…

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

(I’m pretty sure that in the midst of that Penny explained why Ashton Kutcher may be evil – hopefully I’ve expressed that vaguely enough to avoid either of us being sued – but I was too busy laughing to note the detail, so you’ll have to ask Penny if you want to know more!)

 

 

 

 

 

The point is, some messages have way more power and money behind them, and way more reach than may initially be apparent (e.g. you and Trump both have twitter accounts, but…). However, there is a degree of democracy on some media platforms, e.g. Twitter may be the only space where you can directly speak back to Rupert Murdoch.


(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Contribution literacies – e.g. how to use Twitter for activist public speaking

 

 

 

(Screenshot courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Catastrophe literacies – e.g. the ‘breaking news consumer’s handbook’

 

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this might be my favourite…

Crap detection literacies

Another participant, Sajni Lacey Learning and Curriculum Support Librarian, University British Columbia, Okanagan, talked us through an activity she runs in her first and second year classes when she is asked to come in and teach ‘the library stuff’. Rather than giving a traditional point-and-click session on accessing Library resources, she likes to try to get students thinking about the information that they consume in their own lives, and how that relates to what they are being asked to do for academic research.  She kindly shared this activity on the DigPedLab Slack channel, so these are her words.

Activity

“I start by having students get into small group, anywhere from 2 to 5 depending on the size of the class and come to consensus in their groups of the top 3–5 places they go in their personal lives to get information. I stress to them that I would like to see where they actually go for information not where they think I want them to tell me they go (i.e. the library website, books etc.). I ask them to rank these places from the most frequented places to the least. I then, when possible, ask the students elect one person to go to the board and write out the list. You could easily do this in a Google Doc, or Padlet if you have a large group or want to start keeping a record.

I then ask the entire class to tell me what stands out for them on these lists. Usually this is that Google and Wikipedia are at the top, followed by YouTube and various social media sites; currently the most frequent is Instagram.

I then ask them (depending on time) what it is they like about getting information on these platforms. Sometimes I do this in groups, and sometimes I just have a class discussion about it. I use their responses to get an idea of what, how, and why they like to consume information in this way. I use this to start the conversation on thinking about how they smell the crap in the information they are getting. Here I ask them to get back into small groups and list 3–5 criteria they look for in ‘good’ information on the sites they had previously listed and how they ‘smell the crap’ of bad information. Of course, this is very subjective as to what is ‘good’.

I bring the groups back, and through a class discussion start constructing a list of what they identified in their groups as good and bad information. These lists are usually pretty good, and I can use this to start a conversation about why we need to be critical of the information we consume, any authority structures that appear here (depending on what pops up in the list), and how this applies to academic research as well as their own lives.”

One point Sajni made in our class that stuck with me was that, as a librarian, she can’t professionally recommend Wikipedia, but actually it’s a really good resource for gaining broad context on an unfamiliar subject.

Incidentally, some of the things that Sajni’s students question are:

  • Breadcrumb trails
  • Location/domain
  • Media bias
  • Adverts
  • Visual literacy – aesthetic fallacy.

Deepening media literacy practices

The session ended with Bonnie asking us which media/digital literacies we could deepen in our own practices or classes.

(Slide courtesy of Bonnie Stewart)

Within our table I said I was struggling to link a lot of this stuff to the Open University context. David White from The University of the Arts London, challenged that and I said it felt like we were often ‘hiding the vegetables’, when I wanted us to more explicitly acknowledge that students should be ‘eating their 5 a day’, and to find engaging ways to support them in that. Is that a challenge at your institution?

Après ski

In the evening I sampled the delights of Seto Sushi. If you ever find yourself in Richmond, I highly recommend it: wild salmon for the price of the farmed stuff in the UK, yum!

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Interview: The technology behind flexible learning spaces at Deakin University

Ben Sleeman
Service Development Assistant
University of Greenwich

AETM Conference 2017 and university visits, Melbourne, Australia

Ben Sleeman was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

On my visit to Australia in November to attend the AETM Conference, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, and to visit a number of Melbourne universities, I met with Jeremy West, Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution Team at Deakin University. During my visit, I found out more about the university’s use of flexible learning spaces and the technology behind them.

Jeremy talked more about HDbaseT (connectivity standard) vs. video over IP solutions and discussed the feedback that had been received from academic staff.

Other areas that I was also able to learn more about on my visit to Deakin University included:

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Benefits of a steep learning curve by a UCISA bursary winner

Sara Henderson
Graduate Intern (Student Champion)
Student Systems Project (Corporate Information and Computer Services)
University of Sheffield

 

 

Sara Henderson was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

Being awarded a UCSA bursary to attend the UCISA Support Services Group (SSG) 2017 conference was a highlight of my working year. Although SSG was not my initial choice, I felt privileged to be accommodated by the scheme nonetheless. Below is an account of how my attendance has positively shaped my professional development, institution and how this interacts with the wider HE IT sector.

For context, I am no longer working at Student Lifecycle Project at the University of Sheffield (formerly Student Systems Project), but the experience of UCISA-SSG has still had a lasting effect on my experience of the sector, as I will detail in the following paragraphs.

Professional development

Many aspects of the conference were a steep learning curve. Although I had attended conferences before, these were alongside my peers as an undergraduate, whereas UCISA-SSG17 allowed me to network with established and influential people in the sector. In some ways this was challenging – introducing myself and my involvement in the Project made me feel slightly vulnerable, but everyone I spoke to was interested and encouraging in equal measure.

Most notably, I was asked to speak on the Panel session – the headline event of the conference. Members of the panel were James Smith, Director of IT Services, Birkbeck, University of London; Adam Kearns, Students’ Union Postgraduate Office, University of Bath; Sebastian Barnes, IT Support Specialist, Leeds Beckett University, and myself. Although I was taken aback by the offer, I’m glad it was given relatively last minute, as it didn’t leave much time for the nerves to kick in. I had given presentations and spoken on a panel and in front of moderately-sized groups of people before, but never on this scale. I was accompanied by confident and competent speakers who luckily had most of the spotlight, and despite the topic areas being somewhat unfamiliar I was still able to draw on my experience as a student and university staff member. I was extremely proud of myself for accepting such a daunting but exciting opportunity, and grateful to UCISA for the experience.

Institutional benefit

Unfortunately, I was unable to present my experience of UCISA to student representatives at the University of Sheffield as I had hoped to, because the recruitment of said students was delayed for the duration of my contract on the Project. The time-scales and priorities of such a major business change project are extremely variable, so this is to be somewhat expected. However, I did share my experience with colleagues, conversationally rather than formally, and believe my attendance at the conference had a genuine impact on Student Lifecycle Project.

Firstly, I’m reminded of the ‘Adding Value with Values’ talk given by Alistair Reid-Pearson, IT Manager at the University of Huddersfield. I was heavily involved in the communication and marketing of the Project to stakeholders, and contributed to the development of our ‘Vision’, including our core values and principles. We acknowledged the importance of gaining buy-in from our team by inviting everyone to participate in the process of developing this piece.

Secondly, the electric discussion by Paul Boag, ‎User Experience Strategic Designer, Boagworks about User Experience How to start a user experience revolution’ carried through all the work I’ve done since hearing it. Being heavily involved in the prospective student enquiry management element of the project, I helped design enquiry categories in the new system, and formulate FAQs for student support and guidance. From content to layout, I began every consideration from the user’s perspective, as championed by Paul.

Lastly, Francesca Spencer’sTechnophobe Testing – an experience of providing a service to those who fear, dislike or avoid technology’ put accessibility at the forefront of my mind when supporting the development of software and services. I made it my priority to advocate for the needs of all staff and students, be it ‘technophobes’, disabled or differently-abled people, by urging their inclusion in the room.

Wider sector

It was a pleasure to contribute my dissemination to UCISA’s website (Part 1: Fresh meat and learning about user involvement and Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing) ), and I hope this was well-received. I connected on LinkedIn with some of the people I met at the conference, which has since provided plenty of reading material and food for thought, and allows me to learn from the hard-work and perseverance of others in the sector.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Lean in Higher Education conference – key learning

Marion Malcolm
Business Improvement Team Lead
University of Aberdeen

Australasian Lean HE Conference 2017, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

Marion Malcolm was funded to attend this event as a 2017 UCISA bursary winner

In November, I was able to attend the Australasian Lean HE Conference, courtesy of a UCISA bursary. I had a range of key objectives for attending the conference, one of which involved networking with practitioners from across the globe. The 150 delegates at the conference came from across Australia, Asia, New Zealand, Europe and North America.

My key learning points from attending the conference were:

I will be blogging further about the event including what my key next steps will be, and further information on my presentation on ‘Lean Training to Lean Projects’.

Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.