Tag Archives: higher education

Technology Enhanced Active Learning and Active Learning Spaces

Emma Fletcher
Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor
York St John University

EDUCAUSE 2017

At the recent EDUCASE 2017 conference, which I was able to join courtesy of a UCISA bursary, I was able to attend a session on Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs), named by EDUCAUSE as the top strategic technology of 2017 due to the popularity and innovation of ALCs. Active learning classrooms (ALCs) are designed to create affordances that support active learning pedagogies (which research has demonstrated are better when compared with more passive types of learning).

Presented by D. Christopher Brooks and Malcolm Brown (from EDUCAUSE), Melody Buckner  (University of Arizona), Adam Finkelstein (McGill University) and Sehoya Cotner (University of Minnesota), the session explored the research around ALCs as well as looking at the teaching practices that work best in them. There were examples from research, at the University of Minnesota, where the traditional teaching (large lectures) was compared with smaller ALC style teaching. This showed that students in traditional classrooms achieved as expected, however ALC students outperformed against their expected grades. One message that came out of the session was that potential of ALCs can only be realised if you have good teaching. Changing the space may mean that the instructor doesn’t know how to teach in the new space (teachers may try and use the traditional lecture style in the new spaces so, for example, students would have their back to lecturers) and active learning gains are achieved by academics teaching to fit the learning space.

Goals of the Active Learning Initiative

The third day of the EDUCAUSE conference, had a  further technology session presented by Virginia Lacefield, Enterprise Architect at University of Kentucky, looking at ‘Evaluating the Impact of Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms on Students and Instructors: Lessons from our First Full Year’.

Between 2014 and 2016, the University of Kentucky had opened 17 new Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) spaces at the university and carried out an evaluation of the impact of these on teaching, student learning outcomes and retention. The data collected consisted of surveys from both students and instructors as well as classroom observations and course grades. The classroom observations (adapted from the University of Minnesota developed instrument) were timed observations where every five minutes they marked down what the students and instructor were doing.

The observations showed a great deal of variation between classes. The findings of the staff survey showed that 18% of staff did not plan to use active learning strategies and 29% of staff planned not to use the TEAL equipment. 126 of the courses taught in TEAL had enough data points for comparison, 35 of these courses had significant grade differences for all students (29 had a positive difference favouring the TEAL sections, six had a positive difference favouring the non-TEAL sections). When they looked at retention, they found that there was significant correlation between number of TEAL courses taken and second year retention. As a result they are increasing the support for staff to help support the use of TEAL, such as technology/pedagogy open houses, scheduled one-on-one support appointments, giving advance notice of classroom assignment and communicating about available support resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other highlights of the EDUCAUSE conference included:

 

 

 

HE survey on business analysis and making the most of the UCISA bursary

Sarah Cockrill
Business Systems Analyst
Coventry University

Member of UCISA-PCMG

 

 

 

As business analysts, we are constantly learning how people perform their jobs roles. Gaining an understanding of how they capture, process and output information in order to achieve the desired outcomes. We capture this information so that we can identify areas of improvement. We also help to implement new ways of working, new software systems or processes that enable our organisations to achieve their strategic goals. As business analysts how often do we take a step back and analyse our own ways of working? Do we stop and benchmark ourselves against other Business Analysts working in the HE community or beyond in the corporate world?

In 2016 as part of my role on the UCISA Project and Change Management Group (PCMG) committee, I carried out a survey to measure the maturity of the business analysis community within the higher education (HE) sector. This informed our understanding of where we were as a community in terms of maturity.

The survey which was sent out to all members of the PCMG mailing list received a 32% response rate, which falls well within the expected response rate for an email survey. The survey results showed that every responding institution was undertaking business analysis activities, with over 65% having a dedicated business analysis team. This clearly shows that there is a recognised need for business analysis activities in the sector. When we looked at the average size of the business analysis teams, we found that it came in at around five members of staff on average, which shows that it is still considered a relatively small area of operations for most organisations. The majority of business analysis teams had been in existence for less than ten years, however most institutions had been undertaking analysis activities prior to the formation of a dedicated business analysis team. The question that gave us a real insight into the maturity of the business analysis function, showed us that 70% of organisations still see the business analysis function as an IT related one. In a mature organisation, we would expect to see the business analysis function sitting with and supporting the senior management team of the organisation. One may argue that just because they are located in an IT function they still may be closely aligned to senior management.  However, evidence shows that most organisations still consider them to be an IT asset with half of business analysts in the sector only working on IT change projects.

Overall, the survey results show us that as a sector we have not matured enough to be in a position to assist in driving the business strategy. As a sector, we are still working mainly on IT driven change initiatives and are based within the ITS function. The majority of business analysts are not undertaking market and competitor analysis or getting involved in pre-project work, such as feasibility studies and business case development.

In 2011 and 2012, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) undertook a similar survey in the UK. The results showed that the average maturity levels for business analysis functions based in industry matched those found from our 2016 survey of HE institutions. However, as the IIBA survey was four years older than the HE one I carried out, we can hypothesise they have made some progress in maturing as a sector in those intervening years.

The question then arose, how do we as a community compare against business analysts working in the commercial sector?

I wanted to get an understanding of the tools and techniques they were using, to see if they were ahead of the game compared to the HE sector. Do they experience the same issues when undertaking their analysis, did they have the same frustrations as us and encounter the same blockers? What methods did they employ to attempt to overcome obstacles?

Through UCISA’s Groups and Communities of Practice, the HE community is offered an excellent platform to share knowledge, experience and good practice. To step outside this community and gain knowledge of the commercial field, the UCISA bursary scheme allows you the opportunity to attend conferences such as the IIBA conference. This gives you the opportunity to meet and hear first-hand from Business Analysts working outside of the HE sector.

In 2016, I was lucky enough to be awarded a UCISA bursary to attend the IIBA conference in London. I found the experience gave me an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge on the role of a business analyst working in the corporate world. Listening to presentations from speakers who came from a mix of corporate backgrounds on the topics that mattered to them, gave me an insight into the issues they faced, the tools they used and solutions that had worked for them.

The main recurring theme of the conference was not one of the newest tools, or methodologies but one of the age old issues that faces every business analyst, one of capturing the requirements effectively. I saw several speakers that presented this topic in unique ways and from different angles but the message boiled down to the same fact. As analysts when capturing requirements, we must listen to what our stakeholders really want and stop trying to solutionize and jump to conclusions without capturing the real facts.

The second topic that seemed to be prevalent at the conference was of course, Agile. I know from personal experience in the HE sector many of us are only just starting to dip our toe into the world of Agile project delivery. I found that while the corporate world had been using Agile for a number of years they were still struggling with the same basic issues of trying to fit Agile into organisational structures that were not designed to support this type of delivery. For example:

  • Off shore development teams supporting project managers and analysts working in the UK.
  • Trying to fit Agile delivery into project management structures where the supporting processes were originally developed to support waterfall delivery of projects.
  • Gaining real buy in from senior management to support Agile delivery and provide the Agile teams with someone from the business that would be not only a dedicated resource to the project, but one with the authority to make the business decisions required by the development teams.

Of course, the conference providers ensured there were lots of chances to network in between sessions and this gave me the perfect opportunity to chat one-to-one with other business analysts and delve a bit deeper into their experiences.

The key learning point for me from the whole experience is that there are very little differences between our worlds. Yes, our products or services may differ but the challenges we face as business analysts remain the same. We all struggle to get recognition for the importance of the analyst’s role, we are all bought in too late to projects to have a real impact on the outcome, and we are all given too little resource to undertake the analysis effectively. The funding from the UCISA bursary to attend the conference informed my knowledge of the business analysis sector outside of the HE environment. I believe this knowledge is invaluable to business analyst working in HE as it enables us to mature and grow beyond the confines of our own sector.

 

Learning, networking and discussing

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University 

EUNIS 2017 overall reflections

I feel highly fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend EUNIS17 through the success of my bursary application to UCISA and will be forever grateful for this opportunity. The conference has been a great place to not only learn new technologies and techniques that can be implemented to benefit our home institutions, but also a fantastic opportunity to network with a broad range of IT professionals working in higher education throughout Europe. I have personally found it very interesting to share stories of our own successes and challenges which encourage further discussion amongst peers from their own perspective. It has been comforting to see that a range of challenges are shared by many of us and also to see where we at Leeds Beckett University are working at the forefront in HE. Everyone that I met through attendance at the keynotes and parallel sessions as well as the social opportunities, were fantastically welcoming and open to honest discussion around their own institution’s IT implementations. It has proven to be eye opening and given me plenty of food for thought to bring back and discuss further within my own institution.

It was my first time visiting Munster and my experience in Germany has been entirely positive. Munster is a very beautiful city with plenty of interesting historical architecture. However, my first impression which struck me on my first night of arrival was that is seem to be a bit of a ghost town. Having arrived after 10 pm and walked from the train station to my hotel there was next to nobody around, which is very different in my experiences elsewhere. Thankfully the next morning demonstrated the natural hustle and bustle of busy city life. The main difference I witnessed immediately from my experiences back home was simply the thousands of cyclists buzzing around the streets at some speed, it felt like being in Amsterdam or Copenhagen.

The conference felt well organised and the flow from session to session worked very well. It was clear that plenty of planning had been conducted to ensure that we delegates got the best experience from the three days (four for some who attended the pre-conference sessions). Reviewing it from my professional perspective, there were no obvious technical issues experienced throughout the sessions I attended and any minor glitches were proactively picked up by the local support team, which I thought was impressive. Overall, it has been a very enjoyable conference experience and one that I would highly recommend to others in the future. Given that next year’s conference is due to take place in Paris, I would imagine that there may be more UK representation in the delegation as I was the only one (at least that I encountered) representing a UK university. This primarily had a number of benefits however, with a range of questions from European peer institutions directed towards me, and equally allowed me a cross-European perspective on topics of interest.

All relevant information relating to EUNIS 17 can be found on the official site here.

… and a book of all EUNIS 2017 proceedings including all papers can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/

 

Consequences for an IT Department of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University
 

EUNIS 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During his EUNIS 2017 keynote ‘General Data Protection Regulation – Consequences for an IT Department’, Rainer W. Gerling, CISO of the Max Planck Society & Honorary professor for IT Security in the department of Computer Science and Mathematics at the Munich University of Applied Sciences, took us on a journey to better understand the soon to be fully in force General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) within the European Union. In 2012, the European Commission tabled an initial proposal to regulate data protection within the EU and by the end of 2015, the European Commission, European Council and European Parliament had come to an agreement to take it forward. At this point in 2017, we are currently residing within the grace period before it formally comes into full force on 25th May 2018… this leaves all of us with not a lot of time to get our houses in order!


 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft within the development of their Windows 10 operating system now offer more than 50 native data protection settings within the ‘Privacy Settings’ however, Rainer stressed that it is highly important that we in HE review these settings to adjust from defaults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given the serious nature of the proposed fines, which can be as much as €20 million if found in breach of the regulations, it is certainly worth taking the new legislation very, very seriously. Encryption is paramount in accordance with GDPR Article 32 and what needs to be encrypted? Well, pretty much everything!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technically, standards which are considered ‘state of the art’ only remain so for a limited lifespan as new and improved solutions are developed, as is demonstrated in the below in relation to cryptographic protocols. It is therefore, important that we continually review to ensure that we are meeting legislative requirements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what should we be doing now? We should be:

  • Contacting our relevant data protection officers to discuss the implications of the legislation in line with our own institutions technical configuration.
  • Acknowledging that it is not simply the IT departments’ responsibility to ensure that we meet the relevant legislative needs but that the University as a whole is responsible.
  • Documenting our technical measures in line with ISO27000.
  • Collaborating with other HE institutions.

And we should be…

  • Improving our technical measures and accepting that state of the art is a moving target.

Rainer suggests that the current technical recommendations are:

(Click on photo to expand)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

New ideas and innovative concepts

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University
 

EUNIS 2017 Day 3 Reflections

Day 3 was a shorter day at EUNIS17 with an early afternoon closing to allow for everyone to travel home.  In contrast to the previous two days, it started with a number of optional parallel sessions to choose from in place of early morning keynotes. This morning I chose to mix-and-match with parallel sessions, starting off in a session on the “New Ideas & Innovative Concepts” track and following on to 2 sessions on “Learning, Teaching & Student Experience”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mikko Mäkelä and his colleagues at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Finland are required like many of us to have to optimise their estate and within that their technology offerings. This was discussed in Mikko’s session ‘New Ideas & Innovative Concepts: Laptop Lending, with Zero Effort?

Additionally, the BYOD world in which we are now living is having an effect on our students’ expectations and the way in which they learn both on and off campus. Mikko identified that this change in technology provision should not simply be driven by the IT department but also by the changes in teaching styles within the business. It was highlighted that a key factor in deciding what we need to provide is to better understand how our students are currently working and indeed how they would like to learn and work in the future.

By comparison to some other universities having presented at EUNIS17, Metropolia University is a relatively modestly sized university with just over 16,000 students and around 1,000 staff.  They identified that the classroom PCs were not utilised enough and that they may be in the wrong locations. Additionally, they were commonly not available at peak times between 10:00 and 14:00. It was therefore decided that a new approach had to be adopted to enable increased flexibility whilst offering a service that was of high-quality, available where and when required, and inclusive of all appropriate software. Metropolia investigated a variety of the lending options that were on the market including those from Posti, Redbox, D-Tech International and Ergotron. Following this, a number of their students undertook projects to design and develop a suitable laptop loans offering and created a new solution they named “LaptopLender”. Their resultant theses can be found link below: (please note they are in Finnish)

Theses 1

Theses 2

A link to Mikko’s presentation slides can be found: Eunis2017: Laptop lending, with zero-effort?

A link to Mikko’s “Laptop lending, with zero-effort?” paper can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/27/day-3-reflections/

 

 

Don’t be afraid to ask – implementing a Learning Management System


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

Mike Thomas Floejborg from the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) ran an interesting Parallel Session on Day Two of the EUNIS conference, ‘Leadership and Management – Don’t be Afraid to Ask: Implementing “New Absalon”’. The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is the oldest university in Denmark and has four primary campuses in the capital city. The university has around 40,000 students and around 10,000 staff and is divided into six faculties. In 2014, UCPH committed to a project to replace their existing Learning Management System (LMS) named Absalon, running on ItsLearning with a new system running on Canvas LMS, to retain the name “Absalon” (a reference to a former Danish Archbishop).  They went into the project with a commitment to organise it with three key elements in mind: involvement, dialogue, and transparency.

It was clarified that this was an ambitious project with a tight time schedule:

  • December 2014 – Decision made to procure and implement new LMS
  • June 2015 – Project initiated
  • May 2016 – Go live (Autumn courses)
  • Jan 2017 – Expiration of contract with current supplier (ItsLearning).

Mike continued to reinforce the fact that the stakeholders’ engagement was integral to the success of the project:

  • Organisation provided inputs for the system requirements.
  • Expert group organised, prioritised and qualified the inputs.
  • Teachers, students and members of the expert group tested the systems and chose a winner.
  • The project (including chairman of the steering committee) visited the local management of all six faculties.
    • The faculty reps were worried if the project was realistic.
    • This tour helped produce a supportive and calm stakeholder community.

The benefits of such an engaging approach were clearly evident. There was significant goodwill from management, teachers and students to the delivery of the project and subsequent use. All project participants were dedicated to the end goal. The faculties took responsibility for the local implementation of “New Absalon” and the consistent transparency and engagement are believed to have increased the recorded user satisfaction.

A link to Mike’s “Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: Implementing “New Absalon” paper can be found here.

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

 

 

Next generation Digital Learning Architecture

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

EUNIS 2017

Dr. Rob Abel, Chief Executive Officer of IMS Global Learning Consortium, came across from the USA to talk us through his thoughts on the future of Digital Learning Architecture in Higher Education at EUNIS 2017. He very quickly put strong emphasis on the importance of a digital transformation strategy within HE institutions and outlined that IT should be an enabler to teaching and learning innovation. Dr. Abel’s presentation had so much content, in truth it was difficult to keep up. He gave us an overview of the tools and technology in place within the HE market for teaching and learning as outlined in the photo below: (apologies for poor image quality)


 

 

 

 

 

 

An outdated architecture for learning had different systems uniquely silo-ed with little to no interoperability:


 

 

 

 

 

 

What if now it was quicker and easier to make systems work in harmony, to benefit the connected learner? Well, Dr. Abel, in collaboration with Malcolm Brown (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) and Jack Suess (University of Maryland), had previously written a paper in 2013 analysing “A New Architecture for Learning” which highlights the need for an IT department to be agile, flexible and allow for personalisation when integrating new innovative learning technologies. Seamless interoperability between both current and future developed systems is the key to success; not simply an over-reliance on a current Learning Management System (LMS), but an ecosystem developed beyond it. Dr Abel referenced a very useful paper produced by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative in 2015 entitled “The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment” which is worth your time to read and is available here

Dr. Abel then took the opportunity to take us on a high-speed tour of the benefits and impact of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), which include:

  • Reduced integration time and cost by a factor of 100-1000x
  • Ubiquitous across 70+ learning platforms
  • Hundreds of certified LTI apps of varying types
  • Foundation of interoperable edtech ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMS Global have publicly released Caliper, a learning analytics interoperability framework that enables the collection, storage and transportation of data about learning. The Caliper framework removes the limitations of a single LMS system and opens up a broad range of benefits to be realised through the integration and interoperability of multiple systems. It is worth noting that it is being taken seriously by many HE institutions and partners, so is not one to simply toss aside without further investigation.

Seven things you should know about Caliper

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/2017/06/25/day-2-reflections/

Digital Skills for a New Generation


 

 

 

 

Ed Stout
Support Services Manager
Leeds Beckett University

Day Two EUNIS17

Day two was another great day at EUNIS17.   Following an early morning fear of conference burn out, having been up late writing up my notes from the Wednesday sessions, I took the option not to make the day quite as manic/tiring as my first day. Day two of the conference was opened with three highly interesting keynotes.

Martin Hamilton of Jisc opened his keynote ‘Life on Mars: Digital Skills for a New Generation’  with a look into the future. What careers do we think are going to play a new role in the future and what should we as HE institutions be doing to ensure that we successfully leverage/support these? When we think of our current course offerings, are we considering DNA editors, drone engineers or even asteroid miners? Should we be? Well, quite possibly. We need to ensure that we are “equipping today’s learners for tomorrow’s world,” Martin tells us, and ensure that we support the “digitally disadvantaged to achieve their potential.” These three mentioned careers are already available in our transforming marketplace; are we helping them to achieve their career aspirations?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what more does our future world hold for us? Martin felt it important that we not only focus on the future, as there are elements of the present, which we may not be best supporting to enable our students to meet that future. With “every self-respecting billionaire” investing in a space programme, maybe we should take note.  Space X have developed a rocket that would have previously been sent into space at a cost of $100 million, never to return. They’re now making space exploration “affordable” by the launch and safe return of rockets to Earth!! Is this the sort of development of the future that we in higher education should ensure we do not simply overlook?

SpaceX – First-stage landing from THAICOMB mission May 2016.

Could robots actually play a big part in future? In Japan, SoftBank have invested in the development of a humanoid robot they call Pepper. “He” is intended to be able to interpret emotions and effectively respond to questions. As you can see in the below video, emotional robotics may be in their infancy but they will need highly trained professionals to take them on to reach their potential. A gap in the mass HE market maybe?

Pepper the ‘emotional’ robot visits the FT | FT Life.

Martin explained how the technical world is changing the everyday jobs we have been accustomed to. With over 3,000,000 truck drivers in the USA and over 300,000 taxi drivers in the UK, advancements in vehicular automation is very likely to have an impact. It isn’t just Google with their WAYMO project that are investing. Tesla car owners have already driven over 140,000,000 miles on autopilot. Self-driving cars are here! With this technology now available in the present, we in HE must be aware that the post-graduation jobs market is shifting and so with it our students’ needs/demands. Martin also made reference to how Amazon have realigned their warehouses and distribution centres with over 45,000 robots (BettyBots)completing orders in a “human exclusion zone”. These are jobs that once would have been completed by humans and now make up 12% of Amazon’s workforce.

High-Speed Robots Part 1: Meet BettyBot in “Human Exclusion Zone” Warehouses-The Window-WIRED

Given the pace of change, we need to make sure that our institutions are assisting our students’ needs to re-train. Maybe we need to be re-focusing on training for careers in robot script writing, self-drive car engineering or robotic engineering. Our vision for the future will be the defining factor that shapes our successes.

For anyone wishing to view Martin’s full presentation, he has recorded and made it available on YouTube here:

This blog post first appeared on http://www.edstout.co.uk/blog/

 

 

Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)

 

 

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

UCISA SSG17: Reflections from a bursary scheme winner

This is the moment of truth.  I take to the stage to speak on my first ever conference panel session, an extremely popular fixture at UCISA-SSG .  As I meet my fellow panellists, I’m half-waiting for someone to yell “INTRUDER” and haul me off the stage, but before I know it my name flashes up on the screen and all eyes are on us.

The questions roll in, some wackier than others, and I do my best to answer them honestly, but with many falling outside of my remit, I find it difficult to feel completely at ease.  I’m in the strange position of being a recent student and new staff member, meaning I have a slightly diluted experience of both roles.

Nevertheless, the panel really coloured my reflections of the conference and beyond.  It also tied together some themes which came out of the week – that people come before technology, services need to be user-focused and the tech industry ought to be a collaborative space.

To borrow Francesca Spencer’s poignant acronym DISC (Dave, Ian, Steve and Chris), alluding to the lack of diversity in IT (which she affectionately Room 101-ed), it was difficult not to contemplate this reality as the only woman panel member at a conference of mostly men.  This is not to bash the conference or its attendees, but simply to acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do.

So if you’re yet to be a believer in the power of diversifying IT, let’s call this my manifesto.

  1. It’s good for business

Beyond a moral impetus, crudely speaking, a diverse team is a more effective one.  Looking at the demography of the industry, we are only making use of a limited cross-section of society within our teams, leading to a major skill-shortage despite growing demand.  So – diversify, or get left behind.

  1. Challenge is good

A homogenous group is less likely to be critical of each other because of their shared experiences. Imagine asking two identical job candidates to critique each other – it would be a bit like playing spot the difference.  But by broadening your team’s demography, you embed the opportunity for challenge in its make-up.  The right kind of challenge drives success.

  1. Stop! in the name of users

Perhaps you’re with me so far, and you’re wondering “what does this have to do with me and my team’s work”?  But there is another, more nuanced point to be made for the case of diversity within IT, regarding the diversity of users’ experiences with technology.  Asking an IT expert about an IT question is going to get you a professional answer.  But asking a “layman” might get you a more interesting one. Take the example of me sitting onstage at the panel session and feeling like an imposter – maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to have someone there who was agnostic to the cause.

  1. Students know what they want (and they’re not afraid to say it)

 That the panel got such a positive and enthusiastic reception is just a reminder of how keen university staff are to hear the “student voice”.  So if you’re aching to hear how to provide the best support services to students – just ask them!  You can only ‘put yourself in their shoes’ so many times before you hit a dead end, and it’s dangerous to make assumptions.  As Kerry Pinny so passionately expressed, there is no such thing as a digital native: being a millennial doesn’t mean you come out of the womb holding an iPhone, and students have a diverse range of experiences to offer you.  So maybe I wasn’t the best user for that panel, or maybe there isn’t such a thing.

Follow me on LinkedIn

(Presentations and video catalogue are available on the conference website)

(Further information on Sheffield’s Graduate internship scheme, can be found at: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/recruitment/graduateinternship)

 

Part 1: Fresh meat and learning about user involvement

 

 

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

 

 

UCISA SSG17: Reflections from a bursary scheme winner

I should start by introducing myself.  I’m Sara and I work as Student Engagement Officer on a major business change project at the University of Sheffield.  I began in January on the University’s Graduate Internship Scheme, before being extended in my role.  A colleague encouraged me to apply to UCISA’s bursary scheme as a junior member of staff, so that I did.

I am interested in technology but motivated by people, so SSG17 presented the perfect opportunity to learn from others in the sector and gain a wider perspective on the work I’m doing.  Now that’s out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.  I present to you my diary (of sorts) from the conference, showcasing some of my thoughts and favourite moments.

Day 1

11:30am

Fuelled by coffee and adrenaline, I find myself in the conference exhibition space, perusing the exhibition but avoiding eye contact.  I glance around the room to see pockets of conversation forming; for some this is an opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues, whereas the rest of us are fresh meat.

13:10pm

Neil Morris from the University of Leeds captures the delegates’ imagination with his presentation ‘Reimagining Traditional Higher Education in the Digital Age’ , focused on how to embed technology-enhanced learning in partnership with students.  “We don’t involve students in projects, we don’t seek their feedback in ways they are interested in giving it, or make use of their intelligence and creativity”.

Neil’s talk affirms why I wanted to come to this conference, challenging the status so often assigned to students – as being passive receivers of knowledge and services, rather than intelligent consumers.  We ought to be involving students in project work, fundamentally and authentically.

15:50pm

Room 101 proves a fantastic way to end the first day, with an all-female panel and some very funny moments.  Did someone say Apple Genius Bar?

11:20am

The day kicks off to an unnerving start when I find out that the panel I am shortly appearing on is one of the most popular sessions of the conference.  To find out more about my experience, head over to my second post – ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’.

12:20pm

Now for perhaps my favourite talk of the conference: ‘Technophobe Testing’ by Francesca Spencer (Leeds Beckett University).  The basic premise is that in IT of all places, we ought to be involving technophobes, because they can actually be a help rather than a hindrance to our work.  Francesca had the brainwave of recruiting some self-confessed technophobes, and observing their use of AV equipment in a judgement-free zone to determine how to make it more user-friendly.  We need to embed our users in the process of implementing technology (before it’s too late).

Day 3

9:00am

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to climb down from my pedestal during breakfast, on what is affectionately known as “fuzzy Friday”. Unlike some of the conference-goers making a beeline for a fry-up, I opted to for a sensible night in after a case of conference-fatigue…

12:30pm

Paul Boag closes SSG17 by informing us ‘How to Create a User Experience Revolution’ .  His insistence that “if you don’t speak to your users once every six weeks, you don’t get to be a stakeholder in a project” certainly rung true, and he comfortably drew together some key themes from the conference, about collaborative working, establishing shared values and cultural change.

So there we have it – my experience in a nutshell.  Thank you to UCISA for having me, and if you want to hear more from me, head over to my second post ‘Part 2: Not in the IT crowd (and that can be a good thing)’, or follow me on LinkedIn:

(Presentations and video streaming available at the conference website)