Tag Archives: higher education

Bursary gives winner the courage to innovate and take up new challenges

Leah March
Process Improvement Facilitator
University of Sheffield

Lessons learned from the Lean HE Tromsø conference

In October 2018, I received a UCISA bursary to attend the Lean HE 2018 Conference in Tromsø thanks to being one of the very lucky beneficiaries of the UCISA bursary scheme. It was a brilliant week with many informative, interesting and applicable sessions.
The conference brings together many people working in change and improvement roles within HE around the world.

On a personal note

I found attending the conference thoroughly invigorating. It reinforced my pride and passion for working in business improvement and confidence in my skill set and its place within the sector. It also provided me with the ‘courage to change’ my own situation (Professor Tove Dahl spoke powerfully about courage in her key note). I applied for and accepted a new role within another HE institution.

My team

It encouraged me to devise with my team new approaches to stakeholder engagement, particularly in light of the recurrent theme of reducing stakeholder time for project/improvement activities and stakeholder exhaustion with ‘change’ projects. I have adapted my approach to rely a lot less on conventional workshops, instead embracing user shadowing, stakeholder interviews/drop-ins and project showcase events. This has been more time heavy on me but has allowed me to better fit around the requirements and workloads of the project stakeholders.

Institutionally

A recurrent theme of the conference was the importance of combining different but complementary methodologies. I was recently made responsible for creating The University of Sheffield’s approach to service design and I took my learning from the conference and made sure that I incorporated best practice from different methodologies (Lean, Systems Thinking, Six Sigma, Service Design) and other industries rather than allowing it to become too wedded to a single one.

More widely

I have shared my experience and key take home messages via a UCISA blog and have also recently created a summary guide with fellow bursary winner and conference attendee, Mark Boswell. The aim of the guide is to highlight useful tools and topics shared throughout the conference and some tips on making the most of the conference experience. It also includes possible next steps in relation to both attending the 2019 conference, and applying for the UCISA bursary funding which allowed us to attend.
The conference really showed me that there is a huge support network within HE both UK based and across Europe, Australia and the Americas, and the value of reaching out to this network, which can provide you with great insights, reassurance and ideas about how to optimise your work. I am still in touch with some of the people I met at the conference via Linkedin and email and feel like I have a bigger network of support than before.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Learning how to future proof integrations at Integrate

Bryony Lloyd
Information Services Developer
University of Lincoln

Integrate 2018, London, 4th– 6th June

In June 2018, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Integrate 2018 conference, run by Biztalk360, thanks to the UCISA bursary. This consisted of three days of talks from Biztalk experts and also industry leaders who are utilising this technology. Being able to listen to these industry experts about how they utilise the technology in their environment, as well as the draw backs and the advantages, has enabled me to adapt the developments in order to make the most out of the Biztalk environment.
Other benefits of the conference included learning about the direction Biztalk is going in from their developers. Bringing this back to the team has ensured we can plan for how we future proof our integrations. Personally, being able to hear about the direction and new features being introduced has been far more effective than just reading about it on the internet. This has enabled me to widen my knowledge of their plan which again has allowed us to start discussions within the team on how to future proof our integrations. Although nothing immediate has happened since, the knowledge gained from the conference has enabled me to participate in discussions within the department and with Microsoft about the best way forward for our setup.
After coming back from the conference, I spoke to the team about the options we have. We have also started looking into other options presented at the conference such as Logic Apps on Microsoft Azure. At the conference, the interface and the basics of how the interface works were demonstrated with hints and tips on how to use certain features and how to get the most out of it. This has put me in a better position to share my knowledge and experience with the team.
In the next six months to a year, we will be looking at how the Biztalk environment is set up and how we are going to ensure we are getting the most out of it. This might be changing to or incorporating other technologies such as Logic Apps and Microsoft Azure in order to achieve this.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Educause inspires an Agile approach for bursary winner

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Team Manager
Loughborough University

Educause 2018

In 2018, I was one of the lucky recipients of a UCISA bursary, which enabled me to attend the Educause conference in Denver, Colorado. The Educause conference is something that has been on my radar for 20 years, and it’s no coincidence that it is celebrating 20 years this year. 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.
It is an absolutely enormous event, with around 8,000 attendees registered this year. That’s over ten times larger than most of the UK conferences in this area, which is why they need a venue the size of the Colorado Convention Centre to host it. I sought advice from past attendees (including past UCISA bursary recipients), and one common theme was “don’t be overwhelmed” as well as being prepared for very long days.
Educause brings together all of these thousands of people under the broad heading of technology in education, with a broad mix of attendees from junior learning developers through to project managers and all the way up to CIOs and CTOs. UCISA very helpfully hold an informal networking event for UK attendees, and this was very useful for putting faces to some of the people that I had been interacting with on Twitter in the weeks leading up to the conference.
I threw 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 colleges, and a nice guy from a start up company who are looking to get into the world of online learning with an interesting web tool.
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. 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 where I made some contributions to the topic. The conference was utterly exhausting but hugely rewarding.
I came away from the conference with a head full of ideas, many of which will take some time to implement, but some of them formed the basis for some 2019 resolutions in terms of running projects and building relationships. My team are looking to run more Agile projects in 2019, and one of the key challenges is getting buy in from other areas of the university for this methodology. An Agile approach provides multiple opportunities for engagement throughout the project lifecycle. A “business ambassador” from the area of the business where the solution will be used is assigned to the project. The role provides the business perspective for all decisions related to the way the solution’s fitness for business purpose is defined and implemented. Working closely with the solution development team, the business ambassador guides the evolution of the solution, bringing other users’ input and ideas to the project as required.
As a true ambassador, the role is responsible for the day-to-day communication channels between the project and the business. The business ambassador must have the desire, authority, responsibility and knowledge to be able to ensure that the right solution emerges to meet the business need. This does not necessarily imply a senior position within the organisation, but a level of empowerment during the project to fulfil the role and an allocation of time to fully participate in the project as required. It was very useful to hear stories from other institutions about their approaches to this.
The conference hashtag #edu18 was a very busy one, and many of the conversations have continued long after the conference. I’ve expanded my personal learning network and have some new contacts on Twitter that I’ve been interacting with since the conference. During the trip, and since my return, I have shared my experiences of the conference on the ALT EMLT blog, the UCISA blog and on Twitter via my own account and the UCISA DEG account. I also spoke to a number of attendees at the recent UCISA DEG event on Immersive Environments about my experience and some of the technologies I had seen in Denver.
I have met with colleagues at various levels within the institution since my return, and have encouraged many of them to apply for a future UCISA bursary so that they might be able to take advantage of it in 2019 or beyond in order to help them with their own development goals. The UCISA bursary presents a unique opportunity for recipients to attend an event which can benefit themselves, their team, their department, their institution, and their wider network with the HE sector.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Bursary winner shares learning from InfoSec 2018 with colleagues and future IT professionals

Haydn Tarr
IT Service Development Manager
The University of Chichester

 

InfoSecurity Europe 2018 Conference

Back in June 2018, I was very fortunate to be offered the UCISA bursary to attend InfoSecurity Europe conference in London. InfoSec as a conference offers attendees insights into the latest trends surrounding information security, and largely focusses on cyber security threat prevention and mitigation.
Attending this conference was refreshing for me in two ways. I was exposed to a number of new and emerging themes and it was great to meet new people with exciting ideas, and a real drive to provide a safe, digital environment for colleagues and customers. I hope that with this blog post, I can give you a sense of my overall experience and share some of the information from the event.
Throughout the years I have supported The University of Chichester’s IT infrastructure journey from being based solely on site, to having a blend of both hosted and on-premise deployments. As Chichester grows both in terms of its IT deployment but also in numbers of students, staff members and other types of users, it is inevitable that our cloud footprint will grow too. With this, my role is focussing more and more on security whilst enabling digital transformation projects, which, by their own nature have implications when it comes to protecting the data of our user-base. One of the things I value most from being able to attend InfoSec was being able to share Chichester’s story with other representatives from both commercial and non-profit organisations and learn that they were too, facing the same challenges.

It’s not a case of ‘if’, but ‘when’….

A common discussion point which came up regularly at InfoSec was prevention and mitigation methods against cyber-attacks. However, vendors and consumers generally agree that total prevention isn’t guaranteed and that it’s only a matter of time until an organisation’s next cyber incident. One session that I attended, had determined the average time taken to expose a breach is 191 days. For some organisations this presents potential cultural challenges as the workforce isn’t always empowered to blow the whistle when a breach is identified. Should a breach be discovered from outside the organisation however, the repercussions could be irreparable. One of my personal takeaways from InfoSec from the sessions was using repositories such as ‘haveibeenpwned.com’ and cross referencing these with our global email address lists to determine if any of email addresses had been leaked. Someone was even so kind as to point me in the direction of the PowerShell script which carries out the comparison, which we’re still using regularly now.

Old tricks are still the most effective

In the sessions and general conversations, email continues to thrive as the primary threat to an organisation’s information security. Email attacks have been at play for over twenty years now and yet commercial, education and non-profit organisations are still struggling to deal with these attacks. It was reassuring to hear that we weren’t alone in this battle.
I took many technical recommendations away with me from the conference, such as providing banners on external emails, identifying cloned addresses and recommendations to use Office 365’s security assessment, which identifies any vulnerabilities in your tenancy and makes the appropriate recommendations.

In light of the above, what was promising to hear is that many organisations are attempting to strike a balance between prevention measures and training. Implementing proactive measures to prevent threats is the immediate go-to action, however, both commercial organisations and HEIs are investing more into providing user training and assessing their security vulnerabilities within the workforce. I came out of InfoSec in high spirits, knowing that in the absence of an unlimited budget for investing in security measures, we are fortunate to have at Chichester an open dialogue with our students and staff with regards to awareness of cyber threats and good digital security practice in a modern University.

Reflections and future prospects

InfoSec really broadened my horizons to information security in a way that I hadn’t been exposed to previously. So much so that it has had an impact on my academic studies where leadership in cyber security forms the main subject area of the final year dissertation for my master’s. Recently I have been invited into teaching sessions to talk with degree apprenticeship students about some of the subject areas covered at InfoSec in the hope that it could have a positive impact in their professional lives.
Lastly, I would like to extend my gratitude once more to UCISA for providing me with the opportunity to visit InfoSec.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Making a difference in education beyond technology at DigPedLab 2018

Marcus Elliott
Digital Practice Adviser
Nottingham Trent University

 

 

Digital Pedagogy Lab 2018

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

Continue reading

Communities matter

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

International lessons in applying continuous improvement

Leah March
Process Improvement Facilitator
University of Sheffield

 

 

Lean HE 2018 Conference

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

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

Open scholarship challenges

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

Post-conference reflections on FORCE2018

Introduction

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

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

Central Themes

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

Open Access and Academic Reward and Recognition Policies

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

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

San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

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

LSHTM Open Access Week – Screening ‘Paywall the Movie’

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

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

James Cox
Customer Success Analyst – Web CMS
University of Oxford

Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding invisible labour: University of Greenwich

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

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

“We are really important to the future of education”

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

Last month, courtesy of being awarded a UCISA bursary, I travelled up to Manchester (the city of 100,000 students) for the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018. While it was my first ALTC, it was actually the 25th in the series and there was considerable reflection on changes to the learning technologist role and in learning technology itself.  In my posts about ALTC, I want to share some of the noticeable themes and my favourite moments.
The ALTC 2018 committee team launch the conference

I am woman

This year saw three inspiring women providing the ALTC plenaries, unfortunately, unusual enough an occurrence that it warrants comment. On day 1 Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, gave a sociological unpacking of educational technology and explored the idea that context matters and learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Tessie suggested that the time is right for us to deconstruct learning technology and consider how we want to put the pieces back together. Learning technologies have (in the US) emerged as administrative units but would they benefit from being a unique academic discipline? She shared the example of the born digital programmes she has led on where “edtech is not just a set of tools but a philosophy about how we think about things” – offering opportunities to the non-traditional student.
On day 2 Amber Thomas, Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick, gave a wonderful talk considering ‘Twenty years on the edge’. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.  Way too much good stuff to write about here but the main take away was a pat on the back for those of us working with learning technology in HE.
ALT’s 25 year anniversary playing card pack
Things aren’t easy – not only do we suffer from impostor syndrome when we do well but there is also a misapprehension that innovation is isolated to the commercial sector and that governments and agencies are blockers of change. Amber pointed out some of our collective work, from 3.5 million spent on MOOCs, to great collaborative projects and organisations including Ferl, Jisc and EU projects. However, change in universities requires patience and it is important that we listen to the mainstream, after all digital is really about people. We need to be ethical, respectful and useful, for we are “really important to the future of education”.
Dr Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of ALT, gave the last plenary of the conference ‘Beyond advocacy: Who shapes the future of Learning Technology?’. She brought together the conference themes, a good dose of ethics (“equality is everyone’s responsibility”) and empowerment pants.
Amber Thomas presents her twenty years on the edge
She considered the difficulties learning technologists face in being both advocate and critic in a “risky business” where things often go wrong. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing our failings. Maren concluded with a personal reflection that “EdTech is a field of practice, not a discipline”. You can read Maren’s recent post on the state of Education Technology in HE on WonkHE.

Beetastic Manchester
More to follow on the noticeable themes and favourite moments at ALTC.
This blog first appeared in the ‘Digital Transformation at RAU’ blog.
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