Tag Archives: mobile devices

Thinking outside the box with CPD

Rachel Drinkwater
Senior Business Analyst
Coventry University

The Business Analysis Conference Europe 2018

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

CPD outside the box

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

Time and cost hacks for CPD

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

Coming Soon…

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

Interview: Deakin University’s support of hearing impaired users in teaching and learning spaces

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

I attended the Audiovisual and Education Technology Management (AETM) Conference in Australia in November as part of the UCISA bursary scheme. During my trip I also visited a number of Melbourne universities including Deakin University.

At Deakin University, I met with Jeremy West, Senior Audio Visual Engineer and Tech Lead in the eSolution Team, and we discussed the university’s AV solutions for hearing impaired users.

Deakin are considering a range of new technologies and in collaboration with the digital futures team, they are looking at audio over IP solutions to give users access to audio streams via their mobile devices.

I have blogged about my conversations with Jeremy on a range of AV developments at Deakin University.

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

Setting the scene for reflections on DigPedLab Vancouver 2017

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
The Open University

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Background

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

A bit about me….

I’m Beccy Dresden, a Senior TEL Designer (TEL = technology enhanced learning) at The Open University, where I’ve worked for nearly 18 years. I joined the OU from a professional publishing background, and have supported the development of modules on subjects as diverse as law, languages, social work, and English grammar.

My department – the TEL Design team – works in partnership with academic experts, Learning and Teaching Innovation portfolio colleagues, and students and tutors, to design, produce, support and evaluate OU modules. The team’s work draws on and contributes to the learning, teaching and innovation evidence base of the University, and embodies emerging technologies and research to reinforce the OU’s position as the UK leader in supported online and distance learning. The modules we produce are now digital by default, but we are keen to ensure that the online experience we offer our students is driven by pedagogy, not technology. Within the TEL Design team, my particular areas of interest and scholarship are:

  • the use of social media in HE (both in terms of student-facing content, and as a tool/platform in the continuing professional development (CPD) of academic and professional support staff), and
  • developing digital capabilities (again, in terms of both students and staff at the OU).

Those areas of interest are what led me – via Twitter, Martin Weller, and Lawrie Phipps, among others – to discover Hybrid Pedagogy and their Digital Pedagogy Lab Institutes, or DigPedLab for short.

About DigPedLab Institutes

Ever since I applied for the UCISA bursary back in April, I’ve struggled to explain clearly and concisely to people quite what a DigPedLab Institute is – even those working in the ed tech sector have given me slightly puzzled looks – and each institute is slightly different, so it’s not even a single thing. To focus on the one I attended, in the organisers’ words:

DPL Vancouver is a three-day institute that explores the role and application of digital technology in teaching. Three tracks offer intensive peer-driven learning with and discussion of open education, new media, and critical digital pedagogy.

Participants choose between one of three tracks and work collaboratively in small workshop-style classes. Each track is open to all backgrounds and skill levels. Each day of the institute begins with discussion that will play into the day’s work. A continental breakfast will be provided before sessions begin mid-morning, followed by lunch. Afternoons will be split into multiple sessions and will include keynote presentations, workshops, and other activities. Each day will end before dinner. The learning community we create together will be welcoming to a wide range of skill levels and interests.”

The tracks on offer in Vancouver were:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose Digital Literacies led by Bonnie Stewart.  This track was described as:

“focused on the development of participatory, networked literacies that enable collaboration, contribution, and critical sense-making within information abundance. It fosters a critical orientation toward tools, portfolios, and digital presence within networks. Participants will discuss and experiment with various technological tools from the chalkboard to moveable chairs, computers, mobile devices, social media platforms, and learning management systems. Individual sessions and workshops will focus on teaching philosophies, discernment practices for using digital tools in courses, emergent learning, digital composition, and discussions of the impact of the digital on traditional and critical pedagogies.”

Apart from wanting to be taught by Bonnie, whom I have long admired for her clear-sighted and thoughtful-yet-practical approach to complex digital pedagogy issues, I thought that learning about new critical perspectives for evaluating digital tools and approaches would be invaluable for me and my department.

My further blogs are really just an overview of an intense, inspiring, and challenging weekend that – nearly five months later – is still affecting how I approach my work and my social (media) interactions every day.

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

Disruptive statistics, Linux containers, extreme web performance for mobile devices

Giuseppe Sollazzo

 

 

 

Giuseppe Sollazzo
Senior Systems Analyst
St George’s, University of London

 

 

 

 

Day one at the Velocity conference, Amsterdam

What a first day! O’Reilly Velocity, the conference I’m attending thanks to a UCISA bursary, is off to a great start with a first day oriented to practical activities and hands-on workshops. The general idea of these workshops is to build and maintain large-scale IT systems enhancing their performances. Let me provide you with a quick summary of the workshops I have attended.

Statistics for Engineers
A statistics workshop at 9.30am is something that most would find soul-destroying, but this was a great introduction on how to use statistics in an engineering context – in other words, how to apply statistics to reality in order to gather information with the goal of taking action.

Statistics is, indeed, very simple maths and its difficult yet powerful bits allow practitioners to understand situations and predict their outcomes.

This workshop illustrated how to apply statistical methods to datasets generated by user applications: support requests, server logs, website visits. Why is this important? Very simply because service levels need to be planned and agreed upon very carefully. The speaker showed some examples of this. In fact, the title of this workshop should have been “Statistics for engineers and managers”: usage statistics help allocate resources (do we need more? can we reuse some?) and, in turn, financial budgets.

The workshop illustrated how to generate descriptive statistics and also how to use several mathematical tools for forecasting the evolution of service levels. We have had some experience with data collection and evaluation at St George’s University of London, and this workshop has definitely helped refine the tools and reasoning we will be applying.

Makefile VPS
This talk presented itself as a super-geeky session about Linux containers. Containers are a popular way to manage web services that does not require a full-fledged physical or virtual server. They can be easily built, deployed, and managed. However, they are rarely properly understood.

The engineer who presented this workshop showed how in his company, SoundCloud,  they build their own containers to power a “virtual lab” in order to simulate failures and train their engineers to react. His technique, based on scripts that build and launch containers at the press of the “Enter” button, is an effective solution both for quick prototyping and production deployment whenever docker or other commercial/free solutions are not a viable option (due to funding or complexity).

As much as this was quite a hard core session, it was good to see how services can be run in a way that makes their performances very easy to manage. This is definitely something that I will be sharing with my IT colleagues.

Extreme web performance for mobile devices
A lightweight (so to say!) finale to the day, discussing how mobile websites present a diverse range of performance issues and what techniques can be used to test and improve. However, the major contribution from this session was to share some truly extraordinary statistics about mobile traffic and browsers.

For example, the fact that on mobile 75% of traffic is from browser and 25% from web views (i.e. from apps) – 40% of which is from Facebook. Of course, these stats change from country to country and this makes it hard to launch a website with a single audience in mind. For universities, this becomes incredibly important in terms of international students recruitment.

Similarly shocking, we have learnt that the combination of Safari and Chrome, the major mobile browsers reach 93% on WiFi networks but only 88% on 3G networks; this suggests that connections speeds still matter to people, who might opt for different, more traffic-efficient browsers in connectivity-challenged environments (for example, OperaMini goes up from 1% to 4%)

One good practical piece of advice is to adopt the RAIL Approach, promoted by Google, which is a user-centric performance model that takes into consideration four aspects of performance: response, animation, idle time and loading. The combination of these aspects, each of which has its own ‘maximum allowed time’ before the user gets frustrated or abandons the activity, requires a delicate balance.

There was also some good level of discussion around the very popular “responsive web design”, a technique that has become a goal in itself. The speaker suggested that this should be just a tool, rather than a goal: users don’t care about “responsive”, they care about “fast”. Never forget the users is a good motto for everyone working in IT.

Summary
Velocity’s first day has been a very hands on day. The overall take-home lesson is simple: managing performance requires some sound science, but with adequate tools and resources it’s not impossible to do it on a shoestring budget and in an effective way. As I’m an advocate of internal resource control and management with respect to outsourcing, today’s talks have surely provided me with some great insight on how to achieve this smartly.

Aside from this summary, I’ve also been taking some technical notes, which are available here and will also contain notes from the future sessions.