Tag Archives: platforms

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.

Improving focus and productivity with GitKraken and GloBoard

Annet Soos
Senior Web Developer
City, University of London

 

 

Discovering new software development tools at DeveloperWeek 2018, New York

Web development is a constantly evolving discipline. Keeping up to date with current trends and technologies is mandatory and with the help of the UCISA bursary programme, I was able to attend the DeveloperWeek Conference in Brooklyn, New York City. This conference included an expo, a hackathon for seven different challenges, five stages, and company representatives from Silicon Valley, and Japan. I also met developers from around the world, learnt agile team management techniques from people on C-board level, and discovered the latest tools available to improve my own personal and team’s development.
Attending this two-day event has been hugely beneficial for me and I’ve so far shared my new-found knowledge with colleagues and the developer community in London. For example: there are two tools that I came across, which I found exceptionally useful: GitKraken for version control and GloBoard for collaboration. I have integrated them into my team’s workload at City, University of London and noticed the improvement in my team’s focus and productivity.

Why version control?

When multiple developers are working on the same codebase, code-conflicts can happen, bugs can be introduced, wrong files may be accidentally deleted. Version control can help teams to retrieve earlier versions of their working source code.
By using Git as your distributed version control system, you can cover the following areas:
  • Collaboration by allowing developers to work on multiple versions of the same codebase simultaneously
  • Reviewable and restorable previous versions of the same code
  • Test alternative features before production release
  • Back up your code to a remote server.
There are several platforms to make Git work with a web interface and amongst them Github is the web community’s favourite. In 2018, it has 28 million users and 56 million repositories. Github also offers you free public repository hosting, access management, editing tools, issue tracking and more.

What does GitKraken offer?

GitKraken by Axosoft is a Git-client software that has a fun look and its intuitive user interface helps developers and non-developers equally, to understand what is happening with the source code.
As Bruce Bullis, Senior Engineering Manager of Adobe Pro Video Integration, states “software with a personality, makes you want to use it”.
The Web team at City, University of London have started to use GitKraken and have noticed the positive results. Personally, this new tool has helped me to track progress of different feature branches and it saves me time by allowing me to resume back to earlier versions, without looking for abstract commit numbers. It also makes on-boarding quicker, as I have noticed with new developers, who do not know how to use the command line, can start contributing to the codebase straight away and allows them to concentrate on the important work at hand.

Improving collaboration with GloBoard

Axosoft has another product called GloBoard. It is the extension of Gitkraken and it introduces source code workflow by allowing Git-issue synchronisation with their Git-client. My team started to use GloBoard as a scrum board, where we organise our backlog cards into designated columns. It is very similar to how Trello cards work. The benefit of using one integrated system, is that it reduces time loss and there is no context change. Once you make a Git-commit and finish a task, you can move the designated card from the progress queue to a finished status instantly, without logging into a different system.

At the time of the conference this software was not fully developed, and it was very exciting to talk about the product with Axosoft’s founder, Hamid Shojaee.

What is next

CodeStream team at DevelopWeek, NYC 2018

There were lots of other great ideas, for example:
  • code chat and documentation from CodeStream;
  • developer recruitment applications from Codility.
These tools are still in the testing phase in our team but hopefully in the near future, they will make our team’s life easier. We are continuously looking to test and innovate our workflow.
Being on this conference has allowed me to talk to entrepreneurs like Hamid, who are creating these innovative tools. Giving early feedback on beta versions of products makes me feel part of the development project. It was truly a fantastic experience to be part of it.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of an international view of humanities digital content

Sarah Ames
Library Learning Services Support Officer
University of Edinburgh

DHC2018 part 1: some key themes

I was fortunate to receive bursary funding this year from UCISA to attend DHC2018 (Digital Humanities Congress – not to be mistaken with the 16th International Symposium on District Heating and Cooling, which tops the Google results). DHC is a biennial conference organised by The Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield, exploring digital humanities research, as well as its implications for the cultural heritage sector and IT support services.
In this first blog post, I’m going to list the key themes raised at the conference and in my next post, I’ll summarise some of the papers that I found particularly interesting.

Digitisation

This one isn’t new: without digitised content (and digitised content at scale), libraries’ DH offerings begin to fall short. While, in some academic libraries, DH tools and skills will become a key focus, ultimately, without making available collections, content, or data to interest researchers, partnerships with digital projects becomes problematic.

Data

One paper (Bob Shoemaker’s ‘Lessons from the Digital Panopticon’) discussed a project bringing together 50 datasets to trace the lives of individuals convicted at the Old Bailey; another drew together 4 different library datasets, to investigate the provenance of manuscripts; many others reflected on similar experiences. As libraries look to release collections as data, considering the most appropriate and accessible formats for these will be important. The need to bring together a mix of data types, formats and models, and often ‘bespoke’ formats, complying with no particular standard, is a barrier to research, requiring technical skills that most don’t have.

Global DH

A number of papers raised the issue of the ease of slipping into a Western-focused digital humanities, to the detriment of the field itself. With web and programming languages written largely in English, the focus of research, and particularly of text analysis, has been predominantly English-language. With papers focusing on Asia and Australasia, the global view of DH produces plenty to learn from – with much for libraries to consider, particularly in the relationship between libraries and DH in other cultures and countries.

Sustainability

A repeated issue raised in talks was the sustainability of DH projects going forwards – particularly in relation to web platforms. How are these projects to be maintained post-project completion, and who is responsible for this? What kind of documentation, languages and platforms can be used to assist with, and standardise, this? Is a website an output or a transient resource? How can library and IT services support this?

Funding

Of course, a major part of sustainability is funding: funding models need to meet the cost of web resources over time; not maintain their current short-term focus. The possibilities of crowdfunding to enable ongoing access to tools were raised, but ultimately this remains too fragile a source to rely on.

Digital preservation

With these exciting new platforms and tools becoming part of research outputs, the challenge of how to preserve them becomes ever more pertinent. Unusual data formats; new, innovative research using AR; and the function, importance and relevance of the front end of a website, in comparison to the data it surfaces, are all issues and challenges that need to be considered by libraries.

Publishers

Gale launched their new DH tool, sitting on top of their platforms, enabling researchers to analyse their content at scale without the use or in-depth knowledge of manual computational methods. Although raising issues of ease of use – while this is important to increase accessibility, an understanding of what the tools are doing under the surface remains important, particularly in relation to built-in biases – the platform looked good, and is currently in its early stages. However, this emphasises just how much work libraries have on their hands. With both the content and the tools increasingly in the domain of publishers, there’s a lot of catching up to do.
This blog first appeared in the University of Edinburgh’s Library & University Collections blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Supporting student learning in a digital world – opportunities and obstacles

Beccy Dresden
Senior TEL Designer
Open University

 

 

 

DigPedLab Vancouver 2017 – Day Two

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

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

or a lightning talks session.

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

Interdisciplinary Solutions

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

I noted the following:

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

New Media and Pedagogy

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

I noted the following:

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

Open Pop Ups

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

I noted the following:

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

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

– Assembling diverse groups of students.

Daagu

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

I noted the following:

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

Overcoming Digital Obstacles

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

I noted the following:

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

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

Net Neutrality

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

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

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

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.