Tag Archives: processes

A change in approach to educational technology projects for a bursary winner

Matt Goral
Educational Technologist
City, University of London

Media and Learning 2018 Conference – Leuven

It’s been several months since I attended the Media and Learning conference in Leuven, courtesy of a UCISA bursary. Whilst I was very inspired by the cutting edge projects with 360 video and interactive video, and would love to do something similar, it was the less visible threads that I noticed running through the discussions that had the biggest impact on me and the projects that I’ve been involved with since I came back from the conference.

Pre-production and handover

The importance of pre-production and planning were mentioned by a lot of people during the conference, but in a rather understated way I felt. It was acknowledged as something that we all know is important and should be done, but something which is rarely the focus of presentations. Lots of sharing of successes, sometimes of failures or obstacles, but almost never any detailed discussion of the planning stage, what documentation is important, how to ensure pedagogical effectives at the point of delivery.
I recently completed a large project that resulted in about an hour of footage and took over three months to finish. The direction and scope changed a few times, there were technical problems and decisions which we couldn’t anticipate, illness and holidays meant people were unavailable and dates slipped, etc. Normal project stuff. Without planning we would have struggled a lot of course, and location scouting, shooting cut-aways, sharing of interview questions beforehand was essential. However, it was only when some project members got ill I realised a lot of the editing, design and implementation decisions, were not written down anywhere and made handover impossible. I have made recommendations to our Project Office for such fail-safes to be included during pre-production on critical projects, so that in case of project members being unavailable, someone with similar skills could pick up the project.

Presence and presentation

The other idea I still think about months after the conference is the fact that presentation is a skill and that some people are more “watchable” than others. It seems obvious but has some implications which changed the way I approach video shoots.
The most important consideration is that not every video needs to have the presenter visible if they are not comfortable with appearing on screen. Screencasts, animations, podcasts, etc., are all great options if it is not possible to have the expert appear in person. Furthermore, studio setups with lots of hot lights, hanging microphones and multiple people can intimidate people. The results whilst maybe having perfect light, will be found lacking. Lots of people who ask for video, imagine themselves talking to camera from a teleprompter both of which are hard things to do and require lots of practice, not realising that a much simpler approach could be potentially more effective.
Keeping this in mind, I started to make decisions about how to approach projects by thinking about the subject matter and the skills and personality of the participant first, rather than pushing for best quality every time. It also made me behave differently when filming, where I try to make the person feel as comfortable as possible at the expense of ideal setup. The results have been very positive so far with people being pleasantly surprised by the experience even if they were dreading it to begin with.
Those two ideas have greatly influenced the way I approach projects nowadays. Whilst seeing finished projects and innovative ideas has been inspiring, often it is difficult to implement projects we’ve seen at conferences immediately. There isn’t always someone who would be interested in using 360 video in their module, for example, and pushing for it can lead to the medium not fitting the message and using new tech for the sake of it. For me the most valuable aspect of this conference were the ideas about planning and setup, rather than specific tech. In the future I will be looking out for similar threads.
Thanks again to UCISA for not only making it possible for me to keep developing my practice, but also as a result of attending the event, my conference reflections are being fed into a review of video and multimedia at City.
My blogs from the conference as a whole can be found here.
Interested in finding out more about 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.

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.

Identifying common points of failure in technology implementation

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

The Service Desk and IT Support Show, June 2018

Attending SITS18 in June, courtesy of a UCISA bursary, has helped me learn about the most common points of failure in an implementation programme. These include:
  • Ineffective coaching program
  • Management not taking ownership
  • No workflow or content standard
  • Wrong metrics
  • Seeing it as just a project.
From one of the SITS sessions, I learnt that Eptica had compiled some interesting stats together this year from customers which are useful to be aware of:
91% of customers report that they become frustrated if they are not able to find answers they are looking for online quickly
75% of customers report incidents where agents haven’t had the right or sufficient information to be able to answer their question
70% say that they often experience inconsistent answers between channels
94% of customers say a high-quality response makes them loyal.
By looking at these statistics, it looks as if communication is the key factor which makes and breaks a successful service.

The role of AI

We must adapt to change and the change in how early/what technology people are introduced to. There were a number of different sessions which looked at AI over the course of the conference including: ‘The role of AI and the automation in the rebirth of IT’ and ‘What AI will mean for ITSM and you’. AI is now a key component in many households, which the newest generations are now experiencing at a very early stage. However, there is still an audience that has not had the same experience and may struggle to adjust. One of the speakers stated that in 2011 it had been predicted that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of its relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. It is quite noticeable today that it is in fact quite close to that already. So with AI, how can it be harnessed as a tool to make an efficient service for the customer?

The importance of individuals

This follows a point on performance of individuals. Although we are human and not robots we should have a uniform/quite identical approach and knowledge database when assisting a customer so that we can provide an effective and positive service. We can all be guilty of cherry picking who we want to deal with to get the satisfaction we need, but all involved should be able to provide that; behaviour and knowledge are very important factors in providing good customer experience. ‘Shift left’ is a great example of this as it reduces the time a customer has to spare to receive a resolution, but also helps the person/people providing the support to be more efficient and productive in their work. This may possibly save time from unnecessary escalation and provide more time on tasks that may require additional focus.
Other points noted regarding what makes a service/tool run well are as follows:
Consolidation, Compliance, Security, Adoption, Optimisation, Integration, Mobilisation, Collaboration, Collaboration, Efficiency, Productivity.
To elaborate on a couple, Adoption is a key element on both user and support side. The service/tool needs to be adopted as smoothly as possible to enable the service overall to be at its constant prime, so that it can resume or start as expected to complete its duties. Mobilisation is also another factor which relates to availability. In order to achieve the optimal service for a customer, such as online remote support, mobility plays an important part providing support no matter where the customer is.

I met with Sally Bogg for a short while on the first day who is the head of our end services at Leeds Beckett and was also talking at SITS on career development for women in IT.  We attended a keynote session on Women in Technology lead by Dr Sue Black OBE. It was quite inspiring and Dr Black had some amazing stories which she kindly shared with us all.

Conclusion

Although my role is not a managerial one and I cannot make decisions regarding the take-up of tools, it was a pleasure to learn about them. It has been a great experience to take this information back for research purposes and also to document in these blogs how we can improve our attitude and processes. I also spoke to the vendors about how colleagues and I have utilised these tools. The vendors were glad to receive feedback at the event which they could take back to improve their provision to us all.
I spoke to many individuals at this event and it has not only been beneficial for my role but also for my own confidence. Thank you very much to UCISA for the opportunity to attend this event – it is one that I’ll keep with me.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Learning about the importance of customer feedback at SITS18

Mia Campbell
IT Support Services
Leeds Beckett University

The Service Desk and IT Support Show, June 2018

The seminars at SITS2018, which I was able to attend courtesy of a UCISA bursary, consisted of hour long talks. I have condensed here and in my next blog, information that was mentioned in the talks, which I believe may be helpful to colleagues.

Key points included learning that:
A vision for a project should be: Direct, clear, brief, achievable, believable
The mission for a project should include: What, how, from whom, why
In order to understand requirements, it is important to look at: processes, strategy, functionality, output, future
Future requirements for IT services are likely to include: Shift left testing, self-service/help/healing, AI/chatbots, business relationship management, predictive analytics
Effective research should include: Engaging with experts, engaging with community, demo, SDI intelligence, seminars, software showcase
The following inputs provide opportunities to improve: Customer satisfaction surveys, complaints/compliments and suggestions, management reports, major incident and quality reviews, cross-functional meetings, corridor conversations, social media.
These foundations should help create and sustain success if applied correctly and should continue to be focused on even after the initial launch date. For instance, if maintained, regular performance reviews will help improve services. Another factor that is sometimes overlooked, is when a small and quick addition or change is made. These play a big part in improvement and promotion of the tool.
Other areas that are important to consider include the fact that customers do not necessary want a silent switch out and may like to be informed of improvements being made to the system they use. It is important to advertise the product/tool that is being put in place, inform users why there is an improvement but also underline how it should not be problematic for the users to get the service they require. Customer experience is a huge factor in whether something fails and this should be constantly monitored.
Pictured here is a cycle of processes that I was shown at the conference, which I believe are important from the presentation by Matt Greening, ‘The Naked Service Desk’. It is a good way to further understand satisfaction levels. Correspondingly, another speaker that day underlined that ‘user experience drives improvement’ so keeping, observing and collating this useful data, can help lead to improvements.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.