UCISA SSG continues to surprise me on day two. There was a bit about shiny stuff, a word from our students, a bit about processes, a bit about bees and some fervent dancing.
Thinking outside the Box. How a little bit of box made a big difference
Chris Dixon, Head of Operations, Lancaster University and Valerie Focke, Head of Education, EMEA, Box.com
Today’s business showcase was a big improvement on yesterdays. Chris shared his experience of implementing Box for the storage, management and sharing of files at Lancaster University. He highlighted the reasons for their decision. Chiefly, staff found the existing file management and sharing services ineffective. Particularly, sharing files outside of the organisation.
I love a student panel. They are always fascinating and it’s nice to hear from them directly.
IT services need to keep up
They talked about the need to make emerging technologies available so that students are prepared for the tech world. By the time they finish their studies the technology has changed so we need to prepare them.
They were asked how they like to be contacted. One said social media as that’s where they get their news. A mature student (that’s how she described herself) preferred email. Most importantly they felt that their lecturers need to be informed about ICT issues/services/tools etc. As often their lecturers are the ones introducing them to the tools.
They were asked about our marketing materials or “communications guff” as it was described. They all said it was overwhelming in induction week. They were bombarded with too much information. It would end up on a shelf never to be looked at again. Their preference would be to search for the information WHEN they need it. Not have it forced on them at every turn.
There was a misinterpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, the one with Wi-Fi at the bottom, which meant students were asked whether Wi-Fi was at the bottom of their priorities. Wi-Fi is actually the most important in the hierarchy as it becomes more important than basic physiological needs like eating, drinking and sleeping. They all agreed it was very important but not the be all and end all.
The dreaded lecture capture reared its ugly head. Questions of value for money and other nonsense. The students all said they like the personal interaction of a lecture.
Attendance monitoring arose, described by one student as ‘Big Brother’. One argued they are adults, they pay for lectures and whether they turn up is their decision. This was met with staunch opposition in the audience. My argument would be if they’re not turning up then the lecture needs work. They shouldn’t have to choose whether a lecture is worth their time. It should be to begin with.
The students didn’t feel ICT was approachable. It was described as hidden away, intimidating and they were reticent to interrupt people at work.
Some said 24 hour contact with ICT is important to them. Another said they didn’t need 24/7 they just want to know when their issue will be resolved and dealt with. They liked the use of live chat and video support.
Use of social media was preferred to remain personal and some felt, or were told, it was not appropriate for their studies. I don’t agree but I can see why they wouldn’t want us in their social media.
What did I learn? Students aren’t homogeneous. Don’t treat them that way. Stop saying “our students want” instead go and ask them. Remember, you’re going to struggle to please everyone.
How big business, and a bee, started our customer service journey at Leeds Beckett
Eleanor Draycott, Help Services Manager, Leeds Beckett University
What an animated and passionate team they have at Leeds Beckett. Eleanor told us about their redevelopment of their Service Desk Environment. Old fashioned counters were removed to create an open, inviting, friendly zone for staff and students to drop in to. Eleanor talked about the old counters being barriers between the service desk staff and the users. The work they have done, despite some difficult times in the project, has removed those barriers.
They have open spaces where staff and students can stroll in to. They even have a genius bar. They have principles that all staff have to adhere to and they recognise that the attitudes of the people they employ are just as important as the environment.
Embracing Open Badges: Showcasing staff and student achievement at York St John University
Roisin Cassidy, Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor, York St John University
I have always been a sceptic about badges. It feels faddy. Like the stars McDonalds used to give their staff. A bit…insincere. Rosin has changed my mind. Eroded some of my scepticism.
Open badges are based on a shared standard and contain metadata. The metadata says what the badge was earned for, who issued it and where from. The metadata follows the badges. York St John have been giving badges for participation in their CPD and Roisin shared some examples of uses in the curriculum. Getting the – “what and the why” is important to get right from the start. What is it for, why would people want it, what are the criteria and how will it be evidenced. I can see badges working well if we get that part right from the start. I’m thinking of starting with our CPD offering and go on from there.
Agile tools and techniques
Colin Jones, Web and Applications Team Leader, Robert Gordon University
I must confess to not having concentrated fully during this presentation. Forgive me Colin, it wasn’t you. I had an academic in crisis who needed help. Agile is nothing new. The scrum meeting concept isn’t either. There’s lots online about it. Sorry I can’t say much on the subject.
Marmite: academics and a toast to the IT crowd?
Mark Schofield, Dean, Teaching and Learning Development, Edge Hill University
This was an amazing presentation. Clearly Mark is a veteran. Mark is an academic who has worked in a number of institutions at home and abroad. He had a very insightful (and brilliantly funny) presentation. Which illustrated, as so many have during this conference, that we need to work together to do anything well. He represented the problem as a humpback bridge with ICT professionals on one side and academics on the other unable to see one another. Mark used memes brilliantly. The featured image for this post is one he used to describe ICT Professionals. (Based on this conference, and the passion they demonstrate, they don’t all take that attitude) He acknowledged we are all difficult beasts. But with mutual respect and empathy we can do some brilliant things.
This has to be my favourite presentation. Everyone was transfixed. What a showman.
Process improvement partnerships: continuous improvement at Leeds Beckett University
Clare Wiggins, Continuous Improvement Manager, Leeds Beckett University
I ended the day with some play. Clare talked us through continuous improvement at Leeds Beckett and then let us run riot with the Mr Potato Heads (MPH). The idea was to form a plan then as a team try to construct MPH as quickly and accurately as possible. We recorded our time each go and our accuracy. We then talked about how we’d do it better and tried again. Long story short we had been continuously improving by reflecting on our work.
It was great fun, a nice interjection to the day, but what did I learn? Don’t try. Be rubbish and people will be amazed by the improvement. We had the fastest time but won nothing. I’m not bitter. (I am bitter)
How do you measure up
Sally Bogg, Head of End User Services, Leeds Beckett University
Sally finished the day by sharing the results of this years benchmarking survey. It was really useful to hear about the work other University’s are doing. It’s also useful to know where you stand in the wider community.
If you’d like to look at the report it’s available on the UCISA SSG website here.
Dinner was a formal affair. Beautifully decorated with Alice in Wonderland themed tables. Dinner was followed by much dancing. The brilliant Ten Hail Marys played some serious funk, ska and indie classics. I lost my mind when Mr Brightside came on. The night was finished perfectly by the final song:
So throw those curtains wide
One day like this a year would see me right – One day like this, Elbow
We’ve got a lot of change to come. Education is being systematically ripped apart by people so far removed from it they may as well be on the International Space Station. Remember HE is a wonderful profession to work in. Remember why we do it and who we do it for. It will be OK. Keep calm. Carry on.
What did I learn? ICT Professionals + free wine = serious shapes thrown.