UCISA SSG16 Day 2: Boxes, Bees, Dance

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.

Student Panel

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

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.

giphy

Links

UCISA SSG16 Day 1: People, Service, Duty

UCISA SSG16 Day 3: Thinking, Hacking, Brilliance

Matthew Saunders: Ucisa Support Services Conference 2016 – Learning and Listening

UCISA SSG16 Day 1: People, Service, Duty

This is my first UCISA Support Services Group conference. It has always been, in my mind, “not for me”. It has always struck me as being for ICT professionals. That the presenters and attendees will not speak my language. I imagined it being full of tedious sessions with people droning on about their latest implementation of something or other. So far SSG16 has been quite wonderfully the opposite.

Tech-savvy

This phrase is a bug bare of mine. “Our staff/students are all tech-savvy and want to use xyz”. NO they are not. If you go and sit with enough of them you’ll soon see. It’s dangerous to assume that your users know how to do what you think they should. It’s not just dangerous, it’s arrogant. Stop it. If you’ve not seen the work Jisc has been doing around digital capabilities then go and take a look at their blog Jisc digital capability codesign challenge blog and James Clay’s elearning stuff blog.

Delivering excellence in public services; customers, challenges and collaboration

Aline Hayes, Director of Business Change and Information Solutions, Sheffield City Council

Aline delivered an interesting presentation on the approach to service delivery at Sheffield City Council. She emphasised the importance of engagement and collaboration with the end-user. There was some practical detail about their approach to ‘suppliers’ working as services or partners. She emphasised the important role the council plays in the loves of vulnerable people and how even the seemingly insignificant loss of services can have big consequences.

There was a lot of talk of customers. HE staff shudder at the word (though it’s not surprising for the council to use the term). Let’s not use the word but lets assume the principles that the word invokes. Trust, empathy, service and care. Our students and staff are using our services. Those services should be quality.

Despite being interrupted by a fire alarm evacuation Aline continued her delivery with aplomb.

Problem management on a shoestring!

Garry Hunter, Problem Manager, Northumbrian Water Group

I really enjoyed this presentation. Not only did Garry deliver it with zeal and engagement but he was making sense. Get to the root of the problem, fix it so it doesn’t happen again. Yes please. He’ll know he’s done a good job when they make him redundant.

What annoys staff most is when something is broken, ICT know it is, but they do nothing. They don’t care how long it takes to fix, or how hard it is, they just want it fixed!

Business showcase

The conference is split up by business showcases. The less said about today’s presentation the better. Mainly because I couldn’t hear it and doubt I would have listened even if I could.

Creating user centric services whilst maintaining corporate compliance – is it possible in higher education?

Andrew Howe, Head of End User Services, University of St Andrews

I LOVED this presentation. Andrew was speaking my language. No more technology for technology’s sake. Andrew presented a list of ‘things’ our students use and want. I think this is dangerous. There are a lot of students who don’t use those things and have no interest in them. Try asking them? But remember if you ask them if they want it they’ll say yes. Instead ask what they want to do. Then find the technology to make that happen!

Andrew reminded us that staff are not always capable of doing what ICT expect from them. Thank you. Digital capabilities…they aren’t all Bill Gates…support them…bla bla bla. (Read my other posts)

20×20 More than just a degree

Sally Bogg, Head of End User Services, Leeds Beckett University

This was an incredibly personal, heartfelt and sincere presentation. Sally shared her life experiences and the transformative experience HE has been for her. It was wonderfully refreshing. It reminded me of why I started working in HE. Why I love it. Why I get up every day.

We can touch lives. We can change lives for the better.

20×20 ICT vs academics

Timothy Ingham, Operations Manager, and Kerry Pinny, Digital Education Developer, University of Lincoln

Tim and I presented on the results and subsequent actions of a survey we sent to ICT and academic staff. If you work in HE you will appreciate there is a volatile relationship between the two. To summarise ICT don’t understand academics and academics don’t understand ICT. As a result everyone’s a bit dissatisfied and unsupported. We’re developing a ‘day in the life of’ session so they can share their experiences and develop understanding.

Dinner and Treasure Hunting

Dinner/food is the make or break of a conference. The dinner was informal BBQ style food. Long queue but the English revelled in it. Dinner was followed by a treasure hunt. The image for this post is our team cramming themselves in to a phone box. We were dedicated. The hunt was a walking tour of Leeds with some theft activities thrown in. Great fun and a brilliant ice-breaker.

Links

UCISA SSG16 Day 2: Boxes, Bees, Dance

UCISA SSG16 Day 3: Thinking, Hacking, Brilliance

Matthew Saunders: UCISA Support Services Conference 2016 – Learning and Listening

 

Technological Self-Sufficiency: Fact or Fiction

Sorry, I’ve not come up with some amazing new technology or strategy to save ICT department’s cash. I’m talking about the ability to use technology without relying on other people.

I often hear comments such as “you’re so good with technology”, “how do you know this stuff” and “I’m rubbish at technology”. It leads me to wonder, what makes the ‘capable’ different to everyone else? Is it possible to be completely technologically self-sufficient?

I would describe myself as a proficient user. But am I proficient in comparison to my colleagues in ICT, or computer science? Certainly not. They have a depth of understanding well beyond my own. But do I know more than some of the people in my office? Yes definitely.

How would you describe yourself? Technologically proficient, capable, sufficient etc.

There have been a lot of theories floating around about peoples dispositions towards technology. Marc Prenksy’s digital natives and immigrants or the latter visitors and residents. Dave White has an interesting blog post on the subject. All analogies of this kind are largely redundant. There is no ‘one size fits all’. But they do encourage us to be reflective.

Visitors and Residents is a simple way of describing the range of ways individuals can engage with the Web. (White, 2015)

If you’d like to map your own practice take a look at Dave’s workshop materials.

My Visitor and Resident Map
This is my Visitor and Resident Map from last year.

So I’ve digressed. Am I technologically self-sufficient? Far from it. I still have to ask people, still have to be trained and I still like a good help-sheet. I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking for help, actually that’s why I have a job.

Is there such a thing as total self-sufficiency? No, it’s a myth. Even ICT staff need other peoples help to learn. Learning is a collaborative exercise. Technology should be used and the useful discoveries shared.

The people I meet are not rubbish with technology and they are certainly not incapable of using it. They’re frightened or don’t see the relevance of technology to their discipline. All I can say to you is we learn most from our mistakes and if you don’t try you won’t know what you’re missing. Make a few mistakes, try new things, learn from them and try again. Always try again. (Ctrl+Z is the shortcut for undo, handy tip)

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. – Elbert Hubbard

A few tips to become more self sufficient

  • Age has nothing to do with it,
  • ‘Google’ it first,
  • Ask questions on discussion forums,
  • Watch training videos online,
  • Attend training sessions,
  • Teach someone else something you’ve learned,
  • Try new technologies,
  • Test it first,
  • Try, fail and try again,
  • Don’t be nervous.

How many of these things do you do? How many will you try?

Exponential Growth, Technology and Higher Education

I recently attended a lecture by visiting professor, and Gadget Show presenter, Jason Bradbury. The lecture was titled “The Thousand Year Decade”. The premise being that we will experience the same rate of progress of the last thousand years within the next ten. What does that mean for technology and what effect will that have on Higher Education?

 

“For the vast majority of human existence, it was safe to assume that the world in which you died would look pretty much the same as the one in which you were born.” Big Idea: Technology Grows Exponentially

 

Exponential Technology

Even in my lifetime (never ask a woman her age or hazard a guess) I have witnessed technological progress that has happened at an ever increasing rate. The first PC my family owned involved loading every piece of software you wanted to use on to the PC individually from multiple floppy disks. (It has been so long since I have written the words floppy disk I had to double check the spelling.) Now you can buy something no bigger than the palm of your hand at a third of the cost, with more computing power and a universe of software and features.

What is most interesting is that the rate of progress is constantly increasing. The graph below shows the rate of technological ability in fifty years. “Fifty years out, the technology … is a quadrillion times more advanced than today”.

speed-technological-advancement_50years

Predictions for the next 25 years

By the late 2010s, glasses will beam images directly onto the retina. Ten terabytes of computing power (roughly the same as the human brain) will cost about $1,000.

By the 2020s, most diseases will go away as nanobots become smarter than current medical technology. Normal human eating can be replaced by nanosystems. The Turing test begins to be passable. Self-driving cars begin to take over the roads, and people won’t be allowed to drive on highways.

By the 2030s, virtual reality will begin to feel 100% real. We will be able to upload our mind/consciousness by the end of the decade.

By the 2040s, non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence (a.k.a. us). Nanotech foglets will be able to make food out of thin air and create any object in physical world at a whim.

By 2045, we will multiply our intelligence a billionfold by linking wirelessly from our neocortex to a synthetic neocortex in the cloud. Ray Kurzweil’s Mind-Boggling Predictions for the Next 25 Years

So what does that mean for Higher Education

“Your brain is programmed to be linear. But in these next few decades the rate of change is growing so fast that almost everything we can conceive can happen.” Peter Diamandis

Jisc has attempted to map the future landscape of Higher Education now, in 3 years and beyond. Flexibility, adaptive learning and personalisation are all recurring themes.

Jisc - Key Landscapes

Change is inevitable and rapid. Higher Education needs to be adaptable and flexible, keeping its eyes firmly on the horizon. As technology changes so must our curriculum, infrastructure and research. The problems that once seemed insurmountable will be solvable. How can we capitalise on these new technologies? How do we keep ahead of the sector?

Institutions need to be ready to support staff through change. Resource needs to be allocated to digital technology and digital capabilities. Particularly for the training and nurture of digital skills. Ray Kurzweil predicts a point known as The Singularity “when the exponential growth of the power of computers and technology hits such a speed that it fundamentally changes the world, and humans’ role in it.”