The UCISA SSG conference was held in Bristol last week 5th, 6th and 7th July. I attended the first two days and found it interesting and informative. It is always an excellent conference and manages to be both inspirational and useful which is no mean feat for an education or an IT conference. It is the people that make it a success and the theme of the conference was ‘It’s not about technology, it’s about people…’
I like the UCISA SSG conference as there is a good mixture of sessions in the main hall for everyone as well as some break out sessions.
The sessions that I attended are listed below in the table and the link to the programme with copies of the presentations is here
I didn’t take a lot of notes but did tweet – here is the Storify of some of the interesting tweets from the conference
My main takeaways from the Conference were:
- Learning is about people, getting together to think – technology can support and augment this learning
- Technology has got to be useful and easy to use – Unified Theory of Acceptance and use of Technology
- Incorporate systems such as attendance monitoring into apps that students want e.g. online timetable
- Successful IT work behind the scenes keeps systems working invisibly – how do you measure success?
- Students do have laptops but don’t bring to Uni so want to borrow Uni laptops
- Not all students are the same – different cohorts, different individuals, different requirements and expectations
- Learning spaces are important – the set up and usage needs to be optimum for lecturers and students
- Students want face to face IT support…available all the time…and near by….and online support
- Values are important – shared values and the sharing of values – they create a culture
- It is, all about the people and about supporting people with technology
There was an illustrator at the conference who brilliantly captured some key moments
|The Bristol badge bash! (how gamification will work)
Gareth Edwards, Head of IT, Engineering Science, University of Oxford
Drew Cook, UCISA Executive Vice Chair, Lincoln University
|Reimagining traditional higher education in the digital age
Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning, University of Leeds
|Unhappy is the land that needs a hero
Stuart Rance, Service Management and Security Management Consultant, Trainer and Author, OptimalServiceManagement Ltd
|Partner showcase- Laptop loans – an incredible journey from mediation to automation
Wayne Winterbottom, IT Support Manager for Computing and Library Services, University of Huddersfield
|SSG Room 101
Kerry Pinny, Academic Technologist, University of Warwick
Francesca Spencer, IT Services Project Manager, Leeds Beckett University
Sally Bogg, Head of End User Services, Leeds Beckett University
|Partner showcase – Enable your HIED institution to transform services and cut down costs
James Norman, UK Public Sector CIO, Dell EMC
|Setting the standard – how a standard interface for your teaching rooms can make people happy
Graeme Hughes, Head of Faculty IT, Lancaster University
Chaired by James Woodward, Client Services Manager, Manchester Metropolitan University
Sebastian Barnes, Leeds Beckett University
Sara Henderson, University of Sheffield
Adam Kearns, University of Bath
James Smith, Director of IT Services, Birkbeck, University of London
|If Disney ran your university. A fun and informative exploration of some of the things
that you would do differently
Susanne Clarke, Bournemouth University and Tammi Sinha, University of Winchester
|HELP! Observations from meddling with Student Support
James Smith, Director of IT Services, Birkbeck, University of London
|Adding Value with Values
Alistair Reid-Pearson, IT Manager, University of Huddersfield
We now seem to be into our stride with ‘out of semester’ work. It takes a couple of weeks to switch from the student focused semester service to a more steady but just as busy work pattern. There are still students using the library on a daily basis mainly Masters students and international students but our opening hours are 9:00am -5:00pm Monday to Friday rather than 24/7.
We have had some groups of pre-sessional English students and these continue through the summer. They have induction and user education sessions in the Library.
We have been sorting out the short-loan collection – reviewing usage, removing and adding items depending on demand and changing details on the system.
We’re still involved in enabling work for the library refurbishment which is mainly stock checking of journals and periodicals. Also planning for ‘what’s happening’ next and sending out relevant comms.
Other things include:
Library Management Platform working group – preparing for the new Discovery interface which should be live in July.
Looking at the options for a small self-service circulation kiosk for Orkney campus.
Planning summer training for the Customer services Team
Updating help guides
Comms about upgrades, systems at risk or planned downtime
Staffing – the usual ongoing staff management and also wrapped up in that is the post VR staffing challenges.
I did get to show some people around the campus and Information Services on Monday and Tuesday who were here for interviews so that was a good start to the week – it’s great to talk to people from other places and show them what we do here
The end of another Semester and we made it through with some success.
I always expect to feel really upbeat and giddily happy at the end of the semester / academic year whereas actually it is a mixture of relief and satisfaction for all we’ve achieved and the service we’ve provided and the students that we have helped and supported.
As we all know the days of the summer break in libraries / universities is very different to what it was and we start almost immediately thinking about what we need to plan for next September.
We started the year with the opening of the Learning Commons which has been a great success. It has been popular with students and it has enabled us to showcase an example of the learning environment and service that we offer.
And now we are planning for our major refurbishment of the Library building.
Transforming Your Library
The enabling works have started and we have library books, journals and other stock are being relocated either offsite or to other floors of the building. The Ground Floor of the library is closed and access to resources is by request at the Service Desk.
There has been a lot of work done this year regarding library collection management including weeding and rationalising of stock.
Our new Library Management System went live last June and the project was finished by the end of September. We now have a Library Management Platform working group which took over from the Project Board where we discuss progress and developments to the system. We’re also looking at what self-service circulation facility we could provide at our Orkney campus.
There have been quite a lot of changes to our IT helpdesk over the last year including a change to staffing and this will continue over the next few months. This has given us a chance to make some changes to the operational procedures and also to look at short term and long term developments. We have started to review our IT Helpdesk system and we hope to update this in the coming year.
Changes in staffing have also meant a change to the Service Desk Supervisors roles and much more integrated working between the IT Helpdesk and Library Service Desk – it is definitely a Service Desk now that can answer any sort of enquiry or issue. We are continuing to work on staff training and upskilling to make sure that staff are confident to provide the help and support for students that is needed.
Communications have been a big part of the year with our blog posts and social media accounts being used on a daily basis to inform and promote a wide variety of topics.
Our team was restructured last year in the first part of 2016. It was successful and the structure of the team is much more coherent now and will enable us to deliver the service more effectively. We had some vacant posts and some of these were filled. But as everyone knows, who has been through this process, it is very time consuming.
So by the middle of this semester we were more or less settled and then…the University announced a Voluntary Redundancy Scheme…and so, on we go with that. It is due to finish at the end of April. It is a really good deal for those members of staff that can take it and obviously it is important for the University to be in a secure financial position and make savings where necessary.
It will undoubtedly mean more changes but I think that things change anyhow and it’s important to make the best of the good times and be resilient for the changing times. The other change that is happening is that our Director of Information Services is retiring and there will be a recruitment process to find a replacement. This is a real shame as he has been great and has been vital to the success of our integrated Library and IT departments as Information Services.
We are at the beginning of a library building refurbishment project that will see the library transformed through out. The enabling work is starting soon with planning to move stock and plans for furniture moves and optimising study space. The refurbishment will mean major changes to the learning environment for students and also for staff – we will be moving to open plan working areas. We have been doing some process improvement exercises to look at how we will be able to do things more effectively in the future.
This week has been a ‘noisy’ week – a week filled with meetings, conversations and discussions. Mostly valuable and worthwhile, some even enjoyable in a work context, but nevertheless a lot of interactions.
Team meetings with teams, catch up meetings with Supervisors, catch up meetings with line managers, Resources and Facilities meetings, project meetings about refurbishments.
Meetings about communications.
Ad hoc discussions about library systems, about IT helpdesk systems, about repairs to ceilings, about training .
PDR meetings – discussing how staff feel about their progress and development – what they would like to do in the future, about what works and doesn’t work.
Conversations with students.
External events at other universities with discussions about new systems and what we need to develop in the future to provide excellent customer service for our students.
The conversations in passing with staff in my team or other teams, conversations as staff drop by my office and its open door.
Telephone calls and conversations. Email conversations. Social media conversations.
And then finally today, a day without planned meetings and quietly closing my office door and stopping to think what needs doing…and settling down to do it.
It’s easy to say that it’s important to manage your time and your calendar, and to plan effectively and have a task list and be productive and stop doing some things and prioritise. But in reality, unless we are at the top of the management structure in our organisation, our calendars seem to have a life of their own. Also as we all have to work in a more flexible and reactive way, it’s important to shuffle things around and fit in when we can.
For me in my role, I have quite a wide and varied remit. I’m involved in joint initiatives and projects and liaising with different teams. My team is responsible for front line, first line services and dealing with customers and their enquiries. It is why I like my job.
But it is important to find some time to concentrate and I have to make a conscious effort to do this because I’m efficient at multi-tasking (if there is such a thing) and rapid task changing and skimming across the surface of what needs doing. I’m solution driven so my default way of working is to look at a situation and find the quickest, most straightforward way of resolving it. But is this the most productive and efficient way – or the best way for me as far as my thinking and reflecting is concerned? Probably not…so it is work in progress to find more of those quiet Fridays to change the way I work and take a step back from the conversations.
December update – we’re nearly there at the end of semester.
Last day of exams is 16th December so that is the final day for students.
Then we have a week of ‘normal’ working up until Friday 23rd December.
So, things that have been happening:
Monitoring of the study spaces
Managing the Learning Commons
Staffing – new posts for Customer Services Assistant and Customer Services Supervisor
IT Helpdesk documentation and procedures updated
ELISA visits and ACLIP programme
Communications Group meeting – for November we need to promote some library related events such as Book Week Scotland, raise awareness of new books and resources ‘Resource of the week’? Create content for the digital displays especially in the Learning Commons and look at content for ‘You said, we did’ posters etc.
Staffing – evening and weekend staffing is sorted out now although we still have a vacancy for lunchtime cover at the Learning Commons. There are also some secondments that have required documentation submitting and there is a possible vacancy coming up.
On going training on the usual things including the Library Management System and the IT related tasks that Service Desk staff need to carry out. Plus some university wide online training on information security and governance etc.
Stock relegation (weeding) is continuing at a pace, mainly due to my prompting and the fact that we have a full complement of staff at weekends now.