UCISA SSG Conference 2017 #ussc17

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
ucisa illustr

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
Panel session
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



Campaigns are one of the initiatives that we’ve used to raise awareness of the Student Information Points and to advertise to students that we provide information. It has taken a bit of trial and error as it is quite a difficult concept to convey – that is, that the product you have is information about products and services.
We did an Easter Egg campaign where we had a basket of plastic eggs and some contained USB memory sticks and some sweets or chocolate. It was a lucky dip and gave us the opportunity to engage with students and raise the profile of the service.
Then we did a campaign where students could vote for a guide or publication that we would produce – they had to vote using ping pong balls for one of three options.
The winning option was for 10 places for £10 to visit in Edinburgh. This was a very good way of using a visual prompt to engage students and was simple but effective.

The most successful campaign that we’ve run is the Exam Locations Guide campaign. This was thought up by two of the SIP assistants at the end of last year for the December exams and then developed further and expanded for the May exams.
Exam locations are difficult for students because in a University such as Edinburgh the locations are widespread across the university and indeed the city. They are often in places students don’t usually visit as they use the big halls not the usual lecture theatres or teaching rooms. There are quite a few university maps but none highlighting exam halls. So we produced a guide with a colour coded map and included other useful information. We also got various exam related items such as pens, stress balls, relaxation CDs, sweets etc. The guides plus the items were very popular and students appreciated the useful information at a potentially stressful time.