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


Future of Technology in Education conference #fote13

Last Friday I attended the FoTE conference which was enjoyable and interesting. I attended in 2011 but didn’t make it last year so was pleased to be able to shuffle work and travel and life to get there this time.
It is hosted by ULCC at Senate House, Uni of London. It’s a beautiful building and has great memories for me as I used to spend hours in the library there in the 80s when I did my first degree at Kings College.

I like the event because it is for Learning Technologists and academics / teachers / educationalists who are involved and knowledgeable about learning technologies – it’s not for the general overviewers but at the same time not cliquey. Also there is always a good back channel discussion via twitter.
The first speaker was Nicola Millard who is a futurologist. She was brilliant and engaging and talking about customers which is what I’m interested in. I do like an inspirational key note speaker to kick off an event, someone with an interesting take on the situation and with an appealing delivery. She talked about making things easy and effortless for customers and different sorts of effort such as cognitive effort. She mentioned email and that it would die out due to other channels being easier – not sure that I agree with that sweeping statement…..
A great point that she made was that you need 4 things in order to work – coffee, cake, connectivity and company. I agree entirely although would substitute tea for coffee. I think this idea is something library people should think about embracing – what sort of space is needed for you and for library users?
The next speaker was Alicia Wise from Elsevier who talked about Open Access. It was an interesting talk and quite difficult as the audience, I expect, are predominantly in favour of OA and see publishers as a barrier to it. But it was good to see them as part of the discussion.
The third speaker was Gwen Noteborn from Maastricht Uni talking about Webcasts in education: Mythbusters! It was ok and interesting but maybe covering old ground to some extent.
After the coffee break was the Fireside Chat with a real virtual fire in the background.
FOTE13 Fireside Speakers:
Yousuf Khan (Chair), Chief Information Officer, Hult International Business School
Adrian Ellison, Director of Information Technology, University of West London
Cathy Walsh, Principal and CEO, Barking & Dagenham College
Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Head of IT Services, University of York
Richard Maccabee, Head of ICT, University of London
There was some discussion around the idea that technology changes but working practices don’t often change in order to develop along side. Again ‘easiness’ of using technology was mentioned – I agree in part, it has to accessible and available but I’m not sure it has to be simple – some of the appeal of technology is that it is challenging and complex – it can change the world, that is why it is enthralling.

After lunch Lindsay Jordan delivered a great presentation including a blue outfit and a piano. She talked about why people drop out of courses. Sustained learning needs motivation, organisation, self discipline – can we get these in an online environment? Possibly? She advocated face to face communication rather than email….again I would say it depends on the situation and the interaction.

Next presentation was by Martin King and was about diversity and connectivity – lots of interesting stuff.
Next presentation was from Kevin
Ashley from the Digital Curation Centre. He talked about the data deluge and the problem that we have is that the amount of data is outstripping the technology we have to store it.
After the coffee break, the final two presentations were about Moocs. Matt Yee-King and Marco Gillies talked about the Mooc that they created and delivered at Goldsmiths. It was a great insight into the practicalities of scaling up an online course and some of the issues and solutions they had encountered. This included changing deadlines which is easy for small cohorts but not for large numbers. Also the problems of negative comments on discussion forums – even if 1% make one comment, this can be large number of complaints.
The last presentation was by Diana Laurillard entitled The pedagogies for large-scale student guidance. The data from Moocs suggest that the majority of participants already have a degree or higher degree. This suggests that it is not for undergraduate study but for CPD. The drop out rates are high but registration is not the same as signing up. When scaling up the numbers involved in courses for Moocs, other factors have to be considered such as admin and support. Support costs are not going to go down but technology can innovate pedagogy. There needs to be investment in teacher innovation to make best use of resources and improve student outcomes.
All in all, it was a great day with lots of ideas to take away and reflect on. It’s good to spend a day immersed in learning technology, listening and talking to people.

On the way back to the station I managed a very brief (10min) visit to the British Library – just time to stand and stare.

Digital Artefact

This is my digital artefact
It is a video of a series of wordles which are visualisations of the words that make up the themes and ideas of the EDC MOOC course.
 They show the perspective from the ‘course’ side, the ‘YOU’ side and
compare with the ‘participant’, the ‘ME’ side. 
The themes, each of which represent a week of the course, move from technology at the beginning of the course to human and education at the end.
The density of the words and colours used is a reflection of the complexities involved in being part of a MOOC and trying to make sense of the learning experience.