Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Efficiency conference round up.

Heres's a few random snippets from the rest of the efficiency conference today.

University of London has 300 organisations subscribing to their shared services, including 2.5 m students from 150 registered on their shared hosted Moodle platform.
Have achieved big carbon reductions through replacing kit, culture change and recycling. To raise awareness of sustainability they have beehives on top of one of their buildings and sell the honey in university shop.

Deficit in funding of research is increasing. For every £1 that comes in, we spend nearly half as much again, so we need to be more efficient in terms of equipment sharing and cost sharing groups.

HEFCE ask for Value for Money reports, but only get them from 60% of sector.

Over last 3 years sector has delivered over £1bn of savings, mainly in procurement, IT and Estates.

The HE is estate worth about 60bn. Need to drive value out of it. 2 main ways:
Reduce total cost of ownership.
Invest, and maximise return on investment

80% of students say that quality of estate affects their decision to choose a particular university and 30% have turned down a place because of the quality of the faculties. As a sector we've improved space utilisation in many areas, apart from space for academics!

Leicester university has a project called Flattening the Hierarchy, where managers and students work together to share information, learn together and improve the student experience.

Keele University has an avatar called Sam to answer student queries. You can ask him a question here.

Next years 18 yr olds were born in the first year of Blair government, 1997. They were 5 when 9/11 happened
Witnessed rapid change in technology, and have a different view of products and services to us.
For them, going to university is a social transaction, not a financial one. They don't want a consumer environment, but a personalised one.
Consumer implies consumer rights and consumer choice. Which they are not driving.
Grown up in a world moulded around them, and they want a highly personalised service.

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Innovations in TEL

Interesting to go to a session on innovations in technology enhanced learning, to people who aren't technologists. It was about how to get TEL embedded in the institution.

Our academic staff have to contend with many innovations, but many don't become embedded, even though some are technically simple.
One of big things students complain about is inconsistent practices. Some modules use technology, some don't. Want a consistent approach.
Also complain about very simple, basic things not being right.

How do we get better benefits from our investments in technology enhanced learning?

Align TEL with strategic goals.
Such as NSS, employability, efficiency etc.
Support senior managers in digital leadership.
Measure impact of TEL.
There are efficiency gains from things like on-line submission, on-line marking.

Innovation overload.
In manufacturing they have processes to bring things from R and D to production. Do we?
Need a more orchestrated approach to innovation.
Need to work systematically with departmental heads to show how they can take ownership of technology to help them meet their goals.
Academic staff believe that technology always burns up time. Need to address this to get better embedding.
How much is carrot, how much stick? Dictate from top or bottom up? Work with departments so they understand benefits of TEL.

Use innovative staff/student partnerships to drive change. Students make good change agents and leaders. Extend these partnerships to include employers.

Barriers to adoption: Digital literacy of staff. Confidence with using technology. Workload. - TEL can take more time than traditional methods. There's also a perception that our systems aren't reliable so staff are wary of using them. Learning technologists like working with innovators. Have to have coaching skills to work with people who aren't as confident.

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Efficiency in Higher Education

Today I'm at Universities UK for the 4th Annual Efficiency in Higher Education Conference.

First speaker is Professor Ian Diamond, who is chair of the UUK Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group. Back in 2011 I was on this group which produced an Initial report, and now a second report, phase two, has been published.

Started with some information about the economic impact of higher education in the UK, which I might have shared before, but no harm in doing it again.

It is important to remind ourselves how much of an impact HE has on the economy - locally, regionally and nationally.

In the last five years:
Cuts to capital funding, but continued investment needed
Erosion of the value of the tuition fee in England and Wales, efficiency and cost saving mandated in other parts of the UK
Science and research budget reduced in real terms
HE focus on efficiency, first report published in 2011. Been looking at efficiency for some time, but not necessarily getting the message out.
Universities have collectively reported surpluses, which could be interpreted as making a profit. But, in turnover terms they are not huge, and they are being used to fund investment, which is needed.

There is a funding challenge. There are pressures on public funding, and the next government will have tough choices to make. The UK needs a world class HE system, which is an integral part of economic recovery.
HE therefore needs to make a robust case for investment.
To do that, we need to demonstrate that we are efficient, and that we are taking improvements in efficiency seriously.

The latest report identifies 6 key work streams which will help us to do this:
Excellence, reward and the higher education workforce. This is our biggest asset.
Delivering value from the HE estate. We have a huge estate. 26m square metres, 7 times bigger than Tesco.
A world class and sustainable research base.
Harnessing the benefits of asset sharing
Unlocking value from higher education data
Evidence, oversight and sharing good practice. We need to be better about measuring what we do, spreading information and sharing through things like the efficiency exchange.

The report is well worth reading, it's available here.

This was followed from a talk from an economist, who looked at how we measure efficiency.
He demonstrated that universities operate at a higher level of efficiency than other sectors, including banking etc. Older Universites are less efficient, because we're looking after heritage assists. Also, specialist institutions eg for the Arts are also less efficient because of for example the amount of space needed for students.

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Monday, 23 March 2015

Final round up

A final round up about UCISA2015.

It was really enjoyable, with some great speakers and exhibitors, but I hadn't realised how tiring it would be as chair of the conference committee. Hat's off to everyone who's done it before me!

We had some good social events, and one of the perks of being chair is that you get to be part of arranging them We took a very plain room and turned it into a gothic/spooky themed event for the informal dinner, and the main formal dinner was in the wonderful surroundings of the museum of Scotland. Not a brilliant picture below, but it was a spectacular space. 

The other perk is that you gt to meet and sit next to the after dinner speaker. In this case the very lively and entertaining Gyles Brandreth! He was still tweeting about the stories we discussed into the weekend!

The only session I haven't actually written about, was one I helped to give. Together with Tim Kidd from JISC technologies we did a case study on the outage we suffered back in October, where the whole of the Yorkshire and Humberside region lost connection to the internet for just over 3 hours. We presented it as a lessons learned study, and both sides had some serious lessons to learn, especially around communication. Hopefully there'll be a link to a recording of it up soon, so I might just share it!

Only a couple of weeks to recover, and then we start planning for next years UCISA in Manchester!

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Friday, 20 March 2015

An inspirational morning...

This morning's session was brilliant - 4 excellent speakers, and we started with a solar eclipse!  A couple of weeks ago we'd decided to put the start time back, to allow people to watch it, and I've spent the last few days worrying that it would be cloudy and we wouldn't see anything. But, the sun was out - before the moon moved over it of course, and delegates got a great view - through the special glasses of course - don't they look cool!

We had four speakers - the first three talking about future trends and the last truly inspiational. Because of staring late we didn't have a break, but well done to all the delegates, and speakers for sticking with it. I was chairing the session, so wasn't taking notes for this blog, so these are just a few of my thoughts and memories.

The first session was Nick Jones from Gartner talking about trends in mobile technology. He covered the different platforms, operating systems, apis, app development tools etc, and what we should be looking out for. Secure the app and the data, don't try and secure the device was a key point. Watch the consumer space, that's where the innovation is. And we need to up our game in terms of user experience. Think gamification and employ psychologists for really good UX.

Next was Michael Wignall, National Technology Officer for Microsoft UK, who talked about when Digital Life meets Digital work. I think I can best illustrate the world he described by sharing the video he showed. Two different women, one a scientist looking for project work, and one an executive looking for a scientist.

What was really cool about that - all the technology in it is either in beta or in development right now. And no-one logged in to anything!

Third up was LJ Rich, presenter on BBC Click, journalist and musician. Boy was she lively. Her talk was pure "presentational caffeine".

 It was a brilliant, manic look at so many different examples of new technologies, especially around the internet of things. Who could forget the device that makes cauliflower taste of chips.

or brain controlled wearable cat ears (I so want a pair....).

Or this water based interface - great for playing games in the bath!

Out final speaker was Baroness Grey-Thomson. Luckily she didn't mind being called Tanni. One of the greatest paralympians ever. Winner of 11 gold medals, holder of over 20 world records, and 6 time winner of the London marathon.

She was truly inspirational. The whole room was engrossed. Very funny, interesting, personable, and some great anecdotes with serious messages.  Ejected at the age of ten from a cinema for being a fire risk in her wheelchair, she was taught the most appropriate response by her mother  "I have never spontaneously combusted in my life". She told us to always do the best we can, to be nice to people around us, that "technology can help me to make the best contribution I possibly can", and that parking in a disabled space without a blue badge should be a criminal offence! Truly inspiring end to the conference.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Cybercrime and cyber criminals

Really pleased to be listening to Charlie McMurdie, cyber security expert. Previously in the police, now an adviser for PWC.

Globally cybercrime costs $ 388bn a years in terms of financial losses and time lost. UK alone lost £408m from 250,000. Cybercrime is now classed as a Tier one threat.

93% of large businesses breached
Attacks by outsiders up 73%
Average cost of incidents was £65k to £115k
No of security incidents round the world rose 48% to 42.8m
70% of UK companies experiences downtime as a result of security incidents

Used to be mainly brute force, but now more subtle. Cyber criminals don't want you know about them. What to stay on your network longer. Much more sophisticated.

Cybercrime rising significantly in Europe. But Europe dominates other regions in detecting security incidents, a 41% jump in 2014.
Lot of intelligence sharing. Working better between agencies and pulling in intelligence from industry partners

Starting to be seen as a business enabler, not just province of IT department. Is now interest at board level.

Universities at particular risk. We have business reputations to maintain. Most of high end R and D is done in Universities. We are potentially more at risk than a traditional business. Students are the new generation, everything is technology enabled, lots of turnover.

Not just interested in stealing research data, but also a threat of contaminating date, either to discredit it, or don't agree with it.

Different sorts of cybercrime.
Nation state or commissioned attacks. hacktivism, cyber terrorism, organised crime.

Cyber criminals are becoming increasing sophisticated. 16 yr old lad, using old Dell PC, had 120 registered domains, 40 online identities designed to steal personal banking data. His computer had 16 virtual machines with 8m pieces of personal data on the hard drive.

Amount of mobile devices has increased. Are causing more problems than laptops and computers.

Hacktivism . Loosely organised gangs eg Anonymous.
Ryan Cleary, 19 was running a million node botnet. Used to knock over PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, CIA, FBI, NHS, together with other members of teams, especially Lulzsec.
Principals were in UK. Her team got them! Have to take all of them out at the same time, infrastructure disabled etc.

Some other great examples in her talk, amazing how these hugely well organised attacks are often no more than a bunch of very young people.
Lots to watch out for.

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Looking ahead to 2025

Jeff Haywood, VP for Digital Education at Edinburgh University
Post compulsory education in an even more technology rich world.

Technologies are not in a vacuum, but are socially shaped
They arise and are used in response to need
By 2025 there will be new technologies that we can't imagine today.

What sorts of things will we have to take account of over next few years?

Over next few years, we will see an increasing desire to develop an HE system that is fit for purpose in the 21st century. Political desire for change and modernisation will be in a policy agenda. Big consequence for the systems we use, and for the suppliers.

NMC horizon report in 2014 set out the significant challenges impeding higher education technology adoption in 3 categories:
Low digital fluency of faculty
Relative lack of rewards for teaching

Competition from new models of education
Scaling teaching innovation

Wicked ( complex to define, much less address)
Expanding access
Keeping education relevant

"IT has been extremely consequential in higher education over the last 25 years, but principally in output enhancing ways that do not show up in the usual measure of either productivity or cost per student"
Quote from William Bowen in October 2012

Things we have to look out for
Data based research for all. Will be a significant challenge we all have to grasp. So much data out there, can buy processing, storage analysis tools cheaply. Everybody can do research. How do we bring this in, give people the skills in analysis, data visualisation etc. We will have to engage with it.

Digital data and longevity. This is not just about research data, but our own data. How do we help people create, document, use, store, share and preserve data?

Bring your own technology. Not a threat, but an opportunity. People bring stuff that we don't have to buy, procure, manage or refresh. We would be foolish to ignore or exclude this. How do we capitalise on this? Support it without feeling the need to own or support it.

Open is going to grow. Open data, open science, open publications, open education. Is becoming accepted, and normal by default. Open virtual laboratory. Open Shakespeare. How do we capture citizen science? It will happen anyway.

Technology futures that will impact education:

Security, identity, surveillance, malevolence
Ubiquity of fast internet
Mobile everything and wearables
Internet of things, consumer devices and instrumentation
Semantic web and ubiquitous information, find and digitise on demand
Intelligent agents. Helping us to do things at scale.
Data driven world, analytics, predictive, on demand compute
Personalisation. Me+free+easy models will dominate
Video/audio will be easier than text
Speech recognition. Any voice instantly.
Real time translation. May not be a dominant language in future. Will radically change international collaboration
Digital/physical co presence. Think Princess Leia in Star Wars. Will radically change virtual meetings.
Social Internet. Collaboration and mass crowd sourcing
3d printing will be common, fast and cheap.

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The wind of change.....

Next session is from Alison Allden
Chief exec of HESA

Exploring the HE Information Landscape. We don't know a lot about it.
Only discovered last year that there are over 500 demands for data made by over 90 organisations to our institutions.
HESA data collected in July after a student has arrived, and released to us in following January, 15 months later.
Liken HESA to a dinosaur, becoming extinct?
So, has to change.

HEDIIP, information landscape project.
Introducing unique learner number. Will enable us to track students and link data.
About to report, and will produce a blueprint for a different information landscape.

In the centre, HESA transformed.
HESA must change its approach to the collection of HE data.
HESA cached.

Aim is to:
Enable timely data collection and reporting
Reduce the burden on data providers
Drive improved value for money
Deliver data that is fit for purpose
Support changes to data governance

Developing a business case at the moment.
Website for cached programme coming up.

Value of information, why do we have it and why are we collecting it?
University guides, helping students choose
League tables
Supporting students choice, KIS is open data.

Sector is changing, collecting data from a wider range of stakeholders.
Dramatic increase in requests for data.
Mainly market research data.
HESA now publish subject benchmarking reports to explore students, qualification outcome, employment. Can be used to look at your portfolio.

Can be used to look at strategic issues.
Interesting pic about proportion of women in education, women are pink, obviously

Or look at trends in education. Showed a slide showing that Computer science is the only science subject where number of graduates has declined in last 10 years.

Trying to make the data more accessible. There is a HESA app.
And building a next generation HEIDI, working with JISC, enabling us to build dashboards etc. Will be a licence to use it with tableau.

In conclusion, HESA has to change, but so do we. We will have to work together to take this forward

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When excellence is just a click away....

Opening session this morning is from Emer Coleman.
When excellence is just a click away, Average just won't cut it

Students have changed rapidly. They are not the people our educational system was designed to teach.

Three things universities do best:

Which can be delivered on line, and which need traditional methods?
We're now in the conceptual age, following on from:
The Agricultural Age
The Industrial Age
The Information Age
The Conceptual age

What can be done by machine, will be done by machine
3m packages from Amazon could be delivered by drones.
All in the near future.
Benefits, fewer cars etc. But, fewer jobs.

Kodak had 179,000 employees. They invented the digital camera. But fearful of what it would do to their traditional model, so didn't iterate it. Company folded.

Questions to answer about future of jobs:
Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
Can a computer do it faster?
Is what I offer in demand in the age of abundance?

Are our institutions ready for the next disruption?
Often our technology at home is better than what people have at work.

What does a truly digital institution look like?
Don't fear failure. Fail. Fail fast and learn
Collaboration not silos.
Rely heavily on collaboration tools, email relegated to only when necessary. Access information quickly, through a simple search.
Open by design. Use open products like Google. Only lock down when necessary. Expect to work from home.
Valued by outcomes.
Staff value more what their customers say about them than their managers.

The future is here, just not evenly distributed.

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Opening keynote - UCAS

Well, UCISA 2015 has started. I've given my opening address welcoming everyone here and thanking the volunteers, and we've had an excellent welcome from the VC of Herriot Watt, Julian Jones. He emphasised that technology is at the heart of what we do. Fewer organisations have seen a greater rate of change than universities, and the reatest part of that change is in technology. he also said that he'd never been to a conference before where the programme had been reorganised to cope with a solar eclipse, and thought that we were his sort of people!

Opening keynote was from Mary Curnock Cook, Chief Executive of UCAS. Here's some notes from her talk.
The UCAS mission is to inspire and facilitate progression in education through information and admissions services,
It's a charity, with a commercial subsidiary, operating in Cheltenhem with 450 employees. As a charity, it is regulated. Have to report on the public benefit they deliver. So, they have to help learners progress etc.Not just about admissions.

They have no government funding.

Serve 163 universities, 167 university colleges and colleges offering HE.  c700 other HE providers
In 1962, less than 100,000 applicants. Now 700,000. . Much more diverse now.
In 62, nearly all men. Now more women then men, also worrying.
First shared service, argueably the most successful.
Business processes almost the same now as 62.
UCAS one of busiest web sites in country.
Now offer advice for post GCSE, not just HE. Advice on apprenticeships etc.
Trying to get good advice to kids earlier.
Big social media presence

On just  one day in August....
5m exam results
239 log ins per second
18000 phone call
1.25m log ins to Track

Thanks for the cloud. No way they could afford to gear up server capacity for this short time of capacity.

Key drivers of change in applications is not fees
Changing qualification landscape.
No of BTecs going up. Now 100,000 people coming into HE with BTEcs.
Demographics, no of 18 year olds dropping. No of vocational qualifications growing.
Big challenge for selecting organisations.

UCAS IT function is complex!
Moving to SOA.
Building a profile based on a learners journey.
Thought they would spend 50% on core services, and 50% on change
Closer to 90:10. Transformation plans slipping away. Every year something would go wrong with legacy systems.
So, proposed digital acceleration
Increase investment in short term. Every pound spent on legacy system is a pound wasted,
Need to increase velocity of change.
Used to traditional approach to project management - waterfall, prince2 but this eant working. 
So, moved to Agile. Embrace change, quality comes from feedback. Adapt as you go along. Collect information as you learn. Deliver working software as early as possible and as often as possible with feedback loop built in.
Good diagram of the benegits of Agile:

At "Wagile" at the moment, bit waterfall, but agile.
Gradually rolling it out.
Keeping an eye for what they want at the end

It's all about culture and mindset, not IT.

Great opening keynote.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

UCISA 15 is here

Well, for the past year I've been chairing the Organising Committee for the Annual UCISA Conference - and now it's finally here! I'm in Edinburgh, at the conference centre, waiting for it to start. The programme has come together really well, as far as I know all the speakers are turning up, the social events and the exhibition are organised and well under the control of the UCISA office.

Most of the plenary keynotes, including one from me and Tim Kidd from JISC tomorrow, will be live streamed here. Can't wait for it to start!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Digital vs Human

Final keynote of this DigiFest is from Richard Watson, writer, speaker and consultant who advises organisations on the future.

His talk was entitled Digital vs Human, and was actually about reducing, or limiting our use of technology. Some brief notes from an entertaining speech:

This year there will be more phones than people.
75% of 10 year olds in UK have a phone.
Voice traffic going down, text and image based rising.
Increasingly we are communicating with each other through a screen. Does it matter?
With text, there is no tone, no body language.
Even with Skype lose important elements of communication.
Can lose as much as 90% of clues without voice tone and body laguage
We are communicating more than before, but how much is being understood.

Recent research shows that on average we check our phones once every 390 seconds.
This sort of activity leads to "Constant partial attention"

When it comes to things that matter, nothing is better than face to face contact
Digital communications should be used to enhance relationships, not replace them.

Average office worker gets distracted every 11 minutes, can take 40 minutes to get back to where they were. A constant apprehension of being distracted causes big productivity loss

Could smart machines end up taking our jobs?
Possibly. Robots in have been in car assembly since 70s
But we are now on the cusp of smart machines making in-roads into many jobs.
Gartner suggests 1:3 jobs redundant by software by 2025
Robots are already being used in kindergartens and care homes in Japan

So, what can we do that machines are dreadful at? What makes us different?
Humans are curious
Like to interact physically
Highly creative
Care about welfare of other humans

If you can connect with people emotionally, your job might be safe :-)

Some consequences of interacting with digital and mobile devices. We are making conscious choices to avoid people, physical relationships. Simulations of life are more captivating than real life.

Attention spans are shorter now in children. Books are too long and boring. Solution, - more screens and more interactive content. But, isn't that making things worse?

There is a loss of deep thinking. Screens are great for finding and discovering stuff.  But no focus, no contextual thought.
Only 1% of people searching on Google get past the first page of search results.

Digital technology should be used to enhance human skills and behaviour not replace it. It's not digital vs human, but digital and human

Three suggestions from him:

Switch off
Ritualise being without our devices for a day a week. Switch off work device after 7. Switch mind off. If you want to have a good idea, stop trying to have a good idea. Silence, stillness, slowness should be valued.

Understand strengths and weaknesses of different technologies
Match the technology to the task. Paper and pixels are different. Screens are useful for connecting short bits of information. Great for collaboration and finding stuff
Paper good for complex arguments, contextualisation.
Work out the best technology to use. A pencil is much a piece of technology as an iPad

Important to get enough. Essential for physical and mental health and ideas.
Sleep on it is a good phrase. When we sleep the brain processes information and assimilates information as memories. Filters stuff. Links ideas to extract meaning.
Used to go to bed to sleep. Now bedrooms are media rooms or offices. Type of light in kindles and iPads disturbs our sleep patterns.
People used to sleep around 9 hours a night. Recommendation used to be 8 hours, now it's 7.
Sleep on that.

So, at the end of a Digital Festival, we have a call to reduce our use of digital. Interesting ;-)

Great conference, really enjoyed, it apart from seriously spraining my ankle and having to limp around for most of the day.

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Research Objects and Location beacons

Day two of Digifest kicks off with a session from Carol Goble, professor of Computer Science at Manchester University

Really interesting session about research methods, and how our knowledge flow is too slow. Research is published as a PDF, or as spreadsheets and the supporting data is embedded in a paper. Can be difficult to get at the actual data and often very hard to reproduce the actual experiments as methods are not included.

This is especially important in computer science, as researchers need to be able to inspect the software used in the research. Her assertion was that broken software equals broken science.

She introduced the concept of research objects, which I found fascinating. Rather than explain them, it's probably better to look at the web site if you're interested.
It's all about metadata......

Then a session on "bringing location indoors" using location sensors, iBeacons, GPS etc indoors. Floor plans extremely important. Lots of clever algorithms enable things to work together.

IBeacons. Low energy Bluetooth devices. Prices start at $5. Use some clever nanotechnology to stick to surfaces. An app will detect them from about 1m away. They work either in the background creating a proximity circle around the device which detects when you enter it, or ranging, which is when the app searches for any beacon in range. In theory can get pinpoint location from 3 beacons, but not very accurate at the moment.

Can use them to identify movement between location, eg by setting up virtual tripwires. Can use this for navigation.
Also use them for nearables. Finding and gathering content about specific nearby objects.

Some example use cases:
Indoor navigation
Estates and buildings reporting and ticketing esp for accessibility issues. Eg open an app and it will already know where you are so can flag a problem immediately.
Student recruitment events/open days, esp navigation and information
Conference and event navigation, better than maps
Social location sharing
Smart lecture room, to pick up digital information eg lecture notes
Study desk reservation
Student attendance monitoring which we're hoping to roll out soon using our iSheffield app. Details in an Ombiel press release.

Apple and Google both offering "submit a floor plan" service currently prioritising big commercial venues

Projection of a floor plan into 3d can make it easier to find your way round.

Good session, and we perhaps need to think about what else we can use the iBeacons for in our lecture theatres in addition to attendance monitoring.

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