Monday, 31 October 2011

UCAS Admissions Process Review Consultation

One of the groups I've been going to London to sit on recently is the UCAS Admissions Process Review Steering group. Not been able to say much about it until now, but today the consultation report has been published, so everything now out in the open!  It's been an interesting process - the review has been very evidence based, as it should be, and you can see some of the evidence collected here, including some interesting facts and figures about the amount of transactions which take place in HEIs to place applicants (over 9million), and an indicative cost of those transactions (about £26m).  The group set out to review the whole process of admissions, and took feedback from all interested parties - schools, colleges, students, parents, teachers, universities etc.

The review discovered a number of issues, not least the complex nature of the current process, which many students found difficult to understand - the diversity of different type of student, courses and qualifications means that a one size fits all approach has become unrealistic. In addition, the combined effect of predicted grades, clearing and the insurance choice has resulted in a system which is complex, not necessarily transparent to applicants, and inefficient for HEIs to administer. The timescales also mean that many applicants have to make important choices before they are ready.

The report proposes major changes in two phases - changes to the process to improve efficiency and prepare for a post results system to be in place for entry in 2014, and a move to a a post results admissions system for entry 2016.  This is the radical change, and one which will generate a lot of debate. The Steering Group  - which was made up of representatives of all of the stakeholders  - had a lot of debate about the findings, and  fully endorses the recommendations.

At the very first meeting of the group, we saw a copy of the UCCA, (that's what UCAS used to be), handbook from nearly 40 years ago. What struck me was how little things have changed since then - even the language is just the same - insurance offers, clearing, unconditional offers. The process may have moved from being mainly paper based to mainly electronic, but not a lot else has changed, so the review was timely.

The report  is here, and the consultation open until mid January.

Google+, Libary Clouds and the future of student computing rooms

I spent most of last week doing things I can't really blog about - promotion and regrading meetings, scoring Exceptional Contribution Award cases, that sort of thing, so sorry for lack of posts!

A couple of interesting things happened, which its probably worth mentioning.

Google announced that Google+ is now part of the apps suite. We've already enabled it as part of our test domain, and now we'll be looking at the implications of rolling it out.  I'm particularly interested in how we can use "hang outs" for desktop video conferencing across campus. There will be issues for those of us already using it for our personal accounts, I'm not sure how that will work.

We had a meeting with our colleagues from the Library, who are replacing their existing library management system with a totally cloud based one. They have signed up to be part of the  Ex Libris early adopter programme to implement this next generation of library systems. They hope to migrate fully by summer 2013, and we look forward to working with them on this exciting development.

And finally, one of the sessions I didn't get to at Educause  (there are about 20 parallel sessions so often there's two or three on at the same time I want to go to), was on the future of the Computer Room for students.  As student ownership of laptops increases, and we can virtualise more software, we're often  asked why we provide open access machines. In practice, they are one of our most popular facilities, in the Information Commons there are about 550 available 24/7, many of them pre-bookable, and there is stil huge demand for them.  Peter Tinson attended the session, and has written a really good blog post about it and some of the issues surrounding the provision of student machines, and I recommend a read of it here.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Clouds and Frenetic Kinetics!

Good first day back, catching up on stuff, although not too much as i kept up with all emails and stuff last week.

This morning I had a meeting of the HEFCE Cloud Advisory Group which is overseeing the UMF Cloud and Shared Services Programme. Normally I make the trip to London, but couldn't do that today, and had no other reason to go there, so video-conferenced in using the JANET Videoconferencing Service (JVCS). It was excellent - I was very impressed - 4 different locations and video and sound  as clear as anything. Only problem was I was the only site not to have coffee on hand. Lots of new projects under this heading being discussed - some very exciting with real benefits for HEIs. Watch this space for them to be announced.

Spent a lot of the rest of the day on promotion work, as I'm a member of many of the panels. Obviously cant blog about that, so will leave you with this rather marvellous video:

I think it's rather good - I love the tongue depressors woven together so they explode upwards!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Final Sessions

Friday morning started with a panel session - 4 CIOs of major US Universities discussing their IT strategies, and in particular whether they were betting on clouds, collaboration or contracts.
An interesting session, I didn't take too many notes, but the general consecus was that the future would be a mixture of all three, and the exact combination would depend on what sort of institution you want to be, bearing in mind that our biggest  expense is people and we need to make sure that our  human capital (their phrase, certainly not mine), should deliver the greatest value. Some interesting nuggets such as Indiana University had saved millions ($15m I think) by implementing Kuali Financials instead of Peoplesoft Financials.

The final session was delivered by the President of Indiana University, who was definitely pushing the benefits of open source. his opening statement was that Universities have three missions:
  • The Creation of Knowledge, (research)
  • The Dissemination of Knowledge, (teaching and learning)
  • The Preservation of Knowledge.
Universities are some of oldest institutions in the world. The biggest technology companies may not be here in 100 years, but most universities will be.
One big challenge facing us in the preservation of knowledge is data storage. Researchers are not very good at the long term preservation and curation of data. If data is important and not replicable, long term storage is a significant challenge. The experts in this area are in Information Systems and we need to work with our researchers to address it.

The recession causing severe pressures all over world, and all forms of income are under pressure. This is the new normal for HE - it's not going to get better. We will be under pressure to be more productive, and in other sectors most improvements in productivity have been due to technology. We will need to do this in education. On-line education however is still expensive, when that changes it will have a significant impact on economics of HE. Open source software will and should have an impact on the cost of running a university, either through savings or cost avoidance.  They have saved millons of dollars through the implementaion of open source software, and there is much now to choose from including Kuali, Sakai and Moodle.   At this point the twitter stream was asking whether these savings counted the cost of  development, deployment and maintenance of open source.

He was a believer in the centralisation of IT where appropriate. The basic arguements are economics and security, as well as improvements in service. It's happened in the private sector and we're not that different in terms of basic infrastructure, there are no arguements to sustain uniqueness and the savings can be immense.

He talked about risk and how to manage them, and I was interested that all elements of security in Indiana have been brought together into the Office of Public Safety. It includes campus security, information and data security and emergency planning. They have a good web site here.

Finally, in a closing statement about the importance of people, he said that we are the partners of teachers and researchers in our institutions, not the servants.  Rather a good note to end the conference on I thought!

All in all a good trip - a lovely city, some very useful presentations and as always good company leading to some great networking.

We the people...

It's not all hard work and sessions at EDUCAUSE, although on full conference days the first session is always at 8am, and the last finishes at 6pm, so long days. On two nights there's usually some sort of party, one organised by vendors, and one by the conference. Not for the first night I chose (along with almost the entire British contingent) to go to the Google party - its always good. Held in the Academy of Natural Science, we got up close and personal to some fantastic butterflies in their butterfly house:
and saw lots of other exhibits including some dinosaur skeletons. The party element was great - a magician who fooled me completely with some very good card tricks. I know it's sleight of hand, but really annoys me when I cant work out how its been done. We could make android images of ourselves and have them made into badges - can you recognise me?

And  - the best of all -  we could ecord a 7 second video in front of a green screen with your choice of props, and have it turned into a flip book with the aid of some very clever printers. Of course, most of us chose the boxing glove to hit somebody with. On the way back we managed to get a quick picture of TeamBrit under the LOVE sculpture that Philadelphia is famous for (being the city of brotherly love and all that.

On the last night of the conference there's usually something organised to do with the city we're in, and this time we went to the National Constitution Centre, Philadelphia being the place the Declaration of Independence and the  Constitution were signed. Interesting place, and we were able to wander in amongst bronze statutes of all those who'd signed the constitution, including Benjamin Franklin.

I must say, I was very impressed with Philadelphia. It's a city with a real nice feel about it. Easy to walk round, and lots of people walking (and you can't say that about all US cities). very flat, lots of parks, murals and public art everywhere, and lots of history.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

As Learning Goes Mobile

Last session today was from Lee Raine of the Pew Internet projects out mobility.

He started with the questions he couln't answer:
Who'll do the ebooks thing best
Are students attention spans shorter now
Are students brains being rewired
Are students more indifferent to privacy
What's the matter the kids today?

He then went on to give us some figure. All of them relate to US adults:

65% are social networking site users
55% share photos
26% post comments on sits and blogs
15% have personal web site
14% blog
13% use twitter
9% allow location awareness from social media

Blogging and twitter low percentages, but big in influence.

People getting more information, from more sources.  More filters being set up so they get what they want and regulate information flows.

50% of US adults and 80% of teenagers use social media. Not just a young people thing anymore.
Social networks and social media are becoming more important in people's learning strategies.
Social networks are more influential and are differently  segmented and layered. For example, people don't pay as much attention to news, as news which is important will find its way to them through networks.
People have trusted networks, and question their network about validity of information.
Social networks are the audience for the things they are creating.

More phone subscribers in US than people.
56% own laptops
12% own ebook readers
9% have iPads and rising. Early adopters, elite cohort.

Distinction between tablets and ebook readers getting blurred eg in kindle fire. Trend will continue

35% of US adults have smart phones. Higher percentage in younger groups. Majority connect to Internet wirelessly.

25% of smart phone users use it as their primary device for accessing the Internet.

17% have bumped into something or someone whilst paying more attention to the mobile device than their physical environment

1 in 4 adults use apps. Predict that both apps and web services will survive but for different things. Segmented applications for different needs.

Top apps functions:
Info updates
Learn about interests

Text messaging integral part of the mobile story. Primary way young adults communicate with each other. Going up. Everything else going down.
Average is 109 texts a day for 18 to 24 yr olds

Mobile connectivity is changing social and information spaces by enhancing and enabling:

1 New access points to knowledge. Ebooks and the cloud. Sharing information.
Real time information sharing. Opportunism and pain avoidance. Eg hit a traffic jam and figure out alternative. Hyper coordination of group activities.

2 Just in time searches. Settle arguments. New cognition? Some evidence that this is emerging.

3 Augmented reality. Merger of real world and data. Esp in apps environment. Can simulate environments.

4 Perpetual, pervasive  awareness/access to social networks. Deeper connection and consultation. Can share more stuff and participate. Networks getting bigger and more diverse.

Ubiquitous small screens are changing attention and media zones. Continuous partial attention. All gadgets on. People live in information streams. Don't read in depth. Dip in and out of stream. Not linear or structured.
Info snacking. Quick doses of info.

Mobile connectivity is changing public and private space/time continuum.  Any device any time etc. Public life has invaded private life. "Alone together" New social norms are developing.

New kinds of learners are emerging.
Learning used to be a transaction, now its a process

What will future university look like in 10 years time?  They are looking at differnet scenarios, and you can vote on them here.

Virtual Lab

Sometimes it's good to go to a session just because you think you might enjoy it, rather than you might learn something from it. That's why I've just been to one on teaching chemistry and microbiology in a virtual lab in Second Life. The University of Aalto in Finland have created LabLife3D, a virtual building with clean rooms, laboratories and a lobby area where students can discuss things.

Students are taught to use equipment before entering the real lab, and have to pass certain tasks relating to lab safety, especially for the clean room. They can also perform experiments, including being able to fast forward time for cell cultures etc. It enables larger classes to be taught more cheaply, and the students to learn at their own pace and in their own time. The students rate it positively. Downsides are that it requires a lot of specialist skills to build the virtual reality, and currently mistakes or accidents in the experiments have no consequences. This is currently being developed.

A good presentation, delivered entirely from Second Life, with some current students in Finland taking part through their avatars. My main criticism is that the Second Life interface seems so clunky, especially when compared to modern gaming environments. Not at all intuitive.


Just had an interesting presentation and discussion about a new VLE just launched by Pearson. It's called OpenClass, and is free! It's totally cloud based and integrates seamlessly with Google apps. It looks very interesting. Easy to use interface, content looks easy to create and upload, and from the student perspective you can create communities, collaborations and share stuff very simply. You can get to your gmail from within it, see your google calendar, Skype students directly and chat. It's available on the Google market place, and in the 48 hours since launch has been downloaded by 500 schools and colleges already using Google apps.

It's attracting a lot of attention, and there's a lot of buzz about it here.

Privacy and Publicity

The keynote today was from Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft, and was about privacy issues faced by young people using social media. Excellent thought provoking talk. The following are notes of the main points, haven't got time to turn it into a proper post.

Privacy is a complex issue to young people, especially around social media. Its about the freedom to control a situation.

Why do young people participate in social media?. It becomes an absolute social necessity. The equivalent of the mall. You go to see and be seen. Failure to participate means you're excluded from a lot of social culture. Facebook the dominant player. Ynd people tell you that you're expected to be on Facebook. If not, you'll be asked why and you'd better have a good reason.

Facebook, text messaging are the main ones at he moment, but will change. There will be shifts and transitions. Already are niche sites eg tumblr, twitter. But what drives particpation is the ability to be there because everyone else is there. Theres a constant flow of information.

Concept of the networked public. Spaces that are constructed through networked technologies as well as the imagined communities formed by people coming together.
People want to be in a public, but don't want everything they've said to be public for the world to see.

Teens recognise that a fundamental change is happening. Things are becoming public by default, private by effort.
Need to make choices over what to make private. It's easier to make things public than private. Eg post all photos, tag, wait for people to complain before remove them. Share first, take down later.

But there's still private communication in all of these networks. People choose what to make private. Most is public. Why bother hiding it?

Password sharing very high, probably about 50%. Yng people say it's a way of feeling connected. Very difficult for us to understand!

Young people are learning about different audiences. Eg employers. They're learning, put things up, take them down. Unexpected audiences are a real challenge to them.
Quotes from teenager: " I wouldn't go to my teachers page and look at their stuff, so why should they look at mine"
"Facebook is for friends, not for my mum, why doesn't she understand that"
"Everyone disappears after the mom post".
They need parents to understand social boundaries - Just because it's accessible doesn't mean you're welcome.

Interesting strategies that young people use to achieve privacy:
Asserting social norms. Eg status updates directed at different people. Get cross when the wrong people comment. Use different type of language when addressing different audiences.
Use technology. Eg block certain people from seeing certain things.
White walling. Log in everyday and remove posts from day before. Make Facebook real time.
Deactivate accounts when not being used. When not logged in, can't see anything. Becomes synchronous.
Hide the meaning of things by usingg references eg song lyrics that your friends will understand but your family won't. Access to meaning separated from access to content.

Social media has made things more visible. Lot of experimentation with how to make things private. Kids are not inherently digital natives. Not born knowing how to handle these issues.

We need to know about these issues so that we can help them navigate the complexity.
We can ask the critical questions to make people think and reflect and see things from a different perspective. Not judgemental ones.

Huge challenges we have to deal with in terms of giving students opportunities, but deal with privacy issues. Can't just expose them. We have to put down frameworks to help them. We have to understand the complexities of privacy and publicity in order to help them.


There's a lot of sessions on innovation this year. Been to a couple, both very different.
Yesterday it was the CIO of NASA, and she talked mainly about the ecosystem you need to foster and encourage innovation. She suggested that innovation was far likelier to come from being disciplined than from being creative, and was not about creating a hot new product but more about using things in a different way. Innovation is not the same as inventing. Things get invented, and you innovate with them.

Inovators: Believe that anything is possible, ignore ridicule and focus on outcomes, bridge the finite world of the possible with the infinite, are resilient, take risks, are inspired to change the status quo and more importantly, are little bit crazy.

Good example of an invention which caused massive innovation - the telephone. When it was invented people thought it was an amazing invention but who would ever want to use one. A scientific toy. No practical need for it.
Now more phones than people in the US. Invention of the phone has had a social impact. Revolutionised business, banking, journalism. Changed society and infrastructure. Similar to what's happening now with social media.

The ecosystem for innovation needs to be diverse. For any problem there exists a perspective that makes it easy to grasp a solution. There's no perspective that's better than another
Teams of problem solvers do better when the diversity of perspectives is great than  the overall ability of individual team members. Diversity trumps ability

What do you do about people who try and block innovation? Remember that the brakes on a car were invented to make it go faster, not slower. We need to use the brakes in our organisations to speed up innovation by bringing extremes together to solve problems. Analyse the driving forces, both pros and cons for a situation.

Technology is increasingly being seen as a strategic asset, not just an operational one, and in an increasingly competitive business environment, innovation will be key to survival.

The second innovation talk was by the US CTO and special adviser to President Obama. A tiny bit evangelical, he shouted at us for an hour, about how great the US was, and how much better it could be with more innovation. He suggested that technical trends are enabling us to be more innovative. Cloud computing and mobility are unlocking the potential for innovation. Nearly all major Internet breakthroughs have come from college campuses, and we now need to find those new killer apps. There was a lot more, but mainly about the US Education system.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Next session was Anya Kamenetz, the author of the Edupunks Guide, and was about a DIY approach to education, and the challenges that presents. She postulated that the rising cost of higher education, plus the decreasing relevance of it as so many graduates are unemployed was causing a radical change in higher education.

The future is open. Open learning materials, such as the MIT initiative, Open courseware consortium, TED, the Khan academy.
But, Education not just about content. Interaction, socialisation and support are critical.
Look at the Music industry. Not much paid for content anymore. But people will pay for concerts to get the Live experience. Education will have to provide that Rock concert feeling. Needs to be exciting.

Socialisation doesn't always happen in person. Open socialisation. Can be on line peer learning. Students will do it spontaneously, sharing and collaborating on notes using Dropbox or Facebook threads of questions and discussions. Peer learning can lower costs. Biggest example. Stanford university's massively open on line course.
100,000+ students from 175 countries taking part. Uses google moderator and an AI tool.

Open accreditation is the most challenging aspect of open education and DIY education as students follow personal learning paths
Portfolio based assessment may be the way forward.

Professional networks can bypass diplomas.professionals. The Behance network is a website for creative to upload their work, which is voted on, and some employers,including Apple, hire straight from it. No college attendance, no diplomas or degrees awarded.
Won't replace, but will be complimentary to.

Badges are another way of assessing for real world learning. See the story of Eduardo here.

In the future there'll be no single vision of what a university should be. The new way will be based on diversity.

Futurists and mindsets

The second session I went to today was delivered by a futurist, and was supposed to tell us what IT leaders need to know about the future. Very entertaining, and delivered in a very energetic style, and he got us to do some small group work, looking at the years 1987 to 2017 and diving them into computational eras. Interestingly most groups came up with the move from mainframe, to internet, to social, but very few groups did anything about the years up to 2017 which is a very long time away in technological terms. Smugly I can say that our group did, thinking that it would be the era of human augmentation. We also worked on what technologies we would stop offering to make way for the new ones, I think he meant services not technologies which led not some debate in our group. Apparently, sustainable successful organisations manage 3 interconnecting technology portfolios. Now, next (3-5 yrs), and later (more than 5yrs). Later is 5 years plus. Most people focus on Now, dream about Later and forget Next. Big data, social media, mobility, and cloud are the four big changes we should be concentrating on when we move our horizons out to 3 years away. Quite entertaining, but not an awful lot I didn't know already.

Next session was the winner of the EDUCAUSE leadership award, Marilyn McMillan, from New York university. She talked about the issues facing IT departments in connecting clients to "sun never sets" services, and especially the introduction of service management. Very relevant to us as we're on that journey as well. These days our customers expect services to be available all the time, just to work, to be able to access them easily but securely, to know what's changed, and how to report a problem and get it fixed.
Requires great deal of process maturity to get provide all of those expectations. To demonstrate customer expectations, Marilyn referred to the Beloit college mindset list, which I'd never heard of, but you can see here, together with past lists so you can see how things have changed.

She finished with her thoughts on leadership, RAISE:
Results with others, for others.
Alignment of purpose and vision
Interdependence needs fostering, can't work on our own.
Sway, and be swayable. Influence, and be influenced
Enthusiasm. Renew your own energies, and uplift the energies of others

Good session.

Ignore the Lizard Brain

Opening session of the conference was Seth Godin, described in the programme as an author, blogger and entrepreneur. He was excellent, with a very good presentation style. He apparently writes one of most popular blogs in world, so will be interesting to take a look.

Some of the main points from his talk:

His normal audience is marketers. Mass marketing is based on the concept of average stuff for average people. But, things are changing. There's more clutter, more stuff, but more importantly, there's been an explosion in the range of communication channels and ways to reach people. The mass marketing paradigm is broken, students will choose not to read emails, read brochures etc.
Revolutions change things. Look at the record indusrty. In 1996 it was perfect. Now there's more music than ever before, but the record industry is dead.

The revolution of our time is cheap connectivity. People to other people, and people to information.

The means of production has shifted. It used to be that the person who owned the means of production got to keep the money.
Now all of our students own a connected device. Now they own the means of production.

Competence is no longer a scarce commodity.
Access to information is now irrelevant. You can look anything up.

Also, the normal distribution of people is changing. The world is getting weirder because we can now find and connect to people who have the same wierdness as us.  The notion of average is no longer practical.

Becuase of the ubiquitous access to information, teachers will now longer get paid for telling students stuff. What is important is taching them how to solve complexx problems, and work things out for themselves.

Need to start to ignore our lizard brain, that voice that tells us that to be careful - Seth's written about it here.
It's the lizard brain that makes everyone check their smart phone every few minutes, we're only doing it to check that everything's OK, then we put it back in our pocket...

Ignore the voice!
Choose to be the one they'll miss when you're not there. Make a difference.
We have to do art, scary things that no human being has done before.
It's all about gifts, not favours. Don't have to pay the artist to see the painting, or hear the music. Make a change, make a connection and spread it.
Don't need authority or money, you just need to care and want to make a difference. For example, there's someone who when he learned how many healthy cats and dogs were killed in the US in shelters everyday decided to change it, and has already changed shelters to have a no kill policy in many major cities. With no money, and no authority, just passion.

Don't have a job, have a platform. A platform to fail, to change, to make a difference.

When you get home and someone asks "How was your day?", if your answer is "Fine", then you're a manager, listening to your lizard brain, checking boxes and having meetings.
OR you could tell a story about things that broke, changes you'd made, things you had leant which had surprised you. Then you'd be a leader.

EDUCAUSE in Philly

So, I'm in Philadelphia at the moment for the EDUCAUSE conference. Normally I'd try and blog most of the sessions, but I'm a bit stuck at the moment as I accidentally upgraded my iPad to iOS5 the night before I came away and it's broken the two blogging apps I use! This is a bit of an experimental post as I try an alternative. If you can read it, then it worked, but it's a bit cumbersome and I won't be able to use it to post quickly as I normally do.

The highlight of the trip so far has to be a trip on a Segway. An hour and a half in the late afternoon sun cruising round Philadelphia's parks, just 3 of us and a tour guide. Brilliant, I absolutely love them, so easy to ride, and great fun. I would love one, but they are quite expensive, although the patent runs out in a couple of years so some competition should reduce that, and in the UK you can only use them on private property - so far behind many other places in getting them licensed. Oh well, maybe one day I'll have one!

The Exhibition here is as usual huge. About 300 stands, and it takes a good couple of hours to walk round. I've had a good look at it today, and spent quite a bit of time talking to existing suppliers, and looking at new products. Lots of ways of attracting you to the stand, my favourite was a machine where you strapped something to your head, clipped something else to your ear, and tried to move a floating ball by concentrating on it!

Lots of stands with "cloud" solutions, and a big emphasis on mobility in delivering solutions, especially in teaching and learning.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Is a magazine a broken iPad?

Someone sent me this today - a one year old who thinks a magazine's a broken iPad!

It's lovely, and reminded me of our granddaughter, who has been playing with my iPad since she was just 3, and has needed virtually no instruction on how to do it.  It's been picked up a number of bloggers and commenters today including CNET, who suggested that it would make us weep or giggle, and even if we giggled it would be out of fear for the future. Certainly not in my case - it's just the way things are going and the way kids learn to interact with things.

Off to EDUCAUSE next week, so expect a few conference posts - will try and keep on top of the interesting sessions, but you may have to read them in note form.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Using Social Media session

Interesting discussion at the Professional Service Directors Executive yesterday about our web pages. Or rather our lack of them! Although we all have individual departmental pages, there's nothing that pulls us all together, or even says who we are. So, that will hopefully be remedied in the next few weeks. Lots of good discussion about what messages we want to send, who the audience is etc.

This morning was a special half day meeting of our Internal Communicators Network which focused on the use of social media. It as a full house, so lots of interest from a mixture of people who already use various forms of social media, to those with no experience of it at all. We made it as interactive as possible with a well publicised hashtag (Tweets archived here), a Twitterwall on the screen at all times (produced using Spout for iPad which I was quite impressed with), and all presentations videoed and uploaded to YouTube. You can see the videos here. As I write this there's only mine there, but the others should be up soon.

The session started with an introduction to what social media is by our own Bob Booth (looking very dapper I might add), and some tips on how to use it. One of the best in my opinion was that you will be judged not by the complaints about you or what you write, but how you deal with them. Engaging with people, joining the conversation is the way to go. Then I gave my talk, which was the story of me using social media. How I started blogging, and why, how things have changed since I started, how and why I use twitter, the blurring of work and social activities, and lots of other stuff. Lots of lessons learned along the way which I hope were helpful to people who might be thinking about starting a blog or other forms of communication using social media.

Other talks followed, including another from CiCS on how we use Twitter and some of the lessons we've learned, from the Library on how they use Twitter, and from the Student Union about some recent research they've done on how students use Facebook, and how this has informed how they use Facebook to communicate and interact with them. Interaction was the key theme in all the talks - social media is definitely not a one way communication tool.

The session finished with a panel question and answer session, including a discussion on who owns the IPR and copyright to things posted using social media (answer - it's complicated), and whether the university has a policy on the use of social media for staff (answer -it hasn't). A good session, at least from my point of view. Hope everyone else found it useful.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Straight back to meetings..

Back from hols, and the usual trawl through several hundred emails, then straight into meetings. 

Service Strategy Board yesterday, and as well as updates on all of our projects, some interesting discussions. Many centred around our move to Google Apps, and how we can make better use of the app suite, and how it integrates with our other services. For example, we currently run a collaboration suite (uSpace) based on Jive, and given than a lot of the functionality this offers for learning and teaching is now provided in Blackboard 9, and we have Google apps, and our licence runs out next year, it's definitely time to review it. We also talked about the need for a "dropbox" type of service. Many of our staff use dropbox or something similar to store files and synchronise then between different devices, and we need to decide whether to provide something similar, standardise on Dropbox and offer guidance on security issues, or use Google apps. One area where we have already decided what to do involves instant messaging, where we will be turning our current service off soon and moving to Google chat.

We also looked at the relative priorities of improving our reporting mechanisms, Service Orientated Architecture, and a new identity management system. Some concensus that identity managment has the highest priority, but that it's not just a technical issue and will involve a much better understanding within the university of the different roles individuals have and the impact of this on services they can access. SOA also important of course, and we'll be continuing to embed it.

We also looked at how to better manage the transition from a project to an operational service, and there was some differing views about the value of a transtition group - options paper to be discussed at next meeting.

Today I had a really interesting meeting with the Education Officer of the Student Union, about the use of technology in learning and teaching. We looked at how feedback to students could be improved, issues around printing, what new technologies were available especially in teaching areas, lecture capture and podcasting, and how we encourage and help teaching staff to be more comfortable with using technology. very positive meeting, and lots to think about.

This morning we had a CiCS User Group, about 40 of our customers from all areas of the University. Normally we give some presentations of new developments, but this time changed the format and four of our service managers gave an overview of what was going on in their areas. We covered teaching and learning, research and innovation, communication and collaboration and corporate information.

Finally we had a short presentation on our Managed Staff Printing project. We have a target of reducing printers across the University by 65%, and a move of a number of Professional Service departments into newly refurbished accommodation in the Arts Tower which is happening in the next couple of months will achieve a reduction of 80% - not bad!