Wednesday, 15 April 2015

24 hour Inspirational lecture approaches....

The above says it all!! The 24 hour lecture is nearly upon us.  This Thursday starting at 5pm, and running until 5pm on Friday. It's open to all, further details  here, and you can download the programme here. 

Try and get along if you can - the lectures are really accessible, although I have struggled in the past with a couple of the physics ones, but I put that down to sleep deprivation.

I'm comparing the post midnight spot, and for some reason they've given me lectures on sperm and condoms to introduce!

It's a real fun and informative event, raising money for good causes, and refreshments will be available.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Agile and TechQual

Sorry for the long gap in posts - had some time off over Easter to stay in a Yurt!  You should try it - it was great fun, and with our own private, log fired hot tub! Definitely more glamping than camping.

A couple of big meetings this week so far. Monday was our Service Strategy Board, where we had our normal look at project progress and things happening in our service areas. We also had a good discussion about Agile Project Prioritisation and resourcing. Our Aim is to improve project prioritisation on the basis of business value vs resource usage, and keep this under review. We think that an agile approach will help us with resource management, and not just in CiCS, but in the business units we work with, and should help colleagues plan their project resource commitment.It should also improve the visibility and transparency of decision making. We'll also be looking to manage all major developments as projects, rahter than just some of them which is what we do now. Lots more work to do in the area but we're pressing on with it.

Today we had a departmental meeting, where I presented the results of a recent staff survey we did. TechQual tool, which asks our customers to say what the minimum level of service for a particular area they would be prepared to accept, what is their desired level, and what they think we provide.  We sent it to all University staff late last year, and have been analysing the results. Overall satisfaction with our services is up from the last time carried out a survey which is good, but there are some areas for improvement. We've chosen 8 key themes, and devised an action plan for all of them, with either myself or an Assistant Director acting as sponsor for each area, to ensure that the actions get carried out.   You can see the themes and the action plan here.
We used the

We also had a good talk on the progress we're making with lecture capture using our Echo360 project, our project to improve Research IT support, and a very useful session from one of our HR colleagues on the importance of objective setting during our annual review SRDS (Staff Review and Development Scheme).

Thursday, 2 April 2015

UCISA videos are up

Just a quick note to say that all of the  videos from UCISA15 we are allowed to publish are now up on the UCISA YouTube Channel.

Some you might be particularly interested in are:

Mary Curnock Cook from UCAS and her opening keynote - some really interesting stuff about demographics

Michael Wignall from Microsoft talking about when Digital Life meets Digital Work

Emer Coleman talking about "When excellence is Just a Click away"

And if you really want to see me and Tim Kidd in action talking about when networks go bad, it's here! And as always, some artistic licence may have been taken in places....

But I would recommend you have a look as there are other excellent ones there.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Difference is good for us

A couple of other interesting things from this week. CiCS was instrumental in organising the 4th HPC@Sheffield event. A one day research computing conference exploring how high performance  computing can help solve global challenges in Physical Sciences, Engineering, Health Care and Social Sciences. There were presentations, posters, vendor displays and demonstrations. unfortunately I could only be there for the opening, but reports are that it went really well.

Yesterday morning I spent 4 hours in a room with a handful of people drafting something. How awful you might think, but no, it was really enjoyable. We were drafting an educational rationale for Diversity at the university. Along the lines of "Diversity creates a richer university experience because:" and then a list of statements. Why we should embrace diversity in all forms - not just the protected characteristics - gender, race, disability - but all forms. Difference is good for us - diverse teams solve problems better and are more creative. It's why we should try and recruit the best person for the team, not just for the job. Not always easy.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Sheffield Professional awards

Last night I was privileged to be at the Sheffield Professional Awards. Held in the Octagon Centre, which had been suitable glammed up for the occasion - thanks to James and the team:

and hosted by Gill Valentine and Simon Fanshawe

It was a celebration of all the staff in the University who aren't teachers or researchers, but who are absolutely critical to supporting the University in delivering its mission. I was very proud that we had 36 staff in CiCS nominated for awards, none were shortlisted, but the field was huge, and every nomination was well deserved. The occasion was very celebratory, with excellent food

And I was a table host on a table with 3 winners. Including Emily, Finance Assistant from Engineering, baby due in a few weeks, and who is exactly the same age as my son, her Mum and me being best friends 30 years ago and pregnant at the same time. What a lovely coincidence to be sitting next to her!

Well done to all the nominees, winners and organisers of such a great event.

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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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