Spent yesterday in Oxford at my first UCISA Executive meeting as Chair – an all day meeting with a full agenda. We met Guy Lambert, MD of the new JISC Services Company which brings together a number of previously separate advisory services including JISCinfoNet, JISC legal and Netskills. It’s newly formed and not clear system how it will develop, but UCISA will play a part in advising the company over the needs of its members in the this area.
We also spent a long time discussing the Denham Report on the future of Higher Education, particularly Sir Ron Cooke’s contribution to it, on On-Line Innovation in Higher Education. The discussion centred on the use of digital media in teaching and learning and particularly how and where is it stored and accessed by staff and students. There is anecdotal evidence of course content being uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, Wordpress and other such sites – is this a good thing? It’s not just course content but blogs of important seminars, conference, and meetings. What are the implications for ownership of the content? Can you remove or recover the content if you want to? The point was well made that the public internet works on the basis of write once, copy many, delete never. Is that well understood by our academics?
If it is the case that such material is being uploaded to such sites, we as IT Directors have to ask ourselves why? The answer I think is glaringly obvious. Even I can upload a video to YouTube, but do we make it as easy to use our VLEs or our media hosting services? Of course not. I’ve been questioned as to why this blog uses Blogger, and not a university solution. Easy – at the time I started writing this we didn’t have an easy to use solution – I set this up myself in about 10 minutes, and have never needed any help to add features other than using Google to search for any answers to any problems I’ve had because of the huge user support community out there.
We’ll probably never be able to make things that easy unless we embrace these new services and stop trying to invent everything ourselves. But there is a need for a gatekeeping function. There are good services out there which are “managed” and control of the data stays with the institution such as iTunesU and the domain branded YouTube service, and we should be actively facilitating the use of these.
The outcome of our discussion was that we agreed as an organisation to produce a briefing paper on the issues for our members, and also to investigate a survey to find out what academics are actual using rather than rely on anecdotal evidence.