Friday, 12 October 2012

User Group

CiCS User Group this morning - always a good attendance. About 60 people from departments, a good mix of academics, technical support staff and professional service staff. We use it as a way of disseminating what we're doing to a wier group of staff than our own people. Sometimes if we feel a presentation is on a subject that might not be well know to the wider department we repeat it at a departmental meeting.

Today's meeting had 5 presentations.  First on the eLearning strategy which I mentioned yesterday and is being consulted on at the moment. One of the drivers for this is student demand for technology enhanced learning, they are looking for us to be leaders in the filed. We also have to be aware of the global market for students, and TEL could enhance our competitive edge. The strategy proposes an enhanced eLearning environment,an audit of digital resources, an online environment for public facing materials, a network of eLearning academic champions, more flexible teaching spaces and the provision of appropriate technology.  if you're interested in this area then I can strongly recommend our Learning Technologies blog which is excellent.

The second presentation was on our creative media facilities which I've blogged about before, and I think was new to many people in the room. We also gave them an update on where we are with the managed desktop, and this provoked an interesting discussion about what a staff managed desktop should look like, or even whether we should have one.

Switching to research, we then talked about the new N8 HPC facility which is obviously of interest to many researchers in the University.  Finally we told them about how our ICT support team had been making improvements to their services over the past year. Lots of very good stuff, and they got a well deserved compliment form a member of the group.

No blogging for a couple of weeks now - I'm off somewhere hot! 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

System and project reviews

We had a meeting of our Service Strategy Board at the beginning of the week, and had our usual look at projects progress, and at our new eLearning Strategy which is in the process of being approved. More later when it's been through all of the consultation process.

Other meetings so far this week have included a gateway review of our Common Timetabling Project.   This was the first of gateway reviews, and I felt it went  very well. We looked at what had been achieved so far, what the drivers were for the project - including better space utilisation, more efficient use of staff and student time, more flexibility, a more responsive timetable, and a better student experience.  we also looked at some different mechanisms for achieving this, changes to the way we deliver timetabling, changes to the timing, and changes to the timetabled day.  A great discussion, and in the end, we have closed this project down  at we can look at starting a new one so that we can focus on really achieving the benefits we need.

Finally, I've had a couple of meetings to kick off the review of our student system. Implemented in 1996 (I think), its home grown, written on an Oracle database, and has served us very well. Because we've written it, it's also very functional. However, it's time for a review to see what the best way forward is. Stay as we are, stay with the current system but invest heavily in further developing it, or implement a package. All have pros and cons, and we've established some working groups and a Steering Group  to oversee the review and come up with recommendations. It will be very interesting to see what comes out of it.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Juice for all...

Last week we had a visit from a Commission from the Institute of Public Policy Research who are looking at the future of Higher Education in England. I was part of the panel of staff they were talking to, and they also met a group of students. We talked about many things, including the sustainabilty of HE, and different funding models. We also raised with them the over-regulation of HE at the moment - it appears to many of us that as the amount of central funding has gone down, the amount of regulation has gone up.  For example, there's a cluttered landscape of bodies asking for data, and we have to supply it in many different forms, to many different organisations who don't seem to talk to each other. As the amount of public funding decreases, there's a possibility that some universities may become completely private, getting all of their income from student fees, research councils or other partnerships.  That could be an interesting development!

Yesterday we had our Professional Service Executive (PSE), and had some feedback from a pilot our HR department has been running. Called Juice, it's a health and well-being strategy, and offers staff a number of different options, including bootcamps, Body MOTs, Tai Chi and healthy eating workshops. It's about to be rolled out to all staff, and will aim to look at all aspects of health including physical, mental and social. I think it's a great initiative for staff, but count me out of the bootcamps at 7.30am.....

Thursday, 4 October 2012

New Year, New MOLE

A new academic year and a new virtual learning environment has arrived at the university.  Although our project to implement a new VLE has been going for almost two years, this year marks the first year that our old system is retired and everyone uses our new VLE, MOLE 2 (My Online Learning Environment).  It’s based on Blackboard Learn 9 and although it went live to half the university last year, this point marks its arrival across the whole of the institution.  MOLE 2 is the culmination of 2 years of review, consultation, collaboration, piloting, developing, training and implementation - and lots of hard work!

I thought it might be interesting to share some of the facts and stats behind what’s been involved in changing our virtual learning environment:

Starting with our first pilot in the Library and the School of Clinical Dentistry in October 2010, we have...

    •    Migrated approximately 2700 courses from MOLE to MOLE 2
    •    Created approximately 1100 new courses
    •    Created 115 organisations
    •    Developed 6 different training courses (from face-to-face group sessions to webinars)
    •    Held 152 training courses
    •    Trained over 1000 staff and students
    •    Held consultation meetings with more than 40 departments
    •    Answered more than 7500 support calls

We’ve also created documentation, knowledge base articles, screencasts and more to support our 27,724 users.  Our support resources can be found on a dedicated website and we’ll be developing these further as we respond to users’ needs and the opportunities which MOLE 2 is giving us.

So, while the project to implement MOLE 2 may be winding down (and a big thanks to all involved in this huge task) - it’s going to be exciting to see what our brilliant staff and students do with it and where it takes learning and teaching at the University!  

How social media can make history

A colleague tweeted a link to this talk today - Clay Shirky talking about changes in communication and journalism brought about by the internet and social media. Well worth a watch if you've got 15 minutes to spare, and I was quite surprised to see it was filmed as long ago as 2009.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

KITs, ICE and satisfaction.

This week has involved a lot of KITs. No, not little cats, but Keep in Touch meetings. Vitally important for building networks, finding out what's going on, and sharing ideas and experiences. I try and meet most of my senior colleagues for an hour once a month, and this week a lot fell together - Coffee Revolution has done very well out of me this week, but I feel slightly high on caffeine!

Monday was spent in a design team meeting for our New Engineering Building, and we all trooped outside to put different cladding samples out so we could see them in daylight - such a lot to choose from, but luckily we were all agreed, and even agreed with the architect's choice. I think the building will look stunning, and although this isn't a very good picture, gives an idea of what it will look like. Of course, the reason we're involved is the amount of student-led, IC type space it will have in it, including group study rooms and creative media pods which will complement what we have in the IC.

Yesterday we had a meeting to discuss the results of a recent staff survey with our senior managers. This was a University wide survey asking a number of different questions about staff satisfaction with their jobs, their department, their management and the University.  It's fair to say the results were mixed, some good, some where there's room for improvement. So, an action plan is being  drawn up, together with some facilitated discussion events so we can better understand the reasons behind some of the answers.

Today I've been taking to the Janet Brokerage Service about our move to Google, our experiences of contract negotiation, and some of the concerns other Universities seem to have. Hopefully they will be able to take the lead in discussions with Google, as they have done recently with Microsoft, to make it easier for more Universities to move to cloud based services.