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  • What the Edtech?! Episode nine: the rise of the robots - future tech in education

    Artificial intelligence: the biggest shake up since the invention of the motorcar?

    In this penultimate episode Martin Hamilton, resident futurist here at Jisc, and historian Sir Anthony Seldon explore the amazing, and often misunderstood, world of artificial intelligence (AI) and discuss how future technologies can enhance the teaching process. 

    We also hear from professor Bob Stone, director of the human interface technologies team at the University of Birmingham. He chats through some of his current projects, from mixed reality (combining the best of the real with the best of the virtual) in order to teach RAF trainee medics, to virtual reality (VR) being used for cognitive and physical rehabilitation.

    Show notes

    Anthony mentioned his book “The Fourth Education Revolution” and also spoke about Karl Benz - inventor of the internal combustion engine, and Martin discussed Nick Bostrom’s paperclip maximiser parable.

    The VR headsets that Bob mentioned were HTC VIVE FocusLenovo Mirage and Oculus Go, and he mentioned that Qualcomm are pushing the boundaries of what VR can be used for. He also discussed the Virtual Mayflower project which they're aiming to launch in 2020.

  • Artificial intelligence could revive a Hellenic idea of education, Jisc chief executive predicts

    Artificial intelligence will bring back the “glittering spires” of universities, chief executive at Jisc Paul Feldman predicted at a conference on Thursday.

    Speaking during a session exploring the challenges for the sector posed by artificial intelligence, Feldman described how little more than two decades after the internet driven third revolution in education, we are now facing a fourth one.

    Like many previous revolutions, he said this would bring downsides, along with the many benefits. These would need to be managed, he insisted.

    Feldman explained how the third revolution had not changed education in the same way it had transformed other sectors.

    “AI is going to be the technology that finally means we are going to fundamentally change,” he said.

    Feldman said that at the present time, artificial intelligence is “a misnomer” as the technology that it describes is currently merely learning and adapting. 

    Feldman predicted that AI can transform "university sweatshops", taking some 40% of those jobs that are bureaucratic, leaving teachers to do the higher value activities.

    [#insertinlinedriver podcast#]

    “I can see a situation with teaching that is not far off from the Greek philosophers sitting around engaging in debate,” he said. “We would be mass producing the tutor system and educating people to the best standard.”

    AI will change research as much as teaching, Feldman suggested, citing its ability to rapidly process masses of research data. He said computer-driven processes like this had discovered that a component of toothpaste can cure melanoma, but humans would still need to test this theory.

    Paul said:

    “This is the beginning of a revolution. There are hundreds of years before the next one and we have a lot to learn. There is a danger that we rush headlong into lots of stuff that is going to bring us down. The precautionary principle we use for environment issues should also be used with AI”

    [#insertinlinedriver rise-of-robots#]

    Other participants in the panel discussion included Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor at the University of Buckingham who has recently published a book examining the likely impact of AI on education.

    In a question and answer session, he predicted the 4th revolution would be the “best thing that has ever happened in the world for democratising education”. He also described the potential of AI to support student wellbeing, noting research that revealed that students feel embarrassed talking to a human councillor but can “open up” to a machine.

    Sir Anthony Seldon is soon to appear on the Jisc podcast What the Edtech. You can listen to the latest episode here.

  • Upgrading the Janet Network

    Your world-class Janet Network is getting a boost. Jeremy Sharp, our Janet infrastructure director, explains what is going to happen and why.

    Janet has been serving research and education for more than 30 years. Over that time we’ve consistently seen traffic across the network double every eighteen months to two years, making the Janet Network one of the busiest national research and education networks (NRENs) in the world in terms of the data we carry.

    That’s certainly because more and more users are using the network but it’s also due to the evolution of networked applications and the richness of what they can do.

    The Janet Network is business critical to our members – we, and you, now regard it as a utility, like having power or water to the building.

    Why we're upgrading

    The UK has a world-class reputation for the quality of both its education and research capability, which the Janet Network plays a vital role in maintaining and strengthening.

    So it is essential that all Janet Network users are provided with the leading-edge, highly reliable network services that will support their individual missions, whether in learning, teaching or research.

    That’s why, starting this year and continuing over the next three to five years, we are investing in a huge upgrade that will include using the latest 400Gbit/s optical channel technology in the backbone and replacing legacy infrastructure in the regional networks.

    What’s changed in the last five years?

    The last major upgrade, which resulted in the current Janet Network backbone network delivering world-leading advanced networking services to education and research, was completed in 2013.

    The landscape has changed in the last five years in ways that we need to recognise and address.

    Cyber security concerns

    There has been a swift and ever more alarming rise in cybercrime, making cyber security a key concern for us all. We have invested in systems to protect the Janet Network and connected members from denial of service attacks, and we have also grown the portfolio of security services and capability.

    Institutions increasingly need to move and look after sensitive data in an assured way, whether for research or the student data used for personalised teaching and analytics, and we have collaborated with a number of leading UK universities to provide higher assurance connectivity over the Janet Network and access management mechanisms between research centres.

    Bandwidth demand through open science

    The rapid development of open science means that the network is being used in exciting – and bandwidth heavy – ways for cooperative work and information distribution using advanced technologies and collaborative tools.

    Increased use of cloud services

    The use of cloud services and external data centres has shot up remarkably quickly in the last five years, along with the use of personal mobile devices, bringing with it an “any place, anytime” network connectivity requirement. This means that the network's reach beyond the traditional campus environment is important.

    Building on the success of eduroam, which provides seamless access through a single wifi profile regardless of location, we have used the same technology in govroam so that the public sector can also benefit from easy roaming internet access across multiple locations.

    Boosting the backbone

    Janet has evolved since the 1990s so that we have a large core network that spans the UK, formed of a backbone network and 18 regional networks that connect to that backbone and provide the connectivity to end sites.

    This summer, we are boosting the bandwidth of the backbone to as much as 600Gbit/s, using Ciena’s new 400Gbit/s technology powered with WaveLogic Ai coherent optics. WaveLogic Ai enables us to operate efficiently, and accurately engineer the network for optimal capacity to manage massive flows from new data-intensive research activities.

    New access infrastructure

    Around two years ago we completed bringing the regional networks in house to take control and responsibility for delivering our regional infrastructures.

    Those networks had previously been managed by various consortia of universities, which had resulted in a diversity of provision and builds.

    Taking central control saved money and has allowed us to take a coherent, consistent approach to all aspects of building and operating the network.

    [#insertinlinedriver shaping-janet#]

    We are embarking on a three to four year programme to replace those regional networks, reducing the running costs and creating a unified architecture across the network. This will allow us to deliver services to you more quickly and flexibly. We will also be able to scale bandwidth and capacity more efficiently.

    With a more coherent architecture – a backbone network connecting into an access infrastructure to sites – it becomes much easier to deploy services end to end.

    It also allows us to deploy the latest technologies in a more agile way, whether that’s automating a lot of network provisioning – software defined networking – or virtualising network functions, such as end users’ firewall services.

    What does this mean for you?

    Our success in doing this is that you will see no service disruption and continue to enjoy a very high-quality internet experience through the Janet Network.

    Over time it makes us more efficient and able to deliver your new services more quickly.

    Last year we worked with our first university member requesting access to Microsoft Azure using Microsoft’s ExpressRoute connectivity service. It was quite a challenge to put that in place across the current diverse regional infrastructure. In future, we’ll have the tools and capability already there to deploy that kind of service much more quickly.

    Also, if your site needs an upgrade we’ll be able to shorten the delivery times and, ideally, make it zero touch – giving you extra capacity through a software configuration rather than lots of engineers going to site and putting in more equipment.

    Cyber security is a concern for us all and, as we move to the new access infrastructure, security will be implicit in that architecture. The rebuild is a real opportunity to embed the tools we need to better protect your network and network services.

    [#insertinlinedriver tech-2-tech#]

    We know from the requirements gathering work we did with you, while planning this upgrade, that it is crucial that the Janet Network, as a mission critical service, is highly reliable. It also needs to be flexible to meet future demand and more agile in dealing with change.

    We are confident that this work will meet those requirements and ensure that the Janet Network continues to be world class.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode eight: cyber security, a growing threat to education

    An in-depth look at cyber security, the types of attacks targeted at colleges and universities, and the measures taken to mitigate them.

    Jisc’s chief security analyst Lee Harrigan-Green joins us this week to give insight on the cyber security threats facing institutions and their students.

    In a fast-moving sector where preventative measures must stay ahead of new and evolving threats, Lee takes us through what individuals and organisations can do to stay secure online. Apprentice developer James Hodgkinson also joins the panel to discuss his experiences during his apprenticeship.

    In a special expert practitioner segment, Jisc’s Matthew O’Donnell reveals the work of a penetration tester attempting to uncover chinks in the armour of institutions security.

    Show notes

    For a comprehensive collection of resources and further information on cyber security, take a look at our cyber security pages.

  • Oxford Brookes shares high-speed internet connection with festival for 20,000

    This May bank holiday weekend, 20,000 festival goers gathered in South Park in Oxford as part of the Common People festival, all waiting to see bands from Maximo Park to Morcheeba and the Jacksons, sample street food and maybe have a go on the world’s biggest bouncy castle.  

    DJ and Bestival co-founder Rob da Bank has said of the festival:

    “All of us at festival headquarters love kicking our year off with Common People – it’s such an easy formula, turn up for lunchtime, have a great day and evening listening to great bands and DJs and eating some of the best festi-food around and then be in your own bed before midnight. Simple.”

    This time around, ‘Instagrammable’ moments were captured without a hitch, snaps were swiftly sent, and the #commonpeopleox chat flowed freely, all thanks to Oxford Brookes University sharing their Janet Network connection with festival planners. Provided by Jisc, Janet is a research and education network that’s 200,000 times faster than the average home broadband. Event planners were pleased with the speed of the network, which allowed them to share communications with ease and ensured a great event all round.

    The connection was tethered to the festival using 700 metres of single mode fibre from the university and up a hill to the festival venue. The fibre ran over a field, through trees (suspended around 15 metres above the ground), and into a university communications room in Cheney Student Village. Working together, Jisc, Pinnacom and Oxford Brookes University set up a network for the festival in only four hours.

    Martin Stevenson, from Pinnacom said:

    “At Pinnacom we facilitate internet connections for remote sites such as outdoor television broadcasts and events. Having been let down by an initial provider, we turned to Oxford Brookes for support and worked with them to tether their Janet connection to the festival. We couldn’t be more pleased with the result and are glad the festival had access to the fastest broadband in the city.”

    Tim Loveday, network and security manager from Oxford Brookes said:

    “We were very happy to be able to share our internet connection with the Common People festival. When we learnt that organisers were experiencing some issues we immediately notified members of our IT staff who were happy to help out and ensure a successful outcome. We are pleased to have been able to support this popular local event.”

    Christian Evans, customer director at Jisc said:

    “We were thrilled to bring the Janet Network to a festival, and are thankful to those who worked so hard to make it happen. Ordinarily Janet is used for UK education and research, but has been known to appear at festivals, and has even been used at the Edinburgh Fringe before. We look forward to bringing the Janet connection to more events in the future, in particular those aligned with education and research.”

    A spokesperson from Common People said:

    “Common People would like to thank Oxford Brookes University for bringing the Janet Network to South Park. Their superfast internet helped us showcase our festival to a huge audience”.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode seven: celebrating women in tech

    Celebrating the careers of female tech experts, their motivations and the challenges they’ve faced in an industry where in the UK just one in six specialists are women.

    Female representation in the tech sector has stalled over the last ten years despite efforts to encourage more women into the industry. Our panel this week, editor of Education Technology magazine Charley Rogers and Jisc training director Shirley Wood, discuss their careers, motivations, and what can be done to create a more diverse tech workforce and why this is important.

    Our expert pratitioner this episode is Helen Richardson, learning, innovation and IT manager for Gateshead College, who gives us an insight into her career and the innovative work she's leading. 

    Show notes

    In the podcast Shirley mentions the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and host Laura refers to a previous episode of What the Edtech?! with Kenji Takeda and Daniela Duca discussing AI and bias. At the end of the episode our guests give their tech role models: Maggie Aderin-PocockDame Stephanie Shirley (aka Steve Shirley), and Kate Bellingham.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode six: how AI and big data will transform research

    Our experts explore the fascinating (and mind boggling) world of artificial intelligence (AI), and how cloud computing is changing how we think about access to technology.

    In this episode Daniela Duca, a former Jisc senior co-design manager1, and Kenji Takeda, director of the Microsoft Azure for research program, have a fascinating chat about some pretty big ideas; the equipment data project, post-quantum cryptography, big data, the Cambrian explosion, AI and cloud and quantum computing.

    We also hear from Miranda Mowbray, lecturer in Computer Science at University of Bristol, who dispels the magic surrounding machine learning. She also discusses her work identifying a tax on computer networks, discovering previously undetected malware.

    Show notes

    Daniela mentioned ZooniverseGalaxy Zoo and Citizen science. While Kenji spoke about the quantum development kitMicrosoft AI schoolMicrosoft/Internet of Things smart water system in India and, of course, the excellent Microsoft quantum cat video.

    More about our guests

    Daniela Duca

    Daniela Duca



    Kenji Takeda

    Kenji Takeda



    Miranda Mowbray

    Miranda Mowbray

    Read Miranda's profile on the University of Bristol website


    • 1 Daniela worked for Jisc at the time of recording

  • Jisc and HESA analytics project runner up in National Technology Awards

    An analytics service for universities, bringing together vast amounts of data to inform their business decisions, is one of the runners up at the 2018 National Technology Awards.

    The Analytics Labs and community dashboards were jointly developed by Jisc and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), in collaboration with higher education professionals.

    They bring together a vast amount of useful information, including:

    • HE league tables
    • A school finder to target recruitment
    • Detailed A-level results
    • Leavers’ destinations 
    • Postgraduate research analysis

    The dashboards also allow universities to compare how they stack up against each other on measures such as race equality and income generation from research and businesses.

    They were developed through a series of Analytics Labs made up of higher education professionals with the most promising ones published through HESA’s Heidi Plus service.

    Myles Danson, senior co-design manager at Jisc, attended the ceremony along with HESA’s head of digital services Nicola Phelps at a venue in central London on Thursday.

    Myles Danson said:

    “On behalf of the Jisc team I’m delighted that we were in the running for a National Technology Award. Along the way we’ve coached and mentored 244 analysts from 96 universities and related organisations. We’re really proud of them.

    “Their creativity coupled with our legal and technical framework is helping to deliver data derived business intelligence insights to the whole UK higher education sector. It’s fostering improved strategic decision making, ultimately striving towards better student experience, research, workforce, finances, estates and libraries.

    “It’s a fantastic shared service to be involved in and we’re grateful for the recognition the project has had from being shortlisted.

    Nicola Phelps of HESA said:

    “The nomination of the Analytics Labs and Community Dashboards project for this award recognises the hard work and creativity of colleagues from across the higher education sector. Diverse groups of colleagues from different universities have come together to solve their common problems for the good of the whole sector.

    “Using data from HESA and many other sources the teams have put together some incredibly innovative dashboards. It’s been a privilege for HESA and the Heidi Plus team to prepare the best of these to share on the Heidi Plus business intelligence service so the whole HE community can benefit from them.”

    The first dashboards were published in September 2017, the second set following in January 2018, with more in the pipeline. The project seeks to help universities and colleges as they face mounting financial pressure and increasing overseas competition.

    Find out more about the dashboards and how to access them.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode five: what do students really want?

    Student contracts, data collection, the ideas of students as customers, and the employability agenda all take a turn under the microscope...

    Do the things students need match what they're telling us that they want? Sarah Knight, our head of change - student experience, and Paul Humphreys, CEO of StudentCrowd, explore the ways we find out, and discuss why it's so important that a culture of collaboration between staff and students is encouraged.

    We also hear from expert practitioner Steve Frampton, principal at Portsmouth College, who shares his innovative vision for the college, and what the outcomes were after asking students what they wanted from their FE experience - timetables were shifted, budgets re-focused on different technology and more time was allocated to work experience, which has contributed to 93 young people volunteering in local primary schools.

    Show notes

    The Jisc student tracker that Sarah mentioned is a short survey gathering students’ expectations and experiences of technology, and the student mental health charity that Paul spoke of was Student Minds.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode four: student data – how far is too far?

    We explore the mysterious world of learning analytics, and how it can be used to enhance the student learning experience.

    Paul Bailey, our senior co-design manager and Samantha Ahern, project officer at UCL, join us as the learning technology experts for episode four of What the Edtech?! 

    They discuss what data institutions are currently collecting on their students, consent and boundaries, and what the future holds for learning analytics.

    Show notes

    Samantha mentioned a digital detox kit from Mozilla’s MozFest and a data playground project.

    She's also written a series of blog posts on learning analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing, including:

    Earlier this year we put together a guide to learning analytics which hopefully provides a useful overview of the subject.

    More about our guests

    Paul Bailey

    Paul Bailey




    Samantha Ahern

    Samantha Ahern


  • New services to boost the online experience of transnational students

    Jisc launches Global Connect and Global Partnership at TNC18.

    The demand for UK transnational education (TNE) programmes has seen unprecedented growth in the past decade, with an 81% increase in the number of UK higher education (HE) TNE students since 2008-09.

    According to the 2018 report from Universities UK, this equates to 1.6 times the number of international students studying within the UK in the same year.

    While this growth presents huge opportunities for universities, it also presents some new challenges. One of the key challenges to meet at the outset is providing seamless connectivity between home and overseas sites. 

    Global Connect

    One solution is Global Connect, a new service which is already successfully linking UK institutions with branch campuses in Malaysia and Malta, providing students and staff with the connectivity they expect.

    Global Connect will ensure students can access course materials in real time, and not be waiting for better bandwidth out of hours.

    Esther Wilkinson, head of international at Jisc, said:

    "We know from the student digital experience tracker, a recent survey of more than 22,000 UK students, that 80% of HE students believe reliable wifi to be critical to accessing digital services. With TNE, the connectivity needs of students are no less, and these students are more likely to be reliant on virtual learning environments, powered by their internet service. 

    "Our members know how important it is to get the learning environment right and to deliver a seamless experience, which is why we’re launching both services now."

    Global Partnership

    Global Partnership, also being showcased at TNC18 in Trondheim, is the second new service from Jisc to help provide the swift internet access expected by students and course tutors.

    Designed to reduce the risks and challenges of working internationally, the service:

    • Provides advice and guidance to optimise connectivity and integrate IT operations across global sites
    • Removes many of the headaches of working across time zones and borders
    • Saves HE institutions time and money

    Esther Wilkinson added:

    "The Janet Network, is one of the only national research and education networks (NREN) and internet service providers (ISP) in the world to offer dedicated services to support transnational education. We are encouraged by the ongoing requests for collaboration and look forward to working closely with in-country NRENs to deliver these new quality services to members."

    The Global Connect and Global Partnership services were developed as pilot projects with Jisc members, through the TNE support programme. More services will be developed through this process to support UK higher education institutes with their ongoing TNE needs. The current TNE licensing pilot, which is due to finish in July 2018, will launch as a further new service shortly after.

    For further information about these services, please contact

    Esther Wilkinson and Richard French will be running a GÉANT-supported Special Interest Group meeting and a stand at TNC18, where delegates can find out more about Jisc’s work in supporting transnational education.

  • Data and technology transforming post-18 education

    Jisc has today recommended to the government that better use and investment in digital technology and skills can help reimagine the way teaching and learning is delivered across the post-18 education system for the benefit of all.

    “Driving up quality, increasing choice and ensuring value for money are at the heart of the government’s post-18 review. We believe technology can transform each of these areas so that students get an education that is digitally enabled, flexible, and driven by their individual needs.

    “However, there are barriers to technology fulfilling its full potential. Teaching staff and learners need the skills and support to fully embrace technology. Regulatory strictures can be ambiguous and discourage providers from using technology to best effect. Funding mechanisms can prevent providers developing more flexible and innovative approaches to post-18 provision.  

    “The potential for digital technology to support the transition from education to employment by sitting at the centre of technical and academic education, skills, and apprenticeship design is yet to be fully realised.

    "We explained that technology can enable a more flexible, student focussed ‘anywhere, anytime’ approach to education. It can underpin innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and ensure students are better equipped for the workforce needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

    Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc.

    Key recommendations from Jisc's response

    Introduce technology ‘fundamentals’ benchmarks

    Some independent education and training providers may not have the necessary technical infrastructure in place to realise the benefits of a technology enhanced approach to learning and teaching. 

    To ensure learning opportunities across the system are of high quality and deliver the best outcomes for students, the government could explore the introduction of a small number of technology ‘fundamentals’ benchmarks. 

    These could include: 

    • IT and network essentials - all students should be able to expect a basic level of IT and network infrastructure to be in place that meets the necessary security standards
    • Connectivity essentials - all students should able to expect a basic level of connectivity that enables them to study and utilise digital resources for their learning.Once the fundamentals are in place, providers will have the springboard to take advantage of additional technologies which can deliver value for students and taxpayers

    Data-driven curriculum planning

    The government could help support providers to take a data driven approach to curriculum planning to meet the needs of the local and national economy.

    The Department for Education (DfE) data collections are often presented in a way to ease on-screen display, rather than for interrogation by data manipulation. This means anyone wishing to utilise the data must spend time and effort reshaping data to be compatible for use with analytic tools.   

    Longitudinal educational outcomes (LEO) data is a good example of how useful it can be to combine data across departments, and this should be expanded.

    For example, it’s not currently possible to identify the sources of the apprenticeship levy, and therefore likely demand for new apprenticeships, as the relevant data is based on company payrolls and only held by HMRC. Combining this data with other datasets held by government could give providers invaluable insights to help them plan accordingly and address skills needs.

    Embed digital skills into all of post-18 education

    The government’s Industrial Strategy states that “within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills”.

    Our 2017 student digital experience tracker survey of more than 22,000 learners found that while 81.5% of university students feel that digital skills will be important in their chosen career, only half believe that their courses prepare them well for the digital workplace.

    Elsewhere, while we welcome the inclusion of digital skills within the common core of T-levels, all FE courses should contain a digital element.

    The Institute for Apprenticeships should therefore ensure appropriate digital capabilities are incorporated into new apprenticeship standards.  

    Improve credit accumulation and transfer

    The concept of lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important to the future workforce.

    More short courses aimed at upskilling people in work at level 2 and 3, as opposed to 2-3 year commitments, could provide a solution to help address the UK’s skills gaps.

    Funding will be needed to support increased provision of short courses and a better system is needed to support the accumulation and transfer of credit between courses and providers.

    The process could benefit from improved information transfer arrangements. When learners are transferring between courses and providers, they should be able to take with them a record of the credits they have achieved to date.

    Technology and more accessible data and information flows could support providers to address skills shortages and better enable students to gain access to their verifiable achieved credits and search for the most appropriate fit with a short course delivered by any provider.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode three: the research landscape, here and now

    Research data management comes under the spotlight in episode three of What the Edtech?! How is data collected, used and stored?

    Data research champion Terry Clark, research fellow in performance science at the Royal College of Music, is joined by Jisc’s senior co-design manager Caroline Ingram for episode three of What the Edtech?! Research methods and data management are the hot topics today as the pair discuss best practice and what resources are available to support researchers. 

    Firearms and ballistics specialist Dr Rachel Bolton-King of Staffordshire University delivers an explosive expert practitioner segment as she talks about her forensic investigation work and the link between academic research and advancing practice. 

    Show notes

    We joined Terry and Caroline at the Jisc London office where the Research Data Champions Day was taking place - a collorative event run in partnership with University of Cambridge, Lancaster University, Royal College of Music, University of St Andrew, and University of Leeds.  

    Caroline mentions the research data toolkit, which you can read more about on our managing your research data quick guide. You might also find our research data shared service project useful. 

    Terry refers to his research at Royal College of Music which you can read more about on his profile page. We also hear about the Imperial College Business School Impact Lab.

    More about our guests

    Caroline Ingram

    Caroline Ingram



    Terry Clark

    Terry Clark



    Dr Rachel Bolton-King

    Rachel Bolton-King



  • Opening the door to open science starts with university libraries

    Rarely a day goes by when data isn’t in the headlines, but for librarians and senior leaders at universities, there’s a lot to get to grips with if we’re going to be able to deliver on the promise that open data will revolutionise research.

    Jisc and the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) are bringing together leading UK and US experts in digital scholarship, for the 12th biannual conference, which will grapple with some of these challenges for libraries and share best practice with delegates.

    The event this year takes place on 2 July, at the impressive University of Oxford grade two listed Examination Schools.

    Speakers already confirmed include Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s librarian, University of Oxford, and Roly Keating, chief executive of The British Library.

    Roly Keating said,

    "The CNI and Jisc conference is a great opportunity to advance the conversation about the radical changes to research, education and information that are being driven by fast-evolving technology. The event will help spark new connections and innovative thinking, to ensure that libraries continue to meet the needs of researchers, for example by being more data-driven and open. I look forward to speaking about the ways the sector will need to adapt to meet future challenges, as well as sharing how we at the British Library are responding."

    From the other side of the Atlantic, Susan Gibbons, university librarian and deputy provost from Yale University and Dan Cohen, vice provost for information collaboration and dean of the libraries from Northeastern University bring their experience of research and digital scholarship to the programme.

    CNI’s Clifford Lynch said,

    "We aim to bring individuals who represent cutting edge programs in the US to the Jisc and CNI leaders conference. We have an outstanding group of US colleagues who will be making presentations at this event. The cross-fertilization of ideas can lead to lasting international collaborations. This conference has been an important mechanism to forge links between US and UK programs over the years. And, of course, it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn from each other."

    Open scholarship is one of the key themes for the conference, which examines the evolving roles of the library within the research university. Sharing research data for the greater good could not just revolutionise research but reach far beyond academia, making science truly ‘open’.

    Sir Nigel Shadbolt’s talk at the CNI and Jisc 2016 conference focused on the importance of open data and developments in artificial intelligence – another topic very much in the headlines. But with these opportunities come issues such as the cost of managing data; and as research becomes more complex, the simplified solutions for libraries become more pressing.

    Wondering if the event is for you?

    The Jisc and CNI conference is a bi-annual opportunity to engage with thought leaders and experts in the field and is particularly relevant for:

    • Library directors and senior library managers
    • Pro vice-chancellors for research and senior research managers
    • Heads of scholarly communication and open access
    • Heads of university presses
    • Pro vice-chancellors for teaching and learning
    • Research service providers
    • Academic publishers 

    For more information and to book your place at this year’s conference, visit the event page

  • My day at Jisc, by Natalie Ody, aged seven, and Eva Banks, aged ten

    When it comes to online safety, seven-year-old Natalie Ody is already security-savvy. She can talk about wifi, describe a cyber attack and even resist interrogation from a Jisc security expert. Meanwhile, ten-year-old Eva Banks now knows how Jisc protects the network and its members from harm.

    Eva Banks and Natalie Ody
    Creative Commons attribution information
    Eva Banks and Natalie Ody
    All rights reserved

    We think it’s essential that young people are well educated on using technology, including the internet, and that they know how to protect themselves online. Early interest in all things digital will also help the UK to produce a workforce with the technical skills to support the future economy.

    That’s why we invited Natalie and Eva to visit our Lumen House office on April 26 as part of Take Your Daughters And Sons To Work Day, which proved a fun and insightful day for both parents and children and is part of our commitment to the Tech Talent Charter, which aims to drive diversity and address the gender imbalance in technology roles.

    Natalie’s dad, Nelson Ody, had almost as much fun as his daughter and thought the day was productive for them both. He explained:

    “We’ve always had a joke at home that, if anyone gives the children any trouble, they’re to say that their dad works in security, but I don’t think Natalie had any real idea of what I do before she came to work with me.

    “She had a long day, but she loved it. Everyone was fantastic and really positive about her visit. She was a little bit shy at first, but I think it was a real boost for her self-confidence and I’m really proud of her.

    “I think it is also important for Natalie to be exposed to female role models, like my boss, security services group manager, Frances Burton. I’ve learned loads from Frances and it’s a good lesson for Natalie to see strong and capable women in the workplace; it’s something she can later emulate.”

    Nelson and Natalie Ody
    Creative Commons attribution information
    Nelson and Natalie Ody
    All rights reserved

    Among Natalie's insightful observations, were:

    “At Jisc, people have massive computers and most people have mobile phones for work. I also really like the spinning chairs.

    “People in cyber security defend other people. Jamie and Ant showed me their big TV, which had a map on it with bad things that happen.

    “I spoke to the security analysts called Ben and Alex, but I’m not allowed to tell you what they do.

    “Then I spoke to Tim and learned about DDoS cyber attacks. Tim gave me some print-outs to explain it. Stefan, Charlotte and Jason told me I am good at explaining DDoS.

    “Later I went to Charlotte’s desk and I drew a picture of my house and I told her what I think keeps my house safe and we played a game where she tried to get information out of me, but I didn’t tell her anything.

    “The computer in front of my dad is connected to his laptop. I saw how many emails my dad has – he has 7,492!

    “Dad took me around the office to meet people. There was finance, procurement, training and the helpdesk. Ben from the helpdesk explained to me how the big map they have works. The red bits are broken and green bits are working. Some bits changed from red to green when we were talking.

    “Becky from training was working from home so I spoke to her on Skype. She told me that dad and other people train people and then she marks how dad does.

    “Frances is my dad’s boss. Frances’s job is to keep Steve (Kennett – security director), my dad and Henry (Hughes – deputy security director) away from coffee. When Frances is away they get up to mischief!”

    Creative Commons attribution information
    Eva Banks
    All rights reserved

    Eva came into work with her mum, service delivery co-ordinator, Jasmine Reid, and, like Natalie, was also fascinated by the work of the security team. This is what she learned:

    “Jisc has to keep people using the Janet Network safe. They do this by putting barriers around the network to keep internet viruses out. They tell institutions how to lock their buildings and windows and then send someone round to try and break in. They tell the institutions if they need new windows, or doors or perhaps a new set of keys.

    “Next, I chatted to IT specialist Jamie, who showed me the server room. It is “like a control centre, full of cables and routers. The cables connect everything up to the computer screens for everyone to use. Jamie’s job involves helping staff with the internal network and he is busy a lot.

    “Finally, I worked with the service and operations team, who get notified when a fibre breaks in the underlayer of the network. They make sure that the field engineers know where the break is and that they get it fixed. If a fibre breaks, then it affects the network service and needs to be fixed quickly.”

  • What the Edtech?! Episode two: creating a successful startup

    Delving into the world of edtech startups.

    Our expert guests in this episode are discussing startups and how great ideas are turned into successful businesses. Sue Attewell, head of change for further education and skills at Jisc, and Atif Mahmood, founder and CEO of edtech startup Teacherly, join our host with bucket loads of tips and advice for any fledgling startup. 

    Vivi Friedgut is today’s expert practitioner. Her passionate account of how she founded Blackbullion will provide motivation to any startup in need of some inspiration. 

    Show notes

    Sue and Atif discuss Jisc’s edtech startup competition which Atif won in 2017 as well as the edtech launchpad which we run in collaboration with Emerge Education. Vivi mentions being a part of the Edtech50 which is an initiative run in partnership with Edtech UK

    More about our guests

    Sue Attewell

    Sue Attewell



    Atif Mahood

    Atif Mahmood



    Vivi Friedgut

    Vivi Friedgut


  • University quality healthcheck delivered through collaboration between three sector agencies

    Cooperation between three higher education organisations has helped to create a tool allowing universities to perform an in-house quality healthcheck.

    Since 2016, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Jisc, and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) have explored increased collaboration and cost sharing for the benefit of the HE sector through the M5 Group. 

    The QAA-led Provider Healthcheck was developed following a 13-week, Jisc-supported Analytics Lab and has been released to the sector as one of 14 community dashboards available via HESA’s Heidi Plus HE intelligence platform.

    “This community dashboard is the latest outcome from the M5 Group’s members to deliver services for the HE sector which help improve quality, create efficiencies and reduce costs,”

    said Paul Clark, chief executive of HESA.

    “The Provider Healthcheck will provide a valuable resource for HE quality teams across the UK at a time when metrics are increasingly important to their work. The dashboard will be showcased at the QAA’s annual conference this week,”

    said Douglas Blackstock, chief executive, QAA.

    Paul Feldman, chief executive of Jisc, said:

    “The M5 Group has saved universities time and money since it was established in 2016. This dashboard is the latest product created through the group’s collaborative approach. It offers universities a useful quality healthcheck tool to demonstrate that academic standards are being maintained, improving the quality of education for students.”

    Other positive examples of M5 collaboration include the Data Matters Conference in November 2017 and OneDesk the M5 group’s shared IT service desk, which launched in March, combining resources and systems to deliver efficient support to staff and external users.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode one: transforming your student engagement with social media

    Welcome to the very first episode of our brand new podcast - What the Edtech?!

    We couldn’t have hoped for a better way to kick off series one, episode one, than being joined by education consultant and thought leader Eric Stoller. Eric was joined by our head of change - student experience Sarah Knight to discuss the value of social media and digital engagement and how it can transform education. We also hear from Kardi Somerfield, senior lecturer in digital marketing and advertising talking about her use of digital channels to engage students at The University of Northampton.

    Show notes

    In this episode, Eric mentions his friend Sue Beckingham, an academic at Sheffield Hallam University who is using WhatsApp with her students and Dr David Webster at University of Gloucestershire who uses blogs as a platform. Eric also talks about Suzanne Faulkner, a tutor using Snapchat at the University of Strathclyde - you can read more about her work in this blog post. Finally, the podcast also references the #LTHEchat group on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday evening.

  • Jisc’s top ten further education social media superstars of 2018

    We've been on the lookout for the top ten social media superstars in further education (FE), and we had some great entries!

    A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to apply and congratulations to our #JiscTop10 winners.

    The competition celebrates the excellent social media work being done by sector professionals out there – and the most innovative ways of using social media to add value to their practice. Each winner will receive an edtech visit to their institution, robot included.

    The final line-up was chosen by a panel of FE and social media experts, including Jisc's head of FE and skills, Paul McKean; Jisc's digital content manager, Richard Tatnall; TES columnist, FE teacher founder of UKFEchat, Sarah Simons, and FE Week journalist Sam King.

    Paul McKean said:

    "It's great to see the variety of ways practitioners are using social media to support their practice. The top ten use a whole range of platforms in many diverse and exciting ways.

    "It's noticeable that, while the practitioners come from across the spectrum of the curriculum, our top ten are all keen to share their own practice, either via social media, such as hosting #UKFEchat debates on Twitter, or their own blogs, but also in 'real life' by hosting local Teach Meets.

    "I'm also pleased to see the use of social media is having an impact, too, for example, it is cited as a contributing factor in attracting 'a wider range of local students than our normal geographic profile'."

    Richard Tatnall added:

    "What stood out for me was the real-world impact these social media activities are having. Among our ten superstars' submissions were examples of social media initiating new partnerships; securing student work experience (it's worth checking out #ReadingCollegeTakeOver for more on this); and even contributing to successful project bids.

    "When the impact of social media moves beyond the screen like this, its value really becomes clear. Our winners have provided many great examples of how investing in blogs and other social media channels can have big pay-offs for both practitioners and students.

    "It's certainly an exciting time to be a social media advocate in FE at the moment as new practices are constantly being tried and tested and our winners are leading the way for its integration throughout teaching and learning."

    Aftab Hussain, strategic lead for information learning technology, Bolton College

    Aftab Hussain


    Since joining Bolton College in November 2013, Aftab has kept an active blog which showcases the ILT projects underway across the college. The articles and projects are shared on LinkedIn.

    This attracts attention and has led to a successful project bid to the Education Training Foundation, which promoted the use of Ada, Bolton College's cognitive assistant for students, teachers and support teams. The project, which concluded in October 2017, also attracted attention via social media of IBM's Watson Conversation Team, who visited Bolton College in June 2017 to view its work on the Ada service

    In July 2016, the Education Recording Agency did a case study on the college's use of personalised video content based on the social media posts about the service. The use of social media has also led to an increasing number of FE staff visiting Bolton College to learn more about its ILT services and projects.

    Aftab says the primary aim of his social media posts is to raise awareness of how analytics and technology can be combined in radically different ways to support students, teachers and support teams.

    Anshi Singh, IT lecturer, Reading College (Activate Learning)

    Anshi Singh


    Anshi uses social media to connect with educators across the globe and also to promote awareness of abuse and gender equality.

    This year she organised a Teach Meet (#TMReading17) which was successful and will go ahead again this year, all promoted by social media.

    All level 3 students interact on social media and have set up their own blogs to share and connect their learning with the real world. The hashtag #L3ClassAnshi is used to post any course-related items.

    Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn/Google community/YouTube and other websites effectively extend learning beyond the classroom and Anshi uses these platforms to seek work experience placements for students. As a result, all level 3 students were able to do work experience by taking over social media accounts of local businesses.

    Finally, Anshi is starting a pilot project to teach responsible use of social media to students in vocational courses.

    Jade Easton, deputy head of commercial services, Kingston College

    Jade Easton


    Jade is a pioneer in the college's use of Twitter and set up @KC_BTECsport. She is active in celebrating past students' successes to inspire and motivate applicants to vocational courses and highlights present students' success as they progress.

    The impact has been buoyant in terms of enrolments and applications on the sports courses and the college has attracted a wider range of students than its normal geographic profile.

    Social media activity has been instrumental in securing connections with local sports clubs and universities to give the students further enrichment. Jade also retweets local community events, which has helped up-skill current students and allows them to showcase what they do via a social media platform. She proactively shares what the college does and uses it as a positive tool to advertise good practise in the institution, but also opportunities in FE more widely.

    James Donaldson, head of additional learning needs and wellbeing, Cardiff and Vale College

    James Donaldson


    James says that social media in general and, in particular, developing a personal learning network (PLN) on Twitter and blogging has allowed him to develop as a reflective practitioner and lead the conversation around additional learning needs reform in schools and colleges in Wales.

    He likes to use social media to promote, share and teach technology online, linking colleagues, parents, researchers, health and social services, edtech providers and users to think about disrupting the status quo and driving positive change.

    James is a co-organiser of Teach Meet South Wales, and has led UKFEchat tweet meets around those with additional learning needs wellbeing and support for learning and used social media to link with fellow educators and change-makers. For example, he was asked to present at Bett 2018 by Microsoft on the use of mixed reality to support transition for learners with additional and special educational needs and disability.

    James Kieft, learning technologies manager at Activate Learning

    James Kieft


    James uses social media to keep up to date with technology tools and see how others are making use of these tools. James puts the tools he likes on his blog and YouTube channel, where he suggests how they could be used to benefit teaching and learning.

    As a result, there has been an increased use of educational technology tools within the classrooms at the colleges he works at.

    Colleagues across the education sector have responded by suggesting tools James should feature on his channels and what it has allowed them to achieve with their learners.

    This work has resulted in Activate Learning winning an AoC Beacon Award and being shortlisted for a TES FE award for technology usage.

    He also engages through Google Plus and Google Plus communities, Twitter and various Twitter chats such as #UKFEchat.

    Learning technologies and library services team, Petroc College

    Petroc team


    This team uses a combination of Wordpress, Twitter and Facebook to communicate across three campuses and beyond. As demand on time has increased, the team found it hard to maintain the same level of face-to-face support and saw how social media could help.

    The platforms act as a shop window for the team to display learning technologies and library services to all.

    Daily tweets have an eclectic style, including the odd GIF and personal news, so the account stays friendly and interesting. Specific hashtags promote various LTLS projects and initiatives. For example, #PetrocReads5 is promoting a reading challenge through a live Twitter feed on the library services Moodle page and there's been a big uptake among staff and students alike. #PetrocGoogle5 promotes online Google training as part of the college's rollout of Chromebooks and Google GSuite (Wakelet), and #PetrocLTA is a starting point for discussing learning, teaching and assessment.

    The active promotion of Twitter has encouraged lecturers to create their own curriculum-based Twitter accounts and embed them within their Moodle course pages.

    Lisa Shields, lecturer in marketing and retail, City of Glasgow College

    Lisa Shields


    Lisa has used Twitter since 2010, when developing her teaching practice as a new FE lecturer.

    At the start of the academic year she encourages students to follow her and arranges them into course groups in the List feature, without following them back. This way, she can look at student tweets when required, or converse if need be without seeing their tweets in her feed. Those students who have graduated go into a list of alumni so that she can maintain links with them in their careers.

    Lisa regularly posts relevant articles and identifies stand-out advertising campaigns and refers to the tweets in class. Frequently, advertising agencies involved in the campaigns will engage with the post, giving an opportunity to promote the course and the students as informed future professionals.

    Recently, when undertaking an educational podcasting project known as Retail Chat she created a separate Twitter account to promote the work, and hopes to expand this as a way of further engaging students.   

    Scott Hayden, media lecturer, teacher trainer, digital learning ambassador at Basingstoke College of Technology

    Scott Hayden


    A social media and edtech advisor to The Education Foundation and Edtech UK, Scott is in charge of a team that trains staff in creative and innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

    All students now use social media and digital technology in a professional and responsible way that enhances their digital reputation and employability skills.

    The techniques Scott has developed have been cited by Edexcel and Ofsted as outstanding practice of engaging both students and industry and he was shortlisted this year for the TES FE award for outstanding use of technology.

    Simon Reddy, teacher at City College Plymouth and the University of Plymouth

    Simon Reddy


    Simon's use of social media to help engage apprentice plumbers was born from his 2014 PhD on college courses and apprenticeships in plumbing. The study found the plumbing curriculum in FE was dislocated and important aspects of apprenticeships were being ignored, including the experience of being part of a community of workers.

    On returning to practice as an FE plumbing teacher in 2015, Simon noticed apprentices were distracted with smart phones, so he decided to capitalise on this.

    He formed closed Facebook social media groups, with tutors, assessors, college managers, directors and apprentices. The apprentices put pictures and videos of their work on the Facebook group, and in classroom sessions other students instantly engaged with their own pictures and critical comments.

    The students' responses were "extraordinary". They were interested in learning more, and continually compare/correct their own work performances with peers, which drives up standards.

    Simon says the use of smart phones and social media communities shows that assessment can now be easily collected digitally and that students are more engaged and able to form professional communities, while emphasising practical work.

    It's also worth noting that tests use employers' resources, so colleges don't need to buy expensive materials for assessment.

    Tony Payne, student experience manager, East Kent College Group

    Tony Payne


    Tony is a regular contributor to #UKFEchat and has co-hosted the #UKFEchat podcast this year.

    He also leads and runs @lvpnet, which is a network for Learner Voice practitioners across the UK. Its Facebook community, with more than 200 members, is a place to collaborate and share best practice.

    Tony also hosts regular networking events around the UK to ensure technological innovation is at the heart of Learner Voice.

    Tony has recently completed a year's secondment with NUS, where he supported the development of an online Learner Voice Framework to allow institutions to self-assess their collaboration with learners and build an action plan to expand work into new areas of development.

  • Jisc secures future of a free online maths course

    A free online course designed for adults who want to improve their grasp of maths at GCSE level has been transferred to Jisc.

    The move from Calderdale College means that the Citizen Maths course will remain freely available to all and will be updated and developed in the future.

    Citizen Maths is a good match for our existing content for further education colleges, such hairdressing training and an e-books collection that includes text books for compulsory English and maths GCSE retakes.

    The transfer of Citizen Maths took place earlier this year and our initial focus will be on ensuring the continuation of all its current features and on maintaining excellent support for learners and partners.

    Service to be improved in the future

    In the future, we plan to improve Citizen Maths to meet the needs of a wider range of learners.

    Karla Youngs, head of digital content services for further education and skills at Jisc, said:

    “This maths course is a good fit with Jisc’s existing offering to further and adult education and we have worked closely with Calderdale College to ensure a smooth transfer of the service and to make the transition invisible to learners and to partner organisations.

    We now have a team in place to support the service into the future.”

    Meeting the needs of a growing user base

    John Rees, principal and chief executive of Calderdale College, said:

    “We are pleased that Citizen Maths has now transferred to an organisation which provides digital solutions for the whole of UK education and research. We can’t think of a better long-term home for the project, which has seen steady growth in number of users since its launch.”  

    Citizen Maths was developed in between 2014 and 2017 by Calderdale College, with funding from the Ufi charitable trust, working with the UCL Institute of Education and OCR.

    Who is Citizen Maths for?

    Citizen Maths is aimed at people who want to improve their grasp of maths, and become more confident in using these skills at work and in life.

    Maths may have passed you by at school, or you may be rusty. Maybe you’ve passed maths exams, but find it hard to apply what you know to the types of problem you need to solve now – like using spreadsheets, judging amounts or assessing odds.

    The course uses practical problems to help people learn and is pitched to meet the standard of maths that a 16-year-old should achieve.

    There are five modules which should take between five and ten hours each to complete.

    While the course does not result in a formal qualification, a statement of participation is available for people who successfully complete the whole course.