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  • The Ada Lovelace effect and why women still need powerful STEM role models

    Ada Lovelace Day is an annual event on the second Tuesday in October celebrating women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). 

    Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was the first ever computer programmer – a woman ahead of her time. But in 2018 we are still urging women into careers that are dominated by men.

    It is a long-standing problem that women are under-represented at the highest levels in scientific fields.

    The disparity between genders studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects could partly explain the digital skills shortage in the UK and The Guardian rightly questions, why do so few girls study STEM subjects?

    Closing the skills gap

    Jisc is helping to tackle the skills shortage by encouraging members to embed digital skills into the curriculum and give educators the support they need to teach them.

    The government’s industrial strategy states: “Within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills.”

    Jisc’s digital experience insights survey shows that half of college learners and almost 70% of university students think digital skills will be imperative for their careers. Yet only 41% believe their courses prepare them for a digital workplace.

    The UK is currently facing a huge STEM skills shortage. New findings from STEM Learning show that 73% of businesses have found it more difficult to hire staff in the last 12 months.

    To help counter this problem and inspire the next generations of scientists, Jisc has recently formed a partnership with STEM Learning, whereby some of our employees have become STEM Ambassadors. The ambassadors are volunteers from a wide range of STEM-related jobs and disciplines across the UK, who offer their time by visiting schools to share their experience and enthusiasm.

    The lack of female representation in science is a long-running issue, dating from before Ada Lovelace’s time. One recent study grimly suggested that gender parity in science is “generations away”, while another showed that men continue to cite other men significantly more often than women in their article bibliographies.

    We hope that our STEM Ambassadors play a small but significant part in redressing the balance.

    Why become a STEM Ambassador?

    One of our STEM Ambassadors, sector analyst Caitlin Bloom, said:

    “I enjoy working for Jisc because I like solving puzzles, I like to find out how things work and fit together and why.”

    As a child she was fascinated by space and the physical and chemical world in which we exist. But in later life she was told she couldn’t do the A-level combination she wanted to, so her dream of studying chemistry was pushed aside. Caitlin added:

    “Why was it wrong of me to want to do a subject I love just because it didn’t ‘fit’ and no additional support was available to make it happen?”

    After university, she worked at De Montfort University (DMU) and University of Leicester, where she was on the IT/TEL committees. At DMU she was also involved in the digital transformation project, working on minimum standards for virtual learning environments (VLE) and on installing Jisc's wireless network, eduroam.

    “As a STEM Ambassador I want to encourage students (and especially girls) to study the subjects they want to and to keep STEM options open to them in the future. My inspirational role models are Isaac Newton, Alan Turing and Brian Cox. It is a shame I can’t add a woman here, but I guess that illustrates the issue!” she said.

    Inspired by Ada Lovelace

    Although men typically dominate STEM fields, many women, including Lovelace, have shown that these industries aren’t exclusively for men. Lovelace’s ingenuity makes her a significant role model for young women wanting to pursue science and technology careers.

    The Ada National College for Digital Skills (named after Ada Lovelace) is a specialist further education college, tailored to help fill the country’s digital skills gap.

    The college’s head of external relations, Amy Fowler, mentioned in a blog about Ada Lovelace last year, that:

    “Only 17% of UK digital jobs are filled by women. That’s got to change and at Ada we are actively changing it by striving to recruit 50% of our students as women and 50% from low-income backgrounds. The more diversity we see in this space the more our students will internalise that background has no bearing on talent, drive and the ability to be great.”

    Could you be the next Ada Lovelace?

    If you’ve considered pursuing a job in STEM areas, you may be interested in joining Jisc as a way of inspiring, encouraging and supporting the next generation into occupations involving digital technology.

    For more about the opportunities Jisc has to offer, visit our careers page.



  • Preston's College shares their top ten tips for augmented and virtual reality

    Preston’s College’s e-learning team wanted to explore the potential of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology for learning and teaching but was put off by the cost of the equipment and inflexibility of the resources on display at edtech shows in London.

    Jisc’s AR and VR specialist, Matt Ramirez, helped the team to see how they could use low-cost, consumer-end scanners and cameras to achieve their goals, bringing resources to life in nearly every department across the college.

    The college is now using AR and VR in a wide range of ways, making innovative technology much more accessible to learners.

    Preston's College top ten tips

    E-learning developer, Frank McHale, and learning outside the classroom project manager, Steve Smith, tell us their top ten tips for AR and VR on a virtual budget:

    1. Invest in R&D

    As a college, give your e-learning developers the freedom to do some research and development work and see what they come up with. Don’t be scared to fail. Some things won’t work but you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it in the early days. 

    2. Start small

    What we learnt very quickly – thanks to Jisc - is that entry level technology can still be very good.

    While we found limitations with our first 360 camera, it only cost us £200 and it enabled us to prove what we were able to achieve. As a result, the college felt confident investing in a £400 camera.

    Buy at entry level and just get going. It’s been a complete eye opener how much we can get out of really low cost tech.

    3. Have a plan

    Have a strategy for how the technology could make a difference across your college, not just in one corner.

    We knew that AR would get taken up by the IT school, but we wanted to show that it could be used in a range of different departments, from auto mechanics to dance.

    4. Skill up

    One of the benefits of consumer-level equipment is that YouTube is full of how-to videos and you can skill yourself up pretty quickly. We felt that AR and VR was really new ground for us but it turned out to be much easier and more fun to use the kit than we had expected.

    5. Don’t talk, do

    [#insertinlinedriver case_study#]

    Tutors need to see a purpose and use for any new technology and to understand how it can benefit them and their learners. Find a willing teacher or department and get a quick example up and running.

    We 3D-scanned a plastic model of a hair follicle we came across in a biology lab, put it onto a platform using free online software and then embedded it in the college VLE.

    We expected the biology department to find it useful – but so did tutors from hair and beauty and motor engineering once they saw it!

    6. Go walkabout

    Get out and about around your college and see what teachers are dealing with in their own environments.

    From day one of getting the equipment we went into different classrooms, studios and garages, scanning and filming things. You only have to stand there for five minutes using a strange bit of equipment and you get the attention of both tutors and learners.

    7. Showcase

    On inset and CPD days put on a showcase to demonstrate how technologies are being used in different departments.

    Have a light touch, hands-on CPD session and ask for suggestions for projects. 

    8. Consolidate

    [#insertinlinedriver ar_vr#]
    It’s all very well making cool stuff and getting excited about it but when it comes down to it, how does this help formative assessment?

    We use our VLE to host streaming video so that learners such as dancers or auto engineers can, for example, watch a 360 video of a workshop on their smartphone, embed information into it to show that they understand particular aspects and then be assessed on it.

    All the time think about how the use of the technology can be consolidated so it can be demonstrated that it improves student chances and experience.

    9. Look ahead

    Keep an eye on AR and VR developments – it is such a fast growing area and new opportunities or better ways of creating content are appearing all the time.

    10. Talk to Jisc and network with your peers

    If we hadn’t asked Jisc for help and been to see Matt Ramirez we may have gone down the wrong path and invested in something that was never going to give us the return we needed.

    It saved us making an expensive mistake.

    Find out what other colleges are doing, too, and, again, Jisc can point you in the direction of innovative work and interesting people.



  • Jisc and two education providers team up with Microsoft to boost digital skills

    Jisc, the University of Leicester, and Milton Keynes College have joined forces with Microsoft to help students and teachers improve their digital skills.

    The four organisations will work together on a guide that lets students and staff to reflect on their digital skills, pointing them towards courses to help them improve.

    The free tool is designed to create a generation of digital leaders who will thrive in workplaces that increasingly rely on technology.

    It is thought that 65% of today’s students will end up working in jobs that don’t exist yet, and more than 500,000 highly-skilled workers will be needed to fill digital roles by 2022 – three times the number of UK computer science students who graduated in the past ten years.

    Shri Footring, senior co-design manager at Jisc said:

    “At Jisc we firmly believe that both students and staff need to be armed with the right skills when it comes to technology, in order to help them thrive in the workplace of the future, so we’re thrilled to have worked with Microsoft, University of Leicester, and Milton Keynes College on this important resource.

    “Our recent survey of more than 37,000 students found that only 41% of students feel prepared for the digital workplace and we’re committed to supporting both students and staff to improve this statistic and gain the skills they need.”

    Clare Riley, further education and higher education engagement manager at Microsoft, said it will help people from every background to achieve more in education and life. She said:

    “Today’s world is digital and mobile, app-based and personal. To thrive in it, greater confidence around how best to harness technology and new digital skills are vital; but not everyone has them.

    “Our easy-to-use online tool is designed to help you assess your digital literacy and capabilities and identify the necessary courses and resources to accelerate your learning, research capabilities or impact as a teacher. It will guide you through a three-level curriculum with plenty of free online resources to raise your digital readiness to new heights and help you become future leaders in business and academia.”

    Penny Langford, head of e-learning at Milton Keynes College, added:

    “We’ve worked in conjunction with Jisc and Microsoft to categorise key skills into three levels – bronze, silver and gold – depending on whether they will help drive productivity, creativity or innovation.

    "For each level we’ve also developed three core learning paths, so you can take charge of our own development and navigate the necessary online courses and learning resources you need to succeed.”

    Gold, silver and bronze courses

    The new Microsoft resource uses the Jisc digital capability framework as a starting point, bringing in work done at the University of Leicester on developing personas as well a reward and recognition system developed at Milton Keynes College to create interactive, targeted development pathways.

    Students, academics, researchers and administrators can take free online courses at gold, silver and bronze levels, depending on their skill level.

    • Bronze courses offer information on how to work confidently, collaboratively and effectively in a digital world, and include help with Office 365 Education, OneNote, Sway, GDPR, the cloud, Microsoft Teams and using Skype in the classroom, among other topics
    • Silver courses focus on creativity and collaboration, and look at accessibility, inclusion, Power BI, amplifying student voices and problem-based learning
    • Gold courses are for anyone who wants to use technology to innovate and inspire others. These courses offer help with growing a professional network, searching for jobs and becoming a Skype Master Teacher to learn from other education professionals across the world


  • Further education students are shunning the web and turning to staff and each other for digital skills support

    Our survey of more than 37,000 students (14,292 from further education) shows more than two thirds of further education (FE) students are turning to each other and their lecturers for technical support, overlooking online help for their digital queries

    Contrary to their often-presumed digital know-how, FE students are more likely to ask each other for help with technology (32%) than search the web for useful tips and tutorials (only 14%). More reliant on staff than their higher education (HE) counterparts, a third (35%) of FE students turn to their lecturers first for digital advice, compared to only 8% of university students. 

    The survey represents the largest ever sample of data showing how students use digital technology in education and their attitudes towards it. 

    Universities minister calls for action

    In the report foreword, universities minister Sam Gyimah said:

    “I want all educational leaders to look closely at this report and consider how they can improve their own provision through the effective use of technology.

    "I also urge them to take full advantage of the expert advice and ‘on the ground’ support provided by Jisc to take a fully digital approach to issues such as curriculum design and the learning environment.”  

    Don’t replace conversation with technology  

    More than a third of FE students surveyed want technology to be used more on their course. 64% report to be more independent in their learning when technology is used, and more than half (57%) agree that it helps them to fit learning into their busy lives. 

    Notably though, of all the examples of how digital technology might enhance their learning experience, students are least convinced that it makes them feel more connected with people, either their fellow students or lecturers.   

    Less than half of students (47%) agree they can access health and wellbeing services online, suggesting that they might benefit from clearer signposting, directing them to often much needed support.  

    Ensure staff have the right digital skills

    The report also shines a light on the digital competencies of staff, with many students reporting frustration when lecturers struggle to use digital systems correctly, saying it wastes time and restricts access to digital resources. Learners do, however, report examples of excellent practice that they’d like staff to aspire to.  

    Only half of FE students say that the software used on their course is industry standard and up to date, but positively, almost three quarters are satisfied with the digital offer provided by their organisation. 

    Sam Gyimah concludes: “I call on all universities and colleges to work in partnership with their students to ensure they are providing the best possible education experience – one in which digital technology is fully integrated and offers opportunities for all learners to develop the skills they need to thrive in today’s fast changing world of work.”  

    Supporting students to develop digitally

    Kirsti Lord, deputy chief executive, Association of Colleges said:

    “The Jisc report provides a hugely valuable insight into the digital experiences of students at their colleges. It’s heartening to see that FE learners value the support they receive from their lecturers, and the results show the supportive digital environment colleges provide their learners.

    "It’s interesting to note that students often don’t have the level of digital skills that they’re presumed to, and it is fundamental that learners are armed with the skills that they’ll need to flourish in the digital workplace.” 

    Sarah Knight, report co-author and head of change, student experience at Jisc, said:

    “At Jisc we recognise how fundamental digital skills are for staff and students. We know that when used well, technology can save staff and students time, make learning more flexible and accessible, and better prepare students for the digital workplace.  

    “It's clear that staff need a prerequisite level of digital capability and ongoing development, to be able to support their students with the development of their digital skills. Our report recommends that organisations invest in signposting support for using technology for learning, encouraging students and staff to help each other with their digital queries. We also suggest the introduction of student digital mentors and champions as well as investing in meaningful student engagement initiatives around their digital experience. 

    “Our digital insights service is an essential starting point for colleges and universities, providing them with intelligence about their digital offer through the eyes of their staff and students. We support organisations to build on their findings, enhancing the digital skills of staff and students, and helping to create a technology-focussed environment that works for all.” 

    Find out more 



  • National learning analytics service seeks to boost student attainment and cut drop outs

    The world’s first national learning analytics service has been launched for the UK’s further and higher education sectors. 

    It has the potential to transform students’ learning experience, support their wellbeing and boost achievement.

    The technology, which has been developed by Jisc, uses real time and existing data to track student performance and activities.

    From libraries to laboratories, learning analytics can monitor where, when and how students learn. This means that both students and their university or college can ensure they are making the most of their learning experience.

    Students themselves have access to the Study Goal app to track how they use their time, from revision to relaxation, to help them take full ownership of their personal learning and study strategies.

    Jisc’s chief executive Paul Feldman said:

    “This AI approach brings existing data together in one place to support academic staff in their efforts to enhance student success, wellbeing and retention.

    "This world first is something which we believe will transform the student experience in the institutions across the UK that have signed up to use the service.”

    The collective power of data

    So far, 30 universities and colleges have signed up to Jisc’s learning analytics service, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to harness the collective power of data.

    Learning providers are already collecting separate data sets about students, but this service allows that information to be collated into something meaningful. For example, it can flag when a student’s attendance is dwindling and highlights course content they may not be engaging with.

    A picture of student learning habits and progress emerges, which can help to identify those at risk of dropping out, allowing prompt interventions and support by a tutor or another staff member. Spotting these warning signs could be vital for struggling students.

    The Study Goal app uses the same principles as a fitness tracker, allowing students to log study time, record attendance and view results. It encourages them to take control of their own learning by setting goals and benchmarking themselves against peers. 

    Academic and student support staff at participating institutions have access to data explorer - a dashboard that brings together information including virtual learning environment (VLE) usage, attendance and assessment. It includes a predictor, which can be used to identify at-risk individuals and help staff give timely and relevant support for students experiencing academic, health or personal challenges.  

    Tutors can also see how students are engaging with their studies, helping them to identify areas of underperformance.  

    Designed in partnership

    The learning analytics service has been designed in partnership with universities and colleges in the UK and overseas. Jisc plans to continue this collaboration with users to make sure the service meets their changing needs.

    A code of practice has been developed in partnership with the NUS to help institutions plan and implement analytics work – and the human interactions that result. This addresses any ethical concerns about capturing data for this purpose, by making sure that these activities take place with the informed consent and cooperation of students. 

    After collection, the information is transferred to Jisc’s learning data hub, a cloud-based solution for making sense of the patterns in student records and data. This is hosted on secure, resilient servers in the UK and EU, which will help colleges and universities to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

    The service can provide anonymised insights across region or nation, offering potential to be used in policy and planning. Under the HEFCW-funded Learning Analytics Cymru project, Wales is the first nation where all HE providers have signed up to the service. Further insights will be derived at national level to help maintain and grow Wales’ strong reputation, giving it a further edge over other nations.

    Paul Feldman added:

    “Dozens of institutions and individuals have given their time and expertise over the past three years to develop a service that is already making a difference to students, staff and their institutions, and we are grateful for their contribution.”



  • Higher Education Commission welcomes ministers’ renewed commitments to international students

    The Higher Education Commission (HEC) release a 12-point plan for protecting the UK’s gold standard international HE sector.

    The UK’s higher education is world leading in its number of international student enrolments, second only to the USA, and the Higher Education Commission wants our fifth biggest service sector in the economy to flourish, not flatline.

    Co-sponsored by Jisc, and compiled by Policy Connect, the report released today, Staying Ahead: are international students going down under? makes a case for urgent review of policy, echoed by disappointment from the sector at recommendations in this week’s Migration Advisory Committee report, commissioned by the Home Office.

    A headline measure from the 12-point plan is that the government must reverse its policy on targets. Instead of including student numbers in overall migration targets, it must instead have a standalone and ambitious target for the number of students the UK should attract.

    This call for action follows the Centre for Global Higher Education’s release of stats and Universities UK’s warning that overseas students will opt for competitor countries - thereby threatening the UK’s ambition of £30bn in revenue from international students by 2020.

    Paul Feldman, CEO of Jisc and a member of the Higher Education Commission, said:

    “The report findings send a clear message that we cannot ignore. Now is the time for the UK to take stock of its position in the global HE market and plan as a sector, and with government, to ensure we remain a world-leader in global education.

    "However, there is a silver lining in that more universities are opening overseas campuses or delivering distance learning programmes to overseas students. This is enabled by advanced technology meaning students can learn and collaborate thousands of miles apart. As the sector’s digital body, Jisc is committed to supporting UK institutions to operate anywhere in the world.”

    This research is the commission’s sixth inquiry, and examines competitor strategies, which include friendly visa processes and post-study rights to work.

    Australia’s higher education strategy is targeted at encouraging the growing Chinese (currently the UK’s biggest source of international students) and Indian middle classes to study down under. It includes their ambitious student numbers target, streamlined visa policies, and accessible post-study work visas which help them achieve high-levels of growth.

    Conservative peer Lord Norton, who co-chaired the commission inquiry, said:

    “With the UK falling behind in the global market and with Brexit on the horizon, now is the time to remove students from migration numbers, simplify the visa process and look to invest in new markets of students beyond China. If we delay or prevaricate, Australia will cement their lead and the UK will be relegated from the top tier of international higher education.”

    Professor Simon Marginson, director of the ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education, co-chair of the commission inquiry, said:

    “The export market is supply regulated as well as demand driven. By blocking growth in many universities, stepping up surveillance of bona fide students, and restricting post-study work opportunities the UK has not only held international student numbers in a flatline position - it has sent a strong message to the world that more students are simply not welcome here.

    “The restriction of supply in turn has choked off demand as students head for countries like Australia and Canada where the door is wide open. The UK retains its reputation as a high quality education country and can turn it around, but only if a clear message is given of the UK welcoming students and a balanced policy on international education is restored.”

    The commission, an independent voice for the higher education sector made up of industry and education experts, says that setting a ‘friendly environment’ target for increasing international student numbers into the UK will send a welcoming message that is currently absent. 

    The target must require all departments to work collaboratively to achieve the following:

    • The Department for Education, supported by the Home Office, should roll out an improved Tier 4 pilot based on recruiting from target growth countries such as India and Nigeria 
    • The Home Office must simplify visa procedures and reduce burdens on Tier 4 university sponsors
    • The Department for International Trade must re-invigorate the “Education is GREAT” campaign, working with universities to maximise impact
    • The Department for International Development should allocate a proportion of foreign aid spending to provide scholarships and pathway programmes, match funded by universities
    • Home Office and British Council should review the number and location of English language test centres to attract the brightest and best students, not the richest

    Read the full report: Staying Ahead: are international students going down under?



  • Our survey shows only 41% of students feel prepared for the digital workplace

    Our survey of 37,000 students, released today, shows that half of college learners and almost 70% of university students think digital skills will be important for their chosen career. Yet only 41% believe their courses prepare them for a digital workplace.

    This comes as the government’s industrial strategy states: “Within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills.”

    The poll also finds that two thirds of respondents feel they are not told what digital skills they need before starting a course and less than half agree that they have regular opportunities to review and update their digital skills.

    Using the report for improvement

    Creative Commons attribution information
    Sam Gyimah

    In a foreword to the Jisc report, Sam Gyimah, minister for universities, science, research and innovation says:

    “This issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency if universities and colleges are to deliver for students, employers and the country as a whole.

    “I want all educational leaders to look closely at this report and consider how they can improve their own provision through the effective use of technology.

    "I also urge them to take full advantage of the expert advice and "on the ground’ support provided by Jisc to take a fully digital approach to issues such as curriculum design and the learning environment.”

    In the largest ever sample of such data, we questioned more than 37,000 students from 83 further education (FE) colleges and higher education (HE) institutions.

    Participants in the second annual digital experience insights survey were asked about how they use digital technology, expectations for technology provision and support, learning habits, experience of digital technology at their institution and how it prepares them for the workplace. The survey proves invaluable for colleges and universities, supporting them to decide how to invest in technology so that it meets the needs of their students.

    Satisfaction almost guaranteed

    Despite the question mark over digital skills, overall satisfaction with digital provision is high - 74% of FE and 88% of HE students reported satisfaction with the digital offer at their organisation.

    Pedagogy also comes out well, with 72% of FE and 74% of HE students happy with the quality of teaching they receive.

    But students are frustrated when teachers don’t use digital systems competently, especially when this wastes time or reduces access to course materials. However, students offer many examples of excellent teaching practice, which they want other staff to aspire to.

    When it comes to help with using technology, FE students are overlooking the web and turning instead to teachers, who are the main source of advice for FE students. However, only 8% of university students report turning to lecturers for guidance.

    Findings also show that students enjoy the flexibility and independence afforded by technology: 64% of FE students and 73% of HE students agree that they are more independent in their learning when digital technology is used. A further 57% of FE students and 67% of HE students agree that digital approaches help them to fit learning around their lifestyle.  

    Use data carefully

    Only a third of FE students and 24% of HE students agree they are told how their personal data is stored and used.

    Some students used the survey to request improvements to their data protection. Suggestions included: “Don't sell students’ data to third parties”; “Provide information on data protection"; “Don’t relax on data security”.

    In his foreword for the report, Sam Gyimah calls on the sector to ensure that use of data takes students’ wellbeing into account. He said:

    “The need for universities and colleges to offer further support around digital wellbeing, online safety and data privacy is prominent. Ensuring students’ mental health and wellbeing is one of my priorities. This report makes clear the need for universities and colleges to take steps to ensure technology continues to be employed in the best interests of students, not exposing them to further risk.”

    Technology can empower staff and students

    Jisc chief executive Paul Feldman, adds:

    “The findings from our annual digital experience survey bring with them the real opportunity for organisations to provide their students with what they need to make the most out of their education.

    “Technology is playing an increasingly important role in our lives and, consequentially, within the education sector. It holds the real potential to empower both staff and students, saving time and making the learning experience more flexible, immersive and engaging for all.

    “More importantly though, it’s vital that we ensure students are equipped with the digital skills they will need to flourish in the workplace, something that’s crucial for our learners and the future workforce of the UK.

    “We look forward to working with participants to act on their findings, supporting them to use technology in a way that transforms the learning experience, maximising student success.”

    Find out more



  • Jisc welcomes the move to make research open access by 2020

    Jisc has welcomed a radical new move to make publicly funded research in 11 European countries, including the UK, accessible for free by 2020.

    In 1973, Robert Merton, a sociologist of science, noted that “the substantive findings of science are a product of social collaboration and are assigned to the community”. In that spirit, we are delighted with the announcement from Science Europe of cOAlition S which will speed up progress towards open access (OA).

    Liam Earney, director of Jisc Collections said:

    “This announcement is really positive, not only in removing hurdles for the research community, but for society as a whole. People will be able to access current research findings while they are still relevant, engaging the public in the UK’s leading higher education and research.

    "We are particularly pleased that the 11 national research funding organisations have focussed on establishing robust criteria for high quality OA journals and platforms, support for OA infrastructure and the monitoring of compliance.

    "We will be building on our existing work in these areas and continuing our dialogue with funders to apply our extensive knowledge of scholarly communications and the journal and library supply chains, and to discuss how national services such as Jisc Monitor, CORE and RIOXX can contribute to national monitoring that is developed alongside UK OA policies.

    "It’s also encouraging that UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will take a leading role in reviewing the obstacles to implementation, which we have supported for some time. We do this through our range of services that support authors and institutions, manage the OA publishing lifecycle, and through our negotiations to constrain and reduce the costs of subscriptions and OA article processing charges.

    "The emphasis on transformative agreements being time limited and transitional is welcome and we will continuing our discussions with funders to clarify the length of the transition period and the features of a transformative agreement. We have also sought to maximise the benefits of OA, for example through partnering with the Open University to offer the massive, global and completely open CORE aggregation of OA material. 

    "We note that the role of repositories in Plan S is focused on archiving and editorial innovation, and will work with funders, universities and others in the UK and beyond to realise this vision for them, for example via the Jisc Open Research Service shared repository, built on the infrastructure of the Research Data Shared Service.

    "But OA is not enough on its own. As Science Europe notes, the rewards system in research needs attention to promote a culture in which openness is incentivised. Initiatives such as the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), the Leiden Manifesto, and the Open Science Career Assessment Matrix (OS-CAM) are steps toward this, and we look forward to continuing our work with the Forum for Responsible Research Metrics.

    "With Science Europe, we recognise that all of this is a journey and, in cases such as monographs, it may take some time."



  • Fresh digital thinking on apprenticeships

    Growing numbers of apprenticeship providers are embracing digital technologies to help them reshape their offer following last year’s radical shake-up of vocational training.

    It saw the introduction of a new standards-based approach and a new funding model for apprenticeships, and brought fresh challenges for a sector that already has a lot on its plate.

    Many apprenticeship providers are exploring blended learning approaches to enhance and personalise learning. We take a look at how some of our members are using digital technology to create apprenticeships that enhance learning and improve employability.

    A pioneering approach to apprenticeship delivery

    Carmarthen-based Cymru Care Training (CCT) is a member of the B-wbl consortium of learning providers, which is responsible for around 2,500 apprentices widely dispersed across south east and west Wales. The consortium is managed by Pembrokeshire College.

    Over the last few years CCT has used digital technologies to transform learning and learning delivery for apprentices, and managing director Edward Jones says that learners have welcomed the change.

    “At registration we give them the option to use our online resources and, to start with, reactions were mixed, but now about 90% choose the digital route.”

    CCT makes sure that all its learners are ready to start making progress from the day they register. The organisation uses G Suite for Education and at registration each candidate gets an account that gives them access to all the relevant Google education resources.

    [#insertinlinedriver toolkit#]

    They are introduced to Google Classroom and they can borrow a Chromebook laptop (or use their own device) to ensure that they have constant, seamless access to CCT’s services. CCT’s learner resources site is set as the Chromebook’s landing page, with links to everything they’re likely to need, from course notes and review exercises to information about their own health and wellbeing.

    Edward says:

    “We use e-track e-portfolios to ensure learning outcomes are recorded effectively and these can be accessed by learners, tutor/assessors, internal quality assurers (IQAs) and employers.

    “We’ve revised all the course modules to fit with blended learning approaches and, over the last year, we’ve used Google Forms to break down exercises into manageable chunks so that people can spend 20 minutes here and there getting on with their course.

    “This approach works because it provides snapshots of each unit and makes it more manageable. It’s also a great benefit to learners who would typically struggle with an essay-style, traditional approach.

    “With these digital systems and resources in place it’s easier for people to take control of their learning and make progress even if they’re based remotely, which many of our learners are. We’re finding that our apprentices are zipping through their courses far more quickly with blended learning approaches, and retaining what they have learnt, too.

    “And it’s very easy for us to spot slowdowns in progress, which might indicate that people are having problems of some kind.

    “In cases like this, that’s when the personal approach is needed and we have training advisors who step in and make contact to help learners get back on track. And, of course, that personal element remains really important – technology frees up our staff to add value in other ways, for example, holding online discussions with learners via Google Hangouts and leading group workshops to ensure that people can learn and practice core skills.”

    Simulations

    At Prospects College of Advanced Technology (PROCAT) in Basildon and Canvey Island, Essex, simulators are being used in a variety of training programmes, including those in electrical and aerospace engineering.

    [#insertinlinedriver consultancy#]

    In aerospace engineering, apprentices are using Aerosim simulators to create virtual maintenance environments and practice their technical skills safely. It means they can work any time and anywhere and revisit their coursework as often as they need to.

    In electrical engineering, PROCAT apprentices use NI Multisim, an electronic schematic capture and simulation software that enables them to create virtual circuits and to collaborate and improve on circuit design more easily.

    “When we’re in our electrical principles class you can recreate a circuit in the computer. It’s easier to change it.”
    (PROCAT apprentice)

    E-portfolios

    PROCAT uses OneFile e-portfolios so that teachers can set work for apprentices to carry out on site or wherever they choose to, and to submit their work on deadline even if they’re working remotely.

    “The tutor can set you work and then add stuff in that helps you while you’re at work or anywhere else."
    (PROCAT apprentice)

    City of Glasgow College has also adopted e-portfolios and is having great success in using them to enhance learning and improve employability.

    Simply by encouraging stonemasonry apprentices to focus on creating their new portfolio and to include photos and videos of their work, the college found learners more ready to reflect on their work and employers more willing to engage with apprentices’ progress. Meanwhile the college’s teaching staff are using the same imagery to inform their own continuing professional development (CPD).

    Find out more



  • Challenging adult learners to be the best they can be

    Provisional figures for the first half of 2017-18 show the numbers participating in adult education are continuing to fall.

    Yet as new, less secure employment patterns develop, traditional jobs become obsolete and new jobs emerge, it has never been more important for people to keep on learning. What can colleges do to help?

    The Department for Education’s latest report on further education and skills shows that the number of adults in England taking part in government-funded FE programmes between August 2017 and January this year fell to 1,495,300. 

    That compares with 1,537,100 in the same months of the last academic year.

    Numbers have fallen across the board (only courses at level 4+ showed any increase), as they have every year since 2013-14.

    Learning for life

    An impact report published late last year by the WEA, an adult education charity specialising in providing courses for hard-to-reach learners, highlights the far-reaching benefits that adult education brings, both for learners and for the  wider community. 

    It shows, for example that 57% of its learners who were unemployed and searching for work found a job after completing their course.

    It also offers evidence of significant impacts on personal wellbeing and cultural integration. 

    Eighty-two percent of the WEA’s learners with mental health concerns reported improvements in their condition and 48% said they had more understanding of other cultures.

    Encouraging hard-to-reach learners

    Much of what the WEA says in its report will strike a chord at Bolton College, which also has significant numbers of hard-to-reach learners in the local communities it serves.

    Karen Westsmith, director of adult and community at Bolton College, says:

    “We aim to get people used to learning by starting with short, non-accredited courses such as healthier lives, employability and cookery. Lots of introductions to things.

    “We have lots of learners who would find college an alien space, as well as others with disabilities or caring responsibilities who can’t easily get here. So we have three community hubs and about 40 ‘spokes’ in little venues like nurseries and churches so that any perceived barriers are broken down.

    "Learners can then progress onto accredited courses when they are ready.”

    For the majority of adult learners the need to find stable work that pays the bills outweighs most other considerations.

    “We need to get people, especially the long-term unemployed, into jobs fast and we work closely with sector-based work academies and the local authority on this," says Karen.

    "They help us make sure we’re teaching the digital skills, practical techniques and wider skills that employers want, and building relationships that will help our learners find the right job. 

    “In our area, nearly 20% of jobs are still in engineering and manufacturing and we’ve invested in appropriate technologies so that learners leave us with skills that are transferable. We built a STEM centre in 2014 and our college learning resource centres are equipped with Apple Macs, interactive whiteboards, self-issue laptops and state of the art scanning and printing.”

    Preparing for the future

    From September, the college will implement an adult entitlement offer, designed to challenge and motivate adult learners to be the best they can be.

    [#insertinlinedriver inspiring-colleges#]

    Any adult on a course of six or more hours per week will be expected to come to the college once a week for a tutorial and to take a GCSE in addition to their chosen course.

    It is a development intended to encourage more people to develop the core skills in English and maths that they’ll need for most jobs and progression to higher education.

    Karen explains:

    “This is a big ask but alongside it we’ll offer support to help learners comply – for example, we’ll help to find childcare places if learners need them and utilise hardship funding for those who need it to pay for places or transport to college.

    "But then we’ll expect learners to step up, take responsibility and get their children to the nursery or child minder and come to college on time consistently. The continuation of funding is matched to attendance and commitment. They’ll have to do this when they start work so we’re challenging them to develop the right mindset.

    “We’re training our staff now so that they are ready for the change and can make appropriate challenges if learners aren’t taking responsibility for themselves and their learning. It’s a significant culture change for staff who might have fallen into the trap of being ‘too understanding’ with adults in the past.

    "In the long term, it doesn’t do anyone any favours and by supporting learners to attend and achieve we can ensure they are positioned well for future jobs and progression.”

    Taking the next step - Katherine's story

    Katherine Crowther

    When Katherine Crowther’s husband asked her what she wanted to do next, after several years as a full-time mum, she decided on a complete change of career direction.

    Before her career break she’d worked her way up to a senior position in regional magazine publishing, but decided to go to Bolton College to improve her GCSE grades in science and maths and then see what else was out there.

    “I was so inspired by my teacher that I decided I wanted her job,” says Katherine.

    “After that I started an access to nursing and midwifery course, which I’m just completing now. It includes biology and psychology modules and these qualify me to start a degree in human biology and infectious diseases, which is what I’ve really set my heart on. I’ll join that course at the University of Salford in September.

    "When it ends in 2021 I’ll be in my early 50s, and I’ll be coming back here to complete my PGCE.

    "I have never been particularly academically minded and I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it without the amazing commitment of the staff here at Bolton College. They’ve taught me well and helped me through so much, including a series of bereavements. When I’ve needed help to stay on track they’ve come up with solutions and they’ve gone the extra mile for me many, many times.

    "Like most colleges, funding is tight here and the laptops aren’t always as fast as they could be, but the staff more than make up for frustrations like that. Often, people develop workarounds, and many use their own devices. 

    "I’ve loved every second of the courses I’ve done. I have developed a passion for science and a determination to teach here at Bolton College.”



  • Rose Luckin: the AI revolution is here

    Colleges and universities will be transformed over the next decade by the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI).

    Rose Luckin

    Rose Luckin, who has done visionary work as professor at UCL’s Institute of Education in the field of learning sciences, educational technology and AI, sets out the best and worst case scenarios for educators.

    Can you set out two visions of how AI might be used in education – utopia and dystopia?

    The dystopian view is one where the AI takes over control, becomes the student’s tutor and dictates what they should learn, based on the data that it collects about that student.

    We lose the human tutor, we forget the importance of human interaction and have personalised learning delivered purely by artificially intelligent systems.

    In the long run, that will be cheaper. It’s expensive to build AI systems but once you’ve built systems that learn, they can go on skilling themselves up and they don’t take days off sick, don’t go on strike and don’t forget things or behave in an inconsistent way. They may be wrong but they’re consistently wrong.

    The much nicer and real vision would be a system where learners are in charge. They have their own personal AI but it is there to help them and their tutors understand their progress, to help them collate the data that demonstrates and gives evidence for what they’re good at, what they’ve achieved, why they can accomplish a particular job satisfactorily, or why they should be given a place at a university.

    The learners are in charge, the AI is there to work with the educators to support students to be the best learner they can be. Human educators are a much sought-after resource in this vision, because everybody will need to learn throughout their lives. 

    What’s standing in the way of that utopia?

    Probably the biggest thing is mindsets. People think about artificial intelligence as the technology, they don’t think of it as intelligence. But you can’t build a successful AI if you don’t understand what intelligence is.

    So it’s about shifting people’s mindsets so that they start thinking about intelligence and how you achieve the most sophisticated intelligence, or more intelligent behaviour and action, through a blend of artificial and human intelligence.

    That means a mindset change for those who are building the technologies, to appreciate that they absolutely must work with educators if they want to end up developing something that’s really worthwhile, and changing the mindset of educators to one in which they want to be part of that conversation and believe they can make a valuable contribution to AI for education design.

    Do you think educators should be apprehensive? Do they understand that this is a technology that could replace them?

    Yes. It is here and we need teachers to engage with it.

    It must seem quite scary - headlines tend to be attention-grabbing, understandably. For a lot of educators it must seem like, “Oh, yet another thing I need to be able to use and take account of and, gosh, I’ve got so much going on and how am I going to do this?”

    I also see a lot of denial that it’s even here – but it absolutely is. We need to help teachers become much better educated in data literacy and AI so that they can be apprehensive in the right way.

     A couple of years ago, in Intelligence Unleashed, you were frustrated with the status quo and AI benefits not being realised. What has changed in two years, if anything?

    [#insertinlinedriver podcast#]

    It’s a cliché but there is a perfect storm - ample data, cheap computing and AI algorithms mean technology can learn very quickly.

    That has now got to a tipping point. Systems can learn huge bodies of knowledge more quickly and accurately than we can and identify precisely the right piece of information in answer to a question. And that puts us in a different position.

    They can’t do everything and there’s lots of elements of human intelligence that cannot be automated but the bit that we’ve tended to value, that relates to IQ and academic exam success, is one of the bits that we’ve managed to automate. Therefore we, as educators, need to do something about it. 

    Let’s return to your utopian view. How do we achieve it?

    We have to make sure educators are part of the conversation, now, about how AI should be used in education.

    I would say, colloquially, get educators some skin in the game. We have to get the conversation going with the tech companies.

    We do it in a small way here at UCL because we have this project called EDUCATE, which is all about getting edtech companies to talk to educators and researchers and students. And a company like Century Tech, that is developing machine learning, works closely with teachers to develop that technology so that it is developed in a way that is useful to teachers. But we need to make that happen over and over again.

    We have to persuade technology companies that if they are thinking of developing something for an education market, they don’t just think they can adapt something they’ve been selling elsewhere. We should have supercharged AI for education, not some business hand-me-down.

    They need to look at what education needs and that means talking to educators to understand what teaching and learning requires of the technology. And I don’t just mean that they bring a teacher on to an advisory group or employ ex-teachers but they actually get out there and work with teachers as design partners to develop the sort of thing that can really work.

    You would never get the companies that design technologies for medicine doing it without medical experts. But we get educational technology developers doing it without consulting the educator experts. Why?

    Is there a responsibility on the part of the educators and budget holders to say no, we’re not going to buy this if it’s not fit for educational purposes?

    Absolutely. But we have to give them the ammunition, information and understanding to feel confident about saying that. In the same way that we need to make sure we have a population educated enough that, when an AI gives a particular decision they don’t think is right, they are able to say with good reason, no actually, I’m not going to trust that. We really do need to do a big education piece about AI.

    How does that education piece happen?

    It was highlighted in the House of Lords AI select committee report, where the fourth principle was about everyone being entitled to be educated in how to live and work alongside AI.

    [#insertinlinedriver rise-of-robots#]

    It’s a mass education programme - we need everybody to understand enough to be able to protect themselves and to be able to use this technology wisely.

    Andreas Schleicher, head coordinator of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), has said that the UK is an area of concern because our curriculum is too narrow and we do too much rote learning, so we’re not preparing students effectively. And in the education ‘pillar’ of the Economist index we finished 20th out of 25 countries in preparing children for 21st century knowledge and skills. That’s appalling. We’ve got to a point where we have to do something.

    The countries that make sure their populations are educated in this way will achieve the most when it comes to developing AI and using it wisely. We really need to see how we make radical shifts in what we expect from our education system and what we want for our students and our population. It really does need to be a shift. The description of the fourth industrial revolution is not wrong.

    It is a revolution and we need to prepare people for it. 



  • New geospatial mapping and download service available for free to UK FE colleges

    Our free geospatial data service to support mapping and geospatial data downloads across the further education (FE) curriculum has launched.

    The high-quality service, developed by global leader in aeronautics Airbus in conjunction with Jisc members, will give UK FE colleges free access to unlimited data and mapping capabilities for the next three years.

    Whether it's history students studying settlements, or geography students exploring population patterns, the service can accommodate their various needs through an easy-to-use interface which also performs well on tablets and even smart phones.

    Paul Russell, deputy managing director of intelligence (UK) at Airbus, said:

    “We wanted to create a state-of-the-art tool that gives students the benefit of our experiences and knowledge and this service, also available to higher education, is industry leading.

    "We are really pleased that Jisc can offer the service to its further education members for free for the next three years. Students, and subsequently our engineers of the future, deserve to have access to the latest technology to help advance their future careers."

    Keith Cole, executive director of digital resources at Jisc, added:

    “It’s great to be able to announce this new commercial-quality service and we’re really pleased we can offer it to FE colleges for free as part of their Jisc subscription. 

    "Normally these types of services come at a cost that is beyond our members’ budgets, but in partnering with Airbus we benefit from their specialism in Earth observation and can pass this on to the students, which is ultimately what it’s all about.”

    About geospatial data

    The geospatial data service is a complete bundle that consolidates the range and full depth of geospatial services from Jisc Collections into a single package.

    The bundle consists of the following geospatial services:

    • Complete Ordnance Survey collection
    • Historical and coastal aerial photography (with LiDAR)
    • Historic Ordnance Survey
    • Geology
    • Marine
    • Environmental

    Getting access is easy. Simply visit the order page and login to your Jisc Collections account to subscribe.

    For more information and an introductory webinar about the service capabilities, visit geospatial data.



  • Post–18 review: what needs to be done

    What does higher education want from the government’s review of post-18 education and funding, launched in February? 

    Nick Hillman

    The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has submitted '10 Points-of-Note on fixing the broken parts of the system' to the panel, based on its recent research. We caught up with Nick Hillman, director of HEPI, to get his view on the areas that really need to be tackled. 

    The most important thing to say about the review is that it needs to focus on the parts of the system that are clearly broken, not on the parts that seem to work rather well.

    Part-time students

    I think the risk of the review is that it spends its time obsessing about the things that get the media or politicians of all parties going, such as fees for full-time students, rather than the things that don’t work. For full-time students the tripling of fees has worked as well as we hoped, if not better. But for part-time students it has been a hell of a lot worse.

    That’s why our 10 points begin with part-time students. In the higher education space, it’s clear that the current funding model works least well for part-time students. It is not just affecting the Open University – there are big drop-offs across the board in England with part-time students.

    Level four and five

    The second area I would focus on would be the other 50%. This is a review of all post-18 education, so is the offer good enough for people who are not doing a full honours degree? If you look at OECD data, the area where our country falls behind, relative to our competitors, is in technical level skills – higher level skills but at a stage below a full honours degree. The problem is not that too many people are doing full honours degrees – we’re only in the middle of the OECD pack in terms of how many people go onto higher education.

    The problem seems to me to be that there aren’t enough people emerging from schools ready for higher education. We need more people getting good level two and then level three qualifications – GCSEs and A Levels and equivalents – in order to rejuvenate levels four and five.

    First-in-family applicants

    As higher education expands, it continues to capture more first-in-family students: people who come from families where the mother or father have no experience of higher education. First-in-family students find it much harder to negotiate the system because they don’t have the same amount of informal advice.

    [#insertinlinedriver news#]

    There is a huge amount of information out there for people applying to university but it can be difficult to negotiate. If someone gives you a wealth of data but you know nothing about higher education, you don’t know what questions to ask of the data. We found shocking levels of ignorance among university applicants.

    We need a combined effort – government, universities, schools, parents – to raise information levels and to provide the information in a form that young people find easy to deal with. Universities may need to do something more profound.

    Unrealistic expectations

    If young people have unrealistic expectations of what university is like there are three ways to solve that. One is you change their expectations. Another is to change what higher education is like so that it is closer to their expectations. The third way, which is my preferred option, is that you make the entry to university more of a process than a cliff edge.

    Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, has pointed out that “nothing magical happens during those three months in the summer holidays between leaving school and joining university” and yet HEIs sometimes seem to expect students to arrive fully cognisant and knowledgeable about what higher education is like. I don’t think that’s reasonable.

    As you get more students entering higher education with fewer standard university entrance qualifications, they sometimes need more information on study skills. Academics will often say that the key to university, and what makes it different to school, is independent learning. However, sixth formers, about to leave for university, tend to have a very different perception of the nature of independent learning to academics.

    To address this, some universities in Australia have academics whose sole job is to teach first year students because they recognise that teaching first year students is a slightly different exercise to teaching second and third year students.

    Going to university should not be a one off but something you dive into slowly and get the support you need, which might be around study skills, essay writing or navigating the enormous university library and the academic journals.

    Mental health

    Some support will be non-academic – how to access counselling services. One of the other shocking findings we highlight in our note is that nearly three quarters of those applying for university think that the university should contact their parents or guardians if they have a mental health episode. That is illegal because once you reach university you are normally 18 and therefore an adult.

    Maturing is a gradual process, parents are taking alot more interest in their children’s higher education than they used to and I think we need a debate about disclosure.

    Digital technology

    There’s nothing more exciting than the power of technology to transform learning and teaching. Higher education has not yet been transformed by digital technology to the degree we may have expected, there’s a lot more scope for that to happen and Jisc are the people to show us how to do it.

    It’s extremely hard to predict how technology is going to change things and it is crucial that the Augar review does not bind the hands of institutions or government in terms of the future use of technology. A further concern is around students’ personal data used in learning analytics and possible major data breaches that might disrupt student confidence in the potential of technology.

    It’s profoundly important that we do everything we can to make sure that does not happen if we want to unlock the true benefits of technology.

    Jisc’s recommendations


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

    We have made recommendations in four key areas:

    • Introduce technology ‘fundamentals’ benchmarks
    • Support data-driven curriculum planning
    • Embed digital skills into all of post-18 education
    • Improve credit accumulation and transfer

    Read more about our response and recommendations.



  • "Enough snowflakes can create an avalanche" - Shakira Martin

    The NUS president won her second term in office with the pledge to ‘get real about education’. In this exclusive interview she lays out the values, issues and challenges at the heart of her presidency.

    “Adversity, not university, got me here,” declares Shakira Martin. As only the second NUS president not to have gone to university (and the first black female president), she is unswerving in her commitment to further education.

    Having won her second term as president in March, Martin is determined to make sure that the voice of the 65-75% of NUS membership that is from the FE sector is heard.

    “I want to get FE recognised for the excellent work it does in transforming and saving lives,” she says. “My FE college saved me; I would not be the person I am today without it.”

    A difficult family background had led to Martin leaving home 12 days after her 16th birthday and leaving school with one GCSE, in RE. Edgy times followed until a bad experience with a sexist employer led her to take a leadership in management course at Lewisham and Southwark College in 2011. She has made her way from there – while also bringing up small children, who are now still only five and seven years old, by herself.

    The way her intersectional identities shape who she is as a person and as a leader are both a challenge in terms of how Martin is perceived by others – “I found that quite difficult, not being the typical kind of student leader” – but are also at the heart of what she brings to the role.

    “Energy. A different type of energy,” she says, immediately. “Being myself. Although I might talk and look different, there is something that is relatable and authentic to people who may not have had any direct experiences of what I’m saying, and it lets them empathise and think a bit differently. I am a straight to the point person, no beating around the bush. Within this sector we have stats and facts and spreadsheets and percentages but I want to bring the real life experience of barriers and challenges – and successes and progresses – to the forefront of the decision-makers.”

    Shakira's opening keynote at Digifest 2018

    Watch it on YouTube

    She made delegates at this year’s Digifest conference powerfully aware of one of those barriers when she gave the keynote opening address. Having drawn the biggest crowd into the Birmingham International Convention Centre auditorium that Jisc has ever seen, she suddenly asked the audience, “hands up who’s got a passport!” To murmurs of surprise a forest of arms were raised. Pretty much 100% of Digifest delegates possess one.

    Martin then starkly set out the consequences of a university entry system that assumes, much as this audience did, that owning a passport is a given. Not where Martin comes from, she explains. Passports cost at least £75.50. How many families on tight budgets, who may have more than one child (Martin herself has nine siblings), are going to spend that much money on a passport when they are unlikely to go on foreign holidays? Yet to get student finance, the assumption is that you have a passport you can use to prove your identity. It’s a barrier. Yet another barrier, says Martin.

    “I speak to students every single day for whom this is a reality; it’s not just a few who are affected. It’s about the 17% of FE students who progress to HE, who probably never thought they would. And for students who have siblings close in age, it’s putting burdens on the parents and they are disadvantaged before they have even accessed university. Why can’t the university entrance system find some way to verify identity digitally?”

    This campaign ties in with what she says is her top priority in her role: “making education truly accessible for everyone – and part of this is recognising that students are not all 18 year olds going off to university.” She is passionate about acknowledging the diversity of the student population and expresses anger at the notion of ‘the student experience’ – “it’s not one blanket or duvet that we can cover over and say ooooh, all your barriers and problems will be sorted” – preferring instead to talk about ‘a’ student’s experience and how to support each student’s experience.

    She launched the NUS Poverty Commission last September to address the barriers working class students face in regard to access and success in post-16 education. Through that, she identified a ‘poverty premium’ under which working class people are penalised by having to pay higher costs to access post-16 education. The commission’s recommendations include the introduction of a minimum living income for students across FE, HE and apprenticeships, and the reinstatement of grant funding across FE and HE, including maintenance grants for undergraduate students. She calls on the government to address these issues through the post-18 review, particularly highlighting the disproportionate effect that the change from maintenance grants to loans has had on part-time students.

    The commission found that dropout rates are highest among working class students, with a third of part-time students and 10.3% of black students leaving before their second year of study. There is, of course, also a link between poverty, mental health and drop-out rates, and Martin is keen to address how mental health – and its stigma – may interact differently with different groups of students. She points out, for example, that there is very much a stigma around mental health issues in black and minority ethnic communities, that learners in FE colleges may find it harder to get support – “you shouldn’t have to be privileged enough to access higher education to be able to identify mental health issues and get the support you need” – and that there is a particular issue with apprentices and how mental health policies are, or are not, embedded within the workforce for degree apprenticeships.

    For Martin, work such as the Poverty Commission with its focus on barriers, class and accessibility to education in the UK are at the heart of her presidency and part of her bid to shift the NUS’s emphasis firmly onto how students “get in and get on”.

    [#insertinlinedriver twitter#]

    One of the greater challenges she sees for her second term is to restore credibility to the NUS and student movement. “It’s been very divisive over the last few years so it’s about bringing unity and credibility back to NUS from our members, the sector and society as a whole. Everyone knows what the NUS is against – I want people to know what we’re for.”

    She is hoping that her own non-typical background (for the NUS, anyway) will help to bring on board those who might previously have thought that student politics was not for them.

    “I’m different. I want to be different. I want to change the face of politics. It’s so disengaging when you look on TV and you don’t see anyone that either looks like you or sounds like you. I want to bring a whole new generation of students from diverse backgrounds to get politically engaged and take part in democracy – it’s their democratic right. You’ve got to be in it to change it.”

    As for the jibe that today’s students are snowflakes, “They can call us snowflakes but they need to realize that enough snowflakes can create an avalanche. The last election showed how much young people are politically engaged. The government needs to be ready to face the fundamental issues or pay the price at the ballot box,” she warns.



  • Wales buys into Jisc learning analytics

    Wales’ eight regulated higher education institutions have agreed to collaborate with Jisc to use learning analytics to improve student support and learner outcomes.

    The Learning Analytics Cymru project was made possible by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales' (HEFCW's) agreement to provide up to £266,000 to co-fund the three-year initiative, which allows learners, teachers, institutions and Wales as a nation to analyse and respond to the data.

    Jisc’s learning analytics service uses nudge techniques via an app to present data to students, allowing them to assume greater ownership of their own success. The same underlying data is presented to lecturers and tutors via dashboards, allowing greater insight into groups’ and individual learner’s strengths and weaknesses and support targeted support where students need it most.

    At an institutional level, such techniques can: help improve non-continuation rates; support greater success among non-traditional cohorts, in line with widening access priorities; and play a role in students’ general wellbeing.

    Learning Analytics Cymru will take this one step further, to a national level for the first time, providing shared expertise and anonymised insights across the whole of Wales. In a globally competitive higher education (HE) sector, these insights may help Wales maintain and grow its strong reputation, giving a further edge over other nations – other UK nations already have begun to take note of this initiative.

    The core of the programme is a supported, co-funded implementation of the Jisc learning analytics service for Welsh eight HE institutions - and regulated FE institutions in Wales have the option to participate. It builds on the success of HEFCW’s ten year enhancing learning and teaching through technology strategy that championed the flexible and innovative use of technology enabled learning in higher education across Wales.

    Alyson Nicholson, head of Jisc Wales, said:

    “Higher education institutions in Wales have a strong tradition of working together on innovative approaches aimed at improving learning outcomes and the student experience. We are looking forward to working with the sector so that they can make the most of the data they collect to ensure that all students receive the support they need to succeed.”

    Dr David Blaney, chief executive of HEFCW, said:

    “We are pleased that our partners at Jisc have been working with their members in higher education since 2014 on how to interrogate and analyse data effectively to inform future strategies. This not only provides a better experience for students, it also helps institutions to maintain their competitive edge.

    “Student data collected by universities and colleges has huge potential to help tackle big issues such as improving learner retention, boosting attainment and providing a high quality learning experience. The pace of adoption in this pan-Wales project will be accelerated by communities sharing good practice, making us the most advanced UK nation in this area.”

    Gwyneth Sweatman, NUS Wales president, said:

    “Going to university is - without exception - a transformational experience, and everyone should be able to benefit from that experience no matter what their background. Importantly, however, it’s not just about getting in. It’s also about getting on. That’s not only good for students, but also for universities, for communities, and for the whole of Wales. I’m looking forward to seeing how providers work with Jisc to ensure that every citizen of Wales is able to have the life-changing opportunity of a university education, if that is the right path for them.”



  • Digital skills crucial to the success of fourth industrial revolution

    The government’s industrial strategy notes that “within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills.” Jisc has made clear to government that education providers must adopt a comprehensive digital strategy to prepare students for the fourth industrial revolution.

    The Education Select Committee recently launched an inquiry into the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

    The inquiry is examining how best to prepare young people to take advantage of future opportunities by looking at the digital elements of the school curriculum. It is also looking at the role of lifelong learning and how best to help people climb the career ladder in the future.

    With rapid developments in technology including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), data-driven decision making, virtual/augmented reality and robotics, it is clear that the future workforce of the UK needs to be digitally capable.

    “Technology such as AI has the potential to both enhance and accelerate the education experience for students, as well as streamlining organisational processes, so it simply cannot be overlooked. If managed efficiently, students could benefit from exciting and engaging learning environments that are flexible, and outside of the classroom. Furthermore, sector professionals could hand over their administrative tasks, giving them more time to support and work closely with students.

    Last year, 22,000 students told us they want staff to be better with digital, not to use more of it, and whilst 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.

    A comprehensive digital strategy would help us to deliver what students need, both equipping them with the right skills for Industry 4.0 and futureproofing the workforce of the UK.

    Any such strategy would benefit from technology being designed into the overall pedagogic approach of any course; sharing best practice of what effective use of digital looks like in education. It is therefore important that providers recognise that their staff need to have a prerequisite level of digital capability and ongoing development, in order to carry out their roles effectively. We know that our members recognise the importance of embedding digital capabilities into recruitment, staff development, appraisal, and reward and recognition practices – and a framework would help to support this.

    We further recommend the need for strong digital leadership, the digitisation of apprenticeships, an adoption of learning analytics, and a rise in data-driven decisions.

    Jisc has recently carried out work on behalf of the Welsh government to develop a digital learning strategy for further education (FE) and skills in Wales, working closely with providers to create the strategy. We recommend that this approach is undertaken by the UK government in order that all the UK's education workforce itself is sufficiently digitally capable and aware of the ever-changing requirements of employers and industry.”

    Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc


    Key themes from Jisc's response

    Digital strategy

    To harness the potential of technology to drive education innovation or diversify provision, providers need strong digital leadership, staff with the appropriate digital skills, the right infrastructure and enabling strategies and policies in place.

    Digital capabilities framework

    For the next generation to be successful, digital skills are non-negotiable. Teaching staff need the skills to design individual activities and courses that maximise the use of technology to support feedback, collaboration and independent research.

    Lifelong learning in re-skilling the current workforce 

    Lifelong learning skills are key employability capabilities in their own right and lifelong learning will be increasingly important for the general workforce in the coming years, as the fourth industrial revolution continues to disrupt old business models and ways of working. 

    Learning analytics

    Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about student progress and how the curriculum is delivered.

    Students using digital resources and systems generate data that can be analysed to reveal patterns predicting success, difficulty or failure which enable teachers – and students – to make timely interventions to improve outcomes. Importantly, these metrics can also support a more accurate, data-informed approach to curriculum design.

    Our learning analytics service is due to become a full service available to UK universities and colleges from September 2018. 

    Adaptive learning

    AI has a wide range of other potential applications in education – perhaps the most notable being adaptive learning, where the curriculum is modified dynamically in response to the learner's strengths and weaknesses.

    Delivering authentic learning experiences 

    Using technology to provide real-world learning experiences can help learners develop their employability skills. Technologies such as virtual simulations, games, collaboration and social media tools can all be used to develop authentic learning experiences.

    Digital apprenticeships

    The digitisation of apprenticeships will make them more flexible and available to more people who prefer the apprenticeship option.

    Bring your own device

    "Bring your own device" (BYOD) policies are increasingly being adopted by colleges and universities to accommodate student preferences for flexible, anywhere-on-campus learning.

    The challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for improving social justice and productivity

    Many technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution have the potential to transform the management, delivery and assessment of learning and to improve the employability of learners.

    They support learners studying at unpredictable times and outside of the classroom, enabling participation by those who would otherwise experience difficulties (eg full-time parents, employees, young carers). They can also help learners with disabilities by making learning opportunities more available and accessible.



  • Jisc launches partnership to inspire young people into STEM

    This week, we have launched a partnership with STEM Ambassadors, a programme dedicated to inspiring young people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related subjects and careers.

    Creative Commons attribution information
    STEM ambassador badge

    We are keen to grow interest in STEM generally, but we're particularly interested in helping to close the gap for women and other minority groups working within IT.

    STEM Ambassadors, part of STEM Learning, have a vision to achieve a world-leading STEM education for all young people across the UK, through working with individuals and employers like Jisc.

    The volunteer ambassadors themselves come from a wide range of STEM-related jobs and disciplines. They offer their time and enthusiasm to help bring STEM subjects to life and demonstrate their value in people’s lives.

    Paul Feldman, chief executive at Jisc said:

    “We are excited to be working with the STEM Ambassadors programme and the benefits this brings for both of our organisations.

    "We want our staff to be able to volunteer for opportunities that share their expertise beyond our member institutions. We also want to support work with schools and colleges in deprived areas, to inspire girls and underrepresented groups into a STEM course and career.”

    Ajay Sharman, STEM Ambassadors’ regional network lead, said:

    “It’s really good to have an education technology specialist on board, and it’s particularly good to be partnering with Jisc, an organisation whose services benefit young people and learners across the UK.

    "STEM Ambassadors bring real-life industry experience into context and enrich young people’s knowledge of the breadth of STEM careers and opportunities available. As professionals and specialists in their field, STEM Ambassadors inspire teachers and students by enriching teaching and learning with current and cutting edge STEM contexts from the workplace.

    "Jisc employ many women in technical roles across the organisation, which will be great for young people to see and learn from – STEM is for everyone.”

    About STEM Learning

    STEM Learning’s vision is a world-leading STEM education for all young people across the UK.

    STEM Learning leads STEM Ambassadors and UK-wide programme of STEM clubs, as well as supporting teachers, technicians and others working with young people on STEM by providing high quality professional development and access to free resources.

    More than 30,000 STEM Ambassadors from 2,500 employers give their expertise to inspire young people, teachers, families and communities about STEM subjects and careers. STEM Ambassadors are accessed by over 90% of UK secondary schools every year.



  • "Everything we want to achieve depends on the digital abilities of our staff and students" - Dr Ross Parry

    Dr Ross Parry, associate professor and deputy pro-vice chancellor (digital) at the University of Leicester, shares his experience of leading the university’s digital transformation. He explains how their digital strategy puts people - not technology - centre stage.

    You can have all the tech in the world, but it’ll make little difference if you don’t also have a community with the confidence and fluency to use it in creative and exciting ways. 

    Back in 2015 the university welcomed a new vice chancellor, Professor Paul Boyle, and started to develop a strategic vision for the kind of place it should be as it headed towards the end of its first century.

    Our ambitions at the beginning of our second hundred years are expressed in our family of ‘discovery-led and discovery-enabled’ strategies – of which our new digital strategy, importantly, is one. I started in this role, a new one for the university, at the beginning of 2017, leading the work to help the organisation become ‘digital by default’, something that would be transformative for learning, teaching and research.

    One of the best things we can do for ourselves while we’re on this journey is to admit that it’s hard, and assume a beginner’s mindset. We might get it wrong sometimes, we’ll probably have to ask for help and we will definitely have to recognise the importance of supporting members of the university to be comfortable with this transformation, and to have genuine agency within it.

    After all, the disruption of new technologies and processes can sometimes cause disconnect – something I’ve seen in my own area of scholarship, researching the impact of digital on the museums sector.

    For this reason, digital capability is where we started. Everything we want to achieve depends on the digital literacies of our staff and students.

    Starting at the beginning

    I’m very lucky to be working on this with the university’s director of IT, Liz Bailey. As academic and professional service leads respectively, we each bring a different perspective and skillset.

    [#insertinlinedriver developing-digital-literacy#]

    The first thing we did was to bring together a diverse group of people from across the organisation to reflect together on digital capabilities, forming a new steering group. 

    Teaching staff and students have a number of places they might go to in the university for help with digital skills, so we brought all these different teams together to identify some common goals.

    Working as a group, we developed a digital literacy framework and for this we didn’t have to start from scratch.

    Jisc has done a lot of the strategic thinking on this and we adapted its digital capabilities model to meet our own needs. It gave us a consistent vocabulary and a core set of principles and allowed us to be confident that we had a robust, workable structure to keep us on track.

    Our digital capabilities framework

    Everything we do now aligns back to our overarching digital capabilities framework.

    [#insertinlinedriver digital-capability#]

    For example, the transferable skills framework that is managed by the careers development service has been revised and aligned to our new principles and language around digital literacy, helping our students to develop the capabilities that will support them as they leave us for the world of work.

    I’m a great believer in changing things at source. It’s much better to change just one fundamental thing and let the effects of that ripple out and cascade down.

    Of course, the key thing there is to know what that one fundamental thing should be. But for us it has been the digital capabilities of our staff and students and now that real change is under way in this area we can look at what’s next.

    Share your ideas with the community

    But as I said at the outset, some of this stuff is difficult so it can be really helpful to push yourselves out into the wider community, share your own ideas and find out what others are doing.

    I was so pleased and very proud to be cited this year by the Education Foundation and Department for Education as one of the Edtech50 – one of the 50 most influential people and projects in the education and technology sectors today. National recognition like this signals to our colleagues that we’re serious and committed about digital change and it gives senior management and teaching staff confidence that we’re doing something right.

    Likewise, we’ve recently joined the Digital Nations Group, an international organisation with members from major global businesses and government organisations. It is giving us access to amazing talent and even more new thinking that we can apply here.

    Advice for universities and colleges working on their digital strategies

    For us it has been about creating together a clear vision of what we want to be, taking time to shape the narrative of what will get us there, and then – most of all – building trust in the community around the plan we have and in the people who will lead this change.



  • Becky the bot chats her way to THELMA glory

    A chatbot that helped boost enrolment of students through clearing at Leeds Beckett University has won a Times Higher Leadership and Management award (THELMA) for digital innovation.

    The chatbot known as Becky, which was developed in two months for just £30, won the Jisc-sponsored digital innovation of the year ahead of Keele University’s immersive learning lab for Pharmacy and Radiography students.

    The award was presented by Jisc head of higher education and student experience, Sarah Davies, at a ceremony in central London hosted by Richard Ayoade, star of Channel 4’s the IT Crowd.

    Using AI and chatbot technology, Becky provides an instantaneous response and information to prospective students through clearing.

    Becky was developed to provide a better experience for clearing students by allowing them to be made an offer via a channel this audience is more comfortable with. It was based on research that showed that the target audience are largely uncomfortable talking to universities on the phone.

    During the development process, the team behind Becky realised that they could develop a bot that could take the user through the whole application process, including making offers.

    A total of 89 students who were made an offer via the chatbot enrolled in September 2017, which represents a 46.6% conversion of offers to enrolment. This compared to a general conversion rate of 26%.

    Leeds Beckett’s enrolment of students recruited during clearing increased by 11% in 2017 and the university estimates a return of investment on Becky of £2.4m in tuition fees.

    Sarah Davies, who was on the judging panel, said:

    “Becky the chatbot caught the judges’ imagination as a bold innovation successfully applied in a high-stakes environment: clearing. We liked the way a technology which had worked in other sectors was transferred to higher education by the team at Leeds Beckett and got straight on with answering potential applicants’ questions about the university, even offering them places.”

    The judges saw digital innovation across all the categories, which also include outstanding estates strategy and workplace of the year, with plenty of examples of data-driven decision-making and dashboards across the university. “There really is hardly anything within university leadership and management which is still untouched by technology,” said Davies.



  • How to sell IPv6 to your senior management

    Every network administrator should be planning their institution’s move to IPv6. But it will take time and resources. So, what’s the business case that will make your CEO listen?

    David Holder of Erion, and Tim Chown, network development manager at Jisc, set out the compelling reasons CEOs will care about.

    When IPv4 was first deployed in the 1970s, the 32-bit address format, offering a theoretical four billion addresses, seemed quite reasonable for what was then an experiment connecting a few dozen computers.

    The global uptake of the internet, which is still in its relative infancy in some areas, has proven otherwise. While the web was the primary driver for growth, the future internet looks set to embrace whole new application domains of networked devices, including the Internet of Things (IoT).

    The unallocated IPv4 address pool became exhausted in February 2011 and although, within Janet, most academic sites already have enough IPv4 address space to meet their immediate needs, now is the time to think about when and how to introduce IPv6.

    It’s never too early to begin planning, but a good business case is essential – here are seven reasons to help you sell IPv6 to senior managers.

    1. IPv4 is now degraded, complex and expensive

    The relatively benign techniques that have been used since the 1990s to extend the life of IPv4 have reached the limits of what they can do. The techniques in use now have a much greater negative impact on end user experience, the things they’re able to do and the way they’re able to operate.

    [#insertinlinedriver ipv6#]

    Today’s IPv4 service is a degraded one that’s more complex to manage and operate and incurs increased costs. Even if your institution has enough IPv4 addresses to run your own organisation, the deployment of these new techniques outside of your network will impact the connections that others make to your services.

    The business and other educational establishments that you partner with, your students and prospective students who are deciding whether to apply to you will all be impacted. The performance, reliability and security of your service is being impacted right now.

    2. IPv4 is making analytics harder

    It is increasingly important for universities and colleges to understand and analyse their student data. An IP address can potentially be a useful identifier by which to correlate a given user’s activity.

    With IPv4, before its exhaustion of addresses, you could do that fairly easily Now, it has become much harder. Users are being aggregated together behind single IP addresses. Data that might once have revealed the location of an individual person might now only be able to tell you they’re in a set of 100, 1,000, or even more people; IPv4 address sharing is increasingly common.

    The resolution, which is incredibly important to analytics, has gone. You are losing valuable analytical information and you don’t even know you are losing it. IPv6 solves this problem.

    3. Teaching and research

    Google stats show that about 20% of the access to Google services is over IPv6. In the US, more than 50% of mobile data traffic is over IPv6. All graduates will now be emerging from university into a commercial world where no new IPv4 address space is available, and IPv6 is increasingly present in the networks and organisations in which they will work.

    Student exposure to IPv6 while studying should be considered a significant benefit. Likewise, your computer science department is likely to find IPv6 very useful to support its research activities.

    4. Student expectations

    In the last 12-18 months both Sky and BT in the UK have deployed IPv6 for residential customers – so now five to 10 million residential customers in the UK get IPv6 in their domestic network (alongside IPv4 as a dual stack).

    With so much network traffic to Facebook, YouTube, Netflix etc, around half of that home network’s traffic might typically go over IPv6. If your staff and students are seeing it at home, won’t they expect it on campus?

    5. Institutional visibility

    While in the home you might see IPv6 running alongside IPv4, some countries are deploying IPv6-only access networks. As a university, if you want to make your content available as robustly as possible to those places and not have to rely on translation in the network, then making your services available over both IPv4 and IPv6 is the sensible thing to do.

    Facebook and Google began dual stacking their services in 2012 and other providers such as Netflix, LinkedIn and Dropbox have followed suit.

    [#insertinlinedriver connectivity#]

    6. Security

    IPv6 support now ships as standard in all common PC, laptop, tablet, phone and router platforms, and is almost invariably enabled by default. There is a good security case to be made for a site administrator to control the usage of IPv6 on their network before more 'adventurous' or malicious users do so themselves.

    The key message here is that IPv6 is in your network now, whether you formally support it or not. Deploying IPv6 is the best way to gain control of that aspect of the security of your network.

    7. Internet of Things

    The Internet of Things is presenting challenges on a number of fronts. At the infrastructure level, it is creating an explosion in the number and variety of devices that all need unique addresses. At a funding level (and IoT is a hot topic), all of the main IoT protocols and standards bodies are moving to IPv6 based solutions as their primary protocol.

    There is a strong case for ensuring you have an appropriate network environment to support IPv6 research on your campus, as a precursor to later deployment as devices move to market.

    Made a successful case?

    If you have the go-ahead then an orderly, planned deployment should be the goal. Win the business case, get IPv6 properly into procurement tenders and roll out the capability.

    IPv6 can then be enabled in the core of the network and exposed to users in selected initial areas, such as public facing web services, on eduroam wifi or in a computer science department, for example