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  • 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.

  • What the Edtech?! Episode ten: series one best bits

    With series one in the can, we take a look at the best bits of What the Edtech?! so far.

    This mega-mix of insight and advice from top industry experts from the worlds of education and technology, covers everything from social media for student engagement to learning analytics to the future of AI in education. We’ve collected all the key take-aways into one handy 40-minute episode.

    Since the launch of the series we’ve had fantastic feedback from listeners and lots of suggestions for topics for future episodes – thank to everyone who has been in touch via our Twitter and Facebook pages. We’re already hard at work on series two but in the meantime enjoy this ‘best of’ episode and join the conversation at #WhattheEdtech.

  • Opening up worlds: the power of extreme personalisation

    Technology has an increasingly important part to play in supporting a more personalised learning experience for each and every learner. Specialist colleges have been leading the way in this area for a considerable time. What can the rest of the sector discover in their approach?

    “It really starts with the learner,” says David Finch, director of technology innovation at National Star College in Cheltenham. “At its heart it is all about understanding how the learner learns”. At National Star that means understanding – and responding to – the very specific needs of learners with a range of physical disabilities and learning difficulties.

    He gives an insight into what a truly personalised learning experience looks like. Each of the 170+ learners at National Star has a bespoke – and frequently reviewed and updated – technology profile supported by a multidisciplinary team.

    So, for example, a learner with communication difficulties will have an assigned speech and learning therapist working with them through a communication aid. Alongside them will be a subject tutor looking at the programming of the language symbols that need to be input into the device to enable the learner to access learning. An occupational therapist will be looking at their posture in the wheelchair and considering any additional technology they need in order to view a screen, access a desk or control a mouse or head switch.

    Making learning equitable

    In the classroom, multidisciplinary teams will also be working with learners in teaching sessions. If a learner is working with a speech and language therapist to construct phrases they do it in class, in the context of the learning taking place, not in isolation.

    [#insertinlinedriver guide#]

    An assistive technologist will be looking at how the person learns and then how the technology supports that learning. They find the right software and assistive technology to make sure that the learner can access the learning on an equitable level with the other learners.

    “It is a job that requires a little bit of technology knowledge but underlying it all is having an understanding of the requirements of teaching sessions and what the learner is required to do,” says David Finch. “Assistive technologists talk to tutors, to the learners, to additional support staff and therapists to get a really good understanding of the requirements before they even look at the technology.

    Unless you’ve got that knowledge you can’t start to enable someone because you’re making too many assumptions. That’s when assistive technology goes wrong and the learner ends up going around with technology that is not useful and underused. It is important to look at behaviours before you start thinking about the technology.”

    Opening up worlds

    Fil McIntyre, lead assistive technologist at Beaumont College in Lancaster, agrees. Working to enable personalised learning for a wide range of learners with high support needs, he sees two strands to his role.

    “The first is enabling people with a disability to access technology by adapting the technology to meet someone’s needs. The second strand is about how can we use technology to open up someone’s world.”

    Devices such as Alexa and Google Home have played a key role recently in helping to open up worlds – and independence – for some of Beaumont’s residents. Where previously some learners with literacy issues had to rely on another person to type in information for them, they are now able to do research and find out information using their voice.

    Life-changing devices

    “That has big impacts on that person’s social life and access outside the college environment,” says Fil. “For some it may be as simple as being able to play music for themselves for the first time. Whereas they couldn’t access the controls on their MP3 player, they can now speak to the device and have it linked to their music collection and easily be able to do that fully independently.”

    This kind of consumer-end technology is also generally more affordable – and so more accessible – than bespoke assistive technology has been.

    “There’s a big chunk of people who used to not have access because they could not afford it or it wasn’t seen as viable for them or they may not have accepted that bespoke technology whereas they would accept an iPad or a Google Home that they see as standard, mainstream technology,” Fil continues. “There’s all of this kit out there that, for most of us, is simply convenience technology but for our learners it can be literally life changing. It can make a massive amount of difference.”

    Walkabout with iPads

    Beaumont is also a dedicated user of iPads, making the most of an app, Pictello, that uses pictures as sequenced instructions (that can also be read out by the app for non-readers or played as short videos) to support activities such as gardening. It’s ideal for learners who might struggle to take instruction from or interact with another human.

    Similarly, at National Star, iPads are used to support learners with behavioural difficulties that make it hard for them to settle in a classroom for very long, as David explains. “We have learners that like to walk around a lot so they’ll take an iPad and do a Digital Learning Walk and we teach as we are walking around with learners.

    "It’s not only specialist colleges that need to come up with these kinds of personalisation, there are more and more of those learners in the general FE sector nowadays so that you cannot have a traditional style of learning as standard.”

    Key lessons

    For Fil, another key lesson for the general FE sector is to make learning materials clear and accessible by default. “There’ll be an awful lot of learners out there who will not put their hands up and say I’m struggling with that but they might have a disability that has not been assessed or they just struggle a bit with literacy,” he says.

    [#insertinlinedriver consultancy#]

    “Make those materials as clear and accessible as possible, provide things in a digital format so if they need technology to access them they can do that really easily, rather than materials being provided in a paper format and them having to adapt them or request the digital format.

    "This is every day stuff to us and you would hope should be every day in general FE colleges as well but it’s not always the case. Do it – it’s only going to have a positive impact on your learners and their results.”

    David urges a flexible approach to personalisation. “Learners change, what works one day may not work the next,” he explains. “You can spend a whole term just trying things out but unless you try things out you cannot know what’s going to work and what’s not. Don’t be afraid to try things out. Sometimes we’re too rigid in the ways in which we prescribe how people use technology – very often people will find their own way, if they are allowed to.”

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

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

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

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

    Show notes

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

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

  • 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    [#insertinlinedriver podcast#]

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

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

    Paul said:

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

    [#insertinlinedriver rise-of-robots#]

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

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

    Sir Anthony Seldon appears on our podcast What the Edtech?!. You can listen to the episode here.

  • Upgrading the Janet Network

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

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

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

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

    Why we're upgrading

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

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

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

    What’s changed in the last five years?

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

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

    Cyber security concerns

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

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

    Bandwidth demand through open science

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

    Increased use of cloud services

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

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

    Boosting the backbone

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

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

    New access infrastructure

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

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

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

    [#insertinlinedriver shaping-janet#]

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

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

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

    What does this mean for you?

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

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

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

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

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

    [#insertinlinedriver tech-2-tech#]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Martin Stevenson, from Pinnacom said:

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

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

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

    Christian Evans, customer director at Jisc said:

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

    A spokesperson from Common People said:

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

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

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

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

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

    Show notes

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

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

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

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

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

    Show notes

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

    More about our guests

    Daniela Duca

    Daniela Duca



    Kenji Takeda

    Kenji Takeda



    Miranda Mowbray

    Miranda Mowbray

    Read Miranda's profile on the University of Bristol website


    • 1 Daniela worked for Jisc at the time of recording

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Myles Danson said:

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

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

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

    Nicola Phelps of HESA said:

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

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

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

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