Day 2 of Jisc Change Agents Network Conference

Kickstarting Day 2 of the conference was Colin Bryson and Fanni Albert from Newcastle University, with a great keynote on authentic partnership.

Colin is Director of Combined Honours at Newcastle, and Fanni is a BA Combined Honours student and project leader for PICNIC: Newcastle’s short-term student exchange project.

Colin gave a great introduction, grounding the roots of the student partnership movement in critical and radical pedagogy, such as the work of Paulo Freire.

I particularly appreciated his suggestions of what is required to make a student truly feel like a partner – that participation and contribution must be both valued and valuable, among other points:

Fanni spoke about how the Combined Honours programme sought to empower its’ students through student-staff committees and student led working groups. Where students were keen to make a contribution to the development of their programme but there may not be an existing student representation role for them, they have created new roles to their suit their students’ skills and interests.

Colin made the point that there is a potential that such student partnerships can bypass traditional routes of student representation, which might not always be well received. Also, it is probably true that such partnerships only reach highly engaged students. Introducing the idea of “Universal Partership”, Colin identified that student partnership inside the curriculum is the most inclusive approach, because it’s the one thing that all students do. Colin has developed Combined Honours modules where students have an active role in co-creating their own assessments and assessment criteria. However students can worry about the effect of such partnership “experiments” on their degree, or may say that they simply don’t want to engage as a partner.

Engagement and truly transformative learning involves stepping out of comfort zones – and this doesn’t always result in positive module feedback (at least part way through the module anyway)!

Though numerous students (including Fanni) were able to identify how these opportunities for partnership were among the most valuable experiences of their education.

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A Periscope recording of the talk is here (courtesy of Clare Killen) and it’s well worth a watch.

Resources on Student Engagement from this Keynote

Colin highlighted a number of useful resources during his talk, some of which can be found here:


Birmingham Digital Students – Student-Staff Partnership in a Digital Age

Graham Lowe & Jack Hogan, Birmingham City University

Birmingham Digital Student is a collaborative project between a number of institutions: Birmingham City University, the University of Birmingham, Newman University and Aston University. BDS is a student/staff partnership to celebrate digital projects and innovative practice.

The BDS project has been co-produced with students from each institution, right from inception. The project comprises of three key elements: a website, an event and a publication.

Graham highlighted that finding out about all the good practice in one institution can be a challenge, but Birmingham Digital Student has been a great opportunity to bring projects to the surface and share and celebrate them. They plan an event in Birmingham in June, as well as a publication of some kind, though they aren’t sure what form the latter will take yet…

More resources from Day Two of JISC CAN 2017 can be found here, and Sarah Knight’s Storify is here. I also did a second video recap, which came out OK, but as I mentioned in my post on Day 1, I want to move towards more of a reflective process in future.

Maybe time to dig out my reflective practice materials from Lancaster’s Supporting Learning Programme again?


Day 1 of the JISC Change Agents Network Conference

I’ve been lucky to attend Jisc’s annual Change Agents Network Conference, held this year at the University of Exeter.

I recorded the following quick recap at the end of Day 1, but wanted to return to some of the sessions that I found most interesting (though everything that I’ve attended so far has been informative and worthwhile).

As  promised, here are a few write ups of the sessions I enjoyed the most from Day 1.

Digital Leaders: Running a peer-assisted digital skills programme

Holly Singleton (Subject Librarian) and Janine Diva (Digital Leader) from the University of Coventry

This workshop covered the Digital Leaders programme at Coventry University, which was a collaboration between staff at Coventry’s Lanchester Library and the institution’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL). Digital Leaders is a staff-student partnership programme, but one that seeks to enable peer-to-peer student learning.

Holly Singleton spoke on behalf of the Library staff involved with the project, while Janine Diva represented the students who had participated as Digital Leaders. The project involved recruiting Coventry students to take part in five workshops:

  • one introductory session
  • three thematic workshops – Social networking and communication; Digital wellbeing and privacyFinding, handling and sharing information
  • A final “passing it on” workshop, where students were asked to identify areas of digital capabilities of interest to them.

The participants who were selected to be Digital Leaders were then grouped together in areas of interest and given a (fairly) free reign to develop projects. These could be around developing workshops for other students, producing online resources and guidance, developing community projects – anything really! You can find out about some of the projects that Coventry’s Digital Leaders have undertaken here.

We had the opportunity to try out an activity that Holly and her colleague Phil use in their Introductory Digital Leaders workshop – What Digital Animal are you? . This activity was originally developed by Emma Coonan and you can try it out yourself on Qzzr here:

What Digital Animal are you? on Qzzr

Here’s a supporting blogpost from Emma on the activity. This was a really good ice-breaker activity and prompted loads of discussion – though as the solitary spider in the room I had to join the eagles 😦

I thought the Digital Leaders project sounded really interesting. Holly and her colleagues have done a great job of engaging a group of students around the subject of digital literacies, and have enabled and supported them to take forward projects in a variety of areas.

Refresh Your Maths’; Peer mentoring and student-created online resources to improve students’ numerical reasoning skills

Katie New (Maths mentor) and Jake Hibberd (Student Engagement Manager) from the University of Exeter

Exeter’s Student Engagement Team identified the need to extend maths support at the University, particularly due to the prevalence of numerical reasoning tests used in graduate recruitment across a range of sectors. Jake gave the example of timed numerical reasoning testing employed by the Civil Service; such testing is challenging for students from a mathematical-related discipline, let alone those who may not have studied maths for a number of years or at HE-level.

Exeter sought to leverage the skills and experience of their Maths students to deliver peer support, while also giving those Maths students the opportunity to develop their mentoring, presentation and content-creation skills.

Exeter’s Maths department use 2nd year students as mentors to their 1st years (this is currently an unpaid voluntary role). Jake shared how the Student Engagement Team targeted those same students as they entered their 3rd year, with the opportunity to continue to build their mentoring experience. The new Maths Mentoring scheme was also a paid role (Jake explained that they considered it equal to the responsibility of a PGR Teaching Assistant, so it was important that the pay reflect that).

As well as running face-to-face workshops, the Maths Mentors also developed a range of online materials to complement the sessions or work in a stand-alone context.

Peer-led Maths sessions are open to all Exeter students and can be booked online. Here’s a screenshot of how students can book a place (from Exeter’s Peer Support pages, though details of the sessions themselves are on their careers portal behind a log-in).

Maths Refresh

Katie Wild is a 4th year MMath student at Exeter, and was a Mentor on this scheme – she was able to give first hand evidence of how mentorship had increased her confidence when it came to presenting and how it had led her to further mentoring opportunities that she didn’t think she would have considered otherwise. We also saw video testimonials from other mentors: some of them highlighted that mentorship has given them experience of explaining mathematical concepts to others, which has been a really positive experience. Some also noted that online numerical reasoning tests can require a very specific skill set and even though they considered their maths skills to be strong, they also benefited from delivering the revision sessions and would feel more confident with this kind of testing in future.

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Feedback on the Refresh Your Maths scheme has been overwhelmingly positive (students rated their satisfaction with the online materials slightly higher than the workshops, but both were very positive, around the 88-90% mark satisfied). Attendees at the workshops did highlight that they wanted more opportunity to engage with practice numerical reasoning tests, so that’s being designed into a new peer-led session .

The mentors are looking to compare test results of students before and after engagement with the workshops and resources; they are still compiling these results but I’d be really interested to see this when available. I thought this was a great project and one that had really benefited both participants and student mentors, while exhibiting great partnership between students and staff as well.

If you’re interested in what else took place on Day 1 of the conference, slides and resources will be added here and Sarah Knight’s Storify of the day in tweet form is here.

Check back in a couple of days for a write up of Day 2 of the conference!

Back to blogging – with a mini-graduation

This blog is in desperate need of updating! I’ve got plans for a few posts in the pipeline – but baby steps first – here’s a post based on something I recently shared on my LinkedIn.

Recently I was proud to attend the Lancaster Organisation and Educational Development graduation ceremony, for completing the University’s Supporting Learning Programme in 2016.

The SLP helps to develop the teaching skills of staff and to increase their understanding and appreciation of wide range of teaching and learning issues. It’s led to accreditation as an Associate Fellow of the HEA which I am really proud of, but do want to move onto further levels of accreditation in future.

The role in which I work is currently undergoing a few changes and I’m keen to use the HEA’s UK Professional Standards Framework to help guide the personal development that I’ll need to undertake. Anyway, it was a great morning and nice to be involved with other staff from the University who were being recognised for OED qualifications in teaching, leadership and management. Here’s a pic of me with our Chancellor, the Rt Hon Alan Milburn.

056 22-03-17

OED do a great job of providing development opportunities for staff at Lancaster – they are a real asset to our community and I know that I’ll have benefited from completing the SLP throughout my career.

NoWAL Conference 2015

In July I attended the NoWAL Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Birley campus. I was speaking about Lancaster’s Jolt the Library project but was looking forward to a varied programme of talks about digital libraries, user engagement and learning spaces.

The first keynote of the day was from Jo Norry (@JPNLeeds), Director of Libraries and Learning Innovation at Leeds Beckett University. Jo admitted she would be ruminating on a number of themes – this was a wide ranging and really interesting keynote from someone who is clearly a passionate advocate for the library and it’s services in her institution.

Like many universities, Leeds Beckett have discussed renaming Library spaces and services, using zeitgeist terms such as “learning commons”. Jo noted that no matter how it’s branded, students and staff will refer to university learning spaces as “The Library” , as it’s a recognisable and widely understood term. Recently, learning technologists at Leeds Beckett had become part of the library team. Jo felt that it was important that they retained their own professional identities, so the team were to keep their own distinct name – but she then realised that many of the team members themselves had started referring to themselves as being “from the Library”. The Library is simple, recognisable, and has connotations of responsiveness and excellent service.

Despite this, Jo spoke about the challenges of keeping the library visible at the highest levels of the institution. As the library’s services and resources are embedded in an ever more seamless manner, does the library as an organisation and a team of people become more invisible? VCs and senior management of universities aren’t often library users anymore. Their perceptions may be influenced by media discourse around libraries being outdated or expendable. This was a really interesting talk on library advocacy at a senior management level.

A great final tip from Jo: “Be everywhere and be easy to work with”.

Digital literacies from over t’border

My first breakout session was Susan Halfpenny from The University of York Library, talking about their project to develop a digital literacies framework for their Department of Health Sciences. York have a merged Library and IT Directorate – the framework will help to formalise the provision of the Directorate’s Relationship Management team for the Department of Health Sciences, and will act as a model that can be rolled out across other departments.

York have done extensive work to show what areas of digital and information literacy development are currently embedded into what courses, and at what stage. Susan shared some really interesting visualisations of this which I’d like to look at again when the slides are shared.

Provision in the past had largely been the result of independent work by subject librarians – the new framework now formalises what is embedded in Health Sciences courses by a range of support departments (not just the Library), and aligns this embedded support and development with both University strategy and graduate attributes.

york dig lit
Susan presenting York’s Digital Literacy framework for their Department of Health Sciences.

York’s Digital Literacy model is based on Beetham and Sharpe’s pyramid model, which characterises digital literacies as a continuum from access and functional skills to higher level capabilities, which become embedded in practices and identities. York’s model is also influenced by other information literacy models such as ANCIL and Jisc’s Seven Elements of Digital Literacies.

York consulted with students and staff in Health Sciences to create their framework. Both students and staff identified a number of areas where they needed more support, including managing information sources and critical appraisal techniques.

Taking a department-level approach has enabled York to focus on consultation and collaboration and to ensure that the framework is situated and meaningful for both students and academics in this discipline; this is a similar approach to the faculty-level projects undertaken at Bath (PRiDE) amongst others.

This was a really interesting talk and it looks like York are doing some great work around digital literacies. Sarah will be speaking about this project again at the Northern Collaboration conference in September for those attending that event.

Jolt the Library…out and about

Up next was, er, me! I was really pleased that I got such a good attendance for my talk (we needed to get more chairs to fit everyone in). There’s clearly an appetite for new methods of student engagement in academic libraries. One of the attendees from the University of Worcester mentioned that they are planning on running their own student innovation competition in future.

I used Haiku Deck for the first time for my presentation. It is really good for creating clean, visually bold presentations and for breaking you out of institutionally branded or bulletpoint heavy slides. It’s pretty intuitive, and Haiku Deck’s User Guide is very good too. The creative commons licenced image search is a really nice feature.

Said strategic Godzilla:

godzilla planning
Haiku Deck’s image search found this for me….I can’t take all the credit 🙂

There are a few elements that make it frustrating to use; you can’t embed video…oh, ok, fine. You can’t embed links AT ALL in a slide. WHAT? How baffling. You also can’t embed the slide deck in WordPress unless you have a self hosted blog (grumble). So here’s a link to my slides:


I’m glad I tried Haiku Deck though, it made a nice change. I got good feedback and I’d definitely use it again. There were some really good questions from my session, and I had lots of kind comments both in person and via Twitter. Thanks to everyone who came along!

There’s more information about the project on our Jolt the Library site – you can also view all the ideas that were submitted for the competition (including the inter-floor slides and the Cat Cafe)  via the Jolt Ideas Platform.

You can find out more about Lancaster University’s brilliant Innovation Hub team via their website and Twitter.

Space is the place

Following lunch, Rosie Jones (@RosieJHJones) from Liverpool John Moores delivered an inspiring keynote on approaches to designing learning and library spaces. Rosie has led on major Library space projects at the University of Manchester and now at Liverpool John Moores, and was able to deliver an informed critique on design processes in Universities, such as a reliance on replicating what’s been done elsewhere, and a focus on familiar kinds of space (individual and “social” space) rather than taking a truly user led approach. Rosie identified `liminal spaces’ such as lift lobbies, ill-defined breakout areas and waiting areas, as traditionally under designed and under funded areas – but ones which can real impact on the feelings that users have for a learning space .

John Moores have recently consulted with a range of small design agencies, including Manchester-based Space Invader Design. Space Invader have worked on the recent refurbishment of Manchester Public Library, which is well worth a visit. As organisations, Universities aren’t doing enough to engage with small, innovative design companies and suppliers. Procurement policies can often be a barrier to this. Rosie commented that designers she had worked with are often frustrated by the slow speed of University projects. Flexible learning spaces need to be flexible for staff too; the needs of staff are often an overlooked in the design process. And issues which Rosie covered in a similar presentation in 2011 are still pertinent; infrastructure for ever developing technology remains a challenge, as does delivering a one-stop shop approach without the need for users to understand service structures.

Lessons learned

Satish Patel, Library Development Manager at the University of Salford, delivered a brave and fascinating talk about recent Library development projects from Salford, including a significant change in approach to student engagement.

Salford closed their Health Sciences library and relocated the collections to their main library site in 2013. This was undertaken as part of an institution-wide reorganisation and an essential need to reduce costs. Salford undertook ‘listening events’ with students, but Satish was very frank in saying that these events were primarily to communicate the changes to students and explain the context the changes were made in – the decisions themselves were made and students had little chance of impacting them.

There was a very negative response to the relocation of the Health Library, including a student union petition, an email campaign to the VC and a significant impact on the NSS score for the department.

As part of phase two of their Library Development project Salford are now taking a co-creation approach to student learning spaces. Salford appointed a “Library Guru” to consult with all stakeholders in the institution; Les Watson, who has significant experience of leading university space and refurbishment developments.

Salford have used Les’ findings to produce “a roadmap of space and service improvements for the lifespan of the building” (15 years). Salford are now working with Leeds-based Fuse Studios on future projects; Fuse have run student and staff focus group sessions, and Salford are embracing a culture of being challenged by user needs and expectations. Salford are also using a number of ethnographic methods in parallel to the work undertaken by Les and Fuse, to understand how people are using their learning spaces and to what extent the Library is providing for their needs.

Satish showed us some great concept art for Salford’s new Library space, taking on a `Library in the Park’ theme to reference nearby Peel Park, one of the oldest public parks in Britain. This was a brave talk that acknowledged past challenges, and revealed a real commitment to ongoing student engagement and co-creation of learning spaces.

Cognitive mapping of digital spaces

Ending the afternoon on a high was a workshop session from Liam Cunningham (@liamealbee), Liason Librarian from the University of Sheffield. Liam’s session The Library of the Mind explored using cognitive mapping techniques to visualise your library’s web presence.

library web cognitive mapping
My scribble of Lancaster University Library’s web footprint. Library users are at the bottom, cocooned in various University information systems.

I attended this workshop with a colleague from Lancaster, and we felt like we were cheating a bit as we’d tried cognitive mapping for the first time just over a week ago, thanks to a brilliant staff development session at Lancaster from Andy Priestner. What we did on that day focused on mapping our day at work, and we did discuss cognitive mapping primarily in relation to physical spaces. This is a great idea from Liam to focus on the virtual library space, and I can see a real value in trying this with students (Liam has trialled it with MSc students at Sheffield).

Liam did a great job of introducing cognitive mapping for people who were unfamiliar with it as a technique. He’s compiled a great list of references on library ethnography which I’ll be perusing with interest once the slides are up on the NoWAL site.

I’ve started thinking about how ethnographic techniques such as cognitive mapping could be used in Library teaching sessions at Lancaster in future, and I think it could be used as the basis for a reflective activity on research practices for undergraduate students transitioning to Part II and III. I think most participants in Liam’s session would be keen to try cognitive mapping with their students and staff, particularly with regard to online spaces and services. This was a great focus for a workshop activity and I hope Liam develops this further in future.

Thanks to Yvette Jeal, Jayne Evans, Lorna Clarke, Nicola Howorth and anyone else who was involved in organising the day – you all did a great job and I look forward to being involved in future NoWAL events!

You can revisit tweets from the event using the hashtag #NoWAL2015 and the presentations from the day are going to be shared on added to the NoWAL website shortly. Helen Monagle (@HelenMonagle) from Manchester NLPN has written a really good recap too.

Bite-sized video for libraries: gifs and Vine

I’ve been considering bite-sized video over the last few months as a way of illustrating how to use online Library tools.

Screencasts are great to show someone a step-by-step process, but you might want a quick way of demonstrating “click here” or “login here”, without the need for someone to watch a three minute video.

Many libraries are using Vine as a promotional or engagement tool, rather than as a way of showing students how to use their services or resources, but I have seen a couple of library Vine accounts that include the latter approach.

Saint George’s University of London (Vine account) have Vines on using self service and book return.
Stirling University Library (Vine here) have made a couple of Vines about their new print system:

I’m not writing a comprehensive post on Library Vine accounts here, but some other ones I’ve come across that have neat content include:

If you’re interested in Vine you might also be interested in Ned Potter’s excellent post on Twitter video, which offers up to 30 seconds recording time.

I’ve seen a few Vines that try and demo how to use something onscreen, with mixed results. I get that Vines don’t have to be super polished, but you do need to be able to see clearly what’s being done on-screen, and attempts at cutting the video to demonstrate steps can end up being a bit seizure-inducing.

I’ve started seeing gifs used more on more on websites about software and tech. Here’s a post on WordPress tags using a gif from, and a great post on Library opening hours pages from So, what about gifs?

Fry from Futurama squinting. You know the meme.
Fry is not sure about library gifs

Gif It….Gif It Good*

I used Screen to Gif to make this quick test. This tool lets you insert a title slide, but as you can see it flashes up rather quickly. I haven’t worked out how to get StG to display it for longer just yet. And it looks a little blurry. Hey, I spent all of 20 minutes on this.

A gif like this could be used to show a Library user how to add an item to their e-shelf on our Primo platform, OneSearch:

Add to EShelf

I’m thinking it might be better to capture and edit the video in a dedicated tool (such as Screencast-o-Matic) and add any titles, annotations, highlights etc in that, before giffing it in something like Screen to Gif.

There are a lot of different gif creation tools out there, so I might try another (here’s a 2013 list from Mashable, and a more recent post on Imgur’s video to gif tool – you could use this to gif your library’s existing Youtube content).

I’m not proposing making your library site look like Tumblr – but I think the odd strategically placed gif in place of the usual screenshots could be an effective way to illustrate simple navigational tips or “how to’s”.

Some potential downsides. A page full of gifs can be slow to load and data hungry for those on mobile (another reason to keep their usage to a minimum). Even my home connection slows to a crawl when confronted with Imgur or some Tumblr sites. I had about 12 tabs of gifs and Vines open at one point while writing this post and EVERYTHING DIED.

And gif’s aren’t accessible (though annotated screenshots often aren’t either).

Anyway, what do you think? Does your library already use gifs for any online guides to resources? Used sparingly, could they be effective? Or should we be thinking about adding dancing hamsters to our discovery tools? Please say that is archived somewhere.

* I had Devo in my head

UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities – part three!

Final post on last week’s UCISA event! Phew! 🙂 It must be said that there were lots of interesting sessions that I haven’t recapped, but that these were the ones that resonated the most with me for one reason or another. Though Helen Keegan’s presentation on learning motivations, curiosity and intrigue and alternative reality in teaching at Salford University was BRILLIANT – I may blog about that another time. Dave Callahan from Edge Hill is organising a crowdsourced recap of the event here too (good idea!)

Digital Literacy at the University of Winchester

Rebecca JS Nice, Student Fellow and Graduating University of Winchester student

Amy Barlow, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning


Rebecca is a mature student who returned to education feeling that she might be behind some of her peers in terms of digital skills (which ended up being far from the truth!). She bought an iPad prior to starting her course, and had a very determined attitude to developing her digital skills – but was disappointed with how technology was used on her course. Her expectation of how higher education would be delivered didn’t match the reality.

Rebecca got involved as a Student Fellow – Winchester have up to 60 of these students who work on research in peer groups or are partnered with academic staff to work on projects relating to developing the student experience. I was really impressed with the Student Fellow programme, and the ways in which Winchester had targeted particular aspects of curriculum delivery and the student experience. Some of the areas that have been investigated by Student Fellows include:

  • Methods of assessment and feedback
  • Student engagement
  • Curriculum design
  • Technology enhanced learning
  • Access to resources

Student Fellows have also been consulted as part of the course revalidation process – many Winchester courses have been found by students to have unexplored technological opportunities, something their TEL team are keen to address. Amy made a great point that many students have considerable experience of sharing digital skills with both their peers and their family. This is part of the way in which many of us learn about technology today, and we shouldn’t be wary about leveraging that experience of our students (and staff) and making the most of it. Student Fellows have been involved in projects where academic staff have been given new technology such as iPads, and the Fellows have worked alongside them to help them learn to use the devices, and to identify ways in which they could be used in the curriculum. I can imagine this being a really effective approach!

Rebecca also spoke a little bit about her work on her course. She had identified that creating an online professional identity and engaging in blogging and tweeting could have real employability benefits for her, and that she had opportunities to engage effectively as a pratitioner before she had completed her studies. She saw an opportunity to use her final year project as a portfolio for her skills, and chose to use a blog and Pinterest to create the project. This was viewed as a risk by her tutor, something she admits worked in her favour as it was judged to be a risk that paid off when it worked out so well! Still, I think it’s telling that using pretty mainstream digital platforms should be judged as risky from an academic point of view. Rebecca noted that she didn’t expect technical guidance from academics, but wanted encouragement and reassurance to try challenging things and to develop new skills.

I should mention that there was another good talk on using students as digital change agents/champions from the University of Southampton (Innovation and Digital Literacies Champions (iChamps) presented by Tamsyn Smith and Anna Ruff).

Southampton’s iChamps work with academics to develop the digital literacies of students and staff, and identify new technological opportunities in the curriculum. They run workshops and regular iPad Coffee Clubs, which sounded like a popular concept. More info here:

Southampton iChamps programme

You can find out more about what’s going on at Southampton via their Digital Literacies page and @SotonDiglit. Southampton are looking at ways in which partipating as an iChamp can be validated, possibly by linking it with existing extra-curricular awards programmes. Lancaster has its’ Lancaster Award – maybe a Digital Champion role is something that could be linked to the award in future?

Learning Analytics for Digital Skills

Niall Sclater, Jisc


Implementing Learning Analytics at NTU

Mike Day, Director of Information Systems, Nottingham Trent University


These two talks looked at Learner Analytics. Jisc officially launched their new Code of Practice for Learning Analytics with Niall’s talk. The Code covers issues relating to the use of LA including:

  1. Responsibility
  2. Transparency and Consent
  3. Privacy
  4. Validity
  5. Access
  6. Enabling positive interventions
  7. Minimising adverse impacts
  8. Stewardship of data

Niall also gave us a peek at a Jisc Learning Analytics platform (‘a basic learning analytics ‘freemium’ solution’) which will be made available to institutions in future. Following on from this Mike Day spoke about NTU’s implementation of a Learning Analytics platform. This was uncharted waters for them, but they had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve. They negotiated with a range of suppliers (many of whom were new to this kind of system as well), until they found one ‘just right’. They are using StREAM from Solutionpath.

StREAM pulls data from their student records system, attendance swipe system, VLE, Library systems and more and puts this data into a dashboard for academic and support staff. Students are given an “engagement level” based on this data. A lot of detailed work went into what exactly defines the engagement level, I probably can’t do it justice here. Here’s a video overview:

Essentially, what Mike said their system does is flag up when it might be time for a chat (what a great way of summing it up!). They’ve done some work to show how the engagement level is a real predictor for students failing modules or leaving their course – anything that prompts that conversation perhaps a few weeks before it’s too late, can make a real difference.

These were both really interesting talks, and while there were a few very valid concerns raised around data, privacy and transparency during the Q&A at the end of Niall’s talk, I think everyone could see the real tangible benefits that an effective Learning Analytics system could bring thanks to the example from NTU.

Dealing with Innovation

Christine Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services, University of Sheffield

Martin Hamilton, Futurist, Jisc


Bringing the event to a close was a joint presentation from Christine and Martin on how university services can enable their staff to be innovative, and some observations of technologies and digital behaviours on the horizon. Christine started by exploring (and maybe debunking) the idea that university services have two roles, one of “keeping the lights on” and a “lesser” role of driving development through innovative projects.  She suggested that “keeping the lights on” is a hugely complex task, and normally one that involves a fair bit of innovation. It’s not fair to say that we “can’t” engage in innovative practice due to the pressures of our “core” services because a) we’re probably already being innovative in some ways and b) we’re selling ourselves short.

I wasn’t familiar with the Bimodal IT concept referenced by Christine, now that I’ve had a bit of a chance to look it up it certainly seems to be contentious! But I can certainly see the value in trying to address how departments and teams can engage in both their day-to-day activity, and the work that drives the service in new directions. Some really good examples from Christine of innovative student led IT projects at Sheffield, and it was nice of her to highlight Lancaster’s Minecraft campus too!

Martin recapped the conference for us through the medium of tweets. He also shared his recent lifelogging and discussed some of the potential challenges that might emerge as wearable technology becomes more mainstream.

Right, that’s it for my frantic recapping! Sarah Davies from Jisc has written her own blog post on the event which is well worth reading, and you can revisit all the tweets from the event using the hashtag #udigcap. Gaz Duncan took some great photos of the event, which you can check out on his Flickr (lovely fellow too).

Final thing to mention is that we can expect the loan of a glittering award to the Lancaster University Library offices at some point, as a team containing Lancaster delegates triumphed in the evening’s trivia quiz. I don’t know where the box of chocolates ended up but I do know that we have this priceless trophy in our possession (somewhere on campus).

Overall this was a great event, big thanks to all the organisers and speakers, as well as the University of Salford and Media City for providing a great venue.

UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities – Part Two!

Following on from Part One, here’s a few more recaps of talks from last week’s UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities.

Meeting and challenging student’s expectations of digital engagement

Dave White, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the Arts London

Presentation slides

Dave White has worked on a number of Jisc-funded projects including a model of digital participation called Visitors and Residents; this is a really interesting model to explore in relation to your own digital behaviour. Like many models of digital practice, it’s contextual; you might be a visitor in many contexts, just popping into the digital environment to complete a task or retrieve a piece of information, while in other contexts you might have developed a digital social presence, or become a participant in a digital community.

I saw Dave speak at i2c2 last year about Visitors and Residents, he’s a really engaging speaker. This video is a really good introduction to the V&R concept if you are interested.

Dave was speaking today about the findings of Jisc’s Digital Student Project (full project webpages here).

A couple of interesting findings in relation to student expectations:

  • Students expect their institution to provide all the resources they need for their studies (hardware and software) even if they also own these resources themselves. So while students have an expectation that they can bring their own device, they also expect the institution to provide for them.
  • students expect “explicit instruction in using institutional systems (library catalogue, VLE, assessment system) and specialist technologies required for their course” – good to hear!

And a couple of interesting points from the student experience part of the report:

  • “Students are so used to seamless access they do not understand when they are crossing boundaries e.g. between institutionally-paid-for to free-on-the open-web services”. I think this would be a familiar scenario to many librarians  – how many students googling academic papers notice that Provided by Lancaster Library note at the top of the screen?
  • “Students want more guidance on academically credible sources and academically legitimate uses of online content” – Again, this is encouraging, librarians certainly can have a role in this.

The executive summary of the report is nice and concise and is well worth a read.

Leading on from the report, Dave focused on the idea of Entitlements versus Enhancements. Would students consider access to certain resources, systems or services an entitlement, or just something nice to have? And would their ideas match up with the priorities your institution or department holds?

We were given a little time to discuss this amongst ourselves – I think this would make a really good workshop activity as I imagine many staff (and students) would have different ideas about what services/resources are essential.

It’s pretty common sense but I wonder how many institutions are sure that they have all of the essentials right before focusing on the entitlements?

Dave also spoke about how technology in universities is deployed to either deliver the curriculum, or to enhance the student experience – but it’s not always clear which of these priorities the technology is addressing. In recent years the priority of student experience is taking up more and more resource – but do universities in the UK have the capacity to deliver on both fronts?

This was a really interesting talk that covered a wide range of topics relating to student expectation, experience and the use of technology. There was a whole section on graduate attributes and digital literacies that I haven’t really managed to capture the jist of – some of the #udigcap tweets might be helpful there!

Here comes everyone: digital literacies across staff roles and boundaries

Helen Beetham, Educator and Consultant

Presentation slides

The title of this talk was a reference to mass amateurisation and Clay Shirkey’s Here Comes Everybody; are we are all journalists, photographers, film-makers (and librarians) now?

Helen’s talk looked at the work Jisc have been doing recently as part of their Digital Capability Codesign Challenge and unveiled a draft image of a revised Jisc model of Digital Literacies/Capabilities.

We’ve been looking at adapting the Jisc 7 elements model as a basis for a Lancaster Digital Skills/Capabilities framework. These revisions to the Jisc model fit with some conclusions we had made about IT/technical skills being a fundamental part of each element, rather than an element in their own right – and that issues of health, wellbeing and work-life balance are an issue of concern for both students and staff.

Helen summarised why these revisions had been made, and why models and frameworks such as this are valuable to institutions.


A couple of key findings from recent interviews as part of the project:

  • Digital Capabilities are not currently well embedded in strategic planning
  • Individuals value recognition of their digital skills, practice and development – but institutions and professional bodies do not recognise and reward this development as well as they might
  • Digital Capabilities can be very general and very specific, and institutions need to do more to develop these capabilties in their staff and ensure they retain and embed certain knowledge and practice.

Helen highlighted Digital Copyright as a particular area of knowledge where universities needed to invest in and develop expertise, as well as making sure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities and how they can get help and support.

(The “Man in the print room” was the expert in Digital Copyright and Intellectual Property identified by one of the interview respondents in their organisation – I wonder how many people in that university know about his expertise?)

This was a really interesting snapshot of the work Jisc are doing in this area. Institutions can get involved with the Digital Capability Codesign Challenge – you can keep up with the project at There was an interesting part of the talk about Digital Literacies as situated practice, but I think I’ll return to that in another blog post.

Part Three of the conference coming soon!