Today and tomorrow I’m in Birmingham for the Jisc Digifest 2017 (#digifest17). I’m based on the EDINA stand (stand 9, Hall 3) for much of the time, along with my colleague Andrew – do come and say hello to us – but will also be blogging any sessions I attend. The event is also being livetweeted by Jisc and some sessions livestreamed – do take a look at the event website for more details. As usual this blog is live and may include typos, errors, etc. Please do let me know if you have any corrections, questions or comments.
Plenary and Welcome
Liam Earney is introducing us to the day, with the hope that we all take some away from the event – some inspiration, an idea, the potential to do new things. Over the past three Digifest events we’ve taken a broad view. This year we focus on technology expanding, enabling learning and teaching.
LE: So we will be talking about questions we asked through Twitter and through our conference app with our panel:
- Sarah Davies (SD), head of change implementation support – education/student, Jisc
- Liam Earney (LE), director of Jisc Collections
- Andy McGregor (AM), deputy chief innovation officer, Jisc
- Paul McKean (PM), head of further education and skills, Jisc
Q1: Do you think that greater use of data and analytics will improve teaching, learning and the student experience?
- Yes 72%
- No 10%
- Don’t Know 18%
AM: I’m relieved at that result as we think it will be important too. But that is backed up by evidence emerging in the US and Australia around data analytics use in retention and attainment. There is a much bigger debate around AI and robots, and around Learning Analytics there is that debate about human and data, and human and machine can work together. We have several sessions in that space.
SD: Learning Analytics has already been around it’s own hype cycle already… We had huge headlines about the potential about a year ago, but now we are seeing much more in-depth discussion, discussion around making sure that our decisions are data informed.. There is concern around the role of the human here but the tutors, the staff, are the people who access this data and work with students so it is about human and data together, and that’s why adoption is taking a while as they work out how best to do that.
Q2: How important is organisational culture in the successful adoption of education technology?
- Total make or break 55%
- Can significantly speed it up or slow it down 45%
- It can help but not essential 0%
- Not important 0%
PM: Where we see education technology adopted we do often see that organisational culture can drive technology adoption. An open culture – for instance Reading College’s open door policy around technology – can really produce innovation and creative adoption, as people share experience and ideas.
SD: It can also be about what is recognised and rewarded. About making sure that technology is more than what the innovators do – it’s something for the whole organisation. It’s not something that you can do in small pockets. It’s often about small actions – sharing across disciplines, across role groups, about how technology can make a real difference for staff and for students.
Q3: How important is good quality content in delivering an effective blended learning experience?
- Very important 75%
- It matters 24%
- Neither 1%
- It doesn’t really matter 0%
- It is not an issue at all 0%
LE: That’s reassuring, but I guess we have to talk about what good quality content is…
SD: I think materials – good quality primary materials – make a huge difference, there are so many materials we simply wouldn’t have had (any) access to 20 years ago. But also about good online texts and how they can change things.
LE: My colleague Karen Colbon and I have been doing some work on making more effective use of technologies… Paul you have been involved in FELTAG…
PM: With FELTAG I was pleased when that came out 3 years ago, but I think only now we’ve moved from the myth of 10% online being blended learning… And moving towards a proper debate about what blended learning is, what is relevant not just what is described. And the need for good quality support to enable that.
LE: What’s the role for Jisc there?
PM: I think it’s about bringing the community together, about focusing on the learner and their experience, rather than the content, to ensure that overall the learner gets what they need.
SD: It’s also about supporting people to design effective curricula too. There are sessions here, talking through interesting things people are doing.
AM: There is a lot of room for innovation around the content. If you are walking around the stands there is a group of students from UCL who are finding innovative ways to visualise research, and we’ll be hearing pitches later with some fantastic ideas.
Q4: Billions of dollars are being invested in edtech startups. What impact do you think this will have on teaching and learning in universities and colleges?
- No impact at all 1%
- It may result in a few tools we can use 69%
- We will come to rely on these companies in our learning and teaching 21%
- It will completely transform learning and teaching 9%
AM: I am towards the 9% here, there are risks but there is huge reason for optimism here. There are some great companies coming out and working with them increases the chance that this investment will benefit the sector. Startups are keen to work with universities, to collaborate. They are really keen to work with us.
LE: It is difficult for universities to take that punt, to take that risk on new ideas. Procurement, governance, are all essential to facilitating that engagement.
AM: I think so. But I think if we don’t engage then we do risk these companies coming in and building businesses that don’t take account of our needs.
LE: Now that’s a big spend taking place for that small potential change that many who answered this question perceive…
PM: I think there are saving that will come out of those changes potentially…
AM: And in fact that potentially means saving money on tools we currently use by adopting new, and investing that into staff..
Q5: Where do you think the biggest benefits of technology are felt in education?
- Enabling or enhancing learning and teaching activities 55%
- In the broader student experience 30%
- In administrative efficiencies 9%
- It’s hard to identify clear benefits 6%
SD: I think many of the big benefits we’ve seen over the last 8 years has been around things like online timetables – wider student experience and administrative spaces. But we are also seeing that, when used effectively, technology can really enhance the learning experience. We have a few sessions here around that. Key here is digital capabilities of staff and students. Whether awareness, confidence, understanding fit with disciplinary practice. Lots here at Digifest around digital skills. [sidenote: see also our new Digital Footprint MOOC which is now live for registrations]
I’m quite surprised that 6% thought it was hard to identify clear benefits… There are still lots of questions there, and we have a session on evidence based practice tomorrow, and how evidence feeds into institutional decision making.
PM: There is something here around the Apprentice Levy which is about to come into place. A surprisingly high percentage of employers aren’t aware that they will be paying that actually! Technology has a really important role here for t