Mar 152017

Today I’m still 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. 

Part Deux: Why educators can’t live without social media – Eric Stoller, higher education thought-leader, consultant, writer, and speaker.

I’ve snuck in a wee bit late to Eric’s talk but he’s starting by flagging up his “Educators: Are you climbing the social media mountain?” blog post. 

Eric: People who are most reluctant to use social media are often those who are also reluctant to engage in CPD, to develop themselves. You can live without social media but social media is useful and important. Why is it important? It is used for communication, for teaching and learning, in research, in activisim… Social media gives us a lot of channels to do different things with, that we can use in our practice… And yes, they can be used in nefarious ways but so can any other media. People are often keen to see particular examples of how they can use social media in their practice in specific ways, but how you use things in your practice is always going to be specific to you, different, and that’s ok.

So, thinking about digital technology… “Digital is people” – as Laurie Phipps is prone to say… Technology enhanced learning is often tied up with employability but there is a balance to be struck, between employability and critical thinking. So, what about social media and critical thinking? We have to teach students how to determine if an online source is reliable or legitimate – social media is the same way… And all of us can be caught out. There was piece in the FT about the chairman of Tesco saying unwise things about gender, and race, etc. And I tweeted about this – but I said he was the CEO – and it got retweeted and included in a Twitter moment… But it was wrong. I did a follow up tweet and apologised but I was contributing to that..

Whenever you use technology in learning it is related to critical thinking so, of course, that means social media too. How many of us here did our educational experience completely online… Most of us did our education in the “sage on the stage” manner, that’s what was comfortable for us… And that can be uncomfortable (see e.g. tweets from @msementor).

If you follow the NHS on Twitter (@NHS) then you will know it is phenomenal – they have a different member of staff guest posting to the account. Including live tweeting an operation from the theatre (with permissions etc. of course) – if you are medical student this would be very interesting. Twitter is the delivery method now but maybe in the future it will be Hololens or Oculus Rift Live or something. Another thing I saw about a year ago was Phil Baty (Inside Higher Ed – @Phil_Baty) talked about Liz Barnes revealing that every academic at Staffordshire will use social media and will build it into performance management. That really shows that this is an organisation that is looking forward and trying new things.

Any of you take part in the weekly #LTHEchat. They were having chats about considering participation in that chat as part of staff appraisal processes. That’s really cool. And why wouldn’t social media and digital be a part of that.

So I did a Twitter poll asking academics what they use social media for:

  • 25% teaching and learning
  • 26% professional development
  • 5% research
  • 44% posting pictures of cats

The cool thing is you can do all of those things and still be using it in appropriate educational contexts. Of course people post pictures of cats.. Of course you do… But you use social media to build community. It can be part of building a professional learning environment… You can use social media to lurk and learn… To reach out to people… And it’s not even creepy… A few years back and I could say “I follow you” and that would be weird and sinister… Now it’s like “That’s cool, that’s Twitter”. Some of you will have been using the event hashtag and connecting there…

Andrew Smith, at the Open University, has been using Facebook Live for teaching. How many of your students use Facebook? It’s important to try this stuff, to see if it’s the right thing for your practice.

We all have jobs… Usually when we think about networking and professional networking we often think about LinkedIn… Any of you using LinkedIn? (yes, a lot of us are). How about blogging on LinkedIn? That’s a great platform to blog in as your content reaches people who are really interested. But you can connect in all of these spaces. I saw @mdleast tweeting about one of Anglia Ruskin’s former students who was running the NHS account – how cool is that?

But, I hear some of you say, Eric, this blurs the social and the professional. Yes, of course it does. Any of you have two Facebook accounts? I’m sorry you violate the terms of service… And yes, of course social media blurs things… Expressing the full gamut of our personality is much more powerful. And it can be amazing when senior leaders model for their colleagues that they are a full human, talking about their academic practice, their development…

Santa J. Ono (@PrezOno/@ubcprez) is a really senior leader but has been having mental health difficulties and tweeting openly about that… And do you know how powerful that is for his staff and students that he is sharing like that?

Now, if you haven’t seen the Jisc Digital Literacies and Digital Capabilities models? You really need to take a look. You can use these to use these to shape and model development for staff and students.

I did another poll on Twitter asking “Agree/Disagree: Universities must teach students digital citizenship skills” (85% agree) – now we can debate what “digital citizenship” means… If any of you have ever gotten into it with a troll online? Those words matter, they effect us. And digital citizenship matter.

I would say that you should not fall in love with digital tools. I love Twitter but that’s a private company, with shareholders, with it’s own issues… And it could disappear tomorrow… And I’d have to shift to another platform to do the things I do there…

Do any of you remember YikYak? It was an anonymous geosocial app… and it was used controversially and for bullying… So they introduced handles… But their users rebelled! (and they reverted)

So, Twitter is great but it will change, it will go… Things change…

I did another Twitter poll – which tools do your students use on a daily basis?

  • 34% snapchat
  • 9% Whatsapp
  • 19% Instagram
  • 36% use all of the above

A lot of people don’t use Snapchat because they are afraid of it… When Facebook first appeared that response was it’s silly, we wouldn’t use it in education… But we have moved that there…

There is a lot of bias about Snapchat. @RosieHare posted “I’m wondering whether I should Snapchat #digifest17 next week or whether there’ll be too many proper grown ups there who don’t use it.” Perhaps we don’t use these platforms yet, maybe we’ll catch up… But will students have moved on by then… There is a professor in the US who was using Snapchat with his students every day… You take your practice to where your students are. According to global web index (q2-3 2016) over 75% of teens use Snapchat. There are policy challenges there but students are there every day…

Instagram – 150 M people engage with daily stories so that’s a powerful tool and easier to start with than Snapchat. Again, a space where our students are.

But perfection leads to stagnation. You have to try and not be fixated on perfection. Being free to experiment, being rewarded for trying new things, that has to be embedded in the culture.

So, at the end of the day, the more engaged students are with their institution – at college or university – the more successful they will be. Social media can be about doing that, about the student experience. All parts of the organisation can be involved. There are so many social media channels you can use. Maybe you don’t recognise them all… Think about your students. A lot will use WhatsApp for collaboration, for coordination… Facebook Messenger, some of the asian messaging spaces… Any of you use Reddit? Ah, the nerds have arrived! But again, these are all spaces you can develop your practice in.

The web used to involve having your birth year in your username (e.g. @purpledragon1982), it was open… But we see this move towards WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, these different types of spaces and there is huge growth predicted this year. So, you need to get into the sandbox of learning, get your hands dirty, make some stuff and learn from trying new things #alldayeveryday


Q1) What audience do you have in mind… Educators or those who support educators? How do I take this message back?

A1) You need to think about how you support educators, how you do sneaky teaching… How you do that education… So.. You use the channels, you incorporate the learning materials in those channels… You disseminate in Medium, say… And hopefully they take that with them…

Q2) I meet a strand of students who reject social media and some technology in a straight edge way… They are in the big outdoors, they are out there learning… Will they not be successful?

A2) Of course they will. You can survive, you can thrive without social media… But if you choose to engage in those channels and spaces… You can be succesful… It’s not an either/or

Q3) I wanted to ask about something you tweeted yesterday… That Prensky’s idea of digital natives/immigrants is rubbish…

A3) I think I said “#friendsdontletfriendsprensky”. He published that over ten years ago – 2001 – and people grasped onto that. And he’s walked it back to being about a spectrum that isn’t about age… Age isn’t a helpful factor. And people used it as an excuse… If you look at Dave White’s work on “visitors and residents” that’s much more helpful… Some people are great, some are not as comfortable but it’s not about age. And we do ourselves a disservice to grasp onto that.

Q4) From my organisation… One of my course leaders found their emails were not being read, asked students what they should use, and they said “Instagram” but then they didn’t read that person’s posts… There is a bump, a challenge to get over…

A4) In the professional world email is the communications currency. We say students don’t check email… Well you have to do email well. You send a long email and wonder why students don’t understand. You have to be good at communicating… You set norms and expectations about discourse and dialogue, you build that in from induction – and that can be email, discussion boards and social media. These are skills for life.

Q5) You mentioned that some academics feel there is too much blend between personal and professional. From work we’ve done in our library we find students feel the same way and don’t want the library to tweet at them…

A5) Yeah, it’s about expectations. Liverpool University has a brilliant Twitter account, Warwick too, they tweet with real personality…

Q6) What do you think about private social communities? We set up WordPress/BuddyPress thing for international students to push out information. It was really varied in how people engaged… It’s private…

A6) Communities form where they form. Maybe ask them where they want to be communicated with. Some WhatsApp groups flourish because that’s the cultural norm. And if it doesn’t work you can scrap it and try something else… And see what

Q7) I wanted to flag up a YikYak study at Edinburgh on how students talk about teaching, learning and assessment on YikYak, that started before the handles were introduced, and has continued as anonymity has returned. And we’ll have results coming from this soon…

A7) YikYak may rise and fall… But that functionality… There is a lot of beauty in those anonymous spaces… That functionality – the peers supporting each other through mental health… It isn’t tools, it’s functionality.

Q8) Our findings in a recent study was about where the students are, and how they want to communicate. That changes, it will always change, and we have to adapt to that ourselves… Do you want us to use WhatsApp or WeChat… It’s following the students and where they prefer to communicate.

A8) There is balance too… You meet students where they are, but you don’t ditch their need to understand email too… They teach us, we teach them… And we do that together.

And with that, we’re out of time… 

Are you future ready? Preparing Students fro living and working in the digital world

Introduction –  Lisa Gray, senior co-design manager, Jisc.

Connected Curricula model is about ensuring that employability is built into the curricuum, in T-profile curricule; employer engagement; and assessment for learning. That assessment is about assessing throughout the student experience as they progress through the curriculum.

The Jisc employability toolkit talks more about how this can be put into action. Looking at Technology for employability aspects include enhanced authentic and simulated learning experiences; enhanced lifelong learning and employability; and digital communications and engagement with employers; enhanced employability skills development – and learner skills diagnostics and self-led assessment; employer focused digital literacy development.

The employable student in the digital age model. The toolkit unpicks the capabilities that map into that context.

You can find out more, along with other resources, at:

The Employer View: Preparing students for a digital world – Deborah Edmondson, talent director, Cohesion Recruitment

We manage early talent recruitment processes. Whilst it is clear that automation is replacing some roles, it won’t replace creativity, emotional awareness, and similar skills and expertise.

Graduate vacancies are reducing this year – this has been the third time in the last four years. Some of that is associated with Brexit – especially in construction – but also represents a rise in apprentice roles. Many employers are replacing existing training programmes to the new Apprenticeship model (and levy). Recruitment is typically, for early talent, online application, video interview, psychometric testing, assessment centre. Some employers gamify that process. And we are also seeing a big influence of parental role as well.

Employers have had to up their own digital skills in order to recruit graduates. We’ve had to ensure application forms are online and mobile enabled. And we know that online forms are not the best predictor of who will succeed in graduate recruitment so we’ve reduced or removed them. Video interviews are becoming much more frequent as they give the best idea of a candidates skills, confidence, communication. We still see psychometric testing but there is less focus there, it’s more about contextual recruitment and focusing less on scores, more on the context of that student and achievement. We are also starting to see virtual reality in final stages of recruitment – this is about understanding authentic reactions and responses rather than pre-prepared responses.

So, what do employers want in terms of digital skills? It’s not about skills a lot of the time, often it’s about willingness to use digital skills and capabilities. There are nine key attributes and I’d particularly like to draw your attention to business communications. Students often focus on immediacy… But realities of business and their tools is that things can move slowly, so graduates need real flexibility. The other area I wanted to raise is etiquette: one client mentioned a graduate recruited colleague sending multiple chasers in a single email – that’s just annoying. Similarly use of text speak – wholly inappropriate. Also hiding behind the screen – only emailing and reluctant to call or meet face to face…

Graduates have great skills but they are also described as entitled, hard to manage, etc. So, how can universities help? Well expectations – around success and job satisfaction, as well as about the kinds of technologies they will be using. There isn’t immediacy or instant gratification in the world of work, patience is required. It is about business communication – that emails are long enough, professional enough, and that text speak or emoji in emails – or phrases like “in my oils” which won’t mean much to employers! We also need graduates who are able and willing to have conversations, face to face conversations, phone conversations – they have to be able to talk about their work. And with digital footprint – this can come back to haunt you. We have recruiters looking for high security roles that even check online purchase history – if it’s out there, we will find it. And it’s about perceptions too – those with ambitious career plans have to bear that in mind in how they present themselves from day one. And Excel – it’s important in business but not all students have experience of it. Research… graduates need to be professional on LinkedIn (including photographs) and be able to do the research, to understand the employer, but not to be too stalkery. And it’s about employer interaction – we receive abusive, sweary, etc. responses to rejections but graduates need to be asking for feedback and being graceful in dealing with rejection.

Note: for those interested in digital footprint you should take a look at our new #dfmooc which launches next month and is already open for registration:

SERC – Kieran McKenna, South Eastern Regional College

At SERC a students first few weeks are abou entrepreneurship, with guest speakers, student volunteers, and project based learning built around PBL/Enterprise Fairs. We see success in a number of areas and skills contests because of this model. We use the CAST/CAPS approach – Conference for Advancement of Science and Technology – with students working with industry standard PBL and enterprise learning. We also take a “whole-brain learning” approach – ensuring students understand how they learn best.

So, now we will look at three ways we have enabled this. We created a Whole Brain eLearning resource – called EntreBRAINeur – where students understand typical skills of entrepreneurs, have information about the brain, and answer questions that report back to them on their left brain/right brain placement, their learning styles… One message to take home is the language we use.. That the following information “may be of benefit to your working styles” – encouraging the learner in a positive way. The learner knows best how they learn best. And we link results with activity planning – so you can look at a group with their right/left brain dominance.

So, with that, we are going to see a short video on this…

So, having created this tool we set up an enterprise portal. This has objectives including sharing enterprise and entrepreneurship best practice across multiple campuses. So the PBL activities create a web presence and they are explaining how they undertook the PBL design cycle, and they are looking for votes on their projects. They are then assessed against creativity; innovation, team working; and solutions matching the challenge.

So, are we future ready? Looking at students who completed the e-resource found that only about 10% of our students have an entrepreneurial mindset… But we are confident that the tools, the learning tools, the peer assessment will give our students the edge they need.

Self-designed learning and “future proofing” graduates – Ian Pirie, Emeritus Professor, University of Edinburgh

I am going to talk about self-designed learning. We are two years into a pilot programme in Edinburgh where students literally design their own project, it is approved, they manage it, it is assessed, and ends up in an eportfolio online. Edinburgh is a large university – 3 colleges, 22 schools – and we don’t always do things the same way. We had a number of factors colliding – we have a QAA Enhancement theme around learning and a large careers team which was looking for more self-led opportunities; and employers were also saying they valued graduates but felt some skills could be stronger; and for students in e.g. humanities your tutor would tell you what you must do, but you also have a choice of modules – from over 8.5k courses which is quite intimidating.. And staff also wanted to teach their specialist areas which is a challenge.

So I’ll talk in four areas here…

A rapidly changing world… Students can now access all information very quickly, globally, 24/7. It often isn’t the students ability to use technology, it’s often universities and employers that can fall behind. For education the challenge can be that the kind of teaching we are used to doing isn’t necessarily fit for purpose. Traditionally teaching is information rich and assessed a few times in a semester, and that isn’t what they need and frustrating. And we also see a socially mobile environment – university and private coffee shops used socially and professionally by students. And in fact the Kaplan Graduate Recruitment Report 2014 suggests 1 in 2 will become future leaders – and 60% of businesses are looking for graduates with leadership skills.

Looking at the CBI Survey Data – as already mentioned earlier – really isn’t about the subject area. It is about having studied to a particular level… Not what you have learned in the course in terms of subject content. So how can that be taught? And when we survey our own students we find frustration amongst some students about the way they are taught. And indeed the importance of understanding that equality doesn’t mean treating everyone the same – there is a lot of literature here and it is hard to see how we implement this, particularly at scale.

Students are consistently very clear about what they would like… They would like to be treated professionally and individually, they want clarity about what is expected of them and what they can expect in return. They want clarity in assessment critiera with associated timely and effective feedback – an issue across the sector. They also want an academic community comprised of vertical peer groups and academic staff. They want 24/7 access to online information, ideally in one place. And they increasingly want assurance that they are being prepared for the future.

And, for so many reasons, there is a lot of change. HE can be slow to change… But we need to move away from a teaching model towards a learning model where the tutor supports that learning. It is about accepting responsibility for “future proofing” the whole person, and part of that is about ensuring that “digital literacy” is embedded in the curriculum, as well as the abstract skills.

So, three years ago we developed our future vision for a future curriculum. Some of the steps here look innocuous, but some will really radically upset academics – we wanted to design out passive learning. If a student can sleep through a lecture, hand in an essay, do an exam, and that’s them completed the course, that’s not good enough. We also wanted appropriate use of technology – there is no substitutive for the face to face experience. Each student are also required to use online learning in some form, to prepare them for the future, for elearning, for their ongoing development…

And that takes us to the SLICCS. This is a university-wide framework contextualised to the discipline by each student. And there is one framework, the student then contextualises their own course. Student creates, owns, manages and are formatively assessed. There is deliberately minimal input and supervision from academic staff – it’s a lot of work but for the student, not the staff. Inductions are done by Institute for Academic Development staff… the academic input is at the “front end” for induction and presentation of proposal. But students then reflect on their experience.

In order to do this our inductions are face to face – not online – to make sure students are able to take on the SLICC. They also cannot take on a SLICC if they have any fails – academically they have to be solid to go into this phase of their learning. So, the process is for the student to identify and select a learning experience – often a work placement related project; they develop a proposal and work plan; and then engage in ongoing reflection – sometimes once a day. Then there is formative self-assessment by the student, and summative assessment by staff. Staff don’t see the formative assessment until they have marked the work but in our pilots we had over 96% correlation between those assessments.

We are used to seeing staff responsibility for returning marked work etc. But we also make it clear what the student expectations are in terms of giving and receiving feedback (separate from the SLICC), with students needing to submit that self-graded assessment constructively aligned to the LOs. A critically-selective web folio is submitted along with an (up to 2000 word) report. Initially there was concern that SLICCs were 20 credits and students wouldn’t do the work… But they have done mountains of work and really produced fantastic engaged pieces. Students gave us feedback on the courses, but the technology is barely mentioned – the staff struggled more – as the students learned most from the self-management and self-direction. Students from pilot 1 immediately signed up for pilot 2… And now it is mainstream. As one student says “it made me take control of my own learning”. I can’t show you all the portfolios now but if you look at our website, you’ll find out much more: Contact Simon Riley and Gavin McGabe for more information.


Q1) Coming back to the first speaker I was quite concerned about the phrase “early talent” as it implies all graduates are young.

A1 – DE) That’s fair. It is a collective term but employers tend to separate into apprenticeships and graduate programmes. But graduate programmes aren’t dependent on age.

Q2) On PebblePads and ePortfolios – do students use those with employers…. Are they effective tools for jobs

A2 – DE) From employers perspective we don’t see them in high volume. We follow it quite closely. We see more of universities encouraging students to use LinkedIn profiles instead.

A2 – IP) For many this approach is new to the students and staff. But in medicine the idea of portfolios is well embedded, and those courses have just adopted PebblePad for that purpose. But it’s discipline specific… And students thought about it before being asked and staff see enthusiastic.

Q3) About the neurological approach to learning… Isn’t there a real risk of thinking of learning being only for employment… What about motivation, what about changes in the market?

A3 – KM) We predominantly try to develop “whole brain” learners. We have electricians and plasterers taking that whole brain learning questionnaire – it’s interesting for them to look at that, to look back at their school experience and how their preference shapes that. The response from students has been quite positive.

Q4) We talked about this on Twitter already but I really hope that you use “left brain” and “right brain” and “learning styles” lightly – these have been debunked so perhaps give students a false sense of security… We are complex organisms… And maybe its just a way to articulate different potential… [Thank you to this person, it was a concern I had too!]

A4 – KM) We do try to address a lot of different learning styles… There is a wide variety of how that phrase is used… A real range of different skills that learners can have. It is important not to pigeon hole… But it is useful to raise awareness of how we can develop as people, regardless of how we label this. There are a range of approaches to this… This is the one that we are using.

Q5) There can be this sense of higher education as being to train the best people for employers – the best meat almost. What is the role and responsibility for employers to train graduates?

A5 – DE) There are training schemes, employers are aware of the need to train students and graduates – around 35% of students who complete a year long industrial placement will be offered a role with that employer in recognition of the training investment and and importance to employers.

Closing plenary and keynote from Lauren Sager Weinstein, chief data officer at Transport for London

The host for this session is Andy McGregor, deputy chief innovation officer, Jisc. He is introducing the session with the outcome of the start up competition that has been running over the last few days. The pitches took place last night. The winners will go into the Jisc Business Accelerator programme, providing support and some funding to take their ideas forward. And we are keen and happy to involve you in this programme so do get in touch… You’ll see us present the results digitally – an envelope seemed just too risky!

The winner of the public vote is Wildfire. And the further teams entering the project are Hubbub, Lumici Slate, Ublend, VineUp. We were hugely impressed with the quality of all of the entries – those who entered, those who were shortlisted, and the small cross section you’ve seen over the last two days.

And now… Lauren Seger Weinstein

I wanted to start by talking about the “why”… TfL has a diverse offering of transport across London – trains, buses, bikes… What are we trying to achieve? We want to deliver transport and mobility services, and to deliver for the mayor. We want to keep London working and growing. And when we think about my team and the work that we do… Our goal is to do things that help influence and contribute to the goals of the wider organisation – putting our customers and users at the core of all of our decision making; to drive improvement in reliability and safety; to be cost effective; to improve what we do.

Our customers want to understand what we stand for: excellent reliability and customer experience; value for money; and progress and innovation. And they want to know that we have a level of trust, that guides what we do and underpins how we use data. And I want to talk about how we use data that is personal, how we strip identifying data out. It is incredibly important that we respect our customers privacy. We tell our customers about how we collect data, we also have more information online. We work closely with our Privacy and Data protection team, and all new data initiatives undergo a Privacy Impact Assessment and have regular engagement with the ICO and rely on their guidance. When we do share any sensitive data we make use of Non-disclosure agreement.

So, our data – we are very lucky as we are data rich. We have 19 million smartcard ticketing transactions a dat from 12 million active cards. We know where our buses are – capturing 4.5 million bus locations a day using ibus geo-located events. We have 500k rows of train diagnostic data on the Central Line alone. We have 250l train locations. We have data from the TfL website. That is brilliant, but how do we make that useful? How do we translate that data into something we can use – that’s where my role comes in.

So we take this data and we use it to create a lot of integrated travel information that is used on our website, in tailored emails, in 600 travel apps powered by open data and created by third party app developers. We also provide advise to customers on travel options… This is where we use data to see which data is most useful… We use data on areas that are busy in terms of entrances and exists – and use that in posters in stations to help customers shift behaviours… If we tell them they have the ability to make a change, whether or not they do.

We also look at customer patterns – based on taps from cards. We anonymise the users but keep a (new) unique id to understand patterns of travel… Some users follow clear commuter patterns – Monday to Friday, we can see where home and work are, etc. But others do not fit clear patterns – part time workers, occasional attenders etc. But understanding that data lets us understand demand, peaks, and planning of shops for an area too. We also use data to help us put things right when they go wrong – paying for delays on the underground or overground. If things go *really* wrong we will look at pattern analysis and automatically refund them – that shows customers that we value them and their time, and means we have fewer forms to process.

We also use data to manage maintenance schedules, so that we can fix small things quickly to avoid bigger issues that would need fixing later on. We also use data to understand where our staff are deployed. If we know where hotspots for breakdowns are, we can deploy recovery teams more strategically. We also use data in real time operations so controllers can change the road network to manage the traffic flows most effectively.

We have also done work to consider the future and growth. We have created an algorithm to answer a question we used to have to do with surveys… With the underground you tap on and off… But on the buses  you only taps off… So we looked at inferring bus journeys… So we take our bus boarding entry taps, plus other modal taps, and iBus event data to work out where they likely exited the bus. We use it to plan busy parts of the network – where more buses may be required at busy times. To also plan out interchanges – we are changing our road layout considerably to make it better for vulnerable road users. We are also thinking about interchanges, and to understand at a granular level how customers use our network.

We are always looking to solve problems and do so in an innovative way… We are industry leaders in a number of areas. We have had wifi on the tube since 2012. We are currently looking to see if wifi data will enable us to plan better. In 2016 we ran a four week pilot to explore value of wifi connection data. When wifi tried to connect with routers in stations we grabbed timestamp, location and a (scrambled) device id. We are analysing that data… But the test was about easier use case. The cases we are currently looking at are about what we can learn about customer patterns from wifi data… And we were deliberately very transparent in that trial, with posters in situ, information online, and a real push to ensure that people were informed about what we were collecting, and how to opt out. 

Finally we have an open data policy. We support developers and the developer economy. this is delivered at very little cost. and our web presence is seen as industry leading. We also do work with universities around six key areas, and we then work with academics on proof of concept with TfL support. Then that can become TfL proof of concept and eventually end up being operational.

So, we are keen to engage with students to come and work with us. So we are planning for ways to support STEM/STEAM in schools activities, to create targeted interventions – it helps us develop the next generation and enables us to deliver the mayors education strategy. We’ve done coding events, work with the Science Museum, with local schools.

To finish my big data principles focus on protecting the privacy of our customers, that is paramount. focus on the right problems you face. Interesting or not enough and don’t start with data… Instead we think of an approach along the lines of… 

  • As a [my job title]
  • I need [big data insights]
  • So that I can [make a decision my job expects me to]

Operational infrastructure generates data… so it is crucial to interpret, translate and understand that data to make it useful. 


Q1) What have you done in terms of data from disabled travellers

A1) We have users with freedom passes… but it depends on what the disability is… so data is hard to tease out. Need a combination of automatic data and talk to our users – so you can take patterns to small groups… Nad to test and discuss those.

Q2) You mentioned that you provide open data for others. Have you thought about student projects… can you provide databank of problems or projects that students could work on?

A2) We are just beginning this now. We have ongoing research projects that require in depth knowledge of work. We also have an opportunity for key questions and key samples – you can see that data today. It isn’t packagers for schools but there is an opportunity on air quality, travel patterns, whether students can find local stops, etc. there is real opportunity but still more to do

Q3) As cities become increasingly populated with self driving autonomous vehicles the data may inform those, but also uber and tesla already collect huge amounts of data…

A3) We have some data on cars but it’s high level. To understand our road customers though we are keen to work with the appropriate companies – some are more open than others – and to understand how we can work with our customers. Historical data is easier but real time analysis is really where we want to be. 

Q4) About information and data protection… you could argue that marginal impact is low for the individual… but compared to cost of security after a data breach… I was wondering how you decided on that balance, and the rights and expectations…

A4) Well we asked our customers and asked them if they were comfortable with the approach. They were asked tangible questions about how data could be used… when we focus on  what is tangible and will improve the network for Londoners, that helps. And that pseudonymous data means you have a hashed number, not full card number but it is still sensitive. Customers can opt into giving us more data – including with wifi where we advised customers to switch off wifi to be part of the study. it’s about customers to be comfortable to engage with us at the level that they want. 

Sincere apologies for the quality of my liveblogging for Laura’s talk – my computer decided to crash about two thirds of the way through and only part of the post was successfully autosaved, with remaining notes made on my phone. Look at the tweets and others write ups for further detail or check out the excellent TfL site where I know there is already a lot of good information on their open data and their recent wifi work. 

And with that Digifest is over for another year. Particular thanks to all who dropped by EDINA’s stand and chatted with Andrew and I – we were delighted to catch up with so many EDINA customers and people interested in our project work and possible opportunities to work together in the future. We are always delighted to meet and hear from our colleagues across the sector so do leave a comment here or drop us a line if you have any comments, questions or ideas you’d like to discuss.  

 March 15, 2017  Posted by at 10:10 am Digital Education, LiveBlogs Tagged with: , , ,  Add comments

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