Welcome to the Digital Transformation blog

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Digital is the convergence of a variety of technologies and social changes that have led to a new way of living our lives. Our students are the epitome of this new digital reality – they create and consume content in a very different way to previous generations.

But what exactly is a digital transformation? The Enterprisers Project define it as:

“The integration of digital technology into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.

Beyond that, it’s a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment often, and get comfortable with failure.

Digital transformation is not solely about technology. In fact technology is only one part of the puzzle. Digital transformation is about meeting the needs of the new digital consumer – be they staff or student. It involves new understanding and cultural change. For more on this see Paul Boag’s Digital Transformation: The six questions you need to answer.

At the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) we are at the beginning of this transformation process. There is a commitment to develop and a will to act, but so far efforts have not been as co-ordinated as they could be.

However this is about change. We are working on a new digital-focused strategic approach to be integrated in our IT strategy and Learning and Teaching strategy.  It will form the backbone of our digital activity and allow progress to be made in a comprehensive and integrated manner.

We want to share our transformation with you and intend to blog about the journey, bumps and all.

Introducing Husna

Husna AhmedHello, I am Husna Ahmed and am the new learning technologist working on the Catalyst project along with Chantal Schipper and Madeline Paterson. As the project is halfway through, I will be focusing on the undergraduate programmes that will be starting in the 20/21 academic year.

My background is in Operations Research and IT and I have worked in the industry in various capacities.

training session of an arrest.I joined RAU two weeks ago, having moved here from University of the West of England where I was also a learning technologist and worked in the health and applied sciences faculty. The role was varied, ranging from dealing with professional councils to training clinicians, staff and students with a focus on work-based learning and assessments. I was also involved with police apprenticeships, which got me involved with the Avon and Somerset police force, it was great fun working on some of their training exercises and it was good to see the kind of work they do a bit close up, it makes one appreciate all the effort that goes into that line of work and what they do for the community. The picture shows us filming a training session of an arrest.

Prior to that, I was a digital learning coach at Gloucestershire College for a few years. The role was to support academics in the use of technology for teaching and learning with the emphasis on CPD and coaching. So, most of the time I designed and delivered training sessions on the use of technology to all stakeholders. Pictured below was one of such sessions.

Training session

Training session

Mahara Newsletter & assessment update

Happy New Year everyone!

Our Mahara exploits have been highlighted in this month’s Mahara newsletter. The newsletter is published quarterly by the Mahara project and features innovative uses of the ePortfolio system.
mahara-newsletter

In our short article we give an update on the Mahara assessment for the first year shared module, the initial outline of work was originally written about in this blog post.

Work on this assessment is far from over. Academics are currently marking the portfolio using the allocated Moodle rubric and the results will be released next week.

If we are honest it hasn’t been a particularly smooth ride.  Some students have struggled with the submission process – we used a Mahoodle plugin to allow submission through our VLE – despite our provision of extensive guidance. There have also been issues with with the template sharing. Allocation of the template is carried out through the Mahara groups, which were manually created at the start of the semester. This means that some students who joined late or were not added to that module at the start of the semester have had had to be added manually one by one. This isn’t difficult to do but has been exasperated by students who have left creation and submission of the portfolio till very late in the day. Dynamically connecting groups on Mahara and pages on Moodle, or modules on Quercus would be a better approach but as far we are aware both approaches aren’t possible yet. There have also been the general user issues that arise when learning any new tool – this applies to students, staff and the learning technologists!! All in all it has been a learning journey and we are all a lot wiser now (with regard to Mahara) than we were at the start of the semester. We will do some serious reflection on the process once we are safely out the other side.

In the newsletter there is also a review of Sam Taylor’s Designing effective ePortfolio activities workshop (originally designed by Sam and Aurelie Soulier). The post provides a link to the very useful briefing on assessment of portfolios by David Baume. The briefing was written almost 20 years ago but still offers real food for thought on the use and assessment of portfolios.

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Happy Christmas from ITS

Only a few more days and we’ll be shutting up shop for Christmas.

Today we had our annual Christmas pizza lunch combined with a belated Christmas jumper wearing day for Save the children.

Christmas jumper day

Christmas jumper day

Festivities included our raffle and a couple of games of Smart Ass – won by the smart asses!

Pizza lunch

Pizza lunch

Here’s wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2020!

Resource Review workshop

As part of the design process for the new BSc (Hons) Rural Entrepreneurship & Enterprise, one of the new Catalyst programme courses, we were involved in a Resource Review workshop. The workshop was facilitated by Kate Lindsay, Damien Turner, Sue Lowe and Sandra Scalzavara from the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) who are supporting us with the development of the Catalyst programmes.

A team working on the marketing module

A team of academics working on the marketing module

During the workshop the academics were asked to consider resources (text, audio, video, image, hyperlink, interactive activities, artefacts etc.) that already exist and think about repurposing them for programme modules using some different techniques.

For example they were asked to consider:

  • Is the resource relevant?
  • Is the resource available?
  • Is the resource reliable?
  • Is the resource current?
  • Is the resource scaffolded?

img_2484.jpgThe programme academics broke into teams and worked on an individual module with a Learning Technologist from UCEM. They were asked to place their suggested resources on a chart and consider their relevance to the module learning outcomes.

After thinking about what resources already exist, the academics used the remaining time to fill in the gaps with resources that need to be found or developed.

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Susan Baker, the RAU Library Operations Manager, also attended the workshop and provided an overview of the databases and e-library platforms that RAU has available for 2020. These include:

  • Business Source Premier (Ebsco)
  • Emerald Business & Management Journals
  • Science Direct
  • Other e-journal packages such as Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Sage
  • Marketline Advantage
  • Statista is a highly trustworthy source of data and statistics across a very broad range of industries. It also includes reports, dossiers, forecasts, infographics etc.

These resources can be searched via “Find It @ RAU” on the Library page on Gateway.

A team of academics working on the entrepreneurship module

A team of academics working on the entrepreneurship module

The session worked really well and by the end of the two hours we had a clear overview of what resources can be used in the to be developed modules. This overview of resources will be used in the oncoming Design Workshops to further develop these modules.

Office365 – Dream deploy

Today Nic Clarke from Hable visited us in order to present on the benefits and opportunities of Office 365 to our Senior Leadership Team.

Nic Clark from Hable presents

Nic Clark from Hable presents

Hable will be working with RAU to help us adopt the best of Office 365 and develop new ways of working. Hable have assisted many Higher Education institutions in the past including the University of London, the University of Bristol and Suffolk University. They have also worked with schools, companies and government departments (Houses of Parliament, Ministry of Housing) to help them embrace the power of the cloud.

Nic’s presentation covered the change management process we will be adopting beginning with building an awareness of, and desire for, improved tools and services. Some of the benefits include:

  • Modern tools – all in one place
  • Collaborate in real time, more easily
  • Unlimited storage
  • Available anywhere, anytime, on any device
  • Modern, flexible, secure
  • Designed for accessibility
  • Seamless integration
  • Streamline what you already have – capture software, meeting apps…

He shared some case studies of recent work at other institutions and the potential of Teams among staff and students.

Over the forthcoming months we will migrating all our staff from on premise email in Exchange to Outlook online.

Panopto Conference 2019

Last week was the annual Panopto conference at 30 Euston Square, London. There was lots to enjoy including some great freebies, very tasty food and a fun drinks reception but the main video-related notable moments were as follows…

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Updates on Panopto –  Eric Burns’ (CEO of Panopto) opening keynote and Tim Sullivan’s (VP of engineering at Panopto) roadmap both offered some insights into what is on the horizon. The biggest change is a move from recording through the client app to the browser – “friction-free video recording for all, on multiple devices and with a single workflow”.

Eric Burns opens the day
Eric Burns opens the day

Other improvements will include better integration with Moodle, better analytics, easier ability to reuse content (rolling over videos for modules), more intelligent use of permissions, further work on captioning and better Zoom integration.

Tim Sullivan on content reuse and embeds

Tim Sullivan on content reuse and embeds

Case studies – Some of the best ideas from case studies include the Panopto champions at the University of Southampton – student course reps who offered support to staff and students.

A great session from Anna Madeley (Lecturer in midwifery at the University Bedfordshire) on Panopto and skills and scenario training. They use the quiz function alongside an algorythm so students can only complete the task if they have completed certain activities.

Midwife quizzes by Anna Madeley

Midwife quizzes by Anna Madeley

Research – On attendance by Olaf Spittaels and Dries Vanacker (Artvelde University of applied science). They found there is little impact on attendance but the recency effect (reusing lecture videos before exams) can contribute to improved results, especially for struggling students. Into the best approaches for accessibility in the Alistair McNaught led panel session.

The panel on accessibility: Ros Walker, Jo Lisney, Rachel Hayes and Alistair McNaught

The panel on accessibility: Ros Walker, Jo Lisney, Rachel Hayes and Alistair McNaught

Other – Gilly Salmon’s questions on “what if education 4.0 became video first” – she had us consider the potential of binge watching for lecture capture videos. There was consensus on Twitter that it might not be the best idea as video may work best when bite-sized and learning tends to work best when active rather than passive. Jo Lisney from the University of Southampton’s SU – talking about what students want – and they want video!

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Student digital insight survey

Yesterday we launched our Student digital insight survey for this year.

The student Insight survey is a national survey run by Jisc which aims to find out more about how students use digital technologies and how this affects their experience of learning.

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We last ran this survey (or the previous version of this survey) in April 2018. You can read more about the results and see a presentation we gave at the Data matters conference in January 2019.

Changes to the last survey

The majority of questions are the same as the last survey we ran and we will be very interested in comparing results. Have we made improvements? Or are there still clear indicators of work to be done?

We have however added in a few new questions. These have been shamelessly stolen from feedback in webinars and mailing lists (apologies I can’t recall which institutions they are from). The first new set of questions relate to digital skills. They ask our students about how important different skills are and how they would like to learn them.

skillsThe second set of questions are about the tools we use e.g our VLE, video system, tech in teaching and study spaces etc.

toolsPromotion

We are taking a softly, softly approach to the survey but will be promoting through the following mechanisms:

  • Email to all students
  • Ticker bar on Gateway (our VLE)
  • Digital screens
  • Through the myRAU app as a banner and a news item
  • Information on social media sites
  • Posters
  • Through the OurRAU news
  • By sharing slides with our academics so they can mention the survey in lectures

We will report back next month on how it has gone.

Keele Digital Festival 2019

Yesterday I made my first ever visit to Keele University for their annual Digital Festival. The event, organised by Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence (KIITE), usually brings together primarily local university staff for a one-day mini-conference. However this year’s theme covering the use of Microsoft Teams to support learning and teaching practices in universities had definitely piqued interest and attracted an impressively large contingent of external university staff.

Introduction by Lawrie Phipps (Jisc) & Dr Rafe Hallett (KIITE)

Rafe Hallett, director of KIITE, gave the first half of the introduction and welcomed us to Keele and our day exploring next generation learning environments. He asked us to think about what it takes to make learning social beyond contact time and how can we take the dynamic from face-to-face learning spaces and bring them online.

Jisc’s Laurie Phipps (who has begun to turn himself into Mr Teams through recent Jisc work exploring possible replacements for the traditional Virtual Learning Environment ☺️)  followed with the point that what people really want a is digital ecosystem that is seamless and supports social learning. Not too difficult then!

Opening by Prof Helen O’Sullivan: Pro Vice Chancellor for Education – Keele University

Helen talked openly about some of the discussions had at Keele over whether to have a separate digital strategy or or to integrate aspects of it in their learning and teaching strategy. To her the most important aspects are: how digital impacts on the pedagogical, how the digital platforms we use constrain our creativity and digital fluency. After some musings about the new continuum of machine-centered > human-centred learning Helen suggested that some modules should be fully online – even in campus programmes. This could be useful for those who are unable to attend for certain reasons. However such an approach would needs a very strong programme design element, Keele are lucky to have a KIITE programme design framework. Helen concluded with some thoughts on how most us have an infrastructure built around a student records system and a VLE but are probably locked in to these systems due to inertia, cost and upheaval of change. It may be that our traditional digital teaching tools constrain rather than expand our imagination and teaching / learning.

Keynote: An analysis of Microsoft Teams at scale: experiences so far
Santanu Vasant – University of East London

Santanu Vasant and his hashtag #makeEDUbetter

Santanu Vasant and his hashtag #makeEDUbetter

In his very first plenary Santanu talked about UEL’s experience of rolling out Teams at scale in their Graphic design and Psychology departments. Teams is now being used by 26 modules with some level of success. They are using an institutional template which has been pushed out to all mental health modules, the tabs at top are the same for each module.

Some interesting points for me are that Teams now links up with CELCAT – the HE and FE timetabling system, and the discussion on activity data that can come out of Team. Also Santanu talked about some of the connectors they have been using (such as mindmap) and the different integration approaches – do you integrate Teams in your VLE or your VLE or your VLE in Teams? (As a Moodle house we may want to look in to the required plugin and Teams assignments can be run through Turnitin). Santanu’s explained that use of Teams relates to their graduate attributes and UEL want to make skills and project based learning explicit for their students. There was an aside mention of the Jisc digital pursuits game – definitely one for future staff CPD!

After one of the linked activities and a significant amount of cake we moved on to some case studies.

Using Teams to Deliver Teaching and Learning: An Academic’s Perspective
Dr Stephen Bateman – Staffordshire University

Steve Bateman is a lecturer in Sports Therapy at Staffordshire and has been using Teams (and other Office 365 tools) as a way to engage his students, making the most of the live broadcasting and other connectors. Like others Steve made the point that Microsoft tools will be what students will have to use once they join the world of work. Steve’s biggest takeaway was for us to join the Microsoft educator community (MEC) as soon as possible.

This is what you look like from up here folks... thanks for listening. let’s get #engaged . @KeeleInnovation #TeamsUKEd @MicrosoftTeams @StaffsUni @SUSTclinic @StaffsDigital @MicrosoftEDU

Group photo by Stephen Bateman

I’m not sure I was entirely convinced that Steve’s reasons for sector inertia are necessarily a bad thing (our VLE works, it is too much effort, if it ain’t broke…) but take his point that students really enjoy using Teams and it feels more like a useful skill than navigating a clunky VLE.

Using OneNote Classroom to Create an Escape Room Assessment Activity
Dr Emma Thirkell – UCLan

I think most people in the room were a little blown away by the brilliant idea of using OneNote Class notebooks in a more creative way to form a series of escape rooms. The class notebooks can be used as a collaboration space and content library and even have a student only area. The ability to password protect pages gave Emma Thirkell the idea of turning the notebook into a fun formative assessment that she uses in week 12 of her modules. The students love working together collaboratively on the problems and there is the added benefit that they are learning a digital skill. Microsoft’s accessibility features mean that international students can even translate the content on the fly. Emma’s comment that it only takes 2 hours to set up a series of rooms means it’s been added to my to-do list.

escape.jpg

Using Teams to Deliver a Postgraduate Medical Education Course
Karl Gimblett, Tom Lovelock & Vikki Foley – Keele University

The Keele team took us through their lessons learnt in piloting a postgraduate medical course through Teams. Some of the tools they have been using include Adapt builder and Flip grid, a way for students to share short videos.

Preparing Modules for Teams Delivery
Dr Jessica Louise Macbeth & Jane Fitzgerald -UCLan

The UCLan team demoed more connectors and tools including Polly (polling software), Mindmeister and Forms. Their advice was to make sure that you have task based activities for your students to do, in class and outside class.

They also gave a shout out to the Teams-based DigiLearn community established by Chris Melia and others at UClan. The community now has over 400 members from 150 institutions. Read more about it on their TELT blog.

An Institutional Migration to Microsoft Teams
Nicky Bowen & John Billington – Hugh Baird College

In a more radical step the Hugh Baird College have ditched their unused Totara VLE and moved to Teams for their students. The Go live involved them automatically provisioning 1500 course teams and writing some Powershell code to get the correct students in to Teams (apparently only 3-4 lines of code!) All users are able to create their own Teams Despite the massive change they have had relatively few support calls, in mainly due to the huge amount of staff and student training they ran, a good communication plan and a lot of testing!

A sector perspective on the shift to digital ecosystems
Dr Phil Richards – Jisc

Phil rounded the talks off with a meander through the concepts of bio-diverse ecosystems (good) and how we need to shift our digital mono-cultures (bad)  to digital ecosystems (good). His point that we musn’t let our data get locked in to any system (including Microsoft) in the same way we have allowed it to get locked in to Turnitin.

Panel: Phil Richards, Santanu Vasant, Helen O’Sullivan and Karl Gimblett,

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The closing panel mulled over some of the big questions of the day:

  • How prepared are we to let go of control of the VLE (with its templates and standards) and move towards more open learning?
  • Is Teams the best way to fully engage our students?
  • In time will Microsoft become another monolithic ecosystem or will it allow us to be more discerning about the systems we do pick? Begin the whole open source software discussion…

Thanks to the Keele team for organising the day, it was a great introduction to current practice in this area.

My journey home gave me some time to think about the implications for us at the RAU. We have spent the last two years getting our VLE in to shape and I think we would be reluctant to make any big changes at this point. Most institutions are currently using Teams as a complement to their VLE or are piloting it for particular groups, and there was recognition that some of the Teams functionality isn’t there yet for learning and teaching (e.g. assessment, file management – where do all the files end up?). The institutions that have committed fully to Teams instead of a VLE have seen it as a contender as part of a procurement process and have spent considerable effort implementing it. The most interesting aspects for me are:

  • The employability angle – these are tools for work and learning how to use them will always be valuable.
  • The ‘we pay for it so we should use it’ argument – which does make sense. But should we throw out other tools now that we have it? Or do they have a different value? It made me think of Jesse Sommel’s plenary at ALT (Some tools have bad pedagogy baked in”). We just need to tread carefully here.
  • Staff capacity is probably more important than student capacity at this point – we should start some small projects like using the VLE for Visiting Lecturers and academics to communicate and discuss.
  • The tension between dumbing down and being driven by the innovators when it comes to staff ability. At this moment while I am reluctant to hold back those who want to be experimental I really want to make sure that all our staff have good digital skills and a structured approach is probably the most beneficial here.
  • There are lots of great Office 365 tools out there and we need to get on with our roll out!

Resources

(From DigiLearn and the event)

New Learning Technologist needed!

Would you like to join our merry team? Fancy working in a small specialist institution where you can make a huge amount of difference and get involved in lots of interesting areas of work? Are you a creative, team player who is interested in course design, multimedia and all things learning tech?

RAU in daffodils

RAU in the spring

The Royal Agricultural University have a vacancy for a new Learning Technologist to work on development of the Catalyst programme of blended learning courses.

If you are interested take a look at the key responsibilities and person specification in the briefing pack.

Closing date for applications is 12th November 2019 with interviews on 20th November 2019.

Farewell Aurelie!

We are hugely sad to say that our lovely Learning Technologist Aurelie Soulier will be leaving us at the end of today. Aurelie is taking up a position at Catalyst IT supporting Moodle implementation across the HE sector.

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During her far too brief time at RAU Aurelie has been instrumental in helping us progress many areas of work including:

Not only that she has been a truly great colleague to work with. We are all going to miss her!

Pictures of Aurelie in action

Pictures of Aurelie in action

We wish Aurelie all the best with her new role and hope she keeps in touch. (We know she will – she can’t keep off social media!)

Aurelie's leaving drinks

Aurelie’s leaving drinks