UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for June, 2014

The City and The City: Reflections on the Cetis 2014 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 June 2014

The City and The City

City_and_the_CIty

The City and the City is a novel by China Miéville. As described in Wikipedia the novel “takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens (and the threat of the secret power known as Breach), they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully ‘unsee’ (that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background) the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city – even if they are an inch away.

I read the novel earlier this year. When I saw it in a bookshop over the weekend I thought of the parallels with the Cetis 2014 conference: two plenary talks which occupied the same space but which described the ‘unseeing’ of a shared history.

Cetis 2014: Building the Digital Institution

“lack of knowledge about the history of education and the history of education technology matter”

Phil Richards' keynote talk at Cetis 2014The Cetis 2014 conference, which had the theme Building the Digital Institution: Technological Innovation in Universities and Colleges, took place at the University of Bolton on 17-18 June. As described by Mark Johnson in his blog post about the event the conference “attracted 100 delegates from the UK HE and FE sectors eager to talk about the impact of interoperability, cloud computing, e-books, systems integration and learning analytics“. Mark went on to add that “the conversation has been more eager, imaginative and focused than in previous years. This was helped by the two keynotes“.

Mark was right to draw attention to the two keynotes which opened and closed the conference. After the conference had been opened by Paul Hollins scene-setting presentation, Phil Richards, Chief Innovation Officer at JISC gave the opening plenary talk in which he described “Innovating for the Digital Institution“. The following day Audrey Watters closed the conference with her talk on Un-Fathom-able: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech.

These talks generated much discussion on the Twitter backchannel, during the conference and afterwards. I welcomed both talks for helping to stimulate such discussions but for me, although the two speakers occupied the same physical (the lecture theatre at the University of Bolton) and virtual (the ed-tech development environment) spaces, they seemed to reflect two very different spaces.

Audrey Watters talk on The Hidden History of Ed-Tech provided examples of how the history of technological developments is written by the victors which depicts a misleading picture of the past. As Audrey described in a blog post about her talk:

[this] lack of knowledge about the history of education and the history of education technology matters. 

It matters because it supports a prevailing narrative about innovation — where innovation comes from (according to this narrative, it comes from private industry, that is, not from public institutions; from Silicon Valley, that is, not from elsewhere in the world) and when it comes (there’s this fiercely myopic fixation on the future).

I agree that such things matter. Indeed a year ago I had responsibilities for the preservation of UKOLN’s digital resources which aimed at ensuring that a record of our work in helping the development of the digital environment across the UK’s higher and further education sector was not lost. And since Audrey suggested hat there was a need for multiple recollections of the history of ed-tech developments to be published in order that historians in the future will be better placed to document the history I will provide my thoughts, with links to supporting evidence, on Phil Richards’ plenary talk.

Innovating for the Digital Institution

Phil Richards Cetis talk: outlinePhil Richards’ talk on “Innovating for the Digital Institution” was very useful in summarising Jisc’s plans for innovation in their new environment. Phil explained how the changes were based on the recommendations of the Wilson review. The Wilson Review (PDF format) described how “There is a common view that it has played a pivotal role in the UK as an enabler of innovation and early and widespread adoption of ICT …. There is no comparable body within the UK, and internationally its reputation is outstanding as a strategic leader and partner” and went on to add that “JISC is unique in the UK, providing what many stakeholders have described as a “holistic approach” to the sectors’ needs, from research and innovation, to core services, resources, advice and training“. However the review went on to comment that there had been “some criticism of the breadth and complexity of JISC’s activity, and of its structure, processes and governance arrangements“.

Phil’s slides are available on Slideshare and, as shown in the accompanying images, provided the reasons why Jisc needs to innovate, reflected on the Wilson review and outlined approaches to innovation in the future.

As can be seen from the video recording of the plenary talk it seems that Jisc needs to innovate in order that Jisc will be able to survive as an organisation, since the move to commodity IT means that Jisc will face competitors in the educational technology environment.

Jisc Moves Away from Open Standards

Phil Richards Cetis talk: standardsIn the moves towards reducing the range of activities which Jisc works on Phil highlighted a move away from working with standards, and highlighted the NHS as an example of a sector in which large sums of money had been invested in the development of interoperable systems based on open standards which had failed to deliver.

In the future Jisc will seek to focus on “innovative, successful learning technology without standards” and cited Sugata Mitra’s ‘hole in the wall ‘ work as an example of successful self-organised learning which we should seek to emulate.

This criticism of an standards-based development work was very radical in a Jisc environment in which for Jisc development programmes such as eLib and the DNER/IE, a strong emphasis had always been placed on the importance of open standards.

I should mention that back in 1996 I was a contributor to the eLib standards guidelines and in February 2001 contributed to the Working with the Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER): Standards and Guidelines to Build a National Resource document (PDF format). In September 1997 in a talk on  talk on Standards in a Digital World: Z39.50, HTML, Java: Do They Really Work? I gave an uncritical summary of the importance of open standards in development programmes. However in June 2005 in a talk on JISC Standards: A Presentation To The JISC I highlighted the potential limitations of open standards.

But using a few slides which are presented to a small audience is, I feel, not an appropriate way to seek to change policies. At the time Jisc made use of posters which contained the slogan: “Interoperability through Open Standards“. Marketing people have a tendency to attempt to reduce complexities to such simple statements. There was a need t help develop a better understanding of the limitations of such views.

Along with colleagues working at UKOLN, CETIS, TechDis, AHDS and OSS Watch we published a number of peer-reviewed papers including “Ideology Or Pragmatism? Open Standards And Cultural Heritage Web Sites” (2003), ” A Standards Framework For Digital Library Programmes” (2005), “A Contextual Framework For Standards” (2006),  “Addressing The Limitations Of Open Standards” (2007) and “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access” (2007). The first paper explained how:

The importance of open standards for providing access to digital resources is widely acknowledged. Bodies such as the W3C are developing the open standards needed to provide universal access to digital cultural heritage resources. However, despite the widespread acceptance of the importance of open standards, in practice many organisations fail to implement open standards in their provision of access to digital resources. It clearly becomes difficult to mandate use of open standards if it is well-known that compliance is seldom enforced. Rather than abandoning open standards or imposing a stricter regime for ensuring compliance, this paper argues that there is a need to adopt a culture which is supportive of use of open standards but provides flexibility to cater for the difficulties in achieving this.

This paper was based on the work of the Jisc-funded QA Focus project which ran from 2002-2004. As described in the final report the project was funded by the Jisc to advice Jisc on the conformance regime which should accompany standards documents for Jisc development programmes. The project recommended that rather than mandating conformance with open standards “JISC should mandate that funded projects address QA issues at the start of the project in order to consider potential problems and the most effective method of avoiding them. JISC should also remind projects of the need to implement QA within their workflow, allowing time at each stage to reconsider previous decisions and revise them if necessary

More recently in September 2010 Cetis organised a meeting on the Future of Interoperability Standards. An Ariadne report on the meeting provided the context for the meeting:

In his opening address, JISC CETIS Director Adam Cooper emphasised that the impetus behind this meeting was a sense of growing dissatisfaction amongst many involved in standards development and implementation within education. Where the original intentions of more-or-less formal bodies such as the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Learning Technology Standards Committee (IEEE LTSC), the IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS GLC) and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) were laudable, there has been an increasing feeling that the resource put into supporting these standards has not always borne the hoped-for fruit.

A report on the meeting highlighted the issues which had been raised in the position papers presented at the meeting, which included barriers to participation, development and adoption and the importance of supporting an open culture and community engagement in technology development and standardisation:

There is broad agreement that community engagement and openness are key factors in the development of LET standards (Hoel, 2010). Niche software developers, many coming with an open source attitude, have been especially strong advocates for open standards, arguing that their use will enable innovation to flourish. An increasing level of interest and engagement of people from open source communities will naturally drive the standards process to become more “open”. 

The importance of engaging with developers to help validate open standards and provide encouragement in the development on applications and services based on open standards has, in the past, being addressed by Cetis in Cetis ‘code bashes’ (see Engaging Developers in Standards Development; the Cetis Code Bash Approach) and the DevCSI work which was led by UKOLN.

Phil Richards Cetis talk: Standards conclusionsTo conclude, it would appear that Jisc have recognised the arguments which Cetis and UKOLN, along with several other organisations, have been making since 2003: we can’t have an uncritical belief in open standards.

Jisc may well still have to conform with the UK Government’s Open Standards Principles (which is available in PDFMS Word and ODT formats) which states that:

The publication of the Open Standards Principles is a fundamental step towards achieving a level playing field for open source and proprietary software and breaking our IT into smaller, more manageable components

But the emphasis on the value of lightweight standards reflects the advice which the former Innovation Support Centres have provided to Jisc in the past.

What seems to be missing from the new Jisc vision, however, is the community involvement in the open development of further open standards. Perhaps there is an assumption that no new standards are expected to be developed? This would be a mistake, I feel. My Cetis colleagues Phil Barker and Lorna Campbell ran a workshop session at the Cetis 2014 conference in which they asked LRMI: What on Earth Could Justify Another Attempt at Educational Metadata? As Phil described in a report on the workshop session “We really love metadata, but [had] reached a point where making ever-more elegantly complex iterations on the same idea kind of lost its appeal. So what is it that makes LRMI so different so appealing?” Phil went on to conclude that “the general feeling I had from the session was that most of the people involved thought that LRMI was a sane approach: useful, realistic and manageable“.

It would be unfortunate if Jisc and the wider community were to miss out on the benefits which emerging new standards such as LRMI can provide for the education sector. Fortunately Cetis will be continuing to work in this area.

The Jisc Forest

Phil Richards Cetis talk: Co-design work for 2013-14In addition to describing the Jisc moves away from open standards Phil went on to explain Jisc’s core areas of work. As recommended in the Wilson Review Jisc are now focussing on a small number of areas in which they hope to make significant impact.

The areas of work are agreed with the Jisc co-design partners: RLUK, RUGIT, SCONUL and UCISA. In 2013/14 these areas were Access and identity management; National monograph strategy; Summer of student innovation; Digital student; Open mirror; Spotlight on the digital and Extending Knowledge Base +.

Following on from this work five additional new areas of work have been prioritised with four areas being mentioned in Phil’s presentation: (1) research at risk; (2) effective learner analysis; (3) from prospect to alumnus and (4) building capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency.

Phil used a forest metaphor to describe this new approach: in the eLib days in the mid to late 1990s it was explained how Jisc were encouraging a thousand flowers to bloom in order to help build capacity across the sector and help ensure that there was abroad understanding of the value of the networked environment across the sector. However in light of funding constraints there will be less experimentation and less risk-taking; rather key areas of particular relevant to the co-design partners will be identified which will form the focus of development work in the future.

Tweet about Phil Richards' talkAs can be seen from the Storify archive of tweets posted during the talk this metaphor caused a certain amount of confusion. During the questions I asked a question based on this metaphor. To paraphrase what I said then “If Jisc are now building a forest containing five types of tree, who will develop the flowers, the shrubs and the hedges? And what would happen if, in three years time when institutions can chose whether of not to buy in to Jisc’s offering, they feel that the flowers, the shrubs and the hedges provide better value for money?

Towards Orciny – the Rumoured Third City

Audrey Waters keynote talk at Cetis 2014In The City and The City it is rumoured that a third city, Orciny, exists in the interstices between one city and another, unseen by occupants of both which has a hidden history. Is there a edu-tech city to be found beyond the forested Jiscdom?

I personally do not feel that the Jisc vision as described by Phil Richards will provide a environment in which those involved in ed-tech will feel at home. For me the future needs to be based on listening and engagement. As Mark Johnson put itwe should hope that the critical debate about those technologies, their implementation and development serves to give us permission to ask the questions about education that urgently need to be asked“. Those who wish to be involved in the discussion and in facilitating the discussion must not hide behind statements such as “people above my pay grade make the key decisions“.

This vision of the future is not based on a proclamation that “We are the UK’s expert on digital technologies for education and research” but on facilitation and support: the experts, I feel, are embedded across the sector and don’t work for a single organisation.

But I think it is also inevitable that the edu-tech future will be more fragmented. In the past the broad Jisc family could provide a leadership role across a wide range of areas. But the refocussing of work will mean the missing void is likely to be filled by a range of service providers, advisory bodies and consultants. I feel that Cetis will have an important role to play in that space. I hope that this will involve continuing to work with institutions, other bodies across the sector and with Jisc itself – but without buying in to the Jisc vision of the future!

As I said earlier I enjoyed the two keynote talks at the Cetis 2014 conference which did succeed in stimulating discussion and debate. If you didn’t attend the conference video recordings of the plenary talks and the accompanying slides are embedded below and are also available form YouTube and Slideshare. I’d welcome your thoughts on these contrasting talks.

Phil Richard’s plenary talk on Innovating for the Digital Institution

Video recording (on YouTube):

Slides for Phil Richards’ plenary talk (on Slideshare)

Audrey Watters’ plenary talk on Un-Fathom-able: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech

Video recording (on YouTube)

Slides for Audrey Watters’ plenary talk (on Slideshare)


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

 

 

 

Posted in Events | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Update on Plans for #IWMW14

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 June 2014

IWMW 2014: Update on the Programme

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The public announcement that the IWMW 2014 event would be held, under changed management, was made on this blog on 20 January 2014. The following month the IWMW 2014 Web site was launched and the call for proposals was made. On 14 April 2014 the IWMW 2014 programme was announced. This was followed by a series of guest blog posts on Planning work: How can technology help the Workload Allocation process?Wake Up and Face the Digital RealityBuilding Cost-effective, Flexible and Scalable Education Resources using Google Cloud PlatformI Do UX – Do You? and Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again in which speakers at this year’s event have introduced their talks.

Since the event takes place in less than three weeks’ time, on 16-18 July, it is timely to provide a further update on plans for the event.

Beyond the Plenary Talks

Although the plenary talks will provide a shared context for all participants at the event, an important aspect of the event are the workshop sessions, in which all participants should have the opportunity to participate actively, share institutional and personal experiences and concerns and engage in discussions and, perhaps even disagreements and arguments.

In this respect the IWMW event has many parallels with the Cetis conference.  As described in Mark Johnson’s report on the recent Cetis 2014 conference:

The #cetis14 conference at the University of Bolton has been a great success. Although run on a self-funding basis for the first time (and consequently using the facilities of its home institution for the first time), it still attracted 100 delegates from the UK HE and FE sectors eager to talk about the impact of interoperability, cloud computing, e-books, systems integration and learning analytics. If anything, the conversation has been more eager, imaginative and focused than in previous year. [my emphasis]

Mark’s blog post was entitled #cetis14: Granting permission to ask questions about education. It may seem strange to talk about “granting permission to ask questions about education” in our context but as Mark explained we do seem to be moving to an environment in which important policy decisions about the future of education and the role of technology in supporting teaching and learning and research activities across the sector are being made in a top-down fashion with broader discussions being marginalised:

 I thought, the value of JISC projects was that they gave participants permission to think about education, in circumstances where this would otherwise have been impossible. It was this business of ‘asking questions about education’ which seemed curiously absent from the vision of the ‘new JISC': it seemed that the new JISC vision is to think about keeping JISC going, not thinking about education. When explicitly asked about who in JISC was asking the ‘big questions’, the response given was “people above my pay grade”.

In contrast to the changes in the Jisc environment, the IWMW 2014 event will adopt similar approaches to those taken at the Cetis 2014 conference: we will encourage participants to ask “big questions” and engage in conversations about the role of the Web in supporting institutional activities.

Facilitating the Discussions, the Sharing and the Community-Building

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Is content king? Should events ensure that their main focus should be on hosting proven quality speakers and ensuring the the event organisation runs smoothly?

These are, of course, important. But at IWMW events we have felt that “communications, rather than content, is king“.We will be providing a number of workshop sessions which are designed to facilitate communications. But in addition to the formal sessions at the event we will also be providing a number of social events which provide opportunities for informal networking opportunities and discussions.

On the evening of the first day, Wednesday 16 July, the workshop dinner will be held in the Great Hall of the Sutherland Building at Northumbria University. The following day a drinks reception will be held at the Great North Museum (Hancock). As can be seen from the accompanying image (taken from the Wikipedia entry for the Great North Museum: Hancock)  we should be able to see the T Rex in the Dinosaur hall. Or perhaps participants will wish to visit the Elephant display.

While we are having nibbles and drinking wine at the reception we might wish to consider some of the big questions. These might include: “Are we a dinosaur in today’s dynamic web environment?” or “Are we a white elephant?” These are questions which might be worth reflecting on from time to time. But perhaps more pertinently are questions such as “What role does the web professional have in today’s web environment?” “How relevant are Cloud services for delivering mission-critical services?” (a question, incidentally, which was addressed at the Cetis 2014 conference)? and “How do we engage our user communities in the development of new services?

We will not grant participants permission to ask such questions: rather we expect participants to raise these and other challenging question!

In brief, we will aim to provide high quality content with high quality organisation. But we will also provide a high quality experience for participants which will be based on the opportunities to interact with one’s and engage in discussions and debate.

I hope to see you at Northumbria University in a few week’s time. But if you are intended to attend the event please book quickly as the official closing date is just a week away- Friday 4 July!

Posted in Events | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Guest Post: Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 17 June 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The IWMW 2014 event is rapidly approaching- this year the annual event for university Web managers will take place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July. So if you haven’t book your place yet, do so quickly!

In the latest guest post from speakers at the event Martin Morrey, Web Integration Manager at the University of Edinburgh provides the background to his plenary talk on Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again.

Martin’s talk will open the third and final day of the IWMW 2014 event.


Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again

IWMW 2014 programme, with Martin Morrey's talk highlighted

IWMW 2014 programme, with Martin Morrey’s talk highlighted

Apologies to all for the late arrival of this blog post, but I’ve just spent three of the most intense weeks of my working life helping to upgrade the University of Edinburgh’s web portal, MyEd.

Reflecting on this experience has taken me back a masterclass delivered by the intranet usability guru Gerry McGovern, which I attended in 2008. At one point during the day, Gerry started talking about portals …

“For years, I’ve been going around asking people what a portal is, and I still don’t really know. The best definition I’ve come up with is: ‘A portal is like a website….except it takes five times longer to develop.‘”

Not for the first time that day, this was a cue for much hilarity.  For a long time afterwards, I was the smug website guy, pitying the lot of the poor, self-deluding, portal people in the office across the corridor.

Gradually though, I became more and more intrigued by the challenge of making a better portal.  Eventually I made the fatal mistake of commenting on the University’s portal here and there, and lo-and-behold in late 2011 I was put in charge of it.

Web portals were a concept that was born, and to a large extent abandoned again, in the mid-noughties.   However, in the education sector it seems to have hung around, presumably because it does actually deliver some value.

So what is a portal?  Is it just a list of useful links, or a personalised information hub, or a completely customisable experience?  In our case it is a bit of all of these things. What it should be though, is an experience centred on the needs and priorities of the end-user, which actually makes their life easier, as well as supporting the process needs of the institution.

The University of Edinburgh’s portal system was established in the noughties with great investment and fanfare, but later-on other IT priorities took over. So, ironically, a system that was meant to be dynamic, flexible and focussed,  ended up feeling static, out-of-date, and cluttered.

Improving our portal from there has been a slow process. Portal systems have integrations-with and dependencies-on a whole range of other information systems. When we upgrade our portal, updating and testing all these integrations is a real headache.   We are working on a better way of doing this, but in the meantime, we just have to live with it.

Just like a website, a portal needs really active monitoring and management, if it is to continue to meet everyone’s needs effectively.  Unlike a website however, tools like Google Analytics don’t give you the information you need to do this off-the-shelf. The first I thing I did with MyEd, was to find a way to get meaningful analytics on the usage of its content.

Our analytics revealed that mobile users seemed to prefer the clunky, desktop-optimised interface of our web portal, over the trendy native-app that had been rolled-out just the year before. We didn’t have the resources to get the best out of both, so since then we have focussed our mobile effort on developing a mobile-friendly skin for the portal.

My team has used its portal analytics, the results of user surveys, and student input, to inform the design of new layouts and interfaces for our portal.  I’ll be presenting the full story of this process, and some of the initial outcomes, at IWMW 2014 in my plenary Rebooting MyEd – Making the Portal Relevant Again.


About the author

Martin MorreyMartin Morrey is the manager of the Web Integration Team at the University of Edinburgh, with responsibility for portal, wiki, web hosting and web development services.  He has been working with the web for 18 years, and the mobile web for 14 years (remember WAP?).

He presented at EDUCAUSE last year on “Adding Analytics to the University Portal”.

Formerly an e-learning specialist and software entrepreneur, he won a SMART award in 2000 to develop a mobile-learning system and was co-founder of Intrallect Ltd.

 

Posted in Events, Guest-post | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Guest Post: I Do UX – Do You?

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 16 June 2014

IWMW 2014, the 18th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop takes place in Newcastle on 16-18 July. The workshop fee is only £350, which includes 2 nights accommodation.The IWMW 2014 event starts a month today – this year the annual event for university Web managers will take place at Northumbria University on 16-18 July.

In the latest guest post from speakers at the event Neil Allison tells us that he ‘does’ user experience (UX) but wonders if he is alone.

Neil is giving a plenary talk on “Marketing is dead, long live UX” from 11.00-11.45 on Thursday 17 July 2014. He will also facilitate with Bruce Darby a workshop session on “Making Personas Work” from 16.00-17.30 on Thursday 17 July 2014.


I Do UX – Do You?

IWMW 2014 programme, with Neil Allison's talk highlighted

Neil Allison will give a talk on user experience on the second day at IWMW 2014.

I love the IWMW conferences. Always come away with new ideas and food for thought. Always meet good people. But I’ve been thinking about what I don’t get from the IWMW. And it’s this thought that’s prompted me to speak at this year’s conference.

I’ve been working in public sector (and mainly UK HE) for 15 years and attending IWMW since 2006. In that time there has been a lot of change in terms of online content and service management in the sector.

And over this period there has been a huge growth generally in awareness of online usability and latterly the competitive advantage leveraged from improved user experience. But while user experience teams are cropping up in all sorts of commercial organisations, we’re not seeing it in higher education.

This brings me back to what I don’t get out of IWMW. I don’t get a sense of a UX community within the sector. I don’t tend to meet people who do the same kind of things as me. I do meet lots of people interested in usability and user experience but not much in the way of active practitioners.

At first I thought: “Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m not moving in the right circles or I’ve missed the year when UX was the hot topic.” But taking a look about online reassured me I’m not paranoid :)

Very little turns up on previous conference schedules around UX or usability. The last item was me in Edinburgh in 2012 doing a workshop on our experiences in user centred design. And the JISC usability mailing list is awfully quiet.

A couple of years ago, Dan Jackson at UCL asked the usability mailing list:

I’m wondering out loud how many HEI’s in the UK have positions directly responsible for improving the user experience, interaction design and information architecture of their institutional web sites and web applications? A quick scan of the last 12 months’ activity on this list, and a perusal of the web/digital jobs currently being advertised at jobs.ac.uk, shows the usual mix of adverts for web developers and web content editors, but nothing related to UX or IA. This is in stark contrast to private sector companies, who are recruiting UX consultants like there’s no tomorrow…

Chatting with Dan this week, it seems like he wasn’t overwhelmed with responses to his question. Which is a shame because it’s a very important question.

It’s basically the question I’m asking and attempting to answer in my plenary talk.

My talk at IWMW 2014: “Marketing is dead, long live UX!

I have my opinions, and those of a few people like Dan who think aloud from time to time.

UX survey for UK Higher Education web managers

But what about you? What do you think?

I’ve set up a short survey to gather some experiences from around our sector and feed them into my talk (and probably a blog post too).

Please spare me a couple of minutes to contribute your views and perhaps outline what is happening at your institution.

Take part in my survey – the state of UX in UK higher education.

I’m getting excited already about the conference as it’s not so far off now. Hopefully I’ll be able to prompt a bit of reflection, stir up a bit of controversy and continue the conversation with a few of you…


Neil Allison

About the author

Neil Allison is Head of User Experience for the University Website Programme at the University of Edinburgh.

He believes everyone has responsibility for user experience, and with a background in education and training, works to give colleagues the skills and confidence to conduct their own research and inform their work. He is an active member of the Scottish chapter of the UX Professionals Association.

Neil is currently playing the role of product owner in the agile development of a new University CMS and leading the evolution of the website’s information architecture.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Guest-post | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Planning for the Future: A Keynote Talk at the SAOIM 2014 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 June 2014

SAOIM 2014

Futures sidebarI’m pleased to have been invited to give a plenary talk at the SAOIM (Southern African Online Information Meeting) 2014 conference. The conference takes place in Pretoria on 4-5th June, with workshops being held on 3rd and 6th June.

I will be giving the opening talk on the second day of the conference. The title of my talk is “Understanding the Past; Being Honest about the Present; Planning for the Future“. In addition to this talk I will also be facilitating a half-day workshop on “Let’s Predict the Future!” on 3rd June.

Understanding the Past; Being Honest about the Present; Planning for the Future

The talk and the accompanying workshop are based on my involvement with the JISC Observatory and the accompanying papers on “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” and “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow“. The former of these papers was presented to Norwegian librarians at the EMTACL 2012 conference and the latter to (primarily) British librarians at the Umbrella 2013 conference. I am pleased to have this opportunity to disseminate this work with librarians from southern Africa.

Towards the end of the talk I mention one development which was highlighted in the NMC Horizon Report, Higher Education 2014 edition as having a deployment horizon of one year or less: the Flipped Classroom. As described in Wikipedia:

Flip teaching or a flipped classroom is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, flipped classroom, reverse teaching, and the Thayer Method.

We might describe flipped professional development as a form of blended learning by which professionals learn new skills by viewing resources in advance and being able to reflect on the ideas and discuss them with their peers  so that the session itself can address issues in more depth. I am therefore happy to announce that the slides I will use are available on Slideshare and are embedded at the bottom of this blog post. Comments on the slides are welcome!


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]


Posted in Events | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »