UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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Reflections on #IWMW15

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Aug 2015

About IWMW 2015

IWMW logoIWMW 2015, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July 2015. Following the recent series of guest posts from participants at the event this is the first of two posts which provide the event organiser’s perspectives.

For those who are unfamiliar with the event, the IWMW series was launched in 1997 to support members of institutional web management teams, to ensure that they are kept up-to-date with technological developments,  could learn from the approaches to management of large-scale web services from others across the higher education community and develop and strengthen professional and social networks with others in the community.

As described in a post on Reflections on #IWMW14 the event is undergoing a transformation: after 17 years of JISC support for an event which was delivered by UKOLN last year the event was run jointly by myself and JISC Netskills. However due to the closure of JISC Netskills it was not possible to continue the collaboration for a second year so this year I had responsibility for organising the event, supported by an advisory group which provided valuable advice on the theme for the event and suggested specific topics and speakers.

The theme of this year’s event was “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution“: an idea which emerged during the Advisory Group discussions, based on discussions about ‘digital’ at last year’s event but also an awareness that the digital agenda needs to provide the basis of transformations within the organisation. Several of the talks at the event directly addressed the event theme and these will be highlighted in the following summary of the event. Note that a report based on an evaluation of the event will also be posted shortly.

The Plenary Sessions

Putting The Web Manager First

Following the refocussing of the event to be more directly relevant to the needs of those with responsibilities for providing large-scale institutional web services the event began by “putting the web manager first“.

In the opening talk  Mandy Phillips, Head of Corporate Business Change Initiatives at Liverpool John Moores University, described the nature of digital transformation at her host institution in a talk entitled “Out With the Old, In With the New: Digital Services at Liverpool John Moores University“. In this 30 minute talk Mandy, who leads the Digital Services and Business Systems teams at Liverpool John Moores University, provided a very relevant start to the event, which was appreciated by the audience with the following comments being made:

  • Really engaging and informative. A great starter for the event.
  • Really useful to find out how LJM went from zero to hero!
  • The case study approach is useful for others to see how transformation can be achieved.
  • Great talk – really interesting and full of things to take back to my own work
  • Good to see front end and back end teams coming together – as it should be. Good to see success can be realised despite some of the constraints (eg: use of certain agencies).

In contrast to Mandy’s talk on institutional change Rich Prowse, Digital Editor-In-Chief at the University of Bath, described the practicalities of managing content. In the talk on “An Agile Approach to Content” Rich explained why the University of Bath had adopted an agile approach to the creation and delivery of useful and usable content online, summarised  the work of the Digital team and shared lessons learnt on the importance of user needs, how to keep publishers happy and why building a community is important to successfully deliver decentralised publishing.  Again this talk helped to get the event off to a great start, with Rich received the following comments on his talk:

  • Fantastic talk from the Bath team. I really enjoyed it, they were brilliant and I can’t wait to chat to them again about Agile Content.
  • Nice to see sessions on actual techniques.
  • Again, great to see what you can do with better resources, ability to schedule everyday work into one day a week and focus on more creative thinking. Can definitely take the user stories recommendation forward.

I should add that Many and Rich both agreed to facilitate master class sessions which developed on the ideas described in their talks.

Supporting Our Users, Revolutionising the Experience!

The original title for the two talks which opened the second morning was “Supporting Our Users“. However the speakers felt that title was somewhat staid for their talks and suggested an alternative: “Supporting Our Users, Revolutionising the Experience!“.

Mike McConnell‘s talk on “The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities” was successful in generating much discussion and debate on the implications of engaging with commercial consultants in helping to identify ways in which the institution needs to transform existing and well-establishing business processes. The talk receives the highest rating of all the plenary talks, with 84% judging the talk to be ‘excellent’ and 16% to be ‘very good’. The comments on the talk included:

  • Mind blowing talk from Mike, a really frank and honest talk about how to challenge institutional thinking and change it for the better. Very inspiring to see how much they managed to do in so little time.
  • Great talk, really well delivered. Again, interesting insights into how it’s possible (with time, effort, and money!) to shift institutional attitudes and practices.
  • Well structured and delivered. Presentation of the big picture of digital transformation supported by examples and experiences from Aberdeen was really useful.
In the second talk of the session Paul Boag asked User Experience Design. How Far Will You Go?. Paul is an experienced speaker at web conferences around the world and has also spoken at a number of recent IWMW events. Paul’s talk was appreciated by many, especially those who were hearing him speak for the first time:
  • Brilliant to get to hear him speak and know we’re in agreement!
  • Well presented talk. Content was both relevant and interesting for me.
  • As ever with Paul it was an enjoyable talk. Came away with some good ideas such as UX calendars, top tasks, the need to operate like an agency etc.

although a number of people who have heard Paul speak before probably agreed with the comment that “Paul delivery is always lively however the content was predictable“.

Managing the Content; Developing the Services

The second morning session featured two talks on “Managing the Content; Developing the Services“.  Mark Fendley, University of Kent was the main speaker for a talk on “From Hack Day to Open Day: Building a Tour“, a talk which, perhaps surprisingly, was one of only two which had a significant technical aspect. As described in the abstract for the talk:

At a Hack Day event last summer, a team of people at the University of Kent postulated the concept of an self-guided audio tour for mobile devices for our open day visitors who are unable to join a guided tour. This idea was enthusiastically prototyped and subsequently championed by the organisation. A full product has been developed in the first quarter of this year, with content being produced over the summer for a planned launch in the new academic year.

Although a show of hands on the first day showed that developers were in a minority at this year’s event the feedback suggested that people could see the potential benefits which ‘hackathons’ may provide.

  • Good to have a more technical talk about how a web team works in practice.
  • Hackathons sound like great ideas to gather “free” ideas. Also, chaos monkey could be good for testing.
  • Good intro to a new approach to rapid development.
The second talk in the session, “Marrying Creativity with Management Complexity“, was given by Rob Van Tol, Precedent and Sam Sanders, KPMG. This talk complemented Mike McConnell‘s talk on “The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities“, providing the insights from the consultancies which had been commissioned by Aberdeen University. This talk had the potential to alienate those who work in institutional web management teams, but the talk was well-delivered with 41% rating it as ‘Excellent’, 41% as ‘Very good’ and 18% as ‘Good’. The following comments were given:
  • Interesting to see how the two agencies work together. I particularly liked the opportunity to see one project from both the side of the university (through Mike’s talk) and the agencies.
  • Sam Sanders was engaging and persuasive, and didn’t come across as pushing a corporate agenda. Bit of a revelation, really…
  • Really good talk once they got going. Felt they were trying to be too funny at the start and just needed to get on with it. Once they got going it was a very challenging and informative presentation.

which suggest that the benefits of making use of external agencies are becoming accepted.

Beyond the Institution

This year saw a deliberately changed emphasis in the content, with four of the plenary talks coming from the higher education sector, four from the commercial sector and one from an educational charity (Jisc). It seems the greater involvement with the commercial sector was welcomed:

The content was really high quality and it was really good to listen from private companies working with HE

The final session on the morning of the third day, Beyond the Institution, featured plenary talks from a consultancy, a service provider and an educational charity, all of whom provide a variety of services relevant to higher educational institutions.

The session began with a talk by Michael Webb, Jisc on “Integrating Institutional Web Services with Jisc’s ‘Cloud First, Mobile First’ Platform“. The aim of the talk was to “explain Jisc’s new ‘Cloud First, Mobile First’ delivery platform, and show how web managers will be able to work this platform, both by using APIs to integrate resource into their own services, and by creating APIs from institutional web sites and services, allowing creation of new sector-wide services“. The talk did provide a useful summary of Jisc’s development work in this area although, in retrospect, it was probably too technical for many in the audience:

  • Very interesting to hear what JISC are working on – I was previously unaware of this. I think it’s useful to include sessions like this that are slightly more technical.
  • Great talk, however, I felt that it failed to take account of the range of individuals who attend IWMW.
  • Probably not what a lot of people in the room were expecting but I found it really informative. This is the kind of thing that we should be talking to developers about.

The second talk in the session was given by Charles Hardy, who is responsible for LinkedIn’s engagement with the Higher Education community. In his talk on “LinkedIn for Higher Education – How Universities can Leverage LinkedIn to Engage Future, Current and Past Students” Charles described how LinkedIn has developed a number of features specifically for Higher Education institutions, blending career data insights with people and brand and explained how these features can be integrate into an institution’s social media / content strategy. Again this talk was well-appreciated, although some expressed concerns regarding personal data about staff and students being held by a commercial company:

  • Brilliant! A commercial speaker delivering a disruptive technology that could blow apart the sector and change how things work. Charles was a great speaker, answered the questions brilliantly and in a non threatening manner.
  • A very well delivered talk. There was a lot of potential shown for what we as HE can do with out LinkedIn pages/profiles.
  • A really excellent overview of the capabilities and potential of LinkedIn from an engaging presenter. One of my favourites of the conference
  • Interesting and useful talk, although somewhat uncomfortable with the subject matter and the company’s motivation.
  • Hand over your data and Linkedin will make money out of it. The only talk that was a little out of place, but incredibly useful to have an insight into what they are doing and have them express their rationale.

In the final plenary talk Niall Lavery and Dan Babington, PwC revisited the conference theme in a talk entitled Beyond Digital – The Agile University“. Again this talk generated much discussion, with some expressing concerns at the criticisms being made of higher educational institutions by a commercial organisation, although it was also admitted that such criticisms had some validity:

  • Really excellent. Lots to take away in terms of approaches and how to look at things differently. Great to get external experts in and sharing at that level.
  • Good talk on how the HE sector needs to evolve over the next 3 to 5 years to reflect the societal changes occurring around us
  • Some challenging ideas around what universities are for and how that impacts user experience and digital strategy. Seemed to end up being a bit of a sales pitch though.
  • It was very enlightening to see this consultant view of the sector. There was much in the presentation that I found distressing, but I can’t fault its accuracy. It also in part confirmed many of the statements I, Mandy, Rob & Sam had made regarding institutional structure.

What Does The Future Hold?

This year’s event concluded with a panel session. The panellists, Mandy Phillips, Claire Gibbons, Charles Hardy and Marianne Kay, were asked by Mike McConnell, the panel chair, to give their thoughts on four questions: (1) Are universities businesses? Are they truly in competition? Where do third party services like LinkedIn fit in, if at all?; (2) What is the role of pedagogy/academics in this brave new world? Are we driven by a culture of managerialism?; (3)What effects will the Internet of Things have on higher education and the student experience? and (4) What is the future for IWMW?

The panel session, which was introduced at last year’s event, was felt to provide a useful way of concluding the event:

  • Half hour was maybe too short – could have done with a bit more time and a bit more debate. But good nevertheless!
  • I feel like this is a welcome addition to the IWMW format. A chance to ask the key talkers some points that may not have been formed until after some hindsight.
  • Nice quick, interesting panel session.
  • Good session. Good to have a serious discussion on what we think about the future of higher education.
  • Some interesting discussion and debate to round off the event. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would!

The Parallel Sessions

In addition to the plenary talks and panel session there were also six workshop sessions which lasted for 90 minutes (on Working with an Institutional Web Team – Edge Hill University; iBeacons for Recruitment Events; BS 8878: Systematic Approaches to Documenting Web Accessibility Policies and PracticesAll CMSs are Rubbish: Live With It!; A Revolution in the Exchange of Courses Information: The national rollout of XCRI-CAP for Postgraduate course marketing information and Future-proofing the Web Professional) and three master classes which lasted for 3.5 hours (on Working in an Agile Way – Content Creation, Delivery and Standards; Lessons Learned from Helping HE Institutions Develop their Digital Strategies and a merged session which included Moving from the Old Web Team to a New Digital Services – Liverpool John Moores University and Working with an Institutional Web Team – University of Bradford).

Over 60% of respondents rated the workshops as “Excellent” or “Very good” and over 80% rated the Master classes (another innovation this year) as “Excellent” or “Very good”!

Conclusions

This is the first of two posts about IWMW 2015. This initial post has summarised the content of the event. The second post will describe participants’ thoughts of the event: what they liked and the areas they felt could be improved.


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Guest post: Evolution at its finest in the Higher Education sector

Posted by Brian Kelly on 13 Aug 2015

This year’s IWMW 2015 event attracted larger numbers of speakers and participants from beyond the HE sector than in the past. This guest post by Rachel Rennie, Head of Edinburgh at Precedent is the fourth in a series of guest posts from participants at the IWMW 2015 event, was initially published on LinkedIn.


IWMW guest postI don’t get to go to too many conferences. Partly, the majority of my work is very delivery focused, partly because it’s hard to get out of the office for extended periods of time. However, for the right conference and the right client, I can just about make it work.

Last week, I went to the Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) at the very lovely Edge Hill University. I was accompanying our senior consultant Rob van Tol, and his counterpart from our partners at KPMG, Sam Sanders, as they presented in front of professionals working in the marketing, communications and technology fields (and sometimes all three) in the higher education sector. The reason I got the chance to go, was that our charismatic client Mike McConnell, was presenting the work we had recently delivered for them – namely, the Digital Vision and Strategy for the University of Aberdeen.

When we, as an agency, get the opportunity to speak side-by-side with our talented clients we jump at the chance. Of course, no one was silly enough to let me do the presenting bit, but what I did do over three days was talk to some of the amazing people who are working in this sector today.

Although I love all of my clients, it is the higher education sector in particular that is drawing my attention at the moment.

Maybe it’s zithromax online sales because they’re a sector which has notoriously been slow to catch on to digital, but seeing what some of the attendees are focusing on now; making huge leaps in content delivery, understanding their audiences, embracing and utilising technological change, that makes it all the more impressive. Surely, making education more accessible through digital, and supporting and nurturing the student’s digital experience once they get onsite, is an idea we can all get behind.

Smaller conferences, such as IWMW – which is about to enter its 20th year – are invaluable for getting to meet, personally, sector specific people who are skilled in their fields. It’s a great opportunity to show ideas, collaborate, and even share some of their HEI pain down the pub.

For us suppliers, it’s really valuable for us to meet other companies in the same space; talk about what we’re working on, think about ways to collaborate, and share some war stories down the pub.

Of course the cynical amongst you will think – it’s just a sales opportunity – but that’s not the way Precedent have ever worked. We are not a hard sell agency, and we never will be. We just want to understand this, and all of our sectors as well as we can; to stay contemporary and joined up to the needs of our clients and this is what these events do.

If you work in the higher education sector, I can’t support IWMW highly enough and next year I’d encourage you to get on their list early – their 20th year is sure to be a lot of fun.

Rachel Rennie, Head of Edinburgh

Key links:


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Guest post: Reflections on IWMW Events from Jean Jumelle

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Aug 2015

Jean Jumelle, Web Communications Analyst at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh is retiring shortly. Jean has attended several IWMW events since 2007  and, in this third guest post by IWMW 2015 participants, gives his brief reflections on the events.


IWMW guest postI am retiring in October 2015, so Brian has asked me to share some thoughts about my times at IWMW.

I first took over my web responsibilities at QMU in 2005, I thought it was a good idea at the time and I never regretted it.

I cannot recall how I got introduced to ScottishWebFolks, a bunch of enthusiastic web experts in H.E. based in Scotland and a renegade from Sunderland, however this has been an invaluable source of information shared openly, QMU and myself benefited greatly from this web managerial expertise, as I am moving away from all this the most memorable aspect of this group is the comradery and the friendship that will survive long after web and digital trends will fade.

Through these people I got introduced to IWMW, my first experience was in 2007 at the University of York and I loved it, I haste to add that I don’t get out much. The experience was facilitated by my mentors from Scotland; the focus was very much on the operational management and technicalities of the web. This was my first introduction from a distance to Brian Kelly and the like, I must admit that I thought these people were on a different planet, their enthusiasm and foresight meant they were light years ahead or perhaps in need of therapy, eight years later I am still unsure :o).

IWMW 2008 in Aberdeen basked in sunshine as you would expect, great setting, and great debate.

Sheffield 2010 was all about the web in turbulent times; it was a great place to listen to the storm, actually more like the start of climate change in H.E. with funding cuts.

Edinburgh 2012 brought a change; less moaning about the climate but the realisation that innovation was the key to progress. Northumbria 2014 carried on with this theme in asking what’s next. IWMW 2015 at Edge Hill University – Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution was marked by Aberdeen University’s project presented by Mike McConnell, their vision of total transformation of their digital business was most impressive, very few individuals and institution will be brave or resourced enough to embrace such vision. This year also saw more involvement from the commercial sector, a breath of fresh air – however be aware that their vision is not without self interest and that their vision of education can be pretty narrow.

Through the years the focus has evolved from operational management through to strategic management, this is a natural progression. It was great to welcome so many freshers in this year’s smaller audience. However the mix of the assembly poses a challenge to the organisers; funding is obviously an issue. It was great to see Claire Gibbons, Mike McConnell and others supporting Brian Kelly as this event owes him so much.

Thank you Brian and everyone involved through the years.

Jean Jumelle Web Communications Analyst QMU


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Guest post: Reflections on IWMW 2015 from Charlotte Harry

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 Aug 2015

Yesterday Emma Cragg gave her Reflections on IWMW 2015. Today’s second guest post about the IWMW 2015 event is written by Charlotte Harry, another IWMW first-timer.


IWMW guest postSince attending my first Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) in July I’ve been chastising myself for not discovering it sooner. What pearls of wisdom, illuminating ideas and work practices and valuable connections have I been missing out on all these years?

I felt an immediate sense of relief at walking into a ready-made community of like-minded individuals all grappling with the challenges of ‘doing digital’ in higher education (HE). In his talk on “Marrying Creativity with Management Complexity” Rob Van Tol (Precedent) recognised the therapy-like function of such a gathering: let’s face it, it’s good to share the pain. And when you consider the scope of the challenges facing most HE digital teams there’s a fair bit of pain to go around…

Revolution not evolution – the need to think big

The theme of IWMW 2015 (‘Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution’) was nevertheless bold and positive and the conference was full of talented, passionate individuals that it was a privilege to listen to and learn from. Mike McConnell, for example, talked about the University of Aberdeen’s consultation process for developing a ‘digital vision’. This was big stuff – transformational stuff, no less. The focus was resolutely on people and processes, not just systems, websites and technology, and it was a theme that arose again and again during the workshop. Listening to such case studies, and hearing from people who are attempting to transform their institutions in this way, was inspiring. It reminded me of Martha Lane Fox’s recommendations to the Cabinet Office back in 2010 – ‘revolution not evolution’. I sense that it struck a deep chord with many of those present at IWMW 2015.

Putting the user first

Another notable theme (addressed by Paul Boag, among others) was just how crucial it is for universities to prioritise user/customer experience. Before returning to HE this year I worked at the Government Digital Service (GDS) where user needs are the driving force behind everything they do. The argument for putting the user/customer first doesn’t always seem to be accepted (or perhaps even heard) in the higher echelons of some universities, so it was heartening to hear this message being blasted out loud and clear.

An agile approach to content

Besides plenty of excellent plenary talks we also got to choose from a range of practical master classes. I couldn’t resist the University of Bath digital team’s session on an agile approach to content creation, delivery and standards. Music to my ears!

Rich Prowse and his colleagues generously shared everything – from their digital principles, roadmap and content strategy to their experiences of building up a wider community of publishers and supporting them with clear standards and guidelines. They skilfully led the group in a real-time user stories workshop, allowing us to try on a variety of agile practices (e.g. stand-up) for size. I came away feeling invigorated and relieved to see that many of the well-tested GDS design principles and agile work practices are finding their way into HE.

Breaking down the silos

Given the tendency towards silos in HE it seemed fitting that the conference encompassed content editors, designers, developers and digital managers, with everyone exposed to each other’s fields of expertise and how they interrelate. As a content person I appreciated the mix, and I enjoyed hearing some of the more tech-focused talks, such as the University of Kent’s hack day experiences.

Making connections

Finally, as a newcomer to IWMW, the sense of community was striking – almost familial. The longstanding organiser Brian Kelly went out of his way to welcome me, to the extent of cherry-picking people for me to talk to at some of the social events (a fellow lone-wolf worker here, a fellow musician there, …).

Despite a late initiation, I’m looking forward to IWMW 2016. I just hope that other digital HE bods don’t take as long as I did to discover it.


About the author

Charlotte is a writer and digital content editor/manager with a background in higher education, currently based at UCL. She previously worked as a content designer for the Government Digital Service (GDS).


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Guest post: Reflections on IWMW 2015 from Emma Cragg

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Aug 2015

IWMW 2015, the 19th annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, took place recently at Edge Hill University. In this, the first guest blog post about the event Emma Cragg gives her thoughts from the perspective as a first-timer at the event.


At the end of July I attended my first Institutional Web Management Workshop. I was encouraged to see I wasn’t alone. When Brian profiled the audience during his introduction lots of first-timers raised their hands. I knew I was among friends when a large part of the introduction was dedicated to the best places in Ormskirk to get a pint of real ale.

Digital strategyThe title of the conference, Beyond Digital, was addressed in all sessions through the focus on people, not systems. This came most directly through plenary talks given by Mandy Phillips and Mike McConnell. Both talked us through digital transformations happening at their institutions. While they involved new systems and front-end design the main drive was to change the culture of the institution.

The culture shift begins with the recognition that digital cuts across all activities of the institution:

  • Facilities: spaces that support digital working
  • Learning: initiatives to improve the digital literacy of staff and students
  • Support: student services and business processes
  • Marketing: channels to support communications throughout the student lifecycle

You don’t need a digital strategy, you need a business strategy fit for the digital age” – PwC

"Symptoms"Another theme threaded throughout the conference was agility. In this we got a masterclass from Rich Prowse and the University of Bath team. In his plenary talk, Rich walked us through the steps when applying agile to content creation. In planning, the use of analytics and user stories help to develop a culture that values data and user needs. Sprint teams involve members from beyond the digital team. This has helped to build trust with faculty and administrative teams.

Those of us lucky enough to attend the “Working in an Agile way” practical session got a view of what it might be like to work at the University of Bath. We developed a minimum buy cheap medications online viable product for a course search and wrote user stories to help the sprint team develop a solution.

Agile is hard work. It requires practice and discipline” – Rich Prowse

The Q&A session sought to challenge our perceptions of what universities are for. Are they businesses? The panel was split with three in yes camp and two adamantly saying no. Should we refer to students as customers? This seems to be a given if you see universities as businesses and hard to argue against with the current price tag for a degree.

In his closing remarks, Brian encouraged us all to contact at least three people after we returned to work. I’m really pleased to see people taking up this call to action. I’ve sent and received two emails (one of which led to this post). I’ve also seen my online network grow, with new followers and conversations on Twitter, and connections on LinkedIn. This would be my key takeaway from the event – actually, any event – don’t let the conversation go quiet just because we’re no longer in the same place.

Whatever the future of IWMW, you can be sure I’ll be back.


Biographical details

Emma CraggsEmma Cragg is a Web Content Officer at Newcastle University. In this role she plans, writes and edits content for the university’s central website. She supports the University’s community of web editors, delivers training in planning and writing web content, and is responsible for development of the web team’s blog. Emma is a productivity geek and is always on the lookout for solutions that can help the team work smarter.

If you’re interested in writing and editing, training, digital literacies, productivity or blogging, contact Emma using the details given below.

Contact details


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Is Wikipedia Relevant to University Web Managers?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Jul 2015

Areas Apparently Not Being Addressed By Web Managers

wikipedia workshop at Exeter University, July 2015Yesterday in a post entitled “Pondering the Online Legacy of my Work” I described how two recent Facebook messages highlighted areas which appear not to be being addressed widely across the web management community

Yesterday’s post looked at how web content may be deleted after content creators leave the institution, meaning that the content creators, who are likely to care about the resource, are unable to exploit the resources unless they have migrated the resources before leaving.

Today’s post was inspired by a Facebook update from Rod Ward who alerted my to a workshop on use of Wikipedia which he helped facilitate at the University of Exeter.

Wikimedia Workshop for University Web and Communication Staff

Rod’s Facebook post provided a link to the entry on the Wikimedia UK Web site about the workshop which was held at Exeter University  on 15 July. As shown in the screenshot the event was aimed at web and communication staff from universities in the south west of England.

I’ve a long-standing interest in Wikipedia, and last year published posts on “Librarians and Wikipedia: an Ideal Match?“, “#1amconf, Altmetrics and Raising the Visibility of One’s Research“, “Top Wikipedia Tips for Librarians: Why You Should Contribute and How You Can Support Your Users” and “Supporting Use of Wikipedia in the UK Higher Education and Library Sectors“.

As suggested by the title of these posts my main target audience for the posts were librarians and researchers. Members of university web and marketing teams would not be likely, I felt, to have responsibilities for managing Wikipedia articles. However from seeing the details of the recent workshop it seems that I was mistaken, with several of the participants working for university marketing teams.

But should people who work for marketing teams update Wikipedia articles about their institutions? In a post on “Wikipedia, Librarians and CILIP” I flagged the dangers of this:

[In a talk to librarians] I pointed out the Wikipedia neutral point of view (NPOV) principle which means “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic“.

One way of minimising risks of sub-conscious biases in articles is to ensure that content is provided by those who do not have direct involvement with the subject area of an article. For an article about an organisation it would therefore be appropriate for an article about CILIP should be updated by editors who are not employed by the organisation.

Rod Ward, one of the facilitators at the recent workshop, proposed one mechanism for addressing this tension: he asked participants at the workshop to include the text on their Wikipedia user profile page:

I am username. I work for organisation as job title. Part of my role is to improve the Wikipedia articles about academics of my employer. I have attended a workshop where policies about the Neutral point of view, Biographies of Living People, Conflict of Interest and Paid Editing were discussed. I am aware of potential conflicts in this area. If you see any issues with my editing please contact me via my talk page.

This seems to me to be a sensible approach to addressing the NPOV principle: there may be factual aspects of Wikipedia articles which would be improved in a timely fashion if updated by staff working for the institution. For example, looking at the updates made two days ago to the University of Exeter article we can see that the updates are factual updates to the Medical School. These updates were made by user SallUEMS whose user profile states that the user “work[s] for the University of Exeter as a Web Marketing officer“.

Developing an Ethical Approach to Managing Wikipedia Content

I’d be interested to hear if other institutions are taking a pro-active approach in managing Wikipedia articles about their institutions, such as those which featured in the recent workshop: the List of University of Exeter people and the List of University of Bristol people as well as the collections of articles on Academics of Bath Spa University, Academics of the University of Bath, Academics of the University of Bristol, Academics of the University of Exeter, Academics of the University of Plymouth, Academics of the University of the West of England, People associated with Cardiff University, People associated with Falmouth University and People associated with the University of St Mark & St John.

There will be a need to ensure that updates to Wikipedia articles are made in an ethical fashion, to avoid updates being reverted and to avoid the risks which politicians, political researchers and PR staff in Westminster have experienced as described in an article on “15 Embarrassing can you buy antibiotics in egypt Edits Made To Politicians’ Wikipedia Pages By People In Parliament“.

In September I will give a talk on “Developing an Ethical Approach to Using Wikipedia as the Front Matter to all Research” at the Wikipedia Science 2015 conference. I’d be interested in hearing if any institutions have developed guidelines on updating Wikipedia articles related to activities carried out in the institution. It does seem to me that marketing staff would benefit from having policies and guidelines which they can use. There may be temptations (and pressures from senior managers) to remove embarrassing content – and yes, there are negative comments abiut vice-chancellors which have been published in national newspapers which could be cited!

The higher education sector should avoid the risks of seeing headlines such as “Wikipedia Pages of Star Clients Altered by P.R. Firm” in which a founder of the PR company Sunshine “acknowledged that several staff members had violated the terms of use by failing to disclose their association with the firm. Mr. Sunshine said a key employee in his web operation was not aware of Wikipedia’s new terms“. Interestingly, after being caught for “play[ing] loose with Wikipedia’s standards and violat[ing] the site’s updated terms of use agreement, by employing paid editors who fail to disclose their conflict of interest on the website” the PR company now requires “all employees who edit on Wikipedia have now disclosed their affiliation with Sunshine“.

This approach is aligned with the suggestions made at the recent Wikipedia workshop at the University of Exeter: if you do update articles in which there may be a conflict of interest ensure that you are open about possible conflicts of interest and invite feedback from those with concerns.

However there is a need to go beyond this simple approach. And I wonder if the higher education sector could learn from the approaches taken in the PR sector. In a post on Links From Wikipedia to Russell Group University Repositories I highlighted challenges for universities which may be tempted to seek to exploit the SEO benefits which links from Wikipedia to institutional web pages may provide. In the blog post I cited an article from the PR community who had recognised the dangers that PR companies can be easily tempted to provide links to clients’ web sites for similar reasons. In response to concerns raised by the Wikipedia community Top PR Firms Promise[d] They Won’t Edit Clients’ Wikipedia Entries on the Sly. The article, which is hosted on Wikipedia, describes the Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms which was published in 10 June 2014:

On behalf of our firms, we recognize Wikipedia’s unique and important role as a public knowledge resource. We also acknowledge that the prior actions of some in our industry have led to a challenging relationship with the community of Wikipedia editors. Our firms believe that it is in the best interest of our industry, and Wikipedia users at large, that Wikipedia fulfill its mission of developing an accurate and objective online encyclopedia. Therefore, it is wise for communications professionals to follow Wikipedia policies as part of ethical engagement practices. We therefore publicly state and commit, on behalf of our respective firms, to the best of our ability, to abide by the following principles:

  • To seek to better understand the fundamental principles guiding Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
  • To act in accordance with Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines, particularly those related to “conflict of interest.”
  • To abide by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Terms of Use.
  • To the extent we become aware of potential violations of Wikipedia policies by our respective firms, to investigate the matter and seek corrective action, as appropriate and consistent with our policies.
  • Beyond our own firms, to take steps to publicize our views and counsel our clients and peers to conduct themselves accordingly.

We also seek opportunities for a productive and transparent dialogue with Wikipedia editors, inasmuch as we can provide accurate, up-to-date, and verifiable information that helps Wikipedia better achieve its goals.

A significant improvement in relations between our two communities may not occur quickly or easily, but it is our intention to do what we can to create a long-term positive change and contribute toward Wikipedia’s continued success.

 

Might universities find it useful to embrace similar principles?

In order to help identify early institutional adopters of guidelines and policies for updating Wikipedia content where there may be a conflict of interest you are invited to complete the following surveys. The first survey covers policies/guidelines on updating Wikipedia content and the second asks about responsibilities for updating Wikipedia articles.


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“Pondering the Online Legacy of my Work”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Jul 2015

Neglected Areas for Web Managers?

Online legacy of ILRT workYesterday I came across two posts in my Facebook stream which addressed areas which appear to be neglected by those with responsibilities for providing institutional web services. In the first of two posts I comment on responsibilities for maintaining the online legacy of staff after they have left their host institution.

“Pondering the online legacy of my work”

Yesterday Virginia Knight shared a link on Facebook to a blog post with the words “Pondering the online legacy of my work at Bristol, or: why is there not much of it visible now?“. in the blog post, entitled “Where did my work go?“, Virginia described how she has been “working out how much of what I did in my sixteen years at ILRT at Bristol University has survived in a recognisable form“. Virginia pointed out that “Obviously there are publications, such as an article in Ariadne [such as ‘The SPP Alerting Portlet: Delivering Personalised Updates’– Editor] and more recently a prizewinning essay” but concluded “my online legacy is harder to trace“.

This is an area of particular interest to me. Almost two years ago I finished work at UKOLN. During my final week at UKOLN I published a series of blog on “Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN“. The five blog posts covered my early involvement with the Web (which dated back to December 1992), my outreach activities, my research work, my work for UKOLN’s core funders and my interests in evidence-based policies and openness.

Digital Preservation – Whose Responsibility?

During my final few months at UKOLN I had responsibilities for managing the preservation of UKOLN’s web resources. In brief this covered updating web sites so that the home page for self-contained activities described the background to the work and made it clear that the web site was no longer being maintained (e.g. see the Cultural Heritage Web site and the web site for the JISC-funded QA Focus project). After updating the content the web sites were archived by the UK Web Archive, which included the main UKOLN Web site, sub-sites (such as the QA Focus project and sites with their own domain such as the Cultivate Interactive ejournal).

In addition to the management of traditional web assets, cheap medications online typically hosted on an institutional web site, I also emphasized the importance of being able to continue to manage and maintain one’s professional profile, running a workshop session at the IWMW 2013 event on “Managing Your Professional Online Reputation“. During this period I became aware of the possible tensions between the provision of institutional web sites and the use of third-party services from the perspective of a professional who wishes to continue professional activities after leaving the host institution. As Virginia has pointed out, one’s online legacy can easily vanish.

But whose responsibility is to ensure that an institution does not lose its scholarly digital resources and individuals do not lose their online legacy? In a poster presented at the LILAC 2014 conference on “Preparing our users for digital life beyond the institution” I summarized a survey carried out by myself and Jenny Evans in which we found that librarians do not feel they are responsible for supporting academics who wish to continue making use of their digital assets after they have left the institution.

I therefore wondered whether web managers felt they had responsibilities for the preservation of web resources, not just as institutional assets but also as assets of value to members of staff after they leave the institution. A workshop session on “Page Not Found’: Practical Web Preservation Advice” was intended to explore some of these issues, with the abstract for the session suggested that “in web site development projects … a full impact analysis encompassing all stakeholders is essential“. Unfortunately the session has been cancelled due to lack of numbers.

In the poster presented at the LILAC 2014 conference I asked, in light of the survey findings “Are librarians enablers of life-long access to digital technologies or custodians of institutional services?” In light of the apparent lack of interest in web preservation at the IWMW 2015 event there seems to be a gap: who should be responsible for managing long-term access to web resources? Perhaps the answer will be self-motivated individuals, just as it was for long-lost copies of episodes of Doctor Who?


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Time To Update Web Accessibility Policies?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Jul 2015

Institutional Web Accessibility Policies

Accessibility policy for LJMUWhat type of policies do institutions provide on the accessibility of corporate web sites? This question is very relevant to the workshop session on “BS 8878: Systematic Approaches to Documenting Web Accessibility Policies and Practices” which I am running at the IWMW 2015 event; considerations of the relevance of use of the BS 8878 code of practice for web accessibility should be informed by an understanding

Analysing a Small Sample of Web Accessibility Policies

Rather than looking at a large selection of web accessibility policies I chose to select a small sample. And rather than looking at Russell Group universities, as I have done in the past when analysing institutional approaches across a range of different areas, this time I looked at  nine universities based in the north west, near Edge Hill University, the host for the IWMW 2015 event.

All ten institutions helpfully provided links to their web accessibility policies from their home page (and, I suspect, in the navigational areas for other corporate pages).  The accessibility policies can be view using the following links:

[Edge Hill] – [Liverpool John Moores] – [Liverpool] – [Liverpool Hope] –  [UCLAN] – [Bolton] – [Manchester] – [MMU] – [Salford]

Looking at the web accessibility policies a number of characteristics can be identified:

Aspirations: Such as “The University is committed to making its website and the material provided on it accessible to as many people as possible“; “The site aims to be compliant with worldwide standards for accessibility“; “The University website is designed to be as accessible as possible to all, in line with W3C recommendations“;

Aspirational to conform with WCAG: Such as “All pages on this site aim to be accessible to W3C AA compliance or better, complying with priority 1 and 2 guidelines of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Not all the guidelines can be automatically checked. With this in mind every effort has been made to manually check university pages.

Specific WCAG conformance levels: Such as “This central site is intended to meet at least level 2 (AA) of the W3C’s Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Guidelines, and as far as possible to meet level 3 (AAA).

Browser policies: Such as “We try to make our website compatible with as many browsers as possible

Details of testing processes: Such as “We have also tested the site extensively in a wide range of browsers and settings to ensure the site functionality is available to as many users as possible“;

Techniques for users: Such as “You can increase or reduce the text size by using your browser’s zoom function

Specific techniques for users: Such as “Microsoft Internet Explorer version 8 and above …; Mozilla Firefox: To alter text size, select ‘zoom’ select zoom in (Ctrl+) or zoom out (Ctrl-). To remove CSS stylings select ‘page style’, then no style”; Safari: Select ‘view’ from the top pull down menu options; To alter text size, select ‘zoom’ select zoom in (Ctrl+) or zoom out (Ctrl-); Google Chrome: Select ‘settings’ from the top pull down menu options. Click ‘show advanced settings’ and scroll to fonts size and page zoom; To alter text size, select view, then ‘zoom’ select larger (Ctrl+) or smaller (Ctrl-)

Details of access keys: Such as “Access keys for websites are defined as: Access Key 1 – Homepage; Access Key 2 – News; Access Key 4 – Focus on Search box; Access Key 9 – Feedback Form; Access Key 0 – Accessibility Help generic medication (this page)

Techniques used by content providers: Such as “Steps we’ve taken: Using alt tags on images; Using sufficient contrast on colours; Using CSS to allow the separation of style and content; ..“; “Use of ‘alternative text’ to describe images. This is useful for text-based browsers and/or for users with visual impairments; Implementation of ‘skip menu’ feature to allow users of speech or text rendering software to bypass the menu structure of a page and go straight to the content; Links to the Adobe Acrobat reader for PDF Adobe Acrobat files; Use of ‘cascading style sheets’ (CSS) which means that it is easy for a user to over-ride page settings to make it easier for them to view the page. In this way you can; Increase contrast between background and text for readability purposes; Change text colours; Change background colours; Ensuring that fields in online forms can be navigated in order by pressing ‘tab’ in a keyboard

Details of training and support: Such as “staff are offered a comprehensive training programme

Contact details for further information or in case or problems: email address; links to disability support services.

Note that all of these examples are taken from public accessibility policies available from the following pages: [Edge Hill] – [Liverpool John Moores] – [Liverpool] – [Liverpool Hope] – [Edge Hill] – [UCLAN] – [Bolton] – [Manchester] – [MMU] – [Salford].

Reflections

It should be noted that accessibility policies typically go beyond statements of conformance with WCAG guidelines and may include specific techniques for users, details of the processes used to create web resources, details of testing processes used to ensure policies are being implemented correctly and contact details in case of accessibility problems. However these approaches are not taken in a consistent manner. Also none of the pages appeared to describe maintenance of the information provided, such as accessibility tips for new browsers or new versions of browsers. It was also noted that there appeared to be no information provided for users of mobile devices which perhaps suggests that the information has not been updated for some time.

Time for BS 8878?

The BS 8878 code of practice for web accessibility seeks to formalise the process for ensuring the accessibility of web resources by documenting 16 steps which can help to ensure the production of an accessible web ‘product’ (to use the terminology of BS 8878). The 16 steps cover research & understanding in the initial conception and requirements analysis for the web product; making strategic choices based on that research; the decision whether to create or procure the web product in-house or contract out externally; the production of the web product; the evaluation of the product and the launch of the web product.

A workshop session on “BS 8878: Systematic Approaches to Documenting Web Accessibility Policies and Practices” at the IWMW 2015 event will explore how BS 8878 can be used in an educational context, going beyond provision of public web sites and including use of the web in teaching and learning and research applications.

If you have an interest in BS8878 you may wish to book a place at the IWMW 2015 event. The event will take place on 27-29 July at Edge Hill University. Bookings are still open, but will close shortly.

In addition if you have any comments, questions or observations on issues related to web accessibility and BS 8878 feel free to leave a comment.

 

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Finalising Plans for IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Jul 2015

IWMW 2015: A Recap

IWMW 2015: day 3The 19th in the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop series, IWMW 2015, will take place at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July.

The event is aimed at members of institutional web management teams, who have responsibilities for managing large-scale institutional web services.

At last year’s event, IWMW 2014, there was a recognition that the term ‘web’ sounds somewhat dated, with institutions now focusing on their ‘digital’ strategies and having digital teams to implement such strategies.

This year’s event has the theme “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution” which reflects the changing environment, and how moves towards embedding digital approaches are likely to require changes in established institutional practices.

The event consists of three days of plenary talks, half day master classes and shorted workshop sessions.

The plenary talks are grouped into a number of themes:

  • Putting The Web Manager First: The opening session provides an opportunity to hear from two institutions about how institutional web and digital teams are responding to the challenges we are all facing.
  • Supporting Our Users: Two plenary talks will explore how institutions are responding to their customer needs in the context of new operating realities and the importance of providing outstanding user experience as a key differentiator for an increasingly demanding student environment.
  • Managing the Content; Developing the Services: Two plenary talks will explore approaches to managing content and developing services.
  • Beyond the Institution: In light of the importance of use of third party services for supporting institutional services there will be three talks from organisations who can support institutional activities: Jisc, LinkedIn and PwC.
  • What Does The Future Hold?: The IWMW 2015 event will conclude with a panel session which will address the topic “What does the future hold?

IWMW 2015: the Final Day

Although the master classes, which were described in a previous post, are the most significant change to the format of this year’s event, it is the final day which, to me, marks a transition from previous years. A last year’s event, for example, the final morning provided institutional case studies in which web managers described their approaches to addressing mainstream web challenges, with the event closing with a panel session in which four experienced web managers spoke on the topic “What is our vision for the institutional web and can we implement that vision?

This year’s final day, however, finishes with a session entitled “Beyond the Institution“, with three speakers who work for organisations which are not directly part of the higher educational sector: Jisc’s “Cloud first/ mobile first” platform, the role of LinkedIn for higher education and how universities can leverage LinkedIn to engage future, current and past students and perspectives on the ‘Agile University’.

The final plenary talk at the event,  Beyond Digital – The Agile University will be given by Niall Lavery and Dan Babington, PwC. As can be seen from the abstract for the session this talk will be looking at approaches which go beyond making improvements and enhancements to our web services:

Leading Universities are looking beyond the short-term impact of an improved web or open-day experience, towards the delivery of simpler, faster, personalised interactions throughout the entire institution.

PwC provide insights into the workings of the world’s most innovative universities and describe the future-proof architectures that build an amazing educational experience on the three pillars of simplification, personalisation and value-focus. This session will start with the approach and mind-set required to become an Agile University, discussing how it can help balance the books within a year, and show examples of how you can transcend your competition to become a Category of One.

However since the majority of the delegates work for higher educational institutions we will ensure there is time for questions at the end of each of these plenary talks. In addition in a final panel session a number of experienced web managers will respond to the ideas given by the plenary speakers in this session and other ideas, proposals and suggestions which have emerged over the three days.

Still Opportunities to Book Your Place!

IWMW 2015: registration still openAlthough the official closing date for bookings has passed we have been informed that university finance departments will need additional time to process bookings. We will therefore keep the bookings open for a while longer.


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Cloud Storage – for Use by Individuals

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Jul 2015

Providing Advice to the Members of the University of the Third Age

In my recent post on Life After Cetis: the Launch of the UK Web Focus Consultancy I described “I am also intending to carry out a limited amount of pro bono work, such as the talk on use of Cloud services I will be giving next month for the U3A in Bath“. Due to holidays I was unable to attend the U3A meeting, but I intend to give the talk at this month’s meeting later today.

About the U3A

Logo_of_the_University_of_the_Third_Age

Image from Wikipedia article on “University of the Third Age “

On its home page the University of the Third Age in Bath describes itself as “a lively and friendly association offering a wide range of study and leisure activities for those whose days are no longer tied to earning a living“. A Wikipedia article on “University of the Third Age” describes how “The University of the Third Age is an international organisation whose aims are the education and stimulation of mainly retired members of the community—those in their third ‘age’ of life. It is commonly referred to as U3A.

I worked in the higher education sector for over 30 years and continue to have an interest in learning. I am now in a position to complement my work for higher education with involvement with U3A in Bath.

I recently joined a new U3A group – a Mac Users Group. At a recent meeting there was discussion about ways of storing resources, such as images, videos and text documents. It seems that memory sticks are a popular means of storing such files. I suggested that Cloud storage should also be considered and was invited to share my thoughts, knowledge and experience at a forthcoming meeting. This blog post summarises my talk and demonstration. I am posting the thoughts on this blog in order to share my views more widely and to invite feedback.

It should be noted that members of the group include some experienced IT and Macintosh users and others who have less experience. As is likely to be the case for many retired U3A members, affordable – especially free – solutions to IT problems will be particularly welcomed!

Storage Systems – a Brief History

Fortran-card

Punch card. Image from Wikipedia.

If you have worked in IT since you were much younger you may have encountered storage systems such as punch cards and even paper tape punch. I personally stored my first computer programme on a tape punch and, in my final year at university, stored my data for my final year project on punch cards.

If, however, you first started using home computer in the 1980s, 1990s or later you are more likely to have used floppy disks, either 5¼-inch or, and in particular for Mac users, the 3½-inch (in which the floppy disk was protected by an external case. However floppy disks are being phased out, with the Apple SuperDrive (originally called the Apple FDHD – Floppy Disk High Density – Drive) being discontinued in 1998 (see Wikipedia article).

In brief the history of storage systems tells us that technologies evolve, with storage systems having increased capacity, being more robust and convenient and easier to use across a range of different devices. The initial alternative which helped to kill off floppy disks was the USB flash drive (also known as a memory stick, memory drive,  thumb drive, flash drive as well as a host of other names). However flash drives are themselves facing competition from Cloud storage systems.

About the Cloud

According to Wikipedia “Cloud computing refers to the practice of transitioning computer services such as computation or data storage to multiple redundant offsite locations available on the Internet“.

As described in an article in The Guardian “In the early 1940s, IBM’s president, Thomas J Watson, reputedly said: ‘I think there is a world market for about five computers.’” Arguably Cloud computing marks a return to this – mistaken – vision, with a small number of global companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, providing a range of computer services, including desktop applications (such as Google Docs and Office 365), storage systems (such as Google Drive, Microsoft’s Onedrive and Apple’s iCloud) and other services including ‘virtual’ computers (known as Platform as a Service).

In brief, the ubiquity of the Internet now provides home users with Software as a Service – we can run applications from the network (and note that this can be done not only via a web browser on any networked computer but also with devices such as Google’s Chrome PCs which are looking to complete with traditional computers on price and ease of use) as well as Storage as a Service – the main focus of this post.

Cloud Storage Services

Enough of the theory – what are the popular Cloud storage systems which can be used by typical home users with a limited budget? Recent articles published in PC magazines on  13 best cloud storage services 2015: Dropbox vs Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud & more, Cloud storage services: the big four compared and Dropbox vs OneDrive vs Google Drive: what’s the best cloud storage service of 2015? provide useful summaries.

Five of the best-known Cloud storage providers are listed in the following table, together with iCloud, which will be of particular interest to users of Macintosh  and other Apple devices.

Name Storage
Google Drive 15 Gb free.
Onedrive 15 Gb free. £1.99 for 100 Gb/month. £3.99 for 200 Gb/month. £5.99 for 1 Tb/month plus Office 365.
Dropbox 2 Gb free. £7.99 for 1Tb/month or £79/year.
Amazon Cloud Drive 5 Gb free. £6 for 20Gb/year. £16 for 50Gb/year.
 iCloud  5 Gb free. £0.79 for 20Gb/month. £6.99 for 500Gb/month. £14.99 for 1Tb/month.

Note that the storage costs should not be regarded as the only – or indeed, most important – factor to be considered when choosing a Cloud storage.  As described in a post which, on 14 March 2014, described how Google slashes Drive prices in cloud storage price war, Cloud storage costs are still volatile. In addition various types of deals can bring down the costs (e.g. Microsoft’s Onedrive is bundled with a licence for the Office 365 software suite; Dropbox provides ways of getting additional storage space for free; etc.). There are also many other Cloud storage providers including Mega (50 Gb for free); Copy (15 Gb for free);  Tresorit (only 3Gb free storage but focus  on security); Box (10 Gb free storage, but focus on business sector); Mediafire (10 Gb free storage); Mozy (2gb for free but focus on security) and Spideroak (2gb for free but focus on security).

Cloud storage services may also be bundled in with a broadband package provided by your Internet Service Provider. For example BT Cloud provides 5Gb or 40 Gb (depending on your package) for free with 50 Gb available for £3/month or 500 Gb for £9/month.

It should also be noted that there are also Cloud storage services which are format-specific such as Amazon’s  Unlimited Photo Storage (which is free for users who have signed up to Amazon Prime), Flickr (1 TB of free storage), Google Photos (unlimited free storage for standard-resolution images) and, for storage of one’s music Amazon Cloud Player (250 songs for free or 250,000 songs for £22/year) or Google Play Music (50,000 songs for free).

There are also Cloud hosting services which are more relevant to my professional activities.  I’m a longer-standing user of Slideshare for hosting my slides. I also uploaded my research publications to the University of Bath repository when I worked there. However I can no longer add new papers to the repository or update the papers, so the repository is now a read-only resource for me. Because of these limitations before leaving the University of Bath I uploaded my papers to Researchgate and also, as a backup, to Academia.edu.

As well as the storage costs and the normal factors which affect purchasing decisions (functionality, ease-of-use, etc.) additional factors to consider which are of particular importance when evaluating Cloud services include the sustainability of the service provider and ethical and privacy issues.

Provide Your Own Cloud

You may chose to buy additional disk storage for your computer, such as an internal drive (which requires you opening up your computer) or an external drive which can be connected to your computer’s USB port. However you could also but a NAS (Network Area Storage) device which you could attach to your router so that it can be accessed by other computers and mobile devices on your home network. With some NAS devices you can also make the storage available via the Internet to your devices or other computers when you are away from home. Yes, you can manage your own Cloud storage system, with prices typically costing from about £100.

What Of The Risks

Sustainability

The IT industry has always been very volatile. Hardware companies which, at the time, were well-known (e.g. DEC as provider on mini-computer and Acorn and Commodore as early PC manufacturers) are no longer around and even IBM stopped manufacturing computers and moved into the services sector.

The sustainability of a company which makes hardware and peripherals need not necessarily be of significance if the company goes out of business or changes its business practices – after all you still have the physical devices. However if your Cloud storage provides goes out-of-business you could lose your data overnight. And even if the company is still in business it could close to close down particular services – and as David Harrison has pointed out, even successful companies such as Google have closed down popular services they have hosted, such as Google Reader.

Ethical and Privacy Issues

If you don’t pay, you’re the product, not the user” is a well-known soundbite which forms the basis of criticisms of free Internet services – you are effectively paying for the services by giving access to your content or your personal information to the service provider.

Another concern is that the companies are not acting in an ethical manner – for example the concerns raised last year regarding Amazon’s tax avoidance cheap topamax no prescription techniques which led to an “Amazon UK boycott [being] urged after retailer pays just £4.2m in tax“.

A Risk and Opportunities Framework

About the Framework

The risks and opportunities frameworkBack in 2009 I wrote a paper on “Empowering users and their institutions : A risks and opportunities framework for exploiting the potential of the social web” which described a framework which could help institutions considering making use of social media services. This framework, which is illustrated, can also be applied to individuals who are thinking about selecting a Cloud (or local) storage service. The need to be able to assess and evaluate risk is needed when we are looking to make use of innovation. Indeed, as Douglas Adams pointed out, if we weren’t risk takers homo sapiens might never have evolved:

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans

In brief to use this framework it may be useful to document (or discuss with friends and colleagues):

The intended purpose of the service: Is it to share with a small number of close friends? Is it to make available to anyone (which might include potential friends!)

The benefits of the service: What do you hope to gain from using the new service?

The risks of the service: What do you think are the risks of using the new service?

The missed opportunities of not using the service: If you decide to not use the service because of the risks, what will you lose?

The costs of using the service: What are the costs (including non-financial costs, of using the service.

What approaches can you take to minimising the risks: It should be noted that you may chose to accept some risks, especially if the probably is low or the consequences are not significant.

What evidence is there for your choices, preferences and concerns: There are dangers that an ‘echo chamber’ will simply reflect your personal concerns or preferences which are not based on evidence.

money-under-mattressIn use of the framework to assist in personal rather than institutional decision-making there are  likely to be personal and subjective factors including “it’s too complicated for me” or “I can’t be bothered”. But the importance of risk assessment is likely to be understood by U3A members who have evaluated their personal assessment to financial risks when considering what on to do with one’s life-saving – invest in a speculative high-risk fund; a fund which reflects personal preferences and beliefs such as an eco-friendly fund; a low-risk saving account which has a low rate of interest or putting the savings under one’s mattress, because you can’t trust banks (which, sadly, may be a valid reason if you live in Greece!)

Application of the Framework

Subjective Factors

It should be noted that the risks and opportunities framework recognises that there will be biases and subjective factors (experiences, beliefs, prejudices, etc.) which will influence decision making. In order to illustrate how the frame work might be used I will begin by outlining some of my experiences, beliefs and other subjective factors which have influenced my selection of Cloud storage services.

I feel that the slogan “If you don’t pay, you’re the product, not the user” has some validity – and could also be applied to ITV (for which the core business are adverts which generate most of the profits and are needed to fund the programmes which are wrapped around the adverts!)

I accept that such services need to make money to fund the service and, for those provided by commercial companies, to make profits. I recognise that there are different business models, but I personally tend to be willing to make use of free services, knowing that companies may commercially exploit my content and metadata (judging from adverts on my Facebook page they will have evidence that people in their 50s are likely be interested in pensions schemes and in dating women in their 40s and 50s!).

I also tend to make resources I create, including this blog post, available under a Creative Commons licence which permits commercial exploitation provided only that acknowledgement is given. I am willing for others to make use of my ideas. Similarly I am willing to accept licences to use services I feel useful which allow the licence holder to commercial exploit my content and metadata.

I am aware of subscription services which do not commercial exploit my content or metadata. I have signed up for such services including Diaspora, identi.ca and, more recently, Mind but none of these services gained momentum. I am therefore happy to make use of popular alternatives which are available for free.

I am also aware that commercial companies may have business practices which I do not agree with, from Barclays links with apartheid in the 1970s through to examples such as Amazon’s tax avoidance schemes and concerns about Apple’s commitments to sustainability. But although I am aware of such issues they have not caused me to stop using the services.

Services Used

I will initially  summarise some of the functional areas for which I use Cloud (and non-Cloud) storage areas.

Music: I have digitized my large CD collection. The MP3 files are stored on the hard disk on my desktop PC. In addition a copy is held on my NAS drive. I have also uploaded my music to Google Play Music which, as well as providing a backup, enables me to access my music when I am away from home. I am aware of the risks associated with a disk crash of my desktop PC and the, much more unlikely, loss of both this drive and my NAS drive (theft, fire in my home, virus which deletes all files on my home network), but Google Play Music will provide an additional backup. My original CDs are also still available so I could redigitise the music if necessary.

Documents: I tend to use both MS Word and Google Docs when writing documents – MS Word for documents in which the final format is important and Google Docs for collaborative writing. I also use Evernote for general note-taking. In these cases I tend to use the Cloud storage provided by the application or by the company – Microsoft’s Onedrive for MS Word (and MS PowerPoint) files, Google Drive for Google Docs (and Google Spreadsheets) and Evernote’s Cloud storage for Evernote documents. These are all well-established companies and I do not think that they will disappear overnight. I am also confident that if, in the event they chose to cease providing their services or significant change the terms and conditions I will be given sufficient notice for me to be able to migrate my content.

Photos: I have used a number of Cloud storage services over the years, so I should probably rethink the services I use and the way I use them.  Currently I use Google Photos, with photos taken on mobile devices automatically being synched with the service. I acknowledge that I am not storing the high resolution images, but am happy to accept that.

Facebook: Whilst primarily a social media service for hosting discussions and sharing resources it should be recognised that Facebook is also a significant Cloud hosting service for photos – back in 2013 it was reported that “Facebook users have uploaded a quarter-trillion photos since the site’s launch” with “every day, Facebook’s 1.15 billion user base uploads an average of 350 million photos“. I tend to upload photos to Facebook when I am go to somewhere new and wish to share this with my network. I also find it interesting when I receive a anniversary message from the Facebook On this day service which brings back memories which otherwise I may have forgotten. I know that I can export resources I have uploaded to Facebook, but in reality I suspect I’ll not do this. I am happy to use Facebook as a Cloud service for sharing thoughts, ideas and images as they are posted and am happy with the serendipitous reminders I receive.

Risk Minimisation and Evidence Base

My general approach to risk minimisation is to use mainstream services which appear to have a sustainable business model to help ensure the continuity of the service (typically through making use of my personal profile information and potentially my content).

As I mentioned back on April 2012 in a post which asked Have You Got Your Free Google Drive, Skydrive & Dropbox Accounts? comments such as “Google owns everything on google drive.” are, quite simply, wrong. The Google terms and conditions state that:

You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

and goes on to add:

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

Missed Opportunities

If I did not make use of services such as Google Drive, Onedrive, Dropbox I would miss the convenience these provide. I would have to make use of either alternative Cloud services, which will have their own risks or costs associated with them or make use of non-Cloud services, which will have other types of risks or complexities (do I really want the hassle of managing my own IT infrastructure?).

Conclusions

Writing this post has been useful as it has helped clarify my own thoughts on making personal use of Cloud services and identified areas in which I should modify how I use the services. I’d welcome feedback on the post and if the approach described would be helpful for others wishing to make personal use of Cloud services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Developments to Accessibility, Automation and Metadata

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 Jul 2015

Last night I attended talk on “Schema.org & Accessibility – How Can it Help?” which was organised by Accessible Bristol.  This was the first time I’ve attended an event organised by Accessible Bristol but looking at their programme of recent monthly events I should try and get to a future event.

I was pleased to meet up with Chaals McCathie Nevile (@chaals) again, whom I first met many years ago probably at a W3A WAI event. The last time I recall spending some time with Chaals was back in January 2009, at a barbecue Chaals organised after I spoke at the OzeWAI 2009 conference.

As well as catching up with Chaals, at last night’s event I also  caught up with Dan Brickley (@danbri) and Libby Miller (@libbymiller), who used to work at ILRT, University of Bristol and whom I met at events in the southwest as well as at a number of Web conferences in the US, Hungary and elsewhere.

When I realised that I’d be meeting Dan and Libby at an event about accessibility and metadata I remembered that I had given a talk on the subject many years ago. Looking at my record of my presentations I discovered that I had given a talk on “Accessibility, Automation and Metadata” at a WAI meeting held in Toronto in May 1999. Although the slides are no longer available on the UKOLN web site I found a copy of the slides which are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

The ideas I presented which, as the title slide shows, were influenced by discussions I had with Dan Brickley, seem to reflect the talk given last night about the schemas.org accessibility vocabulary. It seems we can now flag, in a machine-understandable format, accessibility ‘hazards’ which are defined as “a characteristic of the described resource that is physiologically dangerous to some users” – such as flashing content. It would then be possible for third-party services to identify such resources. This was the idea I presented back in 1999 – and the ideas caused consternation at the time. Perhaps it was my suggestion that “Is ‘universal design’ a false goal? Shouldn’t we be aiming for personalised services based on individual preferences?” which was controversial at the time.

There now seems to be a wider acceptance of the value of personalised access to resources, and that trying to ensure that all web resources are universally accessible is not a realistic or achievable goal.

But why has the vision from 1999 taken so long to come about? Chaas acknowledged that the schema.org accessibility vocabulary is still not ready for mainstream deployment. But should we start to describe our resources which may be accessibility hazards or provide significant barriers? The BBC announces if video clips contain flashing images so that viewers who may be affected can avoid watching the clip. Should we do likewise for videos we use on our web sites? And should we flag videos which don’t provide captions? However if we only use videos which are captions, perhaps this is not necessary?

These are questions I intend to raise in the workshop session on “BS 8878: Systematic Approaches to Documenting Web Accessibility Policies and Practices” which I’ll be facilitating at the IWMW 2015 event in a few weeks time. I’d welcome questions or comments on the relevance of the schema.org accessibility vocabulary.

Note also that a Storify summary of the tweets from last night’s event are available.

My slides from the WAI meting in May 1999 are available on Slideshare and embedded below.


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LinkedIn for Higher Education

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 Jun 2015

LinkedIn For Web Professions

LinkedIn-for-higher-educationMany web and digital marketing professionals will have their own LinkedIn profiles. My initial use of LinkedIn was to provide my list of professional contacts, which would be updated as my contacts maintained and developing their profile pages. LinkedIn, I found, was particularly useful in finding out when people changed their jobs or roles.

LinkedIn has developed from a simple professional contacts service and provides additional communications and discussion tools such as the discussion groups for UK HE Web ProfessionalsDigital Libraries, Digital Preservation, Higher Education Marketing & Communications, Web 2.0 for Higher Education, Web accessibility and Web standards which I subscribe to.

But in addition to the value which LinkedIn can provide for web professionals, LinkedIn also seems to have an important role for universities.

LinkedIn For Higher Education

The 'youniversity' page on LinkedInThe ‘Youniversity‘ page on LinkedIn could well be an information resource for potential students and, therefore, for those with responsibilities for attracting such students, managing the content and engaging in discussions on the services the potential students may visit.

Looking at the University Finder it seems that if I wish to study Computer and Information Science in the UK the most popular universities are the Open University, the University of Manchester, the University of Hertfordshire, Staffordshire University, Kingston University and Sheffield Hallam University. Incidentally it appears that the order is based on the number of ‘likes’ from alumni – so if you want to raise the visibility of your institution on this list you may wish to think of ways of getting current and former students to like the LinkedIn page – encouraging graduates to do this during degree ceremonies, perhaps?

edge hill university: Linkedin-pageI’m sure that digital marketing staff will look at the LinkedIn page for their institution and their peers.

Looking at the entry for Edge Hill University, the location for the IWMW 2015 event, as shown it contains factual information about the institution and details of the careers of the alumni, with additional pages providing access to the LinkedIn profile for the, in this case 8,259, alumni, notable alumni and recommendations about the institution.

Find Out More

The LinkedIn for Higher Education web site provides access to a “resource center has customizable presentations, videos, tip sheets for students, and more“.

A video, lasting for 3 minutes 36 seconds, on LinkedIn for Higher Education is embedded below which provides a brief overview.

Finally I should mention the plenary talk on “LinkedIn for Higher Education – How Universities Can Leverage LinkedIn to Engage Future, Current and Past Students ” which will be given by Charles Hardy, LinkedIn at IWMW 2015, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop which this year takes place at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July. There is still time to book your place, learn about “LinkedIn has developed a number of features specifically for Higher Education institutions, blending career data insights with people and brand” – and much more!

LinkedIn for Higher Education, video:


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Web Accessibility Workshop Session At IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Jun 2015

Web Accessibility: Institutional Perspectives

Video recording of EA Draffan

A number of plenary talks at IWMW events have demonstrated the importance placed on the accessibility of web content and services by those with responsibilities for managing institutional web services.

Over 10 years ago, at the IWMW 2004 event, a talk on “Beyond Web Accessibility: Providing A Holistic User Experience” highlighted some of the limitations of WCAG guidelines.

Moving on to more recent years at the IWMW 2012 event EA Draffan gave a plenary talk on “Beyond WCAG: Experiences in Implementing BS 8878” (and note that a video recording of her talk is available).

The following year Jonathan Hassell, editor of the BS 8878 standard gave another plenary talk on this topic, entitled “Stop Trying to Avoid Losing & Start Winning: How BS 8878 Reframes the Accessibility Question“.

BS 8878: A Workshop Session

It’s pleasing that since 2004 that not only have the limitations of WCAG and the WAI model for addressing accessibility of web resources been acknowledged, but an alternative approach, BS 8878, has been developed which enables WCAG guidelines to be used in a pragmatic manner, which can cater for the particular context of use.

Although the recent plenary talks helped to raise awareness of how BS 8878 can help to address the challenges of implementing appropriate web accessibility practices across the wide range of challenging uses of web technologies to be found cheap medications india across the higher education community the talks did not provide opportunities to explore how BS 8878 might be used in particular use cases.

A workshop session on “BS 8878: Systematic Approaches to Documenting Web Accessibility Policies and Practices” at the IWMW 2015 event aims to address this gap.

The session will provide an opportunity for participants to document policies and practices for specific uses of web technologies found across the sector. One such common use may be video recordings of talks. As the video recording of EA Draffan’s talk is not have captioned, should it be made available? If so, what is the business model for doing so? And if resources are not available to provide captions, will accessibility be enhanced if the video recording is deleted?

Such tensions are widely understood. The session will aim to ensure that relevant policies and procedures are provided which will address the requirements of the various stakeholders who have interests in the resources.

Your Institutional Approaches to Web Accessibility Policies and Practices

In order to gain an insight into existing approaches to institutional web accessibility policies a brief survey is available which is embedded below.

View Survey
In addition a second brief survey invites your to describe your practices for embedding videos on institutional web pages.

View Survey

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IWMW 2015: Reminder of Booking Deadline and the Lanyrd Page

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 Jun 2015

Official IWMW 2015 Closing Date Approaching

IWMW 2015: Lanyrd entryThis is a reminder that the closing date for booking for the IWMW 2015 event is approaching.

The official closing date is Friday 26 June; we will use the booking information received by this date to allocate the rooms for the parallel sessions and to liaise with the conference office at Edge Hill University over accommodation, dining and similar requirements.

IWMW and Lanyrd

IWMW buy medications online no prescription events have often provided opportunities to evaluate the potential of web technologies which can be used to enhance the effectiveness of events.

As described in a post which asked “Why Would You Not Use #Lanyrd For Your Event?” the Lanyrd social event directory service has been used to provide information about IWMW events since IWMW 2012. Subsequently, in light of the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN and the risks that content hosted on the UKOLN Web site might be lost (or be difficult to find if the content was hosted on an archiving service) content for IWMW events since 1997 has been added to a Lanyrd IWMW ‘guide’.

The IWMW 2015 Lanyrd entry contains details of speakers and workshop facilitators, typically identified by their Twitter ID. In addition participants can join the Lanyrd event, which may provide an additional access mechanism for event content – a Lanyrd app, available for iOS and Android devices, is available, as is a HTML5  interface to the content which does not require any apps to be installed to view on a mobile device.

It should be noted that you can register your interests in the IWMW 2015 event on Lanyrd even if you won’t be attending the event – which may be useful if you’d like to be alerted to be able to access new content which may be added, such as speakers’ slides, trip reports, etc. And if you are still undecided whether the event may be of interest the Reflections on #IWMW14 blog post reviews some of the highlights of last year’s event.

 

 

 

 

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The Future: Competition or Collaboration?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Jun 2015

The Changing Political and Economic Environment

Master classes at IWMW 2015I suspect that many readers of this blog with, like me, have been very disappointed at the General Election results. The Government is now determined to continue its austerity measures and impose further cuts on public services, including education.

What will the implications be in higher education and, in particular, those involved in the provisions of digital services?

A recent post on the Times Higher Education, Winners and losers in Hefce funding allocations, highlighted the competitive environment we are now working in with the article highlighting the winners (King’s College London) and losers (the University of Manchester) in the REF-based distribution of £1.6bn research funding.

Web Management in a Changing Political and Economic Environment

How will the competitive environment affect those working in support services, such as those with responsibilities for the provision of IT, digital and library services?

Perhaps we will see enforced changes to our well-established culture of sharing and learning from one’s peers. Will it not be inevitable that the ‘winners’ will wish to maintain their completive edge and not share details of how they achieved their successes, unless such sharing is used for marketing purposes?

I fear that we are moving in this direction. I also fear that the focus on individual high-ranking institutions will ultimately reduce the effectiveness and impact of higher education across the UK – competition, in my view, may be fine in sports but is inappropriate in education and other public services.

Perhaps we will see the start of a decline in sharing our experiences and helping buy antibiotics in uk those who have similar responsibilities in other institutions?

A Future Based on Collaboration and Sharing?

I’m pleased to describe how this is not (yet!) happening at the IWMW 2015 event. In fact the opposite is happening with a series of half-day master classes, four being organised by members of institutional web teams and three by commercial organisations, being held for the first time since the IWMW event was launched 19 years ago.

Two of the master classes will provide opportunities to learn from the challenges being faced by web teams based at Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Bradford. Two other master classes will provide an opportunity to learn about how agile working practices are being applied at the universities of Bath and Edinburgh. The final three master classes provide perspective from companies who work with the higher education community: Headscape, Terminal Four and Precedent.

I hope that this year’s innovation in the content and structure of the IWMW event demonstrates that there will continue to be a role to play in collaboration and sharing; that those with experience and expertise will continue to share their approaches and that such approaches help to raise the standard and quality of the digital services provides across the UK higher education sector, to the benefit of all.

I hope that this approach is valued across the sector. And note that the deadline for booking for IWMW 2015 is approaching!


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Guest Post: A Revolution in the Exchange of Courses Information

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 Jun 2015

The IWMW 2015 event is only six weeks away! In today’s guest post, the latest in a series of posts about the IWMW 2015 event Jayne Rowley introduces the workshop session which Jayne and Alan Paull will be facilitating at the event.


A Revolution in the Exchange of Courses Information

IWMW 2015: exchange of courses informationFor many years now data in the Higher Education sector has flowed between Higher Education Institutions and sector organisations using standardised, system-to-system data exchange methods.  Common examples include HESA data returns, UCAS application data and Key Information Set data.  However, the vast majority of Universities and Colleges in the UK still supply course marketing information in a traditional manner.  Your staff have to re-key the course marketing information from your prospectus or web content management system into bespoke online forms provided by aggregating organisations.  These forms usually ask for slightly different types and items of data, requiring your staff to massage the information, so that it fits a proprietary format.  Research shows that on average each University or College receives about a dozen or so requests for course marketing data each year, which multiplies the different formats and therefore the resources needed to supply it.

With the spread of the HE sector’s course marketing information standard, a revolution in the exchange of courses information is happening.  This revolution will have profound beneficial effects on how you supply courses information in the future, it will improve the timeliness and quality of the information, and help learners to make better learning opportunity choices.

Changes to Postgraduate Course Data Management and Supply

Prospects is becoming the first aggregator of postgraduate course marketing information to use the new data exchange standard, with the development and launch of Course Exchange.  Funded and governed by HEFCE through Jisc, this will deliver national implementation of the XCRI-CAP British and European standard for course information, beginning with an approved postgraduate taught course vocabulary.

The benefits of Course Exchange:

  • It enables you to supply standardised taught postgraduate course information via an xml feed.
  • The data will be used by aggregators on multiple websites and platforms.
  • The service includes Course Check – a validator that will ensure your data meets the required standards.
  • It significantly reduces the burden of work for data administrators, saving an average sized University and College around £18,000 a year in resource costs for re-keying alone.
  • It gives postgraduate marketing and admissions departments full control over the dissemination of their course marketing information.
  • It makes the process of sharing course information quicker and easier.

About the Author

jayne rowleyCurrently Business Services Director of HECSU/Graduate Prospects, Jayne Rowley is responsible for the provision of a suite of shared services to the HE sector supporting the work of Higher Education Institutions in postgraduate study, careers, employability, degree verification and work experience. Prospects is becoming the first aggregator of postgraduate course data with the development and launch of Course Exchange. Funded and governed by HEFCE through Jisc, this will deliver national implementation of the XCRI-CAP British and European standard for course information, beginning with an approved postgraduate taught course vocabulary.


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Guest Post: The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 Jun 2015

On Tuesday 28 July 2015 Mike McConnell will give a plenary talk on “The Challenge Is Institutional: Merging Customer Needs With New Operating Realities” at the IWMW 2015 event. The talk will describe a case study of a consultation exercise at the University of Aberdeen to define a digital vision for the institution. In this guest post Mike summarises the key aspects of the consultation process.


iwmw 2015: mike mcconnellFollowing last year’s IWMW event I wrote a post for Brian’s UK Web Focus blog wherein I noted that “digital goes beyond web and marketing; it is about institutions, how they are structured and how they respond to change”.

As I write the University of Aberdeen is concluding a significant consultancy engagement with the consultants Precedent/KPMG, conducted over 16 weeks. This consultation was commissioned by the University in order to help it define its digital vision and any associated changes required to deliver that vision. My presentation at IWMW 2015 will discuss the project and give further detail on the outcomes.

The consultation was conducted in three phases – Discovery, Vision and Planning.

1. Discovery

This phase involved an audit of the University’s existing digital activity and strategic aims; a review of competitors (direct and aspirational), and a comprehensive engagement with key stakeholders throughout the University. Over 100 staff were interviewed. Outcomes included a map of the customer experience landscape and an articulation of the current state of business processes/sub-processes.

2. Vision

This phase involved the consultants working with the University to identify strategic opportunities and prioritise three key areas for transformation; research the viability of these with staff affected (over 80 staff were involved); identify customer needs and develop a digitally-enabled Target Operating Model1 for the institution.

3. Planning

This phase produced high level plans with options and recommendations: 9 outline business cases including identifiable risks, issues and dependences; costs and timelines; ROI and benefits realisation timescales, as well as detailed customer journey maps for the three key areas and an implementation plan.

The project board is currently considering the outcomes and recommendations in the final report, prior to wider dissemination. Many of the recommendations were anticipated but others were not, and some are extremely radical. Nearly all imply significant changes to the University’s systems, processes and staffing.

In my earlier post I noted that I hoped the exercise would ‘provide us with a digital vision that is broad in scope and world class in its ambition’. I believe that the exercise has delivered on these aims. It will be interesting to see how the University reacts to it.


About the Author

mike mcconnellMike McConnell is responsible for Web & Corporate Systems at the University of Aberdeen. He manages developers responsible for digital, web and corporate applications development.

Mike’s main duties are:

  • Institutional digital strategy
  • Web applications development
  • Supporting and developing the institutional corporate systems (MIS) environment including Finance, HR, Admissions and Student Record systems
  • Supporting and developing the institutional SharePoint and CRM environments

Prior to his current role, Mike worked in Educational Development and before that was a researcher in Information Management.

If you are interested in digital transformation, web usability, social media and user experience, especially in higher education, feel free to contact Mike using the contact details given below.

Contact details


Footnote

1 A Target Operating Model, as defined by Precedent/KPMG, “describes the strategy & services provided based on clear design principles; describes the processes to follow and the responsibilities for process steps; describes how the service will be governed and managed; provides details on the number, capabilities & grouping of people required; provides details on the technology & data to be used in support of services, and describes the locations where people will be based“.


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Guest Post: Making Usability Testing Agile

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 Jun 2015

At this year’s IWMW 2015 event Neil Allison, the User Experience Manager at the University of Edinburgh will facilitate a half-day master class on “Usability Testing in an Agile Development Process“.

In this guest post Neil summarises the approaches taken at the University of Edinburgh to agile usability testing. Note that this post was originally posted on LinkedIn.


Making Usability Testing Agile

Usability testing in an agile development process

Spaces are still available for the half-day workshop on
“Usability testing in an agile development process”

I’ve been running regular usability testing observation sessions as part of an agile project we’re running at the University of Edinburgh to enhance the new Content Management System we’re delivering, and to bring the development team closer to the end user.

Fitting usability testing into an agile process is quite challenging (we operate 9 day iterations spanning 3 weeks at a time) as time is always tight, but the methodology I’ve put together is working really well.

At the end of 2014, I ran an open invite session for web publishers, developers and project managers from around the University, to give colleagues an insight into how we’re doing this, and to allow them to participate in the process.

In this post (based on a something I wrote for our team blog), I’m basically writing up what I said so that readers can get a good idea of how I fit regular usability testing into a very tight development schedule.

Original post on the University of Edinburgh Website Programme blog

24 staff from around the University joined the CMS development team to watch 3 usability tests and contribute prioritised issues to address.

I’ve included links to the slides and am happy to help anyone who wants to try it for themselves. It’s pretty easy and the resources I use are freely available.

What we’re trying to achieve

The first thing to be clear about is that this isn’t about agile development. It’s about achieving regular, rapid, inclusive usability testing that results in measurable improvements, and with minimal overheads. So it will work for you regardless of any development methodology you’re following.

I’ve run a usability testing training course for years and had over 600 colleagues around the University attend. As Steve Krug says, “It’s not rocket science” and I think most leave my training seeing just how easy it is to get insight into the effectiveness of their website or application. Many go on to put the training into practice.

Usability testing training session overview and participant feedback

But there are challenges, and I overhauled this training a couple of years ago to cover what happens after you’ve done a few tests and identified what you feel you need to do to improve.

The challenges staff have raised with me (and I’ve encountered myself at times):

  • Getting the go ahead to use your time on usability testing
  • Getting colleagues to take on board what you uncover
  • Getting fixes to problems implemented

And challenges such as these aren’t just faced by people like you and me. Usability and user experience professionals the world over encounter blockers such as these every day.

Caroline Jarrett and Steve Krug presented research on the topic: Why usability problems go unfixed

I have additional challenges playing the role of UX Lead for the development of the new University CMS, the main one being that this is not a formally recognised role within Information Services and there are no formal usability-related processes in their approach to software development. But on the plus side, this has given me scope to experiment and innovate and it’s helped drive me to where we are now and the approach that we take.

Our process

I’m going to say right now that there’s nothing particularly innovative going on here, and that I didn’t invent any of it – I’m just standing on the shoulders of giants. Mainly Steve Krug, with a bit of help from David Travis.

The majority of what is covered below (minus a few tweaks) is from Steve’s fantastic book: Rocket Surgery Made Easy. After running sessions for a few months, I also discovered the Gov.UK user research blog which highlighted that they’re just a bit further down the same road I’ve taken us.

Have you had your recommended dose of research? – Gov.UK user research blog post

What we do:

  1. Get the right people in a room
  2. Watch a small number of short sessions with users doing something
  3. Prioritise the issues we see
  4. Collaboratively consolidate their priority lists
  5. Agree actions for usability issues
  6. Repeat every few weeks

Who are the right people? Basically everyone with a stake in the development. No exceptions. Our time is so tight that I’ve negotiated within the team to ensure that at least one representative from each area of activity is present. Ideally the whole team would be present to observe but it’s not an ideal world. So this means I always have at least: a project manager, a developer, a service manager, and a training and support representative. Sometimes I manage to get a more senior stakeholder in the room for at least some of the time too. So a minimum of 4 colleagues see what I see, and sometimes we’ve had 9 or 10.

What do we watch? We watch real CMS users undertaking tasks in usability testing sessions that I facilitate. The focus for the session is agreed a week or two in advance so that I can plan scenarios and make sure we have a representative environment to work in, and also so that the team can focus my attention to whatever they feel is most appropriate. Typically this is an area which is causing concern or an area where we’re about to begin adding new features.

How many participants? In the presentation I use the graph from Jakob Nielsen’s famous article, “Why you only need to test with 5 users” but what I actually said was “As many as you can fit into the time you have (so probably not very many)”. In practice for us, with 3 hours allotted for this activity, we watch 3 participants for about 20-30 minutes each which leaves us with enough time to discuss at the end.

Jakob Nielsen: “Why you only need to test with 5 users”

How do we prioritise? We all make our own notes, and at the end of each participant’s session, we each fill in a form independently that logs the top 3 issues we observed. So at the end of the session we have each filled in a form with 9 blank spaces. We may have written down the same 3 issues for all 3 participants, but not usually.

The CMS development team discuss the issues they’ve noted during the usability testing session.

How do we consolidate? In the early months we just did this through an open discussion, but I found it quite hard to keep the discussion on track and therefore on time. Time ran on and people needed to leave so getting real consensus was difficult. And then I remembered David Travis’ usability issue prioritisation flowchart and more recently we’ve been using this. This has helped keep the post-test conversation to about 30 minutes and provided greater transparency about how we prioritise.

And so out of this, we have a list of prioritised issues that we assign to members of the team to action. The action might be:

  • Get this prioritised for upcoming development (because the solution is “obvious”).
  • Make changes to our training and support processes.
  • Add to challenges for future prototyping of new interfaces and processes for additional testing (because we don’t have consensus on how to improve the situation, or the best solution would be costly to implement so we want to be assured it’s right before we commit the development time).

Benefits of this approach

For the development team:

  • We get closer to our CMS users – and immediately see the impact of our efforts
  • We gain shared insight & experience
  • We confirm ownership of the priority issues
    • What to fix immediately
    • What to do better next time we’re developing in that part of the system
    • What we thought was a problem that turns out to be something we can live with

For me:

  • The process keeps set up and organisation of session to a minimum
  • No report writing – just a single wiki page logging what we did and a table of priority issues and actions
  • Doing this regularly moves the culture of the team on, emphasising CMS usability on the development agenda

What we need to do better

I have two challenges that I continue to work on:

  1. How do we minimise usability issues making it in to the system in the first place?
  2. How do I get more of the right people in the room, more often and for longer?

How do we minimise usability issues making it in to the system in the first place?

This is tricky because we’re working in Drupal, an open source CMS. This means our developers rarely create stuff from scratch. They’re drawing on a community of developers’ existing work which means the cheapest solution is to just take it as it is. We have inconsistencies in presentation, labelling and functionality which need to be prioritised to be addressed. This of course gets us back to why I’m doing this testing in the first place.

Developer time is so tight, it’s difficult sometimes to find the space to discuss just how we’d like something to work to the level of detail we’d all like. Ideally I would work with developers to understand what was cost effective to work on and what we should probably leave as is before I went off to prototype and conduct early usability testing. But this can’t always happen and I have to work with what I receive from developers as a first pass. However, going back to why we’re doing this testing, the more our developers see real users interacting with the product, the more likely they are to make better decisions independently (not that our developers don’t make a lot of good decisions of course!) and we get more (more) right first time.

How do I get more of the right people in the room, more often and for longer?

As I mentioned earlier, we have agreed a minimal attendance from the team but the benefit of this process comes from everyone seeing the same thing with their own eyes, and discussing it together. Everyone on the team agrees it’s a very worthwhile initiative but unfortunately we all have other pressures and commitments. We continue to discuss and evolve our wider working practices and I hope that this activity can further enhance the perception of value in usability research on the project.

What are you waiting for? Try it yourself!

So there you have it. Not that hard at all, particularly if you just take on the same materials and processes I have. The benefits are cumulative I think. With every month that you get stakeholders back together to watch users the greater the momentum behind the user focus grows.

We use Steve Krug’s form to log 3 issues for each participant, to be discussed and prioritised at the end of the session.

Have a look at my slides and drop me a line if you have any questions. All the resources and further reading are in the slides, but essentially all you need is:

You can download my slides from Slideshare if you want to dig a bit deeper.

Sessions slides on Slideshare.com

After the event – the feedback

Colleagues from across the University that came along to our open session were incredibly positive both on the day and after it in comments on the session wiki page.

I think the session worked in 3 different ways:

  • Users of our current CMS got a preview of how they’ll undertake key tasks in the future. We were open about where we’re up to, including the flaws we still need to deal with.
  • Members of our web management community got to highlight issues they saw in the new system, and contribute to an open and democratic means of prioritising the severity of issues.
  • Developers, project managers and website owners gained some experience of a way to approach usability testing that is efficient, inclusive and more likely to result in improvements being made.

A few snippets from the feedback I received:

“…[the session] gave me a few good ideas to use when user testing my own websites, particularly the flowchart for prioritising issues and the instructions for usability test observers… [I] will be trying these out in February when testing a website we’re developing… I also enjoyed collaborating with other university staff.”

“…[the session] highlighted the importance and difficulties of user testing someone ‘live’. I noticed that myself and other participants began focusing on aspects of the design which we thought should be improved regardless of whether those aspects actually caused the participant any issues. So I took away from it the realisation that a bit of focus and discipline in observation is needed…”

“It was good to see users in action and how the new university website is shaping up. It was an interesting insight into user testing and definitely gave me ideas for our own user testing. I think the prioritisation flowchart was really useful and I think I will use this myself in the future. Another thing to mention, is that it was good to see other staff from the university and collaborate.

“Overall, excellent… The slides …and notes I took will help myself and colleagues greatly as we undertake user experience sessions in the coming weeks… The session was extremely useful and provided valuable insight and guidance on how to run UX sessions that provide measurable results.”


About the Author

Neil AllisonNeil Allison is UX Manager at the University of Edinburgh Website Programme. Here he steers the evolution of the University website’s information architecture and the user experience of the corporate content management system. He also oversees the provision of training and support to the University’s web publishing community.

The University of Edinburgh is a large, research-led institution and a member of the Russell Group. The student body totals almost 34,000 with over 11,000 engaged in postgraduate study, supported by  over 12,000 staff.

The University Website Programme began life as a project team in 2006, becoming established as a Programme two years later. Its function is to manage the corporate content management system (used by over 1000 staff in around 90 business units), promote and support best practice in website management and to facilitate the ongoing enhancement of the site in areas of cross-institutional collaboration. The primary focus at present is the development of a new CMS (using Drupal) and the migration of websites, users and processes to the new platform.  This transition will be completed by the end of 2015.

Contact details


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Guest Post: eduWeb: American version of a Higher Education Marketing Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Jun 2015

About this Guest Post

This year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2015, takes place at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July. At the same time the eduWeb 2015 conference is taking place in Chicago.

In this guest post guest post Shelley Wetzel, partner & director of the eduWeb Digital Summit describes the history of the eduWeb event which, this year, is celebrating its tenth anniversary – and has just been named as one of the Top 5 Higher Education Marketing Conferences to attend in the US.

Over the years I have observed from afar the eduWeb event and back on February 2009 asked “What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference?“. Earlier this year I revisited the question in a post which asked “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?“. I’m very pleased that Shelley agreed to my request to provide some further background information about the eduWeb conference.

In her guest post Shelley highlights some challenges which web managers in US higher educational institutions are facing and comments:

as someone from our Advisory Board just mentioned, if higher Ed (at least in the U.S.) doesn’t get their act together regarding digital within the next five years, they will not survive. To some extent, I agree with that; what is it like in the U.K.? Where are you progressing? Where are you not?

I’d be interested in comments from members of institutional Web teams based in the UK on Shelley’s perspectives.


eduWeb: American version of a Higher Education Marketing Conference

eduweb 2015Back in late 1995, I was driving with a friend near my home in Rockville, Maryland (about 45 minutes north of Washington, D.C.) and he asked me if I had heard of Netscape. I had replied “no” and asked what it was; he went to tell me about this fascinating Internet browser that I just had to look at. That was the beginning of my Internet education and career.

As I was self-employed at the time, with my own marketing agency, designing and creating marketing collateral for various clients in the metropolitan Washington, DC area and a few overseas, I was intrigued by the Internet and decided to teach myself HTML code. I loved that the designing part of it was easier than print since I didn’t have to worry about bleeds, inks, press runs, etc, and this white screen was an open canvas that could display my imagination, per client’s requests. I then started designing and coding websites.

This led to a full-time job as the first Webmaster at Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, about half hour from several beaches in the area. I thrived in the position for eight years, having moved from Webmaster to Director of Web Development and from reporting to the Dir. of PR (no marketing office at the institution) to the CIO. I was and still am a marketing person, but I also understood the technical side of this new platform, of which during those eight years and probably until about 2008, was all about your website. Social media was just starting with Twitter and I had already left my position in 2005 to start the eduWeb Conference.

While working at Salisbury University (name change around 2000), I saw and learned about “both sides of the fence” regarding an institution’s digital presence but also saw the power games going on that reduced, if not destroyed, the interest and engagement on and off campus to develop the institution’s brand through a whole new environment.

With that background, I saw a need to develop a conference and trade show for higher education that focused on marketing and technical for the administrative side of higher education. I researched and found a partner to join me in this effort and we launched the 1st eduWeb Conference in 2005 in downtown Baltimore. We grew each year until the recession hit, but still we have done well, changing program tracks to reflect the needs of higher education and their interests, bringing on guest track authors for the program, allowing them to create and market their content and recommend speakers. As the conference grew, so did my partner’s and I need to reflect higher education more as we both had worked in the field but we’re farther away from working in it on a day-by-day basis.

Adding a social media team, along with photographer and videographer, the on-site staff grew to 10 and our highest attendance year was 500! We were thrilled and knew we had to keep up with our competition to provide the best experience possible, beyond just the programming. Over the years, we have added pre- and post-conference workshops and last year, a new event, the Master Class. It’s an intense, one-day event, after the conference, on just one topic and with no more than 35 people, to keep it intimate and one-on-one between faculty and “students.”

Our 10 year Anniversary is this year and we’re celebrating in Chicago, at the same dates as your event (IWMW 2015), otherwise, I’d be coming over to visit you and Brian visiting us.

Even at 10 years old, the goal and philosophy are still the same: to bring marketing, communications, advancement, enrollment management/admissions, student affairs, alumni, and more to learn about their strategic digital needs and for anyone within the IT field of digital to do the same, BUT to learn from each other, network and take back to our campus an excitement and encouragement to work well with “both sides of the fence/department” for the best of the institution. That is your ultimate client – not your boss or the president. And even after 10 years, I still see the struggles of power, budget, enough employees and professional development within higher education to stall creativity and bring the best of digital to accomplish your goals and meet the needs of a external population that is almost all digital; as someone from our Advisory Board just mentioned, if higher Ed (at least in the U.S.) doesn’t get their act together regarding digital within the next five years, they will not survive. To some extent, I agree with that; what is it like in the U.K.? Where are you progressing? Where are you not?

At this stage, my partner and I also know that we have to keep moving forward and part of that is changing the business model a bit; it hasn’t been announced yet, but a goal is to move toward this new model within three years.

Just discovered that we have been named one of the Top 5 Higher Education Marketing Conferences to attend in the U.S.! Wonderful news and we’re proud of it.

Find us at:


Biographical Details and Contact Information

Shelley WetzelShelley Wetzel, M.B.A, is an entrepreneur, currently the Conference Director and Partner of the eduWeb Digital Summit, Principal at Second Story, LLC, a marketing and events firm, and an inventor, with a patent, launching a tablet and phablet accessory later in 2015.

Ms. Wetzel has been involved in higher education for close to 20 years, eight being Director of Web Development at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland and the last 10 years, managing the eduWeb Conference, now titled the eduWeb Digital Summit. And she has been an entrepreneur for more than half of her professional career, originally owning and managing a marketing agency in the Washington, DC area before starting her higher education career.

Websites:

Email:

Twitter:


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Life After Cetis: the Launch of the UK Web Focus Consultancy

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 May 2015

Looking Back

Brian Kelly image (Nov 2011)

Brian Kelly is now an independent consultant after 19 years working at UKOLN and then Cetis.

Friday was my final day working at Cetis – my contract has now finished. I’m now in the process of updating my LinkedIn profile and many of the other social networking services I use – and I’m sure my colleagues who are in a similar situation will be doing likewise.

I’m treating this latest development in my professional career in a positive fashion. I’m looking forward to building on a period of 19 years of working for two organisations, UKOLN and Cetis, which had responsibilities for working across the UK’s higher and further education communities and a reputation which extended beyond the UK for developing various aspects of the online environment which are now of tremendous importance in supporting teaching and learning and research activities.

In July 2013 I provided a series of Reflections on 16 Years at UKOLN and, on my final day at UKOLN, outlined plans for the future: Life After UKOLN: Looking For New Opportunities. In this post I will reflect on my work at Cetis over the past 2 years and the work of my Cetis colleagues and conclude by looking forward to the future, both as a consultant and in my family life.

Reflections on Work at Cetis

I started work at Cetis as the Innovation Advocate on 23 October 2013 – and have enjoyed my time working as a remote worker. In many respects my work as Innovation Advocate built on 16+ years of work as UK Web Focus at UKOLN. In a series of posts on Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN I concluded with a post which described how “the formulation of policies and developments to operational practices should be based on a culture of openness” – and fittingly my first talk after starting work at Cetis was to give a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them”.

The past 16 months has also provided opportunities for me to engage with one particular aspect of openness and open practices: the potential of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia services in educational, cultural and research areas. During my time at Cetis I have facilitated Wikipedia workshops at the SpotOn 2013 conference and at the LILAC 2014 information literacy conference, given talks on the relevance of Wikipedia for librarians at CILIP Scotland and CILIP Wales conferences and gave a talk on “Wikipedia, Wikimedia UK and Higher Education: Developments in the UK” at the EduWiki Serbia conference.

I was also able to continue my work in promoting practices for enhancing access to web resources for people with disabilities. After many years developing and refining a holistic approach to web accessibility, my recent work has focussed on reviewing this work, with talks on Accessibility is Primarily about People and Processes, Not Digital Resources! at the OZeWAI 2013 conference, Accessibility, Inclusivity and MOOCs: What Can BS 8878 Offer? at an ILSIG Webinar and a talk on Web accessibility is not (primarily) about conformance with web accessibility standards presented  in Second Life at the IDRAC 2014 conference.

The main focus of my work over the past year has been supporting the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project, for which I was the work package leader for the user engagement and dissemination work package. As described in a post on Sharing Project Practices: the LACE Compendium the initial deliverable I had main responsibility for was the LACE Compendium, the project handbook which documents the policies and practices the team are taking in supporting the user engagement and dissemination aspects of the project. Fittingly this document is available with a Creative Commons licence, which reflects organisational and personal beliefs in the importance of open practices.

Working With Cetis Colleagues

During my time I got to know a number of Cetis staff quite well and, in particular, I co-authored papers with Paul Hollins on “A Contextual Framework For Standards” and, more recently, a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” which covered the joint Cetis/UKOLN on the Jisc Observatory. In addition a joint paper with Scott Wilson covered “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access“.

Over the past year and a half I have enjoyed working with Adam CooperChristina Smart and David Sherlock on the LACE project and with Phil Barker on Cetis communications work. I have admired Lorna Campbell‘s commitment to open education and Wilbert Kraan‘s in-depth knowledge of metadata and open standards. And although I’ve not worked closely with Li Yuan or Simon Grant I have valued their contributions to discussions on Cetis mailing lists and admire the quality of their publications and research activities.

Life After Cetis

IWMW 2015

The free time I now have means that I will be able to focus on plans for this year’s IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshop) event. IWMW 2015, the 19th in the series,  will take place at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk on 27-29th July.  Once again we have a great programme of talks and workshop sessions aimed at people in higher educational institutions with responsibilities for providing large scale web and digital services. Note that bookings are now open!

Consultancy and Related Work

I will be looking for opportunities for consultancy and similar work through my UK Web Focus Limited consultancy which I have set up with my wife Nicola. My interests are in making use of my areas of expertise to support those working primarily in higher and further education but also the wider public sector. This might include project work but I also have an interest in smaller scale activities including training, speaking, etc. I will also be looking fo opportunities for working with my former Cetis colleagues.

Particular areas of interest include:

In addition to these consultancy areas I am also intending to carry out a limited amount of pro bono work, such as the talk on use of Cloud services I will be giving next month for the U3A in Bath. I will also be open to invitations to speak at conferences, such as the invitation I received last year to talk at the 12th SAOIM (Southern African Online Information Meeting) conference held in Pretoria, South Africa.

To support the work I am in the process of migrating the UK Web Focus blog to a new domain at ukwebfocus.com. The new web site will evolve over time; in addition to providing access to  blog posts dating back to 2006 I intend to ensure that other resources I have created are main available on the new web site.

Beyond Work

The Royal Princess (photo from Wikipedia entry)

The Royal Princess (photo from Wikipedia entry)

I should conclude  by mentioning that I won’t be looking for consultancy work in the short term as, on Thursday, I’m going on a cruise around the British Isles on the Royal Princess – my wife (who is now also my business partner) are regarding this as a belated honeymoon (we got married last August but just had a brief visit to Sidmouth Folk Festival) as well as opportunity to recharge our batteries.

The cruise will be an adventure. Although I’ve travelled a lot – to over 50 countries, depending on the complexities of counting countries – I’m not been on a cruise before (my trip on two Hurtigruten ships a few years ago doesn’t really count as a cruise).  I’m looking forward to lots of reading, maybe getting into the habit of going to the gym and, shock, not accessing the Internet – the prices are extortionate on-board – although Ill probably post some tweets and Facebook status updates when I spend time on land in Guernsey, Cobh, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow, Kirkwall, Invergordon, Edinburgh and Le Havre.

Wish me luck!


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Life After Cetis: the Launch of the UK Web Focus Consultancy

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 May 2015

Looking Back

Brian Kelly image (Nov 2011)

Brian Kelly is now an independent consultant after 19 years working at UKOLN and then Cetis.

Friday was my final day working at Cetis – my contract has now finished. I’m now in the process of updating my LinkedIn profile and many of the other social networking services I use – and I’m sure my colleagues who are in a similar situation will be doing likewise.

I’m treating this latest development in my professional career in a positive fashion. I’m looking forward to building on a period of 19 years of working for two organisations, UKOLN and Cetis, which had responsibilities for working across the UK’s higher and further education communities and a reputation which extended beyond the UK for developing various aspects of the online environment which are now of tremendous importance in supporting teaching and learning and research activities.

In July 2013 I provided a series of Reflections on 16 Years at UKOLN and, on my final day at UKOLN, outlined plans for the future: Life After UKOLN: Looking For New Opportunities. In this post I will reflect on my work at Cetis over the past 2 years and the work of my Cetis colleagues and conclude by looking forward to the future, both as a consultant and in my family life.

Reflections on Work at Cetis

I started work at Cetis as the Innovation Advocate on 23 October 2013 – and have enjoyed my time working as a remote worker. In many respects my work as Innovation Advocate built on 16+ years of work as UK Web Focus at UKOLN. In a series of posts on Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN I concluded with a post which described how “the formulation of policies and developments to operational practices should be based on a culture of openness” – and fittingly my first talk after starting work at Cetis was to give a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them”.

The past 16 months has also provided opportunities for me to engage with one particular aspect of openness and open practices: the potential of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia services in educational, cultural and research areas. During my time at Cetis I have facilitated Wikipedia workshops at the SpotOn 2013 conference and at the LILAC 2014 information literacy conference, given talks on the relevance of Wikipedia for librarians at CILIP Scotland and CILIP Wales conferences and gave a talk on “Wikipedia, Wikimedia UK and Higher Education: Developments in the UK” at the EduWiki Serbia conference.

I was also able to continue my work in promoting practices for enhancing access to web resources for people with disabilities. After many years developing and refining a holistic approach to web accessibility, my recent work has focussed on reviewing this work, with talks on Accessibility is Primarily about People and Processes, Not Digital Resources! at the OZeWAI 2013 conference, Accessibility, Inclusivity and MOOCs: What Can BS 8878 Offer? at an ILSIG Webinar and a talk on Web accessibility is not (primarily) about conformance with web accessibility standards presented  in Second Life at the IDRAC 2014 conference.

The main focus of my work over the past year has been supporting the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project, for which I was the work package leader for the user engagement and dissemination work package. As described in a post on Sharing Project Practices: the LACE Compendium the initial deliverable I had main responsibility for was the LACE Compendium, the project handbook which documents the policies and practices the team are taking in supporting the user engagement and dissemination aspects of the project. Fittingly this document is available with a Creative Commons licence, which reflects organisational and personal beliefs in the importance of open practices.

Working With Cetis Colleagues

During my time I got to know a number of Cetis staff quite well and, in particular, I co-authored papers with Paul Hollins on “A Contextual Framework For Standards” and, more recently, a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” which covered the joint Cetis/UKOLN on the Jisc Observatory. In addition a joint paper with Scott Wilson covered “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access“.

Over the past year and a half I have enjoyed working with Adam CooperChristina Smart and David Sherlock on the LACE project and with Phil Barker on Cetis communications work. I have admired Lorna Campbell‘s commitment to open education and Wilbert Kraan‘s in-depth knowledge of metadata and open standards. And although I’ve not worked closely with Li Yuan or Simon Grant I have valued their contributions to discussions on Cetis mailing lists and admire the quality of their publications and research activities.

Life After Cetis

IWMW 2015

The free time I now have means that I will be able to focus on plans for this year’s IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshop) event. IWMW 2015, the 19th in the series,  will take place at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk on 27-29th July.  Once again we have a great programme of talks and workshop sessions aimed at people in higher educational institutions with responsibilities for providing large scale web and digital services. Note that bookings are now open!

Consultancy and Related Work

I will be looking for opportunities for consultancy and similar work through my UK Web Focus Limited consultancy which I have set up with my wife Nicola. My interests are in making use of my areas of expertise to support those working primarily in higher and further education but also the wider public sector. This might include project work but I also have an interest in smaller scale activities including training, speaking, etc. I will also be looking fo opportunities for working with my former Cetis colleagues.

Particular areas of interest include:

In addition to these consultancy areas I am also intending to carry out a limited amount of pro bono work, such as the talk on use of Cloud services I will be giving next month for the U3A in Bath. I will also be open to invitations to speak at conferences, such as the invitation I received last year to talk at the 12th SAOIM (Southern African Online Information Meeting) conference held in Pretoria, South Africa.

To support the work I am in the process of migrating the UK Web Focus blog to a new domain at ukwebfocus.com. The new web site will evolve over time; in addition to providing access to  blog posts dating back to 2006 I intend to ensure that other resources I have created are main available on the new web site.

Beyond Work

The Royal Princess (photo from Wikipedia entry)

The Royal Princess (photo from Wikipedia entry)

I should conclude  by mentioning that I won’t be looking for consultancy work in the short term as, on Thursday, I’m going on a cruise around the British Isles on the Royal Princess – my wife (who is now also my business partner) are regarding this as a belated honeymoon (we got married last August but just had a brief visit to Sidmouth Folk Festival) as well as opportunity to recharge our batteries.

The cruise will be an adventure. Although I’ve travelled a lot – to over 50 countries, depending on the complexities of counting countries – I’m not been on a cruise before (my trip on two Hurtigruten ships a few years ago doesn’t really count as a cruise).  I’m looking forward to lots of reading, maybe getting into the habit of going to the gym and, shock, not accessing the Internet – the prices are extortionate on-board – although Ill probably post some tweets and Facebook status updates when I spend time on land in Guernsey, Cobh, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow, Kirkwall, Invergordon, Edinburgh and Le Havre.

Wish me luck!

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IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 May 2015

IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings

IWMW 2015 home pageI’m pleased to announce that bookings are now open for IWMW 2015, the 19th in the series of annual Institutional Web Management Workshops, which provide development opportunities for those with responsibilities for the provision of institutional web sites or development and implementation of digital strategies in the UK’s higher/further education sector.

The Content

As is the norm the IWMW 2015 event will last for 3 days, starting after lunch on Monday 27 July and finishing before lunch on Wednesday 29 July.

The event consists on a number of plenary talks together with interactive workshop sessions, which provide an opportunities for participants to actively engage in discussions of areas of interest.

The plenary talks are grouped into a number of themes:

  • Putting The Web Manager First: The opening session provides an opportunity to hear from two institutions about how institutional web and digital teams are responding to the challenges we are all facing.
  • Supporting Our Users: Two plenary talks will explore how institutions are responding to their customer needs in the context of new operating realities and the importance of providing outstanding user experience as a key differentiator for an increasingly demanding student environment.
  • Managing the Content; Developing the Services: Two plenary talks will explore approaches to managing content and developing services.
  • Beyond the Institution: In light of the importance of use of third party services for supporting institutional services there will be two talks from organisations who can support institutional activities: Jisc and LinkedIn.
  • What Does The Future Hold?: The IWMW 2015 event will conclude with a panel session in which experienced web managers will address the topic “What does the future hold?

An innovation this year is the series of half-day master classes, which provide more time for participants to explore areas of interest.  The master classes are grouped into the following themes:

  • Embed Yourself in an Institutional Web Team:  Managers of two institutional web teams (based at Liverpool John Moores University and Bradford University) will facilitate sessions which will provide opportunities to learn how other web teams address challenges they are facing.
  • Agile Working: Managers of two institutional web teams (based at the universities of Edinburgh and Bath) explore approaches to agile working for content creation, delivery and standards and usability testing.
  • Perspectives from Beyond the Sector: Staff from three commercial companies which work closely with the higher education community with Lessons facilitate master classes on Lessons Learned from Helping HE Institutions Develop their Digital Strategies, Exploring the Use of CMSs across Higher Education and Radical Simplification.

The Cost

The cost of the IWMW 2015 event is £390 which covers two nights’ accommodation, workshop materials, lunch on the second day, the conference dinner and a wine reception. For those who do not require accommodation the price is £300.

Note due to the limited size of the main lecture theatre we will not be able to host as many participants as recent years. In addition there are limits to the numbers of participants in the workshop sessions and master classes. We therefore recommend early booking!

 

 

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IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7 May 2015

IWMW 2015 Open For Bookings

IWMW 2015 home pageI’m pleased to announce that bookings are now open for IWMW 2015, the 19th in the series of annual Institutional Web Management Workshops, which provide development opportunities for those with responsibilities for the provision of institutional web sites or development and implementation of digital strategies in the UK’s higher/further education sector.

The Content

As is the norm the IWMW 2015 buy zithromax online cheap event will last for 3 days, starting after lunch on Monday 27 July and finishing before lunch on Wednesday 29 July.

The event consists on a number of plenary talks together with interactive workshop sessions, which provide an opportunities for participants to actively engage in discussions of areas of interest.

The plenary talks are grouped into a number of themes:

  • Putting The Web Manager First: The opening session provides an opportunity to hear from two institutions about how institutional web and digital teams are responding to the challenges we are all facing.
  • Supporting Our Users: Two plenary talks will explore how institutions are responding to their customer needs in the context of new operating realities and the importance of providing outstanding user experience as a key differentiator for an increasingly demanding student environment.
  • Managing the Content; Developing the Services: Two plenary talks will explore approaches to managing content and developing services.
  • Beyond the Institution: In light of the importance of use of third party services for supporting institutional services there will be two talks from organisations who can support institutional activities: Jisc and LinkedIn.
  • What Does The Future Hold?: The IWMW 2015 event will conclude with a panel session in which experienced web managers will address the topic “What does the future hold?

An innovation this year is the series of half-day master classes, which provide more time for participants to explore areas of interest.  The master classes are grouped into the following themes:

  • Embed Yourself in an Institutional Web Team:  Managers of two institutional web teams (based at Liverpool John Moores University and Bradford University) will facilitate sessions which will provide opportunities to learn how other web teams address challenges they are facing.
  • Agile Working: Managers of two institutional web teams (based at the universities of Edinburgh and Bath) explore approaches to agile working for content creation, delivery and standards and usability testing.
  • Perspectives from Beyond the Sector: Staff from three commercial companies which work closely with the higher education community with Lessons facilitate master classes on Lessons Learned from Helping HE Institutions Develop their Digital Strategies, Exploring the Use of CMSs across Higher Education and Radical Simplification.

The Cost

The cost of the IWMW 2015 event is £390 which covers two nights’ accommodation, workshop materials, lunch on the second day, the conference dinner and a wine reception. For those who do not require accommodation the price is £300.

Note due to the limited size of the main lecture theatre we will not be able to host as many participants as recent years. In addition there are limits to the numbers of participants in the workshop sessions and master classes. We therefore recommend early booking!

 

 

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Master Classes at IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Apr 2015

Strengths and Weakness of Workshops at IWMW Events

iwmw-logo-transparentIn a recent post I asked “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?“. In the post I pointed out that the eduWeb and HighEdWeb conferences, the two main events for web professionals in higher education in the US, both provide half-day or full-day workshop sessions (which are sometimes referred to as ‘master classes’). The Eduweb conference site explains how:

Starting in 2014, the eduWeb Digital Summit launched a new event, the Master Class.

  • Intense, interactive classroom with top-notch faculty
  • Limited to approximately 35 participants
  • Maximum peer-to-peer dialogue
  • Hands-on activities and instruction

IWMW, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop series, has always provided workshop sessions since it was launched in 1997, which provide an opportunity for participants to actively engage in workshop activities. However the workshops have normally lasted for 90 minutes, with the IWMW 2000 event being the most recent event which hosted a number of workshop sessions lasting for 3 hours.

Although 90 minute workshops enable participants to attend a wider range of sessions they provide limited opportunities to engage more deeply in the area covered by the workshop. This year, at IWMW 2015, we have therefore decided to provide 90 minute workshop sessions together with a number of ‘master classes’ which will last for 3 hours.

Master Classes at IWMW 2015

Although the programme for the IWMW 2015 is still being finalised we are able to provide the following information about the master classes.

Working with other web teams: The introduction of the 3 hour workshop sessions has provided an opportunity for members of a small number of institutional web team to share their approaches to their work, describe their success and the challenges they’ve faced. The master classes will provide opportunities to ’embed’ oneself in another web team for a short period not only to learn from their approaches but also to provide your expertise and insights into the challenges they are facing. The web teams will represent a cross-section of the UK higher education community and will include Edge Hill University, Liverpool John Moores University and the universities of Bath, Bradford and Edinburgh.

Further information on the areas to be covered in these sessions will be provided when the IWMW 2015 programme if officially launched but I am able to provide the title for the master class to be facilitated by the University of Bath’s Digital team: “Working in an agile way – content creation, delivery and standards” in which participants will “ learn how to adopt an agile approach to content creation, delivery and standards and about the role of discovery; how to hold a user story planning workshop; practical tools and techniques for delivering a content-led project using an iterative approach; how to establish digital standards through blogging and community building exercises and reporting on success.”

Working with commercial providers: In the early years of IWMW events the sessions were mainly provided by members of the community. However in light of the importance of the web it is now widely acknowledged that institutional web teams are not able to cover their wide range of activities in isolation. There are now a number of commercial vendors and consultants who work with institutional web teams who are able to support their activities. We have been fortunate at IWMW events in attracting sponsorship from the commercial sector over a period of many years. This year in addition to the sponsorship, which enables the event to be priced at  a competitive level, we will also be hosting a number of master class which will be provided by commercial sponsors. These include Headscape who will be running a session on “Lessons learned from helping HE institutions develop their digital strategies“. Details of additional master classes provided by sponsors are currently being finalised and further information should be available next week

Please note that the master classes have not yet been finalised and there may be changes made prior to the launch of the programme.

About IWMW 2015

The IWMW 2015 event will be held at Edge Hill University on 27-29 July. The event web site will be launched shortly which will contain details of the full programme, the social events and the price. Note that in recent years the cost of the event has been £350 which has included 2 night’s accommodation – we hope to keep this year’s price close to this level, depending on the amount of sponsorship we receive.

 

 

 

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What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Apr 2015

IWMW Events: Learning From One’s Peers

A recent post on Revisiting Ideas for IWMW 2015 explored some ideas for possible sessions at this year’s IWMW 2015 event which has the theme “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution”.

IWMW, the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop, has, since its launch in 1997, provided a forum for learning about new web developments, sharing experiences, developing one’s professional networks and, last but not least,  having some fun!

It is valuable to be able to learn from one’s peers and the institutional case studies which have been presented at IWMW events have provided an opportunity to learn from others in the sector who are typically facing similar challenges. However it can also be useful to explore the approaches which are being taken beyond the UK higher education sector in order to learn from others and avoid the risks associated with the echo chamber and confirmation biases of seeking support for one’s preferred approaches to providing institutional web services, for ‘thinking digital’ and, moving to the next steps in ‘transforming the institution’.

Learning From Others

Back in February 2009 I asked What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference? It’s timely, I feel, to revisit that question but with a broader focus.  The question for me, therefore, is “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?”.

The Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb)

heweb 2015 conferenceThe Higher Education Web Professionals Association (HighEdWeb) is “an organization of Web professionals working at institutions of higher education“”. As described on the HighEdWeb web site: “We design, develop, manage and map the futures of higher education websites. Our mission is to “strive to advance Web professionals, technologies and standards in higher education.”

HighEdWeb’s involvement in organising events for web professions in higher education dates back to 2004when the organisation “joined forces with WebDevShare to create an annual international conference where the community can come together to learn, share and network. The Association also runs a series of smaller, targeted regional conferences around the United States“.

The HighEdWeb annual conference seems to have many parallels with IWMW events: the conferences are:

created by and for higher education Web professionals. This not-for-profit conference offers high-quality presentations, speakers and events at affordable rates. From Web developers, marketers and programmers to managers, designers, writers and all team members in-between, HighEdWeb provides valuable professional development experience for all those who want to explore the unique Web issues facing colleges and universities.

The year’s conference will be held on 4-7 October in Milwaukee  at the Hilton Milwaukee Downtown. The call for proposals is currently open with three types of sessions available: (1) 45-Minute conference presentation;  (2) poster presentation and (3)  3.5 hour workshop session.

The conference rates are HighEdWeb member rate: $725 (£490) and  non-member rate: $825 (£558) for earl registration with the full conference rates being  $850 (£575) member rate  and $950 (£642) non-member rate. In addition the workshops cost an additional $160 (£108) for one workshop or $220 (£149) for two workshops. It should be noted that these rates do not include accommodation, which costs from $177 (£119) per night.

Although the conference programme has not yet been finalised the structure of the event is as follows:

  • Sunday, 4 October: pre-conference workshops and welcome reception
  • Monday, 5 October: keynote and track sessions; breakfast, lunch and snacks provided; dinner on your own and HighEdWeb “AfterDark” and hackathon
  • Tuesday, 6 October: track sessions; keynote sessions; poster sessions; breakfast, lunch and snacks provided and HighEdWeb “Big Social Event”
  • Wednesday, 7 October: track sessions; closing keynote and post-conference workshops.

The main differences with IWMW events are the Sunday start; the poster sessions and the post-conference workshops. Both events provide an evening for delegates to make their own choices for dinner and a social event although IWMW events also provide a conference dinner.

Looking at the timetables for HighEdWeb 2010 (held in Cincinnati),  HighEdWeb  2011 (held in Austin, Texas), HighEdWeb  2012  (held in Milwaukee), HighEdWeb  2013 (held in Buffalo) and HighEdWeb  2014 (held in Portland, Oregon) have all had a similar structure although last year’s event began with the first part leadership academy on the Saturday which also ran from 8am to 4pm on the Sunday!

The HighEdWeb  2014 conference began with four half-day workshop sessions which were held on the Sunday afternoon: Developing and Maintaining Web Content: An Idea Generating Workshop; Video Production Workshop; Get on Track with Content Strategy and Is my .edu accessible?.

Over the remaining 2.5 days of the conference the sessions were split into a number of parallel sessions including Applications, Integration and Mobile; Development, Programming and Architecture; Marketing, Content and Social Strategy; Management and Professional Development; Technology in Education and Sponsors sessions, as illustrated.

HEweb 2014 timetable Monday 20-oct

After a concluding plenary session and lunch the conference finished with the second set of workshop sessions on Finding Your Way: Fixing (Conflicting) Map Data and Building an Interactive Campus MapNavigating Social Media in Higher EducationA Nuts-and-Bolts Introduction to Client-side Interactivity with jQuery and AJAX; Responsive web design and Let’s face it: We’re not sixteen anymore.

The EduWeb Conference

EduWeb 2015 timetableAs described on the HigherEdExperts web site the eduWeb Digital Summit (the eduWeb Conference) is

an annual, internationally recognized event for the higher education community, attracting those who are involved in the design, development, marketing, strategy and implementation of their online presence.

This year’s event will be held at the Westin Downtown hotel, Chicago on 27-30 July. The event features four tracks including: digital marketing; web development and web strategy.

The programme for this year’s event is available. As can be seen from the screen shot of the timetable for the opening day the event mainly consists of plenary talks which, unlike the HighEdWeb conference, are not split into parallel streams. The third and final day of the conference does provide four sessions entitled Breakfast with the Best which take place before the closing plenary talk. After the lunch break there is a half-day workshop on “Closing the Loop: Gathering and Using the Right Data to …… Evaluate Your Marketing Initiatives“. The day after the conference features a full-day master class entitled “How to Use Market Research to Capture the Essence of Your Institution“.

EduWeb 2014 brochureIt should also be noted that the programme for the EduWeb 2012 (held in Boston), Eduweb 2013 (held in Boston) and EduWeb 2014 (held in Baltimore) events are available (links are to PDF files).

The costs of the EduWeb conference are:

  • Platinum Package (pre- and post-workshop sessions, master class and full conference): $1,305 (£882).
  • Gold Package (one workshop and conference ): $705 (£476):
  • Conference (early bird rate): Delegate: $795 (£537) – Speaker: $695 (£470)
  • Conference (full rate): Delegate: $895 (£605) – Speaker: $795 (£537)
  • Half-day Workshops — $195 (£132) (doesn’t include lunch)
  • Full-day Master Class: $595 (£402)

It should be noted that these rates do not cover accommodation, which costs $229 + tax (£155) per night.

Reflections

Costs

The first thing which struck me was how affordable IWMW events are in comparison with the HE Web and EduWeb conferences. As described in a post about IWMW 2014 the IWMW 2014 event cost £350 which included 2 nights’ accommodation – and this has been the maximum price over the past 5 years. The following table summarises the typical costs for the events (where early bird rates are available these are shown).

Table 1: Costs of IWMW, HE Web and EduWeb conferences
Cost Length Covers Note
IWMW £350 2.5 days Conference, workshops, breakfasts, lunches, conference dinner, social event and 2 nights accommodation Student accommodation provided.
HE Web £490 2.5 days Conference, breakfasts, lunches, conference dinner, social event and social event but no accommodation Additional £108 for one or £149 for two half-day workshops. Accommodation from $119 +tax per night.
EduWeb £537 2.5 days Conference, breakfasts and social events but no accommodation Additional £132 and/or £402 for half-day workshops / full day master class. Accommodation from $155 + tax per night.

The low costs of the IWMW event reflects its origin as a JISC-funded event delivered by UKOLN. However the need for the event to now cover its costs may necessitate increases in the charges to attendees – a possibility which was acknowledged in discussions at least year’s event.

Although  increases in the cost of attending the event would enable more resources to be spent on enhancing the event it should also be acknowledged that now, in the run-up to the General Election, is probably not an ideal time to increase the costs of providing professional development activities – the higher education sector is suffering the effect of austerity cuts :-(

Sponsorship

HEWeb sponsors logos: 2014For several years the IWMW event has accepted sponsorship. However in order to avoid possible conflicts of interest with JISC we ensured that the sponsorship was used to cover the costs of social events and conference ‘schwag‘ such as rucksacks, badges, etc.

Looking at the list of sponsors for the HighEdWeb 2014 (illustrated) and EduWeb 2015 conferences it would appear that organisers for these events have been pro-active in attracting sponsorship. The list of sponsorship opportunities for EduWeb 2015 provides details of the range of sponsorship opportunities available at this year’s EduWeb conference, which range from $1,500 (£1,012) for sponsoring tracks at the event, the opening and closing keynote and the lunch session with other rates available for sponsors’ branding at meals and coffee breaks, for the event WiFi and for advertisements or inserts in the conference programme.

Governance

It was interesting to read the details  about HighEdweb: on its web site it describes how “HighEdweb is an organization of web professionals working at institutions of higher education” and goes on summarize its missions:

HighEdweb strives to advance web professionals, technologies and standards in higher education.

its purpose:

HighEdweb is an organization of professionals working to advance the web at institutions of higher education. We design, develop, manage and map the futures of higher education digital communications and services.

and its core values:

  • Being Trustworthy: We do the right thing; we keep our commitments; we strive for excellence.
  • Being Openness: We strive for transparency in our actions; we value open access to knowledge and resources; We support tools and approaches that cultivate free exchange, participation and community building.
  • Fostering Collaboration: We encourage sharing and teamwork; we support our members’ success and needs; we foster a culture of service within the organization; we provide opportunities to share knowledge and ideas.

Is there a need, I wonder, for IWMW to transform from being a well-established annual event for Web professionals to forming the core of a professional association for those involved in providing Web services in higher education in the UK’s higher education sector? Perhaps this is a topic which should be addressed at IWMW 2015.

Content

As described in a recent post the call for submissions for IWMW 2015. I hope the links to the programmes for the HE Web and EduWeb conferences may provide some additional ideas for those considering submitting proposals.

From the forthcoming EduWeb 2015 event I noticed the following half-day workshop sessions which I feel would be of interest to IWMW 2015 attendees:

  • Managing the Unmanageable: Web Governance in Higher Education
  • The Explosion of Video Marketing: People prefer watching video to reading text, who knew?

Plenary talks on topics I also think would be interesting include:

  • Social Media strand: “#CollegeBound: Using Instagram to Impact Yield“; “How to Use YouTube and Hangouts on Air for Creating Differentiated Video Content” and “You have it, now use it: Extracting measurable value out of enterprise social media
  • Web Intelligence+ strand: “User Testing on a Shoestring“; “Optimizing the User Experience for .EDU Websites“; “Multilingual Campus Websites – Opportunities and Challenges” and “Data isn’t Just for Geeks Anymore!
  • Technical Design & Development strand: “Kickstarting Engagement Strategies with Drupal and …” and “Web Wedding Announcement: Google Analytics and Customer
  • Digital MarCom strand: “Mobilizing Ambassadors to Communicate Your School’s Story

From last year’s HighEdWeb 2014 event the following talks seemed of interest

Returning to the question I posed earlier: “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?” I feel looking at the business and governance models provided for events aimed at Web professionals in higher education as well as the content of similar professional development events held in the US is helpful in exploring options for IWMW, both in the immediate future (IWMW 2015) and beyond.

I also feel that we should explore the longer term issues of the sustainability of the Web management community in UK higher education institutions during IWMW 2015. But there is no reason why the discussions shouldn’t begin today – so feel free to give your thoughts as a comment to this post.

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Revisiting Ideas for IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Mar 2015

Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution

A recent post on this blog announced the Call For Submissions for IWMW 2015. The post suggested that the theme for this year’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshop should be along the lines of “Thinking Digital”. Subsequent discussions with members of the IWMW 2015 advisory group (Ross Ferguson, Mike McConnell, Alison Kerwin, Clare Gibbons and Mike Nolan, the local organiser at Edge Hill University) led to a subsequent refinement of this idea. It was suggested that the challenge we now face is how we break out of a purely operational role and play a sustained, strategic role at the core of the University business. It was agreed that the theme “Beyond Digital: Transforming the Institution” summarises this challenge nicely.

Technology in Higher Education: Defining the Strategic Leader

Technology in higher education: defining the strategic leaderWe seem to be seeing changes in the roles played by those with responsibilities in this area, with managers and policy makers increasingly acting as advocates for business change. In this regard the joint report between Jisc and EDUCAUSE on “Technology in higher education: defining the strategic leader” was timely. The report suggest that underlying technological shifts in personal, professional and academic life can provide opportunities for IT leaders to reshape the image of IT and their own role within the institution which IT leaders can achieve in a number of ways:

  • Campaign for a seat at the top table: Clearly demonstrate how IT touches and provides value to many aspects of the institution. Executive peers often have an incomplete understanding of IT and technological issues, and the IT leader needs to paint a compelling picture of the value IT does and can bring.
  • Speak their language: A perception often still exists at the board level that IT leaders are technologists alone, and there is an unease with the language of technology. Don’t start talking about the technology. Start by talking about the business value.
  • Coach executive-level staff: No matter how well an IT leader mentors IT staff, if IT leaders aren’t coaching campus leaders outside IT, they will face significant barriers to success.
  • Build credibility: Deliver on the promises you make, and colleagues will trust you. ‘Talk the talk and walk the walk’.

Such observations would also appear to be very relevant for those with responsibilities for managing an institution’s digital presence, so I would hope that the report will help to identify possible areas which could be addressed at the IWMW 2015 event.

What is a Digital Strategy? 

However an Accenture report which asked “What is a digital strategy?“, also published in March 2015, suggests that “Digital strategy is not IT strategy, and requires a different approach” and goes on to describe how:
Going mobile, adding analytics, or extending the online experience begs the question what’s next? These investments often changed the form of interaction, with limited change to the function. Transforming the business with digital, particularly in the marketing area, makes sense in the face of changing consumer expectations, options and information. As organizations near the end of their first digital journey and complete their initial roadmap, the question of digital strategy re-joins the executive agenda. 

The report concludes by Refining the definition of digital and strategy which it summarises as:

  • Digital is the application of information and technology to raise human performance.
  • Strategy is setting a direction, sequencing resources and making commitments.

IWMW 2015: Supporting the Transformation of Your Institution

The call for submissions for IWMW 2015 is open. I hope the two reports I have mentioned will help to stimulate ideas for talks and workshop sessions for the IWMW 2015 event, which will be held at Edge Hill University during the week beginning 27 July. If you would like to discuss a possible proposal feel free to get in touch.

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Call For Submissions for IWMW 2015

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Mar 2015

About IWMW

A year ago, in a post entitled “Call For Submissions for IWMW 2014” I reviewed the history of IWMW, the Institutional Web Management Workshop series which was launched in 1997 and, from 1997 to 2013, provided the main annual event organised by UKOLN in its role as a national JISC-funded Innovation Support Centre.

Following JISC’s cessation of core-funding for UKOLN the future of the event was uncertain. However requests from many members of the UK higher education’s web management community made it clear that there was still demand for such an event. Last year I was therefore able to announce that:

I’m pleased to announced that the IWMW event will continue! The IWMW 2014 event will be held at the University of Northumbria on 16-18 July.

IWMW 2014: evaluation of event organisationIWMW 2014: evaluation of event contentThe IWMW 2014 event was a great success: details of the programme were announced on 14 April 2014, with a report and a summary of the feedback provided in the evaluation forms was published in August 2014.

In addition to the valuable comments which were made the feedback for the overall rating of the content of the event and the organisation was particularly impressive. As shown in the accompanying graphs on a scale of 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) the majority of respondents felt that the content was either excellent or very good, with an overall rating of 4.3 and 75% of the respondents gave a rating of excellent for the organisation of the event (the overall rating was 4.7).

The comments provided about the event show the value which participants place on the event:

  • Highly recommended, the IWMW event offers the chance to network with colleagues from other higher education institutions across the country. The event is always well attended and you can expect to see a variety of knowledgeable presenters and take part in individual workshops over the course of the 3 days, as well as get the chance go out and socialise and take in some of your surroundings.
  • I found IWMW 2014 to be practical, encouraging, empowering, and enthusiastic. Brilliant opportunity to network with other people in the sector, and learn that you’re not just on your own. Other teams are going through exactly the same things. Definitely the best IWMW conference I’ve been to.
  • Over the years IWMW events have had more positive and direct effect on my career, the working practices of my team, and the University of Aberdeen than any other developmental conferences or activity. The only opportunity for UK HE’s web professionals to gather in person, compare practices and reflect on current challenges. An engaging and thought provoking event that challenges those in the sector to look ahead and see the possibilities as well as the pitfalls.
  • IWMW has been a constant in my working life since 2003. It allows me space to think, to test new ideas and to develop a strong social and professional network. With contacts built through IWMW I can contact folk anywhere across the UK on any one of a number of (often specialist) topics for a useful insight or debate.
  • Should be in the calendar of every web professional in the higher ed sector. Quality sessions, a great community and excellent value for money make it a no-brainer for me. IWMW offers a unique opportunity for digital professionals to come together, share experiences and learn from each.

IWMW 2015: Call for Submissions

IWMW 2015: Call for Submissions

In light of the strong support for the IWMW 2015 I am pleased to announce that call for submissions for IWMW 2015 is now open.

This year’s event will be held at Edge Hill University during the week beginning 27 July (the exact dates are still to be confirmed)

Submissions for plenary talks (lasting for 45 minutes) and workshop sessions (lasting for 90 minutes) are invited. In addition we also welcome proposals for other approaches for engaging with the participants which might include panel sessions, debates or masterclasses (lasting for 3 hours).

Although IWMW events have also provided a forum for those who work in institutional web management teams to share their experiences with their peers we have also found that speakers from the commercial sector have proved useful so we also welcome submissions from the commercial sector.

Submissions can be made using the online submission form. If you would like to discuss possible proposals feel free to send an email to ukwebfocus@gmail.com.

Theme for IWMW 2015

At last year’s event the most highly rated plenary speaker was Ross Ferguson, Head of Digital at the University of Bath; 78% thought his talk on “Using the start-up playbook to reboot a big university website ” was Excellent and 22% felt it was Very Good.

In light of this talk and subsequent discussions we feel that Thinking Digital’ might be an appropriate theme for this year’s event. However we welcome suggestions for other variants on this theme. As ever comments on this blog posts are welcomed.


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

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Identifying and Preparing for Technological Developments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Feb 2015

THE Article on Technology Trends for 2015

Times Higher Education: technology trends for 2015An article published yesterday in the THE (Times Higher Education)  summarised the 6 key trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education in 2015.

As can be seen from the accompanying screenshot the THE has published similar articles in the past; in February 2014 they published two related articles:

These lists of trends accelerating adoption of technologies and challenges impeding adoption of technologies have been taken from the NMC Horizon series of reports with yesterday’s article summarising the trends described in the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. In brief these trends are:

  1. Advancing cultures of change and innovation: long-term trend based on the observations that “many thought leaders have long believed that universities can play a major role in the growth of national economies” and “research universities [being] generally perceived as incubators for new discoveries and innovations that directly impact their local communities and even the global landscape“.
  2. Increasing cross-institution collaboration: long-term trend which is based on the observation that “collective action among universities is growing in importance for the future of higher education“.
  3. Growing focus on measuring learning: mid-term trend focussing on “gathering and analysing large amounts of detail about individual student interactions in online learning activities, with a view to personalising their “learning experience” or measuring performance“.
  4. Proliferation of open educational resources: mid-term trend based on the observation that “open educational resources (teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others) have momentum behind them“.
  5. Increasing use of blended learning: short-term trend which acknowledges that “blended learning, whereby teaching utilises a mixture of online and in-person methods, has been around for some time, but recent developments are “upping the ante”“.
  6. Redesigning learning spaces: short-term trend which, for example, address how “more universities are helping to facilitate “emerging models of education” such as the flipped classroom, whereby content is delivered online and lecturers use contact time to discuss and explain rather than to disseminate knowledge“.

So how we know what the future holds for higher education!

Identifying and Preparing for Technological Developments

The publication of the THE article was quite timely as tomorrow I am facilitating a session on “Identifying and Preparing for Technological Developments” at a JIBS meeting entitled “Technology will not defeat us: offering a good service in difficult times“.

The session is based on my initial work on the Jisc Observatory (led by UKOLN and Cetis) which was summarised in a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow“, participation last year with the expert panel which advised on the NMC Horizon report for Academic Libraries and workshop sessions on predicting technological developments which I gave at ELAG 2014, SAOIM 2014 and ILI 2013 conferences.

In the session I will make use of the Delphi process used by the NMC Horizon team in the production of their reports, together with illustrating a number of other techniques which may be useful in identifying technology trends and responding to such trends. The key point I’ll be making is that organisations should incorporate such approaches to support their long-term planning. I hope the approaches I’ll describe will be of interest and, as the resources are available with a Creative Commons CC-BY licence, that the methodology can be easily adopted by others.

The slides I’m using at the event are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

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MTSR 2015, the 9th Metadata & Semantics Research Conference (and its use of Facebook)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Feb 2015

MTSR 2015, the 9th Metadata and Semantics Research Conference

MTSR 2015 conference web siteThe 9th Metadata and Semantics Research Conference has recently announced its call for papers, which is also available as a PDF document.

Metadata has been a area of interest to UKOLN, my former organisation and Cetis, my current organisation, also have interests in this area including recent support for LRMI, the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative.

MTSR 2015, to use the conference’s abbreviation, will take place at the University of Manchester on 9-11th September 2015. As described on the conference home page:

the ninth International Conference on Metadata and Semantics Research (MTSR’15) aims to bring together scholars and practitioners that share a common interest in the interdisciplinary field of metadata, semantics, linked data and ontologies. Participants will share novel knowledge and best practice in the implementation of these semantic technologies across diverse types of Information Environments and applications. These include Cultural Informatics; Open Access Repositories & Digital Libraries; E-learning applications; Search Engine Optimization & Information Retrieval; Research Information Systems and Infrastructures; e-Science and e-Social Science applications; Agriculture, Food and Environment; Bio-Health & Medical Information Systems.

The deadline for submission is 9th May and authors will be notified of acceptance or rejection of their submission on 16th June.

What have you noticed is now a mainstream practice?

MTSR 2015 Facebook pageIn a post on his OUseful blog over a year ago Tony Hirst described the “What did you notice for the first time today?” exercise which he used in a workshop on Future Technologies and Their Applications which Tony and I co-facilitated at the ILI 2013 conference.

Tony describe how this approach could be important for trend spotting: “it may signify that something is becoming mainstream that you hadn’t appreciated before“. However I found that trying to reflect on something I’ve notice for the first time today too constraining, so I proposed a tweaked version: What Have You Noticed Recently?

However another variant may be “What have you noticed is now a mainstream practice which may have been considered inappropriate in the recent past?“: this might be particularly useful in identifying acceptance of emerging practices and a willingness to accept some level of risk.

This came to me when I notice that, as shown in the image at the top of this post, the MTSR 2015 conference home page provides details of the MTSR Metadata Semantics Research Conference Facebook page. The Facebook page, which currently has 217 ‘likes’, contains a small number of updates: the launch of the Facebook page, the first announcement of the call for papers, an update to the page’s photograph, details of the conference Twitter account, dates for the call for papers and award details.

In addition to this content (which are primarily links to content hosted on the conference web site)  as can be seen from the screen shot the Facebook page also provides links to Facebook pages for related content including Open Repositories 2015 (283 likes including 3 researchers/librarians I am connected with), the Research Data Alliance (363 likes) and ICCMI 2014 (309 likes).

In answer to the question I posed “What have you noticed is now a mainstream practice which may have been considered inappropriate in the recent past?” I can answer “Use of Facebook to promote research conference and apparent ‘liking’ of the page by hundreds of researchers and practitioners“.

Or, to generalise this “An acceptance of the risks of using Facebook by well-educated researchers and library practitioners and an acknowledgement of the benefits which can be gained“.

MTSR 2015 Facebook statisticsThe use of Facebook to promote research conferences seems to no longer be one of “should we?”  but instead one based on a cost-benefit analysis – can the effort in updating a Facebook page for a conference be justified? Fortunately the Facebook statistics for the page provides usage data for helping to answer this question (it should also be noted, incidentally, that the conference’s MTSR 2015 Twitter account currently only has 9 followers).

Would you agree that this is now a mainstream practice? Would you also agree that in the past this type of use was frowned upon?

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Sharing Project Practices: the LACE Compendium

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Feb 2015

Open Practices Covered in this Blog

LACE Compendium coverI have written a number of posts on various aspects of openness since this blog was launched back in 2007, with posts in recent months covering topics such as protocols to support open services (“OpenSocial and the OpenSocial Foundation: Moves to W3C“); the implications of open licences (“Flickr and Creative Commons; Lessons from Open Source Software“) and moves towards open practices in the UK (“Report on Modernisation of Higher Education: Focus on Open Access and Learning Analytics“).

The LACE Compendium

I am currently working on the EU-funded LACE project. The LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project team members have a similar commitment to open practices to support of the project. As an example we agreed that the LACE Compendium, the project handbook which documents the policies and practices the team are taking in supporting the user engagement and dissemination aspects of the project, would be published under a Creative Commons licence.

The first version of the Compendium, which was published in April 2013, described our initial plans for the outreach work. This has been significantly updated in the light of experiences and feedback from team members. The latest version containing 45 pages which cover our strategies for user engagement, events and development of our network of policy makers and practitioners with interests in learning analytics. The document also describes approaches we are taking to measure the effectiveness of the strategies and concludes by summarising approaches for ensuring the sustainability of the project assets, including project deliverables, other project resources, the channels used in supporting the work and the communities themselves.

Why We Have Used a Creative Commons Licence

The team’s culture of openness, which includes use of a Creative Commons licence for the report, is not primarily an end in itself; rather such openness can provide tangible benefits including:

  • Encouraging feedback on the document, since others who may wish to reuse the content should benefit from feedback.
  • Enabling others to use the document, thus saving effort from having to develop similar project documentation.
  • Allow others to build on the documentation should there be changes to the project team.
  • Support the long term preservation of the project’s resources by minimising legal and licences barriers to reuse of content.
  • To enhance the reputation of the project team.

There are resource implications associated with the implementation of open practices and, in keeping with a culture of openness, it is appropriate to acknowledge such implications as well as highlighting the potential benefits of providing Creative Commons licences for project deliverables.

Unlike the value criteria for copyrighted resources (making money) the value in the project team’s resources lies primarily in their reuse, the feedback we receive and embedding of the resources and the ideas across the community. Feel free, therefore, to reuse this report and our other deliverables. Your feedback is, of course, encouraged.


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Microsoft Adopts First International Cloud Privacy Standard

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Feb 2015

Announcement

microsoft-adopts-first-international-cloud-privacy-standardOn Monday 16 January 2015 Microsoft announced that they had adopted the first international Cloud privacy standard.

The standard in question is ISO/IEC 27018, the code of practice for protection of personally identifiable information (PII) in public clouds acting as PII processors.

Discussion

A ZDNet article entitled “Microsoft adopts international cloud privacy standard” was published yesterday which provided Microsoft’s summary of this development:

… under the standard, enterprise customers will have control of their data; will be informed of what’s happening with their data, including whether there are any returns, transfers, or deletion of their personal information; and will be protected with “strong security” by ensuring that any people processing personally identifiable information will be subject to a confidentiality obligation.

At the same time, Microsoft has ensured that it will not use any data for advertising purposes, and that it will inform its customers if their data is accessed by the government.

Other news announcements included:

The latter article highlights one limitation of the standard: “Microsoft added the new standard forces them to inform users about government access to data, unless the disclosure is prohibited by law“. This seems to suggest that if the UK Government requests data held by Microsoft in their Cloud service conformance with the standard will require them publicise such disclosure; however this would not be the case in the US where such disclosure is seemingly prohibited by law.

Andrew Cormack, in a post on Janet’s Regulatory Developments blog pointed out that Microsoft’s new ISO/IEC 27018 standard covers “their Azure, Office365 and Intune cloud services“. This should be a pleasing development for institutions which are making use of Microsoft’s Cloud services. But here does this leave Google, Amazon and other major Cloud services?


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Posted in Legal, standards | Tagged: | 1 Comment »