The Delicious Discomfort of IWMW13

Last week was IWMW13 – The Institutional Web Management Workshop – held this year at the University of Bath from 26 – 28th June. At this point I usually spend a lot time talking about the event amplification that went on, but this year it just happened. Nobody really mentioned it much, the University led it using their Panopto service, Kirsty and Rich Pitkin supported it with Twitter and there didn’t seem to be any major problems – apart from when someone left a light on in the filming room! My attempts to get someone to write about it from the viewing perspective fell on deaf ears too. As John Kirriemuir explained:

Tweet about event amplification

So that’s that. Streaming events is the norm. And to some degree so is remote working (or at least working from home in some capacity). I now work for an organization where everyone does it. Maybe my blog has now become redundant?! [OK, so I’m not ready to shut up yet…]

So instead of the streaming I want to talk about the conference in more general terms.

Well, firstly it was an excellent event, all the speakers were great and gave insightful talks with well-constructed arguments. The themes that emerged were around flexibility, agile development and re-thinking (or maybe repackaging) what we do. The pre-decided theme was ‘What Next?’ and I think what we actually got were some very clear answers to this question: times change and so does the way we do things. Working in Higher Education is hugely different now from when I started at the University of Bath 13 years ago, jobs are no longer secure and the need to show impact and return on investment (ROI) is essential. The talks by Paul Boag, Headscape (Institutional Culture Is Crippling Your Web Strategy!), Martin Hamilton, Loughborough University (The Inside-Out University), Ranjit Sidhu, SiD (9am, 16th August, 2012: “What the fcuk just happened then?”) and Amber Thomas, University of Warwick (Turning our Attention to Supporting Research) in particular backed this up.

There were also some interesting discussions around openness in education. Cable Green, Creative Commons gave the opening plenary (Open Education: The Business & Policy Case for OER) and talks on open badges (Doug Belshaw, Mozilla Foundation (Mozilla Open Badges and a Learning Standard for Web Literacy)) and MOOCs (Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou, University of Bath (Et tu MOOC? Massive Online Considerations)) followed. It became apparent that there are some real tensions between Universities increased need to be competitive and the transparency of openness. This is an area I hope to explore more as part of my new role working on LinkedUp, we are planning to set up an open education working group. Ideas around how HEIs can dabble in open data were considered in a parallel session that I ran with my Open Knowledge Foundation colleague, Tony Hirst (Open Up: Open Data in the Public Sector). I’ve written the session up on the LinkedUp blog.

The atmosphere of IWMW was very different to usual due to uncertainty around the event’s future. UKOLN has now been reduced down to 6 people and both Brian Kelly and myself have been officially made redundant. I have every faith that Brian will pull the cat out of the bag and make sure the event happens again, the community seem to vehemently support this too. On the last morning we were treated to a talk from Neil Denny, allLD on The Delicious Discomfort Of Not Knowing: How to Lead Effectively Through Uncertainty. Neil isn’t part of the Web community but has worked with people going through change. His message was about how we need to be comfortable with uncertainty and find strategies for surviving at the edge of our comfort zone. We can survive by listening to others and adopting the attitude of an artisan (trying new things). His talk really touched a nerve. All of us from UKOLN are going through big change, but change is good, if you don’t change…you stand still. I have to admit I actually love that point when change can happen and I’ve actively strived towards it. It’s at that point that all possibilities still exist.

The three days of IWMW13 was pretty emotionally exhausting. As well as the conference we also had a number of social events including a drinks reception to celebrate UKOLN – or a ‘wake’ as somebody put it :-(. Lots of present and past UKOLNers came along and it was lovely to see people, though also incredibly sad to mark the end of era. I want to end with a few photos of great colleagues and even better friends.

past and present, out in Bath, June 2013

past and present, out in Bath, June 2013

Larger versions of these images are available from the UKOLN Flickr site. Apologies to people who were there who haven’t been included in this collage.

All resources for IWMW13 have been curated on Brian Kelly’s blog.

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Data from a distance

Koln DomI recently attended the IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information Services and Technology) 2013 conference. The conference (the 39th to date) entitled Data Innovation: Increasing Accessibility, Visibility and Sustainability was hosted by GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and held in Cologne, Germany.

It was an incredibly friendly conference and many of the participants knew each other really well. Most of the sessions of interest focussed on research data management and issues around data publication. I presented a talk on data journals as part of a session on Expanding Scholarship: Research Journals and Data Linkages. My slides are available from Slideshare.

One sessions I attended was a panel Data at a distance: using technology to increase reference reach. The session explored the idea that users (and here, by users, they were referring to students and researchers at Higher Education Institutions) want to work in an increasingly virtual space. The result is that the data user is less likely to be tied to a physical data center, and can work from anywhere. This presents not only the challenge of making data available remotely, but also of helping data users at a distance navigate the variety of data sources and successfully use the data.

The panel session looked at different ways a range of institutions tackle the thorny issue of data reference at a distance. There were 4 case studies from a small academic institution, a medium sized academic institution, a large academic institution and a government institution.

Most of the institutions were using services like ‘Ask a librarian’ and also had a course management system which could be accessed by librarians and used by students. Some of the more interesting discussions were around how you “explain things” when face-to-face is not an option.

Wendy Mann from George Mason University described how she had spent countless telephone conversations trying to get people to do things with SPSS files when they did’t know how to unzip a file, and actually don’t know how to use their computers! Dealing with more technologically challenged people often required hand holding and phone conversations but recently they had progressed to using Google hangouts (detailed in my recent post) and Join.me. They preferred these approaches to ‘Ask a librarian’ chat services in which there was an expectation of fast answers, that they could not necessarily fulfil. George Mason University also use Jing, for screen captures and online tutorials, and GoTomeeting webinar software for meetings. Wendy explained that one of the hardest issues was knowing when it was appropriate to use particular tools i.e. getting the timing right. For example when should you say “this phone call isn’t working, I suggest you watch a screen capture, or we use Skype so I can share my screen”.

Nicole Scholtz talked about a remote consultation and reference service pilot they are running at the University of Michigan using Google Hangouts, Skype, ichat (messages) and M+ Google – Google campus. The pilot was in response to dealing with the mountain of email the librarians currently experience. Nicole shared the grid she uses for dealing with people, it allows her to consider a person’s home set up and skills before choosing a tools to use. It considers a person’s audio/visual content and their computing environment. The majority of interest so far has been from researchers needing help using GIS software and excel. Nicole commented that the service isn’t a perfect solution but that it’s on the right track.

Nicole and her references mode grid

Nicole and her references mode grid

The final speaker in the session was Lynn Goodsell from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Lynn couldn’t travel so was planning to give her talk on archival federal data at a distance using Skype, but unfortunately the unreliable wifi at the conference put pay to this. How ironic! No talk from a distance!

Chair, Shawn Nicholson from Michigan State University, trying to speak to Lynn Goodsell on Skype

Chair, Shawn Nicholson from Michigan State University, trying to speak to Lynn Goodsell on Skype

Innovation, data protection & workforce challenges

The Westminster eForum are holding a Keynote Seminar on Mobile and remote working: innovation, data protection and workforce challenges on Thursday, 10th October 2013, Central London.

As increasing numbers of businesses adopt flexible working policies, this seminar will examine the practical, legal and regulatory challenges of a mobile workforce – and ways that integrating the latest IT solutions are being translated into competitive and commercial advantage. Delegates will consider how companies can harness consumer devices, cloud services and improvements to the UK’s communications infrastructure to enable remote workers against a backdrop of the significant push by providers of web-based productivity suites, as well as the emerging data protection issues of enabling off-site access to employees.

Topics for discussion include:

  • How are businesses delivering the greater agility and mobility required for IT solutions used by today’s workforce – what are the key implications for productivity, efficiency and training?;
  • What are the information security challenges of having a remote workforce?;
  • How do corporate IT and HR policies need to adapt to take into account trends including hot-desking, BYOD and flexible working? How effectively are businesses able to oversee and supervise workers off-site?; and
  • How far are efficiency and cost savings, and environmental benefits, promised by remote working being delivered?
  • With significant staff reductions in recent years due to economic turbulence, how far are mobile working IT solutions enabling organisations to deliver more with less?

Speakers include Stephen McGibbon, Chief Technology Officer EMEA, Microsoft and Simon Rice, Group Manager, Technology, Information Commissioner’s Office. Further confirmed speakers include: John Delaney, Research Director, European Consumer Mobile, International Data Corporation (IDC); Martin Jordan, Head of UK Cyber Response, KPMG; Kurt Mroncz, Corporate Development Director, Regus; Charles Park, Partner, Pinsent Masons; Stewart Room, Partner, Field Fisher Waterhouse and Philip Ross, Chief Executive Officer, Unwork. The agenda for the day is available from the Westminster Forum Projects web site.

Places at Mobile and remote working: innovation, data protection and workforce challenges (including refreshments and PDF copy of the transcripts) are £190 plus VAT; Concessionary rate places for small charities, unfunded individuals and those in similar circumstances are £80 plus VAT. You can book a place online.

Bett 2013

Bett
Last week I attended one day of Bett 2013, an event looking at technology for education and lifelong learning. The event comprised of 3 ‘summits’: School Leaders, Technology in Higher Education and Learning At Work; a very large exhibition and several arenas hosting training sessions. It was one of the biggest events I’ve been to in a while, most others seem to have downsized while Bett is expanding – this year it moved into the Excel London. The immenseness of the event did seem to be at times one of its downfalls as Bett attempted to be all things to all people…

Meredith Henson speaking on open-source learning at Technology in Higher Education Summit

Meredith Henson speaking on open-source learning at Technology in Higher Education Summit

I was actually there to present on Improving access to research data: what does changing legislation mean for you? as part of the Technology in Higher Education Summit. My slides are available from Slideshare and there should be a video online at some point. I spent most of my time at Bett attending sessions in the HE summit. The key themes I picked up on were internationalisation, personalization and managing expectations (what do students expect from an institution when they become a student there? A free iphone, a free ipad, or a just to get a job when they finish?).

The lego robot

The lego robot

On the whole the summit struck me as badly put together: talks were rarely grouped around themes, sessions seemed a little behind the times (apparently students access university web sites using their mobiles..), talks were too short and many big technology trends seemed to be mentioned only briefly (relatively little on data experiments, data mining, linked data, gaming, OER, mobile.) It was a real mish mash. I think they would have been better off having less general talks but concentrating on 3 or 4 key themes instead. There would have then been an opportunity to introduce the theme, then offer case studies from the HE world. For example was a panel session on a business case for MOOCs which failed to explain what MOOCs are and offered very little insight on how they will impact HE – a real wasted opportunity. The best session of the day for me was a panel on ‘£9k fees and the National Student Survey: Raised student expectations and how to manage them’ – some interesting discussions on what expectations actually are from an HE and student perspective.

I was actually approached to talk at the event and was given a title, in retrospect I think a different talk – maybe one on introducing the value of data – would have been better received. All the sessions prior to mine had concentrated on learning and teaching, in fact I hadn’t even heard the words ‘research’ or ‘data’ mentioned until in passing in the cloud computing talk before mine. There was a lack of clarity on who delegates would be (apparently IT managers but the UCISA people I sat with knew very few people). I gather it is Bett’s first attempt at having an HE strand, so it’s early days. I recommend they get a few more people in the know on the programme committee and then decide on a focus. Covering ‘technology in Higher Education’ is a big ask!

Graffiti on the interactive whiteboard

Anyway, the exhibition was interesting despite a heavy learning towards school teaching. Lots of virtual learning environments, interactive products, use of video and e-learning products. I even got to see Johnny Ball talk, which made it all worthwhile!

Johnny Ball talking about motivation in schools

Johnny Ball talking about motivation in schools

Very Virtual: Kaltura Education Video Summit

Unfortunately I missed the Kaltura Education Video Summit virtual event a few weeks back due to other commitments, but after a friendly email inviting me in I decided to take a look at what was still available.

The home screen with embedded video and virtual hostess

The home screen with embedded video and virtual hostess

The first annual Kaltura Education Video Summit has been billed as the most comprehensive conference dedicated to online video in education, learning, and training. It looked at ways to harness video to improve teaching, learning and training and offered those attending the opportunity to network with the world’s leading education video experts, connect with peers from leading educational institutions and enterprises around the world.

Kultura teamed up with InterCall, industry leaders in virtual environments and webcasting, to provide a really innovative virtual event.

The conference is structured round the main hall (home area), which offers links to all the talks, resources and sponsors.

Virtual exhibition hall

Virtual exhibition hall

You can take a tour around or create a virtual agenda, which will help point you in the direction of interesting sessions.

Blackboards’s interactive Booth

Blackboards’s interactive Booth

This year’s summit had 3 different tracks:

  • The Future of Education
  • Video in Education
  • Enterprise Learning, Training and collaboration
Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director, CELT at NUI Galway, presenting

Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director, CELT at NUI Galway, presenting

Each offered interesting presentations on high-level areas such as open and online education, alongside practical talks on areas such as discussion in the classroom, MOOCs and use of YouTube. Some of the talks are more traditional presentations while others are panel sessions and discussions. As well as attending talks you can take a look around the virtual exhibition hall or sit and have a chat with fellow delegates in the networking lounge. You can then pop all the resources and business cards your collect in to your virtual brief case. And of course everything can be shared via Facebook, Twitter or email. You can even upload your own resources and share these with delegates that you meet.

Networking Lounge

Networking Lounge

All pretty impressive stuff! Surprisingly next year’s video summit will be a physical event!

Feeding the Angry Birds in Helsinki

I’m currently away at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2012 held in Helsinki, Finland.

It’s by far the biggest international conference I’ve been to (over 4,200 delegates from 120 countries) and it’s the longest I’ve been away for work in a long time. I’m here to co-present a paper with my colleague Sarah Jones, Digital Curation Centre at HATII, University of Glasgow and Maggie Pickton of the University of Northampton. We are on the main stage tomorrow morning and talking about Leading from the library: data management initiatives at the University of Northampton in the The role of libraries in data curation, access and preservation: an international perspective session. The paper is available in pdf format.

Mushrooms in the central market

This is my first trip to Finland and so far I’ve been really impressed. It’s a very clean, efficient, eco-conscious place. The city itself is fairly small and the public transport system is excellent. I’ve been able to walk or jump on a tram, bus or tram to everywhere with no problems.

It’s also a well-wired city. There is free wifi in the airport, main library, conference and hotel. Also the Angry Birds wifi system has made Helsinki the world’s first capital in which the city centre’s internet traffic is based on a united wireless connection that is free of charge and does not require signing in. It covers lots of tourist areas from the city centre to Kauppatori and the Kaivopuisto beach. In future the connection will cover even more areas of the city.

To avoid using my phone and paying astronomical data-roaming charges I’ve been Skyping home. I’ve also been keeping in touch with my colleagues who are here using WhatsApp messenger app which has worked well.

Me at Helsinki Cathedral

The biggest issue I’ve found is keeping all my devices charged up. Although I’ve brought two adaptors I actually have three bits of equipment that need charging: phone, camera, laptop. Also to the door key needs to be a slot in the room for electricity to be activated (I can see the environmental reasons for this) so there is no charging while I’m out. I’m finding that I’m juggling devices to take photos and get a connection. There were also no available power sockets at the conference, which was a bit of a surprise, most events I go to in the UK have extension leads everywhere. People in another session were tweeting about Laptop lockers with electricity plug sockets – I really could have done with one of those!

However not having a well charged phone does seem like a first world problem and I really shouldn’t complain as I’m getting to spend some time in such a fab city!

Video Conferencing in Universities

Yesterday I dipped in to the JISC Conferencing in Universities and Colleges workshop held at the University of Warwick. The event explored the role of video conferencing in reducing travel and was presented by the JISC-funded SusteIT project in collaboration with the EAUC Travel Coordinator’s Group, the Welsh Video Network and University of Warwick.

Unfortunately due to other commitments I didn’t have time to watch all the talks (a full programme is available from the JISC Web site) but did catch some of Jonathan Owen’s session on Conferencing at the University of Warwick. Warwick have a dedicated full time Videoconferencing support and development officer and now facilitate 40-60 calls per month (with a target of 150 a month). Warwick have also taken the decision to have five dedicated telepresence suites to encourage staff to make more use of the facilities. Telepresence technologies allow a person to feel as if they were present. At Warwick some of their approaches include use of a life-size image, integrated lighting and directional audio and compatibility with other systems.

Conferencing at the University of Warwick, Jonathan Owen, Audio Visual Service Owner, University of Warwick

Other presentations during the day include Peter James, Professor of Environmental Management, and Lisa Hopkinson, SusteIT Project Manager, University of Bradford on Conferencing in the Sector – Research Findings; Paul Bonnett, Videoconferencing Technical Co-ordinator, JANET on JANET Conferencing Services Today and Tomorrow; Geoff Constable, Welsh Video Network Support Officer, University of Aberystwyth, on Videoconferencing in Wales. There was also a talk from Heppie Curtis, Research Assistant on Conferencing at the University of Bristol who I worked with on the Greening Events II Project.

The event was video streamed in two different ways: by TConsult, a communications consultancy firm and the Janet Video Streaming service. I guess with video conferencing being the theme of the day it was important to make sure it worked!! There was also a discussion space on CoverIt live which offered opportunities for people to vote on different questions, nice touch. Unfortunately the question I voted on (How many people have used the following services: Adobe Connect, Collaborate, Ja.net?) would only let me choose one answer!

Resources from the day will be available from the Event page.

Will Allen's set up for the day