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Showing posts from November, 2012

EDUCAUSE - Anticipating the future

Several EDUCAUSE sessions tried to guess how changing trends in both society and in IT will affect the future of Higher Education.  One such was the second keynote session, which combined two presentations and a discussion on the theme of how the worlds of academia and work combine for students.  The point was made that only a third of post-secondary education takes place in universities (in the USA), with the other two-thirds happening in the corporate world.  On a more prosaic note, it was also noted that many students have to work just to support themselves during their degree, which can constrain when they are able to engage with their courses.  Both speakers suggested that a more flexible model of education may be needed, sometimes (often?) in collaboration with corporations.

I wonder what my academic friends would say to this notion.  Many of them are strongly opposed to the idea that university education should primarily about preparing people for the world of work.

Other "…

EDUCAUSE: Learning analytics and business intelligence

Learning analytics and business intelligence were major themes at this year’s EDUCAUSE conference. I attended a couple of sessions to see how other institutions are using these technologies and to learn more about these areas for myself. Our learning technologists are all engaged with these ideas but I personally didn’t know much about it so this was a good opportunity to learn something about it.

John Doove gave a very interesting overview of several small projects funded by SURF, the Dutch equivalent of JISC. These were deliberately experimental, aimed at bringing people together to see what they could do. The results were both varied and neat and will form the basis for further work. This gave me a good overview of the sort of issues that learning analytics can investigate:

Project 1 gained insight in the use of Learning objects (e.g. short instructional videos), showing that use of certain materials correlated to successful student outcomes.Project 2 compared course evaluation…

EDUCAUSE 2012: day one

I'm at the EDUCAUSE conference in Denver, learning about how other universities are using their IT.  This conference is a broad church, covering everything from corporate systems to learning technologies, with sessions on leadership and user engagement as well.  It's a useful forum to informally assess how well IT at the University of Edinburgh compares to other institutions around the globe (particularly in North America).  On the whole, we seem to be pretty good.

The sessions on the first day were a bit of a mixed bag.  Clay Shirky gave a good opening talk about the power of open data in a connected world - the sort of thing he covered in his TED talk but covering more material.  The main point I took from his talk was that you can't judge what value people will put on your data before you make it available, because you don't know who will be interested in it for what reasons.

The best talk was about change management at the University of Kansas.  Which sounds a bit …

A new team for student systems

We (meaning the Applications Division of Information Services) have been in discussions with the Academic Registry to find a new way of working together.  It looks like the outcome is likely to be a joint team, combining staff from both divisions, to work on the core functionality of our student record system (EUCLID).  The new team will be colocated and will work together on the design, implementation and test of EUCLID projects.

Some of the people involved are also looking at using Agile development techniques for some of these projects.  For example, we might ensure user representation on all projects, following an approach we used in a recent project for Finance.  We might base our requirements and prioritisation around "user stories".  And we might organise build work in short cycles with a higher emphasis on testing (both automated test suites and user testing).

We have used Agile methods successfully on a couple of other projects in IS Apps and already intend to exten…