Shared services in HE – what really matters to you?

Last week I attended the Jisc Learning and Teaching Practice Experts Group meeting in Birmingham. As ever this was a really well organised, informed, informing, collaborative experience.  It was the 31st meeting and there really was a sense of community at the event. You can get a feeling of this from the tweets from the day

Tags explorer view of #jiscexperts14
Tags explorer view of #jiscexperts14

Sarah Davies, Head of Change Implementation Support for Education/Student, started the day by giving an update on the changes to Jisc, how it has been refocusing its activities in light of the Wilson review to achieve large scale impact based on sector driven priorities.  Sarah’s slides give a good overview.  Part of this involves developing new areas of impact, co-design methodologies with Jisc’s core community, regular reviews to ensure programmes/projects are “tightly steered and gated” whilst at the same time allowing Jisc to be agile and try “new things”.  The inevitable “21st century challenge” for most organisations.

screen shot of Jisc Strategic Framework Impact Areas
Jisc Strategic Framework Impact Areas

Shared services are not new to Jisc, and they are still very much at the heart of their outputs and deliverables. Just what constitutes as a service can be a bit of a fuzzy area.  Traditionally in IT and Jisc terms, shared services are focused on technical infrastructure. Being able to share development costs across the sector is of course a “good thing” and long may it continue. As we all know technical services can’t work in isolation, people and processes are what make any platform successful. This is where the other side of the shared services that Jisc provides such as information, guidance, synthesis of practice from programmes come into play.

Sarah asked if we could share examples of where/how we had used the guidance/information services provided by Jisc.  Since starting at GCU almost six months ago I can honestly say that I refer to Jisc “stuff” almost daily. I realise I could be a perceived as being a bit biased having worked for a Jisc funded innovation centre for many years. However as  you know, dear reader, I wouldn’t recommend anything if it I didn’t believe it was useful.

Just now we are looking at portfolio provision and Jisc resources have been invaluable as a trusted source for definition, as well as examples of practice to share with colleagues. I can’t  accurately quantify how much time they have saved me, but I know we have been able to pull together things much faster than if I had had to search for trusted information.  Similarly we are developing guidelines for e-submission processes. So the work from the recent Assessment projects and the new briefing papers on EMA are so timely for us. I think they will save us at least a couple of weeks of research and again, I can’t emphasis the importance of this enough,  are based on current experience within the UK HE sector.

The Learning and Teaching Practice Experts Group is a key example of a shared service and effective way for Jisc to engage with its core community as it starts to realise its new strategic framework. It’s increasingly one that matters to me and my working practice.

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