Where Sheia’s been this week – codesigning next gen learning environments with Jisc

You may or may not be aware of Jisc’s current co-design consultation exercise with the HE/FE sector.  The co-design approach is a way to try and ensure that Jisc developments are supportive and representative of the needs of the sector.   Building on feedback from the first iteration of the process, this time around there has been a concerted effort to get wider sectoral involvement in the process through various methods, including social media, blog posts, tweet chats and voting.

Yesterday, along with about 30 others, I attended a face to face meeting to explore, review and discuss the results of the process and feedback on the six “big” challenges identified by Jisc.

  1. What does the imminent arrival of the intelligent campus mean for universities and colleges?
  2. What should the next generation of digital learning environments do?
  3. What should a next-generation research environment look like?
  4. Which skills do people need to prepare for research practice now and in the future?
  5. What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?
  6. How can we use data to improve teaching and learning?

You can see the results of the voting here too.

The voting process does need some refinement as Andy McGregor was clear to point out, and we really used it and the comments as a guide for the discussions.  Personally I found the voting process a bit cumbersome – having to fill out a google doc for each one. I can see why Jisc wanted to get all that information but I would have preferred something a bit more instant with the option of giving more detailed information. That might have encouraged me to cast more than one vote  . . .

I joined the next generation learning environments discussion. I had been quite taken with the pop up VLE notion but as the discussion evolved it became clearer to me that actually the idea articulated so well by Simon Thomson (Leeds Beckett Uni) of connecting institutional and user owned tech was actually a much stronger proposition and in a way the pop up VLE would fall out of that.

The concept is really building on the way that IFTT (if this then than) works, however with a focus on connecting institutional systems to personal ones.  Please, please read Simon’s post as it explains the rationale so clearly.   I use IFTT and love the simplicity of being able to connect my various online spaces and tools, and extending that into institutional systems seems almost a no brainer.

We talked about space a lot in our discussion, personal space, institutional space etc (Dave White has a good post on spaces which relates to this).  For both staff and students it can be quite complex to manage, interact in and understand these spaces.

We (teachers, support staff,  IT, the institution) are often a bit of obsessed with controlling spaces.  We do need to ensure safety and duty of care issues are dealt with but activity around learning doesn’t always need to take place in our spaces e.g. the VLE.  Equally we (staff) shouldn’t feel that they have to be in all the spaces where students maybe talking about learning. If students want to discuss their group activity on snapchat, what’s app, Facebook then let them. They can manage their interaction in those spaces. What we need to be clear on is the learning activity, the key interactions and expectations of outputs and in which spaces the learning activities/outputs need to be.  The more connected approach advocated by Simon could allow greater ease of connection between spaces for both staff and students.

Providing this type of  architecture (basically building and sharing more open APIs)  is not trying to replace a VLE, portfolio system etc, but actually allowing for greater choice around engagement in,  and sharing of,  learning activity. If I like writing in evernote (as I do) why can’t I just post something directly into a discussion forum in our VLE? Similarly if our students (as ours do) have access to one note and are using it, why can’t they choose to share their work directly into the VLE?  Why can’t I have my module reading lists easily saved into a google doc?

This isn’t trying to replace integrations such as LTI, or building blocks that bring systems/products  into systems. This is much more about personalisation and user choice  around notifications, connections and sharing into systems that you (need to) use.  It’s lightweight, not recreating any wheels but just allowing more choice.

So at  a university level you could have a set of basic connections (recipes) illustrating how students and staff and indeed the wider community could interact with institutionally provided systems, and then staff/students decided which ones (if any) they want to use, or create their own.  Ultimately it’s all about user choice. If you don’t want to connect that way then you don’t have to. It’s lightweight, not recreating any wheels but just allowing more choice

As well as helping to focus on actual learning activity, I would hope that this approach would helping institutions  to think about their core institutional provision, and “stuff that’s out there and we all are using” – aka byod.  It would also hopefully allow for greater ease of experimentation without having to get a system admin support to try something out in the VLE.

I would hope this would also help extend support and understanding of the need for non monolithic systems and get edtech vendors to build more flexible interaction/integration points.

Anyway hopefully there will be more soon from Jisc, and Simon actually has some funding to trying an build a small prototype based on this idea.  Jisc will also be sharing the next steps from all the ideas over the coming weeks.  Hopefully this idea is simple and agile enough to get into the Jisc R&D pipeline.


Jisc R&D Pipeline