Yesterday, I attended the JISC Conference 2008 at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham. Having last attended the conference a couple of years ago in a different guise (i.e. as a student!), I was interested to see how the work that the JISC, and others, had moved on since I was last there. Some of my observations from the day follow.
The conference began with an introduction from Sir Ron Cooke, the JISC Chair, who emphasised the challenge of keeping up the rate of change in technology and the efforts JISC were making to address this. In particular, he addressed the growing importance of green computing and the impact this was having on some of JISC’s work. More information on this can be found in Issue 21 of JISC Inform. The Strategic Content Alliance was introduced; its aim is to “build a common information environment where users of publicly funded e-content can gain best value from the investment that has been made by reducing the barriers that currently inhibit access, use and re-use of online content.”
The opening keynote was delivered by the very entertaining Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, the producer of films such as Chariots of Fire, and now Chancellor of the Open University. He mentioned that when he first started in the film industry, that 90% of people were employed full time by the industry with only 10% classed as freelance. Today, these two figures have switched. Two generations from now, Lord Puttnam believes that the notion of a permanent job will no longer exist; in fact, it will be a “complete rarity”. He also remarked that the internet has opened up new and far ranging forms of peer review, and that somehow, this needs to be managed.
For the morning session, I attended the session titled e-Learning: Realising and Sharing Benefits [PDF slides]. Gill Ferrell from JISC Info Net began by highlighting the CAMEL project. This opening with then followed by three presenters from different institutions who gave examples of how e-Learning resources had been created to support learning and teaching. The presentation which most interested me was delivered by Chris Hall, a Learning Technologist at the University of Swansea, who talked about the creation of vodcasts for Archaeology undergraduates. The vodcasts (images supplemented by an audio track, created using iMovie) gave students a tour around a historical artefacts in Greece. The next stage of the project is looking at putting together a construction kit to help lecturers to create their own vodcasts, rather than rely heavily on the central support team.
During the afternoon, I attended the session titled Changing Student Experience and Expectation of ICT [PDF slides]. Sir David Melville (ex-VC of the University of Kent) began by introducing the notion of the Google Generation, those digital natives who were born post-1993. He highlighted that 65% of prospective higher education students now make use of social networking websites such as Facebook, whilst only 5% of students have not engaged with any such tools. More information on the work Sir David is involved in can be found both on the JISC Student Expectations study website and also the Changing Learner Experience wiki. Helen Beetham, a Consultant in e-Learning in the JISC e-Learning Programme followed this by talking briefly about effective e-Learners. One presentation slide in particular caught my eye- below is only an excerpt.
- Many learners use wireless and mobile devices, communication technologies, social software and online information services to help fit learning into their lives.
- Some learners are effectively blending formal and informal, online, face-to-face, collaboration and individual learning.
- Some learners are skills in content creation, through using tools/technologies such as blogs, wikis and podcasting.
Students are also beginning to make informed choices about their learning.
- Where do I want to learn?
- Who do I want to work with?
- What technologies can I use to support my learning?
My friend Jane Shuyska from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford gave an introduction to the Thema project, which is seeking to explore “the experiences of Masters students in technology-rich environments”. Jane mentioned the biggest online time thieves for Masters students: Facebook, Email and WILF-ing (“What Was I Looking For?”).
The closing keynote of the conference was presented by Angela Beesley, the Founder of Wikia [PDF slides]. Where Wikipedia serves to be an encyclopedia, Wikia is planned to be “the rest of the library”. Wikia Search is their next big project, though this will take some time before it is really effective. Angela also gave an insight into the future of Wikis.
Whereas wikis are predominantly text based currently, the future might be slightly different.
- Richer formats e.g. video, images, diagrams
- Semantic web, leading to more structured data sets
- Introduction of “stable versions” [of Wikipedia pages]. In turn, this will make the information more reliable
I found this to be a really interesting and relevant presentation for me to attend, particularly is links in both with my current research interest as well as a couple of e-Learning workshops that I run at the University of Bath.
In closing, a day very well spent which gave me an overview of much of the work that the JISC is currently engaged with and supporting. Next year, I understand that the JISC Conference will be in Edinburgh. I’m looking forward to it already!