A year ago today was my final day at UKOLN after the cessation of Jisc funding led to large-scale redundancies. During my final week I posted a series of posts on my Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN. In my final post on Life After UKOLN: Looking For New Opportunities I explained how I was looking for new opportunities to continue working in the higher education sector. A year on it is now timely to review my activities over the past year.
A Summer Break
The redundancy provided an opportunity for a 3 month break. After a few weeks off and a holiday in the north east (North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland) I took the opportunity to refresh my professional skills which including participating (and completing!) a MOOC: the Hyperlinked Library MOOC.
During the summer break I carried out some consultancy work and applied for a job at the ODI. But the biggest development was the building work to my house, which included installing network points in most of the rooms and converting one of the bedrooms to my office. As I described in a post on Marieke Guy’s Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog I was all set up to be a home worker.
Innovation Advocate at Cetis
I had decided that I was looking for a job which would allow me to continue to work in higher education and would build on my strengths, interests, areas of expertise and the professional connections I had, but would also provide some flexibility to pursue other interests. I was therefore pleased to be offered the post of Innovation Advocate at Cetis, working four days a week.
I have now been in post for nine months and have enjoyed my new role. My man areas of work have been:
Open practices: I have continued to seek to work in an open fashion, in particular using this blog and Twitter to share my thoughts, ideas and opinions. I also facilitated a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them” which addressed moves towards openness and the implications for open educational practices.
Promoting use of Wikipedia in education: A year ago I became a member of WMUK (WikiMedia UK). I have promoted use of Wikipedia as an open educational practice. My work has included talks on “Wikipedia, Wikimedia UK and Higher Education: Developments in the UK” at the Wikimedia Serbia Eduwiki conference; a workshop session on “Getting to Grips with Wikipedia: a Practical Session” at the LILAC 2014 conference; an invited plenary talk on “Editing Wikipedia: Why You Should and How You Can Support Your Users” at the CILIP Wales 2014 conference and a workshop session on “Open Knowledge: Wikipedia and Beyond” at the Cetis 2014 conference. In addition I was a co-author of a feature article on “Wikipedia and Information Literacy” which was published in CILIP Update.
Information literacy and life-long learning: I presented a poster on “Preparing our Users for Digital Life Beyond the Institution” at the LILAC 2014 conference.
Use of emerging standards: Together with Cetis colleagues I have contributed to reports on developments to standards for the Jisc and have been the editor and lead author on a landscape report on standards also for the Jisc.
Learning analytics: I am leading the outreach and user engagement work for the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project.
Web accessibility: I am continuing my long-established work in Web accessibility, which includes raising the visibility of BS 8878. I gave an invited online talk which argued that “Accessibility is Primarily about People and Processes, Not Digital Resources!” at the OZeWAI 2013 conference; gave a talk on “Accessibility, Inclusivity and MOOCs: What Can BS 8878 Offer?” for an ILSIG Webinar on ‘MOOCs and Inclusive Practice’ abnd faciliated a workshop on “Building an Accessible Digital Institution” at the Cetis 2014 conference.
Social media for researchers: This year has been unusual in that I have not written any peer-reviewed papers or invited conference papers – this is the first time since 1997 that I have failed to do this (although I still have a few months to remedy this!). However I have continued to promote ways in which social media can be used by researchers, including giving the final plenary talk on “Open Practices for Researchers” at the University of Bolton;s Research and Innovation Conference 2014 together with talks on “How Social Media Can Enhance Your Research Activities” at the IRISS Research Unbound conference and “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” at the annual DAAD conference for young academics from Germany working at UK Universities. Interestingly when I updated my talk for the Research and Innovation Conference 2014 at the University of Bolton I found that not only have I continued to have the largest number of downloads of any researcher at the University of Bath but my former colleagues Alex Ball, Ann Chapman and Emma Tonkin are also listed in the top ten researchers having the largest number of downloads. Despite three of us having left UKOLN a year ago, we are still finding that our research and project outputs are very visible!
Preparing for the future: I was particularly pleased to be able to continue to develop joint work which UKOLN and Cetis had been involved with in the past. This work, which was initially carried out as part of the Jisc Observatory, was summarised by myself and Paul Hollins, the Cetis director, in a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow“. Institutions continue to have an interest in methodologies for identifying and making plans for technological trends. I have further developed the methodologies, which was helped by my involvement this year with the forthcoming NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition (the final report is scheduled for publication on 16 August). I have facilitated workshop sessions based on the methodologies at the SAOIM 2014 and ELAG 2014 conferences, which were aimed at those working in the library sector, and at Brighton University for those working in a merged Library/ IT service department.
IWMW 2014: I have heard the IWMW event and the Ariadne ejournal described as “UKOLN’s crown jewels”. I was pleased to see a new issue of Ariadne published earlier this year. And last month we held IWMW 2014, the 18th in the annual Institutional Web Management Workshop series.
What Of The Future?
It has been a busy year. But what of the future? I feel that we will continue to see uncertainty across the higher education sector, with ongoing political and sectoral discussions about the nature of funding. Closer to home it seems that the announcement on the Jisc blog that “we are changing the current host grant agreements as of 31 December 2014” conceals further redundancies in the Jisc world which the closure of the RSCs and advisory services will entail. Although the Jisc future may continue to be uncertain we do know that Jisc are now focussing their work on a small number of areas which are agreed with the Jisc co-design partners (RLUK, RUGIT, SCONUL and UCISA). In addition Jisc are now a ‘solutions provider’ rather than a funder so that the solutions which they develop will subsequently be sold back to the sector. [Note this is my understanding of the new approaches which Jisc are taking, based on the opening plenary talk given by Phil Richards at the Ceis 2014 conference. However I’d welcome comments if I’ve misinterpreted what was said.]
In this changing environment I feel that there will continue to be opportunities for organisations such as Cetis to work with institutions and other players in the sector since I think we can predict that higher educational institutions will continue to exists for a number of years. The Cetis web site lists a number of areas in which we provide consultancy. We should probably extend this list to include additional areas in which we can support and advise institutions. I hope to continue my work with Cetis. In the short term, I’ll be away on holiday next week but feel free to get in touch if there are areas of interest to your institution which I might be able to address.