Friday was my final day working at Cetis – my contract has now finished. I’m now in the process of updating my LinkedIn profile and many of the other social networking services I use – and I’m sure my colleagues who are in a similar situation will be doing likewise.
I’m treating this latest development in my professional career in a positive fashion. I’m looking forward to building on a period of 19 years of working for two organisations, UKOLN and Cetis, which had responsibilities for working across the UK’s higher and further education communities and a reputation which extended beyond the UK for developing various aspects of the online environment which are now of tremendous importance in supporting teaching and learning and research activities.
In July 2013 I provided a series of Reflections on 16 Years at UKOLN and, on my final day at UKOLN, outlined plans for the future: Life After UKOLN: Looking For New Opportunities. In this post I will reflect on my work at Cetis over the past 2 years and the work of my Cetis colleagues and conclude by looking forward to the future, both as a consultant and in my family life.
Reflections on Work at Cetis
I started work at Cetis as the Innovation Advocate on 23 October 2013 – and have enjoyed my time working as a remote worker. In many respects my work as Innovation Advocate built on 16+ years of work as UK Web Focus at UKOLN. In a series of posts on Reflections on 16 years at UKOLN I concluded with a post which described how “the formulation of policies and developments to operational practices should be based on a culture of openness” – and fittingly my first talk after starting work at Cetis was to give a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them”.
The past 16 months has also provided opportunities for me to engage with one particular aspect of openness and open practices: the potential of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia services in educational, cultural and research areas. During my time at Cetis I have facilitated Wikipedia workshops at the SpotOn 2013 conference and at the LILAC 2014 information literacy conference, given talks on the relevance of Wikipedia for librarians at CILIP Scotland and CILIP Wales conferences and gave a talk on “Wikipedia, Wikimedia UK and Higher Education: Developments in the UK” at the EduWiki Serbia conference.
I was also able to continue my work in promoting practices for enhancing access to web resources for people with disabilities. After many years developing and refining a holistic approach to web accessibility, my recent work has focussed on reviewing this work, with talks on Accessibility is Primarily about People and Processes, Not Digital Resources! at the OZeWAI 2013 conference, Accessibility, Inclusivity and MOOCs: What Can BS 8878 Offer? at an ILSIG Webinar and a talk on Web accessibility is not (primarily) about conformance with web accessibility standards presented in Second Life at the IDRAC 2014 conference.
The main focus of my work over the past year has been supporting the EU-funded LACE (Learning Analytics Community Exchange) project, for which I was the work package leader for the user engagement and dissemination work package. As described in a post on Sharing Project Practices: the LACE Compendium the initial deliverable I had main responsibility for was the LACE Compendium, the project handbook which documents the policies and practices the team are taking in supporting the user engagement and dissemination aspects of the project. Fittingly this document is available with a Creative Commons licence, which reflects organisational and personal beliefs in the importance of open practices.
Working With Cetis Colleagues
During my time I got to know a number of Cetis staff quite well and, in particular, I co-authored papers with Paul Hollins on “A Contextual Framework For Standards” and, more recently, a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” which covered the joint Cetis/UKOLN on the Jisc Observatory. In addition a joint paper with Scott Wilson covered “Openness in Higher Education: Open Source, Open Standards, Open Access“.
Over the past year and a half I have enjoyed working with Adam Cooper, Christina Smart and David Sherlock on the LACE project and with Phil Barker on Cetis communications work. I have admired Lorna Campbell‘s commitment to open education and Wilbert Kraan‘s in-depth knowledge of metadata and open standards. And although I’ve not worked closely with Li Yuan or Simon Grant I have valued their contributions to discussions on Cetis mailing lists and admire the quality of their publications and research activities.
Life After Cetis
The free time I now have means that I will be able to focus on plans for this year’s IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshop) event. IWMW 2015, the 19th in the series, will take place at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk on 27-29th July. Once again we have a great programme of talks and workshop sessions aimed at people in higher educational institutions with responsibilities for providing large scale web and digital services. Note that bookings are now open!
Consultancy and Related Work
I will be looking for opportunities for consultancy and similar work through my UK Web Focus Limited consultancy which I have set up with my wife Nicola. My interests are in making use of my areas of expertise to support those working primarily in higher and further education but also the wider public sector. This might include project work but I also have an interest in smaller scale activities including training, speaking, etc. I will also be looking fo opportunities for working with my former Cetis colleagues.
Particular areas of interest include:
- Supporting processes for predicting and planning for future technological developments, along the lines of the full-day workshops delivered at the SAOIM, ELAG and ILI conferences and for library and information services at at the University of Brighton.
- Advising on “Open Practices for Researchers“ as described at the University of Bolton’s Research and Innovation Conference 2014 and on “How to Build an Academic Career“ for early career researchers at Flemish universities.
- Describing how social media can be used to develop researchers’ professional networks, gain feedback on their research and maximise awareness of their research outputs (and maybe even have the largest numbers of downloads in an institutional repository!).
- Preparing our users for digital life beyond the institution when staff leave their host institution or departments are downsized, based on personal experiences.
- Use of social media to support project activities in engaging with users and maximising dissemination, as described in the LACE Compendium report for the EU-funded LACE project.
- Strategies for preservation of Web resources, including social media services such as blogs and Twitter.
- Advising on “Social Reporting: Supporting Amplified Events” as presented at the SAOIM conference in South Africa.
- Explaining “Why and How Librarians Should Engage With Wikipedia“.
- Building on 11 years of research in web accessibility and advising institutions on how to make use of the BS 8878 standard.
In addition to these consultancy areas I am also intending to carry out a limited amount of pro bono work, such as the talk on use of Cloud services I will be giving next month for the U3A in Bath. I will also be open to invitations to speak at conferences, such as the invitation I received last year to talk at the 12th SAOIM (Southern African Online Information Meeting) conference held in Pretoria, South Africa.
To support the work I am in the process of migrating the UK Web Focus blog to a new domain at ukwebfocus.com. The new web site will evolve over time; in addition to providing access to blog posts dating back to 2006 I intend to ensure that other resources I have created are main available on the new web site.
I should conclude by mentioning that I won’t be looking for consultancy work in the short term as, on Thursday, I’m going on a cruise around the British Isles on the Royal Princess – my wife (who is now also my business partner) are regarding this as a belated honeymoon (we got married last August but just had a brief visit to Sidmouth Folk Festival) as well as opportunity to recharge our batteries.
The cruise will be an adventure. Although I’ve travelled a lot – to over 50 countries, depending on the complexities of counting countries – I’m not been on a cruise before (my trip on two Hurtigruten ships a few years ago doesn’t really count as a cruise). I’m looking forward to lots of reading, maybe getting into the habit of going to the gym and, shock, not accessing the Internet – the prices are extortionate on-board – although Ill probably post some tweets and Facebook status updates when I spend time on land in Guernsey, Cobh, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow, Kirkwall, Invergordon, Edinburgh and Le Havre.
Wish me luck!