What Sheila's seen this week – the next big ed tech thing?

Image: Christian Schnettelker CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/manoftaste-de/9483602817

I haven’t done a “what Sheila’s seen” post for a while, but this week seemed to be one that was worthy of it.

On Wednesday I  was invited to facilitate one of the discussion sessions at the Jisc Student Experience Experts Group.  This was the 39th meeting of the group, and although I don’t get to many of them, I always really enjoy them when I do get to go.

One of the best things about these meetings is the networking and sharing of practice. It’s always so useful to “get out of the office” and through the various presentations and conversations realise that you are not alone. The challenges I face are shared across the sector. So as well as seeing some examples of great practice it’s always quite nice to have the opportunity to have a bit of rant in “safe” company.

The meetings are free to attend, but of course there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Naturally Jisc do ask for some feedback/ideas around key challenges, and how the group think their new offering to the sector should be shaped.  Sarah Davies ( Head of higher education and student experience, Jisc) gave an overview of some the areas they are looking at just now.

Unsurprisingly there is a lot around data and analytics (hello, TEF), with a recognition that learning analytics isn’t a silver bullet. Rather that is can help give some insights into a number of areas from student support to curriculum design.  More focus on fully online delivery is becoming more important across the UK HE sector as uncertainty around particularly around student visas (hello, Brexit) grows.

I think Jisc really are facing a challenging time. They don’t have the capacity now for some of the more blue sky thinking and experimentation around innovation as they did in the past.  They are going to have to make some very pragmatic decisions. Are /can they be really forward thinking or should they just be ahead of the pack enough?

Whatever they decide I do hope that they keep supporting the community contact and practice sharing exemplified through the Experts group. I really feel this is the visible, practitioner collegiate face of Jisc, and one that I would hate to see disappear.

Senior management are of course important stake holders for Jisc in terms of getting buy-in and ultimately money. However the people who attend events like the Student Experience Experts groups are the people who actually make the changes, who experiment, share and mainstream, not just the next ‘big thing’ (be that the internet of things / the semantic web , wearables, more data ), but all the little things that together create effective learning and teaching experiences.

Later in the week in my Vice Chair of ALT capacity, I was part of a webinar with our Chair, Martin Weller and CEO Maren Deepwell.  This year the organisation is developing it’s new 3 year strategy, and of course we are looking for member feedback to help shape our strategic priorities for the next three years.  We’re going to be running 2 online sessions to get more feedback, more details here.

We certainly are living in interesting times and having an authoritative membership voice to engage, influence and challenge some of the national developments in the sector is becoming increasingly important. Over the past three years, ALT has been increasingly recognised as a point of expertise around learning technology. So if you have any ideas of where ALT should be focusing its strategic vision then please join the conversation or put your ideas into our online suggestion box.

My wish for the next big thing would be for a focus on people and time. Time for consolidation, to plan, to experiment, to fail, to succeed. Maybe that just seems like the past now . . . but if we could just get some big tech company/ new trendy start up/someone with no experience of education to “app-ify” that idea maybe, just maybe, it could indeed be the next big thing.