29 Comments

  1. Paul Rettey
    Hi Robert,

    Thanks for the update, these look like significant changes and rationalisation of the organisation. I suppose more information would be good, but as it's work in progress I'd say it's difficult to say much more at this time.

    The things I enjoyed most were the Moodle Roundtables organised by Julian, Shri, Rosemary, Martin, et al and the Regional Events held at other colleges by Kav Dev and Bernard. To me this represented the best of JISC as it got people together.

    The penultimate paragraph is interesting. What JISC does internally is up to them, but from my position I hope the people affected are treated well as these are people have made a difference to people such as me.

    As ever these are my views and opinions, please treat them as such.
    Reply
  2. Robert Haymon Collins
    Thank you for your comments Paul and I am pleased that you have found these Moodle Roundtables and other events so valuable. As you say, the affected people need to be treated fairly, and their skills and expertise retained in the new-look customer service operation, and we are working hard to make that happen. We'll be able to share more once we've been through the consultation process - likely in the autumn.
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  3. Roy Currie
    One of the main benefits that my colleagues from other colleges and I have gained from our RSC has been the fostering of and provision of support for local networks. These have served IT technical managers, VLE specialists, general e-learning practitioners and those with staff development responsibilities for learning technologies. I sincerely hope that within the new structure, JISC will continue to provide support and frameworks that enable grass-roots practitioners to be aware of their local peers are doing and help each other out. The annual regional eFair has always been particularly valuable in this regard.
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    1. Robert Haymon Collins
      Thank you for your comment Roy – I am pleased that you have clearly found the work of our regional support centres to be helpful both to you and your colleagues in the sector. I am sure that you will understand that our obligation to staff, and our determination to build on their undoubted expertise, means we are only able to share the 'headlines' of what's planned at the moment while we go through consultation with those affected. Maintaining and improving our help and work with practitioners is indeed at the heart of our proposals for the future, and specifically how we engage with and work through local networks and peer groups. Thanks so much for your comment and we look forward to sharing more of our plans as soon as we are able.
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  4. Ben Hutchens
    For me, the opportunity for networking at regional events are invaluable in enabling learning providers to share good practice. We have already picked up several great ideas from other providers on how to implement ILT projects through attending regional forums and the annual e-Fair. What is clear to see is that the effectiveness of these forums is very much dependent upon internal teamwork of the RSC Eastern and their firm understanding of the regional context within which we operate. I have been supported by various members of the RSC Eastern team, who individually have varying skills and sector knowledge. I sincerely hope that this tailored support does not become diluted under the new proposals.
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    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Hello Ben – thanks for your comment. We agree that the local events are invaluable and offer a great way to share best practise, network and learn new skills. Helpful to hear you think so too. We are looking at building on and strengthening sustainable presence in the nations-regions but with stronger coordinated support for them all, especially from an events perspective and as you say it would be a shame to dilute what works well and reduce access to the expertise across a varied range of topics.
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  5. Elaine Szpytma
    To reinforce what Roy has said. In the Eastern region the JISC support for networks has been outstanding and actively developed the use of e-learning. The e-fair is something we look forward to and value as truly useful CPD. The planned changes seem to be a move away from the 'up front and personal' approach we have been used to and seem to focus on a more centralised, electronic approach - correct me if I am wrong here. JISC have developed an excellent support mechanism, the staff who support this are excellent and irreplaceable. I fear the size of the support networks proposed will reduce the effectiveness rather than improve it, except for the London area! I hope I am proved wrong.
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    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Hello Elaine. Thank you for your positive feedback about the Eastern regional support centre. The aim is to ensure that there is a consistent ‘up front and personal’ approach not just with an account management approach but with support from experts across a range of topics. In addition to this we plan some additional and complementary activities like a coordinated customer service centre and improved online information and support - this is 'in addition to' not 'instead of'. The feedback from our customers and users, like you, is that the on the ground support is invaluable and we intend to keep as much as possible of our support local and personal.
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  6. Ian Hall
    Well this is interesting. With the recent FELTAG report and the subsequent Government response which will require all FE colleges to move (quickly) toward a rigorous and accountable on-line learning experience, JISC pull the rug from under the RSC's! College managers will need local and easily accessible support and advice to help implement these changes & not via a "helpdesk" in Bristol. You say your role is that of "steadily moving Jisc from a ‘product’ organisation to a ‘solution’ organisation." - That is exactly how most of us in FE view the RSCs at the moment- providers of advice & solutions to on-line & e-learning issues and demand for the services provided by the RSCs, at a local level, is going to increase dramatically. This is a bad call at a very wrong time.
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    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Hello Ian. I agree strongly that college managers need local and easily accessible support and advice – this is exactly what we are looking to do. But we must do this for all of our customer sectors (HE and FE & Skills) and for all the areas where we are active from learning and teaching to digital resources, networks and technology, research data management, accessibility and inclusion and all our other topics. As you say college managers need the local support they receive now through the regional support centres and come 2015 they, and their colleagues across the other sectors, will continue to be have face to face support with locally based account management but with greater national access to experts across many topics. We already operate quite a number of help desks (which in itself is confusing to many people) and our plan is to make it easier for people who do want to talk to us through this route, to do so - it is certainly not a replacement for direct personal contact. I appreciate your concern about what you fear may be a lessening of support to colleges, I am sure that our plans will not do this, indeed they are being introduced precisely to try and ensure that we can sustain the personal and practical support for colleagues across the sectors.
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  7. Tim Harrison
    Over the years, our RSC has provided a very high quality service that has helped all the local colleges move forward and develop far more quickly than they would have without the support. It is a great shame that during the same period they have constantly had to deal with JISC moving the goal posts and re-defining their service. I hope that with these changes, whatever they end up as, we will have stability for a decent length of time for the sake of the staff and those of us who rely on their expertise.
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    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Dear Tim – We have as you say, and like many in our sectors, had times of instability due to the changes in policy, government and funding. Bringing stability to our customer service operations for both our customers and those we employ has been a mounting concern for us and is key reason why we are introducing these changes. By managing our national-regional presence directly rather than through hosting arrangements, we will be able to bring the greater stability that you rightly say our staff and customers deserve.
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  8. James Billingham
    I have found the support and event content delivery from South West RSC exceptionally useful in supporting the IT function of our college.
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    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Thanks James, glad you have found the support from the RSC in the south west to be so helpful, I am sure that you will find our our arrangements in future to be just as helpful.
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  9. Chris Boon
    For me the most valuable part of JISC has been the networking opportunities. Without the face-to-face meetings and events which JISC provide I would never have had the opportunity to get to know colleagues from other institutions across the region, and therefore develop a wide network of people who I can collaborate with, share ideas and learn from. Having local events means, in these times of extreme financial constraints, we ARE able to attend; I hope the restructuring with larger regions doesn't lose this local focus; having to travel further across a larger region to attend an event simply makes attendance impossible in terms of time and travel costs. Let's not lose the excellent support which those of us in the Eastern region have from Malcolm, Thomas, Kate, Maryse and the team.
    Reply
    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Thanks for your comments Chris. We really do recognise how important the local connections and support are. We absolutely intend that such personal and direct contact and support remains at the heart of how Jisc is able to support the sectors in the future. Organising ourselves around geographically larger areas will not mean that we lose the local dimension you reference, either physically or virtually, but it does mean that we will be able to sustain such work across all parts of the UK and support it more consistently and coherently.
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  10. John Pollitt
    Interesting timing indeed. Ian’s point on the FELTAG report is most pertinent, our CEO was on the panel that produced the report and never has there been a more important time for collaboration and support in implementation of some of these initiatives.

    Most FEIs require varying levels of support depending on in-house capacity but all are seeing that capacity diminish and increasingly require more support. The JISC RSC Eastern have been an important broker between vendors and educators and a facilitator for collaboration between local organisations both technically and in the technology enhance learning arena. This has been particularly useful as funding cuts bite and federation models or mergers begin to become more common place.

    I have chaired the regional technical manager’s forum with JISC for several years now and it has never been more active with networking in the collaborative sense being rated as the single most important factor for attending a forum. Without local support at that level I fear colleagues will rarely have the time to travel further and collaboration and shared service opportunities will become isolated pockets of activity.

    Please consider carefully the requirements of participating Colleges and take the time to understand those that do not participate or more organisations will choose to opt out of JISC, form their own collaborative groups and just use janet for Internet (whilst it remains competitive).

    John Pollitt, Director of IT Services
    Reply
    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Thanks for your helpful comments John. The FELTAG proposals do indeed present a real opportunity and a challenge for all of us. Whilst the RSCs have and continue to do sterling work, making sure that all of the resources in Jisc can be brought to bear on such widespread recommendations has always been a struggle. Part of the reason for this reshaping is precisely to act in a more coordinated and joined up way and so be able to help our front of house teams be as supportive and helpful as they possibly can for our customers in all sectors that we serve. With regards to fora and groups, we intend absolutely to build on the good work that is already there and to respond locally and coordinate nationally for all our benefit. As you would expect we wouldn't wish to create new groups when good ones exist but equally we must be in a position to facilitate groups if and where they don't . We don't plan to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ but to build on what is already good and where necessary add further support where there is a need that we can help with, perhaps in the shape of a regional stakeholder group for instance.
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    2. anon
      I agree with these comments this has to be the worst time for FE colleges and WBL providers to lose the support of the RSCs. Jisc has no idea what a valuable service these people provide, if they did they wouldn't thinking of getting rid of them. I'm all for efficiency savings, this could have been done via merging some of the RSCs but to ask staff to become part of a national help desk. The idea is ridiculous.
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      1. Robert Haymon-Collins
        Thank you for your obvious support of our regional activity. As you rightly identify, the support provided through our existing regional structures is highly valued, and needs to be retained wherever possible. You’re right that the current RSC model will go. However our commitment is to retain a strong regional focus, and as much of the excellent service you currently benefit from – so this won’t be changing. We are, however reshaping that service so that you, our customer, can more easily access the full suite of support Jisc has available.
        Reply
  11. Dave Nash
    I sincerely hope that JISC will not try to 'fix what ain't broke' I have found the JISC RSE Eastern events, particularly the Technical Managers Forum to be extremely useful and the JISC staff involved extremely helpful and knowledgeable. These events have provided the opportunity for technical managers in the region to form a community that frequently provides self-help and helps share good practice and the simple act of facilitating these meetings is invaluable. I fear that expanding these areas / regions too much make turn these from a useful tool to an unweildy behemoth that may tick boxes for someone but will lose its cohesion and faculty.
    Reply
    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Dear Dave – many thanks for your comments. You make some very relevant points related to the current work of our regional support centres, and I am glad you have found our existing services of value. I want to reassure you that whilst we are proposing a new geographical structure, we are expecting to retain as much of the excellent work of our regional service in this model. The work to foster and develop communities of practice is one such example, and will be looking to work with our customer to ensure we continue to deliver according to their needs.
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  12. Burhan Loqueman
    JISC is moving with the times.
    When cut to the bone, in my view technical expertise at both an operational and consultative level are the most valuable services that can be provided to Colleges; as we know these have a high cost in the market. Perhaps we can all name some skill sets that we would love to have in-house, but cannot afford.
    If these changes improve this area of service from JISC or at least maintain current levels I have no issues or concerns.
    As for networking, sharing of knowledge and experience, shared services/procurement, and developing eLearning approaches and such like – I believe that Colleges and Sixth Forms IT Managers/Directors are capable of working together independently.
    I think this actually depends more upon the nature/stance of the organisations themselves rather than an external agency. If an organisation is outward looking and willing to share/collaborate, then it will find others of similar nature.
    Reply
    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Dear Burhan – many thanks for your insightful comments. Our aim is to continue to add value in the areas where customers from across all market segments feel it is required. In the ever challenging climate we all find ourselves in, it is imperative that we, as a service provider, meet your needs. Our new structures are designed to enable us to do just that – giving you, our customers the opportunity to inform, shape, and make best use of all that we have to offer. We will be working with, and for, you to ensure we continue to add value to your business operations.
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  13. Emma Furness
    To put it very simply, the team at JISC RSC Eastern are part of my team - I couldn't do my job without them. My role crosses between Learning Resources, ILT and VLE and to keep track of progress in all these areas would be almost impossible without the regional forums. Not to mention the feeling of support and community between the attendees that is fostered at and because of the forums. The RSC team are always at the end of a phone or email for a prompt or advice when needed; service is always friendly, supportive, encouraging and applicable.

    Being based on the Norfolk coast means that training in London or other major areas is often too costly for our budget but JISC webinars and local training sessions are focused to our needs, timely, cost effective and are now a standard facet of our departmental training plans each year.

    Finally the JISC mail that accompanies the various regional and national groups are indispensable. My team all subscribe to at least one mailing list and these prompt discussions amongst the team that might otherwise not happen. It's also great to see that others are facing the same issues we are dealing with - it limits the feeling of isolation that can happen when physical distance is an issue and I know my team, who number just 2FT and 2PT, welcome the sense of support and connection this brings.

    I hope that JISC recognise the individualities of regions. I would be worried that if there is too much merge or reorganisation that the service would loose the specialist knowledge it has of its communities.
    Reply
    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Dear Emma – many thanks for your very helpful comments. It is a fact that we can no longer continue to deliver our regional services in the way that they are currently constituted. We can, however, commit to retaining as much of the excellence as is possible. Indeed, our proposals, which we will be looking to share across our customer base shortly, will make clear how we intend to continue to provide highly valued and impactful support activity such as that which you allude to above. We hope that the new account management function will also feel part of your team.
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  14. Darren Tysoe
    The valued services that have been highlighted here do need to continue when JISC moves to its new model. I hope JISC continues to listen to feedback as it moves forward so that any teething problems are swiftly addressed. I can’t fault the enthusiasm, expertise, and critical challenge received from RSC colleagues and hope their skills and experience are recognised in the new opportunities that will be created within the revised structure.

    Now that e-learning in particular has finally come of age, we are going to need all of the help we can get. I’m pleased JISC is not proposing a fully centralised model in England and is proposing four regions instead. Managing with reduced budgets is a recurring theme in the public sector, so it’s helpful that the services are planned to continue with a renewed emphasis but retaining the key elements of a local presence that have afforded the benefits of practical accessibility, fostering of professional networks and critical challenge.
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    1. Robert Haymon-Collins
      Hello Darren. Many thanks for your comments here. As you have rightly identified, we are subject to the same public sector financial challenges as everyone else – our goal within the context of the reshape is to retain as much of the excellent practice as we can within a tighter funding envelope. We have a strong body of evidence which has been used to inform the development of our proposed operating model, and indeed it enables us to support each customer through a variety of interventions, not least through a local and responsive workforce across our new regional structure. We look forward to working with you on helping to realise your organisational ambitions over the coming years.
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  15. Julia Ault
    Just adding my thanks for the invaluable support provided by RSC Wales over the years where the staff have become good friends and valued colleagues in the sector. I too sincerely hope that the restructure retains this excellent local element for us in HE and FE in Wales.
    Reply
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