JISC Inform 23
In issue 23 of the new look JISC Inform: Jon Snow celebrates the launch of NewsFilm Online, a new service which gives free access to 100 years of news clips from ITN for teaching, learning and research; scanning tomorrow's horizon's today: the future-facing work of JISC TechWatch; how JISC is supporting the British Library's move into a digital age; and a debate about American-style academic 'honor codes'.
A word from the Editor
I think the democratisation of image, sound, words of history and their accessibility to students is the essence of democracy
To suggest that democracy is the theme of this issue of the new-look JISC Inform might be a little grandiose. Perhaps it might be more accurate to call it ‘democratisation’ – the widening of access that the internet continues to bring about. For Jon Snow – interviewed exclusively on page 12 – the newly launched NewsFilm Online exemplifies this phenomenon, bringing benefits undreamt of when he began his career, and helping to uncover the sometimes hidden processes behind the gathering and delivery of news.
But other articles explore this phenomenon too, explore how ICT is widening access to resources such as theses (page 8), opening up fresh opportunities through, for example, e-portfolios for both students (page 9) and staff (page 21), encouraging collaboration (page 3 and 21) and helping to make assessment more in tune with how students want to learn (page 22).
But challenges remain, of course, and debate and discussion remain vital for the sector’s progress. How do we manage the vast amounts of information – much of it now ‘user-generated’ – now routinely being created? What part might ‘honour codes’ have to play in ensuring that learners are aware of their reponsibilities in using and managing their own information? These and other questions are explored in the following pages.
We hope you enjoy the magazine’s new look, but more importantly enjoy its contents too…
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A JISC-funded project is showing how advanced network facilities have applications way beyond the sciences, writes Kerry O’Neill.
The JANET Lightpath fibre-optic network is the JISC-funded arm of the UK’s contribution to global efforts to build a super-computer grid infrastructure. It is capable of handling enormous amounts of data, such as those generated by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.
With a maximum capacity of 10 gigabits per second, its incredibly high bandwidth has already facilitated e-science research projects in computationally-intensive fields from astronomy and particle physics to molecular biology.
JANET Lightpath, an additional functionality of higher education’s existing JANET network, works by enabling researchers to transfer huge amounts of data directly between remote locations. Vitally, there is no loss or re-ordering of data. Without it, the UK’s conventional network would struggle to cope with the volume of data from CERN alone. Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford recently used this network to send 60 million megabytes of data to CERN over a ten-day period – using standard broadband this would have taken 30 years.
So what does this have to do with bagpipes?
At the UK e-Science community’s All Hands Meeting at the University of Edinburgh in September, JANET Lightpath showcased one of its myriad potential applications. Its top quality bandwidth was used to transmit a flawless, studio-resolution recording of bagpipes played live in Edinburgh. This was received milliseconds later by award-winning composer Ambrose Field at the University of York, who immediately remixed and returned the data.
JISC Communications Officer Judy Redfearn witnessed the experiment, saying ‘It was eerie, as though the pipers were actually in the room. It was better than the best broadcast quality’.
After making a late start in
optical networks, ‘the UK is
now a first class player on the global stage’
The Lightpath remix is a joint venture, undertaken between the University of Edinburgh E-science centre and the University of York. Rob Fletcher of York’s computing service said: ‘The demonstration illustrates the potential of JANET Lightpath to deliver affordable transfer of audio recordings – the experiment used off-the-shelf software with no compromise on quality. We could even extend the experiment to connect with networks overseas.’
‘I want to encourage potential uses such as this,’ says Peter Clarke, deputy director of the National e-Science Centre. ‘They can show how JANET Lightpath can add new capability in any field’. With such great potential for studio quality music performance and collaborative composing already proven, he encourages researchers from all fields to “think out of the box”.
JANET supports the Big Bang experiment to understand origins of the universe
As the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) begins its work to re-create the Big Bang at the CERN facility in Switzerland, JANET prepares to play its part in the worldwide distribution of the 5 gigabytes per second of data that will be pumped out of the site.
Due to the huge amounts of data generated by the experiments, this will be distributed among a number of collaborating organisations via the LHC Computing Grid (LCG). To avoid a bottleneck during the transfer of this information, the Grid handles the data from the experiments in stages – from CERN, data is transferred to 11 sites across North America, Asia and Europe. The data are then distributed to 140 regional sites based around the world; these are typically at universities or major national laboratories.
The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) at Harwell in Oxfordshire is one of the sites. Data will be carried end to end on a dedicated lightpath from CERN to RAL using the GEANT and JANET networks.
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As part of JISC’s ‘Libraries of the Future’ campaign, three more articles have been added to the Guardian Education ‘Libraries unleashed’ site.
The Guardian supplement, produced in association with JISC to launch its Libraries of the Future campaign, was published in April at the same time as the micro-site was launched. The three new articles explore the issues of librarians’ role in the management and curation of research data, their work to support diversity and equality, and their embracing of new technologies such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification).
The Guardian Education libraries microsite has, at the time of publication, received more than 150,000 hits from all over the world.
Guardian Supplement: Libraries Unleashed
Opening up resources
HEFCE has announced an initial £5.7m of funding for a series of pilot projects designed to release high quality existing education resources from within institutions openly to the world.
JISC and the Higher Education Academy will work together to deliver the initial 12-month pilot projects. These will run at institutional, subject and individual level along with the accompanying support services. The projects will formally launch in April 2009.
Student experiences of ICT – campaign to be launched
JISC is to launch a new campaign during November – called ‘Student experiences of ICT’.
Over recent years there has been a new emphasis on the perspective and the experience of the learner in education. From the highest government and policy levels, to national activities such as the introduction of the National Student Survey and the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Student Experience, to the wide range of institutional initiatives to increase student representation on university bodies.
These trends are mirrored in the technology sphere, which has seen the rapid introduction and adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, the creation and use of ‘user-generated content’ and the rapid integration of such technologies into learning, teaching and research.
The JISC campaign will explore these and other issues with a view to encouraging further debate on the implications for colleges and universities.
Defining the future role of the data scientist – new report published
Data science is a topic of international attention, and its development should be organised and developed on a national pattern rather than on the ‘micro’ or institutional level.
This is one of the findings of a JISC-commissioned report into the skills, role and career structure of data scientists and curators, published recently. Its aims were to examine the role and career development of curators and data scientists and to analyse the future supply of specialist data curation skills to the research community.
Skills, Role & Career Structure of Data Scientists & Curators: Assessment of Current Practice & Future Needs
Federated access management: ongoing support arrangements confirmed
As part of its ongoing commitment to the implementation of federation access management within the further and higher education and research sectors, JISC has confirmed the support arrangements for institutions.
The UK Access Management Federation provides the first port-of-call through the JANET helpdesk, which is fully supported by a team of access management technical experts. Training is available through both JANET and Netskills, and institutions are encouraged to talk to their peers through the JISCmail lists and at community events such as McShib and the RSC forums.
JISC has also confirmed a further three years of funding for Service Provider support, continuing the work of the Access Management Team and JISC Collections to bring publishers and other service providers in to the UK Access Management Federation.
HEFCE announces new chair of JISC
Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, has been appointed to succeed Professor Sir Ron Cooke as the new chair of JISC from 1 January 2009.
Professor O’Shea is a graduate of the Universities of Sussex and Leeds. He has worked in the United States and for the Open University (OU). At the latter he held a personal chair in Information Technology and Education and, in 1993, was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor. In 1997 he was elected Master of Birkbeck College and subsequently appointed Provost of Gresham College and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. He was appointed Principal of the University of Edinburgh in 2002, having previously worked as a research fellow in the University’s Department of Artificial Intelligence during the 1970s.
Professor O’Shea commented: ‘I’m very pleased to be appointed to this role. Not only is it wonderful to be involved at the heart of a national treasure like JISC but, because its work is central to the concerns facing universities and colleges across the UK, JISC has a critical role to play over the coming years.’
HEFCE: New Chair of JISC Appointed
Shaping the future of curriculum design through technology
Twelve higher education institutions have successfully won funding to review their curriculum design processes.
They responded to an invitation from JISC to submit proposals ‘to review course design and validation processes’ and in particular looking at the ‘ways these are supported and informed by technology in order to transform learning opportunities’.
Over the coming months and years each project will tackle a specific challenge of strategic importance to their institution with the aim to transform opportunities for learners.
Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design
JISC hosts DIUS debate blog
As part of the government’s consultation to gain opinions and views on its higher education debate – JISC will be hosting a blog on its JISC Involve platform.
The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), John Denham launched a debate on higher education, in February 2008 when he announced the intention to develop a framework for higher education for the next 10 to 15 years. He said that we in the UK, ‘need to decide what a world-class HE system of the future should look like, what it should seek to achieve, and establish the current barriers to its development.’
The Future of Higher Education debate blog
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Interview with Dame Lynne Brindley
The British Library is not only one of the world’s great resources for research but also a library that has embraced the digital environment with open arms. Its CEO Dame Lynne Brindley here talks to JISC Inform about how the British Library is reinventing itself for the digital age and how its partnership with JISC is supporting its engagement with UK education and research.
We no longer want to receive information passively, but now expect to engage with it directly, collaborating and cooperating with others to fulfil our learning or research needs. And whilst libraries are adjusting to these new realities well, there is still a great deal to be done.
This the view of Dame Lynne Brindley, CEO of the British Library, as she looks back on a year that began with the publication of the ‘Google Generation’ report, a report that starkly set out the challenges of providing information services to students with very different expectations to those of us from earlier generations.
Commissioned by JISC and the British Library, the report suggested that although young people demonstrate a familiarity with computers, they lack the critical skills to assess the information they find on the web.
The findings sent a stark message to the government. Well-funded information literacy and education programmes are desperately needed, the report said, if the UK is to remain a leading knowledge economy with a strongly skilled next generation of researchers.
The lessons of the Google
Generation report are that
there’s no room for complacency
For Lynne Brindley, there is an urgency about this call – ‘we sometimes see PhD students who don’t know how to do research’ – but in this, as in most things, she is a cautious optimist. The report, she believes, provides further encouragement to actions that are in many cases already happening, as well as a quite definite call to action where they are not.
‘The lessons of the Google Generation report are that there’s no room for complacency,’ she suggests. ‘There was nothing there that we didn’t know, but it was said in rather a clear way: students will have different expectations of universities, of libraries, of the ways they interact with content, of the way they create content, of the way they expect to engage with our institutions. It was not exactly a wake-up call because I think universities and their libraries are doing a great deal on the broad information literacy agenda. Nevertheless there is more we can do and that was the call we needed to raise the profile of that agenda.’
The British Library, she continues, intends to be an advocate for precisely that: ‘We can get into a number of political platforms and raise these issues and together we can interpret what information literacy means. So for example we’re following a path with our education programme, which we’re doing with our Key stage 3 and Key stage 4, of developing those critical thinking skills, research skills, use of sources skills. So I think together with university libraries we have a great opportunity to make this a big political campaign, to raise the temperature, so we can take that right through from early school, to FE, HE, research and lifelong learning.’
But the library is, says its CEO, standing firm with the sector in other ways too. ‘UK higher education is still very highly valued across the world and the very existence of one of the greatest libraries in the world in the UK is a great market attractor for universities, particularly when they’re marketing overseas, because our brand is very strong and we see ourselves very much as complementary to the provision made by universities and colleges in this country. That’s particularly important for PhD students and researchers.’
But most importantly perhaps, it is the British Library’s extraordinary store of content that is so crucial a resource to increasing numbers of users. But while many of its treasures were previously accessible only to visitors to its reading rooms, digitisation is now throwing open the doors of the library to the whole world and, in doing so, transforming access to some of the richest resources in the world.
Lynne Brindley pays tribute to JISC for its funding of newspaper and sound archive digitisation projects and says that the potential of the new digitised resources is almost limitless. ‘When we started on the sound recordings route it was felt we would make available material that is not generally available, that has a set of complexities around copyright and that it would provide a new kind of resource that would go into taught courses to develop new ways of teaching.
‘It’s very early days but I hope that’s beginning to happen and certainly if you see the work we’ve done with younger people then clearly for them these are great resources which can be embedded in their work, in lecturers’ work and will give new leads to research. The enhancement of taught courses is perhaps the greatest possible impact, though. This applies to newspapers too. The search capabilities are just stunning. Newspapers are the first draft of history and the first draft of history will now be freely available to education and research on the desktop. I hope it will lead to greater curiosity-driven work, supporting projects much better, and all sorts of topical historical issues.’
For all the successes of the JISC-British Library partnership, though, it would be surprising if there were not challenges to be faced too. Managing and preserving the vast amounts of data being created by researchers in all disciplines is a priority, says Lynne Brindley, as is the continued development of tools and services for resource discovery to support access to content. The soon to be launched EThOS service (see next page)provides a timely example in the field of theses of the kinds of services that should be possible, she says, suggesting too that national shared services such as EThOS provide an opportunity in terms of economies of scale and value for money that has not been yet been fully explored.
But one area she’ll be taking a particularly keen personal interest in is the follow-up to the Google Generation report: ‘The report had a great impact and I’m really pleased that we are going to take that forward to do some deeper and longer set of studies – longitudinal studies – to see how that generation is coming through, and what its expectations will be. That’s core to JISC’s future, it’s core to our future and it’s core to what universities are and will be doing. That’s a specific one that I’m really delighted with.’
This commitment is of a piece with the emphasis Lynne Brindley places on libraries knowing their users and building services that can meet their sometimes rapidly changing needs. Praising JISC’s Libraries of the Future campaign, she says that the ‘reengineering of physical space’ is particularly important to new and young users of libraries.
…the question now is “what
more and what next?”
But equally, in the digital age libraries can bring vital expertise and curatorial skills to support great collections and inspiring spaces. While Lynne Brindley feels that libraries have adapted well, ‘the question now is “what more and what next?”’ Calling for ‘big steps’ and ‘a step change’ in libraries’ engagement with their digital users, she says such steps aren’t without risk, but are vital if the library is not to become irrelevant.
‘Were on a long digital journey, like most universities and libraries. But the underlying principles are universal – really engaging your users so that you can begin to develop your services, tailor your services to specific groups of users so that they’re relevant. Also, of course, upping the skills levels, developing news skills. As the Google Generation report tells us, our students are going to challenge us all in new ways and they’re going to have many of the skills that we don’t so obviously have.’
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More than 14,000 theses are produced in the UK every year, but they remain an underused resource in both research and the classroom. A new resource looks set to change all that, writes Rebecca O’Brien.
Gaining access to millions of academic theses is about to get a whole lot easier as a new online database goes live.
After its launch in January, EThOS (Electronic Theses Online System) will allow authors and researchers around the world to access UK doctoral theses. Thesis authors and their institutions will also benefit from wider exposure of their research work.
Kevin O’Leary, from Imperial University and project manager of EThOS, says that the new service will allow UK higher education institutions the opportunity to promote their post-graduate research and increase usage of their theses output.
This is the first time we’ve ever had a single point of access to all UK doctoral theses
‘This is the first time we’ve ever had a single point of access to all UK doctoral theses. We’ll harvest e-theses from institutional repositories and digitise paper theses supplied by the institution. This will allow the institution to ensure that the version of the thesis on which the award was made, is the one on the system,’ said Kevin.
Dr Colin Macduff, Reader at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Robert Gordon University, published his PhD online before the availability of EThOS and suggests that the service will streamline what can sometimes be a cumbersome process.
‘I completed my PhD in 2007 and it was uploaded onto the Robert Gordon University’s repository. I kept a paper copy and a paper copy was also sent to The British Library.
‘EThOS replaces the need for researchers and learners to spend time requesting photocopies and paper-based materials. This new system enables researchers and authors to readily and quickly search UK theses by subject, all in one place and at the click of a mouse on your desktop.’
Colin won the ‘2008 Innovative learning through electronic theses and dissertation award’ from the NDLTD – Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations – for promoting his work online. EThOS, he suggests, should make this process much easier.
‘I proactively sent emails to colleagues and interested parties to share my thesis and gain interest. But EThOS enables a central hub for information to be stored, searched and accessed.
‘What EThOS offers researchers like me, is the opportunity to compare and contrast theses as well as look at the output from institutions,’ added Colin.
But what is the benefit to institutions of contributing to a system like EThOS?
Anthony Troman, product development manager at The British Library explains that EThOS will save time. ‘EThOS will start with more than 11,000 e-theses available for free download and this number will rapidly increase as new e-theses are added and as more are digitised.
‘When a researcher wants access to a paper thesis, the system will contact the institution, digitise the thesis and load it into the system.
‘The researcher can immediately download e-theses from the system, direct to their desktop. ‘
The digitisation facility provides the best value for money for institutions looking to make their paper-theses available digitally. Library and archive staff’s resources will be saved in handling and storing theses. It will also save space and provide extra shelf room within the library environment. There is also the additional benefit that statistical data are generated to show frequently requested materials, which can help institutions predict future demands and target efforts.
When a researcher wants
access to a paper thesis,
the system will contact the
institution, digitise the thesis and load it into the system
With any e-thesis held by the system being available for immediate download, Anthony explains how the project has worked with JISC IPAS (Internet Plagiarism Advisory Service) to develop anti-plagiarism tools.
‘By making theses more readily available it is in turn easier to detect plagiarism. We have also been guided by JISC IPAS to contribute theses to the database used by its Turnitin service – an electronic plagiarism detection system. Institutions which use the system will be able to check suspect work against the entire database.’
The purpose of EThOS is to work with higher education institutions to modernise thesis supply arrangements, to increase the availability of materials and to ensure preservation in perpetuity of all UK theses.
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JISC projects have highlighted the increasing importance of e-portfolios as tools to support both the process and the outcomes of learning. Ros Smith reports on the launch of two new resources which explore the role of e-portfolios in 21st-century learning.
e-Portfolios are seizing the agenda as schools, colleges and higher education institutions strive towards more personalised and reflective models of learning. But that’s not all. e-Portfolios also have an increasingly important role in workplace learning, as professionals turn to e-portfolios to document, explore, share and present facets of their learning as part of their continuing professional development (CPD). The tools even have potential for job applications and registration with professional bodies.
The increasingly broad use of e-portfolios is explored in two complementary JISC resources on e-portfolios, launched earlier this year, which draw on examples of effective practice and on the outcomes of groundbreaking projects.
The first is a new guide in the JISC Effective Practice series, Effective Practice with e-Portfolios, which explores through case studies and personal insights how e-portfolios can support learning at all stages across a lifetime of learning. Evidence comes from learners, practitioners, curricular managers implementing PDP, professional bodies engaging with CPD, lifelong learners and those finding themselves on the receiving end of e-portfolios – assessors, appraisers and employers.
These processes are critical to our understanding of how
The guide argues that behind any e-portfolio presentation lie rich and complex processes of planning, synthesising, sharing, discussing, reflecting, giving, receiving and responding to feedback. These processes, termed ‘e-portfolio based learning’ are critical to our understanding of how e-portfolios work.
A further source of e-portfolio guidance is the new e-Portfolios infoKit from JISC infoNet. This comprehensive resource covers the main drivers, purposes, processes, perspectives and issues around e-portfolio use and, with a templated format, supports a range of pathways to accessing information. As well as browsing by project, users can search case studies by section or by the themes they illustrate.
As a result, the e-Portfolios infoKit offers a valuable single point of access for information about what many now consider to be the ‘the central and common point’ of the student and professional learning experience.
These resources constitute
a major advance in our
understanding of e-portfolios
JISC programme manager, Lisa Gray, welcomes the new developments. ‘These resources constitute a major advance in our understanding of e-portfolios,’ she explains. ‘There is now a growing consensus that e-portfolios can support application, transition, PDP and CPD, as well as learning and assessment of learning. e-Portfolios are vital tools in a digital age.’
Effective Practice with e-Portfolios
JISC infoNet: e-Portfolios
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…the service has been
delighted by the response
from academics in the UK and the rest of the world
A JISC service has for years been advising colleges and universities on where technology is heading next and what the implications will be. Guest journalist Mark Samuels looks at the work of JISC TechWatch
Attempting to predict future developments in technology is an intractable challenge. The fast pace of change and innovation means toady’s big trend is quickly tomorrow’s legacy issue.
Such developments cause significant concerns for IT managers in higher and further education, many of whom are keen to build technical awareness but are hamstrung by a lack of clear information. A helping hand comes in the form of TechWatch, JISC’s specialist agency for advising FE and HE on the implications of technology trends.
TechWatch director Gaynor Backhouse says the agency is best understood as a horizon-scanning service which supports JISC’s broader innovation agenda, has developed to meet the needs of the academic community. ‘The disparate nature of the audience can make our job tricky,’ she says. ‘We always start with top-level issues because people need to understand the context.’
Selecting the right methods for analysis and interaction is crucial. Rather than concentrate on potential technology developments that may not come to fruition, TechWatch looks at the current state-of-play and attempts to anticipate change.
The service makes specific recommendations through a range of resources, such as blogs, briefings and – most crucially – reports. In an attempt to increase user-friendliness, TechWatch reports eschew a strategic approach in favour of a journalistic style. One of the best examples of the agency’s approach to reporting is the 2007 report 'What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education'.
The Web 2.0 report has proved to be one of the most popular downloads on JISC's site and provides clarity to academic IT managers in an area of technology where confusion and hype often reign. Backhouse says TechWatch has received a great deal of positive feedback and she is hopeful the report will inspire the development of innovative projects.
‘People at a senior management level are saying that they can finally understand Web 2.0,’ she says. ‘Such managers need to remember that the implications of the report are only as important as the actions they subsequently take. People need to read, think and then do something different.’
Certain academic groups are already taking the lead. Backhouse points to the efforts of the teaching and learning community, which she says is a vociferous group making significant progress in the related areas of Web 2.0 and mobile technology.
Libraries are also making advancements, inspired by JISC's 'Libraries of the Future' programme, which attempts to encourage collaboration amongst the community.
Backhouse recognises TechWatch would like to see more progress in other groups, particularly researchers – who she describes as overworked, but dedicated. Overall, however, the service has been delighted by the response from academics in the UK and the rest of the world.
TechWatch technical editor and Web 2.0 report author Paul Anderson says the research provides identifiable examples of how collaboration can improve working methods. ‘It's nice to see universities and colleges are beginning to get to grips with the pedagogy around Web 2.0,’ he says. ‘Instead of people playing, there is now more of a concerted effort of people funding pilots.’
While the potential of Web 2.0 is gaining rapid acceptance, interest in other technology areas covered by TechWatch is building more gradually. Take radio frequency identification (RFID), which the agency covered in the 2006 report 'RFID: Frequency, standards, adoption and innovation'. The report has started to climb the list of most popular JISC downloads, driven in no small part by the libraries community. The potential use of RFID in libraries has started to receive more attention recently.
Backhouse is not surprised that RFID is only now becoming a crucial area to consider, saying most reports go through a two-year gestation period from publication to mass popularity. ‘People don't project ahead,’ she says. ‘And writing about the future means people sometimes don't understand the significance.’
But as in the case of Web 2.0, TechWatch's analysis has stimulated interest at a broader level. After taking the role of managing author for the RFID report, Backhouse contributed her expertise to the European Union's (EU) RFID consultation exercise.
The final report, 'RFID technologies: Emerging issues, challenges and policy options', was produced by the Joint Research Centre of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies – which Backhouse describes as the EU's horizon scanning service.
Such awareness illustrates how the concerns associated to RFID are slowly filtering through to specific audiences – and more specifically, says Backhouse, the academic community. ‘It's a fledgling technology,’ she says. ‘But we have got to keep forward-thinking and keep our eye on the horizon.’
When it comes to crystal ball gazing, John Connell, former learning and futures strategist to Learning and Teaching Scotland, says TechWatch provides a crucial ally to other knowledge from news and blog feeds. He uses the service to inform his current work in education with Cisco Systems and as a source of inspiration and evidence for his own writing and presentations.
‘It is important to track more obviously authoritative sources of knowledge - and TechWatch is, for me, the best single source of such information that I have come across over the past two or three years,’ he says.
The Web 2.0 report has proved to be one of the most popular downloads on JISC’s site
Other experts are equally impressed, such as Raza Rizvi who is board member and vice chairman of the London Internet Exchange (LINX). Rizvi proofread the Web 2.0 report and early drafts of other reports. He is set to write the agency's forthcoming networking analysis (see box) and has praise for the TechWatch reporting style, which Rizvi says relies on sharp editing to tackle what are often perceived as dry, technical areas. ‘They're not providing blue-sky thinking; they're actually talking about a vision that might well come to pass,’ he says.
The service continues to strive to find new areas for analysis and new methods for pushing information to the academic community.
TechWatch has just soft-launched 'Notes from the Future', a blog that is being used to track post-publishing updates for reports and to provide details on emerging items, such as the Semantic Web. The platform will also be open to guest bloggers.
Such innovative methods will help ensure academic IT managers are well-prepared for future technological developments, despite the fast pace of change.
Web 2.0 applications, cloud computing services and virtual worlds provide an exciting platform for future developments in research and education.
But building knowledge through online collaboration requires ever-more bandwidth.
A forthcoming TechWatch report will discuss transmission systems for internet traffic, concentrating on the next stage in networking and the potential move to 100 gigabit (GB) per second Ethernet standards.
Report author Raza Rizvi says the timely report will help raise awareness and create debate amongst the academic community.
‘We are already seeing that proposed 40 GB networks are not enough,’ he says. ‘Academics need to be intimately aware of the importance of bandwidth issues.’
The hype surrounding green computing sometimes hides the significance of the challenge.
An ever-growing raft of legislation added to a greater sense of environmental responsibility means academics need to take necessary measures and ensure greener technologies are investigated.
TechWatch director Gaynor Backhouse says, as in the case of Web 2.0 and RFID, green computing is an issue that hits FE and HE head-on. However, she also fears the requirement to take appropriate action creates the risk of a knee-jerk reaction.
A forthcoming TechWatch report will help to allay fears and analyse how academic institutions can reduce energy consumption and deal with waste management.
‘The need for improvement is now critical,’ says Backhouse. ‘We’re hoping the report will help people to think about long-term issues and the technology coming through.’
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Resources like the newly launched NewsFilm Online are ‘the essence of tomorrow’s democracy’, says broadcaster Jon Snow, in an exclusive interview with Michelle Pauli.
391!’ exclaims Jon Snow, looking pleased. The veteran ITN reporter and Channel 4 news presenter has just looked himself up for the first time on the newly launched NewsFilm Online resource and discovered that he features in nearly 400 stories.
It is not surprising that Snow will be a prominent figure in a collection that includes 3,000 hours of footage from the ITN and Reuters archive and features the most significant world events of the last 100 years. Snow himself joined ITN in 1976 and has covered stories in countries from Afghanistan to Zanzibar. Among his assignments, he reported the overthrow of Idi Amin in Uganda; the Iran hostage crisis; the Russian invasion of Afghanistan; the Iran Iraq war; the fall of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela. He was also presenting during the day and night of 9/11.
These events and many more are now available to the academic community in a collection of 60,000 clips Snow describes as ‘amazing’.
Funded by JISC, NewsFilm Online is a partnership with ITN Source and the British Universities Film and Video Council and allows the HE and FE sector to search, watch and download video clips for free for teaching, learning and research purposes. It is part of JISC’s mass digitisation programme which aims to open up previously difficult to access resources.
‘I think what people don’t realise is that modern history has moved on from jerky old pictures of people in trenches in the first world war,’ says Snow. ‘There’s now a cascade of history which spans a hundred years which has been covered by cameras in quite presentable quality and you have real access to real life stories and I think they bring modern history, current affairs, politics right to life.’
The archive features not just those iconic moments of world history – think Chamberlain at Munich, Hiroshima, Vietnam, the moon landings – but also covers art and culture, sport, science and fashion, making the collection rich with possibilities for many different areas of academic research and teaching.
In addition, it features previously unseen footage – ‘rushes’ – which help to reveal how the news was selected, along with scans of scripts and running orders. These allow students to explore how the news agenda was created, and how it changed over the course of a day or a week.
‘The great thing about this resource is not just the transmitted stories, not just the way in which the journalist saw it but the rushes – what did he or she leave out?’ comments Snow. ‘What was television squeamish about screening in those days? Our whole attitude towards what we’re prepared to bear in terms of human suffering has been completely transformed. You’ll see things like, for example, the Suez crisis were left on the cutting room floor because they were thought to be too devastating for the viewer to cope with.’
For Snow, the context events like the 1956 Suez crisis can offer for today’s news is also crucial.
‘Now that we’ve had the invasion of Iraq, students will be asking which was the greater foreign policy folly - was it that last flip of the tail of empire or was it the hubris of thinking you could make a country in the Middle East just like us?’
According to Snow, the ‘best is yet to come’The resource also documents how the media has evolved, not just in terms of the way reporters dressed and spoke but also how, says Snow, ‘it moves from the period when you were simply told what was important for you to know to the point now where the media has been much more democratised by the internet, by YouTube, by all these other opportunities.’
According to Snow, the ‘best is yet to come’ and he contrasts vividly the instant access of today’s digital and interactive media with the sometimes tortuous routes news footage had to take in his early days as a reporter.
‘I was despatched to cover Idi Amin – he’s in there. It took me a day and a half to get to Kampala. It took me a day to shoot the film then it took a day and a half to get it shipped back to Britain and then it took six hours to bath it in a laboratory because it was film and so five days after I said “Hello Mr Amin, President Amin”, it appeared on a television screen. Now at the flick of a button you can see Amin for yourself – boom.’
Snow’s interest in online resources also extends beyond the television screen. He describes how he went to the British Library to record accounts of events he has witnessed for an online collection, and adds that as a trustee of the National Gallery he has an interest in how paintings and pictures can be made more accessible through digitisation.
‘I think the democratisation of image, sound, words of history and their accessibility to students is the essence of tomorrow’s democracy,’ he concludes.
JISC Digitisation programme
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From black and white footage of the funeral of King Edward VII in 1910 to the fall of Saddam Hussein, Newsfilm Online covers a century of iconic news coverage including the Suez crisis in 1956, Nelson Mandela’s first interview in 1961, the moon landing in 1969 and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Users can view and download whole newsreels for use in virtual learning environments.
The task of managing records or information of any kind might seem to depend on certain rules by which information is named, described and preserved. But in a world of ‘user-generated content’, is it time to tear up the rule-book, asks Steve Bailey.
Is it necessary to manage Web 2.0 resources as a corporate resource? Indeed, is it even possible to, given both their nature and the grass-roots, user-driven nature of much of the ethos that lies behind them? These are two of the questions currently taxing many information managers at the moment – and with good reason.
This inconsequential IT fad has become a significant information management and governance issue for the entire institution
Until recently it may have been tempting to dismiss the whole Web 2.0 thing as just the next IT fad: apparently of great interest to many of our students and perhaps our own teenage children, but hardly something of significance to the organisation as a whole. After all: who cares about the sharing of a few digital photos, the ramblings of a blogger or who is now a ‘friend’ of who?
But things have changed. Not only are many organisations now wishing to bring some of these technologies ‘in house’ for their own ends (such as establishing wikis to share project information), they are also increasingly aware that many of their staff are making use of externally provided Web 2.0 services to carry out work-based tasks. Information that documents important business activities or represents valuable intellectual capital is now being created and stored outside of the direct control or ownership of the institution. All of a sudden this inconsequential IT fad has become a significant information management and governance issue for the entire institution.
What complicates matters further is that many of the techniques that institutions have traditionally relied upon to manage their corporate records and associated data cannot be simply and easily extended to incorporate Web 2.0 content. Well-established disciplines such as records management, for example, are based on assumptions of the presence of an underlying common information architecture (the shared file server, document management system or other corporate repository), which just doesn’t exist in this world. They are also founded on the premise of centrally dictated rules determining how information should be described, or how long it should be kept, both of which now seem out of kilter with a technological movement that encourages users to call things what they want and keep them forever.
The more constructive approach is to start thinking about how we can create new information
management solutions to cope with this new world
An instinctive reaction might be to erect the barricades: to prevent all use of such technologies within the institution and wait for it all to blow over. But it is surely questionable for how long such an approach will be tenable and only threatens to store up larger problems for the future. The more constructive and, yes, more challenging approach is to start thinking about how we can create new information management solutions to cope with this new world. That work in harmony with it and yet still provide the level of management and control required to protect the institution and its assets.
Now that’s some challenge and one which should keep us occupied for quite some time to come!
Steve Bailey is the author of a book Managing the Crowd, available from Facet Publishing.
Top five resources for managing information
by Steve Bailey
- The JISC infoNet Social Software Guide
- University of Edinburgh’s Guidelines for using externally hosted Web 2.0 services
- Materials and papers from the JISC-supported ‘Web 2.0 for content sharing for learning and teaching’ online conference hosted by Franklin Consulting
- The JISC infoNet Managing the information Lifecycle infoKit which includes generic requirements for managing information throughout its lifecycle, regardless of its format or system of origin
- The Office2.0 website: A great source of information on the latest developments, products and services in the Office 2.0 world, including a comprehensive product database
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An initiative that has created a wealth of openly available multimedia content has won the JISC/Times Higher Award for Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year. As these pages make clear, though, it was pushed hard by five other excellent entries.
Training videos at the University of Westminster
University of Westminster academic Russell Stannard is creating teacher and student training videos, which can be watched online all over the world.
Using screen recording software Camtasia, Stannard recorded himself walking through a vast array of Web 2.0/ ICT technologies with a voiceover, and they were uploaded in August 2007 to a newly created website. The website quickly became popular – with over 5,000 individual hits per month – and now there are over 30 videos from simple topics like ‘Top Tips for Word’ to more sophisticated ones like ‘How to Create Wikis’.
The website is now a massive repository of training videos for all teachers, with 400 teachers receiving a newsletter every month, and the site receives between 5,000 and 10,000 hits per month.
Reacting to his win on 23 October, Russell Stannard said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted, it’s a real privilege. It was important to me that the sites are openly available to everyone in the world.’
Vice Chancellor of the University of Westminster Professor Geoffrey Petts agreed, saying: ‘This is absolutely fantastic. It continues our long tradition of innovation.’
One of the judges, Dr John Selby – HEFCE’s Director of Education and Participation – said: ‘The standard of all shortlisted entries was very high but the winning entry from the University of Westminster demonstrated not only innovation and impact but also a commitment to open access to educational content, which makes it of importance across all education sectors.’
Teacher Training Videos
The Great War Archive at the University of Oxford
As part of the wider First World War Poetry Digital Archive project, the Great War Archive Initiative, was a national call for people to submit online, memorabilia they held or anecdotes kept within the family related to the First World War.
The aims of the JISC-funded project were to collect and preserve digital surrogates of items held in private collections.
Following a series of open days at regional libraries and museums at which people were invited to bring along items to scan, the project collected nearly 4,000 items.
The Great War Archive
Assignment Handler Initiative at Sheffield Hallam University
Sheffield Hallam University’s Assignment Handler Initiative is supporting the delivery of grades online, encouraging engagement with feedback and online submission of coursework. The initiative enhances the student assessment experience through effective use of technology, supporting the ethos of assessment for learning and encouraging students to actively engage with their feedback.
Sheffield Hallam University
The Open University’s Open Life
Open Life is an initiative to bring together the OU’s Second Life projects in a single collaborative space. It is a broadly based learning environment open to the whole university to support formal learning, peer discussion, collaboration and pedagogical research. Tutors from four OU courses are now using Open Life as part of their teaching strategy.
The Open University
Location Independent Working programme at Coventry University
Introducing the option of eWorking for staff at Coventry University has led to evidence of better working lives, lower levels of stress, less absence and greater quality of work, say programme staff.
The success of the ‘Location Independent Working’ programme has led to a new eWorking pilot among 30 academics within the Business, Environment and Society department. With this JISC-funded pilot, Coventry has become the first UK university to trial Location Independent Working.
Location Independent Working
The One-Stop Language Shop at Nottingham University
One of Nottingham’s busiest teaching and research departments – The School of Modern Languages and Cultures – has transformed its ability to offer personalised tuition and language support thanks to a dynamic and imaginative ICT partnership project with the Information Services department, say department staff.
The One-Stop-Language-Shop gives its students and academic colleagues access to multimodal interactive language learning materials - regardless of the language or level they were studying - and to offer this material through a self-access language learning platform covering the 14 languages taught in the School – including many European languages, Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.
One-Stop Language Shop
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These truths we hold to be self evident,’ is included in one of the most successful of ‘honour codes’ in American history, despite the fact that it was written by an elite made rich by slavery. Possibly a cheap shot, because the draftees were creatures of their time.
However, despite constant and repeated attacks by government, almost universally rejected by the US courts – freedom of speech and separation of religion and education being the most common – the Bill of Rights has been resistant to change. More importantly, it has created as well as protected the culture of the USA.
This is its strength and the
reason that we will not be
‘pleading the Fifth’ any time soon
This is its strength and the reason that we will not be ‘pleading the Fifth’ any time soon; a bonus point for those who can remember the last time a UK citizen had the right to silence. Introducing such legislation out of context is almost unworkable; it is a result of evolution. This is doubly true for the Ivy League university honour code.
What is especially worrying about the idea of introducing an honour code in UK universities is their asynchronous nature. John Barrie, CEO of iParadigms, confirmed once that there were American institutions that would not use Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software, with their students because it offended the spirit of the student honour code. Ironically, many of the same universities use Turnitin on prospective students’ applications and personal statements.
Presumably, this is OK, because these students have yet to sign up to the code, but the dual standard is rarely publicised.
Students and staff have been brainstorming a learning contract…
At Newport, students and staff have been brainstorming a learning contract, because of a discomfort with adopting an external solution.
One of the most surprising outcomes has been the need to recognise lecturer/institutional rights and student responsibilities, as well as student rights and university responsibilities, which goes far beyond the US honour code. These truths we hold to be self evident.
Dr Mike Reddy
Newport Business School, University of Wales
There has long been a concern that increasing access to, and reliance on, the internet for source material is leading to an increase in plagiarism. To some extent, this is mitigated by academics’ increasing utilisation of electronic matching text detection tools. Turnitin is used by over 80% of all UK HEIs and Safeassign is included with Blackboard v8. Yet these systems cannot provide immunisation against the occurrence of plagiarism. If used as a blunt tool, a single solution to a complex problem, they can simply shift the emphasis from one of detection to one of student evasion. What is needed to deal with this issue, in an information rich age, is a longer term, more sustainable solution. We should not be embarking on an arms race to build better detection tools to catch students attempting to cheat the system. Instead, a culture of academic integrity should be fostered.
Don McCabe’s research
has shown reduced levels
of academic dishonesty in
institutions that use traditional honour codes
The basic philosophy behind the US honour code system is an institution-wide emphasis on good academic practice through positive representation of the ideas behind the avoidance of plagiarism. Students take a pledge to uphold the principles of academic integrity and are encouraged to take responsibility for promoting good practice within their institution and for policing themselves in cases of academic misconduct. Don McCabe’s research has shown reduced levels of academic dishonesty in institutions that use traditional honour codes. Modified codes have also been introduced in a number of large public US universities with similar results.
We believe that elements of these codes could be introduced into UK institutions. For example, emphasising the principles of good scholarship while educating students about plagiarism, rather than inundating them with admonitions and warnings, would help to foster a sense of responsibility in students and a deeper understanding of the nature of academic work. Involving students in peer-to-peer education about referencing and good citation practice would help to promote the values of academic scholarship within a community approach. Possible involvement of students in the disciplinary process would exert peer pressure to avoid plagiarism. There is a need for a holistic and sustainable approach to dealing with plagiarism. Wouldn’t it be better to do this through the engagement of students in the promotion of good practice than the inevitable escalation of an electronic detection arms race?
Dr Jo Badge
University of Leicester
Jo Badge and Mike Reddy are both speaking at a conference on tackling plagiarism and academic misconduct on Wednesday 19 November 2008 at Woburn House, London WC1H.
The conference is organised by Universities UK and supported by JISC, the HE Academy and the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO).
For further information on plagiarism, please go to the Academy/JISC Academic Integrity Service or JISC iPAS:
Academy/JISC Academic Integrity Service (NB: the in the print version of Inform www.ajais.ac.uk is not operational)
JISC-iPAS: Plagiarism Advisory Service
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A JISC project is working with Google to show how openly available collaborative tools can support a wide range of students and staff, reports Philip Pothen.
A group of London higher education institutions is working with Google to support collaboration between students, lecturers, administrators and researchers. Not only that, but their work is being closely watched by the web giant as it looks to see how it can tailor its services for the education environment and work more effectively with academia.
The basic concept behind the project was to encourage staff to make more innovative use
The Bloomsbury Colleges is a consortium of higher education institutions located in central London. Earlier this year it secured JISC funding through the Users and Innovation programme to explore how Google Docs and other openly available software can provide collaborative tools for groups of students and staff.
‘The basic idea behind the project was to encourage staff to collaborate through using ICT,’ says APT STAIRS project manager and Bloomsbury Learning Environment Service Manager Sarah Sherman. ‘We found that our students aren’t very experienced at collaborating. Online collaboration tools such as Google Docs provide the means of bridging this gap. The simplicity of the tools means that users are more willing to use the new technology but at the same time can improve their collaborative skills.’
One of the challenges faced by the Bloomsbury Colleges, continues Sarah, is that while physically close, the colleges serve very different groups of students (see inset box). ‘There are young, technology-aware researchers, large numbers of international students, mature, part-time and evening students, so providing a collaborative environment becomes, if anything, even more important.’
By allowing groups of people to work on documents together but remotely, Google Docs and other similar applications provide the means of real-time collaboration, avoiding the versioning problems that can hamper efforts at genuine cooperation.
‘The project is currently running seven demonstrators,’ says Sarah, ‘each exploring different groups of users and how they might use Google Docs. For example, one library is using a document to manage the process of ordering new stock across two sites. Another demonstrator will involve students during a Biology Lab class entering results of experiments.
‘So instead of waiting to share the results the following week, the lecturer will be able to stop the class, review the results and discuss the findings there and then. This will make the experience more real and more immediate for the students. The JISC funding is buying time for staff to explore different opportunities, for students who are supporting the project and for the purchase of mobile technologies, which will be used.’
For their part, Google is ‘very excited that the APT STAIRS project has chosen to use Google Docs,’ says Business Development Manager at Google Enterprise, Samantha Peter. ‘We hope to share in the rich use cases and constructive feedback derived from the project.’
Recognising the growing need for students and staff to work together, Google considers their Google Docs application a particularly useful tool for schools, colleges and universities. ‘With this model a student in India in an internet cafe could be collaborating with a professor at Oxford,’ says Samantha Peter. ‘They could be both writing a grant proposal at the same time – collaborating on the same document in real time.’
It’s one of the most innovative instances of using emerging technologies that I’ve seen in a while
Lawrie Phipps, Programme Manager of the Users and Innovation programme, is eagerly awaiting the results of the project’s work. ‘It’s one of the most innovative instances of using emerging technologies that I’ve seen in a while. It shows that we can communicate easily and cheaply across disparate parts of institutions and between institutions. I think it will broaden our understanding of how we do this.’
The APT STAIRS project
The Bloomsbury Colleges group was set up in 2004 and consists of: Birkbeck, the Institute of Education, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Royal Veterinary College, the School of Oriental and African Studies and The School of Pharmacy.
The aim of the group is to collaborate together in academic administrative matters so as to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and to gain the benefits of critical mass whilst maintaining the independence to pursue specialist missions.
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A new approach to Continuous Professional Development for staff is being piloted at the University of Cumbria, writes Alice Gugan.
The Flourish project is giving staff the opportunity to use an e-portfolio to support their own professional development through both formal and informal activities. Along with project partner Pebble Learning, providers and hosts of their e-portfolio system, Flourish is looking at five key areas of CPD for staff including professional accreditation, annual appraisal, participation in a compulsory inservice accredited course, team building across a newly formed university, and the sharing of learning and experiences gained at conferences.
The project, funded by JISC’s Users and Innovation programme, has just developed an animation to show how an e-portfolio can assist the CPD process. The short film was produced by the University of Cumbria’s own students.
As Sarah Chesney, Flourish project manager, says: ‘The animation was aimed at those Cumbria staff most likely to be potential users of an e-CPD, but it’s also of interest to senior management and all those currently involved in conventional CPD. e-Portfolios are an established way of life for many students in tracking and charting their studying progress, and introducing it to staff development is in many ways the next logical step.’
To reinforce Cumbria’s role in pioneering this work, the animation was produced by the university’s own students. ‘The idea occurred to me that a short 3-minute animation was the way to get our message across – that e-portfolios make sense in today’s academia. Once we’d given our designers and script/voiceover students an outline concept they were away! What is most rewarding is that our initial feedback has been overwhelmingly good – people really respond to this medium for explaining our project.’
University of Cumbria: Centre for the Development of Learning and Teaching
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Sounds Good with Bob Rotheram
Name Bob Rotheram
Job Title Reader in Assessment, Learning and Teaching
Organisation Leeds Metropolitan University
What institution do you work for?
Leeds Metropolitan University
What’s your job title?
Reader in Assessment, Learning and Teaching
What does that involve?
Research and staff development on the use of technology in education, especially in assessment
What’s the name of your project?
Sounds Good: Quicker, better assessment using audio feedback
How do you describe your project to friends outside of education?
Enabling teaching staff to experiment with digital audio to give students feedback on their work
What is your project attempting to achieve?
To see whether digital audio can simultaneously save staff time and give students richer feedback
Which JISC programme does it fall under?
Users and Innovation
When did it begin?
When does it end?
It has been extended from July 2008 to March 2009
Is it achieving its objectives?
Yes. Most students prefer audio feedback and we’re moving towards saving staff time with it
In what ways?
Over 460 students have experienced it so far and we’re refining practice guidelines for staff
What would you say are its lessons to the wider sector?
This is something worth trying, but it’s not a ‘magic bullet’ for assessment
Who do you think would be most interested to hear about your project?
Busy teachers wanting to benefit students and make their own lives a little easier
What impact could it have on the student experience?
Students often grumble about feedback on their work. Wider use of audio could help
What has surprised you most about your project?
The interest it has sparked. I’m amazed!
Which other JISC projects do you work with most closely?
Audio-Supported Enhanced Learning (ASEL) led by Will Stewart and Martina Doolan at Bradford and Hertfordshire universities
What benefits do you get from that?
Camaraderie and an appreciation of the wider possible uses of digital audio in education
What’s been the best thing about managing a JISC project?
Feeling that it’s making a difference
And the worst?
Form-filling, but it’s a small price to pay
Who knows? Life is unpredictable!
Sounds Good project
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- The future is green (with Dr Hugh Beedie, Cardiff University)
- Uncovering the social and economic impact of open access (with Professor John Houghton of Melbourne University)
- Beyond the Google Generation report – next steps (with Dr Ian Rowlands, UCL and Rachel Bruce, JISC)
- IPR for the SCA (with Naomi Korn, JISC IPR consultant)
- Library spaces for the Google Generation (with Tim Giles, Norwich School of Art and Design)
- What is Web 2.0? TechWatch report
- Great expectations of ICT: briefing paper
- Keeping research data safe
- Shibboleth – connecting people and resources: briefing paper
- Information behaviour of the researcher of the future (‘Google Generation report’)
Online Educa 2008, 3-5 December, Hotel Intercontinental, Berlin
JISC Conference 2009, 24 March, Edinburgh International Conference Centre
JISC Inform is produced by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) to raise awareness of the use of information technology (ICT
) to support further and higher education in the UK. Contributing Authors include members of the JISC family of services and initiatives, JISC’s partners and staff working in the FE
sectors. The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of JISC.