Now is our time: The green shoots of innovation - leaders ready for a new era of transformation in FE - from diversity to digital skills

At the Association of Colleges (AOC) annual conference last week, I walked out of the ICC into Birmingham’s bright sunshine with a renewed sense of genuine optimism. A sense that now is our moment – that we may be emerging from the worst of times into the best of times. >>

Demonstrating the virtual classroom at AOC Annual Conference at the ICC, Birmingham
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Demonstrating the virtual classroom at AOC Annual Conference at the ICC, Birmingham
Robin Ghurbhurun

What’s keeping FE leaders awake at night?

From IT infrastructure to digital capabilities, digital transformation to seamless content access, FE leaders are facing many common challenges and priorities.  >>

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Robin Ghurbhurun

Paving the road for the future of data analytics

Data is sometimes seen as something cold and removed from the human element, but in reality, it is a window into that very humanity, and can form an essential foundation for keeping students on track.   >>

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Two workers examine data visualisations on a large interactive board.
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Karen  Foster

Transforming UK transnational education through digital and data

As demand for higher education outstrips supply globally, institutions are increasingly offering programmes to students overseas, so where can digital and data offer potential to transform this opportunity?    >>

An international student studies remotely by watching her teacher present on her laptop.
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An international student studies remotely by watching her teacher present on her laptop.
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Esther Wilkinson

World digital preservation day: bits and pieces

World digital preservation day (4 November) aims to create greater awareness of digital preservation that will translate into a wider understanding which permeates all aspects of society – business, policy making, personal good practice. >>

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Paul Stokes

Standing up for fairer publishing practices needn't hinder your career

The ‘cost of knowledge petition’ takes a stand against the damaging practices of the world’s largest for-profit publisher, Elsevier. >>

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Thom Scott Phillips, senior research scientist in cognitive science

Open Access Week: a global call for OpenDOAR updates

Jisc and the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) are calling on repositories to update their records in OpenDOAR during Open Access Week (25-29 October). >>

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Jennifer Sanchez-DaviesKathleen Shearer

Dumfries and Galloway College tackles digital transformation and climate change

When I was appointed principal two-and-a-half years ago, I realised that the college had yet to harness technology as a positive force in learning, teaching and, ultimately, the student experience. >>

Opening of the Green Hub at Dumfries and Galloway College
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Opening of the Green Hub at Dumfries and Galloway College
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Joanna Campbell

Why senior leaders should champion cyber security

Promoting cyber security is a priority for any senior leader. We live and work in an increasingly digitally connected world, and technology has become almost ubiquitous in teaching, learning and business. >>

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Staff discussion around a laptop in the office.
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Liz Barnes

What do FE learners want from online teaching?

Learners in further education (FE) have told us about the lengths their lecturers and tutors went to in supporting them to learn remotely during the pandemic – and about what worked and what didn’t. >>

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A student attends a remote lesson in their kitchen.
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Clare Killen

‘We have the evidence, now let’s transform FE for the better’

The sector is rapidly learning from adapting to the pandemic, both organisationally and individually. While acknowledging the significant negative impact of this turbulent time, it has provided the sector with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to innovate and experiment - a catalyst for technological evolution. Let’s capitalise on that. >>

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Robin Ghurbhurun

‘Online education adds significant value. Let’s not turn our backs on progress’

I have been disappointed but unsurprised by recent coverage of online higher education. The idea of online as second-rate has become the go-to for the uninformed - and while it's a narrative that doesn’t go entirely unchallenged, it does seem to dominate the mainstream media. >>

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Paul Feldman

STEM: The future is equal

From the world’s first computer programmer Ada Lovelace to Nobel Prize winning chemist Marie Curie, women working in STEM is nothing new. Why then does the percentage of girls taking STEM subjects remain so low? And why are women in tech still in such an extreme minority?  >>

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Gabriela Morales MartinezNicole Stewart

People power – thinking differently about equipment sharing

When we talk about research and innovation in higher education, rarely is the topic of equipment sharing high on the agenda. Whilst equipment sharing is not a new concept, it is time we started thinking about it differently.  >>

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A researcher uses the Environmental Analytical Facility at Cranfield University
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Dr Helen TurnerIan Hancox

'As universities emerge from the pandemic, let's not lose momentum for positive change'

People in the university sector have been talking about transformation for a number of years – but when I reflect on my career in higher education (HE), the initiatives and the drivers we prioritised back in 1984 barely changed in 35 years. We were looking at the same issues, just dressed in different clothes. >>

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Jonathan Baldwin

Cyber security and online harm: not only a technical issue

The recently announced online safety bill focuses on defining both illegal and ‘legal but harmful’ activities and specifies a nebulous ‘duty of care’ that platform providers must demonstrate should a user be subject to online harm.   >>

Professor Andy Phippen

Navigating into the cloud

If moving to the cloud is a journey, at the University of Sunderland we’ve mapped the route, passed some key landmarks and have the destination in sight. But staying on course is an ever-developing journey. >>

David ConwayDaniel Wilson

Digital tech can catapult FE and skills providers to the heart of local economies and communities

The pandemic has given further education providers a significant jolt and accelerated their move towards better use of technology for teaching and working. Against this seismic shift, the Skills for Jobs white paper lays the groundwork to capitalise on that momentum, but lacks real ambition for a digitally enhanced future. >>

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Robin Ghurbhurun

'IPv6 enables better connectivity to staff and students working from home'

Our team at Imperial College London is spearheading the institution’s programme to implement Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) to make sure it has enough unique IP addresses to support education and research in the future - and careful planning is keeping costs down.  >>

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David Stockdale

Beyond 5G: Building an internet of skills

King’s College London (KCL) is one of several institutions working together to develop the UK’s 5G infrastructure. We're intent on going further and at KCL’s Centre for Telecommunications Research, we've already worked to develop next generation technologies – 6G. This will help to democratise education and skills. >>

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Professor Mischa Dohler

‘This is a pivotal moment to embrace inclusion and innovation’

Perspective is an interesting thing. I wonder what the hard-working staff and students at England’s universities would’ve said a year ago if we predicted the change they were about to experience through the pandemic – or if we suggested how it would impact on our diverse student cohort. >>

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Jonathan Baldwin

Rewriting the library in digital space

The concept of the library is changing. Libraries are symbolic representations of the wider university, with legacy links to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, but also as important social hubs for learners and staff alike. They are a testament to university legacy but also a vivid illustration of a future vision.  >>

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David Parkes

I’m always looking for better ways to make identity and access management seamless

Anjanesh Babu has led the development and implementation of a unified identity and access management (IAM) strategy within the University of Oxford’s Gardens and Museums (GLAM). He says the research and development has occasionally been painful, but the results are worth it – especially so when the technology is invisible to users. >>

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Anjanesh Babu

The secret lives of students

How well do you know your learners? With backing from Jisc, staff at the Open University co-designed a ‘learning journey’ tool that enables institutions to better understand and support their students. Kate Lister, manager for accessibility and inclusion, explains how it works. >>

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Kate Lister

Putting digital skills, content and connectivity at the heart of long-term plans for FE and skills

While less revolutionary than we’d hoped for, with ambition clearly tempered by short-term fiscal settlements, the FE and skills white paper paints a progressive picture of the future for our sector, putting skills at the heart of our nation’s recovery.   >>

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Robin Ghurbhurun

Jisc’s vision for supporting research and innovation 2021 – 2023 

The demands on and priorities of the UK research and innovation sector are evolving at pace. We see increased pressure on financial sustainability, an increased focus on improving research culture, and the need to prioritise on integrity and transparency, while accelerating routes to application.    >>

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Victoria Moody

Reflecting on 2020 – and getting ready for 2021

COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to digital learning and teaching and a tremendous amount of work has taken place to make this shift happen. We look back at some of the highlights of 2020 in supporting this rapid transformation in teaching, learning and research. >>

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Caren Milloy

Is it worth investing in cyber insurance?

Whether or not a college or university takes out cyber insurance is a question to be considered as part of a wider security and risk management strategy. >>

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John Chapman

Bringing together mission and money

In this era of post truth and fake news, access to primary sources of history is becoming more and more important. Making this information accessible costs lots of time and money, but there are novel ways to do it. >>

•	Postcard from Ethel Bellamy (Computer Seismologist) to OJR Howarth, Geographer and Secretary of BAAS 1909-1946 accepting membership of General Committee)
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• Postcard from Ethel Bellamy (Computer Seismologist) to OJR Howarth, Geographer and Secretary of BAAS 1909-1946 accepting membership of General Committee)
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Paola Marchionni

Open with purpose

This week is Open Access Week and this year's theme 'taking action to build structural equity and inclusion' prompts us to reflect on what this means and why it's important to the open access movement. >>

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Liz Bal

Collaboration for competition in the global marketplace

Collaboration is a key attribute that employers look for in an ideal candidate. Education organisations around the world imbue students with this quality, but it is also an essential way of working for universities themselves, in order to compete in the global marketplace.   >>

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James Clay Josh Fry

Breaking down barriers: enhancing human connections through technology

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, we had been in talks at Weston College about developing a virtual classroom - somewhere that staff would feel comfortable to share their lessons with students in different locations. Little did we know that the world was soon to follow suit, adapting to video conferencing technology to maintain teaching and learning through lockdowns and other restrictions.   >>

Students using virtual classroom at Weston College
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Students using virtual classroom at Weston College
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Jon Hofgartner

Investment in FE and skills sector is vital to UK’s recovery from pandemic

In further education (FE) eutopia, fully-embedded digital strategies would already be the norm in all colleges, supported by robust e-infrastructure, digital resources to support all courses, an assessment system that is fit for purpose and teachers with the right digital skills to support exciting and engaging blended learning models. >>

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College students using computers
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Paul Cox

Teaching online: the challenges and the potential

As the new academic year begins students are facing an induction like no other. With online learning expected to play an increasingly pivotal role, how can universities and colleges ensure that they’re delivering a first-class learning experience despite having to shift from the norm? >>

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Scott Hibberson

The UK Wiley read and publish agreement – nine months on

A 2018 review estimated that only 28% of all scholarly publications are open access. But the pandemic has heightened the need for full and immediate open access to research and has thrown into sharp relief the barriers that paywalls present to free and unfettered access to knowledge. >>

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Anna  Vernon

Can universities rebuild students’ trust in data?

Over the summer, many young people found themselves at the mercy of a system of assessment they didn’t understand. Plenty had their plans for the future thrown into disarray. The long-term impact could be a significant shift in the way students view data. >>

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Chris Thomson

Three things universities need to do now to make the most of digital learning

How can institutions provide students with the digital learning experience they want and need? Ian Dunn, provost at Coventry University, and Gideon Shimshon, associate principal digital learning and innovation at Queen Mary’s, say the sector can emerge from the COVID-19 crisis better prepared than ever. >>

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 Ian DunnGideon Shimshon

The fight against phishing: free new tool stops spoofing

Cyber security is improving in many areas, but phishing is still a big problem for the further and higher education sectors, partly because it is too easy for criminals to send emails pretending to be from a university or college. >>

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Tom S

How can colleges and universities keep critical services running smoothly during clearing and enrolment in lockdown?

There’s never a ‘good’ time to suffer a cyber attack, but there are certainly a few dates in the year when the financial and reputational effects of a website or email failure will be more damaging than others. >>

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Clare Stonebridge

'Online learning is here to stay - so we must work out how to do it well'

The rapid shift to online work and study has forced providers to extend already over-stretched budgets. ‘Emergency’ IT infrastructure and software have been brought in at pace, and we’ve seen fast-track digital upskilling for staff and students. Such upheaval posed a challenge for many, but most prevailed with their best endeavour. >>

Student using an iPad
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Student using an iPad
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Robin Ghurbhurun

From the battlefield to the boardroom, influence and teamwork are key to building information security

In the military, you need to have a keen awareness of threat and risk management. The pressure is on informed leaders to direct their teams to make great decisions as part of protocol. Otherwise, mission success is at risk, which could cause serious damage to individuals, property, values, and beyond. >>

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Mick Jenkins

Managing the release from lockdown

When colleges and universities open their doors once more, what lessons will have been learned from the COVID-19 crisis? And, asks Chris Thomson, when is the right time to start planning the next steps? >>

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Chris Thomson

Barriers to online learning must be removed to tackle COVID-19 crisis

Whatever happened to the carefree hedonism of youth? That stereotype feels quite hollow at the moment. Under lockdown and unsure what the future will bring, today’s students are burdened by worries, and the rapid move to online and remote learning prompted by COVID-19 is highlighting the divide between the haves and the have-nots. >>

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Paul Feldman

Coronavirus helped our staff embrace online learning. Here’s how...

Coronavirus has forced colleges into unchartered territory, with online learning integral to further education, not optional. Our main focus at Wolverhampton College has been to support students and staff during this tricky time, resulting in some surprising cultural shifts... >>

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Conrad Taylor

Coronavirus scams: how to spot them

Phishing scams are on the rise due to hackers taking advantage of the fear and anxiety caused by the global pandemic. But what can you do to stay vigilant?   >>

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Jon Hunt

Creating the next generation of digital leaders

Technological progress and innovation is happening at an unprecedented pace. It’s reshaping every aspect of our lives as humans. Everything from the way we live, work, learn and teach is changing. >>

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Chris Rothwell, director of education, Microsoft UK

Top tips for a sustainable approach to innovation

These days, we usually associate the word ‘sustainability’ with the environment, but colleges and universities also need to keep their technology sustainable. >>

Students using VR headsets in the classroom
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Students using VR headsets in the classroom
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Kurt Weideling

Technology can enhance education. Here's how

From the virtual learning environment that underpins the day-to-day study activity at many UK colleges and universities, to the use of digital lecture capture, enabling students to review and absorb information anytime and anywhere, technology is embedded within today’s student experience. >>

Students working at the Unversity of Northampton
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Students working at the Unversity of Northampton
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Paul Bailey

Are we ready for AI?

With our lives increasingly affected by artificial intelligence (AI), there's a need for a big conversation that reaches beyond technologists. >>

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Beth Singler

It’s time to take state-sponsored cyber attackers seriously

The volatile nature of geo-politics - particularly in the Middle East - means that as I write, it’s a difficult time to identify the existential threats of nation state cyber crime to our sector. And very tricky indeed to invest smartly and wisely to provide a balanced approach to cyber resilience.   >>

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Mick Jenkins