Virtual learning environments
The embedding BCE project found widespread use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) in the delivery of teaching and learning off site. Few staff who used such systems had negative things to say about them although there were a few comments about the difficulties of developing teaching materials in terms of access to the systems from outside the institution and the need for technical assistance in order to develop more interactive or media-enriched materials.
Customer relationship management
Customer relationship management systems were found to be in varied states of development within the partners. More than one partner had not yet implemented a CRM, but had projects in place to procure and implement. All reported high expectations on the part of staff of such systems, but there was also a quite high degree of caution as to the practicality of such systems, based on the requirement for all staff to contribute data to enable such a system to be of use.
Many interviewees spoke of a desire to cut down the number of times they attended external meetings to find someone else from the same institution present. However it was also pointed out that between any two departmentalised organisations there were likely to be a number of relationships across both departments and functions and at various hierarchical levels. There was a potential source of concern for data protection issues in that a CRM system may be used at senior and executive level to hold contact details for publicly-known figures or senior government officials and ministers, whose details should not be available to all staff.
The project found it difficult to understand how data collected during the course of research was stored. Research staff were either reluctant to talk about IT, or did not understand the relevance of the questioning.
This may point to the fact that use of standard pieces of software such as word processors, spreadsheets and perhaps databases, have become so embedded as tools to help in recording and storing data that they do not readily come to mind – in the same way that you would hesitate to say "I use a pen" if someone asked how you wrote something.
This difficulty in obtaining information about the use of new technology was also reported by another similar Jisc project, whose project team contacted the embedding BCE project staff to ask if we had experienced the same phenomena.
However, one response was given repeatedly to a particular question that is worth highlighting here, although it raises more issues than it does answers. When asked "how is your intellectual property stored?" a common response was: "In scientific journals".
If this is to be taken as a fully complete answer, it suggests that institutions have to purchase their own research findings in the form of subscriptions to such journals. The resulting repository has then to be stored in an inflexible format that does not lend itself readily to further exploitation or deeper examination by others. In any such review, this should be tested.
However the experiences of at least two projects show that it may not be easy to obtain a response that does not in itself raise further questions.