A flexible toolkit for your university
Each of the tools in this guide has been tried, tested, and selected for this toolkit to meet a different need during the various stages of planning. They have been divided into four phases to make them easier to navigate.
We’ve designed the toolkit to be used flexibly; for you to pick and choose which tools will be most useful to your university’s circumstances, goals, and vision. You might start by picking just one tool and come back at a later stage to use a selection of others.
The four phases are:
- Understanding the present – how present issues may shape your long-term plans
- Imagining the future – what future do you want for your university?
- Identifying solutions – sourcing new ideas to include in your plans, picking the best ones, testing them and persuading others to back them
- Implementing plans – securing buy in for your plans
The four phases are presented here as linear, but reality tends to be messier and you may find it makes more sense to tackle the phases in a different order, or adopt an iterative approach, revisiting them throughout the development and implementation of your plans.
Most of the tools have been designed to be used in workshops with groups of people. We find workshops with people with different perspectives to be one of the most efficient ways to gather new ideas while also securing buy in for emerging plans.
These workshops are traditionally run face-to-face, however, during the pandemic we have found that all the tools do work just as well virtually provided you have a good, collaborative online space and strong facilitation – each tool has instructions for running them face to face and online.
Many of the tools in this toolkit have their origins in product design rather than developing visions or strategies. But we find them just as useful in long term strategic planning as we do in product design.
We have described the way we typically use each of the tools although there is often more than one method. You might find you need to tweak and adapt the approach we have described to make the tool fit your needs and context. Each tool has an estimated time to complete based on our own experience, your mileage may vary.
The success of these tools depends on two things: preparation and strong facilitation. The more time you spend preparing, the more you will get out of the session itself. And a strong facilitator is worth their weight in gold. Without strong facilitation you can often find yourselves running out of time, or not getting the results you hoped.
We have included some tips on facilitation and preparation, but there is no magic bullet, it all comes down to the amount of time you put into preparing.
Below is some general guidance for facilitators but there are also specific tips on each of the tools. This advice is all based on our experiences but everyone’s different, so what works for us, may not work for you.
Always listen to the user or target audience. You may think that you know what the pain points are, but you may be just hearing the loudest voice in the room. Make sure any decisions you make are based on having multiple pieces of evidence. You may even want to follow up a small piece of quantitative research with wider qualitative surveys to really make sure those assumptions are correct.
Have a plan with desired outcomes from the session, knowing what you want to walk away with at the end of the session helps you keep that focus, even if you have to divert away from the planned activities.
Be realistic about what you can achieve in the timeframe. Trying to cram too much in just leaves everyone disappointed.
Stick to start and end timings but be flexible about the rest. It is vital not to overrun breaks and end-times in interviews or workshops as it is an easy way to lose the goodwill of the audience. That said, during the individual exercises, it is important to be flexible to meet the needs of the audience as some issues may take longer to cover than you originally planned.
If you have any feedback or suggestions on this toolkit, please get in touch at email@example.com.
Lead author: Andy McGregor, director of edtech, Jisc.
With contributions and editorial support from Lawrie Phipps, senior research lead, Chris Thomson, subject specialist digital practice (lead: communication and collaboration), Zoe Gardiner, senior project manager and Tom Davey, senior user-centred design specialist - all, Jisc.
- 1 Software Advice: list of whiteboard software https://www.softwareadvice.com/uk/whiteboard/