New JISC Relationship Management Programme Projects Up and Running

The next phase of the JISC Relationship Management Programme has just got underway and will be supported again by JISC CETIS. It follows on from the previous Programme which ran two strands: BCE CRM (Business Community Engagement Customer Relationship Management) Process Improvement (13 projects) and SLRM (Student Lifecycle Relationship Management) Pilots (7 projects).

This latest round of projects, which will run until July 2012, is split into three different strands:
* Strand 1: Good practice in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) – projects yet to be confirmed. A project to deliver a comprehensive online handbook of good practice in CRM processes for HE (Higher Education) and FE (Further Education).
* Strand 2: Student progression, retention and non-completion (8 projects). Demonstrator projects delivering service innovations that improve the quality of the student experience, specifically to enhance progression and retention to minimise non-completion.
* Strand 3: Alumni engagement (7 projects). Demonstrator projects developing and validating innovative processes and harnessing web technologies to support mutally beneficial alumni engagement.

The projects in Strands 2 and 3 follow on from the SLRM projects in the last Programme, but focus on different stages of the student lifecycle.

If you are interested in the progress of the projects, you can find further information from the JISC CETIS RMSAS (Relationship Management Support, Analysis and Synthesis) website or follow the Twitter tag: #rminhe.

If the last projects from the last Programme are anything to go by, the level of expertise in relationship management in the institutions involved will increase considerably, so we wish all the projects in this latest Programme every success.

Joint BSI/JISC CETIS Accessibility Workshop

February’s Accessibility SIG (Special Interest Group) meeting was jointly run with BSI (British Standards Institution) as an informal workshop, focussing on the accessibility standards’ work being done around the world across various domains. It took advantage of the presence of a number of international standards developers and strategists, who were in the UK (United Kingdom) at the time, to foster exchange of work and ideas between the standards and education communities.

Presentations ranged from an overview of the accessibility standards work being done across the globe by Alex Li (Microsoft) to the development of accessible widgets by Elaine Pearson and her team at Teesside University.

Several of the presenters talked about their ongoing work in accessibility specifications and have asked for feedback from the community. So if you would like be involved in helping to shape these developments, people working on the following specifications would really appreciate your feedback:

* Standardisation Mandate M/376 (Phase 2) – Dave Sawdon from TRE Limited described how this work will create European accessibility requirements for the public procurement of products and services in the ICT domain (similar to the American VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template), which was introduced by Ken Salaets of the Information Technology Industry Council). The development team are particularly looking for public procurement officials to help define this standard.
* Access For All v.3.0 – works on the premise that personalisation preferences need to be machine readable, so it uses metadata to describe these personal needs and preferences. Andy Heath and the specification development team at IMS would like people to download it, try it out, implement it, check it works, and provide feedback.
* BS 8878:2010 Web accessibility. Code of practice – Jonathan Hassell, BBC, talked us through the background and purpose the recent web accessibility Code of Practice and Brian Kelly, UKOLN presented BS 8878 in the context of an holistic approach to accessibility. However, whilst it is now available for public use, user testing of the Code of Practice can only really be done in the field, so please join the community of practice and provide feedback on your experiences of implementing BS 8878.
* Mobile Applications Accessibility Standard – This standard, proposed by Yacoob Woozer of the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions), is still very much at the drawing board stage, with the focus on mobile applications rather than on creating websites that can viewed on different devices. However, suggesstions on what to include in the standard would be welcome.

Several of the presentations focussed on the work of specific standards bodies – David Fatscher from BSI gave us an overview of BSI; the various ISO standards which feature accessibility elements were introduced by Jim Carter from the University of Saskatchewan; and Shadi Abou-Zahra of W3C talked about the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) guidelines.

And finally, I am very much appreciative of the work that the BSI staff and Andy Heath put into making this event such a success. It was it was a great opportunity for the standards and education sectors to get together and I hope that some lasting collaborations have been forged.

Crowdsourcing to Fix the Web

Well.. not the whole web, obviously, but some of the inaccessible bits. Fix The Web is a site which encourages people with disabilities to report any accessibility problems they have with a website. Volunteers then take these problems up with the website owners.

It is not intended to make web developers lazy (“I’ll wait until Fix the Web volunteers tell me what I need to do”) but rather to highlight the issues faced by people with disabilities, particularly as most web developers are not accessibility experts and most people with disabilities are not web developers.

Using a middleman (or woman) to act as an interface between people with disabilities, who experience problems with inaccessible websites, and the web developers themselves could help make the web a better place for everyone and act as an informal means of educating developers about the importance of accessibility.