Service Design is the future!

It is true to say that we are lucky enough at times to be able to work on something that really is interesting, and that for me is true of the world of ‘service design’. I encountered this area as part of my work supporting the JISC Relationship Management programme, and can honestly say that it has genuinely piqued my interest. I only wish I had more time to learn more about it and ‘do’ service design in earnest.

It is a relatively new area, especially for education. Service design can help institutions to examine their processes from a student-centred point of view, and then by making improvements where required, it may be possible to:

• Improve student retention;
• Improve administrative processes;
• Provide a competitive edge;
• Reduce risks;
• Identify student needs, expectations and feelings.

Some people working on the projects in the programme have been so bitten by the bug that they report to have found their calling after many years, and are following the route to becoming specialists in it where possible.

I may sound evangelical about it all, but I do believe that to be successful, institutions would do well to at least nod to the basic concepts of the approach. Empathy is the key. For want of a better comparison, it is about customer service (and I know, many in education, particularly Higher Education, hate the concept of viewing students as customers.) But if we take the basic nuggets, then it boils down to putting yourself in the shoes of those that you are catering for, and it would be useful to adopt an ‘undercover boss’ approach and actually be in the thick of it and see it from the real perspective. We think we know what our students want but often we are wrong, or at best slightly off the mark. So many companies get customer service wrong, and we always remember those that get it right. And vote with our feet. It is the same for education.

I was pleased to discover that there are even jobs for ‘Service Designers’ but of course these are in large corporations, not the education sector. But maybe one day?

More about Service Design:
The CETIS Service Design briefing paper is averaging about 3500 downloads per year and is a useful starting point.

The CETIS wiki has a section on Service Design Resources. The latest addition to this is a Service Design toolkit website offering a toolkit as an introduction to the methodology of service design, in particular for the design of public services. Includes some useful (free) downloads to use when adopting the service design approach.

There is also a section on service design in the ‘Just Enough’ resource that we are developing which includes findings from the current projects and the synthesis from the last programme.

The wikipedia service design entry is also of use.

Service Design event

We are running an event on Service Design on Thursday 17th November in Birmingham (Conference Aston venue). This event is open to anyone interested in using service design to improve the student experience in HE and FE. It will focus on the mid to latter stages, i.e. blueprinting and implementation/trialling of improvements.

Places are limited, if you would like to attend please book online at

A draft agenda is below. Please note that the exact timings and session details are still to be confirmed.
10:00-10:30 Coffee and Registration
10:30-10:35 Welcome – Sharon Perry, JISC CETIS
10:30-11:00 Introduction – Lauren Currie, Snook
11:00-12:30 Practical Session: Blueprinting – Lauren Currie, Snook
12:30-13:15 Lunch
13:15-14:45 Practical Session: Implementation/Trialling of Improvements – Lauren Currie, Snook
14:45-15:00 Tea
15:00-15:45 tbc – Lauren Currie, Snook
15:45-16:00 Roundup of the Day – Sharon Perry, JISC CETIS

The meeting is free to attend and lunch will be provided. All the links to location etc can be found at

Technologies and standards used across the JISC Lifelong Learning and Workforce development (LLLWFD) programme

I recently collated the information we have on all the projects working on the JISC Lifelong Learning and Workforce development (LLLWFD) programme in advance of their last programme meeting at the end of Jan (the programme ends March 2011.) I was looking at:
* Technologies used across the programme
* Standards used across the programme
* Capturing this information in our ‘PROD’ database which we use in all our current JISC Programme Support activities

What is PROD?
PROD is a “directory and monitoring tool for JISC funded projects. It lets you search for and quickly gather information about any of the projects in the system” and as part of our support of various JISC programmes, CETIS staff update it based on information in their reports and conversations with projects.

All Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development projects are featured there. Rather than reel off a list of technologies and standards which can be unsurprisingly quite dull, I looked at some of the visualisation tools which colleagues have been using. These help people have a quick overview and see any weighting of particular technologies etc.

A wordle showing a quick snapshot overview of the main technologies in use across the programme:

Wordle showing the technologies in the LLLWFD programme

Wordle showing the technologies in the LLLWFD programme

A mindmap showing all the standards and technologies used by each project, further expansion includes all the comments detailed in PROD (please click on link to access the actual mindmap, below is just an image of the mindmap)

A bubblegram provides and overview of different tools, where the circles are larger then it highlights that particular technology is used b more than one project.

Standards and Technologies used in LL Many Eyes

What this means…
No major surprises in the use of technologies or standards but a really interesting spread. It also echoes the technologies and standards in use across other programmes that have been reported.
Overall, it could be said that the programme is not hugely ‘technical’ in application but instead focusses on processes, staff, and employer issues, which are often the key to success rather than the specific technology of choice. Many interesting issues have arisen and challenges which will persist well beyond the programme, such as accreditation of prior learning, competencies, identity and access management. These all have their own particular nuances when viewed from the various perspectives or employer, institution and learner. There is a great deal of synthesis and reflection coming out of the ‘Developing themes’ on the SSBR blog and it will be interesting to see the final reports to gain a deeper insight across the whole programme.

A festival; no wellies but lots of good discussions

Last week saw the glamorously titled ‘Festival of Assemblies’ but unlike Glastonbury and the like, we didn’t need to don wellies (shame as I would love an excuse to get these ‘wedge wellies’ which I saw on Dragon’s Den, often a useful programme to watch to pick up tips for immersing into the JISC world, in the best possible sense)

The Festival of Assemblies brought together projects from the JISC Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development programme (LLLWFD) and was very efficiently organised by the Support Synthesis and Benefits Realisation project for the programme.

Activities included parallel sessions of collaborative Assembly sessions led by LLLWFD – Phase 3 and Benefits Realisation or ‘BR’ projects, which basically take forward the work of the projects in the programme and see if the lessons learnt/tools developed can apply in other institutions or organiational contexts.

I chose to attend the TELSTAR & PINEAPPLE: Development of APL systems session which included information about the projects and their findings to date followed by some very interesting discussions and anecdotal evidence from various institutions about the actual application of accreditation of prior learning (APL) and the sheer bureaucracy in some quarters which has led students to scrap the idea and just follow the ‘normal’ route. Concerns over parity were raised in particular about the detail and focus on APL processes when compared to traditional learning/ non APL route. An interesting analogy to this was made re the introduction of VLEs and online learning aspects within universities, often any course with an ‘e-learning’ aspect would have to go through a whole separate validation process, maybe with much more scrutiny that face to face teaching. That seems to have settled down, or just become the norm and people know which boxes to tick now, so perhaps the APL teething niggles may turn out to be the same? Nonetheless, with the much discussed ‘current climate’, raise in fees etc, APL will be a key focus and one we have to get right. Potential learners will become savvy (and rightly so) about choices, duration of courses, accreditation and qualification and institutions need to be ready for that and make the whole process as painless as possible for everyone. It looks promising that such projects in the programme will come up with some important lessons for the sector and tips to take forward.

the future of publishing & the young generation

There has been a lot of interesting debate and discussion recently about the future of publishing with the prevalence of technologies and social networking. Add this to my existing concerns about the ‘them and us’ notions and views that some people seem to have of ‘students’ and the whole Lifelong learning agenda, I was pleased to stumble across a video and thought it was very clever indeed, you need to watch it to the end to get the full message: see video in Will Thalheimer’s post.

Can we share learning outcomes and other related info?

ASN, XCRI, LEAP, Curriculum Design and more meeting, Bolton 22 march

March saw a meeting to explore possible links between common areas of interest such as XCRI, LEAP, Curriculum Design and Delivery and included fellow CETIS colleagues, colleagues from down the road at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), and from ‘across the pond’ in the USA, namely University of Washington and JES and Co, Arizona. The meeting was a very interesting, educational, intense and productive session. Wilbert Kraan, CETIS Asst Director, organised the event after meeting Diny Golder, Chief Exec of JES and Co/ASN at a conference and realising that their fantastic work spanning many many years has much relevance to some of the issues that we are grappling with. The agenda went something like this:

• Overview of the Achievements Standards Network (ASN) it’s infrastructure, tools and models.
• Other relevant work that they have explored (and serendipitously so had MMU) is that undertaken at the Australian University of Southern Queensland.
• Overview of the eXchanging Course Related Information (XCRI) spec, it’s infrastructure, tools and models.
• Overview of the Leap 2 specification for portability and interoperability of e-portfolio information, it’s infrastructure, tools and models. Plus Leap2 in Atom and Leap2 in RDF.
• Information about the JISC Curriculum Design programme and links with this work.
• Crossovers and applications between all of the above.

The gist of what they all do:

In general there are 3 main parts to the ASN work:
1. Framework to describe something
2. Repository to store it
3. The services to make it work

XCRI exposes course information in a format to allow sharing and portability between learning providers (and ultimately for learners). “Opening up the offerings of learning providers creates new possibilities for value-added services and information channels for universities, colleges, and training providers.”

LEAP deals with learner information and exposing such information to be used and exchanged between e-portfolio and e-PDP tools.

The JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery programmes are, as the name suggests, looking at all aspects of the curriculum from planning through to approval and quality assurance to delivery / implementation. The main area of interest that was obvious to the work of the ASN was in the Curriculum Design aspects, and in particular being able to share and expose information about learning outcomes.

Why are they relevant to each other?
The Achievement Standard Network is interesting work to track as it can inform many areas of work especially many JISC programmes which CETIS support, such as Curriculum Design and Delivery, Lifelong Learning and Workforce development, Open Educational Resources and many more.

There are natural linkages between all the areas we discussed, and each individual area has a knock on effect on the others. Initiatives to help expose and share information such as learner competencies, learning outcomes, course information, curriculum models and so on are all beneficial to each other; it is such a vast and complex field that no one project or organisation could tackle it. It is critical in many developments to keep in mind the transferability of the findings and replication (indeed for funding bodies the wider application and sharing is an imperative.) To also have an international appeal broadens the scope and potential application of such work.

I’ve written up an account of the meeting, formed from my hastened notes as the discussions went on. I’ve added it as a seperate file as it is quite lengthy but is was a long meeting with lots of information! I’ll try to revisit it and break it down into digestible chunks…

I thought of the question ‘can we share learning outcomes?’ after I had written this post, as I tried to zoom out of focus and to think of how someone who wasn’t in the meeting may think, and for me, I suppose that was the question I went into the meeting with (but I hadn’t yet formulated it.)
My expanded notes from the meeting are in a seperate pdf file.

“Rethinking the Curriculum for Interesting Times”

I’ve just left the JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Programme meeting, a 2 day event held in sunny Manchester. Several people may post about the overall meeting, but I thought I’d post some of my thoughts about some of the issues I found interesting amongst the wealth of knowledge and ideas that were discussed, and to focus on one session in particular.

Today (Day 2) kicked off with a stimulating presentation: “Rethinking the Curriculum for Interesting Times” by Keri Facer, Professor of Education, Manchester Metropolitan University. Professor Facer is not directly involved in the Programmes, but was invited to discuss current issues and trends which may impact on the concerns focussed upon within the programmes. This session included a recent history and overview of children’s technology use and expectations, and how technology has become commonplace in all aspects of life. Prof Facer then went on to challenge traditional perceptions of using technology in education and discussed the informal and formal aspects and blurring of these boundaries.

One statement that perhaps resonated with many working in this area was the statement that there is often a missing notion of pedagogy in the introduction of technology in an educational setting– and gave an example of when those in a school were asked why they had bought several hundred mobile devices for students, the reply was “we just think it will be good.”!

Prof Facer pointed to the hugely complex education environment in which children are growing up, making the transition through various strategies and modes of delivery. Not many people are aware of aims of the country’s national curriculum or it’s key aims (which include nurturing responsible citizens, who are confident and effective learners). Also, with the role of parents and their input into education and supporting their children, she argued that we need to think about big picture; micro managing doesn’t work.

Prof Facer gave a whirlwind tour of the technological developments and some nuggets gleamed from her research about the pervasiveness of technology in the home and the differences in expectations and skills from the younger generation. She noted that there are now 2 almost wholly online schools in the UK, stating that ‘distance matters less, geography still counts’ and we need to be focussed much more on the individual rather than the institution.

I found of interest the statement that the “ability to think long term is correlated with socio economic status” – positing that the traditional model of careers guidance often doesn’t work and there is a need for effective mentoring that is lifelong and supports learners through various transitions.

Another stance that was novel was the idea of “Managing diversity as a resource rather than a problem” and I think the approaches to this will hopefully be refreshing and fascinating to see to say the least. Prof Facer argues that this is going to be critical; “Personalisation has huge drawback in that it allows you to exist in the world you already had, the encounter with new people can take you to new places” which may be tangential to statements about personalisation in the past. The new horizons should indeed be an exciting and engaging experience, and merely replicating the traditional models does not do justice to the potentials afforded by both the new technologies and any potential new pedagogies.

The presentation explored a number of approaches and ideas for the future of education, warning that We should think about what the ‘do nothing’ option would lead to. This includes the importance of critical thinking; perhaps school could be more about conformance and university more about higher thinking. We need to support thinking about issues and situations rather than content delivery. Non traditional learners may be a massive growth area; Prof Facer argued that there is a social justice in looking an non traditional university students rather than focussing on an elite few. She stated that education needs to rediscover the dialogue with which the community learning is focussed on, many lessons can be learned from such approaches.

One thought I had never heard articulated in such a context was that our model of adult-child relations is in question, that the current one has only been around since end of 18 century. In the last few years, this has been turned on its head. The traditional notion is that adults teach the younger generation and this focus has perhaps shifted and adults are not the knowledge source or mentor that they traditionally were, nor are children the ones with less knowledge – indeed, in terms of technology use and familiarity, they are often bounds ahead.

It was a session that I think certainly got people thinking (and as one person put it later ‘burst a few bubbles’) and was an excellent and inspiring start to the day, with participants ready to tackle some of the challenges Professor Facer posed. Indeed, it could be argued that no action is not an option.

“We are always focused on ‘how’ do we do stuff and we need to reclaim the right to ask ‘why?’”

Professor Facer’s presentation was video-ed so will no doubt be online shortly.

‘Cool’ or just ‘Sad’? – What motivates learners to participate in and use technology?

This session at the JISC CETIS conference 2007 discussed the motivation factors behind learners use of technology, asking can we embrace the new technologies and social software that is now so pervasive, and should we try to incorporate these into more formal learning situations?

The group consisted of those very experienced and knowledgeable in this area, which naturally gave rise to a very lively discussion & debate of the issues.
Andrew Ravenscroft from London Metropolitan University kicked off the session presenting his views on œEducation 2.0? Designing ambient pedagogies and meaningful experiences for future learning.” Andrew gave an insightful overview of a project developed in collaboration with other partner institutions which has produced an Open Source tool called InterLoc (collaborative Interaction through scaffolding Locutions) that is incorporating mobile, multimodal and Web 2.0 tools and approaches.

Andrew argued that they are trying to tackle motivation issues in the design of the learning and believe that they are genuinely realising new pedagogies in this area. With regard to the debate over formal v informal learning, Andrew argued that the distinction is a slippery dichotomy, with lots of ambiguities abound in this area; maybe where we are is as close as we want to go, may not be able to go further? In the system that they have developed, they are trying to give the learners ˜active practice by doing and also developing their digital literacy, underpinned by the belief that learning is not separated from technology and questioning ˜How can we make the practices using learning technology ˜feel more like natural technologies that they use?
The system promotes synchronous dialogue “ Andrew argued dont really get quality interactions with asynchronous communications and what is perhaps needed is a œGrolsch pedagogy “ slowing things down.
Many of the developments and comments prompted lots of discussion and debate, which continued throughout the session.

Hazel Hall from Napier University addressed many of the issues arising in the session in her presentation œMotivating Learner Engagement in Online Environments: the relevance of social exchange theory. Hazel provided a background overview of social exchange theory and discussed its applicability in the education sector, particularly when analysing the use of technology. Although social exchange theory may sound very complex, Hazel assured us that it is ˜not hard really, its common sense and explained it to us beginners in a very easy to understand way! Her work has been investigating the use of blogs by students, which is led by teachers and is part of the assessed work on a particular module. Trust was noted as a highly important factor, and the results re existing social relationships were interesting. Hazel noted the need to encourage people to work online with a view to giving them the advantages of working face to face, feeling part of a team. This sparked an interesting discussion about replicating the informal, gossip type dialogue – ˜mundane interaction is the glue of interactions

The discussions continued and participants also pondered on related questions:
Social Technology – Is the motivation to use it part of a “them and us” syndrome?

  • Should we be using social technology in an educational setting or let students get on and use it as they see fit, and just hope that informal learning and collaborations will take place?
  • If students use it for their own purposes (including education), do they feel more empowered in the management of their learning (personalisation)?
  • What about those learners who are not as technologically adept, or prefer a different learning paradigm, or who do not have access to the same technology as their peers? Are they being left behind or are they developing different strategies?
  • How can we harness the way technology is used socially by students and put that into an educational context (and perhaps, more to the point, should we be attempting to do so)?
  • Can we take the parts of the design that students like from the non-educational tools and incorporate that into the design of educational software? Would it work? Or is it a way for students to carve out their own private space away from tutors?

As one may imagine, consensus was not always apparent, even regarding the relevance of thinking in such a way. The discussion is summarised below:

  • Complexity of area
  • Fit for purpose “ effectiveness
  • Blurring of technology and spaces
  • Openness & structured systems?
  • Range of choice “ not either or
  • Need to think about impact on staff and students – social environment
  • Personalisation “ challenging for institutions
  • We are listening to learner preferences “ now more than ever
  • Coolness “ transitory, and coolness- functionality
  • Sad is the new cool!
  • Dont have to be cool in universities
  • Not permitting use of technologies “ needs to be challenged. Control
  • Learner designed learning, integrating user owned technologies
  • Rapidly changing environment
  • Self learning as a private space- dangers of intervening in this
  • Not ˜them and us “ is it possible to empower all?
  • Need effective and reliable VOIP tools

Which left us to decide on a summary picture and sentence. Being a debate on whether something is ˜sad or cool opened up to many humorous possibilities “ penguins looking upset (cool as in cold – yet sad?!) and a man dressed as a woman (and thinking he was convincing.) However, the analogy of the ˜dad dancing at the disco, embarrassing the teenager was very apt, as he may think he is cool but could well be very sad indeed….
YouTube clip of dancing dad

Copies of the presentation Slides are available from the
Conference website