A New Future for CETIS

After over a decade of supporting Jisc innovation and projects a new future beckons for CETIS. Following the Wilson review of Jisc, the organisation has confirmed that it will continue to provide “core” funding to CETIS until July 2013. Since 1998 CETIS has established a global reputation in the fields of educational technology and interoperability, from July 2013 we will build on that reputation and work with other partners to ensure that interoperability is a key consideration for Universities and Colleges.

In response to the announcement close colleague and former chair of our Board, Professor Mark Stiles said:
“CETIS is recognised internationally as an invaluable centre of expertise. As universities struggle to address the very real challenges confronting them, CETIS will be an essential source of guidance and support. The need for universities to take an enterprise view of their information, not just for learning and teaching but also organisationally, will place standards and interoperability high on the national agenda, and I am confident that CETIS will be more than able to respond to this and become ever more successful. Whilst the Board has been wound up, its members, including myself, are committed to continuing to work with, and support, CETIS in its reborn form.”

We will continue to work with Jisc, and other agencies and organisations in the sector. Many of our partners see us as a “trusted” broker for information and future developments of educational technology and standards in education, and we aim to maintain that role. We are currently working with a number of our partners with a view to funding future activities.

Over the next seven months CETIS and Jisc will work together to develop a new relationship. We are also actively seeking out new collaboration opportunities with a range of stakeholders in the education sector and looking forward to maintaining and extending our valued position in national and international developments around the use of educational technology, interoperability and standards.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Jisc for supporting our work in the sector over the last decade and look forward to continuing to working together in key areas in future years.

Are we crawlers, walkers or Runners when it comes to Business Intelligence in Higher Education?

I was pleased to attend with JISC colleagues the recent

UCISA Business Intelligence event in Bristol In the context of current CETIS work in the support and synthesis project for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Student Life-cycle support project.

There were a variety of speakers at the event and a great deal consistency of issues raised, issues relevant to our work in CRM/SLRM. There were however also some quite notable inconsistencies.
One of the speakers described business intelligence in Higher Education (HE) as being a “mature “ area whilst another revealed when conducting an ad hoc straw poll of those attending the event (largely UCISA members ,Management and Information Systems Managers/Directors in HE) asking the audience to categorise where they believed their institutions were with Business Intelligence as Crawlers (Very much at the early scoping stage) Walkers (Scoping and pre-planning stage) and Runners (Planning and implementation stage) Out of an audience there were no runners about six or seven confessed walkers with the rest of us admitting to being crawlers, which I think is probably a more accurate reflection as to where institutions are just now.

William Liew and Martine Carter talked about Business intelligence activities at the University of Bristol which were driven from a financial measurement perspective and their attempts to integrate systems across research, procurement and student data and in their words “eliminate” local systems in order striving for the very bold ambition of“true” data for financial purposes. In their work they recognised multi stakeholder perspectives and quite honestly detailed the barriers they encountered. I must confess to having a little difficulty when one approach or one model is presented as THE model. Models from my perspective are a useful tool “A way of presenting a particular view of the world or representation from a particular perspective “too often they presented as THE view of THE organisations, it is one of the inherent deficiencies of modelling of any persuasion.

I was also very interested in David Sowerby’s presentation regarding the University of Bedfordshire’s student retention system and recognised the potential significance of this approach, in particular given the current Border Agency requirements of institutions to monitor foreign student attendance. Metrics relating to student “engagement” were presented, metrics based on consistent parameters being applied across the institution and values set against these parameters to define levels of student “Engagement” in order to flag up potential retention issues… all interesting stuff.
Some of the key points in BI implementation highlighted were:
1. Stakeholder Engagement buy-in ownership was essential.
2. The need for (process) modelling.
3. Data Quality – Bad data in Bad data out.
4. The need for meaningful Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
I am mindful that I will be attending the IMS GLC Learning Impact conference in the US in May 2010 and contributing to the Analytics discussions at this event.

I suspect our US colleagues are, using the earlier analogy, runners and they will indeed be running with Business Intelligence, although whether this is in the right direction will be the big question.

Digital Inclusion what is the message ?

I have been closely monitoring with interest the activities and ongoing debate in respect of the UK governments activities in respect of the digital inclusion agenda.

Being brutally honest with the appointment of dot com entrepreneur Martha Lane- Fox as “Digital inclusion Champion” I was initially concerned how “inclusive” the agenda would be given Ms Lane-Fox’s largely privileged background, and whilst the jury still remains out, I have been impressed with much of the work done thus far, this despite Martha’s occasional dip into “apple pie and mother statements”. Her personal enthusiasm for the role is evident and has significantly raised the profile of digital inclusion arguably the “lions share “ of the challenge facing us.

I read with interest this morning’s published data from PWC relating to the “benefits of getting everyone online in the UK are GBP22billion” and this has served to highlight some issues I have with the focus of the undertaking.


Perhaps I’m being a little disingenuous as I have not had the benefit of reading the whole of the PWC report but it does have the taint of many of those presented by management consultants, justifying their own role, importance and significance in the activity leading to the inevitable further commissioning of work.

The report does highlight the issue that over 10million adults across the UK have never used the internet and of these 4million are “socially excluded” a definition of which is not at present provided of this number (4million) 39% are over 65, 38% are unemployed and 19% families with children. In the draft there is no mention of those with disability or accessibility challenges which in itself is quite concerning. The report then goes further in presenting questionable data in respect of lifetime savings.

There is a real conflict in the duality of the aims and motivation in undertaking “Digital inclusion” activity. There is a compelling argument, no doubt supported by the treasury in these uncertain economic times, of ‘savings “ of GBP900million pounds in “customer contact costs” however they may be defined.

There are arguments and some data supporting the notion of the potential benefits accrued by those digitally included in society. We must when highlighting the benefits also equip, in a measured non alarmist way, the “included” with the critical skills required to mange the inherent risks and danger of online activity in a balanced way.

From my perspective there is one key word that seems to be missing form the report though I hope not the debate that of “choice”.

Digital inclusion should primarily be about choice, the informed choice of individuals how to participate (or not) in (digital) society.

Kevin Kelly talks about possessing the ability to “switch off” from the digital world to counteract arguments of technological determinism. If the inclusion strategy is about choice, widening accessibility, voluntary participation and improvement in the population’s digital literacy I’m fully behind it. If it is about compulsion to participate I’m not we (and the govt) need to be much clearer about this.

I’m sure that I would be classified as one of the digitally included and thankful I am but I choose not to use any number of digital services including Online banking, tax file systems, payment for local council services etc etc and I choose from a position of being informed. My father (one of the digitally excluded over 65’s mentioned in the report) chooses to be digitally excluded, despite my best efforts to provide him with technology and inform him of the benefits inclusion would bring to him. He chooses to walk to the post office to pay his council tax monthly as it, I quote, “gets me out of the house, I like to walk and meet my fiends on the way and in the post office”. these are his informed choices.

The primary motivation behind digital inclusion should be to provide access, educate inform and prepare citizens to improve levels of digital literacy alongside the ambitions to broaden access to the technology.

This should be done with honesty with the aim of providing all UK citizens with skills and ability to make informed choices to the extent, which they may wish to participate in (digital) society.

Will the i Phone ever be free ?

Just about very day I meet a yet another colleague, or friend, extolling the virtues of the i Phone and I have to admit that I think it is a wonderful piece of technology and there can be no doubt the interface has revolutionised the way we interact with technology. Whilst I have been suitably impressed by the device; as a point of principal I have resisted buying one sticking rigidly with my (very) old tried and tested Nokia. This is not a result of standing aside brick walls in Birmingham with colleagues assuring me “There is a restaurant here” but as a direct result of the business model applied , I refuse to sign up to an exclusive carrier deal just to have access to the i Phone nor do I wish to purchase my applications exclusively through iTunes it is anti-competitive and despite the overtures of Apple “exclusivity breads innovation” I don’t buy the argument.

I was very heartened to read recently in Business week that Apples exclusivity agreements for approved networks and applications is being seriously challenged in the US. I also love the idea of “jailbreaking” being (possibly) legalised in the US. I hope that this happens here

Business Week article

JISC CETIS User Survey 2007


Thank you to all of you who responded to the JISC CETIS user survey conducted over the summer. The executive summary of the survey findings is available to download via this link.

The survey has identified areas in which we can improve our service to the community and these will be addressed in our forthcoming activities.

One specific area identified as requiring some attention was the old web site, recommendations for the site, drawn from the survey, were incorporated into the new version you are now accessing.

What about LETSI ?

I have been asked on numerous occasions, well perhaps I’m exaggerating a little, what is happening about LETSI another acronym Learning, Education, Training, Systems Interoperability?

For the uninitiated LETSI is an international organisation that is currently being formed by several international partners , supported by ADL to, amongst a wider remit, provide governance for SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) standard and other learning technology specifications and standards.The organisation was born out of ADL’s desire for SCORM in the future to be self sustaining managed governed and developed by a community of users. JISC CETIS has monitored the development of the organisation and contributed to the intial start up meeting earlier this year.

The Organisation was officially launched last week in the United States by Wayne Hodgins at an event in Orlando Florida and without comment or endorsement the video of this launch is available at the link below.

We here at JISC CETIS will continue to monitor developments in this area, representing the needs of the UK HE and FE communities.


MUVE The Way Ahead ?

Back from leave I’ve been reflecting on Multi User Virtual Environments (MUVE) and their adoption as ‘mainstream’ educational technology, this was prompted in a large part by the book chapter for “Living Virtually” I have just completed with US academic Sarah Robbins , feedback on my personal activities and preparation for the forthcoming CETIS/Eduserve event at the IOE (link to the event)

I’m quite a fan of the Gartner Hype curve in considering the application of new technology..

(Link to Gartner Hype curve)

As far as MUVE are concerned (educational)interest seems to be primarily focussed around the use of Second Life arguably this is because Second Life does provide a fairly low entry point into examining the educational potential of MUVE it has a very established and active community of practice as in the Second Life Educators community (Sled) with support both accessible and available. It is my belief that despite some interesting projects that we (As in the broad educational community)are firmly entrenched in “The Trough of Disillusionment” having travelled through the “hype of over inflated expectation “the cynics arguing, with some justification ,that Second Life is a solution searching for a problem. This journey is not unique it is journey typical of most new technology. We have yet to reach the “plateau of productivity”

Sarah Robbins concedes that what platform technology emerges at the end of the journey may indeed not be Second Life , there are a number of alternatives emerging most of which require more developed technical skills than Second Life, in addition to Multiverse, Croquet et al I’ve just looked at Opensim, an open source project.

We are just at the beginning of this journey and whilst criticism and discussion are essential I’m concerned that the use of MUVE may be deposited in the “dustbin of good ideas that didn’t work in education” without fully exploring the potential.

(link to Opensim)

As far as JISC CETIS is concerned we are agnostic and we will continue to provide a platform where “educational technology” can be openly discussed, criticised and the event on the 20th September will allow us to do that whilst exposed to the four Eduserve projects

MUVE/3D Learning Object Development

With increasing interest in multi user virtual environments (MUVE) and games based learning an interesting project is underway at the University of Southern Queensland. Alive X3D is open source

To enhance distance learning, AliveX3D technology also allows the embedding of multi-user 3D immersive virtual environments within online course content. In this way students reading through study materials online can collaborate within 3D embedded windows in real-time.
2D/3D Hybrid Course Content. Existing course content can be enhanced through the inclusion of 3D immersive content. They are currently working on methods to embed 3D content into 2D online webpages.

The issue of Interoperability across MUVE, VLE and other content seems to
be an emerging issue of significant interest to Learning Technologists folowing on from the recent anouncement by Blackboard of projects exploring the integration of MUVE and building blocks.

It will be intersting to see how this space develops

JISC CETIS Conference 2007

Well it is official, there will be another JISC CETIS conference later this year. After conferences in Oxford, Edinburgh and Manchester the search is on for this year’s location with the early favourites being Birmingham and Manchester (again).

JISC CETIS Deputy Director Adam Cooper will be chairing the conference this year and is tasked with preparing the themes.

Reflections on the Ten Competence Conference Manchester

I was fortunate enough to attend the Ten Competence http://www.tencompetence.org/

 project Conference at the G-Mex in Manchester last week.  There were a wide variety of speakers and presentations and I was particularily impressed with one of the final sessions including presentations by Mark Johnson, Graham Attwell and our own Scott Wilson. Scott has seemed to have grasped the torch in respect of Beer’s Viable Systems Model (VSM) applying it the complex educational field, I could sense Professor Oleg Liber at the back of the session beaming with approval. Grahams presentation served to remind us all why we are in education a rallying call for transformational change.

Parallel session 10: Support for social engagement in Lifelong Competence Development: Chair Bill


Designing systems for managing dynamic collaborative research processes, Scott Wilson, Ernie Ghiglione,

Yoichi Takayama, James Dalziel

Personal Technologies and Masks: Issues of Persona and Identity in Professional Practice and Learner

Development, Mark Johnson, Claire Brierley

Supporting Social Interaction in an “Intelligent” Competence Development System, Bertrand Sereno, Eleni

Boursinou, Albert Angehrn

Social Software, Personal Learning Environments and Lifelong Competence Development, Graham Attwell