Yesterday I went to the annual JISC Conference in Birmingham. We arrived in time for the first keynote speech from David Eastwood,Â Chief ExecÂ of HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England). As I am currently involved with the XCRI (eXchanging Course Information) support project, which is supporting take-up of a schema for standardising the format and exchange of information about courses, I was pleased to hear the keynote speech finish by emphasizing the need to “create greater convergence”, develop a “shared service agenda” and link up things which institutions are doing separately.
In the morning, I went to Bill Olivier’s session on services oriented architectures and the eFramework. Bill delivered a very interesting presentation at breakneck speed, and I managed to get notes taken by typing very fast! I found his 3 definitions of the eFramework useful: 1. It’s a JISC Programme, 2. It’s an international programme, 3. It’s a website and knowledge base.Â
One area the eFramework are focusing on is helping practitioners map out their domains, with Bill defining a domain as “a recognisable area of work or activity”, i.e. not necessarily something technical, just a way of outlining what people do. The domain modelling enables the discovery of issues which are common across institutions, with the idea being that projects with cross institutional benefits can be a priority for funding. Again, I thought this tied in nicely to the work XCRI is doing, plus many other projects I know of, such as the e-admissions domain mapping which MMU and Nottingham are undertaking.
Â Lunch was theÂ worst part of the day. As a non mushroom eating vegetarian, and a very hungry one by lunchtime, I was disappointed to see both veggie options contained mushrooms. I ended up with a plate of potato salad and wild rice, not very nourishing. It’s a very grand venue, but the food isn’t wonderful…Oh, and I couldn’t get the wifi to work!
After lunch I went to the Enabling Lifelong Learning session run by Sarah Davies. All the speakers were good, but I was most interestedÂ in theÂ presentation given byÂ the first speaker, Bill Pollard from Cheadle and Marple College, who discussed how they had dealt with the issue of a particular course where students never seemed to apply to carry on to university. They discovered that this was due to students being unable to find suitable courses for their interests and needs. They got the students to search on Flock forÂ courses which suited their needs, and then, this is the crucial bit, got them to save courses they liked on del.icio.us us with appropriate tags of their choice, so that the students could share interesting courses with each other. They added a course code to the tags, to narrow down the tagged entries to ones chosen within the college. The outcome of all this searching, tagging and sharing, was that all bar one student applied to university this year, and this from a course where previously almost no one was applying. I thought this was great use of social software.
Â The final keynote, entitled BBC 2.0,Â was given by Tom Loosemore from the BBC.Â TomÂ outlined 15 principles of web design, illustrated by examples from (mostly) BBC websites. I found this talk really fascinating, partly because I studied a bit about information design on my Information management course in Brighton some years back; partly because I run an events website for my local area and am interested in principles of good website design; and partly because I love the BBC websites, and it was really interesting to hear all about some of the rationale behind them.
So, in summary, a good and informative day, please can we have no mushrooms next year, and I really must find a pink, scarletÂ or electric blue suit, there were so many black suits there!