JISC Conference 2011 – ‘Financial challenges – digital opportunities’

‘Financial challenges – digital opportunities’ was the theme and focus of this year’s JISC event which attempted to frame the latest technical advances within the current financially stretched HE context.

The keynote address from the VC of Bristol University, Professor Eric Thomas, set the economic scene and made the political case for charging students full fees on a loans basis. He also imagined a near-future HE landscape of private provision, two-year degrees, and institutional mergers and failures. Finally, JISC was placed as a specialised service provider for the sector with an assured future.

The eLearning Unit was well-represented at the conference so we were able to attend quite a few of the sessions over the one and a half days. Below are brief reports and links for the sessions attended.

Three of the sessions and the keynote, which were live-streamed on the day, are available to view at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/jisc11 (as well as a few bonus extra interviews, director’s cut, etc). These are viewable in both Mediasite Silverlight and Classic player. Click on the small i icon (bottom left) and then the Chapters link (top right) to find a particular clip.

There is also a “JISC11 Virtual Goody Bag” to be had which is jam-packed with free digital resources directly related to sessions run at the conference. Those we thought most useful or interesting are highlighted in the body of this post.

Monday Afternoon Sessions (Mini Interactive Workshops)

“Introducing Mediahub, the definitive academic video, image and sound resource” Presentation and Q&A on JISC’s development project to bring together the various JISC media databases (and plans to license further repositories) offering them as a subscription service for full access: http://mediahub.blogs.edina.ac.uk/ The wealth of these repositories is quite inspiring and it is worth a quick look at the above blog for a sneak preview of the service.

“Introduction to the Historic Books Platform and JISC e-Journal Archive services” Report on the early-stage development project to create a fully searchable archive and a brief demonstration of the current user interface.

“Web tools for social simulation” Demonstration and overview of the NeISS project, and some of the online tools that can be used to take social data and return simulation modelling, data fusion and visualisation.

Tuesday Sessions

Open Content Panel Session

“Cloud solutions – risk or reward?” A very useful session on what cloud computing is, how it can be utilised by institutions (particularly where research groups find themselves requiring large scale computing facilities on an on-demand, agile basis) and how middleware can be developed to remove the need for a layer of technical expertise to harness cloud computing (either at the institutional or research team level).  This was a streamed session which can be viewed under the chapter Parallel Session 1. There are also some slides for the individual session presentations.

This session has generated a few interesting comments amongst UoL attendees at the end of this post.

“Effective assessment in a digital age – how technology can enhance assessment and feedback for learners and practitioners”. An evangelical session reminding us of some of the fundamentals of learning technology’s potential role at every stage of the cycle of an effective assessment and feedback process. Further, how technology can be deployed as a part of a strategy of learning and teaching change, using it as a tool to rethink assessment and feedback to make it a meaningful, learning experience for students and instructors.

Lots of useful  materials from this session are available in the JISC goodybag including the JISC effective assessment guide (with case studies) and the JISC infokits on change management and process review.

“Preparing for a digital future – digital literacy for students, researchers and teaching staff”. Three diverse presentations which tackled what digital literacy means to students and to institutions presented from the SLiDA project. The presentations exemplified a hardware-led path to embedding the acquisition of digital literacy in daily learning and teaching activity, and an institutional, strategy-led path via curriculum-review and course re-design type processes.

This will be of particular interest to anyone involved in curriculum review activities, and useful, relevant materials can be found in the goody bag area for this session.

Venue – the BT Convention Centre – Liverpool

BT Convention Centre

BT Convention Centre

The conference was held at the Liverpool BT convention centre, an incredible, vast, riverside building next to the Albert Dock. Excellent venue, excellent food!


This conference seemed to recognise and publicise the strategic integration necessary between the Higher Education sector and JISC in the future.

The theme of the conference and the tone struck by the keynote address did have the effect of the day coming across as an organisation explicitly wanting to promote a rationale(s) for its own existence and also sounding a sales bias in some presentations for the services and facilities it has developed over its lifetime. Fair enough given the envisaged rough road ahead.

Paul, Dan and Tünde


4 thoughts on “JISC Conference 2011 – ‘Financial challenges – digital opportunities’

  • For my part the key things I took away were:
    1. Cloud computing offers something for nothing, in that someone else will manage the servers and provide a service often free of charge at the point of use. As JISC funding has been cut some of the clouds they have set up are being dropped which means that if it was used by an institution for anything mission critical this would cause a serious problem. I would be sceptical about using someone else’s cloud without some strong service level agreements.
    2. Imperial College have a research application management system much like IRIS but they have pulled in external success and applications data so they can benchmark against their peer institutions, something we have never been asked to provide, but seems to be more useful than any internal benchmarks. I believe this would be a very useful addition.
    I was wondering if anyone else had anything they would like to share?

  • Ross, I attended the cloud computing and the law session which was very illuminating and echoed your concerns, see below:-

    “Personal information collected through the Services may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which Microsoft or its affiliates, subsidiaries or service providers maintain facilities.” Microsoft Azure .NET Services Platform Terms of Use.
    “[We] do not warrant that the service offerings will function as described, will be uninterrupted or error free, or free of harmful components, or that the data you store within the service offerings will be secure or not otherwise lost or damaged…” Amazon Web Services Customer Agreement.
    “…salesforce.com shall not be responsible or liable for the deletion, correction, destruction, damage, loss or failure to store any Customer Data.” Master Subscription Agreement, salesforce.com UK

  • Hello all – I went to sessions on Research Data Management:
    Storage of research data in a central repository is beneficial for the following reasons:
    Data can be backed-up and preserved in a secure location.
    Reduction of latency and data simply getting mislaid, facilitation of re-use.
    Can incorporate a metadata collection policy which also enables sharing and re-use.
    Can be used to improve and simplify compliance with funder policy.
    Enables storage planning for central Computing Services and also improves costing on research projects (known costs for data storage and management)
    Additionally, opens up the possibility of combining diverse datasets to advance research possibilities.
    I think there’s more that we could do in this area, even starting with a simple question when setting up projects in IRIS whether there are any data storage requirements and pointing researchers towards our existing facilities.
    And on Research Application Management, from which I took away much the same as Ross.

  • Dear all, Here is something I found interesting at the conference:
    Is lecture capture the worst educational technology?
    (I was attending the parallel session “Using Digital media to improve teaching and learning”).
    There was also a short demonstration of an interactive video. Although it involves more work to prepare it, it is a better teaching tool.
    I am about to start a project on an interactive video so I should be able to give you more details, from a personal points of view, in a few months.

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