Tuesday 11 August 2015

Technology break #techdetox - outcomes

Technology break #techdetox - outcomes

Lasted for six days - no emails! No Facebook, no twitter, no LinkedIn, no Blipfoto, no games, no online news, no music, no TV eg iplayer, no audio books or ebooks, no blogging.
It took about 2-3 days to get used to it.  On the first day, I kept checking my phone and then realising there was nothing to check so it is definitely a good idea to delete all the apps and quick ways of accessing programmes or sites.  I deleted most of the above and with others just moved them off my home screen and hid them. I disabled alerts and I think this is important as it removes that 'always on' situation.
I kept text on for family / friends and had to keep whats app also as some family work in places with no signal but wifi but that worked ok and I used both text and whats app infrequently and just for arrangements.
The frustrating / inconvenient aspects were not being able to quickly search for information eg finding a restaurant or details such as opening hours about a place we were visiting. The twice that I 'cheated' were when I was parking at the park and ride and I wanted to pay for parking. It is easy to use the app on my phone and I couldn't be bothered to go and find change and then the payment machine when it is all set up with a couple of clicks on my phone.  The other time was using the sat nav on my phone to get into a city centre and out again. Certain tasks would have been easier if I'd planned in advance such as the parking or navigating and looked at the map in advance.  The searching was a real frustration as I'm so used to quickly looking information up and getting on with things so I can't see the advantage of not doing that.
The planning in advance applied to always having a book with me too.  The first day when we were out and about when ever we stopped, I just automatically looked at my phone or when I was in Oxford waiting for the others I was bored with nothing to look at.  On day 2 at a National Trust garden while waiting around or having a cup of tea or just generally being, I felt I was wasting time without something to read so from then on had a book with me at all times. This improved as the week went on and I started to chill out and relax.  I managed to read four books in six days which is quite good and also as the week went on I read faster and for longer periods without getting distracted. I definitely think my attention span or focus improved which is a bit worrying that it is usually poor but probably right as I do tend to multitask or rapid change task neither of which is good.
I didn't particularly miss Facebook apart from somewhere to upload photos of places to and to keep in touch with what other people are doing.  I did miss twitter but it was good to switch off and not be constantly trying to keep up with online stuff - it's mostly inconsequential anyhow and it's good not to be totally immersed in a none physical world.  I would have liked to tweet about some the places we had been to especially some restaurants which were good.
The no emails has been the weirdest thing - only time will tell whether it is a good thing i.e. This morning when I get into work and see what's waiting in my inbox.
I would definitely recommend a technology break or at least a online communication break as I think that's the important thing - to be able to call your time your own and decide when to reply and engage.  To manage your online presence and interactions. But I would so miss technology if it wasn't there, easily accessible and providing information and generally making life better and more interesting.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Technology break #techdetox

I'm on holiday from work tomorrow until next Tuesday - so almost a week.
For the last couple of years, I have had a technology break #techdetox for a week.
This was last years  


So this year it will start at 12 midnight tonight until 9.00am Tuesday 11th August.
I delete apps from my phone so no emails, Facebook or Twitter - no games, no news - no skype, no facetime - no ebooks nor audio books - no blipfoto, no whats app.  Music if already downloaded maybe? No iplayer or radio. A separate camera for photos. No google, no searching.

Just incoming texts in case of emergencies from family.  

I've got at least 5 books that i want to read so aiming to read one a day. 

Looking forward to it...sort of ...maybe 

Monday 13 July 2015

ucisa SS15 conference - day 2 #ussc15

The first session of day 2 was a business showcase – Service Desk Institute Carla Thornley and Sharon Mossman from Newcastle University and was based on the Newcastle University SDC journey. 
The challenges - some negative perceptions of the service, multiple contact methods, ticket quality wasn’t constant and the system had been customised so was difficult to upgrade.  They produced a roadmap - to standardise, to increase training including SDI analyst training, to produce a customer charter and to measure activity.  They restructured to become the 'Service Desk' rather than 'Helpdesk' and increased ITIL awareness.
The assessment process – despite some delays in procurement of ITSM system they successfully introduced the NU Service with new telephony and call recording systems in the Service Desk. This led to very much improved customer feedback.  They found the SDC process an easy process to follow and although there was lots of work to collate information, the process provided opportunities to reflect; it generated sense of pride and raised the profile of the dept. within the university.
Their thoughts from their experience - don't aim for perfection - do what you want to do to improve the service, don't be afraid to fail, prepare thoroughly, be proud of the good stuff you do.

The second session of the day was a presentation by Emma Anderson, a student from the University of Leeds entitled ‘It's not just Facebook and Twitter. How students use technology in their everyday lives’.
It was an interesting presentation and great to hear insights into the student experience – there were lots of useful points that can be picked up from a library perspective too. 
Emma explained that:
Students typically have at least 3 mobile devices
A laptop is vital but essay writing is better on an actual computer as if you’re working at desk you’re 'a lot more studious'
Email is needed on the go
Email avoids awkward phone calls
The Leeds Uni app is very useful
Even people with Macs still get Microsoft Word
One Note syncs
A tablet is useful for reading
Facebook admittedly is a lot of procrastination but useful to reach out to those in a group to work on shared projects or assignments.  
Twitter is good for your social profile and to get news quickly
The ‘Brotherton library is gorgeous – you feel clever just sitting in there’
But need more plug sockets - students fight over plug sockets (interesting – basic requirement)
The new Laidlaw library has plug sockets as far as the eye can see, comfy chairs and bright spaces
Group spaces are needed
Also need desks that have a PC plus extra plug socket plus space for work

Emma praised the IT Service Desk staff as students are tech savvy but have different needs so it is good to be able to pop in and have chat. A physical presence is definitely needed so more approachable and more personable 'Lovely friendly faces’.  Also it is hard to explain computer problems over the phone or email - need to speak face to face

She gave good, positive feedback about student experience at Uni of Leeds and had a direct approach to what students want and need. 
The next sessions was a panel session:
Heidi Fraser-Krauss (Chair)
Emma Anderson
Rachel Fligelstone
John Fijalkowski
Carla Thornley

The only thing that is constant is change - an old problem that is still relevant today.
How to cope with change?
Bring people together to talk - do the change together - share – get everyone involved - personal contact.  Make it a team effort - not everyone needs to be an expert - ask staff what digital means to them, relate to what they want and need to do.  In the corporate world, change is necessary to survive – it’s slower in the HE sector so need to be a champion of change - setting goals and vision.

The move from IT to digital - digital capabilities that are the responsibility of everyone.  Is it obvious where people have to go to for help?  If they have a problem the Service Desk needs to be like a sat nav and know where to get help
Transformational change - don't assume you know what the customer wants.  Share the journey with the customer.  Get people to realise that change is needed - be dramatic - educating people
The problem is often not with change itself but supporting change - relate it to organisational change

It’s important to give students notice of changes - be honest. But the problem with all student emails is that students get bombarded with email so use app notifications, twitter, announcements on VLE,
You need to make the difference between communications about 'vital' issues and things of interest.  Still need to tell students about things of interest so use somewhere else to provide a daily update or feed.  How do students feel about change? They are willing to embrace change - new computers, new apps - keep student needs central

Who should drive change?
Ask students what they want and tell them what will work – then got to meet in the middle. Show people what is available, listen to what people say and then make decisions. Share experience.
Be open to innovation - support people to use technologies

The next sessions were parallel sessions and I went to one about mapping and optimising the Student Journey using a service design approach by Ruth Drysdale and Jean Mutton from jisc.
It was about Jisc co design - prospect to alumnus – the student journey from the student, user, customer point of view. 
Is HE a 'Product' or 'Service' industry?  A qualification and an experience?

There were a couple of practical activities:
Question - who is involved in student enrolment?
Basically everyone

Tools and techniques
Service blue printing
Emotional journey mapping

Task - Make a personna?
Walk that person through the process
(This activity was good not necessarily as a task in itself but was a good group round the table discussion and light relief)
So what is Service Design?
Problem solving - People centred

After lunch there was a presentation by Chris Dixon, Rob Ellis and Tom Skarbek-Wazynsk from Lancaster University.
‘Ping pong, coke and crisps’ – a tale of innovation.
It included an opportunity to tweet a task to Tom to work on and come up with the beginnings of a solution during the 45 minutes of the session. #Tasktom

Chris gave some background and context to the Innovation hub quoting examples from Virgin Atlantic who have lots of success and awards.  “Innovation is invention plus exploitation plus persistence” (virgin definition)
Also the Gartner model - bi modal
Mode 1 - the long haul, vital work
Mode 2 - looks easy more risky

When they set about creating the innovation hub they created a business case and then recruited.
Aims - engaging students to improve student experience - ask students if want to be involved.  Every idea has a digital twist.  Some ideas fail.  Embrace the idea that anything is possible.  Operate flexibly Agile methodologies.

Cardboard office

Rob talked through some of the ideas and projects that they have undertaken and how they approached the development of ideas. 
Project types:
Nike - just do it.  Tough Mudder.  Bonkers

e.g. Minecraft
Build university - gaming society
Crisps and coke

e.g.  Gamification
Record of day to day life at university (not academic) Library use e.g. course hand in
A badge should be achievable by everyone if they want

e.g. Peer help and market place

Get ideas through idea generation events and opportunities such as 'Jolt the library' where students pitch ideas.

Summary – the expectation of what's possible versus reality is very different in the education environment.  There are a number of blockers. Be prepared to get into trouble.  Once students have a platform for ideas they will use it.  Be flexible.  Need senior management support - have a varied steering group/ advisory board early on.
Breaking rules!

The next session was a business showcase HEATsoftware and John Ireland, University of Oxford. 
5 different service desks which were consolidated into one support function - service desk consolidation project.   
Lessons learned:
It was business change rather than a process change with technology.
Look at the changes from a customer perspective
'Cake is the way to hearts and minds and to get organisational change through...'

The project was successful especially as far as customer experience was concerned. 
Self service - good feedback
Clarity 'your call has been resolved'
Faster and more effective escalations
Single phone number
Complaints: zero about new tool set
350 staff in central IT using system so a vast operation and need time to get used to processes

It was an interesting presentation to see how change is driven through in an institution where change is sometimes complicated and involves a lot of people and processes.

There was then another batch of parallel sessions and I went to one with the title 'what a digitally capable institution looks like' although it was mainly about feedback to a ucisa survey and the digital capabilities group 

The final sessions of the day were 20 x 20 sessions which were brief sessions from a variety of presenters and institutions. Some of them were very interesting and would have warranted much longer sessions and opportunities for questions.  (see my notes below - I don't usually take paper notes but it was the last session of the day #conferencefatigue.
Hopefully the slides will be  available from the ucisa website so I would recommend looking there.  
Tony Brett's presentation was useful and kept to the 20 x 20 format.
Gareth Edward's presentation was fascinating and I didn't take many notes as I was concentrating on the slides.

All in all, a great conference with lots of ideas to take away. 

Sunday 12 July 2015

ucisa SS15 conference - day 1 #ussc15

The first day of the ucisa SS15 conference at the Oxford Belfrey started with a welcome by 
John Cartwright, ucisa Executive Chair.  He welcomed everyone to the conference and encouraged delegates to participate and make the most of the networking opportunities. To 'pinch with pride' - share ideas and take them to implement in your own institution and service.  He talked about how, as we all know, change is a constant including organisational change with departments and services converging and de-converging, having to do more with less.  
New ideas created at the conference will lead to new ways of working - an opportunity to combine thought power.

Sally Bogg, Chair of the conference then gave an introduction and welcome to the conference the theme of which is change. 

The first presentation of the day was by John Fijalkowski from Manchester College entitled 'From superhero to mild mannered process engineer'. 
He explained that most IT superheroes start out wanting to change the world but changing processes is the way to success. There is no easy stairway to process maturity heaven.  You need to be an explorer and have expertise and experience and execution. 
Achieving process maturity is like moving from the Wild West to a High Performance Team and you will find different tribes along the way. Y
ou need to define the process, use metrics, have good KPIs and aim for continual improvement.  Embrace change as a daily event so therefore use an adaptable model optimising in high performance.

One person’s ad hoc superhero is another person’s chaotic cowboy - this is a useful analogy and a thought to hang on to as I think it is often the case that staff use the superhero idea to justify doing what they want, not what they should.  You should start the quality process to optimisation. Learn from mistakes and this involves being tactful and managing staff. There are different sorts of mistakes some honest, some deliberate and because of this there is a need for quality assurance - to check up.
How do you mature a process? Use 5S
Sort it out - when in doubt, red tag
Straighten - a place for everything, everything in its place
Shine - clean, inspect
Standardise - rules, compliance
Sustain - daily check - habitualise people 
If there's a gain, take it.  Take 1% from everything you do. Each gain may seem trivial but the cumulative value great.  Think of KPIs as a form of GPS - you use a KPI to meet a target.
Performance Management. Quality Improvement Plan.  Quality Control.

It was an interesting and appealing approach and involves being rigorous about improving processes.  It definitely made me think about the work that I need to do and that I should have confidence to aim for a structured and detailed process of improvement.  

The next presentation was a business showcase - Andrew Dixon from the University of Bristol, talking about TOPdesk.
Web forms are an ideal way of asking the right questions.  Use dedicated web forms for routine requests.

The next presentation was by Dave Churchley from Newcastle University.
'Real ITSM in the real world'
What has he learnt?
Adapt - understand the environment, work with the culture - make sure you know what's important to your institution - get allies - communicate.
Improve - get started, then improve - got to be pragmatic (not just idealistic) to get things done
Focus on areas you can identify that need improving
Don't forget the people - influence behavioural change - set a good example - explain what you're doing. 
Service Management - it's a never ending journey - break it into chunks so more manageable

The last presentation of the day was 'Vorsprung durch Technik' by Heidi Fraser-Krauss and Thomas Krauss about IT support and services for researchers.  It was an entertaining and informative role play with a moral about the differences between what academics want and what IT support can provide.  The IT service drivers are service reliability, customer service, student expectations whereas researchers / academics like to think - need to have a passion - and have to bring in funding and produce papers.  Academics don't get rewarded for compliance!  They want the network to be available all the time, they want to manage their own people in their dept to fix things - want to knock on door of an office and talk to someone.
So the advice from Heidi on how to deal with researchers:
Apologise, know your numbers, work with academics, manage expectations.  Understand what they want - one size doesn't fit all.  Take on responsibility for other professional services if appropriate. Recognise that some areas are not IT responsibility e.g. where to record research data - it's not a technology problem, it's a policy problem. Academics don't get rewarded for compliance therefore they don't see the need to do so.  They are used to being critical so will criticise something when it is not working.

It was a useful insight into looking at central IT support form a different angle - we know it would be better managed centrally but it is unlikely that we will be able to persuade academics of this so we have to offer and manage support in a useful and acceptable way.  

Monday 1 June 2015

A Week in the Life of ... 2015

A Week In The Life Of

About Me – Claire Donlan, ALT Trustee

I have been an ALT Trustee for nearly four years now including serving as Vice-Chair, Chair and President of ALT.  Before that I was a member of the FE Operational Committee for three years.  I wrote ‘A Week In The Life Of’ in 2010 when I was Head of Learning Resources at Middlesbrough College and outlined one of my busy weeks focusing on typical FE related activities such as student inductions, VLE courses and assessment, staff recruitment, technologies and devices, voting systems etc.
I now work as Customer Services Manager in the Information Services Directorate at Heriot-Watt University.  I manage all frontline services including the Library Service Desk and IT Helpdesk.  It is a busy role with a never ending to-do list but is interesting and exciting and a good mixture between operational and strategic issues.
I spend quite a lot of time on staffing related issues – there are 35 members of staff in my team.  We have just held interviews for an Information Assistant and successfully appointed. Yesterday I spent time shortlisting for evening/weekend Library Assistants, there were 74 applications for two posts. Other staffing related tasks – Performance and Development Reviews (PDRs) have been completed this week.  I have 6 to do which are direct reports and also have input into the objectives for all staff in the Customer Services team.
The focus at the moment as far as students are concerned is study spaces.  The main library building has a mix of quiet study spaces, individual and group study tables and rooms, study booths, soft seating / social learning spaces etc. It is always busy – we have a high footfall into the building and are open 24/7.  We manage the space by monitoring the usage through occupancy and footfall figures from systems and from roving. We’ve introduced an online booking system for our study rooms this semester to enable students to book online in advance. I spend lots of time collating and analysing data about the usage of the service we deliver including access (footfall/occupancy), usage (loans, returns etc.), self-service facilities, enquiries, printing and printers, IT tickets and issues etc. We use this data to measure impact and inform developments.  I spend time at the IT helpdesk as well as the library and we’re working on improving communication between first and second/third line services and triaging issues for departments and services across the university.
Communication and feedback plays a big part in what I do.  I officially record any complaints that come to information Services (we don’t get many) and also deal with comments and suggestions.  Students can use a variety of channels to let us know about our services – we have a Tell-IS alert service which is text, iMessage and email for feedback.  I manage the department’s facebook page and twitter account and the social media development group.  I also chair the Service Development Group which looks at operational and strategic developments for the Directorate and there are plans for building and service improvements for next year – everything from new online resources, the VLE, stock relegation, a new lift and study spaces across the university campus.
One important area that I’m leading on is Customer Service Excellence and how we can achieve this external accreditation for our services in the next year or so.  I liaise with colleagues at University of Edinburgh, Napier University and Queen Margaret University to share information and experiences regarding CSE.  Other external groups that I’m involved in apart from ALT, are Edinburgh Library and Information Services Agency (ELISA) and Customer Services Group UK (CSGUK).

Thursday 9 April 2015

A Week In The Life Of.... what's changed 2010 - 2015? #altc

In the ALT Online Newsletter there is a feature 'A Week in The Life Of...' http://bit.ly/1FlxQpY
It is an interesting feature as it gives an insight into the daily working lives of the people involved in Learning Technologies and how diverse the roles can be. There has been a recent discussion on the ALT email list about Learning Technologist jobs and how they have changed and developed over the last 5-10 years - the 'Week in the Life of...' articles reflect this.  Two of the most recent posts have been by Fiona Harvey and by Sheila MacNeill who are both ALT Trustees and it is very interesting to read about their 'day jobs' and the work that they are involved in.
I wrote 'A Week In The Life Of..' in October 2010 http://bit.ly/1NVSf49 and am now in the process of writing a 2015 version.  Much has changed in the 4.5 years - different job, different institution, FE to HE, more management, more strategic? In 2010 I was working as Head of Learning Resources at Middlesbrough College, now I'm Customer Services Manager, Information Services at Heriot Watt University.  It's interesting to compare and reflect on the changes that have happened.  I'm glad that I still work in an area that concentrates very much on the student experience and how important that is for learning technologies and for education.