My aim as closing keynote is very simple.I’d like to give you something to think about on the way home.In this short presentation, I’d like to take you back five years to the CETIS2007 conference and offer some lessons learned from my response to the challenge that Sarah Porter laid down.
CETIS 2007 was at Aston – different artifical lake, different management development centre. Similar mix of interesting people and interesting ideas.I particularly remember the JISC’s Sarah Porter’s opening keynote, which included some interesting slides. She told us:Everyone in the room is a change agentAnd encouraged us to:EnableExploreSupportCollaborateTake innovation from the margins to the mainstreamMaybe it was just me, but I picked up a message:If you’re prepared to step up to this challenge, JISC will help you innovate, share and embedDon’t remember it from the day, but looking back at the online newspaper archive I see that the Guardian was leading on an emerging story about the Northern Rock bank that would become the shape of things to come: “Not saving but drowning”
Anyway, to matters more cheery.I guess the photo in the background will probably be a familiar sight to many here? As I sank down into my train seat and adopted the post-conference recovery position, I thought about the slides I’d seen and an idea began to form…It wouldn’t be easyBut it wouldn’t be totally mad either to attempt institution-wide changeIf there were an issue that united a network of key playersHmm, Employability ...Hmm, Student Experience …. maybe
Not sure how many of you have heard of the Curate’s egg? In 1895, Punch ran a cartoon showing a timid Curate taking breakfast with a Bishop. The Bishop says: “I’m afraid you have a bad egg” The Curate replies “No … I assure you parts of it are excellent”. The cartoon pokes fun at a social situation in which complaint is not the done thing. Glad we don’t have to worry about that being a factor in some NSS scores!Interestingly the cartoon was re-printed in the last ever issue of Punch with a more modern take on the situation as the Curate complains “This F’in egg’s off!”Since the cartoon was first printed, the preserving social status angle has been lost and the Curate’s egg has been used to symbolise a mixed experience – parts of it are excellent, others are not.I’ll leave the preserving social status NSS angle to the likes of the talented writers of the WonkHE blog, and concentrate instead on developing this idea of a mixed experience served up in a learning environment that rests on admin systems.
Of central concern to a large institution like mine is how the student experience varies for thousands of students taking a thousand different courses taught by a thousand tutors across different sites.I know this is a case that doesn’t really need to be made to an audience like this, but one of the complexities of student experience is that it varies for and between individuals.
And the experience changes.In my own institution there’s been some serious head-scratching about what’s happened to it when external measures like the NSS show it to be in decline.
Returning to my original thoughts on the train: it wouldn’t be easy, but it wouldn’t be totally mad to attempt institution-wide change if there were an issue that united a network of key players. Student Experience could be that issue, but there’d be a lot of barriers to overcome and Sun Tzu and the Art of Change would probably say that something wise like: know your enemy and every change is won before it is ever fought.Over the years I’ve read quite a bit from proponents of creative thinking about the innovation-killing properties of the word “but” and the reasons not to change that can be built on top of it.Don’t know how widely the barriers I’ve identified here resonate with colleagues in the audience, but I hope you appreciate where I’m going with this as I lost a whole Sunday doing these slides!
The big question is whether a “Who dares wins” philosophy is sufficient to overcome institutional barriers to changeI might get thrown out of the magical circle at this point, but I will now let you into the secret of how I went about answering that question and responded to Sarah’s innovation challenge
In 1994, while teaching Business IT at MMU, I registered for a part-time PhD at Cranfield University looking at responses to complex issues that transcend organisational boundaries. I chose an action-research approach and worked with lots of people in different organisations who were trying to improve air quality in Bedfordshire. Through experimentation and partnership I developed a thesis that laid out mechanics for the formation of Adaptive Response Networks, which have a mutually defining relationship with a complex issue. The issue defines the players in the network, which in turn define the issue more clearly and so on. I found that three things were critical: Networking – to find those with insight and encourage them to make a difference; Creative Dialogue – to encourage new insights to emerge that are something more than a battle between established perspectives – and building and honing an acute Sense of Audience to appreciate how change would be felt by different stakeholder groups.Cranfield accepted the thesis without corrections, and you’ll see from the family photo that the number one lesson with further study is to check out the gown *before* enrolling!In the tradition of Grounded Theory but at the risk of over sharing, I’ll just mention that my dad had suffered a series of strokes but was determined to stand to make that photo. He was an engineer and an entrepeneur and I suspect my thesis combines aspects of what I learned of his problem-solving approach with my mum’s skills as a school teacher.
In a nutshell, the Adaptive Response Network approach is really about three steps:Step 1: think of the ultimate fantasy team to tackle the issueStep 2: convince them to be involved and create something that’ll keep ‘em working together that has an emphasis on actionStep 3: be on the look out to enroll others as necessary and be prepared to go with it, seizing opportunities that come along while keeping sight of the overall aim.Some years ago Wanda Orlikowski used a jazz metaphor to describe how a Lotus Notes system was changed over time to support a help desk team’s evolving call handling behaviours. Her notion of “improvisational change” gives quite a good handle on the critical success factor for Step 3: deciding which things to go with and encourage, and which opportunities to avoid or emergent practice to stop. I’m sure it’s more of an art than a science.The evolution of XCRI is a good example of the approach and it’ll be very interesting to read Lou’s excellent work on the XCRI timeline with this in mind.For the purpose of this presentation, Step 1 began by putting together a very strong bid team for the 2008 Curriculum Design call, headed up by our new Deputy Vice Chancellor for the Student Experience, Kevin Bonnett.
Kevin listened patiently to curriculum innovators in the bid’s four subject areas talking about how they’d like to change things, and then asked a very big question: What would be different if we were talking about the whole institution, not just these four subject areas?Kevin then asked senior colleagues to set up four interlinked strands to make a step-change in MMU’s Student Experience. Our PVC for Curriculum Innovation was charged with creating rules for transforming our undergraduate curriculum. Our Assistant Registrar and Head of Management Information Systems were asked to devise more learner-oriented admin systems and processes. Our Head of Quality was asked to set up new Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes that could cope with entire years of provision being reviewed simultaneously. And I was given the simple task of ensuring our students had seamless, personalised access to everything via our new VLE and supporting technologies. No pressure!We changed the credit rating of our modules from 20 to 30 credits and signed up to a project plan that involved re-writing, approving, timetabling, populating in the VLE and being ready to teach an entire new first year in 12 months.It was Who Dares Wins with a coordinated strike.
Some of you may have read my blog post about our decision to go with Moodle as our new VLE.It was good to listen to the Death of the VLE debates, read the various publications, talk to other institutions, talk to colleagues and most importantly talk to our students. I’ve been very fortunate in having a fantastic PhD student, Julie Hardman, who has been quietly collecting masses of data about MMU students’ expectations of good online support. Hopefully, it’s now apparent that Neworking, Creative Dialogue and Sense of Audience aren’t linear activities. They are mutually informing and in this case played a key role in the formation of an Adaptive Response Network that covered different departments in MMU, our Moodle provider (ULCC) and the JISC Distributed VLE community as funding for our Widgets Web- and Cloud-services (W2C) project gave us encouragement and some momentum for trying something spectacular with our VLE.
Calls for consistency and the importance of addressing “hygiene factors” came through incredibly strongly in Julie’s research with students. By “hygiene factors” I mean the basics: as a learner where I am meant to be, when’s my work due in, etc. If these aren’t right, no matter how engaging the teaching and learning, the overall experience isn’t good.Brainwashed as I have been by the JISC-CETIS web service whisperers and being an internal optimist, the thought struck me: Why not address these hygiene factors in a consistent and personalised way using web services?And so it was born: the idea of a meeting my no-pressure target of just give ‘em a seamless, personalised experience with a personalised egg cup for that curate’s egg of the student experience!To realise this goal, I needed my egg cup to sit on a base that had two solid stripes: consistent identifiers across corporate systems and web services so that I could bring everything together around the learner.
So here it is: you’ve had the eggs. Here’s the mash!Our Distributed VLE architecture is a combination of on-premise and cloud systems mashed up around the learner.We provision our VLE from the student records system using a one-to-one mapping with instances of modules and programmes. That means each course area in Moodle is set up with a module identifier which we can throw at our EQUELLA repository and say: what have you got? Or query our Talis Aspire reading lists. We know the user, so we can bring back personal timetables and assignment hand-in schedules. And because we use web-services we can surface this content on students mobiles or in our SharePoint portal and we can provide single-sign-on to hosted email and calendaring.I’m very lucky to have a fantastic team and it took some serious testing over the summer for us to be confident that our web services would run fast enough to go live – after all there’s only so much load you can simulate.We had a scarey wobble due to a viscious wait cycle that formed due to a particular load-balancing approach, but we changed that and 35,500 users did 5 million activities in Moodle in our first month and activity has grown since.
And here’s how the two stripes of the egg cup work!The base of the egg-cup is loosely coupled by having a Moodle block pass parameters (and a suitable authentication token) to a web service that returns personalised XHTML for display. That web service calls various corporate systems as the page loads and aggregates the results.We chose not to use widgets for the production version for two reasonsEnough complexity for a major release without a further unknownWe were unsure whether a widget in an IFRAME would inherit accessibility stylesheets applied to the Moodle container pageWe’re re-using our web services to power our mobile app and have been preparing for a lot more growth in that area.
And now to the big question – is it making a difference?Kevin’s coordinated strike means that it’s difficult to single out any particular change, but I did write somehing down as the expected result for my strand of the change programme:To see noticeable improvement in perceptions of Course Organisation and Learning Resources from first year undergradsWe expect that it’ll take some time for these changes to work their way through into NSS results and no doubt others will be raising their game too, but I’ve been developing an institution-wide online survey tool so we can understand what’s happening in MMU. We piloted the tool in three faculties last year and sent it institution-wide before Christmas. 10,716 students responded and left us over 58,000 comments. We compared scores for our three pilot faculties (Science, Business and Humanities) and this year showed improvement not just at first year as I’d hoped, but also in other years.Hopefully things are going in the right direction, but we’re far from complacent and know there’s a lot more work to do.
Returning to Sarah’s original challenge of mainstreaming innovation, I guess the question now is: what next?Integration to support the developments you see on the slide was achieved despite organisational structures not because of them, so to make joined-up systems a more normal part of MMU’s approach we’ve just reconfigured things.
Welcome to my new expanded department of Learning and Research Technologies!I’ve put this slide together to remind MMU colleagues that the network approach is still vital – we need to work together to deliver solutions, and our network must include our customers and our partners, as well as those who redevelop our business processes and provide the infrastructure on which our developments sit.
Our initial planning has identified an ambitious series of changes, touching on all aspects of the business of the university, so we’re not short of challenges.What’s really encouraging is that my university is talking about mainstreaming innovation and backing these words up with seven new appointments for my team, including an Assistant Head (to prevent me from exploding) and an Applications Architect
I’m putting this slide up for two reasonsTo show how far my institution has come in responding to Sarah’s challenge in 5 yearsA shameless plug for these exciting new posts in an environment that I can promise you isn’t boring!Thanks so much for listening, and for being part of my adaptive response network for the last five years.
JISC-CETIS 2012 Closing Keynote
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence An Adaptive Response to the CETIS 2007 innovation challenge Nottingham | February 2012 Professor Mark Stubbs Head of Learning & Research Technologies firstname.lastname@example.org | http://twitter.com/thestubbs http://slideshare.net/markstubbs Challenge | Adaptive Response | Mega-mashup VLE | What nextThursday, February 23, 2012 1
CETIS 2007: Sarah P‟s innovation „call to arms‟ 2
And on the way back from CETIS 2007 … It wouldn’t be easy.. .. but it wouldn’t be totally mad to attempt institution-wide change … …if there were an issue that united a network of key players … … Student Experience maybe…
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceMixed? And how do I assure you you find the parts of it are student excellent ! experience? Learning Learning Environment Environment … hmmm Corporate Systems Student Admin Systems Experience 4
Building momentum for changeIt wouldn’tbe easy.. In the current climate .. but it wouldn’t be totally mad to attempt institution-wide change … Diminishing unit of resource …if there were an issue that united a network of key players … Everything depends on everything else We are large and risk averse
“Who dares wins” In the current climate ? vc Diminishing unit of resource θ Everything depends on everything else We are large and risk averse
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceA familiar situation …• Action-research PhD on dealing with complex issues which transcend organisational boundaries – mixed + varied + changing = Complex Issue• My thesis – Build Adaptive Response Network shaped by • Networking – Finding those with insight & encouraging them to make a difference (action-research) • Creative Dialogue – Encouraging new ideas & informed critique of the status quo • Sense of Audience – Appreciating stakeholder perspectives
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceAdaptive Response Network approach• Step 1: think of the ultimate fantasy team to tackle the issue• Step 2: convince them of the merits of being involved & create something that will bind them together which has a bias for action• Step 3: be prepared to enroll others as necessary & go along with emergent outcomes while keeping sight of the original aim
And SRC begat EQAL In the current climate• Coordinated by the DVC Student Experience Diminishing unit of resource New Curriculum Everything depends on everything else • rewriting every UG module, … We are large and risk averse New Admin Systems & Processes • personal timetabling, … New Virtual Learning Environment • Moodle & myMMU web/mobile, … New QA & QE Processes • facilitating curriculum transformation
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceNew VLE• Networking – informal & formal follow-up of publications & case studies• Creative Dialogue – debates inside & out• Sense of Audience – research into student & staff expectations – detailed analysis of past VLE usage• Adaptive Response Network – MMU LRT & CeLT (ELSOs) + ULCC + JISC DVLE Rationale: http://lrt.mmu.ac.uk/ltreview
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceGetting the experience back Learning Environment Admin Systems … SOA hmm… personal mashup could address hygiene factors consistently… Admin Systems
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceWrapping the institution around the learner 14
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceAnd making it all work …• Consistent tagging (so relevant data can be aggregated)• Web services (to power the aggregation)• Moodle block (to present personalised results) – Every Moodle course area set up as Code_AcYear_Occurrence – We know the Moodle authenticated user & course area id so we have everything we need to query corporate systems for relevant content… UserID Code AcYear OccurrenceAnnouncements X X X XDeadlines X X X XTimetable X X X XReading list X XPodcasts X XPast papers X 15
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceSo did it improve the student experience?• We‟ll have to wait & see in the NSS !• We compared responses from 8,000+ students on our internal survey over 2 years + found evidence of improved scores for course organisation & resources: 4.5% 4.0% 3.5% 3.0% 2.5% Year 1 2.0% Year 2 1.5% Year 3 1.0% Year 4 0.5% 0.0% Improvement in Improvement in Improvement 16 Organisation Resources Overall
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceWhat‟s next ? 17
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceReconfiguring for better synergy Requirements Partners SAS Business UNIT4 Support Team LRIS Business ULCC Improvement Team Specialists: SP&MI, ELSOs, Lib .. rary ..Customers+ Students UAT…+ Academics+ Admin 18 Platforms
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceAmbitious improvements planned Monitoring & Enrolment Improvement Curriculum Assessment Alumni Enquiries Engagement Recruitment & Awards & Learning Admissions Ceremonies Timetabling & Reporting Booking Flexible & Commercial Research Provision Placements 19
This work is licensed under a Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licenceReal institutional commitment• Assistant Head LRT (HP/1593) – https://www.jobs.mmu.ac.uk/mmujobsite/VacancyDetail.aspx?Vacan cyUID=000000007018• Applications Architect (HP/1594) – https://www.jobs.mmu.ac.uk/mmujobsite/VacancyDetail.aspx?Vacan cyUID=000000007017• Programme Manager (RM/1575) – https://www.jobs.mmu.ac.uk/mmujobsite/VacancyDetail.aspx?Vacan cyUID=000000007020• Project Manager (JAN/1570) – https://www.jobs.mmu.ac.uk/mmujobsite/VacancyDetail.aspx?Vacan cyUID=000000007015• Plus Senior 3x App & Dev Officer and App & 2x Dev Officers soon