This Tuesday I travelled down to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in a very sunny Westminster to attend the annual JISC Conference. This event draws a lot of senior people from across the educational sector; and it’s possible to run into more than a few VCs over coffee. It’s also a rich opportunity to hear from the broadest cross section of educational computing projects. What follows are my notes
The day was introduced by Malcolm Reed and Chair of JISC then JISC Chair Sir Timothy O’Shea. Spoke about current value as well as what the impact the UK election and reduced funding means we as a sector will be dealing with. The next 10 years will be difficult as the environmental impact as well as funding will impact on HE computing. He highlighted an article in the Guardian (14/Apr/2010) on HE, commenting that it complemented the lively pre-conference debate 150 people yesterday led by JISC Vice-Chair. Suggested to go back and have one key thing to implement.
Martin Bean, VC OU: The Learning Journey: From Informal to Formal
An anarchist at heart who sought to spark discussions and possibly put a few backs up; with imitable Australian bravado. Distance education is on fire – because you cannot build enough brick and mortar institutions to keep pace with growth in HE; and thus need to look at alternative delivery modes. Distance learning is growth area, as cannot build enough brick and mortar HEIs. But 1/3 HE students are in private institutions – going to see a growth in private organisations providing this kind of educational role.
Challenges for the custodians – need to educate citizens for new kinds of work. STEM is key for a competitive workforce for the next 10-50-100 years for innovation. Need to think about transformation of information into meaningful knowledge. John Naisbitt book Megatrends was mentioned. Learning in the workplace needs to become essential, and supported by HEIs more.
Modern students need constant stimulation and hate complexity (among other aspects of their desires) but does this mean we need to dumb down our degrees, or shouldn’t we adapt to the modern student expectations? Is there nothing to be said for a proper old fashioned solid and complex education, I wondered – where does that take us in terms of teaching critical thinking?
What can be done to break down the barriers? Multichannel. YouTube and iTunes university – 342,000 downloads a week for the OU – in the top 10 in U channel; and most of that traffic comes from outside the UK, pay off is that many of their new students first encounter the OU in this way and are drawn in by the brand. Informal learning, more cooperative environment and need for flexibility for educational institutions. LLL need the ability to move in and out of HE formally and informally. Comments that the D.E. Act is going to seriously interfere with this ability to evolve and use new patterns of education, research and training.
Living with IPR – the web, the law and academic practise
Charles Oppenheim opened with a passionate and scholarly dismantling of the appallingly poorly debated and rushed through Digital Economy Bill (now Act). Then Jason Miles-Campbell (his sporran is a wifi hot spot allegedly) from JISC Legal spoke. In the next five years there is unlikely to be changes to copyright protected items, you need to find an exemption. Gave an overview of the small changes in the law and clarifications under law for reuse of items. Digital Economy act – what’s going to happen to institutions – some time to go to see if we are subscribers or ISPs as there will need to be case law. Note that D.E. Act calls for a graduated response to infringement. Talked about the Newsbin vs big media companies case. Newsbin was indexing infringing material – in court case they were found to be infringing. Court noted what we need to do to have an exemption for such a thing; Newsbin was effectively authorising infringement – encouraged copyright infringement by employing editors. 11 words effective of being substantial. No good making a large amount of material available to staff, if they’re unsure if they can legally use it. Patchwork licenses are a problem – different aspects of resources covered by different legislation. May mean we need to ditch some resources that we won’t be able to use. Need to make life easy, but we also need to be able to take risk decisions – e.g. like driving – there are times when 32mph in a 30 zone can be okay, but you have to make the judgement call.
Naomi Korn and Emma Beer, Copyright Consultants spoke next about orphan works- those where author is unknown or untraceable – they are significant barrier to public access, due to length of implicit copyright. The internet is a major source of orphan works. Items hundreds of years old can still be in © until end of 2039! In a project 302 staff hours were spent to give only 8 permissions received for use in the British Library sound archive – massive staff effort to little effective impact. EU Mile Project -registry of Image Orphan Works. EU ARROW Project – accessible registries of rights information and orphan works. One thing is clear dealing with orphan works even for major bodies and projects requires a lot of work and staff time, something that those of working in open access can be aware of. In D.E. Bill Clause 43 tried to offer an exemption. The D.E. Act means that for now you should only use orphan works within a risk management framework, as not clear quite what the impact of this will be.
Project OOER – best name of the day? #jisc10 Organising Open Educational Resources. Barriers for sharing different levels of IPR awareness, licensing awareness etc.
Open Access Session, Neil Jacobs (Chair)
Talked about the report authored by Charles Oppenheim et al late last year. Moves to electronic only can help reduce costs in the scholarly communications sector. Alma Swann gave an overview of the work looking at three models of repos gold, green, and role of repos as locations of quality assurance and publication – described by Alma as more futuristic. Libraries do things differently, and this affected the model that they created. Though unis increase in size the benefits don’t necessarily. The Salford VC and Librarian of Imperial College spoke about how they’ve gone about making a strong case for open access, fiscally, at their institutions.
Community Collections and the power of the crowd, Catherine Grout
In a fascinating session looking at crowdsourcing and citizen science we heard from Kate Lindsay (Oxford, WWI Poetry Digital Archive) Arfon Smith (Oxford, Galaxy Zoo), William Perrin (Web innovator and Community Activist) and Katherine Campbell (BBC, History of the World) about 4 very different areas of community engagement. From sourcing and augmenting first world war artefacts from across the country (including a roadshow – turn up and digitise!), though the power of Galaxy Zoo’s galactic classification project – which I’m proud to say I’m one of the thousands involved in. What was clear from these two talks is the scale of what is achievable is amplified many, many times beyond what can be achieved through using more conventional team based approaches, and that the successes far outweigh the concerns over quality (indeed the “normalisation” of so many repeated analyses ala Wikipedia was touched on).
William took a different approach building up a resource from the ground up, and using it as a focus for drawing a community together physically as well as virtually. He showed some excellent examples of what you can do when a community develops a local Web resource rather than just one activist (I am reminded of the local Sileby village Website for an example of how NOT to approach this – locked down and run by a small clique).
For the twitter over view see here, here and here