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University of Manchester and Liverpool first to provide their students with all key content online required for their coursework and Jisc tracks what measures publishers are putting in place or plan to implement in light of COVID-19.

Jisc today announces that over 120 UK universities are now being set up to enable access to critical textbook content for upwards of 1.4 million students over tens of thousands of modules of study, from right across the UK and Ireland under the Free Student eTextbook Programme (FSTP).

The Kortext textbook programme includes thousands of titles brought together by academic publishers, including Pearson, McGraw Hill, Cengage, Taylor and Francis, Wiley, Cambridge and Oxford University presses amongst others to deliver a sector wide, student-centric solution to minimise the initial impact of COVID-19.

Paul Feldman, CEO of Jisc says,

"It's vital that as many students across the UK can continue to learn from wherever they are during the lockdown period. The rapid response from universities signing up to the programme combined with the overwhelmingly positive reaction from publishers providing core e-textbooks, is a landmark of unprecedented cooperation across the sector. We hope that this initiative will lead to future collaborations to provide critical textbook access online to all students."

Amongst the first universities to go live with across campus access to e-textbooks are the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester:

"Kortext have provided an invaluable service to the HE sector in stepping up with the Free Student Content Programme at this time of uncertainty and rapidly changing circumstances. It has provided us and our university community with extremely useful teaching tools in a very timely fashion,"

commented Jane Cooke, University of Liverpool Library.

"At the University of Manchester, as with colleagues across the sector, we are keen to reassure our students and staff that we are here to support their studies and research online by providing access to key digital content during this difficult time. The Free Student eTextbook Programme will have a significant impact in making this transition as quick and comprehensive as possible at no extra cost."

added Olivia Walsby, University of Manchester Library.

James Gray, CEO and founder of Kortext adds,

"The scale of this programme is truly ground-breaking. Only by pulling together as a sector has this programme been made possible and ensured we are able to support all UK students with an unprecedented amount of content on a single, customisable bookshelf for free, thus ensuring they can continue to study at this crucial time of year."

Jisc is continuing to encourage all publishers to collaborate with Kortext and other providers such as Vital Source and BibliU to maximise the availability of content to students as well as clinicians who are supporting the NHS during the pandemic.

VitalSource managing director, international, Alice Duijser says,

"VitalSource recognises the global ramification of the COVID-19 pandemic and is pleased to further expand the VitalSource Helps programme to the UK and Ireland to help ensure immediate access to the resources students need to adapt to a new way of learning."

VitalSource Helps features an extensive catalogue of course materials from leading publishers that serve students in the UK and Ireland. The catalogue is continuously expanding as more publishers join the programme.

CEO of BibliU Dave Sherwood adds,

"We have seen a 40% spike in the average reading time on BibliU's eReader amongst our student users. To match an increased demand for digital access to core and supplementary textbooks we have partnered with the majority of UK universities to help them empower their remote students."

In support of university libraries seeking clarity on what content is now available, Jisc has set up an online survey to capture the measures that content and service providers have put in place or plan to implement. The survey includes questions on provision for off-campus access and whether publishers intend to roll out extended trials, or grace periods. Responses will be made available on the licence subscriptions manager website and will be updated daily.

A new networking FAQ from the Janet Network experts at Jisc, covering key information on how Janet is handling the changing traffic patterns caused by homeworking, is now available.

This is a challenging time for our members, and we are here to answer your questions as best we can.

As universities, colleges and research organisations across the country, and indeed across the world, are adopting new working practices amidst the coronavirus pandemic, queries have arisen about the capability of networks to withstand the changes.

In response a group of our infrastructure and connectivity experts have put together a networking FAQ, outlining how networks are being affected, and being proactively managed to adapt to the change in online traffic.

Queries include:

  • Has Janet got enough bandwidth?
  • What's the impact on Jisc's federated roaming services, eduroam and Govroam?
  • What has been ISP's response to the sudden shift to remote working and study?

These questions and more are answered in full.

The document will be updated as new queries arise, and if you have any immediate concerns about your own connection, please contact your account manager.

The full FAQ is available on the shaping the future of Janet Jisc Involve blog.

For more information on dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on your organisation, please see our dedicated coronavirus resource page.

Together with our partners, we've issued a collective call to all providers of digital content and software to take action to help institutions maintain their teaching and research activity during this time of crisis.  

This morning the following joint statement was sent to The Publishers Association and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers:

Over the last week we have seen publishers, aggregators and suppliers of digital content and software come forward in offering a range of solutions to help institutions maintain their teaching and research activity during this time of crisis. On behalf of our members, we would like to thank you for providing open access to research in support of coronavirus/COVID-19 and putting in place access options that remove limitations on use and users.

We encourage all providers of digital content and software to follow this example to help our members reduce the impact on their communities and manage with reduced staff during this time of crisis.

We have provided below a list of actions that publishers, aggregators and vendors can take to support institutions and colleges. These measures, in combination with what our members and their users are permitted to do under domestic and international copyright law, are closely aligned with statements from colleagues across the world and will support the provision of research, teaching and learning at this time and remove unnecessary distractions from the core mission of institutions.

Actions that would help institutions maintain teaching and research activity:

  1. Make any relevant content and data sets about COVID-19, coronaviruses (regardless of species affected), vaccines, antiviral drugs, etc. currently behind subscription-only paywalls open access immediately to facilitate research, guide community public health response, and accelerate the discovery of treatment options. The removal of technology that limits text and data mining is also requested in support of research.
  2. Remove and waive all simultaneous, concurrent user or credit limits to an institution's licensed digital content during this period when universities are going all online in order to allow research, discovery, and learning to proceed.
  3. Remove, waive or pause triggers associated with evidence based or demand driven models in recognition that there will be a higher use of online content as courses are being delivered online.
  4. Lift existing contractual inter-library loan restrictions or photocopying limits temporarily so that universities and colleges may assist their students to complete their studies.
  5. Temporarily waive costs associated with the digitisation of second extracts under the CLA licence and engage with the CLA and other collective management organisations to increase extent limits to ensure teachers can provide students with the content they require.
  6. Extend trial access periods to 90 days in the first instance to provide institutions and colleges with a monitored and managed route to access content they may require but have been unable to subscribe to previously.
  7. Lift any restrictions on remote access, so that teaching activities and research can continue online and remotely, despite institutional closures.

In addition, we recommend that publishers, aggregators and vendors:

  1. Allow flexible renewal periods and lengthened payment due dates as we do not know the future impacts on health or business operations. If the regular renewal cycle is disrupted, we ask that publishers keep access on for institutions, even though the current agreement may have expired.
  2. Delay or minimise any planned price increases until the upheaval and disruption that we are seeing in our user communities, public health systems, and stock markets all over the world calms. The financial impacts on institutions of higher education and the global economy are as yet unknown, and price increases will add even more pressure to already-stressed universities and colleges.
  3. Develop plans to temporarily lift paywalls or develop alternative methods of authentication to allow access to subscribed content if traditional authentication mechanisms are overloaded under the increased traffic.

We recognise that this is a challenging time, for all of us, and we hope that by putting these actions in place and by continuing to work together, we will be able to support the millions of students, teachers and researchers here in the UK.

Sincerely,

Update: 25 March 2020

We are pleased to confirm that the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers has endorsed the statement on access to content in response to COVID-19.  

Tell us how you're supporting universities during coronavirus

If you are a publisher or content provider and would like to tell us about the steps you are taking to support UK universities during this period, please complete our short survey.

Responses are now available via our licence subscriptions manager service website - the list is being updated regularly. 

Today's students are tomorrow's workforce – how are colleges and universities preparing them for emerging jobs?

In universities and colleges across the UK, technology is shaping and informing education, helping to ensure that learners enter the world of work ready for the challenges ahead.

The workforce in the future may look back and think, why didn't we make more use of augmented and virtual reality? Why didn't we utilise artificial intelligence and machine learning in supporting our skills development?

Institutions, meanwhile, are looking at local industry to see how they can embrace emerging technology to deliver the driven and skilled employees businesses need.

Emerging industries

At the Grimsby Royal Docks, for example, against the caw of the seagulls and the salty tang of the sea air, there's the operations hub for Hornsea One, the world's biggest offshore wind energy farm.

State-of-the-art, tech-enhanced, and environmentally conscious, every wind turbine blade was made just over the Humber Bridge in Hull. This industry is poised to offer transformative employment opportunities to candidates with the required skills.

So Grimsby Institute has risen to the challenge, working with Hornsea One developers, Ørsted, to offer wind energy technician apprenticeships that lead directly to a job working in the renewable energy industry. Grimsby is also using mixed reality and simulations to support training in fields as diverse as welding, lorry driving and fish packing.

Such forward-thinking training is key to support learners as they prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.

Paul McKean, Jisc's head of further education and skills, explains:

"Personalised and adaptive learning provides tailored, on-demand education, which is based on students' developing knowledge and behaviours, and has the potential to transform the ways in which they develop their skills, whether in an education or working environment. This includes skills development in virtual simulations and augmented real-world working environments."

How the workplace is changing

To the untrained eye, many colleges, universities, industries and employment opportunities still appear largely unchanged from our parents' and grandparents' days – but things are shifting.

Derby, for example, is an area with a rich history in aeronautical and automotive engineering dating back to George Stephenson's pioneering locomotives of the 1840s. Forget steam and diesel – tomorrow's trains will be electric hydrogen "bi-mode" hybrids, which will require a new set of skills to build and maintain.

The University of Derby's Rail Research and Innovation Centre recently secured a £900,000 grant to work with local companies in the rail supply chain to upskill their staff in areas including artificial intelligence and data analytics.

Jisc's head of higher education and student experience, James Clay, comments:

"As the fourth industrial revolution unfolds, the workplace will be transformed. Former white-collar roles – such as many within finance and legal assistance - could be automated. At the same time, there could be a greater focus on the jobs only humans can do, such as creative activities, problem-solving and emotional support."

Addressing the skills gap

By identifying potential opportunities for the future, universities and colleges can ensure their courses are fit for purpose, decide if they should offer new programmes, and ask how they can deliver a forward-thinking, technology-enhanced future education.

Students need to look at the horizon too. Despite Office for Students predications that more than a million digitally skilled people will be needed by 2022, and a recognition within the government's edtech strategy that 'technology is increasingly part of our society', only 49% of 13,389 FE students and 70% of 14,525 HE students responding to a 2019 Jisc survey agree that digital skills are needed in their chosen career.

Helping to change this misconception, Jisc is supporting its members to upskill and prepare students to become the productive workforce for tomorrow, says McKean:

"We recognise that, for a learner to leave a college or university truly work-ready, they need to be digitally capable - and therefore, it is critical that the practitioners who are preparing them for the world of work are equally digitally skilled."

Learners deserve to be trained with the skills required by in a technology-enhanced environment - but a sense of community and access to real, hand-on facilities remain crucial aspects of study for many. The jobs of the future will require new skills and creative vision, underpinned by technology and informed by market needs – but always led by human interaction. 

Find out how you can support the workforce of the future. 

With the unprecedented impact on higher education (HE) from the coronavirus outbreak, Kortext, the UK's leading digital textbook platform, in conjunction with Jisc, is launching a nationwide programme to ensure all 2.4 million university students and 217,000 academic staff have access to their key learning resources during this crucial revision and exam period.

Kortext has partnered with the leading textbook publishers PearsonCengage, Sage, Elsevier, the university presses of Oxford and Cambridge and others to facilitate this sector-wide support for students during this period of campus closures and the shifting to online delivery of teaching and learning, just ahead of the most important time for many students in the academic year.

The aim is to roll this programme out across the entire UK HE sector within the next three to four weeks and Kortext and Jisc will be working all UK universities to facilitate this.

As the national response to the virus intensifies, many students will lose access to their vital course materials, often accessed as print textbook copies through the university libraries.

This programme provides each student with free digital copies of their core textbook titles covering all subjects and courses across the UK. Students are then equipped to continue to study anywhere, both online and offline and they can connect with each other and use the content throughout this crucial time.

James Gray, CEO and founder of Kortext says:

"We're conscious that the sector is under maximum strain right now as they work to find solutions to support students while they prepare for their exams.

We're determined to do what we can to help minimise the impact of this virus on student attainment and we are proud to be working with the sector to deliver a completely student free solution to support them" 

Paul Feldman, CEO of Jisc comments:

"The response that we've seen from content providers to support students, teachers and researchers has been fast, heartfelt and emphatic. We're all acutely aware of the disruption that the students and universities are experiencing at this most critical period of the academic year. Initiatives like this from Kortext will help ensure students can access critical textbook content.

We are continuing to encourage and work with all content and software providers to maximise access and help our member universities prepare for campus closures."

The programme partners helping to bring this together include Microsoft, which is delivering infrastructure, Kortext who are providing their platform free of charge and the key academic publishers that include; Pearson Education, Cengage, SAGE Publishing, Elsevier, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Wolters Kluwer.

Patricia Killiard, senior deputy director, academic services, Cambridge University Libraries says:

"The importance of being able to provide core e-textbooks to our students and teaching staff during such a challenging time cannot be understated. 

That this access is being offered for free during the coronavirus outbreak marks incredible generosity and care on the part of the contributing publishers who have chosen to make their content available, and Cambridge University Libraries are extremely grateful to Kortext and Jisc for all their work to make this possible."

Any interested higher education institution can contact Kortext at support@kortext.com.

Help and information for members can be found on our dedicated coronavirus information page.