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JISC Digital Technology Feed

Jisc news

Out today, the final report from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future underlines some of Jisc's key aims for the sector and provides a strong consensus for the future. 

Bringing together representatives from sector bodies, including Jisc, FE providers, employers and industry advisors, the commission has produced a blueprint for radical, long-term education and skills reforms and investment.    

The report's recommendations highlight a number of important points, including aligning pedagogy methods with the skills needs of employers and calling for 'significant investment in the digital skills of the college workforce'.  

Jisc's MD for FE and skills, Robin Ghurbhurun, who's a member of the commission's expert panel, says: 

"I welcome this report as a catalyst for change - change in the way the FE sector prepares today's learners for the workplace of tomorrow and provides them with the digital skills the UK economy needs. 

"Our own research highlights the urgent requirement to support teachers to develop confidence delivering engaging online learning. With the right investment, we can help make technology-enhanced education the norm, rather than the exception. 

"Even before the pandemic, FE providers were front and centre in the government's plan to close the technical skills gap and provide an economic boost. Post lockdown, that aim is even more urgent.  

"My hope is that the College of Future's report, which resonates with Jisc's FE and skills strategy, will make a compelling case for change ahead of this autumn's FE and skills white paper."  

Vice-chancellors and senior executives from more than 40 UK universities have contributed to a new framework, launched today, to help higher education leaders realise the benefits of a long-term strategic approach to digital technology.

University leaders, together with Jisc and other sector partners Emerge Education and Universities UK (UUK), and technology partner Salesforce.org, collaborated on Digital at the core: a 2030 strategy framework for university leaders as part of the learning and teaching reimagined initiative.

The long-term digital strategy framework has been developed in response to the need for greater clarity around the role of digital in the delivery of institutional strategies, identified from dozens of one-to-one interviews and roundtables with leaders.

Designed to work with each university's unique mission, circumstances and capabilities, the framework sets a series of questions for senior leaders to ask to help identify strategic opportunities that digital technology can provide.

The questions are focused on four key themes – leadership, staff, business model and investment – and act as prompts for internal discussion. They provide the structure for leaders to take 'deep dive' explorations around big questions such as:

  • Is there sufficient digital awareness among the executive team for them to make informed decisions in core strategic areas?
  • How can we encourage and embed a culture of experimentation and continuous improvement that lets staff make the most of digital tools in their work?
  • How will our students' needs and expectations change over the next decade and how can we provide a digital experience that will meet or exceed them?

David Maguire, chair of the learning and teaching reimagined advisory board and interim vice-chancellor and principal at the University of Dundee, says:

"When the pandemic hit, some universities already had digital embedded throughout and were able to adapt quickly, while many found themselves casting around for ideas, skills and technologies. What it has shown is that developing a long-term strategy for digital is now more essential than ever, despite such evolving and uncertain circumstances.

"Thanks to the generous contributions of my peers, we have been able to build a framework which addresses that challenge and supports better outcomes for students, staff and the sector as a whole."

Graham Galbraith, vice-chancellor at the University of Portsmouth, and chair of the Long-Term Strategy Network at Universities UK, says:

"Strategic planning is vital, but when the future is unknown and volatile, making the right decisions can be challenging. Digital technologies that were 'nice to have', as a result of COVID-19 have become vital. I am proud to have been a part of a cross-sector group led by Emerge Education that has put together this long-term strategy framework to support senior teams in planning the future role of digital technologies.

"Each organisation will have its own particular character, and as such the framework does not attempt to provide a one-size-fits-all model. Instead it raises questions we hope will be useful to any organisation going through the process of designing and implementing a long-term digital strategy."

Nathalie Mainland, general manager and senior vice-president, Salesforce.org Education Cloud, says:;

"Higher education is at a turning point globally. And there is a tremendous opportunity to reimagine how the sector in the UK should evolve using technology, a pivotal step required to thrive in the next normal. Salesforce.org is proud to work alongside industry peers to develop a framework for digital transformation that will inevitably shape and contribute to future learner and institution success."

To learn more about the learning and teaching reimagined initiative, join our free webinar on Wednesday 4 November 2020 for exclusive first access to co-created, sector-wide research and recommendations for creating a desirable future for HE.

A new report highlights the key challenges in digital infrastructure being faced by further education providers.

New research has highlighted the extensive risks associated with long-term under-investment in IT and digital infrastructure, throughout the UK further education and skills (FES) sectors.

The research is published as part of Jisc's IT infrastructure review report. It uses data collected between 2016 and 2020 from more than 100 college infrastructure reviews. The findings show that many colleges are struggling with old equipment that is not fit for purpose, poor connectivity, and a lack of skilled IT staff, all of which are barriers to providing a secure 21st century education.

Outdated systems

Many of the challenges around infrastructure and devices in FE are down to funding, with the report highlighting 'a large number of out-of-date core infrastructure systems continuing in use beyond their manufacturer or vendor end-of-support dates.'

Robin Ghurbhurun, Jisc's managing director of further education and skills, comments:

"The government's announcement on 19 August that it had released £200m for 180 colleges to spend on physical and digital infrastructure is welcome, but it is not enough to solve the underlying digital challenges caused by years of under-investment."

Poor connectivity

Internet connectivity is the one of the "most serious single points of failure" in a college's IT infrastructure, the report reveals. This is largely due to the increased use of software as a service (SaaS), and is an important concern since most FE providers have moved to cloud-based SaaS systems for calendars and email.

However, in the majority of colleges that have a primary Janet connection, there is sufficient bandwidth to meet needs, and upgrades are recommended for the minority of colleges that have below a 1Gb connection.

Skills shortage

The shortage of IT support staff is also a concern for the sector. The reports says: "The average IT-support-staff-to-supported-users ratio in general FE colleges now stands at 814:1, this is a substantial rise, and is in our view too high to ensure a good quality IT organisation."

"In the majority of colleges, an IT skills shortage of some kind is reported, often as recent technical training has not been undertaken by IT teams"

However, the report also recognises the positive impact that existing IT teams have on FE, noting "a large number of highly talented and dedicated IT professionals […] who are most certainly a credit to the sector."

The good news

Improvements are possible, and some colleges are already in a good position. The report says: "Where organisations have a CTO, CIO or similar senior role, they are able to embed technology and improved organisation-wide decision making to make a positive difference to service delivery."

Ghurbhurun concludes:

"With leadership, resource and careful planning, colleges have shown they can position themselves at the leading edge and deliver future-proofed education and skills."

Read the key findings from the IT infrastructure review.

Find out more about how Jisc can offer business operations support.

Jisc and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Press today announce an agreement that provides faculty in participating Jisc institutions with unlimited, open access publication of accepted research manuscripts as well as full reading access to the complete collection of renowned CSHL Press journals.

The journals are Genes & Development, Genome Research, RNA, Learning & Memory, Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, and Cold Spring Harbor Protocols.

"A sustainable path to open publication of biomedical research is a long-sought objective among the many science communication initiatives at Cold Spring Harbor"

said Dr John Inglis, executive director and publisher of CSHL Press.

"Our collaboration with Jisc provides a model for any research-intensive institution whose scientists wish to make their articles openly available in these long-established, prestigious, not-for-profit journals.

Benefits for key stakeholders in this innovative new agreement include:

  • Institutions: Participating Jisc member institutions receive unlimited access to all content published in CSHL Press research and review journals  – the "Cold Spring Harbor Collection" (seven titles)
  • Authors: Research articles with corresponding authors affiliated with participating institutions are published immediately as open access under a CC-BY license and directly deposited to PubMed Central (PMC)
  • Publishers: establishes a sustainable business model for transitioning subscription-based research journals to open access while maintaining their high editorial standards
  • Funders: aligns four journals that are respected and highly valued by their research communities with open access publication mandates placed on recipients of financial support

"We are delighted to offer this new transitional agreement with CSHL Press to our members,"

commented Kathryn Spiller, licensing manager at Jisc,

"This collaboration with a leading, independent not-for-profit US publisher represents a new model that combines read access to highly valued subscription-only content with open access publishing in high quality journals, all for a fixed fee."

Jisc members can find full details for their participation in the new CSHLP agreement online at the Jisc licence subscriptions manager portal

The American Physiological Society (APS) and Jisc announce today a Read, Publish and Join pilot offering UK institutions unlimited, immediate open access publishing in the APS Digital Library.

This innovative custom publishing model is the first of its kind, bundling reading and publishing under a simple annual fee, with the additional bonus of a one-year membership for authors who publish with APS.

APS is the first US-based biomedical society to enter into a transitional agreement with Jisc, offering this critical research community the opportunity to publish in APS journals in compliance with UK funder mandates. The addition of APS membership connects UK researchers to the society's multidisciplinary community of scientists and educators from around the world, driving collaboration and spotlighting scientific discoveries in physiology.

The pilot will be in effect in 2021 and 2022 and will include access to the APS Digital Library - which includes content from ten physiology research journals and two review journals. 

Stacey Burke, director of publications marketing and sales, APS, said:

"This transformative arrangement with Jisc will take away administrative barriers for participating UK libraries and give their researchers the immediate and seamless option they need to publish their open access work with APS.

"Jisc is clearly dedicated to learned societies like APS, and their importance in the scholarly communication ecosystem making them ideal candidates to further our Read, Publish and Join model."

Kathryn Spiller, licensing manager at Jisc, said:

"We are delighted that this agreement offers Jisc members unlimited open access publishing with an esteemed learned society like APS.

"The additional 'join' element is the first of its kind, and represents a further incentive for institutions to sign up and is a great benefit to their researchers. We hope that this will inspire other US society publishers to work with Jisc to develop new, innovative and compliant models to enable a sustainable transition to open access."

The APS Read, Publish and Join agreement with Jisc is based on historical publishing and subscription spends and offer one simple annual fee. For institutions that opt-in, their patrons receive access to the APS Digital Library and unlimited open access publishing, plus the unique bonus of a one-year APS membership for corresponding authors.

APS will automatically identify these authors based on their institutional affiliation. Upon acceptance of their manuscript with APS, the author will be notified that their work can be published under an open CC-BY license without paying article processing charges. This option, provided by their library and APS, allows the author to retain copyright of their article.

Colette Bean, chief publishing officer at APS, said:

"Models like our Read, Publish and Join are part of the society's efforts to find sustainable publishing options in an open access future.

"In our diverse community, we need to support all researchers around the globe including early-career researchers, those without adequate funding and those submitting research reports when their grants have been exhausted." 

APS' mission is to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. Serving the research and professional development needs of the vibrant APS community is the society's top priority.

Programs like the innovative Read, Publish and Join initiative - which provides researchers with a frictionless open access publishing process that gives them a platform for their work and complies with their local funder requirements - are critical to that mission. 

To find out more about bringing the Read, Publish and Join model to your institution, email Stacey Burke (sburke@the-aps.org).