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JISC Digital Technology Feed

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Laura Power is a digital learning and skills developer and facilitator at Myerscough College, a 125-year-old land-based college of around 6,000 students across campuses in Croxteth, Blackburn and Preston. Working with her digital learning adviser colleague, Alexandra Nutter, she has pioneered the use of virtual reality (VR) in innovative ways for teaching and assessment at Myerscough.

In land-based courses there's a massive gap in immersive reality material because the resources need to offer a real life experience for our students and you don't often find that with computer-generated content.

We decided to use 360 video with interaction overlaid on the top rather than solely computer-generated virtual reality, which meant we needed to be able to film in real working environments. The 360 version creates an authentic experience for the students, much more tailored to what they will see in employment afterwards, rather than it feeling like a game. Gamification is brilliant but our students needed the authentic experience for it to feel real and to achieve the deeper learning they need.

We were keen to get employers involved from the very beginning and then throughout the project to help develop the resources. The packages were co-designed and reviewed by employers, tutors and learners until they were perfected for industry and curriculum needs.

For the milking parlour resource we used Lodge Farm, the dairy farm at the college, and filmed different routines for a couple of weeks, almost like a day in the life of working in the milking parlour.

We made sure we filmed some problem cows so that students would experience all kinds of situations before going on to the farm. It means the students gain soft skills and curriculum value – from understanding health and safety and hygiene laws to gaining confidence in handling large animals – before experiencing what could be a dangerous environment. It's also good for the cows and their welfare if the students are more confident with what they need to do.

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Student using a VR headset on a farm

The reaction from the students has been really positive and enthusiastic. They have asked for more resources like this and have been very engaged with the whole process. One group were still debating one of the scenarios in class with their tutor two weeks later, making him go into the VLE and re-watch the VR package to see who was correct. They have really embraced the learning experience and critically analyse it and reflect on the material in class.

For us it was crucial to create the resources in a way that benefits learning and not just as a shiny new toy. Technology needs to have a sound pedagogical reason behind it.

"I've been using the VR resource for introduction on how the Myerscough milking parlour works and the routine we have to follow. The VR also shows the pre-milking set up of the parlour and equipment. It's been good to have a visual of how the parlour works for when we have to do farm duties and our milking assessment."
Janine Ashworth, agriculture student (level 3 year 2)

The National Archives and Research Libraries UK are delighted to announce that Jisc will be joining them as a partner in the organisation and delivery of the Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities (DCDC) conference series.

In the spirit of collaboration which defines DCDC, all partners look forward to ensuring that the conference continues to break new ground, challenge assumptions, and share best practice across the library, archive, heritage and academic communities.

This conference series is one of the largest cross-sector heritage conferences in the UK. It brings together archivists, librarians, heritage professionals, and academics to explore ways of enhancing cross-sector collaboration between professional communities during a time of great change.

Attracting more than 400 delegates each year, individual DCDC conferences bring together speakers and delegates from across the UK, Europe, and internationally, to explore a range of issues, from the impact of collections to digital transformation.

Jisc CEO, Paul Feldman, said:

"The DCDC conference is unique in the way it brings together practitioners from universities, libraries, archives, museums and galleries to share their expertise and their enthusiasm for curating collections.

"All these sectors face evolving digital challenges and Jisc is delighted to now be working alongside RLUK and The National Archives to design and deliver the DCDC conference series. We will be looking to blend the strengths of all three organisations to ensure that the event continues to deliver maximum value to the community."

The 2019 DCDC Conference will be held on 12-14 November in Birmingham, on the theme of "navigating the digital shift: practices and possibilities".

Yesterday's publication of the government review into online learning and artificial intelligence education (AIEd) makes some welcome announcements. 

It highlights the crucial role of technology in raising the quality of technical education, while also acknowledging the sector's limited understanding of these emerging fields. The review therefore recommends that the Department for Education (DfE) funds 'test beds' to help FE providers gain a greater appreciation of the potential value and benefits of AIEd and online learning.

Jisc's futurist, Martin Hamilton, comments:

"As the report notes, we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution driven by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. It's clear that the world is changing, and the jobs of the future need an education system to match - an Education 4.0 that complements Industry 4.0.

"We've been discussing what this might look like with Jisc members, and there are some fantastic examples of leading-edge practice at our colleges and universities. However, there is a lot more to do if we are to harness the potential of AI, and it's crucial that we place trust and ethics at the centre of any AI projects involving learners' sensitive personal data.

"We welcome the recommendations of this review and will continue to work with our members to help them deliver engaging, interactive AIEd and online learning."

However, it's critical that the tools that enter the market are high quality, able to deliver on their promise and build trust. Karla Youngs, Jisc's head of digital content services for FE and skills, says:

"The online learning tools that are currently available vary wildly, and there has previously been a correlation between lower cost and poorer quality. Online education and AIEd must be affordable, and high-quality content must be the standard."

To help deliver this, the DfE report recommends that products should be commissioned through Jisc 'as they can bring to bear efficiencies through collective bargaining on behalf of the sector, while also having the technological knowledge to effectively appraise bids.'

Karla also stresses that colleges should assess their individual needs and aims before committing to investment:

"It's about making considered, strategic decisions that will suit your offer and community."

A cyber criminal who tried to blackmail Jisc and committed a raft of other cyber crimes was today sentenced at the Old Bailey to four years in a young offender institution.

At an earlier hearing, Daniel Kelley, aged 22, from Llanelli in South Wales, admitted sending Jisc an email in 2015 threatening to disclose data he claimed to have stolen unless he was paid a sum in bitcoin. We reported the blackmail to Action Fraud and to the police.

Kelley had also admitted cyber attacks on a college where he was a student and was part of a gang involved in the huge, high-profile data breach of TalkTalk in the same year.

Jisc's CEO Paul Feldman said:

"We will always look to support our members and law enforcement authorities involved in investigating crimes. In this case, we were able to help the police to identify Daniel Kelley.

"We encourage universities and colleges to report all instances of cyber crime to Action Fraud. This information helps the police in tackling and prioritising work to combat cyber crime. As in this case, reporting crime can pay dividends further down the line and our experience shows the benefits of working closely with the authorities."

Members can access advice and support on dealing with cyber crime and attacks through our computer security incident response team (CSIRT).

For the past two years, we've conducted a cyber security posture survey, which helps Jisc to gauge the security landscape in higher and further education and to steer future work. 

This year's cyber security posture survey is now live and we'd like to gather more responses than ever before.  

The 2018 survey earned more engagements than in 2017, with responses from 118 different organisations, including 65 universities, 49 colleges, two research institutions and two arts and heritage organisations. Now we're looking to exceed that total.

Author of the survey, the head of Jisc's security operations centre, Dr John Chapman, explained:

"This questionnaire is aimed at security and IT staff and allows Jisc to be better informed about cyber security attitudes across UK education and to spot emerging trends.

"The feedback also helps us understand the needs of members, informing decisions about how to improve support for universities, colleges and research centres, while continuing to provide products and services to help preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the Janet Network."

Data from the survey, which will take only about 15 minutes to fill in, will be collated and anonymised and a summary report will be reviewed by sector experts before it is published by Jisc later this summer.