Collaborative Tools at EUNIS 2011

Our latest dissemination activity was in the form of a poster at EUNIS 2011 outlining the role that IT services can (or not!) play in supporting collaborative online tools for BCE activities.

Andy did a great job with the poster design and it really caught the eye as you looked along the exhibition space. Some interesting discussions resulted from this display.

One of the conference presentations that I really enjoyed, and that is relevant to this space, was:

Strategies for Implementation of Web 2.0 Tools in Academic Education by Goran Bubas, Ana Coric, Tihomir Orehovacki, Faculty of Organization and Informatics, Varazdin, Croatia

This paper won the Dørup Award 2011 and is well worth a read. The full paper can be found here: Although aimed at Learning and teaching, there are resources that could be used in the Collaborative Online Tools for BCE arena.

Our next poster exhibition is at the Higher Education Academy Conference. Unfortunately I cannot attend this year (the first time missed for this conference 🙁 ) so Doug Belshaw of JISC infoNet and Chris Turnock from the Northumbria University Trial Project will represent the project. The focus is internationalisation of the curriculum and features Northumbria University and the University of the Arts, London.


Post-project developments

We’ve been quite quiet recently and so thought it was worth giving you a brief update on our activities post-project. We closed the project on a real high with the final showcase event and launch of the online guidance, however there were one or two follow-on actions that JISC infoNet were tasked with.

The first of those tasks is to ensure appropriate dissemination and communication of the online guidance and so where possible we’re submitting papers/abstracts/posters to various conferences that cover a wide range of appropriate stakeholder groups. One session that we have confirmed is the JISC Conference 2011 on the 15th March. Jacquie Kelly will be leading a mini interactive workshop with three of the original project partners (Erik Bohemia, Brian McCaul & Paul Lowe) which highlights how online tools can really empower/enable effective collaboration. We’d love to see you at that session and we’ll keep you posted on any other successful proposals!

An image from a session the collab tools project ran at JISC 2010

The second task on our agenda is to maintain and improve the online guidance. A couple of things here:

  • Trial projects are continuing to feed us with updates on their success and so where relevant we’re updating the case studies to reflect this.
  • Videos from the final showcase event were added extras to the project. Rather than hold these back we decided that they’d be made live without transcripts. The transcripts are nearing completion and will be added to the videos very soon!
  • Brian McCaul’s work on Knowledge Transfer 2.0 really captured the imagination of those attending the final showcase event however the trial project only scratched the surface. JISC infoNet will be working with Brian to develop a full resource, the KT 2.0 Effective Practice Guide – watch this space.

If you have any feedback on the online guidance as it stands please feel free to add a comment below or get in touch with us at JISC infoNet. We look forward to hearing from you!

Project Showcase Event – Collaborating Across Boundaries

The final showcase event took place on 24th September 2010, presenting findings from across the trial projects involved within the Trialling of Collaborative Online Tools for BCE project. An audience exceeding 80 people from across the sector converged on the Royal York Hotel, York, including senior managers, academics, lecturers, IT directors, knowledge transfer managers, business development managers and staff from support services.

The focus of the event was on the use of online tools to support, enhance and enable collaboration between Further and Higher Education and their commercial, public sector, cultural and social & civic partners. The four dimensions of BCE were covered, namely: Employer Engagement, Knowledge Transfer, Lifelong Learning or Cultural Community & Public Engagement.

Feedback from the event was extremely positive, with an overall score of 4.7/5. One delegate commented:

“There was an interesting blend of pedagogy, technology and business engagement which are aspects of University life which are often considered in entirely discreet silos with no sense of connection – but there obviously should be!”

Another attendee summarised that the event offered:

“An exciting demonstration of innovative approaches to Business and Community engagement in a realistic context of change and uncertainty.”

Professor Di Martin, University of Hertfordshire, chair of the JISC BCE Advisory Board, gave the opening keynote, providing an overview of the importance of Business and Community Engagement, including current observations about government policy.

Then followed a number of themed sessions, each showcasing findings and experiences from the Trial Projects. The three themes were: Security and Data Protection, Building and Maintaining a Community of Practice and Exploring the Tools.

The second plenary session focussed on the Northumbria University Trial Project, Open ICT Tools, in which online tools were used to facilitate global collaborative learning with external business and community partners. Three students from the School of Design who took part in collaborative space – the Global Studio – presented their perspective, reflecting on their experience of using online collaborative tools to work with external partners.

The third plenary session was delivered by Brian McCaul from the University of Leeds. He provided a fast-paced presentation, focussing on the intersection of Knowledge Transfer and Web2.0 – what he calls “Knowledge Transfer 2.0”.

The generic project tag #BCEct was used to capture backchannel comments and conversation on Twitter – preserved and available to view as a PDF document. Each session was also videoed and will be made available via the JISC BCE You Tube channel and included in the forthcoming online resource, hosted on the JISC infoNet website, that will form the lasting output from this project.

The showcase event concluded with a panel session, all speakers from the day invited to join Simon Whittemore, JISC BCE Programme Manager, on the podium to take questions from the floor. A range of topics were discussed, from the future of the BCE programme to digital literacy to approaches to building online networks. Discussion was certainly lively, proving the central role of collaboration in the BCE environment.

The showcase event was certainly a success and all speakers, Trial Projects and the project team are well deserving of the praise the event received. One attendee concluded:

“I found the breadth of approaches and ideas, the involvement of students, as well as staff from Research and Enterprise Divisions, and the enthusiasm for collaboration and engagement really encouraging. As the presentations reflected projects which had actually been implemented, I could envisage the problems and hurdles which had had to be overcome, and set them in the context of my own institution.”

Mediating Boundaries

London College of Communication played host to a lively and interactive one-day conference (12th May 2010) offering 100 delegates from both Further and Higher Education (FE/HE) a chance to examine the theoretical and practical composition of Communities of Practice (CoP).  With a focus on Business and Community Engagement (BCE) and the way in which FE/HE staff traverse the online landscape to engage community and business organisations alike, delegates were able to discuss the subject in depth with some of the great minds already working in this area, not to mention the fruitful conversations had by all during breakout sessions.

Etienne began the day with a keynote presentation, providing an overview of his work and current thinking around CoPs.  Some of the key statements and highlighted summaries from delegates via twitter, include:

  • The role of moderators/technology stewards or CoP facilitators is critical in any effective, lively CoP;
  • A new type of hybrid role: academic-business practitioner is emerging as a particularly effective enabler of cross-boundary CoPs. This individual is a translator, facilitator, PR expert, educationalist, business person all rolled into one; 
  • Technology is not a replacement or a model for brain consciousness, but a part of how we learn and construct knowledge;
  • That we need to create spaces of meaningfulness where we can explore our identity with questions raised about how we create those spaces;
  • The idea of CoP as learning partnerships;
  • That we need to recognise the social artists within our organisations and value the work they do;
  • That 45 degree walkers are essential to cope with vertical/horizontal axes of accountability!
  • To get value from CoPs the narrative (CoP stories and experiences) needs to be combined with some form of measurement.

A full overview of tweets from the day are available thanks to TweetDoc – Mediating Boundaries TweetDoc.

In the second session, Paul Lowe, Brian McCaul and Jeremy Davenport provided delegates with an overview of their practical experiences from building online networks and CoPs that focus on engagement with external organisations.  Paul Lowe spoke about Open-i, the CoP he’s developed for Photojournalists which has completely transformed learning and the tri-lateral relationship of students, academics and professionals in that field.  Brian McCaul gave a high-paced talk highlighting his thoughts on Knowledge Transfer 2.0 and what that means to the Business and Enterprise function at the University of Leeds.  Jeremy Davenport gave an update on the exciting developments of his Creative Industries Network and the way in which he is developing that community.

YouTube Preview Image

In the afternoon the World Café, ‘popcorn’ session, debate and Q&A session provided the opportunity to further conversations on the day … but they certainly didn’t end there!  Numerous blog posts have been written by attendees, such as Forging identity and learning in Professional Practice by Rosemary McGuinness, and Apprenticeship and Transformative Learning by Lindsay Jordan.  Emails are also being received with reflections after the event. Even an audioboo has being produced!


We thank everyone who attended for their contributions to the day!  For those who didn’t make it, we hope to summarise the event further via this blog. Our team is working frantically to pull all of the information together including video from the day and a write-up of the World Café and popcorn session. 

Overall, it was an innovative, high energy and successful conference. The venue was in some ways ‘alternative’ in comparison to many JISC events, a welcome change for some, but perhaps a shock to the system for others. One delegate noted:

“I hope you don’t get any negative feedback about the food and the rooms; I thought your catering and room choices were inspired, and I wouldn’t expect anyone there would have chosen to forfeit such an inspiring speaker in favour of fancy food and waitress service.   Everyone keeps whinging about how money is so tight in HE and we can’t do anything decent anymore; you’ve shown everyone that yes, you CAN run a truly good, catered conference on a minimal budget – and raise money for Haiti at the same time… great stuff :-)”

BCE and organisational culture

The second cluster meeting was held at the University of Huddersfield on 25 February 2010. The theme of the meeting was organisational culture and the aim was to discuss the cultures, processes and habits (within and across organisations) that the Trial Projects had come up against. There were questions raised with respect to engagement and collaboration with external partners:
• Does it require a joint approach or process review of systems and processes?
• Is there a need for new roles and responsibilities?
• What is the impact on existing services?

The Trial Projects represented at the meeting were University of Huddersfield, Knowledge House and Northumbria University. Each trail project gave a presentation on the work they had been carrying out with a discussion on their progress.

Joanne Charlesworth introduced the University of Huddersfield Trial Project and the work they have been carrying out with the West Yorkshire Lifelong Learning Network. Initially they aimed Elluminate usage at informal meetings and experienced problems with firewalls and the policies of various institutions which had the software on their restricted lists. Chris Parkin explained that a positive aspect of using Elluminate was the way that sessions can be recorded and this functionality had proved successful. Also the fact that the system can be left running informally and people can “drop in for a chat”.

Paul Cranner gave an update on the work of Knowledge House and explained that the organisation works as a brokerage service for the North East England Universities, managing the project lifecycle in its entirety. Paul explained that the Knowledge House Information System (KHIS) which is their main system and is embedded in the institutions had been recently upgraded to version two. There is now a monthly meeting of KHIS “Champions” with representation from each institution looking at issues and problems with the system. Paul explained that the KHIS Champions were predominantly Business Development staff and that at the meetings they were able to identify bugs in the system and so allow correction before any commercial involvement could be gained.

Erik Bohemia explained the aim of the Open ICT Tools project and gave some background on the work of the trial project. They are working with external partners including Motorola and Intel alongside their students and students in other countries to facilitate global collaborative learning with external business and community partners. The work being carried out enabled the Trial Project to work with the Director of IT Services and this opened doors within the department and helped facilitate the aim of smooth collaboration with external organisations but without compromising the universities systems. Prior to the Trial Project, Skype was on a separate university network but following discussions within the Trial Project Team which highlighted the problems with this approach, Skype is now available on the main University-wide wireless network.

The next and final cluster meeting will take place at Birmingham Metropolitan College on 31st March 2010 and the theme will be technical & IT barriers.

Wimba Connect 2010 Reflections

Paul Lowe, University of The Arts London, presented at 2 sessions at Wimba Connect 2010. One was about OPEN-I (his Trial Project that is part of the ‘Trialling of Collaborative Online Tools for BCE’ Project) in a joint presentation with Phil O’Hara entitled ‘reaching over walls’. In this presentation they both focused on using Wimba web conferencing to interact with dispersed communities outside of the traditional university. Phil’s project is a continuing professional development program for pharmacists across Canada, and has over 2,000 participants distributed all over the country regularly attending live sessions to maintain the necessary professional qualifications to continue to practice.

Paul commented:
‘this session went well, and there was a good synergy between the presentations, Phil focusing more on the detail of running the web conferences and mine more on the broader picture of how to build and develop a community of practice’.

There were some good questions which illustrated that whilst some people are really engaging with the concepts of communities of practice there are many who are not familiar with it at all.

For details of Paul’s 2nd session and his thoughts on the conference visit his blog at

Phil O’Hara is Assistant Director (Teaching), Academic Computing Services at Dalhousie University. Continue reading

Wimba’s strategic vision

Paul Lowe, University of The Arts London, has just returned from the Wimba Connect 2010 conference in Orlando. The Project supported Paul attending this conference as he presented on his Open-i Trial Project. At the Executive Track Session the discussion was about how to plan for the strategic use of technology, seeing it as an enabler of collaboration and communication rather than as an end in itself. Wimba’s CEO Carol Vallone outlined 4 main drivers that they see as key to the intelligent use of technology to support education:

1: Meeting the expectations of today’s students – students now expect universities to meet them where they are, rather than having to come into the faculty itself. They are increasingly digitally literate and want to be productive in the workforce immediately on graduation.

2: Increased demands for accountability – to the market, to students and to quality assurance.

3: Strategic use of technology – Successful collaboration means mapping out a strategy for the institution and then mapping collaborations against it, with a context based application of technology for collaboration – looking at costs, efficiency, productivity, and engagement. It’s key to map technology to specific initiatives e.g. retention rather than just randomly training staff in various software packages.

4: Repurposing and leveraging current investments – find ways to use systems already in place in new and innovative ways e.g. for administration and student support as well as for teaching and learning.

Rewiring Inclusion: Strategies, tools and techniques to promote barrier-free learning

Report from Stephanie Warren, e-Learning Manager, New College Swindon.


Conference – Tuesday 8th February
and Wednesday 9th February 2010

    Pre dinner plenary session – 8th Feb
    Julian Harty – Google – pre dinner session from Julian.

I was expecting a speech to cover all our queries about Google Wave, Chrome OS, Docs etc. however it fell short of my expectations – he did highlight the following points: Google wave is a good interface for use with the deaf, Jaws will work on a mobile phone (certain models)

    Opening Session
    Artur Ortega – Accessibility Evangelist for Yahoo and Donal Fitzpatrick from the School of Computing at Dublin City University.

Two excellent presentations from Artur and Donal giving their experiences using technology as they are both blind. Their chosen mobile phone was the iPhone because of the excellent accessibility. No 3rd party software is required as it comes with speech recognition. Accessibility on line must take into account all aspects of accessibility. Some benefits have been shared by disabled users from silver surfers needing similar accessibility. Accessibility must be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

    Other sessions
    Using mind-mapping software for inclusive learning. Dave Foord

The principles of mindmapping by Tony Buzan in his book called “Use your head” have been developed and expanded to this Mindmapping software. Examples given for use for both FE and HE coursework planning.

    Rewiring participation – how mobile technologies and web 2.0 has transformed inclusivity. Lilian Soon and Ron Mitchell

Both Lilian and Ron are well known in the /ulmobile technology environment and this session covered how to use a text wall ( to gather opinion in the classroom. Ipadio is now on the iPhone – upload podcasts as they happen in real time to the web.

    Special needs at Manchester College. Alison Mills

iPod Touch – using apps for literacy and numeracy
Acer mini pcs through the deaf team
Nintendo Wii used for data analysis
Software used:
Text help read and write gold
Touch Type Read and Spell

    Seeing things differently. Jon Mitchell, Henshaw College

Using cheaply priced mobile technology to engage students at this special school. The school bought small digital cameras and MP3 players to allow students to design and develop their own videos on Health and Safety etc. They used Jaws, Buzbies (screen with only 3 buttons), Flip cameras and Audacity.

Project Evaluation

The project team are pleased to announce the appointment of Belanda Consulting to undertake two areas of work associated with evaluation.  Dr. Jacqueline (‘Jay’) Dempster will be working closely with the project team to:

  • evaluate the overall project and
  • support the eight trial projects in evaluating their own areas of work.

Consultant Helen Beetham will be working with Jay on the overall evaluation, and providing links to other areas of JISC work where appropriate.  These are exciting times; as the trial projects are close to completion, the project team will be synthesising project outputs/outcomes and disseminating key findings across UK further and higher education.

The project team will meet with Jay and Helen in the near future to refine plans for the two evaluation activities; if any of the trial projects have any comments or questions please feel free to add them below or email the project team directly.

On a final note, we’d like to thank everyone that submitted an expression of interest to undertake the work.  The quality and diversity of bids was exceptional! The marking process was certainly difficult for us, but the outcome is sure to be beneficial for the project as a whole.

Online Communities of Practice: maintaining interest

The first cluster meeting was held on 19th January 2010 and hosted by The University of The Arts London. The theme was ‘Online Communities of Practice: maintaining interest’ and 5 Trial projects were represented.

Paul Lowe introduced the topic drawing upon the work of Etienne Wenger. He made the point that Communities of Practice describe a social discipline of learning and the terminology is often misused as a buzzword. Communities of Practice focus on learning and knowledge exchange. The group discussed Wenger’s various models before relating these to their own practice.

Paul showed the group the OPEN-i site describing how they had started the community and maintain interest. It is a very active site with regular well-attended webinars which also attract high viewing numbers post-event. Practitioners (community members) include academics, industry professionals, aspiring entrants (students) & alumni – all brought together for a global network. He also runs ‘Wave Day’ each Tuesday with his students, using Google Wave for project management brainstorming. The team are currently involving the practitioners in the review of the site.

Brain McCaul, University of Leeds, gave an outline of the Leeds Innovation Network and how the Trial Project is working in a number of different areas with the premise of ‘Innovation Division of Labour’. Many different communities are being brought together allowing technology transfer officers to organise external skill sets enabling people to be employed on short term contacts for specific pieces of work/research. Leeds is working with institutions in Reading, Manchester and Liverpool, using social media to find experts and outreach work.

Chris Parkin, University of Huddersfield, provided some background to his Trial Project which is working with the West Yorkshire Lifelong Learning Network, a national network with huge hierarchy attending monthly face to face meetings resulting in a lot of time being invested. They are trialling Elluminate, working with vocational training providers and encouraging online practices to save time and money. This involves breaking down the preconceptions of Elluminate etc and identifying ways of removing barriers.

There followed a general discussion about the range of tools being used within the Project and it was suggested that this could be the topic for a blog post (this will follow shortly).

The group decided to continue the discussions online (using Google Wave) and share their ‘Top Ten Tips for generating and maintaining an online community of practice’. Some of the group had not used Google Wave before and so this was also seen as personal development.

This is the first in a series of three BCEct Cluster Meetings looking at the common themes which have emerged from reports submitted, discussions and the project blogs.

The next two cluster meetings are:
• University of Huddersfield 25th February 2010 – Theme: Culture (Institutional & External)
• Birmingham Metropolitan College 31st March 2010 – Theme: Technical & IT Barriers