Future gazing in Liverpool with JISC

Last week I travelled to Liverpool to represent CILIPS and SLIC at the annual JISC Conference.  JISC11 was held at the BT Convention Centre adjacent to the Albert Dock on the waterfront and was attended by around 600 people, although not many of those were from Scotland. This perhaps reflecting pressures on training budgets (for the first time JISC  charged for attendance at their annual conference) and staffing arrangements.  The event offered 29 sessions presented by 10 speakers.

‘Financial challenges – digital opportunities’ addressed  delivering services during a period of challenging financial circumstances for institutions and for JISC itself which has been the subject of an independent review commissioned by HEFCE.  Professor Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor of Bristol University, used his keynote address to highlight the importance of the use of technology by the sector to encourage student applications, predicting that within ten years there would be more students studying in their own home towns and local education institutions to save on costs.

Strategically, when the recommendations of the Review have been implemented, JISC is going to look quite different.  Already, in Scotland, we know that the JISC Regional Support Centre, North and East is to close, although cross Scotland coverage won’t change. So it will be interesting to monitor the progress of the working groups being led by Malcolm Reid, JISC Executive Secretary and Professor David Baker, Deputy Chair of JISC, as they enter into consultations with JISC staff and members on the Review recommendations.


Liverpool Lambananas come in many varieties

Apart from the general updating and keeping abreast of technology in education, for SLIC and CILIPS three topics were of particular relevance:

1)       Event amplification – a term coined by Lorcan Dempsey.   With  over 250 on line users in ‘virtual attendance’ or ‘dropping in’ remotely to live streamlined sessions, conversations or social media sites, JISC itself was extending its reach and attempting to overcome some of the difficulties its members have in making time to travel to and attend the conference. A most useful session explored  event amplification and its potential to widen participation by exploiting networked technologies to do so through live streaming video, slides on Slideshare and ‘back channel’ discussions on Twitter.

2)       Digital Literacy – the ability to locate, organise, understand, evaluate and analyse information using digital technology. As JISC points out, with   90% of new jobs  requiring excellent digital skills, improving digital literacy is an essential component of developing employable individuals who can make best use of digital opportunities.  Using the findings of the Supporting Learners in a Digital Age (SLIDA) JISC funded project, this session explored how institutions can better develop the digital literacies of their community. It’s well worth an exploration of the virtual goody bag on this topic.

3)      Rethinking libraries – innovation in a time of limited resources explored how libraries can remodel services to deliver more efficiently. Following on from the recent RIN report on ‘Challenges for academic libraries in difficult times’ this was a timely and useful discussion from JISC who have a strong record in supporting libraries and their services. It was heartening  to learn that  as well as working with colleges and universities to embed core digital skills into the curriculum JISC is   proposing a new programme of work to support organisational strategies and approaches for improving digital literacies for all staff and learners.

Much of the material from the Conference including streamed videos  has been made available by JISC and it’s well worth taking some time to explore this.

Well done to all for a fascinating and engaging day in the home of the lambananas!


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