intouch - summer 2010 - RSC East Midlands newsletter

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The summer 2010 edition of the termly newsletter published by the JISC Regional Support Centre for the East Midlands.

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<ul><li><p>Cloud computingIn this edition of intouch we take adelve into cloud computing. Its thelatest buzz phrase of 2010 but whatdoes it mean? And how will it changethe way in which you work and yourlearners learn?</p><p>We look at some of the drivers for thischange, offer some advice on how tostart using it in your organisation andgive you some resources andexamples to draw on.</p><p>intouchthe termly newsletter produced by RSC East Midlands Summer 2010 Volume 8: Issue 3</p><p>Stimulating and supportinginnovation in learning</p><p>Contents1 Cloud computing</p><p>overview2 Regional News2 Communication survey</p><p>results3 Brief guide to web 2.0 </p><p>4 Software in The Cloud4 Using Google Docs5 Best practice in the UK5 Resource Corner6 Hints &amp; Tips6 Celebrating e-learning</p><p>in the region6 Scholarly activity7 Focus On: Sustainability7 JISC news8 Forthcoming Events8 Changes at the RSC8 Technical training needs</p><p>Historically, many organisations havealways kept their electronic files andprograms that they use close at hand byhaving them stored away safely andsecurely on their own computers andnetwork servers. Perhaps the definition ofclose at hand has now changed though. </p><p>With Internet connections being so fastand reliable nowadays across the globe,that close at hand probably meansbeing able to download and be workingon your document within a few seconds.Do we care where our documents arestored, as long as it is safe and secure andwe can get to them quickly and easily?</p><p>A number of universities and colleges havestarted the trend and now outsource theirstudent email accounts to GoogleMail,some are also using GoogleDocs orMicrosoft Live@Edu to create, store andshare their documents, spreadsheets,presentations and other work. </p><p>As well as email and workspace storage,facilities offered by The Cloud includesoftware to collaborate and share,graphic/photo editors, projectmanagement tools and programs similarto the Office suite of programs. </p><p>So it all sounds great doesnt it?Reduced costs of hardware/softwareinstallation and maintenance, plus you</p><p>can access all your emails, documentsand other programs from anywhere inthe world with an internet-connectedcomputer or mobile device. However,this cloud doesnt always have a silverlining as any savings in manpower maynot be significant because these extrafacilities still need to be set up andadministered by your IT team. </p><p>A main concern, though, is the risk ofgoing over to a system that relies on asafe, secure connection to the Internet.Youve experienced it yourself no doubtwhen your Internet or email goes down,how many of you feel as though yourhands have been cut off? What will yourstudents do in class now? And whatabout those deadlines? </p><p>Strategies therefore have to be in place inyour organisation to cope with thepossibility of internet access not beingavailable for short or longer periods of time.</p><p>So does cloud computing sound scaryor does it sound sensible? If workingin The Cloud is good enough foruniversities, colleges and countlessother organisations across the globe,then you seriously have to considerwhether you should use it for yoursoftware as a service.</p><p>Looking to the heavensAs purse strings become tighter, organisations need to bethinking of many different ways to save money but at the sametime improve efficiency in their working practices. For manyyears businesses have been carefully doing this by outsourcingsome of what they do to reputable companies.</p></li><li><p>2Regional NewsTechnology ExemplarNetworkSeveral East Midlands based learningproviders have been named asdeveloping providers as part of theBecta organised Technology ExemplarNetwork (TEN).</p><p> Acorn Training Consultants Ltd Boston College Castle College Nottingham Chesterfield College Derbyshire Adult Community Grantham College Homefield College Leicester College Lincoln College Linkage Community Trust New College Nottingham Northampton College South Leicestershire College Stephenson College Stubbing Court Training Ltd</p><p>They join ISIS Training which wasnamed last year as one of theexemplar organisations in the network,who is holding an Open Day on 23rd July in Lincoln to showcase howthey use technology with their learners.</p><p>Regional AwardsJane Eaton at Loughborough Collegewas the first winner of an RSC EastMidlands Learning Technology Awardfor her work on development of theColleges learning platform, LearnZone.</p><p>Jane was selected for demonstratinginnovative use of ILT in her teachingand learning practice in the Hair,Beauty and Complimentary TherapiesTeam, the quality of which had beenrecognised through internalPerformance Standards and Reviewpanel meetings.</p><p>She developed the departmentsMoodle area into a very attractivelearning environment, as well as aneffective means for communicatingwith learners about news items,course matters, and developments.Staff in her own and other teams haveasked to work with Jane to improvetheir own work using ILT.</p><p>Whats in your </p><p>At the end of 2009 we carried out a communications survey inthe region to find out how people were keeping up-to-date andfinding out information. The results overall showed that peoplein the sector were generally relying on more traditional methodsand usage rates of newer technologies were quite low.</p><p>Jane Eaton being presented with her LearningTechnology Award by Audrey Traynor, one ofthe governors at Loughborough College.</p><p>The communications survey had a verygood response rate with 175 completedquestionnaires and a good spread ofrespondents by sector, department andlevel of responsibility, as well as arepresentative sample of the contacts theRSC holds for the region.</p><p>Traditional methodsRespondents were asked about thenumber of emails that they received on adaily basis. The pie chart below (Figure 1)shows their responses a fairly evenspread overall, but still high levels. Only ahandful of respondents had less than 10emails coming into their inbox every day!</p><p>17% of respondents had more than onework email address. Did you know thatyou can set up a universal email account(e.g. gmail) so email is forwarded fromyour different accounts into one placeand then you can reply out of the accountusing any of the addresses? A tip thatsworth bearing in mind if you do need tomanage multiple email addresses.</p><p>The level of postal mail was, notsurprisingly, much lower than email. Onlya quarter of respondents received morethan ten items a week, but 84% still had atleast one item being sent to them a week.</p><p>Receiving SMS messages wasnt justrestricted to the 40% of respondentswho possessed a work mobile phone.Almost half of the sample received work-related communications direct to thephone, although the majority didntreceive many messages, as shown in thepie chart below (Figure 2).</p><p>Newer technologiesIn the last few years there has been anexplosion of new technologies that havemade e-mail look old school. If youare unsure of what any of the followingare then check out the handy little guideon the far right. In our survey the overallpicture was that there was a fairly lowtake-up of the newer technologies.</p><p>Respondents were asked whether theyused communication channels such aspodcasting and vodcasting for work;whether they had tried virtual worlds(such as Second Life) for teaching; orused what are commonly referred to asWeb 2.0 tools (such as blogs, wikis andsocial networks) with their learners.</p><p>Figure 1 Volume of email received daily</p><p>Figure 2 Volume of SMS received weekly</p></li><li><p>inbox today? A very brief guideto web 2.0 toolsIf youre unsure what some of thesenewer technologies do, then this quickguide will hopefully help.</p><p>RSS feedsRSS stands for Really SimpleSyndication but many peopledescribe it as a web feed or newsfeed that you subscribe to. Thesubscription is dynamic, not periodic,with new information delivered to youevery time theres an update on awebsite youve subscribed to ratherthan you having to visit it yourself.You can also set RSS feeds up in someemail clients e.g. Microsoft Outlook.</p><p>One to try out: Our news feed</p><p>BlogsA blog (a contraction of the termweb log) is a type of website,usually maintained by an individualwith regular entries of commentary,descriptions of events, or othermaterial such as graphics or video. </p><p>One to try out: www.stephenfry.com/blog</p><p>MicrobloggingUsers write a message on their mobilephones to create posts, or tweets ifusing Twitter, and send them so thatthey are uploaded on to the internet.The posts can be about any topic andare available to be read by anyone.</p><p>One to try out: www.twitter.com/JISC</p><p>PodcastsIn its simplest form, a podcast is anaudio file that is broadcast throughthe internet. You can therefore listenanywhere, anytime, either at acomputer or when on the moveusing a mobile media player.</p><p>One to try out: Digital Planet from the BBC</p><p>VodcastsSimilar to a podcast but this time film-based rather than just audio.</p><p>One to try out: MoLeTV</p><p> and that still leaves other toolssuch as wikis (e.g. Wikipedia), socialnetworking (e.g. FaceBook), and socialbookmarking (e.g. Delicious). </p><p>You can find out more about some ofthese communication tools in theLearner Voice hub at our e-fair on22nd June in Leicester.</p><p>3</p><p>The usage rates for these tools surveyedranged from 1% to 37% as seen in thechart above (Figure 3). </p><p>Those using any of these individual Web2.0 tools were more likely to be alsousing other tools. So usage isconcentrated in a relatively small groupand has potential implications for anyonewanting to adopt these methods.</p><p>EventsIn light of the current climate beingexperienced by many learning providersit may come as no surprise to hear thatrespondents had limited opportunitiesto get out of their organisation andattend events, with only a third ofrespondents getting to more than oneface-to-face event a month.</p><p>However, generally, there was more face-to-face event activity rather than online,showing that this virtual method ofdelivery is still fairly fresh to many people,with almost half of respondents havingnever attended an online event. See thechart below (Figure 4) for full details.</p><p>RSC CommunicationsThe final part of our survey asked morespecifically about the way in which wecommunicate with you. The responsewas very positive with over three-quarters of people rating our efforts asgood or excellent (Figure 5).</p><p>We try to target our information as muchas possible to make sure that you dontget irrelevant emails, mailings orpublications. A small handful (12%)wanted more contact, an even smallerproportion (7%) thought there was toomuch contact, leaving the vast majorityhappy with the current level of contact.</p><p>Respondents said that they found our e-bulletins or e-newsletters that go out tothe ILT, Learning Resources andAccessibility &amp; Inclusion email lists(JISCmail) helpful. Likewise our intouchnewsletter was beneficial with 99% ofthose receiving it finding it useful to them.</p><p>A full version of the results of howdifferent communication methods areused by people working in the post-16education and training sector in theregion is available via our website atwww.rsc-em.ac.uk/communications.asp.You can also get intouch with ourInformation Officer, Kevin Spencer on kevin.spencer@rsc-em.ac.uk or 01509618112 if you have any further queries.</p><p>Figure 4 Attendance at events/forums/networks</p><p>Figure 5 Rating of RSC communications</p><p>Figure 3 Use of new technologies (by percentage of respondents)</p></li><li><p>4Softwareavailable inThe CloudThis software in The Cloud is usuallyfree to use and can be used for yourown productivity and by students inthe classroom. </p><p>Whilst these may not have all thefunctionality of the more traditionaland more expensive products, youmight well find that they provide allthe facilities that you and yourstudents need.</p><p>PIXLR available at www.pixlr.com is anonline photo editor and drawing tool,with a similar look and feel to AdobePhotoshop. It even uses layers formore complex editing.</p><p>TitanPad available atwww.titanpad.com is an onlinecollaboration tool, for holding onlinediscussions for meetings. Considerusing it for discussions and thoughtswith students in the classroom. Themessages can all be saved for later use,perhaps as evidence for coursework.</p><p>ProjectBubble available atwww.projectbubble.com is a simpleproject management tool. The freeversion allows you to create projects,tasks and deadlines for 3 clients.Whilst this is a useful tool for use inthe workplace, it could also be usedby students to plan out theirassignments, projects and targets. You can also invite other members ofthe team in to collaborate on tasks.</p><p>Dropbox available atwww.dropbox.com is a file-sharing,collaboration, online back-up and filesyncing facility all-in-one, but thisprogram makes it all so easy. Savingdocuments into your dropboxautomatically sends it also to yourweb-based dropbox and anycomputers where you have it installed,resulting in perfect synchronisation offiles between computers.</p><p>Documents in The Cloud</p><p>So far some educational organisationsmight have outsourced only their studentemail systems, but perhaps now is thetime when we should at least consideroutsourcing more to The Cloud with theadvent of document creation and storagesolutions out on the internet, all connectedback to your organisation through JANETor a broadband connection. </p><p>GoogleDocs and Microsoft Live@Eduseem to be the key players in onlinedocument generation and storage. Bothoffer word-processing, spreadsheet,presentation and other facilities to createmost office-based documents. </p><p>Google doesnt offer as much storagespace as Microsoft (1GB as opposed to25GB) but both offer the user thecreation of a portable document that canfollow them wherever they have internetaccess. And in the era of a lifelonglearner, that could be an importantconsideration. The learner now has astorage space that could last them alifetime, moving from school to collegeto university to job after job after job.</p><p>To use these facilities the user doesntneed to have the software installed ontheir local computer, they only require aweb browser connected to the internet. Intodays era of server virtualisation and thinclients on desks, the PC provided for theuser need not be so powerful and hencewill be cheaper. So whilst there could besavings on IT equipment and runningcosts, some of that may be negated by thecost of increased bandwidth use.</p><p>So why is it that only the students inthese organisations have made thetransition into The Cloud so far and not</p><p>the staff? Perhaps for one or more of thefollowing reasons:</p><p> the fear of a security and/orconfidentiality breach with data (e.g. from the MIS, the HR system,students marks);</p><p> the potential of losing that data; the possibility of losing the internet</p><p>connection during the working day; the required change in working practices.</p><p>It is important, therefore, to undertake arisk management exercise to quantify theeffect of a move to more use of The Cloudso you can outline strategies that shouldbe incorporated to minimise the risk. </p><p>In your risk analysis, you must alsoconsider what might be happening inyour organisation at present are USBdata sticks, laptops or insecure emailsbeing use...</p></li></ul>