If you are an undergraduate or a recent graduate with a piece of independent research that you’re proud of—or you’re a lecturer with students like that—please read on! Newcastle University is looking for people to represent us at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research 2018.
The Jisc Digifest 2023 was held on 7-8 March at Birmingham ICC (it was also online) and I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s event.
According the Digifest website Digifest is:
‘a celebration of the creative minds who think differently, who introduce new ideas and technologies to their organisations. Whether it’s the researcher at the cutting edge of vaccine development, the lecturer inspiring the next generation or the manager leading digital transformation, Digifest is for the innovators of tomorrow.’
The two days both had a packed agenda of exciting talks, presentations, discussions, and great catering. The agenda was based around celebrating innovation in all its forms using three key tracks:
Learning, teaching, and resources
Leadership and culture
The agenda was so packed, you couldn’t get around everything. Here are some of my highlights from the event and some useful links to follow up if you wanted to know more.
The event started on the Tuesday with Heidi Fraser-Krauss, chief executive of Jisc, welcoming everyone to Digifest 2023.
This was followed by a great keynote presentation from Inma Martinez, a digital pioneer and AI scientist, and a leading authority in the sectors of digital technology and machine intelligence. Since the 1990s, Inma has been a revolutionary figure within the technology industry and has become well known for her talent to create social engagement through technology. She’s been recognised as one of the top 50 AI influencers to follow on Twitter and one of the top 20 women changing the landscape of data.
Inma’s session was called ‘How artificial intelligence will ignite human creativity and help pave the way to human and machine innovation’: AI is making incredible (and fast) inroads into the innovation processes of many creative industries. This session explored how education will benefit from an AI that enhances human creativity, and how the future of innovation is a collaborative sandbox for humans and machine intelligence. The key takeaway from Inma’s session was not to panic. Although Open AI is here and it’s probably not going anywhere, the question is, how we can use it, rather than how is it going to change everything. AI can’t replicate our own imagination and emotional intelligence. Neoteny (a new word for me) is something that only we as humans go through and this how we can use AI to our advantage rather than panicking about how AI might change our industry.
Before lunch (which was very good), I managed to catch three further sessions.
Firstly, a lightning talk called ‘Fostering authentic assessment and feedback to hone 21st-century skills’. In this session, Abdulla Dilimi showcased how TU Dublin, OsloMet, and Deakin University cultivated high-quality feedback and authentic assessment with the help of pedagogical technology. The session was very good. As you’d expect, it was giving high praise to authentic assessment, focusing on how authentic assessment could combat some of the negative aspects of open AI technology; and how personalised feedback is a key benefit to authentic assessment.
The second session was called ‘How green is your campus? Supporting a student friendly, sustainable hybrid campus’. In this 30-minute session Anne Robertson, head of EDINA services, University of Edinburgh, gave a presentation of simple and fast location data solutions that:
Support students to find their way around campus, highlighting sustainable travel solutions and helping them find and book study spaces.
Enable estates colleagues to sustainably and safely manage the physical estate.
Assist with effective energy management, in a hybrid working world.
With the use of campus maps and real time analysis, University of Edinburgh helped students to become greener and get the best out of their time on campus. To maximise the use of university spaces and ensure that students could find a space to study with friends or individually across their vast campus.
The final session before lunch was a session about using virtual reality in teaching and learning practical skills. Josephine Grech, biology lecturer and digital excellence leader from Cardiff and Vale College gave a demonstration of how virtual reality is used in training learners for WorldSkills competitions, but also how it is applied in the classroom to increase engagement and learning outcomes. This was really engaging as a viewer and clearly engaging for the students. It is also student-led and student-developed to enhance the learning for others.
The first session in the afternoon was a keynote panel discussion with:
Paul Burne, customer success/service lead – hybrid edge, Amazon Web Services (AWS);
Karen Cooper, senior director – offer management, Honeywell;
Gareth Piggott, major accounts manager, Fortinet;
Richard Jackson, lead cloud security specialist, Jisc.
The title for the panel was called ‘On the Edge’ and was about a cloud-based programme called Edge Computing. This session was quite interesting and went through the benefits of this product.
The final session of the day was around Micro Credentials and how these have been utilised at Abertay University. They have seemed to get the best out of micro credentials using them across multiple courses in stage one and providing students with skills outside of their discipline.
The second day opened with a truly inspiring keynote presentation by Dr Sue Black, entitled ‘If I can Do It, So Can You’. Sue told the story of her life and career, the ups, the downs, and how by putting herself out of comfort zone, she was able to achieve so much and support so many other women.
Sue talked about her passion for getting everyone excited about the opportunities that technology offers, how she brought her family out of poverty and built a successful career through education, and a determination to succeed.
This was a great way to start day two of the conference on International Women’s Day.
Here are some links to find out more about Sue, her work and how she saved Bletchley Park:
Tech Up – retraining women from underserved communities into technology careers.
#Techmums – #techmums is here to take the mystery out of technology. Whether it’s helping you to reconnect with old friends via social media, chatting to your child about online safety or finding out how to use technology to help you at work, #techmums can help!
The rest of day two I managed to take in these sessions.
Firstly, Richard Buckley and Kate Whyles from Nottingham College delivered a session called ‘What does that button do?’ Shifting digital culture and growing innovation, engagement, and attainment at Nottingham College. The presentation went through how a small but perfectly formed team of six is at the forefront of developing and promoting a culture of digital curiosity, innovation, and increased collaboration to help drive up standards in teaching, learning and assessment in one of the UK’s largest FE colleges. My key takeaway was the phrase Positive Nuisance, I like that concept. How can you be a nuisance to others but in a way that will positively affect our students.
The second session was about how good AI and using things like the WHO5 can be for supporting students with their mental health and allow us to safeguard our students. Professor Peter Francis, deputy vice-chancellor (academic), Birmingham City University, took us through how their project developed a ‘predictive analytic system’ that integrates data from across university sectors and generates a predicted likelihood score for students experiencing poor wellbeing in the following month.
Implementing a model of student consent for this system, approximately 70% of the student population consented and this predictive system has shown over 80% accuracy in identifying students at risk of poor mental wellbeing. Through this identification they were able to intervene proactively through tailored messages to students that highlight wellbeing services that are proportionate to their level of risk.
The final session before I braved the snow and the long train journey home was about why you should consider student-led learning for your future education.
The session focussed on four key areas to fuel activity and deepen learning for our students. These were:
This will help students to develop job-readiness and learn to take responsibility themselves.
Digifest 2023 was a fantastic conference, and I would recommend getting along next year if you can. Please get in touch if you would like to know more, and thank you for reading.
Booking is now open for this series of events later in January, giving you an opportunity to join the discussion about our future teaching and learning spaces on campus.
This month sees the launch of The Art of the Possible: The Future of Education Spaces, a series of special talks and presentations designed to get us all thinking about how teaching and learning at Newcastle University might look in the near future.
Through this programme of online and in-person events, which is running between 24 and 28 January, we are aiming to open up new avenues for discussion between Estates & Facilities, students and colleagues who either teach or support teaching activity. The sessions are designed to inform, inspire and get everyone thinking about what we’ve learned from the past 22 months and how we might do some things differently going forward.
By taking part, you’ll get the chance to input into the ongoing investment strategy in our education spaces, which will in turn feed into the overall estate masterplan for the campus.
The Art of the Possible: The Future of Education Spaces programme is now confirmed and booking for all events is open. You can view the full events schedule on the project webpages and you can also find out more on the NU Connect homepage.
The call for abstracts for Three Rivers 2022: ‘Engaging Students: Building Communities’ is now open.
Building upon the success of previous partnership events held by the region’s Universities (Teesside, Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland and Northumbria), our theme for 2022 is ‘Engaging Students: Building Communities’. Three Rivers 2022 will be hosted online by Northumbria University. The keynote speaker for the conference is Prof Peter Felten, executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and Professor of History at Elon University, US.
The theme of the Three Rivers Conference 2022 is how we engage students in learning through building communities. The conference will look at how on campus communities support student engagement, contributing to a sense of belonging, and through this enhance retention and widening participation; as well as collaborations with communities and partners that create authentic inquiry based learning opportunities for students.
Colleagues and students are all invited to submit an abstract by the 18 April 2022.
Registration is free for colleagues and students of the 3 Rivers Universities consortium, and will open on 28 February, closing on 28th June 2022. If you have any further queries or questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Join a working group
Colleagues are invited to join a working group that aligns with the conference themes. These groups provide a forum for bringing together and sharing ongoing work across the five partner universities in the form of strategies, initiatives, and practices that engage students through building communities. Each working group will prepare for a panel presentation at the conference.
Working Group 1: Engaging Student in Authentic Inquiry Based Learning with Communities
If you would like to join this working group and/or would like to share and discuss work you and/or your colleagues are conducting in the area, please initially email Dr. Sue Mathieson email@example.com by the 14 February 2022
Working Group 2: Enhancing Student Engagement for Retention, Progression and Attainment
If you would like to sign-up to be part of the Enhancing Student Engagement for Retention, Progression and Attainment working group and/or would like to share and discuss work you and/or your colleagues are conducting in the area, please initially email Dr. Sam Elkington with your contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org by the 14 February 2022.
The successful team is made up of Dr Chris Graham, Christian Lawson-Perfect and Dr George Stagg.
Chris, Director of E-Learning, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics said:
“We are absolutely delighted to receive the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence, recognising our E-Learning Unit’s contribution to our School, institution and wider community, in enhancing the teaching and learning of mathematics, with initiatives such as the Numbas e-assessment software.
“The award celebrates our collaborative approach to establishing Numbas as a tool used here at Newcastle by over 3,000 students each year in Schools across all three faculties, and at our Malaysia and London campuses. And recognises our role worldwide, with several key international partnerships, a role in high profile national projects in primary and secondary education, and over 2,000 teachers worldwide using our assessment software.
The e-Assessment Association has announced the shortlisted finalists for its international awards programme, The e-Assessment Awards.
We are delighted to announce that the Newcastle University Digital Exams Service has been shortlisted in the ‘Best Use of Summative Assessment’ category.
The e-Assessment Awards programme holds a unique position, as it encompasses all sectors of education: from schools, through further and higher education to workplace training and professional exams. The Awards programme was launched in October 2016 to highlight and celebrate the outstanding and positive contributions that technology makes to all forms of assessment, and has gone on to showcase the best practice, research and innovation in the sector.
Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education, recognised this excellent acheivement:
“The nomination reflects the fact that we are a leading institution in the sector for digital exam provision. It also recognises our commitment to ongoing innovation, exemplified by the recent introduction of digital written exams that students can take using their own devices.
The Digital Exams Service plays a pivotal role in providing our students an educational experience supported and enhanced by technology, which is one of the four key themes of the University Education Strategy. Delivering a diverse range of summative exam types in a secure online environment enables authentic assessment, enhances the accessibility of exams for all of our students, and supports the University’s commitment to lowering its environmental impact by reducing the amount of paper required for exams.
The success of digital exams at Newcastle University is founded on collaboration between academic and professional services colleagues in academic units across the institution, together with the Learning and Teaching Development Service, IT Service, and Exams and Awards Office. This commitment to collaboration and innovation provides a strong foundation as we prepare to meet the challenges of delivering rigorous, authentic, and accessible assessment in the new educational landscape resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Knowledge Exchange for Learning and Teaching in HE.
Colleagues are invited to submit an abstract to deliver a paper at the upcoming Three Rivers Learning and Teaching Conference which will be held on the 24th April. Please see the information below:
This 15th regional conference builds upon the success of
previous partnership events held by the region’s Universities (Sunderland,
Northumbria, Durham, Newcastle and Teesside).
The teaching community are invited to contribute to critical discussions on Knowledge Exchange as part of learning in higher education. This involves exploring how our institutions enable student learning as part of Knowledge Exchange processes in higher education, establishing why they are powerful approaches to student development, and sharing experiences of their impact on the students’ learning experience.
Since the title of this conference is ‘Knowledge Exchange for
Learning and Teaching in HE’, contributions are welcomed on learning and
teaching initiatives in higher-education which form part of Knowledge Exchange
The call for abstracts is now open to staff and students (as co-authors) at Sunderland, Newcastle, Durham, Teesside and Northumbria universities.
You might be working on a dissertation, or you may have devised your own topic for an assessment. You might have worked with an external company, or worked with a researcher over the summer to help them with their research project. All types of research are welcome.
Postgraduates are also welcome to apply as long as the research was completed while they were an undergraduate and they graduated within the last 12 months.
Practical, transferable skills! Taking your learning outside the University! CV points!
British Conference of Undergraduate Research
What: the UK’s premier conference for research done at undergraduate level
Where: University of Leeds
When: 6-7 April 2020
How: presentations or posters
Posters in Parliament
What: an opportunity to present your research in the prestigious surroundings of Westminster Palace
During 2019-20, Advance HE will be running a series of one-day Innovation in Teaching Practice Workshops.
With teaching excellence still a major focus of the HE sector, and increasing pressures across institutions to respond to policies such as the subject level TEF in England and challenges such as the mental wellbeing of both staff teams and students, Advance HE’s workshops will provide practical guidance on improving your teaching practices working alongside peers from a range of institutions and disciplines.
As members of Advance HE, staff at Newcastle University are able to receive discounted rates for Advance HE development programmes, conferences and events. Although there isn’t central funding for such events, your school may wish to fund relevant opportunities. Whether you are near the start of your career, an academic, a member of professional services, a senior leader in an executive team or working in governance, Advance HE have timely and tailored development opportunities for you and your teams.
Successful students will represent Newcastle University with a poster or oral presentation at the main BCUR conference in the Easter vacation, or with a poster at Posters in Parliament in February / March.
What you need to know:
You will need to have time the w/c 25 November to review approximately five to ten 250 word abstracts.
Staff from all disciplines are welcome, as specific subject knowledge is not required to review the abstracts. BCUR’s events are generalist, so contributions are expected to convey findings and their importance to a non-specialist audience.
Rating criteria will be provided.
The reviewing panel will not convene physically; it will be done electronically.
This opportunity to submit an abstract to the conference will be promoted to students soon. If you have any questions, or know of any students with some impressive undergraduate research, feel free to contact the organising team at email@example.com.