Get involved with our intelligent campus hackathon

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As part of our edtech launchpad programme we are looking for student teams from universities and colleges across the UK to join us in building the campus of the future.

The aim of the hackathon is for student teams to design, develop and build “something” that would benefit students in the world that is the intelligent campus.  We are looking for some creative students to spend a week in August working to build and test tools that can enhance the student experience and make the campus more intelligent.

There’s up to £1,000 in prizes up for grabs, we’ll provide you with equipment and cover your accommodation and expenses.  .

Venue: Conference Aston, Birmingham

Timings: 12:00 Monday 6 August to 13:00 Friday 10 August

You’ll will need to bring laptops and the ideal team size is 2-4 people.

for more information contact paul.bailey@jisc.ac.uk

Entry form

Come along and join us – lets create something exciting.

Strategic approaches to the intelligent campus

Strategic approaches to learning analytics in UK higher educationThe opening paragraph in the Jisc publication Strategic approaches to learning analytics in UK higher education says:

Learning analytics cannot yet be considered a mature field in UK higher education. However, the use of data about learners and their learning to address areas such as attrition and curriculum enhancement is increasingly being investigated through projects at an institutional level. 

This will resonate with many individuals in UK higher education who are investigating the use of data in the intelligent campus space.

The document takes you through the many different approaches to learning analytics and this landscape is similar to the landscape of the intelligent campus.

There is no single driver behind the intelligent campus, for some it’s about improving and enhancing the student experiences, for others it’s about making effective use of the estate and learning spaces. There are demands for efficiencies in space utilisation, and reduction of costs of energy, water, maintenance and waste collection. There are a diverse range of reasons and strategies that results in interest in the intelligent campus space.

The document is an interesting read on the current learning analytics landscape and is a format we may look at late in the intelligent campus project.

Download the document from the Jisc repository.

Learning from intelligent tourism

Cinque Terre

In this news piece, Tourism pressures: Five places tackling too many visitors – BBC News,  there is an interested use of technology by empowering visitors with knowledge of how busy the paths in the cliffside towns of Cinque Terre.

Tourists cannot get enough of the five brightly painted cliffside towns in northern Italy known as Cinque Terre. The area, which has about 5,000 residents, became a national park in 1999 and now receives more than two million tourists per year. People come to hike the scenic paths that link the towns and the terrace vineyards. Over the years, the walkways have fallen into disrepair from erosion and overuse.

Faced with this problem, the park authorities came up with a technological solution for the tourists. 

Lately, park authorities have been trialling an app which tourists can download to see the number of people on the routes in real time. When a red warning sign shows, a path is overcrowded and visitors can then make up their minds if they want to join the throngs. In the future, they may trial virtual waiting lists.

One of the discussions that has come out of the recent Intelligent Campus community events has been about empowering students with knowledge through data, to enable them to make informed decisions that will enhance their experience.

It is easy to see how providing students with information on how busy parts of the campus is then they can (like the tourists) make up their minds if they want to join the throngs in the library, the catering facilities or the computer labs.

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You could do this three ways.

  • Use historical data to inform the students.
  • Use live data to inform the students.
  • Use predicted data, based on historical and live data to provide future information to students.

How you collect data is a different question, you could use software such as Lone Rooftop to measure occupancy using wifi and the devices learners are carrying. Some universities are using infra-red technology to measure occupancy (with less impact on gathering data about individual users).

Removing frustrations, making timely and appropriate interventions are just some of the ways you can enhance the student experience. Providing them with accurate insight into where they want to go and what is happening there goes some way to do this.

Intelligent Campus Data Requirements

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We’re working on ways to improve the student experience by capturing and analysing the many kinds of data that can be collected across university and college campuses. This research is developing alongside our effective learning analytics project and our work to build a learning analytics service.

At the core of the learning analytics service is the learning data hub where academic and engagement data is collected, stored and processed.

We’ll extend the learning data hub to enable data to be gathered in from physical places (movement trackers, heat and CO2 sensors, for example) and from systems that record and monitor space and equipment usage, timetabling and other activities.

Our vision for the intelligent campus is that we will work with existing services rather than compete against them. We will establish a standardised data hub for the intelligent campus. This data hub will make it easier for institutions to collect data from their various software and devices and will allow vendors to build tools that analyse data from a range of software and devices to deliver tools and insights to students, teachers and institutional managers.

This is the same model we have used for learning analytics and after some initial scepticism learning analytics vendors have embraced the concept as it reduces their cost of sale to institutions and allows them to access richer data more easily. Similarly institutions see the value in the learning data hub approach since it takes the pain away from extracting data from institutional systems and helps them avoid vendor lock in as standardising the data means it is easy to switch all their existing data to a new provider. The diagram below illustrates our proposed approach.

Intelligent Campus Data Requirements

The Jisc learning data hub sits in the middle layer of the diagram and works with existing and new vendor products in the top and bottom layers. The top layer relates to the use cases we have identified in earlier blog posts.

The other significant differentiator is the link to our learning analytics data. Most existing products focus purely on the smart campus idea of making the estate more efficient and responsive to user needs. By using this data alongside our learning analytics data, we can explore how the use of the campus relates to learning progress and outcomes and use these insights to make improvements.  

Smart Campus: a route using 4G and 5G to serve the Smart City

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Jisc in partnership with GSA have published a new report by Esmat Mirzamany (Jisc) and Joe Barrett (GSA) on how universities and cities could work together to build a smart city taking advantage of the connectivity and computing capacity unleashed by the next generation (5G) mobile networks.

“Smart City” has become a hot topic in recent years. While still in its infancy, the new and extreme broadband connectivity and computing capacity unleashed by the next generation (5G) mobile networks, is bringing the power of Smart City solutions to our cities. The success is driven by the fact that Smart City and its services have the power to support necessary utility functions in today’s cities, and also creating completely new business models and value propositions while enhancing safety and comfort of its users; both citizens and visitors. Based on Deloitte1, a city is smart when investments in (i) human and social capital, (ii) traditional infrastructure and (iii) disruptive technologies fuel sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life, through sustainable management of natural resources, as well as through participatory governance. They are other definitions for Smart City, however; one can say a smart city is a city with more contented and involved citizens, thanks to the digitalisation of different aspects of their life. During recent years there have been several smart city projects, with different business models and planning. Nevertheless, apart from a high cost of running such projects, one thing common to all of these activities is a “use-case driven” nature of such activities. That means use cases chosen for the smart city project make the foundation of its success and are the essence of a viable business model. So, the ability to choose the best use cases with the best technology solutions- given the circumstances- is the key to the success.

You can access the report from the Jisc repository.

Also related to 5G is a recent news article on the Jisc website, exploring the view of  Andy Sutton, visiting professor in the School of Computing, Science and Engineering at the University of Salford – who spoke at the “mobility” session at Networkshop46.

Reflections on the Intelligent Campus Community Event in Sheffield

Jisc Intelligent Campus Community Event

Sheffield was the setting for our first Intelligent Campus Community Event for our new community of practice. The community of practice gives people an opportunity to network, share practice, hear what various institutions are doing and what Jisc is doing in this space. The event proved popular with Jisc members and over 70 people had booked onto the event.

After providing an initial introduction on the Intelligent Campus realm, we moved onto a range of presentations from Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). Ian Glover gave an insightful introduction to Bluetooth Beacons and how SHU have been using them across learning spaces.

Jisc Intelligent Campus Community Event

You can find out more about this project on the project blog.

We had a presentation about how SHU were using Lone Rooftop to look at space utilisation using wireless technologies. Manual usage counts was expensive and didn’t provide a realistic picture, whereas a technological solution was more accurate and cost effective.

We also had a presentation about the use of information kiosks.

Finally a presentations about the use of beacons to support induction and a self guided library tour of the library.

I then provided a presentation about the Jisc project in the Intelligent Campus space.

As well as covering some of the background to the Intelligent Campus space, the presentation also shows what Jisc is doing in this space, how we are doing it, and why we are doing it. The Intelligent Campus space is quite vast and wide, the Jisc project though looking at the large space is quite focused on extending our analytics services into the physical world.

At the core of the learning analytics service is the learning data hub (formerly called the learning records warehouse) where academic and engagement data is collected, stored and processed.

We’ll extend the learning data hub to enable data to be gathered in from physical places (movement trackers, heat and CO2 sensors, for example) and from systems that record and monitor space and equipment usage, timetabling and other activities.

By analysing when and how rooms are used organisations will be able to make smarter, more effective use of learning spaces and other facilities across campus and to improve curriculum design and delivery.

One useful link posted to the Twitter was about the guidance on using Wifi Location Analytics and Data Protection:

After lunch we had na activity looking at use cases in the intelligent campus space.

We then had Ian and Sally taking about learning spaces at the University of Nottingham.

Jisc Intelligent Campus Community Event

We also heard details about their Microsoft Surface Hub pilot.

Jisc Intelligent Campus Community Event

The final session of the day was a round table with delegates in the room discussing what was happening in their organisations.

Jisc Intelligent Campus Community Event

The second of these events took place a few weeks later in Glasgow.

The third of these events is being hosted and  taking place at Plymouth Marjon University on the 21st June 2018 from 10:00 to 4:00, and lunch will be provided.

You will have the opportunity to discover more about the Jisc project that is being undertaken in the Intelligent Campus space as well as hear from others about their work in this exciting topic. There will be plenty of opportunities for discussion and networking.

Book now.

Reflections on the Intelligent Campus Community Event in Glasgow

Intelligent Campus Community Event 10th April 2018 – Glasgow

Travelling up to Glasgow I was reminded how airports are using a range of technologies to track and cater for passengers as they travel by air. We know big airports are using technologies such as wayfinding to help travellers quickly access the right gate when boarding their plane for example. These technologies are easily transferable to the education setting, but we do need to consider not only if we can do this, but should we, how does this enhance the student experience and what are the benefits to the institution?

Glasgow was the setting for our second Intelligent Campus Community Event for our growing community of practice. The community of practice gives people an opportunity to network, share practice, hear what various institutions are doing and what Jisc is doing in this space. We had delegates from across Scottish HE and FE, in addition to numerous English and Northern Irish colleagues from as far away as Kent, Weston-super-Mare and Belfast.

Since our last community event not a huge amount has happened in the two or so weeks since then, and it was a very different audience, so I repeated the session I did in Sheffield on the project and where we were.

As well as covering some of the background to the Intelligent Campus space, the presentation also shows what Jisc is doing in this space, how we are doing it, and why we are doing it. The Intelligent Campus space is quite vast and wide, the Jisc project though looking at the large space is quite focused on extending our analytics services into the physical world.

At the core of the learning analytics service is the learning data hub (formerly called the learning records warehouse) where academic and engagement data is collected, stored and processed.

We’ll extend the learning data hub to enable data to be gathered in from physical places (movement trackers, heat and CO2 sensors, for example) and from systems that record and monitor space and equipment usage, timetabling and other activities.

By analysing when and how rooms are used organisations will be able to make smarter, more effective use of learning spaces and other facilities across campus and to improve curriculum design and delivery.

After my introduction and overview of the project, we had Michael Burns from the University of Glasgow talk about the background and history of their Smart City initiative as part of their new £800m campus extension.

Intelligent Campus Community Event 10th April 2018 – Glasgow

After lunch we had na activity looking at use cases in the intelligent campus space.

Then Professor Matthew Chalmers from the School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow gave a presentation on his work on Bluetooth beacons and sensors acorns the Glasgow campus and the impact it had on the student experience.

Following Matthew, Ben Fairburn from Cisco talked about their experiences in creating an intelligent campus at Cisco. This has a lot implications for HE and FE institutions where 50% of staff are in management, professional, service and administrative roles.

Intelligent Campus Community Event 10th April 2018 – Glasgow

At the end of the day Professor Brian Murphy from Ulster University talked about their plans of using AI within their new campus.

Intelligent Campus Community Event 10th April 2018 – Glasgow

The third of these events is being hosted and  taking place at Plymouth Marjon University on the 21st June 2018 from 10:00 to 4:00, and lunch will be provided.

You will have the opportunity to discover more about the Jisc project that is being undertaken in the Intelligent Campus space as well as hear from others about their work in this exciting topic. There will be plenty of opportunities for discussion and networking.

Book now.

Intelligent Campus Community Event 21st June 2018 – Plymouth Marjon University

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If you are working in the area of the Intelligent campus and are interested in work being undertaken in this space by others, then we would like to invite you to attend one of our community events.

The community of practice gives people an opportunity to network, share practice, hear what various institutions are doing and what Jisc is doing in this space.

  • Smart City
  • Smart Campus
  • Wayfinding
  • Wi-Fi Heat Mapping
  • Mapping
  • Space Utilisation
  • Smart Buildings
  • RFID tracking
  • Wi-Fi tracking
  • Facial recognition
  • Chatbots
  • Robots
  • Artificial Intelligence

The third of these events is being hosted and  taking place at Plymouth Marjon University on the 21st June 2018 from 10:00 to 4:00, and lunch will be provided.

You will have the opportunity to discover more about the Jisc project that is being undertaken in the Intelligent Campus space as well as hear from others about their work in this exciting topic. There will be plenty of opportunities for discussion and networking.

Book now.

The Intelligent Campus Community – a lightning talk at Digifest

The intelligent campus community

At Jisc’s Digifest 2018 in Birmingham I gave a ten minute lightning talk on the Intelligent Campus Community we are building to support the Intelligent Campus project.

The community of practice gives people an opportunity to network, share practice, hear what various institutions are doing and what Jisc is doing in the intelligent campus space. The community will understand how the intelligent campus project is developing and progressing. This ten minute lightning talk will provide an overview of the intelligent campus project. Why we are building a community and what they will gain and benefit from by being part of the community. They will also find out how to get involved.

As well as chatting about the community, I gave a brief overview of the project as well as introducing the community.

The first of these events is being hosted and taking place at Sheffield Hallam University on the 23rd March 2018 from 10:00 to 4:00, and lunch will be provided. Book now.

The second of these events is being hosted and  taking place at the University of Glasgow on the 10th April 2018 from 10:00 to 4:00, and lunch will be provided. Book now.

Chat Bot Ready

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Kate Nicolson, a Graduate Education Technologist at Jisc at the end of January attended the Social Software Development Meetup in Manchester. Here she discusses some of the presentations and thinking from the various presentations.

The talk ‘the future of chat-bots’ by Gary Pretty in Manchester was not what I expected. Anticipating a social hypothetical discussion on the application of chat-bots the group received insight to the current technological climate of customer relations followed by a series of practical demonstrations of the application of chat-bots using Microsoft Azure Bot Service.

Mr Pretty opened with a brief introduction of himself as the technical strategist, senior developer and one of the Microsoft MVPs at Mando in Liverpool. The scene was soon set with a quote:

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” – Mark Weiser, Chief Technologist at Xerox.

There is a world of ubiquitous technology where the act of ‘talking’ to devices now being a widespread ‘norm’, so much that non-technical folk old and young are comfortable with AI like Alexa and Siri; this gives chat-bots an opportunity they have not previously had. Chat-bots have been around a long time, however people are now aware of them and understand they are a tool, not a novelty or a trick.

There are now more installations of messenger apps than social media apps. Messenger apps are a domain that are commonplace and part of people’s daily lives. Companies that utilise chat-bots on messenger platforms can reach people in their own familiar territory. Making people come to a website, dial a phoneline or travel to a store, forces them to learn unfamiliar layouts or territories to find a way to get want they want or need. A chat-bot understands the language they use, is in a format they use every day and is laid out in way that is easy to navigate and revisit.

Example: Proactive customer service

The lights go out in your street, you pop on a messenger app and start a conversation with your local utilities company. It greets you, you ask what is wrong with lights in your street, it takes your postcode, it gives you a status update and lets you know it will message you with updates. The messages stay, your details are kept, a few months later you’re at work, you get a message saying that there are issues in your area and they will be resolved asap. This enables you to plan ahead, you’re happy that they have kept you informed and you didn’t have to chase them when you got home.

Example: Cross-platform support

You’re doing research on education technology trends. Using outlook to email a research chat-bot gives you a good 5 articles to start your framework. After laying the framework you start a skype chat with the bot to pull out more supporting arguments and recommended journals around an area. The recommendations spur on ideas that you comment on as your conversations will archive in outlook to build up your notes for later. Later that week as you shape up your report you get a SMS from the bot notifying you that a new journal has come available that has strong correlation to the themes of your report and supplies you with a link.

Bot creation is not artificial intelligence, it is conversation design. The code is a combination of sections listening out for triggers and cascading flows of programmed responses. A bot could listen for the person to ask a question, it will check if something particular is mentioned and will give the appropriate information. The bot can be programmed with defaulting responses like “sorry I don’t understand can you rephrase it”. Depending on the app it is plugged into the bot could present premade options to make the conversation easier to progress through. The bot designer will usually aim to craft a conversation path that gives the desired outcome or information as efficiently as possible.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is available as plugins, optional attachments, that the bot can use to be more sophisticated and adapt more effectively to the needs or goals presented. Some AI require training before the bot is launched, this means running it through sample scenarios about 200 times so it learns what it should be doing given its context.

Example: Image Analysis

A casting agency app asks potential models, actors or extras would create a profile and upload a picture. The picture would be analysed to check that someone was in the picture, that they didn’t seem scary or aggressive, check there was only one person in the image and that it was ‘suitable for all audiences’. The bot was then able to accept or advise appropriately by responding with something like ‘Hi, I’m afraid there are too many people in this picture, I won’t know which one is you’.

Example:  Sentiment analysis

A useful plug in that can detect levels of anger, stress or upset and score it between 0 and 1. In linking it to a first line customer service chat-bot, it will know when to hand over the enquiry to a human ‘college’ when the sentiment hits a certain level. Issues can be resolved in the most appropriate way, quick and efficient bot for the easy FAQs and complicated ones passed to trained advisors before well before the stress escalates too high.

Some AI plugins are ready to be used by the bot without training.

Example: Translation

Of course, it is recommended that if you have a large proportion of your users from a particular country then you should invest the time and money on translators and cultural consultants. However, to cater to smaller demographics quickly and cheaply the translation AI can do real-time audio and PowerPoint slide translation for live/streamed audiences. It can utilise the context of the words to increase accuracy, but note it may not be able to handle obscure technical, subject-specific or scientific terms.

Excellent free open source bot makers are available, and so easy to use you could make a bot in minutes with minimal technical know-how. The community of bot makers is always expanding and forging tools to make it easy for anyone to create their own.

Example: QnA Maker

Microsoft My QnA service maker is a super slick easy tool to instantly have a bot that can tackle all frequently asked questions. All that is required is to upload a document, spreadsheet or simply point the maker at a web address of the product’s manual or a company FAQ, this is then automatically converted into a knowledgebase. The bot is then immediately able to respond to any question in the knowledgebase with the appropriate answer. This gives a way for the customer to get solutions on channels that are quick, convenient and familiar.

The talk was educational and energising, finding that not only is the world ready for this approach to service delivery and that it is extremely simple to achieve with the right tools. The applications for not only educational services but also resources are endless. It is exciting to think ahead and look forward to having a wide range of bots each tailored to facilitate processes, research, education, collaboration and so much more. This is a great leap towards technology adapting to the natural behaviours of people, contrasting to the old ways of people bending to restrictions of device design.