With the partnership work drawing to a close, we are now at a stage where we can identify common themes and issues running across the partners. The final resource to be hosted on the JISC infoNet website will have content of interest to a number of managers and internal teams within institutions, not just those directly involved in engagement with businesses and the wider community and not just IT Managers – the traditional JISC audience in addition to practitioners and senior management. In some cases, some of the issues which arise in one area have knock-on effects on other areas. Hardly surprising for an activity that is emerging as a major priority to sit alongside the long-standing core areas of Research and Teaching & Learning.
On Thursday 16 July 2009 I gave some initial feedback to a meeting of IT Managers, brought together with the assistance of UCISA by JISC Netskills as part of the BCE Awareness and Education for the Wider JISC Community project.
The IT-related feedback included such issues as the need for access to network file structures external to the institution by those who spend the greater part of their time working off campus.
Whilst Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are available to most staff delivering work-based learning or CPD on employers’ own premises, it is not always possible to develop learning content without access to networked files and development tools.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or web-based technologies such as Citrix allow secure access to internal networks from the outside world and are well established in some institutions. But often, these technologies are implemented for students but not necessarily all staff.
Where staff do not have access to their group workspaces and network tools, the decision has to be made whether to use the VLE, which may require travelling to and spending time on-campus, or whether to set up an externally and commercially hosted website which can be maintained from anywhere.
The problem of campus working is exacurbated when you consider that many staff involved in delivering work-based and CPD courses are third-party sub-contractors rather than university or college staff. Particularly in the FE sector, where teaching staff terms and conditions are focussed on the fulfilment of contact hours (as opposed to hours spent travelling to and from different sites), there are many such third parties involved in delivery of training.
If the development of course materials and evidence of assessment is stored on the wider Internet there is a danger of Intellectual Property (IP) being inaccessible or even lost to the institution.
John Burke, Project Manager