Continuity and consistency; answering the core challenge of blended learning

Al Kingsley from NetSupport – he discusses blended learning and edtech

The future success of eductation lies within the ability to adapt to ever-changing situations such as the global Covid-19 pandemic. Here Al Kingsley, MD at NetSupport, school governor for 15 years and Multi-Academy Trust Chair, discusses using edtech to ensure blended learning is consistent… It is fair to say that in the run up to lockdown even the most digitally savvy schools weren’t fully prepped for the challenges it presented. As many schools had never incorporated edtech consistently into the classroom environment, let alone used it to support remote learning, the change in format proved a challenge for students (and many teachers too).  Lessons have been learned, and schools know that they will be required to plan for blended in-class and remote schooling for months (if not years) to come. Those schools that already had digital strategies in place must now flex those strategies and reset their priorities to support much greater blended approaches. For those that were caught by Covid-19 without any digital strategy in place, it has been an even steeper learning curve.  Schools across the board must reassess their digital strategies; whether starting from scratch or adapting their vision. That’s why, alongside ICT evangelist, Mark Anderson we have released a new version of the popular ‘Guide to Creating a Digital Strategy in Education’ to provide updated guidance taking account of the new landscape schools now have to navigate. Ongoing upheaval and inconsistency  In speaking with school leaders, it has been clear that a major obstacle faced by schoolteachers and students during lockdown was that of inconsistency. Just a few weeks into the new term schools across Britain have been subject to closures and classes directed to self-isolate in response to coronavirus, with teaching again moving out of the classroom to remote models. This inconsistency and upheaval is a huge challenge to overcome.  With the need to switch easily between class and home, schools must seek to implement EdTech that delivers that vital sense of consistency and continuity across all classroom environments, be it virtual or real. Continuity and consistency must now be a core pillar of schools’ digital strategies, not just to answer immediate needs but to ensure robust, strategic focus for the future.   By adopting class management technologies that are as relevant and useful in the classroom as they are in the home-learning environment, schools can achieve seamless integration in between the two. As the National Foundation for Educational Research recently recommended, in preparing their remote learning plans, schools should give consideration to: “…making sure that the school has an effective platform for sharing work with pupils and receiving submitted work, such as a virtual learning environment (VLE); making provision for online lessons, and for interactions between pupils and teachers and between pupils and other pupils; providing activities that involve consolidating learning; using strategies that focus on helping pupils to become independent learners.” In answering the ongoing need for blended learning, school leaders must now assess how to create virtual learning environments that provide consistency and continuity, but that also ensure effective support for teaching and engagement for learners.  Cloud-powered, blended learning makes it possible for teachers to create a virtual classroom that can function efficiently no matter where you and your students are located. Of course, in order for this to be a smooth experience, you’ll need the right kind of platform, featuring a variety of tools that assist in behaviour management, feedback and communication, making online learning as engaging as the ideal in-class environment. Functionality aside, a solution is only successful if its easy to use and staff have confidence working with it.  Four must-have features for blended learning platforms  1. Screen locks and monitoring  All teachers know how difficult it can be to get your students’ attention. When you’ve got a class of 25-30 students, it’s essential to be able to get everyone engaged to get every lesson off to a good start.  Being able to lock your students’ screens minimises disruptions and enables teachers to get everyone’s attention quickly and efficiently. If you need to explain a concept, set learning goals or simply convey important information, having the ability to lock screens in an instant is invaluable.  Similarly, by selecting edtech platforms that allow easy monitoring, you’ll find it easier than ever to ensure your students remain on task throughout lessons. With real-time monitoring tools, you can check what a student is doing, watching or listening to at any time. This gives teachers the tools and authority they need to keep pupils on track and manage their lessons with ease. 2. Multi-Platform Functionality When you’re choosing which virtual classroom solution to use, be sure to consider the wide range of platforms that students will be using. If pupils are learning from home, for example, they might be trying to access the platform on desktops, laptops, tablets or even phones. With so many manufacturers and operating systems, it’s vital that your edtech functions optimally across a wide range of platforms.  3. Student Interaction Interaction is at the heart of learning, so it should be a top priority when it comes to classroom and remote learning edtech tools. Without effective interaction functionality, lessons delivered by edtech become a passive experience for students. When your platform facilitates interaction, however, students can play an active role in the learning experience and gain more from your lessons.  Help requests enable students to resolve queries, for example, while group chats ensure that students can work collaboratively, even if they’re physically distanced. Additionally, student surveys and feedback forms give you the opportunity to determine which areas students may be struggling with and what virtual learning techniques they’re gaining the most from.  4. Increased Permissions No matter the age of your students, it’s essential to have control over their internet usage on school time. Being able to set permissions ensures that you can restrict the websites and applications that are available to your students via the school network.  As well as shielding pupils from inappropriate content, this feature helps to keep

DFRobot to showcase its IoT-enabled ‘Smart Garden’ at Bett 2020

DFRobot - micro:bit-designed ‘smart garden’ at Bett 2020.

DFRobot, a world-leading STEM education solution provider is boosting engagement with STEM with the help of their micro:bit-designed ‘smart garden’ at Bett 2020. Embracing the power and versatility of micro:bit throughout its range of STEM resources, DFRobot is blending ‘smart garden’ design with Internet of Things (IoT) technology to show students and teachers how to monitor and instruct intelligent systems by combining the knowledge and skills from block coding, programming, science and nature in one powerful and engaging lesson.   Using the Maqueen Plus and Maqueen Mechanics – AI-enabled robotics kits – visitors will have the chance to see how the products work in an exciting ‘Intelligent Transportation’ display. This will demonstrate the varied and dynamic functions of Maqueen products – from being able to recognise tags and acting like miniature mechanical beetles.    This cross-curricular approach is becoming increasingly important with blended learning and practical applications forecast to take centre stage in edtech in 2020. Consequently, demonstrating the flexibility of applications for products like micro:bit is becoming a priority for teachers and school leaders.   At the forefront of robotics, programming and coding edtech, DFRobot is also hosting a series of three-part workshops at Bett. During these workshops, attendees will learn about: the artificial intelligence-driven HuskyLens camera, the graphical programming Maqueen robot and how this can be used with HuskyLens to gain unique insight into the opportunities that can emerge from robotics and AI when used in tandem, and finally, a hands-on session during which participants are invited to join in a live coding exercise.   Ricky Ye, Chief Executive Officer at DFRobot, said: “We are incredibly excited about our offering this year at Bett – from innovative products and creative displays to exciting workshops, the event is going to be packed full of engaging learning experiences. Our products are designed to excite young people about science, technology, engineering and maths and we believe our dynamic and innovative products do just that, offering students an early and interactive introduction into coding, programming and AI.   “The workshops will be particularly insightful, and we are looking forward to sharing our ideas and helping teachers and schools enhance their STEM opportunities.”   Pop by Stand SA43 to speak with Edward or any of the DFRobot team, who will be happy to provide a personal demonstration of any of the exciting products in their robotics suite and advise on which resources would be the best fit for your school.

BenQ helps school integrate 44 interactive flat panels

A pupil writes on the interactive flat panel by BenQ

Over 40 Interactive Flat Panel (IFP) displays from global electronics manufacturer BenQ have been integrated into Woodmansterne School in London, as part of a large-scale transformative expansion and dedication to providing exceptional educational facilities to its students. Building a state-of-the-art secondary school to accompany its primary school facility, Woodmansterne School appointed experienced education technology integrators, Partnership Education to specify and manage the AV integration for the five-fold expansion. Increasing its student intake from 350 to 2000 pupils, Woodmansterne School specifically requested an interactive display solution which would be easy to use for students ranging in ages from 2 – 16 years, as well as its staff.  Specifying the 75” RP750K IFP from BenQ’s RP Series, Partnership Education installed 44 displays throughout classrooms, support rooms, dedicated music studios and library to encourage active learning. Featuring 4K resolution, 20 multi-touch interactivity and BenQ’s exclusive EZWrite software, Woodmansterne has future-proofed its site for students as they progress through their school years. Sam Palin, executive headteacher, Woodmansterne school: “We love the greater display size BenQ were able to provide, that was a key feature for us and we were also able to put a couple in the library and in the support rooms. I would also say the support we’ve had in terms of training has been really good so absolutely, I’d recommend BenQ.” BenQ provided teachers with initial training with the IFPs as well as ongoing support and additional training twice a year, ensuring all staff felt confident with the equipment and can use the full educational software toolbox of features on offer. As a result of the large roll-out, Woodmansterne has entered BenQ’s list of “super users”. Woodmansterne’s IT department utilised BenQ’s exclusive Account Management System (AMS) to provide teachers access to their lesson plans and materials on any display throughout the entire school, as well as gain remote access for display maintenance and service. In addition, Partnership Education specified cutting-edge equipment across five IT suites with 3D printing facilities, to dedicated music studios and a high-tech assembly hall. The school operates on a dual fibre network system integrated by Lynx Networks, with the primary and secondary sites operating independent networks. After the school had suffered with delays and quality issues from its previous project, the overall challenge for Partnership Education was to deliver the project on time and within budget. Palin continues: “What Partnership Education has done has worked in harmony with us. They’ve been completely committed to delivering on budget and delivering ahead of schedule. For me personally, we went from the worst experience a headteacher could have on a new build to one of the best experiences that you could have.”   For more information, find BenQ on Twitter or visit the website. BenQ will also be attending Bett 2020 and can be found on Stand SP20.    

Schools must make sure edtech passes the test on new online harms regulations

John Ingram, CEO of Pamoja Education, explores the rising use of edtech and how the new Online Harms White Paper will affect the use of existing edtech.

John Ingram, CEO of Pamoja Education, explores the rising use of edtech and how the new Online Harms White Paper will affect the use of existing platforms. Today, the dangers of being online and using edtech are manifold, especially for young people. There is online bullying, hate speech, child grooming, extremist or terrorist political radicalisation (such as in the widely publicised case of ISIS brides), and even “suggested” posts on social media that influence children to self-harm or take their own lives. While internet providers and social media companies have taken some steps to protect users, the overall response to online harms has been intermittent and unsatisfactory. Inevitably, governments are now waking up to the scale of the dangers, and earlier this year the UK government was one of the first to unveil a proposal that aims to tackle them through its Online Harms White Paper.  With the Queen’s Speech in October confirming that legislation is currently being drafted, the Online Harms White Paper will create a new regulator with wide-ranging powers that will define how social media and tech companies must manage content on their platforms. Importantly, it introduces the legal concept that companies have a “duty of care” to their online users – those that do not adequately moderate content may face substantial fines, penalties or even be blocked from the UK. With any company hosting user-generated content – from group forums upwards – likely to fall under the new legislation, this would include many current and future edtech companies that will find their products being used in the UK’s schools. Given that edtech products are usually aimed at young people, edtech companies have a particular responsibility to think about possible harms – in fact, safeguarding is as important in edtech as it is in any school. Digital platforms and products are also increasingly social in nature, connecting learners with teachers and each other – so they can pose risks similar to any social network. Figures from around the world also illustrate that the number of young people using social edtech is huge and growing. In India, the number of Edtech users is anticipated to jump 600% between 2016 and 2021; global edtech social media networks Edmodo and Brainly have now grown to 87m and 150m active users respectively; educational app Kahoot!, which is also used globally and allows user-generated content, has been used by 830m people (with 50m active users per month). The question naturally arises of how edtech companies will moderate content to satisfy the regulations. While such interventions must be practical, we believe that responsible edtech businesses should build the appropriate duty of care into their operations from the beginning – and if their business models do not allow for such safeguards, then the models need to be revised. With so many new edtech startups coming onto the scene each year – often with founders who come from technology rather than education backgrounds – companies need to be careful to ensure safeguarding and content monitoring are key concerns. After all, reputation and trust are everything when it comes to schools choosing edtech. This is why edtech companies must also ensure from the beginning that they keep user data private, don’t use it for commercial purposes, and take the necessary measures to protect their platforms from any intrusion. US edtech platform inBloom – which had to shut down over a data privacy backlash from parents and school districts – serves as a cautionary tale. There are other important questions raised by the UK government’s proposal that edtech companies need to consider and be wary of. It is in the nature of the Internet to extend across political borders, so will edtech platforms hosted in Ireland or the Netherlands be covered by the regulations as long as they have UK users? If not, won’t companies just register or host elsewhere? A regulator that ensures companies’ compliance with future-proofed standards may make the UK an attractive place to start or invest in a digital business – but equally, we should be cautious about how regulation might affect innovation. And what safeguards will prevent the regulator, once created, having its scope and remit widened in the future – and exerting more control over the industry than promised? Nonetheless, we should remember that while an online regulator could be a welcome development, it shouldn’t reduce edtech companies to passive compliance. A truly safe online world will only come when companies proactively build these concerns into their business – and think about their users with as much care as they do their venture funding or IPOs. Schools should make sure the edtech they use in the future ticks all these boxes.  

Shaping the next generation of software developers

GitHub's Developer Pack for future software developers

There are over 300,000 software developers working in the UK alone, and according to The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that software developer jobs will increase by 30 percent between 2016 and 2026 as new technology emerges. Here at GitHub, we want to help teachers train the next generation of software developers.  GitHub Education helps students, teachers, and schools access the tools and resources they need to learn all about software development. It is used by 1.6 million students and more than 27,000 teachers. For teachers, the GitHub Student Developer Pack is a way to encourage your students to learn with industry-standard tools, so they can shine on technical teams once they start their career. Introduced six years ago, the GitHub Student Developer Pack was built to provide students with the exact tools they needed to learn about software development. Since then, we’ve continued to listen to feedback from students and teachers around the world to make sure we’re bringing you the tools you want to enhance your training. The Pack provides students with the opportunity to develop their software portfolios, be it building a new desktop app, or creating an interactive map.  This year, the pack includes over 50 of the best industry developer tools, which represent over £52,000 in the total value of services but at no cost to students. Resource and tools found in the Pack range from:    AWS Educate, reliable, scalable, and inexpensive cloud computing services, free training, and collaboration resources  Bootstrap Studio, desktop app for creating responsive websites using the Bootstrap framework Better Code Hub, an online source code analysis service So far, the program has provided over 1.5 million students around the world with the best real-world developer tools for free, and is promoting the importance of computer science to more students. It’s available for all verified students aged 13+, anywhere in the world where GitHub is available. They can join the Pack to receive GitHub Pro at no charge while in school and university, and receive exclusive offers from GitHub Education partners.  The purpose is ultimately to show future software developers how we can use code to speak to machines, to each other, and help build the world around us. In addition to the Pack, GitHub Education is deepening its commitment to the education community through offerings such as new learning modules for the Campus Advisor Program to prepare teachers to teach with Git, GitHub, and other industry tools in their classroom.  An example of how professors use GitHub Education comes from professors Keith O’Hara and Sven Anderson at Bard College, New York, USA. They wanted to make significant strides in the diversity of computing, and sought to do so by connecting computing to other disciplines, like art and biology. They ran a workshop using GitHub Education teaching students how to write algorithms to generate poetry, make a robot sing and dance, or create virtual fish for a group fish tank. These fun and engaging workshops are helping to change attitudes towards computer science, and other STEM subjects.  If you’re looking for other inspiring coding projects to start with your pupils, check out the GitHub Student Gallery. 

How a virtual learning environment can transform higher education

virtual learning environment

Greg Crichton, Head of Information Services at Oxford Brookes University, discusses the university’s IT strategy, and how its agile virtual learning environment continues to help it achieve its vision of transforming university life through the use of digital technologies. At Oxford Brookes University, our IT Strategy 2020 is well underway. The key outcome of this long-term strategy is to deliver and support a rich set of information technology services that are customer-focused, and contribute to our vision of transforming university life through the use of digital technologies and services. Providing information technology services that meet the needs of our students is a key objective for our IT Services. Their needs are diverse and they are generally very early adopters of new technologies, which create opportunities for the University’s IT landscape. In 2013, as part of this strategy, we started our partnership with CoSector – University of London, when we decided it was time to implement a new Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Drive for change The first project I inherited when I moved to a new role in the University was to implement a new VLE. The drive for this change came from student and staff, who told us that the existing platform wasn’t flexible enough. This resonated with our IT colleagues as, from a technical viewpoint, its flat hierarchy didn’t allow us to create categories that could represent programmes. In order to align with the IT strategy, we wanted to offer a much more versatile approach, and at Oxford Brookes we strive for quality when selecting new digital services, specifically favouring ones that are future proof and can adapt to changing needs. Part of our strategy continues to be focused on the use of technology to enhance both the transactional elements of staff and student experiences and transformational learning, which underpins a commitment to providing an excellent online learning experience. In order to achieve this, it is vital that the university offers an attractive, digital learning experience that meets the needs and expectations of both our staff and students. Oxford Brookes decided to do some peer analysis and requirements gathering, to evaluate the services that other institutions were using. Once this process had been completed, Moodle, a widely used VLE, was seen as the right solution for us. CoSector was chosen as the service partner due to its knowledge of the sector, being an academic institution itself. Today, the University works with the CoSector Digital Learning team, which includes the hosting and technical support of the Moodle VLE platform, including Mahara (e-portfolio) integration. An ongoing partnership The original tender for the VLE implementation was very technical, and CoSector were initially required to only host the Moodle platform. However, since the partnership began, our relationship has evolved significantly and we’ve expanded the use of Moodle into other areas outside of online learning; including the integration of student management records and mobile apps. As a result, the Moodle platform has changed from a standard VLE, into one of the University’s most used digital services, and it has become thoroughly embedded into the University’s digital environment. And maintaining a 24/7 service is critical to teaching and learning at the University. CoSector provides ongoing technical support and advice for this, and both organisations have since embraced a service credit model, which provides a better understanding of how much capacity each side has, and allows for easier communication. This gives a level of independence to the University: for example, if a product requires changes within the Moodle platform, the University can quickly inform their Digital Learning team, and, as a result of opting into the tailored Service Level Agreement service, we can request the installation of third-party plugins as well as plugins developed onsite. This activity is based on an element of trust between both parties; speeding up the process and enabling a better workflow between the two organisations. Oxford Brookes has a vision to be at the forefront of digital transformation in the HE sector, and good working partnerships are fundamental to this vision succeeding.   Bournemouth & Poole College select CoSector – University of London for its virtual learning environment Bournemouth & Poole College is home to 11,000+ students from across the region, the UK and the world. The institution is the largest provider of Further Education (FE) and Apprenticeships in the surrounding area. The college supports a range of values, among them a passion for learning and success, within a supportive and caring environment. In order to uphold these values, it is important that the college offers the best learning experience that is supportive to the needs of every student. Bournemouth & Poole College’s core focus is on developing the work skills of students to ensure that at the end of their study, they are well placed to start or to progress in their chosen career. The college has a strategic plan ‘The Bournemouth & Poole College strategy 2017-2020: Inspiring Excellence’ to ensure it meets this vision. The ambition is to be recognised for excellence and by 2020, the college will be outstanding with student achievement rates amongst the highest. To help achieve its mission, the college has a number of areas of focus including; offer flexibility in delivery, developing its curriculum to meet the skills needs of the local economy; value and empower its staff and unlock their potential and make the college an attractive place to work; and foster innovation and be prepared to take risks, whilst ensuring a high trust culture. To this end, the college needs to offer an attractive, learning proposition that will enhance and enrich the student experience.  Challenge In 2012 the college was using a virtual learning environment (VLE) platform, however this solution provided a high renewal quote and did not support the Individual learning plan (ILP) that Bournemouth had in mind for its staff and students. They therefore sought a new VLE that would support the features it needed, as well as providing a modern looking front end, that staff and students could interact with quickly and efficiently,

Teachers need to be taught digital skills to make the most of classroom technology

digital skills – a teacher using a tablet in class with children

Ash Merchant, Education Director at Fujitsu UK and Ireland, discusses how the digital skills gap among teachers is costing the UK economy… The UK is facing a growing digital skills shortage, which is now estimated to cost small businesses £145,000 next year, and to impact the UK economy to the tune of £141 billion in lost GDP growth. As the UK approaches further political and economic disruption, these figures could worsen if the skills gap isn’t addressed. With the rate of technology and digital innovation moving at an unprecedented pace, many people are feeling as though they’re struggling to keep up. And this goes double for those in the education sector, who are responsible for imparting that knowledge to the next generation. Consequently, it’s never been more important for them to be up to speed with emerging and new technologies, in order to best prepare the nation’s youth for the future of work in a modern and digital-first world. Digital skills begin in the classroom  The next generation are digital natives. They have grown up in a connected world and have never experienced a life without computers or internet connectivity. What this means is that many students actually surpass their teachers when it comes to digital aptitude, and potentially leave teachers feeling unprepared to teach their students on such a crucial topic. Worse, if teachers themselves lack the right knowledge and skills, they won’t be able to adequately ensure students gain the skills necessary in the digital era. Although it goes without saying that teachers want the digital skills to properly educate, we found that over half feel it’s difficult to keep up with technological change. And this is being felt by more than just teachers; according to government statistics, 11.3 million adults in the UK lack the basic digital skills required to operate effectively in day to day life – from activities such as sending emails or completing an online form and a further 4.3 million are said to have no digital skills at all. Empowering the teacher It’s clear that teachers need support when it comes to keeping up with technology, so it’s crucial that the technology industry makes an effort to arm them with the skills required to educate the next generation before they enter the workforce. For example, at Fujitsu we have our Certificate of Digital Excellence (CoDE) programme. Understanding the need for the next generation to have the right skills when entering the industry, we created CoDE, a free, online learning experience for teachers, which helps educate them on topics such as Artificial Intelligence, IoT, cyber Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Big Data and Programming and Robotics. Each of these has been recognised as a technology or skill needed by the next generation to help with their future careers. By empowering teachers with this knowledge, they can promote the best range of skills to students, while also providing excellent levels of knowledge to ensure we are fostering a generation that is equipped to compete in a digital Britain. A collective responsibility Ultimately, if we want to prepare the next generation to lead the way with the UK as a global tech hub, we need to focus our attention on investing in upskilling the teachers. To achieve this, the education sector not only has a responsibility to ensure its teachers and students have the most up to date and relevant education, but it’s also important that the technology companies who are creating the jobs of the future play a role in transferring the necessary skills.  

Accelerate your pupils maths ability with Maths-Whizz

Maths-Whizz projects on computer

Looking for a way to raise student attainment in maths and ease teacher workload at the same time? Have you considered Maths-Whizz, the multi-award-winning online tutor from Whizz Education?   What is Maths-Whizz Made up of four core elements, including the award-winning AI driven tutor, in-depth assessment and reporting tools, a bank of high-quality resources and the customer success team. Each element works together to help progress maths within schools.    How can Maths-Whizz help With just 45-60 minutes per week on Maths-Whizz, your students’ maths ability will, on average, increase by 18 months in their first year of use* – that’s a six-month acceleration!    How does Maths-Whizz achieve this? By providing each student with a personalised learning journey that matches their unique needs and pace of learning.   After an initial no-pressure online assessment which pinpoints each student’s strengths and weaknesses across the maths curriculum, the Tutor provides them with fully-individualised, interactive lessons which aim to close the specific gaps in their knowledge. What’s more, it does all this without teacher input!    That’s not all though, our Assessment and Reporting tool allows teachers to view student progress in each individual topic, while our Teachers’ Resource has a collection of over 1240 exciting lessons and worksheets all in one convenient location.       The Maths-Whizz Money Back Guarantee    At Whizz Education we always keep our promises.   So when we say 45-60 minutes per week will accelerate your students’ maths attainment – we mean it! In fact, we’re so confident of this that we’re prepared to give you a full refund if at least two-thirds of the students who use Maths-Whizz for a minimum of 45 minutes a week over one year, do not experience more than 12 months growth in their Maths Age.**  Please note that you need to purchase at least 100 subscriptions for this offer to apply. If your school has less than 100 students, you will need to purchase Maths-Whizz for your entire school.   Sound interesting? T&Cs apply    *Research by Whizz Education – conducted with over 12,000 students and verified by independent experts – found that students who used Maths-Whizz for 45-60 minutes a week increase their Maths Age, on average, by 18 months in the first year of use.    **Maths Age is a measure of how each student is progressing through the Maths-Whizz curriculum. Students are first assigned a Maths Age after the initial assessment, which then grows as they progress through Tutor.    

Edtech provider CoSector partners with Janison

Growing your ICT provision effectively - a boy on laptop

CoSector – University of London, the provider of choice for products and services that enhance and enrich digital learning, has announced a partnership with Janison, a provider of learning and online assessment platforms, in order to bring efficient digital assessment to the UK higher and further education sectors. The partnership means that customers of CoSector – University of London will be able to purchase digital assessment software directly through Janison. It will then be implemented by CoSector, which will also provide ongoing customer support for the assessment platform. The Janison digital assessment platform allows education organisations to create the assessment, and deliver it in a locked-down, controlled environment, as well as closely manage the marking process. It also offers an analytics tool that, once results are in, can help staff identify how to improve student performance through reviewing the data.   The benefits of an online assessment solution include improved efficiency, with intuitive platform that allows educators to quickly and easily design authentic assessments that include engaging multimedia, and tailor them to students with specific accessibility needs. Security-wise, for students, it means that their tests are now completely traceable through a digital footprint once submitted, meaning less room for human error and mistakes in the delivery of their results. Tests can also be sent to examiners to review faster, which means that results arrive sooner. James Silcock, Commercial Director at CoSector – University of London says, “Partnering with Janison will allow us to offer a smarter and much-needed solution to the outdated assessment practices currently used by organisations in the higher and further education sectors “Digital assessment addresses the current challenges of paper-based assessment, being the unengaging media format, the environmental issues around use of materials to create and deliver the assessment, not to mention ongoing security issues and long processes for papers to be marked.” Wayne Houlden, Founder of Janison, says: “This partnership with CoSector will allow Janison to tap into CoSector’s deep industry experience in helping education institutions around the UK and Europe to digitally transform the delivery of education services and enhance the student experience.”   Growing ICT provision is not about making it ‘good enough’ Q&A on future-proofing ICT provision in education settings Antony Mellor, Head of HE at Stone Group and Mark Newton, Managing Director at CoSector – University of London, discuss how future-proofing your organisation as far as is economically viable, is the key to growing your ICT provision and improving the learner journey. Which new trends can education’s ICT departments expect to see within the next five years? AM: The rise of 5G Networks will drive an improvement in application performance and lead to the creation of new applications that will benefit from the significantly higher speed, latency, and capacity that 5G brings. For the higher education sector, this will mean a capability to deliver a faster, better user experience, and to further encompass the Internet of Things (IoT), leading to more and more connected devices. MN: Cloud is the most pertinent trend, and it’s emerging as the most cost-effective way to manage infrastructure within higher education. It allows a setting to eliminate that cost of running a data centre on premise and it can be managed by a cloud provider, reducing time and money spent being managed in-house.  AM: Within the next couple of years, the clamour for IoT will lead to an adaptation of teaching style, as students begin to rely more and more upon connected devices such as tablets, smartwatches, and AI assistants. One result of this will be an increase in data, and in turn, the need for more scalable storage, which lends itself to more utilisation of cloud-based storage solutions.    What about compatibility with student devices? Will BYOD be widely adopted by education?  AM: BYOD has been a buzz-acronym for quite some time, and in the ideal world it is a way in which the setting can save on device cost, as students or staff are likely to own a laptop or tablet, which they would prefer to work on, are more comfortable with, and they have the ability to use that device in a variety of environments. The pitfalls here, however, can quickly outweigh any benefit; what happens if the students forget their device? What if the device fails? What about application incompatibility? Giving everyone access to really good WiFi, for example, is great, but the underlying need is that those that need a device, always have one available. MN: I agree, and I don’t think certain trends that claim to be cost-saving solutions, such as BYOD, always reap the benefits they promise. Having an infrastructure that is compatible with a whole range of devices may well cost you more in order to make sure your systems can do that. It’s undeniable though that this is an expectation for students now – they come with their own devices. AM: A laptop loan programme can remedy this issue. It helps to save on cost, and ensures that those who don’t have access to a device, are able to get their hands upon one. This simple solution has already been implemented in lots of universities, the student can access a locker using their ID Card, and loan a laptop for a period of time. To keep the cost down even further, these devices could be Chromebooks – inexpensive, secure, and they are extremely mobile devices. MN: Personally, I think it should be more of a question of what they want to use to access education systems. It’s not a cost-saving practice, but it’s what universities should be doing to improve overall student experience.   What role can a scalable ICT framework play in cutting down budgets and how easy is it to adopt? MN: You want to be able to flex up and down, and one of the ways to do that is to use a pay as you use supplier. If you use more capacity you can scale up for it, but you can scale down at quieter times when you don’t need it.