Learn about the future of edtech at Digifest

By Dicky Maidment-Otlet, director Jisc group marketing

Birmingham has a long history of industrial and technological innovation, so it’s fitting that the city – the home of celluloid, x-ray photography for medical purposes and the first domestic gas lighting – will again play host to our Jisc Digital Festival. 

For further education (FE) and higher education (HE) middle managers and senior leaders, digital technology has the power to improve teaching, learning and research, and transform their organisations. Many are keen to harness the latest edtech solutions and good practice – but where to start? 

Exploring Digifest

Digifest is our annual conference that celebrates the best and brightest ideas for digital in education. Taking place from
2–3 March at the ICC, learning providers are invited to come along, for free, to find out about new developments and applications in education technologies, which will allow them to make the most of opportunities and tackle any challenges in the year ahead. 

There are plenty of sessions to choose from, but I wanted to pick five based on some of the biggest issues in education today, that really shouldn’t be missed:

Protecting your organisation against cyber security threats

Cyber security attacks have grown in sophistication over the past year, meaning the topic is rarely far from the thoughts of those responsible for the smooth running of IT and security services. There’s a lot to think about, from the nightmare of data compromise, keeping defences up to date, or the ever-present risk of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. 

Thankfully, what’s come with this increasing threat has also been a renewed appetite for knowledge sharing and collaboration between organisations that rely on safe and secure connectivity. We’ll be continuing in this spirit with a talk from Jisc chief regulatory adviser Andrew Cormack, who will be joined by members of our computer security incident response team (CSIRT) and representatives from leading security companies to offer advice on improving resilience and reducing the impact.

The case for learning analytics

With big data comes big responsibility, and that’s certainly the case for learning analytics. The UK is taking a leading role in collecting, monitoring and analysing student data for the purpose of garnering deeper operational intelligence, creating new efficiencies and improving the student experience. 

Yet, for all the positive applications there remains uncertainty in the field, with some concerns about the organisation playing Big Brother. In a timely talk, Jisc learning analytics consultant Niall Sclater and director of technology and analytics Michael Webb will make the definitive case for learning analytics, by exploring the what and how, and personal and institutional benefits.

Unpicking the open access lock: supporting institutions with implementation

While everyone from government, funders and publishers to organisations and their researchers are convinced of the benefits of open access (OA), there’s still a long way for the sector to travel in its goal of implementing OA, including learning about what works well, and what works less well. 

Reflecting on lessons learned and how far along institutions are in making the transition, in this workshop Jisc project manager Alex Idris-Thomas will present examples of good practice in OA implementation from Jisc’s nine OA pathfinder projects.


Facing the challenges of a college merger – gems of wisdom from Northern Regional College

With the area reviews now in their second wave and a priority of FE and sixth form colleges for the foreseeable future, never before has there been such a focus on how FE organisations can create efficiencies, share services and collaborate, all the while improving how they deliver for learners. 

As the provision of vocational education, including the prospect of organisational mergers, is part of this review, we’re hosting a workshop with Steven Walls from Northern Regional College about what to consider when merging IT functions across partner campuses. He’ll be sharing the challenges his own college faced in merging systems and how they overcame these barriers, as well as touching on some of the Jisc services that helped to ease this complex process.

The future of the Janet network

World-class connectivity makes for a world-class education and research nation. Jisc’s Janet is one of the most advanced global networks, playing a vital role in UK further and higher education and skills retaining its leading position. It has benefits beyond the UK too through its participation in GEANT, supporting key activities such as transnational education (TNE) and access to global research facilities. Discussing the network, Jisc director of strategic technologies Jeremy Sharp will take a closer look at how user requirements are shaping the evolution of Janet, so that it can continue to provide the flexible, reliable and secure connectivity its customers need.

Book your place

As you can see, these five sessions alone span a broad range of themes and job roles. And there’s more. We’ll also be hosting plenary speakers including John Traxler, professor of mobile learning at the University of Wolverhampton, Professor Tony Hey, former vice-president of Microsoft Research Connections, Chrissi Nerantzi, principal lecturer in academic continuing professional development at the Manchester Metropolitan University and John Naughton, emeritus professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University, plus others.

Take a look at the full Digifest16 programme for a list of topics and timing, and make sure you book your place.

Free live webinar & QA

The digital difference - Build a culture of reading with ebooks & audiobooks

Free Education Webinar with OverDrive

Friday, June 24, 2PM London BST

In this webinar, hear from Havant Academy Librarian Joanna Parsons to learn how she uses ebooks and audiobooks to help boost reading among her secondary students.