Texting librarians

Librarians answer reference questions with text messages
For a student who doesn’t want to swing by the reference desk, there are plenty of other ways to ask a librarian a question—instant messaging, e-mail, a phone call. And now, on a growing number of campuses, students can ask questions with text messages. Oregon State University is among the institutions that have recently added “text a librarian” services. Though the university just implemented its service this month and has not advertised it much yet, librarians there say that they can already tell it will be well used.

Choosing a university

bestCourse4me.com – Choose the right course at the right university
Totally independent and free to use, bestCourse4me shows you the link between what people study and their employment record afterwards. … Spearheaded by the Shadow higher education spokesman David Willetts and bankrolled by Microsoft and the philanthropist and software engineer Steve Edwards.

New website gives wannabe students vital information about drop-out rates and earnings
At the flick of a switch you can find out what you earn, for example, if you study physics as against English (about £4,000 more a year, in case you wondered) and the employment rates of graduates of those subjects. You can discover how much more you earn if you study journalism at Westminster University compared with the University of Central Lancashire or philosophy at Durham compared with Bristol, and you can find out the drop-out rate from all institutions.

Twitter strategies, visualising data, managing projects

Template Twitter strategy for Government Departments
You might think a 20-page strategy a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter. After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government (see No 10, CLG and FCO) all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today. But, having held back my JFDI inclinations long enough to sit down and write a proper plan for BIS’s corporate Twitter account, I was surprised by just how much there is to say – and quite how worth saying it is, especially now the platform is more mature and less forgiving of mistakes.

50 great examples of data visualization
50 of the best data visualizations and tools for creating your own visualizations out there, covering everything from Digg activity to network connectivity to what’s currently happening on Twitter.

University of Edinburgh Records Management Section – advice on freedom of information, data protection and records management
The Records Management Section provides help and advice to all units of the University on information management issues including records management practices and procedures, data protection and freedom of information.  We are also responsible for the Central Records Registry and the day-to day management of the records of the central administrative areas formerly known as Policy and Planning.

University of Edinburgh Projects Web Site
A one stop source of information about University IT projects – Templates and methodologies to assist in the successful management of projects – A filing system and repository for project related documentation – A communication vehicle for keeping stakeholders informed about project progress.

Degree fraud, social teams

Diploma and accreditation mills: Exposing academic credential abuse
Take Belford University, for example, which offers bachelors, masters or doctorate degrees in 15 days based on passing an online test or an applicant’s ‘life experience’. Anyone who has spent three hard years at university will know that passing one online test is not what a real degree is about – particularly one that you can take as many times as you want. However, Belford University claims to be accredited by the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU) and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA).

Using Yammer
Where a social communications tool, like Yammer, wins out, is when you want to stay in touch with the all the conversations that your particular colleagues are having. Yes, some of them will be irrelevant, but that’s just like being in the office. For a distributed team, social tools can be invaluable for keeping your finger on the pulse.

HE audits

Leader: Red tape: A form of distrust – As audit overloads academics, it also undermines their freedoms, impedes their work and damages their public standing
A scary new word to emerge in our cover story is “hyper-bureaucracy”, which describes “an out-of-control system” that emerges in the search for optimum efficiency and takes no account of the costs in time, energy and money that are needed to achieve it. It is a bureaucratic nightmare in which there is no end to the extra information that can be acquired. The monitoring of contact hours and how academics spend their time are examples of the type of bureaucracy that “eats up people and resources”, according to Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at the University of Warwick.

Audit overload – Bureaucracy is an inescapable fact of life in today’s academy. John Morgan unravels the true extent and consequences of red tape
There are those who argue that a “hyper-bureaucracy” has taken hold, tailoring universities to the needs of the labour market, coercing academics into following the rationale of business in their research choices and destroying notions of the intrinsic value of scholarship. But do academics direct their unhappiness at those who shape policy, or at blameless administrators who happen to be closest to hand? And isn’t bureaucracy necessary to make academics accountable and to ensure that public money going into universities is spent fairly and effectively?

Happy iPhones

Stanford student survey finds iPhone users hooked and happy
“One of the most striking things we saw in the interviews was just how identified people were with their iPhone,” Luhrmann said. “It was not so much with the object itself, but it had so much personal information that it became a kind of extension of the mind and a means to have a social life. It just kind of captured part of their identity.”

Mandelson’s HE cuts

Lord Mandelson keynote speech at Lord Dearing Memorial Conference
The main thrust of his speech though was about the consequences of the cuts in HE funding he had recently announced. In essence, he was uncompromising in presenting the reductions as a necessary contribution to wider public finance savings and as an opportunity to universities to reconsider their spending and help to “focus minds” on the need to seek out new sources of funding.

Productive PRINCE2?

Dominic Tinley – A little PRINCE2
You can understand why the Civil Service likes PRINCE2. There are 45 separate processes each of which warrants several pages of description in the manual but only one of which actually involves producing anything. I wonder if the ratio of Civil Service efficiency is in fact somewhere around 1:45?

Quitting Google

UnGoogled: A Week of Discovering Alternatives For Google’s Services
The other day, when I came to know about Google Dashboard, I thought I’d check out just how much of my life is in Google’s servers. I was shocked with what I saw. I was practically living my life with Google. And the revelation set my brain in motion – that maybe… just maybe, I’d become a Googaholic. I started wondering whether I could survive being off Google’s services for an entire week. And thus started my week-long quest to look for free, functional alternatives to most things Google.

Texting in class, templates, HE admin, graduation

Professor Textblaster 
Many of Todd McCann’s students suffer from a chronic disease. Call it CRS: Can’t Remember Squat. Now they have no excuse. Mr. McCann, an English instructor at Bay College, in Michigan, is deploying students’ own favorite technology to burn away the memory fog. He blasts his classes text-message reminders using Broadtexter, a free software program used by bands to create mobile fan clubs. Rather than texting tour dates, he keeps the phones in students’ pockets buzzing with regular reminders like “Paper 4 is due tomorrow.”

50 time-saving Google Docs templates
Google Docs templates make life just that much easier by providing the bare skeleton of a specific document, spreadsheet or presentation – all you have to do is fill in the blank bits with your information.

What’s in a name? Nothing good, AUA members argue
There are three problems with the Association of University Administrators’ name. Some members are not sure about the “association” part; opinion is divided on the “university” element; and there are serious doubts about the term “administrators”. … For anyone who struggles with higher education’s litany of abbreviations and acronyms, the list of suggested alternatives may send a shiver down the spine. They include the Universities Professional Staff Association (Upsa); the Institute of Higher Education Managers and Administrators (Ihema); Higher Education Managers and Administrators (Hema); Managers and Administrators in Higher Education (MAHE); University Managers and Administrators (Uma); and Managers and Administrators in Universities and Higher Education (MAUHE). However, abbreviation-phobes can rest easy – a name change is unlikely.

York Minster not an option for graduation
The University of York has cited a diverse range of faiths among the student body as the main reason for graduation ceremonies to continue to be held in Central Hall, as opposed to York Minster. Much attention has been brought to the issue by the fact that York St. John University students hold their graduation ceremonies in the Minster, something that many University of York students view as unfair.

Feedback

Rosie Waterhouse: Save us from the tyranny of student surveys
Over the next three months, final-year undergraduates at British universities will be encouraged to take part in the National Student Survey commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council. The NSS is just one of an ever-increasing number of surveys and forums by which students are invited to give “feedback” on their university experience.

HE records, vagueness

Records Retention in HE Introduction
JISC infoNet is pleased to announce the launch of the new Business Classification Scheme (BCS) and Records Retention Schedule (RRS) for Higher Education Institutions. The 3rd iteration of this highly regarded resource is the result of extensive consultation within the sector plus significant additional research both undertaken for JISC infoNet by Emmerson Consulting.

Book of the week: Not Exactly: In Praise of Vagueness
In an increasingly complex digital world, it is tempting to get sucked into the precision – often a wholly spurious precision – that seems endemic to this culture. I recently caught myself doing it, despite my own distinctly analogue leanings. When asked for the time at a bus stop last week, I found myself replying “Seven forty-eight” – instead of the answer I would usually give: “Just after quarter to eight.” I put this momentary lapse of good taste down to early morning low blood sugar and the disabling effect of public transport, but it is a symptom of something much bigger – a subject that has captured the (not insubstantial) imagination of computer scientist Kees van Deemter.

Records management

Records management
Government has a duty to manage its paper and digital records effectively – to support ongoing business, and to preserve the record and memory of government. Government departments, and other organisations within the scope of the Public Records Act 1958, are responsible for selecting records to be permanently preserved and keeping them in proper conditions. The National Archives’ chief executive is responsible for co-ordinating and supervising the work of selection.

Records Management InfoKit
Records management is an established theory and methodology for ensuring the systematic management of all records and the information they contain throughout their lifecycle. The core concept underpinning records management theory is that of the lifecycle, which sees records having a series of phases from creation to final outcome ultimately resulting either in their controlled destruction or being retained on a permanent basis as an archival record. This infoKit is based around the well established concept of lifecycle management and how it should be specifically applied to the management of records.

Kinky fraud

  • “A university registrar offered bogus degrees in return for spanking sessions in a hotel, a court was told yesterday. Karl Woodgett, 37, former registrar at the University of Surrey and the University of Bath, already had a lucrative sideline selling degrees to African women when he came up with a way of satisfying his sexual desires at the same time. …”

Mindfulness

Be Mindful is a campaign, by the Mental Health Foundation, raising awareness about the benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness helps people change the way they think, feel and act. It helps them to break free from a downward spiral of negative thought and action, and make positive choices that support their wellbeing.

Data gov

Data.gov.uk versus Data.gov – Which wins?
Back in May last year, the US government launched Data.gov as a statement of transparency, and the Internet rejoiced. After the launch, excitement kind of fizzled with the actual Data.gov site. Then just a couple of weeks ago, Data.gov.uk launched, which brought me back to the US counterpart. How do the two compare? Here’s my take.

Computer development

Computer pioneer interactive family tree
BBC News is running a series of articles about pioneering British computers and computer pioneers. To find out about the contribution British scientists made to early computer development and how they were linked, click on the project names below.

Disappointment, digital design

Why are you so terribly disappointing?
What happened to my bonus? What happened to my job? What happened to my country? Why can’t it all go the way it’s supposed to go? You mean having a kid won’t solve my marriage problems? Why don’t these drugs make me feel better? Where’s that goddamn waiter with my salad? Have you seen the stupid weather today? Is this really all there is?

Making digital content on the mobile phone physically graspable
The weight-shifting method allows a phone to communicate to users where to walk by dynamically changing its gravitational center along two axes. The shape-changing method is able to convey where more information is located outside of the screen by changing the thickness of a phone at its corners. And lastly, the ‘living’ method allows a mobile phone to display emotional states due to a continuous heartbeat and breathing-like motion that can be felt ambiently in your trouser pocket.