Chris: Welcome back to another in our new series of corporate communications online events, and thank you very much for joining us today. Today we’re going to talk about how the education sector is changing to keep up in the new world. And who have we got today? Here we go, the three of us. As usual, you have me, Chris Lukianenko, the host and the creator of The Intelligent Workplace podcast, and joining me today are these two gentlemen who are going to share their knowledge and insights on the topic of education in this new world we’re faced with. First up we have Tim Rose, who is a Learning Innovation Specialist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, a globally renowned, world top 10 ranked business school.
Chris: So with a background in media and communications, Tim has worked across the further and higher education sector as both a teacher and a manager. He’s got over 13 years experience in the sector. He’s also a regular public speaker on the education and technology conference circuit. He’s recognized for his knowledge and understanding of modern pedagogy, innovation, and digital transformation.
Chris: And back for a second time, my colleague Paul Conneally, who is head of Global Communications at LiveTiles. You may have caught his first session with me where we talked about communications in the times of disruption. This time he’s bringing his knowledge on the technical side of the discussion and will be sharing with us among other things, his thoughts on the part that technology plays in the new world of education. So welcome gentlemen.
Paul: Hi Chris. Hi everybody.
Chris: And tell me if you’ve seen this before, hopefully you have, because that means you’ve been joining us on a few of these sessions. So LiveTiles is a global company specializing in employee collaboration and communication software services and AI for the workplace. And we are all over the globe. So let’s get to the all important agenda and as always I say with these sessions, this is more of a conversation than a lecture. These two gentlemen will be chatting away today on our topic, which will be great. They’ll be sharing their opinions, but if at any stage you want to chime in with a question, I’m here to ask that on your behalf. So just submit that via the app and I’ll do the rest for you.
Chris: So now to today’s agenda. First up, we’ll get to know Tim a little bit more with his experiences in the sector and then we’ll discuss some of Tim and Paul’s observations in how SharePoint and how Microsoft Teams has changed the way that teaching is facilitated. Next up is something that’s part of most of our working lives, digital collaboration. But we’ll we’re looking at that from an educational perspective. I’m really actually keen to understand what the technical solutions are like and then also draw upon some of Tim’s experiences in this space.
Chris: Now look, we couldn’t run one of these sessions without mentioning the coronavirus, so we will naturally take a look at how that has changed the landscape that we currently exist in, and then we’ll turn our focus to the future and what that might hold. And if we have some spare time at the end, we can throw out a few questions if you’ve got them.
Chris: So let’s set the scene. Tim, I’d just like you to fill everybody in on why I was so keen to get you on to share your insights on this topic. So, maybe if you can give us a bit of an elevator pitch on your career and perhaps you can also share your exciting new career news with everybody.
Tim: Absolutely. So I’ve been teaching for 13 years now, mainly me doing communications and because I’ve always had that kind of media hat on, I’ve also had that kind of ed tech label as well because I was always using video in innovative ways to enhance the teaching and learning experience. And when I moved into a coaching role supporting of the teachers, I was assigned that label of the ed tech guy to go and speak to. And when I moved into a management role, I was actually championing in ed tech across the institution I was at the time and I was offered [inaudible] to start a department for technology enhanced learning, which I did and in that time we actually developed a custom virtual learning environment with the help of LiveTiles. So, that’s how I came to meet you fine gentlemen.
Tim: So yeah, long career now in education and specific focus for the last seven years on ed tech, and in that time I’ve really come to use SharePoint quite extensively. I also consult, so I consult in the area of Office 365 adoption and in general digital transformation and SharePoint and then obviously subsequently Teams has become a big part of what we do from digital learning perspective in education.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. So I mean you would have seen many changes in your time in education, the introduction of the internet and how that worked into the learning model, being able to communicate online and also delivering course material online would have been huge. But is this current situation that we find ourselves in, do you think it’s more of a sweeping change or is it perhaps just an escalation in the usage of the tech that was actually already in place?
Tim: Well, I think the problem is the attitude towards adoption for technology and digital learning has always been, this is something that’s nice to have, but we can put it off to a larger extent. And then all of a sudden we find ourselves in a situation where we’re forced to move entire curriculums online and those people who were early adopters, early majority who are ready and now in a position where they’re having to drag the late majority and those laggards along with them as well because we’ve almost been a little bit too relaxed in our approach to change.
Chris: Yeah, sure. I don’t know if you noticed then that Paul and I both smiled when you said that it’s been a nice to have in the past, because we’ve been having some similar conversations internally at work, haven’t we Paul?
Paul: Absolutely. I think I’ve been talking with a lot CTO’s particularly recently, but also heads of communication and that’s the consistent message that’s coming out now is that this new reality brought about by COVID-19 has really been a catalyst for change within many organizations. And in the education space for instance, the means to conduct online education has been around for 20 years or so, but the need maybe hasn’t been as obvious, right? So the need is extraordinarily obvious now. UNESCO just brought out some statistics which were startling. Over 90% of the world’s registered learners are currently being schooled from home, and a lot of those will be needing digital technology to make that happen. So we’re really in incredible times.
Chris: There you go folks, that is why Paul is here with us today, because I love it when he pulls out those kinds of statistics. He’s great with that. Fantastic work, mate. Fantastic. All right, let’s get into the bit of the nitty gritty here. So Tim, you’ve been using SharePoint for the better part of a decade. How widespread is SharePoint throughout the education sector?
Tim: I mean for me it feels like it’s very widespread, but that’s because a lot of what I do when I go into other institutions to do some consulting, it’s usually about SharePoint and Office 365.
Chris: Yeah, sure.
Tim: So it feels like every institution I go to is using it because that’s what I’m there to do, but I know I certainly come across institutions where they’re also using Google apps for education as well. So it just seems to be they tend to fall into one camp or the other. But so from my perspective, SharePoint certainly seems very widespread and I think the reason for that is because there’s an established base in terms of people being used to using Microsoft Office. So the evolution is Office 365, and then therefore using all of the SharePoint functionality. It seems to be quite a natural evolution.
Chris: Yeah, for sure. And Paul, for a company that leverages SharePoint for some of our product offerings, SharePoint is equal parts amazing and annoying for end users as well, isn’t it?
Paul: No, it’s true and it’s always been that ease of use that SharePoint users have potentially struggled are those… The ones with the champion SharePoint within organizations have struggled to really gain traction across different customer bases, but that’s changing now I think with Teams, the ease of use, that sort of chat messaging. That more digital native friendly interface is something that’s really exploding now, and I think you’re going to see a massive adoption of Teams to continue well after COVID-19.
Chris: Yeah. And guys, the education sector, would you say they like it or love it or hate it in SharePoint?
Tim: I think there’s two camps when it comes to SharePoint. I think there’s the camp that knew SharePoint pre Windows 8 2013, and then there’s the people that have only started using it since then. So for me, I was only introduced to SharePoint when the college I was working at the time adopted Windows 8. We were actually the second college in the UK at the time to adopt Windows 8, and I was working as a Quality Manager in the Business Faculty at the time and again, people saw me as having this ed tech hat on, so I was approached by the guys from IT and they said, “We’ve just gone to Windows 8 and we’re getting Office 365 and we want you to have a look at this and see how you can use this for teaching and learning.”
Tim: And I was just blown away. I just thought this is everything that I’ve certainly ever wanted in terms of the ability to interact with my colleagues, and then also interact with the students as well and really get that sense of online collaborative learning. But what I’ve found since I’ve worked on SharePoint more and more, and then I found myself going into other institutions and dealing with IT teams, who perhaps have prior experience of old SharePoint, which I had never experienced with whatsoever. They seemed to be quite negative towards it, but I really think that the fact that the COVID-19 outbreak has led to this explosion in terms of adoption. I really do think that will change lots of people’s views now because they realize just what a powerful tool it is.
Chris: Yeah, for sure. And then as Paul mentioned a few years ago, this little thing called Teams have released by Microsoft and has that augmentation of the SharePoint product delivered on the potential that it offered the education sector all those years ago, do you think?
Tim: Absolutely. One of the things that we did when we were working with LiveTiles on our customer VLE was we saw the potential of SharePoint and of using collaborative documents through Word and PowerPoint and Excel, and then using OneNote and then obviously OneNote Class Notebook, and what we did was we used the LiveTiles design tools to essentially create our own teams interface. But this was back in 2014-15, before Teams even existed. Obviously, a lot of people refer to Slack when they talk about Teams and how there seems to be quite a lot of inspiration from Slack in the development of Teams. But for us, what we tried to do is really think about the learning management side of it as well and that’s what I would like to see Teams do in the future as well.
Tim: So the one thing that set aside our bespoke VLE versus Teams as it currently is, was our ability to structure sub-sites were in there as well. So what we could do using Office 365 Groups, we could create courses in advance under our faculty structure, and then pre-populate it with Office 365 Groups.
Chris: Oh, beautiful.
Tim: I’d love to see Teams integrate in the future because for me, it still gives me a little bit of a headache, as a manager to know how best to manage teams. Because what I do want to do is for a head of department to have all of those teams in their teams list and they have to go through each time and work out which team they want to go to, in order to go in and do some quality assurance. What I’d really like to see is some kind of sub-site structure in there.
Tim: So yeah, I think Teams has done a… Microsoft has done a remarkable job with Teams over the last few years. They really have caught on leaps and bounds and bringing in things like the Skype for Business integration so that you can just do away with that app now and just do everything straight in Teams and then having the assignments function as well. I just think it’s absolutely fantastic, and the way the assignments function interacts with things like OneNote Class Notebook. It just makes it so easy for it for teachers and students alike.
Chris: Yeah. I don’t know about you Paul, but I feel like there’s been a massive upswing in the adoption of Teams across the entire globe and especially in the education sector. It’s really become mainstream for people that maybe never had heard of it in the past. Do you think that Teams is really going to be the driver in the innovation within this sector moving forward?
Paul: I think so. I mean the stats back it up. I think one of the more remarkable one was 12 million downloads of the Teams app in one week. Tim just shared a blog before we came on air there from Microsoft, which tracks the adoption of Teams very clearly with the increase in shelter at home and Stay at Home Programs around the world. So there’s an obvious correlation there. And so many schools and educational institutions will have already the Office 365 license, so now they’ll find themselves… because the need has been so pronounced, unlocking it and rolling it out or ramping it up with their teacher and student bodies. But of course it’s only the beginning really.
Paul: There’s still, and what we’re hearing from a lot of educational institutions, is there’s still a lot of support needed to help teachers in particular to manage Team, so that it becomes a truly collaborative platform and it requires a change in mindset. It’s not just about dumping all the homework on Teams and waiting for it to come in. Really, that potential for it to be transformative is something now that so many will have tasted and experienced in the real world, and I think that will be very exciting in terms of opportunities going forward.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve just shared that link that Tim shared earlier with us in the chat window, if you want to check that out maybe after the session. Let’s move through to digital collaboration now. So look Tim, how have you seen this change in the education sector in the last decade or so?
Tim: I think as I alluded to earlier, it’s been one of those things where it’s always been a nice to have and you get those people… One of the things that I’ve often referred to when I’m talking to Paul is Rogers Diffusion of Innovation, which is a really great little graph which shows how people adopt new technology or an idea. And I [inaudible] people adopt new technology and it accounts for those innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. And whenever I’m doing any consulting work, I always use this as a means to manage expectations. Because I think for a lot of senior leaders, they think they can buy one block of training and then everyone’s up to date and everyone’s ready to go off and work digitally, but it’s much more important than that in terms of it’s a cultural change and cultural changes don’t happen overnight.
Tim: So I think… What we’ve seen is there’s a lot of adoption of different platforms for digital collaboration and I think it can often represent a bit of a headache for IT, because what you end up with is a lot of shadow IT coming into organizations. So I know of organizations where they’ve unexpectedly been hit with bills for using online cloud storage that they had no idea of, because people are signing up and using their institutional emails for it and then they’re getting hit with a bill for it afterwards. But I think this is partly the case of that there hasn’t been enough thought in the first place in terms of institutional policy about how we’re going to work digitally and that’s the result of that.
Chris: I was going to say, it must be such a cultural shift. It’s one thing for the students to be able to jump online and do that, but now a teacher is effectively available 24/7 because of digital collaboration.
Chris: Such a different world for them, isn’t it?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. And again, I think people think that moving learning online is such a binary thing. You take your learning and you put it online, but it doesn’t work like that because it’s all down to the individual effort of the teacher. The teacher is still front and center of that, because you can take all your content, you can put it online, but if you’re not supporting your students, then they’re still not really going to get anything from that experience, whereas actually if you’re a very committed teacher, like you are in the classroom as well online, then the experience for those students is going to be very, very different.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. And Paul, what are you hearing from the market in terms of the current trends in digital collaboration?
Paul: Well, right now, I mean for those companies and organizations that have invested in digital transformation, digital workplace, or who’ve championed us, they’re seeing that they’ve been able to shift to this, particularly working from home reality, quite seamlessly, quite in an agile way. And it’s also opened up very positive conversations for them internally with finance and operations and CEO level for continued investment in the digital workplace after the worst of COVID-19 has past. A lot of companies and organizations are prioritizing investment now in virtual tech projects basically. They understand that there’s no going back to the way things used to be.
Paul: Some interesting stats coming out of North America for instance, before COVID-19 as little as 3% of people were working at home, 50% of the time or more. They reckon that’ll shoot up to the 25/30%. That’s a tenfold increase, so you need that digital infrastructure. And then on the challenges side, what we’re hearing very much is the challenge of engagement with employees and with the workforce, and to really replicate that physical office comradery in a digital space is challenging for many organizations, and that’s where they need support and it’s very linked to the issue of adoption that Tim was talking about earlier on.
Chris: Yeah, I was going to ask you about things to avoid or things you must do, but it just feels like a lot of the things that you must do is try and replicate those human interactions, the cultural type things, the engagement types of things because that’s what seems to be missing.
Paul: Yeah, I think so. I took part in a very interesting event with CTO’s of virtual events, needless to say, last week and it was very interesting for me to hear CTO’s talking about wellness in the workplace and needing to be more cognizant of the health and wellbeing of their user group essentially. Because now there was such an enormous amount of contact and dependency on the IT department in particular, and an awareness of the importance of work-life balance. It may have become much more emphasized with them as well. So these challenges of engagement and the sort of socialization, the connections to re-enable and facilitate that, are extremely important. It’s not just about the productivity.
Chris: Yeah, for sure. Now I think you’ve sort of touched on this a little bit that we’re living in a changed world and COVID-19 is an absolute game changer. Some might say that COVID is causing chaos and I think I tend to agree with them at the moment, but it may also be removing some barriers to change. What are your thoughts around that?
Tim: Yeah, certainly from my perspective, what I’ve seen over the last six weeks is all of those people that felt that they could be naysayers, whether they be senior leaders or your person at the coalface. They’ve all of a sudden said, “Okay, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t just ignore it. I can’t put my head in the sand. I need to know how to do this.” So that’s been great from my perspective because it means that it’s just all of a sudden opened up. All of those obstacles that we’re facing before, have just been completely removed and it’s fantastic. And you’re getting people who are just willing to soak up all this new information, these new techniques, new ways of working, collaborating.
Tim: But also what it’s done is, it’s empowered those people that perhaps didn’t realize how good they were, because they are all of a sudden seen as people to go to and from a commercial learning and development perspective, we’ve seen a real revolution in terms of people helping other people and everyone learning from each other. And how did you do that? How did you…? How can I share this PowerPoint so we can work on it together? How can I create a virtual digital work and post content and share it with learners? How can we do this? I have people ask me how they can post videos for example. They didn’t know how they could post videos and now they’re using Microsoft Steam to post videos into the Teams live chat. It’s fantastic.
Paul: People are having fun and getting it done.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. Hey Paul, I saw this cartoon this week and it really made me laugh. What are you seeing in the market at the moment? Do you think there are a lot of businesses feeling this way?
Paul: Absolutely. It’s actually a very good illustration in many ways because I think human nature and the way it is, we’re quite resistant to change. We can be quite resistant to change, and the larger the organization sometimes, the more that’s true. I was speaking here with the CTO from a logistics company in Ireland, one of the biggest logistics companies in Ireland, and he said, “We have a culture of presenteeism.” Basically, if you weren’t in the office, you weren’t doing your job. And that was weekly flipped overnight. They really start to see now the value and the upside of a remote workforce and things that they thought were not possible, like including and engaging desk-less workers for instance, drivers out on the road. It’s now they realize that not only is it possible, but it can actually be really done in a very exciting and interesting and productive way.
Paul: Another senior CTO level counterpart that I was talking to, from a very large tech company worldwide said it’s the first time he’s seen… in 30 years in his experience, the first time he’s seen working from home discussed at the board level as a real key strategic pillar of the way that they will move forward. So there’s no doubt that things are going to go back. Things are not going to go back to the way they were. Companies that feel like they can do that, that they can just sort of go back to the analog way of doing things and the culture of presenteeism, I think they will continue to go backwards. Those that embrace the change, will progress at a much faster pace and reap the benefits from it.
Chris: Absolutely. That brings you beautifully to the future and you’re talking there about innovations are now a must have. You’re talking about timelines for projects of innovation are compressed. We’ve got to move at the times. We’ve got to keep going. Tim, do you feel like the education sector is ready for this increased pace?
Tim: In many ways, yes. I think the education sector has shown just what it can do. Certainly my experience here in the UK, I think the education sector has shown what it can do in a relatively short period of time when there’s the impetus to make that change. So I think moving forward there will be a lot of positive change, but I’m also slightly concerned as well because what I don’t want to happen as a result of this is particularly in the HE sector, I don’t want education on campus to become something that only the wealthy can do. I don’t want senior leaders to see this as an opportunity to say, “Right, okay, well we can reduce overheads and we can scale at learning online,” and then that become a cheaper option for people from low income backgrounds.
Tim: And then only the students from wealthy backgrounds get to go and have that on campus experience because… I think the ideal model moving forward would be a hybrid model. We don’t have to… not all learning has to be synchronous. You can have asynchronous learning. We’ve proved that, and I think there’s a real opportunity to stop and take stock and just make sure this doesn’t happen moving forward. And I think there’s a great moral responsibility on educational leaders to ensure that that gap doesn’t start to widen.
Paul: I think that’s a really great point, and a really key point is that we don’t hurtle head first into a larger digital divide if you like, and that we really be very cognizant that the technology is being used to be as inclusive as possible and that we don’t create different tiers in society for those who can afford to be part of the physical or hybrid experience. And of course there’s still many people around the world who still don’t have connectivity either via mobile or internet. So that aspect of inclusion is extraordinarily important to keep at the forefront of our minds as well as humanizing the whole tech paradigm and ensuring that we really keep in mind the users, and that what we’re developing with organizations and for organizations is really user-centered and user-focused.
Chris: Yeah, for sure. So Tim, as someone who’s moving to a new role next week.
Tim: Yeah, [inaudible 00:27:36].
Chris: Yeah, bit of a strange time to be getting a new job, but also exciting. Are you excited about the future of technology as a result of what changes you’ve seen through COVID?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s going to be really interesting just to see what happens in general. One of the big calendar highlights for me every year, is the Bett Technology Show. It happens every January in London. It’s attended by thousands of people, and I just think when they’re talking about this potentially going on for a year until they’ve found a vaccine, will stuff like that still happen? Paul, you mentioned that you hosted a virtual conference last week or took part in a virtual conference last week, is that the way we’re going to be heading moving forward? My first act… I’m starting a new job on Monday and my first act there is to give a whole school address to staff I’ve never actually met.
Chris: [inaudible 00:00:28:38].
Tim: We’re going to be using that Live Teams Events for that, so I’m really looking forward to that because I can try out the new fancy background things. People don’t have to see my bland office in the background. But yeah, it’s a really, really interesting time and I just hope that we take this time to just stop and think and reflect and learn real lessons from the experience.
Chris: Yeah. Paul, anything else to say, mate?
Paul: Yeah, no, I would echo that very much. Maybe we’re optimists, Tim or idealists, but I would hope that this period that we’re all facing together in different parts of the world, that it does bring about a reflection and particularly in terms of our working life. One CEO customer of ours said recently, “I thought it was a great insight that video is the new travel.” And he said it in the context of like, why the hell were we traveling so much in the first place? Why can’t we just spend more time grounded and just connect via video and it’s better for the environment, it’s better for overheads obviously and many other benefits. So I think-
Tim: [inaudible] isn’t it, because no one likes to commute.
Paul: There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has really brought the need for investment in digital transformation and digital workplace, particularly much more prevalent for leaders and decision makers. So the possibilities of what can be done are now being lived in real time in terms of teams being able to shift online, large organizations moving online overnight and continuing to keep their businesses running, and the benefits now need to be realized, but we’re not there yet. That adoption piece, that engagement piece is really crucial and that’s where organizations and educational institutions really need need our support.
Chris: I love your point there on travel. Why would we want to leave these little boxes that we’re all living in here at the moment, 10 hours a day like Groundhog Day. Fantastic stuff guys. I really enjoyed hearing your insights here tonight because this is not an area of expertise for me, so it’s great to be able to learn along with the audience. Might just open up to questions if anybody’s got one there they want to fire away? If you don’t have a question right now… Ooh, we’ve got one. I’ll just… Let me just read this. This is from… I think it might be from Thomas. There’s research to suggest that children can’t handle a classroom environment being more digitally minded, i.e. they can craft their own environments online. Where do you feel the bridge should come to help families who regard more antiquated skills as a priority over digital age? Whew. Did you get that?
Tim: Can I see that anywhere so I can review that again?
Chris: We might… That’s a pretty involved question there Thomas.
Paul: I can have a start with it while Tim is reading it, but it’s definitely his area of expertise. But just more anecdotal and personal examples here in Ireland, I know there’s many different bodies of research out there, but there was one very innovative school in Ireland that went headlong into the digital journey with their students and they’ve actually pulled back a little bit because the groundwork maybe hadn’t been done with the parents, with the teachers, so that the learning was being impacted by it. So I think that preparation of all the different stakeholders that are involved, it’s not just about the children. They live in an ecosystem, in a society. Teachers in particular, their role is set to change. Tim was talking about it earlier, in terms of how they’re using Teams. Those teachers that are enablers, that are facilitators, will thrive in the digital environment, but they need to be supported to do that as well. Sorry Tim.
Tim: Yeah, no, absolutely. I’m not sure if this is actually answering the question, but following on from your point, Paul, one of the things that I’m going to be doing at my new institution is offering digital training for parents. So there’s going to be a secondary knock on effect as well, whereby there is a need for the parents to embrace this as well so they can understand the technologies that their children are using and ultimately work with them because what we’re doing with digital learning, the idea is the same as it is in commercial. It’s all about collaboration. So, we need to think about that and I think there needs to be… Every institution, regardless, whether they’re an education, government or industry, they need to think about their digital strategy in a much more holistic way. It’s not just about how we use IT because that isn’t it. It’s about the culture and how we want people to embrace it and the secondary and knock on effects of that as well. So…
Chris: Thomas is agreeing with you, he says, “Yes, prior prep is key.”
Chris: Thanks for those questions, Thomas. That’s fantastic. Mindful that we need to get everybody to start their work day and that maybe my work day today is finishing, maybe just as importantly. Have a quick chat about next week. So we’ve got a Microsoft Teams expert joining me next week that we’re going to explore, chasing the Nirvana in Microsoft Teams. So we know that Microsoft Teams has, as we’ve sort of mentioned here tonight, there are a lot of things that we can do with Microsoft Teams and there are people at different stages along their Microsoft Teams journey. So I’ve invited Jas Basra on from… She’s a product marketing manager at Microsoft, to come and have a bit of a chat around what sort of things we might be chasing in terms of Nirvana in Microsoft Teams and maybe how to get there with some tips, so it would be a great session as well.
Chris: But gentlemen, Tim, Paul, thank you very much for your time this morning. That was really, really informative. I think it’s fantastic, and have a great day and we’ll talk again soon everybody, and thank you for joining us on the latest webinar. Thank you very much.
Paul: Thank you very much. Adios.