2022 The Age of Ultra and the start for digital badges and short courses

This post is to help me reflect on some work that has recently passed and to help me make sense of my role including what worked and what didn’t.

The arrival of Ultra

I was fortunate to be involved in the Learn Ultra Project to roll out Learns updated UI called (drum roll) Ultra. Now UI changes are usually minor and can go unnoticed however a platform refresh with updated UI that includes mass changes to the UX brings about a new set of challenges. Learn is the technical bed rock of teaching within the institution, second only to the academics who are the fountains of knowledge however Learn acts as the conduit between academics, students and teaching offices which use learn to organise, share, review and access the students journey. Its core to the majority of students experience at the institution and is accessed on and off campus, by UG or PG, academics or school office staff, professional service staff to deliver training and integrates with numerous platforms, to deliver face to face, online only, hybrid, fusion or any other funky names for teaching.

Its a beast, now Learn may not seem interesting or fun however its an essential service that all users can interact with every day, other back end systems do not have that pressure or scrutiny thus migrating to ultra was a massive task.

First of all we don’t like change and to embrace change we need an an environment that is safe and conducive to us accepting change which is really hard when we are in the midst of a pandemic which has migrated the majority of learning online and led to a lot of work by schools to up skill academics or for them to take on the course administration. Basically everyone became comfortable using Learn so proposing a change was met with trepidation. 

Secondly we tend not to trust change. Why do we need to change, is this change the right decision? Who approved it? Basically we need to evidence why the change is beneficial and provide information on how its beneficial (both short and long term). This involves being transparent with users and ensuring we have done all are homework. I think we started working on the learn upgrade 2 years prior to understand impact, pros and cons, UX and longer term strategy for VLE excellence. 

Open Digital Badges

Blogged about it already but its a no brainier for evidencing skills, achievement and competencies not presented in a HEAR transcript. The interest for them already is growing with my big concern being ensuring badge value. The team have created a process to try and instill and ensure value during year 1 of the pilot and I hope that issuers and earners understand that less sometimes is more (unless its cake or beer or both).

Short Course Platform

Were do I begin! Lets just say imagine a platform that allows learners or business not affiliated with the university (no uun or access nonsense) to browse a list of courses (which can be filtered), access detailed information on the course including dates, delivery type, structure and awards (badges), register with an email address and name only, pay (via numerous methods and get a refund if required), then participate in a course on a dedicated learning platform that has the required tools requested by the teacher…..2 words….NO BRAINER! The university currently has a gap in the digital ecosystem with courses delivered by a variety of bespoke platforms or developed on tools that are not fit for purpose and usually provide a confusing user experience (we won’t mention the security concerns…). So over the last year we have been working to form a business case, perform an internal business analysis, perform an external market analysis and speak to anyone who has done it (their are a few!).  Its October and we are hopefully about to start the fun (procurement) in the coming weeks with the aim of launching a dedicated short course (non-credit) platform, yippee! 



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