19th-23rd March is #ResourcesListWeek in the University of Edinburgh.
I am often asked about the value of lecturing ( and lecture recording). In my day, I was always told that the purpose of a lecture was to send you to the Library. A good lecture, given by an academic colleague who is passionate about their subject and actively researching in the area will inspire you to go and find out more for yourself. Lectures were never designed to be the way to cover and transmit all the course content. The reading list is as valuable to students as the lectures.
In a research institution the Library holds collections way beyond the reading lists and provides an environment for individual exploration and discovery.
We send our students to the library clutching their reading lists. If you want the books to be there when they get there, you need a Resources List. Sending in your resources list causes your librarian to order-in what is needed.
If you think our library should hold more diverse authors, if you would like to liberate the curriculum, if you would prefer we used more open access resources, this is one way to drive that change.
The Librarians are ready and waiting, give them something to occupy their time.
Some of us are on strike. (I may have mentioned this before). Academic colleagues are holding ‘teach outs’. What kind of activity would be the learning technology version of a ‘teach out’? I’m thinking ‘making OER ‘and ‘wikimedia editathons’.
I’ve asked a guru and been told that a ‘teach-out’ takes place outside the walls, has an informal curriculum, is activist focused and free!
Open education and OER is all about ‘beyond walls’, it is about sharing, releasing openly, deliberately, resources which can be re-used by others for free. There are whole conferences about how this is informal, disruptive, beyond the curriculum and underpinned by activism for social change in HE. There are even Declarations about it. Wikimedia is the largest online open educational resources platform in the world. Wikimedia is an activist organisation whose members support and campaign for changes in copyright, access, freedoms and disruption of traditional knowledge publishing models. There is also a well known issue with gender bias in the content.
They show students that their teachers aren’t just putting their feet up. We care about students’ education and are willing to educate unpaid — just not to do the kind of educating we’re normally paid for.
We only go on strike when bad things are happening, but promoting the teach-out allows us to focus conversations on a positive activity. Attending allows students (and anyone else!) to show support for the strike.
The teach-outs also give members a communal, productive activity to do on strike days that builds ideas, capacity, and community — and reminds us what higher education is really all about.
Not all members are willing or able to be involved in picketing, but are happy to participate in teach-outs, broadening the possibilities for activism on a strike day.
Organising teach-outs is very easy! Almost everyone in UCU organises conferences, open days, meetings and talks professionally. Moreover, it’s in the nature of teach-outs that they’re ad hoc, a bit improvised, even carnivalesque. So basically, it’s about doing what we’re good at, yet no-one minds if it goes wrong “
This is exactly the kind of thing we encourage through our OER activities and wikimedia editathon events. It is #openeducationweek as well as #internationalwomensday and #ussstrikes. The best thing you can do is join a ‘tech-out’. You don’t have to cross a picketline, Wikipedia is definitely outside our walls, but conveniently adjacent, and differently owned, like a local pub or community hall. You can learn how to do OER from our handy guides. You can join our wikimedia editathon remotely with our helpful videos.
If you want a communal, productive activity to do on strike days that builds ideas, capacity and community, and reminds us what higher education is really all about, Comrades, join me in Open Education.
Will I be on strike for International Women’s Day? Well yes, I’ll have to if the UCU action carries on as planned.
But I have some questions. The UCU strikes are on chosen days. How and why were these chosen? We don’t strike on Friday, but we do on Thursday. International Women’s Day is not, presumably, a surprise to UCU. Why not chose that as a non-strike day so that we can attend our events? IWD has its origins in the women’s labour movement, but to commemorate it at our university events this year is to ‘betray it’? I wish my union had not put me in this situation.
A nearby ancient institution has already got itself in a tangle by linking E&D initiatives with the pensions strike * . I fear this is why we can’t have nice things.
For me IWD is part of a bigger picture, I understand that women are disproportionately hit by pension changes, but lets use this day to talk about that and the many other inequalities. I am pleased that my University supports IWD and that there are events to raise its profile for staff and students and I want to be part of it.
I am told that there are ‘lots’ of IWD events being held by academics off-campus so I can go to those (please send more details). Or I can go to the UCU march.
I would encourage staff who are not on strike to organise, attend and enjoy the University IWD events. It’s a great way to show your support for IWD and a healthy attendance will help to ensure that we get to do them again next year.
Here’s the post I was going to post for International Women’s Day:
The Red Thread
Did you know that IWD began with a strike by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)? It was originally called “International Working Women’s Day“, its purpose was to give laboring women a focusing point in their struggle for fair working conditions and pay. This year International Women’s Day 2018 themes is #PressforProgress.
My great grandma Sadie was a member of ILGWU. A Jewish woman working in dangerous factory conditions as a garment worker in New York. My grandfather Stanley often complained later that he had missed out on jobs because his mother-in-law was ‘a communist’**. Occasionally I find ILGWU labels inside my vintage dresses. They are always well made. Here’s a picture of Sadie, and a picture of the ILGWU label in my dress today.
**Family lore is that she wasn’t actually a member of the Communist Party, but she voted for one, and that was enough to get her and her children on a list.
‘Academic-related, professional, technical and support staff are the invisible glue holding a university together and providing essential services to maintain the day-to-day running of complex institutions.’ and ‘While we all collectively work towards excellence in teaching and research, it can sometimes feel like a thankless task. Too often, administrators are blamed when things go wrong but are rarely praised when things go well. And too often they are overlooked in conversations that directly affect them.’
It suggests that there is a conversation UCU need to be having. I think there are other conversations to be had more generally. There are conversations to be had between academic and academic-related staff, and there are conversations academic-related staff need to be having with each other*.
As a woman who has spent her entire career offering technology to lecturers who are then very rude about it, and setting her face to look interested as yet another colleague explains to her about the panopticon, I am quite looking forward to having a decent pension.
I do my best to keep relations good. I always encourage my staff to refer to ‘academic colleagues’ rather than ‘the academics’. I remind them about the fact that we all come from different discipline backgrounds, and to be aware that the kind of evidence which will persuade in one group will not in another. We talk about things you can count and things you cannot and the value of counting. I also try to discourage lazy stereotypes like ‘digital natives, ‘digital immigrants’, ‘luddites’ and ‘CAVEs’.
There are also conversations to be had about the different kinds of impact withdrawal of labour can have. Sometimes support staff withdrawing their labour will seem invisible. I have a suspicion that if a large IT system goes down and no-one is there to pick it up the impact would be obvious.
“Are you even allowed to strike?” a colleague asked me last week. It’s an interesting topic to discuss; the very different attitudes to being managed in the university. The lecture recording policy consultation has drawn out some fascinating stuff about informing, asking permission, agreeing, trust, ownership, rights etc from academic colleagues. It was instructive to hear some speak about their lack of trust with students, their managers and each other.
Management in the support groups is clearly different, as is the attitude to providing services**.
Do staff in support groups know/ want/ feel able to strike? Are we just as racked with guilt as lecturers who would rather be lecturing? Do we know what ‘action short of a strike’ means in our roles? all the guidance seems to the about marking and meetings. To what extent does the action itself rely on the university email for communication? To what extent should learning technology be used to mitigate a strike and how much should we help with that? Will academic colleagues stand with us if we refuse to? How many of our university systems have just one person as the single point of failure? and is that person ‘allowed’ to strike?’ Should teams cover for colleagues who strike? How rude will academic colleagues be if we are not there to fix the thing they are using, or using to work from home? These seem to me the kind of conversations we need to be having as IT professionals, and it would be great to have UCU in the room to advise.
*While I’m on the topic, I think support staff need to be discussed in a more nuanced way. I was reading our Athena Swan stuff and it seems like because there are generally more women than men in the support groups everything is fine. Until you look at the STEM bits of the support groups, like IT for instance! ‘IT guys’ seems to be a stereotype the university is happy to perpetuate. Also, the promotions structures for academic -related staff are quite different from academic staff, and we don’t have the option to do consultancy work on the side. For academics apparently that’s a ‘nice little earner’. I’d argue that perhaps the support staff are proportionally more ‘local’, are we a group being considered as beneficiaries of the City Deal investment? How many of us are in jobs which will be replaced by robots, and will those be robots we built ourselves? And, you know there are going to be intersections of class, age, race, gender and academic snobbery to consider…….
** ‘you provide services and are thus a servant‘, someone once told me. I think you can guess at which institution that was.
Sometimes, people look to me for advice and wisdom.
My advice today, to anyone who works in a role similar to mine is: try to avoid being in an institution-wide consultation about an opt-out lecture recording policy at a time of national industrial action.
We are consulting on a draft new policy at Edinburgh. It’s a good policy. It’s better than previous policies and it’s been developed over many months with input from across the University.
I am a strong believer that if you are a member of a union you should remain a member of that union even when you become senior management. The reason for this is that I believe you get better decision making when there is diversity around the board table, and union members are part of that diversity of thinking. Having some managers in the room who are union members means you get better management which is more inclusive and considerate of a range of staff views. The hope, is that with this better-informed thinking, comes fewer staff-management stand-offs.
Because of this, I have ensured that the campus unions have been part of the policy consultation since the start. A UCU rep has been part of our task group.
What have learned:
‘We can just use recorded lectures‘ is the knee-jerk go-to response of university management when threatened by an academic walk-out, but that really isn’t what this is all about. The University believes that having more lectures recorded and offering a consistent staff and student experience around that service, benefits us all in the longer term. That is why they have invested.
For colleagues at Edinburgh University, please let me assure you: The new policy is predicated on the idea that we are all in this together.
The new policy clearly states the essential purpose and aims to address a number of concerns. In the Policy Point 1. The statement of the “essential purpose” in the policy is to reassure lecturers that the intention of the service is the provision of recordings for students to review, and that this is limited to the students on the Course for which the lecture is delivered i.e. those who were entitled and expected to be present at the original lecture.
In 1.5 it clearly states that to use the lecture for business continuity , such as a volcanic eruption leaving everyone in the wrong place around the world*, or loss of a major teaching building, or absence of a major teaching person, the university can use the recording ‘if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School. ‘ People on strike would presumably not agree. That is the reassurance we have been giving colleagues.
The essential purpose referred to within this policy is to allow the students undertaking a taught Course to review recordings of lectures given as part of that Course. The policy also permits a lecturer to re-use recordings of their lectures for other relevant and appropriate purposes, if all the participants in the recording agree to this.
Use of recordings
1 The University will provide recordings of lectures to students on taught Courses, where possible, to aid their learning through review and reflection. These recordings are not, other than in very exceptional circumstances, a replacement for lecture attendance or other contact hours.
1.1 The Lecture Recording Policy Privacy Statement details how the University will use and share personal data in relation to the lecture recording service.
1.2 Recording of sensitive personal data as defined in current legislation shall not take place without the explicit written consent of the person(s) to whom the data relate.
1.3 The University will provide lecture recordings to students on the Course(s) to which the lecture relates. By default, it will also provide access to the staff associated with the Course(s) in the Virtual Learning Environment. The lecturer may restrict staff access to a recording further if required.
1.4 The University encourages teaching innovation, sharing and re-use of recorded lectures where relevant and appropriate. A lecturer may publish a recording of their lecture as an open educational resource, with appropriate modifications and safeguards, including an appropriate attribution, licence and having obtained any permissions required from other participants or third parties whose intellectual property resides within the recording. Guidance on this is contained within the Open Educational Resources Policy and Website Accessibility Policy. Staff and students may otherwise only publish or share restricted-access lecture recordings with the permission of the School that owns the Course and of the lecturer and any other participants in the recording.
1.5 A School may use a past recording held within the lecture recording service in exceptional situations to provide continuity, if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School.
1.6 The recordings and any associated metadata will not be used by the University for staff performance review or disciplinary processes except in the case of alleged gross misconduct. A lecturer may however choose to use recordings of their own lectures for these purposes or to allow peer observation of their teaching.
1.7 Learning Analytics from the lecture recording service may be used in accordance with the Learning Analytics policy.
* I was first convinced of the value of lecture recording ( and video conferencing) when that Icelandic volcano stranded the staff and students of my university all around the world. There were no flights in and out of Europe and, as an international research institution, we were all widely scattered. The impact on teaching, and the research activities and conferences for those few weeks was considerable.
With so many staff categorized as IT, the University of Edinburgh is one of the largest tech employers in the city. We aim to diversify our workforce but we are doing that in a very competitive labour market. Other tech employers in the city are also keen to recruit women into IT roles.
The University is preparing its silver Athena SWAN application. Input is being gathered and examples of good practice corralled. Action plans will be set.
The University has a bunch of professional support staff. Numerically far more women work in Administration than any other job segment, and outnumber men at a ratio of 4:1 in these roles. Women also predominate at a ratio of greater than 2:1 in Alumni & Development, Human Resources, Finance, Library, and Marketing &PR .
Men dominate at a ratio of greater than 2:1 in Agricultural Work, Health & Safety and IT. Agricultural work has 7 people. Health and Safety, 17. IT has more than 700!
This is a a large group of people, we should make transparent what we are doing to address the structural issues which lead to this inequality – these are STEM careers after all, and the staff who work in these STEM roles are visible role models. Strategic diversity staffing initiatives are needed. I have been reading up on the topic. This chapter in the Handbook of Diversity and Work provides a good literature review and suggestions as to what works. I have learned how organisations can tailor their recruitment and selections systems to identify those candidates who are best suited to help achieve strategic objectives. We have to be proactive about this. We can’t rely on the same sources any more. It is important to think about how and where we advertise, what messages we send and who is involved in the selection process.
Here are just some of the things we do to support recruitment and promotion in ISG:
We have completed our gender equality survey and we keep regularly updated HR dashboards of gender split by grade and by Directorate. This enables us to identify groups or areas of ISG where the gender ratio is significant.
When roles come up in those areas we take care to ensure that we attract a broader range of applications internally and externally. For senior roles we instruct our search partners to find us female candidates and 18 months this has resulted in 3 new Grade 10 directors being appointed from outside ( welcome Janet, Jen and Gosia) along with several new and newly-promoted grade 9s.
I am not convinced that we are well served by the university advertising IT jobs on Jobs.ac.uk as a recruitment source That maybe good for learning technologists, and roles which need experience of HE ( do they, really?) but it’s not a place the best developers and IT professionals are looking.
In an attempt to try to attract a more diverse workforce we* have established a Company page on LinkedIn, and we use the powerful data tools, targeted adverts and social media sharing to get more reach for our recruitment and to attract passive talent. We review job descriptions from other employers to compare with our own, and we have engaged with external groups such as Equate Scotland to give us advice on writing job adverts and role descriptors. We encourage our existing staff to share the job adverts on their own networks. We have become partners with GirlGeek Scotland to raise our profile as a tech employer which welcomes women and invests in their ongoing careers. We have established ‘Women returners’ projects with Equate Scotland. Research suggests that effective diversity management is the key to unlocking the benefits. It also suggests that university campuses are a great place to find diversity. In ISG we have established dozens of internships for university students but no graduate recruitment scheme, as yet.
When our jobs are advertised on Jobs.ac.uk we are able to use the data (along with the data from linkedIn) to understand more about who is looking at our adverts and make decisions . We were apparently the first people in the University of Edinburgh to ask Jobs.ac.uk for data. We need to pay much more attention to the wording of our job titles and adverts and think abut the messages they send. The aim of an advert is to get people to click to find out more. It is important that the messages presented make all applicants feel welcome. We use social media ( twitter) to promote our job adverts using combinations of hashtags such as #womenintech #womeninstem #girlgeekscot to encourage retweets and sharing.
Would we, could we be so bold as to say: ‘If we can’t shortlist diverse candidates, we will review the role and how we advertise it. We won’t proceed with an all-white, all-male shortlist.’ or is that a step too far?
We try to have diverse panels involved in selection and everyone involved in recruitment has done their equality and unconscious bias training. To support internal recruitment and promotion of women into more senior roles we participate in all the university initiatives such as Aurora and Connections and we activity celebrate Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day. We also have internal workshops and seminars to explore the various issues such as age ( ‘baby boomers’ and ‘millennials’) , gender, sexuality, disability, race, parenthood (part time-working, fathers network) which combine and intersect to have an impact on our workplace experiences.
We ensure that all jobs are advertised internally and that secondments, flexible and part time working are available as options. We encourage staff to gain professional qualifications where appropriate and have offered support for preparing CPD portfolios for membership of those professional bodies such as CILIP and CMALT. We pay special attention to areas of technology where there are few women, such as drone pilots, and encourage colleagues to gain their qualification. On top of all this we try to highlight and celebrate success through social media, IS News and BITS magazine.
We are aware that the external perception of us as an employer is key to attracting staff. Research suggests that the images and and stories during recruitment convey messages to applicants and specific diversity-focused statement bring positive outcomes. Our Linkedin site showcases the innovation and range of IT and media projects that we do, the benefits of working for a university and particularly highlights stories from within our organisation which reflect diversity and equality themes. We showcase women in STEM roles and highlight career paths. Maybe once we have a head of communications we can think about impression management.
*when I say we, I mean me and my trusty LTWadmin and intern side-kicks.
The University has offered lecture recording on an opt-in basis for around ten years and recently made significant investment to provide a new central lecture recording service, Media Hopper Replay, in September 2017. The new service is running successfully so far with a good many colleagues using it to deliver recordings of their lectures for their students to review.
Beginning the second semester of our new service we have more than 60,000 recordings made to the end of December. It is very popular with students with around 190,000 student views. December was the top month for replaying content – over 70,000 hours.
We are consulting, on behalf of Senate Learning and Teaching Committee, on a proposed new lecture recording policy to support us in consistently delivering the benefits of the service both to students and to staff.. Please submit your responses or questions by 19 February 2018.
The new policy seeks to maximise the number of lectures recorded, and hence the consistency of the student experience, while retaining appropriate scope for a lecturer to opt out of recording a lecture where the interests in not recording outweigh the interests in recording. It is intended that the lecture recording policy will provide the necessary clarity and reassurance to lecturers and students on data use, data security and data protection; intellectual property rights within the recordings; avoidance of copyright infringement; and equality of access to lectures and recordings.
Assuming the new policy comes into force in Summer 2018, it will dovetail with an integration of the lecture recording service and the timetabling system and with an expansion of the service to cover nearly 300 rooms. Indeed, given the ongoing expansion of the service, the availability of comprehensive training, and continued demand from students, I would encourage colleagues in all Schools to consider initiating or expanding their use of the service this semester.
For the text of the proposed policy and full supporting information, please review the consultation website that is now available to all staff and students. (EASE authentication required.) While the consultation encourages colleagues and students to contribute to aggregate responses, it also leaves open the option for them to respond individually.
In addition to responses from Heads of Schools, Colleges and Support Groups, we are also seeking the views of the trade unions, of students via the Students’ Association and of conveners of the Knowledge Strategy Committee, Library Committee, the Directors of Teaching network, the Lecture Recording Programme Board, Academic User Group and Engagement and Evaluation Group.
I’m very pleased to say we now have more than 10,000 lynda.com subscribers at the University of Edinburgh. Digital skills are in considerable demand as we know from the news and are also key to the capability within the institution for staff to be effective in their roles.
There’s only a small team in LTW but we augment that with a pool of 50 tutors from across ISG. This makes it possible to offer a broad programme drawing from experts in particular packages and technology areas. Because of this we are one of the largest training providers on campus, and key to ensuring that the University delivers on one of the elements of the people strategy: to ensure that staff and students have the digital skills that they need.
For students, the digital skills programme is co-curricular – it runs alongside the formal curriculum delivered in schools, and for many people it is an important part of the student experience- they can learn additional skills alongside and to help them with the subjects they study.
We deliver a wide range of teaching and learning and development, Jenni and her team have been doing a lot this year to map our training on to the JISC digital skills framework and to bring all the various skill training across ISG into one comprehensive programme. They have also delivered a huge training programme for the rollout of lecture recording.
Jenni has also been making plans to expand the programme by bringing students as tutors into the team and developing a job description for part time student trainers. For those students the job will provide an opportunity to get real work experience and teaching practice. The digital skills programme could not run without the contribution that colleagues make- it is a contribution to the staff and student experience, and a contribution of ISG in terms of the excellent services we provide. It’s also an important professional and personal development activity.
Being a good teacher is a skill- not everyone can do it and not everyone should. But for those who are good at it and do enjoy it is an opportunity to learn your subject inside out- to understand users, to engage with learners and to develop confident communication skills. If you feel you have something to contribute to the ISG Digital Skills programme, let me know.
EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education is an open access book to which I contributed a chapter. My chapter is about the positive power of wikipedia editathons, but the book contains a full range of ideas and responses to tackling the real lived experience of inequality in higher education.
The piece I wrote I wrote a long time ago, before we even had a wikimedian in residence and before the Playfair Steps had really got going. The book has taken a while to come to fruition. It began as an idea to develop a set of ‘recipies’, with each of the contributions having a witty pun-laden title styled as instructions, method and ingredients. I thought that was a cute idea, but seemingly the author team lost their resolve for this, decided that recipies were too girly and decided to adopt a more formal style.
The result is still good though.
It’s free to download, or you could buy it.
It would make a lovely Christmas present.
After swearing for years I would never sit another exam, I have finally bit the bullet and became a student again.
I am conscious that my development as a researcher will require me to think in new ways, but also that I will bring much of my own experience and previous knowledge to the task. As an experienced professional I have been successful in using those things which I ‘just know to be true’ as the basis for my professional practice without much reflection on how this knowing has been arrived at. I am well aware that particularly with regard to workplace issues of equality and diversity many of my colleagues do not think as I do, so it is not a position which can be assumed as shared. It will be challenging to go back to basics and understand why I think the way I think and make a clear justification for the approaches I choose. It will also be interesting to gain new understanding of the ‘researcher language’ of ethics, ontologies, epistemologies and the various ‘isms’. In the course of writing my first asssignment I have found myself referring to dictionaries and encyclopaedia in a way I have not done for a while. I have also had occasion to reach into my dusty book piles for Wenger’s community of practice , Schon’s reflective practitioner, Kolb’s learning cycle , Handy’s organizations and Lewin’s action researcher. It is nice to see these old friends again.
In the classroom it was interesting to become a student again. I did my masters more than 15 years ago. It was fun to see how a room full of successful professionals cope with being challenged to identify the sheer scale of stuff that they do not know when faced with the daunting writing task. As well as researcher-thinking skills I will need to develop new digital skills. I’m fairly confident in searching the internet and library catalogues, and I think/hope I am ok at evaluating sources for credibility. Taking a critical researcher view again will be different. I will also have to learn to use Endnote and wrangle a large (document) piece of writing much longer than the reports and projects plans I write day-to-day.