I have been thinking about what makes the landscape for digital education at Edinburgh so distinctive. We are going through a programme of curriculum review. There is a tendency from some to see learning technology as something that ISG does to the rest of the university or ‘digital’ as something that is done to us by outsiders (commercial suppliers). Neither are true and Edinburgh has key distinctive elements which offer differentiation, USP and value alignment.
Off the top of my head in no particular order:
-Edinburgh leads in open source software development. we take care to ensure that we are not entirely dependent on commerical solutions, we are committed to development of open source tools and to software development in house as part of open source communities. Our developers are contributing to and leading the development of tools e.g webPA. Software developers who will push frontiers and find new solutions. I want them working in my university. I want to attract them and I want them to stay. I need diversity of thinking in my creative teams. Values driven. Invest in areas which showcase and make clear the role we play in leading with these values.
-Edinburgh as a publisher and consumer of open educational learning materials- Faculty at Edinburgh publish thousands of items of OER which ensures we are one of the largest Creative Commons content producers in UK HE, publishers of learning materials and open educational resources. UNSDG . values. Open education is one of those access to quality education for all, education for all and the redistribution of wealth in education through open sharing of learning materials and knowledge. Our open courses play an important role in supporting the SDGs. Our approach to developing and delivering digital education opportunities champions the fourth goal, to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, as learners anywhere in the world, at any stage of life, can gain access to free, flexible, accessible materials on a broad range of subjects. We source, create and publish all course materials under open licence, making a critical contribution to achieving the aims
-Edinburgh as a world leader – 70+masters courses online and 80+MOOCs. We have always taken an outward looking view. We are steeped in a history of Scotland spreading enlightened views around the world ( even as we struggle with our independence and secession issues at home)
Edinburgh as a commercial supplier – ethical edtech products and services developed and used within Edinburgh and supplied commercially to other schools and universities – Digimap, Digimap for Schools, DataNation, Notable.
We partner with 3 big global education platforms to offer strategic choice and access to new markets. Channel for translational research. shorten the distance from bench to bedside ( or barnyard) – public engagement. COVID MOOC
We have a direct route to market for our learning technology MOOCs
We employ students in our organisation to ensure their input into the development of our services
Data informed practice- We carry out mass surveys of student user experience to ensure that our services meet student needs. We support faculty in changing their practice in response to this research.
Data informed practice- we gather and analyse data on service usage and adapt to changed in behaviour, trends or gaps.
Students as learners – we have a huge programme of skills development available. For all, for free.
We have a more professionally accredited learning technologists that any other institution in the UK
More than half of our educational design team have teaching qualifications.
We sponsor PTAS research projects to ensure that ‘edinburgh experience’ is reflected in scholarship of teaching.
Faculty as learners – we have a huge programme of skills development available for faculty to learn how to teach and data on who attends.
Learning technology teams regularly network with colleagues across and outwith the university, participating in scholarship, presenting at conferences and sharing knowledge.
We meet to discuss ethical and EDI issues in our ISG reading group.
We employ an equality and data officer to help us ensure that our services are inclusive.
There’s no gender pay gap in our learning technologies group.
All ISG staff have ADRs and CPD.
Our procurement is rigorous and we take care with DPIAs and EQIAs.
We have data stewards in place. we have control of our own data and the ability to shape the technology to the way we want to teach. We should try to avoid having to say no, you cant’ teach that way because the technology won’t let you.
We understand cookies and analytics.
We understand accessibility.
We understand ethics.
Things which are not common at other universities:
We have a learning design service to support colleagues in designing courses.
We have a UX service to ensure that we consider the user experience of services.
We have an OER service to help staff make positive choices for sharing
We have an edtech policy officer to ensure that our policies are robust.
We have a data and equality officer
We host media platform for all staff and students so that they don’t have to use Youtube with adverts.
We host a blogging platform for all staff and students who want to blog so that they don’t get spammed.
We have lecture recording fitted in 400 rooms.
We have a wikimedian in residence to integrate digital skills and knowledge activism into the curriculum
We have cool makerspaces staffed by students in the library.
We have in-house media production studios dedicated to educational media production.
We have in-house graphic design.
We have computational notebooks available to all staff and students.
We understand how subtitles and captioning robots work.
We are finalist in 2 categories: Best Place to Work in Digital – Large Organisations and Project Team of the Year. The awards are for the work we do in supporting student interns into our organisation and the work the interns do in Learn Foundations.
‘Our programme has created over 300 digital student internships. We work hard to attract the brightest students and take care to train and support them by creating an environment where they grow and thrive. The student workers in our organisation transform the culture, bring new viewpoints, ideas and diversity to our teams. They provide unique perspectives on our services. Increasing the number of students who work in our organisation is our strategic ambition and a vital part of enabling the University effectively to meet future digital challenges’.
We have actually won awards for this work before, so to get more prizes reflects your sustained excellence. The winners will be announced at a glamorous awards ceremony on Wednesday 13 October in fancy London.
As LTW staff prepare to return to Argyle House en masse here’s what I’m saying to my staff to encourage them to engage with our hybrid working experiments:
You will be aware that the University’s Hybrid Working Programme is looking at how working practices might evolve as we transition out of the pandemic and how best to support all staff whether working on or off campus.
There have been a number of communications issued to staff, the Hybrid Working SharePoint Site and Website are live, and you may also be aware that planning is underway around the re-opening of Argyle House, with the establishment of a Re-opening Building Review Team. Our reps on that group are Kevin and Billy. They are keen to hear from you.
I know you are all thinking about how we can ensure that our services are the best they can be for staff and students and I have always felt that one of the ways in which LTW is distinct from some other parts of ISG is through the close connections we get through meetings and usergroups, and being part of the community.
We’ve done really well at that during lockdown and I am confident that we will do well at it during this period of hybrid experiments.
Creative thinking needed to ensure LTW is the best working environment it can be.
With regards to working on campus, you may be aware that planning and risk assessments are based around natural ventilation and having windows open at all times when staff are working in each location. This will be challenging as we move towards the winter months, so we will need to be creative in thinking about comfort and care.
We’d be happy to hear any suggestions around LTW hoodies, knitted garments, knee rugs, thermos flasks or any other creative/colourful solutions. Please do let us know.
During this experimental period you will need to be open and careful with keeping your diaries up to date so that your colleagues can find you and everyone can juggle the logistics of booking the right size of room. You may also want to take this as an opportunity to start doing time-recording, (if you do not do that already) so that we can get an overview of how working in hybrid modes changes productivity of services and projects or adds new elements. Our ideas and experiences can feed into the development of Hybr-ED teaching models, the hybrid meetings service, the hybrid events service and the university’s review in response to NSS and staff satisfaction surveys. As ever, I encourage you to be creative in thinking about how we can be the best LTW we can be.
From the top
Gavin and his SLT have been discussing their initial plans and have agreed that they will work together on-campus 2 days per week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), with individual SLT members working both on and off campus on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Fridays being reserved as no-SLT meeting, off-campus days to prioritise other work activities such as writing (code or prose).
LTW SMT have begun our initial planning and we are aware that discussions are now taking place within each Section to listen to colleagues and move towards the next phase, where individual conversations will take place, to determine the best, initial hybrid working options for each team and staff member.
It has been a long time since all of LTW were off campus. Several of our teams have been back on campus and working in hybrid modes for much of this year and last summer. You have been discussing the return to campus with your managers and I have been listening to your suggestions.
Many of you have said that you would appreciate clear starting points for hybrid working experiments in LTW and I am happy to give you those:
LTW staff living in Scotland should be on campus 2 days per week minimum.
Friday will be a day with no meetings in LTW. You can use this day for focus and writing without having to stop and start for meetings.
Meetings which include academic staff and students and cover content/subjects relating to learning, teaching and the student experience should be prioritised on-campus.
For those of you not already working in hybrid modes you should start your experiments in week beginning 13, 20 or 27th Sept, agreeing the initial timeframe and review points with your manager. We will review what we are learning across LTW in December and have a clear steer towards agreeing ongoing hybrid working arrangements at the end of the first experimental year.
It is clear that in some teams the fully online working has brought real benefits and we must ensure that hybrid working does too. Decisions about hybrid working in LTW should be inclusive, involving a wide range of voices, but also attention to difference. What works for you may not work for someone else, and we are all involved in multiple groups/communities with colleagues and students outwith LTW.
The Hybrid Working Programme is structured to evaluate Hybrid Working experiments, working collaboratively to continue to improve the Framework and agreeing a final version by May 2022. I am committed to ensuring that those experiments include everyone so that we can ensure that hybrid works for all our services and projects in the future.
Working for a hybrid university which has its ‘centre of gravity’ on campus will be different from the way things were in the Before Times and different again from the times we have been all working from home. We have managed change like this successfully in the past, for instance in 2016 when we all moved from our separate, dispersed offices into fewer bases in Argyle House and Main Library and then again in 2020 when we all moved to remote working.
I hope you will embrace this opportunity to experiment with hybrid working, because what we learn now will shape the options which are offered to us for the rest of our time here. I’m in this for the long haul and I want to make sure we get the best range of possible models which recognise the different shapes and balances of our lives and help us to attract new colleagues in the future. 2 years ago the range of hybrid working options available to us was pretty limited, a year from now I hope they will be much more aligned to diverse needs.
Please see links below to some of the key resources and spend some time reviewing these. LTW colleagues have already been involved in shaping these through feedback in focus groups and hybrid working pilot groups.
Making sure you have the tools you need to do your job
Further details will follow from your line managers regarding the individual conversations. These will include consideration of the kit required to work effectively and connect staff who may be in multiple locations. The link below contains information and exemplars and we will look to collate requirements and, where required, order additional tech/kit to support both on and off campus working.
We are aware that there are still questions and concerns we need to resolve before we are in a position to return to campus and we will ensure that we communicate regularly as we resolve these or receive additional guidance. So please keep track of the situation as it evolves.
Please keep in touch with your manager and other members of your team so that we can engage in pro-active and creative problem solving.
Data informed decision-making
I hope we will have good data to evaluate hybrid working modes in semester 1 to shape what we do in semester 2. Please think in your teams about data we can collect within services to ensure that we maintain our high standards of service provision through a period which will be fairly chaotic for staff and students.
We will aim to be all together and use this data for the group work at our LTW all-staff meeting in December.
Delivering leadership workshops for continuing professional development networks is an important contribution to developing our community. These opportunities for knowledge dissemination and industry engagement offer routes to integrate critical analysis with practical, meaningful links from the research findings of information professionals.
This year I have ensured that the work we are doing in researching higher education has been disseminated via the ALT and UCISA CPD programme.
I have delivered CPD webinars for ALT and UCISA membership. In each case I am drawing upon new data and evidence gathered from staff, students and professional service colleagues in higher education. In each case I am celebrating and showcasing research done by the women with whom I work.
The workshops have been:
‘Diversity and Digital Leadership’- based on my research
Digital leadership is an area of leadership studies which is gaining popularity as organisations seek to ensure that their businesses are best positioned to thrive in an increasingly digital world. Digital leaders are often at the forefront of change, leading departments which are inclusive and empowering. People and culture are key to ensuring that staff are treated well and feel an ongoing loyalty to their organisation, but there are risks for digital leaders who push for change on too many fronts. This session is an opportunity to hear some of the latest research on building inclusive workplaces and consider the recommendations for understanding data about your people.
‘The challenges of attracting staff to skills training’ with Jenni Houston
Why is it so challenging to attract colleagues to training in digital skills? How can we create a learning culture within our universities and colleges? This workshop will explore some of the successes and challenges of offering a comprehensive digital capabilities programme in a large institution and suggest possible strategies for overcoming the Dunning–Kruger effect which causes people to overestimate their ability.
‘Who is getting hurt online?’ with Vicki Madden
Online harassment is very much part of our students’ experience. Ethnic minority and female students experience the more harmful forms of online harassment in comparison to their peers. Disabled students and those from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups are more likely to be harassed on institutional platforms than their peers. What is your institution doing about this? Although most institutions have support services in place for students and staff who experience incidents on campus or amongst people who can be identified, Student Services and Wellbeing staff may be unaware of the nature of cyberstalking, doxing, online shaming and revenge porn. This workshop will explore some of the risks associated with offering services dealing with social media behaviours.
‘Uncovering the real value of academic engagement’with Lorraine Spalding
What are teachers’ hopes and concerns in using technology with their students? How can academic engagement enhance our major educational technology projects? Hear more about how the Learning, Teaching and Web Directorate at the University of Edinburgh, is engaging academic colleagues in a strategic way to implement large institutional changes such as the rollout of lecture recording and a VLE service improvement programme. This presentation will also reference useful resources for supporting engagement and effective communications practices, such as the ucisa communications toolkit.
‘Over a year of hybrid working: What the data tells us (about women)’ with Lilinaz Rouhani
At the University of Edinburgh, we conducted University-wide surveys in 2020 and 2021 to understand people’s experiences of homeworking, taking into account their demographic differences. This gave us a rich data set from which to understand the experiences of women in IT during the pandemic. This presentation focuses on what we learned, and takes an intersectional approach to how different aspects of jobs were affected by off-campus working. The presentation adapts an EDI perspective, discusses if and how different groups had different experiences, and how these differences can be taken into account when developing policies for hybrid working in the future. The session will be a presentation of findings, and a discussion of how the findings are being used to develop policies. The session will be interesting as it is evidence-based, using data over two years. In some instances, it will be interesting to see the change of attitude from 2020 to 2021, while in some instances, settling into home working did not affect people’s opinions. The surveys took into account 19 demographic variables and it will be interesting for the audience how these variables affected home working.
For those of you who are a bit green fingered and like gardening. You’ll know we always have to remember what to dead-head and what to leave. We dead-head flowers so that they don’t go to seed. Unfortunately that has happened all across the university estate.
If you want to grow a successful, health, well-stocked and well-designed web garden on your digital estate you need to get ruthless with your deadheading and weeding.
In order to improve the quality of our website content we have conducted the first University-wide website content audit.
This is, I think, the sort of equality data in which sex matters although presumably sex and gender are being used interchangeably in the reporting context.
The average full time equivalent salary of women in ISG is 16.97% lower than the average salary of men. This compares to 9.59% across all Professional Service Groups and 16.18% for the whole University.
The median full-time equivalent salary of women is 25.48% lower than the median for men. This compares to 14.87% across all Professional Service Groups and 11.10% for the whole University.
Gender pay balance is different in the various Directorates.
LTW has a gender paygap in the opposite direction. I have overshot and I will now seek to correct, as all gaps are bad.
With regard to senior management the gender imbalance and broad salary range within grade 10 have a major impact on the University’s overall gender pay gap. When grade 10 staff are excluded from the dataset, the University average and median pay gaps reduce to 8.8% and 8.5%. However, this is not the case in ISG where the numbers of women and men are roughly equal and are paid much the same ( apart from the CIO/VP who skews the data obv).
The University’s average salary disability gap is 1%; there is no median pay gap. However, at 3%, the rate of proactive disclosure by staff renders it difficult to make meaningful observations regarding any pay gap between staff who have disclosed a disability and those who have not. For ISG, 4.5% have declared a disability and the average disability pay gap is 3%. Interestingly, when the recent home-working survey was done ISG recorded a much higher rate of disability than our HR data would suggest and than other parts of the University.
The University’s ethnicity pay gap is 1% (average) and 5.7% (median) in favour of staff who have proactively declared their ethnicity as ‘White’. While these have reduced since the 2019 audit (8.8% and 8.4%) there has been an increase in the percentage of staff whose ethnicity is unknown/withheld (to 21%) rendering it difficult to draw overall meaningful conclusions regarding the pay of our BAME staff. For ISG, our ethnicity pay gap is 19% (average) and 24.6% (median) and the demographic of our staff ethnicity declaration is: 75% White; 8% BAME; and 8% unknown. Although our Learning Technology colleague Rachael features widely as the face of the university, including on the equal pay report!
In 2009 I delivered a keynote at LILAC conference.
I was the new Head of Learning Technologies Group at the University of Oxford.
The talk was titled ‘Managing Your Flamingo‘, an analogy from Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is trying to play croquet and every time she goes to play either the flamingo’s head pops up or the hedgehog uncurls and walks away. The challenges of getting our back end and front end systems working together are not much changed.
Wonderland analogies are timeless and rife at Oxford and I own a print from the original Tenniel woodblocks.
This year I am hosting a panel at LILAC which brings together Josie Fraser, Jane Secker and Allison Littlejohn. Each of our panel have more than 10 years as change agents in information and digital literacy and have led high profile initiatives to shift thinking and disrupt traditional ideas in (in)different institutions and sectors. Together they will bring unique perspectives on the topic of ‘2020 hindsight’. Come along to find out if their radical inclinations have been tempered by their time in institutions.
The conference is delayed by a year and as Josie has pointed out, you get one year’s extra reflection for free.
Hindsight bias can be dangerous if it leads us to think we ‘knew it all along’ . We all suffer sometimes from memory distortion (“I said it would happen”), inevitability (“It had to happen”), and foreseeability (“I knew it would happen”). Our panel will join you in reflecting on, considering and explaining what has happened and how things that didn’t happen, could have happened. How would things be different if we knew then what we know now?
Is there such a thing as lilac-tinted spectacles?
Back then, I spoke about different types of literacy, (digital, media and information) and questioned whether they were all comparable concepts or subsets of each other, and how far IL should integrate itself into these other literacies. I encouraged librarians to contribute to a digital literacy framework (i=skills) and encouraged everyone to edit and contribute to the digital literacy page on Wikipedia. And media literacy is a hot topic because of the Internet Safety Bill.
In 2009 I predicted that all graduates, not just computing graduates, needed algorithmic modelling literacy and back then, Oxford was working on a Modelling4all project. Check out their website, The Epidemic Game Maker provides a way to quickly and easily make models of epidemics and turn the models into games.
In 2009 I predicted that Youtube U (an educational YouTube) was just around the corner, in much the same way as the University of Oxford had just launched on iTunes U in October 2008. ItunesU and podcasting were a huge success for Oxford, we even featured in the ipod advert on the telly. Who’d have thought that podcasts would be having such a renaissance a dozen years later?
Our partnership with Apple on Itunes brought massive scale and reach, millions of downloads for openly licensed recorded lectures. When Coursera and Edx came in 2012 I thought the reaction would be similar but I struggled to get Oxford interested in MOOCs. They never did, and have suffered no ill-effects as a result. I moved institution and Edinburgh now boasts a boat-load of online open courses. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s them.
I was also wrong about YouTube U. But I have spent some years building something similar in-house. The widespread use of lecture recording has added a whole new type of ‘learning resources’ which are part of the way students learn, study and revise. Huge, born-digital collections.
No-one can really predict how the future will be. We learned that last year. But we can pay attention to signals and think about readiness. I know that the work we did at Edinburgh around business continuity for snow and strikes served us well for Covid.
It is perhaps challenging for online learning leaders and learning technology aficionados to come to terms with the fact that we did not deliver this change through careful support, inspirational argument or the power of convincing evidence. We had to do it in ways we never anticipated. We have been forced to do things we hoped we would never have to do. We have put in place systems and support for rushed replication of on-campus delivery online. We have become middleware. We are at the same time essential and largely irrelevant. And we are caught in a crazy world in which students and staff who would previously have mounted barricades to resist the use of technology in their teaching are balloting their unions and lobbying management to insist on it.
How will this play out? If students do well in their exams this year will we hail the lift and shift as a success? Perhaps all our previous insistence on planned, careful design was unwarranted. Are exam results the measure of good teaching and learning? If so, it’s a good thing each institution has autonomy in assessment and everything is open to interpretation. In whose interest is it for the shift to online story to be told as a huge success or a massive failure?
A picture I shared on Wikimedia has been given by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a gift to President Joe Biden.
Just goes to show that serendipitous things happen when you share openly.
President Biden and Dr Biden are visiting the UK this week. In preparation for the visit the Downing Street offices began searching for a thoughtful gift. They know that the Bidens have an interest in history and in the life of Frederick Douglass. They found my picture of a mural of Douglass on Wikimedia and contacted me.
I gave them a high-res version and the Prime Minister’s Office got it printed up and framed.
When I saw the mural I recognized the subject immediately. The artist is talented and the image is striking.
Frederick Douglass was one of the most photographed people of his time, many people were interested in him and he was keen to ensure that he was represented as an equal during such a difficult time in American history. During the 1800s he sat for more portraits than even Abraham Lincoln.
Frederick Douglass is part of the cultural history not just of the US, but also of Scotland. He came to Edinburgh several times, first in 1846 . He made a number of public anti-slavery speeches and wrote letters back to the USA from here. He considered the city to be elegant and grand and found the UK to be very welcoming. ‘Everything is so different here from what I have been accustomed to in the United States. No insults to encounter – no prejudice to encounter, but all is smooth. I am treated as a man an equal brother. My color instead of being a barrier to social equality –is not thought of as such’.
I was born in Scotland but I am a dual national by virtue of having an American parent. My US family are in Maryland and I am delighted to see this image of such an important American icon here in our public spaces. The fact that I am a dual national seems to be an added bonus for the gift to President and Dr Biden.
I took the photograph on an evening walk during lockdown just as the sun was setting. The mural is very close to the building where Frederick Douglass stayed while he was in Edinburgh. I shared it on Wikipedia so that more people could see it and enjoy it.
Some people on Twitter are being a bit rude about the traffic cone but I would remind you that both Edinburgh and Glasgow have a fine tradition of adding traffic cones to significant public art works and perhaps David Hume wasn’t using his.