looking back

Lovely illustrations for our playful engagement website by the LTW Interactive Content Team

To aid reflection sometimes it is good to look backwards. Here’s what we said in 2016 that we would do by 2019.

And I’m pleased to say, we have.

Learning technology developments for 2016-19

Background, Context and Strategic Alignment

  1. ISG work with partners from across the University to provide an on-campus student experience where technology enhances and optimises learning and teaching, and to establish and embed a framework for the development of digital literacy. Collectively, these measures ensure we meet student and staff expectations for world class learning. Our services make a key contribution to the University strategic objective of Leadership in Learning, ensuring that students’ learning and progress are supported by the latest in learning technologies and that we are at the forefront of digital education. We provide opportunities for students and staff to develop the digital skills needed for work, study and teaching.
  2. ISG work aligns with the Digital Transformation development theme within the University’s Strategic Plan 2016, by supporting and enabling every educator to be a digital educator and every student to be a digital student. We aim where possible to provide and use systems which integrate with each other to provide a consistent student experience and useful data upon which to make decisions about learning and teaching planning.
  3. The ISG planning round includes Learning, Teaching and Student Experience as one of a number of programmes that enable more strategic use of information technology. In 2016/17 a total of £1.5 million was awarded to this programme. The bulk of the investment has been used to deliver significant improvements across the AV estate.
  4. ISG aim to align learning technology projects and services with school and college learning and teaching plans where possible. Representatives from our learning and teaching teams are available to attend school learning and teaching committees on request and are able to provide updates on any of our work areas. We invite colleagues to attend monthly Learning Technology Showcase & Networking Events to keep up to date and feed into discussions about new services.
  5. In support of the work of the University’s Space Strategy Group, ISG enable the delivery of a centralised model for the management and maintenance of the University’s “general” teaching space. We target a single support model with a dedicated helpline and technical support staff. We provide regular preventative maintenance and project managed rolling replacement programmes. This enhances the ability to roll out strategic, large scale system changes, such as lecture recording. ISG learning technology work supports the delivery of the University Learning and Teaching Strategy. In particular there are a number of areas in which ISG has identified significant projects and key performance indicators for achievement.
Learning and Teaching Strategy areas ISG activities
2.5         Committing to the creative use of digital technologies in our teaching and assessment where appropriate whether online, blended or on-campus ISG provide virtual learning environment platforms (VLEs) , computer aided assessments, in-classroom technologies, media asset management, media production, learning design, web design, interactive content, maker spaces, Wikimedia projects and learning technology consultancy services.

In 2016/17 critical new demands in such areas as automated assessment, eExams, feedback & assessment and student analytics are high priority.

We aim to build communities of practice which encourage innovation and diffuse good ideas across the University. We do this by organizing showcase events, training sessions, facilitated networks, conferences and staff development sessions, and by producing and publishing case studies of innovative teaching practice on our platforms and social media.


2.6         Utilising our world-class libraries and collections in innovative and research-led ways to enrich our curriculum

ISG support the provision of online reading lists and integration of learning technology tools with Library systems to ensure that resources can be easily added to VLEs and playlists.

ISG host a growing collection of born-digital diverse teaching and learning resources for sharing and re-use and we aim to support colleagues in being open content literate about the lisencing and sharing of these online.


4.2         Building on and growing the University’s portfolio of online learning programmes and using them to innovate with new approaches to learning and teaching

In support of on campus and distance learners we are on target to have 30% of the applications available on the Open Labs PCs available online

By 2020 we aim to have 90% of all courses using one of two centrally supported VLEs; 70% of fully online courses use learning design model for excellence and 70% of courses producing or using open content or media.

5.6         Reviewing and enhancing the way that our physical and digital estates support high quality learning and teaching and interaction between staff and students During 2016-17 we  prepared for implementation of University lecture recording service from 2017-20. This will bring significant enhancements for students to support revision, study and those most in need of the opportunity to listen again or revisit lecture content.

We continue to invest in the student digital experience in line with recommendations following the Headscape review and those under discussion via the Service Excellence Programme.

ISG manage 400 teaching spaces across the university. We aim to have 100% of general teaching spaces digital enabled and centrally supported and 100% of general teaching space enabled for lecture recording by 2020.

5.7         Exploring whether learning analytics systems can help Personal Tutors provide effective academic support and enhance learning ISG deliver pilot projects (2016-18) to understand where learning analytics approaches could be useful within the University.  We also include data exchange, retention and management plans for all our new systems 
6.7         Pursuing the aspiration that every educator is a digital educator, and that all teaching staff are supported in the appropriate use of the full breadth of learning technologies


ISG provide staff development programmes and training for professional development for academic staff and professional accreditation for learning technology support staff.

All staff and students are supported to develop their skills and know how to be lifelong learners for more skills in the future. Digital skills provision aims to improve the student experience. We provide a rich set of existing online resources for flexible learning. We strive for service excellence: our trainers are trained, our programme is extensive and up to date, our rooms are modern, our delivery is flexible and evaluated. We aim for digital skills training uptake in Schools and planning units of at least 75%

Projects for Blended Learning, Digital Skills, Online Learning, Teaching Spaces, Assessment and Feedback

VLE consolidation for UG and ODL


  1. ISG leverage opportunities to promote the strategic market advantage in being excellent in digital education, distance learning, MOOCs and online CPD, with the aim of developing a sustainable capability in digital education. We work with partners from across the University to establish a framework for digital literacy and the on-campus student experience to be one where technology enhances and optimises learning and teaching, to ensure we meet student and staff expectations for world class learning.
  2. In support of growth in ODL and a consistent student digital experience, ISG is undertaking a significant VLE consolidation and resilience project, working with academic programme teams to consolidate a number of the bespoke VLEs that exist within the institution into the two centrally support platforms, Learn and Moodle. This project will addresses specific improvements in the student experience in key areas such as Undergraduate Medicine, as well as ensuring much of the more general investment being made in VLE resilience, robustness, user experience, learning analytics and other areas are available to all our student community.
  3.  Simplification in this area should also deliver some efficiency benefits for administration and support of academic programmes in the medium to long term. This work is proceeding with care and through a close working relationship with academic programme teams to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on existing students as part of this transition. Several online distance programmes in particular also have mature processes which inform the process. Consolidating all teaching activities into the two central VLEs will further increase requirements for robustness, resilience and support of these platforms. Options are being scoped for improved resilience, maintenance and availability and funding in future years is likely to be required.
  4. Course teams from across the University have been migrating their course content and establishing new, well designed online spaces with enhanced usability for students. After 1.5 years of investment in VLE Consolidation activities, we have reduced the number of VLEs from 15 to 8, and are targeting a reduction down to 2 by the end of 2020.
  5. The University is currently distinctive amongst peers in not having guidelines for VLE minimum standards of use. During 2017/18 ISG will begin projects to explore how the student experience can be enhanced by consistent support offered via tools in the VLEs.
  6. In order to deliver a consistent student experience we are on target to have 30% of the applications available on the Open Labs PCs made available online through the new ‘Apps to User Devices’ service.

Lecture Recording

  1. The largest learning and teaching project outlined in the ISG plan is to provide a fit for purpose centrally supported lecture recording service and significantly scale up the use of lecture recording across the institution. In additional to the £3.25m Lecture Recording capital spend approved by the University Court in September 2016, ISG will spend a further £0.2m annually in 2016-19 in support of the programme. This system will deliver a new modern and comprehensive service in all 400 University lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
  2. The scope of the Lecture Recording programme is significant and complex, with many stakeholders, and consultations to date around policy development have highlighted the strength of appetite for information and reassurance amongst colleagues.

Teaching Spaces

  1. Delivering a high quality digital-enabled teaching space estate requires significant continual investment in technology, support and innovation. The AV and IT equipment within our teaching spaces is in constant use due to the increased usage of electronic delivery alongside ever increasing room utilisation. A continued recurrent investment is required to continue the replacement programme and ensure the estate is supported & maintained for the staff and student experience.
  2. A responsive support model and regular maintenance is essential to keep disruptions to a minimum. This will provide the necessary on-site support, spares and license costs to ensure quick classroom support and facilitate regular maintenance of what is anticipated to be a heavy use building. This is in keeping with our strategy to centralise as much support as possible to avoid the inconsistencies in service delivery that undermine student and staff experience.
  3. Delivering a high quality digital teaching space estate requires significant continual investment in technology, support and innovation. In 2016/17 £1m is being invested in improving our teaching spaces. The timescales for the replacement of audio visual and IT systems across our campuses vary depending on system size and complexity, but an average system is at its best within its first four years. To ensure a high quality user experience and to make the most of new innovative technology it is a recognised standard that these systems should be upgraded every six years. The age and quality of these systems vary greatly across our campuses due to historic funding restrictions. Over time this has built up a technology rich, highly utilised teaching estate with an overall equipment replacement value of ~£8m.
  4. The 2016/17 investment has enabled ISG to take ownership of an additional 103 teaching spaces in 2016, we can now provide management and support of all 316 general teaching spaces across the George Square, the King’s Building’s and Holyrood campuses. This centralisation project enables us to address a lack of investment in some spaces previously owned by Schools and standardise the level of technical support and maintenance provided. The 2016/17 funding for an additional 2.0 FTE of technical support staff required to support the additional spaces has been met by the three Colleges.

Digital Skills

  1. ISG provide an extensive range of digital skills development opportunities for all staff and students. The programme offers over 300 classroom-based events every year, complimented by an extensive catalogue of online learning resources. Events are designed by the Digital Skills & Training team in collaboration with subject experts, and delivered by a pool of over 40 trainers from across ISG.
  2. We offer tailored events designed in collaboration with Schools to meet specific requirements. Topic-focused programmes for internal and external audiences ( e.g. code sprints and hackathons, Wikipedia editathons, 23 Things for Digital Knowledge, Future Teacher Programme, Using Online Assessment, DIY Film School, Using Open Educational Resources, Writing for the Web); online videos and guides developed in-house and hosted on Media Hopper and Learn, and an extensive video library provided by Lynda.com.
  3. In 2015/16 ISG purchased a three-year campus subscription to Lynda.com, an extensive library of high quality video courses in digital, technology, creative and business skills. The investment in Lynda.com has transformed the way we offer digital skills training and hugely increased our capacity for digital skills development, continuously developing the digital culture within the University. It has enabled us to offer flexible learning to both campus and distance students in a broader and deeper range of digital skills subjects than we previously had the capacity and facilities to provide.
  4. The Lynda.com digital skills for staff and students programme was rolled out during June 2016 and is fast becoming a huge success. By the end of January 2017 we had 5,000 unique active users across the University and are confident of reaching our initial target of 10,000 digital skills courses taken within 2016/17 well ahead of time.
  5. ISG have invested in enabling single sign-on for all staff and students and developing management information reporting using our Business Intelligence reporting tools. This will allow data from Lynda.com to be combined with information in our existing corporate systems to show at relatively granular levels of detail what courses are being used and by which areas of the organisation. Information can also be combined with existing skills training attendance information and it will be possible to benchmark engagement across Schools and Support Groups and deploy resources accordingly. Lynda is also integrated with DiscoverEd.
  6. We evaluate our ISG digital skills programme using attendee questionnaires after each event, acting on feedback to make improvements and expanding our programme. The usage metrics available from Lynda.com enable us to identify popular areas for development amongst our users and identify gaps for future development and places where face to face training can really add value. The UK HE User Group provides a platform for universities to influence the Lynda.com product roadmap, and as a result EndNote and Research Methods courses have recently been released.
  7. ISG Digital Skills training team also support major projects, managing and delivering high-volume rollout training and online resources underpinning the introduction of new technologies to the University. These have recently included the introduction of the new Media Hopper and Lecture Recording services, as well as comprehensive training and support for the rollout of online marking within CAHSS.
  8. ISG have invested three new training rooms opened in October 2016 in Argyle House, offering flexible space for technical training. Two rooms feature desks with dual displays, allowing the user to view both their computer feed and the tutor’s feed simultaneously. The third room is a collaborative space, with four group tables with flip down multi-use work stations, allowing for the use of the built-in computers, the user’s own mobile device or a clear desk space for writing. In all rooms, users are able to share their work by wirelessly projecting their mobile devices and desktop computers onto any of the large display screens.
  9. A maker space in the Main Library opened in spring 2017, providing staff and students with a place to learn through experience with resources to work on innovative ideas and projects related to making, whilst supporting personal development and improving creative and technical skills. A variety of tools such as Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, as well as 3D printers and scanners are offered, with workshops for students and staff interested in making. Branded as ‘uCreate Studio’, this is a multi-functional space that can be used for in-curriculum teaching as well as extra-curricular activities. Over the next few months we will be installing new technologies in the space to broaden the range of activities that can take place in there. We also continue to invest in the Media Hopper Service which provides colleagues and students with a platform and tools for creative, shared use of media assets.
  10. ISG is also promoting the development and recognition of professional skills for key learning technology staff across the institution. All the ISG Digital Skills team members now have training certification, awarded by the British Institute for Learning and Development. We are supporting a first cohort of 20 learning technology staff in achieving their Certified Member of the Association of Learning Technologists (CMALT) award in 2017.

Tools for Assessment and Feedback

  1. Online assessment and feedback has been an area of strategic importance for some years and ISG continue to invest in this area. £0.035m has been allocated to support key requirements in the College of Science and Engineering, including the pilot of an online essay-based examination system (ExamOnline) in Biological Sciences and the integration of the open-source ‘STACK’ assessment tool with the Learn VLE in the School of Maths. Integration of STACK has the potential to save the School £0.014m per year in license fees, and save students money as they will no longer have to buy online content along with their core textbooks. ISG has also invested in additional staffing capacity to support the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences rollout of fully online marking and feedback to students, the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine for the rollout of the Speedwell assessment system in Veterinary Medicine, and the procurement of a new assessment solution for Undergraduate Medicine.

Enablers – underpinning the strategic funding and projects

  1. In our current planning within ISG, we have concentrated on the next three years of our 10 year programme, specifically on adjustments to items already agreed in the 2016/19 planning round and on emerging new areas for investment. We have focused on those items that are critical to the University in order to achieve its strategic goals.
  1. The University’s strategic target of 10,000 paid distance learners will not be achieved within next 5 years if we continue with the current approach. Our distance learning is not scalable and margins are thin or difficult to determine. Significant investment in distance learning at scale will leverage the geographic scalability of the existing external MOOC platforms to deliver formal paid accredited courses. Continued recurrent investment is also needed to ensure the quality of our AV in teaching spaces across the estate.


  1. Work across the Learning, Teaching and Student Experience area is very broad and there are a number of governance mechanisms in place to guide ISG work:
  • Teaching space priorities are identified through a combination of consultation with Schools, consideration of hardware age and the amount of support calls received. Annual plans are reported to the Estates Committee and the Space Strategy Group.
  • Large strategic projects and services typically have their own boards for governance. For example, the Lecture Recording project is a complex programme containing multiple strands of project work. A project board is in place for the procurement phase and a programme board is being established to govern implementation and rollout.
  • Progress across all projects is reported monthly to the IS Senior Management Team with processes in place to scrutinise projects flagged as having encountered challenges.
  • Progress for specific projects is also reported to Senate Committees as appropriate, including Learning and Teaching Committee and Knowledge Strategy Committee, either as part of larger ISG strategic project updates, or standalone papers.
  1. Several of the areas of work in learning technology practice require the creation of new enabling policies. To provide additional capacity within the required timescale, ISG has employed an Educational Technology Policy Officer at 0.5FTE to work in partnership with colleagues in Academic Services.

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