The teams in LTW’s Learning Spaces Technology spend a lot of time thinking about how best to provide high quality AV services to a diverse university community across a very mixed estate. We aim to ensure that our technology is universal and accessible to all and that the benefit we provide to the university is useful in enabling accessible and inclusive teaching.
We support 400 rooms and 30,000 hours of teaching every semester. We pride ourselves in providing high microphone quality across the University Estate, hence why we use high-tier quality Sennheiser models. We upgrade and improve our services on a rolling basis. Whenever Sennheiser produce a smaller or lighter model or a new technology solution we check it out. The current model that we provide in teaching rooms is easily worn on a lanyard ( as modelled). This makes it an ideal, gender neutral solution as it doesn’t require a belt or pockets and works fine with any neckline or dress.
It has to be said, we’ve tried out some smaller, wireless mics around the place, but the quality just wasn’t good enough for the serivce we provide for learning and teaching but you can look forward to ‘flexible beamforming‘ from Sennheiser. We’ll be trialling this in the new spaces on campus and in Edinburgh Futures Institute building when it is ready.
Last year, in September, the University of Edinburgh carried out an institution-wide staff engagement survey. It was the first time this had happened in a very long time. The results were fed back to directors and heads of units and schools, with an expectation that things would happen as a result. Since we had our LTW all-staff meeting this week, and in the interests of transparency and open approaches to leadership it is timely to provide an update on progress, actions and next steps around the Staff Engagement Survey in LTW.
A network of University Champions has been established to communicate and share good practice across the University as well as helping to shine a light on the actions needed to improve staff engagement in each area. Kevin has been appointed as our champion on this and is part of a wider group feeding back and co-ordinating action across the institution. At our December 2018 Staff Meeting, we reviewed the output from the survey and worked together to identify our key strengths and challenges and to share thoughts on actions that we could take. We had positive scores we received for the majority of the questions in the survey and that our positive scores were generally higher than comparative scores for ISG as a whole and the wider University.
Our highest scores were in relation to the statements:
“I have good relationships with colleagues I work with”
“I am treated with fairness and respect by colleagues”
“I am proud to work for the University”
And our lowest scoring areas for improvement were:
“Poor performance is dealt with effectively where I work”
“My department deals effectively with bullying/harassment”
“The University manages change effectively”
It is a credit to all of you and the work we do in our teams to develop good working relationships. In LTW we have regular all-staff meetings in July and December and many opportunities to come together to meet and celebrate our work achievements. In ISG we have a programme of work specifically designed to ensure that our workplace is fair and inclusive. LTW staff are the by far the largest group of participants in these equality and diversity activities.
One of the questions in the staff engagement survey was about managing change in the university. I don’t think we manage change for the whole university, but we are definitely part of bringing change in the university and I think we manage it well. Projects like lecture recording, subtitling, DLAS, VLE foundations, digital skills framework, student helpers, student interns, and chat bots are actually changing the conversations we have with colleagues about use of technology and I think contributing to changing the culture in the institution.
“Good performance is recognised and appreciated at the University”
“My manager recognises and acknowledges when I do my job well”
Each year in ISG we have a round of pay rewards over and above the normal increments. 29 LTW staff were recognised and rewarded for exceptional contribution in 18/19 through the annual Contribution Reward process and a further 37 staff via the Voucher Reward Scheme. Awards were given at all grades and we ensure that we consider our grade and gender profiles as part of our nomination process.
“The training and development opportunities I receive help me to do my job more effectively”
We have approved £65k of expenditure to support LTW staff attending a vast number of training events, conferences and other development opportunities in 18/19 as we believe these activities bring real benefits to the individual and to LTW and the wider University.
LTW colleagues presented and attended in leading conferences of the field e.g.UX Scotland, Blackboard Europe, Echo 360 Europe, Open Apereo, Open Educational Resources 19, Drupal Dev Days, Institution Web Manager’s Workshops (IWMW), Frontend United, Digital Day of Ideas, Digifest, Dealing with Data, Jisc Events, HEIDS events, UCISA events, ALT events, LILAC, ICEPOPS, Pebblebash, University Learning and Teaching conference, Drupal camp, Jupyter Camp etc and delivered a dozen events for students in our Festival of Creative Learning week. We are still, by far, the largest group of CMALT accredited learning technologists in the UK, or in the world and when the ALT conference comes here in September we will be the largest group there from any one institution I’m sure.
“I found my last Annual Review or Probationary Meeting useful”
“I receive regular and constructive feedback on my performance”
“My role makes good use of my skills and abilities”
Colleagues across LTW are aware of the importance of the Annual Development Review (ADR) and regular 1:1 discussions between managers and staff. ADRs support staff to realise their full potential by reviewing their progress against previously agreed objectives, discussing future plans and development needs and setting objectives for the year ahead.
LTW reviews include specific prompts to discuss digital skills development, which reflects partly the fact that we have the Digital Skills & Training team in our directorate and partly that we aim to be up to date with our skills as lifelong learners. Reviewers and reviewees are both responsible for making annual review conversations meaningful. The Digital Skills team will collate and analyse digital skills training needs identified in this year’s ADRs to ensure that relevant training is available is to develop the skills that we need.
To support digital skills development the university’s Digital Skills Framework, based on Jisc’s Digital Capability Framework, is available to help managers and staff (and also students) to:
Evaluate current digital skill levels using a self-assessment questionnaire (Jisc Discovery Tool);
Identify and think about the digital skills required for various roles using digital role profiles;
“Poor performance is dealt with effectively where I work”
This is a always a knotty challenge. Linked to the ADR update/actions above, the University is committed to a culture of high performance and to supporting employees to do their jobs well and to meet the standards expected of them. Managers aim to support employees who are not managing to meet these standards and work together to identify and agree appropriate actions and evidence of improvements through ADRs and 1:1s. Given the sensitive nature of these discussion and actions, they will not be visible to other colleagues, but we do have relevant policy, procedures and performance improvement plans, and we do use them.
“My department deals effectively with bullying/harassment”
The University launched the Don’t Cross the Line campaign which aims to demonstrate the University’s zero tolerance stance towards bullying and harassment; raise awareness of the support mechanisms that are in place; and promote awareness of our existing Dignity & Respect policy. Within LTW, we organised a “Where do you draw the line?” workshop, which provided the opportunity to learn about factors that contribute to a work environment in which harassment and bullying occur, and empowers participants to work collaboratively to address concerns. Following the positive feedback from the workshop, we have encouraged other ISG Directorates to organise their own events and places have been offered to LTW colleagues who were unable to attend our event.
“I am satisfied with the support in place to help me manage my health and wellbeing at work”
“I feel comfortable with the pressure placed upon me in my role”
Linked to Mental Health Awareness Week, Digital Skills colleagues compiled a Lynda.com playlist of online videos and tips for managing stress in the workplace. These tips cover areas such as looming deadlines, unfinished tasks, dealing with interruptions, and more and would encourage all staff to make use of these resources. Our teams also worked with students and colleagues in L&UC to create a new colouring book for relaxation and mindfulness.
Because we take an intersectional approach to thinking about our experience of the workplace, we ran an “Overheating and stressed in the workplace” Playfair Steps event focussed on recognising and understanding the causes of stress in the workplace and thinking about how we can best support our colleagues makes sense for leaders, managers, recruiters and customer facing service teams.
In LTW we are trialling a number of ‘playful approaches’ for engagement and innovation at work. One of these is the playful engagement trolleys which include all the kit and caboodle you need for making meetings more creative and fun.
“I am satisfied with my physical working environment”
The Argyle House User Group (AHUG) regularly requests input from colleagues and looks to identify actions that can be taken. One key area of concern has been the temperature/working environment in our building and some actions around thermal blinds and A/C are being taken. In addition the Digital Skills Training team have acquired a line of merchandising which proclaims ‘I’m a Digital Skills Programme fan’. If you would like one of these hand fans, come along to a digital skills training event and pick one up.
“I am able to strike the right balance between my work and home life”
“As long as I get the work done, I have the freedom to work in a way that suits me”
LTW managers promote achieving a healthy work/life balance and support activities coordinated by the Healthy Working Lives group. Colleagues will be aware the LTW SMT agreed to refrain from sending emails outwith core hours of 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday and encouraged this approach to be cascaded within their teams. In addition, we continue to support flexible working requests in line with UoE policy and we have staff working across LTW on a variety of working hours / patterns / arrangements.
We now have access to the data from the survey and have produced MI/charts focussing on various demographics, which we can share with the groups and use to inform our action planning. We will continue with the work to identify opportunities to celebrate those areas where we achieved our highest scores and look for things we can learn and apply to areas where we did not score so well.
Our Edx Micromasters(TM) pilot aims to address how online education programmes at scale can be configured and supported in such a way to ensure an optimal learning experience for the student by using new educational research in the pedagogic design of the new programmes. We’ve learned a lot from MOOCs and our online masters programmes already, but this is new. Our new pedagogic model, originally scoped by Professor Sian Bayne and Dr Michael Gallagher, works to address the challenges and advantages of distance education by offering discipline-relevant approaches to at-scale provision.
We have spotted some risks inherent in doing a project which focusses on scaling up online learning:
learners may not feel part of a community
academic colleagues may not feel sufficiently supported to deliver high quality teaching
colleagues or students may consider lower-cost education to imply lower quality.
We’ve thought about these risks and we are building an academic /staff development programme to get colleagues working together to think about these challenges. The Edinburgh Extension Model development programme will extend teaching reach, practice and the university by ensuring that tutors involved in the design and delivery of Micromasters programmes understand research evidenced best practice and available tools to:
Help students to feel like they are members of a learning community, a sense of belonging within their department, programme, and the University of Edinburgh
Provide capacity for regular and substantive feedback on students’ work across different media
Provide for visible, and visibly engaged, teachers who are experts in their fields
Work on the staff development training resource is progressing well. We’ve got a cracking team working on it. The core development team for the course consists of:
• Stuart Nicol: Learning, Teaching and Web Services
• Dr Michael Gallagher; Centre for Research in Digital Education
• Andres Ordorica; Instructional Designer, Learning, Teaching and Web Services
• Sheila MacNeill; Consultant expert academic developer
At University of Edinburgh, now that we have near-comprehensive coverage of lecture recording facilities, we plan to give students across the University guidance on how to use recordings in their studies.
The excellent guide has been created by colleagues from other universities cited below. I recommend it. It’s available for adaptation and we have added to the ‘Do Not’ section: ‘Do not share, publish or sell recorded lectures outside the University of Edinburgh.’
Please cite these guides as Nordmann et al. (2018).Lecture capture: Practical recommendations for students and lecturers Preprint: https://osf.io/esd2q/
Emily Nordmann1, Carolina E. Kuepper-Tetzel2, Louise Robson3, Stuart Phillipson4, Gabi Lipan5 and Peter McGeorge5
1 School of Psychology, University of Glasgow, 62 Hillhead Street, Glasgow, G12 8QB
2 Department of Psychology, Scrymgeour Building, University of Dundee, Dundee, DD1 4HN
3 Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN
4 IT Services, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL
5 School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3FX
What with the new accessibility legislation coming into place, I am gathering together a list of things/projects/initiatives and services we offer in Learning Teaching and Web Services to support accessibility online. I have to say, I do think a working knowledge of accessibility is a key knowledge set for learning technologists and web developers. I am often surprised when people think it is something you only pay attention to when legislation changes.
University of Edinburgh has a huge corporate web estate so we are taking what we believe to be the most pragmatic and effective way forward toward improving accessibility, and thus reducing overall risk. We will proceed with our ‘Future Web Services’ project, in conjunction with a migration to Drupal 8. We will take a stringent approach to accessibility throughout design, development and testing, considering both the end users’ experience and accessibility needs. We will proceed with a content audit with a view to decommissioning and archiving portions of the estate as appropriate and rationalising the remainder, redeveloping content as needed and with accessibility in mind. We will target agree key user journeys giving us a prioritised backlog for more in-depth accessibility assessment. We will develop, adopt and communicate policy, standards and guidelines around accessibility as part of our continuing development of our digital governance.
Accessible design of our VLE
We are currently working with six Schools and a Deanery to implement a new site structures in Learn. The new site structure is being rolled out to Schools with the support of a team of student interns during the summer break to create consistent courses within Learn in preparation for the start of the 19/20 academic year. The aim is to create a new site structure that will provide a consistent student experience by making course specific materials easy to find as well as supporting staff in delivering rich, online courses. It will ensure courses are more accessible and inclusive and the terminology used relating to learning and teaching is more consistent.
The student interns are working over the summer to complete accessibility audits of course areas with a view to reporting back to heads of schools. If you are interested in talking to the project team or looking to find out more information regarding the project contact the Learn Foundations team
Accessible content in the VLE
The University provides a selection of assistive software to staff and students. One such piece of software, and one which we are excited about is called SensusAccess . We believe this is a really useful piece of software for staff and students using the VLE. SensusAccess allows you to convert electronic documents into alternative versions of the document – such as audio, e-book or digital Braille formats. It even tackles less accessible documents such as image-only PDFs and PowerPoint files. It is quick and easy to use, and free to students and staff of the University. You upload the document you wish to be converted to another format to the software and it is then emailed to you once the conversion is complete. You can then upload this version of the document to the VLE. Students can also use it themselves to create a version of the document which suits them best.
Library Website Improvements -A workstream in our Digital Library Programme is looking at making improvements in particular to Collections, but also, some changes to DiscoverEd, with the focus being on improving search for collections.ed but also accessibility and usability where possible.
Promoting universal design
We have specialists in our LTW teams who promote and train in universal design, whether that is design of digital materials, web sites, communications or AV kit.
The Subtitling for Media Pilot was established to investigate the feasibility, viability and cost of a student-led transcription service, alongside improving the digital skills of staff and promoting a culture change in our approach to delivering accessible content. The team subtitled public-facing audio and video content within Media Hopper Create, with a focus on content that was embedded in the main University website. Automated subtitling services are notoriously inaccurate and require checking before publication. In the pilot, subtitles were automatically generated and the student team acted as human mediators, checking and correcting the subtitles and drawing on their own knowledge and expertise of Edinburgh and University life. As a result of the pilot more media content is open and accessible to all users and new training courses are available for staff and students on DIY subtitling, aiming to move to a position where subtitling of media is standard practice at the point of creation as far as possible.
Accessible work experience
In designing our projects we were interested in whether digital work was the kind of work that might be attractive to students, specifically those who need some flexibility in hours and location of work. We were aware that this kind of work might offer opportunity for employment for students with caring responsibilities, who have disabilities, or who prefer solo working.
Professional Development for colleagues
Our University of Edinburgh PgCap Learning and Teaching includes a session on “Building accessibility & inclusion into your teaching & learning with technology”. We are going to develop this into a stand-alone session, and we’ve talked about developing a baseline e-accessibility resource (either on the open website or as a self-enrol course in Learn).
Our course on Effective Digital Content (Writing for the Web) is mandatory if you need access to edit EdWeb. It is open to all staff and students and available online or in person. This editorial training course covers good practice in writing and structuring information for the web. It also includes guidance on data protection, freedom of information issues and improving performance in search engine results.
The University of Edinburgh University Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy is due for a review, not least to reflect the technology environment on campus which has changed significantly in the past 6 years and to include the fact that we have online courses and students to whom the policy would also apply.
We’ve fitted some rooms with lecture recording facilities ( I may have mentioned this before). We hope that lecture recordings can support a wide range of accessibility and inclusivity needs including those:
who are visually impaired
who work with a scribe to create text notes from lectures
who have dyslexia or other learning needs
who have autism spectrum disorders
who may find physical attendance overwhelming
for whom English is not their first language
who are learning complex technical terms or in translation
who experience debilitating anxiety as a result of missing classes.
We are well aware that in some of our largest lecture theatres the distance from the front to the back of the room is significant. The chalkboard recording facility with Replay allows “zooming in” when playing back, and offers an improved experience for students who might have been at the back of the lecture theatre.
For many students the most useful thing colleagues can do to make the content of their lectures accessible is to use the microphone. The microphone in the room is linked to the induction loop which is essential for students with hearing loss and is the best way to capture high quality audio as you talk. We provide advice on how to wear a microphone and pack with a dress and on a lanyard. We’ve learned from our rollout of lecture recording that the best quality and most accessible recordings are produced when the most suitable microphones are used.Whether you have a loud voice or small group, all microphones will pick up only the closest speaker. Lapel mics work best for presenters, handheld mics and Catchboxes work best for audience interaction. In the largest teaching spaces, there will be a throwable microphone called a Catchbox. In rooms without Catchbox or a handheld microphone, you should repeat questions to ensure they are picked up on the recording. Find out more about how lecture recording can support accessible and inclusive learning.
Accessible online courses
Our distance learning and MOOC platforms have very clear and rigorous rules about the ways in which content is presented. We work with FutureLearn, Edx and Coursera to make sure our content is accessible as it can be for our learners.