Thank you for visiting my blog. I am out of my office and taking part in the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action to defend our rights to fair pay, fair play and equality at work.
I was pleased and honored to be invited to speak at a recent HELF (Heads of e-learning Forum) meeting at University of Glasgow. I was asked to speak about leadership and change from a political and ethical standpoint. How these views guide our approaches to change within an institution and the tensions that may arise. What does it mean to be and become an agent of change?
The meeting fell on the day after this current round of strikes were announced and it gave me the opportunity to talk with these learning technology leaders about the role learning technology plays during strike action.
If we work with technology for teaching and learning then all our technology comes into contention during a strike.
This is important for HELF because that what happens at one university is quickly heard about at others. I know several large institutions have been having discussions about lecture recordings and learning materials last week. I asked for a show of hands in the room, to see how many HELF leaders were union members. A good number of hands went up, so I assume there will be at least a few institutions in which the leaders of learning technology are not at meetings today.
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.
My hope, is that with this better-informed thinking comes fewer staff-management stand-offs. But since the UCU have voted to strike again, you need to know your institutional policies on lecture recording and VLE use.
The relationship between professional learning technologists and academic colleagues is a finely balanced one. Learning technologists offer technology solutions to teaching problems and encourage innovations in pedagogy and learning. We bring technology into classroom spaces on campus and online and ask colleagues to embrace it. We assure academic colleagues that the technology is there to help not replace them. We ask for trust, understanding, communication. We ask them to give it a go. We know that academic ‘buy –in’ is key to all of our success. But, as part of the business, our IT services are also key in ensuring business continuity, supporting students beyond contact hours and mitigating the impact of disruption to time and place.
At a time of strike, what might before have been thought of as a fairly neutral service becomes very political. There are expectations from both sides and either way your choice of action will be political. It may come down to your own political or ethical position.
Management will expect you to use every tool you have to mitigate the impact of the strike, to keep learning and teaching going. And academic colleagues, or those on strike, will expect you not to. You may have to pick a side. Do you want to be seen as a management tool or a friend to academics? Are you them, or us?
What impact does the decision you make to keep working during the strike have on the longer term relationship you have with those colleagues, those academic colleagues who see you and your services as a management tool?
Although the strike is obviously not about technology per se, Learning technology, VLEs and lecture recordings in particular are very much on the union policy agenda and they will be used as part of negotiations alongside other issues. VLEs make it possible to teach larger numbers of students with fewer staff and lecture recordings make it possible to deliver lectures when they aren’t there. Neither of those sound good to labour unions. Anywhere where strikes about pay and conditions are going on any suggestion that we can make digital materials, or recordings, or whatever available will impact directly on security of tenure for the staff, particularly those on precarious contracts.
I hope we can have more conversations about how our roles relate to strike action. Mangers and learning technologists and learning technology managers should think about the advice and discussions which happened with regard to business continuity during the strike. Did managers give the impression you could not or should not strike? If you are a manager, what conversation did you have with your staff? Is your manager in the union? Were you asked to cover for them? Think about how you feel about retention policies and management requests to give access to last year’s materials. I hope we can have more discussions in this community about how we reassure our colleagues and where we position ourselves. To see ourselves as others see us.
“A Permanent National Necessity…” – Adult Education and Lifelong Learning for 21st Century Britain
100 years since the Ministry of Reconstruction’s adult education committee published its Report on Adult Education, the centenary commission I sit on has published our report which argues that adult education and lifelong learning must be a permanent national
necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, vital to addressing the huge societal divisions and challenges to democracy we currently face.
The challenges include the climate crisis; communities more divided than in living memory, with many feeling excluded from today’s politics; and artificial intelligence threatening to disrupt jobs and permanently alter the nature of work forever. The report mostly focuses on England but we did manage to get in some references to Scotland and Wales and to the potential of digital to transform the ways in which adult education can be offered and enjoyed. Funding for adult learning and apprenticeships has fallen by 45% in real terms since 2009-10, cutting adult education participation dramatically.
Our Report calls for:
• A national Adult Education & Lifelong Learning Strategy, with a participation target to reduce the gap between the most and least educationally active.
• A Minister with specific responsibility for Adult Education and Lifelong Learning to report annually to Parliament on progress.
• Community Learning Accounts, alongside Individual Learning Accounts to provide funding for informal, community-based learning initiatives led by local groups.
As you know the broad objectives for all International Men’s Day are applied equally to men and boys irrespective of their age, ability, social background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious belief and relationship status, and each year they add an additional theme. This year’s theme is: “Making a difference for men and boys.”
To promote positive male role models; not just movie stars and sportsmen but everyday, men who are living decent, honest lives.
To celebrate men’s positive contributions to society, community, family, marriage, child care, and to the environment.
To focus on men’s health and wellbeing; social, emotional, physical and spiritual.
To highlight discrimination against men; in areas of social services, social attitudes and expectations, and law.
To improve gender relations and promote gender equality.
To create a safer, better world; where people can live free from harm and grow to reach their full potential
Some of the things we do in ISG to make a difference for men and boys.
We showcase the exciting work our male student interns do.
ISG Directors Tony, Alistair and Kevin have all attended our Fathers Network events to highlight the importance of understanding the workplace issues which face working dads. The sessions help to normalise experiences by sharing experiences and telling stories about fatherhood with other dads. They are valued as a chance to meet other fathers with the university and learning from how others deal with policies and flexibility. Some comments from our staff on the value of these sessions include: ‘Understanding updated policy on parental leave.’ ‘Hearing experiences from other working fathers’. ‘Raise awareness of issues facing fathers – as peer support’.’ Significant difference as it raises awareness of “invisible” issues’. ‘Anything that helps encourage dads to be involved and ask for help is worth it.’Strengthen families & hence benefit society is worthwhile.’
We run personal development programmes specifically for men
This year develop a full day session:Men at Work: Expectations, experiences, and the workplace. We are partnering with Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to host an interactive full-day workshop for male colleagues. This workshop will delve into the often tricky and sometimes complicated area of identity in the workplace with a focus on your experiences. Aspects such as society, career stereotypes, diversity and cultural norms in workplaces create a set of unspoken ‘rules’ that shape expectations of actions and behaviours. This workshop will explore how these expectations manifest themselves in ISG, the advantages and disadvantages this offers, and what (if any) steps we can take as a result.
We promote mental health
Stewart is now bidding for funding for the third! edition of his mindfulness colouring book.
Lothian Health Services Archive’s UNESCO-recognised collections on the history of HIV prevention, treatment and care in Edinburgh reflect a widespread and co-ordinated response from a range of individuals and groups to an unprecedented crisis which reached its height in the late 1980s.
You’ve been waiting a long time. The last one was written in 2006. Writing with Chris and Clara has been just like old times.
You’ll be thinking loads has changed in the techniques of learning design and use of technology to support learning and teaching……
For most teachers the main technology to support teaching on campus is still the VLE, but in this edition I’ve managed to include up to date examples from lecture recording, maker spaces, OER, online reading lists, diversity in the curriculum, inclusive design and learning analytics. Course leaders still need a really good grounding in learning design though, if their teaching is going to be successful. We have a Learning Design Service at Edinburgh which is growing from strength to strength.
Bridging the gap between theory and practice, this fully updated new edition of Designing Learning offers accessible guidance to help those new to teaching in higher education to design and develop a course. With new considerations to the higher education context, this book uses current educational research to support staff in their endeavour to design and develop modules and degree courses of the highest quality.
Offering guidance on every stage, from planning to preparing materials and resources, with a focus on the promotion of learning, this book considers:
Course design models and shapes, and their impact on learning
How the external influences of learning and teaching are translated by different institutions
How to match the content of a course to its outcomes
Frameworks to enable communication between staff and students about expectations and standards
Taking into account the diverse student population when designing a course
The place of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), communication tools and systems for monitoring students’ engagement
The importance of linking all aspects of the taught curriculum and wider co-/extra-curricular activities to support learning
Ways to evaluate and enhance a course and to develop oneself as a teaching professional in HE.
Providing advice, illustrative examples and case studies, Designing Learning is a comprehensive guide to designing a high-quality course. This book is a must-read for any academic looking to create or update their course or module.
We are delighted to win the Scottish HR Network Magazine Attraction & Resourcing Award of the Year 2019
Here’s the work wot we won for:
The University of Edinburgh is committed to providing employment opportunities for Edinburgh students. The student workers in our organisation transform the culture, bring new viewpoints and diversity to our teams and provide unique student perspectives on our services to help us improve. Increasing the number of students who work in our organisation is part of our strategic ambitions and a vital part of enabling the University effectively to meet future challenges.
For the last 4 years we have had specific programmes in place to recruit and support students into our data, digital and IT jobs as interns over the summer and as part time workers throughout the year. Students work in our organisation in a wide range of roles including: as web developers, IT trainers, media producers, project support officers, help desk staff, graphic designers, AV fit-out technicians, data analysts and learning technologists. We aim to develop a strong and vibrant community of young staff who are supported, valued, developed and engaged.
Students are also the main consumers of our services. By employing them to work on projects that affect them we benefit from a rich source of productivity and innovation to help shape and improve these services.
The work on this initiative is ongoing and growing. Team managers are finding opportunities to attract and work with students across more and more projects. They say:
“It started with a single summer internship analysing some data from our MOOC courses. Since then we’ve had summer interns developing media migration tools, capturing case studies on how media is used, assessing chat bots and where they could fit into our work, and helping with the roll out of lecture recording. This year we also had a team of around 30 students working with us over the start of term to support lecture recording use in large teaching spaces.”
“Personally I loved the experience of working with students again, and in a brand new area of IT support. I find their enthusiasm for the role and energy is infectious and I’m always looking for ways to challenge them and help them grow in the role”’
The work we have done at Edinburgh University is easily transferable to other institutions and there is a sector imperative now to build and grow talent in organisations. The competition for new graduates is fierce and the investment in students now yields return for the future. Students bring a new diversity to our workforce and contribute to a change in workplace culture enhancing our ways of working across intergenerational teams.
Our CIO has set a target within the Strategic Plan to employ at least 500 students over the course of each academic year.
Evidence of a particular recruitment project that has impacted positively on the organisation including evidence of the planning, delivery, evaluation and return on investment
University of Edinburgh HR colleagues have planned and delivered more than 300 employment opportunities so far this year as part of this project. Because we are responsible for all the digital services across libraries, IT, learning technologies and study spaces in the university we are in a perfect position to offer flexible, 21st Century skills employment to our students.
The impact on our organisation can be seen several ways:
The experience we are gaining in developing our scheme in response to feedback from our student workers has led to improvement in practice. We have a staff network for interns and managers to share experiences and learning.
Our projects and services improve as a result of the skills, creativity, input and ideas brought by the students.
Our understanding of our users is improved by the perspective that our students bring to the workplace. Their outside perspective is useful in terms of challenging and broadening our thinking.
Our student workers are now a growing group of ‘Alumni’ who have worked with us and may promote or choose our organisation in the future.
Some of our student workers are now returners who return to work with us each year in different roles.
Demonstrate the positive outcomes in planning for future skills and abilities being assessed and delivered
Positive outcomes can be seen in the work being done to generate a sustainable pipeline of talent. Giving individuals the platform they need to excel is critical to our long-term success and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. Providing work experience and supporting employability empowers our students, which we hope we may benefit from in the future.
We support a positive employment experience for our student workers and encourage them to create LinkedIn profiles to evidence their skills and to engage with their peers through promotional videos and blogging about their work experience. Every student who works with us should leave able to describe an experience of working in a professional environment, on a meaningful project, with real responsibilities, and have a good non-academic referee to add to their CV.
Students can also complete an ‘Edinburgh Award’ – a wrap-around reflective learning framework that helps students to articulate their work experience. We can measure the impact of our student employment initiatives through the ways in which the students reflect on the value of their experience.
The cohort have also become a loyal group of workers who identify us as their employer of choice.
Evidence that the recruitment & selection process contributes to overall effectiveness of the talent strategy
The University is one of the largest local employers, covering multiple sectors and job roles. The University of Edinburgh has a Youth and Student Employment Strategy 2017–2021, which presents our whole-institution approach to employability skills.
The University is committed to long-term goals in creating, promoting and delivering opportunities that enhance the employability of our students. The University recognises the shortage of highly skilled data, digital and IT workers and is therefore safeguarding for the future and building a sustainable talent pipeline, which addresses current and future skills requirements. In addition, this gives our students the platform they need to excel, which is critical to our long-term success, our competitive advantage and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. This is particularly important for sectors with national skills shortages such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and this is an opportunity to ‘grow our own’ in these areas.
The National Student Survey (NSS) and Edinburgh Student Experience Survey (ESES) results have highlighted areas for improvement in recent years. Developing more student employment opportunities is one way to improve the student experience and expands the employment prospects of our graduates.
Evidence of the organisations commitment to diversity and assessment of skills to ensure organisation performance and culture fit
Universities are well placed to employ students in flexible ways, but often we assume that these will be in fairly low skill jobs in our shops, bars and residences. In exploring digital, library and IT opportunities we have opened up a variety of roles and reaped the benefit of a vibrant new group of staff with new ideas for our organisation. Our students are amongst the best and brightest in the world. We are lucky to have a pool of such talent and creativity available to us.
As an employer within a university we are afforded unique opportunities to engage our student body, including delivering learning technologies used in curriculum, improving their study spaces and access to research.
Students are sensitive to image and want to work for organisations that wear their ‘inclusivity-heart’ on their sleeve, so we have promoted a cultures of equality and diversity, as part of our change agenda, to ensure that our reps on campus reflect these values.
By empowering our students they become champions and ambassadors for our work, which brings business benefits as we strive to roll-out new technologies and the cultural changes associated with these different ways of working.
Evidence of effective interview techniques and the role of induction offered to new employees
To identify and attract the best candidates and provide a positive experience for both interviewers and interviewees, ISG supports and promotes best practice in our recruitment processes. We think about how we can:
Be targeted: writing tailored questions for different audiences is time-consuming, but really effective.
Be distinctive: with so many opportunities out there, be clear about what makes your organisation different.
Be aware: of your own non-verbal communication and unconscious bias.
We want each student to get the most out of their employment experience with us, so as part of our induction process, we have collaborated with our Careers Service and HR colleagues to create a ‘digital student guidebook’.
To help line managers and staff support these groups, we’ve developed ISG ‘student experience’ resources, as well as collated a list of useful tools and platforms to enhance professional development and support students balancing employment alongside their studies.
In addition, we run ‘career insight’ sessions, to get staff talking about their career/role (what a typical ‘day in the life of’ looks like, how they got here etc.) with the objective that it will provide new employees with an understanding of the diverse range of careers available and create a space for them to ask questions.