Messages to my staff during lockdown

Every Friday I write a message to my teams in LTW.  Reassuringly, in the University we are getting a steady stream of high-level communications from HR and ‘the very top’.  In my messages I try to focus on achievements and successes.

I’ll keep them here to look back upon when we come out the other side. They already serve to be an impressive list of what the teams  have been doing.

Friday 20th March

Home office.

Dear All,

Well done all, for making it through what must be one of the craziest weeks at work, ever.

Thank you for all your work in getting set up to work from home, for looking after each other, and for taking care to be safe and well.

Thank you also for all the extraordinary measures you have taken to ensure that the University is successful in continuing learn, teach and web.

Gavin has asked me to pass on his thanks for  ‘The wonderful and immense response from LTW to the challenge of moving to remote teaching. Please give my thanks to everyone involved’.

I realise that we still have a lot to sort out about how we keep working, in our homes and with our families and pets who need us. This situation is unprecedented, but I trust that we will try hard and make it work.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.

-Melissa

Director LTW

Friday 27th March

Empty streets

Dear All,

I hope you are all ok at home. I am so impressed by how well our teams and services are responding to this situation. We are seeing increased use of all our learning technology systems and receiving great, positive feedback on the support, training and expertise we are providing.

Our academic colleagues are working hard to play their part in tackling the Corona Virus.  This is one of the very good things about working in a research university. We are providing services which support research and teaching and knowledge creation and dissemination.
https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2020/experts-play-key-role-in-bid-to-curb-covid-19

In LTW, we are all part of this. We are currently:
• helping to open up content on MediaHopper to be used by NHS Lothian staff,
• helping MSc Critical Care to open up a Learn course to thousands of clinicians and creating a new MOOC.
• helping Usher Institute to create a web database of evidence based research on COVID-19 that can be accessed by policy-makers and clinicians seeking up-to-date and reliable answers to key questions.
• adapting the graphic design in chapters from the Adult Medical Emergencies Handbook to be put online.

This is important work and the university appreciates the contribution we are making.

Well done for making it through another week. If you are unsure, or short of something to do, please let me know.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.

-Melissa

Director LTW

Friday 3rd April

Deserted castle.

Dear All,

Another week has passed and I hope you are all still doing ok at home. The pace of activity in LTW does not seem to have slowed at all, many of you must be exhausted.  The Principal has given us two days of leave in recognition of the fact that everybody needs a rest from work sometimes.

I am very pleased to see how well you are managing to shift your teams, events, board meetings, steering groups and  community activities online. I know that there are online teaching and training sessions going on every day.

Amongst our many achievements:
• The Web Team ran our first ever Web Publishers’ Community online via Collaborate.
• Catherine Koppe was nominated for a Sustainability award for providing an electronic workbook service within the ISG training suites. The judges were impressed by the amount of paper this has saved, and direct cost savings as a result, they offered heartfelt thanks and congratulations for the fantastic work she is doing.
• Amanda Scully has been elected by University of Edinburgh students as Students’ Association VP for Community next year. Congratulations!
• You attended and spoke at virtual conferences to virtual audiences.
• You launched a new MOOC at short notice and high speed and shifted big courses from platform to platform as demand changes.  https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/covid-19-critical-care-education-resource/1 This  resource will help frontline healthcare workers in this high-stress, high-risk environment.
• Stewart Cromar and Jon Wilson are supporting ISG comms to make changes on the ISG website.
• You are progressing with recruitment and on-boarding where that makes sense.
• There is much blogging, podcasting and sharing of pictures of pets.
• Ewan McAndrew launched our new publication about using Wikipedia in Education. https://oer20.oerconf.org/wikimedia-in-education-online-launch/ It’s a beautifully designed book of case studies about curriculum innovation, with many examples from Edinburgh. The event was supposed to be in London for 200 people, but it shifted to online for 1,000 people.

You will have seen that Gavin is keen to advertise work opportunities for staff who are short of things to do. This will be very interesting for us in LTW as we may have colleagues from other directorates who join us to work in areas supporting Learn Foundations and media subtitling.

Well done for making it through another week. If you are unsure, or short of something to do, please let me (or your line manager) know.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend. Stay safe. Thank you.

-Melissa

Director LTW

Friday 10th April

The University gave us along weekend Friday and Monday holiday

Friday 17th April

Cherry blossoms.

Dear All,
I hope you are all ok at home. It sounds like this lockdown will continue for a while, so please pace yourself for the long haul.
You will have noticed that Gavin has got the hang of Media Hopper Create and is doing regular video messages.  He is also very impressed with the success of the COVID MOOC and the future thinking from Learn Foundations.  Similarly popular is our course  ‘An Edinburgh Model for Teaching Online’. We have 150 staff signed up and 100+ more on the waiting list. Its great to see so many colleagues eager to find out how to do it!
I am getting a very strong sense that we will need to provide a lot more learning technology support to the College and Schools in the coming months, and perhaps for longer, so can I ask you each perhaps to have a think about people you know around the university ( or IRL) who you think would be assets to our teams (and might be on precarious contracts now)?  Staff or students. We will particularly need people who may have used our tech, built websites, taught or designed MOOCs, with good knowledge of accessibility and UX and a passion for teaching and learning.  Let me know.
Well done for making it through another busy week.
Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.
-Melissa
Director LTW

Friday 24th April

Library looking lovely.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another busy week.

Stuart has attracted 400 academic staff to his training programme. Jon has 31,000 on his MOOC and Gavin now believes we can make MOOCs in a week. Lauren and Emma’s marketing efforts have brought more than 900 sign ups for the online learning open day. Ewan got 14 editors, 18 new articles and 80 articles improved as a result of his Earthday Editathon.

As a result of your creativity:

Our free courses are listed on https://www.edinburghlockdowneconomy.com/
The CRC collections are now available in Animal Crossing https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/dlam/2020/04/23/animal-crossing/
We now have a new “How To Make Video Content” series: https://media.ed.ac.uk/playlist/dedicated/102178591/1_ss0sj2nw/1_jwi6ubp1

You will be aware that concrete plans for semester 1 are still elusive.  Time constraints over the summer mean that it will not be possible to redesign all on-campus courses to be taught ‘fully online’, nor to develop a fully ‘hybrid’ model. I expect that we will use best efforts and the good thinking that has been already done in the Learn Foundations project to repurposed a scalable solution for moving all on-campus courses (particularly those for returning students in 2nd, 3rd and 4th years) into a state where simplified remote teaching can take place, continuing students can be held close and we can maintain community to sustain continuation of studies.

Another thing we learned this week is that the email announcing you have a voucher reward looks a lot like spam, so be careful if you get one not to just bin it!

Colleagues in the CRC are collecting your lockdown artefacts for their archive. I trust you will send them your many creative pieces.  https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/staff/2020/covid-19-experiences-to-be-documented

Best wishes, hang in there, enjoy your weekend.

-Melissa

Director LTW

Friday 1st May

Deserted castle.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another busy week.

Students have been doing their first week of online and open book exams, and we’ve been supporting them as best we can.

We have been moving our classroom-based training programme online. We now have online delivery options for most of our classroom courses and Developing Your Data Skills Programme. These include webinars, videos, LinkedIn Learning courses, resources, guides. Digital Skills Programme webinars have been delivered to another 250 staff and students.

We are seeking to systematically improve our estate as is, starting with audits of content and accessibility. We are underway with a major programme to develop a new suite of common tools, services and technologies – including a modern, cloud-based publishing platform as a replacement for EdWeb – designed to offer our web community what they need to deliver a world-class experience for their users for years to come. We are also hoping that the university will sign up to the W3C ‘contract for the web’ https://contractfortheweb.org/ but it has to go through half a dozen committees first.

You have also been supporting Usher Institute in developing their ‘UNCOVER’ site full of evidence based reviews of COVID 19 https://www.ed.ac.uk/usher/uncover  and publishing new guidance for students on how to stay safe online.https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/is-skills/digital-safety-and-citizenship It is important to remember that just as ‘home’ may not be a safe place for everyone, the internet is a toxic place for many too, and we need to take care of each other.

You’ll have heard much talk about the dire impact the situation is having on the university. Your managers are working hard to try to ensure that contracts get renewed and jobs are secure. You will also hear much about furloughing, and economic recovery. This week Nicola Sturgeon launched a skills gateway online which links thorough to the MOOC platform where we have many of our online courses. https://www.myworldofwork.co.uk/learn-and-train/find-free-online-courses

Our ISG teams in UCreate Makerspace have been working hard to develop PPE for anyone who needs it. They have shared the design of the 3D stackable visor model they have been developing at uCreateStudio.  The model has been uploaded by the OER  team to Sketchfab so it can be downloaded under open licence. This makes the design available to anyone to make, re-use and adapt further as they wish.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.

-Melissa

Director LTW

Friday 8th May

Swanage.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another busy week.

Good to see so many of you blogging about life working from home
https://www.noexceptions.io/embracing-remote-working/
https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/dennyroberts/2020/05/05/hyperreal-marx-and-furry-pets/

This week we launched a new MOOC on blended learning.  1700 people signed up for the online learning open day. We have welcomed new colleagues and we have colleagues joining us from other directorates to help with Learn Foundations and subtitling.  We have also moved some LTW colleagues into furlough if it hasn’t been possible for them to keep working. Colleagues on furlough are still able to undertake training, so there is no escape from updating your digital skills.

We are working with Schools to provide support for two different types of exam alternatives – open book exams with a 2 day turnaround, and shorter closed book exams with a 2-3 hour turnaround (plus an hour for digital submission, many of these are hand-written). Exam period is the 27th of April until the 29th of May, so still a while to go.  There are 483 exams in total, with 17K sittings. There are quite a few at the weekend and cover is being provided for any issues that occur on those days too.  Assessment continuity support: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/assessment-continuity

This week we also began planning for Welcome Week in September. Leaflets and handouts will be a no-no, we will need to think creatively about our merchandising  and inductions this time.

You may have seen discussion of a ‘hybrid’ model for teaching next year.  It is still a bit hard to get ones head around how social distancing will work on campus with each person needing a certain amount of space around them, our lecture theatres and seminar rooms will be very different from how they were before.  It its important to the University to advertise that this hybrid model is NOT an online-only model, and this is a strategic distinction for the University.  We know that many international students remain extremely nervous about the recognition of online only programmes.  So ‘hybrid’ delivery does not assume either a fundamentally on-campus or fundamentally online model but is designed for easy student transition between the two.  I’m sure it will become more clear, eventually.

We are running more training sessions for remote working and teaching and we have updated our training and documentation including documentation to support making video and streaming from home.  You may have spotted that the BBC have released images from their archives  to be used as backgrounds in Zoom https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/empty_sets_collection/zfvy382   It sounds like ISG is about to buy a site-wide license for Zoom, so if you have suggestions of images from our archives which can be used as backgrounds I’d be happy to see them.  You too could work from under the eaves of McEwan Hall https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/pit557 or dance at the 1949 Revel https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/fnjyew

Best wishes, stay safe.

-Melissa
Director, LTW.

Friday 15th May

Fountain.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week.  Today is national #workFromHomeDay. 15th of May, in case you have lost track.

The University has launched a stream of recovery, renewal and adaptation projects. There are several streams with different names and subgroups. If you are invited to join one please do, but also please let me know.

I know you are all busy. A training programme for remote teaching is running every week, as is a whole raft of digital skills training for staff and students. Our copyright teams have added new guidance for copyright in remote teaching. Our graphic designers are discussing ways to make posters, stickers and signage for a socially distanced campus.

We are recruiting Learning Technology Support Officers, if you know anyone who might be interested https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/CAB451/learning-technology-support-officer  Knowledge of the university, of LTW and of the technologies we use would be a bonus.

We are continuing to get regular updates from Gavin and all-staff emails from the Principal. On 26th May I’ve organised for VP Colm Harmon to meet with the university learning technology community to share his thinking about the way forward for semester 1. If you consider yourself to be a learning technologist and would like to join the meeting you are most welcome,  Laura will be sending out a meeting invitation soon.

You all know that there is online training in health and safety, bribery and corruption, bullying and harassment, equality and diversity for you to do. If you still haven’t done your mandatory training and you have teenagers at home, why not get them to work through it with you and use it as a home-schooling teachable moment about what its like to work in a behemoth.

Best wishes, stay safe.

-Melissa
Director, LTW.

Friday 22nd May

Selected fish and chip shops re-open in Edinburgh.

Dear All,

Well done for surviving another week at home.  Nice to see you keeping busy:

Callum tells us about the work involved in UNCOVER:

https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/website-communications/assisting-covid-19-research-with-uncover/

Duncan tells us about his art projects:

https://duncanstephen.net/lockdown-projects-month-2/

and the Tab tells us what is going on:

https://thetab.com/uk/edinburgh/2020/05/20/breaking-uni-of-edinburgh-cancels-all-study-abroad-starting-in-september-65773

Even in lockdown, LTW is still winning:  <secret until it is announced> on Friday, June 5, 2020, so don’t tell anyone until then.

We told the students we were recruiting interns and more than 100 of them applied to work with Learn Foundations one the summer. This is an amazing response and an exiting opportunity to show how we can work with students to co-create this new hybrid offering of (h)ours. 

We told the world about our online programmes and applications to PG OL degrees are up 21% on same time last year.

We told our academic colleagues about teaching online and another 400 of them are going to start to learn more in June.

We told our academic colleagues about making video and they told us they need an additional six media production studios around the campus!

We want to tell our new students everything we can about how to be successful as hybrid leaners so we are making courses to support them in 4 broad areas:

  • Getting started including intro to the Universities digital spaces/environments and interacting online
  • Digital Study skills
  • Digital Literacy and the online libraries
  • Digital Wellbeing and support

All told, not a bad week.

It was Mental Health Awareness Week this week, I am sure you are aware. Be kind to yourselves.

Best wishes, stay safe.

-Melissa

Director, LTW.

Friday 29th May

Picture taken by me in the street. No rights reserved.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week at home. Today is the last day of the semester.  Thank you to all of you for adapting well and working so hard to ensure that students can complete their studies.

As the easing of the first lockdown begins, discussions about how and when the campus will reopen are happening across the University. It is hard to imagine what the new normal will be.

In the meantime, we must wave goodbye to 6 of our student digital skills trainers who leave us to spend their summers and future careers in new and exciting ways.  The Digital Skills Team are working with the Careers Service to think about what online support can be offered to graduates seeking work and attending interviews online.

On Monday we welcome 20 new student interns to help deliver the Learn Foundations project. They will be part of an important project to work alongside our returning students to shape the reality of how the hybrid model of teaching will work in September. Thank you to those of you who were able to join me on Tuesday to hear Colm Harmon, VP Students talk about his hopes for the coming semester, I think it was clear from what he said that he understands how vital our services are to delivering that.

The range of activities in LTW continues to be as impressive as ever.

The findings and recommendations from our ISG Equality and Diversity survey will finally be presented to Directors next week. It has been bumped several times. Additionally, Lilinaz is beginning a thematic analysis of the feedback and questions which come in from ISG staff during Gavin’s All-Staff meeting.   You will have seen our LTW all-staff meeting diary date in June going into your diaries. Any thoughts on what we should do at that meeting happily received.

Have a lovely weekend, stay safe and don’t forget to wear sunscreen.

-Melissa

Director, LTW.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *