Month: September 2020

Shofar, so good.

Pastoral.

We’ve been having a bit of a rocky time with some of our platforms as the activity ramps up wildly toward the start of semester and the head of the year.  We now have 92,995  items in Media Hopper Create,  8300 of those have been uploaded since the 1st of September.

That’s on top of the 63,000 items we have in our Replay Lecture recording system. That’s a huge collection of home grown, born digital content. Worth blasting and shouting about.

3470 of the items in Media Hopper have the open, creative commons licenses on them. I think we could do better on this.  If you have ideas how to encourage  more colleagues to choose that  option to make their materials open educational resources (OER) for others to use, that will help the university towards its commitment to the UN sustainable development goals.

Have a sweet new year.

*Update: after writing this post on 18th Sept our media platform ground to a halt and our VLE crashed. I assume this is my comeuppance and must duly atone.

 

to gather data about equality in university IT teams

Front Cover Issue 9 – Image of woman with household items: iron, thread etc. Usage terms: © Estate of Roger Perry Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence – See more at: http://www.bl.uk/spare-rib/articles/design-and-spare-rib#sthash.LtV84Eu5.dpuf

In February 2018 an attempt was made from within UCISA to gather data about gender equality in university IT teams and to understand what focus there was on gender equality. An email survey of 20 questions gained 126 responses from 53 institutions.

The results are not formally published but have been presented at UCISA events in 2018 and influenced the decision to have a focus on gender equality at the UCISA leadership conference in 2019.  While recognising the limitations and unscientific nature of the email survey study it serves to highlight the need for further research and practice to support equality and diversity in IT departments in higher education in the UK.   Many of the respondents indicated that they did not think that their institution had in place policies to support gender equality and that in their workplace they could see that gender diversity was not widespread across teams, with project management and helpdesk teams having more women than other areas.

In the UCISA study the majority of respondents were concerned about gender equality and diversity in the IT profession – 80% indicated ‘definitely’ or ‘probably yes’ they were concerned, 11% were ‘not concerned’. 48% of respondents said their institution did not have any gender equality policies in place, and 57% reported that their IT departments did not have specific policies in place to support gender equality. (Fraser-Krauss & Priestley, 2018 unpublished?)

In their 2018 book ‘ Professional and Support Staff in Higher Education’ the authors note the absence of input from any digital, HR or IT professionals and suggest that there is more work to be done in integrating the contribution of these groups to leadership and scholarship:

“we (as contributors, colleagues, and more broadly as institutions) must take some deliberate steps to promote greater inclusion amongst authors contributing to research regarding professional and support staff, especially those who do not currently see themselves as part of the scholarly conversation. Professional and support staff within higher education are diverse, their roles multifaceted, and their contribution and experiences under-examined.”(Bossu et al., 2018b, p. 460)

The UCISA survey, however informal,  further informed the need for further, ongoing work to understand the experiences and perceptions of staff in university IT departments in relation to equality and diversity practice.

Here’s some data from University of Edinburgh IT Services Dept which we can add to the endeavour. EDI ISGReport Summary Report 2020

 

being a lert

PERFORMANCE COSTUME 2009, LEILA DEARNESS © Edinburgh College of Art http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/xc5j6y

Let me just say, being a woke IT director is exhausting.

Not only do you end up writing theses about ‘diversity and digital leadership‘, you also find yourself employing OER service managers (to research and promote equitable distribution of resources), E-Safety Officers (to support students and staff who discover that the internet is not a safe space), and Data and Equality Officers (to ensure that your services and workplaces even know what they are doing).

You end up talking about digital accessibility  and inclusion at every meeting and you keep your antennae poised to nip any potential carcrashes in the bud.

So much of what we do is actually just about how we communicate it.

This month I’ve suggested:

  • That ‘Race Sub Group’ may be a difficult name for a good effort.
  • That ‘Welcome Period’ sounds odd too.
  • As do ‘Courses to help you with transitions’
  • That  Estates and Digital Infrastructure (EDI) is not the same as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)
  • That using a picture of Chinese students wearing masks might contribute to Sinophobia on campus
  • That there’s not much evidence that  ‘EDI training’ actually works.
  • That some staff may want to attend more than one ‘identity network’ in the workplace.
  • That we could add rainbows to Teams backgrounds instead of distributing rainbow lanyards to people’s homes.
  • That even if you are wearing a mask you should still wear a lapel mike.
  • That Teams, Zoom and Collaborate may tend to search for white faces on camera more easily than black ones.
  • That those huge video files you are struggling to upload to Media Hopper are the same ones your students with low bandwidth will struggle to download.
  • That as well as removing the name ‘David Hume Tower’ we should check the slavery credentials of George Brown after whom the square is named.
  • That no EQIA was done on the decision to not fund an improved subtitling service.  ART was offered several options but chose to accept the risk of putting the workload on to individual owners of their materials.   The nature of these speech to text robots (and many other algorithms) is that they are structurally biased. The data sets on which they are trained are largely spoken corpora from business settings, in male voices and with US accents.  So the burden of correction will fall disproportionately on women, people with accents and anyone teaching disciplines with words the robots do not already know.
  • That students choosing to study online rather than come into class isn’t evidence that the online learning is excellent, only that it is more attractive than catching Covid.