Author: mhighton

Shofar, so good.


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:

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


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 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 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.


how we tried to save our students from bad e-learning on a biblical scale

Painting the mouth of a paper mache dinosaur head. 1950
© Edinburgh College of Art

At ALT-C in 2018 I gave a reflective presentation entitled ‘Next expect locusts’ I talked about the importance of business continuity planning in the face of the big challenges which might beset universities. Little did I know.

At a time of uncertainty around the return of students and staff to campuses and the long term impact of major social behaviour change some institutions are facing an existential threat, or at least a major re-think about size, shape and funding.

It is vital that learning technologists at all levels in our universities and colleges take a nuanced view on how our services, support and evaluation will need to change.

The strength of our partnerships with academic colleagues, and our partnerships with vendors and platforms were tested under extreme conditions, as were our capacity and capability to work remotely from home. The policy environment for accessibility, inclusion, OER, assessment, e-safety and care online in our institutions suddenly became mainstreamed. The importance of staff training in online pedagogy was magnified and the role of learning technologist became the sexiest job in IT with hundreds of applications for any job advertised.

When we write our CMALT portfolios and reflect on critical incidents this year we will think about our core values, our specialist areas and the way we tried to save our students from bad e-learning on a biblical scale.


For me, for many of us as digital leaders the first, immediate priority was to look after our people. To keep our staff safe, to keep them in jobs and to channel all our resources into surviving the flood.

Once we were all safely home, in LTW we took a leap of faith in banking on the university having an ongoing need for learning technologists and secured permanent contracts for any that we could. Then we set about up-skilling, re-skilling and growing our own in-house.

I’ve written a guest post for ALT in advance of the Summer Summit this week.

Diversity and digital leadership

Something I’ve been working on for a while:

Diversity and digital leadership: Understanding experiences of workplace equality and diversity and inclusion

Doing a doctorate part-time while working full-time has been exhausting and invigorating in equal measure. It has occupied my annual leave, evenings and weekends as well as two periods of prolonged industrial action and the covid lockdown. I have learned all kinds of new stuff, including a bunch of new digital and infolit skills.  As I get ready to submit my final thesis, here’s how my abstract is looking:


The aim of this research is to gain an understanding of the experiences and perceptions of workplace equality and diversity issues amongst digital leaders in higher education. The participants interviewed for this study are digital leaders working in universities in Scotland in 2019. The study provides a snapshot of data which has been interpreted to provide an understanding of the participants’ experiences and attitudes towards workplace equality, diversity and inclusion. It is the first study of its kind as it focuses on overlapping areas of leadership (diversity, digital and organisational) amongst digital leaders in higher education, a group rarely researched. This study makes a contribution to both both theory and practice and is timely and useful for the university sector.

The study uses a feminist approach to research design and data analysis which serves to highlight the issues of power and privilege which shape the experience of the participants. It takes an intersectional approach to understanding the diverse identity characteristics of digital leaders, recognising that people’s identities and social positions at work are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors, and the significance of these factors for leadership.

In this study an insider researcher was well placed to investigate perceptions and experience and to make recommendations which influence ongoing practice. In order to be credible and useful to the sector research findings are presented with rigour which addresses concerns about assumptions and unfounded interpretations. The process of achieving this by research design, particularly in the formation of interview questions and data analysis is described. The original data gathered from participants is reported and presented alongside references to relevant literature where these serve to explain or shed light on how the data have been interpreted.  Quotations from the raw data have been included to demonstrate how interpretations of the data have been achieved and to illustrate findings. This ensures reflections of the participants are presented in their own voice and brings a lived experience and credibility to the findings by ensuring that data interpretation remains close to the words said. The data are presented against themes arising in the data, several of which reflect the themes highlighted as arising from the review of previous literature.

‘Digital leadership’ is an emerging area of leadership studies which is gaining popularity as organisations seek to ensure that their businesses are best positioned to thrive in an increasingly digital world. The role of senior management in leading change in organisations is well understood and increasingly researchers and practitioners now recognise expertise in workplace equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) as a significant area of valuable knowledge. ‘Diversity leadership’ is also an emerging discipline defined by combining diversity principles and leadership competencies for workplace development.

Digital leaders in higher education are a group of professional staff who lead specifically in areas of the organisation where the use of technology is key to the strategic delivery of higher education such as IT, AV, learning technology, student systems, business systems data and IT infrastructure.  Professional staff in higher education remain a much under-researched population of leaders. With increased professionalisation amongst these staff more now occupy senior executive positions within universities; roles that were previously only held by senior academics. The knowledge and skills which this group of senior leaders have are essential to the success of their institutions. The data in this study indicate that digital leaders do identify their own and organisational values as drivers for action around equality and diversity at work, and that these are negotiated and balanced in context and that that context includes policies, practice, leadership and risk.   This study offers a number of insights for understanding the importance of diversity knowledge as a leadership capability. The data shows that the ways in which managers approach and apply effort to issues in their workplace is heavily influenced by their own identity and personal experience. There is a risk in any sector that assumptions are made about the types of people who are managers and the kinds of things which will motivate them to champion issues over and above their day to day functional or multi-functional roles.  Although the participants in this study have no formal workplace designation as an equality and diversity lead in their organisation they are not ignorant of the organisational development and social justice reasons for engaging with EDI, and they see it as part of their leadership role. Digital leaders in this study were clear that they make choices about where to spend their time and that involvement in diversity and inclusion was just one of many areas which make calls upon their resources. Respondents highlighted that where they found it easier to get involved, they would, and they saw this as a help in delivering their jobs as leaders. They made a different set of considerations however, when deciding to become ‘champions’ themselves and this is inextricably linked to their perceptions of the associated risks. Digital leaders in this study  highlighted areas of personal, professional and reputational risks to themselves.  In some cases these risks were sufficient to discourage them. They found that championing equality, diversity and inclusion risked limiting their own social and cultural capital. Significantly they found that championing diversity could work against their leadership of digital thus undermining their leadership effectiveness.  Understanding these perceived risks, and the interplay of diversity and digital leadership is essential for moving forwards in developing digital and diversity leadership within organisations.

This study provides future researchers and practitioners with a starting point from which to study diversity and digital leadership activities in similar organisations and other universities, colleges and schools. Diversity management in the digital sector and higher education risks falling behind if it is slow to respond or support its digital leaders in this work. The findings of this study are a contribution to professional practice which may hope to facilitate a speedier response to the equality and diversity issues which are becoming increasingly high profile and urgent in higher education and in wider society as we embark on the 2020s.

Key words:  Digital, diversity, leadership, power, organisations, equality, inclusion, intersectional, interpretative, feminist, risk, business, higher education, professional, widening participation, women, STEM, class, race, IT, UK, human resources.

learning from demographic differences of lockdown

Graphic design from ISG BITS magazine

I wanted to know how the lockdown and working from home was experienced by staff in the University of Edinburgh. And I wanted to know whether this was experienced differently by different demographic groups.

Luckily I have a Data and Equality Officer working with me.

We conducted a survey at university level during 26th June – 6th July to better understand the experiences of staff members while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 5069 staff members participated in the survey. We used ONS standard questions on Wellbeing measures so we could benchmark and compare with similar studies.

The key purposes of the survey were to:

  • Understand EDI and other impacts of the COVID period and home working.
  • Serve as data for immediate decisions on how to better support staff working from home.
  • Serve as data for next steps for academic schools and Professional service groups on decisions on their return to campus plans.
  • Serve as data for decisions/discussions on longer term home/hybrid working and other reshaping thinking both locally and at a University level.

A report  was produced and a ‘power BI dashboard’ was  created so that managers and other staff members can interrogate the data (including demographic differences where this was possible) independently.

The Power BI dashboard however, does not highlight where differences in responses are statistically significant, and the overall report highlights where statistical difference is associated with high percentage differences. So Lilinaz produced a further report  to fill this gap by including all statistically significant findings for all demographic groups.

This report will be of interest to EDI officers and anyone who likes dis-aggregated data.

Professional staff were more likely to be interested in complete homeworking in the future. This was the case for more than a quarter (27%) of professional staff, compared to 12% of academic staff who were less likely to be interested in complete homeworking in the future.

Staff Homeworking Experience Survey Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Report – Comparing Demographic Differences at University of Edinburgh.University of Edinburgh Homeworking EDI Report

You can read the whole thing, but here’s a taster:


  • Men were more likely to report a large negative impact of space, internet, working hours, and non-work responsibilities while working from home. They were more likely to report an overall large negative impact of home working on their work experience. Men were more likely to report low ratings for life satisfaction. They were more likely to not be interested in homeworking in the future.
  • Women were more likely to not have previous experience of home working, and were more likely to have their equipment wholly supplied by the University. They were more likely to report a large positive impact on working hours, non-work responsibilities, and other caring responsibilities while working from home. However, they were more likely to report a large negative impact on childcare while working from home. They were more likely to report a large negative impact on their research output. They were more likely to report an overall large positive impact of home working on their work experience. Women were more likely to report much more productivity than before. However, they were also more likely to report much more tiredness than before. Women were more likely to think that they are kept informed about matters affecting them, and be satisfied with the University resources in place to help them at this time. Women were more likely to report very high values on happiness, and high values for anxiety ONS measures.

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.

Edit: as lockdown has continued, I have moved these messages to a new page with the same title.

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.


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.

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.


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. 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. 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.


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.
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
The CRC collections are now available in Animal Crossing
We now have a new “How To Make Video Content” series:

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.

Best wishes, hang in there, enjoy your weekend.


Director LTW

Friday 1st May


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’ 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  and publishing new guidance for students on how to stay safe online. 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.

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.


Director LTW

Friday 8th May


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another busy week.

Good to see so many of you blogging about life working from home

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:

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   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 or dance at the 1949 Revel

Best wishes, stay safe.

Director, LTW.

Friday 15th May


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  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.

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:

Duncan tells us about his art projects:

and the Tab tells us what is going on:

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.


Director, LTW.

Friday 29th May

Dragons Den.

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.


Director, LTW.

Friday 5th June


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week when the world is going crazy.

Welcome to our new colleagues. In addition to our 20 Learn Foundations interns in LTW, I am pleased to say Kevin has persuaded each of the 3 Colleges to take a bunch of interns each to work on Learn support directly in the Schools.  This is important because the more we can support students by offering paid employment opportunities at the moment, the better and the more we involve students in co-creating their learning environments, the better.

You’ve been busy purchasing, testing and recommending remote desktop filming kit to standardise quality of media outputs.  You have been presenting at online conferences and winning international awards. You are supporting the operational setup of new temporary media studios across campuses along with establishing the workflows and staffing for these new resources. Guidance videos and materials are being created to support staff to prepare and film remotely. You are reviewing the edtech landscape to find new solutions for online assessment. You are supporting homeworking and making sure everyone has the kit they need for the long haul.  You are updating your skills and learning to become Edweb editors. Use of our LinkedIn Learning service has increased significantly since lockdown began. You have run 3 ABC ‘train the trainer’ workshops this week, with 46 attendees who are learning technologists and course leads from across the institution. The Final Assessment for the Predictive Analytics MicroMasters has now started and the Business School Chatbot has now been fully signed off and ready to go in August.

You continue to blog about work, working from home and what’s going on for you:

It is Pride month and we have resources and events going on

The University has issued a statement about the George Floyd killing and this has re-awakened some wider discussions about the experiences of Black and Ethnic Minority students and staff.

After a wee nudge, colleagues in Centre for Research Collections have released more Teams backgrounds from the archives. Photographs

My mission to attract more people into careers as learning technologists continues, and we have another LTW alumna success, as Daisy Mickleson has finished her time as an intern with the Digital Skills team and secured a job as a learning technologist in School of Literature, Languages and Culture.

Applications to online PG degrees are up 30% as of 1 June (compared to 1 June 2019) and the alumni 20% discount has been confirmed for all years of study ,which is good. Our  website is now updated. The discount applies to online and campus PG degrees. Tell all your friends.

Remember to follow all the news on  @UoE_LTW  and ISG on LinkedIn

Please do keep your IS News stories coming through to Kevin

Best wishes, stay safe, take care, be a lert and wear a face covering as appropriate.


Dir. LTW

Friday 12th June

Canal pleasures.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week.

Our annual VLE rollover is underway, you’ve been working on mechanisms for deleting old course sites and long-gone users to ensure we are compliant with data protection regulations.   We are moving Learn to Blackboard’s Continuous Delivery Option (CDO). This will provide monthly updates to Learn meaning that bug fixes will be available more quickly and these updates will not require any downtime. We’ve seen a 65% increase in active users of our PebblePad eportfolios and we have 20 Schools/Deaneries signed up as part of our Learn Foundations project. We have seven ISG colleagues on ‘learning assignments’ working on the accessibility review of content and another seven doing subtitling, for around 80 hours per week. 100 people from around the World attended Ewan’s online event about using Wikipedia in teaching.

New services are being launched across ISG. The EdWeb and MyEd teams worked to support the launch of ‘EdHelp’ and keep your eyes peeled for new services for ‘online events’, ‘zoom parties’ and ‘apps everywhere’.

You’ve done yet another really impressive piece of work to establish a co-ordinated learning design service to support hybrid courses in Learn. I’ve always suspected that learning design was key to delivering learning technologies at this institution, I’m glad we have such an excellent team across LTW and the Schools, and that people are able to give time, even when everything is so busy. Thank you to Jon, Ryan, Tracey, Neil, Brendan, Meredith, Lizzie, Graeme, Alison and Lorraine.

Our Blackboard Catalyst Award for Student Experience win got a mention in Gavin’s CIO update and Gavin has called out for contributions to the next ISG newsletter with an equality, diversity and inclusion theme, please do send him your ideas.

Vicki and Lilinaz started pulling together an anti-racist reading list. Reading lists are complex things in themselves, particularly when works of fiction get mixed in with books on politics, policy and history.  If you have suggestions about books which you think should be on a reading list for ISG, perhaps with an EDI /tech or learning angle, please let them know.

On the topic of reading:

Kevin will invite you all to prepare PechaKucha lightning talks for the LTW staff day. Don’t be shy.

Have a lovely, socially distanced weekend.


Dir, LTW

Friday 19th June

Just before the haar hit.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home, and welcome to even more of our LTW student interns, thank you for joining us, we are happy and lucky to have you.

As ever, you have been busy:

The Learn Foundations work continues at pace, we are rolling over Schools as fast as possible in order that academic colleagues can start to build their courses for the new semester.

The second run of our CoViD MOOC is open now for enrolments. This course includes an option for learners to purchase a certificate of completion. The income which comes to the University through sale of these certificates will be donated to charity.

The third run of our ‘Edinburgh Model for Teaching Online’ is ready to start with 400 staff on it and our training sessions for using learning technology tools continue to run every week.

We are back in conversations with the ‘Book MOOC’ teams to prepare our ‘How to Read a Novel’ course in conjunction with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the James Tait Black Awards for 2020.

Our Learning Design service teams have been working in partnership with school learning technologists and have created a rapid ABC learning design approach based on the model initially adapted for DLAS courses. New online workshops have been designed and toolkits produced which increase capacity for learning design for hybrid teaching. The hybrid design app has already been played more than 1,000 times.

There are a number of units across the University who run training sessions for staff and students, L&D, H&S, Careers, etc. Our Digital Skills team have produced a guide to support UoE training providers with transitioning to training in online environments and designing online training.

Members of our LTW team have been attending and presenting at Open Apereo #openapereo and University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference ‪#uoeltconf20  Please do share with your colleagues what you learned.

If you have watched everything on Netflix and Amazon don’t forget we also have:

Enjoy your midsummer weekend.


Dir. LTW


Friday 26th June

Remains of the day.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, as the campus seems to be slowly opening back up. Just in time for an institution-wide ‘working from home experience survey’.

As the buildings start to re-open keep your eye out for messages from Gavin about the return to a new normality and get ready to return those library books. There are 53,000 of our books trapped in people’s homes and we need them back. All fines are forgiven.

Thank you to all our brief colleagues who joined LTW during lockdown to help with subtitling and Learn and now must return to their main jobs on the front line in the libraries and receptions.

Thank you to all of you who prepared posters for the Learning and Teaching Conference, you can see them here:

and thank you in advance to those who are preparing presentations for our LTW all-staff meeting, we are a friendly audience looking forward to trying out the logistics of a big group meeting in Teams.

If you missed our staff reading group on online shaming, I won’t name you here, but please do join us for the next group meeting in July to discuss anti-racism and the intersections between race and technology.

Some letters have arrived on my virtual desk for those of you who have been awarded lump sums in the annual round of reward and recognition. If you get a letter, thank you again for your hard work and don’t spend it all at once.

Stay safe,


Dir LTW.

Friday 2nd July

Thistle do nicely.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home. It was great to see so many of you at the LTW all-staff meeting on Tuesday.

In a spare moment please do help Mary by completing her user survey to gather all good data which feeds directly into the design of the MyEd interface.  It’s a quick and easy task, and should take no more than 10 minutes.  To take part, click the link and follow the instructions:

If you haven’t done it yet please also complete the working from home survey. We are particularly interested to know how the experience has been different for different types of people, young and old, parents and carers etc and it will help with planning how we organise our teams and services for the future.

Some of our services have been even busier and more critical than usual. You have been writing new code to make tasks easier for Schools, helping with higher-levels of enquiries and calls than normal, and keeping the services up-and-running. We are planning lots of work over the coming months to keep the Schools happy. If you are a School rep, your role is more important than ever.

If you are preparing to come back on to campus to staff our frontline services, please be reassured that we are taking this seriously and your line managers will have discussions with you about heath and safety.

Some other things that have been keeping you busy:

Now that the 5 mile travel limit has been lifted we are all free to head to the mountains.  Enjoy your weekend.



Friday 10th July

oh, you skies.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home. A special thank you to those who have ventured back to campus to open up facilities and media studios.  No long message from me this week as I’m on annual leave, just a note to update you on the VR headset witty caption competition.

The winner from LTW is Delia  in the Learning Spaces Technology team for her suggestion:  ‘You’re virtually here now!’  Congratulations, Delia!

These headsets combine with a smartphone to allow use of 360 and VR content. Headsets will initially be distributed with welcome week content: VR tours so students can get a feel for the campus; social apps and team building games for students to meet course mates and get to know new friends etc.  Once they’re with students the headsets are theirs to keep, opening up the opportunity for teaching staff to make use of VR content in their courses confident in the knowledge that their students will have the tools to access this kind of material from home.   If you are interested in this kind of project, please do contact  in the UCreate Studio. The design has been created by Luisa , one of the UCreate student interns.

Have lovely weekends,


Dir LTW.

Friday 16th July

Mermaid in a mask.

Dear All,

Well done for another week.  I hope you will be able to enjoy an email-free day tomorrow. This week we are welcoming Jess Gramp to our team, and on Monday our two new interns from Napier University will join us and find things strangely quiet.

If you are looking for something to read on a quiet day, Karen has blogged her reflections on her first six months as our Head of DLAM.

As part of our partnership with Wikimedia UK we have run 222 training sessions. We’ve trained 1,151 students, 516 staff and 432 members of the public to edit Wikipedia. They have created 793 new articles and improved 2,752. Hannah has blogged about her first week as our Wikimedia Training Intern.

Lilinaz has our reading group lined up to discuss the intersection of technology and race. Please do join us.

Thank you to all who completed the staff working from home survey. We had an 80% return from LTW which ensures that your views and experiences get heard.

If you like a survey, there’s another one here from the UCreate team asking for suggestions on which maker workshops they should run for staff and students.

On the subject of surveys, the 2020 National Student Survey finds 85% of Scottish universities’ students were satisfied with the quality of their course. The ISG-related questions have improved at Edinburgh. ‘resources and facilities support my learning well’ – 82.28% up from 80.49% last year, ‘Library resources’ 87.51 up to 88.53% and ‘course specific resources, equipment, facilities, software, collections’ 87.71 to 88.29%.  I think we can claim that as a result for LTW!    Thank you all for your hard work.

Stay safe,


Dir, LTW

Friday 24th July


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week. You’ve been busy.

  • Members of our teams have been at Drupalcon and BBWorld conferences.
  • Welcome to Marek Golebiewski and Pilar Rodriguez Perez our >new team members from Napier and Laurie, Craig and Mari-Nikol ,our new media producers who have joined us to open up the pop-up studios.
  • The Web and Comms Technology team had a socially distanced meet-up in the Meadows to welcome new colleagues who have joined us working from home.
  • There is new training for you to do: “Home Working 2020″ and “Returning to the University Estate 2020” are designed to keep you safe.
  • Emma Carroll and Laura Rose Wood, jointly won Wikimedia UK’s Up-and-coming Wikimedians of 2020 at the WikimediaUK AGM.
  • Kate Yee and her teams have opened up the media studios spaces
  • Lauren Johnston-Smith  and Emma Charlesworth have  launched a mini series of ‘mythbusting’ films – 4 x <1 minute films which blow away those negative ideas that naysayers have about what online learning is. The first film is live now: 
  • We now have our anti-racist reading list which includes several suggestions for books which are relevant to our work in technology, and some novels
  • If you would like to interrogate the staff survey data here’s a link. Contact Lilinaz Rouhani if you have questions or suggestions on how the data can be presented.
  • If you like novels, our course with the Edinburgh International Book Festival is now on. On the course you’ll discover four of the main building blocks of modern fiction: plot, characterisation, dialogue, and setting using examples from a range of texts including the four novels shortlisted for the 2020 James Tait Black fiction prize. You’ll also explore the formal strategies authors use, how they came to be, and how they affect us as readers.
  • Remember that Edinburgh alumni get a discount on online PG degrees, tell all your friends.
  • If you would like to be part of an LTW bake-off, contact Lorraine Spalding.
  • Best wishes to Stewart Cromar, we hope you will be well and back with us soon.

Stay safe,

Dir, LTW

Friday 31st July

Let it bee.

Dear All,

Well done as ever, and particularly good wishes to those who have carved themselves out some holiday time in spite of being so busy. This week and next we welcome more colleagues back from furlough so that we can get all hands on deck.

Please join me on Monday at 3pm, we have another audience with VP Colm Harmon and a chance to talk together about preparations for semester 1, which is approaching fast!

Kevin spotted that Google have named their new high-end transatlantic data cable after Grace Hopper, which is totally copying us since we named our finest media services (Media Hopper) after her, years ago. It is clear that many colleagues are having no problem getting hands-on with Media Hopper. We’ve had 4,262 uploads in June and 3,458 in July. That’s up 356% from last year. Our collection of lecture recordings is also proving popular. As expected, the number of captures (recordings) dropped in June, but views were approximately 3x higher than the same month last year. We are only 15,000 views away from 1 million views in this academic year.

Andy has made a video about how much you love Linkedin Learning

Nicola Sturgeon has set our distancing at 2m so there is a lot of work to configure buildings. It seems likely that DHT will be repurposed as a study space centre, and Estates are building temporary structures in Bristol Square for Welcome Week to annoy the skateboarders. No news yet on the return of the food trucks and Prosecco bars.

Get well soon to Charlie, our playful engagement maven, who has broken some bones playing out, and happy #SysAdminDay to all who keep our systems running.

Have a lovely weekend and fingers crossed it is sunny where you are.

Dir, LTW

Friday 7th August


Dear All,

Well done for another week.

Thank you to all of you who volunteered to help with Clearing.

Special welcome to new colleagues who have joined us this week, some of whom you already know: Dave, Candice, Lee-Ann, Rebecca, Alan, Robyn, Edward and Maz, and best wishes to all those who have family members with exam results and fresh stationery supplies ready for the return to school.

I hope you have your questions ready for the Principal because you are all invited to his Town Hall Meeting.

You can submit your questions about COVID here:

Stuart, Jess and Nikki have been wrangling our platform partners ( EdX, Coursera and FutureLearn) and fingers crossed we’ll have some  new ‘bundled’ packages of free, open, massive online courses to announce soon.  Arthur and Billy have been building a much-needed new website for the UCreate Studio.

Coming up soon is the Association of Learning Technologists’ summer summit online If you would like to attend online, please ask your line manager. University of Edinburgh is an active partner in ALT, we host conferences and events and we encourage staff to gain CMALT accreditation. If you are a CMALT holder and you would like to be added to this list, of CMALTers please let me know.

If you are considering doing CMALT, please discuss it with your line manager. One of the nice things about getting CMALT is that it gives you some additional post-nominal letters which you can add to your EdWeb profile. If you would like to update your EdWeb profile, please do. Here’s how:

If you are in Edinburgh or you have a ‘high vantage point’ don’t forget to spot ‘My Light Shines On’ at 9.30pm on Saturday

Have  lovely weekend. Stay away from Aberdeen.


Dir, LTW.

Friday 14th August

Look North.

Dear All,

Well done for surviving another week. I hope you all remained watertight during that epic storm and now have internet back up and running.

Today is 14th August and Welcome Week begins one month from now.  Always nice to see algorithms as a top national news story.

It is great to be able to keep many of our LF interns with us for an additional few weeks as we brace for a last push on getting all materials ready for the start of teaching.  Congratulations to all of you who presented your Edinburgh Award Employ.Ed Final Presentations. Excellent presentations and so many creative ways that you have achieved your development goals. It sounds like we have turned you all into Excel experts and accessibility evangelists and you are the only people who actually know what DRPS stands for, thank you Ruby. There’s no doubt that your work has contributed to making a difference for the University and nice to see Thomasina achieving a hat trick.

Congratulations also to the 84 UoE staff and students who completed Tracy’s ‘Developing your Data Skills Programme’ from home. Amazing tenacity shown and superb individual data projects.

Congratulations to the media teams for some lovely new webpages advertising the new media studios for all

We’ve been running a lot of training during lockdown in LTW we have run 271 sessions since the start of lockdown and we are scheduling nearly another 300 sessions for semester 1. We are training academic colleagues everyday to ensure they can use all our best learning technology tools. Our CIO referred to us as ‘a godsend’ which is nice.

We are always researching new technology solutions (Myles has blogged about online proctoring ) and presenting our work. There is a call for papers at Open Education Conference if anyone is interested:

If you feel like you haven’t strayed far from your house for a while why not explore our city with a Curious Edinburgh tour  we have hosted Curious Edinburgh for a couple of years and it really is a lovely thing.

Have a lovely weekend.


Dir, LTW

Friday 20th August

Dear All,

Well done for another week working from home.  As per Nicola Sturgeon ,’working from home remains the default position’.  Despite this, our AV fit-out teams are back on campus, rapidly fitting AV and IT into the spaces that time forgot. Our captioning robots are working their little digits off, typing up subtitles for video content, and people all over the university are getting freaked out by turning on the ’together’ mode in Teams. It’s all good practice for the start of term.

James has blogged about inheriting a pre-loved service

Lauren has blogged about being on the front line at clearing

I’ve been watching more Edinburgh Award presentations, lovely reflections from Hannah on working from home and managing distractions.

Its lovely to see the Preparing for Study and LibSmart courses on Learn. Excellent work from Lizzy, Marcello and Vicki. Nice also to see Andrew presenting at the Apps Lunchtime Seminar on Teams.

I hope to see some of you at the ISG reading group for a discussion of mental health.

Friday 28th August

Dear All,

Well done for working another week at home.  As you might suspect, the University is considering possibly thinking about making a plan for what we would have to do if we went  ‘back into lockdown’. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you have about things LTW would do differently next time.

In the meantime, ISG is offering 70 ‘how-to’ sessions to new students. 40 of those are being run by you in LTW, online.

With a focus on care, Stratos and his team have been doing great work on the student wellbeing project, conducting a 3 month qualitative research project exploring student experiences around health and wellbeing.  We wanted to learn how we might prevent the less severe problems students experience from escalating to more complex problems and associated support.

The semester 1 study support courses are ready to go.  Our Student Ambassadors are being trained to support and moderate the discussion boards for the centrally managed ‘Preparing to Study’ course.

Tracey is ready to launch her Learn course on inclusion, accessibility and universal design and Jenni’s team have launched their ‘Working from Home’ digital skills toolkit  .

Vicki has explained digital citizenship to all of ISG and Lesley’s teams are getting to grips with the teaching space operational plan.

Our chatbot is working on the Business School website. Is this really the university of Edinburgh’s first chatbot? The bot provides answers to the most common questions that the admissions team receive via email.

As the University phases out the name of the David Hume Tower, I have been reading the Wikipedia pages about George Square and the Dundas Riots.,_Edinburgh  Anyone can edit.  If you have spare time I understand there is work to be done on the Scots Wikipedia.  Ewan and Hannah can show you how.

Have a lovely weekend,


Dir, LTW


Friday 4th September

Nice weather for ducks.

Dear All,

Well done for surviving another week of work. Special mention to the Media Hopper teams who are having a rocky time. With everyone going back to school and uni in  the UK and USA the internet is taking a battering and our many colleagues who have left it until this week to upload their video materials are feeling the strain.   Hold on tight as we hurtle towards the start of term. Thank you to those who are providing extra cover for Helpline and the logistical challenges of study spaces.  Sympathise with the LST teams while they test a variety of cleaning unguents on their delicate equipment. Marvel at the tumbleweed in the media studios. Reflect on what we have learned.

Great to see the Carlyle Circle website going live. The ‘how to’ sessions continue a pace, the new Digital Skills programme is in place. Learn Foundations is looking tip top. The professional certificate in Digital Marketing is open for enrolment, as are myriad MOOCs and the study support courses in Learn. Thank you to all who have done your ADRs, SEP data and mandatory training, they may seem like a faff to you, but it we all know that organisations this size are powered by these details.

Before you go out for your walk this weekend, check out ‘Wiki Loves Monuments’ its got an interactive map of listed buildings etc which have no picture on wikimedia. There’s loads and its easy to upload from your phone.  From where I’m sitting it seems to need basically every large house in south west Edinburgh and all kinds of asylums, poorhouses, churches and merchant schools . If you have a good eye, you could even win a prize.  Never let it be said that we are not competitive.  Scotland uploaded 300+ images in 2016. That rose to 2,100 in 2017 with 1,351 of those uploaded by staff at the University of Edinburgh. In 2018, Scotland smashed it with 4,411 images uploaded. You know what to do.

Have a good weekend,


Dir, LTW

Friday 11 September

Send in the clowns.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week. Thank you to all of you who have helped to shore up Media Hopper Create this week, I know the teams have been up all night.  Karen had a call with the Kaltura Executive and gave them her best hard stare. They hung their heads in shame. Unclear whether it is fixed yet though.  Thank you also to Lorraine for rapid comms work, and to all the teams fielding questions about the relative merits of Collaborate, Teams, Streams and Zoom for teaching. Thank you to Stratos’ teams for picking up another piece of last minute work from the apps.ed service and to Neil for his persistence and patience with the virtual classroom recording policy.

Our colleagues have now launched more .ED services. To join book.ed, Seat.ed, discover.ed etc. Any further suggestions for for past participle service names are welcome.

Please follow ISG on linkedIn and if you are a student looking for part time work remember to register with Unitemps

Please join us at the next ISG reading group on the 24th September. We will be discussing the dark side of classification systems. Those of you who grew up with the Dewey Decimal system in your school library will be shocked.  Contact Lilinaz to find out more.

Join Duncan’s network of humans to talk about user experiences.

If you have been into town, or been doing cartwheels in the Meadows,  you will have seen the prefabs sprouting in Bristo Square. These are self proclaimed ‘scandi-style’ hang-outs for students, but remember not to hygge anyone who is not in your social bubble.

Have a good weekend,


Dir, LTW

Friday 18th September

Keepers of fully trained bees.

Dear All,

Well done for another week.

The start of term could be a bit rocky. But remember, as Douglas Adams said ‘It’s not the Fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop’, so we just have to keep moving, keep pushing through.

Dates for your diary: We have declared Ada Lovelace Day this year to be Tuesday 13th October. Please do get your thinking caps on for fun hybrid things we can do. The much talked about deadline for public sector organisations to make all existing websites accessible is 23 September Get your accessibility good news stories ready. Tonight is the start of Jewish new year and I am happy to judge your honeycake baking efforts.

The new website for Apps.ed looks gorgeous,  great work by Callum and team. As does the new video about the media studios , great work by Kate and team.

Media Hopper seems to have reached a level of calm. Despite the hurdles in their way, colleagues have successfully uploaded 8300 media items and made 5000 captioning requests since the 1st of September.  We now have 92,995  items in Media Hopper Create. 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 shouting about. Well done.  3470 of the items in Media Hopper have the open, creative commons licences on them. 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 Media Hopper had recovered, both Learn and MyEd started demanding attention. To say nothing of Collaborate. We are going to need to be alert to all kinds of strange behaviour as hybrid delivery kicks in in earnest.

I went for my evening walk  last night to check out the campuses. The new social spaces are nearly built. The students are partying hard and the university is threatening them with fines and rustication. As a primer on what happens when you put young people in a place where partying is banned, I recommend the 1984 classic ‘Footloose’.

Grab some sunshine and have a good weekend,


Dir, LTW

Friday 25th September

Enough said.

Dear All,

Week 1 has passed. Treat yourself to something this evening.

We had a wee blip with Learn on Monday, but I don’t think anyone noticed and we totally got away with it.

You’ll have seen the news from our university and others about CoViD19 cases and clusters in student halls.  If they all get locked down in their rooms its going to be a fairly grim environment for learning, so anything we can do to support teaching and learning digitally will be a help. I know that you all know we make a huge contribution to this university being the best university it can be.

In the face of further crisis, the university is modelling a range of emergency business continuity plans including  a lock-down of student halls, a ransom-ware attack and/or a union strike. Please make sure you have your business continuity plans clear in your teams.

In inclusion news, the public sector Accessibility Regulations came into force this week. We’ve been working all year across our web estate to prepare: training dozens of web practitioners, writing hundreds of accessibility statements, testing tens of thousands of pages. Jon has blogged:

We have around 10% of matriculated NEW students enrolled on the Prep courses in Learn, 7% on the LibSmart one  and 19% on the PGT course.  Numbers could be better so please do promote through any channels you have. Remind everyone about Box of Broadcasts and the movie collections too. There ’s not going to be a lot to do if the pubs are out of bounds.

This is the last weekend to win WikiLovesMonuments. It’s easy to take part, just look at this map,  zoom in on your house and marvel at how many listed buildings there are on your street. Snap a picture with your phone ( with due regard to privacy of your neighbours) and upload them.

Have a good weekend,  Stay safe.


Dir, LTW

Friday 2nd October

Dear All,
Well done for another week.
We are seeing some huge numbers of usage across our systems and across our helpline first and second line call handling. Thank you to all of you who are delivering these key learning and teaching services to the university. We couldn’t do it without you.
Thanks to our ‘major incident’ and ‘out of hours’ response teams  (particularly Karen, Marc, Mark, Liam, Stephen, Stephannie, Joe, Mary, Stratos and Duncan) the only causalities  this week were a slight dent to user confidence and an overcooked bolognese.
You are keeping busy:

The Principal has sent you a particular message which he asked to be passed on to professional services teams.

Dear Colleagues

Just a few lines from me are inadequate to describe the respect and gratitude that I have for all of your efforts to support our University community as we collectively navigate the unprecedented pandemic and all its implications. I am fully aware of the scale and pace of the tasks that you have confronted, that you all have “day-jobs” to do as well as many complicated challenges brought by working remotely, and that you all share a deep and impressive commitment to the vision and mission of our University. There is an inevitable tendency for the small number of items that “fall thought the cracks” in such situations to receive a disproportionate amount of attention, and we have all seen and been injured by coverage of “errors” or “failures”. These mask the much higher number of “successes” and examples of a job very well done in extraordinarily challenging circumstances. Our Communications colleagues are aiming to publicise the evidence that we have got far more right than we have got wrong, that everyone is doing their best, and that we are learning from our experience so that we can make things even better. Please convey my sincere thanks and appreciation to each of your teams. The University of Edinburgh is full of talented and committed people, and together I am confident that we will overcome the present challenges. l am proud of you all. Thank you.

With best regards,


Have a good weekend,


Dir, LTW

Friday 9th October

Frederick Douglass returns to Edinburgh for Black History Month.

Dear All,

Well done for another week.

Welcome to Arifah who has joined us (taking over from Vrinda) to manage our LinkedIn presence.

The First Minister has binned all our pubs and started a national debate over the definition of café.

The University Secretary, Sarah Smith has made it clear that ‘We will continue to deliver hybrid learning and teaching as we are currently doing’.

Across the UK other universities have suffered serious outages of their VLEs and lecture recording services this week and we can feel sympathy for them. They are also seeing rising numbers of Covid cases and criticism of how they are feeding their students in halls.

If you would like to help reinforce the key public health messages following the recent tightening of restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19 you can find downloadable assets on the University’s Covid-19 SharePoint page: Public health assets which you can use on your social media channels.  Nicky is working with CAM to create some graphic designs to help students interpret the changing guidelines.

Tomorrow is #WorldMentalHealthDay collated health and wellbeing resources for staff are available if you need them

It’s black history month and Ada Lovelace Day and an area double the size of the UK is needed to feed ISG pets.

Attendance on campus is down, but matriculated student numbers for online learning are up. 1,629 new online PG students, compared to 1,296 last year. This is the first time CMVM have over 1000 new online students. Join Lauren to find out how the University ran its first Uni-wide online learning advertising campaign and what our plans are for 2021 recruitment.

6,028 new learners joined our ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ MOOC last week. 2,000 joined ‘Fundamentals of Music Theory’. 3200 University of Edinburgh staff and students are blogging. James has blogged about blogs.ed Triin describes the experience of successfully training staff on the use of Learn

For those of you who combine artistic and anatomical knowledge there’s a pumpkin carving competition for you although it is a pumpkin competition, any vegetable will be acceptable.

Thank you for your many suggestions on what we can do for our LTW festive celebrations in December, the senior management team are taking them under consideration.

Stay safe, have a lovely weekend,


Dir, LTW

Friday 23rd October

Pastoral care.

Dear All,

Well done for another week.  Now that we are getting some more clarity about people and money for this year I am very pleased that we have been able to extend contracts for some more of our team including Martin, India, Pil, Claudia, Emma, Joan, Mateusz and Vicki.  Keep up the good work.

Our community continue to pound our bandwidth. Edinburgh students watched 8 million minutes of media hopper content in September, and presumably millions more on netflix, youtube, amazon, BoB etc. In terms of broadband Edinburgh has been assessed as the best place in the country for working from home. which must be painful for those of you living in Fife.

Our captioning robots continue to amuse and frustrate staff and students in equal measure with their strange interpretation of academic concepts. I suspect there’s a piece of creative art or digital humanities research to be done by someone using this data.

If you have spare time in your day to read, I recommend the EDUCAUSE 2020 Student Technology Report which includes key findings from analysis of over 16,000 students’ responses

If you have spare time in your workload on 12th November, ask your manager if you can participate in this eduHack event ‘to design practices, applications, or digital spaces that might potentially enhance our distributed campus in a way that draws together our cohorts and surfaces our diversity’.

Stay in touch with what’s going on via the Myles and Michael learning technology podcasts:

Please join us at our next ISG Reading Group in three weeks time at 12:30pm on Wednesday, 11 November. We’ll discuss precarity in higher education and inter-generational experiences of economic instability.

Please take a moment to admire the work Geoff and Calum have done by making a sustainable food security course promotional video entirely from recycled materials:

We have been experiencing bad behavior from both the network (major outage on Tuesday night) and students ( warning letters and fines for hundreds at Pollock Halls). The high level battle for online learning continues as senior management make remarks about its qualities and the Unions demand it.

Scottish summertime officially ends on Sunday and the ISG knitters are gearing up for a big push.

A gaggle of damp students are planning to protest on Saturday in Bristo Square.  The network is planning to stay indoors.

Have a good weekend.


Dir, LTW

what about Chris Brand?

Last evening I attended a very interesting talk by Angela Saini in conversation with Dr Shaira Vadasaria about the concept of race, from its origins to the present day.

It was an event hosted by Race.ED and was very good.

During her talk Angela mentioned Chris Brand and his time at Edinburgh, and suggested it was worth having a think about why he was here so long.  I was a student at the time. I remember Chris Brand. The anti-nazi league used to protest his lectures and security was brought in to protect him. He was fired after 27 years in 1997.

I thought I remembered that  there had been quite a long, drawn-out process to remove him, because of academic freedom. In the end, I think I remembered that it was the IT regs which brung him down, because he was writing offensive stuff on the university hosted website.

I was not 100% sure on this memory so I had a little rumage today.  According to contemporary reports, he was fired for conduct that “brought the university into disrepute” but the University had to change its statutes to do so.

“The procedures Edinburgh University used in the case of Mr Brand were new and designed to protect the interests of both the staff member and the institution. They were modified in the wake of the Education Reform Act of 1988 and subsequent 1992 Ordinance of University Commissioners, which established model statutes designed both to protect academic freedom and ensure that university disciplinary codes are sufficiently rigorous.”  THES April 1998

He sued and the university settled. The thing is, it also meant that “Statutes [were] changed to allow institutions to remove tenure, so that new staff could be fired because of financial exigency and not just good cause.”  and that, as the man himself said,  means that “Edinburgh University and any other university can sack any academic for any ****ing thing it likes at any time of the day or night.” THES April 1998

So, the work the University did in getting rid of him changed the landscape for academic freedom forever.  It would be interesting to research this in the University archives.

winning wikimedia once again


At the recent WikimediaUK AGM the work of the Wikimedian in Residence team at University of Edinburgh once again received awards from their community. Ewan continues to work across the University to embed wikimedia skills in the curriculum, with some considerable success.  His work in producing a new publication including case studies of how this can be done won an honourable mention in the Partnership category (we have won the partnership category before, so it would be inelegant to win again).

We also had success in the ‘Up and Coming Wikimedian’ category – A joint win for Emma Carroll (for the phenomenal work on the Scottish Witch Data project) and  Laura Wood Rose (excellent work supporting the Women in Red events).  I am particularly pleased to have success recognised in this category because a huge part of our commitment to the digital skills of wikimedia at Edinburgh is an investment in training and empowering new Wikimedians to join the community.

Congratulations to Ewan, Emma and Laura Rose.


learning, technology and our anti-racist reading list

our anti-racist reading list in DiscoverEd

In University of Edinburgh Information Services Group we have convened a reading group so that we can discuss books, articles and news stories which influence our work.  We are approaching this with a technology slant, because we want to think and learn about the bigger issues which shape the context in which we create new technology and services for staff and students in the university.

Obviously because of Covid, we are meeting online and we are using/reading online resources. Our first reading group theme was the phenomenon of online shaming, which is highly relevant to the world of social media and understanding it is vital for providing support to our students as they navigate staying safe in the online world.

Our next topic was racism and racism in technology. We have created a resources list to support this topic. We’ve used our Library resources list tool and we’ve licensed the list openly, so you too can use it as a resource.

Anti-racist resources list in our library catalogue