Category: People, Place and Work

on having an even bigger sister

In some cities, such as Edinburgh, the university may be one of the largest tech employers in the city. At Edinburgh we have around 600 staff in IT roles. That makes us a big player in tech employment. We also get the benefit of having an even bigger sister standing right beside us. The University of Edinburgh as a whole is a huge employer and a huge part of the public sector workforce. The terms, conditions and perks which we as information services are able to offer to our potential employees are made possible by virtue of being a small part of a huge organisation.

As well as a range of flexible working options and attention paid to being family-friendly most universities offer generous maternity and parental leave and arrangements for sick-pay.  Although many universities do not offer as much on-site childcare facilities as some would like, I suspect it is still way ahead of some tech employers.

University holiday allowances are pretty good. 40 days a year is about the average for most institutions (including national holidays and closure days). Equal pay schemes and university unions ensure that salaries and pensions are decent. Universities are also able to offer permanent or open-ended contracts for IT staff. Other industries might offer more in terms of up-front salary, but there are many extra benefits to working in a university .  We have information about staff  benefits and reward calculator which we use to show the real value of our arrangements.

Universities are learning organisations, if you need to grow and develop in your job training is usually offered for both the skills needed for your job and to assist career and personal development. There are mentoring schemes and career development and promotion tracks.

The climate for equality and diversity is also generally good, most universities have a very progressive stance on equality and diversity in terms of both recruitment and working environment. The very fact that there are high profile initiatives underway in higher education for students and academics contributes to the social environment or culture constructed in universities in which the professional staff work. That is to say, IT professionals working in universities benefit  from large initiatives such as Athena SWAN which are given resource and investment by the university.

There is a range of less talked about perks which I think make universities great places to work.

1) Universities have sport facilities, theatres, staff clubs, art galleries, museums, music venues and shops which are there to be enjoyed by staff at discounted rates, often for free.  There are very few employers who can boast such a range of amenities.

2) You get to working on a filmset. I worked for several years at Oxford and you couldn’t turn a corner without bumping into  a film crew, catering vans and extras dressed in medieval outfits. Or inspector Morse. Or a boy wizard.

3) Culture and collegiality abound. Every evening all across campus there are research seminars, events, book launches, receptions, openings, exhibitions to go to which are open to all staff and anyone interested. Its a lovely way to meet people and network.

4) The festival city is on your doorstep. Literally. Your office may be requisitioned at short notice for a comedy show .

5) Your children and the children of all your friends will have access to the extensive cultural capital at your fingertips when they need to find work experience for school.

6) Eduroam wireless will be provided to you free of charge as you move around the world.  You can sidle up to any university, library, hospital or museum building in any city and pick up free wifi.

7) We are fighting the good fight for truth, facts and against news. You get to be part of this.

perky

me, pondering the perks.

Next week, on the 26th I’ll be welcoming a new  group of staff to the  University,  talking about our mission and governance and people and diversity.

The following week on 10th October I’ll be speaking about The Perks of Working for a University as part of the ‘Empower yourself’ theme at the Scottish Women in Tech Conference in Glasgow.

It has to be said, working for universities generally include:

  • generous annual leave allowance
  • high quality pension schemes
  • a bunch of family-friendly working policies
  • staff discounts on a range of services
  • on-campus nurseries

All of which are defended by your union.

And the lesser-recognised, but best perk of all,  Eduroam!  Free wifi in ( and near) university buildings, libraries, museums and hospitals all over the world.

To highlight the kinds of values the university has I may mention that:

The University of Edinburgh won the National Universities Human Resources Award for Excellence in Equality and Diversity in 2018 https://www.uhr.ac.uk/awards/awards-2018/.

The University of Edinburgh won the Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year Award in 2018 for our work in contributing biographies and articles to raise the profile of role models of women in STEM https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/news/partnership-of-the-year-2018

Our Director of Learning, Teaching and Web  Melissa Highton (me) is named as one of the EdTech50 in 2018 https://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6798/1/edtech50-2018.pdf

The University of Edinburgh Staff Pride Network was awarded Stonewall Scotland Network of the Year in 2018. https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity/news-events/news/staffpride-award

The University of Edinburgh is shortlisted in the Diversity Project of the Year category of the Computing Women in IT Excellence Awards 2018 http://events.computing.co.uk/womeninitawards/static/2018-shortlist

The University of Edinburgh is recognised for our commitment to promoting gender equality by attaining the prestigious Athena SWAN Silver Institution award, the first in Scotland to do so. https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity/news-events/news/more-athena-awards

The University of Edinburgh case study was highlighted in the Equality Challenge Unit’s briefing on ‘Intersectional Approaches to Equality and Diversity. https://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/intersectional-approaches-equality-diversity/.

The University of Edinburgh was awarded the Scottish Union of Supported Employment (SUSE) Inclusive Workplace award in 2017 https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/news/inclusive-workplace-awardcommitted-to-supported

The University of Edinburgh is a sponsor of Girl Geek Scotland http://www.girlgeekscotland.com/

The University of Edinburgh recruits women into IT roles via Equate Scotland’s Women Returners programme https://equatescotland.org.uk/projects/women-returners/

The University of Edinburgh recruits women students into IT roles as summer interns providing paid work and industry experience and has won the Student Employer of the Year (SEOTY) award in 2018  https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/news/excellence-in-student-employment

bags of blogs

Image from University of Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections

Blogging? I’ve never been a fan, as you know. Nonetheless, we are launching a new service for all our staff and students.

The Academic Blogging service directly underpins the “Influential Voices” theme within our Web Strategy 2018-2021. This theme aims to: “Give our staff and students an online presence to publish and promote their work, and exchange ideas with organisations and communities globally”.

The  service will give our staff and students the tools and support that they need to publish online effectively, to develop a digital identity, and make more visible a range of authentic voices from across our academic community that are identifiably connected to our institution.

Our staff and students will be able to link their academic blogs into their profiles on social media or academic networking sites, improving the profile and visibility of the University across online channels. Staff and PGR students will also be able to link to their official University profile on EdWeb. Selections of blogs can be presented on our web pages to represent the range of learning, teaching or research activities that take place in a particular area. Content from blogs can be syndicated by ourselves, or by our partners or external organisations to create curated selections of content, reflecting the richness of our institutional activity.

 

If you want one, let us know.

as others see us

Graphic design from ISG BITS magazine

When looking at equality and diversity drivers for change in organisations, there is some literature which suggests that external accountability , the impression the public have about your organisation, or investor or client pressure, may be a consideration for  senior management. There may be concern for reputational damage with the wider business and society, and this risk could be mitigated for instance by the company’s success in winning a prize for gender equality .

Following our recent success as winners of the national Universities HR Excellence Award for Equality and Diversity, Information Services Group is now shortlisted as a finalist for 2 further awards.

We are finalists in the ‘Employer of the Year’ category in the Scotland Women in Technology Awards 2018 to be announced on Wednesday 24th October 2018 in Glasgow and for ‘Diversity Project of The Year’  in the Women in IT Excellence Awards taking place on 27 November at Finsbury Square, London.

near future data skills

Picture taken by me at the National Cryptologic Museum. No rights reserved by me. https://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic-heritage/museum/

Another excellent learning technology workshop from University of Edinburgh at ALT conference will be Data Skills for All

Most of our UK universities already have the Digimap Service, but I suspect few learning technologists have any idea how it can be used. The subscription often belongs to the Library, or to just one academic department so the power of the tools are not being utilised.

Co-created with academic and service users it enables students to use and understand data, to learn how to present it, and in doing so, to develop critical thinking through the use and interrogation of data.

Learning technologists who work closely in partnership with staff and students to deliver a technology enhanced curriculum can play a key role in ensuring that students learn appropriate data skills to apply in authentic learning task situations.

Participants will have the opportunity to understand how the platform and service is already being used, and to engage with census data to understand the range and versatility of the service.

This workshop will be of benefit to both FE and HE practitioners, who need to support students to gain critical data skills and spatial literacy that are already essential in the work place, as well as increase their ability to interrogate data and understand it.

dealing with relationship breakdowns

Picture taken by me of a projector at the National Museum of Scotland. No rights reserved by me.

This is the session I’ll be presenting at ALT Conference next month.  It’ll be filmed and streamed apparently.

edit: Recording here https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2018/sessions/next-expect-locusts-dealing-with-relationship-breakdowns-18-47/

What happens when things go wrong? How resilient is the relationship between edtech and educators when we are tested by strikes, snow and sedition? How do we best learn from critical incidents? Can breakdowns in trust be repaired? What will we do when it happens again?

The relationship between professional learning technologists and academic colleagues is a finely balanced one. Professional learning technologists offer technology solutions to teaching problems and encourage innovations in pedagogy and learning. Learning technologists bring technology into classroom spaces on campus and online and ask colleagues to embrace it. Learning technologists assure academic colleagues them that the technology is there to help not replace them. We ask for trust, understanding, communication. As part of the business, however, our IT services are a key in ensuring business continuity, supporting students beyond contact hours and mitigating the impact of disruption to time and place.

Early 2018 saw an unprecedented period of industrial action at many UK universities. Never before in the 25 years of ALT have so many colleagues protested for so long against their employers, and never before has there been so much technology available to those employers to mitigate the impact of that strike. Where should learning technologists loyalties lie when they are asked to provide systems such as VLEs and lecture recording services which can be used to keep the business of learning and teaching running? When support is withdrawn and communication breaks down what agency do you have?

In addition to industrial action by learning technologists and academic colleagues who are members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) in March we also saw extreme weather events across the UK resulting in school and university closures which left many staff to stay at home and work remotely and many students to access their materials in distance learning mode. As the strikes and the snow dragged on the edtech polices and practise in many large institutions were tested. The UCU were vocal and vexed by the use of recorded lectures with or without expressed permission. Large collections of openly published lectures and learning materials, which had once been hailed as assets of great value came under scrutiny as strike breakers and motivations for institutional support for OER were questioned.

Session content: evaluation and reflection

This experimental and exploratory session will give ALT participants the chance to consider their own ethical positions with regard to strike action, business continuity, policy and practice in educational institutions and learn from insights and lessons learned by the learning technologist community. The session will be of particularly interest to CMALT holders who reflect on their own professional practice and colleagues who hold responsible roles as service owners, service operations managers and senior managers.

It is hoped that this session will be the start of a wider, longer conversation about disruptive events, professional roles, management negotiations, actions short of a strike, and the impact on academic buy-in for technology which disrupts learning and teaching.

Previous, related blog posts

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/03/06/woke/

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/02/22/strike-that/

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/03/07/teach-out/

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/02/28/glue/

References

Schön, D. (2008). The reflective practitioner : How professionals think in action.

Tripp, D. (1993). Critical incidents in teaching : Developing professional judgement. London: Routledge.

Lam, W. (2002). Ensuring business continuity. IT Professional, 4(3), 19-25.

Lecture Capture Emerges as Key Resource for University Business Continuity Planning; Echo360 Sponsors October 1st Business Continuity Planning Webinar for Higher Education. (2009, September 23). Internet Wire, p. Internet Wire, Sept 23, 2009.

McGuinness, M., & Marchand, R. (2014). Business continuity management in UK higher education: A case study of crisis communicationin the era of social media. Business continuity management in UK higher education: a case study of crisis communication in the era of social media. International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, 17 (4). 291 – 310.

Resources for participants

2018 UK higher education strike https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_UK_higher_education_strike

Collective bargaining and Beatrice Webb https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrice_Webb

Equality and diversity in IT and libraries

BITS magazine artwork by Annie Adam, Graphic Design Intern

As our regular readers across the University will know, each issue of the Information Services Group BITS magazine has a theme. In this issue we have looked across all of our projects and services to highlight the ways in which we contribute to supporting the University values around equality, equity, inclusion and access.

https://edin.ac/bits-21

As usual, our feature article showcases work across each of our groups and directorates which support learning, teaching, research and engagement.

Working within such a large institution, we are able to attract a wide range  of staff to work with us in ISG. The richest source of new colleagues is our student community. Each year ISG hosts a large number of student workers and student interns. They bring fresh ideas and new thinking to our services. This issue of BITS magazine is designed by our Graphic Design Intern working alongside our established team.

When we did our gender survey staff told us that making equality real involved everyone. For this issue of BITS we asked staff to think about  how their understanding of equality and diversity feeds into their day to day work.  We got a lot of article submissions from across the organisation.  It’s actually pretty impressive, and is a clear representation that equality and diversity, openness and accessibility are part of our values as an organisation.  Many organisations are now choosing to recognise Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) expertise as a significant area of  valuable knowledge which contributes to the business advantage and has a direct and significant positive impact on reputation.

Our back page features some of the many events that staff in ISG contribute to at the Edinburgh festivals over the summer. I hope you will be able to engage with and  enjoy them.

If you would like to know more about any of the projects described in this magazine, or about the ways we aim to embed equality and diversity expertise which has a direct and significant positive impact on our organisation, please keep up to date with our celebrations and news via our websites, social media and events across the University.

diversity case studies of women in STEM

Picture from an exhibition. How? Why? What? Educational Illustration from University Collections displayed in a free exhibition from 30th March-30th June 2018.https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/library-museum-gallery/crc/events-exhibitions/exhibitions/how-why-what . No rights reserved by me.

As I’m sure you are aware,  we have been telegraphing high profile STEM career case studies of  women who work in ISG on our LinkedIn site.

In posting these case studies our goal is clear: We want to provide our current workforce with an inclusive, fair environment in which they feel valued, creative and empowered, and we hope that others will be attracted to work with us in continuing to thrive, learn and research.

There are now so many interesting, creative, rewarding and glamourous jobs available to women who chose a technology career. By not realising this our young ( and grown) women in Scotland are missing a trick. The sector is booming and there’s no good reason why all these benefits should go to men. Tech employers are keen to attract more women and greater diversity to their teams.

My advice to women looking to start a career in IT would be to look for job adverts which highlight the opportunities to be creative and to learn. Choose an employer who will value and train you in the workplace and empower you to develop further in your career.

The 2018 STEM careers case studies are:  Kirsty, Gina, Sonia, Janet, Marissa, Dominique and me.
Quite the diverse group.

presenting equality challenges

PlayFair Steps for fair play at work

Dominique and I presented our work on The PlayFair Steps at Equality Challenge Unit’s  Innovation, Change, Impact- Scotland’s Conference 2018

Colleges and HEIs in Scotland have been working towards mainstreaming and embedding equality for some time, as it is a requirement of the specific duties regulations in Scotland.

The conference aim was provide a showcase for this work and an opportunity for collaboration and sharing of experience covering:

  • Innovative approaches and radical ideas to progressing equality and diversity activity
  • Identifying and measuring effective change
  • Developing creative approaches to identifying and evaluating impact 

occupy your librarian

Picture taken by me in the street in Mons, Belgium. No rights reserved by me.

19th-23rd March is #ResourcesListWeek in the University of Edinburgh.

I am often asked about the value of lecturing ( and lecture recording). In my day, I was always told that the purpose of a lecture was to send you to the Library. A good  lecture, given by an academic colleague who is passionate about their subject and actively researching in the area will inspire you to go and find out more for yourself. Lectures were never designed to be the way to cover and transmit all the course content. The reading list is as valuable to students as the lectures.

In a research institution the Library holds collections way beyond the reading lists and provides an environment for individual exploration and discovery.

We send our students to the library clutching their reading lists. If you want the books to be there when they get there, you need a Resources List. Sending in your resources list causes your librarian to order-in what is needed.

If you think our library should hold more diverse authors, if you would like to liberate the curriculum, if you would prefer we used more open access resources, this is one way to drive that change.

The Librarians are ready and waiting, give them something to occupy their time.