Category: People, Place and Work

Burns

One of the bagpipes in our collection at St Cecilia’s. Picture taken by me in the room. No rights reserved by me. http://www.stcecilias.ed.ac.uk/

It’s that time of year again. I’m looking forward to an evening of poetry, haggis and song with good friends.

My favourite contemporary of Robert Burns is Mary Somerville.

Mary had a much loved uncle who was keen on punning.  Burns publicly made fun of Mary’s uncle’s punning and the uncle never punned again.

Burns, possibly a bit of an arse.

edtech haikus

We have some fun, creative programme managers around here. One has the crazy idea that we should get project boards and teams to reflect on the lessons learned from a project via the medium of reflective haikus.   This is what you get when you ask your Lecture Recording Programme Board to draft reflective haikus from their experiences of participating in the programme.

Students love it.
Powerful technology.
Accessible for all.

Scared at the start point.
Found our feet and so much more.
Brimming confidence.

Policy delays.
Sometimes arise the temperature.
All’s well that ends well.

Student employment.
Sound, but high administration.
Make it easier.

People have made it.
Together across the campus.
Very sound service.

The structure worked well.
Project team could make progress.
Good decisions made.

Colleagues are afraid.
What would be the best practice?
Get out to the schools.

Working it out together.
Breaking down barriers.
Business as usual.

Working together.
One big team.
Making a difference.

The retention period.
Navigating treacherous waters together.
To be revisited.

Knowhow captured.
Knowledge exchanged.
Change happens.

Emotion is motion.
Sharing the shifting.
Noticing the change.

We win over Hearts and Minds
Inclusion throughout our teaching
Must keep the ball rolling

Broken Moments of Learning
Resolved and repaired
Independence gained

Silent recording.
Disabled students can’t hear.
Wear the microphone.

A barrier or enabler.
The research reveals many facets.
The community comes together.

Pedagogy meets ethics.
Anxiety and confusion meet innovation.
All ending in positivity.

Give us every view.
We do intend to listen.
A project for all.

 

2020 futures

Photo taken by me at the zoo. No rights reserved by me.

Happy new year to you, Reader.

In the long dark days of the Scottish winter when its tempting to hibernate it’s always nice to have a few things lined up to look forward to in the ‘Spring’. Here are some of the dates I already have in my diary. These are events and conferences at which I’ll be giving presentations or keynotes about a range of topics.

Over the the last few years I have  cut down on my international travel for work, but still very much enjoyed the range of events at which I get invited to speak.

If any of these topics interest you, it would be great to see you there.

Strategic leadership of open and online learning

31st March-  Keynote: Online Learning Summit  ‘Growing your University online: Routes to student success’.
Thank you to Margaret for the invitation.
18th June- Keynote at University of South Wales Learning & Teaching conference. Thank you to Catherine for the invitation.

 

The future of libraries and learning technology

27-28th May- Keynote: CONUL Conference 2020   ‘Imagining the future and how we get there’. http://conference.conul.ie Thank you to Laura for the invitation.

Wikimedia in the curriculum

I’ll be presenting with Ewan about our work embedding wikimedia in the curriculum and LILAC and OER20 and we’ll be launching our book of case studies of wikimedia in UK HE reflecting 5 years of ongoing work. At OER20 Lorna and I will be reviewing 5 years of our Open Educational Resources (OER) service at University of Edinburgh.

Digital literacy and digital skills

6-8 April  at LILAC conference I’ll be hosting a panel with Josie and Jane called ‘Hindsight 2020: if we knew then what we know now’ https://www.lilacconference.com/lilac-2020

Equality and diversity/women in STEM

17-19 March- Equality Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2020: ‘Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: creative thinking in tackling inequality’ I’ll be presenting with Dominique about the experiences of making changes in our organisation and joining a panel about the the ‘taboo’ subject of menopause.  https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/programmes-events/conferences/EDIConf20

 

I am also planning to complete and defend a massive piece of writing which is currently a bit of a monster, but i’m hoping that preparing these presentations will help me to hone my ideas.

 

 

Festive thank you

Our LTW festive card goes out to nearly 300 people on our Christmas card list.

That’s 300 people outside of LTW who we can thank for the time and effort that they contribute to our success. They don’t have to do this, they have other jobs, they may not think that coming to our user groups and planning meetings and programme boards is the most fun thing to do.  So when they do, we need to make sure we make it as painless as possible for them because we benefit from their advice and engagement.

Thank you for all your help this year in making our services and projects the best they can be. We appreciate all the time, insights and creativity that you give through your work in partnership with us. We couldn’t do it without you. Wishing you a relaxing festive break and a happy New Year.

Every 6 months I ask each of the LTW heads to send me lists of the top achievements in their teams and we celebrate these achievements at our LTW all-staff meeting. This is a tough task for them because there is so much which warrants attention and celebration. Some directorates in ISG only have their staff meetings once a year. In LTW we have our staff meetings every 6 months, partly because we always have so much new work to celebrate and partly because we often have new staff and new projects and it is really important that  we get to know the  people who work in other teams so that we can provide the best, joined up services to the University.

It’s been another busy year and special thanks go to the colleagues who work directly in roles which support our committees and projects, the comms teams, the project managers, the programme managers the project administrators who make sure we are all in the right place at the right time talking about the right thing.

We have been busy on campus: This year we created a learning and teaching spaces strategy to describe the vision and plans for maintaining, improving and expanding teaching space (in rooms and online).  We launched a remote support service so that the spaces team can reach you wherever you are  and we put in a bunch of phones in lecture theatres to enable you to call for help. We created new service dashboards and analytics to better understand how the rooms are used by staff and students and better kit including  recording writing surfaces in all large lecture theatres. The recording of writing surfaces as well as the recording of slides and lectures continues to be a project which attracts a lot of attention  from other universities who are keen to know how we have done it.

We have been busy in our community:  In September we hosted the national conference of learning technologists at Edinburgh which was a huge success, many of you were there, presenting or helping and we won several awards at the conference, including one for the lecture recording team and we celebrated several more of our staff gaining their CMALT certification.

When I meet with the other heads and directors at other universities, we are still one of very few universities who have a Wikimedian in Residence. Which just amazes me. I am not sure why other universities haven’t figured out that wikimedia is a key set of learning technology platforms for knowledge sharing, information literacy, data,  maps and images.  But in the meantime, before they all figure this out, it gives us at Edinburgh a unique edge and a chance to win national awards.

We are also one of only a few universities to be so strongly committed to open educational resources. Our activities in open education and open source are important to us. This is a big part of what we do, what we are commited to in the ways that we work and part of how we show that we understand not just about learning, teaching and web but also civic engagement. Our colleagues in the Library work on open access and open research, we work on open educational resources (OER), open data and open source tools.

OERs are created by students for the specific purpose of re-use.  We work closely with School of Geosciences to release free and open teaching and learning resources for school teachers created by students as part of the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course. The resources are tagged for ease of use and shared on Times Education Supplement website which is where the school teachers look. To date we have made 43 OERs available to school teachers on TES Resources. They have been downloaded 12000 times.

Moocs are also a  big part of our open activities. We have, as you know, a huge stable of MOOCs. We launched 3 new MOOCs  in the last 6 months and saw 100,000 new enrolments across our portfolio of free short online courses.

We have not been snoozing  with our big systems either: We Launched the new MyEd to the University . We kicked off the procurement for the new Web Publishing Platform and EdWeb. Our Learn VLE  is used by tens of thousands of students everyday, at all times of day and night. Learn and MyEd are the most heavily used of any of the university IT systems, except for perhaps email. We moved Learn to the cloud and began our VLE foundations project  to ensure that it is being used consistently.  10 of our student interns migrated 700 courses into the new Learn Foundations template. They checked the accessibility of 13000 course items and classified 128000 content items against learning activity types. This is the most in-depth analysis of courses in the VLE ever undertaken at the University.

We are investing a lot of time in learning design: We  had 53 attendees at ELDeR workshops, each giving up 2 days of their time so that we can support them in the learning design of a range of academic programmes and courses. We worked with over 70 student reps (UG and PG) on developing student personae to increase inclusivity in learning design.

This year we hosted  75  student workers as interns, champions and helpers. This is important for them and for us. Important work experience for them. New ideas and input for us. As well as being a potential pipeline for new people to join our organisation, it also allows us to tackle some of the scale issues which challenge us. Individual students have done unique work  and groups of students  have ploughed through work which has transformed how we support learning and teaching, working as Subtitling Editors, Student Helpers in Lecture theatres and Digital skills trainers.  In LTW we do it well. So well in fact that we won an award in HR Network Scotland which is the national awards for HR.

In semester 1 this year we recorded 15,000 recordings lectures. We launched the UK’s first MicroMasters programme and a new model for teaching online. Lauren went to Africa to film video testimonials from online students and alumni and we published an interactive Power BI dashboard to enable colleagues to interrogate 5 year’s worth of demographics for applicants and intakes to PG online learning degrees.

We continue to celebrate equality and diversity: LTW is also the home to the University’s Ada Lovelace Day celebrations again this year in October. Ada Lovelace day is when we celebrate the first computer programmer and the contribution of women in STEM and tech. We partner with the schools to run events -This year with School of Engineering, another very successful event and a great turn out for our evening speaker, Ursula Martin. We named our new datacentre after Mary Somerville and appoined a Data and Equality officer.

We have ramped up our engagement with the wider University: we ran workshops and pop up events for over 100 members of staff to gather requirements for our future web services. We have attended 15 promotional events to raise awareness of digital skills. We also hosted the JISC digital capability event in Edinburgh.

We have approved £40k of expenditure in the last 6 months to support  LTW staff attending a large number of training events, conferences and other development activities.

We need to be developing our own skills, but we are also the people responsible for helping staff and student in the rest of the university develop theirs too. Counting bums on seats is all very well but we need to be sure we are reaching the parts of the University other services don’t reach. Since 1st July 2019 we have delivered 263 courses and trained 2088 people and we delivered 13 making the Most of IT sessions to 1,115 new students.

Thank you again to all who contributed this year in making our services and projects the best they can be. We couldn’t do it without you.

Wishing you a relaxing festive break and a happy New Year.

 

learning technology leadership and strike action

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am out of my office and taking part in the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action to defend our rights to fair pay, fair play and equality at work.

I was pleased and honored to be invited to speak at a recent HELF (Heads of e-learning Forum) meeting at University of Glasgow.  I was asked to speak about leadership and change from a political and ethical standpoint. How these views guide our approaches to change within an institution and the tensions that may arise. What does it mean to be and become an agent of change?

The meeting fell on the day after this current round of strikes were announced  and it gave me the opportunity to talk with these learning technology leaders about the role learning technology plays during strike action.

If we work with technology for teaching and learning then all our technology comes into contention during a strike.

This is important for HELF  because  that what happens at one university is quickly heard about at others. I know several large institutions have been having discussions about lecture recordings and learning materials last week. I asked for a show of hands in the room, to see how many HELF leaders were union members. A good number of hands went up, so I assume there will be at least a few institutions in which the leaders of learning technology are not at meetings today.

I am a strong believer that if you are a member of a union you should remain a member of that union even when you become senior management. The reason for this is that I believe you get better decision making when there is diversity around the board table, and union members are part of that diversity of thinking. Having some managers in the room who are union members means you get better management which is more inclusive and considerate of a range of staff views.

My hope, is that with this better-informed thinking comes fewer staff-management stand-offs.  But since the UCU have voted to strike again, you need to know your institutional policies on lecture recording and VLE use.

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

At a time of strike, what might before have been thought of as a fairly neutral service becomes very political. There are expectations from both sides and either way your choice of action will be political.  It may come down to your own  political or ethical position.

Management will expect you to use every tool you have to mitigate the impact of the strike,  to keep learning and teaching going. And academic colleagues, or those on strike, will expect you not to. You may have to pick a side.   Do you want to be seen as a management tool or a friend to academics?  Are you them, or us?

What impact does the decision you make to keep working during the strike have on the longer term relationship you have with those colleagues, those academic colleagues who see you  and your services as a management tool?

Although the strike is obviously not about technology per se, Learning technology, VLEs and lecture recordings in particular are very much on the union policy agenda and they will be used as part of negotiations alongside other issues. VLEs make it possible to teach larger numbers of students with fewer staff and lecture recordings make it possible to deliver lectures when they aren’t there. Neither of those sound good to labour unions. Anywhere where strikes about pay and conditions are going on any suggestion that we can  make digital materials, or recordings, or whatever available will impact directly on security of  tenure for the staff, particularly those on precarious contracts.

I hope we can have more conversations about how our roles relate to strike action. Mangers and learning technologists and learning technology managers should think about the advice and discussions which happened with regard to business continuity during the strike.   Did managers give the impression you could not or should not strike?   If you are a manager, what conversation did you have with your staff?  Is your manager in the union? Were you asked to cover for them?  Think about how you feel about retention policies and management requests to  give access to last year’s materials.  I hope we can have more discussions in this community about how we reassure our colleagues and where we position ourselves. To see ourselves as others see us.

 

 

Adult Education and Lifelong Learning

“A Permanent National Necessity…” – Adult Education and Lifelong Learning for 21st Century Britain

100 years since the Ministry of Reconstruction’s adult education committee published its Report on Adult Education, the centenary commission I  sit on has published our report which argues that adult education and lifelong learning must be a permanent national
necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, vital to addressing the huge societal divisions and challenges to democracy we currently face.

You can read the full report here: http://www.centenarycommission.org/

The challenges include the climate crisis; communities more divided than in living memory, with many feeling excluded from today’s politics; and artificial intelligence threatening to disrupt jobs and permanently alter the nature of work forever. The report mostly focuses on England but we did manage to get in some references to Scotland and Wales and to the potential of digital to transform the ways in which adult education can be offered and enjoyed. Funding for adult learning and apprenticeships has fallen by 45% in real terms since 2009-10, cutting adult education participation dramatically.

Our Report calls for:
• A national Adult Education & Lifelong Learning Strategy, with a participation target to reduce the gap between the most and least educationally active.
• A Minister with specific responsibility for Adult Education and Lifelong Learning to report annually to Parliament on progress.
• Community Learning Accounts, alongside Individual Learning Accounts to provide funding for informal, community-based learning initiatives led by local groups.

Designing learning: from module outline to effective teaching

I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for the new, updated Butcher, C., Davies, C., & Highton, M. (2019). Designing learning: from module outline to effective teaching ( 2nd edition). Routledge.

You’ve been waiting a long time. The last one was written in 2006. Writing with Chris and Clara has been just like old times.

You’ll be thinking loads has changed in the techniques of learning design and use of technology to support learning and teaching……

For most teachers the main technology to support teaching on campus is still the VLE, but in this edition I’ve managed to include up to date examples from lecture recording, maker spaces, OER, online reading lists, diversity in the curriculum, inclusive design and learning analytics.  Course leaders still need a really good grounding in learning design though, if their teaching is going to be successful. We have  a Learning Design Service at Edinburgh which is growing from strength to strength.

Bridging the gap between theory and practice, this fully updated new edition of Designing Learning offers accessible guidance to help those new to teaching in higher education to design and develop a course. With new considerations to the higher education context, this book uses current educational research to support staff in their endeavour to design and develop modules and degree courses of the highest quality.

Offering guidance on every stage, from planning to preparing materials and resources, with a focus on the promotion of learning, this book considers:

  • Course design models and shapes, and their impact on learning
  • How the external influences of learning and teaching are translated by different institutions
  • How to match the content of a course to its outcomes
  • Frameworks to enable communication between staff and students about expectations and standards
  • Taking into account the diverse student population when designing a course
  • The place of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), communication tools and systems for monitoring students’ engagement
  • The importance of linking all aspects of the taught curriculum and wider co-/extra-curricular activities to support learning
  • Ways to evaluate and enhance a course and to develop oneself as a teaching professional in HE.

Providing advice, illustrative examples and case studies, Designing Learning is a comprehensive guide to designing a high-quality course. This book is a must-read for any academic looking to create or update their course or module.

 

data for measuring change in equality and diversity

We began the PlayFair Steps four years ago in ISG to bring a culture change and raise awareness of E&D issues.  We’ve been lucky to have an impressive selection of academic colleagues and researchers come to give talks and seminars about age, race, disability, sexuality, religion, class and policy issues in the workplace.

Diversity efforts  which are systemic and structural  in organisations take time. Long-term culture change requires a significant commitment of resources and leadership.  We need to conduct regular employee attitude surveys about E&D  to understand how our culture is changing. Or not.

Organisational-level change take time to materialize, given the risks of setbacks and variable commitment over time. Very few organisations actually publish cultural audit survey data, most  keep the data internal for fear of negative publicity or other adverse outcomes.

We surveyed in 2015 and have just done so again in 2019.

This year 76.1% of you agree that our workplace is inclusive, compared to 40.1% in 2015. Those of you who have worked here 3 – 5 years are most likely to remember the launch of PlayFair Steps and the E&D change theme;  83% of you now agree that ISG inclusive.  

This is a really positive change. Please continue to get involved and give us feedback.

You say:

‘ It’s a great way of meeting new people, or simply feeling like you are part of a workplace where there are like-minded people.

The events are consistently thoughtfully organised and insightful. They cover a range of topics, most of which I have limited experience with but interest me a great deal”,  

it is really important as a colleague and a manager to take time out to listen to others’ perspectives in the workplace’.

We are going to do more with our data too.  This week we are interviewing for a new post: Data and Equality Officer.

Data and Equality Officer 

“At University of Edinburgh we want to use our data in inclusive ways. We are looking for a Data and Equality Officer to join our IT central teams.  

You will help us to ensure that we have the data we need to understand the experience of our diverse staff and students in the University. You will have a passion for data, good data handling skills and knowledge of gender equality, diversity and inclusion issues.   

This a new role, created as part of our digital transformation and our commitment to ensuring that our IT services and projects challenge the structural biases and assumptions of the past. ”

It’s a strong field, so I hope we will get someone to fill Dominique’s fabulous shoes.

You can read more about the PlayFair Steps https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/playfair-steps/

genderED

Because I’ll be in Madrid I’ll miss the genderED 2nd anniversary showcase.

Dominique and Ewan will be there showcasing their work.

This event brings together educators and researchers working on gender and sexuality studies from across the University of Edinburgh. We are delighted to celebrate the second anniversary of genderED, the University’s interdisciplinary hub for gender and sexuality studies. This reception will include an interactive showcase of research, teaching and institutional initiatives, inviting attendees to learn about gender and sexuality studies work across a wide range of disciplines. genderED’s work and directories span the whole University, and the showcase will give a snapshot of exciting and varied ongoing work.
Dominique will be speaking about the gender equality work we do in ISG in The PlayFair Steps
Ewan will be speaking about the gender equality work we do in ISG in Wikimedia

Mary Somerville Data Centre

As part of our activities to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day this year, and to mark the occasion of the completion of a major upgrade project in the James Clerk Maxwell Building  data centre, we are going to name the data centre after Mary Somerville, so it’ll be the MSDC at the JCMB.

I’ve written about Mary before, on this blog  and on Wikipedia. While it is exciting to think of Ada Lovelace as a pioneer, she was not actually a crusader, nor a feminist actor on any political stage. If you are looking for a a female scientist and activist to celebrate, Mary Somerville is your woman. Mary Somerville played a key role in defining and categorizing the physical sciences, was one of the best known scientists of the nineteenth century and a passionate reformer. She was the author of best-selling books on science and a highly respected mathematician and astronomer. She was a very clever woman and was for several years Ada’s tutor and mentor. A staunch supporter of women’s suffrage and a great advocate of women’s education in 1868 Mary was the first person to sign J.S Mill’s petition to Parliament in support of women’s suffrage.  I’m very pleased that we are able to  name our data centre after her.

Mary Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872), was a Scottish writer and polymath. She is the person for whom the word scientist was invented. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was admitted as one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society.  She campaigned for votes and education for women.She wrote a number of influential and interdisciplinary science books and when she died in 1872 The Morning Post declared “Whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science.[James Clerk Maxwell himself later commented: “The unity shadowed forth in Mrs Somerville’s book is therefore a unity of the method of science, not a unity of the process of nature”.

She said:

Mathematics are the natural bent of my mind

and at aged 90:

Age has not abated my zeal for the emancipation of my sex from the unreasonable prejudice too prevalent in Great Britain against a literary and scientific education for women

There’s a very good book called ‘Mary Somerville: Science , Illumination and the  Female Mind‘ by Kathryn Neeley which  describes some of the challenges in categorising Mary because her life and work crossed boundaries and assumed roles. She was a devoted wife and mother as well as eminent scientist. She was sociable with a wide network of connections which included eminent mathematicians and scientists of the day. While formal science education was already closed to women, science itself was not yet so formalised as it is today and many of the discoveries of the day were by ‘amateur’  scientists working privately and sharing their findings socially.

When we write the biographies of women scientist for their wikipedia entries, often we find ourselves telling their story as  ‘translator’, ‘helpmate’, ‘illustrator’, ‘junior partner’ in scientific work of their father, husband or brother. This was not the case for Mary. Neither was she writing for female audiences to engage other women in science or for children or teachers. She had a privileged position in society and was at the heart of her scientific community. Amongst her community of friends were Caroline and William Herschel, Mary and Charles Lyell ( whose notebooks have just been bought by University of Edinburgh), Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace and  Annabella Byron.