Category: People, Place and Work

re-skilling under lockdown

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.

During lockdown it quickly became clear that some of the staff who work in ISG could not do their roles from home. In some cases this was true for whole teams, e.g. our staff who manage the library shelves, our staff who work on drop-in help desks, our staff who manage buildings and facilities, our staff who fit AV and IT equipment into teaching rooms.

One of the advantages of working in a large, converged service ( IT, learning technology, libraries, museums and collections together) is that we could take a holistic view and look across the organisation to find new opportunities. In some areas there was new, urgent demand for people. I was in no doubt that we needed many more people to help with the huge shift to hybrid teaching for semester 1, so it simply made sense to re-skill in house. We have converted shelving staff to subtitlers and facilities staff to access facilitators.

Within ISG we decided to find flexibility in our workforce and offer opportunities to re-skill to our staff. In the Learning, Teaching and Web Directorate, we offered 3 roles for colleagues to move into: Learn VLE Assistant, Web Editor and Subtitling Assistant. We offered a job description, training and support for working from home.

The result of this re-organisation and reskilling is that we have 7 colleagues from other parts of ISG now working to do accessibility audits in our VLE,   another 7 adding subtitles to public facing video content and one new web editor. All  of these roles need a high attention to care and detail, accessibility and accuracy. All of these roles bring with them a chance to learn new digital skills and to understand the challenges our diverse groups of students face when they use our online content and the solutions which facilitate better access.

Thank you to the teams in LTW who welcomed and trained our colleagues into these new roles, and thank you to those colleagues who were so willing to add new skills to their repertoire. When the lock down ends and we go back into our libraries and teaching rooms, I am sure we will feel the benefit.

This post can be read in conjunction with this ones which describes how we are growing our own learning technologists, and recruiting more.

equality, diversity and inclusion issues to consider

Dominique and me presenting and representing in London about EDI.

There is a risk that when we change things at speed some of the gains we have made previously get lost, reversed or return to ‘business as usual’. Business as usual was not particularly equal, diverse or inclusive at the best of times. This could be an opportunity to establish a new normal which would impact a lot of people.

The protected characteristics under the Equality Act are: · Age · Disability · race (including ethnicity and nationality) · religion or belief · sex · sexual orientation · gender reassignment · pregnancy and maternity · marriage or civil partnership.

There are likely to be particular issues for how we support both students and staff with protected characteristics when we move to new modes for large numbers of students.

By way of example, issues to consider might include:

  • Students with physical disabilities may be unable to take part at all in on campus activities due to health risks from covid19 and have to access all services and carry out all transactions remotely
  • Designing one way systems and new routes through the campus is going to involve using a bunch more doors, which may not be fully accessible.
  • Students with mental health issues may need more support if their conditions are exacerbated by social distancing / lockdown / covid19 worries
  • BAME students and staff, and older students and staff, may need greater protection or targeted advice as BAME and older people appear to be higher risk groups
  • Students and staff may be subject to harassment or abuse during the covid19 pandemic as a result of their faith or ethnicity
  • The nature and responses to harassment, bullying and abuse online is different from face to face and is particularly experienced by women, BAME, disabled, LGBT+ staff and students
  • Staff and students with young children may be unable to work on campus at all or may only be able to do for limited periods, due to childcare obligations
  • Caring, pastoral support and mental health support work, traditionally has been done disproportionately by women.
  • Students working from home in countries with restrictive regimes may experience online environments differently than those not.
  • Students living areas of social deprivation  or low connectivity may have limited or different access to technology.
  • Students with disabilities are easily excluded for accessing learning if care is not taken to ensure that learning materials and activities are accessible.
  • Staff with disabilities are easily excluded for accessing  online meetings and events if care is not taken to ensure that closed captions and text chat are accessible.
  • The images, reading lists, case studies and examples used in the curriculum may not be chosen with care to represent the diverse student body.

Any more? Many more?

shifting priorities

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

There is a lot going on. Priorities are changing all across the University.

For me, one priority has been to get some of my learning technology service teams on to contracts which are more secure. I have some amazingly talented and highly skilled professional in my teams.

That done, my next step was to ensure that we maintain our commitment to our student internships and sandwich placements.  I’m pleased to say we are recruiting dozens of students to help us with our digital shift to blended, flexible and inclusive learning in semester 1, and we are offering placement years to computing students from Napier University.

Another priority is to recruit some more https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/CAB451/learning-technology-support-officer to join us.

If you know anyone interested: ‘Working closely with colleagues across the University, you will bring a strong customer focus, an enthusiasm for problem-solving, a methodical and efficient management of your workload as well as a desire to learn new skills and gain expertise in new areas. We value your communication and digital skills, knowledge and experience of working with learners and teachers’.

At Edinburgh Learning Technology Support Officers may specialise in a particular area of technology to provide expert guidance and support. We are interested to hear from people who might specialise in video, AR/VR, remote teaching, skills training, digital humanities or computational notebooks as these are growing areas of demand.

We are also recruiting e-learning software developers https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/CAD662/elearning-systems-developer to help us deliver next generation learning environments: “Will you help us to deliver online, blended and hybrid learning for University of Edinburgh? We are looking for an agile developer to join our team to build capability for the future and contribute to teaching and learning in a world-leading centre of academic excellence. You will demonstrate experience of building and maintaining web applications, with proven skills in modern web technologies, including HTML, PHP, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and the ability to prioritise your own workload and work independently. You will also have well-developed communication skills, and be able to identify and understand user requirements. You will understand the impact of legislation (such as accessibility, equality and GDPR) in the context of online education.”

 

How we put our VLE at the heart of teaching

The online space has always been part of  on-campus teaching at University of Edinburgh. Our Learn Foundations Project aims to make all the courses in the Learn virtual learning environment (VLE) more usable and consistent to provide a better student experience in the online teaching and learning space.

The events of recent weeks have highlighted a need for robust institutional responses to maintaining teaching continuity. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Edinburgh undertook a ‘digital pivot’ when it moved all on-campus course delivery to ‘remote’ teaching from outwith the campus in response to the national lockdown.

Learn Foundations establishes for the University an institutional standard for the use of Learn. In the past there was inconsistency across courses which contributes to a poor student experience. Students studying across subject areas, Schools, and Colleges, inevitably struggled to find their course-specific resources placed in different folders, and often called different things. Studies by our user experience experts in ISG demonstrated that many students were finding it difficult to use courses in Learn and were therefore having a poor learner experience. Agreeing on an institution-wide standard course structure and consistent course terminology, alleviated needless confusion caused by basic inconsistencies.

LTW Response to Teaching Continuity

Blackboard Learn is the online teaching hub / VLE/ LMS  for all on-campus courses at the University; it is where students  find their lecture recordings, resources and reading lists, submit assignments and receive feedback, and engage in blended learning activities.

In the March 2020 teaching continuity response to the COVID-19 our remote teaching strategy was to focus training on a core toolset (Learn, Collaborate, Media Hopper Create, and Replay) with Learn positioned as “the heart of teaching your course” (https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/teaching-continuity/teaching-online). Online training sessions were delivered alongside drop-in sessions providing evidence-based advice about online teaching based on the University’s many years of research and practice in the area of online education (https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/teaching-continuity/tips). Key to the message was that academic staff should consider on-campus teaching activities being moved online into Learn for a short period of time to see out the final three weeks of teaching, rather than a full online course redesign.

We saw a huge spike in usage across all our core learning technology services and  in response to a targeted comms campaign, 800 academic staff at University of Edinburgh tuned in to this training as part of the emergency response.

It was clear that those schools who had already adopted the Learn Foundations standard were in a better position to pivot teaching online than those who hadn’t.Those colleagues who had experience of recording their lectures and making their own edits had a headstart too. The largest demand and biggest training need was for using virtual classroom tools ( Collaborate).

Learn Foundations should be considered a fundamental component of Edinburgh’s remote teaching model, delivering a consistent and improved student experience and supporting Schools to use Learn effectively. It improves the staff experience of creating course content so it is easy to upload and straightforward for students to access.  It improves the student experience of carrying out learning tasks and accessing relevant learning materials.

Teaching Continuity – Academic Year 2020/21

Edinburgh University has committed to continuing  taught programmes, where possible, at the start of academic year 2020/21. Whether or not we do something fancy with new undergraduates, this still means thousands of courses online. This will mean a hugely increased focus on Learn as the online hub for teaching activities for on-campus courses. It remains unclear what government guidelines will be in place at that time in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and whether students and staff will be able to access campus buildings. At the very least it is highly likely that some students will not be able to attend campus in September due to travel restrictions and / or relaxed levels of social distancing. We should also be prepared in the coming academic year for full social distancing restrictions to be imposed again at short notice.

Even if the on-campus learners return, this is not a one-off, they will need reassurance that they can go home, if called home and still complete their studies.

All courses should therefore be ready for an online pivot and all teaching staff should be trained to teach elements of their course online. Even if the terminology of being ‘fully online’ is not being used, these remotely taught courses will need all their elements to be available at a distance if needed.

In order to build a consist and usable learner experience into a teaching continuity strategy we propose to include within the scope of Learn Foundations a mapping of all first semester on-campus teaching activities onto online equivalents to enable both online pivots, and remote students to continue to engage with teaching.

Mapping on-campus teaching to pivot online: a simplified hybrid approach

As well as Learn Foundations, a number of existing elements can be repurposed to support academic colleagues and learning technology support teams in the design of an Edinburgh Model of hybrid courses:

  • The on-campus timetable and curriculum should be considered the basis for a mapping of online activities. Where possible these should focus on the core online teaching toolset (Learn, Collaborate, and Media Hopper).
  • Lecture recordings and resources lists provision should be reviewed for gaps in coverage– particularly in first year courses.
  • Audits of accessibility of learning materials will continue and each School will be provided with reports to support improvement in access and inclusion online.
  • Learning designs will be repurposed from ELDeR sessions to inform modes of online teaching which have been tried and tested at University of Edinburgh, giving a firm grounding in appropriate pedagogy.
  • Online ABC sprints, led by school-based learning technologists and under guidance for the ISG learning design service, will lead teaching staff quickly through the process of customising the learning designs for individual courses.
  • The ‘An Edinburgh Model for Online Teaching staff development programme be offered to all teaching staff as an introduction to online teaching, and to give staff the experience of being an online student with a focus on communication, community and care that is important for all online teachers.
  • The learning technology training programme as part of the Learn Foundations project will focus on supporting the delivery of teaching online and the programme of remote training developed in March 2020 will be re-run intensively over the summer. Cross-references and supplemental information from the ‘Edinburgh Model’ course will provide ongoing support for using the core technologies required.
  • Local learning technologists in Schools will support colleagues in making discipline specific decisions about materials online.
  • Communications around the support available for academic colleagues in making this shift in pedagogy will be co-ordinated with IAD.
  • Copyright advice and training for colleagues moving their materials online will be provided by the Library and our Open Educational Resources Service.

We will also continue to offer tools and support for teachers who want to innovate and stretch beyond a core set of tools into using video, blogs, computational notebooks, wikimedia tools and virtual labs. A rush to online delivery by many universities will see skillful course design for accessibility, quality and learning communities become key.  Interoperability, licensing, copyright, IP, technical standards and open development will be as important for sharing, interchange, reuse, local adaptation of materials  as they always have been.

Fingers crossed.

Critical responses

What should an ancient research university with a famous medical school and a track record of distance learning do in a time of pandemic crisis?

I hear you ask.

Publish a massive open online course full of openly licensed resources, of course.

And so we did.

COVID-19 Critical Care: Understanding and Application

Frontline staff can now learn the principles and practice of critical care to treat and care for critically ill patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. For free.

Thank you to all our teams and to FutureLearn ( who are by far my favourite global elearning platform company this week).

 

Wikimedia in Education, a collection of case studies

Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh are pleased to launch the new publication Wikimedia in Education, a collection of case studies from practitioners across the UK who have successfully integrated Wikimedia into their courses.

Wikimedia is a valuable tool for education, enriching the student experience as much as it does the open web. Learning to contribute to Wikipedia, or Wikimedia’s other open knowledge projects, teaches students key skills in information literacy, collaboration, writing as public outreach, information synthesis, source evaluation and data science. It also develops an appreciation for the role and importance of open education. Of the 14 examples in this publication, 13 are from the higher education sector; however the resource has been designed for anyone involved in education. It will be of particular interest to teachers, lecturers and learning technologists involved in open pedagogy and course design, or who have an interest in library skills, innovative learning, working on the open web, co-creation, collaborative working, or digital skills.

The publication is free to download and openly licensed.

Speaking about the launch, Melissa Highton. Assistant Principal, University of Edinburgh says: “The University of Edinburgh has a long-standing commitment to open educational resources. We offer services, training and support to colleagues who open up their practice in a wide range of ways. Working in partnership with WikimediaUK is just one of the many successful projects we have. This publication serves to celebrate the great success we have had in embedding open knowledge activities into courses across the University. I encourage colleagues to take a look and think about how you can bring this sort of engagement with open information literacy into classrooms to encourage sharing, co-creation and real impact.

Celebrating the importance of the work, Lucy Crompton-Reid. Chief Executive, Wikimedia UK, concluded: “As the national charity for the global Wikimedia open knowledge movement, Wikimedia UK works closely with the education sector to develop the use and recognition of Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects as valuable tools for teaching and learning. The University of Edinburgh has led the way in this work and we are delighted to have collaborated with them on the creation of this new publication, which features case studies from across the university as well as some of our other UK education partners.

Shifting place and pace: New futures for online learning

Some of the links from my presentation at the University of Derby Online Learning Summit on Tuesday.

Follow me @honeybhighton

The book of online learning at University of Edinburgh

Near Future Teaching at University of Edinburgh

Manifesto for Online Teaching at University of Edinburgh

An ‘Edinburgh Model for Online Teaching’ at University of Edinburgh

When I wrote this presentation originally, I thought the shift in pace and place I would be talking about would be the new online microcredentials – Micromasters ™ – courses we have been piloting this year.

Little did I know that we would, as  a sector, experience a seismic shift  to remote learning online in little more than a week.  At University of Edinburgh we have all shifted place- we are now working from home or are stranded and trapped. We have all shifted pace. Things which we thought would take months and years to do suddenly gained urgency and we ‘flipped’ or ‘pivoted’ to remote learning and working outwith the university at very short notice.

I can tell you about what we have been doing at Edinburgh in online distance learning, because it is this previous work which has given us the capacity, capability and vision to respond quickly now.

We know that distance is a positive principle, not a deficit. It can generate meaningful learning opportunities and a positive student experience; it can build community; and it can advance a values-led and professionalising position of teaching, one that does not downgrade teaching into (mere) facilitation.

New futures?  who knows what will happen next? I won an EduFuturists Award  recently for an individual ‘who embodies a vision of where education could be 20 years from now’ , and suddenly it seems like I should come up with this vision pretty fast.  This is a new era and a paradigm shift for ‘business continuity’. In the past i warned my colleagues to ‘expect locusts‘. I wanted them to think big. I asked them to think about what happens if for some reason we can’t operate as usual. I admit, I thought the challenges would be strikes, snow or rogue volcanos, but I like a bit of Biblical scale…..

Some  of my emerging thoughts for possible futures:

  • After this current ‘panic pivot’ to teach out the current academic year. Universities will quickly start to think about semester 1 next year. Will university campuses re-open or will we teach semester 1 online?

The online learning landscape

  • A rush to online delivery by many universities will see skillful course design for accessibility, quality and learning communities become key.
  • Even if the on-campus learners return, this is not a one-off, they will need reassurance that they can go home, if called home and still complete their studies.
  • The undergraduate online market in the UK will be transformed. Things we thought impossible will become pragmatic.
  • Some universities will collaborate with peer institutions to develop courses and deliver together. Some will not.
  • Interoperability, licensing, IP, technical standards and open development will be as important for sharing, interchange, reuse, local adaptation of materials  as they always have been. Expertise in this area will be prized.

Leadership

  • Learning technologists who know about staff development, course design and open educational resources will realise they can work from home and work for any institution in the world. Their salaries will increase, and the work will be more flexible, more compatible with family life.
  • The (already) global market for academic colleagues who teach well online will thrive.

Digital transformation

  • On campus service such as counselling, wellbeing, welfare, disability support, finance, careers will need to find new elements of quality in delivery online.
  • Students will want to watch their lectures online.
  • Traditional face to face exams will become antiquated, and the purpose  and methods of assessment will become increasingly diverse.
  • ‘Halls of residence’ will be forever known as ‘petri dishes’.

Technology partners

  • The global platforms ( Coursera, Edx, Futurelearn, Linkedin Learning) will finally see return on their business model and they will own all the student data.
  • Home-based learners will sacrifice privacy and personal data in the rush to use Zoom and Houseparty et al.
  • Vendors and suppliers will try to renegotiate the costs of VLEs, streaming video and virtual classroom tools.
  • Libraries will finally invest properly in digitisation and digital collections and no-one will believe publishers’ protests that they cannot offer open access any more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

responding to crisis

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.

We have trained 800 staff to support remote teaching and offered online training in how to work from home.

The result has been:

  • 1200 Media Hopper Create uploads in Week3 March in comparison to 400 in the same week last year.
  • Support calls for Media Hopper Create down on last year show that the training and guidance is good quality.
  • 16-18th March 800 Collaborate sessions per day. 23rd March, 1400 sessions involving 6000 users
  • Learn Logins steady each day at 4,000 logins but this is fewer than an average day when everyone is on campus. We would usually see nearer 5,000 per day.

Our academic colleagues are working hard to play their part in tackling the Corona Virus.  This is one of the very good things about working in a research university. We are providing services which support research and teaching  and knowledge creation and dissemination.

https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2020/experts-play-key-role-in-bid-to-curb-covid-19

In LTW, we are all part of this.

We are currently:

  • helping to open up content on MediaHopper  to be used by NHS Lothian staff,
  • helping MSc Critical Care to open up a Learn course to thousands of clinicians and creating a new MOOC.
  • helping Usher Institute to create a web database of  evidence based research on COVID-19 that can be accessed by policy-makers and clinicians seeking up-to-date and reliable answers to key questions.
  • adapting the graphic design in chapters from the Adult Medical Emergencies Handbook to be put online.
  • watching how colleagues in our UCreate Makerspace team are contributing to the effort to prototype and 3d print essential PPE.

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

Thank you, all.

remote teaching online at University of Edinburgh

Lovely illustrations by the LTW interactive Content Team

Preparing for Teaching Continuity – Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

We have produced some advice and guidance on how to continue teaching remotely. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic we would advise that all teaching staff consider this advice.  Using our Learning Technology Training and Help Resources. Please also regularly check the University’s Coronavirus information and advice to keep up-to-date with the University’s position.

https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/teaching-continuity

The tools you need are Learn, Collaborate and Media Hopper. They are available for all members of the University.

Some top tips to keep in mind when planning to teach remotely:

It is important to remember that good teaching online brings with it some of the same principles as good teaching face to face. A strong teacher presence, engaged learning communities, contact time between teacher and student and for students in pairs or groups. The following tips are designed to facilitate that as simply as possible and minimise disruption both for you and your students.

  • Keep it simple. See the technology as servicing some core teaching function and only choose what you need. Video for lectures (if you lecture), discussion boards for debates and dialogue, a virtual learning environment for hosting your content, a well-structured reading list, maybe a blog for student reflection and group work.
  • Get professional advice and ask for help early on if you can. Speak to your school learning technologist and IT support; information services staff and librarians are here to help and advise.
  • Communicate with students. This is critical. Let them know we are trying something new and why. Let them know where to go and who to contact if they run into difficulty. Get them talking on the discussion boards with prompts and questions at regular intervals.
  • Discuss with your colleagues and networks of contacts at other universities how they may have used technology in similar situations teaching in similar disciplines. Many universities offer the same or very similar learning technologies, so sharing practice can be helpful to someone you know.
  • Your students may already know you, but you need to show them you are present online: a picture of yourself, some short videos, encouragement on the discussion boards. Videos don’t need to be perfect. Showing personality has currency in the online space.
  • Consider assessments. Do you need to rethink the assessments if you are moving online? You might. There are many ways to assess online and most aren’t too complicated.
  • Consider which parts of your course such as fieldwork, labs, studios and practicals may have to be cancelled or changed. Think about the adjustments you have previously made for students with disabilities, are those alternative versions appropriate for all your students now?
  • Do the best you can 🙂 we understand this will be new and different for many teachers.

menopause fans

My fans. Picture taken by me. No rights reserved by me.

Who will be our menopause allies?

Will it be the younger women who roll their eyes or look away when we mention the menopause?

Will it be the men who are partners of menopausal wives?

What can we do now to support and destigmatise menopause in the workplace?

I’ve got some ideas and I’ve given it a try.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned.

You’ll wish you’d discussed this with your mother.