I am looking forward to providing a keynote presentation at the University of South Wales’ internal learning and teaching conference on 15th July.
Even though I don’t get to travel down there, it’ll make a nice change from so much Teamsing and Zooming with colleagues in Scotland. The title for the conference is ‘Building Connections and Embracing Diversity’ – How does technology help?‘ I’ll be talking about the Edinburgh experience of digital education and the ways in which technology teams can work alongside academic teams and students to deliver active and inclusive learning.
Coincidentally, few days before this event, on 9-10th July, The Celtic Knot conference will also be answering some of these questions, focusing on minority languages in Wikipedia. This is a conference we were happy to host in Edinburgh a few years ago as part of our partnership with WikimediaUK.
If you’ll forgive me for celebrating yet another really impressive piece of work completed by LTW and the team of learning technologists from across Schools 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.
Directors have now agreed that this work should continue. Which is full credit to many ISG colleagues who have been involved and given their time to supporting this work and organising events. I was very lucky to have a student intern (Dominique) working with me over several years and now to have an Equality and Data officer (Lilinaz) for the next two years. This has given us the resource and time to really engage with our research. We have carried out 2 E&D surveys in ISG. One in 2015 and one in 2019. Both surveys led directly to recommendations for action.
You ( ISG staff) can read a report of the 2019 survey findings:
Recommendations for EDI development in ISG for the next 2-5 years are drawn from staff feedback gathered from workshop participants, research literature and from interpretations of data gathered from ISG staff.
Here are some of the things we aim to do:
Quick top ten:
Continue PlayFair Steps EDI initiatives which address the interpersonal aspects of intergroup relations, tacking issues of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination.
Combine data informed decision-making with qualitative and social science informed research to ensure that we make the best decisions for ISG.
Seek and listen to the opinions and experiences of the minority groups in our organisation such as black and ethnic minority colleagues to better understand their experiences which may be hidden by statistical analysis grouping of data.
Collect and analyse the data relating to EDI practices in ISG so we can track differences in career progression, pay, and promotions.
Understand and address the gender and race pay gaps in ISG where they exist.
Address the inequality that women and ethnic minority colleagues in ISG are more likely to be in low-paid, part-time and fixed-term roles.
Proactively attempt to attract and retain a staff to reflect the diversity of the university. If that is not possible, we should at least aim to reflect the demographics of the region in which we live.
Identify, support and reward the c40 staff who are developing as leaders in EDI, reflecting the value of this area of leadership in the organisation.
Continue to engage directly with communities to show commitment to improving the lot of historically disadvantaged groups. Whether that be ‘women in tech’, disabled people or other minority groups.
Monitor EDI impact of all our post-COVID19 recovery work with the knowledge that economic recovery is unlikely to be evenly spread.
Market and promote sessions to encourage those who would not normally attend. Each session should clearly explain why it is taking place and what the benefits of attending are.
Provide context for EDI practices in addition to providing a snapshot of ISG as a workplace that can be presented to staff members. It serves to fill in a knowledge gap for staff members in why attending EDI sessions are recommended.
Help staff to connect the importance of having a good understanding of EDI to their roles and success as leaders and team managers.
Help staff to connect the importance of having a good understanding of EDI to their roles and success as service providers.
Develop case studies of teams, projects or services where ISG seems to benefit from ‘diversity advantage’.
Do further research into the value of identity group networks and ‘allies’ in ISG.
Make time to attend
Managers should ensure that they make it possible for colleagues to attend EDI sessions.
Attend to Recruitment
Collect data on student employees, as anecdotal evidence suggests a more diverse group of students take up these positions, increasing the diversity within ISG. Knowing more about this demographic could inform hiring practices and the future of student employment within ISG (e.g. designing permanent roles that would follow internships).
Develop teams and leadership
Ensure that the growing group of ISG staff in the 16-24 age group are supported to develop, and that all managers are aware of the EDI issues inherent in cross-generational team working.
Encourage sharing of practice between directorates to address how staff participation in EDI activities can be supported and encouraged by managers.
If you have a shortage of learning technologists about the place, you may need to grow your own in-house.
If you can find colleagues who have a lively interest in learning and teaching and excellent digital skills, just sprinkle with them with a nutritious training programme and try to equip them with the resilience for coping with a lot of crop.
Our excellent teams in LTW have come up with a new learning technologist training toolkit.
This toolkit provides learning design and digital skills development resources and training for those new to working with learning technology, whether they have just joined the University or have moved internally from another role. It can be used as part of an on-boarding plan, or more generally for skills development.
The toolkit aims to build a foundation level of knowledge across our pool of learning technologists, covering the core learning technologies used at the University alongside learning design practices. Details of school-specific tools and practices should be added locally.
Additionally, the toolkit aims to develop and maintain the University’s network of Learning Technologists through which you can meet others in similar roles, keep up to date with the fast-changing teaching landscape, share good practice and support each other.
The toolkit offers flexibility through providing a variety of guidance and training, which you can work through on a self-study basis. In recognition of the variety of roles that exist in this area, you should use the toolkit on a pick-and-mix basis identifying with your manager which areas are most relevant to your role.
This year, more than ever, our new and returning students need to know we care about their learning. Edinburgh is in a strong position to respond to the challenges ahead whilst maintaining a quality learning experience.
We have recruited dozens of students to work with us over the summer, and did I mention that our VLE teams just won another award?
The Learn Foundations team has won the 2020 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Student Experience.
The award recognises those institutions whose educational and administrative innovations have markedly improved the total learner experience.
The Learn Foundations project is transforming the online learning space at Edinburgh by providing students with everything they need simply, quickly and efficiently to minimise time spent searching and maximise time spent learning.
By redesigning Learn, our biggest Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), we are providing our 40,000 students with easy access to lecture recordings, online reading lists and all their course related materials. And for those students who study across courses, these improvements are being implemented institution-wide to ensure consistency of student experience.
Universities may be moving online but precious few are investing to keep their students safe.
The internet is not a safe place for everyone. As students study remotely and conduct more of their lives online, they are exposed to more risks of harassment, abuse, racism , misogyny, transphobia, fraud, scamming, bullying and doxing.
Universities are un-prepared for supporting students (and staff) who are attacked online and the headlines are starting to mount up.
There is reputational risk for student support services at universities in failing to engage with supporting our students. A worrying level of ignorance and low level of digital / social media skills amongst professional staff exacerbates this. Despite the duty of care accorded to UK universities to act reasonably in students’ best interests, to protect their well-being and to provide support as they continue in education there remains a lack of guidance to support good practice in safeguarding students, and very little focused on tackling sexual violence, hate crime and online harassment.
We must bring together guidance and training to support the development and effective implementation of a digital safety network and strategy, providing online safeguarding advice, support and training for students and staff, and drawing upon best practice from within and outwith the University, we must self-review our online safeguarding.
With a rise in cyber bullying and socially engineered threats many staff and students are not aware of the vulnerabilities of their own systems or best practice in safeguarding oneself and others online.
Colleges and universities can prevent access to illegal, harmful or inappropriate websites with filtering software, but this may not protect staff and students who access the internet from home or mobile networks – especially if using their own devices. This is particularly concerning for institutions with a cohort under 18, for which web filtering is an Ofsted requirement under safeguarding guidelines.
When users are logging in from home – and particularly where an institution makes significant use of cloud services, as at UoE ,policies and guidance need to be amended to refer specifically to any use of institutional systems or for institutional purposes, such as accessing collaboration tools like Teams and Zoom, and to harassment and bullying which happens online between known or anonymous parties.
Universities win awards and plaudits for the recent improvements to the student experience and student support services, however the support for students online is still lacking, with numerous reports of students being passed for one support to another and a then being left to sort it out themselves or engage with their harasser alone.
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.
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.
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.
Friday 20th March
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.
Friday 27th March
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.
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.
Friday 3rd April
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. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/covid-19-critical-care-education-resource/1 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. https://oer20.oerconf.org/wikimedia-in-education-online-launch/ 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.
Friday 10th April
The University gave us along weekend Friday and Monday holiday
Friday 17th April
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.
Friday 24th April
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.
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!
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’ https://contractfortheweb.org/ 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 https://www.ed.ac.uk/usher/uncover and publishing new guidance for students on how to stay safe online.https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/is-skills/digital-safety-and-citizenship 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. https://www.myworldofwork.co.uk/learn-and-train/find-free-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.
Friday 8th May
Well done for making it through another busy week.
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: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/assessment-continuity
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.
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 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.
Friday 22nd May
Well done for surviving another week at home. Nice to see you keeping busy:
Callum tells us about the work involved in UNCOVER:
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.
Friday 29th May
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.
Friday 5th June
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:
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.
Best wishes, stay safe, take care, be a lert and wear a face covering as appropriate.
Friday 12th June
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. https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/learning-design/abc/course-design-for-uncertain-times
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.
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:
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.
Friday 2nd July
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: https://edin.ac/2YGuYCQ
If you haven’t done it yet please also complete the working from home survey. https://edinburgh.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/uoe-working-from-home-experience-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:
Following the huge shift to online exams at the end of last semester Myles has been delving into the murky world of online proctoring services
We have confirmation that 2 new Napier students will join our web teams in July to start their placement year in industry.
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.
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.