We’ve got job ads out for more new colleagues to join us on stage. Other universities may be advertising jobs to help them get started with online learning. At Edinburgh we are taking it to the next level. We need someone to be Learning Technology Team Manager working with the MOOCs , micromasters and online courses teams
I have been thinking about what makes the landscape for digital education at Edinburgh so distinctive. We are going through a programme of curriculum review. There is a tendency from some to see learning technology as something that ISG does to the rest of the university or ‘digital’ as something that is done to us by outsiders (commercial suppliers). Neither are true and Edinburgh has key distinctive elements which offer differentiation, USP and value alignment.
Off the top of my head in no particular order:
-Edinburgh leads in open source software development. we take care to ensure that we are not entirely dependent on commerical solutions, we are committed to development of open source tools and to software development in house as part of open source communities. Our developers are contributing to and leading the development of tools e.g webPA. Software developers who will push frontiers and find new solutions. I want them working in my university. I want to attract them and I want them to stay. I need diversity of thinking in my creative teams. Values driven. Invest in areas which showcase and make clear the role we play in leading with these values.
-Edinburgh as a publisher and consumer of open educational learning materials- Faculty at Edinburgh publish thousands of items of OER which ensures we are one of the largest Creative Commons content producers in UK HE, publishers of learning materials and open educational resources. UNSDG . values. Open education is one of those access to quality education for all, education for all and the redistribution of wealth in education through open sharing of learning materials and knowledge. Our open courses play an important role in supporting the SDGs. Our approach to developing and delivering digital education opportunities champions the fourth goal, to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, as learners anywhere in the world, at any stage of life, can gain access to free, flexible, accessible materials on a broad range of subjects. We source, create and publish all course materials under open licence, making a critical contribution to achieving the aims
-Edinburgh as a world leader – 70+masters courses online and 80+MOOCs. We have always taken an outward looking view. We are steeped in a history of Scotland spreading enlightened views around the world ( even as we struggle with our independence and secession issues at home)
Edinburgh as a commercial supplier – ethical edtech products and services developed and used within Edinburgh and supplied commercially to other schools and universities – Digimap, Digimap for Schools, DataNation, Notable.
We partner with 3 big global education platforms to offer strategic choice and access to new markets. Channel for translational research. shorten the distance from bench to bedside ( or barnyard) – public engagement. COVID MOOC
We have a direct route to market for our learning technology MOOCs
We employ students in our organisation to ensure their input into the development of our services
Data informed practice- We carry out mass surveys of student user experience to ensure that our services meet student needs. We support faculty in changing their practice in response to this research.
Data informed practice- we gather and analyse data on service usage and adapt to changed in behaviour, trends or gaps.
Students as learners – we have a huge programme of skills development available. For all, for free.
We have a more professionally accredited learning technologists that any other institution in the UK
More than half of our educational design team have teaching qualifications.
We sponsor PTAS research projects to ensure that ‘edinburgh experience’ is reflected in scholarship of teaching.
Faculty as learners – we have a huge programme of skills development available for faculty to learn how to teach and data on who attends.
Learning technology teams regularly network with colleagues across and outwith the university, participating in scholarship, presenting at conferences and sharing knowledge.
We meet to discuss ethical and EDI issues in our ISG reading group.
We employ an equality and data officer to help us ensure that our services are inclusive.
There’s no gender pay gap in our learning technologies group.
All ISG staff have ADRs and CPD.
Our procurement is rigorous and we take care with DPIAs and EQIAs.
We have data stewards in place. we have control of our own data and the ability to shape the technology to the way we want to teach. We should try to avoid having to say no, you cant’ teach that way because the technology won’t let you.
We understand cookies and analytics.
We understand accessibility.
We understand ethics.
Things which are not common at other universities:
We have a learning design service to support colleagues in designing courses.
We have a UX service to ensure that we consider the user experience of services.
We have an OER service to help staff make positive choices for sharing
We have an edtech policy officer to ensure that our policies are robust.
We have a data and equality officer
We host media platform for all staff and students so that they don’t have to use Youtube with adverts.
We host a blogging platform for all staff and students who want to blog so that they don’t get spammed.
We have lecture recording fitted in 400 rooms.
We have a wikimedian in residence to integrate digital skills and knowledge activism into the curriculum
We have cool makerspaces staffed by students in the library.
We have in-house media production studios dedicated to educational media production.
We have in-house graphic design.
We have computational notebooks available to all staff and students.
We understand how subtitles and captioning robots work.
Delivering leadership workshops for continuing professional development networks is an important contribution to developing our community. These opportunities for knowledge dissemination and industry engagement offer routes to integrate critical analysis with practical, meaningful links from the research findings of information professionals.
This year I have ensured that the work we are doing in researching higher education has been disseminated via the ALT and UCISA CPD programme.
I have delivered CPD webinars for ALT and UCISA membership. In each case I am drawing upon new data and evidence gathered from staff, students and professional service colleagues in higher education. In each case I am celebrating and showcasing research done by the women with whom I work.
The workshops have been:
‘Diversity and Digital Leadership’- based on my research
Digital leadership is an area of leadership studies which is gaining popularity as organisations seek to ensure that their businesses are best positioned to thrive in an increasingly digital world. Digital leaders are often at the forefront of change, leading departments which are inclusive and empowering. People and culture are key to ensuring that staff are treated well and feel an ongoing loyalty to their organisation, but there are risks for digital leaders who push for change on too many fronts. This session is an opportunity to hear some of the latest research on building inclusive workplaces and consider the recommendations for understanding data about your people.
‘The challenges of attracting staff to skills training’ with Jenni Houston
Why is it so challenging to attract colleagues to training in digital skills? How can we create a learning culture within our universities and colleges? This workshop will explore some of the successes and challenges of offering a comprehensive digital capabilities programme in a large institution and suggest possible strategies for overcoming the Dunning–Kruger effect which causes people to overestimate their ability.
‘Who is getting hurt online?’ with Vicki Madden
Online harassment is very much part of our students’ experience. Ethnic minority and female students experience the more harmful forms of online harassment in comparison to their peers. Disabled students and those from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups are more likely to be harassed on institutional platforms than their peers. What is your institution doing about this? Although most institutions have support services in place for students and staff who experience incidents on campus or amongst people who can be identified, Student Services and Wellbeing staff may be unaware of the nature of cyberstalking, doxing, online shaming and revenge porn. This workshop will explore some of the risks associated with offering services dealing with social media behaviours.
‘Uncovering the real value of academic engagement’with Lorraine Spalding
What are teachers’ hopes and concerns in using technology with their students? How can academic engagement enhance our major educational technology projects? Hear more about how the Learning, Teaching and Web Directorate at the University of Edinburgh, is engaging academic colleagues in a strategic way to implement large institutional changes such as the rollout of lecture recording and a VLE service improvement programme. This presentation will also reference useful resources for supporting engagement and effective communications practices, such as the ucisa communications toolkit.
‘Over a year of hybrid working: What the data tells us (about women)’ with Lilinaz Rouhani
At the University of Edinburgh, we conducted University-wide surveys in 2020 and 2021 to understand people’s experiences of homeworking, taking into account their demographic differences. This gave us a rich data set from which to understand the experiences of women in IT during the pandemic. This presentation focuses on what we learned, and takes an intersectional approach to how different aspects of jobs were affected by off-campus working. The presentation adapts an EDI perspective, discusses if and how different groups had different experiences, and how these differences can be taken into account when developing policies for hybrid working in the future. The session will be a presentation of findings, and a discussion of how the findings are being used to develop policies. The session will be interesting as it is evidence-based, using data over two years. In some instances, it will be interesting to see the change of attitude from 2020 to 2021, while in some instances, settling into home working did not affect people’s opinions. The surveys took into account 19 demographic variables and it will be interesting for the audience how these variables affected home working.
For those of you who are a bit green fingered and like gardening. You’ll know we always have to remember what to dead-head and what to leave. We dead-head flowers so that they don’t go to seed. Unfortunately that has happened all across the university estate.
If you want to grow a successful, health, well-stocked and well-designed web garden on your digital estate you need to get ruthless with your deadheading and weeding.
In order to improve the quality of our website content we have conducted the first University-wide website content audit.
This is, I think, the sort of equality data in which sex matters although presumably sex and gender are being used interchangeably in the reporting context.
The average full time equivalent salary of women in ISG is 16.97% lower than the average salary of men. This compares to 9.59% across all Professional Service Groups and 16.18% for the whole University.
The median full-time equivalent salary of women is 25.48% lower than the median for men. This compares to 14.87% across all Professional Service Groups and 11.10% for the whole University.
Gender pay balance is different in the various Directorates.
LTW has a gender paygap in the opposite direction. I have overshot and I will now seek to correct, as all gaps are bad.
With regard to senior management the gender imbalance and broad salary range within grade 10 have a major impact on the University’s overall gender pay gap. When grade 10 staff are excluded from the dataset, the University average and median pay gaps reduce to 8.8% and 8.5%. However, this is not the case in ISG where the numbers of women and men are roughly equal and are paid much the same ( apart from the CIO/VP who skews the data obv).
The University’s average salary disability gap is 1%; there is no median pay gap. However, at 3%, the rate of proactive disclosure by staff renders it difficult to make meaningful observations regarding any pay gap between staff who have disclosed a disability and those who have not. For ISG, 4.5% have declared a disability and the average disability pay gap is 3%. Interestingly, when the recent home-working survey was done ISG recorded a much higher rate of disability than our HR data would suggest and than other parts of the University.
The University’s ethnicity pay gap is 1% (average) and 5.7% (median) in favour of staff who have proactively declared their ethnicity as ‘White’. While these have reduced since the 2019 audit (8.8% and 8.4%) there has been an increase in the percentage of staff whose ethnicity is unknown/withheld (to 21%) rendering it difficult to draw overall meaningful conclusions regarding the pay of our BAME staff. For ISG, our ethnicity pay gap is 19% (average) and 24.6% (median) and the demographic of our staff ethnicity declaration is: 75% White; 8% BAME; and 8% unknown. Although our Learning Technology colleague Rachael features widely as the face of the university, including on the equal pay report!
As we try to predict what the future may hold there are a few things from the Before Times that we still know to be true: Open educational resources, open source software and open access digital tools offer our last, best hope for equity and inclusion. Education must not be dependent on digital platforms controlled by private companies, and large educational institutions must show their support for open sharing, collaboration and assurance of accessibility for all our audiences. As well as deep reflection on our purchasing decisions and the skills in our edtech teams we must ensure ‘open literacy’ within the curriculum and within pedagogical training. As we struggle against the denial of scientific knowledge, actively fight misinformation, attempt to decolonise and care for our planet, there is much to be done. Melissa will bring stories from Scotland on how universities are rising to these challenges and bringing their own leadership to the table.
As soon as we all moved to work from home it became clear that our top priority was going to be to identify the protective factors that support health and wellbeing for our learning technology teams so that they would be able to perform at the top of their game in supporting the university in this extraordinary year.
In universities, colleges and schools all across the UK and the wider world, learning technology managers could quickly see that their services were going to be put under extreme pressure. We have, for many years been persuading, inspiring and supporting colleagues to make use of online technologies to do their teaching in different and new ways. It was a long term, gradual, endeavor with 2 year, 5 year and 10 year plans. This year has seen a huge shift from using learning technologies with colleagues who had opted in and wanted to learn, to a world in which people with very little knowledge, or familiarity with the tools for teaching online were suddenly forced to upskill fast.
Focusing resources that promote the self-esteem, resilience and coping abilities of individuals and communities of learning technologists has been essential as they have been on the forefront of services overwhelmed by demands from colleagues who are too stressed to care. It is challenging for online learning leaders and learning technology aficionados to come to terms with the fact that we did not deliver this pivot to online teaching through inspirational argument or the power of convincing evidence. We had to do it in ways we never anticipated. We have put in place systems and support for rushed replication of on-campus delivery online even though we know in our hearts that is not the best way for learning technology to be used.
With many people locally engineering their own solutions in a panic, resilience mitigations against the risks of chaos were essential and we have brought a new focus to sharing practice in our community . For many years the University of Edinburgh learning technology roadshows provided a focus for distributed learning technologists to come together across schools. This year these have grown and moved online as community events. Through these we have been able to identify and mobilise the community’s assets to help local learning technologists to overcome some of the challenges they face. We have invited senior managers to give regular updates to the community of learning technologists to ensure that the bigger picture is understood.
Staying grounded in what we know has been important. University of Edinburgh has been world-leading in online masters courses for many years and invested heavily in digital innovation and technology for distance education which put us in a better position than many of our peer universities . We have a strong culture of sharing open resources and a good understanding of the licencing issues involved in re-using materials from elsewhere. In some of our services this commitment to openness and sharing ensured that we were able to stay in business. Information Services Group have good infrastructure for media which ensured that we didn’t have to resort to YouTube. Senate Education Committee have spent time on the policies for privacy, ethics and accessibility in digital teaching. We have a strong culture of research informed delivery and we have ensured that learning technology at Edinburgh is shaped by published educational research about uses of learning technology in pedagogy.
The learning technology community of practice has grown fast this year and it is important to take time to ensure than new members were welcomed. During this pandemic year the university has recruited a dozen new learning technologists and in order that they were all able to join our community with a shared understanding of the technologies we have on campus, we put together a training programme available to Schools to ensure that their new recruits were quickly up to speed as expert users of the university systems and a reading group to provide a place to discuss some of the more nuanced aspects of technologies such as bias, surveillance and online harms. We invested quickly in a ‘grow your own‘ strategy for up-skilling and cross-skilling other technology staff to support learning technologies and in recruiting and training students to help us with the up-scaling and heavy-lifting in our services. Last summer 40 students joined us to help with Learn and I am delighted to see so many of them return to ISG for another stint as interns this summer. Their input and insights are energising.
Recognising the professionalism of the community we have continued to support colleagues in completing their professional accreditation and CPD to develop in their roles. Reflections on the demands of this year have provided good content for their portfolios. Our national networks have been essential for understanding that in each institution the learning technologists are tacking the same challenges. Many of us deal directly with the same software suppliers. We have swapped guidance, experience and shared stories to keep each other going and offered help to those whose systems collapsed. At the annual national conference of the Association of Learning Technologists (ALT) we came together to share experiences and everyone got an award to say thank you, recognising the importance of the role they play in keeping our institutions teaching.
As learning technologists’ mental health suffered and joined the queues to access counselling support, we worked hard to ensure that the central technology teams had the regular meetings, catch-ups and social interactions needed to combat isolation. We have used blogs and social media to celebrate achievements and talk about the things that are going well, exchanged home-schooling tips and grieved for the loss of loved ones. Whether we survive this year unscathed remains to be seen. Universities across the UK seem to be expanding their online learning teams in moves towards the future, but at the same time many exhausted technologists are leaving the business and taking the opportunity to find new things to do. The set of digital skills, understanding of technology, empathy, resilience and commitment to helping people which are core to the job of learning technologists are transferable in many ways and this year has underlined the importance of support for health and well-being for resilience.
I am impressed with how long this idea has been perpetuated, it clearly offers a hook for those who want to push for innovation, but it still has an air of ageism and is a worrying starting point for service or course design.
Those college grads he was writing about are well into their 30s and 40s now. They are the faculty, the librarians and the support staff in universities. If they were all “native speakers” of the ‘digital language of computers, video games and the Internet‘ they would by now have turned all teaching into ‘edu-tainment‘ and games as he predicted and we wouldn’t be finding it so hard to deliver good quality higher education online this year.