Category: Learning, teaching and web services

Playful and PlayFair

Lovely illustrations for our playful engagement website by the LTW Interactive Content Team

 

One of our innovation projects over several years was to develop a Playful Engagement Strategy for ISG and to test some playful approaches. We know our Information Services Group (ISG) staff are innovative and creative, and they have developed a variety of fun, creative, and engaging ways to provide and deliver our technologies and services.

We want to ensure that this continues and that ISG fosters an environment, and culture, where innovation, playful learning, and creative engagement are embedded in our practices. This is in line with the University’s aim to offer an educational experience that is inspiring, challenging, and transformational.

To this end, we have established playful engagement themes, strategy and goals.

Our goals are to:

  • Facilitate the development of playful innovators, researchers, and creators
  • Promote creative, playful, and innovative use of technologies and tools in ISG services
  • Utilise our world-class libraries and collections in innovative and engaging ways to enrich our services
  • Support a healthy work life balance, and a positive, engaging and inclusive work environment
Lovely illustrations for our playful engagement website by the LTW Interactive Content Team

Our 6 themes are:

  1. Digital technologies
  2. Libraries museums, galleries and collections
  3. Communities of practice
  4. Reflection, development and innovation
  5. Exploration and innovation
  6. Work–life balance

I am very pleased that Charlie has been able to spend the time to really think about what playful engagement could mean for a large IT and libraries service.  Her work draws upon a whole raft of  team, game, maker, challenge and enjoyment activities which all combine to make working here much more fun than it might otherwise be.

She and I will be presenting about this at the UCISA leadership conference in Edinburgh.

Read more about it: https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/playful-engagement/

witchfinder

Advice from HR was not to call this job ‘Witchfinder General’. So we didn’t. But we wanted to.

University of Edinburgh has a database of Scottish Witches. It has been published as open data and we are looking for a Data and Visualisation Intern to work with our Wikimedian in Residence to help us develop a linked open-data set by:

  • Re-using pre-existing data and creating new data which allows geographical mapping of parts of the data set.
  • Developing other visualisations of the data which allow new, previously unknown, patterns in the data to be extracted and new stories and hypotheses about the data to be developed.

If you like data and you like witches, this could be the job for you https://equatecareerhub.org.uk/job/data-and-visualisation-intern-database-of-scottish-witches/

We’ve advertised it via the new Equate Scotland Careerhub Website, because that ‘s where we think all the canny witches will be looking.

By James VI and I (1566-1625) – http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25929/25929-h/25929-h.html, Public Domain, LinkDaemonologie1.jpg

 

 

 

See hear

A dragon from our University collections © The University of Edinburgh CC BY https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/f9p45v

I have a long relationship with speech-to-text technology.

In 1998 we had a room in Student Services where students would go to talk to Dragon Dictate. The more they spoke, the less it understood, the more they would laugh, the more it would transcribe their laughing.  It was a very popular  service as a ‘pick-me-up’.

By 2012 I managed a large collection of contemporary educational oratory -the Oxford Podcasts collection, which includes some fine examples of inspirational rhetoric and clearly communicated ideas. Our interactions with voice recognition software, however, had been frustrating. During the project the team explored various solutions including both automatic translation and human transcription services. We began a project to explore how to best represent the content of our podcasts in text. By focusing on keywords generated by recognition software we were be able to give a searchable interface to users before they listen and represent the amount of relevant content within. Blog post April 2012

7 years later the challenge of making academic audio collections accessible continues to be one which is high in my mind as we roll out lecture recording across the campus at Edinburgh. We’ve been tailoring our Replay roll-out to support the university’s policy for Accessible and Inclusive Learning .

Some people have asked if we are going to have subtitles on our lecture recordings as default. The answer is no, but  we are exploring  creative ideas on how we could do it.

My experience is that automated speech to text although improving, is not fully there yet. And costs remain prohibitive, so transcripts or subtitles are not automated in the lecture recording system. Specialist language in lectures remain tricky and are often subtitled badly. It is also difficult for the transcription to discern whether the lecturer is quoting, reading, muttering or joking. The kind of ‘performance’ and content some of our colleagues deliver would need a highly nuanced translation. All UK HE struggles with this challenge and colleagues are anxious that their speech is not misrepresented by a poor quality subtitle which might be more confusing for learners. Blog post August 2017

The overarching objective of our new project for 2019  is to establish and evaluate an initial pilot Subtitles for Media service and make recommendations for future sustainability and resourcing.

The initial focus will be on designing and piloting a service which can scale and improve the usability/ accessibility of our front facing media content through the addition of subtitles and transcripts as appropriate. The service design will aim to include all users and will be primarily concerned with publicly available University media content hosted on Media Hopper Create, EdWeb or one of the University’s Virtual Learning Environments.

The project will have three strands:

  • Testing the feasibility, viability and cost of a student-led transcription service 

A 3-month pilot will allow us to understand what is needed to establish a sustainable programme of work to support our ambitions based on the outcomes of this pilot phase. The students will gain paid work experience and new digital skills. There is already a thriving market in the local region of students who offer proofreading, transcription, audio typing, subtitling and translation services in their spare time and from home. We will work with academic colleagues in the School of Sociology (Dr Karen Gregory) to research the emerging ‘gig economy’ to understand how best to establish an ethical model for piecework in this area.

  • Research and Development

The project will strike a balance between evaluating and costing a model for a growing service, and Research and Development to ensure we keep sight of technology trends in this area and understand how they might influence service development over time. We will run a series of events to engage with other organisations and our own technology leaders in this field to ensure we understand and are able to take advantage of technology developments and opportunities for funding or partnerships.

  • Improving digital skills and promoting culture change

We aim to move towards a culture where subtitling our media is standard practice at the point of creation, not only because of changing legislation but because it promotes engagement with our media for the benefit of our whole audience, and at the same time promotes digital literacy and digital skills.

In order to achieve all this, the Subtitling for Media Project will:-

  • Establish and evaluate an initial pilot service of a student-led subtitling service
  • Develop a costed plan for an ongoing service including support and service management
  • Make recommendations for future sustainability and resourcing
  • Ensure students are trained to deliver a pilot subtitling service
  • Create an ethical model for student piecework in this area
  • Deliver training and guidance to enable best practice in media creation
  • Develop an understanding of current and future technology to support accessibility and ensure our developing service remains in broad alignment

As part of the ISG vision for the University of Edinburgh we aim to support all digital educators in making informed choices about their digital materials. Through this project to establish a new service, staff and students will develop digital skills in creating and using accessible digital materials.   Benefits will include supporting staff and students to understand how and why to make learning materials accessible, and development of digital skills in support of wide scale engagement with digital education. The Subtitling for Media Project will establish and evaluate an initial pilot service and make recommendations for future sustainability and resourcing.

Spring showcases

Front cover of BITS magazine, by the ISG Graphic Design team.

The UCISA19 Leadership Conference will be held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, from 27-29 March 2019: https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/events/2019/ucisa19

Keen to make the most of being local, I encouraged all the LTW teams to submit proposals to showcase our work.  We have successful projects in a number of areas where I think we are leading  the sector. Our projects do not always succeed and they often end up quite different from how they began, so reflecting on this and sharing our learning with our wider IT management community is valuable.  We have experiences from which others might learn, and save themselves some time and money.

We came up with potential showcases on:

  • ‘Implementing successful Equality and Diversity Programmes in University IT’,
  • ‘Supporting digital transformation through digital skills development’,
  • ‘Lecture Recording Communications for academic engagement’
  • ‘Success and impact of a Wikimedian in Residence’,
  • ‘Developing a Playful Engagement Strategy’,
  • ‘Developing an inclusive and enabling strategy for web and digital channels’, and
  • ‘Academic Blogging’.

The two which were accepted  by UCISA were:

  • ‘Success and impact of a Wikimedian in Residence’
  • ‘Developing a Playful Engagement Strategy.’

The other showcases are still available if there are other conferences who would like to hear more about them…..

We have also had a session accepted for LILAC 2019, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM 24-26 April https://www.lilacconference.com/lilac-2019 on ‘Embedding Wikipedia in the Curriculum’.

And one for OER 19, 10-11 April 2019, National University of Ireland, Galway https://oer19.oerconf.org/#gref on ‘Positioning the values and practices of open education at the core of University business’

Well done to all the presenters.

Make your choice

We’ve launched our opt-out policy for lecture recording,  it will apply to all lectures in enabled rooms from the beginning of semester 2 in January. We expect to be recording around 13,000 lectures for 2,000 courses.

If you want to opt-out you need to do that now.

The Replay Scheduler is a simple online tool for the management of lecture recording scheduling preferences and to enable opt-out.  This is available for use now.  You must ensure your preferences are actioned in the Replay Scheduler if you wish to opt-out.  Your Course Organiser will be able to either give you access to the Replay Scheduler or act on your behalf. 

Student helpers on hand to help get started with lecture recording.

If you don’t do it in advance, remember – you are in control of what happens in a teaching space.  If the recording light changes to red to indicate that a recording is taking place, simply press the light to pause the recording.  The light will change to flashing amber.

Student helpers will be available for the first week of teaching to provide ‘on the spot’ support.

how to win

Christmas Card sold at The Bodleian Shop, with an image from the John Johnson Collection. Copyright belongs to Bodleian, I’m sure.

This year has been quite a one for my work with the PlayFair Steps. The PlayFair Steps is the name I have given to the programme of activities in University of Edinburgh Information Services Group which are designed to deliver an improved experience for all our staff by tackling equality and diversity issues in our workplace. I began this initiative in 2015 and it is part of a wider change programme across the whole of the organisation.

After 3 years we are seeing impact and progress towards our goals. We have also been  successful in winning a number of awards.

When looking at equality and diversity drivers for change in organisations, there is some literature which suggests that external accountability , the impression the public have about your organisation, is a consideration that may influence senior management.  So if you can show that your activities have gained external recognition, won awards or been celebrated by your peers,  more investment by senior management may follow.   It’s not an exact science but as employers we are all very aware that the tech industry has a bad reputation for diversity and inclusion.

Students of organisational development will be well aware of the importance of context, culture and ‘climate’ in enabling the success of workplace diversity programmes.  With this in mind I worked with my teams to write applications for various employer awards last year in the hope that we would be nominated and shortlisted.

Our first success came as winners of the national Universities 2018 HR Excellence Award for Equality and Diversity *.

Winning this award in the HE sector boosted my confidence to try for 2 more awards in the wider tech sector. Alongside rapid growth a new and urgent interest in diversity can be seen by the appearance of industry awards and celebrations.  Targeted trade sector  and community events such as awards provide the opportunity for HR practitioners in organisations to gain external acknowledgement and assessment of their organisational efforts and commitment to diversity .  But its a hotly contested area. Organisations which promote diversity may benefit by being more attractive to women and ethnic minorities and those employers may be able to recruit from a larger talent pool, so the big recruiters are keen not to miss out and are pulling out all the stops.

In October and December we were finalists in the ‘Employer of the Year’ category in the Scotland Women in Technology Awards  in Glasgow and for ‘Diversity Project of The Year’  in the Women in IT Excellence Awards in London. At both events I was very pleased to be able to host a table at the awards dinner and to invite colleagues and friends to join our celebrations. In Glasgow each of the  4 female University of Edinburgh Directors of IT invited as our guests women in our organisations who we identify as rising stars for the future. In London we were joined by friends from ALT, WikimediaUK, Open University, EDINA, Ordnance Survey and Wellcome Library. A lovely, sparkly time was had by all and it was exciting to be part of such celebratory events. In both cases however, we were pipped at the post by big recruiters such as JPMorgan and Empiric, both of whom have huge recruitment and marketing efforts targeted at women in IT.

The  awards create a climate in which organisations compete to showcase themselves as diversity-aware recruiters and attractive employers for a range of groups. While such awards may also be dismissed as window dressing or worse, validation of insidious work practices, the investment being made by some large tech industry employers is undeniable.  The rise of business awards which bring external recognition and validation to organisations’ visible efforts towards diversity is framed in the language of inclusive growth, improved competitive performance and better targeted services. It may be time for university IT departments to up our game if we are going to be able to attract the best talent to improve our services.

Perhaps we should work together as a sector to do this. One way we could do this would be to return again to the knotty problem of what IT careers look like in HE, and indeed what learning technologists look like.  We should ask ourselves: ‘If you as an employer, had to take a bunch of recruitment materials to a recruitment fair what would you say to  attract the best, brightest and most diverse talent to join our professional teams?’.

 

 

*Dominique and I will be showcasing our award-winning programme next in London on 28th February.  The event is hosted by UHR  and is an opportunity to hear from other HE organisations about how their teams have improved practice, contributed to business efficiency, and enhanced organisational effectiveness and staff engagement.  Book your place now.

 

time to update our timeline

Lovely infographic made by LTW interactive graphics team.

Inspired by a conversation with Lauren today, and some recent announcements,  I am updating our timeline of learning technology developments at University of Edinburgh. Are there other things I should include?

taming the wild web

The title of this image from the CRC collections is: ‘Examining an Doubtful Brand’. https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/n8dh30

Work is currently underway to manage and  rationalise the web estate.

The University owns and manages the domain www.ed.ac.uk but a devolved approach in managing the University web estate has resulted in a growth of websites and associated web applications.

An audit of University infrastructure in September 2017 found that there are around  1,600 University of Edinburgh websites, only one of which is the corporate University Website (www.ed.ac.uk/*). The  corporate University website contains 400 sub-sites of its own.

The other website domains are split between circa 1,300 sub-domains (for example, law.ed.ac.uk) and 300 top-level domains (for example, www.mediblog.ed.ac.uk) depending on the business unit’s affiliation to the University. The suppliers, technology base or quality of these solutions is not well known and it’s a bit of a wild west at the moment.

lecture recording and the law

Wise Owl from the University Collections https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/txp932

We’ve had some questions about the legal bits of our University of Edinburgh lecture recording policy. I’m not a lawyer, but I know some good ones.

Here, thanks to our excellent Policy Officer Neil, is our explanation:

The policy task group considered the intellectual property and data protection implications extensively during development and we’re confident that the new lecture recording policy is legally compliant.  We took detailed advice from the University’s lawyers and Data Protection Officer, from the School of Law’s academic IP expert and from the ISG Copyright Service, in addition to the evolving versions of the very helpful JISC guidance.

In terms of Data Protection:

  • Uses:  The policy clearly defines and limits the purposes that a lecture recording may be used for, including an “essential purpose” of allowing the students on a Course to review their lectures.
  • Lawful basis:  We’re using legitimate interests of the University in providing the service to its staff and students as the lawful basis for processing personal data within the Media Hopper Replay service.  The Data protection Officer and lawyers were very clear that this is the appropriate basis (and that the consent lawful basis would actually not be appropriate for a number of reasons, including ensuring consent is freely given, given the power imbalance between the University and either a member of staff or a student, and some of the implications for implementing any withdrawal of consent once a recording has been made.
  • Sensitive data:  There is a clear requirement in the policy to obtain written consent from a data subject before recording sensitive personal data.
  • Retention:  There is a clear retention period and disposal policy for the recordings.

We have undertaken a Data Protection Impact Assessment and there will be an updated privacy statement for the service that will both be published in due course.

In terms of Intellectual Property:

  • Rights in recording:  The policy recognises that the University, the lecturer and any students who make a contribution to the lecture will each hold some intellectual property rights in the recording.  (The University is the producer and at least in part the director of a recording, and the lecturer holds performer’s rights in the recording.)  In a collaborative approach, these rights will be retained by the respective rights holders who will licence the University and/or the lecturer to use the recording for the defined purposes.
  • Further uses:  It spells out that the University, the lecturer, a student or anyone else may not use the recording for any other use without further agreement from all the rights holders.
  • Lecturer opt-out:  If a lecturer does not wish the University to use a recording containing their performer’s rights, they will be entitled to arrange not to make the recording in the first place.  The lecturer has complete control of whether or not to record a lecture, whether to pause recording, and whether and when to release the lecture to the students.
  • Student opt-out:  It provides for students not to be recorded or – if necessary – to request their contribution deleted, and for students to know in advance which of their lectures will or will not be recorded.  We understand there are practical limitations on keeping students out of shot in some smaller venues but haven’t seen specific problems in practice.
  • Third party copyright:  The policy reiterates the standards required in terms of permission, licence and citation when using third party copyright materials in a lecture, whether or not it’s recorded.  The  ISG Copyright Service will produce specific guidance on use of films, broadcasts or musical excerpts within recorded lectures and on openly licencing recordings if preferred.

I hope that helps.

 

widening participation and access

Photo of WoW leaflets from my mothers cupboards. No rights reserved by me.

This week I’m at the Advance HE conference in Liverpool. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the University of Edinburgh ‘s new Widening Participation strategy is being launched.

University of Edinburgh actually has a long history of widening participation initiatives, but our institutional memory does seem to get lost along the way. Luckily we have splendid university archives.

I’m inordinately delighted to have found a place for both my parents in the University archives.  My father, previously mentioned, and now featured in a group picture of the front of a new book, and my mother Joanna*, in a blog post about Widening Opportunities for Women, the WOW courses of the 1980s.

The WOW programme was aimed at women planning to return to work –most often after pregnancy and years of domestic ‘employment’–, and sought to provide training opportunities as well as guidance over how to approach the job market, what type of opportunities might be available, and what obstacles may be encountered.’

Joanna first attended this programme, after having been stuck at home  with us lot for many years, and then she became the course leader.  I used to visit her in her office in a basement in Buccleuch Place. She’s very pleased to know that in my role in ISG I’ve been able to find places for ‘women returners‘ in our organisation.

After ‘WOW ‘and ‘Second Chance to Learn’,  and ‘Return to Work or Study’, she then led for many years the University of Edinburgh Access Programme  for part-time adult learners who wished to return to education to study humanities, social sciences or art and design.

Nice to see these things coming around again.

 

*just a note to say lest you be concerned, that although I found my father in the archives after his death, my mother is still very much alive.