At ALT-C in 2018 I gave a reflective presentation entitled ‘Next expect locusts’ I talked about the importance of business continuity planning in the face of the big challenges which might beset universities. Little did I know.
At a time of uncertainty around the return of students and staff to campuses and the long term impact of major social behaviour change some institutions are facing an existential threat, or at least a major re-think about size, shape and funding.
It is vital that learning technologists at all levels in our universities and colleges take a nuanced view on how our services, support and evaluation will need to change.
The strength of our partnerships with academic colleagues, and our partnerships with vendors and platforms were tested under extreme conditions, as were our capacity and capability to work remotely from home. The policy environment for accessibility, inclusion, OER, assessment, e-safety and care online in our institutions suddenly became mainstreamed. The importance of staff training in online pedagogy was magnified and the role of learning technologist became the sexiest job in IT with hundreds of applications for any job advertised.
When we write our CMALT portfolios and reflect on critical incidents this year we will think about our core values, our specialist areas and the way we tried to save our students from bad e-learning on a biblical scale.
For me, for many of us as digital leaders the first, immediate priority was to look after our people. To keep our staff safe, to keep them in jobs and to channel all our resources into surviving the flood.
Once we were all safely home, in LTW we took a leap of faith in banking on the university having an ongoing need for learning technologists and secured permanent contracts for any that we could. Then we set about up-skilling, re-skilling and growing our own in-house.
I’ve written a guest post for ALT in advance of the Summer Summit this week.
I wanted to know how the lockdown and working from home was experienced by staff in the University of Edinburgh. And I wanted to know whether this was experienced differently by different demographic groups.
Luckily I have a Data and Equality Officer working with me.
We conducted a survey at university level during 26th June – 6th July to better understand the experiences of staff members while working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 5069 staff members participated in the survey. We used ONS standard questions on Wellbeing measures so we could benchmark and compare with similar studies.
The key purposes of the survey were to:
Understand EDI and other impacts of the COVID period and home working.
Serve as data for immediate decisions on how to better support staff working from home.
Serve as data for next steps for academic schools and Professional service groups on decisions on their return to campus plans.
Serve as data for decisions/discussions on longer term home/hybrid working and other reshaping thinking both locally and at a University level.
A report was produced and a ‘power BI dashboard’ was created so that managers and other staff members can interrogate the data (including demographic differences where this was possible) independently.
The Power BI dashboard however, does not highlight where differences in responses are statistically significant, and the overall report highlights where statistical difference is associated with high percentage differences. So Lilinaz produced a further report to fill this gap by including all statistically significant findings for all demographic groups.
This report will be of interest to EDI officers and anyone who likes dis-aggregated data.
Professional staff were more likely to be interested in complete homeworking in the future. This was the case for more than a quarter (27%) of professional staff, compared to 12% of academic staff who were less likely to be interested in complete homeworking in the future.
You can read the whole thing, but here’s a taster:
Men were more likely to report a large negative impact of space, internet, working hours, and non-work responsibilities while working from home. They were more likely to report an overall large negative impact of home working on their work experience. Men were more likely to report low ratings for life satisfaction. They were more likely to not be interested in homeworking in the future.
Women were more likely to not have previous experience of home working, and were more likely to have their equipment wholly supplied by the University. They were more likely to report a large positive impact on working hours, non-work responsibilities, and other caring responsibilities while working from home. However, they were more likely to report a large negative impact on childcare while working from home. They were more likely to report a large negative impact on their research output. They were more likely to report an overall large positive impact of home working on their work experience. Women were more likely to report much more productivity than before. However, they were also more likely to report much more tiredness than before. Women were more likely to think that they are kept informed about matters affecting them, and be satisfied with the University resources in place to help them at this time. Women were more likely to report very high values on happiness, and high values for anxiety ONS measures.
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.
Now that the 5 mile travel limit has been lifted we are all free to head to the mountains. Enjoy your weekend.
Friday 10th July
Well done for making it through another week working from home. A special thank you to those who have ventured back to campus to open up facilities and media studios. No long message from me this week as I’m on annual leave, just a note to update you on the VR headset witty caption competition.
The winner from LTW is Delia in the Learning Spaces Technology team for her suggestion: ‘You’re virtually here now!’ Congratulations, Delia!
These headsets combine with a smartphone to allow use of 360 and VR content. Headsets will initially be distributed with welcome week content: VR tours so students can get a feel for the campus; social apps and team building games for students to meet course mates and get to know new friends etc. Once they’re with students the headsets are theirs to keep, opening up the opportunity for teaching staff to make use of VR content in their courses confident in the knowledge that their students will have the tools to access this kind of material from home. If you are interested in this kind of project, please do contact in the UCreate Studio. The design has been created by Luisa , one of the UCreate student interns.
Have lovely weekends,
Friday 16th July
Well done for another week. I hope you will be able to enjoy an email-free day tomorrow. This week we are welcoming Jess Gramp to our team, and on Monday our two new interns from Napier University will join us and find things strangely quiet.
As part of our partnership with Wikimedia UK we have run 222 training sessions. We’ve trained 1,151 students, 516 staff and 432 members of the public to edit Wikipedia. They have created 793 new articles and improved 2,752. Hannah has blogged about her first week as our Wikimedia Training Intern. https://blog.wikimedia.org.uk/2020/07/wikimedia-training-intern/
Lilinaz has our reading group lined up to discuss the intersection of technology and race. Please do join us.
Thank you to all who completed the staff working from home survey. We had an 80% return from LTW which ensures that your views and experiences get heard.
On the subject of surveys, the 2020 National Student Survey finds 85% of Scottish universities’ students were satisfied with the quality of their course. The ISG-related questions have improved at Edinburgh. ‘resources and facilities support my learning well’ – 82.28% up from 80.49% last year, ‘Library resources’ 87.51 up to 88.53% and ‘course specific resources, equipment, facilities, software, collections’ 87.71 to 88.29%. I think we can claim that as a result for LTW! Thank you all for your hard work.
Friday 24th July
Well done for making it through another week. You’ve been busy.
Members of our teams have been at Drupalcon and BBWorld conferences.
Welcome to Marek Golebiewski and Pilar Rodriguez Perez our >new team members from Napier and Laurie, Craig and Mari-Nikol ,our new media producers who have joined us to open up the pop-up studios.
The Web and Comms Technology team had a socially distanced meet-up in the Meadows to welcome new colleagues who have joined us working from home.
Lauren Johnston-Smith and Emma Charlesworth have launched a mini series of ‘mythbusting’ films – 4 x <1 minute films which blow away those negative ideas that naysayers have about what online learning is. The first film is live now: https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_jtu5t14s
If you like novels, our course with the Edinburgh International Book Festival is now on. On the course you’ll discover four of the main building blocks of modern fiction: plot, characterisation, dialogue, and setting using examples from a range of texts including the four novels shortlisted for the 2020 James Tait Black fiction prize. You’ll also explore the formal strategies authors use, how they came to be, and how they affect us as readers. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/how-to-read-a-novel
Remember that Edinburgh alumni get a discount on online PG degrees, tell all your friends.
If you would like to be part of an LTW bake-off, contact Lorraine Spalding.
Best wishes to Stewart Cromar, we hope you will be well and back with us soon.
Friday 31st July
Well done as ever, and particularly good wishes to those who have carved themselves out some holiday time in spite of being so busy. This week and next we welcome more colleagues back from furlough so that we can get all hands on deck.
Please join me on Monday at 3pm, we have another audience with VP Colm Harmon and a chance to talk together about preparations for semester 1, which is approaching fast!
Kevin spotted that Google have named their new high-end transatlantic data cable after Grace Hopper, which is totally copying us since we named our finest media services (Media Hopper) after her, years ago. It is clear that many colleagues are having no problem getting hands-on with Media Hopper. We’ve had 4,262 uploads in June and 3,458 in July. That’s up 356% from last year. Our collection of lecture recordings is also proving popular. As expected, the number of captures (recordings) dropped in June, but views were approximately 3x higher than the same month last year. We are only 15,000 views away from 1 million views in this academic year.
Nicola Sturgeon has set our distancing at 2m so there is a lot of work to configure buildings. It seems likely that DHT will be repurposed as a study space centre, and Estates are building temporary structures in Bristol Square for Welcome Week to annoy the skateboarders. No news yet on the return of the food trucks and Prosecco bars.
Get well soon to Charlie, our playful engagement maven, who has broken some bones playing out, and happy #SysAdminDay to all who keep our systems running.
Have a lovely weekend and fingers crossed it is sunny where you are.
Friday 7th August
Well done for another week.
Thank you to all of you who volunteered to help with Clearing.
Special welcome to new colleagues who have joined us this week, some of whom you already know: Dave, Candice, Lee-Ann, Rebecca, Alan, Robyn, Edward and Maz, and best wishes to all those who have family members with exam results and fresh stationery supplies ready for the return to school.
Stuart, Jess and Nikki have been wrangling our platform partners ( EdX, Coursera and FutureLearn) and fingers crossed we’ll have some new ‘bundled’ packages of free, open, massive online courses to announce soon. Arthur and Billy have been building a much-needed new website for the UCreate Studio.
Well done for surviving another week. I hope you all remained watertight during that epic storm and now have internet back up and running.
Today is 14th August and Welcome Week begins one month from now. Always nice to see algorithms as a top national news story.
It is great to be able to keep many of our LF interns with us for an additional few weeks as we brace for a last push on getting all materials ready for the start of teaching. Congratulations to all of you who presented your Edinburgh Award Employ.Ed Final Presentations. Excellent presentations and so many creative ways that you have achieved your development goals. It sounds like we have turned you all into Excel experts and accessibility evangelists and you are the only people who actually know what DRPS stands for, thank you Ruby. There’s no doubt that your work has contributed to making a difference for the University and nice to see Thomasina achieving a hat trick.
Congratulations also to the 84 UoE staff and students who completed Tracy’s ‘Developing your Data Skills Programme’ from home. Amazing tenacity shown and superb individual data projects.
If you feel like you haven’t strayed far from your house for a while why not explore our city with a Curious Edinburgh tour http://curiousedinburgh.org/ we have hosted Curious Edinburgh for a couple of years and it really is a lovely thing.
Have a lovely weekend.
Friday 20th August
Well done for another week working from home. As per Nicola Sturgeon ,’working from home remains the default position’. Despite this, our AV fit-out teams are back on campus, rapidly fitting AV and IT into the spaces that time forgot. Our captioning robots are working their little digits off, typing up subtitles for video content, and people all over the university are getting freaked out by turning on the ’together’ mode in Teams. It’s all good practice for the start of term.
I’ve been watching more Edinburgh Award presentations, lovely reflections from Hannah on working from home and managing distractions.
Its lovely to see the Preparing for Study and LibSmart courses on Learn. Excellent work from Lizzy, Marcello and Vicki. Nice also to see Andrew presenting at the Apps Lunchtime Seminar on Teams.
I hope to see some of you at the ISG reading group for a discussion of mental health.
Friday 28th August
Well done for working another week at home. As you might suspect, the University is considering possibly thinking about making a plan for what we would have to do if we went ‘back into lockdown’. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you have about things LTW would do differently next time.
With a focus on care, Stratos and his team have been doing great work on the student wellbeing project, conducting a 3 month qualitative research project exploring student experiences around health and wellbeing. We wanted to learn how we might prevent the less severe problems students experience from escalating to more complex problems and associated support.
The semester 1 study support courses are ready to go. Our Student Ambassadors are being trained to support and moderate the discussion boards for the centrally managed ‘Preparing to Study’ course.
Vicki has explained digital citizenship to all of ISG and Lesley’s teams are getting to grips with the teaching space operational plan.
Our chatbot is working on the Business School website. Is this really the university of Edinburgh’s first chatbot? The bot provides answers to the most common questions that the admissions team receive via email.
Well done for surviving another week of work. Special mention to the Media Hopper teams who are having a rocky time. With everyone going back to school and uni in the UK and USA the internet is taking a battering and our many colleagues who have left it until this week to upload their video materials are feeling the strain. Hold on tight as we hurtle towards the start of term. Thank you to those who are providing extra cover for Helpline and the logistical challenges of study spaces. Sympathise with the LST teams while they test a variety of cleaning unguents on their delicate equipment. Marvel at the tumbleweed in the media studios. Reflect on what we have learned.
Great to see the Carlyle Circle website going live. The ‘how to’ sessions continue a pace, the new Digital Skills programme is in place. Learn Foundations is looking tip top. The professional certificate in Digital Marketing is open for enrolment, as are myriad MOOCs and the study support courses in Learn. Thank you to all who have done your ADRs, SEP data and mandatory training, they may seem like a faff to you, but it we all know that organisations this size are powered by these details.
Before you go out for your walk this weekend, check out ‘Wiki Loves Monuments’ its got an interactive map of listed buildings etc which have no picture on wikimedia. There’s loads and its easy to upload from your phone. https://wlmuk.toolforge.org/#/q/Q23436d From where I’m sitting it seems to need basically every large house in south west Edinburgh and all kinds of asylums, poorhouses, churches and merchant schools . If you have a good eye, you could even win a prize. Never let it be said that we are not competitive. Scotland uploaded 300+ images in 2016. That rose to 2,100 in 2017 with 1,351 of those uploaded by staff at the University of Edinburgh. In 2018, Scotland smashed it with 4,411 images uploaded. You know what to do. https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/wir/2019/09/
Have a good weekend,
Friday 11 September
Well done for making it through another week. Thank you to all of you who have helped to shore up Media Hopper Create this week, I know the teams have been up all night. Karen had a call with the Kaltura Executive and gave them her best hard stare. They hung their heads in shame. Unclear whether it is fixed yet though. Thank you also to Lorraine for rapid comms work, and to all the teams fielding questions about the relative merits of Collaborate, Teams, Streams and Zoom for teaching. Thank you to Stratos’ teams for picking up another piece of last minute work from the apps.ed service and to Neil for his persistence and patience with the virtual classroom recording policy.
Our colleagues have now launched more .ED services. To join book.ed, Seat.ed, discover.ed etc. Any further suggestions for for past participle service names are welcome.
If you have been into town, or been doing cartwheels in the Meadows, you will have seen the prefabs sprouting in Bristo Square. These are self proclaimed ‘scandi-style’ hang-outs for students, but remember not to hygge anyone who is not in your social bubble.
Have a good weekend,
Friday 18th September
Well done for another week.
The start of term could be a bit rocky. But remember, as Douglas Adams said ‘It’s not the Fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop’, so we just have to keep moving, keep pushing through.
Dates for your diary: We have declared Ada Lovelace Day this year to be Tuesday 13th October. Please do get your thinking caps on for fun hybrid things we can do. The much talked aboutdeadline for public sector organisations to make all existing websites accessible is 23 September. Get your accessibility good news stories ready. Tonight is the start of Jewish new year and I am happy to judge your honeycake baking efforts.
Media Hopper seems to have reached a level of calm. Despite the hurdles in their way, colleagues have successfully uploaded 8300 media items and made 5000 captioning requests since the 1st of September. We now have 92,995 items in Media Hopper Create. That’s on top of the 63,000 items we have in our Replay Lecture recording system. That’s a huge collection of home grown, born digital content. Worth shouting about. Well done. 3470 of the items in Media Hopper have the open, creative commons licences on them. If you have ideas how to encourage more colleagues to choose that option to make their materials open educational resources (OER) for others to use, that will help the university towards its commitment to the UN sustainable development goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/Once Media Hopper had recovered, both Learn and MyEd started demanding attention. To say nothing of Collaborate. We are going to need to be alert to all kinds of strange behaviour as hybrid delivery kicks in in earnest.
I went for my evening walk last night to check out the campuses. The new social spaces are nearly built. The students are partying hard and the university is threatening them with fines and rustication. As a primer on what happens when you put young people in a place where partying is banned, I recommend the 1984 classic ‘Footloose’.
In University of Edinburgh Information Services Group we have convened a reading group so that we can discuss books, articles and news stories which influence our work. We are approaching this with a technology slant, because we want to think and learn about the bigger issues which shape the context in which we create new technology and services for staff and students in the university.
Obviously because of Covid, we are meeting online and we are using/reading online resources. Our first reading group theme was the phenomenon of online shaming, which is highly relevant to the world of social media and understanding it is vital for providing support to our students as they navigate staying safe in the online world.
Our next topic was racism and racism in technology. We have created a resources list to support this topic. We’ve used our Library resources list tool and we’ve licensed the list openly, so you too can use it as a resource.
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 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.