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.
There is a risk that when we change things at speed some of the gains we have made previously get lost, reversed or return to ‘business as usual’. Business as usual was not particularly equal, diverse or inclusive at the best of times. This could be an opportunity to establish a new normal which would impact a lot of people.
The protected characteristics under the Equality Act are: · Age · Disability · race (including ethnicity and nationality) · religion or belief · sex · sexual orientation · gender reassignment · pregnancy and maternity · marriage or civil partnership.
There are likely to be particular issues for how we support both students and staff with protected characteristics when we move to new modes for large numbers of students.
By way of example, issues to consider might include:
Students with physical disabilities may be unable to take part at all in on campus activities due to health risks from covid19 and have to access all services and carry out all transactions remotely
Designing one way systems and new routes through the campus is going to involve using a bunch more doors, which may not be fully accessible.
Students with mental health issues may need more support if their conditions are exacerbated by social distancing / lockdown / covid19 worries
BAME students and staff, and older students and staff, may need greater protection or targeted advice as BAME and older people appear to be higher risk groups
Students and staff may be subject to harassment or abuse during the covid19 pandemic as a result of their faith or ethnicity
The nature and responses to harassment, bullying and abuse online is different from face to face and is particularly experienced by women, BAME, disabled, LGBT+ staff and students
Staff and students with young children may be unable to work on campus at all or may only be able to do for limited periods, due to childcare obligations
Caring, pastoral support and mental health support work, traditionally has been done disproportionately by women.
Students working from home in countries with restrictive regimes may experience online environments differently than those not.
Students living areas of social deprivation or low connectivity may have limited or different access to technology.
Students with disabilities are easily excluded for accessing learning if care is not taken to ensure that learning materials and activities are accessible.
Staff with disabilities are easily excluded for accessing online meetings and events if care is not taken to ensure that closed captions and text chat are accessible.
The images, reading lists, case studies and examples used in the curriculum may not be chosen with care to represent the diverse student body.
The online space has always been part of on-campus teaching at University of Edinburgh. Our Learn Foundations Project aims to make all the courses in the Learn virtual learning environment (VLE) more usable and consistent to provide a better student experience in the online teaching and learning space.
The events of recent weeks have highlighted a need for robust institutional responses to maintaining teaching continuity. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Edinburgh undertook a ‘digital pivot’ when it moved all on-campus course delivery to ‘remote’ teaching from outwith the campus in response to the national lockdown.
Learn Foundations establishes for the University an institutional standard for the use of Learn. In the past there was inconsistency across courses which contributes to a poor student experience. Students studying across subject areas, Schools, and Colleges, inevitably struggled to find their course-specific resources placed in different folders, and often called different things. Studies by our user experience experts in ISG demonstrated that many students were finding it difficult to use courses in Learn and were therefore having a poor learner experience. Agreeing on an institution-wide standard course structure and consistent course terminology, alleviated needless confusion caused by basic inconsistencies.
LTW Response to Teaching Continuity
Blackboard Learn is the online teaching hub / VLE/ LMS for all on-campus courses at the University; it is where students find their lecture recordings, resources and reading lists, submit assignments and receive feedback, and engage in blended learning activities.
We saw a huge spike in usage across all our core learning technology services and in response to a targeted comms campaign, 800 academic staff at University of Edinburgh tuned in to this training as part of the emergency response.
It was clear that those schools who had already adopted the Learn Foundations standard were in a better position to pivot teaching online than those who hadn’t.Those colleagues who had experience of recording their lectures and making their own edits had a headstart too. The largest demand and biggest training need was for using virtual classroom tools ( Collaborate).
Learn Foundations should be considered a fundamental component of Edinburgh’s remote teaching model, delivering a consistent and improved student experience and supporting Schools to use Learn effectively. It improves the staff experience of creating course content so it is easy to upload and straightforward for students to access. It improves the student experience of carrying out learning tasks and accessing relevant learning materials.
Teaching Continuity – Academic Year 2020/21
Edinburgh University has committed to continuing taught programmes, where possible, at the start of academic year 2020/21. Whether or not we do something fancy with new undergraduates, this still means thousands of courses online. This will mean a hugely increased focus on Learn as the online hub for teaching activities for on-campus courses. It remains unclear what government guidelines will be in place at that time in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and whether students and staff will be able to access campus buildings. At the very least it is highly likely that some students will not be able to attend campus in September due to travel restrictions and / or relaxed levels of social distancing. We should also be prepared in the coming academic year for full social distancing restrictions to be imposed again at short notice.
Even if the on-campus learners return, this is not a one-off, they will need reassurance that they can go home, if called home and still complete their studies.
All courses should therefore be ready for an online pivot and all teaching staff should be trained to teach elements of their course online. Even if the terminology of being ‘fully online’ is not being used, these remotely taught courses will need all their elements to be available at a distance if needed.
In order to build a consist and usable learner experience into a teaching continuity strategy we propose to include within the scope of Learn Foundations a mapping of all first semester on-campus teaching activities onto online equivalents to enable both online pivots, and remote students to continue to engage with teaching.
Mapping on-campus teaching to pivot online: a simplified hybrid approach
As well as Learn Foundations, a number of existing elements can be repurposed to support academic colleagues and learning technology support teams in the design of an Edinburgh Model of hybrid courses:
The on-campus timetable and curriculum should be considered the basis for a mapping of online activities. Where possible these should focus on the core online teaching toolset (Learn, Collaborate, and Media Hopper).
Lecture recordings and resources lists provision should be reviewed for gaps in coverage– particularly in first year courses.
Audits of accessibility of learning materials will continue and each School will be provided with reports to support improvement in access and inclusion online.
Learning designs will be repurposed from ELDeR sessions to inform modes of online teaching which have been tried and tested at University of Edinburgh, giving a firm grounding in appropriate pedagogy.
Online ABC sprints, led by school-based learning technologists and under guidance for the ISG learning design service, will lead teaching staff quickly through the process of customising the learning designs for individual courses.
The ‘An Edinburgh Model for Online Teaching’ staff development programme be offered to all teaching staff as an introduction to online teaching, and to give staff the experience of being an online student with a focus on communication, community and care that is important for all online teachers.
The learning technology training programme as part of the Learn Foundations project will focus on supporting the delivery of teaching online and the programme of remote training developed in March 2020 will be re-run intensively over the summer. Cross-references and supplemental information from the ‘Edinburgh Model’ course will provide ongoing support for using the core technologies required.
Local learning technologists in Schools will support colleagues in making discipline specific decisions about materials online.
Communications around the support available for academic colleagues in making this shift in pedagogy will be co-ordinated with IAD.
Copyright advice and training for colleagues moving their materials online will be provided by the Library and our Open Educational Resources Service.
We will also continue to offer tools and support for teachers who want to innovate and stretch beyond a core set of tools into using video, blogs, computational notebooks, wikimedia tools and virtual labs. A rush to online delivery by many universities will see skillful course design for accessibility, quality and learning communities become key. Interoperability, licensing, copyright, IP, technical standards and open development will be as important for sharing, interchange, reuse, local adaptation of materials as they always have been.
Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh are pleased to launch the new publication Wikimedia in Education, a collection of case studies from practitioners across the UK who have successfully integrated Wikimedia into their courses.
Wikimedia is a valuable tool for education, enriching the student experience as much as it does the open web. Learning to contribute to Wikipedia, or Wikimedia’s other open knowledge projects, teaches students key skills in information literacy, collaboration, writing as public outreach, information synthesis, source evaluation and data science. It also develops an appreciation for the role and importance of open education. Of the 14 examples in this publication, 13 are from the higher education sector; however the resource has been designed for anyone involved in education. It will be of particular interest to teachers, lecturers and learning technologists involved in open pedagogy and course design, or who have an interest in library skills, innovative learning, working on the open web, co-creation, collaborative working, or digital skills.
Speaking about the launch, Melissa Highton. Assistant Principal, University of Edinburgh says: “The University of Edinburgh has a long-standing commitment to open educational resources. We offer services, training and support to colleagues who open up their practice in a wide range of ways. Working in partnership with WikimediaUK is just one of the many successful projects we have. This publication serves to celebrate the great success we have had in embedding open knowledge activities into courses across the University. I encourage colleagues to take a look and think about how you can bring this sort of engagement with open information literacy into classrooms to encourage sharing, co-creation and real impact.”
Celebrating the importance of the work, Lucy Crompton-Reid. Chief Executive, Wikimedia UK, concluded: “As the national charity for the global Wikimedia open knowledge movement, Wikimedia UK works closely with the education sector to develop the use and recognition of Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects as valuable tools for teaching and learning. The University of Edinburgh has led the way in this work and we are delighted to have collaborated with them on the creation of this new publication, which features case studies from across the university as well as some of our other UK education partners.”
When I wrote this presentation originally, I thought the shift in pace and place I would be talking about would be the new online microcredentials – Micromasters ™ – courses we have been piloting this year.
Little did I know that we would, as a sector, experience a seismic shift to remote learning online in little more than a week. At University of Edinburgh we have all shifted place- we are now working from home or are stranded and trapped. We have all shifted pace. Things which we thought would take months and years to do suddenly gained urgency and we ‘flipped’ or ‘pivoted’ to remote learning and working outwith the university at very short notice.
I can tell you about what we have been doing at Edinburgh in online distance learning, because it is this previous work which has given us the capacity, capability and vision to respond quickly now.
We know that distance is a positive principle, not a deficit. It can generate meaningful learning opportunities and a positive student experience; it can build community; and it can advance a values-led and professionalising position of teaching, one that does not downgrade teaching into (mere) facilitation.
New futures? who knows what will happen next? I won an EduFuturists Award recently for an individual ‘who embodies a vision of where education could be 20 years from now’ , and suddenly it seems like I should come up with this vision pretty fast. This is a new era and a paradigm shift for ‘business continuity’. In the past i warned my colleagues to ‘expect locusts‘. I wanted them to think big. I asked them to think about what happens if for some reason we can’t operate as usual. I admit, I thought the challenges would be strikes, snow or rogue volcanos, but I like a bit of Biblical scale…..
Some of my emerging thoughts for possible futures:
After this current ‘panic pivot’ to teach out the current academic year. Universities will quickly start to think about semester 1 next year. Will university campuses re-open or will we teach semester 1 online?
The online learning landscape
A rush to online delivery by many universities will see skillful course design for accessibility, quality and learning communities become key.
Even if the on-campus learners return, this is not a one-off, they will need reassurance that they can go home, if called home and still complete their studies.
The undergraduate online market in the UK will be transformed. Things we thought impossible will become pragmatic.
Some universities will collaborate with peer institutions to develop courses and deliver together. Some will not.
Interoperability, licensing, IP, technical standards and open development will be as important for sharing, interchange, reuse, local adaptation of materials as they always have been. Expertise in this area will be prized.
Learning technologists who know about staff development, course design and open educational resources will realise they can work from home and work for any institution in the world. Their salaries will increase, and the work will be more flexible, more compatible with family life.
The (already) global market for academic colleagues who teach well online will thrive.
On campus service such as counselling, wellbeing, welfare, disability support, finance, careers will need to find new elements of quality in delivery online.
Students will want to watch their lectures online.
Traditional face to face exams will become antiquated, and the purpose and methods of assessment will become increasingly diverse.
‘Halls of residence’ will be forever known as ‘petri dishes’.
The global platforms ( Coursera, Edx, Futurelearn, Linkedin Learning) will finally see return on their business model and they will own all the student data.
Home-based learners will sacrifice privacy and personal data in the rush to use Zoom and Houseparty et al.
Vendors and suppliers will try to renegotiate the costs of VLEs, streaming video and virtual classroom tools.
Libraries will finally invest properly in digitisation and digital collections and no-one will believe publishers’ protests that they cannot offer open access any more.
I am so impressed by how well our teams and services are responding to this situation. We are seeing increased use of all our learning technology systems and receiving great, positive feedback on the support, training and expertise we are providing.
We have trained 800 staff to support remote teaching and offered online training in how to work from home.
The result has been:
1200 Media Hopper Create uploads in Week3 March in comparison to 400 in the same week last year.
Support calls for Media Hopper Create down on last year show that the training and guidance is good quality.
16-18th March 800 Collaborate sessions per day. 23rd March, 1400 sessions involving 6000 users
Learn Logins steady each day at 4,000 logins but this is fewer than an average day when everyone is on campus. We would usually see nearer 5,000 per day.
Our academic colleagues are working hard to play their part in tackling the Corona Virus. This is one of the very good things about working in a research university. We are providing services which support research and teaching and knowledge creation and dissemination.
Some top tips to keep in mind when planning to teach remotely:
It is important to remember that good teaching online brings with it some of the same principles as good teaching face to face. A strong teacher presence, engaged learning communities, contact time between teacher and student and for students in pairs or groups. The following tips are designed to facilitate that as simply as possible and minimise disruption both for you and your students.
Keep it simple. See the technology as servicing some core teaching function and only choose what you need. Video for lectures (if you lecture), discussion boards for debates and dialogue, a virtual learning environment for hosting your content, a well-structured reading list, maybe a blog for student reflection and group work.
Get professional advice and ask for help early on if you can. Speak to your school learning technologist and IT support; information services staff and librarians are here to help and advise.
Communicate with students. This is critical. Let them know we are trying something new and why. Let them know where to go and who to contact if they run into difficulty. Get them talking on the discussion boards with prompts and questions at regular intervals.
Discuss with your colleagues and networks of contacts at other universities how they may have used technology in similar situations teaching in similar disciplines. Many universities offer the same or very similar learning technologies, so sharing practice can be helpful to someone you know.
Your students may already know you, but you need to show them you are present online: a picture of yourself, some short videos, encouragement on the discussion boards. Videos don’t need to be perfect. Showing personality has currency in the online space.
Consider assessments. Do you need to rethink the assessments if you are moving online? You might. There are many ways to assess online and most aren’t too complicated.
Consider which parts of your course such as fieldwork, labs, studios and practicals may have to be cancelled or changed. Think about the adjustments you have previously made for students with disabilities, are those alternative versions appropriate for all your students now?
Do the best you can 🙂 we understand this will be new and different for many teachers.
The BSHS Ayrton prize recognises outstanding web projects and digital engagement in the history of science, technology and medicine (HSTM). The prize name was chosen to recognize the major contributions of Hertha Ayrton (1854-1923) to numerous scientific fields, especially electrical engineering and mathematics, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The prize is awarded once every two years.
Given the remarkable strength of the field, they decided to supplement the main Prize with a Highly Commended category, to be awarded to two further projects.
I’m delighted to say that our University of Edinburgh Wikipedia project “Changing the ways the stories are told” is one of the two Highly Commended projects! The judging panel were particularly impressed with the initiative’s track record of contributions to the infrastructure of knowledge on which research and public engagement in the history of science depend.
‘Changing the ways the stories are told’: Engaging staff and students in improving the Wikipedia content about women in the history of science, technology and medicine in Scotland.
This project began 5 years ago and has been delivering more and more each year with wider reach, large engagement numbers and considerable impact in terms of public engagement and media coverage. This project is supported by University of Edinburgh and we work in partnership with science, engineering and heritage organisations in Edinburgh to run events to edit and improve Wikipedia content of topics specifically related to the history of women in science.
Our mission is to work with staff, students and members of the public to support them in developing the digital skills they need to engage in writing and publishing new articles on Wikipedia. We have a specific focus on the history of women in science and medicine. Our first ‘edit-a-thon’ in 2015 was based on ‘The Edinburgh Seven’- the first women to study medicine and our most recent was in conjunction with Young Academy Scotland at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This work towards getting all students and staff in the university to be active contributors is unique in the sector.
The audience for our content includes any members of the public who look at HSTM articles on Wikipedia. The audience for our skills development training are staff and students who learn about how historical information can be brought out of the university (and other) archives to illustrate, enhance and improve the stories of historic development of science, technology and medicine. We work closely with librarians, archivists and academic researchers to bring their hidden content into the most modern digital platforms and give it new relevance for the public today.
Edinburgh staff and students have created 476 new articles, in a variety of languages on a huge range of topics and significantly improved or translated 1950 more. These articles have been consumed by millions of readers. All editors are supported to understand the impact and reach of their work, to find the analytics and reports which show how their contribution is immediately useful to a wide range of audiences.
By working closely with HSTM scholars, digital librarians and archivists we ensure that our staff and students learn the best practice in using digital platforms for public engagement. We ensure that information is accessible and navigable and make best use of both the archives and the new technology. Images released from our archive collections and added to Wikipedia as part of this project have now been viewed 28,755,106 times.
As well as learning the skills of editing, referencing and science communication, we are ensuring that many more of our staff and students learn about how information is created, shared and contested online. We work specifically to address gaps in coverage and improve information where it is poor.
We address the gender gap amongst Wikipedia editors by training large numbers of female students and staff and empower them to edit on whatever topics they choose and thus engaging in the use of digital platforms for their own study and work.
The University of Edinburgh is the first UK university to engage a Wikimedian in Residence to focus entirely on developing student and staff skills. The project fits with our missions for teaching, research and public engagement as well as the embedding of technology in our activities to engage in digital citizenship and crowd-sourced sharing.
The most innovative part of the project has been to work closely with academic colleagues to embed Wikimedia tasks in the curriculum so that students work on topics which have direct relevance to their studies. One example where we work with the students on the MSc Reproductive Biomedicine is now in its fourth year. The students are assessed and gain credit for the work they do in improving content of Wikipedia.
Five years on from our original work in changing the way the story of the Edinburgh Seven is told, the University gave posthumous degrees to the women who had struggled as pioneers in this area. The degree ceremony in 2019 marked 150 years since the Surgeons Hall riots and this new, updated history of women in science and medicine gained considerable media coverage and impact in Scotland and beyond.
We ensure the sustainability of this project by making it part of the ongoing digital skills and digital literacy training programme delivered to staff and students in the University of Edinburgh and we hold public engagement events alongside our partners in library, heritage and science organisations in the city.
The Wikipedia platform is maintained by the Wikimedia UK foundation and our contributions to improving the public facing content on that platform is part of ensuring that it is a sustainable, growing, open, relevant and useful resource for everyone. Working directly with the Wikipedia platform to add content ensures that we do not take on the long term costs of hosting such a platform for our selves, thus the work of training editors and contributing content can continue as long as the platform is an appropriate place to do it.
Last year this work won a Herald Higher Education Award for innovation in technology and we are expanding our skills training team in the coming year to ensure that we can meet the demand from academic colleagues and students to be trained as editors and as contributors to Wikidata and similar sister projects.
This project represents a clear statement by the University that we want to enable our staff and students to engage in becoming active citizens in the digital world.
In the long dark days of the Scottish winter when its tempting to hibernate it’s always nice to have a few things lined up to look forward to in the ‘Spring’. Here are some of the dates I already have in my diary. These are events and conferences at which I’ll be giving presentations or keynotes about a range of topics.
Over the the last few years I have cut down on my international travel for work, but still very much enjoyed the range of events at which I get invited to speak.
If any of these topics interest you, it would be great to see you there.
Strategic leadership of open and online learning
31st March- Keynote: Online Learning Summit ‘Growing your University online: Routes to student success’.
18th June- Keynote at University of South Wales Learning & Teaching conference. Thank you to Catherine for the invitation.
The future of libraries and learning technology
27-28th May- Keynote: CONUL Conference 2020 ‘Imagining the future and how we get there’. http://conference.conul.ie Thank you to Laura for the invitation.
Wikimedia in the curriculum
I’ll be presenting with Ewan about our work embedding wikimedia in the curriculum and LILAC and OER20 and we’ll be launching our book of case studies of wikimedia in UK HE reflecting 5 years of ongoing work. At OER20 Lorna and I will be reviewing 5 years of our Open Educational Resources (OER) service at University of Edinburgh.
17-19 March- Equality Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2020: ‘Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: creative thinking in tackling inequality’ I’ll be presenting with Dominique about the experiences of making changes in our organisation and joining a panel about the the ‘taboo’ subject of menopause. https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/programmes-events/conferences/EDIConf20
I am also planning to complete and defend a massive piece of writing which is currently a bit of a monster, but i’m hoping that preparing these presentations will help me to hone my ideas.