Category: Open Educational Resources

The Future of Learning and Teaching in HE in the Post Pandemic World

I’ll be part of two universities’ festivals of learning and digital this week.

At Digital Week 13-17 Settembre 2021 at Università degli Studi di Padova. I’ll speak about policies and practices of Open Education at University of Edinburgh.

At University of Durham Festival of Teaching and Learning 2021 13th-17th September. I’ll speak about ‘The Future of Learning and Teaching in HE in the Post Pandemic World’

In both cases I’ll re-use some of the content  from my Apereo Foundation Plenary: Open Education on a Post-Pandemic Planet youtu.be/D7hL9i-NdyM

attack of the 50th Women in Red editathons

Attackofthe50ftwoman A huge fifty, 50! Women in Red editathons have now been held at University of Edinburgh. Every month we gather together online to hack away at the skewed content.

Hannah’s video on how to make Wikipedia articles has had a towering 18K views since Sept 2020 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBCxb9oaz5s).

Join us at our Women in Red monthlies https://edin.ac/3gh243I

Pick up an article that interests you.

If not you then who?

If not now then when?

Dress code: casual.

LILAC Hindsight 2020

‘The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo’. Picture of art in my home. No rights reserved by me.

In 2009 I delivered a keynote at LILAC  conference.

I was the new Head of Learning Technologies Group at the University of Oxford.

The talk  was titled ‘Managing Your Flamingo‘, an analogy from Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is trying to play croquet and every time she goes to play either the flamingo’s head pops up or the hedgehog uncurls and walks away. The challenges of getting our back end and front end systems  working together are not much changed.

Wonderland analogies are timeless and rife at Oxford and I own a print from the original Tenniel woodblocks.

This year I am hosting a panel at LILAC which brings together  Josie Fraser, Jane Secker and Allison Littlejohn. Each of our panel have more than 10 years as change agents in information and digital literacy and have led high profile initiatives to shift thinking and disrupt traditional ideas in (in)different institutions and sectors. Together they will bring unique perspectives on the topic of ‘2020 hindsight’. Come along to find out if their radical inclinations have been tempered by their time in institutions.

The conference is delayed by a year and as Josie has pointed out, you get one year’s extra reflection for free.

Hindsight bias can be dangerous if it leads us to think we ‘knew it all along’ . We all suffer sometimes from memory distortion (“I said it would happen”), inevitability (“It had to happen”), and foreseeability (“I knew it would happen”). Our panel will join you in reflecting on, considering and explaining what has happened and how things that didn’t happen, could have happened. How would things be different if we knew then what we know now?

Is there such a thing as lilac-tinted spectacles?

Back then, I spoke about different types of literacy, (digital, media and information) and questioned whether they were all comparable concepts or subsets of each other, and how far IL should integrate itself into these other literacies. I encouraged librarians to contribute to a digital literacy framework (i=skills) and encouraged everyone to edit and contribute to the digital literacy page on Wikipedia.  And media literacy is a hot topic because of the Internet Safety Bill.

The wikpedia page about digital literacy has been much improved this year, but mostly by north Americans. I continue to encourage librarians to edit Wikipedia. And I continue to invest in Wikimedians in Residence and wikipedia in the curriculum.

In 2009 I predicted that all graduates, not just computing graduates, needed algorithmic modelling literacy and back then, Oxford was  working on a Modelling4all project.  Check out their website, The Epidemic Game Maker provides a way to quickly and easily make models of epidemics and turn the models into games.

In 2009 I predicted that Youtube U (an educational YouTube) was just around the corner, in much the same way as the University of Oxford had just launched on iTunes U in October 2008. ItunesU and podcasting were a huge success for Oxford, we even featured in the ipod advert on the telly. Who’d have thought that podcasts would be having such a renaissance a dozen years later?

Our partnership with Apple on Itunes brought massive scale and reach, millions of downloads for openly licensed recorded lectures. When Coursera and Edx came in 2012 I thought the reaction would be similar but I struggled to get Oxford interested in MOOCs. They never did, and have suffered no ill-effects as a result.  I moved institution and Edinburgh now boasts a boat-load of online open courses. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s them.

I was also wrong about YouTube U. But I have spent some years building something similar in-house. The widespread use of lecture recording has added a whole new type of ‘learning resources’ which are part of the way students learn, study and revise.  Huge, born-digital collections.

No-one can really predict how the future will be. We learned that last year. But we can pay attention to signals and think about readiness. I know that the work we did at Edinburgh around business continuity for snow and strikes served us well for Covid.

It is perhaps challenging for online learning leaders and learning technology aficionados to come to terms with the fact that we did not deliver this change through careful support, inspirational argument or the power of convincing evidence. We had to do it  in ways we never anticipated. We have been forced to do things we hoped we would never have to do. We have put in place systems and support for rushed replication of on-campus delivery online.  We have become middleware.  We are at the same time  essential and largely irrelevant. And we are caught in a crazy world in which students and staff who would previously have mounted barricades to resist the use of technology in their teaching are balloting their unions and lobbying management to insist on it.

How will this play out? If students do well in their exams this year will we hail the lift and shift as a success? Perhaps all our previous insistence on planned, careful design was unwarranted. Are exam results the measure of good teaching and learning? If so, it’s a good thing each institution has autonomy in assessment and everything is open to interpretation. In whose interest is it for the shift to online story to be told as a huge success or a massive failure?

Boris Johnson presented Joe Biden with my photo of Frederick Douglass to mark their first meeting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Douglass#/media/File:Ross_Blair_%E2%80%93_Frederick_Douglass.jpg

A picture I shared on Wikimedia has been given by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a gift to President Joe Biden.

Just goes to show that serendipitous things happen when you share openly.

President Biden and Dr Biden are visiting the UK this week. In preparation for the visit the  Downing Street offices began searching for a thoughtful gift. They know that the Bidens have an interest in history and in the life of Frederick Douglass.  They found my picture of a mural of Douglass on Wikimedia and contacted me.

The mural is by Edinburgh artist Ross Blair (AKA TrenchOne) and features as part of our BLM ‘Curious Edinburgh‘ mural tour which in turn is part of a wider tour Scotland-wide.

I gave them a high-res version and the Prime Minister’s Office  got it printed up and framed.

When I saw the mural I recognized the subject immediately. The artist is talented and the image is striking.

Frederick Douglass was one of the most photographed people of his time, many people were interested in him and he was keen to ensure that he was represented as an equal during such a difficult time in American history. During the 1800s he sat for more portraits than even Abraham Lincoln.

Frederick Douglass is part of the cultural history not just of the US, but also of Scotland. He came to Edinburgh several times, first in 1846 . He made a number of public anti-slavery speeches and wrote letters back to the USA from here. He considered the city to be elegant and grand and found the UK to be very welcoming. ‘Everything is so different here from what I have been accustomed to in the United States. No insults to encounter – no prejudice to encounter, but all is smooth. I am treated as a man an equal brother. My color instead of being a barrier to social equality –is not thought of as such’.

I was born in Scotland but I am a dual national by virtue of having an American parent. My US family are in Maryland and I am delighted to see this image of such an important American icon here in our public spaces. The fact that I am a dual national seems to be an added bonus for the gift to President and Dr Biden.

I took the photograph on an evening walk during lockdown just as the sun was setting. The mural is very close to the building where Frederick Douglass stayed while he was in Edinburgh. I shared it on Wikipedia so that more people could see it and enjoy it.

The picture has had 1,200,000  pageviews on English Wikipedia since it was added to the Frederick Douglass page on 23 October 2020. My profile on wikipedia is here:  User:Melissa Highton – Wikipedia

Some people on Twitter are being a bit rude about the traffic cone but I would remind you that both Edinburgh and Glasgow have a fine tradition of adding traffic cones to significant public art works and perhaps David Hume wasn’t using his.

Global press coverage:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/picture-of-edinburgh-anti-slavery-mural-given-to-president-biden-by-pm-n3l953nrn

PM gifts photo of Edinburgh anti-slavery mural to Biden – BBC News

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/06/12/biden-boris-gifts/

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/boris-johnson-gifts-joe-biden-picture-of-anti-slavery-campaigner-spotted-by-officials-on-wikipedia/ar-AAKXjuv

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/biden-boris-johnson-frederick-douglass-mural-b1864468.html

https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/boris-johnson-welcomes-president-biden-20799321

https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/with-nod-black-lives-matter-uks-johnson-gives-biden-mural-photo-2021-06-10/

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/black-lives-matter-uk-s-boris-johnson-gifts-joe-biden-mural-of-19th-century-abolitionist-frederick-douglass-101623377062480.html

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/joe-biden-gifts-boris-johnson-24294179

http://proudamericanblog.com/?p=10045

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/what-to-see/try-harder-boris-have-given-biden-g7-summit

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/with-a-nod-to-black-lives-matter–uk-s-johnson-gives-biden-mural-photo-14990120

https://www.tech-gate.org/usa/2021/06/10/boris-johnson-gives-joe-biden-gifts-at-g7-summit-in-cornwall/

Boris Johnson presents gifts to Joe and Jill Biden ahead of G7 Summit – Wales Online

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-06-10/with-a-nod-to-black-lives-matter-uks-johnson-gives-biden-mural-photo

Black Lives Matter: Johnson gifts Biden mural of 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass – 1st for Credible News (1stnews.com)

‘Special relation’: UK PM gifts Biden a mural depicting abolitionist Frederick Douglass (republicworld.com)

Curious Edinburgh photo presented to US President – Bulletin magazine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2021-06-27/In_the_media

Open Education on a Post-Pandemic Planet

Slide designed for me by Gill because I am very lucky to have a graphic design team.

I gave a keynote presentation at Open Apereo conference.

Here’s the recording https://youtu.be/D7hL9i-NdyM

Here’s the blurb:

Open Education on a Post-Pandemic Planet

As we try to predict what the future may hold there are a few things  from the Before Times that we still know to be true: Open educational resources, open source software and open access digital tools offer our last, best hope for equity and inclusion. Education must not be dependent on digital platforms controlled by private companies, and large educational institutions must show their support for open sharing, collaboration and assurance of accessibility for all our audiences. As well as deep reflection on our purchasing decisions and the skills in our edtech teams we must ensure ‘open literacy’ within the curriculum and within pedagogical training. As we struggle against the denial of scientific knowledge, actively fight misinformation, attempt to decolonise and care for our planet, there is much to be done. Melissa will bring stories from Scotland on how universities are rising to these challenges and bringing their own leadership to the table.

 

Note: if I do this presentation again, and I have time, I’ll include Jupyter notebooks and  our new space MOOC https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/observing-earth-from-space

Virtual Burns Night 2021

a drunk woman looked at a thistle.

I am a fan of Burns night and I’ve hosted a few spirited and toasted lassies.

This year I have invited my teams to a virtual Burns night on Monday.

‘Please bring your favourite poem/ song/dance by Burns or any of his contemporaries or similar Scottish music. Burns was prolific and one of the joys of his work is that you can find a poem or a view from him on just about anything.  If you can find his view on Brexit ‘While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things’, COVID ‘Tae a virus’ , lockdown ‘Here’s friends locked doon on baith sides o’ the firth’, working from home, social distancing ‘Gin a body meet a body, catching Covid, Aye?’,  face coverings ‘Fair fa’ your honest, covered face…’, well-being, hobbies, black lives, sourdough, furlough, home-schooling ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley’,  Teams ‘To see oursels as others see us!’ or elearning  you’ll win a fab prize.’

Haggis is just haggis, a smile is just a smile.

Our virtual Burns Night featured beautiful music performances from Lauren (Wild Mountainside) and Lorraine ( The Silver Tassie), and the suggestion that we all upload pictures of our haggis dinners to Wikipedia.

During the evening a number of lost Burns manuscripts were given their first public performance. A selection is curated below:

 

Tam O’2020

When chapman billies leave the street
And drouthy neebors video meet
As Waitrose delivery is running late
An’ folk begin to accept their fate;
While we sat boozing at the telly
And getting fou and awfy smelly
We think na on the lang Scots miles.
The fit bit steps we tracked with smiles
That lie between us and our hame
Whare sits our sulky sullen dame
Gathering her brows like gathering storm
Nursing her Deliveroo to keep it warm.

So, Shall Distance

This tale o’ truth  I shall read,
woman and mother’s son take heed;
Whene’er to drink you are inclin’d,
Or social joys run in your mind,
Think! ye may buy joys for now
But wi’ mair pox horrible and awfu’,
Three lawyers says it is unlawfu’.

Argyle Epistle

We think na on the lang Scots miles, 
The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles, 
That lie between us and our hame in argyle house, 
Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet,  
To think how many counsels sweet,  
How many lengthen’d, sage advices,  
The workers wish the boss, consise is.

Hoppers Lament

That dreary hour she opens Teams in;
On such a night she was online in.
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Karen did na mind the storm a whistle.
Till first ae system, syne anither,
Gave up working  a’ thegither,

And roars out, “Media Hopper doesnae work!”
And in an instant all was dark: 
And scarcely had she Liam rallied, 
When out the hellish legion sallied.

As bees bizz out wi’ angry fyke,
When plundering herds assail their byke;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When “Catch the thief!” resounds aloud;
So Karen runs, the witches follow,
Wi’ mony an eldritch skriech and hollo.

To LISC  Ah, Karen thou’ll get thy fairin’!
In ITC they’ll roast thee like a herrin’!
And KSC awaits thy commin’!

The Cotter’s  Night Locked In

O Scotia! my dear, my native soil!
For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent,
Long may thy hardy staff of IT toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet open content!
And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent
From covid’s contagion, weak and vile!
Then howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov’d isle.

 

 

 

 

 

winning wikimedia once again

 

At the recent WikimediaUK AGM the work of the Wikimedian in Residence team at University of Edinburgh once again received awards from their community. Ewan continues to work across the University to embed wikimedia skills in the curriculum, with some considerable success.  His work in producing a new publication including case studies of how this can be done won an honourable mention in the Partnership category (we have won the partnership category before, so it would be inelegant to win again).

We also had success in the ‘Up and Coming Wikimedian’ category – A joint win for Emma Carroll (for the phenomenal work on the Scottish Witch Data project) and  Laura Wood Rose (excellent work supporting the Women in Red events).  I am particularly pleased to have success recognised in this category because a huge part of our commitment to the digital skills of wikimedia at Edinburgh is an investment in training and empowering new Wikimedians to join the community.

Congratulations to Ewan, Emma and Laura Rose.

 

Celtic connections

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.

equality, diversity and inclusion issues to consider

Dominique and me presenting and representing in London about EDI.

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.

Any more? Many more?

How we put our VLE at the heart of teaching

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.

In the March 2020 teaching continuity response to the COVID-19 our remote teaching strategy was to focus training on a core toolset (Learn, Collaborate, Media Hopper Create, and Replay) with Learn positioned as “the heart of teaching your course” (https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/teaching-continuity/teaching-online). Online training sessions were delivered alongside drop-in sessions providing evidence-based advice about online teaching based on the University’s many years of research and practice in the area of online education (https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/teaching-continuity/tips). Key to the message was that academic staff should consider on-campus teaching activities being moved online into Learn for a short period of time to see out the final three weeks of teaching, rather than a full online course redesign.

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.

Fingers crossed.