doing it standing up at CONUL

After 2 years of keynoting from a comfy chair at home it was lovely to adventure again.   

It was fun to be in Limerick, and the CONUL conference was both incredibly friendly and well organised. I was happy to have a chance to wear my space boots and stand up again in front of the slides Gill made for me.

if you were there and you would like a copy of the slides for the links, please email me.

What’s the difference between education and training?

On Wednesday 27th April. I’ll be keynote at UCISA’s spotlight. on Digital Capabilities: Digital skills, a priority or lip service?

  • How can we raise the status and professionalism of IT trainers in education?
  • How can we best position digital capability needs?
  • What kind of business cases are successful and how can we show the impact, value and return on the investment?

Training in educational organisations is a contested space, with some significant challenges in ensuring that IT trainers have the right skills to support adults learning in the workplace. The differentiation needed in these classrooms along with sophisticated classroom management skills is an area often overlooked by managers. The sheer hostility of many university staff towards being asked to take time to learn any new digital skills may surprise many people who work in the private sector.

In this session I will share insights into experience of successful (and unsuccessful) initiatives and suggest ways forward for ensuring that digital capabilities considerations are underpinned by a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.


Dangerous women

contents page of the book
cover of the book

I am very chuffed to see the publication of this book. Please buy it for all your friends.

It’s been a long time coming. In it I explain why dangerous women edit Wikipedia.

The book is a collection of fifty reflections on power and identity.   The delay has meant that it has arrived at just the time I am reflecting on my power and identity as well as  on being fifty.

I am especially chuffed to find that I am on the first page of contents, on the same page as the First Minister.  I doubt there’s any specific power which flows from that proximity, but it is nice to be identified as a dangerous women alongside so many others.

I’ll be presenting again, on International Women’s Day. This time I’ll be in the online line-up up at University of Highlands and Islands.


Principal Fellowship of The Higher Education Academy (PFHEA)

I gained Principal Fellowship of The Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) in February 2022*.

It took me a long time to write because it is a very fiddly process of mapping each section, and statement within section, against not only the heading of the section, descriptor levels, and also the numbered items, core areas and required knowledge in the multiple themes of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). And there’s an aggressive word count.

I actually started writing my application in 2019, and gathered some advocate statements in support, but never completed the task and then some other stuff happened which pushed it further down my to-do list. I have been a fellow of the HEA since 1999. When I first started teaching I was a member of the ILT and of LTSN, when they merged I submitted my portfolio of evidence for HEA Fellowship.

I decided in 2019 that it was time to apply for Principal Fellowship based on my ongoing, sustained engagement with the activities, knowledge and professional values  of the UKPSF across my career, and evidence of my impact within and outwith my institution.   I am now working with Advance HE as a member of their Learning and Teaching Strategy Board so my new year’s resolution for 2022 was to get it sent, and I give thanks again to the people who wrote letters of support.

It’s a fiddly process for several reasons. I have to assume it is easier to complete if you are in a senior academic role rather than a professional expert. The references to use of technology  for teaching in the UKPSF are a bit sparse (possibly not surprising as it hasn’t been updated for many years) but it is not difficult for a good learning technologist to demonstrate a thorough understanding of effective approaches to teaching and learning support as a key contribution to high quality student learning.

The evidence needed for Principal Fellowship includes:

  • Successful, strategic leadership to enhance student learning, with a particular, but not necessarily exclusive, focus on enhancing teaching quality in institutional, and/or (inter)national settings;
  • Establishing effective organisational policies and/or strategies for supporting and promoting others (e.g. through mentoring, coaching) high quality teaching and support for learning;
  • Championing, within institutional and/or wider settings, an integrated approach to academic practice (incorporating, for example, teaching, learning, research, scholarship, administration etc.);
  • A sustained and successful commitment to, and engagement in, continuing professional development related to academic, institutional and/or other professional practices.

Once again, I was grateful to myself for the time I spend writing this blog.  I use my blog in several ways: as a reflective diary, as a notebook and aide memoir to record events, a place to develop ideas, a place to gather resources, record and share progress and as a tool for creating  a community and conversation with fellow practitioners and leaders.  I have done my research in an area where previously there has not been a lot of published work available so even my early thinking attracted some attention from my industry peers and I was invited to present my work at a number of practitioner conferences. My work as an insider researcher has been combined with what I have learned and how I have adapted my approaches to real world problems.  My blog records my journey as a scholarly, and reflective practitioner and as a way for people to contact me if they invite me to speak at events.

I am grateful for the studies I’ve done (many moons ago) in gaining a Masters in Education and the time I spent (also many moons ago) as module leader on the PGCert LTHE at University of Leeds. That course really was ahead of its time and it’s fun to see how many ‘alumni’ of the programme now hold senior jobs in institutions.


The HEA application requires particularly evidence that one continues to ‘champion the UKPSF’ at all levels. Here is some of what I wrote:

During the pandemic year we recruited a dozen new learning technologists and in order that they were all able to join our community with a shared understanding of the technologies we have on campus, we put together a training programme to ensure that new recruits were quickly up to speed as expert users of the university systems.  More than half of my educational design team have teaching qualifications and I sponsor research projects to ensure that ‘Edinburgh experience’ is reflected in scholarship of teaching.  Their grounding in educational scholarship brings benefits to the university when we teach academic staff as learners through our staff development programme, which covers all aspects of digital pedagogy. 

I am one of the authors of ‘Butcher, C., Davies, C., & Highton, M. (2019). Designing learning: from module outline to effective teaching’ which is widely used to support teaching in PGCert Learning and Teaching in Higher Education courses and I take care to ensure that the scholarship I undertook in writing  that book underpins the services we offer. The work of my learning technology staff development teams, instructional designers, media producers and learning design teams directly aligns and embeds the UKPSF elements in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, (A5, V3)

I am a mentor as part of the University of Edinburgh’s ‘Mentoring Connections’ programme, which I find rewarding and interesting as a way to support others in their career progression. I believe that an important part of establishing strategies for supporting academic colleagues in delivering high quality teaching (A2) is to ensure that the professional learning technologists in our organisation are supported in their ongoing professional development. Their increased professionalism ensures that teaching and learning is better supported (K3).

I champion the UKPSF as a framework everyday through its alignment with CMALT -the framework for certifying the professional development of learning technologists . CMALT for learning technology staff is a key component of our staff development activity at University of Edinburgh. The more the learning technology staff can show that they understand how students learn and the use and value of appropriate technologies, the better. CMALT helps them to evaluate the effectiveness of tools for teaching and understand the implications for academic practice (A5).  In order to ensure that our teaching support staff understand the UKPSF framework I offered a university-wide bursary scheme which provided support for CMALT applicants from across the university. The impact can be measured by the result that University of Edinburgh has a more professionally accredited learning technology staff than any other institution in the UK and the fact that our online programmes attract the highest level of satisfaction from students of any mode of delivery. 

My teams design and plan learning activities and programmes of teaching. This work is a large part of the organisational strategy for supporting and promoting others in delivering high quality teaching and learning (A1, A2).  In any given year my learning technology and digital skills teams will offer more than 700 pedagogical training sessions to academic staff and students. We review and evaluate that provision each year (K4 K5) looking at the data about uptake and engagement. We take care to ensure that our staff development courses for online teaching are mapped against the UKPSF and that they contribute as evidence for colleagues working towards FHEA.  

I am happy to share the other bits of my application if that would be helpful. The generosity of my advocates and friends who shared theirs with me made a huge contribution to my success.

*actually on the memorable date  22/02/2022.

holding on

I had a few things on my new year’s list to things to do, so I am happy to report some success  in things on which I had been procrastinating.

I am now the happy holder of:

1) a UK Passport,

2) a Fellowship of the RSA,

3) a Principal Fellowship of the HEA

Still waiting for my new drivers license. It seems to be dependent on the info from the passport, but systems are slow.

digital volunteering

I am assembling quite the portfolio of digital volunteering activities.  In addition to my  work as a Wikipedia editor, I also give unsuspecting organisations the benefit of my expertise on a range of topics.  I sit on 2 charity boards, support 3 mentees, review CPD portfolios for ALT and sit on review panels for Athena Swan.  I try to ensure that my espousing is not ultracrepidarian.

spring into action

spring bulbs
spring bulbs

I have a couple of speaking engagements lined up for the first half of the year.  Please do join me if you are interested in dicussing this kind of thing.

I’ll be part of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ celebration of International Women’s Day 2022 #BreakTheBias….in education and research! content.

I’ll be part of Open Education week 2022: Open to the World: Open course development at the University of Edinburgh

I’ll be speaking at the Advance HE Equality Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2022: Inclusive Institutions in Action  Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2022: Inclusive Institutions in Action | Advance HE (

I’ll be keynote at UCISA’s spotlight. on Digital Capabilities:

I’ll be a keynote at CONUL 2022

Open media

One of the things which has happened as a result of events all being online is that there are now more talking head videos, interviews, webinars and panel sessions to watch and review.

Here are some of mine:

OEG Voices 033: An OEweek Conversation with Melissa Highton and Willem van Valkenburg – OEG Voices (

Developing Inclusive Educational Practices with Video-Based Learning Dec 8th, 2021 for ECHO360

Interview with SPARC for – Open Education Champions series Oct 6, 2021 for European Network of Open Education Librarians

Apereo Foundation Plenary: Open Education on a Post-Pandemic Planet, June 2021

I also seem to have a track record of being interviewed:

Open at Heart: An Interview with AACE Keynote Speaker Melissa Highton

Interview: Catching Up With Judge Melissa Highton From The University of Edinburgh

Director’s Cut: An Interview with Melissa Highton

The EDEN interviews: Melissa Highton

In Conversation with Melissa Highton

Data Driven Innovation: Women in Data -Melissa Highton

Creating a Culture of Open: Melissa Highton



dance like you are not being projected onto the side of a castle

I’m much chuffed to have won the Open Global Individual Leadership award

It’s an award presented to an individual who has demonstrated significant leadership and longstanding involvement with Open Education. A person who has made significant and clear contributions to the furtherance of the Open Education movement, whose contributions to Open Education have spanned regions and/or had a global impact.

I have also successfully renewed my Senior CMALT  to remain in good standing as a professional learning technologist. The assessor said it was

‘An impressive account of development activities and how they have influenced learning technology developments at Edinburgh.’  Which is very pleasing.

My CPD journey continues. I completed a microcredential Certificate in Decision Making from LSE before Christmas, and I’ve finally sent off my application for PFHEA.

Over a year of hybrid working: What the data tells us (about women)

overflowing with good data

I was very pleased to be able to deliver this conference workshop with Lilinaz as a pre-conference workshop for UCISA’s Women in Tech Group Conference in October.

It is another of the UCISA CPD sessions and builds on data we collected last year about demographic differences in lockdown

At the University of Edinburgh, we conducted University-wide surveys in 2020 and 2021 to understand people’s experiences of homeworking, taking into account their demographic differences. This gave us a rich data set from which to understand the experiences of women in IT during the pandemic. This presentation focuses on what we learned, and takes an intersectional approach to how different aspects of jobs were affected by off-campus working. The presentation takes an EDI perspective, discusses if and how different groups had different experiences, and how these differences can be taken into account when developing policies for hybrid working in the future. The session was a presentation of findings, and a discussion of how the findings are being used to develop policies. The content is interesting as it is evidence-based, using data over two years. In some instances, it was interesting to see the change of attitude from 2020 to 2021, while in some instances, settling into home working did not affect people’s opinions. The surveys took into account 19 demographic variables and it was interesting for the audience how these variables affected home working.

The session was well received and we experimented with new functionality in Teams, allowing participants to move through the slides at their own pace while we talked.  This seems like a good way to allow participants to engage with quite a large set of data in the areas which interest them specifically.  It’s nice to get nice feedback on the way we delivered the session as well as the content.

What did you enjoy the most?
seeing results of real world research and being able to discuss this in the chat with others
The easy going, friendly nature of the event & the great use of technology for interaction
Better understanding the experience of other HE colleagues
The fact that they are willing to share the data with us and that everyone is in the same boat with hybrid working
all parts were interesting
the presentation style and learning from other colleagues
Hearing about others experiences
The interactive nature of the session. The way we could move to the slide we wanted to.
The insights and the way that they were presented. Very good, open, friendly presenters. Willing to expand on areas that people asked about. Very interactive and stimulating.
Clear and engaging content that was immediately relevant and thought-provoking. Presentation balanced context and “take-aways” very evenly. The session seemed to fly past, and I ended up with a lot of notes to go back over.
Everyone was participating in the conversation.
The way that the chat had equal value with the slides. I thought asking a question and then getting people to put responses in the chat worked really well.
Seeing old friends and learning how much data there is to support our real experience of working from home
The survey findings presented
I thought being able to look through the presentation at our own speed was amazing. Really useful. I thought the speakers were great, really clear and excellent insights from the data. Also loved how open this was – wouldn’t have thought this kind of event would go beyond the institution doing the research (I know that’s the point haha) but just a great event to be able to attend and ask questions.
The very active chat
Excellent presentation in a novel format
It was good to hear that other HEIs have had the same experiences.
This was a very valuable and interesting insight into responses to the recent situation, and a very comprehensive set of data presented.
Great work by the presenters and very interesting data. Wish we had more time to delve into the data detail
It was really informative – lots of information – but also a bit of fun too. Really good that the slides are available post session too so that we can look at our leisure.
The sharing of the data and invitation to join, share questions and share data really underlined the collaborative value of ucisa. Currently ucisa is my best value network, and the webinars are always worth attending.
This is definitely a “top ucisa sessions to attend” (I’ve attended lots!) and I will be recommending it, and the conference next week, to colleagues.
Time went really quickly (i.e. it didn’t drag). The atmosphere was very light and friendly. Felt very positive to be in a meeting led by all women (rare in my experience at UoM ITS).
a two hour session is quite good with time before to check in work and then get on with the day – thank you so much!
More events like this please!
Really engaging!

A recording is available from UCISA if you are a member, or Lilinaz and I are available to deliver it again if you would like to invite us.