data driven

Just some of the roles we recruit to.

The Data Driven Innovation initiative programme led by the University of Edinburgh aims to expand on our existing expertise to grow data based projects, products, and services in the public, private, and third sectors. To do so in a way which is socially inclusive, we must tackle both implicit and explicit biases within the technology communities and industries, and data structures themselves. What can be done to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh?

Diversity programmes and women in STEM programmes are notoriously hard to implement and evaluate and there needs to be a strong management commitment to make a shift happen. The work we do in ISG to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh has been planned, sustained, reported and evaluated and is an example of best practice amongst the sector- the Scottish IT sector and in the Universities IT sector.

Information Services Group  aims to be a best practice employer with regard to tackling the gender gap in technology, information science and data science. We are one of the largest employers in the city and we compete with the big banks and famous tech companies in the city to attract and retain female staff.


The more diversity we can find in our teams, the more we can be sure that our services and products meet the needs of the diverse student and staff in the university and the more creativity we can support the more innovation and transformation we can deliver. It is vital that we position ourselves in the market as an inclusive employer.


We have delivered on a number of workplace initiatives. Over the last 3 years we have:

  • Improved all our EDI reporting across the organisation.
  • Produced a SMART plan of strategic management actions for 1,3 and 5 years to get us to a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
  • Addressed gender bias in promotion, reward, review processes.
  • Demystified the experience, criteria and competencies for management roles.

Based on decisions that generated by data, our senior managers chose to implement policies that support and benefit all staff. This allows us to have the most inclusive workplace we possibly can.  In 3 years the profile of women across grades has changed significantly with significantly more women now in senior roles at Grades 9 ( up 30%) and 10 ( up 300%) and our recruitment efforts routinely attract a more diverse set of candidates than ever before.

We have worked with third sector organisations such as Fathers Network Scotland, Equate Scotland, Age Scotland, Girl Geek Scotland and Wikimedia Scotland to create new opportunities for staff to engage with practical actions and the celebration of role models and mentors.


We have transformed our ‘working for ISG’ web pages to include information and case studies about the flexible working and family –friendly aspects of our workplace. We have also:

  • Created an employer profile on Linked in and keep it updated with a steady flow of stories about what it is like to work here.
  • Highlighted and showcased on Linkedin some of the women in ISG and their varied digital roles, backgrounds and careers.
  • Engaged with our own history, libraries and collections to discover, highlight and celebrate diversity from our past.
  • Tackled directly women’s lack of engagement and representation with major technology areas such as AV tech, flying drones, media production, creating open source software, and software development for edtech.


When talking about the lack of women in digital technology, the focus tends to be on engaging the interest of girls and supporting women to become qualified in relevant areas. Without change within the industry itself, however, the women who pursue digital technology qualifications will still not remain in or be attracted to the sector. So we think about ways in which the digital technology industry can create a more inclusive and attractive work culture where women aspire to work and remain across their careers. Our activities include:

  • Creating an inclusive environment with a highly visible equality and diversity training programme – Called the Playfair Steps designed to highlight all the ways in which our workplace is experienced.
  • We take an intersectional approach to recognise that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors.
  • We have developed a range of activities exploring how a person’s age, disability status, race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and parent status contribute towards their specific experiences.
  • Between October 2016 and February 2018, we surpassed our short-term goal and that 60% of staff have participated in some form of equality and diversity training.
  • High profile events and support for Ada Lovelace day, International Women’s day and naming our training rooms  and systems after inspirational women.


We are a big recruiter, with a high turnover and a lot of innovation, so we need to attract and retain talent. It became clear that our recruitment effort and language needed to be overhauled. This is still ongoing, with some parts of ISG engaging more than others. We have run several training sessions for recruiting managers on Checking Language, Overcoming Recruitment Bias, and widening Recruitment Searches. We also directly support the female student pipeline by hosting 20-30 student interns every year and offering female-only placements (Scottish Witches Data intern) and women returner-ships ( Data skills training and development) – we do this by working with Equate Scotland


Because of course, we want to retain in our organisation, or in the sector as many women as we can, we invest in training and development including, personal development for women. We have a number of visible examples of Positive Action Measures which include:

  • Coaching and mentoring for women
  • Events and discussion on topics which raise awareness of gender issues in the workplace such as gendered communications, inclusive language, shared parental leave and menopause.
  • Continuing Professional Development opportunities (such as editathons and data skills training) targeted at women.

We are very aware that we have a large group pf women who have already chosen to work in Information services, who could develop skills more specifically in data science, so we have been running ‘Developing Your Data Skills’ Programme for staff and students at University of Edinburgh this year. The programme has been very successful and we have now had more than 100 learners complete.

We have designed the course to fit with participants’ busy working lives and thought specifically about how to attract mid-career learners to upskill in this area.


This initiative at Edinburgh has already won a number of awards and recognition in the sector.

  • In 2018 we won Universities HR Excellence Award for Equality and Diversity and were finalists in the ‘Employer of the Year’ category in the Scotland Women in Technology Awards and ‘Diversity Project of The Year’ in the Women in IT Excellence Awards.
  • Our case study was highlighted in the Equality Challenge Unit’s briefing on ‘Intersectional Approaches to Equality and Diversity and
  • we were awarded the Scottish Union of Supported Employment (SUSE) Inclusive Workplace award in 2017.
  • Our student pipeline -women students into IT roles as summer interns providing paid work and industry experience winning the Student Employer of the Year (SEOTY) award in 2018.

The work we do  in ISG to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh has been planned, sustained, reported and evaluated and is an example of best practice. This is what can be done to support gender equality in data science at the University of Edinburgh.

supporting student employability

A picture of some of our interns. Picture not taken by me. Original at:

Offering students work experience in our STEM organisation is a no-brainer for me.

We get up to date ideas and creative thinking from them. They get real work experience and digital skills from us. The digital sector in Scotland is booming and students are hungry for work experience which will help them to succeed once they graduate. If you are not studying a STEM discipline the digital sector may be hard to enter, we need a pipeline for students to find their way into well paid jobs and new roles.

This is the fourth year I have hosted interns in LTW and the numbers keep getting bigger.  This is credit to all the teams and managers who establish a range of really interesting summer projects and to the reputation we are gaining as a great place to work.

Our interns come to us via a variety of routes. We are happy to host 24 new student interns this summer (11 via Employ.ed, 10 as VLE support, 2 Napier Placements, 1 Equate Careerwise) , plus 2 returners from last year (Anirudh and Samuel ), 2 who have been with us for 3 years ( Dominique and Vicki), 6 student trainers and 10 media subtitling assistants.

While they are with us the interns write blogs and as they leave we ask them to reflect on what they have learned. Each team and project they are involved with benefits from their input. And yes, we pay them.

Read interns’ blogs:

leading institutions to change

I am delighted that we are able to host the Echo360 conference in Edinburgh next week.

I’ll be speaking at the conference about how important it is for leading institutions to change.

The implementation of lecture recording at University of Edinburgh was an innovative project to equip up to 400 teaching spaces and automate the recording of lectures at scale. The University has targeted an improved student digital experience by investing several million pounds in a state-of-the-art lecture recording system that has covered all the campus lecture rooms. Our approach is based on being widely flexible and enabling choices of formats and pedagogy.

The demand for lecture recording at University of Edinburgh was designed to in response to student feedback. The ability to watch lectures again as an aid to revision is immensely popular with our students already, video and audio recordings of lectures supplement the rich set of online resources that already exist to support learning.

The project was managed by a well co-ordinated team and delivered to a high quality specification, on time and in budget. The team demonstrated an outstanding commitment to delivering a high quality service for the institution. Over the last 12 months the team have successfully handled complex academic development, policy implementation and technical challenges with considerable skill and sensitivity. All throughout this time they retained a core focus on supporting an excellent student experience, championing accessibility and inclusive practices.  This work has opened up critical conversations that go beyond technology to discuss the value of lectures, the value of recordings and why we teach the way we teach and has been accompanied by evaluative research into the impact and value at institutional level.

The team has been particularly effective at incorporating research findings to continually improve the service and respond to the needs of users. As an organisation we learned a huge amount from the process: academic insight, student satisfaction, new research, communications strategies, technical know-how and a field-tested working model of how to complete a project of this size and ambition.

The Lecture Recording Project at Edinburgh University is one of the largest upgrades of AV technology in teaching rooms to take place in an educational institution anywhere in the world and it was done across an historical and rapidly expanding estate.  We now have the capability to record close to 100% of lecture activity within the institution. We   offer a consistent experience for all students and support our diverse student community. Many of our students have complex lives and are balancing study alongside caring responsibilities, or the need to work to fund their studies. Recordings of lectures can lessen anxiety about keeping on top of study, and provide a safety net when life circumstances prevail.

The team delivered transformational aspects of lecture recording by:

  • Supporting a programme of evaluation and engagement activities which has opened up critical conversations about the role of the lecture and why we teach the way we do.
  • Running a pro-active communications campaign around opting-out of lecture recording, to be sensitive to concerns raise by academic colleagues.
  • Working with course organisers and professional staff to develop highly usable scheduling software based on timetabling information, to automate the recording of lectures at scale.
  • Equipping 400 teaching spaces, including our innovative camera and recording solution for capturing chalkboards in Maths and Physics.
  • Improving the use of microphones in lecture theatres and increasing awareness of accessibility and inclusion issues.
  • Integrating the new lecture recording service with the University’s VLEs offering safe and secure access to recordings.
  • Training 40 student helpers across the campuses during the first week of teaching in each Semester to provide immediate advice on use of the recording equipment.
  • Offering comprehensive training programme to support academic colleagues to prepare teaching materials for lecture recording.
  • Delivering a system designed to be as user-friendly as possible and to have minimal impact on the presentation and delivery of lectures.

There are many proven benefits to making recordings of lectures available including supporting students for whom English is not a first language and ensuring that our face to face lectures are available in an alternative format for students who require it. Not having to take notes at speed allows students to focus more on what is being said and use valuable contact time to ask questions, knowing that notes can be reviewed and improved later.

This work at Edinburgh has had a wider impact across the sector, we have involved commercial partners, external advisors, learning technologists, academic developers AV specialists, trainers, researchers and staff and students from across all disciplines to deliver one of the most successful large scale roll-outs of learning technology across a large institution with a challenging physical estate.

2018/19 Academic Year: Recordings made/scheduled: 24,000, Student views (year to date): 528,000. Hours watched (year to date): 527,000

We gratefully acknowledge all the colleagues and practitioners in other institutions who have shared their practice with us. Much of our project has been built upon the lessons learned by others. We believe that by considering the widest possible range of technical, academic, policy, and social factors around lecture recording, we have achieved a model for lecture recording, and indeed other learning technology implementations that others could copy. A large part of our ethos has been to work as openly as we possibly can, sharing and reflecting on our practice. With that in mind we have tried to make as many of our guides, training materials, research, evaluation, processes and planning as possible available openly online for the benefit of the wider sector.

developing data skills for all

You’ll be aware that we have been running ‘Developing Your Data Skills’ Programme for staff and students at University of Edinburgh this year. The programme has been very successful and we have now had more than 100 learners complete. Since our staff live and work in Edinburgh and the region, I think this can be seen as part of the investment we are making in retraining and upskilling in data skills for the city. We have evaluated the programme and gathered feedback, so we will be able to report on the ISG KPIs.

We have designed the course to fit with participants’ busy working lives and thought specifically about how to attract mid-career learners to upskill in this area.

Participants have enjoyed the programme:
‘There are many data courses out there. Having a course which is specifically designed and at the correct level was time-saving and encouraged me to finish. I loved doing the course and I’m keen to get started on the next level. I would not have been able to do this without the course format, nor the tutor with her helpful, caring approach.’.

There have been many more comments from participants that echo these sentiments along with a real thirst from learners to go on to study all 3 levels of the Programme.

We will be having a ‘graduation ‘ celebration for all the staff and students who completed the programme on Monday 1st July. If you would like to come along to hear more about the successes and how they plan to apply their new and improved data science skills, please let me know by reply and I will send you a diary invitation.

and it’s only Wednesday

This is turning into a very nice week for me. Not only is the weather splendid and the outlook unobstructed, but I have also received/achieved two nice awards.

The first is Fellowship of CILIP, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, the second is a student research excellence award.  These are linked, because becoming a student again after about a million years has required me to keep a research diary and reflect on the skills I am developing.

I’ve had to learn to use Endnote and to use library catalogues properly and stick to a referencing style. I’ve even had to manage my research data. Returning ( and struggling) again to these research and information management skills caused me to think about my own skills development over the years and the CILIP portfolio offered a good structure for pause and reflect.

For those of you who like open practice and enjoy reading such things, I’ve put the outline of my CILIP portfolio here on my blog. The actual full thing has to be built within the CILIP VLE. Don’t start me on how frustrating it is trying to learn a new VLE. I shall reflect.

Doing research into management and leadership  has been challenging too.  At the Business School Research Conference today a panel of academic colleagues mused on how  it is that so little of their research is ever taken up, or even read, by leaders and managers  in practice. I pointed out that some of us were here doing research which was useful, relevant and likely to have an impact simply by virtue of our questions being questions we had been sufficiently motivated to research on top of doing a full time job.  There was some nodding.

Anyway, its only Wednesday. The rest of the week includes menopause and massive financial planning, so it could go either way.


herald success

Delighted that we are finalists in the 2019 Herald Higher Education Awards.

This nomination for innovative use of technology focuses of the development of digital literacy skills at University of Edinburgh through our partnership with Wikimedia UK. Project achievements have gone far beyond what might have been expected and has shown impact and reach which is unique and well worth celebrating. This work involves staff and student across the entire university and reaches out to members of the public, local community and researchers as active participants in this new area of reputation, reach, digital and data literacy and knowledge sharing.

Wikipedia is simply one of the largest websites in the world. It is visited by tens of millions of people every day as a source of information. The quality and reliability of the information in Wikipedia relies on volunteers putting information there to be discovered and used. As the site grows, so the demand for contributions grows and the need for that community of editors to be one of knowledgeable, critical experts in their field increases. We have transformed 600 students, 400 staff and 250members of the public from being passive readers and consumers of Wikipedia information to being active, engaged contributors. The result of this is that our community is more engaged with knowledge creation online and readers all over the world benefit from our research, teaching and collections.

At every turn the mention of Wikipedia has been met with scepticism. Nonetheless the digital skill team have persisted in helping all of us see how contributing to sharing information can bring benefits for the university in terms of discovery, education, equality, outreach and excellence. We have run more than 50 skills training events each year. The skills needed by those contributing to Wikipedia are the same student digital literacy skills which a degree at University of Edinburgh is designed to develop: Those of critical reading, summarising, paraphrasing, original writing, referencing, citing, publishing, data handing, reviewing and understanding your audience.  In this era of fake news it has never been more important that our students understand how information is published, shared, fact-checked and contested online.

This work towards getting all students and staff in the university to be active contributors is unique in the sector.  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.  Images released from our archive collections and added to Wikipedia have now been viewed 28,755,106 times.  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.

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:

Curriculum development: We have been working with academic colleagues to embed data literacy tasks into the curriculum. Courses which now include a Wikipedia assignment include: World Christianity MSc, Translation Studies MSc, History MSc (Online), Global Health MSc, Digital Sociology MSc, Data Science for Design MSc, Language Teaching MSc, Psychology in Action MSc, Digital Education MSc, Public Health MSc and Reproductive Biology Honours.  Each of these activities bring benefits to the students who learn new skills and have immediate public impact. For example:

  • Global Health students add 180-200 words to a Global Health related article.  31 student editors added 7,500 words to 18 articles. Their edits to the Wikipedia page on obesity are viewed on average 3,000 times per day.
  • A Reproductive Biology student’s new article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer includes 60 references and diagrams and has been viewed over 60,000 times since September 2016.
  • MSc in Translation Studies students translate 4,000 words on a topic of their own choosing. 30 students each year translate articles from English to Arabic, Chinese, French, Greek, Turkish, Japanese and from Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Norwegian into English. They wrote with a potential global audience in mind and Wikipedia editors all over the world scrutinise their work.

Community engagement, equality and inclusion: We work with students to target areas of inclusion. The Wellcome Kings and UnCoverEd groups have added biographies of notable LGBT+ and BAME individuals missing from Wikipedia and we organise high profile events for Black History Month, Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day. An event focusing on cultural representations of mental health during Student Wellbeing Week 2018 saw 33 articles updated to ensure that when students and the public search for information about mental health the information they find will be of a higher equality than it was before.

Wikipedia is one of the world’s largest information and knowledge sharing websites, and University of Edinburgh is now the university with the highest level of contribution and engagement to that endeavour. We hope that this project can be seen as a model for other universities to follow as a way to share the knowledge we create in universities via the most public and open of platforms.

And we hope we will win. Obv.


a culture of inclusive thinking

Graphic design from ISG BITS magazine

We recently ran an excellent session on using inclusive language in recruitment. We spent some time thinking about the positive things we can say about the inclusive culture in ISG. One of the aspects of an inclusive culture can be seen in the extent to which we think about and talk about how our colleagues experience the workplace differently.

With regard to organisational culture and openness to diversity  Olsen and Martins offer a theory-driven framework for evaluating managerial and organisational approaches to diversity management (Olsen & Martins, 2012). They propose that organisational approach is particularly important to study because it is within the control of the organisation more explicitly than external society-level factors.  The Olsen model aims to explore the ‘how’ and ‘why’ which underlie diversity management approaches in organisations and to link these to organisational outcomes. ‘Openness to diversity’ is defined as putting an emphasis on pro-diversity beliefs and attitudes and refers specifically to  group members’ positive attention to dissimilarities (Lauring & Villesèche, 2017). Diversity programmes in the workplace are socially situated and the organisation provides the specific environmental context in which such initiatives will success, thrive or fail to a lesser or greater extent.

For me, as senior leader, this means that whenever there is a workplace issue, even if it is not a top priority for me personally I try to think about how it might impact other people and specifically whether there are any groups of colleagues who might be disproportionately affected, and whether there are voices which are unlikely to be heard. In the workplace we are all part of different groups. Those may be identity groups (e.g. age, gender, race,  class, ethnicity) and/or organisational groups (job function or place within organisational hierarchy). While managers are an organisational group and members of the management group may be perceived as representative of that group by their staff, their own membership of one or more identity group will also influence how there are perceived or behave (Kossek & Zonia, 1993).

One of the workplace issues which particularly exercises the ISG staff who work in Argyle House is the heat. Colleagues want to see data, and they want to see action.  When I think about the excessive heat in the office I know that this will disproportionately affect colleagues who are struggling to regulate their own body temperature, such as women who are experiencing hot flushes as the result of menopause. I also know that the voices of those experiencing menopause are often unheard and easily dismissed.  Menopause is still a ‘taboo’ topic for many and we don’t gather good data to know what the impact really is on our organisation. A smart employer with an inclusive culture would attend to this. Women of a certain age are a large group in ISG.

Menopause is an intersectional issue of gender and age. For many women it comes as a double or triple whammy, coming as it does just at the time when your children are teenagers, your parents are elderly and you have just made it back from a career break.  In an ‘aged hierarchical’ organisation like ours it may also come just at the time when you are consolidating leadership and management responsibilities.  Three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work (CIPD, 2019) For these reasons it is a topic of interest for employers, unions and politicians. If you haven’t thought about menopause in the workplace before, or what it means to your practice as an inclusive manager I recommend a quick google search on ‘menopause in the workplace’.

Here’s the blurb for our upcoming PlayFair Steps event at University of Edinburgh Information Services. It’s part of the ISG ‘going through the change’ theme 😉

PlayFair Steps: Overheating and Stressed in the Workplace?

We know from our very first PlayFair Steps event that age is an important issue that affects employees at work in a variety of ways. Experiencing the menopause while working can be a double whammy bringing stress, sleepless nights and hot flushes which make it difficult to perform at your best and thrive at work.  Recognising and understanding the causes of stress in the workplace and thinking about how we can best support our colleagues makes sense for leaders, managers, recruiters and customer facing service teams. All are welcome at this session to discuss and engage with how ISG can be a better place to work for all. This session is the starting point for ensuring ISG promotes a culture that is open to employees talking about health issues.

***Remember that all IS staff are welcome to any PlayFair Steps event, even if you do not know much about the topic under discussion. You are encouraged to use this space to ask questions and have meaningful discussions. As this working group meeting will be over the lunch hour, do feel free to bring your lunch.***
Booking link:

Olsen, Jesse E., & Martins, Luis L. (2012). Understanding organizational diversity management programs: A theoretical framework and directions for future research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(8), 1168-1187. doi:10.1002/job.1792

Lauring, Jakob, & Villesèche, Florence. (2017). The Performance of Gender Diverse Teams: What Is the Relation between Diversity Attitudes and Degree of Diversity? European Management Review, 0(0). doi:10.1111/emre.12164

Kossek, Ellen, & Zonia, Susan. (1993). Assessing Diversity Climate: A Field Study of Reactions to Employer Efforts to Promote Diversity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14(1), 61-81.


looking back

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

To aid reflection sometimes it is good to look backwards. Here’s what we said in 2016 that we would do by 2019.

And I’m pleased to say, we have.

Learning technology developments for 2016-19

Background, Context and Strategic Alignment

  1. ISG work with partners from across the University to provide an on-campus student experience where technology enhances and optimises learning and teaching, and to establish and embed a framework for the development of digital literacy. Collectively, these measures ensure we meet student and staff expectations for world class learning. Our services make a key contribution to the University strategic objective of Leadership in Learning, ensuring that students’ learning and progress are supported by the latest in learning technologies and that we are at the forefront of digital education. We provide opportunities for students and staff to develop the digital skills needed for work, study and teaching.
  2. ISG work aligns with the Digital Transformation development theme within the University’s Strategic Plan 2016, by supporting and enabling every educator to be a digital educator and every student to be a digital student. We aim where possible to provide and use systems which integrate with each other to provide a consistent student experience and useful data upon which to make decisions about learning and teaching planning.
  3. The ISG planning round includes Learning, Teaching and Student Experience as one of a number of programmes that enable more strategic use of information technology. In 2016/17 a total of £1.5 million was awarded to this programme. The bulk of the investment has been used to deliver significant improvements across the AV estate.
  4. ISG aim to align learning technology projects and services with school and college learning and teaching plans where possible. Representatives from our learning and teaching teams are available to attend school learning and teaching committees on request and are able to provide updates on any of our work areas. We invite colleagues to attend monthly Learning Technology Showcase & Networking Events to keep up to date and feed into discussions about new services.
  5. In support of the work of the University’s Space Strategy Group, ISG enable the delivery of a centralised model for the management and maintenance of the University’s “general” teaching space. We target a single support model with a dedicated helpline and technical support staff. We provide regular preventative maintenance and project managed rolling replacement programmes. This enhances the ability to roll out strategic, large scale system changes, such as lecture recording. ISG learning technology work supports the delivery of the University Learning and Teaching Strategy. In particular there are a number of areas in which ISG has identified significant projects and key performance indicators for achievement.
Learning and Teaching Strategy areas ISG activities
2.5         Committing to the creative use of digital technologies in our teaching and assessment where appropriate whether online, blended or on-campus ISG provide virtual learning environment platforms (VLEs) , computer aided assessments, in-classroom technologies, media asset management, media production, learning design, web design, interactive content, maker spaces, Wikimedia projects and learning technology consultancy services.

In 2016/17 critical new demands in such areas as automated assessment, eExams, feedback & assessment and student analytics are high priority.

We aim to build communities of practice which encourage innovation and diffuse good ideas across the University. We do this by organizing showcase events, training sessions, facilitated networks, conferences and staff development sessions, and by producing and publishing case studies of innovative teaching practice on our platforms and social media.


2.6         Utilising our world-class libraries and collections in innovative and research-led ways to enrich our curriculum

ISG support the provision of online reading lists and integration of learning technology tools with Library systems to ensure that resources can be easily added to VLEs and playlists.

ISG host a growing collection of born-digital diverse teaching and learning resources for sharing and re-use and we aim to support colleagues in being open content literate about the lisencing and sharing of these online.


4.2         Building on and growing the University’s portfolio of online learning programmes and using them to innovate with new approaches to learning and teaching

In support of on campus and distance learners we are on target to have 30% of the applications available on the Open Labs PCs available online

By 2020 we aim to have 90% of all courses using one of two centrally supported VLEs; 70% of fully online courses use learning design model for excellence and 70% of courses producing or using open content or media.

5.6         Reviewing and enhancing the way that our physical and digital estates support high quality learning and teaching and interaction between staff and students During 2016-17 we  prepared for implementation of University lecture recording service from 2017-20. This will bring significant enhancements for students to support revision, study and those most in need of the opportunity to listen again or revisit lecture content.

We continue to invest in the student digital experience in line with recommendations following the Headscape review and those under discussion via the Service Excellence Programme.

ISG manage 400 teaching spaces across the university. We aim to have 100% of general teaching spaces digital enabled and centrally supported and 100% of general teaching space enabled for lecture recording by 2020.

5.7         Exploring whether learning analytics systems can help Personal Tutors provide effective academic support and enhance learning ISG deliver pilot projects (2016-18) to understand where learning analytics approaches could be useful within the University.  We also include data exchange, retention and management plans for all our new systems 
6.7         Pursuing the aspiration that every educator is a digital educator, and that all teaching staff are supported in the appropriate use of the full breadth of learning technologies


ISG provide staff development programmes and training for professional development for academic staff and professional accreditation for learning technology support staff.

All staff and students are supported to develop their skills and know how to be lifelong learners for more skills in the future. Digital skills provision aims to improve the student experience. We provide a rich set of existing online resources for flexible learning. We strive for service excellence: our trainers are trained, our programme is extensive and up to date, our rooms are modern, our delivery is flexible and evaluated. We aim for digital skills training uptake in Schools and planning units of at least 75%

Projects for Blended Learning, Digital Skills, Online Learning, Teaching Spaces, Assessment and Feedback

VLE consolidation for UG and ODL


  1. ISG leverage opportunities to promote the strategic market advantage in being excellent in digital education, distance learning, MOOCs and online CPD, with the aim of developing a sustainable capability in digital education. We work with partners from across the University to establish a framework for digital literacy and the on-campus student experience to be one where technology enhances and optimises learning and teaching, to ensure we meet student and staff expectations for world class learning.
  2. In support of growth in ODL and a consistent student digital experience, ISG is undertaking a significant VLE consolidation and resilience project, working with academic programme teams to consolidate a number of the bespoke VLEs that exist within the institution into the two centrally support platforms, Learn and Moodle. This project will addresses specific improvements in the student experience in key areas such as Undergraduate Medicine, as well as ensuring much of the more general investment being made in VLE resilience, robustness, user experience, learning analytics and other areas are available to all our student community.
  3.  Simplification in this area should also deliver some efficiency benefits for administration and support of academic programmes in the medium to long term. This work is proceeding with care and through a close working relationship with academic programme teams to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on existing students as part of this transition. Several online distance programmes in particular also have mature processes which inform the process. Consolidating all teaching activities into the two central VLEs will further increase requirements for robustness, resilience and support of these platforms. Options are being scoped for improved resilience, maintenance and availability and funding in future years is likely to be required.
  4. Course teams from across the University have been migrating their course content and establishing new, well designed online spaces with enhanced usability for students. After 1.5 years of investment in VLE Consolidation activities, we have reduced the number of VLEs from 15 to 8, and are targeting a reduction down to 2 by the end of 2020.
  5. The University is currently distinctive amongst peers in not having guidelines for VLE minimum standards of use. During 2017/18 ISG will begin projects to explore how the student experience can be enhanced by consistent support offered via tools in the VLEs.
  6. In order to deliver a consistent student experience we are on target to have 30% of the applications available on the Open Labs PCs made available online through the new ‘Apps to User Devices’ service.

Lecture Recording

  1. The largest learning and teaching project outlined in the ISG plan is to provide a fit for purpose centrally supported lecture recording service and significantly scale up the use of lecture recording across the institution. In additional to the £3.25m Lecture Recording capital spend approved by the University Court in September 2016, ISG will spend a further £0.2m annually in 2016-19 in support of the programme. This system will deliver a new modern and comprehensive service in all 400 University lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
  2. The scope of the Lecture Recording programme is significant and complex, with many stakeholders, and consultations to date around policy development have highlighted the strength of appetite for information and reassurance amongst colleagues.

Teaching Spaces

  1. Delivering a high quality digital-enabled teaching space estate requires significant continual investment in technology, support and innovation. The AV and IT equipment within our teaching spaces is in constant use due to the increased usage of electronic delivery alongside ever increasing room utilisation. A continued recurrent investment is required to continue the replacement programme and ensure the estate is supported & maintained for the staff and student experience.
  2. A responsive support model and regular maintenance is essential to keep disruptions to a minimum. This will provide the necessary on-site support, spares and license costs to ensure quick classroom support and facilitate regular maintenance of what is anticipated to be a heavy use building. This is in keeping with our strategy to centralise as much support as possible to avoid the inconsistencies in service delivery that undermine student and staff experience.
  3. Delivering a high quality digital teaching space estate requires significant continual investment in technology, support and innovation. In 2016/17 £1m is being invested in improving our teaching spaces. The timescales for the replacement of audio visual and IT systems across our campuses vary depending on system size and complexity, but an average system is at its best within its first four years. To ensure a high quality user experience and to make the most of new innovative technology it is a recognised standard that these systems should be upgraded every six years. The age and quality of these systems vary greatly across our campuses due to historic funding restrictions. Over time this has built up a technology rich, highly utilised teaching estate with an overall equipment replacement value of ~£8m.
  4. The 2016/17 investment has enabled ISG to take ownership of an additional 103 teaching spaces in 2016, we can now provide management and support of all 316 general teaching spaces across the George Square, the King’s Building’s and Holyrood campuses. This centralisation project enables us to address a lack of investment in some spaces previously owned by Schools and standardise the level of technical support and maintenance provided. The 2016/17 funding for an additional 2.0 FTE of technical support staff required to support the additional spaces has been met by the three Colleges.

Digital Skills

  1. ISG provide an extensive range of digital skills development opportunities for all staff and students. The programme offers over 300 classroom-based events every year, complimented by an extensive catalogue of online learning resources. Events are designed by the Digital Skills & Training team in collaboration with subject experts, and delivered by a pool of over 40 trainers from across ISG.
  2. We offer tailored events designed in collaboration with Schools to meet specific requirements. Topic-focused programmes for internal and external audiences ( e.g. code sprints and hackathons, Wikipedia editathons, 23 Things for Digital Knowledge, Future Teacher Programme, Using Online Assessment, DIY Film School, Using Open Educational Resources, Writing for the Web); online videos and guides developed in-house and hosted on Media Hopper and Learn, and an extensive video library provided by
  3. In 2015/16 ISG purchased a three-year campus subscription to, an extensive library of high quality video courses in digital, technology, creative and business skills. The investment in has transformed the way we offer digital skills training and hugely increased our capacity for digital skills development, continuously developing the digital culture within the University. It has enabled us to offer flexible learning to both campus and distance students in a broader and deeper range of digital skills subjects than we previously had the capacity and facilities to provide.
  4. The digital skills for staff and students programme was rolled out during June 2016 and is fast becoming a huge success. By the end of January 2017 we had 5,000 unique active users across the University and are confident of reaching our initial target of 10,000 digital skills courses taken within 2016/17 well ahead of time.
  5. ISG have invested in enabling single sign-on for all staff and students and developing management information reporting using our Business Intelligence reporting tools. This will allow data from to be combined with information in our existing corporate systems to show at relatively granular levels of detail what courses are being used and by which areas of the organisation. Information can also be combined with existing skills training attendance information and it will be possible to benchmark engagement across Schools and Support Groups and deploy resources accordingly. Lynda is also integrated with DiscoverEd.
  6. We evaluate our ISG digital skills programme using attendee questionnaires after each event, acting on feedback to make improvements and expanding our programme. The usage metrics available from enable us to identify popular areas for development amongst our users and identify gaps for future development and places where face to face training can really add value. The UK HE User Group provides a platform for universities to influence the product roadmap, and as a result EndNote and Research Methods courses have recently been released.
  7. ISG Digital Skills training team also support major projects, managing and delivering high-volume rollout training and online resources underpinning the introduction of new technologies to the University. These have recently included the introduction of the new Media Hopper and Lecture Recording services, as well as comprehensive training and support for the rollout of online marking within CAHSS.
  8. ISG have invested three new training rooms opened in October 2016 in Argyle House, offering flexible space for technical training. Two rooms feature desks with dual displays, allowing the user to view both their computer feed and the tutor’s feed simultaneously. The third room is a collaborative space, with four group tables with flip down multi-use work stations, allowing for the use of the built-in computers, the user’s own mobile device or a clear desk space for writing. In all rooms, users are able to share their work by wirelessly projecting their mobile devices and desktop computers onto any of the large display screens.
  9. A maker space in the Main Library opened in spring 2017, providing staff and students with a place to learn through experience with resources to work on innovative ideas and projects related to making, whilst supporting personal development and improving creative and technical skills. A variety of tools such as Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, as well as 3D printers and scanners are offered, with workshops for students and staff interested in making. Branded as ‘uCreate Studio’, this is a multi-functional space that can be used for in-curriculum teaching as well as extra-curricular activities. Over the next few months we will be installing new technologies in the space to broaden the range of activities that can take place in there. We also continue to invest in the Media Hopper Service which provides colleagues and students with a platform and tools for creative, shared use of media assets.
  10. ISG is also promoting the development and recognition of professional skills for key learning technology staff across the institution. All the ISG Digital Skills team members now have training certification, awarded by the British Institute for Learning and Development. We are supporting a first cohort of 20 learning technology staff in achieving their Certified Member of the Association of Learning Technologists (CMALT) award in 2017.

Tools for Assessment and Feedback

  1. Online assessment and feedback has been an area of strategic importance for some years and ISG continue to invest in this area. £0.035m has been allocated to support key requirements in the College of Science and Engineering, including the pilot of an online essay-based examination system (ExamOnline) in Biological Sciences and the integration of the open-source ‘STACK’ assessment tool with the Learn VLE in the School of Maths. Integration of STACK has the potential to save the School £0.014m per year in license fees, and save students money as they will no longer have to buy online content along with their core textbooks. ISG has also invested in additional staffing capacity to support the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences rollout of fully online marking and feedback to students, the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine for the rollout of the Speedwell assessment system in Veterinary Medicine, and the procurement of a new assessment solution for Undergraduate Medicine.

Enablers – underpinning the strategic funding and projects

  1. In our current planning within ISG, we have concentrated on the next three years of our 10 year programme, specifically on adjustments to items already agreed in the 2016/19 planning round and on emerging new areas for investment. We have focused on those items that are critical to the University in order to achieve its strategic goals.
  1. The University’s strategic target of 10,000 paid distance learners will not be achieved within next 5 years if we continue with the current approach. Our distance learning is not scalable and margins are thin or difficult to determine. Significant investment in distance learning at scale will leverage the geographic scalability of the existing external MOOC platforms to deliver formal paid accredited courses. Continued recurrent investment is also needed to ensure the quality of our AV in teaching spaces across the estate.


  1. Work across the Learning, Teaching and Student Experience area is very broad and there are a number of governance mechanisms in place to guide ISG work:
  • Teaching space priorities are identified through a combination of consultation with Schools, consideration of hardware age and the amount of support calls received. Annual plans are reported to the Estates Committee and the Space Strategy Group.
  • Large strategic projects and services typically have their own boards for governance. For example, the Lecture Recording project is a complex programme containing multiple strands of project work. A project board is in place for the procurement phase and a programme board is being established to govern implementation and rollout.
  • Progress across all projects is reported monthly to the IS Senior Management Team with processes in place to scrutinise projects flagged as having encountered challenges.
  • Progress for specific projects is also reported to Senate Committees as appropriate, including Learning and Teaching Committee and Knowledge Strategy Committee, either as part of larger ISG strategic project updates, or standalone papers.
  1. Several of the areas of work in learning technology practice require the creation of new enabling policies. To provide additional capacity within the required timescale, ISG has employed an Educational Technology Policy Officer at 0.5FTE to work in partnership with colleagues in Academic Services.

teaching matters

Cool graphic designed by our cool LTW graphic design service

Teaching Matters is the University of Edinburgh’s website, blog and podcast about learning and teaching, for sharing ideas and approaches to teaching, and for showcasing our successes, including academic  and professional colleagues who are leading the way in delivering brilliant teaching.

ISG’s LTW staff are regular contributors. Here is a selection of our writings:

Networking around technology and teaching – assessment and feedback