Tag: CPD

Building a new learning platform for University of Edinburgh

So many short courses
So many short courses

It’s not often you get to start from scratch putting together a new learning platform for a University. Most learning technologists and digital leaders have experienced the procurement of a replacement VLE, or a migration or upgrade.  It is rare that we get to work with partners to design from the start, thinking about the new relationships you can make with your learners if you do it right.

Bringing courses from across the University together on a single platform with a consistent learner experience will require both technical and business changes to processes, training and best practice. The Short Courses Platform will be delivered through a phased rollout where we develop capability, test with early adopters and then scale the platform and service. 

The plan is being finalised and key dates will be published  when they are available. For now we are:

  • Holding workshops throughout March 2024 to co-design the new processes and specifications with the steering groups.
  • Establishing platform based roles/permissions, SSO and configuration to support the initial early adopter courses.
  • Working with a small set of agreed early adopter courses and tutors, from the Centre for Open Learning (COL), to develop support and guidance and trial the initial course templates and learner experience for courses running from Summer ’24. 
  • Developing the University’s new short course platform web catalogue including the course search and course description pages. 
  • Collating the short course inventory to understand when courses may move to the Short Courses Platform.  

The introduction of the platform, and supporting service, is the latest step in the University’s Digital Estate Strategy and aims to provide accessible and appropriate teaching and learning experiences for non-credited short courses. It is the start of a new relationship with Edinburgh learners who are not matriculated ‘students’ and who bring a new set of expectations.

Matriculated learners on campus and online will continue to learn via our Learn Ultra VLE, and staff development courses will be delivered on our corporate L&D platform. MOOC learners will still find us on EdX, Futurelearn and Coursera. But this new platform will provide a new home of CPD, PPD, Exec Ed, microcredentials, Data upskilling, lifelong learning, workplace learning, B2B and adult learning.

The Vision for Change 

The vision for the Short Courses Platform is that it will:  

  • Encourage wider access to, and continued learning with, the University through consistent learner experiences and the ability to promote further study.
  • Increase diversity in our university learning community through increased visibility of courses and the expansion of adult education.
  • Improve management information, strategic overview and reporting on non-matriculated learners and non-credited courses.
  • Streamline the learner journey, directing them to the systems and services which are licenced and resourced specifically for non-matriculated, short-course learners.
  • Enable process and system efficiencies by replacing end of life systems and delivering a platform designed specifically for non-credited learners.

This project aligns with Strategy 2030 (Opens in a new window). Key areas from the strategy that this project supports:

  • Social and Civic Responsibility – widening participation in higher education and supporting inclusion.
  • Teaching and Learning – encourage a culture of lifelong learning, greater focus on focuses on experience, employability. 
  • People – bring together people from a wide range of backgrounds and experience, both close to home and across the globe.
  • Research – as a research institution, many of the University’s short courses extend the impact of research taking place by bringing outputs and findings direct to learners across the world.

In January 2024, we started working with Instructure, and their delivery partners Drieam, to design and configure the system alongside establishing the service processes, migrating courses and drafting guidance and training.

Steering Groups with representatives from across the University will support the Board and guide the implementation. Visit Project Governance for more information and details of the Board and Steering Group members. 


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.

CPD workshops

Delivering leadership workshops for continuing professional development networks is an important contribution to developing our community.  These opportunities for knowledge dissemination and industry engagement offer routes to integrate critical analysis with practical, meaningful links from the research findings of information professionals.

This year I have ensured that the work we are doing in researching higher education has been disseminated via the ALT and UCISA CPD programme.

I have  delivered CPD webinars for ALT and UCISA membership.  In each case I am drawing upon new data and evidence gathered from staff, students and professional service colleagues in higher education. In each case I am celebrating and showcasing research done by the women with whom I work.

The workshops have been:

Diversity and Digital Leadership’- based on my research
Digital leadership is an area of leadership studies which is gaining popularity as organisations seek to ensure that their businesses are best positioned to thrive in an increasingly digital world. Digital leaders are often at the forefront of change, leading departments which are inclusive and empowering. People and culture are key to ensuring that staff are treated well and feel an ongoing loyalty to their organisation, but there are risks for digital leaders who push for change on too many fronts. This session is an opportunity to hear some of the latest research on building inclusive workplaces and consider the recommendations for understanding data about your people.

The challenges of attracting staff to skills training  with Jenni Houston
Why is it so challenging to attract colleagues to training in digital skills? How can we create a learning culture within our universities and colleges? This workshop will explore some of the successes and challenges of offering a comprehensive digital capabilities programme in a large institution and suggest possible strategies for overcoming the Dunning–Kruger effect which causes people to overestimate their ability.

Who is getting hurt online? with Vicki Madden
Online harassment is very much part of our students’ experience. Ethnic minority and female students experience the more harmful forms of online harassment in comparison to their peers. Disabled students and those from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups are more likely to be harassed on institutional platforms than their peers. What is your institution doing about this? Although most institutions have support services in place for students and staff who experience incidents on campus or amongst people who can be identified, Student Services and Wellbeing staff may be unaware of the nature of cyberstalking, doxing, online shaming and revenge porn. This workshop will explore some of the risks associated with offering services dealing with social media behaviours.

‘Uncovering the real value of academic engagement’ with Lorraine Spalding
What are teachers’ hopes and concerns in using technology with their students? How can academic engagement enhance our major educational technology projects?  Hear more about how the Learning, Teaching and Web Directorate at the University of Edinburgh, is engaging academic colleagues in a strategic way to implement large institutional changes such as the rollout of lecture recording and a VLE service improvement programme.  This presentation will also reference useful resources for supporting engagement and effective communications practices, such as the ucisa communications toolkit.

‘Over a year of hybrid working: What the data tells us (about women)’ with Lilinaz Rouhani
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 adapts 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 will be a presentation of findings, and a discussion of how the findings are being used to develop policies. The session will be interesting as it is evidence-based, using data over two years. In some instances, it will be 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 will be interesting for the audience how these variables affected home working.

the risky business of equality

One of the striking findings in my research was that there was a mismatch between the answers from the ‘digital leaders’ and the answers from the ‘HR professionals’.  Everyone thought there  definately were risks, but the HR professional thought there were none.  If this is true more widely it would go some way to explain why HR professionals are surprised not to be able to get senior managers involved in championing issues. They have not considered the risks to us in doing so.

“In order to further understand the factors which may act as contextual cues for digital leaders in their decisions to champion equality and diversity in the workplace participants were asked to what extent they feel there may be associated risks for those who do take on champion roles. In the interviews participants were making sense of their context and reflecting on how they have seen what has happened in their own experience and those around them.   

‘Critical sense making’ describes the ways in which  individuals make sense of their own local environments  while acknowledging power relations in the broader societal context (Mills, 2010). Part of sense-making is judging the level of risk which might follow specific course of action in your context (Weick, 1995).

Individuals make judgements to appraise threats and risks as part of their own decision making. These judgments are based on perceived or real risks and these risks are plausible because they resonate closely with one’s own experience, or the known experience of others nearby. In their previous answers respondents had clearly identified a range of business drivers which exist in their organisations. They had also identified a number of cultural and organisational elements, which they understood as creating a climate in which equality, and diversity was supported by organisational policy.

Participants all appeared to agree with a general perception that equality and diversity issues were larger than the individual, and understood the role of workplace culture in which dignity, respect and fair pay is valued. Given these findings it might be expected that they would perceive championing these issues as relatively low risk. 

All respondents but one however, were adamant there were associated risks for some people in getting involved with equality and diversity issues in the workplace. The response that there was no perceived risk, or that there should be no risk, came from the interviewee who is the senior HR professional. This mis-match in expectation was analysed further and respondents answers were analysed to identify themes around risk. These include:  risks to oneself (personal risks of image, reputation, how one might be perceived by others personally), professional risks (how one might risk or lose effectiveness in a professional role), risks to the business, and risks to the wider endeavour of equality itself.  The prominence of the discussion of risk in the data makes it worth discussing these findings in detail.”

I have continued to test this finding informally with further groups.  I have been lucky to be able to get gigs doing CPD workshops and conference workshops in February and March.

The first one I did was for senior IT professionals in FE and HE.  I asked the question ‘Do you think there are risks associated for some people in championing equality and diversity issues in the workplace’? I asked for responses in chat : Yes, no, maybe, not sure, some ….. etc

Not everyone chose to answer obviously, but

Yes: Maybe was 3:1   No noes.

I asked the same question again in a session at the Advance HE conference. The session was recorded so I plan to look at the chat if it was recorded too, but this was a group of HR professionals and I saw at least one ‘No, not any more’

At The ALT ( learning technologists) session

YES: maybe was 5:2