During lockdown it quickly became clear that some of the staff who work in ISG could not do their roles from home. In some cases this was true for whole teams, e.g. our staff who manage the library shelves, our staff who work on drop-in help desks, our staff who manage buildings and facilities, our staff who fit AV and IT equipment into teaching rooms.
One of the advantages of working in a large, converged service ( IT, learning technology, libraries, museums and collections together) is that we could take a holistic view and look across the organisation to find new opportunities. In some areas there was new, urgent demand for people. I was in no doubt that we needed many more people to help with the huge shift to hybrid teaching for semester 1, so it simply made sense to re-skill in house. We have converted shelving staff to subtitlers and facilities staff to access facilitators.
Within ISG we decided to find flexibility in our workforce and offer opportunities to re-skill to our staff. In the Learning, Teaching and Web Directorate, we offered 3 roles for colleagues to move into: Learn VLE Assistant, Web Editor and Subtitling Assistant. We offered a job description, training and support for working from home.
The result of this re-organisation and reskilling is that we have 7 colleagues from other parts of ISG now working to do accessibility audits in our VLE, another 7 adding subtitles to public facing video content and one new web editor. All of these roles need a high attention to care and detail, accessibility and accuracy. All of these roles bring with them a chance to learn new digital skills and to understand the challenges our diverse groups of students face when they use our online content and the solutions which facilitate better access.
Thank you to the teams in LTW who welcomed and trained our colleagues into these new roles, and thank you to those colleagues who were so willing to add new skills to their repertoire. When the lock down ends and we go back into our libraries and teaching rooms, I am sure we will feel the benefit.
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.
Delighted that we won 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.
This blog is another about some more institutionally provided technologies. #openblog19
At University of Edinburgh we know that our people are our strength. This is a place of knowledge creation, and a place of knowledge sharing. It is a place in which we invest in the digital skills of our staff and students. It is true in any job that there is a need for learning and development and when you work in the digital sector the need is even more urgent in a rapidly changing environment.
As Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services I am lucky to have responsibility not only for the institutionally provided learning technology, but also the institutionally provided digital skills training provision. You know me, I like to have a strategy or framework for such things.
Our strategic investment in Lynda.com has been a huge success. The digital skills training team are excellent and they have invested the kind of time and effort in managing this service for the institution which has brought us return in terms of take-up and impact which puts us at the forefront of the UK HE sector.
All staff and student at University of Edinburgh are offered an account with Lynda.com. We’ve seen a steady increase over 3 years to the current 15,000 users.
I am particularly pleased that uptake is highest in Information Services Group (87%), and is consistent across all three Colleges (23-28%). The service is most popular amongst taught postgraduate students with 47% having a Lynda.com account. Between 1,200 and 1,800 hours of video is viewed every month. ,
The vast majority of courses viewed are on digital skills topics. Programming courses are consistently the most popular (Programming Fundamentals, HTML, Python) but data skills courses have recently gained popularity.
Lynda.com has been heavily and proactively promoted by ISG. We appointed a dedicated Service Manager to get out and about around the university to encourage engagement. We have reached out to users across the campuses and to our 3,000 distance learning students. We use Lynda.com to to develop staff and student skills, to supplement curricular teaching and to increase operational efficiencies for the other training providers on campus.
Developing student skills
Providing extra-curricular learning to enhance the student experience, aligned to frameworks such as the Digital Skills Framework or the Researcher Development Framework.
Developing employability skills, both digital and business, through the Careers Service.
Increasing visibility of achievements by downloading course completion certificates or posting them to LinkedIn profiles.
Developing staff skills
Developing the digital skills and capabilities of our workforce, enabling staff to play an active role in digital transformation and keep up to date with new technology.
Helping managers to support staff development and reviews by signposting a broad range of Lynda.com courses for their staff through the Digital Skills Framework.
Encouraging career development by mapping courses to professional development frameworks.
Enhancing curricular teaching by supporting digital classroom technologies.
Use by training providers
Enabling training providers to offer resources across a wider subject range and provide an alternative to classroom-based delivery. Examples include the Effective Digital Communication (Web Publishing) course which was re-designed from a face-to-face to online course using Lynda.com materials; HR’s business skills toolkits (launched in summer 2018) and ISG’s digital skills toolkits (to launch in April 2019) both of which signpost Lynda.com resources.
Including links to Lynda.com resources in pre- and post- course emails on Digital Skills Programme courses for preparation and further skills development.
Providing immediate help to those on waiting lists
Assisting in software and systems rollouts including Office 365, Windows 10 and lecture recording.
Reducing spend on external training courses by offering a just-in-time online alternative.
Lynda.com will be upgraded to LinkedIn Learning in summer 2019 and will bring benefits of a more personalised learning experience, more courses, the facility to include University of Edinburgh resources, the power of worldwide member profiles for trend and market analysis, and improved learning analytics. As an organisation we can add our own learning content to LinkedIn such as guides, videos and links to University web pages and online resources for viewing by an internal audience. There is a new reporting dashboard providing more learning analytics and data on learner behaviour, including aggregated trend data from across the globe.
There’s no doubt that the resource has been a good investment in the staff and student experience at University of Edinburgh.
“This type of resource is critical in underpinning a number of projects, both Digital Skills and Capabilities and Digital Scholarship.”
“I wanted to let you know how helpful I have found Lynda.com. I have not used SPSS for 20 years! So going back to do statistics has been daunting. The SPSS videos have been brilliant and helped enormously with my thesis.”
“This year, in Residence Life as part of my annual training program, I made all 220 of our Resident Assistants sign up to Lynda and throughout the course of the year have assigned them all courses to complete; time management and developing your professional image as well as encouraging Line Managers to set annual review objectives relating to courses which has all been incredibly positive.”
I have a long relationship with speech-to-text technology.
In 1998 we had a room in Student Services where students would go to talk to Dragon Dictate. The more they spoke, the less it understood, the more they would laugh, the more it would transcribe their laughing. It was a very popular service as a ‘pick-me-up’.
By 2012 I managed a large collection of contemporary educational oratory -the Oxford Podcasts collection, which includes some fine examples of inspirational rhetoric and clearly communicated ideas. Our interactions with voice recognition software, however, had been frustrating. During the project the team explored various solutions including both automatic translation and human transcription services. We began a project to explore how to best represent the content of our podcasts in text. By focusing on keywords generated by recognition software we were be able to give a searchable interface to users before they listen and represent the amount of relevant content within. Blog post April 2012
Some people have asked if we are going to have subtitles on our lecture recordings as default. The answer is no, but we are exploring creative ideas on how we could do it.
My experience is that automated speech to text although improving, is not fully there yet. And costs remain prohibitive, so transcripts or subtitles are not automated in the lecture recording system. Specialist language in lectures remain tricky and are often subtitled badly. It is also difficult for the transcription to discern whether the lecturer is quoting, reading, muttering or joking. The kind of ‘performance’ and content some of our colleagues deliver would need a highly nuanced translation. All UK HE struggles with this challenge and colleagues are anxious that their speech is not misrepresented by a poor quality subtitle which might be more confusing for learners. Blog post August 2017
The overarching objective of our new project for 2019 is to establish and evaluate an initial pilot Subtitles for Media service and make recommendations for future sustainability and resourcing.
The initial focus will be on designing and piloting a service which can scale and improve the usability/ accessibility of our front facing media content through the addition of subtitles and transcripts as appropriate. The service design will aim to include all users and will be primarily concerned with publicly available University media content hosted on Media Hopper Create, EdWeb or one of the University’s Virtual Learning Environments.
The project will have three strands:
Testing the feasibility, viability and cost of a student-led transcription service
A 3-month pilot will allow us to understand what is needed to establish a sustainable programme of work to support our ambitions based on the outcomes of this pilot phase. The students will gain paid work experience and new digital skills. There is already a thriving market in the local region of students who offer proofreading, transcription, audio typing, subtitling and translation services in their spare time and from home. We will work with academic colleagues in the School of Sociology (Dr Karen Gregory) to research the emerging ‘gig economy’ to understand how best to establish an ethical model for piecework in this area.
Research and Development
The project will strike a balance between evaluating and costing a model for a growing service, and Research and Development to ensure we keep sight of technology trends in this area and understand how they might influence service development over time. We will run a series of events to engage with other organisations and our own technology leaders in this field to ensure we understand and are able to take advantage of technology developments and opportunities for funding or partnerships.
Improving digital skills and promoting culture change
We aim to move towards a culture where subtitling our media is standard practice at the point of creation, not only because of changing legislation but because it promotes engagement with our media for the benefit of our whole audience, and at the same time promotes digital literacy and digital skills.
In order to achieve all this, the Subtitling for Media Project will:-
Establish and evaluate an initial pilot service of a student-led subtitling service
Develop a costed plan for an ongoing service including support and service management
Make recommendations for future sustainability and resourcing
Ensure students are trained to deliver a pilot subtitling service
Create an ethical model for student piecework in this area
Deliver training and guidance to enable best practice in media creation
Develop an understanding of current and future technology to support accessibility and ensure our developing service remains in broad alignment
As part of the ISG vision for the University of Edinburgh we aim to support all digital educators in making informed choices about their digital materials. Through this project to establish a new service, staff and students will develop digital skills in creating and using accessible digital materials. Benefits will include supporting staff and students to understand how and why to make learning materials accessible, and development of digital skills in support of wide scale engagement with digital education. The Subtitling for Media Project will establish and evaluate an initial pilot service and make recommendations for future sustainability and resourcing.