In the long dark days of the Scottish winter when its tempting to hibernate it’s always nice to have a few things lined up to look forward to in the ‘Spring’. Here are some of the dates I already have in my diary. These are events and conferences at which I’ll be giving presentations or keynotes about a range of topics.
Over the the last few years I have cut down on my international travel for work, but still very much enjoyed the range of events at which I get invited to speak.
If any of these topics interest you, it would be great to see you there.
Strategic leadership of open and online learning
31st March- Keynote: Online Learning Summit ‘Growing your University online: Routes to student success’.
18th June- Keynote at University of South Wales Learning & Teaching conference. Thank you to Catherine for the invitation.
The future of libraries and learning technology
27-28th May- Keynote: CONUL Conference 2020 ‘Imagining the future and how we get there’. http://conference.conul.ie Thank you to Laura for the invitation.
Wikimedia in the curriculum
I’ll be presenting with Ewan about our work embedding wikimedia in the curriculum and LILAC and OER20 and we’ll be launching our book of case studies of wikimedia in UK HE reflecting 5 years of ongoing work. At OER20 Lorna and I will be reviewing 5 years of our Open Educational Resources (OER) service at University of Edinburgh.
17-19 March- Equality Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2020: ‘Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: creative thinking in tackling inequality’ I’ll be presenting with Dominique about the experiences of making changes in our organisation and joining a panel about the the ‘taboo’ subject of menopause. https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/programmes-events/conferences/EDIConf20
I am also planning to complete and defend a massive piece of writing which is currently a bit of a monster, but i’m hoping that preparing these presentations will help me to hone my ideas.
We are delighted to win the Scottish HR Network Magazine Attraction & Resourcing Award of the Year 2019
The University of Edinburgh is committed to providing employment opportunities for Edinburgh students. The student workers in our organisation transform the culture, bring new viewpoints and diversity to our teams and provide unique student perspectives on our services to help us improve. Increasing the number of students who work in our organisation is part of our strategic ambitions and a vital part of enabling the University effectively to meet future challenges.
For the last 4 years we have had specific programmes in place to recruit and support students into our data, digital and IT jobs as interns over the summer and as part time workers throughout the year. Students work in our organisation in a wide range of roles including: as web developers, IT trainers, media producers, project support officers, help desk staff, graphic designers, AV fit-out technicians, data analysts and learning technologists. We aim to develop a strong and vibrant community of young staff who are supported, valued, developed and engaged.
Students are also the main consumers of our services. By employing them to work on projects that affect them we benefit from a rich source of productivity and innovation to help shape and improve these services.
The work on this initiative is ongoing and growing. Team managers are finding opportunities to attract and work with students across more and more projects. They say:
“It started with a single summer internship analysing some data from our MOOC courses. Since then we’ve had summer interns developing media migration tools, capturing case studies on how media is used, assessing chat bots and where they could fit into our work, and helping with the roll out of lecture recording. This year we also had a team of around 30 students working with us over the start of term to support lecture recording use in large teaching spaces.”
“Personally I loved the experience of working with students again, and in a brand new area of IT support. I find their enthusiasm for the role and energy is infectious and I’m always looking for ways to challenge them and help them grow in the role”’
The work we have done at Edinburgh University is easily transferable to other institutions and there is a sector imperative now to build and grow talent in organisations. The competition for new graduates is fierce and the investment in students now yields return for the future. Students bring a new diversity to our workforce and contribute to a change in workplace culture enhancing our ways of working across intergenerational teams.
Our CIO has set a target within the Strategic Plan to employ at least 500 students over the course of each academic year.
Evidence of a particular recruitment project that has impacted positively on the organisation including evidence of the planning, delivery, evaluation and return on investment
University of Edinburgh HR colleagues have planned and delivered more than 300 employment opportunities so far this year as part of this project. Because we are responsible for all the digital services across libraries, IT, learning technologies and study spaces in the university we are in a perfect position to offer flexible, 21st Century skills employment to our students.
The impact on our organisation can be seen several ways:
The experience we are gaining in developing our scheme in response to feedback from our student workers has led to improvement in practice. We have a staff network for interns and managers to share experiences and learning.
Our projects and services improve as a result of the skills, creativity, input and ideas brought by the students.
Our understanding of our users is improved by the perspective that our students bring to the workplace. Their outside perspective is useful in terms of challenging and broadening our thinking.
Our student workers are now a growing group of ‘Alumni’ who have worked with us and may promote or choose our organisation in the future.
Some of our student workers are now returners who return to work with us each year in different roles.
Demonstrate the positive outcomes in planning for future skills and abilities being assessed and delivered
Positive outcomes can be seen in the work being done to generate a sustainable pipeline of talent. Giving individuals the platform they need to excel is critical to our long-term success and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. Providing work experience and supporting employability empowers our students, which we hope we may benefit from in the future.
We support a positive employment experience for our student workers and encourage them to create LinkedIn profiles to evidence their skills and to engage with their peers through promotional videos and blogging about their work experience. Every student who works with us should leave able to describe an experience of working in a professional environment, on a meaningful project, with real responsibilities, and have a good non-academic referee to add to their CV.
Students can also complete an ‘Edinburgh Award’ – a wrap-around reflective learning framework that helps students to articulate their work experience. We can measure the impact of our student employment initiatives through the ways in which the students reflect on the value of their experience.
The cohort have also become a loyal group of workers who identify us as their employer of choice.
Evidence that the recruitment & selection process contributes to overall effectiveness of the talent strategy
The University is one of the largest local employers, covering multiple sectors and job roles. The University of Edinburgh has a Youth and Student Employment Strategy 2017–2021, which presents our whole-institution approach to employability skills.
The University is committed to long-term goals in creating, promoting and delivering opportunities that enhance the employability of our students. The University recognises the shortage of highly skilled data, digital and IT workers and is therefore safeguarding for the future and building a sustainable talent pipeline, which addresses current and future skills requirements. In addition, this gives our students the platform they need to excel, which is critical to our long-term success, our competitive advantage and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. This is particularly important for sectors with national skills shortages such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and this is an opportunity to ‘grow our own’ in these areas.
The National Student Survey (NSS) and Edinburgh Student Experience Survey (ESES) results have highlighted areas for improvement in recent years. Developing more student employment opportunities is one way to improve the student experience and expands the employment prospects of our graduates.
Evidence of the organisations commitment to diversity and assessment of skills to ensure organisation performance and culture fit
Universities are well placed to employ students in flexible ways, but often we assume that these will be in fairly low skill jobs in our shops, bars and residences. In exploring digital, library and IT opportunities we have opened up a variety of roles and reaped the benefit of a vibrant new group of staff with new ideas for our organisation. Our students are amongst the best and brightest in the world. We are lucky to have a pool of such talent and creativity available to us.
As an employer within a university we are afforded unique opportunities to engage our student body, including delivering learning technologies used in curriculum, improving their study spaces and access to research.
Students are sensitive to image and want to work for organisations that wear their ‘inclusivity-heart’ on their sleeve, so we have promoted a cultures of equality and diversity, as part of our change agenda, to ensure that our reps on campus reflect these values.
By empowering our students they become champions and ambassadors for our work, which brings business benefits as we strive to roll-out new technologies and the cultural changes associated with these different ways of working.
Evidence of effective interview techniques and the role of induction offered to new employees
To identify and attract the best candidates and provide a positive experience for both interviewers and interviewees, ISG supports and promotes best practice in our recruitment processes. We think about how we can:
Be targeted: writing tailored questions for different audiences is time-consuming, but really effective.
Be distinctive: with so many opportunities out there, be clear about what makes your organisation different.
Be aware: of your own non-verbal communication and unconscious bias.
We want each student to get the most out of their employment experience with us, so as part of our induction process, we have collaborated with our Careers Service and HR colleagues to create a ‘digital student guidebook’.
To help line managers and staff support these groups, we’ve developed ISG ‘student experience’ resources, as well as collated a list of useful tools and platforms to enhance professional development and support students balancing employment alongside their studies.
In addition, we run ‘career insight’ sessions, to get staff talking about their career/role (what a typical ‘day in the life of’ looks like, how they got here etc.) with the objective that it will provide new employees with an understanding of the diverse range of careers available and create a space for them to ask questions.
We began the PlayFair Steps four years ago in ISG to bring a culture change and raise awareness of E&D issues. We’ve been lucky to have an impressive selection of academic colleagues and researchers come to give talks and seminars about age, race, disability, sexuality, religion, class and policy issues in the workplace.
Diversity efforts which are systemic and structural in organisations take time. Long-term culture change requires a significant commitment of resources and leadership. We need to conduct regular employee attitude surveys about E&D to understand how our culture is changing. Or not.
Organisational-level change take time to materialize, given the risks of setbacks and variable commitment over time. Very few organisations actually publish cultural audit survey data, most keep the data internal for fear of negative publicity or other adverse outcomes.
We surveyed in 2015 and have just done so again in 2019.
This year 76.1% of you agree that our workplace is inclusive, compared to 40.1% in 2015. Those of you who have worked here 3 – 5 years are most likely to remember the launch of PlayFair Steps and the E&D change theme; 83% of you now agree that ISG inclusive.
This is a really positive change. Please continue to get involved and give us feedback.
‘ It’s a great way of meeting new people, or simply feeling like you are part of a workplace where there are like-minded people.’
‘The events are consistently thoughtfully organised and insightful.They cover a range of topics, most of which I have limited experience withbut interest me a great deal”,
‘it is really important as a colleague and a manager to take time out to listen to others’ perspectives in the workplace’.
We are going to do more with our data too. This week we are interviewing for a new post: Data and Equality Officer.
Data and Equality Officer
“At University of Edinburgh we want to use our data in inclusive ways. We are looking for a Data and Equality Officer to join our IT central teams.
You will help us to ensure that we have the data we need to understand the experience of our diverse staff and students in the University. You will have a passion for data, good data handling skills and knowledge of gender equality, diversity and inclusion issues.
This a new role, created as part of our digital transformation and our commitment to ensuring that our IT services and projects challenge the structural biases and assumptions of the past. ”
It’s a strong field, so I hope we will get someone to fill Dominique’s fabulous shoes.
Dominique and Ewan will be there showcasing their work.
This event brings together educators and researchers working on gender and sexuality studies from across the University of Edinburgh. We are delighted to celebrate the second anniversary of genderED, the University’s interdisciplinary hub for gender and sexuality studies. This reception will include an interactive showcase of research, teaching and institutional initiatives, inviting attendees to learn about gender and sexuality studies work across a wide range of disciplines. genderED’s work and directories span the whole University, and the showcase will give a snapshot of exciting and varied ongoing work.
As part of our activities to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day this year, and to mark the occasion of the completion of a major upgrade project in the James Clerk Maxwell Building data centre, we are going to name the data centre after Mary Somerville, so it’ll be the MSDC at the JCMB.
I’ve written about Mary before, on this blog and on Wikipedia. While it is exciting to think of Ada Lovelace as a pioneer, she was not actually a crusader, nor a feminist actor on any political stage. If you are looking for a a female scientist and activist to celebrate, Mary Somerville is your woman. Mary Somerville played a key role in defining and categorizing the physical sciences, was one of the best known scientists of the nineteenth century and a passionate reformer. She was the author of best-selling books on science and a highly respected mathematician and astronomer. She was a very clever woman and was for several years Ada’s tutor and mentor. A staunch supporter of women’s suffrage and a great advocate of women’s education in 1868 Mary was the first person to sign J.S Mill’s petition to Parliament in support of women’s suffrage. I’m very pleased that we are able to name our data centre after her.
Mary Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872), was a Scottish writer and polymath. She is the person for whom the word scientist was invented. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was admitted as one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society. She campaigned for votes and education for women.She wrote a number of influential and interdisciplinary science books and when she died in 1872 The Morning Post declared “Whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science.”[James Clerk Maxwell himself later commented: “The unity shadowed forth in Mrs Somerville’s book is therefore a unity of the method of science, not a unity of the process of nature”.
“Mathematics are the natural bent of my mind”
and at aged 90:
“Age has not abated my zeal for the emancipation of my sex from the unreasonable prejudice too prevalent in Great Britain against a literary and scientific education for women”
There’s a very good book called ‘Mary Somerville: Science , Illumination and the Female Mind‘ by Kathryn Neeley which describes some of the challenges in categorising Mary because her life and work crossed boundaries and assumed roles. She was a devoted wife and mother as well as eminent scientist. She was sociable with a wide network of connections which included eminent mathematicians and scientists of the day. While formal science education was already closed to women, science itself was not yet so formalised as it is today and many of the discoveries of the day were by ‘amateur’ scientists working privately and sharing their findings socially.
When we write the biographies of women scientist for their wikipedia entries, often we find ourselves telling their story as ‘translator’, ‘helpmate’, ‘illustrator’, ‘junior partner’ in scientific work of their father, husband or brother. This was not the case for Mary. Neither was she writing for female audiences to engage other women in science or for children or teachers. She had a privileged position in society and was at the heart of her scientific community. Amongst her community of friends were Caroline and William Herschel, Mary and Charles Lyell ( whose notebooks have just been bought by University of Edinburgh), Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace and Annabella Byron.
Racial and ethnic diversity is a challenge for the Scottish HE IT sector. In Scotland in 2017 95.6 percent of the population identified as white. The next highest ethnic group was Asians with 2.6 percent.
‘Getting race equality right in the UK is worth £24bn per year to the UK economy -1.3%of GDP. Employers with more diverse teams also have 35% better financial results.There are persistent unemployment rate gaps, with some ethnic minority groups experiencing employment rates which are twice as high as their white counterparts. In 2016/1only 1.7%of Modern Apprentices in Scotland identified as BME’
In ISG we take an intersectional approach to addressing the multiple factors, gender, race, religion, class, sexuality, and disabilities which shape the experience of our staff. Ethnicity is also a complex category. I had to google ‘do Jews count as minority ethnic?’ and there’s a whole discipline around collecting data.
Here are some of the things we have done:
We have employed an intern (Dominique ) who is an expert in gender and race issues and how those combine to reinforce inequality. She has advised us on how to ensure that our gender equality initiatives also include race, age and class considerations.
In our recruitment, we have changed the language and images we use to communicate what it is like to work in ISG. We have also changed where we advertise, making more use of LinkedIn and the new Equate Scotland jobs board and the university careers service. As a result our new workers, and particularly our student interns appear to be a much more diverse group than the longer standing staff. Our interns are a pipeline to bringing new diversity into digital jobs.
We make sure that the images we use in BITs magazine and in other ISG promotional materials reflect the diversity of our staff and discourage the use of ‘stock’ images to do so. We have also changed the images we use to promote use of technology and online learning, ensuring that the images on our websites reflect the demographics we know we have in our community. We are exploring how we can make more use of positive action images collections such as JopWell
‘It is generally accepted that for public services to be effective and relevant for all communities in Scotland, the public sector workforce should reflect the community it serves. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that by 2025 its own workforce will reflect at every level the minority ethnic share of the population. According to the 2017 staff diversity data published in the Scottish Government’s Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report, BME staff currently comprise 1.6 % of the civil service in Scotland, an increase of 0.2 % since 2013.
The position set out in the CRER report of March 2014 is that just 0.8% of staff in all Scotland’s Local Authorities are from BME backgrounds despite making up 4% of the general population in Scotland. In Glasgow City Council the proportion of the workforce from a BME background is less than 2% although the BME population is 12%.
Given that the Public Sector employs 20.7% of the workforce in Scotland, accelerating action to tackle the diversity deficit in the Scottish Public Sector and meet the Scottish Government’s equality outcomes is, I suggest, a matter of some urgency.’
People of colour make up 9.7 per cent of the total staff numbers at University of Edinburgh and suffer structural disadvantage in pay as we can see by looking at the gender pay gap.
BME staff are more likely to report a culture of bullying, racial stereotyping and microaggression (Advance HE/Fook et al, 2019; Rollock 2019). We have held staff development sessions on:
We take care not to organise all-staff events on major high days and holidays
Staff, mainly in User Services Directorate, attend cultural awareness training
We take part in projects across libraries and collections and across the sector to explore the implications of decolonialising our metadata and descriptions
We will name the next of our training rooms after David Pitt during Black HIstory Month 2019
We are meeting with Advance HE to explore how University of Edinburgh can be part of their race equality project:
‘Racial inequality is a significant issue in UK universities. It is evidenced by the BME attainment gap, the BME staff pay gap, and the lack of representation and promotion of BME staff . A number of UK universities have made strategic and public commitments to advancing race equality, but the sector has found consistent progress hard to come by.
Advance HE/ECU has been actively working with the sector in Scotland on race equality since 2013 to promote conversations and initiatives on race equality with universities and colleges. In 2016, the Race Equality Charter was launched, and the Scottish Race Equality Network (SREN) first met. This project aims to support a group of Scottish universities to make significant and meaningful progress in developing strategic approaches to race equality, and in particular develop effective initiatives to support the recruitment and development of Black/BME staff. Improved staff representation, whilst being a key longer term outcome itself, is also a necessary condition for significant improvement in the Black/BME attainment gap.’
There seem to be some Scotland-specific challenge, Advance HE report that:
Scottish manifestations of race inequality in HE are under-explored. Intersectionality and differences between BME ethnicities are underexplored in the national sector literature, and may be different, and/or particularly relevant to the Scottish context. Positive action is under-utilised to drive strategic and institutional change, partly due to institutional conservatism, lack of expertise and lack of leadership.
The teams in LTW’s Learning Spaces Technology spend a lot of time thinking about how best to provide high quality AV services to a diverse university community across a very mixed estate. We aim to ensure that our technology is universal and accessible to all and that the benefit we provide to the university is useful in enabling accessible and inclusive teaching.
We support 400 rooms and 30,000 hours of teaching every semester. We pride ourselves in providing high microphone quality across the University Estate, hence why we use high-tier quality Sennheiser models. We upgrade and improve our services on a rolling basis. Whenever Sennheiser produce a smaller or lighter model or a new technology solution we check it out. The current model that we provide in teaching rooms is easily worn on a lanyard ( as modelled). This makes it an ideal, gender neutral solution as it doesn’t require a belt or pockets and works fine with any neckline or dress.
It has to be said, we’ve tried out some smaller, wireless mics around the place, but the quality just wasn’t good enough for the serivce we provide for learning and teaching but you can look forward to ‘flexible beamforming‘ from Sennheiser. We’ll be trialling this in the new spaces on campus and in Edinburgh Futures Institute building when it is ready.
What with the new digital accessibility legislation coming into place, I am gathering together a list of things/projects/initiatives and services we offer in Learning Teaching and Web Services to support accessibility online. We have a support service in ISG which provides practical testing and advice on meeting the requirements of legislation. At a strategic level we take a broad view on accessibility and inclusive learning.
We will be presenting the University of Edinburgh experience as an institutional case study at UCISA.
A working knowledge of accessibility is a key knowledge set for learning technologists and web developers and I’m very proud of how well we do in this area. I am often asked to support colleagues when they are writing up their CMALT portfolios and describing the policy environment in which they work, it is important that we reflect on what is quite a nuanced area of work.
I wrote my initial CMALT application in 2008 about the policies which shaped the context of my work. At that time those were: The new HEA UKPSF framework, the University of Leeds strategy and vision towards 2015, the HEFCE e-learning strategy, SENDA legislation on accessibility, copyright and emerging Creative Commons and CETIS -led technology standards. Back in 2004 I employed one of the first institutional web accessibility officers at University of Leeds. The second edition of our book about designing accessible learning is due out any day now…
University of Edinburgh has a huge corporate web estate so, as a central team, we are taking what we believe to be the most pragmatic and effective way forward toward improving accessibility, and thus reducing overall risk.
University Website, MyEd, Web Search and our content support widgets have all accessibility statements published reflecting on our capabilities and access to support and report inaccessible content etc. What really helped was the use of EdGEL consistently across our services.
We will proceed with our ‘Future Web Services’ project, in conjunction with a migration to Drupal 8. We will take a stringent approach to accessibility throughout design, development and testing, considering both the end users’ experience and accessibility needs. We will proceed with a content audit with a view to decommissioning and archiving portions of the estate as appropriate and rationalising the remainder, redeveloping content as needed and with accessibility in mind. We will target agree key user journeys giving us a prioritised backlog for more in-depth accessibility assessment. Our web teams will develop, adopt and communicate policy, standards and guidelines around accessibility as part of our continuing development of our digital governance.
We attend every year, the UK webmasters conference the event typically covers a wide range of topics or relevance to this sector including digital transformation, website/digital governance, university strategy, digital strategy, UX, accessibility, design, development, user-journeys and tasks, team management, leadership, content, measurement and analytics, change management, student recruitment and retention, tools, technologies and communications.
Accessible VLEs and platforms
Our VLE and media platform teams have been battling to get our accessibility statements and roadmaps straight. Karen’s team have been working with colleagues across the sector to gather best practice guidance for Learn. Some of our platforms are cloud hosted and vendor supplied which makes things challenging.
Accessible course design of our VLE
Our EDE teams offer advice on how to deliver inclusive and accessible technology enhanced learning. We are currently working with six Schools and a Deanery to implement a new site structures in Learn. The new site structure is being rolled out to Schools with the support of a team of student interns during the summer break to create consistent courses within Learn in preparation for the start of the 19/20 academic year. The aim is to create a new site structure that will provide a consistent student experience by making course specific materials easy to find as well as supporting staff in delivering rich, online courses. It will ensure courses are more accessible and inclusive and the terminology used relating to learning and teaching is more consistent. We are finding a huge range of lefthand menu options being used, as many as 400+ in one school.
Digital accessibility is a particularly strong example of the universal benefits of inclusive practice. Students enjoy more usable and flexible learning resources, listening to lecture recordings or podcasts while traveling on the bus, or using heading styles to go straight to the important part of the course handbook. An inclusive approach allows all students to learn in ways that suit them best. If we can respond effectively to these regulations, all students will benefit from a better experience.
Accessible content in the VLE
The student interns are working over the summer to complete accessibility audits of course areas with a view to reporting back to heads of schools. They are sampling course materials and producing accessibility scores. This work is gaining a lot of interest from VLE support teams in other Universities. If you are interested in talking to the project team or looking to find out more information regarding the project contact the Learn Foundations team and we are presenting about it at ALT Conference in early September.
The University provides a selection of assistive software to staff and students. One such piece of software, and one which we are excited about is called SensusAccess . We believe this is a really useful piece of software for staff and students using the VLE. SensusAccess allows you to convert electronic documents into alternative versions of the document – such as audio, e-book or digital Braille formats. It even tackles less accessible documents such as image-only PDFs and PowerPoint files. It is quick and easy to use, and free to students and staff of the University. You upload the document you wish to be converted to another format to the software and it is then emailed to you once the conversion is complete. You can then upload this version of the document to the VLE. Students can also use it themselves to create a version of the document which suits them best.
Accessibility and equality compliance: Links to relevant documentation
Written resources are available in alternative format on request, as indicated on each resource. Resources are all available online.
Slides and visuals used on our learning events are designed with accessibility in mind.
Training rooms in Argyle House are installed with hearing loops and have a height-adjustable desk in each room.
All videos developed in house can be viewed at different sizes and have captions.
An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) has been carried out on Lynda.com.
Promoting universal design
We have specialists in our LTW teams who promote and train in universal design, whether that is design of digital materials, web sites, communications, rooms, spaces, signage or AV kit. Neil’s team have led the development of the new look for MyEd designed for mobile first, making it easier to use on any device, wherever you are. The menu-based navigation makes it easier to find content, and avoids the need to load content-heavy tabs, making it faster to get to the content that you need.
Our LTW graphic design teams offer expert advice on accessibility in print and design. With design for print, we always do our best to comply with University standards and where we need to, we will add the accessibility strapline to printed materials. Design for print often requires a balance of aesthetics with accessibility and Sonia’s teams have to carefully consider the purpose of the thing that we are producing. Finding that compromise is always a challenge that we do our best to make as a design team. We endeavour at all times to ensure that we are following best practice in terms of accessibility. This may be through looking at the following guidelines or consulting directly with experts from the very start of the project at the initial design consultation. Here are some of the links we may refer to for our information.
We also ensure that our newsletters and graphics are available in a variety of accessible formats. We make sure to check that our LTW comms officers understand about accessible and inclusive communications.
When writing a blog, it is easy to forget that some visitors have vision impairments and disabilities that can come in the way of their reading experience. It is our responsibility to make our websites as accessible as possible so we don’t discriminate against any of our users. Anne-Marie’s teams offer advice on how to write an accessible blog on our WordPress serviceAccessible data
Through our wikidata projects we are sharing data sets online and making them accessible to the world to use, adapt and interrogate in creative ways.
Increasingly users interact with internet content via voice interfaces such as Siri and Alexa and text based chat bots. In LTW we are leading in the development of conversational interfaces for student support. We are running training sessions for students and staff.
The Subtitling for Media Pilot was established to investigate the feasibility, viability and cost of a student-led transcription service, alongside improving the digital skills of staff and promoting a culture change in our approach to delivering accessible content. The team subtitled public-facing audio and video content within Media Hopper Create, with a focus on content that was embedded in the main University website. Automated subtitling services are notoriously inaccurate and require checking before publication. In the pilot, subtitles were automatically generated and the student team acted as human mediators, checking and correcting the subtitles and drawing on their own knowledge and expertise of Edinburgh and University life. As a result of the pilot more media content is open and accessible to all users and new training courses are available for staff and students on DIY subtitling, aiming to move to a position where subtitling of media is standard practice at the point of creation as far as possible. Following the pilot, we’ll be establishing this as a service in 19/20. In the pilot service, subtitles were automatically generated and the student team acted as human mediators, checking and correcting the subtitles, drawing on their own knowledge and expertise of the HE sector in the process. Automation is effective at quickly processing large amounts of content; people are good at ensuring the right meaning is conveyed and that accurate sector–specific terminology is used.
In this project we subtitled 228 media [a total of 53 hours, 07 minutes play time] during the 12-week pilot. We established average times to subtitle, and identified things that will impact the time taken (accents, technical/scientific words, sound quality) and shared these finding with the sector. We produced a style guide that can be used as a subtitling aid for staff and ran four 2-hour workshops to develop University staff skills in subtitling, developing a successful format for ongoing training provision.We published two videos and five blogs to disseminate information about the pilot .
Accessible work experience and workplace
In designing our projects we think carefully about how we employ students. We are interested in whether digital work is the kind of work that might be attractive to students, specifically those who need some flexibility in hours and location of work. We are aware that this kind of work might offer opportunity for employment for students with caring responsibilities, who have disabilities, or who prefer solo working, and so we make sure to design these job opportunities with this in mind.
We have a number of staff in LTW who have visible and invisible disabilities and we listen to their feedback on how to ensure we have an inclusive workplace.
Professional Development and training for colleagues
We offer role-based training of staff, including webmasters, developers, designers, content creators, instructional designers.
Our University of Edinburgh PgCap Learning and Teaching includes a session on “Building accessibility & inclusion into your teaching & learning with technology”. We are going to develop this into a stand-alone session, and we’ve talked about developing a baseline e-accessibility resource (either on the open website or as a self-enrol course in Learn). We have recruited Tracy as an accessibility expert to our learning technology team.
Our course on Effective Digital Content (Writing for the Web) is mandatory if you need access to edit EdWeb. Bruce is our expert in web accessibility. It is open to all staff and students and available online or in person. This editorial training course covers good practice in writing and structuring information for the web. Nurturing a community of practice can help build leadership in and commitment to IT accessibility. That community of practice can and should reaches across unit and campus boundaries. Institutional challenges require institutional responses and our trainng includes guidance on data protection, freedom of information issues and improving performance in search engine results.
Things 5&6 in our ’23 Things’ course are diversity and accessibility and our collection of online digital skills courses offers dozens of courses on accessibility and these are available for free to students and staff including ‘Accessibility: Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Office’ and ‘Creating Accessible PDFs’. We run 2-hour workshops to develop University staff skills in subtitling and a range of courses in creating accessible media and learning content.
For many students the most useful thing colleagues can do to make the content of their lectures accessible is to use the microphone. The microphone in the room is linked to the induction loop which is essential for students with hearing loss and is the best way to capture high quality audio as you talk. We provide advice on how to wear a microphone and pack with a dress and on a lanyard. We’ve learned from our rollout of lecture recording that the best quality and most accessible recordings are produced when the most suitable microphones are used.Whether you have a loud voice or small group, all microphones will pick up only the closest speaker. Lapel mics work best for presenters, handheld mics and Catchboxes work best for audience interaction. In the largest teaching spaces, there will be a throwable microphone called a Catchbox. In rooms without Catchbox or a handheld microphone, you should repeat questions to ensure they are picked up on the recording. Find out more about how lecture recording can support accessible and inclusive learning.
Accessible online courses
Our distance learning and MOOC platforms have very clear and rigorous rules about the ways in which content is presented. We recognise that some of our learners will have particular needs and circumstances and we will strive to identify and respond to barriers to participation in our courses so that these can be reduced or removed. We view the diversity of our learners as a resource that enhances their learning experience and the experience of other learners.
The University of Edinburgh University Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy is due for a review, not least to reflect the technology environment on campus which has changed significantly in the past 6 years and to include the fact that we have online courses and students to whom the policy would also apply. Much of the technology referred to in the policy is owned by LTW and since the policy is out of date it no longer reflects the technology we provide. Policy development meetings are well underway with contributions from web, AV, online learning and digital library teams.
Teaching excellence exemplars
We are working closely with the assistant principals responsible for reviewing the promotions criteria for academic teaching and developing exemplars of excellence to include digital and accessible teaching.
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.
The ‘leaky pipeline’ is definitely a thing so we must think about ways in which we can create a more inclusive and attractive work culture where women aspire to stay. Business-wise it make sense to retain valuable, experienced staff rather than having to train new staff.
Do we know what older women in the workplace want? do we ever ask them?
When we take an intersectional approach to recognising that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. We have to pay attention to how long people have been working and where they are in their careers.
We are a big recruiter, with a high turnover and a lot of innovation, so we need to attract and retain talent. We advertise placements and returnerships via Equate Scotland. We also need to explore how age and length of time in the organisation influence staff engagement.
RETAINING WOMEN IN WORK
In ISG we monitor the age profile of our staff, and 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:
Personal development programmes
We have coaching programmes and mentoring for women- we take part in the Aurora and Connections programmes and we run specific ‘Renew You’ and ‘Speak up‘ personal development programmes for women. The participants on these courses seem to find them valuable and so it seems like a good investment, but I don’t have any actual data for evaluating impact.
We have run sessions specifically about the impact that feminist mangers ( with Prof Fiona MacKay) can make and about how promotions and annual reviews work. We have data on who gets sent on leadership programmes.
Raising awareness and widening discussions
We organise 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. Menopause is an intersectional issue of gender, health and age and it is an important issue for managers and service teams. For many women it is experienced 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. We are figuring out how to promote a menopause -friendly workplace.
One of the first steps is to make sure everyone has access to fans to cool down. The aim is to normalise and destigmatise the use of fans- but it has to be said this is not such a great challenge as we work in one of the hottest buildings in Edinburgh!
The next step will be to gather some actual data about how many work days are lost because menopause symptoms go unreported and to think of ways to bring that number down.
We need to do more in really under-represented areas though, to think about how to involve more women in AV, VR, IoT and GIS.
Universal design in technology
There are moments in the workplace when you may suspect it has not been designed with you in mind. As a technology provider we can promote universal solutions ( such as how to wear a radio microphone pack with a dress) and disaggregate our data by gender and age where ever we can.
Recognise and rectify historical wrongs
Those of us who have been around for a while have heard the stories of historical wrongs. We can do things now to help our institutions to address some of that history , such as the degrees finally given to the Edinburgh Seven.
Professional and skills development
I have anecdotal information that middle-aged women are the group least likely to attend ( or be chosen for) new skills training in tech. We are very aware that we have a large group of 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 130 learners on course. It wasn’t targetted exclusively at women, but we managed to attract 65 % women to participate. 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. 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 pretty good flexible working arrangements and policies in ISG. It is not clear though whether they are consistently applied.
Developing male allies
We know that male allies are a big part of the success of any equality and diversity initiative. At ISG we have a Fathers Network which provides a space to discuss the experiences of the fathers in our teams who juggle work and family responsibilities. We are also working with CIPD to develop a new personal development course for men. This will focus on emotional intelligence at work and the challenges faced by men in managing workplace expectations in relation to their roles. It is important to acknowledge some important intersections, and where men can see that they also face intersections of identity which may influence the experience of other men, then that can carry over to understanding what that may be for women.