Tag: ethics

learning technology leadership and strike action

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am out of my office and taking part in the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action to defend our rights to fair pay, fair play and equality at work.

I was pleased and honored to be invited to speak at a recent HELF (Heads of e-learning Forum) meeting at University of Glasgow.  I was asked to speak about leadership and change from a political and ethical standpoint. How these views guide our approaches to change within an institution and the tensions that may arise. What does it mean to be and become an agent of change?

The meeting fell on the day after this current round of strikes were announced  and it gave me the opportunity to talk with these learning technology leaders about the role learning technology plays during strike action.

If we work with technology for teaching and learning then all our technology comes into contention during a strike.

This is important for HELF  because  that what happens at one university is quickly heard about at others. I know several large institutions have been having discussions about lecture recordings and learning materials last week. I asked for a show of hands in the room, to see how many HELF leaders were union members. A good number of hands went up, so I assume there will be at least a few institutions in which the leaders of learning technology are not at meetings today.

I am a strong believer that if you are a member of a union you should remain a member of that union even when you become senior management. The reason for this is that I believe you get better decision making when there is diversity around the board table, and union members are part of that diversity of thinking. Having some managers in the room who are union members means you get better management which is more inclusive and considerate of a range of staff views.

My hope, is that with this better-informed thinking comes fewer staff-management stand-offs.  But since the UCU have voted to strike again, you need to know your institutional policies on lecture recording and VLE use.

The relationship between professional learning technologists and academic colleagues is a finely balanced one. Learning technologists offer technology solutions to teaching problems and encourage innovations in pedagogy and learning. We bring technology into classroom spaces on campus and online and ask colleagues to embrace it. We assure academic colleagues that the technology is there to help not replace them. We ask for trust, understanding, communication.  We ask them to give it a go. We know that academic ‘buy –in’ is key to all of our success.  But, as part of the business, our IT services are also key in ensuring business continuity, supporting students beyond contact hours and mitigating the impact of disruption to time and place.

At a time of strike, what might before have been thought of as a fairly neutral service becomes very political. There are expectations from both sides and either way your choice of action will be political.  It may come down to your own  political or ethical position.

Management will expect you to use every tool you have to mitigate the impact of the strike,  to keep learning and teaching going. And academic colleagues, or those on strike, will expect you not to. You may have to pick a side.   Do you want to be seen as a management tool or a friend to academics?  Are you them, or us?

What impact does the decision you make to keep working during the strike have on the longer term relationship you have with those colleagues, those academic colleagues who see you  and your services as a management tool?

Although the strike is obviously not about technology per se, Learning technology, VLEs and lecture recordings in particular are very much on the union policy agenda and they will be used as part of negotiations alongside other issues. VLEs make it possible to teach larger numbers of students with fewer staff and lecture recordings make it possible to deliver lectures when they aren’t there. Neither of those sound good to labour unions. Anywhere where strikes about pay and conditions are going on any suggestion that we can  make digital materials, or recordings, or whatever available will impact directly on security of  tenure for the staff, particularly those on precarious contracts.

I hope we can have more conversations about how our roles relate to strike action. Mangers and learning technologists and learning technology managers should think about the advice and discussions which happened with regard to business continuity during the strike.   Did managers give the impression you could not or should not strike?   If you are a manager, what conversation did you have with your staff?  Is your manager in the union? Were you asked to cover for them?  Think about how you feel about retention policies and management requests to  give access to last year’s materials.  I hope we can have more discussions in this community about how we reassure our colleagues and where we position ourselves. To see ourselves as others see us.

 

 

will I strike on International Women’s Day?

Sadie, Beatrice and Joanna. 3 generations of international women.

Will I be on strike for International Women’s Day?  Well yes, I’ll have to if the UCU action carries on as planned.

But I have some questions.  The UCU strikes are on chosen days. How and why were these chosen?  We don’t strike on Friday, but we do on Thursday.  International Women’s Day is not, presumably, a surprise to UCU. Why not chose that as a non-strike day so that we can attend our events? IWD has its origins in the women’s labour movement, but to commemorate it at our university events this year is to ‘betray it’? I wish my union had not put me in this situation.

A nearby ancient institution has already got itself in a tangle by linking E&D initiatives with the pensions strike * . I fear this is why we can’t have nice things.

For me IWD is part of a bigger picture, I understand that women are disproportionately hit by pension changes, but lets use this day to talk about that and the many other inequalities. I am pleased that my University supports IWD and that there are events to raise its profile for staff and students and I want to be part of it.

I am told that there are ‘lots’ of IWD events being held by academics off-campus so I can go to those (please send more details). Or I can go to the UCU march.

Academic colleagues are not the only people who hold, attend and value IWD events,  and academics colleagues are not the only people in UCU, and they are not the only people who work at the University.

I would encourage staff who are not on strike to organise, attend and enjoy the University IWD events. It’s a great way to show your support for IWD and a healthy attendance will help to ensure that we get to do them again next year.

Here’s the post I was going to post for International Women’s Day:

The Red Thread

Did you know that IWD began with a strike by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)? It was originally called “International Working Women’s Day“, its purpose was to give laboring women a focusing point in their struggle for fair working conditions and pay. This year International Women’s Day 2018  themes is #PressforProgress.

My great grandma Sadie was a member of ILGWU.  A Jewish woman working in dangerous factory conditions as a garment worker in New York.  My grandfather Stanley often complained later that he had missed out on jobs because his mother-in-law was ‘a communist’**. Occasionally I find ILGWU labels inside my vintage dresses. They are always well made. Here’s a picture of Sadie, and a picture of the ILGWU label in my dress today.

*St Andrews.

**Family lore is that she wasn’t actually a member of the Communist Party, but she voted for one, and that was enough to get her and her children on a list.

strike that

Strike that from Waddington’s Lexicon, ‘The Wonder Game’.

Sometimes, people look to me for advice and wisdom.

My advice today, to anyone who works in a role similar to mine is:  try to avoid being in an institution-wide consultation about an opt-out lecture recording policy at  a time of national industrial action.

 

We are consulting on a draft new policy at Edinburgh. It’s a good policy. It’s better than previous policies and it’s been developed over many months with input from across the University.

I am a strong believer that if you are a member of a union you should remain a member of that union even when you become senior management. The reason for this is that I believe you get better decision making when there is diversity around the board table, and union members are part of that diversity of thinking. Having some managers in the room who are union members means you get better management which is more inclusive and considerate of a range of staff views. The hope, is that with this better-informed thinking, comes fewer staff-management stand-offs.

 

Because of this, I have ensured that the campus unions have been part of the policy consultation since the start. A UCU rep has been part of our task group.
What  have learned:

 

‘We can just use recorded lectures‘ is the knee-jerk go-to response of university management when threatened by an academic walk-out, but that really isn’t what this is all about. The University believes that having more lectures recorded and offering a consistent staff and student experience around that service, benefits us all in the longer term. That is why they have invested.
For colleagues at Edinburgh University, please let me assure you: The new policy is predicated on the idea that we are all in this together.

 

The new policy clearly states the essential purpose and aims to address a number of concerns.   In the Policy Point 1. The statement of the “essential purpose” in the policy is to reassure lecturers that the intention of the service is the provision of recordings for students to review, and that this is limited to the students on the Course for which the lecture is delivered i.e. those who were entitled and expected to be present at the original lecture.

 

In 1.5 it clearly states that to use the lecture for business continuity , such as a volcanic eruption leaving everyone in the wrong place around the world*, or loss of a major teaching building, or absence of a major teaching person,  the university can use the recording ‘if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School. ‘   People on strike would presumably not agree.   That is the reassurance we have been giving colleagues.

 

Policy wording below.

 

Essential purpose
The essential purpose referred to within this policy is to allow the students undertaking a taught Course to review recordings of lectures given as part of that Course.  The policy also permits a lecturer to re-use recordings of their lectures for other relevant and appropriate purposes, if all the participants in the recording agree to this.

 

Use of recordings
1      The University will provide recordings of lectures to students on taught Courses, where possible, to aid their learning through review and reflection.  These recordings are not, other than in very exceptional circumstances, a replacement for lecture attendance or other contact hours.

 

1.1             The Lecture Recording Policy Privacy Statement details how the University will use and share personal data in relation to the lecture recording service.

 

1.2             Recording of sensitive personal data as defined in current legislation[1] shall not take place without the explicit written consent of the person(s) to whom the data relate.

 

1.3             The University will provide lecture recordings to students on the Course(s) to which the lecture relates.  By default, it will also provide access to the staff associated with the Course(s) in the Virtual Learning Environment.  The lecturer may restrict staff access to a recording further if required.

1.4             The University encourages teaching innovation, sharing and re-use of recorded lectures where relevant and appropriate.  A lecturer may publish a recording of their lecture as an open educational resource, with appropriate modifications and safeguards, including an appropriate attribution, licence and having obtained any permissions required from other participants or third parties whose intellectual property resides within the recording.  Guidance on this is contained within the Open Educational Resources Policy and Website Accessibility Policy.  Staff and students may otherwise only publish or share restricted-access lecture recordings with the permission of the School that owns the Course and of the lecturer and any other participants in the recording.

 

1.5             A School may use a past recording held within the lecture recording service in exceptional situations to provide continuity, if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School.

 

1.6             The recordings and any associated metadata will not be used by the University for staff performance review or disciplinary processes except in the case of alleged gross misconduct.  A lecturer may however choose to use recordings of their own lectures for these purposes or to allow peer observation of their teaching.

 

1.7             Learning Analytics from the lecture recording service may be used in accordance with the Learning Analytics policy.

 

* I was first convinced of the value of lecture recording ( and video conferencing) when that Icelandic volcano stranded the staff and students of my university all around the world. There were no flights in and out of Europe and, as an international research institution, we were all widely scattered. The impact on teaching, and the research activities and conferences for those few weeks was considerable.