Tag: leadership

Diversity and digital leadership

Something I’ve been working on for a while:

Diversity and digital leadership: Understanding experiences of workplace equality and diversity and inclusion

Doing a doctorate part-time while working full-time has been exhausting and invigorating in equal measure. It has occupied my annual leave, evenings and weekends as well as two periods of prolonged industrial action and the covid lockdown. I have learned all kinds of new stuff, including a bunch of new digital and infolit skills.  As I get ready to submit my final thesis, here’s how my abstract is looking:


The aim of this research is to gain an understanding of the experiences and perceptions of workplace equality and diversity issues amongst digital leaders in higher education. The participants interviewed for this study are digital leaders working in universities in Scotland in 2019. The study provides a snapshot of data which has been interpreted to provide an understanding of the participants’ experiences and attitudes towards workplace equality, diversity and inclusion. It is the first study of its kind as it focuses on overlapping areas of leadership (diversity, digital and organisational) amongst digital leaders in higher education, a group rarely researched. This study makes a contribution to both both theory and practice and is timely and useful for the university sector.

The study uses a feminist approach to research design and data analysis which serves to highlight the issues of power and privilege which shape the experience of the participants. It takes an intersectional approach to understanding the diverse identity characteristics of digital leaders, recognising that people’s identities and social positions at work are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors, and the significance of these factors for leadership.

In this study an insider researcher was well placed to investigate perceptions and experience and to make recommendations which influence ongoing practice. In order to be credible and useful to the sector research findings are presented with rigour which addresses concerns about assumptions and unfounded interpretations. The process of achieving this by research design, particularly in the formation of interview questions and data analysis is described. The original data gathered from participants is reported and presented alongside references to relevant literature where these serve to explain or shed light on how the data have been interpreted.  Quotations from the raw data have been included to demonstrate how interpretations of the data have been achieved and to illustrate findings. This ensures reflections of the participants are presented in their own voice and brings a lived experience and credibility to the findings by ensuring that data interpretation remains close to the words said. The data are presented against themes arising in the data, several of which reflect the themes highlighted as arising from the review of previous literature.

‘Digital leadership’ is an emerging 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. The role of senior management in leading change in organisations is well understood and increasingly researchers and practitioners now recognise expertise in workplace equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) as a significant area of valuable knowledge. ‘Diversity leadership’ is also an emerging discipline defined by combining diversity principles and leadership competencies for workplace development.

Digital leaders in higher education are a group of professional staff who lead specifically in areas of the organisation where the use of technology is key to the strategic delivery of higher education such as IT, AV, learning technology, student systems, business systems data and IT infrastructure.  Professional staff in higher education remain a much under-researched population of leaders. With increased professionalisation amongst these staff more now occupy senior executive positions within universities; roles that were previously only held by senior academics. The knowledge and skills which this group of senior leaders have are essential to the success of their institutions. The data in this study indicate that digital leaders do identify their own and organisational values as drivers for action around equality and diversity at work, and that these are negotiated and balanced in context and that that context includes policies, practice, leadership and risk.   This study offers a number of insights for understanding the importance of diversity knowledge as a leadership capability. The data shows that the ways in which managers approach and apply effort to issues in their workplace is heavily influenced by their own identity and personal experience. There is a risk in any sector that assumptions are made about the types of people who are managers and the kinds of things which will motivate them to champion issues over and above their day to day functional or multi-functional roles.  Although the participants in this study have no formal workplace designation as an equality and diversity lead in their organisation they are not ignorant of the organisational development and social justice reasons for engaging with EDI, and they see it as part of their leadership role. Digital leaders in this study were clear that they make choices about where to spend their time and that involvement in diversity and inclusion was just one of many areas which make calls upon their resources. Respondents highlighted that where they found it easier to get involved, they would, and they saw this as a help in delivering their jobs as leaders. They made a different set of considerations however, when deciding to become ‘champions’ themselves and this is inextricably linked to their perceptions of the associated risks. Digital leaders in this study  highlighted areas of personal, professional and reputational risks to themselves.  In some cases these risks were sufficient to discourage them. They found that championing equality, diversity and inclusion risked limiting their own social and cultural capital. Significantly they found that championing diversity could work against their leadership of digital thus undermining their leadership effectiveness.  Understanding these perceived risks, and the interplay of diversity and digital leadership is essential for moving forwards in developing digital and diversity leadership within organisations.

This study provides future researchers and practitioners with a starting point from which to study diversity and digital leadership activities in similar organisations and other universities, colleges and schools. Diversity management in the digital sector and higher education risks falling behind if it is slow to respond or support its digital leaders in this work. The findings of this study are a contribution to professional practice which may hope to facilitate a speedier response to the equality and diversity issues which are becoming increasingly high profile and urgent in higher education and in wider society as we embark on the 2020s.

Key words:  Digital, diversity, leadership, power, organisations, equality, inclusion, intersectional, interpretative, feminist, risk, business, higher education, professional, widening participation, women, STEM, class, race, IT, UK, human resources.

Messages to my staff during lockdown

Every Friday I write a message to my teams in LTW.  Reassuringly, in the University we are getting a steady stream of high-level communications from HR and ‘the very top’.  In my messages I try to focus on achievements and successes.

I’ll keep them here to look back upon when we come out the other side. They already serve to be an impressive list of what the teams  have been doing.

Friday 20th March

Home office.

Dear All,

Well done all, for making it through what must be one of the craziest weeks at work, ever.

Thank you for all your work in getting set up to work from home, for looking after each other, and for taking care to be safe and well.

Thank you also for all the extraordinary measures you have taken to ensure that the University is successful in continuing learn, teach and web.

Gavin has asked me to pass on his thanks for  ‘The wonderful and immense response from LTW to the challenge of moving to remote teaching. Please give my thanks to everyone involved’.

I realise that we still have a lot to sort out about how we keep working, in our homes and with our families and pets who need us. This situation is unprecedented, but I trust that we will try hard and make it work.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.


Director LTW

Friday 27th March

Empty streets

Dear All,

I hope you are all ok at home. I am so impressed by how well our teams and services are responding to this situation. We are seeing increased use of all our learning technology systems and receiving great, positive feedback on the support, training and expertise we are providing.

Our academic colleagues are working hard to play their part in tackling the Corona Virus.  This is one of the very good things about working in a research university. We are providing services which support research and teaching and knowledge creation and dissemination.

In LTW, we are all part of this. We are currently:
• helping to open up content on MediaHopper to be used by NHS Lothian staff,
• helping MSc Critical Care to open up a Learn course to thousands of clinicians and creating a new MOOC.
• helping Usher Institute to create a web database of evidence based research on COVID-19 that can be accessed by policy-makers and clinicians seeking up-to-date and reliable answers to key questions.
• adapting the graphic design in chapters from the Adult Medical Emergencies Handbook to be put online.

This is important work and the university appreciates the contribution we are making.

Well done for making it through another week. If you are unsure, or short of something to do, please let me know.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.


Director LTW

Friday 3rd April

Deserted castle.

Dear All,

Another week has passed and I hope you are all still doing ok at home. The pace of activity in LTW does not seem to have slowed at all, many of you must be exhausted.  The Principal has given us two days of leave in recognition of the fact that everybody needs a rest from work sometimes.

I am very pleased to see how well you are managing to shift your teams, events, board meetings, steering groups and  community activities online. I know that there are online teaching and training sessions going on every day.

Amongst our many achievements:
• The Web Team ran our first ever Web Publishers’ Community online via Collaborate.
• Catherine Koppe was nominated for a Sustainability award for providing an electronic workbook service within the ISG training suites. The judges were impressed by the amount of paper this has saved, and direct cost savings as a result, they offered heartfelt thanks and congratulations for the fantastic work she is doing.
• Amanda Scully has been elected by University of Edinburgh students as Students’ Association VP for Community next year. Congratulations!
• You attended and spoke at virtual conferences to virtual audiences.
• You launched a new MOOC at short notice and high speed and shifted big courses from platform to platform as demand changes.  https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/covid-19-critical-care-education-resource/1 This  resource will help frontline healthcare workers in this high-stress, high-risk environment.
• Stewart Cromar and Jon Wilson are supporting ISG comms to make changes on the ISG website.
• You are progressing with recruitment and on-boarding where that makes sense.
• There is much blogging, podcasting and sharing of pictures of pets.
• Ewan McAndrew launched our new publication about using Wikipedia in Education. https://oer20.oerconf.org/wikimedia-in-education-online-launch/ It’s a beautifully designed book of case studies about curriculum innovation, with many examples from Edinburgh. The event was supposed to be in London for 200 people, but it shifted to online for 1,000 people.

You will have seen that Gavin is keen to advertise work opportunities for staff who are short of things to do. This will be very interesting for us in LTW as we may have colleagues from other directorates who join us to work in areas supporting Learn Foundations and media subtitling.

Well done for making it through another week. If you are unsure, or short of something to do, please let me (or your line manager) know.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend. Stay safe. Thank you.


Director LTW

Friday 10th April

The University gave us along weekend Friday and Monday holiday

Friday 17th April

Cherry blossoms.

Dear All,
I hope you are all ok at home. It sounds like this lockdown will continue for a while, so please pace yourself for the long haul.
You will have noticed that Gavin has got the hang of Media Hopper Create and is doing regular video messages.  He is also very impressed with the success of the COVID MOOC and the future thinking from Learn Foundations.  Similarly popular is our course  ‘An Edinburgh Model for Teaching Online’. We have 150 staff signed up and 100+ more on the waiting list. Its great to see so many colleagues eager to find out how to do it!
I am getting a very strong sense that we will need to provide a lot more learning technology support to the College and Schools in the coming months, and perhaps for longer, so can I ask you each perhaps to have a think about people you know around the university ( or IRL) who you think would be assets to our teams (and might be on precarious contracts now)?  Staff or students. We will particularly need people who may have used our tech, built websites, taught or designed MOOCs, with good knowledge of accessibility and UX and a passion for teaching and learning.  Let me know.
Well done for making it through another busy week.
Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.
Director LTW

Friday 24th April

Library looking lovely.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another busy week.

Stuart has attracted 400 academic staff to his training programme. Jon has 31,000 on his MOOC and Gavin now believes we can make MOOCs in a week. Lauren and Emma’s marketing efforts have brought more than 900 sign ups for the online learning open day. Ewan got 14 editors, 18 new articles and 80 articles improved as a result of his Earthday Editathon.

As a result of your creativity:

Our free courses are listed on https://www.edinburghlockdowneconomy.com/
The CRC collections are now available in Animal Crossing https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/dlam/2020/04/23/animal-crossing/
We now have a new “How To Make Video Content” series: https://media.ed.ac.uk/playlist/dedicated/102178591/1_ss0sj2nw/1_jwi6ubp1

You will be aware that concrete plans for semester 1 are still elusive.  Time constraints over the summer mean that it will not be possible to redesign all on-campus courses to be taught ‘fully online’, nor to develop a fully ‘hybrid’ model. I expect that we will use best efforts and the good thinking that has been already done in the Learn Foundations project to repurposed a scalable solution for moving all on-campus courses (particularly those for returning students in 2nd, 3rd and 4th years) into a state where simplified remote teaching can take place, continuing students can be held close and we can maintain community to sustain continuation of studies.

Another thing we learned this week is that the email announcing you have a voucher reward looks a lot like spam, so be careful if you get one not to just bin it!

Colleagues in the CRC are collecting your lockdown artefacts for their archive. I trust you will send them your many creative pieces.  https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/staff/2020/covid-19-experiences-to-be-documented

Best wishes, hang in there, enjoy your weekend.


Director LTW

Friday 1st May


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another busy week.

Students have been doing their first week of online and open book exams, and we’ve been supporting them as best we can.

We have been moving our classroom-based training programme online. We now have online delivery options for most of our classroom courses and Developing Your Data Skills Programme. These include webinars, videos, LinkedIn Learning courses, resources, guides. Digital Skills Programme webinars have been delivered to another 250 staff and students.

We are seeking to systematically improve our estate as is, starting with audits of content and accessibility. We are underway with a major programme to develop a new suite of common tools, services and technologies – including a modern, cloud-based publishing platform as a replacement for EdWeb – designed to offer our web community what they need to deliver a world-class experience for their users for years to come. We are also hoping that the university will sign up to the W3C ‘contract for the web’ https://contractfortheweb.org/ but it has to go through half a dozen committees first.

You have also been supporting Usher Institute in developing their ‘UNCOVER’ site full of evidence based reviews of COVID 19 https://www.ed.ac.uk/usher/uncover  and publishing new guidance for students on how to stay safe online.https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/is-skills/digital-safety-and-citizenship It is important to remember that just as ‘home’ may not be a safe place for everyone, the internet is a toxic place for many too, and we need to take care of each other.

You’ll have heard much talk about the dire impact the situation is having on the university. Your managers are working hard to try to ensure that contracts get renewed and jobs are secure. You will also hear much about furloughing, and economic recovery. This week Nicola Sturgeon launched a skills gateway online which links thorough to the MOOC platform where we have many of our online courses. https://www.myworldofwork.co.uk/learn-and-train/find-free-online-courses

Our ISG teams in UCreate Makerspace have been working hard to develop PPE for anyone who needs it. They have shared the design of the 3D stackable visor model they have been developing at uCreateStudio.  The model has been uploaded by the OER  team to Sketchfab so it can be downloaded under open licence. This makes the design available to anyone to make, re-use and adapt further as they wish.

Best wishes, enjoy your weekend.


Director LTW

Friday 8th May


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another busy week.

Good to see so many of you blogging about life working from home

This week we launched a new MOOC on blended learning.  1700 people signed up for the online learning open day. We have welcomed new colleagues and we have colleagues joining us from other directorates to help with Learn Foundations and subtitling.  We have also moved some LTW colleagues into furlough if it hasn’t been possible for them to keep working. Colleagues on furlough are still able to undertake training, so there is no escape from updating your digital skills.

We are working with Schools to provide support for two different types of exam alternatives – open book exams with a 2 day turnaround, and shorter closed book exams with a 2-3 hour turnaround (plus an hour for digital submission, many of these are hand-written). Exam period is the 27th of April until the 29th of May, so still a while to go.  There are 483 exams in total, with 17K sittings. There are quite a few at the weekend and cover is being provided for any issues that occur on those days too.  Assessment continuity support: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/assessment-continuity

This week we also began planning for Welcome Week in September. Leaflets and handouts will be a no-no, we will need to think creatively about our merchandising  and inductions this time.

You may have seen discussion of a ‘hybrid’ model for teaching next year.  It is still a bit hard to get ones head around how social distancing will work on campus with each person needing a certain amount of space around them, our lecture theatres and seminar rooms will be very different from how they were before.  It its important to the University to advertise that this hybrid model is NOT an online-only model, and this is a strategic distinction for the University.  We know that many international students remain extremely nervous about the recognition of online only programmes.  So ‘hybrid’ delivery does not assume either a fundamentally on-campus or fundamentally online model but is designed for easy student transition between the two.  I’m sure it will become more clear, eventually.

We are running more training sessions for remote working and teaching and we have updated our training and documentation including documentation to support making video and streaming from home.  You may have spotted that the BBC have released images from their archives  to be used as backgrounds in Zoom https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/empty_sets_collection/zfvy382   It sounds like ISG is about to buy a site-wide license for Zoom, so if you have suggestions of images from our archives which can be used as backgrounds I’d be happy to see them.  You too could work from under the eaves of McEwan Hall https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/pit557 or dance at the 1949 Revel https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/fnjyew

Best wishes, stay safe.

Director, LTW.

Friday 15th May


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week.  Today is national #workFromHomeDay. 15th of May, in case you have lost track.

The University has launched a stream of recovery, renewal and adaptation projects. There are several streams with different names and subgroups. If you are invited to join one please do, but also please let me know.

I know you are all busy. A training programme for remote teaching is running every week, as is a whole raft of digital skills training for staff and students. Our copyright teams have added new guidance for copyright in remote teaching. Our graphic designers are discussing ways to make posters, stickers and signage for a socially distanced campus.

We are recruiting Learning Technology Support Officers, if you know anyone who might be interested https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/CAB451/learning-technology-support-officer  Knowledge of the university, of LTW and of the technologies we use would be a bonus.

We are continuing to get regular updates from Gavin and all-staff emails from the Principal. On 26th May I’ve organised for VP Colm Harmon to meet with the university learning technology community to share his thinking about the way forward for semester 1. If you consider yourself to be a learning technologist and would like to join the meeting you are most welcome,  Laura will be sending out a meeting invitation soon.

You all know that there is online training in health and safety, bribery and corruption, bullying and harassment, equality and diversity for you to do. If you still haven’t done your mandatory training and you have teenagers at home, why not get them to work through it with you and use it as a home-schooling teachable moment about what its like to work in a behemoth.

Best wishes, stay safe.

Director, LTW.

Friday 22nd May

Selected fish and chip shops re-open in Edinburgh.

Dear All,

Well done for surviving another week at home.  Nice to see you keeping busy:

Callum tells us about the work involved in UNCOVER:


Duncan tells us about his art projects:


and the Tab tells us what is going on:


Even in lockdown, LTW is still winning:  <secret until it is announced> on Friday, June 5, 2020, so don’t tell anyone until then.

We told the students we were recruiting interns and more than 100 of them applied to work with Learn Foundations one the summer. This is an amazing response and an exiting opportunity to show how we can work with students to co-create this new hybrid offering of (h)ours. 

We told the world about our online programmes and applications to PG OL degrees are up 21% on same time last year.

We told our academic colleagues about teaching online and another 400 of them are going to start to learn more in June.

We told our academic colleagues about making video and they told us they need an additional six media production studios around the campus!

We want to tell our new students everything we can about how to be successful as hybrid leaners so we are making courses to support them in 4 broad areas:

  • Getting started including intro to the Universities digital spaces/environments and interacting online
  • Digital Study skills
  • Digital Literacy and the online libraries
  • Digital Wellbeing and support

All told, not a bad week.

It was Mental Health Awareness Week this week, I am sure you are aware. Be kind to yourselves.

Best wishes, stay safe.


Director, LTW.

Friday 29th May

Dragons Den.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week at home. Today is the last day of the semester.  Thank you to all of you for adapting well and working so hard to ensure that students can complete their studies.

As the easing of the first lockdown begins, discussions about how and when the campus will reopen are happening across the University. It is hard to imagine what the new normal will be.

In the meantime, we must wave goodbye to 6 of our student digital skills trainers who leave us to spend their summers and future careers in new and exciting ways.  The Digital Skills Team are working with the Careers Service to think about what online support can be offered to graduates seeking work and attending interviews online.

On Monday we welcome 20 new student interns to help deliver the Learn Foundations project. They will be part of an important project to work alongside our returning students to shape the reality of how the hybrid model of teaching will work in September. Thank you to those of you who were able to join me on Tuesday to hear Colm Harmon, VP Students talk about his hopes for the coming semester, I think it was clear from what he said that he understands how vital our services are to delivering that.

The range of activities in LTW continues to be as impressive as ever.

The findings and recommendations from our ISG Equality and Diversity survey will finally be presented to Directors next week. It has been bumped several times. Additionally, Lilinaz is beginning a thematic analysis of the feedback and questions which come in from ISG staff during Gavin’s All-Staff meeting.   You will have seen our LTW all-staff meeting diary date in June going into your diaries. Any thoughts on what we should do at that meeting happily received.

Have a lovely weekend, stay safe and don’t forget to wear sunscreen.


Director, LTW.

Friday 5th June


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week when the world is going crazy.

Welcome to our new colleagues. In addition to our 20 Learn Foundations interns in LTW, I am pleased to say Kevin has persuaded each of the 3 Colleges to take a bunch of interns each to work on Learn support directly in the Schools.  This is important because the more we can support students by offering paid employment opportunities at the moment, the better and the more we involve students in co-creating their learning environments, the better.

You’ve been busy purchasing, testing and recommending remote desktop filming kit to standardise quality of media outputs.  You have been presenting at online conferences and winning international awards. You are supporting the operational setup of new temporary media studios across campuses along with establishing the workflows and staffing for these new resources. Guidance videos and materials are being created to support staff to prepare and film remotely. You are reviewing the edtech landscape to find new solutions for online assessment. You are supporting homeworking and making sure everyone has the kit they need for the long haul.  You are updating your skills and learning to become Edweb editors. Use of our LinkedIn Learning service has increased significantly since lockdown began. You have run 3 ABC ‘train the trainer’ workshops this week, with 46 attendees who are learning technologists and course leads from across the institution. The Final Assessment for the Predictive Analytics MicroMasters has now started and the Business School Chatbot has now been fully signed off and ready to go in August.

You continue to blog about work, working from home and what’s going on for you:



It is Pride month and we have resources and events going on



The University has issued a statement about the George Floyd killing and this has re-awakened some wider discussions about the experiences of Black and Ethnic Minority students and staff.


After a wee nudge, colleagues in Centre for Research Collections have released more Teams backgrounds from the archives.

https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/library-museum-gallery/crc/collections/meeting-backgrounds-from-the-collection/56/ECA Photographs

My mission to attract more people into careers as learning technologists continues, and we have another LTW alumna success, as Daisy Mickleson has finished her time as an intern with the Digital Skills team and secured a job as a learning technologist in School of Literature, Languages and Culture.

Applications to online PG degrees are up 30% as of 1 June (compared to 1 June 2019) and the alumni 20% discount has been confirmed for all years of study ,which is good. Our  website is now updated. The discount applies to online and campus PG degrees. Tell all your friends.

Remember to follow all the news on  @UoE_LTW  and ISG on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/university-of-edinburgh-information-services-group

Please do keep your IS News stories coming through to Kevin https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/news

Best wishes, stay safe, take care, be a lert and wear a face covering as appropriate.


Dir. LTW

Friday 12th June

Canal pleasures.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week.

Our annual VLE rollover is underway, you’ve been working on mechanisms for deleting old course sites and long-gone users to ensure we are compliant with data protection regulations.   We are moving Learn to Blackboard’s Continuous Delivery Option (CDO). This will provide monthly updates to Learn meaning that bug fixes will be available more quickly and these updates will not require any downtime. We’ve seen a 65% increase in active users of our PebblePad eportfolios and we have 20 Schools/Deaneries signed up as part of our Learn Foundations project. We have seven ISG colleagues on ‘learning assignments’ working on the accessibility review of content and another seven doing subtitling, for around 80 hours per week. 100 people from around the World attended Ewan’s online event about using Wikipedia in teaching.

New services are being launched across ISG. The EdWeb and MyEd teams worked to support the launch of ‘EdHelp’ and keep your eyes peeled for new services for ‘online events’, ‘zoom parties’ and ‘apps everywhere’.

You’ve done yet another really impressive piece of work to establish a co-ordinated learning design service to support hybrid courses in Learn. I’ve always suspected that learning design was key to delivering learning technologies at this institution, I’m glad we have such an excellent team across LTW and the Schools, and that people are able to give time, even when everything is so busy. Thank you to Jon, Ryan, Tracey, Neil, Brendan, Meredith, Lizzie, Graeme, Alison and Lorraine. https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/learning-design/abc/course-design-for-uncertain-times

Our Blackboard Catalyst Award for Student Experience win got a mention in Gavin’s CIO update and Gavin has called out for contributions to the next ISG newsletter with an equality, diversity and inclusion theme, please do send him your ideas.

Vicki and Lilinaz started pulling together an anti-racist reading list. Reading lists are complex things in themselves, particularly when works of fiction get mixed in with books on politics, policy and history.  If you have suggestions about books which you think should be on a reading list for ISG, perhaps with an EDI /tech or learning angle, please let them know.

On the topic of reading:

Kevin will invite you all to prepare PechaKucha lightning talks for the LTW staff day. Don’t be shy.

Have a lovely, socially distanced weekend.


Dir, LTW

Friday 19th June

Just before the haar hit.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home, and welcome to even more of our LTW student interns, thank you for joining us, we are happy and lucky to have you.

As ever, you have been busy:

The Learn Foundations work continues at pace, we are rolling over Schools as fast as possible in order that academic colleagues can start to build their courses for the new semester.

The second run of our CoViD MOOC is open now for enrolments. https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/news/covid-19-critical-care-online-course This course includes an option for learners to purchase a certificate of completion. The income which comes to the University through sale of these certificates will be donated to charity.


The third run of our ‘Edinburgh Model for Teaching Online’ is ready to start with 400 staff on it and our training sessions for using learning technology tools continue to run every week.

We are back in conversations with the ‘Book MOOC’ teams to prepare our ‘How to Read a Novel’ course in conjunction with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the James Tait Black Awards for 2020. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/how-to-read-a-novel

Our Learning Design service teams have been working in partnership with school learning technologists and have created a rapid ABC learning design approach based on the model initially adapted for DLAS courses. New online workshops have been designed and toolkits produced which increase capacity for learning design for hybrid teaching. https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/learning-design/abc/course-design-for-uncertain-times. The hybrid design app has already been played more than 1,000 times.

There are a number of units across the University who run training sessions for staff and students, L&D, H&S, Careers, etc. Our Digital Skills team have produced a guide to support UoE training providers with transitioning to training in online environments and designing online training.  https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/is-skills/programmes-courses-and-toolkits/creating-online-training-guidance

Members of our LTW team have been attending and presenting at Open Apereo #openapereo and University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference ‪#uoeltconf20  Please do share with your colleagues what you learned.

If you have watched everything on Netflix and Amazon don’t forget we also have:

Enjoy your midsummer weekend.


Dir. LTW


Friday 26th June

Remains of the day.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, as the campus seems to be slowly opening back up. Just in time for an institution-wide ‘working from home experience survey’.

As the buildings start to re-open keep your eye out for messages from Gavin about the return to a new normality and get ready to return those library books. There are 53,000 of our books trapped in people’s homes and we need them back. All fines are forgiven.

Thank you to all our brief colleagues who joined LTW during lockdown to help with subtitling and Learn and now must return to their main jobs on the front line in the libraries and receptions.

Thank you to all of you who prepared posters for the Learning and Teaching Conference, you can see them here:


and thank you in advance to those who are preparing presentations for our LTW all-staff meeting, we are a friendly audience looking forward to trying out the logistics of a big group meeting in Teams.

If you missed our staff reading group on online shaming, I won’t name you here, but please do join us for the next group meeting in July to discuss anti-racism and the intersections between race and technology.


Some letters have arrived on my virtual desk for those of you who have been awarded lump sums in the annual round of reward and recognition. If you get a letter, thank you again for your hard work and don’t spend it all at once.

Stay safe,


Dir LTW.

Friday 2nd July

Thistle do nicely.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home. It was great to see so many of you at the LTW all-staff meeting on Tuesday.

In a spare moment please do help Mary by completing her user survey to gather all good data which feeds directly into the design of the MyEd interface.  It’s a quick and easy task, and should take no more than 10 minutes.  To take part, click the link and follow the instructions: https://edin.ac/2YGuYCQ

If you haven’t done it yet please also complete the working from home survey. https://edinburgh.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/uoe-working-from-home-experience-survey We are particularly interested to know how the experience has been different for different types of people, young and old, parents and carers etc and it will help with planning how we organise our teams and services for the future.

Some of our services have been even busier and more critical than usual. You have been writing new code to make tasks easier for Schools, helping with higher-levels of enquiries and calls than normal, and keeping the services up-and-running. We are planning lots of work over the coming months to keep the Schools happy. If you are a School rep, your role is more important than ever.

If you are preparing to come back on to campus to staff our frontline services, please be reassured that we are taking this seriously and your line managers will have discussions with you about heath and safety.

Some other things that have been keeping you busy:

Now that the 5 mile travel limit has been lifted we are all free to head to the mountains.  Enjoy your weekend.



Friday 10th July

oh, you skies.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week working from home. A special thank you to those who have ventured back to campus to open up facilities and media studios.  No long message from me this week as I’m on annual leave, just a note to update you on the VR headset witty caption competition.

The winner from LTW is Delia  in the Learning Spaces Technology team for her suggestion:  ‘You’re virtually here now!’  Congratulations, Delia!

These headsets combine with a smartphone to allow use of 360 and VR content. Headsets will initially be distributed with welcome week content: VR tours so students can get a feel for the campus; social apps and team building games for students to meet course mates and get to know new friends etc.  Once they’re with students the headsets are theirs to keep, opening up the opportunity for teaching staff to make use of VR content in their courses confident in the knowledge that their students will have the tools to access this kind of material from home.   If you are interested in this kind of project, please do contact  in the UCreate Studio. The design has been created by Luisa , one of the UCreate student interns.

Have lovely weekends,


Dir LTW.

Friday 16th July

Mermaid in a mask.

Dear All,

Well done for another week.  I hope you will be able to enjoy an email-free day tomorrow. This week we are welcoming Jess Gramp to our team, and on Monday our two new interns from Napier University will join us and find things strangely quiet.

If you are looking for something to read on a quiet day, Karen has blogged her reflections on her first six months as our Head of DLAM.  https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/khowie/2020/06/30/where-do-i-start/

As part of our partnership with Wikimedia UK we have run 222 training sessions. We’ve trained 1,151 students, 516 staff and 432 members of the public to edit Wikipedia. They have created 793 new articles and improved 2,752. Hannah has blogged about her first week as our Wikimedia Training Intern. https://blog.wikimedia.org.uk/2020/07/wikimedia-training-intern/

Lilinaz has our reading group lined up to discuss the intersection of technology and race. Please do join us.

Thank you to all who completed the staff working from home survey. We had an 80% return from LTW which ensures that your views and experiences get heard.

If you like a survey, there’s another one here from the UCreate team asking for suggestions on which maker workshops they should run for staff and students. https://edinburgh.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/ucreate-online-workshops

On the subject of surveys, the 2020 National Student Survey finds 85% of Scottish universities’ students were satisfied with the quality of their course. The ISG-related questions have improved at Edinburgh. ‘resources and facilities support my learning well’ – 82.28% up from 80.49% last year, ‘Library resources’ 87.51 up to 88.53% and ‘course specific resources, equipment, facilities, software, collections’ 87.71 to 88.29%.  I think we can claim that as a result for LTW!    Thank you all for your hard work.

Stay safe,


Dir, LTW

Friday 24th July


Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week. You’ve been busy.

  • Members of our teams have been at Drupalcon and BBWorld conferences.
  • Welcome to Marek Golebiewski and Pilar Rodriguez Perez our >new team members from Napier and Laurie, Craig and Mari-Nikol ,our new media producers who have joined us to open up the pop-up studios.
  • The Web and Comms Technology team had a socially distanced meet-up in the Meadows to welcome new colleagues who have joined us working from home.
  • There is new training for you to do: “Home Working 2020″ and “Returning to the University Estate 2020” are designed to keep you safe. https://www.ed.ac.uk/health-safety/training/e-learning/cardinus/covid19-training
  • Emma Carroll and Laura Rose Wood, jointly won Wikimedia UK’s Up-and-coming Wikimedians of 2020 at the WikimediaUK AGM.
  • Kate Yee and her teams have opened up the media studios spaces https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/teaching-continuity/media-studios
  • Lauren Johnston-Smith  and Emma Charlesworth have  launched a mini series of ‘mythbusting’ films – 4 x <1 minute films which blow away those negative ideas that naysayers have about what online learning is. The first film is live now: https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_jtu5t14s 
  • We now have our anti-racist reading list which includes several suggestions for books which are relevant to our work in technology, and some novels https://eu01.alma.exlibrisgroup.com/leganto/public/44UOE_INST/lists/26314230440002466?auth=SAML
  • If you would like to interrogate the staff survey data here’s a link. Contact Lilinaz Rouhani if you have questions or suggestions on how the data can be presented.  https://app.powerbi.com/Redirect?action=OpenApp&appId=35799c3a-0597-4585-95d9-e491ceff9643&ctid=2e9f06b0-1669-4589-8789-10a06934dc61
  • If you like novels, our course with the Edinburgh International Book Festival is now on. On the course you’ll discover four of the main building blocks of modern fiction: plot, characterisation, dialogue, and setting using examples from a range of texts including the four novels shortlisted for the 2020 James Tait Black fiction prize. You’ll also explore the formal strategies authors use, how they came to be, and how they affect us as readers. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/how-to-read-a-novel
  • Remember that Edinburgh alumni get a discount on online PG degrees, tell all your friends.
  • If you would like to be part of an LTW bake-off, contact Lorraine Spalding.
  • Best wishes to Stewart Cromar, we hope you will be well and back with us soon.

Stay safe,

Dir, LTW

Friday 31st July

Let it bee.

Dear All,

Well done as ever, and particularly good wishes to those who have carved themselves out some holiday time in spite of being so busy. This week and next we welcome more colleagues back from furlough so that we can get all hands on deck.

Please join me on Monday at 3pm, we have another audience with VP Colm Harmon and a chance to talk together about preparations for semester 1, which is approaching fast!

Kevin spotted that Google have named their new high-end transatlantic data cable after Grace Hopper, which is totally copying us since we named our finest media services (Media Hopper) after her, years ago. It is clear that many colleagues are having no problem getting hands-on with Media Hopper. We’ve had 4,262 uploads in June and 3,458 in July. That’s up 356% from last year. Our collection of lecture recordings is also proving popular. As expected, the number of captures (recordings) dropped in June, but views were approximately 3x higher than the same month last year. We are only 15,000 views away from 1 million views in this academic year.

Andy has made a video about how much you love Linkedin Learning https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_trs8853w

Nicola Sturgeon has set our distancing at 2m so there is a lot of work to configure buildings. It seems likely that DHT will be repurposed as a study space centre, and Estates are building temporary structures in Bristol Square for Welcome Week to annoy the skateboarders. No news yet on the return of the food trucks and Prosecco bars.

Get well soon to Charlie, our playful engagement maven, who has broken some bones playing out, and happy #SysAdminDay to all who keep our systems running.

Have a lovely weekend and fingers crossed it is sunny where you are.

Dir, LTW

Friday 7th August


Dear All,

Well done for another week.

Thank you to all of you who volunteered to help with Clearing.

Special welcome to new colleagues who have joined us this week, some of whom you already know: Dave, Candice, Lee-Ann, Rebecca, Alan, Robyn, Edward and Maz, and best wishes to all those who have family members with exam results and fresh stationery supplies ready for the return to school.

I hope you have your questions ready for the Principal because you are all invited to his Town Hall Meeting.https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/staff/2020/invitation-to-staff-town-hall-session

You can submit your questions about COVID here:  https://www.ed.ac.uk/usher/news-events/covid-19-webinars/students-ask-covid-19

Stuart, Jess and Nikki have been wrangling our platform partners ( EdX, Coursera and FutureLearn) and fingers crossed we’ll have some  new ‘bundled’ packages of free, open, massive online courses to announce soon.  Arthur and Billy have been building a much-needed new website for the UCreate Studio.

Coming up soon is the Association of Learning Technologists’ summer summit online https://altc.alt.ac.uk/summit2020/ If you would like to attend online, please ask your line manager. University of Edinburgh is an active partner in ALT, we host conferences and events and we encourage staff to gain CMALT accreditation. If you are a CMALT holder and you would like to be added to this list, of CMALTers please let me know.https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/more/professional-development/uoe-cmalt-holders

If you are considering doing CMALT, please discuss it with your line manager. One of the nice things about getting CMALT is that it gives you some additional post-nominal letters which you can add to your EdWeb profile. If you would like to update your EdWeb profile, please do. Here’s how: https://www.wiki.ed.ac.uk/pages/viewpage.action?spaceKey=edweb&title=Profile+page

If you are in Edinburgh or you have a ‘high vantage point’ don’t forget to spot ‘My Light Shines On’ at 9.30pm on Saturday https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/aug/03/edinburgh-sky-to-be-lit-up-for-launch-of-international-festival

Have  lovely weekend. Stay away from Aberdeen.


Dir, LTW.

Friday 14th August

Look North.

Dear All,

Well done for surviving another week. I hope you all remained watertight during that epic storm and now have internet back up and running.

Today is 14th August and Welcome Week begins one month from now.  Always nice to see algorithms as a top national news story.

It is great to be able to keep many of our LF interns with us for an additional few weeks as we brace for a last push on getting all materials ready for the start of teaching.  Congratulations to all of you who presented your Edinburgh Award Employ.Ed Final Presentations. Excellent presentations and so many creative ways that you have achieved your development goals. It sounds like we have turned you all into Excel experts and accessibility evangelists and you are the only people who actually know what DRPS stands for, thank you Ruby. There’s no doubt that your work has contributed to making a difference for the University and nice to see Thomasina achieving a hat trick.

Congratulations also to the 84 UoE staff and students who completed Tracy’s ‘Developing your Data Skills Programme’ from home. Amazing tenacity shown and superb individual data projects.

Congratulations to the media teams for some lovely new webpages advertising the new media studios for all https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/onlinecourse-production/media-production/studio

We’ve been running a lot of training during lockdown in LTW we have run 271 sessions since the start of lockdown and we are scheduling nearly another 300 sessions for semester 1. We are training academic colleagues everyday to ensure they can use all our best learning technology tools. Our CIO referred to us as ‘a godsend’ which is nice. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/membership/stories/rapidly-up-skilling-staff-in-lockdown-11-aug-2020#

We are always researching new technology solutions (Myles has blogged about online proctoring https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/mylesblaney/online-proctoring-chicken-or-egg/ ) and presenting our work. There is a call for papers at Open Education Conference if anyone is interested: https://openeducationconference.org/2020/call-for-proposals

If you feel like you haven’t strayed far from your house for a while why not explore our city with a Curious Edinburgh tour http://curiousedinburgh.org/  we have hosted Curious Edinburgh for a couple of years and it really is a lovely thing.

Have a lovely weekend.


Dir, LTW

Friday 20th August

Dear All,

Well done for another week working from home.  As per Nicola Sturgeon ,’working from home remains the default position’.  Despite this, our AV fit-out teams are back on campus, rapidly fitting AV and IT into the spaces that time forgot. Our captioning robots are working their little digits off, typing up subtitles for video content, and people all over the university are getting freaked out by turning on the ’together’ mode in Teams. It’s all good practice for the start of term.

James has blogged about inheriting a pre-loved service https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/sliceoflearning/2020/08/14/service-inheritance/

Lauren has blogged about being on the front line at clearing https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/ede/2020/08/19/on-the-frontline-for-clearing/

I’ve been watching more Edinburgh Award presentations, lovely reflections from Hannah on working from home and managing distractions.

Its lovely to see the Preparing for Study and LibSmart courses on Learn. Excellent work from Lizzy, Marcello and Vicki. Nice also to see Andrew presenting at the Apps Lunchtime Seminar on Teams.

I hope to see some of you at the ISG reading group for a discussion of mental health.

Friday 28th August

Dear All,

Well done for working another week at home.  As you might suspect, the University is considering possibly thinking about making a plan for what we would have to do if we went  ‘back into lockdown’. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts you have about things LTW would do differently next time.

In the meantime, ISG is offering 70 ‘how-to’ sessions to new students. https://www.ed.ac.uk/students/new-students/online-information-sessions/ug-online-sessions 40 of those are being run by you in LTW, online.

With a focus on care, Stratos and his team have been doing great work on the student wellbeing project, conducting a 3 month qualitative research project exploring student experiences around health and wellbeing.  We wanted to learn how we might prevent the less severe problems students experience from escalating to more complex problems and associated support.

The semester 1 study support courses are ready to go.  Our Student Ambassadors are being trained to support and moderate the discussion boards for the centrally managed ‘Preparing to Study’ course.

Tracey is ready to launch her Learn course on inclusion, accessibility and universal design and Jenni’s team have launched their ‘Working from Home’ digital skills toolkit  http://www.ed.ac.uk/is/staff-remote-working-toolkit  .

Vicki has explained digital citizenship to all of ISG and Lesley’s teams are getting to grips with the teaching space operational plan.

Our chatbot is working on the Business School website. Is this really the university of Edinburgh’s first chatbot? The bot provides answers to the most common questions that the admissions team receive via email.

As the University phases out the name of the David Hume Tower, I have been reading the Wikipedia pages about George Square and the Dundas Riots. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Square,_Edinburgh  Anyone can edit.  If you have spare time I understand there is work to be done on the Scots Wikipedia. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/26/shock-an-aw-us-teenager-wrote-huge-slice-of-scots-wikipedia  Ewan and Hannah can show you how.

Have a lovely weekend,


Dir, LTW


Friday 4th September

Nice weather for ducks.

Dear All,

Well done for surviving another week of work. Special mention to the Media Hopper teams who are having a rocky time. With everyone going back to school and uni in  the UK and USA the internet is taking a battering and our many colleagues who have left it until this week to upload their video materials are feeling the strain.   Hold on tight as we hurtle towards the start of term. Thank you to those who are providing extra cover for Helpline and the logistical challenges of study spaces.  Sympathise with the LST teams while they test a variety of cleaning unguents on their delicate equipment. Marvel at the tumbleweed in the media studios. Reflect on what we have learned.

Great to see the Carlyle Circle website going live. The ‘how to’ sessions continue a pace, the new Digital Skills programme is in place. Learn Foundations is looking tip top. The professional certificate in Digital Marketing is open for enrolment, as are myriad MOOCs and the study support courses in Learn. Thank you to all who have done your ADRs, SEP data and mandatory training, they may seem like a faff to you, but it we all know that organisations this size are powered by these details.

Before you go out for your walk this weekend, check out ‘Wiki Loves Monuments’ its got an interactive map of listed buildings etc which have no picture on wikimedia. There’s loads and its easy to upload from your phone. https://wlmuk.toolforge.org/#/q/Q23436d  From where I’m sitting it seems to need basically every large house in south west Edinburgh and all kinds of asylums, poorhouses, churches and merchant schools . If you have a good eye, you could even win a prize.  Never let it be said that we are not competitive.  Scotland uploaded 300+ images in 2016. That rose to 2,100 in 2017 with 1,351 of those uploaded by staff at the University of Edinburgh. In 2018, Scotland smashed it with 4,411 images uploaded. You know what to do. https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/wir/2019/09/

Have a good weekend,


Dir, LTW

Friday 11 September

Send in the clowns.

Dear All,

Well done for making it through another week. Thank you to all of you who have helped to shore up Media Hopper Create this week, I know the teams have been up all night.  Karen had a call with the Kaltura Executive and gave them her best hard stare. They hung their heads in shame. Unclear whether it is fixed yet though.  Thank you also to Lorraine for rapid comms work, and to all the teams fielding questions about the relative merits of Collaborate, Teams, Streams and Zoom for teaching. Thank you to Stratos’ teams for picking up another piece of last minute work from the apps.ed service and to Neil for his persistence and patience with the virtual classroom recording policy.

Our colleagues have now launched more .ED services. To join book.ed, Seat.ed, discover.ed etc. Any further suggestions for for past participle service names are welcome.

Please follow ISG on linkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/company/university-of-edinburgh-information-services-group and if you are a student looking for part time work remember to register with Unitemps https://www.unitemps.com/Edinburgh-homepage

Please join us at the next ISG reading group on the 24th September. We will be discussing the dark side of classification systems. Those of you who grew up with the Dewey Decimal system in your school library will be shocked.  Contact Lilinaz to find out more.  https://teams.microsoft.com/l/channel/19%3acaa54f30849a429db1ae4c1489cf1bbd%40thread.tacv2/General?groupId=bdd45b33-1c61-49e0-8ea7-92efded6abe2&tenantId=2e9f06b0-1669-4589-8789-10a06934dc61

Join Duncan’s network of humans to talk about user experiences.


If you have been into town, or been doing cartwheels in the Meadows,  you will have seen the prefabs sprouting in Bristo Square. These are self proclaimed ‘scandi-style’ hang-outs for students, but remember not to hygge anyone who is not in your social bubble.

Have a good weekend,


Dir, LTW

Friday 18th September

Keepers of fully trained bees.

Dear All,

Well done for another week.

The start of term could be a bit rocky. But remember, as Douglas Adams said ‘It’s not the Fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop’, so we just have to keep moving, keep pushing through.

Dates for your diary: We have declared Ada Lovelace Day this year to be Tuesday 13th October. Please do get your thinking caps on for fun hybrid things we can do. The much talked about deadline for public sector organisations to make all existing websites accessible is 23 September Get your accessibility good news stories ready. Tonight is the start of Jewish new year and I am happy to judge your honeycake baking efforts.

The new website for Apps.ed looks gorgeous,https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/computing/desktop-personal/apps-ed/using-apps-ed  great work by Callum and team. As does the new video about the media studios https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_gm9crazm , great work by Kate and team.

Media Hopper seems to have reached a level of calm. Despite the hurdles in their way, colleagues have successfully uploaded 8300 media items and made 5000 captioning requests since the 1st of September.  We now have 92,995  items in Media Hopper Create. That’s on top of the 63,000 items we have in our Replay Lecture recording system. That’s a huge collection of home grown, born digital content. Worth shouting about. Well done.  3470 of the items in Media Hopper have the open, creative commons licences on them. If you have ideas how to encourage  more colleagues to choose that  option to make their materials open educational resources (OER) for others to use, that will help the university towards its commitment to the UN sustainable development goals  https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/Once Media Hopper had recovered, both Learn and MyEd started demanding attention. To say nothing of Collaborate. We are going to need to be alert to all kinds of strange behaviour as hybrid delivery kicks in in earnest.

I went for my evening walk  last night to check out the campuses. The new social spaces are nearly built. The students are partying hard and the university is threatening them with fines and rustication. As a primer on what happens when you put young people in a place where partying is banned, I recommend the 1984 classic ‘Footloose’.

Grab some sunshine and have a good weekend,


Dir, LTW






shifting priorities

Picture taken by me in the street. No rights reserved by me.

There is a lot going on. Priorities are changing all across the University.

For me, one priority has been to get some of my learning technology service teams on to contracts which are more secure. I have some amazingly talented and highly skilled professional in my teams.

That done, my next step was to ensure that we maintain our commitment to our student internships and sandwich placements.  I’m pleased to say we are recruiting dozens of students to help us with our digital shift to blended, flexible and inclusive learning in semester 1, and we are offering placement years to computing students from Napier University.

Another priority is to recruit some more https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/CAB451/learning-technology-support-officer to join us.

If you know anyone interested: ‘Working closely with colleagues across the University, you will bring a strong customer focus, an enthusiasm for problem-solving, a methodical and efficient management of your workload as well as a desire to learn new skills and gain expertise in new areas. We value your communication and digital skills, knowledge and experience of working with learners and teachers’.

At Edinburgh Learning Technology Support Officers may specialise in a particular area of technology to provide expert guidance and support. We are interested to hear from people who might specialise in video, AR/VR, remote teaching, skills training, digital humanities or computational notebooks as these are growing areas of demand.

We are also recruiting e-learning software developers https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/CAD662/elearning-systems-developer to help us deliver next generation learning environments: “Will you help us to deliver online, blended and hybrid learning for University of Edinburgh? We are looking for an agile developer to join our team to build capability for the future and contribute to teaching and learning in a world-leading centre of academic excellence. You will demonstrate experience of building and maintaining web applications, with proven skills in modern web technologies, including HTML, PHP, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and the ability to prioritise your own workload and work independently. You will also have well-developed communication skills, and be able to identify and understand user requirements. You will understand the impact of legislation (such as accessibility, equality and GDPR) in the context of online education.”


Shifting place and pace: New futures for online learning

Some of the links from my presentation at the University of Derby Online Learning Summit on Tuesday.

Follow me @honeybhighton

The book of online learning at University of Edinburgh

Near Future Teaching at University of Edinburgh

Manifesto for Online Teaching at University of Edinburgh

An ‘Edinburgh Model for Online Teaching’ at University of Edinburgh

When I wrote this presentation originally, I thought the shift in pace and place I would be talking about would be the new online microcredentials – Micromasters ™ – courses we have been piloting this year.

Little did I know that we would, as  a sector, experience a seismic shift  to remote learning online in little more than a week.  At University of Edinburgh we have all shifted place- we are now working from home or are stranded and trapped. We have all shifted pace. Things which we thought would take months and years to do suddenly gained urgency and we ‘flipped’ or ‘pivoted’ to remote learning and working outwith the university at very short notice.

I can tell you about what we have been doing at Edinburgh in online distance learning, because it is this previous work which has given us the capacity, capability and vision to respond quickly now.

We know that distance is a positive principle, not a deficit. It can generate meaningful learning opportunities and a positive student experience; it can build community; and it can advance a values-led and professionalising position of teaching, one that does not downgrade teaching into (mere) facilitation.

New futures?  who knows what will happen next? I won an EduFuturists Award  recently for an individual ‘who embodies a vision of where education could be 20 years from now’ , and suddenly it seems like I should come up with this vision pretty fast.  This is a new era and a paradigm shift for ‘business continuity’. In the past i warned my colleagues to ‘expect locusts‘. I wanted them to think big. I asked them to think about what happens if for some reason we can’t operate as usual. I admit, I thought the challenges would be strikes, snow or rogue volcanos, but I like a bit of Biblical scale…..

Some  of my emerging thoughts for possible futures:

  • After this current ‘panic pivot’ to teach out the current academic year. Universities will quickly start to think about semester 1 next year. Will university campuses re-open or will we teach semester 1 online?

The online learning landscape

  • A rush to online delivery by many universities will see skillful course design for accessibility, quality and learning communities become key.
  • Even if the on-campus learners return, this is not a one-off, they will need reassurance that they can go home, if called home and still complete their studies.
  • The undergraduate online market in the UK will be transformed. Things we thought impossible will become pragmatic.
  • Some universities will collaborate with peer institutions to develop courses and deliver together. Some will not.
  • Interoperability, licensing, IP, technical standards and open development will be as important for sharing, interchange, reuse, local adaptation of materials  as they always have been. Expertise in this area will be prized.


  • Learning technologists who know about staff development, course design and open educational resources will realise they can work from home and work for any institution in the world. Their salaries will increase, and the work will be more flexible, more compatible with family life.
  • The (already) global market for academic colleagues who teach well online will thrive.

Digital transformation

  • On campus service such as counselling, wellbeing, welfare, disability support, finance, careers will need to find new elements of quality in delivery online.
  • Students will want to watch their lectures online.
  • Traditional face to face exams will become antiquated, and the purpose  and methods of assessment will become increasingly diverse.
  • ‘Halls of residence’ will be forever known as ‘petri dishes’.

Technology partners

  • The global platforms ( Coursera, Edx, Futurelearn, Linkedin Learning) will finally see return on their business model and they will own all the student data.
  • Home-based learners will sacrifice privacy and personal data in the rush to use Zoom and Houseparty et al.
  • Vendors and suppliers will try to renegotiate the costs of VLEs, streaming video and virtual classroom tools.
  • Libraries will finally invest properly in digitisation and digital collections and no-one will believe publishers’ protests that they cannot offer open access any more.








responding to crisis

I am so impressed by how well our teams and services are responding to this situation. We are seeing increased use of all our learning technology systems and receiving great, positive feedback on the support, training and expertise we are providing.

We have trained 800 staff to support remote teaching and offered online training in how to work from home.

The result has been:

  • 1200 Media Hopper Create uploads in Week3 March in comparison to 400 in the same week last year.
  • Support calls for Media Hopper Create down on last year show that the training and guidance is good quality.
  • 16-18th March 800 Collaborate sessions per day. 23rd March, 1400 sessions involving 6000 users
  • Learn Logins steady each day at 4,000 logins but this is fewer than an average day when everyone is on campus. We would usually see nearer 5,000 per day.

Our academic colleagues are working hard to play their part in tackling the Corona Virus.  This is one of the very good things about working in a research university. We are providing services which support research and teaching  and knowledge creation and dissemination.


In LTW, we are all part of this.

We are currently:

  • helping to open up content on MediaHopper  to be used by NHS Lothian staff,
  • helping MSc Critical Care to open up a Learn course to thousands of clinicians and creating a new MOOC.
  • helping Usher Institute to create a web database of  evidence based research on COVID-19 that can be accessed by policy-makers and clinicians seeking up-to-date and reliable answers to key questions.
  • adapting the graphic design in chapters from the Adult Medical Emergencies Handbook to be put online.
  • watching how colleagues in our UCreate Makerspace team are contributing to the effort to prototype and 3d print essential PPE.

This is important work and the university appreciates the contribution we are making.

Thank you, all.

PlayFair and win

UniversitiesHR award for Excellence in Equality and Diversity

I am delighted to say that the PlayFair Steps equality and diversity initiatives in Information Services Group at University of Edinburgh have been recognised as excellent by the judges at the recent Universities Human Resources awards.

Many organisations are now choosing to recognise Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) expertise as a significant area of  valuable knowledge which contributes to the business advantage and has a direct and significant positive impact on reputation.  After two years this work is now able to show positive impact  and report on metrics for improvement and use data driven decision-making for management practice. The work brings us ‘diversity advantage’. Diversity advantage can be seen as the positive consequences which accrue to a business through diversity and inclusivity practices in the workplace.

Increasingly EDI work  in organisations can be seen as having  a focus on:

  • improve the use of data in driving future developments
  • a greater priority on communications
  • more effective evaluation of policies and interventions
  • a focus on ‘what works’ underpinned by a robust and systematic use of the evidence.

My work in ISG EDI is seen through leadership in innovative practice to recruit staff, develop colleagues’ understanding of intersectionality and embed EDI into student employability programmes.  I proactively recognise and reward staff with EDI expertise in my own teams. As well as identifying key people within the organisation to lead events in specific areas there are now 3 university of Edinburgh PhD students working as interns in ISG with specific remit to bring their academic expertise in gender studies and inclusion to contribute to our work.  We have a Gender Equality Intern ( Dominique) and Digital Marketing and Recruitment intern ( Vicki) and an Equality Images Intern ( Francesca) These interns join my growing team (including our Wikimedian in Residence) to ensure that EDI in ISG is visible and celebrated. The three interns work on EDI plans and programmes, innovative digital marketing for recruitment and within the University archives and collections to find quality equality images which can be digitised and used to promote stories from our University history and to be used in presentations and publications. I have also agreed to sponsor a year’s sabbatical for another of our team ( Jo) to pursue a Masters by Research to properly surface the real story of The Edinburgh Seven.

The PlayFair Steps has been successful in that it allows staff to look at diversity and equality in various ways and from various points of view, all of which contribute to improving ISG. The work began as an initiative around gender equality and has expanded to recognise that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. I have developed a range of activities exploring how a person’s age, disability status, race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and parent status contribute towards their specific experiences in and perspectives of our workplace. Using the local expertise of our academic colleagues and students, I seek to move beyond anecdote and create a more inclusive workplace with support from senior management for both top-down and bottom-up change.

Our IT practice now benefits from a more nuanced understanding of the structural issues which lead to workplace improvement. It is not enough to just ‘add women and stir’. The PlayFair Steps programme (which draws its name for the idea of ‘fair play’ at work) focusses on ensuring that barriers and bias are addressed and a more inclusive workplace is experienced by all.  The PlayFair Steps is an initiative which improves our reputation and is of interest to central IT departments at other universities. The work is also being disseminated at relevant sector-wide conferences and recognised through being shortlisted by various national awards. Fingers crossed for more success and recognition of the value of this work in the future.



edtech under 50


I am delighted, but somewhat surprised to find I am on the list of Edtech50 . The Edtech50 is a celebration of the people, products and projects shaping this dynamic and growing sector across the UK. The awards recognise products and projects demonstrating effective use of Edtech in the UK, along with individuals who have played a leading role in developing this area of work. Am grateful to lovely colleagues who added my name. I didn’t attend the launch celebration in London  as I was, as you know, on strike.

Full list of winners here.

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.

time for an evidence base for technology enhanced learning?

Red herring
Red Herring By misocrazy from New York, NY (Cropped from Kipper) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I spoke at JISC Digifest 2017. It was lovely to see so many colleagues old and new there.

Jisc had gathered a community of learning technologists and IT specialists and asked us to think about how we might find an evidence base for TEL.

But I do wonder: Should we even try?

There is a real risk to the universities in having the people who are best placed to build and develop excellent new services  spending too much of their time of fruitless tasks.   I think knowing what kinds of evidence is relevant for which decisions is a leadership skill, and leadership in learning technology is what its all about.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t make evidence-based decisions, or decisions based on data. We need to know the difference between evidence and data. But I think ‘technology enhanced learning‘ might be a red herring. Or possibly a hens tooth.  Or may be both.

Even before the Trump era of post-fact and post-truth there were already many people, with strong convictions will not be persuaded by evidence, however well it is presented.

Some times I suspect that people ask for evidence not because they want to make a decision, but because they already have.

Sometimes I suspect that the request for more evidence, and more detail is a stalling or blocking tactic. It is just one approach to resistance.  No amount of detail will ever be enough and you’ll spend a long time looking for it.

What I am sure is true is that different kinds of evidence persuades different kinds of people in different kinds of decision-making and we need to be smart with that. The  kinds of evidence that persuades users to use the tools, is very different from evidence budget-holders need to make decisions on spend and buy the tools in the first place.

The evidence-base is not the same as the business-case.

So, In summary: Should we spend more time assembling an evidence base for technology enhanced learning?

I vote No. The opportunity cost is too great.   It would have to be so broad, yet so detailed to convince university lecturers it would be quickly unstainable. It would be backward looking and the data unreproducable. It would have little useful link to the real, real-time decisions being made for investment for the future. We should not waste that time, we have more urgent things to do.


reflecting forward with hindsight

Cover image of BITS magazine. BITS Issue 14, Spring 2016 http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/edinburgh-bits
Cover image of BITS magazine. BITS Issue 14, Spring 2016 http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/edinburgh-bits

I am impressed that ALT have found my CMALT portfolio in their archives. I will share it as an example with colleagues  engaging with our new CMALT programme.

When I wrote my initial CMALT application in 2008 I was just about to leave University of Leeds to embark on a new adventure in a new role as Head of Learning Technologies at University of Oxford. At that time there were so few CMALT persons in each university that the status of ‘University with the largest number of CMALT’ shifted from Leeds to Oxford when I moved. I stayed in that role at Oxford for 6 years, becoming Director of Academic IT as I expanded the teams, projects, scope and services.

Looking back at my portfolio submission from the time I am reminded of my commitment even then to blogging, learning design, VLEs, OER and my specialist subject: learning technology leadership.

In order to renew my CMALT portflio I am asked to reflect on how my career has developed over the past 3 years and how this relates to my work with learning technology.

I’ve been at Edinburgh for 2 years now. I know this because I’ve just attended my third elearning@ed forum. It’s been a vertiginous learning curve, and  I’ve had to make some serious changes in the leadership of the Division.  Grace Hopper said ‘ the most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘We’ve always done it this way’. I think that is *especially* dangerous for anyone in an industry like learning technology which requires, demands innovation.

As a woman who arrives from somewhere else to take over the management of a department, I hear it a lot.

The investment of time and effort is paying off though, Senior Vice Principal Charlie Jeffrey described us as ‘gripped in the throws of innovation’. Which is good, I think.   I’ve also just been appointed Assistant Principal for Online Learning.

Having an Assistant Principal as part of the senior management team in ISG will ensure that we can align even more closely the activities of ISG to the mission of the University. This will contribute to the success of our service excellence and digital transformation programmes as well as planning for learning and teaching technology.  My new role will bring added complexity for me as I manage the challenge of keeping my teams on track with these innovations while also giving a renewed focus myself to online and distance learning. Exciting times.