Offering students work experience in our STEM organisation is a no-brainer for me.
We get up to date ideas and creative thinking from them. They get real work experience and digital skills from us. The digital sector in Scotland is booming and students are hungry for work experience which will help them to succeed once they graduate. If you are not studying a STEM discipline the digital sector may be hard to enter, we need a pipeline for students to find their way into well paid jobs and new roles.
This is the fourth year I have hosted interns in LTW and the numbers keep getting bigger. This is credit to all the teams and managers who establish a range of really interesting summer projects and to the reputation we are gaining as a great place to work.
Our interns come to us via a variety of routes. We are happy to host 24 new student interns this summer (11 via Employ.ed, 10 as VLE support, 2 Napier Placements, 1 Equate Careerwise) , plus 2 returners from last year (Anirudh and Samuel ), 2 who have been with us for 3 years ( Dominique and Vicki), 6 student trainers and 10 media subtitling assistants.
While they are with us the interns write blogs and as they leave we ask them to reflect on what they have learned. Each team and project they are involved with benefits from their input. And yes, we pay them.
The Information Services Group (ISG) at University of Edinburgh is committed to providing work experience for Edinburgh students. The student workers in our organisation transform the culture, bring new viewpoints and diversity to our teams and provide unique student perspectives on our services to help us improve. Increasing the number of students who work in our organisation is part of our strategic ambitions and a vital part of enabling the University effectively to meet future challenges.
For the last 4 years we have had specific programmes in place to recruit and support students into our data, digital and IT jobs as interns over the summer and as part time workers throughout the year. Students work in our organisation in a wide range of roles including: as web developers, IT trainers, media producers, project support officers, help desk staff, graphic designers, AV fit-out technicians, data analysts and learning technologists. We aim to develop a strong and vibrant community of young staff who are supported, valued, developed and engaged.
The work on this initiative is ongoing and growing. Team managers are finding opportunities to work with students across more and more projects. They say:
“It started with a single summer internship analysing some data from our MOOC courses. Since then we’ve had summer interns developing media migration tools, capturing case studies on how media is used, assessing chat bots and where they could fit into our work, and helping with the roll out of lecture recording. This year we also had a team of around 30 students working with us over the start of term to support lecture recording use in large teaching spaces.”
“Personally I loved the experience of working with students again, and in a brand new area of IT support. I find their enthusiasm for the role and energy is infectious and I’m always looking for ways to challenge them and help them grow in the role”’
Our CIO has set a target within ISG’s Strategic Plan to employ at least 500 students over the course of each academic year.
How can the impact of this work be measured?
More than 300 students have worked with us so far this year. Because ISG is responsible for all the digital services across libraries, IT, learning technologies and study spaces in the university we are in a perfect position to offer flexible employment to our students.
Students are also the main consumers of our services. By employing them to work on projects that affect them we benefit from a rich source of productivity and innovation to help shape and improve these services.
We want each student to get the most out of their work experience with us, so we collaborated with our Careers Service and HR colleagues to create a ‘digital student guidebook’ and professional development resources to support students balancing employment alongside their studies. Students can also complete an ‘Edinburgh Award’ – a wrap-around reflective learning framework that helps students to articulate their work experience. We can measure the impact of our student employment initiatives through the ways in which the students reflect on the value of their experience.
We support a positive employment experience for our student workers and encourage them to create LinkedIn profiles to evidence their skills and to engage with their peers through promotional videos and blogging about their work experience. Every student who works with us should leave able to describe an experience of working in a professional environment, on a meaningful project, with real responsibilities, and have a good non-academic referee to add to their CV.
Impact can also be seen in the work being done to generate a sustainable pipeline of talent. Giving individuals the platform they need to excel is critical to our long-term success and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. Providing work experience and supporting employability empowers our students while building a healthy pipeline of talent, which we hope we may benefit from in the future.
The longer-term impact of the work or initiative on its staff and/or the performance of the organisation.
The longer- term impact on our organisation can be seen several ways:
· The experience we are gaining in developing our scheme in response to feedback from our student workers has led to improvement in practice. We have a staff network for interns and managers to share experiences and learning.
· Our projects and services improve as a result of the skills, creativity, input and ideas brought by the students.
· Our understanding of our users is improved by the perspective that our students bring to the workplace. Their outside perspective is useful in terms of challenging and broadening our thinking.
· Our student workers are now a growing group of ‘ISG Alumni’ who have worked with us and may promote or choose our organisation in the future.
· Our number of student workers is increasing year on year as more managers welcome them into their teams.
· Some of our student workers are now returners who return to work with us each year in different roles.
· We have been able to appoint a number of students into full time roles following their placements and internships. They have become a loyal group of workers who identify us as their employer of choice.
How is the work linked to the organisation’s strategy and achievement of its objectives?
The University is one of the largest local employers, covering multiple sectors and job roles. The University of Edinburgh has a Youth and Student Employment Strategy 2017–2021, which presents our whole-institution approach to employability skills.
The University is committed to long-term goals in creating, promoting and delivering opportunities that enhance the employability of our students. The University recognises the shortage of highly skilled data, digital and IT workers and is therefore safeguarding for the future and building a sustainable talent pipeline, which addresses current and future skills requirements. In addition, this gives our students the platform they need to excel, which is critical to our long-term success, our competitive advantage and also helps us make a vital contribution to our community. This is particularly important for sectors with national skills shortages such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and this is an opportunity to ‘grow our own’ in these areas.
The National Student Survey (NSS) and Edinburgh Student Experience Survey (ESES) results have highlighted areas for improvement in recent years. Developing more student employment opportunities is one way to improve the student experience and expands the employment prospects of our graduates. On-campus employment offers students an opportunity to work with the University to shape the delivery of services that directly affect the student community.
What was innovative or outstanding about the work and how can that be demonstrated?
As an employer within a university we are afforded unique opportunities to engage our student body, including delivering learning technologies used in curriculum, improving their study spaces and access to research.
Students are the main consumers of our services. By employing them to work on projects that affect them we benefit from a rich source of productivity and innovation to help shape and improve these services.
In a city filled with tech employers, we might not always be an obvious choice for students wanting to work in the IT sector, so we continuously look for interesting and innovative projects and service enhancement activities to attract the best talent to our organisation.
By empowering our students they become champions and ambassadors for our work, which brings business benefits as we strive to roll-out new technologies and the cultural changes associated with these different ways of working. Specific recent examples include contributing to work on the opening up of our educational resources, part of a worldwide movement to promote and support sustainable educational development, and as champions for the roll-out of lecture recording, bringing a student perspective to our communications, training and project activities.
How could other institutions or IT professionals learn from this work and use it in their own organisation?
Universities are very well placed to employ students in flexible ways, but often we assume that these will be in fairly low skill jobs in our shops, bars and residences. In exploring what digital, library and IT jobs there may be on campus we have opened up a variety of roles and reaped the benefit of a vibrant new group of staff with new ideas for our organisation. Our students are amongst some of the best and brightest in the world. We are really lucky to have a pool of such talent and creativity available to us.
The work we have done in Information Services at Edinburgh is easily transferable to other institutions and there is a sector imperative now to build and grow talent in IT organisations. The competition for new graduates is fierce and the investment in students now yields return for the future. Students bring a new diversity to our workforce and contribute to a change in workplace culture enhancing our ways of working across intergenerational teams.
Some of our key learnings and tips are:
· Be targeted: writing tailored communications for different audiences is time-consuming, but really effective.
· Be distinctive: with so many opportunities out there, be clear about what makes your organisation different.
· Get face-to-face: digital works but students really value chatting to employers on campus.
· First impressions count: students are sensitive to image and want to work for organisations that wear their ‘inclusivity-heart’ on their sleeve, so your reps on campus should reflect this.
· Students listen to students: peer word of mouth is a powerful tool, encourage your student ambassadors to tell their friends!
Here’s the student testimonial which won us our Employer award:
Why have you nominated this person/company for Student Employer of the Year? Tell us why you think this employer is exceptional. Suggested areas of excellence: offers excellent experience and advice; opportunities to learn; understands study commitments; contributions to studies.
The Information Services Group (ISG) at the University of Edinburgh is a brilliantly dynamic place to work as a student. The company offers a large variety of part-time jobs which are designed for only one day a week so you can easily combine work with your studies. While you might assume that most of the jobs would be in IT, ISG actually offers a huge range of roles, providing exceptional means to develop digital skills even if you are studying something completely different for your university degree. For instance, there are jobs in copyrighting, media production, customer services, archives and libraries, communications, web development, event management and IT training. The jobs are designed to fit with the kind of skills students might already possess and you really get the impression that the organisation values the skills and insights that we bring to the table from our varied studies and experiences.
ISG has a specific scheme to increase the number of University of Edinburgh students they employ. They understand that having work experience during your studies is a big part of being employable and getting a job when you finish your degree. They employ undergraduates, taught postgraduates and research-based PhD students like myself in various roles, but I don’t think many students realise the sheer range of opportunities available at ISG. All jobs are advertised on the University Careers website, MyCareerHub, and there is a student employment officer in the HR team who works tirelessly to ensure that all student workers come away with a fantastic experience. The ISG team are continually thinking about digital ways to enhance the profile of student employment. All student workers are encouraged to think about developing their own profiles on LinkedIn and describing the skills they are learning. This has also greatly enhanced ISG’s brand presence on LinkedIn as an employer that focusses on the student work experience while creating a digital network for student employees as well. Some managers in ISG even write recommendations on LinkedIn for their student employees when they reach the end of their contracts and these references can then also be used as evidence of the work experience each student has undertaken.
Please provide a specific example of a time when this employer has provided exceptional support understanding or opportunities to development. Give evidence of the qualities and characteristics listed above.
I have been working in ISG as their digital recruitment and marketing intern for the past year and a half. My own PhD research, however, is in English Literature, so I am bringing my writing and analytical skills to benefit the organisation in improving the style and language used to communicate job adverts and digital marketing content. One of the unexpected opportunities I have found in this work is learning much more about equality and diversity issues than I ever thought I would in an IT-based role.
Since IT is a competitive and heavily male-dominated sector, however, ISG are particularly keen to attract more diverse applicants for their workforce. They are keenly interested in attracting women and young people into STEM careers, for example, and work very hard to ensure an open atmosphere with equal opportunities for all. There is an extensive programme of equality and diversity activity within the organisation, and a particular focus on making female role models visible. A series of workshops called the PlayFair Steps have been especially crucial in highlighting the equality and diversity issues that still exist within our organisation and the steps we must take in order to mitigate these issues. Through these workshops, I have learned much about implicit bias, especially in terms of gendered recruitment language, and am now much more mindful of the ways in which I formulate my own writing here in my role at ISG, as well as in my PhD research and daily life.
This year, I have been working with staff across the organisation, alongside another student who works in the equality and diversity project, to source and write profiles of women working in STEM roles in ISG and to promote these profiles online, where a wide range of people can then learn about the diversity of the careers and the people in the organisation. I’ve been given the opportunity to plan and lead my own work on these case studies and it has been extremely eye-opening to learn about the many issues that shape women’s careers in STEM and beyond. These are invaluable insights which have given me an opportunity to think extensively about careers and employment beyond university.
The evidence they want is not the same as the evidence lecturers ask for. Budget holders are more persuaded by market research than academic research. They want evidence that has been gathered at scale. Across whole institutions, across the sector, or across the globe.
Academic colleagues want to be persuaded to spend their own time. Budget holders want to be persuaded to invest the institution’s money and many, many people’s time.
A business case is not the same as an evidence base.
Different kind of evidence entirely.
Senior managers want to know what competitors are doing- they are working to find a value proposition, they are looking at what other universities are doing and looking for differentiation in the market. They want to know what to buy now for the university in 5 years not what a lecturer did somewhere three years ago.
From the learning technology out there, who’s offering the best price, service resilience, future proofing and information security? What’s the full cost of ownership over 5-10 years? We look at what integrates with the systems we have on campus – offering a streamlined approach. What efficiencies, what re-use, what standardisation, what new business?
We look to other industries and demographics trends of technology use. What devices students bring, what devices people use, how people use technology. We suspect that staff and student are people. We consider their use of personal devices at home and for work and their expectation that they will find this at university too.
We know they expect choice and a high quality of service. Does it shift time and space? Does it give flexibility? Does it work on my mobile?
Student demand for digitisation is about being able to watch a thing rather than not, being able to find a thing rather than not. Being able to do a thing in the middle of the night.
So budget holders are persuaded by the kind of evidence you find in business and IT disciplines: hype cycles and horizon scanning, evidence of use video traffic across the network, evidence of what students use and what students voted for when they elected their reps.
The kind of evidence being gathered by student experience surveys, and digital student experience surveys are driving institutional investment from the centre faster and harder than you might think.
Senior managers are looking for solutions at scale.
This project asks: ‘How can University teaching teams develop critical and participatory approaches to educational data analysis?’ It seeks to develop ways of involving students as research partners and active participants in their own data collection and analysis, as well as foster critical understanding of the use of computational analysis in education.
The ‘Learning Analytics Report Card’ captures data from an individual student’s course-related activity, and presents a summary of their academic progress in textual and visual form. However, rather than manifesting through hidden and inaccessible institutional data aggregation and analysis, the LARC offers students an opportunity to play with their data; to choose what is included or excluded, when the report is generated, and how it might be presented.
Rather than simply empowering the individual, this process reveals the functioning of the algorithms that increasingly underpin and govern educational decision-making. A pilot LARC will be developed for the MSc in Digital Education programme at the University of Edinburgh, with a view to producing a packaged system that might be used in other online provision.
The first draft of the Learning Analytics Report Card interface is now complete, and is ready for testing with Moodle data and the phase 1 analytics. The interface is behind the EASE login, which will restrict access to the identified pilot students, as well as facilitate login information for the data capture from Moodle. At present, the options available to students reflect the 5 categories of analytics constituting the fist phase of development: Attendance, Social Interaction, Engagement, Performance, Personal.
If you want to know more, contact Jeremy in the project team.
Lots of discussions this week about the student digital experience and how our services support students. As you know, the name of the Student Information System at University of Edinburgh is EUCLID. As time goes by it needs looking at again.
We also have some elements of euclid in our library.
In this version of Euclid elements held in the university research collections coloured diagrams and shapes are used instead of letters for the greater EASE of learners. Its all about the interface.
Could you lead and develop our university web portal? Are you a creative enthusiast for interface design? Do you understand what learners and teachers want? It could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
We are looking for an experienced web manager to join us and contribute to our digital student experience. You will have proven skills in interface design, web and mobile technologies, and user experience.
You will lead a small team delivering a mixture of central and consulting services including responsibility for managing the University’s web portal, MyEd, and overseeing a bespoke website development service. You will understand the need for continuous improvement for services and be confident in delivering IT projects with high quality solutions that meet both strategic objectives and customer requirements.
This week I’ll be at OER15 in Cardiff. It will be lovely to see so many OER colleagues again.
The conference theme is ‘Mainstreaming Open Education’ and I’ll be talking about the development of OER policy at University of Edinburgh, which has been student-led from the start.
As 2014 opened, the EUSA vice president for academic affairs challenged University senior managers to explore how learning materials could be made open, not only for students within the University, but across Scotland and to the wider world.
These were heady days, the University was riding the wave of global interest in MOOCs, an NUS report was published to champion OER, there was an upcoming independence referendum and many in Scotland saw a strategic opportunity to contribute to a fairer society via open educational practice. A high level task group was established, including key opinion shapers, from around the University of Edinburgh.
By the close of 2014 the referendum opportunity had passed, but the impetus to push forward with OER policy remained. The University now has a strategic lead on Open Education with a vision, policy, support framework, and task groups focused on delivering more. There remains a lot of work to be done.
In this presentation for OER15 Dash, Stuart and I will draw on best practise, describe the process of linking OER to institutional mission and aims and explore the challenges of multispeed approaches; working with student leadership, University senior management, educational developers and academic innovators to deliver sustainable OER in a research institution.
The Learning, Teaching & Web Services Division (LTW) brings together the technology enhanced learning, digital education, website, web services and classroom technology teams to ensure that we offer a service to colleagues and students which meets the needs of Schools and Colleges.
LTW will support and engage with initiatives generated by our staff, students, alumni and those outside the University. I hope that colleagues across the collegiate university will engage with our services, case studies and events, give advice to our projects and invite us into ongoing discussions about how best to make use of the technology on offer.
Engaging with users
Since establishing the Division in August 2014 I have been out and about around the University, discussing the support needed for learning, teaching and outreach, and for an enhanced student experience. I have been delighted to find so many colleagues with enthusiasm for new ways of thinking and working as part of a University-wide conversation on digital innovation. Ongoing investment in this area will enable us to maintain excellent services within the University by providing a robust foundation for the enhancement of learning, teaching and communications. The University is moving towards an increasingly open presence on many digital platforms: open educational resources, open data, open science and open practice. Effective digital communications from the University will ensure that this digital shift benefits society on a national and a global scale. The success of massive online and distance learning courses demonstrates that we have found new audiences and collaborators from across the globe. Your help will be needed to make the most of the new website to ensure that those seeking knowledge about any area of academic activity discover relevant work carried out at Edinburgh.
Technology in the classroom
My conversations with colleagues have highlighted an increasing demand for digital skills training and for support to integrate technology into the classroom. The distinction between IT and AV is becoming increasingly blurred: it’s all digital now. For many colleagues it is the technology context – the technology available in the teaching rooms – which influences their choice of media to use. As you would expect in a research institution, colleagues are using the most up-to-date technologies every day in their research. Our challenge now is to find appropriate ways to model those activities in teaching so that students learn how professional researchers make use of the tools, methods and datasets in their field. The technology on campus should provide a flexible environment that lets students and staff experiment, co-create, build, share and learn from each other.
The digital estate
Digital content and tools which make up the university’s digital footprint, or digital estate are growing. Digital content and tools such as Learn, MyEd, Turnitin, PebblePad, mobile apps and webpages have a key part to play in equality and a consistently excellent student experience. Reviewing support for the digital experience requires us to look across the University at what systems and services we provide. It is important to assess how these are perceived, navigated and experienced by students and staff; what shortcomings and gaps there are; and what will be required of these systems and services in five years’ time. Should we invest as much in our digital estate as we do in our physical one?
I am looking forward to working with groups across the institution to identify the services that will help us to deliver what we need locally, nationally and internationally.
Virginia Woolf wrote ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’*. A room of ones own is a luxury which few could afford at the time without help from husband or family.
As a woman who values enormously the space I have from which to write my blog, I am particularly keen to do what I can to lower the barriers and restrictions which stop any individual or group writing openly.
I was in Virginia this week to hear more about the ‘Domain of One’s Own’ project at the University of Mary Washington. The project provides all incoming freshmen with their own domain names and Web space. Students have the freedom to create subdomains, install any LAMP-compatible software, setup databases and email addresses, and carve out their own space on the web that they own and control. The University picks up the cost of paying for the domain as long as the student is a student. When they stop being a UMW student, they can choose to take over paying for the hosting or let it lapse. In the meantime they have learned valuable digital literacy skills and contributed web-based user-created content to all or any of their courses and activities. The university is not afraid of what the students might do in the space.
It seems to me that this approach is very much in line with University of Edinburgh’s recent ‘Digital Footprint’ campaign, and if we chose to follow it, would build on our commitment to developing the student experience. It is certainly one of the more interesting ways to link student use of the web to their time as part of the university community.
Last night I dined at Kellogg again. Now that I am a visiting fellow rather than a resident one I was pleased to be invited to be guest Chamberlaine for the evening.
It was Scholars evening, so we celebrated the many generous gifts of donors to the College, some of whom are alumni, and others who just believe that the work of the College and the work of these individual students is worth supporting. I had lovely company at dinner sitting with social policy champion Amanda and Heather, Desmond Tutu Scholar and Wikipedia researcher.
I chose the importance of voting as the theme for my after dinner speech. We had a number of guests from Somerville College so I was able to make reference to Mary Somerville’s campaigns for women’s suffrage as well as the recent MCR elections, the Scottish independence referendum and the imminent general election.
I was also able to remind the current University of Oxford students that until 1950 as a graduate of that ( and this) university you would actually have had 2 votes in a UK general election. One for the area of the country where you reside, one for the university constituency.
The university constituencies, Oxford, Cambridge, University of London, the ancient Scottish universities and Queens Belfast all sent elected MPs to Westminster.
This was a wheeze started by the Scots and imported to England following the union of the crowns. It went on for a very long time. Several Cromwells, Pitt the Younger, Lord Palmerston, Francis Bacon, Issac Newton, Robert Peel and Ramsay MacDonald benefitted from the arrangement. Needless to say, it did nothing for the town and gown relations in any of the cities and was all ended by the Representation of the Peoples Act in 1948.