Tag: student experience

employing students


Delighted that we have been awarded prizes for our student employees AND as an excellent employer  in the Student Employee of the Year Awards.

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.

evidence for TEL investment

23 things to consider https://www.flickr.com/photos/interactive-content/sets/72157673454583515

I am often asked by senior budget holders to provide an evidence base for investment in learning technology.

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.


LARC rise

Chicken analytics © The University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/17q3tn
No pictures of larks available so you’ll have to make do with chicken analytics
© The University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/17q3tn

I am delighted to be chairing the project steering group for the University of Edinburgh LARC ‘Learning Analytics Report Card’ project.

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.

here’s looking at Euclid

Oliver Byrne. The Elements of Euclid, 1847 (c) University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/0524y8
Oliver Byrne. The Elements of Euclid, 1847 (c) University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/0524y8

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.

If you are in to interfaces, we are recruiting a web interfaces service manager for our team right now:

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.

Full time, open-ended contract. Apply today: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/ALN479/web-interfaces-team-manager/

It’s a crazy world. Anything can happen.

Student-led, OpenEd, and wiping away the open wash

University of Edinburgh Digital Image Collections CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
University of Edinburgh Digital Image Collections CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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.

planning round

Le Notre, Andre 1679-83  Marly : general plan ECA Library Image http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/c8li5i Collection
Le Notre, Andre 1679-83 Marly : general plan ECA Library Image http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/c8li5i Collection

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.

revisiting Woolf in Virginia

The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England & The Summer Isles © The University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/vh1rqf
The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England & The Summer Isles © The University of Edinburgh http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/vh1rqf

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.

Not cheap though, for 30,000 students.


*A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf is available as OER e-bookvia Project Gutenberg of Australia.

visitors and residents

Unique creation by Sophie of Kellogg. Commercial use by negotiation.
Unique creation by Sophie of Kellogg. Commercial use by negotiation.

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.

In preparing the speech I made use of a very handy OER from University of Cambridge: ‘Dons in the House’.


the open union

Teviot Row House, Edinburgh, pen drawing, c1888
Teviot Row House, Edinburgh, pen drawing, c1888.By Sydney Mitchell (Life time: 1930) [Public domain or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Teviot Row house is celebrating its 125th birthday this year and alumni are being welcomed back to share stories.

It is the oldest purpose built student union building in the world and it is stunning. It was designed to be fit for purpose, politics, power and community: ‘And with a house furnished as our Union is, our fellow-students may rest assured that they have much in their power to promote their own welfare.’

If you have ever tried to navigate your way around inside Teviot you might wonder what the original architect* imagined would be going on in there, and there is something of Hogwarts about its staircases, turrets and towers**.

It is a slightly disconcerting space and it takes you a few tries to get where you are going.  But if you persist there are rich environments, private spaces and favourite nooks to be found.

My memories of Teviot stem from my time as a student here, but also from the many summers it served as the Fringe Club during the Edinburgh Festivals. In recent years I have been lucky to spend time in there again as a trustee on the EUSA Board.

25th Oct 1889 description of Teviot’s opening, The Student


To assist in helping Teviot to celebrate, Claire found this snippet in the archives of The Student newspaper from 1889 when the Union  first opened for all.

‘It remains with the students themselves to make the Union what it ought to be, and if they join it as they ought they will be the gainers from it. The want is now supplied, and we shall look with interest on the progress of the new factor in our University life.’

The funding for the building was generated through an early ‘crowdsourcing-initiative’ 1 from amongst the students themselves. It would be fascinating to see if there is any record of that in the archives.

There was a book written for the 100th anniversary, it’s probably in the Library, called No spirits and precious few women‘, a reference to the fact that neither spirits nor women were included in Teviot until the early 1970s, which makes it sound like a rather dull place to me.  Nowadays, however, it is lively and buzzing with student councils, ceilidhs and tasty snacks.


*The architect, Sydney Mitchell was an alumnus of Edinburgh too.

** The creator of Hogwarts, J.K Rowling, is an alumna of Edinburgh too.


space and time


Blended learning is all about breaking free of the restraints of space and time. You can do it any time, any place, any pace.  Providing an technology enhanced campus is all about mastering space and time: what can you do in the space and when?

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 whether to use cameras, microphones, audio, video, images, visualisations, Google-earth fly throughs,  clips from movies, recorded TV programmes,  who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire-style voting, virtual worlds, touch screens, simulations, animations, infographics and datasets in their presentations.

For many colleagues it is their fear ( or prior experience)  that the technology will not work in the room which exacerbates the stress of presenting. For many colleagues it is a complete mystery as to why the local IT staff who support the presentation machine do not support the data projector too. This situation is not unique to Edinburgh.

The layout of the room (and the number of power sockets) shapes choices with regard to students using laptops, cameras and phones to create learning materials for themselves. The strength of the wireless broadband determines whether video can be watched, shared and downloaded by many students at the same time. The comfiness of the seats, the ability to come and go and the proximity to coffee influences whether student choose to remain in this place while they learn.

When colleagues are asked to show innovation in ‘front of house’ teaching it behooves the colleges and schools to invest well in technology enhanced space for an excellent student experience.

The Learning Spaces Technology Section team work to ensure that teachers  and students have the best possible, quality and consistent,  choices of technology in centrally managed classrooms and study spaces. Jim and his team ensure that equal access to learning is offered via hearing loops, large projection and recordings for revision or transcription.  When the festival comes they take our AV kit out, when the festival goes they put our AV kit back in. They turn around fast and they work to ensure that the kit will work when you poke it with your digit to turn it on. They will also train you how to use it.

If you are interested in knowing more about the kit in the classrooms, or having a practice to become confident in the digital skills needed to master it, do contact us.