This blog is for Amber because she wants to know about institutionally provided technologies #openblog19
At University of Edinburgh we know that our people are our strength. This is a place of knowledge creation, and a place of knowledge sharing.
As Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services I am lucky to have responsibility not only for the institutionally provided learning technology, but also the institutionally provided Web. You know me, I like to have a strategy for such things.
Our Web strategy addresses how the university uses web technologies to enhance our
students’ experience, disseminate our best research and engage with our diverse audiences.
The University’s web estate and use of online channels has evolved largely organically, which has led to gaps in corporate knowledge and exposed the institution to significant risks. Its no secret that there is fragmentation of technology, working methods and standards, which leads to uneven and, in some cases, broken user journeys.
We try to address these issues, with a tight focus on the University’s vision to deliver impact for society through leadership in learning and research. While University websites, including the corporate website (EdWeb) and MyEd portal, are at the core of the strategy, strong consideration is also given to online channels as a point of user acquisition and engagement.
Whether delivered centrally or locally, there is a clear need to empower our staff by providing them with the intelligence, tools, standards and resources to attract and engage users.
Our vision is founded on a need to work together in the use of web technologies to achieve business goals across the University, developing the operational agility to take advantage of the most promising online opportunities.
Our web strategy aligns with the University’s Vision 2025, Corporate Plan and other significant institutional and national strategies, and complement initiatives such as Service Excellence and Digital Transformation. This strategy was developed in the manner in which it should be executed – collaboratively – with strong senior leadership and active engagement from publishers and practitioners across the University.
One theme of our strategy is that of ‘Influential voices’. We aim for:
Increased online visibility for the work of staff, students and, ultimately, the University
Improved profile and visibility for the University across search and online channels
Well-trained staff and students who effectively and safely manage their online identity
Improved cooperative working online with partners from the commercial, third and public sectors
Enhanced partnership syndication of University content
Investigation into the development and deployment of a centrally-managed website publishing platform
Development of policies, processes and quality control mechanisms to support staff and student publishing
Development of content syndication and sharing tools
Creation of training materials and investment in associated communities of practice
The development of and launch of an academic blogging platform and Domain of One’s Own is a big part of what we are doing in this theme of our web strategy. You can read more about this in blog posts from Anne-Marie and Lorna. And once Jonathan is in post, you can meet our new Head of Web Strategy to find out more about each of the other themes.
Three weeks ago, while preparing my presentation for e-learningforum@ed conference I was musing on the similarities between ‘technical debt’ and what one might call ‘ copyright debt’.
I was thinking about institutional risks of not being open. Institutional risks are sometimes legal, sometimes reputational, sometimes financial. Mostly, at IT directors’ meetings we talk about the need to mitigate risks early on, and avoid risks in the future.
Generally, the risks of not engaging with open practice are reputational: Other institutions are doing it; we might miss out on this good thing; we should be seen to be bold in digital education and leading edge in our open research. There is a risk to our reputation if colleagues do not seem to be up to-date-on licensing and refer to online materials or data as ‘open’ when they are not. But most of those risks are easily hidden under a smear of open-washing and a vagueness about the definition of open in different contexts.
These are not risks which will ever convince a VP Finance and Resources to invest.
If you want to convince an IT director or a CIO to invest in systems which have built-in open-licensing workflows, protecting the institution against the risk of expensive copyright debt may be the way forward.
My definition of ‘copyright debt’ is based on my understanding of ‘technical debt’. Technical debt is a metaphor often used in IT to explain why it costs so much to replace IT systems. I use it to explain why rather than spending my budget on new exciting learning and teaching functionality, I am having to spend it to replace something we thought we already had.
You can ready about technical debt on Wikipedia. It’s the cost of not doing something properly in the first place. From the moment you build a system poorly, without due attention to software code rigour and process, you begin to accrue debt and then interest on that debt. From the moment you don’t fix, patch and maintain the code, the same thing happens. At some point you are going to have to go back and fix it, and the longer you leave it the more expensive it will be*.
From the moment a colleague tells you that they don’t have time, or don’t care about the copyright licensing and metadata on their teaching materials and load them up into a VLE, online course environment, departmental website, online course-pack, lecture power-point slides, whatever, you start to accrue ‘copyright debt’.
Someone will have to go back to those materials at some point to check them, figure out who made them and when and check for 3rd party content. The longer time passes (or staff change) between the original materials being uploaded in to the VLE the harder it will be to find the original source.
The cost will hit at the moment that you migrate from one VLE to another, or from one website to another, or from one media asset management system to another. At that point lecturers and departmental administrators will be asked to confirm that they have copyright permission for the materials they are migrating, and they will say ‘ I have no idea, in fact I don’t even remember/know where all the bits came from’.
They will suggest that someone in a central service (usually the library) should do the checking, and that is where the cost hits. No-one in the library is super-human enough ( unless you pay them a lot) to check all the hundreds of teaching and learning materials in your VLE, so most of it will just be binned and colleagues will be outraged that they have to make it all again.
I’d suggest the common causes of copyright debt include (a combination of):
Business pressures, where the business considers getting something released sooner before all of the necessary copyright searches are complete.
Lack of process or understanding, where the businesse is blind to the concept of copyright debt, and make decisions without considering the implications.
Lack of flexible components, where materials are not openly licensed, the re-use permissions are not flexible enough to adapt to changes in course content.
Lack of time, which encourages colleagues to do quick google searches and take materials they find without checking the license.
Lack of metadata, where content is created without necessary supporting metadata. That work to create the supporting metadata represents a debt that must be paid.
Lack of collaboration, where knowledge of open practice isn’t shared around the organization and business efficiency suffers, or junior learning technologists are not properly mentored.
Parallel development at the same time on two or more VLEs can cause the build up of copyright debt because of the work that will eventually be required to move content from one to another. The more content developed in isolation without clear licensing , the more debt that is piled up.
Delayed reformatting – the formats which were used for creating learning objects quickly becomes obsolete. Without clear permission to make adaptations it is hard for older TEL materials to be converted to new formats. The longer that reformatting is delayed, and the more content is written to use the older format, the more debt that piles up that must be paid at the time the conversion is finally done.
Lack of alignment to standards, where industry standard features, frameworks, open technologies are ignored. Eventually, integration with standards will come, doing it sooner will cost less.
Lack of knowledge, when the content creator simply doesn’t know how or why to use open materials.
The challenge in all this of course, is that the individual academics making the materials don’t care about the longer term cost to the central services of this debt. This argument won’t persuade them to take the time to change their practice, so we must build rigour for open practice into the workflows of our enterprise-wide systems and services as soon as we possibly can, making it easy for colleagues to make positive choices.
Or else we risk a whole heap of copyright debt.
*Basically it is the software equivalent of ‘ a stitch in time saves nine’.
(While I was doing this thinking, I bumped into a session at #OER15 called ‘the cost of not going open‘ by Viv Rolfe which also looked to quantify costs. Viv’s approach is to look at costs and savings around academic time spent creating materials, which complements my thinking rather nicely.)
The University’s mission is the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge. As a world-leading centre of academic excellence we aim to: Enhance our position as one of the world’s leading research and teaching universities and to measure our performance against the highest international standards; Provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students; Make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.
As a great civic university, Edinburgh …. will continue to look to the widest international horizons, enriching both itself and Scotland. (University Mission)
‘Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.’ (Capetown Open Education Declaration)
During academic year 2013-14 an OER Short-Life Task Group was established to explore possible ways to take forward an OER strategy for University of Edinburgh and to report findings and recommendations to Learning and Teaching Committee. This paper includes a proposed vision, policy, guidance and support level.
The sharing of open educational materials is in line not only with University of Edinburgh’s mission but also with a global movement in which research- led institutions play a significant role. The proposed OER vision for University of Edinburgh has three strands, each building on our history of the Edinburgh Settlement, excellent education, research collections, enlightenment and civic mission.
‘For the common good’:
Teaching and learning materials exchange to enrich the University and the sector.
To put in place the support frameworks to enable any member of University of Edinburgh to publish and share online as OER teaching and learning materials they have created as a routine part of their work at the University (e.g handouts, teaching materials, lesson plans, recorded lectures, research seminar content, blended-learning content, datasets, problem sheets and tools).
To support members of University of Edinburgh to find and use high quality teaching materials developed within and without the University.
‘Edinburgh at its best’:
Showcasing openly the highest quality learning and teaching:
To identify collections of high quality learning materials within each school department and research institute to be published online for flexible use, to be made available to learners and teachers as open courseware (e.g. recorded high profile events, noteworthy lectures, MOOC and DEI course content).
To enable the discovery of these materials in a way that ensures that our University’s reputation is enhanced.
Making available online a significant collection of unique learning materials available openly to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural well-being.
To identify a number of major collections of interdisciplinary materials, archives, treasures, museum resources to be digitised, curated and shared for the greater good and significant contribution to public engagement with learning, study and research (e.g. archive collections drawn from across disciplines, e.g. History of Medicine/Edinburgh as the birthplace of medicine/Scottish history/social change).
To put in place policy and infrastructure to ensure that these OER collections are sustainable and usable in the medium to longer term.
The expertise to deliver each of these strands exists within the University through partnership between Schools and Information Services. This vision builds upon work, custom and practice already in place within the University but offers an opportunity to take a strategic approach to publishing open educational resources at scale.
The delivery of this vision is contingent on several areas of activity. The University is well placed to adopt an open licencing approach to learning and teaching materials for which the copyright is already held within the University.
Information Services currently offer a limited copyright advisory service to academic colleagues and students, with additional resourcing this service could be enriched to provide an OER service including training, staff development and guidance to support colleagues in making informed decisions about licencing options for their OER.
It is proposed that the service is resourced by IS for 2 years in the first instance. Once the support service is in place the ‘Common Good’ activity will be supported as part of business as usual though guidance and training.
A new short-life task group will be established to consider the resource needed to deliver the other two strands of the vision.
Establishing a clear vision for OER at University of Edinburgh will mitigate the reputational risk which may follow as a result of colleagues referring to online learning materials as ‘open’ when they are available under closed or unclear licence.
The new support service in IS will mitigate the risk that colleagues are unclear about the decisions they should make regard to the licencing, sharing and use of online materials.
EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
OER contribute to sector-wide initiatives on openness, access, equality and diversity by enriching the knowledge commons and promoting sharing and reuse.
I am excited to say the University is working with Google to explore and promote innovation in learning and teaching in Higher Education. Edinburgh students and staff will have a unique opportunity to experiment with Google Glass, one of the most talked about developments in wearable technology in recent years. Our reputation as a leader in strategic innovation in digital education is growing worldwide and we have a number of strategic partnerships with the international companies who develop new technology for users.
Wearable technology is exciting for academia because its designed for people being active, moving around and needing to be hands-free. So where we do active field work, sport, performance, complex experiments, medical procedures, explorations, digs or where we move around in large and small spaces (landscapes, city, architecture, public transport, exhibitions, collection, art installations) it can transform the way we work in gathering and using data and information. The technology functionality and usability is still developing and it is exciting to be involved at this early stage to shape how the features and applications can be used for learning, teaching and research.
Learning technologists from LTW, Information Services are working in partnership with students and staff across the whole institution to evaluate the potential for technologies like Glass to support and enhance a wide-range of educational activities and experiences.
Throughout January we will be inviting students in all disciplines to share their innovative ideas by submitting 3-minute video proposals. Some of the best proposals for using Google Glass will go forward to become live projects within the University.
This is an exciting opportunity for students to shape the way new technology is integrated into learning and teaching. We would encourage you to experiment and be inventive, Edinburgh University’s vision for digital education will be shaped by our students’ creative potential. I expect we will see a range of perspectives and discuss many aspects of seeing, light and dark.
You can find further information about the project and how to participate by visiting glass.ed.ac.uk
My vision and strategy skills were tested during my trip to Online Educa in Berlin after Lufthansa left my luggage in Frankfurt and I stupidly, left my glasses and contact lenses in that luggage. I found myself taking a very myopic view of MOOC strategy, and trying not to fall foul of any immediate tripping hazards.
Luckily the luggage returned before I began my next leg to London.
At the conference I presented a high level overview focusing on the role of the public intellectual; the ways in which we can use digital initiatives to develop town and gown relations; the ways in which we add value to online courses; and the importance of research universities in sense-making in a maelstrom.
I used broad strokes to paint a colourful picture, but that may be becasue everything in the distance seemed slightly blurred.
Many friends and partners from the LERU universites were there, and there continues to be a wide interest in our experience at University of Edinburgh of living with MOOCs.
Vice Principal Professor Jeff Haywood delivered a keynote adress at recent ALT conference. In it he outlined a vision for the University of Edinburgh’s education in 2025. The vision includes digital education, lifelong learning, open educational resources (OER) and a significant growth in online delivery to on- and off-campus students.
To support such a transformational shift we will need to build on recent success, draw upon our values and mission as an institution to find ‘the Edinburgh way’, and plan for investment to support sustainable, scalable growth.
This week the LTW service managers in the many IS academic IT teams will meet as a group to begin to plan a roadmap of serious experiments, projects, support, staff development and infrastructure needed to make this vision a reality. We are looking closely at the many ‘flavours of openness’ in educational practice around the institution and discussing the investment needed in digital skills for teaching, learning and research. In his keynote Jeff stressed the need for the ‘serious experiments’ to be supported, evaluated and evidence based. The reactions from the audience at ALT ( an international association of learning technologists in higher and further education) was that bold moves were needed at institutional and policy level to support a university like ours to adapt, change and maintain our position on the world stage.
University of Edinburgh is about to embark on a large scale media recording and management project, not unlike those going on at many of our peer universities. We aim to improve our media systems capability to support recording, storing, streaming and managing the increasing collection of audio and video assets used across the collegiate university for learning, teaching, research and public engagement. The existing infrastucture is outmoded and does not offer to the university the service and functionality users currently expect. Failing to refresh the existing systems represents a risk to the university, and to IS, in not being able to respond to business needs of the schools and colleges who wish to make more use of audio and video online for an improved student experience.
We will also explore approaches to the publishing of resources under intellectual property licenses ( eg Creative Commons) that permits use and repurposing ( re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others where appropriate.
The early stages of such a project have the fun bits of finding out who in the University is doing what already in preparation for putting in place a multi-platform broadcast strategy. So far I have discovered You Tute, Research in a Nutshell, dozens of Youtube channels, Edinburgh University on ItunesU, Panopto, CaptureED and of course, our MOOC videos. We are also tracking down a list of all the video and audio recording studios around the place.
Edinburgh University subscribes to the excellent ‘Box of Broadcasts’ service. BoB enables all staff and students to choose and record any broadcast programme from 60+ TV and radio channels. The recorded programmes are then kept indefinitely (no expiry) and added to a growing media archive (currently at over 1 million programmes), with all content shared by users. Staff and students can record and catch-up on missed programmes on and off-campus, schedule recordings in advance, edit programmes into clips, create playlists, embed clips into Learn or Moodle, share what they are watching with others and search a growing archive of material. It will be fascinating to discover the ways in which this service is being used.
Edinburgh is also part of BUFVC which offers an amazing Moving Image gateway which includes 1,600 websites relating to moving image and sound materials in over 40 subject areas.
I am confident that Edinburgh must have a hefty collection of film in its own archives. It would be fun to do a project here like Oxford University IT Services have done this summer in Dreaming Spools. The project has engaged with alumni all over the world and discovered a wealth of film and video made by some of the most influential film makers, journalists, artists, writers, actors, activists and technicians during the periods when they were students.