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By Karen Howie (Head of Digital Learning Applications and Media in Information Services)
Where do I start?

Where do I start?

It’s been a while since I blogged – I’m sorry about that. I’ve had a load of possible blog post topics bubbling around in my head with very little time to reflect. However, I’m getting to the stage where I feel like a few blog posts might help clarify my thinking on some subjects so I feel a wee collection of posts coming, starting with this more general one.

I’ve now been in my Acting Head role for pretty much exactly 6 months. And boy, my timing was amazing, wasn’t it? Two months in and the whole world changed. I don’t think the normal-day-job version of the Head of DLAM job is a calm and sedate affair.  I certainly watched Anne-Marie run from meeting to meeting with little space to eat or have a comfort break and I can see that’s not changed (although, if I don’t eat, I fall over and talk gibberish- not usually in that order though – so that’s not great!).   Being in EdTech at a time like this has been really exciting and yet quite terrifying at the same time.  There’s lots of requests for new things, or more pressure being put on us to deliver things we-are-planning-but-haven’t-quite-sorted-it-yet and now the difficulty is ensuring we’ve gauged the priority of all of these correctly.

Today we had an LTW All Staff meeting and in preparation for that, I had to think about what our achievements have been for the last six months.  Remembering just how much we’d done was so helpful and so I’m detailing some of it here.  I’ll be digging more deeply into some of these topics in later blog posts.

  • I have been totally amazed at how well DLAM as a team have coped with this pandemic. Packing up and moving their offices home with literally a days notice.  They’ve been really patient and supportive, both with me (their new manager who spent at least the first month pretty much flapping and saying ‘huh?’) but also supporting each other. The whole team has done so much, despite caring responsibilities, health issues and family matters to deal with.  People have stepped in to help where required and we’ve kept the show on the road plus added a few new scenes to the show on the way.  We’ve been two people down in one of the teams for a while – colleagues in other parts of LTW have stepped in to help, have gone through the learning and the training and have been supporting the team and our users.
  • We’ve been recruiting.  We’ve recently advertised two posts, one to replace one of the missing team members but the other is a role that’s new.  Our developers are in demand and there is a long list of feature requests and bug fixes to work through, and so we are recruiting another member of the team. I’m hoping that this extra resource will allow us to pull features and fixes forward so we can do more before the start of semester. For example, we’ve got plans to make the service (ie this service!) more usable for staff through the VLEs by providing tools and functionality that make it easier to manage a big list of blogs on a course.
  • We’ve had a group of lovely and very able library staff, helpdesk staff and others working with us on the subtitling of content that’s in Media Hopper Create.  They’ve been working on making our content more accessible.  This has been far easier in Media Hopper Create due to an upgrade which moved us to unlimited automatic subtitling which appears to be surprisingly accurate.
  • We supported the pivot to digital teaching, we supported the pivot to digital exams.  We worked weekends to ensure that there was always someone around to help urgently if there was an exam which had gone wrong.
  • We’ve been looking at proctoring, subtitling for live teaching sessions, live streaming of lectures, data for hybrid teaching,  eExams and a variety of tools which are being integrated with Learn.  I have blog posts about some of these brewing!
  • We’ve won prizes – the best Digital Humanities Visualisation Award 2019 for our Mapping the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft website and contributed to the Blackboard Catalyst award for Student Experience.
  • We’ve developed and talked about chatbots. And accessibility. Enough said….!
  • We’ve run training, workshops and editathons.
  • We’ve worked with internal and external partners to create teaching and learning related content, websites and tools.
  • We’ve had ‘virtual’ fun – Animal Crossing with the University’s collections and pub quizzes in Teams – not the easiest to work out, but it was fun never-the-less. Apparently I need to keep my music round simpler next time!
  • And even with all this new stuff, we are still getting on with the day to day work, albeit some of it a little more slowly.  Our Learn to the Cloud project finished, today!  It’s been a long one and as you know it’s been nearly a year since we actually moved Learn to the cloud but we wanted to continue the project to give us the space to implement our data retention policy in order to ensure we are GDPR compliant and not keeping any more data than we need.  It’s now completed and we can switch on the data clean up functionality at any time (although we won’t do it until we’ve done far more comms about what’s happening).  We’ve been working on compliance. We’ve been keeping our services up and running, and supporting staff and students.
  • And of course there’s much, much more….

It’s certainly not been a boring 6 months.  We have a busy few months ahead of us but I know we can get through this working as a team!  Just like always 🙂




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