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ERASMUS visitors’ guest blog about their time with us

Last month we welcomed colleagues from two European universities who spent a few days finding out how we run our user experience and web publishing services. In this post, Francesca Marangoni from the University of Trento and Renata Coutinho from the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal share their experiences.

Francesca and Renata approached us independently to see if it was feasible to visit us through the ERASMUS scheme. Stratos and I agreed the best way to accommodate them was to schedule their visits together. This was more convenient for us, and I think both Francesca and Renata felt having a ‘buddy’ for their time with us enhanced the experience.

Over three days we managed to squeeze a lot in. As well as the usual meetings with staff and exposure to our systems, training and support, we also managed to coincide a few of our community and promotional events:

  • The Web Publishers Community
  • The UX Lunchtime Meet up
  • A usability collaborative review showcase

Thanks to everyone who gave up their time and organised events across our teams, and to Steven Ross and colleagues in Communications and Marketing who also accommodated our visitors.

Here’s what Francesca and Renata had to say themselves…

Francesca Marangoni’s experience

Last month I had the opportunity to visit the University of Edinburgh’s Website and Communications Team and UX Service Team, within the Erasmus+ Staff Training mobility programme.

I’m an Information Architect working at University of Trento in Italy, where we are starting to introduce a user centered approach to design and development of services, both digital and physical.

There are few public institutions in Europe that provide an institutional service for UX design, so I was curious to know the one that seemed closest to the idea of UX I would contribute to develop in my organization.

I shared this experience with Renata Coutinho, from Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal (Portugal), which made the exchange even richer as I could compare the experiences of 3 different universities.

For the whole week Renata and I were welcomed by a group of very friendly colleagues, who spent a lot of their time in order to let us see and know as much as possible during our visit.

In the 5 days I’ve been in Edinburgh I could see a very close-knit team of people passionate about their work and focused on some relevant beliefs:

  • UX is a mental and cultural attitude, a way of working and interacting with people, not just a mere set of methods and techniques
  • Team members act as facilitators, rather than experts, providing colleagues with tools, training and various ways of support
  • They work with a very inclusive approach, actively involving colleagues in the projects and getting them to know what the user centered approach means in a very concrete way
  • They invest lot of time in growing internal communities, showing that UX is a question of people, rather than tools
  • Transparency is an asset: their work is open, visible, they are not jealous of their knowledge and results.

The most exciting moment for me was the “usability showcase session”. This activity is a great example of how you can spread the UX culture by putting together different people with different profiles, make them focus on users needs, contribute to build better services and, at the same time, providing them with training.

(This is the session Francesca attended: Learn usability showcase 28 March)

For all these reasons this week has been one of the most inspiring exchange experiences in my career. It would be really great if this could be the starting point of a fruitful collaboration for building a network of UX people through European universities.

I am very grateful to Neil Allison and Stratos Filalithis who opened the doors of their teams and to Lizzie, Lauren, John, Duncan, Andrew, Duncan, Bruce, Billy and all the people who made this week really special.

Group of people pose in the street with Edinburgh Castle in the background

Francesca and Renata with colleagues in the Grassmarket after the monthly Web Publishing Community session

Renata Coutinho’s experience

I applied to visit Information Services at the University of Edinburgh  through the Erasmus + Staff program to help my team to redesign our IT Services Web Strategy.

I had visited the Website and Communications team website at the University of Edinburgh, and was surprised with all information there. From this, I was very interested to get a closer look at how their services work and to meet the people who work there.

It was first time in Scotland, and I was immediately charmed by Edinburgh and the people.

The agenda proposed by Neil Allison was fantastic; we experienced training sessions, visits and meetings in various departments, a monthly meeting with Web Publishing Community, lunches and social drinks.

This was our schedule:

First day – March 26

  • Introductory meeting with Neil Allison
  • EdWeb CMS Training Session with Duncan MacGruer
  • Join the UX Service team meeting
  • Team lunch at Howies, a traditional Scottish restaurant
  • Meeting with Stratos Filalithis, Head of Websites & Communications Technologies
  • EdWeb User Support meeting with Lauren Tormey and John Wilson
  • EdWeb Technical Development and Project Management meeting with Bruce Darby and Billy Wardrop

Second day – March 27

  • Tour of UX Service Equipment and Process with Andrew Ferguson
  • Overview of MyEd Service and Upgrade Project with Mary Elder
  • Meeting with the Communications and Marketing Digital Marketing team with Steven Ross
  • Monthly Web Publishing Community session hosted by Duncan MacGruer
    • Including presentations about our universities and our IT departments  from Francesca and myself
  • Social drinks at Cold Town Bar

Third day – March 28

  • Explore support materials, effective digital content online training course, wiki service and further discussion with Duncan, Lauren and John about EdWeb
  • Google Analytics training with Duncan MacGruer

Bonus session – March 29

  • Attended a Learn VLE usability testing collaborative review session led by Duncan Stephen

Now I have a lot of great ideas to share with my IT team at the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal, Portugal. I can’t wait for the time to create our new web strategies and work on enhancing our services following what we’ve learned during this visit.

Thank you so much to everybody from the Information Services and to Francesca too.

Learn more about ERASMUS

Details of the ERASMUS staff exchange scheme for staff in Higher Education support functions



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