Working with others
For the learning analytics project that has been my main focus since October 2016 I hav predominantly worked on my own. I make use of the Jisc analytics mailing list to share interesting and articles and resources with others in the learning analytics community but only engage in discussion with others at learning analytics network events.
For the development of the RITS online courses, my work is not quite so insular. I have regularly contact with course content owners regarding feedback on developed content, graphic design elements and design and development of assessments. However, I have found it difficult to chase colleagues in RITS for feedback or assets for the courses being developed. This academic year I have had more face-to-face communication with the teams and this has helped. I work most closely with Jo Lampard as she is effectively my line manager for the project. Our discussions are predominantly about development of courses and the planning if testing sessions.
Additionally, I have worked with colleagues within my department and across the institution in planning and facilitating LearnHack events (https://sites.google.com/site/ucllearnhack/), and have been contributing to the current OER repository project through participation in the special interest group.
In recent times the most closely I have worked with colleagues is with regard to the data-informed blended working design work. Here I have worked directly with Gill Ferrell and Natasa Perovic to co-design an example ABC learning design, to be used in the workshops. I have also met in person and online with Gill and Natasa, plus also Clive Young and Patrick Lynch to develop the resources for and plan the workshops themselves. The workshops were delivered collectively at Jisc events in Birmingham.
Supporting Statement: Dr Steve Rowett
Samantha (Sam) Ahern works jointly in the Digital Education and RITS teams, where she has excelled in both and delivered her work with clear and compassionate principles. Within DE, Sam has looked at the growing field of Learning Analytics. This is often used to support retention – not a particular problem at UCL – but Sam has applied her work to the field of student health and wellbeing. UCL performs poorly here, ranking 102/116 for student welfare in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2018, and our rate of student suicides and mental illness is comparatively high. Sam has been investigating whether data collected – attendance at teaching events, VLE usage, and so on – can be used for early interventions for students who are at risk and promoting this as an important and ethical use of such data. Sam has also been an active supporter of Olly’s Future, an organisation set up after the suicide of one of UCL’s students, which aims to promote mental health awareness for young people, attending events outside of the working day to support this cause and raise funds and awareness.
Within RITS she has developed resources – on high performance computing and software carpentry – which are open and accessible to all, continuing to build on her principles that education as a common good that should be available to everyone. As well as an important principle, Sam took the time to review evidence on how such resources should be created and worked closely with Michelle Farmer in their development.
Her work in both areas has put her on the national map. Sam has been invited to lead seminars at other universities, give presentations at national events and sit as a panel member to argue her case for using data to support student welfare at the large Jisc Digifest conference. One example of such a presentation to the Association of Learning Technologists is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9Fzdn943eE&t=48m25s. I know that Sam can get nervous for such events, so her ability to take to the stage (and live stream) on a regular basis is evidence of the commitment to the principles she is presenting. Sam also presented her RITS work at the Open Education Resources conference 2018. I wasn’t there, but Fiona Strawbridge (Head of Digital Education) was, and she noted that “I just wanted to say how impressed I was with today’s conference presentation on the work you’ve been doing with RITS at the OER conference. You managed to cover the challenges of openness, accessibility and inclusivity in an open, accessible and inclusive way! Really good stuff.”
Sam also actively shares her findings more locally, presenting at the 2018 UCL Education Conference and the 2017 Education Conference run by Students Union UCL. Her ability to use creative props and develop an engaging narrative shines strongly here – even delivering a workshop wearing a top hat to explain Learning Analytics through an Alice in Wonderland metaphor. She also blogs about her work, providing excellent evidence-based updates for the UCL community and beyond – see http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/category/our-views/sams-scribbles/ – and has contributed workshops with staff and students to our weekend LearnHacks, while somehow squeezing in the time to gain Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. In both areas of her work, this is an exceptional level of impact within the sector for someone in these roles for less than two years, and represents not just hard work beyond the call of duty, but the tireless application of strong humanitarian and empathetic values to everything she does.
Dr Steve Rowett is the Digital Education Developments Team Leader and my line manager.
When I first starting to work with RITS last year to develop the online courses, the requirements for the project in terms of resource from the content owners wasn’t very clear. I found it hard to garner the support needed in terms of feedback and review. Managing people and expectations is not a natural area of strength for me, and I have recognised this as a training need.
As most of the work that I undertake is solo activities, I find that I predominantly communicate with colleagues via email and slack. I try to engage myself with discussions within the team office and where appropriate I speak-up in team meetings.