Core area 4: Communication and working with others
When I started my role at UHI, I was based at the Inverness campus in a shared, open-plan office with some colleagues from the EDU as well as the Learning and Teaching Academy. Many of my colleagues in EDU were in the same office as me but our team, like the partnership, is distributed across the North of Scotland. In March, the pandemic meant we all had to clear out our workstations and begin working from home. This sudden change meant we needed to adjust our methods of communicating and working together. The Microsoft 360 Office suite has been fundamental in how I communicate with my team, with the academics I work with, and also with the wider university partnership.
Microsoft Teams has probably been the most useful tool both for communicating with colleagues and for managing the projects I am working on. My team (which previously consisted of myself, the Educational Development and Design Lead, and an Educational Design and Development Associate and is now just me and the EDDL) makes full use of the planner tool to manage tasks. The usual workflow is that the EDDL will proof the initial template and assign it to me, I will develop the resource and send it to the academic for feedback, once any revisions have been completed I will then assign it to the EDDA for quality check. After the resource has passed the quality check I upload it to Brightspace. This method ensures that the final results always meet our development standards.
Any relevant documents are linked through the task and the label function is used to show at a glance what stage we are at, for example, under development, revisions required, ready for quality check, etc. There is also a section for notes and comments so we can keep track of requested revisions. This has really helped me to stay organised, prioritise my workload and ensure that nothing gets missed. It also helps us work effectively as a team because we are clear on our roles and responsibilities and we are communicating frequently about what stage various tasks are at.
The video call and chat functions of Teams have also been really important for staying in touch both in smaller teams and as a whole department. In some ways, I feel like it has actually improved communication compared to when we were in the office. Being in an open-plan office with around 15 other people meant that I always felt very conscious when speaking to a colleague on a call or in person that I was potentially disrupting other people’s concentration. This made me more reticent to ask for help or an opinion. I was also much less likely to reach out to those who were based at partner colleges even if they had more expertise in the area I was unsure of than those I shared an office with. Working from home and using Teams, I can now see if someone is available, send a quick message and then potentially follow up with a video call without worrying that I am disturbing anyone else. This has definitely lead to closer collaboration with colleagues not based in Inverness and has helped in expanding my knowledge and honing ideas.
With the modern version of SharePoint there is now an option to have a communications site. My head of department was keen to use this to internally promote the Educational Development Unit, showcase our skills, share our expertise and encourage staff to get in touch with us for advice and/or development support. As I have some previous experience in marketing and digital communications, I put myself forward for the project. I was responsible for the design and build of the site, making sure it was easy to use and in line with the EDU sub-brand, including visual elements like the colour palette as well as writing tone.
I worked closely with Susan Barrie, our part-time administrative officer who also has marketing experience, to create the site. We sought advice from the UHI Communications team on ways in which we could attract staff to the site and they organised for my head of department to have time to talk about our new venture at the staff forum. They also arranged for our new principal to be present at one of our department meetings where I presented what we had developed so far.
We held frequent discussions with the rest of the team so that we could run our thoughts and ideas by them and hear their feedback. There were suggestions as to the scope of the page and what things the people visiting it might be looking for, so we incorporated a meet the team section and EDU events – where we could list upcoming webinars.
Everyone in our team has different skills that they bring to the table and a big part of this project was showcasing that. The Inspiration Station page of the site is an opportunity for individual members of the team to share their knowledge and skills in the various aspects of learning design. We discussed as a team what examples we thought would be interesting to teaching staff and which members of the team would be best placed to share their experience. For example in module or unit design, creation of complex interactions or assessment/ engagment tools.
We wanted people to visit the site often and become familiar with it as a place to go to find inspiration as well as help and advice. To achieve this Susan and I devised a marketing strategy where we would publish content to the ‘Inspiration Station’ page on a weekly basis and signpost to it from Yammer. We worked with another member of the team who is trained in graphic design and created a brief for her to produce a selection of graphics that would accompany the Yammer posts and make them more eye-catching.
The initial promotion of the Spring into Summer campaign was successful and brought the department more projects as well as some smaller pieces of work. It has also led to other teams at the university approaching the EDU to develop similar sites for their own initiatives. As I led the building of our SharePoint site and successfully worked with others in my team to produce the content, I have been tasked with developing these new sites. Where the requirement was relatively straightforward I gave the option of teaching the person who would be responsible for the site how to do it themselves and was on standby to step in and resolve any issues. In more complex cases, I have done all the building myself and collaborated with stakeholders to make sure that I am producing a site that meets their specific needs.
Statement about my contribution to the SharePoint project from Jacky MacMillan my head of department:
“Robyn’s experience of social media/digital marketing along with her attention to detail and excellent flair for design made her a natural choice to take a lead in this activity. Robyn participated in a team meeting where the content of the campaign was agreed. Robyn advised that the focus should be the SharePoint site with all communications directing users to that URL. Following the meeting Robyn worked with Susan to design a brief and then set about developing the campaign.
Robyn designed and developed the Sharepoint site, collaborating with colleagues to populate the site with engaging content. Robyn had the final say over the presentation of the content and worked with Susan to edit text. Ultimately the SP site was both engaging and consistent and has attracted comments from other users as to its ease of navigation and usefulness. Robyn collaborated with a member of the team to design the graphics used to promote the campaign on social media, overcoming challenges of time to ensure the posts were ready when required.
Members of the EDU were asked to create blogposts to promote aspects of our work . These Blogposts were promoted on Yammer on a regular basis in the run up to the summer break, encouraging staff to get in touch where the EDU could help. Robyn collaborated with her colleagues to ensure that the text for the posts was edited for use on the SharePoint site and in the posts and along with required images and links to examples were available to meet deadlines.
The impact that Robyn made on the Spring into Summer Campaign is significant. The EDU team are fully engaged with around 30 live curriculum development projects. They are busy and resource is short. That includes Robyn. Robyn took this work on and was able to manage her workload effectively to give it the time it needed. Through the relationships she has built with her colleagues based on the quality of her work, her experience and most of all her collaborative approach she was able to deliver the Campaign to the agreed deadlines. The Campaign was successful in raising the profile of the EDU and in encouraging academic staff to approach the team to ask for help. Approximately 20 additional small pieces of work were undertaken as a result.”