Declutter your digital writing – for inclusion, clarity and better reader experience

Originally posted on Deakin University Library’s DigiBytes blog

By Rachel Wilson and Kat Cain of Deakin University, republished with permission from the authors

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Decluttering is not just about your digital files, your cutlery cupboard, or your work desk – it also is a handy approach for digital writing. Clutter distracts from the clarity of your writing. Unnecessary words, complicated sentences, and redundancies can all mess up the flow of your writing. Which means your core message or learning point is lost within the word noise. 

Decluttering is a great strategy for writing in many different contexts, using plain language in digital spaces like blogs, guides, websites is critical and inclusive. It means your content is readily understandable, scannable, and straightforward. Most of all it makes your content more useful to your learner or reader.  Check out this Evolving web post for a good breakdown of why decluttered writing works so well for inclusion and why plain language matters. 

Strategies, concepts and tools to help 

Here are three key tips that can get you started in decluttering your digital writing. They can help you tighten your prose, your email, or your module text. In fact, these writing skills can be applied everywhere, not just writing web page content. 

Tip 1: Consider your audience 

Who are you writing for? 

  • Undergrads  
  • Professional staff 
  • Industry 
  • Researchers and academics  

Different reading levels are OK for different audiences. Vocab will change depending on the context. 

  • Grade 7-8 for your average audience  
  • Grade 10-12 for experts in your subject matter 

Tip 2: Use tools to Marie Kondo your content 

Using editing and grammar tools can give you a strong idea on how readable your content is, how clearly your message scans.  

Tip 3: Keep it clean and uncluttered 

There are a number of things you can do to keep your digital page clean. Avoid jargon and go for simpler wording where you can. Also carefully consider image use on your digital page as it can dilute your message. Use headings, lists and ‘calls to action’ to make your content more structured and scannable. Don’t cover too many topics in the same space!  

Key take away 

Don’t strive for perfection in your digital writing – we love iterative improvements. As Leo Tolstoy said “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content” (Anna Karenina). 

via GIPHY

Hybrid working post COVID: how young professionals can optimise their time in the office (and why they should)

By Gemma Dale, Lecturer, Faculty of Business and Law, Liverpool John Moores University

The conversation logo

This week, we are republishing an article originally published in The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

During the pandemic, around 100 million people in Europe switched to working from home – nearly half of them for the first time. This shift was rapid, with employees quickly noticing the benefits of remote work. These can include freedom from commuting, more time for personal wellbeing and increased productivity.


You can listen to more articles from The Conversation, narrated by Noa, here.


As we move on from pandemic restrictions, we’ve seen a strong, global demand for more flexible forms of working, particularly to retain an element of remote work. While some employees want to work from home permanently, most want what’s coming to be regarded as the best of both worlds: hybrid working. Only a minority of workers now want to return to the office full time.

One group which may be particularly keen on hybrid working is young professionals. And for this group, time spent in the office could be especially valuable.

Young people and remote work

Surveys undertaken during the pandemic indicated that generation Z (those born after 1996) were more likely to say that they were struggling with work-life balance and post-work exhaustion than older generations.

There are several possible reasons for this. Younger people may find it more difficult to establish a good homeworking set up, depending on their living arrangements. Those early in their careers may have smaller professional networks, leading to greater isolation. Or they may simply have less experience managing the boundaries between work and life outside of work, which can be made more difficult when there’s no physical office to leave at the end of the day.

Despite this, emerging evidence suggests that younger workers want remote and flexible work rather than a return to the office full time. Surveys vary, but generally indicate that around two-thirds of members of generation Z working in office jobs want a hybrid working pattern in the future – and they’re prepared to move employers to find it.

According to a recent survey by management consulting company McKinsey, employees aged 18–34 were 59% more likely to say they would quit their current role to move to a job with flexible working compared with older employees aged 55–64.

Young people looking at a computer

Younger workers are interested in flexible working arrangements.Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

It’s worth going into the office sometimes

Remote and hybrid working can bring many benefits. For employees, remote work provides the opportunity to reallocate costly and sometimes stressful commuting time into activities that support work-life balance and health. Indeed, more than three-quarters of hybrid and remote workers report improved work-life balance compared with when they worked in an office full time.

Meanwhile, hybrid work provides autonomy and choice for employees. They can combine time at home for focused and independent work with time in the office for collaboration and connection. A hybrid working model can be good for productivity, inclusion and motivation.

However, the belief that work is best done in an office environment is pervasive – and young people in particular are thought to need to go into the office to build professional networks and to learn.

There could be some truth to the idea that young people early in their careers uniquely benefit from going into the office. Research conducted prior to the pandemic has associated being out of sight while working remotely with also being out of mind. Notably, people who work exclusively at home are less likely to receive promotions and bonuses.

Conversely, being with colleagues in person has been associated with greater career advancement. In part, this is probably because being physically present in the office appears to signal commitment to the organisation.

Can hybrid work address the risks of fully remote work and preserve the rewards associated with face-to-face interactions in the office? Only time will tell.

woman working at home with cat

Working at home has its benefits. Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash 

Finding the right balance

Before 2020, remote work was still relatively rare. Hybrid working at scale is a new concept.

But throughout the pandemic, perceptions about working from home have improved globally. The latest UK data suggests nearly one-quarter of working adults are now hybrid. So in the future, we’ll need to understand more about the impact of remote work both on organisations and the people who undertake it.

The challenge for younger employees is to identify an effective working pattern that suits both them and their organisation – and supports their career goals. As tempting as it may be to ditch the commute as often as possible, younger employees may instead wish to consider a more strategic approach.

When in the office, they should focus on personal visibility, and building and maintaining relationships with colleagues and managers. Networking and learning must be the focus of working in-person, and wherever possible, online meetings or independent work should be saved for remote working time.

Combine this with good wellbeing practices when working from home, especially around switching off from work, and hybrid might just deliver on its promises of better work for everyone – young and not so young alike.The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

You may be interested in:

Long social distancing: how young adults’ habits have changed since COVID

Working in the metaverse: what virtual office life could look like

Six misunderstood concepts about diversity in the workplace and why they matter

Welcome back!

Welcome back readers!

We are so happy to be back, and we’ve been viewing a lot of messages around New Year’s resolutions this year. The basic premise seems to be:

Take care of yourself, and don’t expect too much.

How can we do this when we are bombarded by online news and social media posts? Here are a few tips:

  1. Minimise distractions by turning off any notifications on your phone from news, sports and games feeds.
  2. Try using the ‘Do not disturb’ feature (for example, in Microsoft Teams) so that you can focus on things that really do require your attention.
  3. Emphasise quality rather than quantity when it comes to digital relationships. Only follow or connect with those who add value (happiness, or meaning) to your life.
  4. Use your screen-time settings to create boundaries around how long you want to be online – that way you can avoid the endless scrolling late at night when you’re tired and need to switch off.
  5. Schedule your screen time as a regular appointment so that you get into the habit of keeping to time. This will help you choose to look at what is important to you, while putting a time restriction on the scrolling!
  6. Use your online calendar to communicate your availability to colleagues at work, so they know when you can be interrupted. For example, Microsoft Outlook has a ‘Show As’ feature that depicts your time as ‘free’, ‘working elsewhere’, ‘tentative’, ‘busy’, or ‘out of office’. Make sure your team is familiar with the different indicators.

There are lots of other ways to take care of yourself when engaging with digital technologies. You could find a YouTube channel that plays focus music or ambient noise, which will help you to de-stress. You could Google yourself and tidy up your online profile and privacy settings to make sure your digital security is spot on.

Above all, remember to forgive yourself if you happen to get lost in a digital rabbit hole on Facebook or YouTube. You’re still an okay person! None of us is perfect, and we’re all coping with less-than-ideal circumstances at the moment.

In the meantime, are you enjoying the blog? Would you like to know more about one of our topics, or do you have ideas for different posts?  Or perhaps you would like to write a post yourself?

Please drop us a line at digidexbloggroup@lists.caval.edu.au and we will send you our blog post template, which includes short guidelines on style, tone, length, and so on. We would love to make this year more about you, our readers, and we value all of your feedback.

Good luck to all, and remember to be kind to yourself! And in tricky moments always remember there is coffee coffee coffee ….

gif by Gilmore Girls @gilmoregirls https://media.giphy.com/media/3ohA2VFMnx7Fdd6SXu/giphy.gif


RMIT Pride Week 2021 – How the Library supports LGBTIQA+ inclusion

By Frank Ponte AALIA (CP) Academic/Research, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library, frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au 

Gender Spectrum collection image of 5 people representing the LGBQTI community

Photo in the Gender Spectrum Collection was taken by Zackary Drucker under CC-BY-NC-ND

In August this year, RMIT Library participated in University Pride week. A group of passionate individuals across the Library, and subsequently badged as the Library Pride Working Group, came together and tailored Library services exclusively for LGBTIQA+ students.
 
Due to lockdown, the group met online and used Teams to communicate and host weekly meetings, used planner boards in the O365 environment to track progress, and SharePoint to archive digital resources, documents and PowerPoint slides. This event was created and delivered within a four-week timeframe.

The service offering aligned with the Library’s sustainable and digital-first approach and included:
1. Introductory recording – outlining the week’s events 4:51 min
2. Live webinar – How the Library Supports LGBTIQA+ Inclusive Teaching. (Recording available internally only).
3. LGBTIQA+ Library Guide
4. Finding LGBTIQA+ resources in the Library’s digital collection and OER’s: 1:55min
5. Shared #RMITPride Spotify List
6. Online RMIT Pride Film Club – A selection of 5 online films in consultation with University Pride Committee with supporting online post-film group chats.  

The service offering was informed by the Ward-Gale model for LGBTQ-inclusivity in higher education. This model provided a clear best practice framework and cumulative approach to LGBTIQA+ inclusivity.  The model is defined by three pillars, moving from basic awareness to transformative practice:

  1. Pillar 1 – Language: This is how students will risk assess the safety of a situation. They will review the language people use and how they use it. It is also a simple way to make curriculum more inclusive. The inclusion of a statement in an online course shell about what constitutes abusive or discriminatory language is a great starting point.
  2. Pillar 2 – Role Models:  Heterosexual and LGBTIQA+ students value all staff being open about their sexuality. It gives them confidence that the institution respects LGBTIQA+ equality. For LGBTIQA+ students specifically, it establishes ‘safe’ people to talk to should they encounter problems.
  3. Pillar 3 – Curriculum Content: Ward and Gale found that failure to work with teaching materials that engage with diversity provides an environment where only some experience is valued. This is where open educational materials can assist. Because of the adaptable nature of these resources, it provides educators opportunities to be more inclusive in their curriculum design.
Ward-Gale Model for LGBTQ-inclusivity in Higher Education. Compares Language, role models and curriculum content against increasing awareness, additive approaches and transformative approaches.

Table 1: The Ward Gale Model for LGBTQ-Inclusivity in Higher Education by Dr. Nicola Gale: Source: Ward, N., Gale, N. (2016) LGBTQ-inclusivity in the Higher Education Curriculum: a best practice guide. Birmingham: University of Birmingham. Table reproduced with permission from the authors.

Learning and Future Focus:

  • The use of a best practice framework like Ward and Gale (2016) provided clear parameters to work within. The flexibilities that OER affords academic staff will be highlighted as ways to engage in LGBTIQA+ inclusion when developing curriculum content. Such as the inclusion of LGBTIQA+ images or selecting open textbooks.  
  • Due to the short timeframe in delivering the Library service offering, the working group relied on the goodwill of colleagues as volunteers. To be truly representative and reflect the diverse genders, sexes and sexualities’ of the institution, there needs to be a concerted effort to recruit a diversity of skills, perspectives, and voices.
  • RMIT University is proud to support the staff and students within our community who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning or asexual/agender (LGBTIQA+). An important aspect of why we deliver library services is to reflect belonging, inclusion and diversity. In this regard, the LGBTIQA+ student voice is a critical inclusion that will reflect the future library service offering.
  • In 2022, the Library’s physical spaces will be utilised to host events to foster student belonging and inclusion. A key part of engagement with the Library is to ensure that students are aware of the Library’s physical resources as well as its digital. To ensure there is a connection, the Library will use QR codes to seamlessly transition library users from their physical location to the digital.
  • An important aspect of belonging and acknowledging the past is by collecting, preserving and celebrating the institution’s history. RMIT Archives will be an important partner in the future to chronicle an accurate picture of the University’s LGBTIQA+ story.

In conclusion, the Library Pride working group showed passion, commitment, and managed to deliver a varied and successful program. This will be the underpinning of a successful Pride event in 2022.  


Delighting in diversity in the digital domain

By AJ Penrose, Multimedia Developer, Digital Learning, RMIT University Library. Contact: amanda.penrose@rmit.edu.au

The world might not actually be any more diverse than it’s always been, but goodness, doesn’t it seem that way?! Thanks to increased visibility, advocacy and celebration of our differences, diversity has become an important part of our digital lives.

retro housewife waves at husband and child from kitchen doorway

Fortunately, we’re becoming more aware that what we see around us shapes our expectations of society. We’re getting better at representing diversity (it’s been a while since I’ve seen a white, tie-wearing male kiss a housewife goodbye as he heads to the office… WandaVision excepted!) but we can do a lot more.

Image by ArtsyBee https://pixabay.com/illustrations/retro-housewife-family-greeting-1321068/

Here are some examples of inclusive practices that you can incorporate into your digital projects right now.

Inclusive language

Use non-gendered and non-Western names for the characters in your examples and activities. Online baby-name lists are a fabulous and readily available resource.

Include they/them pronouns along with she/her and he/his. You can do this when the gender of the person you’re referring to isn’t relevant, when you want the sentence to be inclusive of all genders, or if you want to represent a character as non-binary.

Representation

Describe or illustrate your characters using diverse:

  • physiological or mental functional capacities
  • genders, sexes and sexualities
  • cultures and traditions
  • ages  
  • socio-economic backgrounds
  • body shapes, skin colours, hair and clothing choices

The great news is, with a little effort and a bit of practice, we can create inclusive, safe and welcoming digital environments, which benefit everyone.

Here are just a couple of screenshots from animations I’ve created recently. See if you can identify the ways I’ve included representation from the list above.

Note that diversity itself isn’t the focus of any of these projects, it’s just there.

Why not review the project materials you’re working on right now and have a think about how you’re representing diversity? If you can do more, go ahead and make a change today!


Ko wai au? Who am I? Digital Identity for a career librarian

By Kim Tairi, University Librarian, Auckland University of Technology. Contact: kim.tairi@aut.ac.nz or on Twitter and Instagram

Know your Why

Image of Kim Tairi

As a career librarian I have always been an advocate for using social media to build robust and diverse professional and personal learning networks. I like to think of the networks that I belong to as circles of kindness and reciprocity.

This is my why. I use social media to learn, share and be part of communities of practice that are active in education, libraries, indigenisation and decolonisation and other issues I consider important.

Many of the people I have met virtually have gone on to become friends in real life. I am fortunate.

Private versus Open 

I use my own name and have an open account. I rarely get trolled and if I do, my number 1 rule is don’t engage. You owe trolls nothing and you have every right to block with wild abandon. 

My digital identity, that is, all the digital content that I have created and I am connected with, has grown organically. As an experiential learner, I like to play, make mistakes, try things and see what happens. This has led to some wonderful opportunities – conference papers, book chapters, speaking gigs and meeting incredible people.  

Twice, I have been asked to consider deleting a post by a workplace. However, I have never received an ultimatum to take-down content, it has always been a conversation. In both cases I chose to delete the contested content.  

I am always mindful that even with disclaimers about content and posts not being those of my employers, I am by reputation, associated with my place of work. If you are active on social media platforms, it is good practice to know your workplace social media policy and, recognise that your employer may look at the content you create with a different lens than you. 

Social media is performative  

As a senior leader in our profession, I acknowledge that I am always expected to display professionalism in public forums. I don’t always get it right but I try to be genuine, engaging, kind, creative, stylish and visible as an indigenous, intersectional feminist. I curate my content but try to be me at the same time.  

Social media is a performative space: for example my online persona is an extrovert and tall. I am not. That is why I call myself 1.58m of Awesomeness on Twitter! 

Actively manage your content  

Set up Google alerts and Google yourself regularly. This will enable you to check your digital footprint. Finally, be intentional, mindful and respectful and social media will serve you well professionally.  

You can find me online on Twitter and Instagram. Say kia ora!  

Day 2 of Championing the Digital Dexterity Framework Virtual Festival – Champion’s Report back from Wellbeing in educational contexts

By Kassie Dmitrieff, Academic Engagement Librarian UNSW Library and Digital Dexterity Champion, k.dmitrieff@unsw.edu.au 

Session 1Wellbeing, Disrupted

The first session for the day was an engaging workshop held by Adrian Stagg, Susan Carter, and Cecily Andersen of University of Southern Queensland (USQ). 

To start here are my key takeaways from this session:

  • The interactivity of this session was amazing, it’s really worth getting to know your options for engaging your audience with the shift to online presentations.  
  • There is value in committing time to wellbeing in the workplace as a manager rather than expecting your employees to take it upon themselves.
  • Behaviours need to be modelled by managers who encourage and foster healthy habits in their employees and trust them to know what works best.

Open Educational Resources in Australia

Now a little bit more about how I got to these takeaways. The presenters for this session are the team behind the textbook ‘Wellbeing in Educational Contexts’ which I consider a hallmark in what an Open Educational Resource (OER) can look like. I have found the Australian tertiary education arena to be reticent to engage with OERs. This is not to say that libraries aren’t all over OERs for example I have even had the experience of making a LibGuide to already existing resources to guide our academics some years ago. I just look around and don’t see uptake in these resources in Australian universities. The Digital Dexterity Champions aim to create and share resources in an open way so I am so sure you will hear more and more from us on this topic in the months to come. 

Wellbeing During COVID-19 and Beyond

 a screenshot of one of the Mentimeter questions from session one that features a picture of a field of wildflowers and underneath that the question ‘What is well-being?’ followed by a free-form text box for participants to enter their responses. These were then discussed by presenters and used to frame the next part of the presentation

The session itself covered not only reflections on OERs and the creation of the textbook, but the research that the group has carried out about how wellbeing has been constructed up to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were multiple opportunities for attendees to participate along with the presenters, including Mentimeter questions and breakout room discussions. 

The discussion I wanted to share was from the first breakout room where we were asked:  What does wellbeing in the workplace actually look and feel like – and how do we measure it? One of the people in my breakout room shared that: “after the experiences of COVID19 – what was evident was that WFH [work from home] contributed hugely to staff wellbeing”. The measurement being that staff took less sick days, and there was a huge increase in work output. This mirrors my experience, and I would like to challenge library managers to aim for true flexibility in their ongoing arrangements with staff in ‘COVID-normal’.

Session 2 – Reframing OER practice

Session 2 was a focused session from Adrian Stagg on what has worked and hasn’t worked about the grants structure for OER content creation and utilisation at USQ. The session included more interactive elements that allowed us as the audience to provide feedback to Adrian about what we thought about the process – including what doesn’t work about grants, followed by a deep dive into case studies of OER creation and the community backbone required for successful, ongoing, meaningful adoption and engagement of OERs. 

My key takeaway from this session was more simple: How to use your position in the library to encourage OER adoption in tertiary education? Start small and get some wins, know who to share the wins with to make them want more!

Asking the Right Questions 

I’m going to be selfish in this part of the post to talk about the question that I asked Adrian during the Q&A. I asked:

“Would you have any advice on how to present OERs to the rest of your institution? The library can only control so much with regards to learning resources – it would make my job so much easier if the chancellery mandated OER use! or encouraged it at all really”.

And Adrian responded that the budget crunch we are all under due to the pandemic is a perfect opportunity to highlight the limitations of subscribed online resources, especially examples where your institution had to buy multiple user access to textbooks at short notice. It helps to have these extraordinary examples to draw from to underscore the problems we have faced in the traditional publishing system. It’s not that OERs are all about the money – but this is often the bridge to understanding that administrators need. 

Looking Ahead 

The day made a huge impact on me, I will certainly be revisiting both OERs and workplace wellbeing as the year unfolds and we see if the positive changes we were able to make during 2020 are able to be carried into 2021. 


DigiDex – Championing the CAUL Digital Dexterity Framework – Day 2, Tuesday 2 February 2021

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