“We have had the opportunity to develop these incredible connections with several fields in AI, such as robotics and machine learning thanks to the DDI initiative.”
Locations of the Amazon SimBot Challenge
“It was important to be part of and collaborate with the National Robotarium, which is a vital hub in the DDI initiative.”
Working with the National Robotarium, a crucial hub for the DDI, was of enormous value to the team. As a result, the team had vehicles to disseminate their work to the public through all their channels, but also to collaborate and advance the technology to other applications and products that address specific needs.
It was incredibly exciting to be part of the Alexa Prize SimBot Challenge, a student competition created by Amazon, and we are really proud to have made the final. Aside from being the only non-American university to make the final, it was a highly collaborative experience, putting together a team of very young and talented researchers that were all part of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, individuals who may well become impactful researchers of the future in both robotics and AI.
“We were the only non-American university to be selected as one of the finalists.”
Heriot-Watt student team make finals of Amazon SimBot competition
Heriot-Watt University Head
of Visual Dialogue, Alana AI.
“DDI and DDI Hubs give us connections with other sectors so that we can build on the work that we are doing, learn from others and extend our reach.”
The Data Education and Schools Programme is part of the Data Skills Gateway and the Internet of Things and Schools project is part of the Edinburgh International Data Facility, joined up through Data-Driven Innovation, but also very much joined on the ground as well. So using the academic and technical expertise of the University of Edinburgh to empower young learners in schools to learn about data would not have been possible without these links.
In the coming years, all 550 schools in the southeast of Scotland will be offered the project and we will widen our offering, in particular looking at external environment, air quality, biodiversity, energy and sustainability.
Data literacy fosters critical thinking and problem solving skills, so students learn to question data sources, evaluate the credibility of information, and discern patterns and trends. This critical mindset will produce a generation better equipped to make informed decisions in an era of information overload. Moreover, data literacy promotes STEM: science, technology, engineering and maths education, which is crucial for our increasingly technology dependent world. Students who are proficient in data literacy are better prepared for careers in data science, artificial intelligence and other emerging fields contributing to economic growth and innovation.
Introducing data literacy as a foundation skill in primary and secondary education has the potential to usher in transformative change in our society. Data is omnipresent in the modern world, shaping decisions from all sectors, from healthcare to finance and beyond. And equipping our young learners with the ability to understand, to interpret, to manipulate data not only empowers them as individuals, but also has far-reaching implications for society as a whole.
What this initiative provides are the opportunities to further develop students’ interests in the subject by studying for a national qualification at secondary school or in college, or even studying for a degree in data science or related disciplines. We promote data literacy by providing fresh pedagogical approaches which inspire learners to investigate data.
“The principal aim of the project is to bridge the gap between the high tech sensor technology and the learning and teaching of data literacy.”
Internet of Things in schools
Schools Technology Advisor,
Data Education in Schools.
Beginning four years ago with just five courses, the portfolio now offers more than 30 short courses and workshops, demonstrating both the breadth of skills training on offer and the demand for new data skills. Nearly 3,000 learners have been through the programme to date, with the scale of collaboration and impact growing year on year.
In 2023, the project team embarked on a new collaboration with the Data Lab, Effini, DDI Skills Gateway and Data Education for Schools to co-create a new course on Data Management Fundamentals: A Beginner’s Guide to Data Success to provide an easy-to-understand introduction to the most important ideas in data management.
Looking to the future, the project aims to develop new industry collaborations and courses to extend the reach of the portfolio and to continue empowering people to work confidently with data and implement effective data science and AI solutions.
learners have been through the programme to date.
Course offered by Data Upskilling Short Courses
Isobel Dew on working with DDI and the impact of Data Upskilling Short Courses
“This can often be used as a first step to further study and helps to foster a culture of lifelong learning as well as curiosity and confidence when working with data.”
On an individual level, the courses cater to both job seekers and those already in employment, equipping them with the skills required to thrive in data-centric roles and remain adaptable in a changing labour market. The benefit to businesses is that they can upskill whole teams or individuals as well as leaders looking to work strategically with data to aid in decision making. Even those well-versed in working with data can take our courses to enhance their existing skillset whether it is programming skills or how to lead technology and innovation within an organisation.
The University of Edinburgh receives funding from the Scottish Funding Council to ensure that fully-funded places are available across the portfolio to support Scottish residents.
“The importance of data has been highlighted in recent years – and the field of artificial intelligence is so fast moving – so it’s crucial that people feel empowered and confident to not only work with data, but also to implement effective data science and AI solutions.”
I am the Business Engagement Manager at the Bayes Centre, working on the Data Upskilling Short Course portfolio, a comprehensive programme designed to equip people across Scotland with essential data skills. As the University of Edinburgh’s Innovation Hub for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, the Bayes Centre plays a pivotal role in enabling access to world-leading expertise in these fields. This is achieved through a portfolio containing short courses, workshops and bootcamps in partnership with HyperionDev.
Isobel Dew discusses the Data Upskilling Short Courses, a comprehensive programme designed to equip individuals across Scotland with essential data skills.
Expanding Data Upskilling Opportunities for the Wider Community: The Bayes Centre’s Educational Initiatives
Business Engagement Manager.
“We could actually improve the way we diagnose patients, how we use NHS resources and improve patient outcomes.”
We offer learners the core skillset and the ethical gaze that is needed to advance health data science. Using their newly acquired knowledge and skills, staff can improve the way effective care is delivered to patients in a modern and technology-enabled NHS. Our aim is to see many more learners completing this course and creating the capacity for a transformational change to the way health and care is delivered in the future.
Moving forward, the aim is to continue to offer the Health Data Science course to as many people as possible without compromising the quality. Class sizes have increased from 40 to 70 and new staff have been added to accommodate the demand, not only to deliver the content, but to improve the real-world impact and scalability of the course in future years.
Most importantly, we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from past learners who willingly express how impactful the Health Data Science course has been on their careers. That might be a promotion or getting a new job in a desired location that they didn’t previously have the necessary skillset or certification to make happen.
Looking to the future
Class sizes growing from 40 to 70 in three years
“Without DDI, this course would be difficult to set up but now it is a collaborative effort, bringing together various stakeholders including the Scottish Funding Council.”
Over the years, the course has attracted many learners working in professional roles within the NHS and private sector who really need to understand what health data science is and how they can incorporate it into their everyday practice. This includes GPs, consultants, specialty registrars, nurses, midwives, medical librarians and other public health specialists.
Recent developments in the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) made us realise that we needed to upskill the people that will use AI decision support tools, something which could be done through teaching and learning of health data science. But to do this we needed to bring the healthcare sector and the AI experts together to collaborate. Our pioneering Health Data Science course bridges this knowledge gap and allows effective communication to understand how they can best work towards their common goal of providing effective health and care.
“We thought we needed to change the way that Health and Social Care interact with data.”
Health Data Science – Upskilling Health and Social Care
Dr Dimitrios Doudesis,
Senior Data Scientist
University of Edinburgh.
We are already making a significant and positive contribution within a broader ecosystem. Organisations who work with SACHA through the DDI initiative can now work closely and collaboratively with students who have the ambition but may lack the tools to do so. In fact, several student-generated ideas have been readily adopted by organisations, from informing government consultations on matters like alcohol marketing, to shaping new sustainability strategies for the Scottish Space Industry. These organisations have gone beyond implementing the students’ ideas; they have also actively engaged the students themselves, inviting them to speak at board meetings and conferences.
Our overarching goal is to foster a long-lasting commitment among students, encouraging them not to view the programme as a singular experience but rather as a foundation for becoming lifelong Change Agents.
“As a programme that’s focused on innovation, we’re hoping to continue to extend our partner base. Not only are we encouraging students to innovate, we’re very open to innovating ourselves.”
Our aspiration is to transition from a co-curricular programme, offered by the University of Edinburgh without academic credit, into a curricular component. This change would ensure that all students have the opportunity to engage in hands-on, impactful learning experiences with tangible social, environmental, or economic implications.
Highlighting SACHA’s achievements to date
A standout achievement of SACHA is the transformation it has brought to our Change Agents. Over 1,200 students have participated in the programme, attaining a remarkable 95% satisfaction rate. These students have reported significant enhancements in their confidence levels and the development of essential skills in teamwork, design thinking, and ethical data utilisation. Participation in SACHA has expanded their networks, bridging boundaries within the university, connecting with students from diverse disciplines, external stakeholders, and, importantly, university staff. This shift has significantly altered the power dynamics between students and staff, fostering a more collaborative learning and teaching environment.
Over 1,200 students participated. 95% satisfaction rate.
The central DDI office and the Edinburgh Futures Institute play integral roles as an external support network to the SACHA team, helping students develop their data confidence. The project has also cultivated a robust brand identity for SACHA, recognised both within the university and beyond. This innovative model has been shared with international partners seeking to implement similar programmes in their own institutions.
Understanding the symbiotic nature of the SACHA programme and DDI
“I wanted to make sure that this was a game-changer of a project at the university, and that our undergraduates were first in line to actually see the impact that it could have on them."
SACHA was created through partnership work with the University of Edinburgh’s Careers Service and Commercialisation Service, Edinburgh Innovations, to drive and develop enterprising skills in the student population. We approached DDI in 2018 and SACHA was the first successful student-facing project to get funding. Creating something that would be scalable was an important driver for DDI as it would have as wide an impact as possible, both in the UK and internationally.
Ruth on the core objective of the SACHA programme.
SACHA is aimed at empowering students from diverse academic backgrounds to address complex societal, economic, and environmental challenges. This initiative gives students an opportunity to develop their skills, passions, and networks to drive meaningful social change. We do this by facilitating the collaborative efforts of small student groups to generate innovative solutions.
“Our focus is on fostering a new generation of creative data thinkers.”
Students As Change Agents
Ruth Donnelly, Assistant Director at the Careers Service at the University of Edinburgh.