Educational and Student Policy
Libraries & Technology for Learning & Teaching: how libraries can do more to support you and your students
Report of LTS event on 25 October 2011
The event was presented by a team of Cambridge librarians involved in the Arcadia Project. (http://arcadiaproject.lib.cam.ac.uk/index.php)
Professor John Naughton introduced the presentation explaining the background to the Arcadia Project. In 2008 a grant was given to fund studies that explore the role of libraries in digital environments. As part of this, a series of short, ten-week Fellowships, each with a different goal, were established.
Some of the desired outcomes of the Project were outlined as:
- A set of small projects, around 18-19 in total
- The creation of ‘community of practice', or support groups/teams for each fellow, building a community within the team
- Bringing CARET and Cambridge libraries closer together in collaborative projects
There have been three specific issues that have arisen repeatedly as a result of the projects undertaken:
- How does a project turn into a service for an institution?
- What aspects of these projects are Cambridge specific and what are generic?
- How do you make change happen in Cambridge? The de-centralised nature of the University means that no 'top-down' change can be effected and the dissemination of new ideas can be a challenge.
Slides from this presentation can be downloaded in pdf format:
On this page:
- Dr Linda Washington - Seeley Historical Library
- Lizz Edwards-Waller - Seeley Arcadia Project
- Actions and other Arcadia Projects
- Final discussion
The Seeley Library was considered a good focus for the Arcadia project. It is a typical undergraduate teaching library, with the Faculty of History accounting for 6% of the entire Undergraduate intake - around 200 Freshers per year. Many of the UTOs and CTOs responsible for the design and delivery of undergraduate programmes are leading experts in their field. Additionally, a substantial number the Faculty's Postgraduates are also involved in undergraduate teaching. The Library processes around 1300 loans a day and its goal is to be a 'one-stop shop' for undergraduate learning resources - quite a challenge as the Faculty of History's collective Reading List runs to 900 pages and is still updated manually!
The Project in this case was to examine the information resource needs of Part I and II Students, and to analyse their use of resources. The Library undertakes an annual survey of resources, which has traditionally received low response rates, although this has improved since going online. Reoccurring issues raised by these surveys indicate student concern over with practical issues - more copies of books, longer loan times, lower fines, etc.
In a Faculty re-structuring move, the Library Committee was dissolved and instead, the Seeley Library was fully integrated into the Faculty's Teaching and Learning Committees (see slides for the organisation). Principally, this resulted in improved communication and better understanding that teaching-needs require investment, with a looser communication structure rather than a more rigid one. The new communication structure has since been commended by the General Board's Learning and Teaching Review.
The Library is continually assessing what they are trying to support. Their key goal is to support the evolution of the student experience, beginning with study skills inductions to exams, from directed study to independent research. Their aim is also to try and understand what students need rather than being prescriptive in their approach.
The Faculty has 150 teaching staff, ranging from PhD students to senior academics, many of whom act as supervisors. There is awareness in the library of the key role the reading lists play in library use. In fact they are sometimes the only indicator of what resources are needed. One of the key difficulties the library faces is that supervisors issue their own reading lists, which librarians never see. The Library has attempted to establish better communication with Supervisors by keeping a ‘control list' of all Supervisors active in the Faculty, and offering them more tools and inductions in Library use.
The Library's use of electronic resources has also been a challenge. While the library has several databases, those which teaching staff would like to use are often beyond what the Faculty is able to afford. Currently, the Library runs an online resources gateway on the History website based on reading lists and other recommendations (see http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/online-resources). This is currently being used by many Supervisors in the Faculty, and is open access and on the History website.
Lizz introduced her section of the presentation acknowledging work done by Carolyn Keim (see http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/seeley-library/arcadia-report) and focussed attention upon discussion of the implications of that previous report.
Prior to the project there was little idea of what students were finding useful, as there had been no systematic analysis of how students were using the Library and its resources. The focus was on the Library's resources, how students were using them, and what they wanted from it.
The research was conducted by online survey, to which 40% of undergraduate students responded, and supplemented with interviews and focus groups.
Whilst the survey response showed that 40% of students had used electronic resource and that 25% of students preferred using electronic resources if available online, when interviews were conducted a more complicated picture emerged: this revealed the importance of the availability of resources, rather than the format of them.
When asked what was most important when searching for information, 91% of respondents said relevance, and 63% said how quickly they could access it. In terms of where information about resources was sourced, the survey showed the importance reading lists as key sources of information for both students and librarians. 94% of respondents said the Supervisors' lists were the most important, whilst 46% found the Faculty list quite useful, whereas 91% were very satisfied with the Faculty list. Much frustration also came from the lack of availability of items on Supervisors' lists. Whilst some Supervisors do give their reading lists to the libraries, others do not, which means the libraries are unable to prepare for demand. Additionally, some Supervisors compile unique lists, whilst others will partly base it on the Faculty reading list. With these considerations, collective Supervisor-reading lists are being trialled and considered.
A variety of additional findings came out of the research:
- students obtained most of their recommendations for reading from lectures and supervisions;
- although there was variability in undergraduate experience with the focus of each year being very different, there were very similar patterns of finding information;
- students often lacked confidence in finding appropriate books and resources.
The surveys also revealed that while 56% students had used Camtools, many had not, or were not continuing to use it.
Intriguingly, almost all undergraduate students who went on further study/library skills courses after their first-year inductions found the courses useful, but the uptake was only 6-8%.
The session then explored the various projects that the Arcadia Project has done and is continuing to do for Cambridge. Huw Jones noted that Cambridge is strongly influenced by the Supervision System, which gives it an almost unique feel. There is already a lot of good work being done around teaching and learning Â in Cambridge libraries - from the general to specific. Huw pointed out that in order for these to work, bi-lateral communication was essential.
Patricia Killiard briefly discussed the prototype of the science@cambridge science portal, a project used to explore ways in which the Library could provide resources online resources for teaching and learning. The idea behind the project was to direct users to an aggregation of subject-specific resources through RSS feeds, journal and database links, and the maintenance of static links. The librarians who created the prototype found that technology was not the issue, but rather getting the right people to judge what was required.
Huw Jones also discussed the Exam Papers project, which aims to centralise access to exam papers in an online system, and enables them to see different papers across various disciplines. Thus far, years 08, 09, 11 have been included. The main push for the project came from College librarians who are responsible for housing the often heavy exam paper books - an online system would free them from the cumbersome hard copies. It would be advantageous to all concerned if Supervisors knew about this service and were able to recommend it to their students.
Dr Helen Webster discussed her current project, strategies for implementing the New Curriculum for Information Literacy (ANCIL). The curriculum was developed by Emma Coonan and Jane Secker during their Arcadia Fellowship. The project offers a broad definition of information literacy, looking beyond bibliographic or IT skills to a set of discipline-specific values and attitudes about how to process, analyse, evaluate and use information. It is a way of thinking that affects not only a student's academic performance but also how a student will operate in the world beyond University.
The ethos of ANCIL is that information literacy should be holistic, modular, embedded, flexible, active and assessed - moving away from focus upon induction sessions but to make information literacy an embedded and continually assessed process.
Further details and research questions can be found on Helen's presentation (downloadable in pdf format):
The team of librarians presenting the session had cited the crucial need for feedback on their work throughout the session, particularly from supervisors, and were keen to for views on why certain initiatives had worked and others not.
An academic attendee queried the need for a science portal. It was acknowledged that this had worked to a point but needed to be better embedded.
Various points arose from the discussion, including the fact that many good ideas arose in the area of teaching support but by the time they were implemented, students had already moved on to other matters. It was further reiterated that all involved in teaching and learning need to endow students with the confidence to use the resources that are available.
The presenters asked if there were any thoughts on an effective means of communicating with Supervisors to which an academic recommended the Director of Studies' groups. Though it was also pointed out that the spread of information at Cambridge tends to work best when it is ‘viral', rather than imposed in some way.
There was a suggestion that the rise of eBooks could be a rapid way of getting many copies of one book if it was recommended by a Lecturer.
A final question to be pondered was whether communication in learning and teaching support is a matter of choosing the right distribution channel, or finding the right people to collaborate with?