Missing Link: Making the Connection Between IL and excellent student experience

by Rebecca Mogg – Membership Officer

I was offered the opportunity to attend this one day conference at Birmingham City University on 19 March and help out on the CSG Information Literacy Group stand during lunch and coffee. A great deal for me as I got to sit on most of the presentations at this day dedicated to IL.

The day consisted of 3 plenary presentations and 2 parallel sessions.

The opening speakers were Maria Casey and Neil Donohue from Salford University who outlined a pre-induction programme they offer to incoming students during the summer holidays before they start at the University.  Students are invited by letter to attend and it’s voluntary.

The University recently introduced an institution-wide information literacy strategy (written by the Library) which gave the impetus to re-vamp the existing pre-induction programme on offer.  The programme is now a full day and consists of speakers from amongst the academic and the library staff and student ambassadors also attend. Morning sessions are lead by academics covering “How to Study at University”.  In the afternoon the Library leads two sessions – one on Accessing IT, VLE and Email and the other on information literacy and understanding referencing.

They have introduced lots of interactivity using discussion, hands on practice and Turning Point.  They also signpost the additional study skills support available and promote their online resource ‘Get Ready’ which is available for new students.

At the beginning of the IL session they use a technique created by Andy Walsh called ‘the bag of fears’ in which students are asked to complete comment cards on which they write their concerns about the Library and put them in the bag.  The facilitator then ensures these are addressed during the session.

After the session they gathered feedback and then followed this up with a brief 3 question survey later in the semester. Students liked the full day and the combination of academic, librarian and students’ union representatives.  There were comments though that some of the pre-induction day was then repeated in the inductions themselves.

This presentation was followed by Chris Bark (Coventry University) and Liz Martin (De Montfort University).  They were introducing a re-usable online module they have developed for researchers.  The module is the outcome of a collaborative project between the Universities of Nottingham, Coventry, De Montfort and Loughborough.

For the project they evaluated 13 existing products using a common evaluation form and determined that there was still a need for a product specifically designed to meet researchers’ requirements.  They then surveyed researcher’s attitudes to e-learning and experiences of online learning, the importance they place on specific research tasks and their confidence in performing such tasks.  They had 224 responses which they followed up with interviews.

The module is created using Xerte.  They developed a pilot section on ‘Promoting your research’ which was then put out for evaluation before they worked on the rest.  The completed module includes embedded videos of researchers, demos, images and interactivity.  They were concerned about ensuring tasks weren’t patronising and so focused on creating reflective tasks.

The module includes units on ethics, info gathering, researching funding opportunities, disseminating research, referencing, data management.  Each unit takes 30-60 mins to complete.

The module will be made available for re-use and re-purposing under a CC licence and via JORUM and Xpert.

After coffee we moved into parallel sessions.  I chose to attend Greta Friggen’s (University of Portsmouth) presentation on developing an interactive information literacy framework.  Greta did this project under the auspices of a University staff development programme called ‘leading change’. Successful applicants to the programme undertake a project and are assigned a mentor or coach.

The result of this was ‘UPLift: Library Information Tips’ whereby Greta took their IL framework and turned it into an interactive online resource. You can see it here.

What particularly caught my attention in this presentation was that Portsmouth have also used their IL framework to develop a competency framework for all library staff.  The framework covers skills they think all library staff should possess plus extra competencies for professional staff.  Mandatory training sessions accompanied the introduction of this framework.

After a pretty impressive lunch the conference went back into parallel sessions whilst Lisa Jeskins and I packed away the CSG-IL Group stand.

The day finished with a presentation from staff at Birmingham City University – Christiana Titahmboh and Jenny Eland.  Christiana is from the Library service and Jenny is from the University’s Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching.  The presentation discussed how these two areas have collaborated to upskill the library staff in teaching IL and promote the message about IL in the University.  The result has been that 12 library staff have now completed the PGCert in Higher Education and one is currently doing the PG Dip.  Christiana highlighted the benefits this has brought.  In particular, she now has a better understanding of the language academic staff use and so can communicate with them better.  She understands the learning outcomes for the module and is able to feed into these herself.  She looks at the teaching methods being adopted within the module and tailors her own teaching to be consistent with these.  She looks at the assessment criteria for the module and shows the students how her teaching links into them.  She has gained the confidence to use different teaching methods including problem based learning, student discussion and reflection.

Overall the conference offered a varied and useful programme, with lots of ideas to take away.  Thanks to staff at Birmingham City University for an extremely well run conference.

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