Friday, 21 June 2013

"It's all about ... Motivation" - JISC RSC London's e-Factor 2013

Yesterday I attended JISC RSC London's conference e-Factor 2013. Held annually e-Factor is based around a different them each year and brings together educational institutions to showcase their work in learning and teaching with technology. This year's theme was: "It's all about ... Motivation". This was my third time attending and I found it an inspiring as ever. Twenty showcases ran throughout the day - two showcases ran in unison in separate rooms - and there were exhibitions from a number of suppliers who were on hand during the breaks to give demonstrations of their products. (For full details and the report visit the e-Factor 2013 site here.) The day also offered plenty of opportunity for networking. Therefore, I do recommend planning in advance what you want to see so that you get the most out of the day. Last year I presented by own showcase (click here for my blog post of the experience) - this meant I wasn't really playing attention to the showcases before mine! This year though I was attending entirely as an observer so, with my itinerary in hand and iPod charged (search for #efactor2013 on Twitter), I went prepared to be fully inspired and motivated.

Following the initial registration, refreshments and welcome from Graciano de Santana Soares (JISC RSC London Regional Manager) it was straight into the first showcase with Newham FE College. Newham spoke about how they use Adobe Captivate to create podcasts and assessment-based learning packages on employability skills for engineering students. I thought these were a really good way of enhancing learning outside the classroom and securing assessment whilst keeping the content engaging.

Next, Barry Spencer from Bromley College demonstrated his use of augmented reality. I didn't even know what augmented reality was so, if you're in the same boat as me, it basically means taking a physical object and enhancing it with online materials. Barry gave an example of how, using the Aurasma app, students can scan 'trigger images' using the smartphone or tablet and open additional content. I thought this was a really clever use of technology and, unlike a written web link or QR code you can make the trigger interactive and visually appealing.

The following showcase really interested me. West Thames College spoke about how they have developed two awards to support student progression. The Employability Award and the Research Skills Award are delivered online as learning packages. I think it is brilliant to offer a dedicated programme in which students (and even staff!) can actively develop their skills and provide evidence on their CVs. My interest was in the Research Skills Award so, in the break that followed, I tracked down one of the delegates from the LRC to learn more. During the break I also visited the stand run by Xtensis who were exhibiting their product Xtlearn allows you to combine a range of resources in a very visually appealing way along with the ability to link to the collection from Moodle. I thought this might be a good way of resolving the scrolling issue when uploading lots of resources to Moodle.

After the break the next showcase I saw was from JGA Group. They explained how they have started to use Moodle and other e-learning tools, such as videos, podcasts and e-portfolios, to support their work-based learners. It was good to see that the use of e-learning has expanded beyond the FE/HE sector into private sector training too.

Next, Saqib Safdar from Woodhouse College delivered a great presentation demonstrating how the use of one iPad has revolutionised the way he delivers maths lessons. He wirelessly links the iPad to the projector and uses the app Doceri to turn the screen into an enhanced, interactive whiteboard. This leaves him free to move around the class. It has also given his students more confidence as they can put their work on screen using DocSan and explain and amend it without having to stand in front of the group. Often when we think of iPad projects it involves giving iPads to the students, but this showcase demonstrated how much of an effect giving just one iPad to the teacher can have.

The last showcase I saw before lunch was from Barking & Dagenham College who have revived the use of netbooks, and Chromebooks, with students. Loading only a simple operating system and promoting GoogleDocs (for access to word processing, etc) keeps running speeds high and allows students to be flexible with their learning. Their LDD department also highlighted how their students struggle with their VLE's built-in ILP and have solved the problem by creating and sharing their own on GoogleDocs.

During the lunch break I visited the stand run by PlanetPC who were demonstrating their product PlaneteStream. Their product enables you to create your own video archive, including programmes broadcast on Freeview channels, and I was interested in how they are then able to add details of the content into your library management system.

I began the afternoon listening to a great presentation by Bernadette John from King's College London. She spoke about digital professionalism and how important it is for students to be aware of their digital presence and the impact it can have on their employability, particularly within her field of healthcare. Bernadette and King's College have taken a proactive lead and developed their own social networking site for students in which they can discuss real-world examples of digital profiles along with an annual e-learning course embedded into Moodle. Similarly with West Thames College I like the fact that King's College are not only providing the information but are helping to ensure that students fully take it in.

Next City Lit spoke about how they have implemented blended learning and flipped learning with their PTTLS and PGCE courses. I was interested in flipped learning as I wasn't really aware of what it involved. I found out that in a flipped learning environment the students use a variety of resources to learn about the main concepts at home, prior to the lesson. Then, in class, the teacher can focus on anything the students wish to clarify and also extension activities and learning that would have typically been set as homework. Khorshed, who presented, also brought with her one of the students from the PGCE course and it was good to hear about it directly from a student perspective. City of Westminster College followed on the same theme of flipped learning. This time it had been applied to motor vehicle groups. John Doherty, a motor vehicle tutor, explained how he had seen nothing but a positive impact on his students resulting in them being more engaged and confident within the class.

The final showcase of my day was delivered jointly by Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College and Waltham Forest College. The presented their 'eTeaching' course. This is an online course aimed at teachers which looks at "developing free resources using easy web based tools to enhance teaching and learning". Along with using a range of tools such as presentation tools, video tools, blogs and animations staff also have the chance to discuss the pedagogy of e-learning and e-safety. I thought this was a brilliant CPD opportunity for teachers as not only are they expanding their knowledge but they're creating engaging and exciting materials and resources they can use in their lessons.

The conference ended with reflections by Cathy Walsh, CEO/Principal at Barking & Dagenham College who raised a point that I agree with - the day was really well attended with over 200 names on the delegate list covering a range of posts. However, in order to ensure that these examples of best practice are spread across institutions, and not just residing in small pockets, more individuals from senior management need to attend and see what is going on.

As always I had a great day and have taken away lots of inspiration which I will pass on to my own team.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Heritage Training & Forum JISC RSC Joint Event

Yesterday I attended an event organised by JISC RSC-Eastern. Held at the Jisc Offices in London the event comprised of a Heritage forum following by training on basic reports from an IS Oxford trainer. The forum was well attended with representatives from a range of FE institutions. Top of the forum discussion was Cirqa. Several people are looking to upgrade and were keen to hear other's views on it. Unfortunately, only one attendee is actually running with Cirqa so we weren't able to get a range of experiences. Other topics that came up included:
  • issues with Heritage versions 4.2.9 & 4.2.10 freezing. This prompted a short discussion on the effects that Windows 7 and different software can have when conflicting with Heritage.
  • issues with managing SDI notifications
  • problems with sending emails from Heritage, particularly in relation to pre-notifications
  • sending notifications by text
  • success (or not!) of installing the Heritage Moodle block
  • practical issues surrounding stocktaking
  • embedding resources from JISC Collections into the catalogue
  • search hints in the OPAC and their effectiveness
After lunch, and a chance to chat more informally, Peter Way from IS Oxford delivered his training session. He began by reminding us of the various ways that we can find help with Heritage from the system cue cards, the manual and helpsheets to the Marvin mailing list and Heritage Support. He then gave a brief overview of Cirqa highlighting the benefits (access anywhere - no longer tied to a network; faster running reports; no longer having both the in-built enquiry and the OPAC) and mentioned the support available to upgrade along with the option of having IS Oxford host the system for you. We then began the main content of the training session looking at basic reports from which I got a few useful tips that I can apply to my own reports.

I did feel that the forum lacked a little focus (at one point Maryse Fisher who kindly organises these for us did worry that we would finish far too early!). Perhaps this could be overcome by each attendee having to prepare one or two items for discussion, along with a brief update on any service changes or improvements they have recently implemented on Heritage. Overall though the day provided an excellent opportunity for networking and discussion opportunities.

Friday, 7 June 2013

#uklibchat 6th June 2013 - Collection Management

Last night I took part in my first #uklibchat on Twitter. The theme was collection management. My job role is Information Advisor (Resources and Content) in an FE/HE College so I thought it could be useful. There will be an official summary written up by @uklibchat but, since this was my first, I thought I'd write my own reflections too.

I saw promotion for the chat on Twitter and started following @uklibchat. Prior to the chat an agenda is made available online on which anybody can add a discussion topic. I added: How do you manage weeding of physical stock? How much do you involve tutors? Aside from removing un-repairable items weeding is not something I've tackled yet on a large scale. Therefore I was interested to see what approaches other take. The full agenda was as follows:

1. Are you responsible for collections management in your organisation? What kind of collections do you manage?
2. What has been your most challenging task or decision related to collection management?
3. How do you think the increase in e-resources will affect how library collections are managed?
4. How do you manage weeding of physical stock? How much do you involve tutors?
5. In academic libraries, to what extent are collection management staff involved in Open Access?
6. Do you usually collect suggestions from your users to by new materials for your collections?
7. In what ways will Open Access developments impact on collection management?
8. Any tips on collection management/weeding when you don't have any circulation stats?

I started with a couple of hurdles - trying to cook and eat fajitas at the same time as following was a bit tricky plus, this being my first Twitter 'chat' it took my husband to show me how to add Tweets whilst still following the conversation (oh dear!!). I got there in the end though! From those of us who posted, attendance was predominantly those working in academic libraries. However, not everyone introduced themselves so it wasn't always clear from what library context a particular comment was based on. Item 2 on the agenda asked us to identify our most challenging task or decision related to collections management. I commented: Trying to monitor demand when students don't tell us they can't find the book or don't reserve. @Annie_Bob, @cy3_ and @shibshabs also highlighted their frustration at the lack of input from tutors across subjects, particularly with regards to reading lists. This is a frustration I share, although it is more significant for our HE courses who have extensive reading lists than our FE.

Item 3 looked at how the increase in e-resources will affect the way collections are managed. This is less of an issue for academic libraries. E-resources to support students have been available for years and can increase the learning flexibility of the student, i.e. they don't have to visit the library every time they need high-quality information. However, I think a collection will always need printed materials, yes even duplicates of the online information, to support all learning preferences.

Next we moved on to my question about weeding. @Annie_Bob said that at a previous institution they used to give sheets of stickers to tutors who would walk the shelves putting stickers on items to be weeded. I like that approach and it could be co-ordinated with looking at usage statistics to ensure nothing students regularly use is withdrawn in error. However, @Annie_Bob did admit: Of course the hard part is getting them into the library. To try and solve that problem @cy3_ commented on how they hold a 'weed and feed', drawing tutors in with the promise of food!

A couple of the agenda items discussed Open Access which we are not involved in. We then discussed whether we gather stock suggestions from users and the consensus was yes - we want them to use our libraries! @Annie_Bob also mentioned that her institution has recently started a PDA trial (Patron Driven Acquisition) and this is something we'd like to do for our ebook collection. The final agenda item asked for tips on collection management and weeding when circulation stats are unavailable. I commented that you then have to rely more heavily on reading lists and tutor input and this was backed up by @poetryghost from a public library perspective by talking to patrons and staff. @Bibli_Jo_phile also highlighted the benefits of assessing the condition and publication date of items.

The chat drew to a close at 8.30pm after a good two hours' discussion. I like the idea of a 'weed and feed' although, to make the task more appealing to staff, maybe we could make a selection of items to withdraw first and they simply come to see if there's anything they want to 'save'. I found the chat a really good way to network with other professionals - for free! - and I've gained some new Twitter feeds to follow. I shall keep an eye out for any more relevant topics in the future.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Evaluating online resources

Over the past few months I have been compiling a list of online resources that the Head of Learning Resources would like me to look into.Up until now I haven't had the time to do so. I have five resources to look at. Because I've left it so long it now seems a little daunting. Therefore, I have set myself some parameters - I will spend 30 minutes looking at each one and answer the following questions:
  • what is the resource, who owns it and who is it aimed at?
  • what is its content and coverage?
  • how easy and intuitive is it to use?
  • would it enhance and compliment our existing collections?
HELM stands for Helping Engineers Learn Mathematics. It has been developed by a consortium of five English universities and aims to "enhance the mathematical education of engineering undergraduates by the provision of a range of flexible learning resources". The resource comprises of 50 workbooks each containing maths for engineering simply explained, worked examples and case studies/ In addition there are enhanced course ware objects and computer-aided assessment. The resource attempts to ensure that engineering students achieve the basic maths skills they require and covers the maths and statistics knowledge covered in the first and second years of a typical undergraduate degree.

Each workbook opens in a PDF format with each section outlining the prerequisites and learning outcomes. Workbooks may need to be printed if supplied as PDFs in the actual resource in order for students to complete the exercises. Users can access all of the learning resources for free. 37 institutions are listed as HELM users on the website including 5 FE Colleges.

The site was last updated in 2005. We could recommend this resource in the 'The LRC also recommends' section of our e-resources page as it is free. However, I think we should ask engineering tutors whether it would be appropriate to promote to our students or whether the level of knowledge would be too high. (
TED is a "nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design." The purpose of is to make "the best talks and performances from TED and partners available to the world, for free." Over 1400 videos are available on the site.

I found the site to be quite un-intuitive. The most relevant section for students would be 'talks'. You are then presented with the most recently uploaded videos. You can filter by subject choosing from technology, entertainment, design, business, science ans global issues. The other filtering options allow you to narrow down videos with subtitles in a particular language, by event, by length and by most popular/commented on, etc. The information from the results give the name of the speaker, the title of their talk and when it was posted along with the number of views, comments and tags such as "informative", "fascinating" and "inspiring".

The videos play within the page and can also be enlarged to full screen. There is a search box which will find results that contain your term in the title or description of the talk. The search doesn't appear to follow Boolean as when I searched for 'sustainable AND architecture' it brought results on the topic which also contained the word 'and'.

I think this could be a valuable site as it provides up-to-date thinking on current issues and topics of discussion within the fields. I searched for 'sustainable architecture', 'media representation' and 'ethics in biology' and found some really relevant material. However, I think we would struggle encouraging students to use it. The site is not intuitive to academic use and, although near the top of the page, the search box is very small. The resource would also be very different to the more 'reference' based materials that the students have access to. It would need good promotion within inductions. (
ScienceDirect is "a leading full-text scientific database offering journal articles and book chapters for more than 2,500 peer-reviewed journals and more than 11,000 books." It is managed by Elseveir with whom you need to set up an account. Prices for subscriptions are unclear on the site. However, when searching as a guest user prices for individual articles are shows in dollars - does this mean that the journals and books with the collection will have an American bias? (Having said that, the introductory video guide uses a British voice-over.) Advanced search, although not obviously placed, allows you to add additional search terms and limit by subject and year.

The 'Backfiles' collection (back issues) can be purchased as a complete set or per each pre-defined subject-specific package. There is a one-off purchase with no annual fees for as long as you remain a ScienceDirect subscriber. Users will then have full access to the Backfile articles plus abstracts of all non-subscribed material. You can obtain more recent articles via pay per view or by subscription to the journal on ScienceDirect. ScienceDirect College Edition provides "affordable" access to dedicated subject packages in the physical, social and health sciences, complemented by content from online books and pre-1995 journals.

It is possible to request a free trial and this resource would nee further investigation. We would need to complete ebook offering with subject covers and Dawson availability as well as journal title and subject coverage with our existing subscription to Science Reference Center.

Ovid Medicing & Sport Science Package
This package gives access to core resources on sports science. It is offered as part-purchase part-subscription and contains access to 12 months of current issues from Strength and Conditioning Journal and ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal; over 135 back issues of Strength Conditioning Journal;  4 e-books (100 questions and answers about sports, nutrition and exercise; Sports medicine consult; 4-minute sports medicine consult and Evidence-based sports medicine) along with access to the Medline database. Free trials and customised quotations are available.

The journals and first ebook may be useful for the new Foundation Degree in Sports Coaching and Analysis that the College is offering. A BSC in Sports Science and a BSC in Sports Coaching and Analysis are also in the prospectus. We would need to discuss the relevancy of the content with the appropriate tutors.

JISC Collections (
I had a look through the list of free e-resources and we already have access the relevant ones for us. These are: the e-books for FE project; Encyclopaedia Britannica e-Books free trial; JISC MediaHub for FE; and Primal Pictures Anatomy and Physiology Online. From the full catalogue there are relevant resources that we have previously had access to, such as Grove Art Online and ChildLink. Resources that may be relevant that could be investigate are: Credo Reference (provides access to a range of reference materials); Digital Theatre Plus (provides streamed films of leading British theatre productions for educational use supported by additional content); and JISC eCollections for FE (provides access as a package to JISC Journal Archives, JISC Historic Books and JISC MediaHub - all parts can also be purchased in combination and separately).

Evaluation of method
I found that limiting myself to 30 minutes on each resource was a very productive method. I split my screen so that on one side I could see an online countdown timer and on the other I could evaluate the resource. Often I found that I didn't take the full 30 minutes. This method helped focus my evaluation and prevented me from either losing interest or from losing sight of my goals by trying to evaluate too extensively. I feel now that I have a good evaluative overview of each resource and make recommendations for further investigation.