Measuring Value Conference at Birmingham City University, 4th May 2016

On May the Fourth, a day when the Force was with me at times, I ventured up to Birmingham for an Information Literacy conference at Birmingham City University.  The day didn’t start too well as I got lost trying to get out of Birmingham New Street station.  Back when I was a student in Birmingham, the station was dark, dingy and under a dark and dingy shopping centre.

Now the Pallasades has been replaced with the Grand Central shopping centre and the whole place has a lot more light, a lot more food places and is very confusing if you are used to the old ways.

The less dingy Birmingham New Street Station
The less dingy Birmingham New Street Station

After managing to find an exit sign to a recognisable street I found my way out and, although tram tracks have appeared, the city centre was much the same and I managed to follow my nose to the lovely new Birmingham City University buildings.

Upon arrival I was given a lovely bag, some coffee and a pastry, before being shown through to the main lecture theatre for the welcome talk.

Welcome Talk

Steve Rose, Deputy Director of Library & Learning Resources, welcomed us to the conference, highlighting the main themes of the day as Research, Employability and Engagement.  Indeed, the day was neatly organised so that, although there were two sets of parallel sessions alongside three talks for all, you could quite easily still attend talks on all three areas if you wanted to.

Contextualising information literacy to assessment criteria and measuring the impact on students

First up were Keith Walker (Subject Librarian for Business) and Stephen Robertson (a Business Academic) from Edinburgh Napier University who talked about a project they had worked on together that sought to bring together information literacy and assessment criteria- showing students the relationship between library skills and getting a good mark.  Indeed, 25% of marks were for referencing and finding information.

What they sought to do was take library videos and resources and embed them where the students were, ie Moodle.  There was plenty of uptake in students clicking through to resources but they wanted to see if this could be improved by moving information literacy content from the Module Information section to Assessments.  The idea was that by moving the information to somewhere more relevant to the students, it might be used more.

They found a rise in the use of materials, although it still tailed off in the same way.  The report marks also went up, although they didn’t think this was entirely down to moving resource links.

And, though there was some concern that this might not be replicated year on year as no two classes behave the same, there was a lot of positivity due to the improvements seen.

They also talked a lot about how statistics can be gained from Moodle to learn about student behaviour.  If you make the pages easy to use and place links, then you can track the use of those links by seeing who is doing what, when and why.  They, for example, were able to spot spikes in use just before presentations and reports were due.  Therefore,  with such information, the academics can let the library know when certain resources are needed.

In the future, they want to be able to do more with the information gained: to see if students know what to do with the information they find, to link it with UX and do the same with more core modules, too.

Keith Walker and Stephen Robertson have written a chapter on this which will be published in the upcoming Innovations in Teaching and Learning.

Supporting the Development and Assessment of Critical Skills in a New Undergraduate Curriculum

Lorna Dodd, Senior Librarian at Maynooth University, gave a very interesting talk about how her library supported the introduction of a Critical Skills module that all undergraduate students have to take.  The idea is that all students need to be information literate and so the university are seeking to ensure these skills are taught.  The library sought to take ownership of this process, or at least a part of it, feeling that they needed “to be heard.”

This new module caused the library to develop an information literacy framework to identify key competencies.  Through reviewing several existing frameworks they were able to adapt the best, and most relevant, parts to create 5 Key Competencies that they then mapped against the Critical Skills being taught, showing how the Library could get involved in this module.

From this base, the Library was then able to produce training that would assist lecturers in teaching Critical Skills (new resources were created that could be embedded by the lecturers in the relevant place) and work with other professional service departments to help make it a success.

Demonstrating the value of information literacy for employability

Maria Mawson, Faculty Librarian for Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield, spoke about what her library has done to show students the importance of learning.  Doing this is something that links in with the University’s Employability Strategy which states that the Sheffield Graduate is information literate, a critical, analytical and creative thinker and an entrepreneurial problem solver.

This is backed up by the Join Up Your Skills module taken by 1st Years which is a collaboration between different professional services and brings together the skills taught by the Library, Careers and Learning departments.  A big part of this is skills translation – a way of linking academic approaches to employer settings.

Students, Sheffield have found, only really realise the wealth of resources they have at their disposal once they graduate.  To help them prepare for this, and for having to relearn information skills, or become more creative in how they search, Sheffield have produced a series of case studies in which graduates talk about information literacy in the workplace.

All of this is a fantastic base, but Sheffield University Library are keen to carry on the good work and transform it further through making the case studies more engaging, using the SCONUL Employability Lens and trying to embed these skills (especially commercial awareness) more in the curriculum.

How did the freshers fare? Measuring progress using a ‘before and after’ evaluation of online compared with face-to-face library induction

How did the freshers fare was a talk given by Cardiff University’s Erica Swain, one of their team of (26!) Subject Librarians about their study to see if online or face-to-face inductions were more successful.  This they did by taking an intake of Dentistry students, dividing them into two groups, and giving them separate library inductions, whilst quizzing them before and after.

First, though, Erica talked about the online induction that Cardiff have created.  They used an online presentation creator called emaze to create the presentation, which can be embedded into a VLE (they use Blackboard) and also includes a quiz, which can be made compulsory.  In the first few weeks, the presentation gained 1870 views, with 799 people taking the quiz and 19.2 minutes spent viewing it on average.  They have now gained over 37000 views – which is pretty good going, given that they have only 30000 students.

Despite two students lying about having done an induction, the surveys showed that both forms of induction caused an improvement in the individual user’s knowledge (through questions about attitude and knowledge); and also that everyone gained a preference for, and leaned towards, the format they received.  Those who received the online induction said they would rather not have had a face-to-face induction and vice versa.

Cardiff are now planning to roll out the online induction further on the one hand.  On the other, the induction process, although it showed an improvement, that improvement wasn’t brilliant, and so showed a need for later reinforcement.

The study has been written up as a journal article and is awaiting a publisher, so keep an eye out if you are interested.

Organic Information Literacy: supporting the developing researcher at the University of Bolton

Sarah Taylor, The University of Bolton’s Electronic Resources Librarian (a self-confessed traitor in our midst), talked about how she helps to support researchers at her institution.  The key point she made was that research support is given at all levels because, well, everyone is a researcher.  That’s what you do every time you use Google – whether it’s to find out when Tesco is closing today or to check a key fact in a research paper or essay.

As such, all students are seen as researchers and are encouraged to publish, present at student and staff conferences as well as put their work in the institutional repository.  The latter has been used very effectively for research proposals.  These are a resource that are needed every year to help the current crop but were always kept locked away.  Now they can help students research what to do and how to do it.

After a long fight for Discovery, Sarah managed to get it introduced at Bolton and has become a big fan, citing various examples it has helped students do research.

Interestingly, Bolton have found that Discover@Bolton (they have Summon, too) is successful despite students not even realising they are using it.  This may be because they think it is Google; and, indeed, use it the same way.

It also, Sarah said, helps to sort out the confusion caused by a sea of different resources, as Summon will search them all at once; and has even caused subject enquiries to go down.  The other point she made was that using Summon successfully helps give confidence and understanding, citing examples of students frustrated with their research until they used it.

As Sarah Taylor said, research skills are important in all jobs (and throughout life) and so it is important to impress on students that they can do it.

Closing address

Finally, Steve Rose returned to sum up with the following Key Themes:

To find out more, check out the Tweets via #bculibconf or check out the Storify I made from these.

And, finally, for fun: me trying to look studious

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