Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Librarians without frontiers

I travelled to Lesbos last week for the 7th Libraries Without Walls conference. I gave a paper about BRUM on the practicalities of creating RLOs for information literacy covering the technical and design aspects, liaison and issues for the future. Keynote speaker Christine Borgman asked a pertinent question about sustainability, which I hadn't addressed in the talk. Ann-Marie and I did look at the issues surrounding sustainability including using repositories such as Jorum and collaborating further with external colleagues on exploring ownership of RLOs and reusability of learning objects with obsolete software etc.

Later in the conference I got talking to Susan Eales who used to work at JISC and helped to set up Jorum and we had a discussion about the copyright issues attached to learning objects being put back in to Jorum once they've been re-purposed.

As part of our recommendations from the project we will be following up these issues with external colleagues such as JISC and other RLO creators such as Rebecca Mogg at Cardiff.

All of the other papers at the conference were really interesting and varied and after I've got through autumn term and seeing hundreds of new medical students I'll write up a conference report and put any relevant RLO-related points on the blog.

In the mean time enjoy some photos from Lesbos. I've yet to ask conference delegates permissions for their images so they're photos of the scenery.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Post conference

We gave a paper on 'Engaging the iPod generation' at the Higher Education Academy's annual conference yesterday. It was a great experience and it really highlighted to us that we, librarians, need to engage with academics at these type of events much more. They are our customers and we need to know what they're talking to each other about and, more importantly, we need to tell them what we're doing in our community of practice as this can often have a really positive impact on their work.

Photos include Nancy standing by the poster and Ann-Marie and Dr Maxine Lintern (Director of the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Birmingham) standing outside the famous Betty's tea room in Harrogate.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BRUM on YouTube

I forgot to mention in the last post how we did manage to upload two of our BRUM RLOs on to YouTube. I think one of them did have or is still having problems with sound and visuals matching up but it was really just to see if it could be done at all. Last time I checked we had about 700 hits for one of them and 60 for the other. We have no idea who is looking at them or why or, more likely, people have stumbled on them by mistake.

I'm also in the process of contributing 5 of the RLOs to Jorum. I'll test them out first and then unleash them!

To see the BRUM RLOs on YouTube please follow this link:


Happy viewing - feedback welcome!

Post project update

We've both been busy with BRUM related activities in the past couple of months. After LILAC we were asked to write an article about the project for the next issue of ALISS journal. This will be published in August. The article focuses on our issues surrounding the project including independent learning and new forms of communication technologies. Please send us any feedback from the article.

We are giving a paper at the HEA annual conference in Harrogate tomorrow on engaging the iPod generation. I'm really looking forward to this presentation as it gives us a chance to engage with academics as well as learning support staff to discuss the pedagogical issues around information literacy and how we engage with students. We're both looking forward to meeting new people and our first visit to Harrogate.

I'm off to another HEA event next week in Loughborough called Delivering Information Skills. It's being held at the EngCetl and I was asked to produce a poster for the event. It will be a great chance to catch up with some familiar IL faces and to discuss our project with other information professionals who deliver training.

Throughout preparation for our talk at the HEA annual conference Ann-Marie and I have been mulling over lots of different issues including student feedback. We both feel as if there is a dichotomy between being obsessed with gathering feedback and statistics and the response to the results of that feedback. Should we just respond without delving further into the answers students give or do we need to engage students in more qualitative feedback?

Last academic year two colleagues and I ran an information skills module on the University's Personal Skills Award. Our assessment for the students was a learning journal describing how their information skills had progressed throughout the course. The journals made for interesting reading as we realised we asked them for 2000 words of qualitative feedback on IL training! The overall feedback was very positive with students explaining how the IL training that we had given them had improved their academic performance.

I think that we need to do more to engage students in our planning of training and services or at least do more to understand their point of view and expectations.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Just got back from another excellent LILAC (Information Literacy) conference, at which we presented the findings of our BRUM project. Around 50 people attended and there was a lot of interest in whether academics had re-purposed our RLOs, how easy it is to repurpose things like Captivate demos, and the relation of RLOs vis-à-vis other information literacy activities. We will also be looking into whether our digital recordings can be put on to You Tube. Watch this space!

I’ll post some more about the conference and our findings soon; and am inspired to develop my interest in Web 2.0 further - I've even set up a new blog: Web 2 at BU

Monday, March 05, 2007

Teaching and Learning Conference

We're coming to the end of the project now. We'll be speaking at LILAC at the end of March but as a warm up we gave a session at our internal Teaching and Learning Conference last Wednesday. We were given the grave yard slot (4.30-5pm) but we were pleasantly surprised at how many people stayed to listen to us. We had some really positive feedback and discussed our RLOs with many like minded colleagues. There were also some other interesting projects across the university that we got to know about, such as the WM-Share project which the University of Birmingham were involved in.

We also had our prize draw for the two iPod shuffles that we gave away to students that had filled in our questionnaires. They've now been contacted so we should be handing over their goodies soon. We'll post a photo of the exciting moment.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Turning Point?

We used our last RLO today – the range of resources interactive quiz, in which students interact in ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ style, by using handsets to answer questions during a lecture.

It was great fun, and very well-received, and certainly seems like a useful way to engage students and to get them to think about the sources they use.

We’ll certainly be pursuing this further and perhaps this is a true Turning Point in Birmingham’s use of technology – who knows?; the lecturer was impressed and suggested using the technology for inductions to draw students into their own learning experience from the start of their course.

Sadly I couldn’t get a picture of the RLO in action, as I was too busy being Chris Tarrant – but this is me, back in my office.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blow your trumpets!

I attended an excellent workshop on Teaching Information Skills yesterday at Northampton. Many IL 'names' were there including Chris Powis, Jo Webb, Ruth Stubbings and Moira Bent (whose blog I subscribe to!). I spent most of the day scribbling down inspirational ideas for taking IL forward at UoB and I'm still in the process of writing up my notes.

However, I did want to put up the InfoTeach wiki URL http://www.infoteach.org asap to encourage people to add to it and to edit what's already there. During discussion it became clear that many librarians still feel shy about blowing their own trumpet. But, paraphrasing the immortal words of Blackadder, we need to know that they've at least got a trumpet!

I'll be forwarding on the URL to my librarian colleagues here at Birmingham and we'll see if there's much interest. As one attendee yesterday said, it's sometimes a matter of shifting your mind set to contribute to wikis and not worry about it not being perfect. Well, we've got a pretty good example of Wikipedia to show us that it takes collaboration and passion for a topic to really get a wiki off the ground. I don't know about you but the librarians I know are passionate about teaching and are very good at collaborating, so I see no excuse - get trumpeting!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Students like the RLOs (and cake!)

I’ve been thinking for ages about how to get the best out of elibrary and now I’ve seen these RLOs, I’ve learnt loads.”

Last Wednesday, 31 Jan 2007, we ran a student focus group to get feedback on the BRUM project, and RLOs and information skills in general. Persuaded to attend by a ludicrous amount of mini-muffins and mini-danishes (and a small financial incentive), 10 students from a range of subject contributed to the session.
It was great to watch everybody using the materials, and feedback was extremely positive.
Specific comments about the RLOs:

- Podcasts: easy to follow, “I’ve learnt something new!” (shock, horror!) and suggestions for improvement included: slowing them down, and improving the audio quality
- Turning Point Quizzes – “these would make lectures more interesting
- Captivate demoes – liked the idea of pausing and watching bits again. Interestingly, one respondent had already seen one of the captivates but noted “I only learnt something after watching for the 2nd time”. Also suggested making the text boxes bigger.
- CYOA powerpoints – “makes searching more efficient
- Digital Recordings – “you can use it to teach yourself
This was extremely encouraging and provides useful information for us to plan for the further development of some of the RLOs before next academic year. The clear message coming out of the group was “these need more promotion” as one student noted:

if it wasn’t for this meeting today I would never have found these, and wouldn’t have even imagined that this type of thing existed.”

The 2nd half of the focus group explored self-directed learning channels and information skills more generally – will post details shortly.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

'Learning is a conversation, not merely a lecture'

We've started the new year very well by having a short paper accepted at this year's LILAC in March. This will be a great opportunity to meet so many people that we've been in contact with about our project and to talk about possible future collaborations. It will also be a great chance to get some instant peer feedback about our project. We hope to meet many like minded librarians and to see what everyone else has been up to in the IL field nationally.

We're coming towards the end of the project now, with just a student focus group and an informal discussion with the academics involved to get through. We've also started writing up our project report, which will be finished by the end of February, so we'll have March to perfect our presentation!

Closer to home and all students at Birmingham received a welcome email from the University on their return after Christmas. This email highlights the importance of becoming 'enquiry-led learn(ers)' and goes on to describe attributes of an enquiry-led learner, including 'happily seek(ing) out your own resources, above and beyond those recommended by your tutors' and 'think(ing) critically about what you hear and read, weighing up the facts to come to your own conclusions'.

As information professionals we must tap into this university ideal of the enquiry-led learner with our embedded information skills training and generic training across the disciplines, focusing on self-directed study and using a problem based approach. We can help students achieve this ideal by supporting them to become information literate. We can also link at a higher position with the university's aims for independent learning by getting involved at the policy and committee stages and showing that we have an expertise that is invaluable at a strategic as well as practical level.

Enough excitement for now - we'll report back on the focus group....

Monday, January 08, 2007


Picture: Main Library, University of Birmingham

In order to manage the BRUM project, we’ve used the full Prince 2 project management methodology. I initially thought this was over the top for a small-scale project, but in fact this has proved exceptionally useful in a number of ways:

– As part of our Project initiation document we set clear milestones, and have to report monthly against these. This ensures a real focus on what needs to be done.

Communications plan – We all think we publicise our projects and developments, but are we communicating to the right people at the right time? This clear communications plan, ensures that we communicate to all stakeholders in a systematic manner.

Issue, Risk and Assumption Log – Extremely useful for articulating what might go wrong and planning contingenices.

Information Services (University of Birmingham) now use PRINCE 2 and PRINCE Lite to manage all of their projects (currently over 100). A Project Office has been set up to oversee this, and have been extremely supportive and helpful - thanks especially to Rea Shahein and Vicky Holmes