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    Using online resources more

    March 10th, 2011

    Like most colleges we do provide access to a range of digital and online resources. There is some fantastic content out there which is either available for free or for a relatively low cost subscription.

    Feedback from learners, talking to managers and practitioners, show that these resources are not as well used as they could be. There are a range of reasons given why both practitioners and learners do not use them, and in some cases do not even consider using them. These vary from the usual, not enough time, to access issues, or as often happens they didn’t know the college subscribed to them…

    Didn’t they have a library induction?

    Didn’t they read the e-mail?

    The reality is that resources shown at induction or identified in an e-mail will be noted, but not generally remembered. Unless they are use to accessing online resources or are sign-posted to use online resources; they won’t use online resources.

    This isn’t just about online resources, experience in my institutiuon and talking to others in a similar position, demonstrate that learners won’t be using books and journals in the library unless they are use to using them or sign-posted to use them.

    So who sign-posts?

    Well obviously the library staff (learning resources team) can do this with learners who are in the library. They can go and meet with learners in the classroom and inform them of the availability of resources. But these tactics are in many ways like inductions or e-mails, they may not be at the point of need and learners may not readily identify or link the resources to their topics or assessed work. The “clever” learners will know that they can go the library staff when they have a “need” and get signposted that way.

    One thing practitioners can do is to sign-post resources to their learners during lessons, within assignments and on the VLE. If a learner wants to get the best grade possible, either in exams or assessed work, they need to use a much wider range of resources than what is made available in the classroom, the library and online resources are two prime locations for these resources. Not all learners know that and not all practitioners realise that they need to signpost to their learners about this. Some may think it so obvious that they don’t even mention it… that can be a mistake.

    So how do we change things, so that learners are aware of what online resources are available or what the function of the library is?

    Practitioners need to be made aware of the value of the resources available and working with the library staff enable easy access to those resources for their learners.

    Some examples.

    • For every course on the VLE each team will identify at least one e-book from the e-Library (currently 3,000 e-books in the collection) and link to that book from the course. The team will promote the e-book to their learners. Usage stats will be taken at the end of the academic year.
    • All practitioners to attend a session on the online resources available to the college, all practitioners to choose at least one online resource that they will use with their learners on one of their courses.
    • Learners are recorded about how an online resource helped them understand a topic better, or complete an assignment successfully.

    We are so lucky now to have such a huge range of online resources and content, to ignore it is missing a trick. But getting both learners and practitioners to take advantage of them, is not just down to wishful thinking, but requires communication and planning.


    Using e-resources to improve the quality of achievement

    January 26th, 2011

    In order to improve the quality of achievement, there are various strategies that practitioners can use. One key thing to note is that there is only so much that practitioners can do and learners need to take responsibility for doing more than is just provided to ensure that they get the best possible grade they can.

    I know some learners who “believe” that all they need to pass their course is the core text book and the handouts they get in class.

    Well, yes in a way that’s right, but they will only pass.

    To get that grade A or a distinction they are going to have to do a little bit more. Though some learners will know this, many will not. It is therefore useful for practitioners to support learners to ensure that they have the opportunity and the access to wider range of resources.

    Of course practitioners don’t always have the time for this (as they do work hard doing a lot already for the learners) however learning technologies and digital resources can often provide that extra sparkle to allow learners to improve the quality of their work and assessments.

    By providing links to e-books, e-journals, relevant e-resources will be placed on the VLE. This will allow students who wish to improve the quality of their assessed work, access to a wider range of resources and links. Learners can then access these links at a time and place that suits them, whether that be at home, at work, whilst drinking coffee or even in college.

    Now just providing the links isn’t enough, you also need to ensure that learners are signposted the resources in lessons.

    Before any practitioners say “I would like to do that, but I don’t have the time” I have two things to say.

    Firstly if quality of achievement is an issue for a particular curriculum area than using resources ie spending time on doing this should be a priority over doing other stuff. It’s not about time, it’s about priorities.

    Secondly within most institutions are a bunch of information professionals who are really good at curating and collating these very resources for you. They often live in the library and from experience not only will they know what resources are available for any particular curriculum area, they may also curate and collate them for you.

    There are many ways in which digital and online resources can be used to enhance and enrich learning. Using access to a wider range of resources to improve the quality of achievement can be an easy start to solving this issue.


    100 ways to use a VLE – #21 Providing access to resources

    December 3rd, 2010

    In a traditional learning session learners will often be provided with resources. These will often consist of a presentation (OHPs or Powerpoint), a handout or three (some will be photocopies from books, printed Word documents and “handwritten”) and possibly some references to additional resources. Now these classroom resources are in many ways for learners the “minimum” they need to complete and pass the course. If a learner is to achieve a higher grade, and help them prepare for HE, then they will need to do more than just the “minimum”. They will need access to extra resources and guidance on what these are. In the past (or the present) we would probably give learners a reading list of text books and journal articles we would want them to read. The learner’s only way to access these resources would probably be through the library.

    The VLE is a prime place to provide access to resources, enabling the learner to use the resources at a time and place to suit them. With the growing increase in the use of e-journals, e-books, digital and online resources it is much easier for practitioners to create a digital reading list. Yes such a list could be e-mailed, but by holding a “copy” on the VLE, it can be easily updated, new resources can be added, and learners can be assured that the version they are reading is the most recent version.

    As a VLE can track usage of resources, then this would enable the practitioner to see who and what is been used, and then use this information in class to direct learners who may be struggling or need more of a challenge.

    The list can be a simple list, but with many resources been multi-media it would be possible to create a reading list that is also a listening list and a watching list. It would also be possible to add additional learner development resources that show learners how to make best use of such lists, how to read and takes notes from resources and how to reference resources in their assessed work. It makes sense that those kinds  of supportive resources are created by the library or other information professional and shared across the institution.

    If a learner wants to get the best grade possible, either in exams or assessed work, they need to use a much wider range of resources than what is made available in the classroom, the VLE is an ideal location for those resources.


    Promoting e-resources

    April 20th, 2010

    In the past we had books, journals, magazines and newspapers in our institutional libraries. Places full of print media. We had individual desks and small tables.

    Then computers arrived. In the main so that learners could use them to type up stuff or use “educational” software.

    Then the internet arrived and lots of things changed.

    Today the learner not only has access to all the traditional print media, they also have access to all the resources available online.

    The Excellence Gateway has another useful case study on how promoting resources can increase usage of the library.

    Hull College has increased library usage through the promotion of e-resources. The College is now able to cater to an increased number of learners and also tailor services to different types of learner, such as distance or part-time students, or learners with disabilities. e-Resources have made the library service more responsive to the needs of both learners and staff within College.

    We have undertaken a recent review of our own promotion of e-books and have started to undertake new and exciting promotional activties to increase usage of e-books by learners and staff.

    Key things we are doing include:

    • Letting staff know what new resources and e-books there are. We are using different channels, print publications, e-mail, VLE and importantly face to face conversations.
    • As well as letting them know what is available, we are also promoting how they can use the resources to support teaching and learning.
    • We are using similar methods with learners, using print, e-mail, SMS, VLE and social networking.
    • In the libraries themselves staff are ensuring that when learners ask for particular resources that as well as showing them the print publications they are also showing the learners relevant e-books and online resources.
    • We have also ensured that all the e-books we have are in our catalogue.

    Having digital and online resources is not just about getting them or getting access to them, but also ensuring that learners and staff know about them.

    How do you promote e-resources to your staff and learners?


    The World Factbook 2010 – iPhone App of the Week

    April 13th, 2010

    The World Factbook 2010 – iPhone App of the Week


    This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will also work on the iPod touch.

    This week’s App is The World Factbook 2010.

    The World Factbook is the reliable and extremely popular source of information on all the nations of the world.

    It provides up-to-date, valuable data for more than 250 countries and territories in a concise, well-organized format whenever and wherever you want.

    Topics addressed include natural resources, industries, GDP, religion, ethnic groups, legal system and much more. Key data are grouped under the headings of introduction/background, geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, transnational issues.

    £0.59

    So all the information in this App is available online for free…

    So why on earth would you spend 59 pence on an App?

    Well…

    Good question!

    The main reason is that the information is “available online for free” and that’s the crunch, you have to be online to be able to access that free information, which means it isn’t free! Going online costs money, okay if you have access to free wifi, less so if you are using expensive 3G data.

    But you can download the Factbook….

    True, but if you download it to an iPhone (or iPod touch) you won’t be able to access it, as you can’t access the file system on  the iPhone you won’t be able to open the downloaded Factbook.

    So for 59p you can have offline access to the Factbook and this in my opinion is 59p well spent.

    The key with any App is, is it value for money, and I think the World Factbook is value for money. It provides detailed information and maps on the countries of the world quickly and easily and can do this without needing a 3G or wifi connection.