Antonia Lewis reports on a TaLIC Teaching & Learning Fellowship Award project, commissioned during spring, 2017.
This project originally stemmed from the need to update an online library and academic skills tutorial situated on learn.gold – GIST (Goldsmiths Information Skills Tutorial). GIST, also realised with funding from TaLIC in 2012, was designed as a collaborative project between Library staff and the former CELAW. It followed observations that information and academic skills resources needed to be more clearly sign-posted as a ‘one-stop shop’. GIST proved popular, but its content and appearance had become out of date. Many of the resources it listed had been superseded, particularly as the Library had undergone a process to update its online catalogue. Student feedback from a focus group run in January also confirmed that a new approach would be worthwhile. The old, existing GIST resource was felt to be ‘too detailed’ and felt ‘overwhelming’. Feedback suggested that more visual elements were needed and clearer, more obvious chapter headings, such as “How to write an essay”, might work more effectively.
This time, it made sense to work collaboratively with members of the team who deliver the Enhancing Academic Skills (EAS) workshops (www.gold.ac.uk/eas) – most of whom are now members of the new Academic Skills Centre. It was proposed that the GIST structure could be unpicked and rebuilt as an academic skills resource, modelled on the portfolio of sessions delivered as part of EAS. With these changes, the materials might better support and reinforce face-to-face teaching that was taking place at the same time.
There were several challenges in getting started. The project timeline coincided with departmental restructures and some senior staff moving on or leaving. The creation of the Academic Skills Centre had just been announced. Working collaboratively across departments when staff have different priorities and management responsibilities also took a while to negotiate. However with some persistence, a solid team emerged and we pressed forward with the project plan.
Progress was slow, but by working steadily and consistently over the summer, a resource began to take shape. At times, there were some technical challenges. Many of the applications we used to create content with had to be self-taught and a process of trial and error was often used to get the sound and visuals up to standard. The practicalities of finding time, despite the extra funding, created additional pressure.
By the end of September, the majority of the content was complete and the Enhancing Academic Skills Online (http://libguides.gold.ac.uk/eas) resource was launched, just after Welcome Week in September. A decision was also made to retain some content on the VLE, but the main resource sits on the platform – Libguides – a simple and widely used content management system designed for Libraries.
Enhancing Academic Skills Online includes chapters on – ‘Making the Most of Lectures and Seminars’ – ‘Researching, Using the Library and Referencing’ (with subsections such as ‘Using Library Search’, ‘Advanced Search Techniques’ and Zotero). Each section contains tutorials, video demos and interactive elements.
Enhancing Academic Skills Online is still seen as a work in progress. The next stage will be to test the resource and gather feedback on its use, to finalise developments and to refine the roll-out strategy. Another student focus group is planned for the middle of January 2018 and the resulting feedback will be rolled into the next iteration. Let us know what you think.
For more information or to feedback your views, please contact: Antonia Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org)