Monday, 19 March 2012

"What do we want? ... When do we want it?..."

Earlier this year we held a focus group with a selection of students, all of whom had previously used the LRC. The focus group consisted of a whole group discussion and two group activities. Activity 1 asked each group to prioritise a set of cards with different resources on, e.g. textbooks, Moodle resources, DVDs etc. Then they were asked to do the same with different aspects of the LRC service. Activity 2 asked each group to consider their study habits.
Following distribution of the comments and feedback from the focus group we are now identifying action points we can put into effect and combining our ideas on a wiki. With my role focusing on resources my action points emphasise this area.

"What do we want? ... more textbooks for our course"
We are currently running a collections project with faculties to compile resource wish lists and requirements for each school. This should help expand the range of relevant textbooks available. Judging how many to buy is trickier! Several factors need to be taken into consideration: how many students are on the course?; will actual student demand match perceived tutor demand; and, of course, the budget!

"What do we want? ... more e-books for our course"
We encourage e-books as a way of making information accessible to a wider number of students. Therefore we always investigate e-book availability on resource requests. I do wonder, though, despite these students prioritising e-books, in reality how often would they choose an e-book over a printed book? Often when I'm helping a student use the online catalogue and I point out an e-book they don't seem very enthusiastic. However, our usage stats are trying to prove me wrong! Usage of both our e-book platforms is being projected as having increased from last year. We could also investigate making use of QR codes to promote where e-books are available.

"What do we want? ... more course specific online resources"
Embedding resources into Moodle, our VLE, is the way forward with this. Not a new idea by any means but we are now approaching the end of our first year with Moodle 2.0 and, therefore, the end of our first year discovering how best to present and embed resources with courses. We deliver a training session in new staff induction days introducing Moodle and highlighting innovative e-learning tools as well as examples of embedded resources. We have so far delivered two of these sessions this academic year but the more teaching staff we can reach through sessions like these, other training and promotion, the more we can achieve.

I have also been able to identify some action points from the comments made by the groups in the focus group:
  • They don't place a high priority on course specific DVDs/DVDs are old technology and unnecessary as everything is available on YouTube: promote the benefits of using DVDs for learning (linked to learning styles) and in researching for assignments. This could be done through a Xerte learning unit. We currently only allow access to YouTube on our 30 minute quick access PCs. Maybe we need to re-examine this, or liaise more with tutors to find out how often they are recommending it.
  • They find it really hard to find up-to-date books and resources: a lot of our stock probably could be updated. In order to select certain areas we could extract usage statistics for titles with editions and most borrowed titles and see if newer editions are available. This comment also suggests that the students are not aware of their LRC eResources which contain up-to-date information from journals and newspapers as well as social issues and statistics. I produce an LRC eResource of the month poster and we offer inductions highlighting specific e-resource relevant to the course. In addition we also have our general leaflet advertising all the e-resources and what type of information they contain. No matter how much advertising we do, however, we can never guarantee that it will relate into actual usage. The best way of promoting e-resources I've seen has been when tutors require use of a journal article, for example, as part of an assignment.
  • They would like a specialised librarian who could help them with their subject: whilst we do not have subject librarians we do have a team of professionals with information seeking skills, so we're obviously not doing enough to promote ourselves!
  • Study during times that the LRC is not open: promote 'How do I ... from home' focusing on areas such as contacting the LRC for research help, booking a PC, renewing books online, etc.
As well as thinking about the services we offer a good deal of promotion work needs to be done through teaching staff. We need to be promoting resources and services to them as much as we do to our students. I am pleased to say that this is an area we have started work on so will see how it goes!