We spoke to Edyta Krol, Academic Support Librarian at the University of West London (UWL) to find out about their journey with Talis Aspire. Although the story begins with challenges, the team’s hard work now means they boast a 98% list coverage across all modules. In this post, we reflect back over the last few years and look forward to the plans for the future.
The University of West London purchased Talis Aspire back in 2012, looking to deliver better student experience and improved access to resources. Implementation was completed in just 4 weeks, however getting Talis Aspire off the ground proved difficult for the UWL team in the first few years. A library move and a team restructure meant the focus was drawn away from the project and academic adoption suffered. After reflecting on this and with time to dedicate to the project, the team began to rethink their strategy and looked for a new approach to ensure reading lists were available for students.
In the summer of 2015, it was decided that the quickest way to get reading lists kickstarted would be for the Academic Support Librarians to create and prepare reading lists based on the course module guides. These would eventually be handed over to academics to maintain going forward, but this seemed like a good tactic in order to more quickly provide an understanding of the benefits that reading lists could offer academics in their teaching. The 8 members of staff on the Academic Support Librarian team dedicated their time to finding module guides and other versions of reading lists and by the end of the 2015/6 academic year, 810 reading lists had been created by the team. Their efforts were seeing significant rewards with 69% list coverage reached by this point.
March 2016 signalled a breakpoint in the project. The team delivered a paper at a Learning and Teaching assessment committee at the university which was very well received. They provided data on what they were doing to produce reading lists, the time they had spent on the project and the benefits of doing this. The library team had got the project up and running by using their own time resource and it was now time for them to dedicate this time towards getting the academics engaged and excited about reading lists.
The success of this presentation, backed up by statistics and reporting on the reading list data allowed the team to suggest new strategies. The end goal was to ensure that the Talis Aspire reading list would become the definitive source of information on resources for each module for current and prospective students.
If it wasn’t possible for the academics to create the online reading list, the library asked that they provide a list upfront to the library in whatever format, in good time for the lists to be created before the module started. Once created, the lists would be handed over to academics to manage. The reading list would then be part of the module guide and link this in Blackboard (VLE) pages
Following this, the library added even more promotional tools to encourage reading list take up by academics, producing booklets and Lib Guides for academics. The library ran a ‘Coffee break tips’: technology and practice session, on the topic of creating effective and interesting lists to encourage academics to not only create lists but to improve the quality of the lists also. Edyta was asked to write a blog post on this topic, which you can see here.
Crucial to the success of this project was the communication with academics. The Academic Support Librarians were now running one-to-one half day or whole day sessions with academics. These sessions covered many different topics but were a useful opportunity to remind of the benefits of reading lists and to do any re-training. The academics were also kept informed by personalised email from the Academic Support Librarians, which Edyta remarked were effective.
A ‘Reading List group’ was put together, which comprised of teams from across the library. This team worked together on future plans, ensured consistent messaging and discussed how to pull useful statistics and reports to further promote the project. Last year, training was delivered to all library staff on reading lists to widen understanding across the entire team.
In 2017, the University of West London won the Talis Award for Excellence in Marketing and Engaging Academics, an award which recognised the sustained effort and motivation from the library team. Edyta explained that members of the team have been attending the Talis Insight conference for the last couple of years and have found it extremely useful to see what tactics others have been using, and have been implementing these ideas at UWL.
Over the last couple of years, Edyta remarks that academics have started to get more involved, many of them taking complete responsibility for their lists. By 2018, they achieved a 98% list coverage across all modules.
Edyta explains that the University of West London are now in a good stride, turning their focus to the quality of reading lists, on structure, and on checking links and making sure editions are up to date.
The team runs “health check” drop-in sessions for academics to work on their lists with the support of the library team. They are creating graphics to promote reading lists around the screens in the library, and plan to promote the reading lists campaign on social media to widen the promotion out to students. They are also publishing an article for an internal magazine.
Edyta has also been using reading lists to promote projects and initiatives. She has put together a reading list to accompany a recent project within her teaching department, you see it here.
What’s in store for next year? A push to make reading lists more inclusive. There are a number of projects within the university, encouraging a more diverse use of resources. UWL students and staff are very varied in cultural background, and the Library believes they would benefit from having access to a range of course materials that better reflect their cultural experiences, making it easier for them to become more effectively engaged in their studies.
Thank you to Edyta Krol for contributing to this post.
Join us at Talis Insight in 2019 to hear experiences first hand from the Talis Aspire community on their success stories. Find out more about the events here: