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Talis Elevate

Talis Elevate from a librarian’s perspective

Natalie Naik
case study History (Subject) librarians perspective

In this post, we speak to Hope Williard from the University of Lincoln to find out more about a librarian’s experience co-teaching using Talis Elevate.

Could you tell us a bit about the module you are using Talis Elevate on, and how it is being applied?

I’m currently using Talis Elevate on a ‘World of Late Antiquity’ course which is a team-taught second-year history module. I deliver seminars that have been designed to accompany lectures and I modify these to best fit with Talis Elevate as pre-seminar preparation tasks and for discussion during the seminars. I’m using it as a collaborative teaching tool but I also try to build a connection for students between seminars and lectures.

The course is designed thematically rather than chronologically, so it helps to provide a clear connection between what the students have already learnt and what’s coming next, especially as they are second-year students. Talis Elevate provides the ability to read closely and understand what they are really getting out of it. The fun thing about using Talis Elevate in the second year is that it has been interesting to guide students towards a more advanced level of reading and engagement. Talis Elevate helps my students focus their attention on the details of a text in a way that wasn’t possible in previous seminars I have taught.

As a librarian I support the School of History and Heritage at the University of Lincoln, so far we have mainly uploaded documents, book chapters and PDFs of journal articles into Talis Elevate. We’ve been using the digitisation feature that is now live, transferring over digitised material from Talis Aspire. This has been enormously helpful as it takes a step out of the process. Instead of finding the content, downloading a PDF, and then re-uploading and requiring copyright checks, now it’s extremely easy to just transfer in. We should promote this more amongst our academic colleagues to make the most out of it, as it turns a static document that they are linking to anyway, into something ‘live’ that students can engage with.


How did you first hear about Talis Elevate?

I started using Talis Elevate in the fall of 2018, with Dr Jamie Wood who got in touch and asked if I would teach a seminar for his Making Militants course. (Read the latest post from Jamie here). He gave the information about Talis Elevate beforehand, and that teaching experience was my first introduction to using the tool. Before this, I had no idea what was going on in the module or what had been taught, but after he added me to the Talis Elevate module, after monitoring the engagement for a few weeks I got a good sense of what was being discussed in advance of teaching the seminar. I was one of the first in the library team to have hands-on experience of what the Talis Elevate format looked like, and how to use it. I got a preview of all of the possible uses and also the potential issues that could arise with our set-up. Levels of engagement have grown among our academics, and awareness has been raised in the library more and more so that we can support our academics with their use.

Generally, the students are good with using the Talis products, they don’t ask for much help with learning how it works, but it is great to have that understanding so we can provide help to faculty who may be setting up a reading list for the first time, or who are engaging with the software after a period of not using it.


Did your involvement with the library affect the way you approached Talis Elevate?

As librarians, we often drop into a class for a one-off session, and rarely have a chance for sustained engagement or the opportunity can build up a rapport with students or get to know how they work and which approaches work best. 

So, you come into groups of students often completely blind and know nothing other than the course and the year of study. I would like to see more academic colleagues using Talis Elevate to build a bridge across these learning experiences, as it gives you a chance to do an ice-breaker in advance of the seminar. You can then see responses before the seminar so you can see how things are going before you go in, and then build on that engagement within the seminar itself. 

This would improve my subject librarian teaching experience, and make it less of a blind drop-in, and more about making us integrated into the teaching team. It’s about building on what’s been done but also laying the groundwork for the next experience. Although this is not an everyday thing, it requires a lot of time to prepare and build engagement before the seminar and requires knowing what has been done before.

I can also imagine it being used in a one-off teaching study skills session for a module that’s using Talis Elevate, added by the module tutor to assess the level of comments and students understanding. It can be used as an information-gathering tool for teaching and training from a subject librarian perspective.


What impact did Talis Elevate have on your roles?

Talis Elevate made my experience of just ‘dropping’ into a class much easier. It gave me the opportunity to get to know the students and their work beforehand. Going into a class blind can be daunting as you are often faced with silence. Talis Elevate provided a comfortable platform for discussion despite the fact the students and I hadn’t met before. 

Out of a cohort of 22 students, only 1 has never engaged with the content in Talis Elevate. Most are regular commenters and I would come up with commenting tasks that were closely related to the text, but one of the most fascinating things I noticed was that they were also great at going into a text and commenting on things that they found personally interesting. I was really impressed with the quality of some of the comments that students had made. I don’t necessarily think they would have raised these points otherwise in the seminar discussion, but because of Talis Elevate, these comments have then translated into quite lively discussions within the seminar which has been great.


What would you say to colleagues who are interested in working with Talis Elevate?

One of the things I’d say to library colleague who is thinking about using Talis Elevate is that using it effectively is going to depend on the relationship and connection you have with the academic whose course you are coming into. Talis Elevate can be a great tool if you get information about the course in good time, and help with collaboration by really enabling you to tailor your library workshop to the course. 

It also has a lot of potential for my academic colleagues who might be keen on finding new ways to collaborate with librarians, especially in terms of buildings students’ analytical, critical reading, and research skills, but doesn’t know where to start.  It would be a good tool for a library colleague to recommend to an academic to encourage them to try something new. You have to commit to a bit more preparation time than you would with a typical finding information or research skills lecture, but you have the potential to create a much greater level of student engagement and interaction.

I found it to be a very easy platform to use with a simple and straightforward interface. You need to put time and thought into how you use it, but the barriers to actually using it are very low. I would reassure them that you don’t need to be afraid to use it as it’s very simple, especially now with the link to copyright digitised content on a Talis Aspire list, you don’t need to worry about the copyright restrictions on the content.


Will you be continuing to use Talis Elevate?

I will definitely continue to use it as an associate lecturer and will be using it throughout the semester. 

We are also using it in other fun ways. Within the library, we have a small book club where we try and get together once a month to read a journal article or a book chapter on libraries or librarianship and issues in the information profession. We’ve been putting these materials on a Talis Elevate list, so other librarians have an opportunity to play around with it almost like a sandbox, in a low-stakes environment. This also means that everyone can take part and can leave comments and thoughts, even if they can’t attend the physical discussion. It’s been a good way for us to get a bit of experience with the tool.

I’ve spoken to colleagues who are using Talis Elevate for things I might try, the community of practice that Talis Elevate has is great for sharing ideas about what you are doing but also coming up with ideas based on what else is being done.


Thank you to Hope for her contribution to this post. 

Are you using Talis Elevate in an interesting way, or just have a success story to share? Please get in touch at

If you’d like to find more about Talis Elevate, join us at Talis Insight Europe 2020 in April where we will be hearing directly from users, and the Talis team on the latest developments.

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