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The Role Libraries Play in Teaching and Learning

Natalie Naik

We spoke to James Hodgkin, Associate Director of Library, Technology and information and University Librarian at the University of Gloucestershire about the library’s role in teaching and learning.

We wanted to share his thoughts and experiences with you.

I think it’s clear that the library does have a role to play in Teaching and Learning, the key thing is how does the library do this?

Structure is very important, in terms of how much traction you can get. We became a converged service with IT in 2017 and this is very important as library staff are aware of how IT systems are working and how they are being developed. We are also in the Academic Development Unit Directorate which means we are very much on the Academic side of the structure and therefore very close to the Heads of Schools, which has great benefits as we are part of Learning Technologies, pedagogy development and the Academic strategy.

As part of the Academic Strategy, the University was working towards a student-centred approach to learning and out of this came our Technology to Enhance Learning programme. The programme wanted to get to the heart of independent learning for students. We were interested in the ‘stuff’ they do when they are away from the university – and this was obviously tech-related. This was a programme that the Library and IT were heavily involved in from day one.

There were external drivers such as the Higher Education Act, the establishment of the Office for Students and a sharper focus on outputs and outcomes, showing what you have achieved. Also, funding was very central, and value for money for students – what are students actually getting for their fees?

Student well-being was also a big part – how engaged were the students? Were we in contact with them? How can we help them?

Assessment and Engagement were also key – and their input into Learning Gain. Running through all of this was data improvement and ultimately a personalisation of the learning experience.

As Head of the Library I was very involved with the Technology to Enhance Learning programme. Learning Analytics were a big focus and a key opening for the library and part of the bigger picture of engagement and performance. Attendance capture and the Tutor portal became relevant to the library as immediately dependencies became apparent in the systems we used and shared. Also, our collaboration with organisations like JISC and OCLC made us important partners. All this gave the library the opportunity to get involved, not just to come to the table, but also to lead on things.

The VLE was central to this – it was always understood at Gloucestershire that learning resources are the foundation of a good learning experience – Moodle was to be seen as a repository of good, high-quality learning resources. Giving the students a ‘rich set of resources encouraging meaningful engagement with their course’ was a major focus of our VC, and whilst it could be asked isn’t this the role of the academics to get involved in this, it was actually a massive opportunity for the library. The Library embraced its role in online delivery.

Reading Lists were central to encouraging students to use different resources, suggesting alternative content, ensuring lists were well designed, adding our own content. The library was part of the University’s social media and embedded eTutorials for library induction on the VLE. If content is at the centre, then Librarians are experts in content, finding the right content at the right time. The Library is expert in copyright – with small budgets you have to make your content work even harder and this is what librarians helped with. De-colonisation is something that libraries can lead on also; the library was seen as a neutral, central area that has respect and is listened to.

Now we have the great tech we have to use it – the library’s role in co-curating and co-creating content is a very real one, and a great set of resources is at the heart of good teaching and learning, never more so in the current climate.

We are now moving into Learning Design. We have this great technology, and we want to know how to use it to really improve pedagogy and the way we deliver Teaching & Learning. This is where Talis Elevate comes in. It’s about co-curating and co-creating resources for students, using the technology available to us.

The timing seems right for Talis Elevate, we debuted it at our festival of learning conference earlier this year and the interest was very high. Considering what’s happening right now, it seems like the time is right for a tool like this that encourages collaboration with the resources. Responses came from surprising areas. Photography, illustration and music have been really keen to get on board. There are lots of exciting opportunities opening up for us.

Thank you to James for contributing to this post. If you’d like to hear more from him, you can watch a presentation on this topic here.

This post was created exclusively for the Talis Informer, a quarterly newsletter from Talis aimed at those leading and influencing Higher Education libraries. If you’d like to receive the newsletter, please get in touch at info@talis.com. For even more content and discussion, join the Talis Informer mailing group here.

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