To kick off the project from my perspective I had a quick chat with Kate Barker from the LSE External Study Office to get some initial input on whether we can involve a sample set of University of London External Programme students whose “lead college” is LSE.
Some interesting questions came out of the discussion, mainly relating to the groupings and types of students studying on the External Programme through LSE. All of these groupings may affect how students use the University of London Online Library. Two main groups are those studying through a local institution (the majority) and those students studying independently – students studying through an institution will most likely have access to the library at their institution. How useful would social software be to these students compared to those studying independently? Another interesting comparison may be the difference between postgraduate and undergraduate students and how they may use social software for study. (LSE does not lead any postgraduate courses via the External Programme).
Some of the independent students have already created an online discussion board to support each other, these students should definitely be consulted and maybe included in a later practical element to the project. Another group that could be consulted are the teachers and librarians based at the local institutions – who are providing resources locally, possibly reducing the willingness of, or need for, the students to use the online library.
Questions were also raised about how well students are able to use the basic functions of the current online library provision and whether these should be addressed before adding more complex functionality such as resource sharing through social software. The External Study office at LSE hopes that this project can keep in mind the current developments on the External Programme VLE as they research and make recommendations.