UCL E-learning and e-content conference

On Tuesday I attended another excellent event, this time organised by the library school (SLAIS) at UCL. It was a fascinating event that brought together publishers, librarians and academics. It’s the first time I’ve been along, although I believe they have run a similar event for a number of years.

The first speaker was Rod Bristow CEO of Pearson Education, who actually have a relatively low number of e-books available as they believe that focusing on learning (what he called content plus) is more important than focusing on content. Plus he pointed out they hadn’t found a workable model for selling them. I liked the Pearson’s labs, such as MyMathLab where you can set homework and monitor student progress. I had just been speaking to my sister-in-law who’s about primary school teacher about something really similar her school has just bought. Research from the US showed students who had access to the labs had better pass rates and retention was improved.

Sue McKnight, Director of Libraries from Nottingham Trent was the second speaker and she looked at some big issues including: what students want from e-learning, whose responsibility it is and what the role of libraries is. She drew on research from NTU including student surveys and the e-learning benchmarking exercise. It was interesting that in looking at what students want, training and support comes out pretty high. Potential problems with e-learning were familiar and reassuring: lack of engagement from academics, lack of funding and resources, IP and copyright issues. Results from a survey into a basic level of (what she called) online-ness found that the most important thing to have online was the reading list! And pretty much no one has cracked how you do this in a timely way! She also argued that the information literacy agenda is even more important now and that training academics is one of the biggest issues – all music to my ears!

Liam Earney from JISC Collections spoke next about a new project I was very excited to hear about anew JISC project called CASPER (Copyright advice and support for e-learning). It’s in the early stages but CASPER is supporting all 19 projects in the JISC call on Repurposing and re-use. No surprises to me, but IPR and copyright awareness in HE is low and it’s a big issue and free to view is often equated to mean free to use. I’ll be keeping my eye on this project and it’s various outputs.

Another sessions of interest to me was Ian Rowlands from CIBER, talking about the Myth of the Google Generation. His report on the future of the academic researcher has received a lot of publicity recently. Some stuff I hadn’t picked up on before which I took from this talk, was the diversity of the so called ‘Google Generation’ in terms of their behaviour and the notion of the ‘digital dissident’ who makes up 20% of the group. In fact an OFCom study has found newly retired professionals are actually the highest users of the internet. That ties in with my personal experience, my Dad is newly retired! He also talked about the idea of ‘power browsing’ which is a technique adopted by many people when searching the net, of using keywords to search Google then and cutting and pasting to search a document, rather than read it. He asked whether this was related to teaching in schools and an over-reliance on web sources rather than books.
Dan Burnstone from Proquest also reported on some interesting research they have carried out in the US to ‘observe student researchers in their native habitat.’ They looked at how students find and use resources, the role of Google and the role of social networking sites. The findings are not startling, but all point to the need for information literacy sessions, most students knew they should use library databases, it was often an issue of knowing what was available and finding the database. Authentication could be an issue too. Then the final session of the day from Barry Spencer at Bromley College looked at Second Life and how he’s used it to create content – mainly for computer science students. He’s got a whole island, with a museum of computers in it! Some time soon I am going to start exploring Second Life, even if it’s just to say ‘tried it and not interested.’ Overall a good day and the final panel session raised some interesting issues about how all books are not the same – textbooks are really learning objects. A discussion about whether VLEs have changed teaching or not also arose. Plus a talk about selection by librarians verses buying for teaching purposes and the concept of user driven acquisition which the University of Hertfordshire are trialling.

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