Aberystwyth University - LLIDA
Outcomes and outputs from the Jisc LLiDA project on Learning Literacies in a Digital Age led by Glasgow Caledonian University
digital literacy, learning literacy, digital capability, literacy frameworks, learning, higher education, further education
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Aberystwyth University

Online or on the shelves – students enjoy research


Type of snapshot

Central services provision

What was the context for this snapshot?

This project was undertaken in June 2008 on request from an academic department who were holding a project day for sixth form students from a local comprehensive as part of their student recruitment strategy. The students would spend the morning in workshops investigating historical sources from the French Revolution, focusing on the September Massacres. The University library was tasked to provide a one and a half hour library skills session to

  • complement the morning workshops
  • give a taster of University library facilities

Library staff saw this as an opportunity to

  • help widen participation of library facilities to the sixth form students
  • promote the Library’s role in information literacy to University staff and local school staff

What kind of learners were involved in accessing this provision or support?

The session was undertaken by 40 Year 12/13 students and observed by their teacher and a member of academic staff. Four library staff undertook the session and regarded the main challenges to be keeping the students focused and interested for the duration of the session and providing enough support during the activities to ensure they received a useful experience.

What skills or literacies were particularly being addressed?

The literacies were pitched at an introductory level to take into account the students’ experience and the short amount of time available. Literacies addressed were:

1. Orientation – helping the students to feel welcome, comfortable and confident in the library environment

2. Searching the Library catalogue to find books – students in pairs were tasked to find 3 books about the French Revolution from the author, title and year information provided, note the Library of Congress classmarks and use them to find the books on the shelves

3. Research skills – students were tasked to check the tables of contents and indexes in the books they found to look for references to the September Massacres

4. Awareness of electronic resources available – library staff explained the wealth of electronic resources available to them (aged 16 and above) via the National Library of Wales, and from the public library, and encouraged students to take up their entitlements by becoming members.

5. Use of peer-reviewed electronic resources for academic research – students were tasked to undertake guided online searches of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) and the Gale Times Digital Archive (TDA) and answer questions about people and events around the September Massacres and the French Revolution. Reference was made to the quality of the research resources required at University.

6.Search skills – students were advised how to use wildcards and truncation, and narrower and broader terms.

7.Use of a voting system – students were given a short Qwizdom quiz at the end of the session

Who provided the support? How was support provided?

Two subject librarians and 2 library support staff devised custom booklets for the book search and the DNB/TDA activities with space for recording their findings, which they could take away authored a web page with follow-up links and contact information built a Qwizdom quiz in PowerPoint authored an introduction/conclusion to the session sourced pens to give away to the students presented, led and supported the session, answering questions and giving one-to-one help as needed arranged suitable rooms (with computers as needed) in the library, temporary logins and the Qwizdom sets (from AU and Information Services facilities) The Qwizdom quiz was not formal assessment, more an opportunity to reinforce the important points of the session and to give staff some idea of how much the students remembered about what they’d seen and done.

Benefits, outcomes, and lessons learned

Feedback from the students was positive, and the teacher and member of academic staff observing gave excellent comments. The teacher was pleased to learn of the online resources available to students if they took up membership at the National and local libraries in Aberystwyth. Other outcomes were less tangible. In the future we would devise and implement methods for more measurable feedback in the following areas: student recruitment numbers, how the experience fed into the students’ academic work at school, as a stepping stone towards research at HE level and as an early orientation into university life. Advice One member of staff per ten students is a good ratio in the library. Set a strict timetable for the session and keep to it, ensuring sufficient swap over time. The students loved the free pens. Each pair of students was given 3 titles that only they were looking for; this helped reduce congestion round the shelves. We had prepared more material (on JSTOR) however there was only enough time to do a few searches in DNB and TDA and answer a small number of questions so we’d suggest not being too ambitious. The students also loved Qwizdom and were telling each other not to shout out the answers. We were pleased by how much they seemed to enjoy the session.

Central Services Provision
higher education, information literacies, school students, workshops