i-Spy – tutorials to help you work with information
Type of snapshot
- Policy or strategy for learning literacies
- Central services provision e.g. library, learning development, e-learning, ICT
- Provision in the curriculum: skills/literacies addressed in topic module
What was the context for this snapshot?
Learning and Information Services (LIS) consultants at the University of Hertfordshire aimed to develop and implement an information skills (i-skills) framework for the University. Our aim was to promote and support the development of student information skills (i-skills) for the modern knowledge society within a coherent structured framework and to enhance the contribution of LIS consultants to student i-skills development.
Figure 1. i-Spy Framework: summary diagram
The framework is populated with online tutorials in ‘bite-sized chunks’ so that students do not need to work through them in a linear fashion but can dip in and out as necessary. Hertfordshire’s Blended Learning Unit is a CETL (Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) and had funds available for blended learning projects. A successful bid by LIS funded the assistance of external consultants with the project.
What kind of learners were involved in accessing this provision or support?
i-Spy is designed for use by students both in conjunction with timetabled skills sessions and their academic programmes, and also to support independent study. The tutorials can be accessed via the University’s Managed Learning Environment.
What skills or literacies were particularly being addressed?
- Information literacy, encompassing all aspects of working with information including critical thinking.
- Digital literacy (for example tutorial on using RSS feeds), Academic literacy
The aims and learning outcomes were mapped to The Association of College and Research Libraries Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and the Australian and New Zealand information literacy framework. Levels were mapped to Bloom’s Taxonomy and SEEC descriptors.
Who provided the support? How was support provided?
A quality assurance and enhancement strategy with transparent and rigorous procedures was employed. A ‘buddy’ scheme was set up with each of the 3 project team members responsible for one of the main categories in the framework. The procedures for creating new modules is illustrated in the diagram below.
Figure 2. i-Spy student i-skills framework implementation diagram for new materials
Each new tutorial is peer reviewed against a checklist of criteria for good practice and the comments of the reviewer and student feedback logged before the tutorial can be signed off and made live. This means that the whole life-cycle of each tutorial is documented and logged.
Figure 3. i-Spy homepage.
Benefits, outcomes, and lessons learned
The tutorials are re-usable learning objects that can be mixed with specific subject content. They are flexible and adaptable to students’ needs and address many literacies which are required by employers. Feedback of established tutorials is obtained through an online evaluation form. Some example comments are below:
Figure 4. Student and staff comments.
Several case studies indicate the benefits of i-Spy: Case study 1: Common foundation programme for pre-registration nurses”’ The systematic searching tutorial is being used to replace what can amount to 13 identical face to face skills sessions across a cohort of over 600 nursing students. The LIS consultant for health introduces a Studynet online tutorial for Health and Human Sciences (HHS) to the whole cohort at the start of their course and explains that they are requested to spend time on it as their assignments will be marked with this in mind. The LIS consultant has made the generic ‘systematic searching’ tutorial relevant for health students by designing an additional subject specific introduction and online workbooks for key health databases. Students can then practise principles introduced in the i-Spy tutorial using familiar resources
The academic staff involved have been happy with progress of students using the module. After initial discussions they came on board because it was felt that an online tutorial could provide a more ‘blended learning’ approach to their module delivery and students could repeat it if necessary when it came to researching their assignments. Originally staff felt that there might be a need for a face-to-face workshop for students who struggled with the online tutorial but this has not been necessary. As a result, one of the core modules, which all nursing students are required to take, has been rewritten so that the assessment more overtly relates to the online tutorial content. It is hoped that this will encourage increased participation in information skills training in comparison to attendance at face-to-face sessions.
Case study 2: Graduate Certificate in Business programme A cohort of international students on a Graduate Certificate in Business Programme were supported in a business strategy module with 10 additional workshops. These included using i-Spy tutorials covering Evaluating and Verifying, Systematic Searching, Essay and Report Writing and Citing and Referencing. In addition, students were able to submit their assignments through Turnitin for formative feedback. Initial feedback from the tutors and external examiner, as well as reflective feedback from the students themselves, suggests that this supporting work has improved the students’ critical thinking ability, their use of quality sources and their referencing skills. It is hoped that this model can be replicated for all Masters students in the Business School.