Earlier last month I was fortunate enough to receive a new professionals bursary from the West Midlands UC&R Group to attend the biannual joint CoFHE and UC&R Group conference. All presentations from the conference can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/tag/exeter10 or http://www.slideshare.net/UCRGroup. The theme for this year’s event was “Futureproof: making libraries indispensable to learning, teaching and research.” The conference began with a bright and early start on the Monday morning negotiating the train journey down to the University of Exeter. Once there (having climbed several hills – how unfit am I! :)) there was plenty of time to register, sign up for workshops and enjoy a lovely lunch.
The afternoon began with an opening talk from Michelle Shoebridge, Director of Academic Services at the University of Exeter. She talked about the building project that is going to be undertaken at Exeter – this included an impressive flyover of the proposed development with sunken gardens and the Library at the heart of the development.
The plenary came from Professor Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter and President of Universities UK (UUK). Professor Smith had a clear message that now more than any other time the student experience has to drive everything we do. He spoke of the transformation that HE has experienced over the past 15 years and the inevitable challenges that lay ahead due to the current economic climate. Professor Smith also pointed out that the UK invests less in HE compared to many other countries. He painted a bleak outlook with regards to the cuts that are coming our way. He argued that students are changing, more will study from home, take on part-time degrees and leave it a bit later in their lives to study – these students all need to be catered for. Increased fees was another subject for debate in this opening plenary with the issue that rising fees would lead to an increase in expectations from the students with regards to their learning experiences and therefore Libraries need to be transparent with the services that they offer. A potential way forward including sharing facilities, collaboration with external partners etc. was mentioned.
In response to a question at the end of the plenary Professor Smith highlighted 3 key areas that we need to consider in order to remain relevant. These included:
1) “Don’t make the best enemy of good” – be realistic about what is needed.
2) Students of all types should be at the heart of the service.
3) Think about what is needed rather than hold on to what we have got in order to improve the learner’s experience.
Workshop One: Attention Students! Creating induction materials for Generation ‘Y’
This session was facilitated by Heather Parsonage and Sharon Potter from Nottingham Trent University. The focus of the session was on a short welcoming introduction video and a concertina guide to the Library which was inspired by the guide that we have produced at Warwick. 🙂 The video was interesting – we did something similar at Warwick (see video) several years ago – made by students and for students and the result has been popular.
The facilitators were great in inspiring a really enjoyable and relaxed session where we were able to share ideas. I liked the idea of an “exchange of experience” whereby staff share their thoughts and ideas over the year and this leads to the development of projects such as the video and guide. It was also interesting to hear how text messages were being used to back up inductions e.g. for dissemination of top tips, information to users in the Library via bluetooth etc.
Workshop Two: Dr Futureproof, or ‘How we learnt to stop worrying and love change.”
Julie Adams from the University of Staffordshire introduced ASK – an Assignment Survival Kit that was developed for students. This resource provides support and guidance through a step by step process covering areas such as:
a) Planning the essay – what information/ help is required.
b) The research process – where you get help etc.
c) Effective reading and note taking.
d) How to write an essay.
The project was a collaborative effort with the Library, IT and Skills colleagues and is accessible to anyone. Basically you enter the assignment submission date and then ASK will tell you what steps you need to cover. In addition they are now looking at incorporating new technologies such as videos and web 2.0 (RSS and iCalendar). They have also undertaken a series of student focus groups to get feedback on how students use ASK and how the resource could be made more accessible. Another area for development is how other services can contribute to the resource such as Counselling. This project has definitely encouraged different partnerships and demonstrates how the resource continues to evolve to ensure that the users ever-changing needs are met.