Bell, M. Cordingley, P., Isham., C. & Davis., R. (2010) report of professional practitioner use of research review: practitioner engagement in and/or with research. Coventry: CUREE, GTCE, LSIS & NTRP. Available at: http://www.curee‐paccts.com/node/2303
There are too many takeaways from this workshop, the first one being that Librarians have a lot to learn from engaging with Research Methods in general and Ethnography in particular.
Here are some of my major reflective moments:
What is a Visitor and what is a Resident
The workshop started with disentangling the notions of Visitors and Residents developed by David White.
Very often we think of a digital space in conjunction with our persona and the kind of identity we develop. There has been a lot of buzz in recent years around visitors, residents, natives, immigrants and so forth but this session came to clarify the original thinking behind these notions as a mode of behaviour, motivation and presence in a digital space.
Visitors and Residents continuum (White & Le Cornu, 2011, p.7) Image is linked to the original.
So being in a Visitormode means that we interact in a digital space without leaving a trace by means of contributing. For instance, we have a Twitter account but we use it as a news-stream or observe what others are doing without posting anything.
At the other end of the spectrum we operate as Residents when we contribute and have an active presence in a digital space.
Let’s map our engagement
Talking about digital engagement in an abstract way does not create a massive impact or any major reflective thinking. What happens though if we visualise this engagement?
Donna asked us to map our behaviours illustrating our digital presence across four axes (as per figure below)
I was amazed by the diversity of visualisations and the subsequent interpretations within our group.
I found the mapping an important reflective activity for our engagement with the web and our motivations, allowing us the time to think if we are happy as is or whether we would like to change something.
Looking at my map I realised that it is very difficult for me to map my engagement within its constraints and differentiate between the Institutional and the personal.
When leading an academic life within a “support” role, what is Institutional and what is personal?
For one with a portfolio career, which/who is the Institution?
How can the perception of our identity be compartmentalised into defined boxes?
When does the mode become identity?
Eleni Zazani’s V&R mapping activity
In my map, I also found a recurring theme; my motivation is always about sharing and connecting.
Observing a silent study space
Donna divided us in pairs to visit different areas of the library and observe what is happening in a very structured way. She gave us ten general ethnographic domains:
…and asked us to record our notes by drawing a map and observe locations, pathways, tools and interactions: In particular our notes should respond to
Where are the people in the space?
How are people moving through the space?
What tools people are using and where are these used?
Where are people interacting and what are they doing?
While wondering who the lucky colleagues assigned to the Library Café having a chance to smell the brewing coffee are, my colleague and I climbed up the silent study area. Donna allowed us 15 minutes for observing and some time for transferring our notes from the map to a full narrative.
What can happen in the silent study area? (Literally silent)
Our notes exceeded our expectations. Despite the silence there was a wealth of things to observe and record. Without immersing ourselves in our own interpretations we could see the stress of students while approaching the exams period. The desks were full of energy boosting products such as caffeine, vitamins, lots of water and fruit.
There are many more digital places I use but didn’t include in my map. Many of us more or less noticed this pattern. It seems that places we use yet didn’t map have completely been embedded in our practice as if they are invisible.
Observation as a research method:
Despite our assumption that students replace paper with tablets or digital paper applications, those in the silent study overwhelmingly used a lot of paper-based notes and printed books. The devices were present but not dominant.
Recording our notes from a 15-minute observation took much longer than the observation itself. If you want to engage in this type of research method be prepared to allow more time than what you may have anticipated.
Furniture sets expectations of space usage.
Some students had “claimed” a study space by leaving their belongings unattended. What can “claimed spaces” tell us?
Donna suggested that when decisions are made, as a response to these observations, it is important for everyone involved to have institutional support in case of failure in the interpretation.
Iteration is very important in Ethnography.
Observation is only one of the instruments; others can be interviews, cognitive mapping, photo-diaries etc.
Since I completed my PGCert at IOE, I value opportunities to attend events where HE educators come together to reflect on their practice. The Annual Education Day at Imperial was no exception. This year’s theme was dedicated on considering our practice while partnering with students and learning from each other.
In order to prepare for the day prior to the event we were asked to read a recent report on engagement through partnership (Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014). When Mick Healey (one of the authors of the report) came along to deliver the morning programme we were all prepared to unpack the idea of partnership and challenge our practices.
I found the ideas of students as partners to perfectly align with my personal philosophy of learning and teaching in the Higher Education context (Zazani, 2014). Mick challenged us to think of students’ contribution beyond giving them a voice. Instead, he suggested an engagement where students and staff are collaborators and co-creators in bringing about change. In that sense partnership is a joint responsibility, an engagement process and not an outcome. As a process, it is governed by eight values:
“Authenticity – all parties have a meaningful rationale for investing in partnership, and are honest about what they can contribute and the parameters of partnership;
Inclusivity – partnership embraces the different talents, perspectives and experiences that all parties bring, and there are no barriers (structural or cultural) that prevent potential partners getting involved;
Reciprocity – all parties have an interest in, and stand to benefit from, working and/or learning in partnership;
Empowerment – power is distributed appropriately and all parties are encouraged to constructively challenge ways of working and learning that may reinforce existing inequalities;
Trust – all parties take time to get to know each other, engage in open and honest dialogue and are confident they will be treated with respect and fairness;
Challenge – all parties are encouraged to constructively critique and challenge practices, structures and approaches that undermine partnership, and are enabled to take risks to develop new ways of working and learning;
Community – all parties feel a sense of belonging and are valued fully for the unique contribution they make;
Responsibility – all parties share collective responsibility for the aims of the partnership, and individual responsibility for the contribution they make.”
During the morning parallel workshops, I joined the group that looked at students as partners in the course design. Colleagues drew examples from their teaching practice and we all became aware of some excellent models of co-creation of learning design.
Some of the benefits of working in partnership that we identified are:
Focus of students’ perspective: Ideas are coming from students and are intended for students.
Content of course is always fresh: students bring their fresh ideas into the design.
Disseminating power and expertise: Removing the expertise from the teacher and putting it in the room. From a rigid position to a constant flow.
Students have more brilliant ideas than us and there is true benefit to everyone exposed in that sharing of ideas.
Sense of community and interaction
This student’s contribution in particular put me in a reflective mode to examine my practice and identify the value in the face-to-face teaching. If students can follow a video and learn the “how to”, the true value comes from the interaction and ownership of learning, understanding all the “whys”, and leaving the room with some unanticipated learning outcomes.
Another important takeaway from the day came from the section discussing challenges and barriers as a result of partnering with students. In particular, it was noted that occasionally students’ feedback is harsh. They don’t know how to deliver constructive feedback which is frequently confused with judgemental criticism.
A suggested solution to tackle inappropriate feedback came from a student noting that it is important to train undergraduate students on how to deliver constructive feedback.
Some other challenges mentioned were:
Partnership puts a lot of pressure to teachers.
It takes a lot of effort to build accountability on both sides and
It becomes very difficult to manage students’ expectations (sometimes the origin of harsh feedback).
There are a few more points that ignited my imagination during the afternoon activities such as the passionate teaching in the Chemistry Department. From a big idea of teaching students self-efficacy with a LEGO spectrometer to a simple operational detail of timetabling lunch-time breaks during Lab sessions. (Credits go to Prof. John de Mello for the timetabling algorithm).
I paused on a comment by a Chemistry student while expressing his views on the value of engagement in the Department:
Another good practice example came from the Materials Department; Dr David Dye and his student Iacopo Russo shared how the teaching time is used to tackle threshold concepts with peer-instruction. David “flips the classroom” with recording his lectures and making them available to students prior to the “lecture”. The actual teaching time is used by the whole class to challenge their understanding, to make meaning and develop critical thinking and problem-solving attributes. David Dye and his student Iacopo confirmed that these lectures are very well attended despite being scheduled as a first slot on Monday mornings and his having released the content beforehand. Without doubt what motivates students to participate is not the content but the sense of belonging and interaction.
Now, if you, like me, wondered why your students are passively attending a lecture, David’s remark may remind you, like it did to me, that lectures are not working! Why? Because…
The day concluded with Dr Tansy Jessop bringing her research-based perspective on the “assessment diet”, especially the one the modular provision of courses creates. Tancy Jessop brought along students’ data resulting from the TESTA (Transforming the Experience of students through Assessment) project.
For me, being in a Department that we don’t traditionally exercise summative assessment, it is a real luxury to be able to focus my energy on Assessing for Learning (AfL) than assigning grades. On the other hand, for the same reason, students see the Library interaction as less important and don’t tend to participate in AfL activities even if I offer personalised feedback. Those few, in the past, who took up the opportunity confirm Tessy’s assertion that the learning journey for both students and teachers is very rewarding despite the risky nature of innovative assessment and feedback. It’s all about perspective!
The British Library Labs have organised a one-day forum that will focus on text and data mining. It will bring together experts developing tools and services with those who might want to use these techniques in their research. This event is an important opportunity to influence the approach that the British Library uses to support text and data mining in the coming years.
By the end of the day, BL Labs hope to have a better understanding of: what everyone’s needs are, what the Library could be doing to support text and data mining, what accommodations tools need to make for non-experts, what basic skills and tools are necessary, and how to use these techniques in research.
… and although there are varied approaches in funders’ requirements, all have identified the need to cultivate a culture of data sharing and to raise awarenesses of and to integrate openness as easily as possible in the researchers’ workflow.
What a good Research Data Management (RDM) Planshould look like to attract funding? David Carr from the Wellcome Trust suggests that an RDM plan should have clarity in responding to seven important questions:
What Funders look in a RDM Plan
#scidata14 Sally Rumsey advises on checking the terms & conditions of data archives regarding longevity.
— Eleni Zazani (@EleniZazani) November 14, 2014
Dave Carr at @wellcometrust: Most important data management challenge for science is ensuring long-term value and availability #scidata14
Advice to Researchers from Sally Rumsey. (University of Oxford)
Sally suggested that researchers should seek advice from their librarians; while in many universities RDM policies and infrastructure, in general, are in their infancy, we, as librarians, can take Sally’s recommendations and use them as a starting point in raising our awareness in RDM. I was very pleased listening to Sally stressing the importance of properly citing datasets directing researchers to the Datacite’s guidance:
While a lot of discussion so far has been dedicated on managing data via repositories, a new publishing avenue dawns with the appearance of journals dedicated to publishing data. During the event, the case of Scientific Data Journal explained which is a new initiative from the Nature Publishing Group to offer an open-access, online-only journal where researchers have the opportunity to publish their data instead of only storing it locally. The researchers focus on a dataset generated through their research by providing a narrative, describing their data in a curated and structured manner, and by providing information of the methodologies and other technical analysis/tools used.
This new type of content in scholarly communication is called Data Descriptor!
While researchers have the opportunity of being cited for their data, and publish/describe standalone datasets, this approach will have an impact in generating quality research outputs.
For those who collect, prepare, data there's opportunity to have a separate pub as 1st author in contrast to traditional res pub #scidata14
I can only agree with Andrew Huffton when he mentioned the difficulty in discovering whether a research has used randomised methodologies. Last week, we spent a lot of time with a researcher shifting through a high volume of articles to establish whether individual pieces of diabetes research were randomised. In all these articles, nowhere in the text and in methodologies was the type of research being undertaken mentioned; instead we were only able to find random use of the word “randomised” and read the whole article to identify whether the route followed was the research method in question.
How much does it cost to publish in Scientific Data?
Susanna explained that especially lab scientists have a lot to offer in curating datasets. They bring their valuable knowledge of the discipline, standards and vocabularies that will enable systems to make data discoverable via the use of discipline-specific ontologies.
The ISA-Tab triggered my imagination and I would like to further investigate the possibilities available for biomedical nanotechnology datasets (ISA-TAB-Nano) relevant for the Materials (Nanomaterials) Sciences researchers.
Figshare: It is one of the many possibilities for storing datasets. It was born out of Mark Hahnel’s need/frustration to be able to publish non-conventional data (videos) generated as part of his PhD. Figshare fills a needs-gap among researchers; being able to generate impact for their research and showcase the breadth of data that traditional journals cannot support.
As a personal view, I like the clean visual way pieces of research are shown on Figshare. If you have yet to explore its potential, have a look at the breadth of analytics and visualisation in this poster I picked from its repository.
I found the event being invaluable for my personal understanding and for meeting other researchers; from the educator’s point of view I loved the ice-braking exercise in which we had to look in our conference bag and exchange a promotional t-shirt with that of other participants to fit our size. I would have liked to have been given 5 minutes so that I could have had the chance to talk to people rather than tuning to the introductory talk while checking the size of my t-shirt. That was a very clever activity but unfortunately we didn’t manage to break the ice.
At the start of the event we were asked how many of us were PhDs, or Postdoctoral researchers, and from which discipline; I need to admit that I felt a bit excluded. What if someone is a researcher but not directly linked with a PhD programme, like me writing a book, or others researching as part of their employment with the same rigour as in a doctoral situation and still want to publish and share openly their data? An inclusive language can be a very powerful vehicle for cultural change.
Having said that, in a future event I would like to hear from a plurality of funders such as the voice of EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), from the STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and other RCUK councils.
The summer time is the ideal period for all Academic Librarians to recharge their batteries in anticipation of the new term. My recharging time includes a lot of pausing to reflect on my annual professional praxis and set new personal and professional goals for the year to come. Unlike the end of the calendar year, the academic year is complete mid-summer, a time for me to take stock and create resolutions.
This academic year has been very busy and I barely managed to blog about everything that happened. Two of my posts were about my involvement in CoPILOT and our collaboration with the OU OER Research Hub (OERRHUB).
In this post, I revisit this piece of research and reflect upon it.
CoPILOT stands for Community of Practice for Information Literacy Online Teaching and is a collaborative effort to disseminate information among librarians, fill in training needs with regards to OER and influence Open Educational Practice (OEP).
CoPILOT was the outcome of a research project and therefore any further research activities are part of the community’s DNA. This year we had the opportunity to collaborate with the researchers for the Open University Research Hub and further explore Librarians’ attitudes towards OER. Most importantly, we had the opportunity to investigate to what extent OER adoption attitudes have changed since Bueno-de-la-Fuente’s, Robertson’s & Boon’s report, (2012); De Beer’s (2012) SCORE findings; Graham’s and Secker’s report (2012), along with Harris’s (2012) and Taylor & Francis’s most recent findings (2013).
In preparation of the questionnaires, we reviewed all the known surveys that targeted Librarians’ use of OER but also we broadened our review to other reports that referred to Librarians’ role in openness in general. We believe that our roles are evolving as a result of open initiatives undertaken by our Institutions and therefore OER cannot be seen in isolation.
These reports, along with our personal interactions with colleagues, enriched our perspective and informed the formation of the questionnaires to fit a global community of Librarians.
Problem solving: While the literature review can be seen as a lonely process and due to my research interest it preceded the survey, the formation of questions was a collaborative bouncing of ideas that could start as a thinking-loudly reflective monologue evolving to a dialogic inquiry between representatives of CoPILOT and the OERRHUB researchers. That was a very productive collaborative practice giving us a taste of working remotely but effectively as a team and liaising back with our extended communities.
The following section reflects the broader perspective among CoPILOT members. Ella Mitchell, Chair of the Committee comments:
What key findings have come from evaluation activities undertaken by this piece of research?
The results concur with earlier surveys mentioned above and in the literature review. While it is good that the previous surveys have been supported by the findings of this research, it might also require some further analysis to investigate if more conclusions can be drawn from the research.
The quality of OERs seems to be questioned; perhaps, this is a reason why their use is not always so widespread. Also finding where OERs are still seems to be an issue and certainly ties with CoPILOT’s main objectives in providing training for librarians in those aspects.
One of the questions that come to mind is whether a more widespread creation of OERs would improve their quality. While less than 15% of respondents had replied to say they had created and published resources under a CC licence it seems that the demand outstrips the supply.
What opportunities and barriers currently exist that the project could help with?
Perhaps an opportunity exists to explore the reasons why so few respondents have produced OERs. It would be beneficial to know what holds librarians back from producing Open Educational Resources so that we could inform our training and workshop activities.
CoPILOT outreach and conferences:
CoPILOT members attended and presented in several conferences during the year where the above results were shared with a broad audience. The lively feedback received from colleagues worldwide through Social Media, along with the high number of viewings following the upload of the presentations suggest a wide dissemination of the CoPILOT impact. (e.g. Secker’s presentation in Portland has attracted 6,657 views to date.) These conferences included:
Pitt, R., Graham, N. & Zazani, E., 2014. Spreading the Word! Librarians and Open Educational Resources. In OER14: building communities of open practice. Newcastle, 28-29 April 2014. Available at: http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer14/45/view/ [Accessed March 6, 2014].
Bueno-de-la-Fuente, G., Robertson, J., & Boon, S. (2012). The roles of libraries and information professionals in Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives: Survey Report (p. 52). Retrieved from http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2012/492
In this post, I look at these reports closely, to identify whether Library services and librarians’ involvement were included and to also take the opportunity to add two more recent reports to the ICDE’s list. If you manage to read up to the end of this post you will find some of my concluding thoughts and a call for adding your views.
This report is the most recently published report (July 07 2014) covering a global forecast about the growth of MOOCs. The 56-pages report envisages that MOOCs will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56.61 percent between 2013-2018.
Unfortunately, I cannot have access to the report due to its cost – being $2,500, for personal use – and therefore I can’t say with certainty whether TechNavio’s analysts considered the impact and challenges for academic libraries in their respective section.
It’s worth having a look at the table of contents and the snippets they reveal, such as the fact that learning analytics and management of big data are a major trend. As it was published in the press release “Big data tools and analytics are increasingly contributing to the increasing popularity of MOOCs. Universities are turning to MOOC providers for large student data analyses. Examination outcomes and assignment grading are made easy with MOOCs because of the online nature, which is otherwise a slow and tedious procedure with traditional data gathering techniques. The records are easily managed with big data tools, giving educators the advantage of real-time data management” (Sandler Research, 2014, para. 2).
The report aims to provide a baseline account (pp. 1, 5) and raise awareness of MOOC-related developments in New Zealand to a mix of educational stakeholders. Although I found the report highly enlightening, the only reference to libraries was made during a discussion with the study’s participants (from which this report arose) on whether a New Zealand MOOC platform should be created, where the National Library Te Papa would be one of the partners, imitating the FutureLearn model.
Hersh pointed out that it would be prohibitively expensive to provide student services including academic counselling, library services, tutoring, and proctoring to thousands of MOOC participants (2014, p. 61).
This paper takes a broader view of openness and discusses some of the institutional implications potentially affecting Libraries as well. For instance, it refers to the preservation of digital assets using as an example the library-led open source LOCKSS system and the importance of up-skilling librarians to be able to proactively assist researchers with OA topics and in managing Research Data.
Finally it refers to the aims of EUDAT (European Data Infrastructure), one of which is to engage libraries in defining and shaping a platform for shared services that makes it possible for data-intensive research to span all the scientific disciplines .(2013, p. 70)
This issue is dedicated to MOOC case studies including ten papers. Visibility of Librarians is found in the issue’s last article where the authors McCallum, Thomas & Libarkin suggest that Librarians (among other specialties) need to be part of multidisciplinary teams.
Taking as example the delivery of the FoS (Foundations of Science) MOOC in the University of Michigan, the librarians were part of the interdisciplinary teams.
The ICDE showcases only this article from the eLearning Papers as part of the ten recommended MOOC reports mentioned directly above it. While it is not clear why this particular article is more significant than the remaining nine, it doesn’t bring any special focus to librarians and any potential disruption to Libraries.
It makes two references; the first compares the participating mode in MOOCs as opposed to “older forms of online learning” (2013, p. 4) (synchronous vs. asynchronous delivery and participation where learners used to listen to the lectures using Library facilities) and the second refers to the Institutional readiness mentioning essential Library services such as “resource discovery, copyright clearance” (2013, p. 19).
Interestingly, the reports that broadly discuss openness acknowledge the Librarians ’emerging role, while in the MOOC-related reports the visibility of Librarians is sparse.
I noticed a similar pattern during my research, while comparing the growing number of Higher Education Institutions offering MOOCs in contrast to the low volume of articles being published by Librarians discussing their contributions in MOOC planning and delivery.
The New Zealand report discussed above raises an interesting point regarding how much Institutions are willing to reveal about their MOOC-related plans. In particular Gordon, Peters and Besley noticed the paradox between the notion of openness and the fact that “some organisations were keen to control the message about MOOCs in their organisations” (2014, p. 6).
It is not clear whether Academic Librarians are bound by a similar code-of-silence-principle as an extension of their Institutional culture or their involvement is not considered significant to be mentioned. The literature available along with empirical evidence does not necessarily support the latter argument. Librarians do play important role in online delivery of courses and certainly have a strong interest in how MOOCs are affecting their current workloads and roles.
I would be very interested to hear any views in these thoughts that perhaps can shed some light to the lack of discourse involving the Academic Library in the majority of the reports. You can either comment below the post or contribute your view anonymously in the box below.
The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), 2014. Ten useful reports on MOOCs and online education. ICDE. Available at: http://www.webcitation.org/6RM0YPkiL [Accessed July 26, 2014].
Around late October 2013, I had posted an invitation to participate in a survey circulated by the OER Research Hub (OERRH) in collaboration with the Community of Practice for Information Literacy Online Teaching (CoPILOT).
The OERRH researcher Beck Pitt started reporting on preliminary results from both questionnaires that targeted Librarians’ views, challenges and practices on creating and using OER, on licensing-related issues, and whether they measure the impact of those efforts.
The 312 respondents contributed to great deal of insight but they also brought to the surface new research questions, for instance,
To what extend are librarians making a decision in distributing to students compulsory/optional OER material?
It took me a while but I finally got there… I can know consider myself a Chartered Librarian!
Celebrating the completion of my Chartership came as a surprise to me; I hadn’t thought it would give me such joy! Possibly because I tend to take as granted the fact that learning is a lifelong process and it makes sense when we spent some time to critically reflect on it.
Click on the image to download the portfolio.
Peter Elbow (1998) worked on the concept of “free writing” as a technique to overcome the writing block, as well as capturing an idea as it occurs without worrying about the rules of good/bad writing. Especially during my Chartership process, it was worth engaging in a 5min activity of reflecting on new ideas which enabled me to observe my growth when new meaning was becoming part of me.
The good habit of taking action on my learning and see it via a reflective lens was perhaps the most valuable outcome of my Chartership.
I also seized the opportunity to engage with Open practices and therefore I licensed my portfolio with a Creative Commons Licence making it public in case other candidates can benefit from relevant examples the way I did. Moreover, I wanted to reinforce the idea that everything on the web may be public but not free to use unless the creator has stated so.
Finally, having heard of the outcome of my application, it dawned on me how significant the mentor is to the mentee’s achievement.
I would like to thank my mentor, David Clover who helped me see the Chartership through and for his immense patience, as well as Elizabeth Charles and Maria Cotera for the rich conversations and multi-level support and guidance throughout the past three years.
Elbow, P., 1998. Writing without teachers 25th ed., New York: Oxford University Press.