It’s not enough to create exciting digital resources, says Kevin Burden, you have to be proactive in engaging the community. That was the starting point for a session which split the audience by suggesting a radical approach to engaging users: it is less important to highlight the content of a resource than how it is going to be used. The content v pedagogical approach took in three key areas:
- identification and selection of content by users
- suitability of resources for learning and teaching
- issues associated with access and licensing
The Reproduce project
All of those three areas were considered in the Reproduce project, and JISC programme manager Heather Williamson provided a quick overview to introduce the session. Now completed, Reproduce ran over 12 months and tasked 20 projects with finding content external to their own instituion and run a module with students using that content and evaluate it.
Many of the projects used content from other institutions and resources used include: Jorum, Scottish film archive, TechDis, JISC Digitisation programme.
The biggest issues the projects faced were around licensing and copyright and IPR. There is a vast amount of confusion around copyright and issues that came up included: it was challenging to clear rights; the rights status of content is often unclear (staff have moved on, lack of policy, lack of documentation); generally an absence of clear rights statements especially around non-personal educational use; difficulty identifying people with responsibility and ability to grant permissions and make decisions.
Other issues were that quite high level skills were needed to repurpose content from other institutions and even Creative Commons content; and that there was a real problem with finding the content, even if it was in an indexed repository.
On the positive side, sharing content and resources in terms of social learning eg using Delicious and Flickr is growing.
Snapshots of themes from the floor
- Lecturers would like to make videos for their lectures but they do not have the skills to create and edit their own videos
- There’s a paradox that if want to reuse content it has to be context-free but if you want to reuse it you have to supply context. Also, almost nobody understands right, especially with multimedia stuff
- How do you get buy-in in the academic community – are there differences between arts and humanities community where a lot of work is individual and science where team and collaboration is more common?
- There are three universities represented here in this room that I know about and we have no idea if each other has digital objects and how to find that out.
- What about quality in content and in the pedagogy – how does it add value to learning and is there a schema you could tag material with? Also, teachers are expected to spontaneously acquire the skills to work with these materials without having the training to do it
- I’m in FE and we sign up to everything but nobody uses it – every month I get the usage logs and they are in single figures
Taking a different approach
Kevin Burden, Theo Kuechel and Simon Atkinson, all from the University of Hull, have been working on a JISC-sponsored assisted take-up project to encourage academics to use the NewsFilm Online digital archives in teaching and learning. This took the radical step of looking at strategies for engaging users with the resource that focused on something other than the content itself.
As Simon explained, “We introduced the NfO collection to about 25 staff at Hull and asked what they would like to know about and they were quite conservative – it was all abut the content. Trouble is, if you go to a collection asking for something and you don’t find it then there’s a danger that you then dismiss the whole collection as irrelevant. So how do you get people to look at collections differently? We started to move away from content and instead focus on how it would be used by the staff with their students. What do you want the staff to do with it? What will the resource be used for, not what is in the resource.”
So the team developed a framework, taking as a starting point the kind of teaching engagement (online, large lecture, small group work) and what they call ‘learning designs’ – descriptions of the kind of engagement an academic is using with students, from research to empathising. THEN they looked in the archive for illustrations of particular learning designs. It’s a cultural shift away from thinking about the content to thinking about the pedagogy.
Simon gave the example of example of working with a dance teacher and using archive footage from 1920s showing how people walk and how that has changed over the years and how rich people walk differently and so on. The footage isn’t directly dance-related but it fitted with the way that the teacher was teaching.
“It’s about making a mind shift to approach the resource differently,” he said. “We jumped in midpoint and tried to get staff to approach resources differently. Now they are saying that they are even looking at journals differently. Before it might just have been about the content but now it’s thinking about what you want the students to do with that content.”
Theo went on to demonstrate the exemplars created by the project for NfO. These include screencasts, podcasts, step-by-step tutorials and video case studies. Behind the exemplars are the theory that:
Teachers will take up resources if it offers:
- a good fit with current teaching
- authentic evidence and sources
- engaging media
To enable take up it needs to be:
- easy to locate
- active promotion
- ability to see examples quickly and easily
- freely accessible
- good search tools
- good quality materials
- easy to use
Thoughts from the floor
The session provoked a lively debate. One participant commented that she had tried the content approach for 10 years and it didn’t work – it was fine while they were being told about the resource but as soon as they went back to their offices they forgot about it as it took too much time. This was countered by another delegate who claimed that he had been trying the pedagogic approach for 10 years with little more success. The chair, JISC communications officer Dicky Maidment-Otlet, made the point that these kinds of comments brought home that you have to try things out and have these conversations, that it will never be a one-size-fits-all situation.
Other comments from the floor included:
- Any content provider likes to provide good citation so the user can get back to the content. Have to think about the reference link on the NfO materials – need to be able to cite and go back
- There is a deluge of digital assets – would a tag taxonomy such as that used by Flickr etc help?
- There is a difference between social descriptors and identifiers
- The first stage is to give them the content – send them to one space where they can search for content
- Is JORUM and opportunity for the community to offer one space?
Summing up, Dicky urged delegates to continue the discussion – “engage with us and we’ll create things that will help you” – and alerted delegates to the Libraries of the Future documentary which will be out next week, and the JISC YouTube channel on which short videos introducing all the JISC digitisation projects can be found.