Rozz Evans and I have just finished teaching a one-week, intensive ‘Information & Literature Searching’ course for the MPhil/PhD students. The students (13 in total) who attended the course were introduced to LibGuides and LibAnswers, the Newsam Library’s new information portal which is under construction and due to be launched at the start of the new academic year.
As the guides were integrated into the course content (in both the presentations and on the ‘worksheet’ for suggested hands-on exercises), students were asked to provide feedback on the portal and the relevant guides (Getting Started, Research Skills, Databases A-Z, EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, Interlibrary Loans, Using Other Libraries and Bibliographic Measures and Citation Searching) via an online survey form. This is so that we can continue to improve the site in preparation for the formal launch in September/October 2012. The present site is a prototype that was created specially for the IOE’s Learning & Teaching Conference 2012 to demonstrate the potential for improving the student experience.
In addition to the guides, the students were also asked to interrogate LibAnswers, the new online enquiry service, and to submit a query on this new online enquiry platform which we are hoping to trial during the Olympics. As the guides became integral to the learning, some students provided additional feedback on the course evaluation forms. The feedback has been positive and helpful as some students suggested ways in which we could improve the portal. This feedback is summarised below:
The majority of the students said that the portal would improve their student experience, though a small number were undecided. The accessibility of information on the homepage received mixed responses: some students perceived it as being clearly laid out in that it was easy to see which guides were available, though these may have to be grouped if the number of guides on the site increased whereas a few students found the page to be “a bit busy”. In addition, one respondent wanted to see the guides to be downloable as pdfs. The guides that were found to be particularly useful for this group were: Research Skills because “it provides a step by step guide on how to conduct the literature review. I wish I’d known about this before I started doing it!” One student rated the guide 5 out of 5 and commented “I think it’s really helpful to have these explanations easily available for use after the Info and Lit course, so that I can check on things I have forgotten or simply not used recently, whilst studying independently”; another found the Databases A-Z guide “clear and with useful information” ; and others found the three bibliographic managment software guides (EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero) the most useful. This is not surprising given that these guides were given prominence during the course.
When asked what additional guides the students would like to see on the site, the following responses were received: a guide on what to do if a resource was not available in the library; a guide comparing the differnt bibliographic software packages, i.e. EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley; and guides to other libraries in related disciplines (not necessarily education focussed).
The students said that they found it useful to browse the answers to FAQs on LibAnswers and an international student who submitted a query to LibAnswers was delighted with the response s/he received – see: Support for International Students which highlights the Interlibrary Loans, International Education & the Postal Loans and Photocopies Service guides). Another (or is it the same student?) student commented on his/her course evaluation form, “It is heartening to learn of the support for part-time international doctoral students!” Generally, students said that LibAnswer would be “an easy way to contact the library or find answers” especially for those studying at a distance. One user said s/he would prefer to find their own way using online resources, or to ask in person at the library. The majority of the students were pleased to know that they would be able to submit queries to the site via SMS text and all students were unaware of the fact the portal was available as a mobile site on their smart phones/tablets.
A couple of the students also provided feedback in their course evaluations forms, saying that the guides are “really user-friendly” and would prove invaluable in reinforcing the learning that took place during the week.
A comment on a feedback form that has just been received:
” The whole library service is wonderful and always relevant and practical and the staff have both technical expertise and good inter-personal skills, not to mention the ability to look ahead and implement new developments in the most helpful ways. Thanks”.