UOW Library has released a new episode of the Light On podcast, focused on this years theme for Open Access Week: Open for Climate Justice.
The podcast is hosted by Sam Hutchinson, produced by (Digidex Blog member) Kristy Newton and features UOW academics Georgia Watson and Distinguished Professor Sharon Robinson, PhD candidate Teaniel Mifsud, and UOW Library’s Clare Job.
In the podcast, you’ll hear about:
how citizen science and science communication contribute to the accessibility of research for a wider audience
how the current Antarctic Futures exhibition at UOW combines scientific research, art and early learning activities to engage people of all ages with social justice and climate science.
how citizen science not only informed UOW research on how people encounter sharks while swimming, surfing or sailing, but also grew into a communication tool and opportunity for sharing knowledge between those involved too
how much people engage with the content in Research Online, because it wouldn’t be a UOW Library podcast without some Research Online statistics! (spoiler: already 2 million downloads this year).
By Kristy Newton, Digital Literacies Coordinator (UOW Library)
Digital literacies, digital capabilities, digital dexterity… no matter what you call them, these are an essential and complex set of practical skills, attitudes and contextual understanding that help us navigate and interact with the digital world. They can span everything from learning how to use a new piece of software, to understanding how communication styles differ depending on the channel you are using to communicate, to developing a growth mindset that enables you to engage in a process of continual learning and development. This post outlines the process of developing the UOW Student Digital Skills Hub as a strategy for supporting student digital skill development.
A collaborative approach
At UOW, we recognised that a collaborative approach was essential for supporting student digital literacies and that this collaboration needed to be seamless for students to access. There had been collaborative work on developing an institutional approach to digital literacies for a few years, but the unexpected challenges of COVID19 and the rapid transition to remote learning meant that a lot of that work was paused to allow staff to address the immediate challenges presented by the pandemic. Libraries are often champions of digital literacy development, but the complex interplay of practical skills and digital behaviours means that digital literacy support at an institutional level spans several units with areas of expertise. The IT support units are an obvious match for the development of technical skills, but the development of digital capabilities at University also incorporates clever learning design that means students encounter these development opportunities in ways that are meaningful for their learning, and a future careers perspective that contextualises their skill development in relation to their professional post-University lives.
Stakeholders from the Pro Vice Chancellor (Students) Unit, Information Management and Technology Services (IMTS) Unit, and Learning Teaching & Curriculum (LTC) Unit are all strategic partners in the creation of the Digital Skills Hub. While the Library has a strong history of supporting digital literacies, as well as supporting the more traditional information literacies, it was important to us, that the site was not recognised solely as a Library site. We felt that this might compromise the value of the site for students who might think it was just about using databases rather than the broader range of digital skills and behaviours that make up their everyday lives.
The Digital Skills Hub
In late 2021, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Student Life) revitalised the institutional conversation about digital literacies as part of a strategy for supporting student success, and identified the Library as a key stakeholder in this initiative. In response, we created an online Digital Skills Hub – a one-stop shop for students to be able to access all the digital literacy support that they needed. The Hub provides a consistent location for students who don’t know where to find digital literacy support, recognising that they often need to seek support from a variety of different units and departments, but don’t know which unit to approach for help with their specific problem. Having all the content in one place makes this an easier proposition, particularly for students who are less digitally literate. Pragmatically, because we had the support of the DVC (A&SL), we were able to secure support in embedding a link to the Digital Skills Hub in all the subject Moodle sites. This means that it was easily accessible for most students, in a location that they were already accessing for academic purposes.
One of the factors that made the Digital Skills Hub possible, was the acquisition of the JISC Digital Capabilities service. This included the Discovery Tool, a tool which allows students to undertake a self-assessment and receive a personalised report on their digital skills. Alongside the Discovery Tool, the JISC site provided a suite of support resources, and capacity for us to create UOW specific support resources that are embedded in the JISC reports. The JISC interface also provides us with valuable information in the form of an institutional dashboard. This highlights student skills across the different capability areas and provides a heat map of where the strengths and areas for development lie across different student types and different faculties. The data is de-identified, so we can’t see what a particular students progress might look like, but it does give us a good idea of trends, enabling us to target support services where they are needed.
A one stop shop for digital skills information
There are three main ways that the Digital Skills Hub supports students: – It provides them with access to the JISC Discovery Tool, a self evaluation tool that illustrates each student’s personal strengths and weaknesses in relation to digital skills and provides them with a customised report and suggested actions/resources for developing those skills further.
– It explores Digital Capabilities through the lens of the JISC Digital Capabilities Framework, and highlights how those framework areas relate to everyday skills and digital behaviours
– It provides them with easy access to a knowledge base of FAQs on a variety of digital skills topics and gives them the opportunity to chat/ask a question. This knowledge base incorporates existing relevant FAQs as well as newly created FAQs that are specifically designed to support the needs of the Hub.
There is also a rating system for students to rate their satisfaction with the site, as well as a link for them to provide feedback.
Key points to consider
For institutions interested in doing something similar, the following points are worthy of consideration.
It’s important to get the strategic support of the different units that make up the digital literacies support services for students. Creating a site where some support is offered, but students need to go elsewhere for different kinds of tasks, just creates barriers for students.
An accessible and well-designed platform is key to the success of the site. You want to make sure that students with lower levels of digital skills can access the site and find it easy to navigate.
Centre the development of the site on the needs of the students who will be using it. We are using an iterative design process, which means that we take on board student feedback and insights from the literature to inform the way the site develops. We see the Digital Skills Hub as a constantly evolving resource that will continue to be shaped and developed by the needs of the people using it.
Six months on from the creation of the site, we are currently engaged in a process of seeking feedback to inform the way that the site develops in the future. This is driven by an iterative, human-centred approach to content development that commits to continuously evaluating whether the site meets user needs, and adapting and evolving the site to ensure it continues to do so.
As higher education has increasingly embraced digital and hybrid learning experiences, it is important that students are able to seamlessly navigate the spaces they use for learning. Libapps Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) embeds Libguides into the Learning Management System (LMS). The University of South Australia (UniSA) and University of Wollongong (UOW) have recently used this tool. Their experience demonstrates how integrating Library resources into the LMS improves access and discovery. Both Universities use Moodle as the LMS.
Background to use of Libguides at UniSA and UOW
UniSA Library has used the Libguides software developed by SpringShare since 2011. Currently they have 82 guides including subject, teaching, and research guides. The guides assist students, teaching and research staff to find the specific information they need. Some courses have individual assignment helps located on the subject guides. Before the use of the tool, students had to move out of their course site to access the guides.
UOW has also been using the LibGuides software since 2010, and currently has 55 Guides for Library subject information, teaching, and research skills. The Guides are primarily accessible via the Library website, with some being embedded in individual Moodle sites manually. In 2021 UOW designed a Digital Skills Hub within Libguides to support the digital skills of students both while at University and preparing them for their future careers. The Hub is embedded in the LMS using LTI integration.
Challenge of discovery and the student experience
Students can find it difficult to locate key information amongst the plethora of online sources. In the course of their studies, students need to be able to navigate across course information and material in the LMS, academic information resources via the Library, as well as a variety of other platforms used for institutional communication. This context, with the addition of diverse digital and academic literacies, means that there are challenges inherent in navigating these online information environments which is often expressed in terms of cognitive load. Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning highlights this challenge. Learners “…must use their limited processing capacity to select important information, [and] organize it into a coherent structure in working memory” (Mayer & Fiorella, 2022, pg 183).
One of the five principles for reducing extraneous processing is signaling. This theory posits that “…people learn more deeply … when cues are added that guide attention to the relevant elements of the material or highlight the organization of the essential material” (Mayer & Fiorella, 2022, pg 221). Integration of library guides within the course site can ease the cognitive load. Key information is located where it is applicable and accessible. In a nutshell, it makes sense to place the key information in a place that students are already using for learning!
LTI: what is it, and how does it address the challenge?
In 2020 the UniSA Library conducted a pilot project within UniSA Online over one study period (just over two months). The aim was to improve the integration of library guides and assignment helps into the online learning environment using the LTI. The LTI allowed Course Coordinators to manually embed a range of Library guide content where relevant. Students could access the guides without leaving their course site.
During the pilot 12 UniSA Online courses embedded 18 Libguide objects. Assignment helps were the most popular option. A total of 3168 hits were recorded. The pilot project demonstrated the benefits of the tool with:
Improved access- 93% of access to one assignment help was through the embedded content as opposed to the library website for the same period.
Improved engagement- students were actively returning to the content.
Ease of use- Course Coordinator feedback was positive. All indicated that they would recommend this feature and were confident to embed.
Due to the success, Library rolled out the LTI to feature across all UniSA courses in the following year. A further enhancement used the Automagic LTI tool. Subject guides linked in course sites were automatically displayed as an embedded guide. This enhancement removed the reliance on Course Coordinators to manually embed. This ensured equitable access for all students.
Like UniSA, UOW used the Automagic LTI tool to add the Digital Skills Hub content into the LMS across the University. The ability to embed within the LMS was a key factor in choosing LibGuides as the platform for the creation of the Digital Skills Hub, as it was important that the Hub was available equitably with minimal impact on academic staff. Ensuring digital skills support was in a location that students already frequented was ideal.
Using LTI to embed the content within Moodle also meant that the resource did not need to be consistent with existing subject LibGuides. The Library applied custom CSS to create a resource consistent with University branding. The Library’s subject-based LibGuides are visually identifiable as a Library resource, but in creating the Digital Skills Hub it was important that the Hub be seen as a whole-of-institution resource, rather than a Library resource.
As the Digital Skills Hub was recognised as strategically important, the project secured support from the Learning, Teaching and Curriculum unit to insert the LTI link into all existing Moodle subject sites. New sites created which use the institutional template will automatically include the link to the Hub. Since it was launched in February 2022, the Digital Skills Hub has been accessed over 9000 times.
What we learned
The LTI tool at both UniSA and UOW has been invaluable. It has ensured library support is where it needs to be, easing the cognitive load for students and minimising the burden on academic staff to provide targeted support content.
Mayer, RE & Fiorella, L 2022, The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning / edited by Richard E. Mayer, University of California, Santa Barbara, Logan Fiorella, University of Georgia., Third edition., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
By Kristy Newton (Digital Literacies Coordinator, UOW Library), Keith Brophy (Manager Digital Environment, UOW Library) and Donna Dee (Manager Workforce Planning & Development, UOW Library)
University of Wollongong (UOW Library has a long-standing commitment to the professional development of our People through both informal and formal channels. The learning culture at UOW Library is fibrous and evolving, and our staff expect that ongoing professional development will be part of their journey. We have been building staff digital dexterity capacity for several years through an ongoing staff program, and in developing the most recent iteration of that program we have hit upon a valuable combination of staff skills and approaches that can be recognised as a composable team – a synergy of expertise that informs and describes the development of dexterity needs for our people.
Our composable team consists of three essential perspectives: Design Thinking + Digital Dexterity, People + Culture, and Systems Thinking + Integration. Forming working relationships that are based on the skills that each member brings to the group is far from a new concept. Nevertheless, over the past two years we have found the combination of these perspectives enables each of us to contribute our strengths and maximise the beneficial outcomes for the organisation. An attitude of open-mindedness and trust has been a key success factor, as much as the expertise that each of us contributes. It has been important for each of us to allow our ideas to be challenged, built on, and transformed by the input of the other group members. This can be understood via the lens of remix culture, in which the resulting outputs are born from existing elements and transformed via the remix process into something new. Researchers Yu and Nickerson (2011, in Flath et al. 2017) found that a human based genetic algorithm which functioned to combine existing human ideas, resulted in ideas which were “significantly higher in terms of originality and practicality” (Flath et. al, 2017, p. 309).
Putting People First: Design Thinking + the importance of Culture
Key to the practice of design thinking is the active practice of empathy with the needs of those you are designing for – in this case, the staff of UOW Library in addition to our strategic priority of the Future-Ready Library. Incorporating the design thinking perspective has meant that we have placed these two elements as twin anchors for our process. In empathising with the needs of the Library’s Future-Ready strategic direction, we understood that the reason for developing staff digital dexterity was greater than technical and immediately job-related skills and that the underlying need was to prepare staff for a rapidly evolving and digitally rich future work environment. This environment would change more rapidly than is practical for a structured skills development program, and so it was essential to empower staff to be quite autonomous in their own development and provide a supportive environment which removed potential pain points and encouraged them to contribute actively to this process. Practicing empathy with the needs of our people and understanding the areas of interest that drive them as well as their desire for a combination of group work and independent activity, has influenced the design of our current staff program which is underpinned by a series of communities of practice.
The Right Tool: Empathy + Collaboration + Functionality
Technology in and of itself is not going to change or improve how we work. As the adage says: If you apply digital to a thing that’s broken, you’ll have a broken digital thing. It’s been very important to recognise that an established culture of continuous learning, growth mindset and adaptive thinking is part of a holistic view of the potential system solutions. In evaluating potential tools and spaces, we have considered factors such as functionality, integration, and interoperability with existing and future systems within the environment, and combined the potential of the technical solutions with what we knew about our people and how they wanted to learn and grow together. Collaborative learning opportunities had been highlighted as valuable to our staff, as had the opportunity to drive a learning journey based on individual motivations. For these reasons, alongside the adoption of Microsoft Teams as a ‘virtual office’ during the rapidly evolving COVID19 pandemic, we chose to house our digital dexterity programs within the Microsoft Teams environment, creating channels for Professional Development and individual channels for each of the communities of practice.
We have also needed to be adaptable as the context in which we deliver our program evolves. This was particularly important as we moved into an extended period of remote or hybrid work in response to the pandemic. Our staff were variably in need of support, and then in need of space within the myriad of digital channels they now needed to monitor. Our mini composable team meets monthly to talk about how the program is progressing, and evaluate if we are making the best use of the tools and time that we have available to us. Part of this process has been to encourage and support each team in the evaluation of new functionality as the systems evolve – understanding that teams who actively identify the potential value in new system capabilities will enjoy a greater sense of ownership and autonomy in directing how they work. From promoting the use of online task trackers for project management to virtual whiteboards for brainstorming sessions to collaborative document editing, we further support and build an agile, growth mindset mentality – resulting in skills and outcomes that directly align with the Library strategic direction.
The agile asynchronous approach has also dictated the possibility for spontaneous groups to form elsewhere in the organisation. Staff were proactive in suggesting changes to the communities of practice that aligned more clearly with their learning goals, and we had enough adaptability built into the program to cater for that. By extension, we have also seen other composable teams form around shorter-term learning goals and components of strategic Library projects – groups of staff who have come together to tackle project priorities or explore a specific skill or interest area without formalising this as a community of practice.
If you are interested in adopting the principles of the approach we have outlined here, the following points are a good place to start in thinking about how this might work in your own context.
Who is it for?
What elements do we have in our institutional culture that enable learning and growth?
How can we link this to broader strategy?
How might we think of a holistic solution, placing our users and their journey at the centre?
How do we maintain engagement and a culture of continuous learning?
Rather than being tied to what has worked in the past, what inputs and the data do we currently have that help us imagine what could work for the future?
Brophy, K, Dee, D, & Newton, K 2020 ‘UOW Library: Embedding learning and development as part of our organisational DNA’, International Information & Library Review, 52(3), pp.250-252.
Flath, C, Friesike, S, Wirth, M, & Thiesse, F 2017, ‘Copy, transform, combine: exploring the remix as a form of innovation’, Journal of Information Technology, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 306-325.
By Kat Cain (Manager, Digital Literacy Programs) and Craig Patterson (Manager, Faculty of Arts and Education Library Services, Learning and Teaching) – Deakin University.
It’s a shared experience in public, specialist and academic libraries – regularly hearing our community members amazed reflection, “I didn’t know the library did that”, when we provide learning services beyond that of collections. The fuzzy notion of the library as mostly just books and borrowing can even be a common idea that many librarians have before they start their degree and get into the field, and the breadth and depth of Library work then becomes evident. But how to get this message of Libraries as a teaching and learning service out to our communities?
Public libraries have experimented with different comms and different ways to share their offerings with their communities. The “Unusual Library Things” infographic, that visualised resources or services available in libraries across the world, was a great way of articulating libraries’ role in community building and lifelong learning. To launch their Inspiration Lab with its fabulous digital equipment and opportunities to build technical skills, Vancouver Public Library (Canada) strategised their communications as stories and creation. Their experimentation with live-tweeting and live streaming, bus shelter advertisements, digital signage, and beautifully designed physical advertising material was effective and award winning. Closer to home, New Zealand’s Invercargill City Libraries joyously engages with their communities through creative social media approaches that shine a very big light on their lifelong learning model. Do you remember their Kardashians riff of “Keeping up with the Librarians”? While Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries, took a personalised and incredibly effective path to reaching out to their senior community and connecting them to services and resources they needed. They got on the phone and called them. The communication impact of this approach was pretty clear – being interviewed by Leigh Sales, a these “legends are Librarians at Yarra Plenty Library” shout out by the Victorian Premier, and a jump in public awareness about how diverse and responsive to community our public libraries are. These are just a few examples of fabulous ways libraries can build awareness of their learning services.
Academic librarian roles increasingly include teaching responsibilities
Academic libraries are often considered the heart of the university, central to the learning, teaching and research endeavours. Although we have strong service delivery and facilities management, modern academic libraries also prioritise pedagogical offerings and outcomes. In fact, academic libraries have moved beyond tentative concepts of contributing to student learning or as supporting learning. As Corrall and Jolly (2020) make clear, libraries and librarians have a major role to play in learning and teaching. Pedagogical principles underpin academic library services and engagement. Our information and digital literacy focused learning materials are amazing; and our librarians are wonderful teachers. What we haven’t done as successfully is make clear that librarians have an active, informed role in teaching and learning. We have a tendency to focus on the services, our collections, the spaces and equipment we provide. We are less adventurous in marketing librarians as teachers and libraries as learning hubs. Perhaps this emerges as an unconscious reflection of the contested and questioned role of librarians as teachers (Wheeler & McKinney, 2015)?
People can debate whether librarians are teachers or not, but what we do know is that that people want to learn when they come to the library. And if people want to learn, everyone wins if that learning is well-designed.
As a learning and teaching focused team for Deakin Library, we have grappled with how to articulate and contextualise what we do. We found that teaching staff were often surprised that we run sessions on digital identity or offer digital literacy curricula mapping. Some of our library’s best teaching approaches and outcomes were also our best-kept secrets and we wanted to get the word out.
But how to do this? We spent time as a team discussing what we do and how we frame it.
We then needed to consider how we could shape a teaching identity for Deakin Library. That’s why we developed a ‘Working with teaching staff’ webpage rounding up our most impactful ways to partner with academics at Deakin. We knew that academics were unlikely to serendipitously find and explore this pitch page. Instead, we aimed for Liaisons to use this resource in their conversations and communications with academics, with explicit language around learning design and teaching capacities. To further support this self-framing, our team concurrently redesigned a whole suite of web resources focused on teaching needs. Again, rather than relying on our community stumbling across the messaging and learning materials, we proactively promoted it through both our Deakin Library blog (Article) and the broader university blog (Network).
Like all communications, there is room for improvement and changes. Continued conversations and putting new ideas on the board is needed. However, the value of consciously promoting our Librarians as teachers and continuing to self-frame as active in learning experiences is immeasurable.
We leave you with two questions – how do you frame yourself as a teacher and how do you communicate that identity? And we challenge you to put your teacher statement into the discussion space below.
Corrall, S., & Jolly, L. (2019). Innovations in learning and teaching in academic libraries: Alignment, collaboration, and the social turn.
Wheeler, E., & McKinney, P. (2015). Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching skills. Journal of Information Literacy, 9(2), 111–128.