Welcome to information in the curriculum. Here you can share and discuss issues linked to integrating information skills into your teaching and curriculum design.
Submit your ideas, questions, reflections or lesson plans
Welcome to information in the curriculum. Here you can share and discuss issues linked to integrating information skills into your teaching and curriculum design.
Submit your ideas, questions, reflections or lesson plans
Since lockdown hit in the UK, it has become apparent the ebook publishing landscape is a challenging one to navigate for academic libraries and their users. At York St John, the librarians wanted to work with academic colleagues, publishers and others in trying to work towards a sustainable system. This is the text of a report we sent to committees across the institution, and we thought we would share it with you in case it proved useful elsewhere. We added to this core report with examples specific to our programme areas, so that course leaders could see where they were being impacted the most. A Word version is available for you to adapt as you wish.
The purpose of this paper is to highlight unsustainable practice in the publication and dissemination of academic ebooks, and to gain support in tackling the publishers and suppliers of academic ebooks in terms of both course resourcing and research publication.
Pre-pandemic, there were already pressures in the academic ebook landscape. Like many other university libraries, the library service at York St John relies on four key aggregate suppliers of academic ebooks. Through these aggregate suppliers it is possible to purchase ebook versions of individual texts either on the suppliers’ own platforms, or hosted on the publishers’ platforms, but only if the publisher has agreed to this, and with a variety of different licences assigned to them. There are other methods of purchasing and providing academic ebooks, such as subscriptions to packages, evidence-based acquisition, and academic etextbook purchases for specific modules. Each of these provides its own challenges.
The library has a digital first collection development policy. If a text is deemed essential to a module, we endeavour to provide electronic access to it. The process for doing this has several stages:
There is no guarantee that any text will be made available on library ebook. This is the decision of the publisher. There have also been instances of licence provisions being withdrawn, either for a text already purchased, or in not assigning a licence to a new edition of text. Similarly, new releases may be print only for several months, or for only restrictive licences to be issued with a new release, with more generous licences only arriving later and requiring another payment to secure. The academic liaison librarians have a list of over 100 texts from essential reading lists which do not appear to be available on any platform under any licence at all.
There are a variety of reasons as to the lack of titles being made available for individual library ebook purchase, but these are the main ones:
There are some publishers and authors who wish to keep to print publications only, for reasons linked to the importance of the physicality of the access. This provides a problem in terms of accessibility for those who are unable to access text in this fashion.
Several publishers limit the availability of ebook content to package deals. This means they do not supply individual titles to the aggregate platforms. Instead packages of subject-based ebooks are offered. If libraries purchase these packages, they pay for content that may not align with current research and teaching in order to gain the percentage of the collection which is needed.
This type of contract has grown rapidly in the past three years. Third party companies provide online access to texts via an e-textbook contract model. Some academic publishers currently provide access to their online content only via this route. Under this model, universities pay for a single module cohort to be able to access online versions of texts, and this fee must be paid each year for new module cohorts to gain this access. This means that libraries cannot list these electronic versions of titles on the library catalogue, as access is on an individual basis. Universities must apply for each title on an individual basis as there is no database of books to search, and the terms are worked out for each title upon application. This is expensive in terms of staff time to administrate each year, and in annual fees to continue access. It is likely that a whole programme library book budget would be swallowed up by just two or three module titles which only a small percentage of the programme cohort could access.
We had encountered issues in providing online access to texts in terms of off-campus delivery, apprenticeships and placement students, when ebooks of essential texts were not available to purchase, or on restrictive models. This was brought into sharp focus when all courses became online-only and there was no access to print texts due to the pandemic lockdown. It was hoped that publishers and suppliers would relax licence terms and widen the number of texts available on ebooks for libraries. Many have responded, with one user licences becoming unlimited, and collections of ebooks that were previously only available in subscription packages becoming more widely available. However, this is for a limited period and spread over a wide range of platforms, leading to questions of what to do when the current emergency ends. Others have advertised that they were making their titles available online, but upon investigation this has been a restrictive access model which would be difficult to sustain long-term and has led to concerns about managing student expectation.
It should also be noted that, copyright scanning options were extended to 30% of a text during the period of lockdown, via the CLA licence. However, there are limits to the new exceptions both in terms of the content available and the ability of libraries to create scans under lockdown conditions. This has impacted on the student experience.
The academic liaison librarians would like the support of academic colleagues in ensuring ebook access improves and becomes more accessible. There is a risk that unaffordable and unsustainable models will become the default. We therefore ask that colleagues work with us in feeding back to publishers and authors that we cannot make their texts essential to module teaching if they are not available on ebook, or are only available via the e-textbook model. We also ask that, when seeking opportunities to publish, colleagues discuss ebook access with the publishers, to ensure that the work is not restricted.
This morning I gave a short presentation to the university’s RIPPLE group (Research Into Professional Practice in Learning and Education) alongside two colleagues from the School of Education, Language and Psychology, Dr Charlotte Haines Lyon and Carole Pugh. We discussed how we are approaching the issue of marginalised voices in the curriculum and some of the initiatives put in place to try and address this. This is a quick overview of what we discussed and is focused upon the reading that is recommended and used in assignments. This is a very small part of unpicking issues of power and structure in curricula in Higher Education, and we acknowledge this – it is what we chose to focus on for the purposes of a 20 minute presentation with 10 minutes of discussion.
Firstly I discussed critical information literacy and the key points of the importance of revealing the power and structure which means that there are dominant voices in the information available in various formats, especially in academic publishing. I centred this on a couple of extended quotes:
“Information literacy instruction should resist the tendency to reinforce and reproduce hegemonic knowledge, and instead nurture students’ understandings of how information and knowledge are formed by unequal power relations based on class, race, gender, and sexuality.” (Ian Beilin, 2015)
“The issue for students who are other (BAME, LGBTQ, etc.) is that they come to university to learn about a subject they are interested in and look to the academic to be the expert on this[…] What happens when they become aware of a lack of visibility of plural voices, or of people like them as having contributed to the subject, or who might have a different narrative to the ‘story’ being told?” (Elizabeth Charles, 2019)
Charlotte and Carole are academics on professional education and youth courses, so degrees where issues of voice and representation are already evident in the curriculum, especially in regards to the voices of children and young people. They made five key points:
Carole outlined how one of the first things she does when new students arrive on the Foundation Degree in Development and Education of Children and Young People is to introduce the idea of an academic reading list, but also to disrupt some of the assumptions commonly attached to them. To begin with, it is laboured that these lists are often put together by one person, or a small group of people, and that these people will have their own view of the topics covered – that such lists are not neutral. Charlotte backed this up by pointing out that when she took over a module on global education, there was not a single item on the reading list which was not written by a white author from Europe or North America. This leads into giving the students the chance to develop the reading list themselves, both as experienced workers in the education and youth sector, and in representing their own lived experiences.
One way in which the co-construction of reading lists is enacted is via assignments such as annotated bibliographies and the creation of artefacts. These include critique on the class, race, gender or sexuality of the prominent or dominant authors in the field, and indeed on the privileging of text-based sources and assignments. Charlotte outlined that the students needed quite a lot of support with this, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was demonstrated that the reading and research for such assignments would likely have to extend beyond the traditional formats of textbooks and journal articles, and the students felt uneasy as they have always felt that these formats are ‘safe’. There was therefore a discussion around why some voices may not be evident in such traditional academic literature, and how they could critically evaluate any source of information. In addition to this, Charlotte assigned weekly reading which itself was not from the traditional academic literature, to both demonstrate the type of source that could be used, and to also engage the group in using information that is not necessarily viewed as part of the education evidence base, but that is still valuable in understanding issues of global education and also life chances, another module upon which she teaches. The engagement with this weekly reading proved to be much higher than with previous iterations, both in terms of actually carrying out the reading, and debate and discussion in class as a result. Some examples of this weekly reading include Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, Criptiques by Caitlin Wood, and the work of Sara Ahmed. Having non-textual assignments such as artefacts also assists in the consideration of the value of non-textual sources and how the privileging of text may exclude valuable contributions from those for whom it is not the usual way of communicating. This is a big shift in the dynamics of the classroom for some students – they are used to seeing the ‘teacher’ as the expert, with the sources to answer the questions in assignments, and disrupting this can be scary and unsettling, so this is something that Carole and Charlotte have to navigate with them.
The discussions amongst the attendees surrounding this included how to keep students from the marginalised groups safe in situations where the dominant voices are being challenged and we did not have the time to investigate this as thoroughly as was required. It’s something I would like to put on the agenda for the group to consider again as a priority. It was also brought up that a lack of consistency across academic programmes could lead to the students feeling that it is lip service or of no value. This is why the fifth point is something we need to tackle on an institutional level – to provide ongoing critique and change across the board.
From a librarian perspective, working with academic colleagues to amplify marginalised voices in curriculum design also needs to align with efforts to enact critical collection development in our practice. We continue to work on the IAMplify project, with the sources students find and use in these assignments being incorporated into the library collection.
There was another meeting with members of the university community on 26 November. The main focus for the discussion was the new IAMplify project which has been brought in by the library and focuses on actively addressing how diversity and inclusion does (and does not) manifest itself in our collections, and subsequently in our reading lists and curricula. We:
We looked at how we can incorporate this into the curriculum, with the active participation of students in their classes, and affect change in both the content and approach to reading lists for modules. Some great ideas emerged, and we will be putting them into action in semester two.
This post relates to a session I ran with the level 4 Theology (incorporating Theology, Religion, Philosophy and Ethics students) module 1RS010 this week. Two of the learning outcomes for this module are:
It’s a workshop I have run before, embedded in the module, and focusing on evaluating sources. I make several contributions to this module, with other sessions looking at why referencing is important in academic work (not just avoiding plagiarism, but also the power of reference lists and bibliographies in understanding whose voices have been prioritised by the author), and integrating sources critically into academic work. The learning outcomes for this specific session are:
Last year I ran a workshop with these outcomes and, although I felt the key messages had been conveyed, I felt there was a lack of engagement with the tasks I had set (my fault) and looked to overcome that. I had done an introductory presentation about evaluation, and then given groups a source to evaluate based upon that (some from text books, some from journals, some from newspapers). From discussing the task with the students in that session, I thought that I hadn’t provided enough structure and information within the instructions for the tasks, and had relied too much on the students taking in information I had given in the presentation to introduce the session. Also, I had split the cohort into groups and given each a single source to evaluate, and they had found it difficult without something else to compare it to. This year, therefore, I redesigned the worksheets and also provided more sources and gave each person in the group a full set of sources.
All resources were put in the VLE the week before the session, so the students could read ahead if they wished. I had 90 minutes, roughly split:
There were five sources used for the evaluation task, all found in searches for the term ‘fundamentalism’, and included an Oxford Handbook article on the topic (essentially a scholarly essay by someone experienced in that subject area), an encyclopedia entry, a journal article, a review article, and a newspaper article. (N.B. These sources are from subscriptions so may require logins.) A full list of sources can also be found at the bottom of the reading list for this module.
Asking the students to evaluate these with guidance such as checking if the source had a reference list/bibliography, and the affiliations of the author, proved much more fruitful than asking them to pick from the list in the presentation. It also led well into discussions about whether authors are writing from an academic research perspective, or from a faith-based perspective, or both. These discussions took place as I circulated around the class as the group worked on the task. Getting whole group feedback at the end proved a bit of a challenge, but I had the idea on the spot to ask them to hold up the source they felt matched the answer to the question. This worked really well as everyone held up a source and we were able to pick up on the fact that there was no consensus and how in academic work this is often the case and that it doesn’t matter, as long as you can justify why you picked it. Some held up two sources, as they couldn’t choose, and again we were able to discuss how that is okay and that a combination of sources generally produces a stronger argument.
I then demonstrated how I had found each of the sources, and linked it all to the assignment they had been set (to write a short essay on a key thinker in religion). A later session is going to be in a room with PCs so I can assess how they are progressing with finding sources for themselves.
This session needs a good amount of preparation. I had print outs of all of the sources for each of the 24 students prepared in advance by our university print services department, and I had to ensure that the resources and session outline was put in the VLE in advance, to ensure anyone requiring specific font size or paper colour, or extra time to read through the sources, had the chance to prepare. I stressed throughout that they were not expected to read each source in depth, that this was an exercise in evaluating whether it was worth investing the time reading a source in depth (amongst other things).
My colleague Tom and I were recently asked to write a piece for the university’s LGBT staff network on how we approach issues of inclusion and diversity in our roles, especially in relation to information sources and how they are integrated into the library collection. The post outlines our commitment to amplifying marginalised voices and supporting their integration into the curriculum. I have linked to it here because I think it provides a starting point for reflection on how linking information and learning and teaching needs to incorporate an awareness of whose voices are dominant in the available sources and what we can do to combat that. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has examples of this working in practice, or ideas for how it could be achieved in the future.
I did a webinar for OneHE about this website and the community of practice we have in information literacy at York St John University yesterday. I’ll post the link to the recording once it is available from the organisers. Some of those who joined in were interested in the research I did, as part of my doctorate, which formed the background to the content here. This is the survey I carried out with anyone who had taught level 4 modules, which was informed by interviews with academic colleagues. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them. And please feel free to use bits, with attribution, as you wish. My thesis should be online next year (submission and passing the viva allowing!) and much more context, and the results, will be in that. If anyone does use it, and wants to discuss future collaborations, that would be a brilliant thing to pursue.
There was a meeting of members of the community of practice on 11 June. We focused on induction for the 2019/20 academic year in the main, but some other points were raised too, especially in how we can work together to publish undergraduate research projects. Here were the key issues raised and how we plan to tackle them.
This is linked to a course where many of the students already have jobs linked to the degree, and so come with a lot of professional knowledge, but then don’t seem to bring this perspective into their assignments. Linked to this were also issues of resource availability, where even though ebooks are provided for essential reading, there were complaints about availability of texts on the reading list. The academic explained that the reading list had some set readings, all available electronically, but that it may be linked to the additional, recommended reading, with the students feeling (even though this isn’t the case) that they have to stick to the resources on the reading list.
The academic liaison librarian is going to work with the module tutor on a workshop in which the students will help create the reading list, close to the start of their course. There will still be set readings to give an introduction to topics, but the rest will be compiled by the students. In this they will be able to bring their professional knowledge into play, learn about the resources that are now available to them as a university student, and connect these up with the learning outcomes of the module. This links well with critical information literacy in giving the student agency as a researcher, and not privileging any specific types of information. We can use the list created as a starting point for critiquing from the perspective of the representation of marginalised voices, and build upon it as the programme progresses.
An academic colleague raised the issue that, each year, a number of research projects done by students in their final year, are of such quality and value that they deserve publishing. However, there were also concerns that the traditional journal publishing process may not be the most suitable for this. This is because the research is of worth to those working in professions beyond academia and therefore paywalls could restrict access to the people who would find the information most valuable.
The academic is firstly going to discuss this further with the current cohort of students, to ensure their opinions are taken into account in this decision making. However, a preferred solution for this academic is to host a website/blog for the course, with the research available to view without a paywall. This can grow as an archive each year, and can be indexed according to specialism. This gives future students the chance to see what has gone before, allows anyone to view the research, and provides a platform for those whose work is included to promote what they have found. In this, professional voices which have not had the chance to add to the evidence base, will now have an outlet. This is very much an early idea, and will be investigated further over the next few weeks.
This post comes from Jane Munks, the academic liaison librarian for the York Business School, which welcomes intakes of pre-sessional students. These are students who arrive in advance of their degrees starting, to build their knowledge of the English needed for study on an undergraduate course.
The input was designed for approx. 8 students and took place during their normal, timetabled class session. The aim was to help them understand the basics of using the library, but also introduce concepts such as referencing and avoiding plagiarism. They would get follow-ups once they started their degree, to get into the hows and whys of information search and evaluation. This was very much an introductory session. The online quizzes were very popular, and generally the class engaged well with all of the activities.
This post was provided by Katherine Hughes, Academic Liaison Librarian at York St John.
In Spring term 2019 I delivered a session on using archives and special collections in Creative Writing research. This session was embedded within the third year Creative Research in Practice module, which focuses on different research methods used in creative writing. Students are assessed through a research project including a professional proposal, sample of creative work, and an annotated bibliography.
This session provided us with a great opportunity to showcase YSJ’s special collections. Helen Pleasance, the module tutor requesting the session, was eager that students should have the opportunity to interact directly with archival objects, something we are very happy to facilitate. We wanted to let students know about the practicalities of using archive resources, as these are often unfamiliar and can be intimidating. We also wanted to give them an idea of the wealth of other archive resources available, both as physical archives and online.
In preparation for the session, I researched different approaches to using archives and special collections in CW research. According to Croome (2009), archives are usually used in two ways by writers, for background research and to add realistic detail, or for inspiration. Archival research can be used to verify the facts about a particular time period, setting or local area, ensuring the author’s depiction is accurate, and to immerse the researcher in detail of the past. However, an unusual resource or object from an archive or special collection can provide the spark for a new story, or to ‘inspire imagined detail’ in an existing work (Lonie 2017). St Germain (2017), for instance, ran a workshop making use of early 20th century mugshots as writing prompts. Sometimes the most tantalizing and inspiring things in an archival resource are what’s missing. Both Mantel (2017) and Wilkinson (2016) reflect on gaps in the historical record and how their writing is about filling those gaps with imagination and guesswork.
As students hadn’t yet chosen their assignment direction, I decided that the activities should focus on the use of archives for inspiration, although I did discuss other other uses. I consulted fellow librarian Tom Peach, who looks after our special collections, about which resources were likely to inspire writers. Some of our archival resources, while of interest to historians, can be rather dry – the university’s financial records, for instance, are unlikely to fire anyone’s imagination. However, our archive also includes photograph and letter books that provide a snapshot of life at YSJ over the past century and a half. Our Rees-Williams collection of Victorian and Edwardian children’s books includes both classics and texts that haven’t stood the test of time, but which are interesting for what they tell us about contemporary attitudes to gender, race, and the British Empire. We also selected some playbills and posters from the York Theatre Royal and Yorkshire Playbills and Posters collections. Given that the contents of some of the resources were controversial, it was clear that the session would need to address the problematics of archives and changing historical attitudes, and prepare students for what they might encounter in both this session and other collections. My research also highlighted a need for students to think critically about archive collections, about what had been chosen for preservation and what might be missing or excluded.
The session was scheduled to last around 50 minutes. It started with an explanation of the uses of archives for CW research, based on the literature I had consulted. I provided some examples of texts that had used archival research and explained the practicalities of using archives and the rules and regulations involved. We then moved on to the student activity exploring archive collections. In pairs or groups, students chose and examined one of the example resources from our archive and discussed how they could be used in CW research. I provided the following questions to stimulate discussion:
After time spent discussing the resources, I concluded the session by letting students know about other physical archive resources in the local area, online archive collections we subscribe to at YSJ, and free digital archives available on the web. Finally, I let them know where they could go for further help and advice on using both our and other special collections and archives.
I ran two back-to-back sessions with two different groups of students, with around 15-20 students in each group. The sessions went very positively, with students engaged in the activity and involved in critical discussion about the resources. They seemed to enjoy having an opportunity to look at the resources and several came up with new ideas for writing and research. After the session, Tom and I had appointments with several creative writing students who had decided to use archives – whether ours or other collections – in their assignment. However, there were some students who were less engaged with the resources. On discussion with them, it emerged that their research interests didn’t really fit with the contents of our special collections, which are all 19th and 20th century artefacts.
On reflection, I felt the session had gone well and the majority of students appeared to find it of interest. I was glad I had been able to spend some time researching archive use and that my activity had highlighted the importance of considering gaps and exclusions, as this led to some of the most interesting ideas and discussions. One student noticed that the pages in a Victorian children’s book had not all been cut, meaning that the pages were still joined together and some contents couldn’t be read. She suggested an idea for a project where she would fill in the missing parts of the story with her own writing.
However, I felt that the session could be adapted to provide more options for students whose research interests fell outside the scope of our archive. Booking the session in a room with some computer terminals might allow students to browse online archives for inspiration as well as looking at physical resources. Discussion with the module tutor indicated that there were likely to be changes to the module next year – currently it runs concurrently with students’ dissertations, so students are effectively doing two research projects. If moved to an earlier point in the course, there might be scope to expand the archive session and link the activities more directly to the assignment brief.
Croome, A. (2009) ‘Document Z: creating fiction from the Archives’. Memento, Issue 37, pp. 3-5. Available from http://www.naa.gov.au/naaresources/publications/memento/pdf/memento37.pdf [Accessed 22nd Jan 2019].
Lonie, E. (2017) Fonds or Fiction? Archives as Inspiration for Creative Writing [Internet]. Available from http://www.thingsimfondsof.com/fonds-or-fiction/ [Accessed 15th Jan 2019].
Mantel, H. (2017) ‘Hilary Mantel: why I became a historical novelist’. Guardian [Internet], 3rd June. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/03/hilary-mantel-why-i-became-a-historical-novelist [Accessed 15th Jan 2019).
McLaughlin, C. (2017) ‘Adelle Stripe on her debut novel “Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile”’. Northern Life [Internet], 18th October. Available from http://northernlifemagazine.co.uk/adelle-stripe-book/ [Accessed 15th Jan 2019].
St Germain, J. (2017) Cubic Footnotes: Hidden Stories in Archival Collections [Internet]. Available from http://www.cubicfootnotes.com/using-archival-collections-source-creativity-inspiration/ [Accessed 15th Jan 2019].
University of Westminster Archive Services (2016) Finding and using Archives for Creative Writing [Internet]. Available from https://www.westminster.ac.uk/sites/default/public-files/general-documents/using-archives-for-creative-writing.pdf [Accessed 15th Jan 2019].
Wilkinson, M. (2016) Exhumation: how creative writers use and develop material from an archive. PhD Thesis, Newcastle University. Available from https://theses.ncl.ac.uk/dspace/bitstream/10443/3531/1/Wilkinson%2C%20M%202016.pdf [Accessed 22nd Jan 2019].
There will be a meeting for any members of YSJ staff who would like to reflect on how the autumn term has panned out in terms of information in the curriculum, 6 December, 10-11am, DG104. I thought we could look specifically at how inductions went and also think about level 5 and 6 dissertations, but I am happy to consider any other topics. I hope to see you there. Please pass on this message to anyone you think may be interested.