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
As I’ve said previously, as academic librarians, we’re continuing to work with our academic colleagues in responding to the effects of library ebook availability and pricing. This is an update to the ebook availability message sent out by the library in May 2020
10 months since the first pandemic lockdown in the UK, most publishers/aggregate suppliers have withdrawn ‘emergency’ online access to texts. There are notable exceptions to this, especially JSTOR, who have continued to offer a wide range of titles in addition to those for which we have already paid. In a more cynical turn, some publishers have increased the price of online access to texts considerably since March 2020, with one in particular raising the price of 1 user ebooks (where only one user at a time can be logged on to the content) to 8 times the price of a print copy in this period. This has had a significant impact on the availability of essential reading, and the cost of providing it, in subject areas across the University. National campaigns are underway to try and address this, and evidence being gathered of the practices, but there are steps that can be taken at a local level to help too. This is the content of a short update we’re circulating to try and promote further dialogue with specialists in the university in the areas of open access, research dissemination, and learning and teaching.
Your academic liaison librarian will be able to give you an overview of availability of works from that publisher on fair library ebook models, and any cost inflation during the pandemic.
If a publisher approaches you with a text which they believe supports our programmes, or you have received an inspection copy with a request for feedback, it would be helpful to reply along the following lines.
Please note that the library at my university is unable to support the adoption of any text as essential reading which is not also available on a fair ebook model. This therefore excludes:
If a publisher approaches you with a proposal to author or edit a work, or if you are currently seeking a publisher, asking the following will help ensure that the end text is available to libraries to supply online.
I would like to ensure that this text is available to readers, online, via libraries. Can you please confirm that this would be made available as a library ebook, excluding:
There is a growing body of open access works which can be used as programme resources. This provision is dependent upon subject area, with some better catered for than others, but is growing in all of them. Search tools such as Oapen and DOAB index these, and provide links.
The library has an agreement with Open Book Publishers if you wish to explore this option for your own work and will put you in touch with contacts there.
If you are a member of any associations which you think may be able to help in lobbying for fairer access to academic sources, please ask that they join the campaign, or make a statement themselves about the impact this is having.
Every February we create displays in the library, for the UK’s LGBT+ History Month. One is in the main foyer, showing a range of texts and other resources from members of the LGBTQI+ community from subjects studied across the university. The other is one of my absolute favourites to create and it’s in the School Library on the first floor. This is our collection of books for children and young adults and it’s designed for those on education, childhood and youth courses to use in their studies and in practice, although anyone at all in the YSJ community is more than welcome to borrow from it. Representation in school library collections is vital in addressing marginalisation and inequalities in relation to people in the LGBTQI+ community and such inclusion can have long-term positive effects (Hudson-Sharp & Metcalf, 2016).
This year is different. Our library building closed and the country went into lockdown just as I took down the 2020 displays and, a year on, I am still unable to safely create and offer access to ‘physical’ ones. However, we have been building online lists of resources for a few years, and these are available. We also want to ensure you still have the opportunity to recommend books for the library collection. They can be from any subject, any topic, for any age group – if you think it helps better representation of LGBTQI+ authors or issues, we will buy it if we can.
And, until we can create displays again, here are some pictures from last year, including one of the younger members of the YSJ community enjoying one of the titles.
Hudson-Sharp, N., & Metcalf, H. (2016). Inequality among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: a review of evidence. National Institute of Economic and Social Research. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/539682/160719_REPORT_LGBT_evidence_review_NIESR_FINALPDF.pdf
Towards the end of last term, I was involved in the revalidation of programmes in our childhood, youth and education courses. This was the first suite to go through the process for me since lockdown began in March 2020, and it brought to a head a number of issues which had been building for some time. These all centred on the need to provide online access to all essential, and, if possible, further recommended, resources. This is both in terms of access during lockdown, preventing unnecessary handling of print sources and the associated health risks with that for library workers and users, and also because these courses involve placements or distance learning where the students will not have easy access to campus anyway. This blog post outlines the first steps we have taken in this revalidation process and I will document more as we continue the preparation for teaching the courses, and start their delivery in September 2021.
There were three key areas that needed addressing.
The academics involved in the revalidation asked me to participate at the stage where all of the modules to be designed had been outlined, but the content of them was still to be decided, before taking the courses to a university panel for feedback and sign-off. I had the aims and outcomes to work with, and some suggested readings that could help as a starting point, and the remit to build up potential resource lists for each module which helped address these three core issues.
I decided that open access sources provided one way of addressing all three of them, to some extent. By their nature, they are designed to be accessible without payment. They are usually readable online, or downloadable to PDF, and testing of a sample showed that they were screen-reader compatible. In addition, I could check the contents more easily to identify works from a number of different viewpoints, and particularly found works from writers in countries which were not represented in the texts we had in stock, purchased in the traditional way by academic publishers. This is one step in trying to address representation, acknowledging that this should not stop here or be a token gesture.
We started by looking for open access books, with a view to having core lists in place for each module. From here, once module leaders have been appointed for the actual teaching, I can work with them on locating a wider range of sources. I used Oapen, DOAB and LibreTexts as my main search tools.
I took the approach of putting all of the modules into a stand-alone reading list, so that all involved could see the whole programme developing. This has the advantage of also allowing academics to pick up book details and transfer them to other, existing, modules if they so wish. For each module, I took the indicative titles from traditional publishers supplied by the academics, and gave notes as to their current availability (or otherwise) in ebook format, and potential costs in their further use. After this, I introduced other texts from existing traditional publishers that may be useful, again with notes as to availability and trying to surface the ones which provide DRM-free access. Finally, I also ensured that open access resources were added where ones appropriate to the content of the module could be located.
Generally I found there to be a good range of titles available in open access format, and this is only going to develop as more academic authors find their work restricted by traditional publishing set-ups. They are much easier for students to use, with no passwords needed for future access if they bookmark them, full download is available so they can save them wherever they like, and they work with assistive technology in the format available to all. It’s incredibly unfair that users who rely on screen-readers need to do further work in obtaining accessible formats with a lot of library print sources and ebooks supplied by publishers and aggregators (this is not true in all cases – some are accessible in this way, but it’s a very mixed picture), so if we can design in accessibility at this stage, it means a much fairer experience for all once delivery starts.
I have a very good collaborative working relationship with my academic colleagues in this subject area, which means I am able to work with them from this early stage in the process of validating a programme. I realise this isn’t true for all academic librarians. However, if you are able to take the existing reading for any module, and use open access book search tools to locate others in that topic area, and have a method for adding these as options for students to read, I’d hope that would also provide them with a way of carrying on their research where those academic publishers who have chosen to increase their ebook prices to unaffordable levels, or to restrict access via unfair models, have put a barrier to studies in their path.
I plan to make more posts about this, with more specific examples of where open access texts have been used in module design and/or delivery in order to enhance learning. It’s my hope that we can find alternative ways of providing access to information when the cost of obtaining or providing access to resources has proven to be too high in either monetary or accessibility terms, and find a sustainable way forward. Because one thing is for sure: the current models are unsustainable, full stop.
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.