Monday, 21 November 2011

Students at the Heart of the System

I've been at The Publishers Association's Academic and Professional Division's 2011 conference on "Students at the Heart of the System" today.

The morning was kicked-off by a keynote from Ian Diamond (VC at University of Aberdeen) with a talk on "Some considerations in the future of HE". He discussed changes to the HE funding model, increases to the number and diversity of students, and outlined what he sees as some of the priorities for meeting these challenges. The keynote was very research focused - addressing concerns about the publication of research and the importance of Open Access in publishing academic research quickly whilst maintaining academic standards. Interesting stats on the UK being "top of the pops" for citations per researcher BUT our research outputs are not increasing - they have flatlined compared to emerging forces like China.

Ian asked the question as to whether we still need libraries and answered with a definite YES - placing the professional skills of librarians, as experts in their subject specialisms, managing data and digital media, at the center of liaison between academics and publishers.

The next part of the morning was extremely interesting - a student forum consisting of a panel of international and UK students who answered questions on their experiences and expectations of published information. The responses where fascinating (there's more detail in the twitter stream). The most interesting for me was when the panel were asked if they (as students) had ever been asked about which books they had used or found useful). The answer was almost unanimously "NO!"... It occurs that there is a role for the library here in evaluating students experience with reading materials and liaising with academics to improve reading lists.

Tools like Talis Aspire and possibly social media tools spring to mind here. The final point was that if students are paying more to be at University, they expect to be consulted on what materials are chosen and also expect them to be available in the library. My favourite bit of the day was hearing the students recognizing the library as a tool for evaluating the quality of information!

Next up was John Lanham (partnerships lead at UWE, Bristol) talking about partnership with Hewlett Packard. John described UWE as producing "professional" graduates (not vocational!). UWE  have moved beyond having HP as their provider of technology to having a programme with placement etc. UWE bring the educational practice to take it beyond "training" but use HPs experience in online materials. There was an interesting question at the end about providing partners with access to the Uni's e-resources. The response was that HP staff are taken on as associate lecturers to grant access to the institution's resources.

This was followed by a case study on an online community for medical students to share their resources. Meducation includes student's notes and teaching materials they have developed as part of their course as well as some content from publishers (they are looking to expand this "premium" content). The use of the social networking element to crowd-source content that includes MCQs and question banks as well as learning resources seems to have been successful and a large number of med students have signed up to the site. It was interesting (as a librarian interloping on a publishers conference) to hear concerns expressed in the questions about the quality of information on the site (how do you quality control crowd-sourced material?) and copyright concerns  (what happens if someone posts publisher-owned content). The point was made that recommendations can act as a quality control mechanism - and also that there is a take down policy for owned content - the idea being that the risk of copyright being infringed shouldn't be a barrier to people adding the content that they have developed or own the rights to.

Next was a talk by Jonathon Crowe and Cathy Kennedy about BioscienceHorizons, an OA journal that publishes the research of UG students. The point was made that UG students often carry out a "real" research project that finds out something new and BioscienceHorizons gives an outlet for that. It was interesting to hear how they have been trying to raise the discoverability  of the journal articles by talking to Web of Science about getting listed. Another point of interest was that to be (truely) peer reviewed, Bioscience Horizons should be reviewed by undergraduates. This would require some more pedagogy to be developed in order to train UG students to be reviewers.

Finally, Linden Harris presented on the development of The State Papers Online. This is an online archive of 16th and 17th century British and European papers - born from digital preservation and access issues. Interesting as it gets over the fragmentation of these physical documents (i.e. some in BL some at National Archives).

Finally, finally - Jane Powell did an impromptu presentation on research on how the White Paper is changing perceptions. You can access the research via Shift Learning's twitter stream.

For me the most valuable part of the day was the student forum. Some key points from the student responses were:

*Students want to be consulted on the content of their reading lists;
*If they are paying higher fees, students expect their institution to provide access to the materials  (rather than buying their own copies);
*Financially, students will feel less able to buy their own copy whe they are going into debt to study;
*Students want content that they can download to mobile devices and readers;
*Students value the library and librarians as a quality control mechanism for evaluating information.

It seems that librarians are key to the future business of publishers. All of the indications from today are that publishers need to move from a model where they sell direct to students to institutions providing content to their students. Librarians can and should be the locus between students, academics and publishers to ensure that the institutional content is academically appropriate but learner centered...

No comments:

Post a Comment