Report from LILAC 2010, March 29th-31st, Limerick, Republic of Ireland

Libraries for Nursing Bulletin Vol 30(2)

Elizabeth Andrews
Subject Librarian: Sciences
University of Stirling
elizabeth.andrews@stir.ac.uk

Introduction

The recent LILAC (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) 2010 held in Limerick was dominated by discussions of the use of Web 2.0 and new technologies, and the adaptation of training to be more student-centred. These two themes are of course inter-connected and the papers focused on below, Nora Hegarty and Alan Carbery’s ‘Learning by doing: Redesigning the First Year Information Literacy Programme at WIT Libraries’1 and Karen Gravett’s paper ‘Using online video to promote database searching skills: the creation of a virtual tutorial for Health and Social Care students’,2 explore how training can become more accessible and more engaging for students.

Making training sessions more Student-Centred

Although Nora Hegarty and Alan Carbery’s paper ‘Learning by doing: Redesigning the First Year Information Literacy Programme at WIT Libraries’ presented training in a rather traditional way – face-to-face sessions using worksheets – the nature of the training sessions, which are being developed for undergraduate nursing students, and the content of the worksheets aimed to make the session more interactive and student driven. As the title suggests, ‘Learning by doing’, the sessions were redesigned to become more interactive and task focused. The students were presented with a worksheet and asked to work together in small groups to complete tasks following a theme inspired by television programmes such as CSI, The Apprentice or even Ready Steady Cook. This approach appears to follow the hypothesis of Student-Centred learning, discussed by Motschnig-Pitrik & Holzinger in their article ‘Student-Centered Teaching Meets New Media: Concept and Case Study’ (2002). They explain:

T]he Student-Centered [sic] approach is based on the hypothesis that students who are given the freedom to explore areas based on their personal interests, and who are accompanied in their striving for solutions by a supportive, understanding facilitator not only achieve higher academic results but also experience an increase in personal values, such as flexibility, self-confidence and social skills (Motschnig-Pitrik & Holzinger 2002, p. 161)

By using cultural references familiar to the students, in the form of these television programmes, the sessions connected training to ‘personal interests’ and so allowed the students to feel more engaged and relate more easily to the information. Hegarty and Carbery also noted that the session was ‘light-hearted’, thus suggesting the presence of a ‘facilitator’ who was approachable rather than autocratic and in their slides they state that one of their aims is to encourage students to become ‘comfortable, confident, competent library users’ The format of the workshop being a series of small tasks was discussed. Each worksheet was given a time limit (approx 20 minutes) so as to keep the session moving and to engage and keep the students’ attention. The speakers suggested that this approach was adopted in order to make training more compatible withthe ‘Millennial’, a new type of student who has, they suggest, an expectation of interactivity and of being entertained. In his article ‘Reinventing Library Buildings and Services for the Millennial Generation’ (2005), Sweeny describes the Millennial in the following way:

Millennials are increasingly less tolerant of institutions that model the old paradigm, that consume more of their time in performing activities not part of their immediate goal. In college, they do not want to be present for all lecture classes during scheduled hours when they feel they could learn the material online any time (Sweeney 2005, p.168).

So, when students attend scheduled classes, they need to feel that what they are learning is not only relatable but also relevant for their studies. Hegarty and Carbery discussed the CSI example, explaining that students were given tasks to find certain evidence or journal articles from a Library database but also that the worksheets were designed to be ‘subject-specific’. Students were perhaps more motivated to develop their searching strategies and skills, they were observed to be ‘energised & enthused’, because the training could be connected to their personal and academic interests. Moreover, the training involved working in small groups, and so it could also be argued that not only were the sessions developing academic skills, they were also helping the students to develop ‘social skills’ (Motschnig-Pitrik and Holzinger 2002, p. 161), attributes which are desirable and necessary in the workplace.

Using new technologies

Motschnig-Pitrik and Holzinger’s discussion of the use of ‘New Media’ and using, for example, the computer as a versatile, adaptable tool for information transfer’ (p. 160) helps to highlight Karen Gravett’s interesting use and experiences of new technologies delivered in her presentation ‘Using online video to promote database searching skills: the creation of a virtual tutorial for Health and Social Care students’. Motschnig-Pitrik and Holzinger state that ‘[f]rom our experience it is [sic] appears that SCeL [Student-Centered eLearning] courses still take more of the facilitator’s time than conventional ones’ (p. 166) This is echoed in Gravett’s experience as she explains that her creation of material using live action video was time consuming. Reassuringly, Motschnig-Pitrik and Holzinger go on to suggest that this time will be reduced with ‘increased experience with the new style’ (p. 166). What is interesting is that although Gravett’s approach clearly used technology ‘as a versatile, adaptable tool’, she used this tool to simulate face-to-face training sessions, recreating a familiar learning mode but delivered online.

Figure 1 Karen Gravett’s online training materials 
You can see the different options Karen offers students, such as the video, quizzes and helpsheets.

Gravett’s discussion of her use of live action video also noted that these materials were not exclusively used, rather the videos, which were filmed lectures training students to search databases,3 could be used to reinforce or refresh learning. She explained these videos were part of a ‘blended learning programme’ that offers the students choice, an important requirement for the Millennial students discussed above. As Sweeny states:

Perhaps the most important Millennial characteristic is this generation’s expectation to be able to choose from a wide array of consumer choices. Millennials have always been given more alternatives in services and products than any group before them, and they actually choose from all the alternatives (p. 167).

This online element also echoes the above point that such students ‘feel they could learn the material online any time’ (Sweeney 2005, p. 168) and being able to access training materials remotely and on demand was one of the benefits Gravett noted of using this technology. This accessibility was emphasized throughout LILAC with various presentations discussing the use of VLEs, such as James Bisset and Sarah Brain’s ‘How was it for you? Evaluating the iSkillZone’4 and ‘Interactive Learning using Xerte: minding the skills gap’ by Wendy Stanton and Jenny Coombs,5 to gather training materials in one place. Below is a screen grab of the iSkillZone homepage on the University of the West of England Library web pages:

Figure 2 (Bisset and Brain 2010) 
You can see by the image above that all of the information skills training areas are grouped together for easy access.

Win Shih and Martha Allen’s article ‘Working with Generation-D: adopting and adapting to cultural learning and change’ (2007) argues that ‘[u]sing technology in and out of the classroom provides multifarious benefits of convenience, connectivity and control in the learning process’ (p. 89) and Gravett’s training classes, like the redesign Hegarty and Carbery undertook, aimed to foster this control and in turn confidence. Gravett noted that the students she saw often had little confidence in using information technology, and this may be why she decided to simulate the face-to-face format of her training in her videos, but by providing support and training online, she also encouraged the use of IT. The online material seemed not only to help the student but also help with the students’ ‘large demand for support’. These technologies help provide flexibility and options for information professionals while delivering choice and accessibility to students.

Conclusion

Shih and Allen suggest that ‘[t]he beginning and ending dates defining the parameters of Generation-D [or Millennials] vary from beginning dates from 1977-1982 to ending dates from 1994-2003’ (Shih and Allen 2007, p. 90),6 which suggests that school leavers as well as more mature students in their 30s could be described as Millennials. However, older students or those studying part-time while working can also benefit from the learning choices that web tools offer and that Millennials expect. Barbara Miflin in her article ‘Adult learning, self-directed learning and problem-based learning: deconstructing the connections’ (2004) discusses T. Haggis’s observations that ‘the adult learning experience is complex and unpredictable’ (Miflin 2004, p. 43). Although Milfin’s article explores the use of self-directed and problem based learning for medical students, the assertion that ‘all learners are individuals’ (Miflin 2004, p.46) may seem trite or obvious, but is one that we should not lose sight of, certainly in Information Literacy or Library skills training. The term Millennials helps to define types of learning preferences rather than the students themselves and more mature students may also share these preferences. Although as Gravett’s paper suggests it may feel like a ‘labour of love! Time consuming and fiddly’, offering students choice through the use of different media or training approaches in order to support different learning styles is becoming essential. The use of new technologies helps to offer solutions to trainers while affording students more control of their learning and the presentations discussed here suggest different ways of adapting training to provide alternatives to more traditional or classical pedagogy. LILAC 2010 facilitated an inspirational forum for the exchange of experience and the discussion of new approaches to benefit students and Library professionals alike.

Footnotes

  1. You can view the slides of Hegarty and Carbery’s presentation here: http://www.lilacconference.com/dw/programme/Presentations/Monday/Wogan_Suite/Hegarty_car bery_LILAC_Presentation_Final.pdf
  2. You can view the slides of Gravett’s presentation here: http://www.lilacconference.com/dw/programme/Presentations/Tuesday/Lecture_Theatre/Gravett_-_Using_online_video_presentation.pdfsing_online_video_presentation.pdf
  3. You can view Gravett’s Introduction to Literature Searching video here: http://libweb.surrey.ac.uk/library/tutorials/LitSearch.htm.
  4. You can view the slides of Bisset and Brain’s presentation here: http://www.lilacconference.com/dw/programme/Presentations/Tuesday/OBrien_Suite/Bisset_brain _how_was_it_for_you.pdf
  5. You can view the slides of Stanton and Coombs’ presentation here: http://www.lilacconference.com/dw/programme/Presentations/Monday/Wogan_Suite/Coombs_sta nton_with_screenshots.pdf
  6. Generation-D is not the only name for people who fall within the birth date parameters of this demographic group. Other frequently used monikers for this cohort include: Net Gen, Millennials, Generation Y, Newmills, Nexters, Thatcher’s Children, Generation Next, Echo Boomers, and Digital Generation’ (Shih and Allen 2007, p. 90).

References

Bisset, J. and Brain, S. 2010, ‘How was it for you? Evaluating the iSkillZone’, Conference notes, LILAC 2010.

Gravett, K. 2010, ‘Using online video to promote database searching skills: the creation of a virtual tutorial for Health and Social Care students’, Conference notes, LILAC 2010.

Gravett, K. 2010, ‘Using online video to promote database searching skills: the creation of a virtual tutorial for Health and Social Care students’, Conference slides, LILAC 2010. <http://www.lilacconference.com/dw/programme/Presentatio ns/Tuesday/Lecture_Theatre/Gravett_-_Using_online_video_presentation.pdf>

Hegarty, N. and Carbery, A. 2010, ‘Learning by doing: Redesigning the First Year Information Literacy Programme at WIT Libraries’, Conference notes, LILAC 2010.

Hegarty, N. and Carbery, A. 2010, ‘Learning by doing: Redesigning the First Year Information Literacy Programme at WIT Libraries’, Conference slides, LILAC 2010.<http://www.lilacconference.com/dw/programme/Presentations/Monday/Wogan_Suite/Hegarty_carbery_LILAC_Presentation_Final.pdf>

Miflin, B. (2004) ‘Adult learning, self-directed learning and problem-based learning: deconstructing the connections’, Teaching in Higher Education, 9(1), pp 43-53.

Motschnig-Pitrik, R. & Holzinger, A. (2002) ‘Student-centered teaching meets new media: Concept and case study’, Educational Technology & Society, 5(4), pp. 160-172.

Shih, W. & Allen, M. (2007) ‘Working with Generation-D: adopting and adapting to cultural learning and change’, Library Management, 28(1/2), pp. 89-100.

Stanton, W. and Coombs, J. 2010, ‘Interactive Learning using Xerte: minding the skills gap’, Conference notes, LILAC 2010.

Sweeney, R.T. (2005) ‘Reinventing library buildings and services for the millennial generation’, Library Administration and Management, 19 (4), pp. 165-175.

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