Archive for July, 2009

New Virtual Training Suite Tutorials

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

31 new Internet tutorials for university students have just been released over at the Virtual Training Suite.

The tutorials teach Internet research skills for degree subjects, and are ideal for students looking for advice and guidance on using the Web for their studies, especially those who:

  • struggle to find the right information for university work.
  • get marked down for citing inappropriate sources in their assignments.
  • rely too heavily on Google, Wikipedia and the open Web, because they are unaware of key academic and library sources.

All the tutorials have been written and reviewed by lecturers and librarians from UK universities, who are experienced Internet researchers.

What’s new?

This year we have completely overhauled the content and design of 50% of our 62 tutorials. The new tutorials are:

  • Internet for aeronautical engineering
  • Internet for agriculture
  • Internet for American studies
  • Internet for archaeology
  • Internet for biodiversity
  • Internet for business and management
  • Internet for chemical engineering
  • Internet for chemistry
  • Internet for civil engineering
  • Internet for computer science and informatics
  • Internet for economics
  • Internet for education
  • Internet for environment
  • Internet for government and politics
  • Internet for health and social care
  • Internet for history
  • Internet for law
  • Internet for medicine
  • Internet for microbiology
  • Internet for midwifery
  • Internet for modern languages
  • Internet for nursing
  • Internet for performing arts
  • Internet for philosophy
  • Internet for photography
  • Internet for physics
  • Internet for psychology
  • Internet for religious studies
  • Internet for social research methods
  • Internet for social work
  • Internet for veterinary medicine

Why change?

We have been producing and updating Internet tutorials since 2000, and so last year we decided it was time to take stock and review the direction we were taking. The tutorial content and design have now been completely overhauled in light of Internet developments, in particular the impact of Web 2.0 technologies in higher education (HE); academic Web trends (changes in online academic publishing); and extensive user feedback (via market research, and analysis of over 5,000 online-feedback forms and an online survey).

Changes to tutorial content

The feedback received indicated a growing recognition of the need to help students develop Internet research skills. It also suggested that helping students to understand peer-review was more important than ever in a Web 2.0 world of user-created content. We have re-written the tutorial content to reflect this, so the coverage of the four main sections of each tutorial is now as follows:

  1. Tour – focuses on the academic information landscape on the Internet and aims to create a mental map for students of the key scholarly sources for their subject.
  2. Discover – offers updated guidance on how to find scholarly information online; choosing the right search tool and looks at the importance of developing a search strategy.
  3. Judge – discusses how critical thinking can improve the quality of online research and provides guidance on how to judge which Internet resources are appropriate for University work.
  4. Success – provides practical examples of students using the Internet for research – successfully and unsuccessfully, so that students can learn from the mistakes of others, as well as by example.

Changes to tutorial design

The format of our online tutorials continued to be popular, with high levels of uptake and use in university courses, but we have now introduced a brand new Web design to make tutorials shorter, easier to read online, with more graphics and exercises. Interactive features of each tutorial include quizzes, practical exercises, and a ‘links basket’ functionality which allows the user to keep a record of all website URLs mentioned in the tutorial. These features have proven popular with students. Each tutorial takes around one hour to complete, allowing the user to work through the material in their own time and at their own pace.

The Virtual Training Suite is continually updated, but these changes reflect a major overhaul, which we hope to apply to the rest of our tutorials in the coming year.

Feedback from university staff suggests that they find it useful to point students to the tutorials from course handbooks, VLEs and library web pages. There is also evidence that they are being used to support courses in research methods, study skills and information literacy.

These tutorials are freely available from:

Text by Emma Place.