Archive for August, 2010

By the book, the e-book

Monday, August 9th, 2010

building made from books

Some might say that the recent installation by Slovakian artist Matej Kren at the Museum of Modern Art in Bologna composed of thousands upon thousands of books, shows the importance of books as building blocks of knowledge.

However, the rise of the e-book has caused some to question the role of libraries, despite the fact that a growing number of e-books are being downloaded from libraries, although you may still be in need of some tips for a better e-book reading experience.

In terms of Internet research skills, making students aware of the e-books available to them is increasingly important. Some of the tutorials in the Virtual Training Suite have collected together key texts for various academic subjects:

However this is a fast moving field, for example, just today an email alerted us that there are more than 200 free scientific books to download from on topics including electrical engineering, robotics and materials science.

But there’s more potential to e-books – students are getting used to searching Google Books for snippets from textbooks when they aren’t readily available via their library – using them to look up references, get to key quotes or read chapters when physical libraries are shut.

We recently learnt that the Virtual Training Suite had been recommended to students in a couple of academic textbooks and thanks to the availability of e-books, it’s now possible to check what people have been saying about us:

The Handbook of Literary Research edited by Delia da Sousa Correa and W. R. Owens says on p.22 “If you complete the online tutorial and answer the tour quiz at the end of it, you will have gained an excellent overview of planning and conducting searches and evaluating data” in the chapter on Using online and printed sources by Shafquat Towheed (lecturer in English at The Open University).

Study Skills for Social Workers by Chris Stogdon and Robin Kiteley says on p.67 chapter on Learning Online  “helps you hone your web-searching skills … encourages you to be more critical and discerning in respect of online information”.

So e-books are readily available as online replacements for textbooks, as places where people may be talking about you and as pointers to other  resources – but you won’t be able to use them as building blocks for a new house and that’s probably a good thing.

Links of the week

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. Google says that there are 130 million-ish books in the world – bit of nerve criticising other peoples metadata though! 
  2. You can now get email updates from this blog at
  3. Looking for video and audio resources? Try these new online tutorials from @jiscdigital & @VTStutorials
  4. RT @giustini Top 100 Ways Librarians Use Social Media (a collaborative list)
  5. CaRILLO: Information Literacy and repurposing learning objects en event report #carillo #carillo10
  6. OpenScholar from @harvard allows scholars to easily create their own websites
  7. RT @jiscdigital Now booking! Brand new training workshop Building Effective Screencasts 16 Sept
  8. “the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of effective and highly skilled researchers” from
  9. RT @lawbore: Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age (NYTimes)
  10. Some changes to the Virtual Training Suite

New tutorials on finding video and audio resources

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

JISC Digital Media in conjunction with the Virtual Training Suite  have launched two new online tutorials: Internet for Audio Resources and Internet for Video and Moving Images.

Screenshot of the Internet for Audio tutorial

The free-to-use tutorials have been designed to assist staff and students within the education sector to locate audio and video for use in teaching and learning.

The existing Internet for Image Searching tutorial has also been refreshed and moved into the new template design.

Full details are available from the JISC Digital Media blog.

CaRILLO: Information Literacy and repurposing learning objects

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Carillo was a one day event for developers of information literacy teaching and learning material organised by the University of Birmingham Library. It featured a range of talks on the issues around creating, finding, sharing and re-purposing learning resources in the area of Information Literacy.

Some brief notes about each of the sessions are below:

Rebecca Mogg, Senior Subject Librarian, Information Services, Cardiff University – The Information Literacy Resource Bank (ILRB)

The most widely used parts of the ILRB relate to:

  1. Citations and referencing
  2. Plagiarism
  3. Evaluating information

Rebecca spoke about how they had demand from academic departments to develop materials about the pros and cons of Wikipedia, something we need to tackle explicitly the next time we redevelop the Judge section of the Virtual Training Suite.

Katy Wrathall, former SMILE Project Manager and currently Academic Liaison Team Leader, University of Worcester – The SMILE project: repurposing IL material

This overview of the SMILE project included some valuable lessons about the potential obstacles to re-using learning objects:

  • Licensing and permission issues – academics do not always want to share
  • Students expect subject specific resources, limiting the potential for re-use
  • Without teaching guides, how-to use information or readme files, it isn’t easy to figure out how to re-use a resource

Katy made great use of her image archive on Flickr and one point she made was how we shouldn’t be “information knowledge motorbikes” flying through the air waving at new students about information literacy, but need to get beyond first years to staff, researchers and others.

Tom Boyle, Director of the RLO-CETL, London Metropolitan University – Using GLO Maker to create learning/teaching material

GLO Maker is a free, Open Source piece of software for creating learning objects. It maps these objects to appropriate areas of learning design via in-built templates that:

  • Orient the student – show them what they are learning and why
  • Understand the issues – demonstrate what they need to learn
  • Use the knowledge – test them on what has been learnt by applying it

Tom also made a broader point that feedback in learning objects needs to be rich – more than just right or wrong – as these interactive points are often where students are paying the most attention and where learning can occur.

Nicola Siminson, Jorum Community Enhancement Officer, Mimas, at The University of Manchester – JorumOpen and IL: finding and sharing resources

As someone who has catalogued many resources for JorumOpen, it was interesting to see the other delegates try it out during the hands-on session in the afternoon. They wanted to get to the resources themselves and were often frustrated when a Jorum record was only a web link – similar to the frustrations users may feel when using databases or repositories that only provide the  metadata of a resource, rather than the full text.

Catherine Bruen, NDLR Manager, Trinity College Dublin – Community aspects of the National Digital Learning Repository

The NDLR aims to “support greater collaboration in developing and sharing of digital teaching resources and associated teaching experience across all subject disciplines and communities of academics”. They do so via a  a repository of resources, providing a space for academic Communities of Practice to grow and by funding development projects.

Repurposing learning objects

The afternoon featured hands-on workshops and the session on repurposing learning objects brought together some issues from all of the talks.

A key selling point for learning objects and Open Educational Resources generally is their supposed re-usability, saving people from reinventing the wheel. However, the practicalities of reusing learning objects can sometimes be insurmountable. Licensing restrictions, proprietary file formats (Flash), making items generic without dumbing down or having to insert / remove branding – all these things can get in the way. So some important questions remain.

  • If a learning object is perceived as being useful, then perhaps it is more important that it is easy to customise or personalise, than to change its purpose?
  • Is it enough to be inspired by a good quality learning object, to produce something yourself or to link to a good example from elsewhere?
  • Where does re-purposing stop and recreation start? Is changing the content and structure of a learning object a bit like replacing the brush and handle on a broom?

An excellent and thought provoking day – many thanks to all at the University of Birmingham Library for organising it and hopefully there will be a CaRILLO 2 in the not too distant future.

Changes to the Virtual Training Suite

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

We’d like to tell you about some changes to the Virtual Training Suite.

Until August 2010 the Virtual Training Suite was part of the Intute service but due to funding changes, the management and operation of the service has reverted to the team at the Institute for Learning and Research Technology at the University of Bristol.

The main difference is that we are now simply the Virtual Training Suite, as we are no longer part of the Intute collection of services. The web address for the service will remain as for the time being and all your old links / bookmarks will work.

Hopefully you won’t notice too much of a difference if you are using one of our bespoke tutorials, such as the Internet Detective or one of our 60 subject based Internet research skills tutorials.

During 2010/11 we will be exploring alternative funding models for the service, including subscription and membership. All of the tutorials will remain freely available until at least July 2011.

Further updates about what is happening with the Virtual Training Suite will appear on this blog and on the Future Plans page.

One of the things that has changed is how to get in touch with us. You can:

… and we would be delighted to hear from you.