Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

Virtual Training Suite to have an ‘appy’ ending

Friday, June 24th, 2011

The Virtual Training Suite of 60 online subject-based tutorials to help students to expand their Internet research skills will continue to be developed after July 2011 thanks to an agreement between the University of Bristol and the software house TutorPro. TutorPro Ltd will not only retain the existing content but will also significantly enhance and develop the Virtual Training Suite with new material and new media, specifically to make the tutorials available through mobile and tablet applications.

The current set of tutorials will still be available for download as standalone units from the Virtual Training Suite website at and via the JORUM repository. The tutorials will be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales licence, which makes the content free at the point of use to the UK teaching, learning, and research communities.

TutorPro will host the new site of these tutorials and work with the content providers to keep the content up to date whilst moving the whole project forward into the world of smartphones, tablets and mobile devices. Work is already well underway on the transition and can be viewed through desktop/laptops browsers at: Please contact TutorPro on + 44 (0) 1823 661669 and ask for VTS or email ‘’ with VTS in the subject line with any questions, comments or input.

“Internet research skills are an essential part of ensuring that UK FE and HE students are digitally literate in their academic work and are able to take those literacy skills into the workplace. We are delighted that the education community will continue to benefit from the valuable advice and guidance within the Virtual Training Suite through TutorPro’s development of the tutorials” Debra Hiom, Virtual Training Suite Director

“We are very excited about being able to continue with the excellent Virtual Training Suite product, being able to develop the whole platform for delivery across smart phones, tablets and mobile devices in general will ensure that the product continues to provide real value to students.” Paul Turner MD TutorPro Ltd.

View the full press release

The Future of Informs and the Virtual Training Suite

Monday, April 11th, 2011

JISC funding for Informs and the Virtual Training Suite will come to an end at the end of July 2011.

As part of the removal of central funding for Intute in July 2010, we conducted a full review and market research to help us investigate the possibility of introducing a subscription model for the Virtual Training Suite and Informs.  We regret to inform our users and contributors that no realistic alternative funding model for either service has been identified.

Our investigations told us that institutions would be willing to pay for Informs and the Virtual Training Suite in principle, but given the current economic climate and the reduction in library budgets these services are unlikely to be regarded as a priority.  As a result, the number of subscribers would not provide enough income to continue in their current form.  Therefore, in consultation with the Informs Advisory Group and JISC, the following ways forward have been agreed.

  • We will investigate releasing Informs as open source software so that it can be installed and run locally in your own institutions.  This work is in its early stages, but we will provide more information throughout the next few months, and full documentation will be made available to make the transition as easy as possible.
  • We will keep Informs running at Mimas until December 2011 to allow users to move to the open source version or find other alternatives.  Until this time all tutorials will work as normal, and helpdesk support will be available.
  • The Virtual Training Suite site will be available until July 2012, but the tutorials will not be updated beyond July 2011.
  • All Virtual Training Suite tutorials will be individually available to download and reuse from August 2011.


We would like to thank all Informs and Virtual Training Suite users and contributors for their support during this difficult year.  We would particularly like to thank those of you that took the time to speak to us, offer feedback and complete our survey.

For more information, please see the FAQs on the Informs and Virtual Training Suite websites,  and please contact us if you have any concerns.  We have also made the market research report and the Informs Technical Review available on Intute.

What’s going on with languages?

Monday, February 7th, 2011

State schools were recently accused of hampering students’ life chances, when CILT (the National Centre for Languages) polled schools about how many teach foreign languages.  Out of the 171 schools polled, only 36% of state schools were teaching a foreign language to the majority of pupils aged 14 or 15.  However, 94% of private schools were teaching a foreign language to the majority of pupils aged 14 or 15.  Many are now teaching Mandarin in fact.  French, German and Spanish are still the most widely taught languages across the board.  The new English baccalaureate measure will require pupils to achieve at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, humanities and a foreign language.

But will this get more young people learning languages? Some teachers I know say it is an uphill battle.  Perhaps the Web will provide more fun ways for students to learn… using services like Twitter and Internet cafes to encourage communication and talking about things which really interest kids.  Twitter has some nice channels such as LangForCareers and DoubleTranslate.

Internet for Modern Languages, from the Virtual Training Suite, offers all sorts of quality online resources for educators or students, to help them learn languages and have more fun.  Check it out.  Or see our related tutorials on Linguistics and American Studies.

Want to find good resources on Russia and Soviet Studies? See our recent article on this published by the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies.  It’s in the Spring 2011 issue.

Are these the journal articles you’re looking for?

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Getting to journals and journal articles is still more difficult than it should be – how are online services trying to help students and academics get to the latest research?

Journal Stacks (Serials)

TechCrunch reports that has launched a directory of 12,500 academic journals as part of their website. The idea seems to be that by using your social network of connections, recommended readings will come to you, rather than having to seek them out yourself.

The journal directory has a simple keyword search interface and you can also browse by topics – such as history, economics or chemistry. Titles are not ranked according to their impact factors, perceived authority or other qualitative measures, but according to how many followers they have amongst the community.

This is certainly a competitive area with a number of other key services working on this and other journal related issues – some favourites services of mine are:

JournalTOCs a free and searchable collection of scholarly journal Tables of Contents (TOCs). It contains TOCs for nearly 15000 journals collected from over 600 publishers. By registering, users can get email alerts about new TOCs and save their list of TOCs online.

The Directory of Open Access Journals covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals, across all subjects and languages. Almost 6000 journals are listed in the directory and nearly 2500 journals are searchable at article level, providing access to close to half a million articles.

Jurn is a curated academic search-engine, indexing 3,692 free ejournals in the arts and humanities. It includes “online academic or art-world/literary publications displaying i) clear editorial control and ii) offering at least some substantial free content.”

The key issue that these services are trying to address is solving the conundrum of getting academics and students to relevant individual articles when they are spread all over the Web, as in the case of Open Access titles or behind the paywalls of a myriad of commercial publishers.

It’s a subject that we address in all of our Virtual Training Suite tutorials:

However, it’s clearly an evolving area and it will be interesting to see whether can succeed in using these social networks to help students and academics find their way through the journal article maze.

Picture credit: Dentistry Library: Journals stacks (serials) from rosefirerising on Flickr.

When did search become research?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Typing a few keywords into Google isn’t research, yet the words search and research are often bandied about as though they were interchangeable – but is this a new problem? Surprisingly, no.

The notion that the word research is used when we really mean search, is a topic that I’ve meant to look into for quite a while. It’s something that I feel a tad guilty about, after all we use the tagline – Developing Internet research skills – for the Virtual Training Suite.

I set out to do a bit of preliminary Internet searching expecting to be swamped by news stories chastising students for being too reliant on Google or Wikipedia and opinion pieces saying that the Internet is making us stupid or enhancing our brains in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Instead, I was drawn to an article on PubMed Central from the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association – When does search become research? by Edith Dernehl, read at the 43d Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association at Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 29 … in 1941.

She starts by neatly outlining the problem, in terms that ring true nearly 70 years later.

“Research has as its object the exploration of uncharted fields, while search leads only into domains previously explored. We all know that many a search wrongly assumes the name of research, when the work reported has hardly shown evidence of even a thorough survey of a subject, and has no trace of the original thought so essential to any project dignified by the name research.”

But the student or academic should be just as careful as the commentator in their choice of words to describe their work.

“No matter in what field he chooses to work, he must bring originality of thought or of approach to the task. Without these attributes or without new truth, his work can at best be called a library search and should never be classed as research work.”

However, the librarian must treat the searcher and researcher equally.

“One of the qualities most necessary for a librarian, therefore, is vision; she must show judgment, guided by imagination, in her decisions, and she must cultivate an understanding for the needs of the searcher and the researcher alike.”

She concludes by saying that:

“A search will often be rewarded with useful information; if not, then even a small problem, solved by a live intelligence, may well be called a bit of research well done.”

Suitably chastised that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, I’ve discovered that search became conflated with research at least as far back as 1941 and probably a lot earlier! And perhaps I won’t feel so bad about saying research when I mean search – as it’s clearly not something that has come about purely since the invention of the Internet.