Doing it for ourselves: a collaborative approach to building digital literacy tools and skills

Jemima McDonald and Sophie Herbert, University of Technology Sydney

Concurrent session 3
Tuesday 14 February 2017, 10:30am - 10:55am

Abstract

In March 2016 UTS Library launched a series of online learning modules called HeadsUp, which was the culmination of a year of intensive work by librarians in the Information Services Department in collaboration with support and academic staff in the university. HeadsUp is a series of nine modules which are made up of short animations, screencasts and quizzes intended for students’ individual learning, as well as a tool academics can use for students’ formative learning. They cover a variety of academic literacies and study skills relevant to first year students. Rather than hiring someone external to make these modules, we decided to take a more ambitious DIY approach.

The need for such a resource has been driven by external and internal factors. Externally, there has been a continuing increase in student numbers following the Federal Government’s removal of the cap on student enrolments in 2009 (James 2014). This has meant that demand for our information literacy services increased to levels that are stretching our capacity to provide them in the traditional way of face to face teaching. Internally, the University’s learning.futures strategy has revolutionised learning and teaching on campus. Academic staff are using more flipped learning techniques, including the use of videos for pre-class learning. The videos in HeadsUp are being used for this purpose by both librarians and academics.

The project was a multi-layered and multi-stranded exercise in collaboration, both within the Library and across the University. Some of the modules cover areas that aren’t traditionally part of the UTS Library staff expertise so we tapped into the expertise of staff in related units on campus and kept development in house to build staff capacity. It also allow us the flexibility to make adjustments down the track as needed. Staff from the academic literacy unit (HELPS) and learning technologists from the Institute for Multimedia Learning (IML) were consulted, and advised us at key phases in the project. They also provided training in using the animation software Explain Everything, which they are teaching academic staff to use as part of the university’s learning.futures strategy. The animations were made using simple animation techniques to create a unique visual look and feel. An academic staff member collaborated with us to develop the group work video and we employed both current and recent graduate students from the UTS School of Digital Information Management to create videos and film the introductory “What’s in it for me” videos for each module.

On an internal level, the whole of the Information Services Department was involved in the project. Everyone made a contribution. We used backwards design to ensure the best learning outcomes for our students as well as ensuring everyone had a shared understanding and worked towards a common goal. We collectively critiqued each other’s work throughout the scripting and video making process, with the overarching intention of making short, high quality educational materials that communicated in a simple straightforward way, with minimal library jargon. In doing so, the collective expertise of the department was leveraged and we were able to develop a new set of core digital literacy skills in our staff.

We achieved our deadline of the start of Orientation 2016. Academic staff have been embedding both modules and individual videos into the university’s Learning Management System. The benefits of the modules have been recognised and praised across the university with staff in related student support units incorporating them into their services.

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