Students look to Study Direct (SyD) for the resources they need for their learning on a week-by-week basis so changes were made to Study Direct to enable weekly sections of online (Aspire) reading lists to be integrated into SyD. RUSTLE has been asking some academics who have been using the new functionality to share their experiences.
Easy integration of online reading lists in Study Direct
Joe Tidd and Bex Hewett (Business and Management) both commented on how easy the reading list / Study Direct integration is to use. You can see the few steps involved in adding part of a reading list to a SyD site in this short video by Paolo Oprandi (ITS). Bex found it ‘very straightforward’ as she had structured her reading list around core texts and weeks so it related easily to her SyD site which is also arranged around weeks. As Joe observed, it is ‘very easy to embed sections of Aspire reading lists in Study Direct’.
Improving student engagement with reading
Keith Wilson (Philosophy) and Hilary Kalmbach (History) see the section-by-section integration as a way of increasing students’ engagement with the reading list and thereby the reading.
Last year most of Keith’s students ‘were using Study Direct but not looking at the Aspire reading list’. That was partly because the link to the whole reading list at the bottom of the site is not very obvious but this year Keith ‘structured the reading list by week of the course [and] within that indicated which are essential, recommended and optional readings’.
Keeping all the resources for a given topic in one place makes good sense and Hilary thinks that ‘students are more likely to be interacting with Aspire reading lists now that there is the option to insert them into Study Direct by week’.
Feedback from students
Rebecca Webb (Education) received very positive feedback from students about how much easier the new system is to use, but the best feedback she has received is that students have been doing the reading. As well as making it more straightforward to navigate what was a priority students reported that ‘they found it easier to communicate with the library about readings because they were all talking from the same page’.
Joe has also had good feedback from students about the easy access to reading via Study Direct which he attributes in part to the fact that he teaches at masters level where students read more journal articles which in the past may have been harder to find.
Bex has had a few questions from students about where to find readings and Hilary has found that in order to get the most from integrating reading lists into Study Direct she has had to show her second and third year students ‘how to find it and how to use it’. She has provided extra instruction in response to student questions and feels that ‘it is important to show students how to use it and show them more than once’.
The online reading list system
As well as the advantages of the new integration with Study Direct, colleagues were keen to talk about the library’s online reading list system more generally and how it has changed the ways that they work with their lists.
Tutors like using the system because it allows the library to identify the materials that are needed, check that they have enough copies, purchase extras where appropriate and/or make digital copies available (this web page explains how the library works with reading lists).
Keith points out that ‘Aspire also has lots of features that are useful for students, such as marking which texts they have read and adding their own comments’, so he also encourages them to engage with the full reading list by including a link in a block at the side of his site. He hopes that one day the full functionality of the reading lists will be available via the quick links from within Study Direct.
Some colleagues are a little apprehensive that providing clickable links to readings is making it too easy for students and risks failing to develop their research and library skills. On the other hand, removing obstacles to finding readings for increasingly time-poor students has the potential to increase the amount of reading that they can do. This seems to be an area of concern and the Study Direct team are keen to work with academics to try to develop approaches to providing resources that continue to stretch and empower students. If you would like to be involved then Carol Shergold (Head of Learning Systems) would be happy to hear from you.
The online reading list system isn’t just about reading though, Rebecca is impressed by the ‘absolutely wonderful’ breadth of materials that can be included in a reading list, going far beyond books and journals held by the library to include items such as videos, online articles, websites, images etc.
The resources are all added using a bookmarking tool, which Bex says she found ‘very intuitive’ because she uses Zotero referencing software for her own research and ‘it’s the same principle – I just have to remember to click a different button’.
Initially, setting up a new reading list takes a bit of time, but Rebecca says that ‘in the long run it saves such a lot of time’ and Keith sees it as a one-off time investment that the students benefit from ‘and hopefully will encourage them to do more reading as a result’.
Starting to use the online reading list system
If you haven’t used the online reading list system before there is plenty of support available to get you started. Rebecca described the one-to-one support she received as ‘absolutely fantastic’. A member of the Library Learning & Teaching Support team met her in her office and took her through the process step-by-step which she says gave her confidence. In addition to one-to-one sessions, the team can arrange training sessions for small or large groups, as well as being available for advice and support via phone and email and there are How-To sheets and YouTube videos (for details see the Reading Lists Support web page).
In the Spring term the Teaching & Learning Support team will be running a Getting started with your Online Reading Lists workshop for colleagues new to the system. There are three dates to choose from:
- Wednesday 5th February, 14.00-15.00
- Wednesday 26th February, 13.00-14.00
- Wednesday 19th March, 13.00-14.00
The workshop consists of an introduction to the University’s Online Reading Lists system, demonstrating how to get started and add items into the system. This will be followed by a practical session where you will be able to have a go at managing an online list. Staff can book a place on one of the workshops via Sussex Direct.