Category Archives: Learning

August 7, 2014, 2:14 pm

Is your org changing? Two book recommendations (and some new directions at Virginia Tech)

This summer my library went through a strategic realignment. We had the convergence of numerous retirements and other departures that presented us with an opportunity to look across the entire organization and consider some adjustments.

The driving factor behind this effort was to better align the library with the University’s strategic directions. New priorities are emerging across campus and we needed to position ourselves to participate and partner more fully. And yes, I’m aware that’s admin-speak.

One theme we focused on was research. Previously we had two areas that shared this same word:

Research and Instruction Services
Research and Informatics

We decided to define our concept of research around activities such as data curation, scholarly communication, publishing services, repositories, and technology development. This is very different from the traditional…

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July 17, 2014, 2:36 pm

A Liaison for a Classroom Building? Curating a Learning ecosystem.

It is very common for librarians to serve as liaisons to academic departments. They teach classes, purchase materials, answer reference questions, assist with research endeavors, and generally get involved with the odds-and-ends of those units. Some librarians also liaise with defined user communities such as first-year students, international students, or students associated with particular residence halls.

This classic approach enables librarians to connect their expertise with different user segments that likely share similar needs, interests, or perspectives. In short, these librarians serve as the human interface of the library.

But things are changing. I think we are in the initial phase of the next evolutionary step of the librarian as liaison. I touched upon this in my last post about the shift from “knowledge service provider to collaborative partner.” ARL is also…

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June 5, 2014, 5:44 pm

IMPRINTEDNESS: shifting from a service to partnership mindset

I’ve been thinking about the phrase organizational imprinting a lot. The idea goes that organizations are formed around the economic, political, social, and technological realities of their time and that it is challenging to move on from the starting premise. It’s another way of saying “but we’ve always done it this way.”

This imprinting concept appears frequently in the retail literature: “the lens through which an organization views the world can be so badly obscured by its founding context that the organization becomes unable to change.”

Doug Stephens (consumer futurist) offers these examples:

  • Best Buy, founded in a world without the Internet, struggles today to find relevance now that online retail is ubiquitous and product selection has been redefined.
  • Blockbuster video was born during a time without streaming digital content, and became victim of web-based…

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April 9, 2014, 4:56 pm

NO CLASSROOMS, JUST EXPERIENCES: “free thinking” the future of higher ed

I’m serving on a “Student Experience Task Force”— which among other things is exploring the relationship between residence halls, classrooms, laboratories, dining facilities, student centers, libraries, gyms, and outdoor spaces across my campus—with an eye toward long-term strategies. This is a yearlong process.

Our first assignment was to “free think” one possibility twenty to thirty years from now. These ideas were not expected to be grounded in reality— but to intentionally be provocative, disruptive, or transformative.

a_desk_for_every_student

Virginia Tech: Burchard Hall. A desk for every student

Mine was to do away with classrooms. Instead of lecture halls I would give every student their own desk or workbench—similar to what you find in architecture departments. There is an amazing community that forms around…

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March 24, 2014, 3:31 pm

DATA ACROSS THE CURRICULUM: is personal data the key?

Jer_Tea

Jer Thorp talking with the Honors Residential Community @ Virginia Tech

Last week we hosted data artist Jer Thorp for several days. As part of our Distinguished Innovator in Residence Program (a partnership between University Libraries and TLOS with others contributing as well) we bring in creative thinkers to meet with students, brainstorm with faculty, give a public lecture, and essentially spark new conversations across campus. I highly recommend his Ted Talk.

I was fortunate to hear Jer speak four different times to diverse audiences. A theme that surfaced and resonated with us was the notion of Data Across the Curriculum, which is analogous to Writing Across the Curriculum. Our CIO added, “what if we had a common data set?” similar to the Common Book concept. Imagine the interdisciplinary possibilities …

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February 25, 2014, 1:39 pm

[DON’T] SAVE THE TIME OF THE READER: a disconnect between librarians and teaching faculty?

From time to time I receive faculty feedback that surprises me. There is a contrasting view that occasionally emerges around the notion that learning should be hard: specifically that the process of identifying and locating information sources should be difficult. I’ve encountered this everywhere I’ve worked. We’ve even been called out for making things “too easy for students.”

Our reference and instruction program exists for the purpose of helping people navigate resources and making it easier for them to do research. Our web tools, such as link-resolvers, subject guides, tutorials, and discovery-layers are intended to get people to the content they want as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. I mean, come on, “save the time of the reader” is baked into our DNA. Libraries exist to help make people’s lives easier/better.

Most of the librarians I know believe in…

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January 14, 2014, 7:45 pm

MIXED BAG: MOOCs, eBooks, Circa, and Bulldozers

Our spring semester begins next week. It’s always a shock to the system when the students return to campus. This is especially exaggerated in a small town like Blacksburg where they account for over half of the population.

I have several blog posts in the pipeline, but today I wanted to tie a few loose ends together.

MOOCs & NASA
There is a commentary in the Chronicle today about MOOCs. This sums it up:

 “Instead of 2014 being the year when talk of disruption in higher education ends, why not make it the year when pioneering ideas converge?”

The MOOC narrative has changed so rapidly. The Hype Cycle piece combined with Fast Company’s bubble bursting piece has taken us from 2013 being The Year of the MOOC to the death of the MOOC in twelve short months.

I’m very curious to see what happens next. This topic came up at a recent ASERL meeting and there were two…

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October 28, 2013, 3:36 pm

FLIP THE MODEL: Strategies for Creating and Delivering Value (a pre-print)

I’ve been eager to share this one. It was wrapped up in August and I’ve been sitting on it since the semester started. I recently got the “OK” from Elsevier and just put the final visuals together this weekend. There are a number of interesting stories in here– I’ll leave it at that:

flip_icon“Academic libraries are encountering a critical inflection point. In our case it isn’t a single technology that is disrupting our established system, but a barrage of advancements in publishing, pedagogy, and user preferences. The landscape is shifting around us, and the future of scholarship requires us to develop new skills, design new environments, and deliver new service capacities. In short, we need new operating models.” Read the pre-print.

This is the draft version that I submitted to the editors. The final (authoritative) copy will be out in January 2014 in the Journal of Academic…

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October 2, 2013, 5:26 pm

“I’ve been researching wrong this whole time” – instructional insight via Twitter

I enjoy seeing social media used in classrooms. We’re definitely in the next wave now with many faculty members expressing excitement about these tools. Several years ago the conversations I had were: “that’s interesting but it just doesn’t work for my needs” and today it is: “I want to foster more interaction and I think this app might work, what do you think?”

 

I recently stumbled upon a Twitter instance here at Virginia Tech via the College of Natural Resources and Environment. They integrated Twitter into their First-Year Experience program. Here is some documentation.

 

Obviously using hashtags in class isn’t a new practice. But beyond a course-wide tag they also use separate tags for individual topics or speakers. This enables the instructors to engage with the course during and after presentations. It also provides a direct channel for the presenters…

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August 21, 2013, 3:43 pm

Database vs. Database vs. Web-Scale Discovery Service: further thoughts on search failure (or: more clicks than necessary?) (or: info-pushers vs. pedagogical partners)

Yesterday’s post resonated with people. There seems to be a lot of focus on the importance of the “proper” way to do research—and the proper tools.  That’s how much of our current value is delivered so I completely understand the concern and passion.

Obviously the case I described is just one example and things may be different for you, but in this instance the interfaces we offer were not effective for simple keyword searching.

Here is an example. Forget about limiters, options, date ranges, licensing, access, etc. I know those are important and distinguishing features, but let’s leave those out of the conversation.  Right now I’m interested purely in keyword-based results. Let’s test some algorithms!

Let’s say you’re researching Woodstock and that you need to find articles from the New York Times that were published while the concert what happening. You…

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