Category Archives: Learning

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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August 20, 2013, 5:56 pm

The-3-Click-Dilemma: are library databases nearing the tipping point of obsolescence?

I had an interesting conversation with a faculty member last week that went something like this: “Brian, I want you to know that it’s getting harder for me to get students to use the library— especially the databases— anything beyond three clicks is just too many.”

 

In some disciplines this would not really shock me, but it was a historian. This is someone who is passionate about the library. This is someone who advocates for primary resources and through research. This is someone—who from what I can tell—is a very sophisticated database user.

 

If our super users are frustrated with database interfaces – what does that mean? Many of us spend a lot of time promoting library resources to students, but if faculty stop encouraging (or requiring) usage—what then?

 

The assignment is actually straightforward. Explore historical events by comparing coverage…

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August 6, 2013, 8:01 pm

Common Book vs. Common Problem: the future of creating common experiences

One of the things I enjoyed at UCSB was co-leading the common book program. That effort wasn’t just focused on freshmen, but was open to everyone. We worked really hard to embed the book and theme across many courses and disciplines. We also worked with the local community college and public library  –  striving for it to be a community-wide  / county-wide experience each year

 

I’ve been considering the program here at Virginia Tech and using some good lateral thinking, I’m wondering how might we try something different? Or: what does a common book program look like without a book?

 

When you look at the goals (build a sense of community, encourage intellectual engagement, stimulate critical thinking, connect to VT values) it seems possible to do this in other ways. The book is really just a starting point. It gives students and instructors a common framework, but …

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June 25, 2013, 2:56 pm

Haystacks vs. Algorithms: Is Scanning the Stacks for [Pretty] Books Really the Best Research Strategy?

One of my favorite courses during undergrad was Shakespeare. My professor had a performance-oriented approach but I recall writing a few essays and being amazed by the range of material in my library. Shelf after shelf held books about Shakespeare and other Elizabethan playwrights.

It was fun to flip through the pages and see what was contained. This was the mid-1990’s — the web was still emerging.

When I see faculty write about serendipity and the value of wandering the stacks I think back with nostalgia to that period in my life. It’s a very romantic idea—being surrounded by immense physical collections of knowledge.

Little did I know the university up the road had an even larger Shakespeare collection. Or that Folger even existed. My library contained just a thimble of information on this topic. If all I used were the materials in my library I could get a good grade…

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April 27, 2013, 5:55 pm

Are online public universities the new land-grant institution?

I see that Florida approved an online-only public university and that California is exploring faculty-free colleges that would award exam-based degrees. Combine this with the fact that the federal government is exploring different models for financial aid based on competency rather than the quantity of credit hours. And add in that accreditation bodies are warming up to more open learning models.

Question: Is this the new “land-grant” university?

If the federal government  will fund online universities (via financial aid for tuition and fees) and accreditation organizations recognize these degrees as equivalent to other state-operated higher ed schools—is this the land-grant for the 21st century? Is this the new environment that opens up affordable and diverse education to a larger audience? Is this a contemporary approach to acquiring and developing skills, insights, and…

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