Cascading day

I recently attended a cascading day in our team at the end of May, which consisted of presentations and some discussion with the intention of passing on our pearls of wisdom to each other!

The first session was on International students. At this university one in 9 students is international and they pay more than twice the tuition fees of a ‘home’ student. For this reason, the university has a duty of care and an ‘enhanced duty of care’ to its international students. “C” went on to talk about guidance tutoring, the Chinese learning environment, and good practice.

What I learnt from this is that all of us who work in the university library have an obligation to make a special effort, be sensitive and responsive to any language difficulties and be patient and give additional support if their IT skills are not so good.

The next session was mine on ‘Diagnostic testing’. My presentation was a tad short at just under 15 minutes, but this ensured I held the attention of those listening! This covered the reason why we use it; what it is and some examples of good questioning technique. What I did learn from the ensuing discussion was that PDPs (Personal Development Portfolios) are political: the institution may consider them a useful indicator of a student’s development; whereas the student themselves may have other ideas!

A session on ‘Delivering Library Inductions via Streaming Media’ followed. I was a bit jealous of the presentation slides as I thought the template was better than the one I used! I learnt quite a lot from this session as the topic was new to me. “S” talked about what streaming video is and gave an example of A case study was presented: CAETE at the University of Colorado where lectures are recorded for distance learning students using Tegrity software (which apparently, is similar to Microsoft Producer).

The methodology was to choose two different courses for delivering a pilot library induction for Engineering and for Telecommunications students. The satisfaction responses indicate that the results were the same for ‘live’ induction and for streaming video sessions. There are both advantages and disadvantages of both systems, but video streaming is something our team could consider to supplement our face to face induction sessions.

The next session started with a summary of ‘what is a normal student’? This opened up my eyes to what definitions fit the concept of diversity, the most obvious of which are international, disabled, single parent, but the definition was a lot wider than this. “J” asked each one of us to talk about our school/college/employment experience/professional development/major life events – presumably to illustrate how different we all are. I didn’t get so much out of this session other than to have a nosey into people’s lives!

By this time (phew) you must be exhausted by reading all this, we had a very welcome interlude, a welcoming lunch and a short trip outside into the sunshine.

The afternoon kicked off with a session on ‘E-learning programmes – designing and evaluating.’ I was a little sleepy after lunch, but it was a useful session which consolidated what I already knew on e-learning.

The most uplifting and dynamic session of the day was the penultimate one on ‘Interactive Whiteboards.’ I was impressed by the demonstration as I’m not as offay with the technology as the presenter was! I can see how our inductions can sometimes be a bit dry and static and how this technology could make our induction sessions more interactive and fun for our students. For example, the traditional problems of whiteboard demonstration ensued, when volunteers started to spell words incorrectly and when some hand-writing looked like that of a three year old!

The last session was a photo presentation of different examples of interactive technology for collaborative learning at two different universities in the West Midlands. This was quite interesting to see how other university libraries address this need for collaborative learning and some lively discussion came out of this.

All in all, a useful day’s training but somewhat exhausting. Lots of food for thought to take away with us. The sessions I got the most out of were the ones on streaming media and interactive whiteboards as these introduced me to technologies I was not so familiar with. But I could see how both could be used to make induction sessions more dynamic and engaging for students and hopefully create an atmosphere in which students want to learn about what the library has to offer!

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