March 17, 2007

Article comments – Blended learning (and marketing)

Writing about web page

I have just read the March Update article on Blended Learning:

Developing the Best Blend? from Blended e-learning to Blended Learning, by Barbara Allen.

Blended Learning is an area that fits well into the scheme of things at Warwick at the moment with the up-coming library remodel, the successful development of the Learning Grid and Biomed Grid over the last few years and the recent launch of a new library web site. Warwick seems to be currently and continually looking at ways to incorporate new and innovative teaching and learning methods into library space and provision. (Also see my earlier entry on podcasting) And so I began to read the article with much interest in how it may relate to my present post and to the way the Library is developing at the moment.

The article reflects on the recently published report by the Higher Education Academy entitled The Undergraduate Experience of Blended E-learning: a Review of UK Literature and Practice.  Staff at Oxford Brookes considered over 300 studies on blended e-learning to produce the paper. This sounds, on first hearing, like a fairly inclusive study, blended learning hasn't been such a big concept until about 5 years ago and so we might expect there is not a vast body of literature out there to review.

However, Allen points out that the report is focused on the work of academics and there is not a single use of the word "librarian" throughout, despite a large amount of published work on the subject from the LIS sector.  

The rest of Allen's article goes on to discuss what is meant by, and involved in, blended learning and how students are largely overlooking many electronic provisions via Libraries and are preferring their own methods of study and communication, including the use of email, blogs, wikis, ipods, mobile phones etc. She suggests that perhaps Libraries should be focusing on tapping into the technology students choose to use outside of the educational framework and exploiting it, rather than trying to persuade students to use the methods that are generally provided - VLEs.

I began reading the article out of interest in blended learning, but what stuck in my mind as I read, and for a long time after I had finished, was the fact that LIS studies were not included in the report and it did not look at the role of the librarian (possibly not even the library, although that is not clear from Allen's article).

I obviously don't have to tell anyone that the image of libraries leaves a lot to be desired and that the general public (including most HE students) seem to think that librarians stamp books all day. It is upsetting to consider that the HEA did not appear to include Libraries and LIS publications in a piece of work on an area to which we are so integral. 

The article left me thinking more about image and marketing than blended learning and so I was interested to read the following article in the same issue of Update:

Selling the Benefits of Your Service by Fi Emberton (not available online).

This article looks a lot at how to sell your services to the people a library may rely on for funding (Vice chancellors, council executives, heads of companies). And also on how to sell them to service users, (parents, students, teaching staff).

It occurs to me from reading Allen's article that perhaps marketing needs to reach much much further than these 2 groups. I suppose my question is this - why are libraries overlooked when large pieces of library-relevant research are carried out by bodies who should be very much aware of the value of libraries? And which group/s of people could be targeted to address this lack of attention?

Allen suggests making library-relevant work available via more main-stream channels, rather than keeping within LIS publications. I think she has a good point and one that can potentially be applied to other issues of raising library profiles.

I am very naive about Library marketing and I have no idea how many academic libraries advertise within the academic departments they support, how many target new academic staff to increase departmental awareness and how many give lectures or provide workshop/induction-type sessions run by librarians in departmental buildings, rather than within the library - (these are things that Warwick is currently doing). And I really don't know how many work further afield, promotion to non-academic staff, prospective students, local communities, research organisations, professional bodies and so on (I don't know if Warwick do these things). But I would be very interested to find out and to get involved in taking the library out to people rather than waiting for them to come to us. 

  • Is anyone involved in library marketing?
  • Have you found any particular methods of promotion to be especially useful?
  • Any other thoughts?

- 6 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Jenny Delasalle

    Hi Katharine,

    I’ve worked at many different libraries, met lots of librarians and read lots of issues of Update. I can say that just about all academic libraries advertise within the academic departments they support, target new academic staff to increase departmental awareness and give lectures or provide workshop/induction-type sessions run by librarians in departmental buildings – amongst other things.

    However, in most libraries I would say that such activity is patchy, as it is at Warwick. The promotion of the library within departments is done by the subject librarians and they all do it differently. This is partly because the needs of the departments and the ways of engaging each department will be different. I don’t think that all of this difference is due to the departments being different: some of it is, but at least some of it is due to the library needing to co-ordinate its marketing strategy and activities better. Marketing activities need to be driven by a strategy that all subject librarians have a stake in. They need to be measured and re-assessed in a co-ordinated way. This requires good communication between management and subject librarians and a strong driving force.

    19 Mar 2007, 09:46

  2. Robert O'Toole

    are preferring their own methods of study and communication

    That’s a fascinating issue. We (eLab E-learning Advisor Team) have worked with a much broader definition of “blended” than is common. For us, student selected and owned systems (hardware, software and web services) are just as important in the mix as those provided by the University. The important thing is that we allow and support all of these systems being integrated and used together. We have to remember that students are only at the University for a short period of time. They arrive with their own “systems” (and a wide network of friends beyond the Warwick) and when they leave, they don’t want to suddenly lose access to something that they have invested time in.

    Last week I saw a great example of this kind of behaviour. In a live online conference with some students in SA, Warwick students were using their own laptops and web cams, getting resources from Face Book and My Space, and collaborating in their own ways. That kind of independence and digital nativeness is after all what we are aiming for.

    Brookes is an interesting case. I know that they are split between a faction that is not really interested in anything other than their Web CT system (which is not really popular) and a faction who are very much open to social software, supporting student independence and creativity, and digital nativeness. Perhaps their new research project on the “e-learning underworld” of student owned systems is an attempt to negotiate between these factions? Personally, i’m amazed that they consider it to be the “underworld”!

    Where does the library stand on this issue?

    19 Mar 2007, 10:56

  3. Suzanne

    We’ve tried several marketing ideas in the library that I work in:

    We run a monthly book review competition that we advertise with colourful posters around the college.

    We use the foyer plasma screen to run presentations if we have special events.

    We have a noticeboard of new books, with scanned covers in colour and reviews.

    We send a Staff Welcome Pack to all new members of teaching staff, telling them about the library facilities, Athens, how to order, how to manage their borrower accounts and so on. Many new staff come into the library to introduce themselves as a result of these packs.

    We use the VLE and staff intranet for virtual tours of Athens, and to distribute information about new stock, and have recently set up a virtual photo gallery for our local history.

    I’ve worked here for 3 years now, and unfortunately I’ve learned that no matter how much you do in the way of marketing, you can always do more and do it better. I’m worried that our profession depends on it, if we are to remain relevant. It’s something that we are trying to address by attending even more training courses, and something I think that is incredibly important for those working in library services because it tends not to be taught on LIS courses. Promotion of workshops is also an excellent way of proving your worth to teaching colleagues, and illustrating to staff and students that we do much more than sitting behind a desk stamping books!

    19 Mar 2007, 14:07

  4. Katharine Widdows

    Thanks Jen,
    I agree that our marketing of services to academic departments is patchy. And I do think that in general our profession depends on us developing more marketing skills to enable us to show what services we offer and make it widely known that we do much more than most people would currently believe.
    I have added marketing to my PPDP and plan to look into it a bit, I think it is going to become more and more important in a fairly short time scale.

    28 Mar 2007, 19:07

  5. Katharine Widdows

    Hi Robert,
    Thanks very much for your comments. As for where the library stands on blended learning I really cant pass official comment! It does seem to me that we are broadening our range of facilities and resources and looking into new possibilities all the time – I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the Head Librarian was at the podcasting workshop!

    I had a quick look at the details of the online conference you mentioned and what I found very promising was that even though the equipment you had planned to use was not available there were other paths of communication open that the students were happy to utilise and which made the event sucessful in spite of not having the video conference facility. This is a strong statement to suggest that we should be looking at using different technologies that effectivly do the same thing, or enable the same activity, because they can be used to replace each other if need be. And it is encouraging that the students were not put off by the change of format, they just used well known alternatives.

    As for research at Brookes, I am not well informed, but I will have a look at the study you mentioned if I can find any information, it sounds interesting.

    28 Mar 2007, 19:17

  6. Katharine Widdows

    Hi Suzanne,
    Thanks for your thoughts, I think a lot of the things you mention in the way of marketing are things we used to do when I worked for a college in Nottingham, I and I was glad to be reminded of them!
    I dont think we send anything to new staff at Warwick but we are now getting involved in the university New Staff Induction days, we are actually attending one tomorrow (I will be there on a stand) to speak to new staff and raise our profile a bit.
    Its something I am really interested in, and, as you point out, something that I feel is going to get more and more important to libraries and librarians as time passes and things become more electronic and users become more IT savvy.

    28 Mar 2007, 19:34

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