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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?

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