The Teaching and Learning Institute is gathering short case studies of academic practice to enable colleagues to share their approaches to teaching and learning more widely and encourage interdisciplinary and inter-professional learning. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning.
In this case study, Kate McGuinn and Penelope Dunn, subject librarians from Computing and Library Services, write about their evaluation of MyReading, a reading list system developed in-house by the Library Systems Manager Dave Pattern.
In 2015, we decided to evaluate the University’s reading list system MyReading. Following a ruling in 2014 by the University Quality and Standards Advisory Group, it is now the only medium by which lecturers are to make their reading lists available to students. It fully integrates library resources into the reading lists so students can click straight through to an item (for online resources) or the Summon record for hard copy items. It also links into the student record system so that library staff can easily see how many students will require the items on the lists and purchase books accordingly. All academic modules are required to have a reading list in the MyReading system. Not only is it a central resource for all students looking for core readings and resources, it is also the tool the library uses to inform purchasing and collection development.
An evaluation of MyReading was part of the project plan and the MyReading Project Group decided to launch a student survey in 2015, 4 years after the launch of the project. The aims of the survey were to find out:
- the level of usage of MyReading in the different Schools of the University
- what students think of it
- what they would like to see change to identify next steps for development
We also wanted to evaluate a recent marketing campaign aimed at students so we asked questions to ascertain the visibility of this. Launching a survey at this time meant we could make use of Emily Davison’s (the current marketing placement student working in the library) expertise in survey design.
Using data to target areas for enhancing student awareness and engagement
In terms of student engagement with MyReading by School, we found that while students in most Schools were making good use of MyReading in general, usage in two Schools was disappointing. This knowledge is helping us to target our efforts to increase student awareness of the benefits of MyReading. The analysis of two open questions about what students like and don’t like about MyReading was particularly revealing. Two findings from this analysis were that students find MyReading very useful as a starting point for research but that many find their reading lists difficult to use, either because they are too long, too short, unhelpfully structured or out of date. Many students also highlighted positive practice in their responses to questions, praising reading lists which used section headings, annotations and a variety of different relevance levels (e.g. Essential, Recommended or Background).
There were some practical challenges which we had to deal with. We initially decided to put the survey on the Qualtrics survey platform which appeared to give unlimited free usage. When we reached 250 responses however, we received a message from Qualtrics saying that we would have to pay for their “Business” subscription if we wanted to access any more responses. Thanks to the quick thinking and action of our marketing placement student, the survey was quickly transferred to Google Docs where we continued to gather responses which finally totaled 772. The offer of being entered into a prize draw to win Amazon vouchers probably contributed to the good response achieved.
What the students think about MyReading
Below are some comments which represent some of the themes which arose from analysis of the open questions we asked. Each of these examples was echoed many times by other students.
“All the relevant texts are in one place for seminars and there are also secondary resources and resources for further research which are a good starting point for assignments.”
“Fabulous starting point provided by people who have done wide ranging preliminary research.”
“It gives you a good starting point for your research and helps you with the key theories and knowledge.”
Suggestions for improvement
A high number of these comments focused on consistency of use and organisation of lists:
“Make sure ALL course / module leaders use them. I have 2 modules this year that have no information listed. I understand that the readings for these modules are very broad but it would be helpful to have some key readings provided.”
“Some lecturers use this facility better than others. Some not at all. You could ensure each module has a comprehensive list instead of it being hit and miss depending on the individual lecturer.”
“Probably using more headings and adding a little description about the book on the page. Having tutors write a small summary of what we will be using a particular item for would be really useful for organisation.”
Many comments also highlighted the need for lecturers to update their lists regularly:
“Some of the books on the reading list seem to be either a bit dated, or standard texts. There is nothing specific and directed for certain lectures or areas of interest. They should be regularly maintained.”
For a lot of students, the issue is simply that their lists are felt to be too long which makes it hard to get started with reading:
“They are too long so it’s hard to know where to start. Overwhelming.”
“Some reading lists can be a bit overwhelming when they are not grouped into concise parts. I wouldn’t be expecting them to be handpicked for every lecture / assignment, but a few sub-groups would make them a little more user-friendly.”
It became clear to us when we analysed the data from the student survey that one way of increasing student engagement and satisfaction with MyReading was to ensure the engagement of teaching staff. The MyReading project group has therefore put together an action plan for promoting MyReading to staff and students. We are currently working through our objectives including creating animations and videos to promote good practice to lecturers, enhancing the training materials available to lecturers on the iPark (University of Huddersfield Teaching and Learning Innovation Park)
We are also organising dedicated MyReading Learning Bytes sessions (a series of informal one-hour lunchtime staff development sessions for all staff).
In addition, a Reading Lists and Collection Development Librarian has now been appointed to work in the Business School. The post is funded by the Business School and will run until October 2016. The librarian, Laura Williams, has already made significant progress in raising the standard of reading lists in the Business School and promoting best practice across the School. In addition, many of the resources she has created can be adapted for use with other Schools.
A few of the developments to MyReading which were suggested by students have already been implemented and the others are currently being considered for implementation by the MyReading project group.
To find out more about MyReading please see the latest conference presentations:
- Sharman, A. (2015) What students really think of their reading lists: reading list software at the University of Huddersfield. In: UKSG Forum, 18 November 2015, London. (Unpublished)
- Sharman, A., and McGuinn, K. (2015) Take your degree to the next level: marketing MyReading at the University of Huddersfield. In: CILIP Publicity and Public Relations Group Annual Conference, 13 November 2015, Birmingham. (Unpublished)
- McGuinn, K. (2015) “A great product sells itself”, or does it? Marketing MyReading at the University of Huddersfield. In: Northern Collaboration Learning Exchange: Strategic Marketing, 23 January 2015, University of Sunderland. (Unpublished)
You’ll find more articles and presentations about MyReading in the University of Huddersfield Repository
Posted by Kathrine Jensen, Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute. The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter