All posts by Paul Ayres

Links of the week

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. with @Yahoo closing down @Delicious How to: Export, Import and Migrate Your Bookmarks… via @thenextweb
  2. Generations 2010 looking at Internet use across age groups from @pew_internet
  3. College Students on the Web (via @thesheep)
  4. Twitter for Business has tips for all organisations looking to get more from Twitter
  5. RT: @jiscdigital: New advice on Recording Audio Voiceovers for Teaching and Learning Materials
  6. RT @lesteph RT @alistairreid Blog fresh: Twitter and the problem with Big Numbers < excellent stuff on Twitter metrics
  7. Via @nprnews: Information Overload Is Not Unique To Digital Age (audio plus transcript)
  8. New ALISS social sciences website launched
  9. UCISA 2010 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK (via @gconole)
  10. Google Zetigeist 2010 reviews the year in search with HTML5 visual version

Are these the journal articles you’re looking for?

Getting to journals and journal articles is still more difficult than it should be – how are online services trying to help students and academics get to the latest research?

Journal Stacks (Serials)

TechCrunch reports that has launched a directory of 12,500 academic journals as part of their website. The idea seems to be that by using your social network of connections, recommended readings will come to you, rather than having to seek them out yourself.

The journal directory has a simple keyword search interface and you can also browse by topics – such as history, economics or chemistry. Titles are not ranked according to their impact factors, perceived authority or other qualitative measures, but according to how many followers they have amongst the community.

This is certainly a competitive area with a number of other key services working on this and other journal related issues – some favourites services of mine are:

JournalTOCs a free and searchable collection of scholarly journal Tables of Contents (TOCs). It contains TOCs for nearly 15000 journals collected from over 600 publishers. By registering, users can get email alerts about new TOCs and save their list of TOCs online.

The Directory of Open Access Journals covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals, across all subjects and languages. Almost 6000 journals are listed in the directory and nearly 2500 journals are searchable at article level, providing access to close to half a million articles.

Jurn is a curated academic search-engine, indexing 3,692 free ejournals in the arts and humanities. It includes “online academic or art-world/literary publications displaying i) clear editorial control and ii) offering at least some substantial free content.”

The key issue that these services are trying to address is solving the conundrum of getting academics and students to relevant individual articles when they are spread all over the Web, as in the case of Open Access titles or behind the paywalls of a myriad of commercial publishers.

It’s a subject that we address in all of our Virtual Training Suite tutorials:

However, it’s clearly an evolving area and it will be interesting to see whether can succeed in using these social networks to help students and academics find their way through the journal article maze.

Picture credit: Dentistry Library: Journals stacks (serials) from rosefirerising on Flickr.

Links of the week

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. RT @MakeUseOf Create Your Own Personal Learning Environment Using SymbalooEDU
  2. RT: @HEAcademy: We’ve launched a major new guidance report on student plagiarism today. Read the full report here.
  3. Why do students use Wikipedia? In their own words … from Project Information Literacy
  4. RT @resourceshelf Universities May be Failing to Sufficiently Teach Basic Research Skills
  5. When did search become research?
  6. Reading: Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”
  7. RT @universityboy How to read around a subject:
  8. RT @mashable Twitter Increases Student Engagement
  9. Students expectations of technology

When did search become research?

Typing a few keywords into Google isn’t research, yet the words search and research are often bandied about as though they were interchangeable – but is this a new problem? Surprisingly, no.

The notion that the word research is used when we really mean search, is a topic that I’ve meant to look into for quite a while. It’s something that I feel a tad guilty about, after all we use the tagline – Developing Internet research skills – for the Virtual Training Suite.

I set out to do a bit of preliminary Internet searching expecting to be swamped by news stories chastising students for being too reliant on Google or Wikipedia and opinion pieces saying that the Internet is making us stupid or enhancing our brains in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Instead, I was drawn to an article on PubMed Central from the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association – When does search become research? by Edith Dernehl, read at the 43d Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association at Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 29 … in 1941.

She starts by neatly outlining the problem, in terms that ring true nearly 70 years later.

“Research has as its object the exploration of uncharted fields, while search leads only into domains previously explored. We all know that many a search wrongly assumes the name of research, when the work reported has hardly shown evidence of even a thorough survey of a subject, and has no trace of the original thought so essential to any project dignified by the name research.”

But the student or academic should be just as careful as the commentator in their choice of words to describe their work.

“No matter in what field he chooses to work, he must bring originality of thought or of approach to the task. Without these attributes or without new truth, his work can at best be called a library search and should never be classed as research work.”

However, the librarian must treat the searcher and researcher equally.

“One of the qualities most necessary for a librarian, therefore, is vision; she must show judgment, guided by imagination, in her decisions, and she must cultivate an understanding for the needs of the searcher and the researcher alike.”

She concludes by saying that:

“A search will often be rewarded with useful information; if not, then even a small problem, solved by a live intelligence, may well be called a bit of research well done.”

Suitably chastised that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, I’ve discovered that search became conflated with research at least as far back as 1941 and probably a lot earlier! And perhaps I won’t feel so bad about saying research when I mean search – as it’s clearly not something that has come about purely since the invention of the Internet.

Students expectations of technology

Two recent studies looking at student attitudes to technology have found similar themes, despite being conducted on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2010 is the annual survey of US undergraduate students that looks at their ownership, use and perceptions of technology both inside and outside the classroom.

Student Perspectives on Technology – demand, perceptions and training needs is a report from the NUS undertaken as part of the HEFCE Online Learning Task Force. It took a more qualitative approach using consultation events, online discussions and an online survey of FE students.

So what did they discover …

Searching skills

Both studies show that students think that they are good online searchers.

88.6% agree that they were effective online researchers. (NUS / HEFCE)

Eight out of ten (81%) students considered themselves expert or very skilled in searching the Internet effectively and efficiently. (ECAR)

Information literacy training

However, both studies also reveal that students have concerns about how to use the information they find online for academic purposes.

There was a common request for more skills training, particularly around how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources in the NUS / HEFCE study.

Student ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of online information and understand ethical / legal issues was lower than their assessment of how effective they are in searching the Internet in the ECAR study.

Amount of technology used in teaching

Both studies show that students are cautious about the amount of technology used in teaching and prefer a blended approach of technological and traditional teaching methods.

The NUS / HEFCE study shows that students prefer a choice in how they learn and that opinions are fundamentally divided over e-learning. It was recognised that not every area of study needed e-learning and that is would be more effective if it was an option, not an obligation.

The ECAR study has consistently found that students only want a “moderate” amount of technology in their courses, although the definition of what a moderate amount is, is probably very different now than it was five years ago.

Other issues

Perhaps the most important findings to bear in mind, come at the end of the ECAR study which concludes that “many student technology adoption patterns are surprisingly stable,” but that “there is no stereotypical student when it comes to technology”.

Automatic attribution for images, audio and video

Xpert Attribution is a new tool from the University of Nottingham that can help you credit your sources when using images, audio and video.

Much attention has been focused on citation and plagiarism advice about the correct use of textual material, but it is increasingly important to do the same when working with other types of media.

The tool searches open media (images, sound and video) from Flickr and Wikimedia and aims to automatically attribute the appropriate license.

Find out more about how to find, evaluate and use images, audio and video in this series of Virtual Training Suite tutorials produced in partnership with JISC Digital Media.

Internet for audio resources
Internet for image searching
Internet for video & moving images

Links of the week

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. RT @jiscdigital Our 10th and final document in our latest series of advice is using multimedia in a PDF
  2. RT @AJCann: Literature review of the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education
  3. why not celebrate National Poetry day by finding out more about the Internet for English
  4. A Comment on Comments “…designing for social interaction is not just a matter of slapping comments on everything…”
  5. Despite Rumors, MIT OpenCourseWare Insists “No Paywall” via @RWW but costs $3.7 million a year to run
  6. Looking back on FOTE10
  7. RT: @mattlingard: Watching @daveowhite #altc2010 talk on online distance learning
  8. Learn the mechanics of blogging with WordPress at
  9. RT: @JSTOR: Searching For Better Research Habits. Teaching conceptual rather than technical approaches to search skills.
  10. academic video aggregator @uchannel to cease operation in Nov. enjoy the archive while you still can
  11. Good or bad language
  12. RT @jiscdigital Today sees the launch of the first of 10 new JISC Digital Media advice docs starting with an Introduction to e-Learning

Outstanding ICT initiative contenders

The shortlisted candidates for the Times Higher Education Awards 2010 have been unveiled for various categories including the Outstanding ICT Initiative that will be judged by JISC.

If you have not heard about all the six contenders, they are listed below with a few words on some of the innovative work that they have been doing.

Chemlabs logo

The University of Bristol ChemLabS is a CETL that also provides e-learning tools for chemistry and science subjects. They produce resources for individuals, schools and universities, via their LabSkills software and Dynamic Laboratory Manual.

iSpot logo

The Open University iSpot is a website aimed at helping anyone identify anything in nature. You can add an observation to the website and suggest an identification yourself or see if anyone else can identify it for you, as explained by Chris Packham.

Open Fields logo

The Harper Adams University College Open Fields site is an internet library designed “to meet practitioner and student demand for knowledge that supports and stimulates the development of land-based industries”.

The University of the West of England SHE (Simulations in Higher Education) initiative enables students to experience simulations of events and situations that are difficult or impossible to organise, before they put their skills into practice in the real world, by using Second Life.


The University of Ulster SLOODLE initiative is an Open Source project which integrates the multi-user virtual environment of Second Life with the Moodle learning-management system. It connects the two environments via chatrooms, quizzes, voting mechanisms, note writing tools and presentations.

Media Zoo screenshot

The University of Leicester Media Zoo is a research dissemination forum and a supportive, experimental environment for staff to understand the design of learning activities using learning technologies. It has physical, online and 3D manifestations, as well as someone with a very cool job title.

Good luck to all the nominated initiatives for awards night!

Links of the week

Here is a round-up of news items about information literacy, e-learning and the Virtual Training Suite as picked out by @VTStutorials on Twitter.

  1. RT: @timeshighered: World University Rankings #THEWUR results out now!
  2. Tweaching with Twitter
  3. RT @uhlr How Scholarly Is Google Scholar? A Comparison to Library Databases –
  4. Matterhorn – open-source platform to support the management of educational audio & video
  5. New website methods@manchester: research methods in the social sciences
  6. Education at a Glance 2010: OECD Indicators “Govt should expand tertiary study to boost jobs & tax revenue”
  7. If you need to do lots of link checking of websites, try this Firefox addon
  8. Search results in an Instant
  9. RT@aliss_info Recommended free library induction/ information literacy resources from ALISS
  10. Google Instant with Bob Dylan subterranean search results as you type
  11. hopes all delegates at #econnet will recommend the Internet for Economics to their students
  12. the @VTStutorials team was at the Economics Network e-learning symposium #econnet

Tweaching with Twitter

Last week the Virtual Training Suite team attended the Economics Network e-learning symposium.

Among a series of presentations on how economics lecturers were using technology, Paul Latreille of Swansea University spoke about “Tweaching for Economists“.

Paul emphasised the thought process that he had gone through before using Twitter in his teaching. Economics Network surveys have highlighted the absence of a shared responsibility in learning and a desire amongst students to have a more active role in their learning.

Paul was looking for a way of encouraging greater student engagement to produce learning via interaction, but it was important not to use a tool just for the sake of it – technology last, not first.

He recounted a number of ways in which Twitter can be used to enhance teaching:

  • By using course codes or a course based accounts you can Tweet interesting websites / readings to students.
  • You can contribute items of more than 140 characters in length by using TwitLonger.
  • Add pictures, images and graphs by using TwitPic.
  • Manage personal, professional or course based accounts in one place via HootSuite with the added bonus of being able to schedule Tweets e.g. reminders about assignment deadlines or lecture times.
  • As an alternative to PRS (Personal Response Systems) or clickers by using TwtPoll.
  • And he heard about all these possibilities, just by following people on Twitter.

Or to put it more formally, you could see some suggestions for Tweaching via this Framework for Teaching with Twitter (Rick Reo, adapted by Mark Sample).

Twitter is a difficult service to recommend within a Virtual Training Suite tutorial as students are often reluctant to engage with Social Media for educational purposes, but it is refreshing to see such innovation in teaching that encourages more active learning.

More top tips and links to websites are available by following @VTStutorials on Twitter.