Wednesday 29 October 2008

Birds Eye View of Edge Hill University

Thanks to Narco for the tip to look at Live Maps - not something I'd ventured across before, and might even save us a few quid (we've just had a request to purchase some aerial photographs of the University).

This image shows the LRC (library) and how small it looks in comparison to our newest build, the Faculty of Health - kind of back a bit, SW and looking like a building site, which it was 2 years ago.

The most amazing thing about this image, is that it loooks very different to the college of higher education where I started my study almost 9 years ago! It's a very different place now, physically, organisationally and in terms of the size of student and staff, but still a very green, lush campus, and a great place to work.

Monday 27 October 2008

Creating Business Models

Edge Hill University and Blackwell entered into a unique and very interesting business agreement last September (2007).

The University had introduced a very innovative bursary scheme, which offers all full fee paying students a £200 return, to be spent only on learning support materials. (It won the 2006 Times Higher Award for Outstanding Financial Student Support Package)

During the first year of the scheme, Learning Services attempted to support the purchase of text books and stationery through the help desk, putting a significant amount of pressure on an already stretched service.

In January 2007, I started to look around for a solution that would ease the pressure on the service and offer a professional retail experience for our students. In thinking about this, and discussion with colleagues, we decided that we needed both a virtual/online presence, in addition to a physical/store presence.

At that point, there didn't seem to be an awful lot of choice of booksellers that offered a dual option. A chance conversation with Matt at Blackwell BBS led to a recommendation to speak to the retail and online arms of Blackwell, as they seemed more able to offer a solution.

A rapid succession of meetings followed, with the design of a unique business model taking place. Blackwell's Online and Retail divisions were at that stage very separate and it seemed at times to be a 3 way conversation rather than a 2 way supplier/customer relationship but it all worked out in the end.

From initial meeting to go live was a period of 6 pretty intense weeks, this involved designing the shop area (luckily we were refurbishing the foyer area at the time!) and designing a bespoke online bookshop area for Edge Hill students and staff.

Launched in September 2007 the shops were a roaring success, an evaluation in November led to very positive comments from students who enjoyed the flexibility of ordering from home, and having items delivered, or browsing the campus shop. Interestingly, there was a 50/50 split in online and shop sales, and quite some competition!

I've been meaning to put pen to paper for quite some time about our experience, and this does only just scrape the surface, but I've been thinking about it again recently as I'm involved in the inter-regional tender retail bookshop sub-group.(try saying that after a bevvy) The inter-regional tender brings together NOWAL (North West Academic Libraries), LUPC (London Universities Purchasing Consortium), SUPC (Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium), NEYAL (North East and Yorkshire Academic Libraries) and MUAL (Midlands Universities Academic Libraries). This group aims to use the purchasing power of all five consortia to gain better discounts and levels of service and deliver value for money.

The first meeting is tomorrow with representatives from Bournemouth, Bath, Newcastle and De Montford as well as Edge Hill. I'll post about progress (as much as I can).

Monday 20 October 2008

REaD - Reading, Engagement and Development

For a while now (a few years), I've been working on several projects based around reading/resource lists. Initially it was to consider how we do things at my place, and how we could improve the process from a staff point of view. That done, and a little more focussed, we changed the remit to look at the student experience of reading lists, and given the almighty call of 'not enough books on the library shelf' looked at ways we could improve their experience, in terms of search and retrieval, and access methods.

A lot of good work has been undertaken, a lot of relationships strengthened, and a whole new way of working has emerged. (It needed to, we couldn't go on the way we were).

The final phase of the project is to consider how we engage academic staff with reading lists, given that many take over a module/programme where reading lists are already in place, and they are quite often low down on the priority list for attention- especially if the one there does the job.

We are starting to deliver some CPD sessions this week to colleagues, giving opportunity for discussion around understanding of, and expectation of students and staff, strategies for consideration when developing a list and the technologies that are available to assist (or otherwise).

I'm really looking forward to it - Lindsey Martin, who is our E-Learning Strategy and Development Manager at Edge Hill University will be taking on the philosophical side of things, whilst I'll tackle the practical and organisational elements.

I reckon more work will come out of the discussions, an institutional proposal for 'Reading, Engagement and Development' is already on the cards so let's just see where this week takes us!

p.s. Thanks to Jackie Chelin for all her advice on 'Reading Strategies'. The work UWE has done has been instrumental in moving this project forward.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Writing a strategy for Web 2.0!

A Web 2.0 Strategy - is that a contradiction in terms..? I've been working on a project to remodel our departmental web pages over the last 9 months, due for launch in January. Recent conversations with colleagues have led to requests that the new web site is 'web 2.0'. I have a bit of an issue with this in a few ways.

1. The fact that it is a corporate higher education site means it is pretty much by default web 1.0.
2. When colleagues are talking about web 2.0, they are talking about discussion boards, which isn't in the real sense web 2.0.
3. Most colleagues who are asking for this, seem to be using the latest buzz word, and haven't engaged with web 2.0 at all, yet are hoping that we as a service can understand it, and engage users with it.
4. Some colleagues think it is about particular apps, for example, we should have a facebook policy - so what happens when facebook is bought out or starts charging, or changes dramatically.

Shouldn't it be about why we are using these apps, what they can do for the teaching and learning experience of our students, how we engage communities, how we get feedback, how we watch what is being said about us etc etc....

As yet we don't have a web 2.0 strategy - do you? I get the feeling that by the time we've shared the understanding of what web 2.0 is and written one, we'll be very much into web 3, in which case this may be a pointless exercise!

I'm going to be doing some benchmarking to see if anyone else has one (maybe as a part of the overall web strategy), that I can look over, but I'd be very interested in your views, and what you might be doing at 'your place', HE or otherwise.