Not only has the distance travelled by Learning Resources over the past 18 months been significant, the shift in direction of that travel, away from a jaded out-dated service delivery model towards a more efficient learner-focused level of engagement, is noteworthy. What was until recently a fractured service in terms of provision is now cohesive, bringing improved learner engagement and economies of scale. Strategic direction replaces what had been in the past reactive practices. Most importantly and perhaps where the most distance has been covered, is in the learner-focused approach underpinned by updated processes and procedures.
Developing a single, shared vision for a new Learning Resources is at the core of the rationale for the integration of Library, IT and Media services in 2008. All three departments were consistently recognised through external audit as effective and with a commitment to a student-centred service philosophy. However as the learning landscape continues to change rapidly, these traditional central support services need to constantly re-position themselves in order to remain effective, relevant and economical. Digital media, electronic information sources, social networking, handheld devices and mobile-phone technology, to name just a few examples, have blurred the edges around definitions of learning technology, information provision and infrastructure responsibility. This has a fundamental impact on staff roles within our College and more widely within the tertiary education sector. Learning Resources has had to, and must continue to react to change by reshaping its services to embrace new ways of working within a coherent, learner focused and flexible approach.
Since the appointment of the post of Assistant Director for Learning Development in January 2007 there has been a concerted effort to build a more flexible service by redesigning all jobs and teams to anticipate and respond to the changing needs of learners, the changing nature of information resources and the new strategic context. This new staffing structure, with a total of 67 posts, allows us to focus on some key areas of improvement. Over the past months and going forward over the next three years we will assist staff to make the transition to their new roles and to deliver on our strategic tasks. We will do this by fostering a project management approach ensuring clarity of objectives and achievement within agreed budgets and timescales. We will evaluate our performance more effectively using the learner voice and quantitative data collection methodologies. We will focus on service innovation and improvement.
The new staff structure established in January – May 2008, is intended to enable Learning Resources to take an institutional lead in such areas as: e-literacy; implementing the e-learning strategy; e-resource procurement; academic liaison, provision and maintenance of e-enabled classrooms and most crucially retaining a high-quality service delivery through three main Library/Learning Development Centres. Progress is being made in many of these areas.
There are three management functions (supported by 3 Learning Resource Managers) within the newly converged Learning Resources service: operations, systems and academic liaison. It is generally recognised within the sector that organizational cultural change may take some time to embed, however there is a transparent logic and common sense in the restructured service which ensures we are building on a solid base of experienced staff with huge enthusiasm and a will to move forward.
The Learning Resource Manager posts offer a strong leadership, which is set to make a significant contribution to a more strategic learner-focused effort. These LRMs currently are developing and will soon be working to a Learning Resources Strategic Plan underpinned by timed and costed projections of developments, management proposals and initiatives. A semi-formal project management rationale will be employed by managers to drive requirements forward from conception to implementation to final sign-off and evaluation. This approach moves some distance from the previous approach which was essentially reactive rather than strategic.
The opening of the Trinity Green building in September 2008 provides a state of the art Learning Development Centre. To keep pace, the reception and foyer areas of Grove and McMillan libraries have undergone major facelifts. The convergence of ICT open access facilities with traditional print-based library resources improved the offer to the learner considerably. Moreover the introduction of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) represents a £140k investment in libraries providing a cutting-edge self-service book loans system.
The strategic decision by the Assistant Director for Learning Development, to migrate from the WebCT Virtual Learning Environment to the open-source Moodle has been well executed and well received by staff. This process of migration, typically challenging in a College this size, can be seen as a significant step towards embedding e-learning across all curriculum areas. The migration process has seen over 70 training sessions run for staff resulting in, for example, many schemes of work being placed in the VLE. Two new posts have been created to give exclusive responsibility for VLE development to dedicated staff. Increasingly, with teaching staff empowered to develop their own learning materials, with support from learning resources, students are seeing more engaging and innovative content.
The College has committed funds to build a new, state-of-the art learning development centre by the end of 2011. The new learning development centre, part of the Phase Two Accommodation Strategy, will be designed to meet the needs of researchers and learners for the future and will incorporate the newest technologies in its construction. Learning resources staff are playing an increasingly important role in developing the vision for this new build and growing in confidence as they do so.
Over the next three years we will be designing and implementing a new technical architecture to underpin all of our activities. In this new electronic environment we aim to embed technology by making our services and resources available in a seamless fashion within research, teaching and learning workflows.
Focus on Research
The College is identifying existing and emerging concentrations of research excellence to focus effort and improve performance. There will also be a focus on achieving excellence in teaching because of the strong links between research and teaching outcomes. Over the next two years senior library staff will review and develop the resources and services needed to achieve excellence in research and teaching.
To deliver excellence in the provision of learning resources and services to learners, researchers and teachers, through the use of innovative technologies and the development of appropriate practices, which will improve teaching and learning, and foster a culture of high achievement.
The libraries, learning resources and associated infrastructures, are at the hub of the College. Knowledge is at the heart of learning. We believe that learner success depends on the creation and sharing of knowledge. We will provide the infrastructure to ensure learners, teachers and researchers can exploit knowledge effectively to enhance their goals. We value our learners and researchers and will listen to their voice. We value our staff and will develop their skills to ensure they are equipped to meet the needs of our learners. We value our community and seek to develop ethical and ecologically-aware services to enhance our environment.