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Tuesday 13 October 2009

Here, there and virtually everywhere

library services for distance learners
Anne Ferrier-Watson
abstract (pdf)

[Argh, network cut out in this room.]

History of Virtual Education Reference Desk (VERD)
1997 - BTeaching started distance services
2000 - need to streamline processes so VERD was created
2008(?) - Moodle has taken VERD to a new level

Philosophy to "give students the fishing line, not the fish"
Over 3000 education students are enrolled in online papers

1.75 EFTS supporting VERD. Busier at some times than others.

Asynchronous service - answering Monday to Friday. Many questions asked have been answered before so they've got an ongoing work in progress of making previous answers easy to find

5 sections:
  • Request items or information (can fill out a webmail form or ask for help on forums - 7500 views in the last 12 months)
  • Library FAQs (started as answers to easy common queries; now starting to use it for standard answers for more complex questions too)
  • Help with APA referencing ("our favourite section" - laughter - 2500 views in semester B - a few pdf guides and a link to the forums too)
  • Catalogue guides (not high use - many just use it for the link to the library catalogue; starting to think of putting in video tutorials)
  • Guide to finding journal articles (high use - includes videos for using ebsco, proquest, indexNZ; also pdf guides to various databases)

Jing screen capture software - easy to use, free-as-in-beer but not open source.

Feedback from students includes:
"The video instruction is fantastic too as I find it easier to do something if I see it in action."
"now if I forget a step I can use [the online tutorials] to find the right path again"
"you are like the referencing angel"

Can look at individual activity reports so when someone asks a question you can see where they've already looked for help.

Can look at overall activity reports to give an idea of where most activity is happening and most work is best spent.

Q: What's providing the format?
A: Working around the Moodle format. Not actually a fan about the format but it's the best they can do.
Suggestion: Worked with McGovern to create which can be put on your own website. (Me: ? Not sure whether she meant the whole manyanswers service or the platform to support your own FAQ.)

Q: Forums available to all students or just distance?
A: Available to those enrolled in those papers.

Q: Are guides available on public site or just private forums?
A: Some static guides (not interactive) are available on the public website. Looking at redeveloping some of this too.

Q: re answering repeat questions
A: Some refer back to previous answers, some move them into FAQs and refer there.