USTLG Spring 1998 meeting – Using the web for teaching

DeMontfort University, Leicester


Linda Kerr EEVL
Philip Pearson University of Westminster
Cuna Ekmekcioglu University of Sheffield
Maureen Readle Bradford University

Report by Susan Glen

The Spring meeting of the Universities Science and Technology Librarians’ Group was held at De Montfort University, Leicester, on the theme Using the WWW for Teaching. Over 50 people attended.

The first speaker was Linda Kerr from the EEVL project. She outlined its background as a JISC funded project designed to improve access to the Internet for academic engineers, librarians and students. She has noticed that one use being made of EEVL is for Information Skills teaching as it allows browsing within a controlled set of sites. Some sites on EEVL, such as sites on motorbikes, had been added to interest students. She was considering attaching a guide to engineering information on the Internet to EEVL as a teaching resource. Linda also introduced EESE, the Engineering Ejournal Search Engine, a new service from EEVL which provides full text indexing of engineering e-journals using Harvest software. Future developments – EEVL is considering producing Harvest indexes for other groups of sites, implementing the Ei thesaurus to aid searching and increasing co-operation with other gateways.

Philip Pearson from the University of Westminster spoke about his experience in developing a numeracy package for a key skills module. He first outlined existing uses of CAL in the university. The Italian department used a web-based package where students fill in dialogue and receive feedback. It also uses e-mail to the tutor for fuller feedback. Some examples of this are available on the Italian department home page at Westminster. Other packages mentioned are only available on Westminster’s intranet. The biochemistry department used notes on web pages with links to useful graphic sites on the web and also has a quiz which is mailed to the tutor to check. Computer science had developed a C+ programming exercise which generated examples randomly so that students could practise on different examples. It was marked instantly. The skills developed in these programmes were being used to develop a key skills package available over the intranet. Ideally a numeracy package would be able to test someone to find out their level, then give exercises, tutorials, examples and quizzes until the person was ready for a final test. They were still in the process of deciding whether to develop all the packages needed for the module in-house, which would allow consistency, or to buy some in. They were considering CALMAT and SATMATH though the latter had some cultural problems, for example, using dollars. Philip felt that a self-learning package had a lot to offer in the area of numeracy as it was something that students felt embarrassed to ask about.

Cuna Ekmekcioglu from Sheffield University then spoke about using the web to deliver teaching for an Information Skills module for Sheffield graduate school. All graduate students have to obtain 30 credits in research skills courses – the LIS module is one way they can earn some credits. Cuna is employed mainly to do graduate teaching. Initially, students have to attend a one day introduction which teaches them e-mail, web, basic word processing etc. – this may be varied if the students already have good IT skills. There is assessed work at the end of the module – students have to carry out a literature search on their subject and produce a report explaining why they used particular sources, what their search strategy was, etc. Once students had attended the initial day, classes were not compulsory. They could use tutorials on the web to complete the course. The pages are basically text giving links to examples and relevant sites and also an e-mail link to Cuna to ask for help. She is aiming to make it more interactive in future, possibly with online exercises which could be marked by the computer and is also experimenting with using frames to make it easier to navigate. She felt that meeting the students for an initial day was helpful as they then felt more comfortable asking her for help. The web courses are only accessible from Sheffield.

Maureen Readle spoke about a package she produced using the web to teach Bids Compendex to engineering students. The web had been chosen because it was easy to access from different parts of the university. She had hoped to have some interaction between Bids and the teaching package but that had proved difficult – the best that could be managed was to have both packages running at once and move between the two. Examples had been tailored to be relevant to engineers, for example, some had been taken from last year’s project titles. The ability to do this was felt to be one of the advantages of producing packages in-house. The package includes some exercises where students tick boxes or choose terms – these give instant answers to the student.

There was some discussion about future meetings of the group. The meeting ended by recording formal thanks to Ian Winship for his hard work on behalf of USTLG (in case he didn’t hear last time!)

Susan Glen, Science Team
Library, University of Wales Swansea
Swansea SA2 8PP
Tel 01792 295031