Talis Insight Europe 2016

Talis Insight Europe 2016 was held at The Rep (Birmingham Repertory Theatre), Birmingham, 20-21 April 2016. Many of the sessions were not art-library specific, but some of the ideas are relevant across all fields.


This two-day conference was organised by the Reading List software company Talis (makers of Aspire) but had resonance for librarians who deal with electronic books and issues with reading lists, such as low adoption or engagement. Analytics seemed to be the hot topic amongst many of the presenters so there were also helpful sessions on data collection and presentation. The clear themes were the better use of data and hearing examples of good practice.

The key points from Paul Feldman’s keynote were that JISC wanted to make the UK the most digitally advanced education and research nation In the world. The biggest challenges are culture and funding. They got good funding from England and Wales, so do not expect rises in current subscriptions, but will still be introducing paid-for services and shutting down low value / high cost services.

Real focus on services that have supported libraries – what is needed? The sector would prefer fewer things, done better. Priorities are network, technology-enabled learning, digital library, OA and leaner analytics. Plus thinking about data analytics.

Phil Richards is working with SCONUL to define a strategy for a national Digital Library. Includes national identity management (like eduroam but for health, local govt etc). Learning analytics collate fingerprints and footprints from various areas e.g. VLE, swipe cards and have a cloud-based infrastructure to collate this. Cloud broken ground by UCAS moving there successfully. Have 6 partners, including BlackBoard. At present, working with 5 universities. Tutors get a dashboard for their students and get alerts in patterns of interaction by students that may show less interest in learning.

Trying to spot disengagement. Also built a student app, showing their own data. Raises ethical issues and have a code of practice for the use of learning analytics. Informed consent and SU has an honest conversation with students about how data is used. LAM has now been amalgamated with this.

Community identified online resource usage as key.

Should lead to metrics for engagement and learning gain, personalised next generation e-learning.


Nick Bevan – PVC, Middlesex University ‘Role of librarians in supporting teaching and learning.’

Understand that reading lists are about students, not academics. If an item is not available, why is it on a list? (Because it is someone else’s problem!)

There is an awful lot of data around progression, withdrawals. Don’t forget dropouts equal 18 or 27k. Very hard to show impact (e.g. Huddersfield and degree results) but ebook data shows engagements and usage from particular publishers.

Nick’s theme is that the teaching should just work. Misguided library awareness? It is not about pushing the library up the agenda. It should just work.

Engage with teaching and learning, but not on our terms. See how best apply our skills to make a difference. They use this principle re: reading lists:

Every student should be able to access essential material

Being unable to access the resources you need does not make you a bad student. Like going to a supermarket and not having the ingredients does not make you a bad baker.


Etextbooks discussion panel

Move from a project to being part of core business, a long-term project. Embed into normal processes. Librarians talking to academics about this. Position library at heart of learning, increasing pedagogical influence and having the resources.

Need to build collections for deeper learning; what is the expected market return?

Still discussions are based on ‘the print’ – price, and in particular, content. Students see it as doing it on the cheap via ebooks.

The iTunes effect- people buying singles, not albums, so lecturers want 3 chapters from one and 2 from another. Publishers not able to provide this and want data about this, but unis say this has to be a 2 way thing.

Manchester trying to coordinate all buying so that there are not pockets in schools etcetera. Must negotiate on behalf of the community. Suggest JISC to do this.

Publishers blame institutions for ebooks not being used properly and not encouraging students to open the books. Unis say they give lecturers analytics on how core texts are being used and how many students are using ebooks. Middlesex Thinking about having a festival in September to showcase how ebooks have helped their learning, inviting publishers, students, academics and librarians. Analytics should show the fitness for purpose for materials. JISC working on a national bibliographic database, led by Neil Grindley.
TEF – Teaching Excellence Framework – Liz Jolly

Talked about proposed sector challenges. ‘Fulfilling our potential, teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice’. Government monitoring and assessing the quality of teaching in England’s universities. Could increase fees and therefore differentiation. New ‘Office for students’ replacing HEFCE but still unsure how this is going to work. Encouragement of private sector and worried about degree inflation, so will supplement with grade point average system. For libraries, this means we have to prove value. Data on use of library resources, digital literacies and critical thinking. Have we been thinking too much about service delivery and not enabling teaching, learning and research? ‘To enable and enhance learning in all its forms’ – as a profession we have to put this at the centre of what we do. Why are there offices and areas for library operations when libraries are student workspaces?


Need to be seen as a key part of the research process. Need to be there for eprints and REF.  Need to work in multi professional teams across the university. Valuing our professional identity and working across multiple environments. As a profession, we have probably been doing what we think is best, not other academics or students. It is about quality, the quality of the student experience. A good example is adoption of reading lists and speaking the language other people understand.  Libraries are central to the academic enterprise of the institution, so this has gone in the SCONUL response to the TEF green paper.


Talis 2

Engaging academics in digital discourse – Simon Thomson – Head of Digital Pedagogy (title changed from head of e-learning as his role is in teaching, not looking after systems). Leeds Beckett University

Students are digitally literate in a social sense, but not an academic sense. Not thinking about digital and experimenting to produce a connectedness between digital and pedagogy. Why is there resistance to change? Fear, challenges to experience. Staff are digitally overwhelmed and digitally isolated. We rely on learning technologist or academic librarians. Don’t really share experiences. CAVEs – colleagues against virtually everything. Don’t try and shine a light in the cave. It takes too much time and energy. There are others who need you more!


MMU Reading List awareness: Encouraging students to read to success Nic Ward & Rachel Fell

MMU used 6 GTs to promote RLs with students as lots of funds and time going into creating these lists. Took iPads into faculty buildings, talked with students, freebies. Also promoted in the library and created nice posters in faculty and plasma screens. Really important use of social media. Had 15 second Instagram video on how to access reading lists.

They have a landing page on Libguides – inspired by Reading and Edinburgh.


Reading list survey was only 4 questions, nearly 500 respondents. Lots of students liked the weekly reading plugin. Also revealed top 5 lists for the academic newsletter, so competition was there. Have training sessions booked for the next 6 months. 5 good things to come out of questionnaires: asking for feedback, personalising the conversation, the 15 second vide, cross-campus promotion and practical freebies. Pens and screen wipes better than Haribo.


Kerry Webb – Reading University


Important IL and DL promotional opportunities of RLs. Looked at pedagogical benefits of creating a RL. This was not a nifty bit of software, this was a way to create resources with true pedagogical value. It can students engaged with scholarly articles. Effective guidelines and practical steps to consider when putting a RL together (2 pages long). Looked at IL models and mapped on what skill sets would be achieved with a RL. Used Ancil framework (tasked based skills) and 7 pillars. Your student has just come to uni. They may never have used a library before, so may be terrified when faced with a list of 100 items. So maybe guidance on how to place a hold on items. In year two, may look at task based goals. So look in these journals and start finding articles.

In  year three, why not just like to database we pay thousands of pounds for, plus that company’s YouTube video on how to search that database. Otherwise they will just google it.

So if you have a task-based reading list, you can develop skills.

Students are not daft, they know if you have not updated your lists. Drawing from analytics, brought stats reports to directors of teaching and learning.

Talis 3


Training is provided in the PGCERT – university is teaching new staff how to teach. Many know their subject area but need help in what a really effective reading list might look like. ‘It’s our intellectual property’ – It is not. The resource authors own the books etc, but you have just provided a list of items.

Eleanor Johnston, Staffordshire University.