Pedagogical Resources, Universities

Teaching, Learning and Resources: How Russell Group Universities differ from others (or not)

Are there any differences between Russell Group and non-Russell Group universities?
In terms of teaching and learning resources, the answer would probably be: not really.

The differences we found were not as marked as we had expected. The most notable differences affected the Reading Lists: whilst both long and short reading lists were in use at both types of universities (it does depend heavily on the lecturer), on average the Russell Group Universities saw the reading lists more as a starting point for students to then do their own research into resources, whilst reading lists at non-Russell Group Universities tended to be more often seen as a comprehensive list of material about one subject. The non-Russell Group reading lists did on average contain a much greater range of kinds of resources (blog posts, web sites, government reports, podcasts, videos etc.) whilst Russell Group reading lists seemed to focus more on the traditional book chapters and journals articles.
Though there were exceptions to this rule, Russell Group students seemed to be more committed to reading, while (or maybe because?) traditional teaching methods more often dominated the teaching at those universities. As expected the tension and pressures for academics to meet both TEF and REF requirements were bigger at Russell Group universities, and Learner Analytics as a metric played a bigger role.

It was notable that there was a difference in reliance on digital textbooks: the non-Russell Group used digital textbooks a lot more. This was linked to the fact that students at non-Russell Group universities are more often not expected to pay themselves for resources (non-Russell Group universities were more likely to promote a “no hidden cost” policy), and therefore the libraries relied on digital textbooks to provide access to all students at an affordable price, while students at Russell Group universities were more openly expected (and willing) to buy key textbooks themselves.

However, in a climate of high tuition fees and universities competing for students, the question of who pays this has become quite a pollical topic. The “institution pays” model, where all students are being provided with copies for their textbooks at the beginning of the year, has not gained the traction that was expected when the model was first started. Even though most academics and librarians agreed that students should not be expected to pay for their resources, a “mixed economy” model was the rule at the vast majority of institutions (Russell Group as well as non-Russell Group).

For more key findings of the study “How Are Students and Academics Using Pedagogical Resources Today?” (in partnership with SAGE Publishing), please come back to our blog tomorrow, when we will talk about metrics and Reading List software, and the influence librarians have.

Pedagogical Resources

Are resources changing as pedagogical practice changes?

Unsurprisingly, the study “How Are Students and Academics Using Pedagogical Resources Today?” (in partnership with SAGE Publishing) discovered that although all UK universities are exploring new pedagogies, they are doing so at different rates.  It is also the case that both traditional and innovative teaching methods are preferred not only within the same university, but also within the same departments at some universities; and there is evidence that academics most committed to teaching excellence themselves employ innovative and traditional teaching practices side by side. 

The two most prevalent trends encountered were the ‘flipped classroom’ and research-led teaching, the former often accompanied by an increased focus on technology-enhanced learning.  Some academics promote a wide range of learning resources, including online quizzes and games, simulations, interactive websites and videos, etc., to their students.  As mentioned in yesterday’s post, academics are often acutely conscious of the cost of learning resources, especially textbooks, to students; and for this reason, and because some universities are actively encouraging the practice, the study revealed some interest in the development of OERs (Open Education Resources) by academics themselves.  However, almost all the academics who discussed OERs said that finding the time to develop them, and, even more, to keep them up-to-date, presented a challenge. It is also the case that, because universities are in competition with each other, most of the academics interviewed were not referring to developing OERs in the true sense – i.e., open resources made available to all interested parties – but only to developing them for the use of students enrolled at their own universities.

Despite all these variables, the research produced overwhelming evidence that books – both textbooks and monographs – and journal articles still form the bedrock of undergraduate learning resources.  Other types of learning resource may help encourage students with different learning styles, but those wishing to obtain ‘good’ degrees cannot do so without engaging with the ‘serious’ literature.

Some discrepancies were found between types of learning resource academics said they recommended and those actually used.  Use of journal articles has actually increased, particularly in non-Russell Group universities; and, despite reservations about the currency and cost of textbooks, use of them has not dropped.  There is evidence of increased use of simulations and video games, but starting from a low base – e.g., usage has typically increased from 1% to 4% of a student’s total resource use. Students themselves like short ‘how to’ video clips; YouTube presentations they have found for themselves are particularly popular. 

For more key findings of the study, please come back to our blog tomorrow, when we will talk about the differences we have found between Russell Group and non-Russell Group Universities.

Pedagogical Resources

“How are Students and Lecturers Using Pedagogical Resources Today?”

At the end of 2017, SAGE Publishing commissioned a report from Gold Leaf to explore pedagogical trends and practices at UK universities.  The research was carried out during the whole of the calendar year 2018 and the final report was completed in February 2019.  SAGE will shortly make this report available free via a link on its website, with the generous aim of helping and supporting the UK HE and academic publishing communities.   To celebrate Academic Book Week we will share highlights from the report here on our blog.

The report is a timely study of the UK HE undergraduate environment that assesses the impact of both changing teaching practices and government legislation on pedagogy and pedagogical resources. One of the key objectives has been to understand how publishers can better engage with the academic community to promote optimum learning outcomes, by developing resources that best support academic and student needs.

The methodology employed both primary and secondary research. The primary research took several forms. Three Surveymonkey surveys were circulated to UK academics, students and academic librarians respectively.  Five UK universities were asked to participate in in-depth studies: two post-1992 universities; two Russell Group universities; and one 1960s university. There was especial focus on the following five disciplines: Business and Management; Education; Nursing; Psychology; and Sociology. Academics and librarians representing these subjects at the five in-depth universities were asked to participate in semi-structured telephone interviews. Some further interviews with academics at other Russell Group universities also took place. Students in their second or above years of undergraduate study, where possible representative of each of the five disciplines, were asked to take part in focus group discussions. Six focus group meetings were held altogether.

Extensive secondary (desk-based) research was also carried out. Contemporary professional bodies and websites were consulted. A wide range of publications, including many learned journal articles on pedagogical change, was also consulted.

Those who participated in the in-depth interviews were asked about their attitudes to and relationships with publishers and aggregators.  Academics held quite dusty views about publishers – though it is worth pointing out that some academics wear two hats: that of the lecturer indignant about book prices on behalf of his / her students and that of the author interested in royalties.  However, in general they seem to like publishers less than librarians do; are genuinely concerned by textbook prices; and want more diversity in the formats publishers offer (though not necessarily to pay for this).

Librarians dislike certain pricing models and want more transparency on pricing overall; they want more material to be available via Open Access; more digital material – even though they concede that many students prefer print; fewer usage restrictions; and a more generous approach to access, especially for students at affiliates and alumni.  As a body, they prefer aggregators to publishers.

Students value currency above format; they want textbooks to be shorter and more up-to-date; and some do prefer print.  However, the majority of UK students use both print and electronic, for different purposes respectively.

For more key findings of the study, please come back to our blog tomorrow, when we will talk about changes in teaching practices and resources used for teaching.

Digital Publishing, TEF

While we’re on the subject…

Last week, the Office for Students released some reports and initial findings on the subject-level TEF. What are the conclusions and what does it mean for publishers?

In parallel with the third round of the current TEF, the Office for Students conducted a pilot phase for a subject-level TEF, working with 50 different universities, colleges and other HE providers. (A list of participating institutions has been published by the OfS, but the ratings awarded remain confidential). This first pilot will be followed by a second round of pilots in 2019 to refine the process. The plan is to abolish the current TEF after its forth instalment in summer 2019 and initiate the subject-level TEF in 2020 (application phase) with the first round of results being published in spring 2021.

In the pilot, two different models were being tried, and the conclusion has been made that – despite neither of the models being fully fit for purpose – a “bottom-up” approach was being favoured, though the final model is likely to be a bit of a mix of “bottom-up” and “top-down”. This means that all subjects are being assessed as part of a ‘subject group’ submission but with separate metrics for each subject, and each subject receives a TEF rating of Bronze, Silver or Gold. The subject ratings then feed into the provider-level assessment, which is still being carried out separately.
The diagram below might be helpful in illustrating this:

STEFdiagram

(Source: Office for Students)

One major factor in the lessons learned from the pilot is the need to involve students in the process – after all, the TEF is supposed to be all about students’ experience and their learning outcomes! It has been confirmed that in future rounds the students’ voice will play a more prominent role. This is where it becomes interesting for publishers of learning content, because one of the main concerns the students expressed in the feedback session was that the quality and availability of Learning Resources should be measured and carry a greater weight in the TEF scoring.
As a result a new metric for learning resources will be included in future instalments of the TEF.

Unfortunately, the Publishers’ Association doesn’t seem to have been able to get involved in this (we are aware that attempts by the PA had been made and rejected), but thankfully the students seem to be the advocates for their libraries and ultimately the publishing community – they have realised what an important part the provision of learning resources plays in measuring teaching quality.

(All reports and publications can be found of the OfS website: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/teaching-excellence-and-student-outcomes-framework-findings-from-the-first-subject-pilot-2017-18/)

Digital Publishing, General

An end to literary discrimination? Changes to the VAT rate for e-books announced

Earlier this week, a historic decision was made that could pave the way for more changes worldwide on the equality of print and digital publishing.
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council decided on Tuesday at a meeting in Luxembourg to allow EU Member States to align the VAT rates they set for e‑publications with those for printed publications.

The EU commission had suggested a reform back in December 2016; the European Parliament voted in favour of this change in June 2017. Tuesday’s decision is now the final step to ensure that the unequal treatment of the two product formats becomes a thing of the past.

The Publishers Associations of the UK, France, Italy, Sweden and Germany all welcomed the VAT statement; so did the European Publishers Council (EPC). Rudy Vanschoonbeek, President of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), said in his statement: This forward-looking decision marks the end of the unjustified fiscal discrimination between publications in different formats, acknowledging the cultural, social and economic value of books, journals and educational materials in all formats and the technological progress that has taken place in the sector.”
Michiel Kolman, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) is hoping thatother regions follow these great examples of reducing barriers to books.”

The German government has already issued a statement as part of their current coalition agreement in favour of this innovation, so it is to be expected that the changes will be implemented in Germany soon. The current political situation in the UK might not trigger an immediate response for the implementation of such a change, though the Publishers’ Association had written to the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, ahead of the Luxembourg meeting to lobby for changes to the way digital publications are taxed.
Steven Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, has called for the British government to act now: “We are leaving the EU but today’s decision from the ECOFIN committee removes a major obstacle for the UK Chancellor, who should now do away with this tax at the earliest opportunity – namely the Budget on October 29. If the UK does not act quickly it risks the UK digital policy falling behind its European competitors.”

Let’s hope we will see some movement on this soon!

Conferences, TEF, Uncategorized

Academic Book Trade Conference 2018

For the second year running, the Academic Book Trade Conference (ABT) was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon; also for the second year running the BA chose two gloriously sunny days. The conference took place on Thursday and Friday, 10th and 11th of May.

This year’s conference theme was The TEF, Brexit and More: what’s happened, what’s happening, what to do next. As in previous years, Gold Leaf’s Linda Bennett put the programme together, and what an exciting programme it was! Without having briefed any of the speakers on this specific aspect, “telling a story” was a recurring motif raised in various ways by the different speakers.

The chair of the Academic Booksellers Group, Lynne O’Neill, was first to pick up on this theme.  She quoted Romeo and Juliet to illustrate the symbiotic, sometimes turbulent relationship enjoyed between booksellers and publishers: “Two households both alike in dignity …”  She referred to the huge changes that have taken place in the academic landscape over the past year, especially the setting up of the Office for Students [OfS]. Richard Fisher, the conference chairman, added that HEFCE officially came to an end in April, to be replaced by the OfS and UKRI [UK Research and Innovation].

The next speaker – William Bowes, Director of Policy and General Counsel at the Publisher’s Association – spoke about the UK and the its importance in publishing, nationally but also internationally. He said that, although there has never been a better time to be involved in publishing, “for an industry whose sole purpose is to tell stories, we’ve not been very good at telling our own”. He concluded that Brexit offered publishers the opportunity to start telling their story better: an opportunity they all need to take advantage of.

Meryl Halls, recently appointed MD of the Booksellers Association, announced the launch of the Academic Publishers Shopfloor Project, which encourages publishers to spend time working in academic bookshops – “even doing the hoovering” – to experience what being a bookseller entails.  A similar initiative was managed very successfully by the BA in High Street bookshops last year.

The keynote talk was given by Dr Clare Goudy, Director of the Education Planning Office of the Vice-Provost at University College London. Dr Goudy gave the audience a very honest view of how UCL had approached the TEF and how “telling a story” had made them receive a TEF Silver award, whilst the metrics alone initially had put them into the Bronze category. An important part of telling this story had been the Library – the Library Services had played a pivotal part in this narrative of academic research and teaching achievement. However, taking the same approach at subject level for the upcoming subject-level TEF will be a challenge in many ways.

Louis Coiffait, Associate Editor at WonkHE, gave a captivating talk entitled “The Shipping Forecast: What’s really going on in HE?”. He elaborated on a number of interrelated stories, including the mystifying and complicated issue (which he expertly unpicked) of how many individual government and related bodies influence funding and decision-making at universities; and stakeholder pressures with regard to who pays / who should pay, not least from students’ parents. His final message for universities was to stay focussed on the passengers and to embrace the challenges new types of study and students bring.

The talks were followed by a panel session, in which Helen Adey, Resource and Acquisition Supply Team Manager at Nottingham Trent University, Dr Peter Jones, Principal Lecturer in Social Sciences at Greenwich University and Dr Clare Goudy discussed the needs of students today. The panellists agreed that students now need all kinds of help besides provision of resources – for example, information about how to give presentations, how to read critically and time management.  They want resources presented in such a way that they can understand exactly what is expected of them.  From the Library’s perspective, electronic resources can be made more available to more people and are often more affordable: but, given the choice, many students still prefer print.

IMG_6097-2

Introducing the report “How are Students and Lecturers Using Educational Resources Today?”, which was commissioned by Sage Publishing – print copies were given free to all of the delegates, kindly supplied by Ingram – Kiren Shoman, Editorial Director of Sage and Annika Bennett of Gold Leaf provided insights into the mixed picture of resources requirements in UK HE today.  81.4% of the librarians and 69.4% of the academics who participated in the research said that the resources used have changed; reasons for this included the increasing prominence of “flipped learning” and technologically-enhanced learning.  However, their views on which resources were being used were markedly different. Another important finding was that there are often discrepancies between the resources people actually use and the ones they say they use.  A second report will explore this further, but in the meantime, more details on the current report will be published soon in a separate blog post.

cover

Mark Hunt and Laura Annis, of Ingram and VitalSource, presented the findings of a recent survey, one of which was that 89% of the participating students said that e-textbooks and related course materials had had a positive impact on their learning experience.

At the awards ceremony which followed the conference dinner, OUP won Publisher of the Year (and has now won this title 9 years running) and Greig Watt of Blackwell’s Aberdeen won the Bookseller of the Year Award.  The after-dinner speaker was Ziyad Marar, whose recent book, “Judged”, is about the value of being misunderstood.

The second day of the conference was opened by Greig Watt (Blackwell’s) and Emma Farrow (John Smith’s), who gave two different accounts on booksellers’ best practice and how they can flourish in both traditional and non-traditional surroundings. This was followed by two workshops run back-to-back, one a student panel, the other devoted by Helen Adey to demonstrating to publishers the sorts of decisions librarians have to make when managing resources funds.  The conference was wrapped up with a Q & A between Richard Fisher and Louis Coiffait. Sadly, Richard Fisher has decided to conclude his chairmanship after this, his third year – he has been one of the most distinguished chairmen the conference has ever had.

(c) photos: Sharon Benton

Conferences, TEF

How are Students and Lecturers Using Educational Resources Today?

[Press Release]
SAGE Publishing and Gold Leaf partner on major study to provide insight into the UK higher education pedagogical environment

Higher Education in the UK is undergoing huge change. Much of this is directly affecting how students, faculty and librarians interact with pedagogical resources. But what impact are these developments having on learning? How is this influencing the type of resources being used in the present-day classroom? More widely, what impact will factors such as the TEF and Brexit have on the acquisition and deployment of pedagogical resources and educational technology?

In the first part of a major study, How are Students and Lectures Using Educational Resources Today, commissioned by SAGE Publishing and conducted by Gold Leaf, researchers Linda Bennett and Annika Bennett unpack these questions. The report offers analysis to help understand trends and practices driving the positive impact of pedagogy on student success in the UK HE environment.

To date, at three of the participating universities (the University of Greenwich, the University of Huddersfield and the University of Surrey), a total of 31 in-depth interviews have been conducted with librarians and academics. 4 student focus groups have also taken place from across several disciplines.  These have been complemented by three UK-wide online surveys circulated to academics, librarians and students, which attracted responses from across 113 UK Higher Education institutions. This interim report focuses on qualitative results from non‐Russell Group universities. The final report will include qualitative results from Russell Group universities.

The report addresses questions concerning student expectations; pedagogical tools and their representation in resources lists; changed methods of university funding; and the role of publishers and academics.  Interim findings across the wider UK surveys so far include:

  • 81.6% of academics and 62% of librarians believe that the approach to pedagogy at their institutions have changed.
  • The use of the flipped classroom, and an increased focus on technology-enhanced learning were the most‐mentioned catalysts for change, together with concern over existing teaching standards.
  • Textbooks (both print and electronic) and journals continue to be the most listed resources mentioned by academics, librarians and students.
  • Asked about their institution’s policy on who should pay for learning resources, 49% of the librarians, 42% of academics and 39% of the students said that students could and should be able to obtain all the resources they needed from the Library. Only 4% of librarians and 9% of academics said that their institution paid for essential texts for each student.

Kiren Shoman, Editorial Director, SAGE, said:

“SAGE is keen to take responsibility for learning how changes in education are impacting the communities we serve. Since our founding we have been driven by the recognition that education is vital to a healthy society, and we continue to work with our academic community to support their engagement with education and to best address their wider needs. We have been delighted to work with Gold Leaf as an independent research consultancy to explore the current landscape and best understand how we can support and address the challenges and changes in higher education resourcing and teaching today.”

Linda Bennett, Founder of Gold Leaf, commented:

“Gold Leaf feels very honoured to have been chosen to carry out the research for this important study.  Working on it has been a privilege and the results are fascinating.  I’d like to say how grateful we are to everyone who has supported it, especially Kiren and her colleagues at SAGE and the many academics, librarians and students from Greenwich, Huddersfield and Surrey who have participated.  We have started work on the second report now and look forward to sharing it with the HE community in a few months’ time.”

You can find out more about the report and follow the study as it progresses by sending an email to info@goldleaf.co.uk.

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Part One of the report is being presented at the ABT Conference sponsored by the Booksellers Association on 10th and 11th May.

Part Two of the study will be completed in the autumn of this year.

For further information on either parts of the study please contact info@goldleaf.co.uk.

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About SAGE Publishing

Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 1,000 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. Our growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC and Melbourne. www.sagepublishing.com

About Gold Leaf

Gold Leaf was set up in 2001 to provide business development support and market research to the academic publishing and academic librarian communities as well as academia itself.  It has published several important studies about pedagogies, electronic resource provision and the changing role of libraries as well as many bespoke reports for individual clients. Gold Leaf facilitates a number of librarian advisory boards worldwide.  More information about Gold Leaf may be found at http://www.goldleaf.co.uk/index.html