This presentation will be considering the introduction of a new learning development service at Teesside University in 2012 – called the Learning Hub. The Learning Hub gives students support in information literacy, referencing, writing and academic study skills. I’ll be talking about the background to this, and we’ll then look at our current service and the initiatives we’ve tried over the past 2 years. I’ll also spend some time on how I moved from a traditional library position to where I am now and the skills I learnt on the way I want to stress that in doing this, Teesside don’t see themselves as experts – in some cases we’ve been ‘playing catch up’ compared with services elsewhere - but I thought that some of our experiences might be of interest to other library services and librarians who were thinking of moving into this area. I’ll allow some time at the end for questions about particular aspects, also you can catch me around the conference with any questions.
So Teesside University … Teesside is a post 1992 University, with a high percentage of students from non-traditional backgrounds. It’s situated in the North East of England. The main campus in Mbro. The University has had some noted success supporting and retaining students from diverse backgrounds.
This is our vision for the Learning Hub, which was developed soon after the service started, to help us think about our priorities and what we wanted to achieve. I’ll explain more about what we do soon. So …we want to a have a strategic role within the University, while providing an effective service to students. We want to be willing to try new approaches hence innovative.
The whole team sits within the department of Library & Information Services at the University and is called Learning and Research Support. The team was created in 2009 by merging 2 separate teams. For many years Teesside University library had managed the University’s Academic Skills Centre. Although housed in the Library building it was very hidden and staffed as a very separate unit. It had 2 dedicated staff and then lecturers from some of the schools would come in for a few hours a week. The Assistant Director for Learning & Research Support was asked by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to review the Academic Skills Centre – as part of a broader review of learning development at the University - by this point it was recognised that the deficit model on which it was originally based was no longer appropriate. It was seen as remedial help for struggling students. It became apparent that there some crossover between the work of the academic librarians and the learning developers, for example referencing
So as a comparison this was what was being offered at the time to develop information literacy and academic literacy. 99% of the Academic Skills Centre time was taken up in one-to-one tutorials which meant there was no time left for developing other means of support. The website, while very well thought of at the University, had not been developed since about 2000.
Interviews with key stakeholders revealed that communication between the centre and other Schools and Departments was an issue. The academic skills centre’s only real contact with the university was via the tutors who came in, who didn’t see their role as communicating about the centre. This allowed for myths to grow up around what the centre did – unrealistic expectations. In contrast, the librarians were well-embedded into the structures of the schools and the university.
A restructured team was put in place to deliver the new model. There was an increase to the staffing dedicated to the Learning Hub but it is still quite small as our Assistant Director had to work within the established staffing level. It was during this restructure that I moved from being an Assistant Academic Librarian to the Learning Advisor for Literacy. I’ll talk more about this move later.
This was our initial service. It’s a hub and spoke model with librarians providing the first point of contact, referring students to the best source of support – which could be academic schools and university departments - these are the spokes.
The aim was to enable a more joined-up approach to skills for students. One of these joined up ways has been working with the English Language tutors. A tutor comes in 2 mornings a week to give support to our international students The Learning Hub is open 9am-7pm Mon-Fri, so in those hours students have immediate access to a member of staff. This approach also made better use of the learning advisors’ time as we are able to concentrate on tutorials and on developing the service rather than acting as a reception point.
We received nearly 4,000 enquiries altogether in 2013-14 (at the Learning Hub, by email and by phone)
The difference in lit searching figures is caused by a change in way we record enquiries
Recording of data enables us to make detailed year by year comparisons
Drug calcs is a success story –our maths advisor was inundated with nurses wanting one-to-one tutorials for drug calculations. By reporting this to the School it really highlighted this as an issue and has led to intro of workshops to lighten the load of tutorials and the School has considered different approaches. English language – now more self-booking of appointments – more on this later.
We were interested to see what proportion of enquiries could be answered at the Learning Hub compared with those referred. Obviously we didn’t want the Learning Hub just to be a referral point.
Initially one-third of enquiries were satisfied at the desk with two-thirds referred. For this academic year, the figures are 67%, 33% – the opposite from when we started. Those enquiries satisfied immediately tend to be about referencing, literature searching and some aspects of IT. Typically they will relate to something that requires no more than 10 minutes of staff time.
33% of enquiries are referred to more in depth support, although aspects may also have already been satisfied. For example, a student with an assignment might come with issues regarding not having sufficient literature, being uncertain about referencing, and not knowing how to structure the assignment. The librarian at the Learning Hub can show the student how to find better sources (but advise that there is a specific subject team of librarians available for more in-depth lit searching), clear up any referencing issues and book the student for an appointment regarding the assignment structure.
We are very careful in saying what we offer and don’t offer. We never look at content, only writing style. Any content queries we refer back to academic staff.
This relates to all enquiries that are at least partially referred – 2013-14
When we started the Learning Hub, there was a concern that we would be referring many enquiries back to schools – you can see that this has not been the case, and statistics have been useful for relieving those concerns. Most referrals are to our own second-line tutorials.
Reports are sent to School Learning and Teaching Committees via the Academic Librarians. This is an example of the comments in those reports so that you can see the level of detail that we pass on. Very open about what we are doing
We haven’t carried out a proper survey with students but we have had some lovely comments – you can see the range – student who managed to get a v high mark following the tutorial to a student who couldn’t believe she’d passed. These are unsolicited comments – students either filling out a library comments form, emailing the general library email or contacting us directly.
The introduction of the Learning Hub service coincided with a partial library refurbishment We’re aware that space is important - but it is difficult to get right. The previous space for the Academic Skills Centre was hidden and dark at the very back of the building which gave out all the wrong messages – it appeared as though it was somewhere you should be ashamed of visiting. In the new refurbished Ground Floor the Learning Hub is in a social space right at the very front of the Library. We think it looks very attractive. But the librarians have struggled with the space - previously they staffed a desk on a quiet subject floor so they’ve found it noisy. So this is an aspect that we’re still working on.
Now we’ve looked at how the Learning Hub was set up and developed, I’d like to move on to ways in which our team of academic librarians have developed their skills into new areas. Just to get a feel of what people think is an academic librarians role, I’d like us to think about some areas librarians have or could move into.
3 volunteers to hold up paper with words on and then rest to move to the one they agree with for each question
Yes, No, Not sure
That’s given us an indication of what this group thought and I used this as an energiser – a way of getting the energy and attention up in a room. We use this kind of technique in PASS, a peer mentoring scheme, which I’ll be talking about later.
At Teesside all academic librarians are giving advice on Harvard referencing and giving advice on finding information for assignments. Some are delivering workshops on critical thinking and some are delivering workshops on writing a literature review. Due to my change in role I am doing all of them
Before I talk about some of the work we all do together, I thought it would be useful to talk about my journey from an Assistant Academic Librarian to a Learning Advisor and what I had to learn and how I did it.
I’ve always been keen on new challenges and been an early adopter in our library with web development, getting a PGC in teaching, setting up social media services (FB and chat) and this seemed like a great opportunity to enhance my skills.
Part of my new role is to provide one-to-one support with academic writing and study skills as well as taking workshops, working with Schools on writing development and introducing new services to support students skills development.
Once I got the post, I went into panic mode – what do I know about writing essays, literature reviews etc.?! I soon realised that I knew more than I thought I did. I had a basis to work from I did a lot of reading and realised that I already knew a lot about this but just hadn’t realised it. A lot more was common sense once you read and thought about it By doing the reading, I was ahead of the students. Students are asked to send their work in advance, so if there was anything I was unsure about I could check before tutorials.
These books are great and we regularly recommend them to students. Short! Easy to read, practical examples. Very popular with students, There are many more as well The first few tutorials were intimidating as I didn’t know if I would be able to help the students, but I soon realised that a sympathetic ear and the knowledge I had was giving students help and encouragement. Like librarians, we see the same problems time and time again, so you soon build up a strong knowledge of the main problem areas for students
Part of my work is developing and running writing workshops and this work is done in conjunction with our academic librarians. Our previous Academic Skills Centre did not run any workshops. We began the Succeed@Tees brand of workshops in 2011-12 as result of the feedback from stakeholders and in preparation for the Learning Hub, to relieve the pressure of the one to ones and to give students’ choice. They are run by the staff in the Learning Hub and the academic and assistant academic librarians.
Started with some existing workshops that were reasonably successful. 2011-2012– the first Succeed@Tees workshops were mainly around searching with some academic skills e.g. critical thinking. 2012-13 start of Learning Hub began to develop workshops linked to demand for tutorials eg Academic writing, maths for drug calcs 2013-14 different types of writing and critical appraisal workshops based on feedback from generic workshops. E.g. health students attending the critical thinking workshops actually wanted support with critical appraisal. With the addition of new workshops there were 25 different workshops for students to choose from. Our attendance has been growing each year from over 340 students in 2011/12 to over 900 this year All workshops are running (although some not as often) still haven’t got the balance and timing right for popular workshops. Each workshop has a coordinator and a group of staff who deliver that workshop – all staff in our team, including all the librarians, deliver workshops. To enable us all to develop skills, we rotate co-ordinators and team members. We often use paired teaching of workshops to increase confidence. The co coordinator is also responsible for creating an online site for the workshop using LibGuides
This is an example of the web page for a workshop – in this case the Critical Thinking workshop
Students asked in the sessions for copies of handouts and PowerPoints etc. We decided to make these available online using our LibGuides. You can see that the page includes the workshop materials - powerpoint, handouts as well as links to relevant videos, further reading, comments from students who had attended
These are the statistics from the LibGuides Usage was much greater than anticipated and far more than were attending the actual workshop – especially useful for workshops that had low actual attendance eg Ebooks – getting much greater online traffic. We’ve had great feedback from both students and academic staff on the workshops
At the end of the year we hold a review meeting– for 2014/15 we’ve looked at reducing the number of workshops as some were poorly attended. Keeping the LibGuide for those workshops that will no longer run An issue that came up in our review was that if too many staff signed up to a workshop, then you might only take it once or twice in year. This meant that you may not be as comfortable and familiar with the material. This year, staff will concentrate on 2 or 3 workshops and therefore teach them more often. The Learning Hub Manager and myself won’t have that luxury as at least one of us will be involved with all the writing workshops. This is to ensure that what we are saying in the workshops will reflect what we say in tutorials and it also wouldn’t be fair to the librarians to give them no support. Some staff are happier than others to diversify into new areas such as writing. We don’t want to push anyone into doing something they’re not happy with.
I’d like to spend some time on an initiative we’ve set up in the University - Peer Assisted Study Sessions – an international scheme for peer support in academic work. Volunteer students from higher years mentor and lead study sessions with students from lower years. Students don’t teach material, they work with their groups to solve problems and share knowledge. It’s a scheme that aims to improve the study skills and academic performance of the participating students as well as fostering a greater sense of belonging to their course and University. The Leaders gain lots of skills in leadership, facilitation, group work, time management and can gain confidence. Many of you will have this or similar schemes in your university already, but I believe we are fairly unusual in the fact that the library runs and co-ordinates it. At Teesside’s Learning and Teaching conference in 2013, staff from the PASS national centre in Manchester came to speak and we were very keen on this idea. We saw this as fulfilling the Learning Hub’s role of delivering innovative learning support We successfully applied for University funding from the Learning & Teaching Innovation Fund and I led the pilot project.
The Learning Hub Manager and I received Supervisor training from the national centre in Manchester
Had an initial project team made up from staff in the Library, academic co-ordinators (explain), our volunteering department and Education Officer from SU – has been a great advocate and talked about PASS at meetings throughout the University.
We had a lot of interest from the Schools and had to reject a number of potential modules as they were too large for the pilot. Pilot started in February in 2 modules in 2 different Schools
The PASS Leaders receive 4 half day training sessions where they learn skills in facilitation, leading sessions, dealing with difficult situations and deflecting questions. We used librarians in the training for the PASS Leaders to act as students for their mock sessions. This won’t be viable as the scheme grows, but it was a useful way of getting library staff to know more about the scheme
We expected the students to commit to 3 hours a week: up to an hour for planning sessions. A 45-60 min session and an hour’s debrief where they discussed how the sessions went, shared ideas, got to speak to the academic co-ordinator and sometimes receive extra support and training e.g. Careers.
Students also sign up with the University Volunteering service to get official accreditation for their hours.
The students set the agenda for the sessions. This can be done in advance or on the day. Sometimes it’s covering material from that week’s lecture or seminar, sometimes looking at essays or exams. If there is anything that the group really doesn’t get, the Leaders can feed back to the academic co-ordinator and they can deal with this immediately rather than find out by chance when assessment isn’t done well. In Physio, they worked on a lot of case studies e.g. a patient with a particular condition. Looked at condition, treatments and tried suitable physio techniques for it. Academic co-ordinator offered to supply suitable case studies. Leaders often give tips of what helped them e.g. books and articles, YouTube clips (for physio), exam techniques. They listened more to students as well! Physio practice room.
Questionnaires to all students who could have participated. Main reasons for not attending were that they had other commitments or it was straight after a long period of lectures. We are looking more closely into timetabling for next year.
Some colleagues ran focus groups with the PASS Leaders to find out what they thought and any issues they had.
Couldn’t train all the PASS Leaders together because of placements and there were also some difficulties in fitting in the training (12 hours required) into the physiotherapists already full timetable.
Normally PASS Leaders work in pairs and are allocated groups of around 15-20 students, with the assumption that fewer will come. We split physiotherapy up into 2 groups of just over 20. As this is an NHS course, we hadn’t accounted for 100% attendance!
2014-2015 - We have split them into 3 groups
We are looking to see if when the 2nd years are out on placement, whether the previous PASS Leaders can help out.
Have over recruited in English and Physiotherapy School of Health are keen to expand it, but we would like to get it into every School first. We need to do a slow expansion as we want to be able to keep the quality and keep a check on financing it. We have just sent an assistant academic librarian to the supervisor training and he will be helping with training and supporting PASS Leaders. We hope to train more staff as the scheme progresses. Success this year. Won the group volunteers of the year at the University’s volunteering awards. My award. What did I think? Really enjoyed it and working with such good and committed students (not like real work!) worked closely with our volunteering department who were very helpful. Did take up a lot of time – setting up, getting timetable and rooms sorted, planning training and debriefs, administration, emailing Leaders etc. All going through me. We have now set up a PASS email address, so all 3 Supervisors can deal with queries. Some of this we won’t need to do in the future. Some can be done by other people. Hopefully with working out who can do some of the other aspects and having another Supervisor, it won’t take as much time
How successful have we been in moving towards our Learning Hub vision?
Seen as a really positive place – linked with success - Positive feedback from workshops and tutorials – provides choice, single point of access PASS seen very positively throughout the University Librarians felt they were a reception point for booking tutorials, so we have introduced self-booking of appointments. This has gone well and staff at the Learning Hub can spend more time in helping students. Proactive approach – not waiting for students to come to us, but working to change students’ experience, more flexible so have capacity to be innovative Energising our own staff who can really see that they are having a positive impact on learning This has been about teamwork – supporting each other to step outside our comfort zone
Challenges at grass roots level some that we have improved Understandably not everyone has felt comfortable with the change of role and location Still problematic are – doing more with less in a culture where we take on new things but find it difficult to let go
Constantly looking at ways to improve and develop the service. University level project We haven’t done anything yet to improve the online learning materials we have so this will also be looked at. Although we have had some good feedback, this has been informal and hasn’t shown that the Learning Hub has a positive impact on students’ experiences so this is something we need to work on. Overall it’s been an interesting 2 years. I’ve learnt a lot and really enjoyed my move into the new area.
The Learning Hub at Teesside University: an innovative approach to supporting student learning
The Learning Hub at Teesside
University: an innovative
approach to supporting student
Learning Advisor (Literacy)
Library & Information Services
Our journey at Teesside University:
–Moving from librarian to learning advisor
• Post 92 University
• Main Campus in Middlesbrough and site at
• Six Schools: 21,830 students (15,000 FTE)
• Queen’s Anniversary Prize 2013
• Times Higher Education University of the Year
• Vision: Providing Opportunities, Driving Enterprise,
Learning Hub Vision
• In five years from now, the Learning Hub will:
– play an integral part in the University strategy for
– provide a valued input into learning, teaching and the
– provide a holistic approach to learning support in
partnership with Schools, Departments and students
– be a highly visible and effective service
– deliver an innovative and strategic approach to
Teesside Experience, pre-2012
Availability of support
Academic Librarians Academic Skills Centre
Drop in support X Drop in support
Email/phone support X Email/phone support
Chat X Chat
Workshops X Workshops
Pre-booked tutorials Pre-booked tutorials
Online Material (Website)
with a specific
Quality role in
of staff in
Learning Hub 2012
• Hub and spoke model
• All librarians provide first point of contact
– Immediate help with literature searching and
– Book tutorials with skills advisors
• English language
What students ask about…
Referral Routes: out
Student wished to book a
tutorial as it is her first
assignment and wanted to
make sure structure was
Talked about proof reading out loud to see where
long sentences should be split. Talked about WEED
model. Recommended some Succeed@Tees
Needs help with critical
Discussed draft assignment. I felt that she was
making a case, but that her writing style was
sometimes over-complicated. Therefore, we looked
at ways in which her language could be simpler in
order to allow her to emphasise her key points.
Student wanted to book
appointment for help with
Discussed aim of dissertation, ensuring that she had
been explicit in what she'd done, especially made it
clear how she had revised her care plan, following
her research findings.
Positive comments from students
• “Just to let you know I passed the other assignment with a
mark of 70%. I want to thank you for your advice and
constructive feedback, it is very much appreciated.”
• “I met up with yourself last year with regards to an
assignment and you were a really good help.”
• “Just to say thanks again for your very helpful tutorial, I feel
much happier with my resubmission now”
• “Thank you so very much for your kindness and patience with
me throughout all the maths help. It was very much
appreciated. Thanks to you I “passed”. Still can’t believe
What should be a librarian’s role?
• Giving advice on referencing?
• Giving advice on finding information for
• Delivering a workshop on critical thinking?
• Support for writing a literature review?
• Commenting on the structure of a student’s
Role of librarians
• We are more comfortable with some than others
• We’ll look at some of these skills and who’s doing
them at Teesside
Librarian to Learning Advisor
• Part of restructure of the Library in 2012
• 1 Assistant Academic Librarian role going
• Ring-fenced role as a Learning Advisor (Literacy)
in the new Learning Hub
• Sounded like a fun new challenge!
• Started in September 2012
Librarian to Learning Advisor
• Already had a number of skills
– Checking if work had enough or appropriate
• Writing skills
Librarian to Learning Advisor
• My favourite books to help me:
– Palgrave Macmillan Pocket Study Skills Guides
– Stella Cottrell’s Study Skills Handbook
Critical Appraisal (Qualitative)
Critical Appraisal (Quantitative)
What’s New About Studying at University
Writing a Literature Review
Exams and How to Survive Them
Maths for Drug Calculations
Structuring Your Essay
Doing a Literature Search
Find Books Fast
Keeping Up to Date
Using Google Like a LibrarianPreparing for Your Dissertation
Views of pages Sept 2013- May 2014
Harvard Referencing 2169
Academic Writing 1143
Arithmetic for Drug Calculations 770
Critical Thinking 738
Structuring Your Essay 664
Preparing for your dissertation 599
Journals - What? Why? Where? 578
Writing a Literature Review 565
Doing a Literature Search 552
Critical Writing 526
CINAHL Workshops 494
Reflective Writing 458
Presentation skills 378
Critical Appraisal for SoHSC Students 337
OSCOLA referencing 238
Find Books Fast 225
Google to the max 220
Time Management 208
Exams and how to survive them 133
APA Referencing 120
Keeping Up To Date 112
Finding Business and Management Information 74
What's New About Studying at University 69
• Running fewer workshops (18 or 19 compared
with 25 last year)
• Keeping the LibGuides for the ones no longer
• Staff concentrating on taking fewer workshops
• Desk research
• Talking to other departments within the
University who work with volunteers
• Advertising to Schools in the University via
Learning & Teaching Committees and PASS
• Year 1 – Foundations of Physiotherapy Practice
• Used 5 second year students
• Year 2 – Thinking About Representation
• Used 6 final year students
What happens in a PASS session?
• Whatever the students want to cover
• Up to the PASS Leaders to run the session in an
interesting and meaningful way
What did students think?
• Extremely helpful
• Very beneficial
• The PASS programme helped me a lot in my first year
• It has really helped me to develop what I have learnt in lectures
• I feel that the PASS programme has been fundamental to my
experience as a first year
• I often shied away from asking questions to lecturers in order to avoid
• I found the PASS leaders from our programme very approachable,
friendly and helpful
• Given a student’s insight on how to deal with the subject
• Talking to students who were in our position
• Guidance from second years – didn’t judge if we were unsure
• I now feel confident
What did PASS Leaders think?
What did you get out of PASS?
• Confidence, presentation skills, satisfaction,
time management, leading groups, self worth
and helped with career aspirations.
Has it helped with employability?
• Unanimous – yes
Would you be a PASS leader again?
• Unanimous - yes
Successes and Issues with
• Started later as second years were out on
• Dealt with very large groups
• More PASS groups, so more PASS Leaders
• Need to account for large break in middle of
year when second years are on placement
Future for PASS
• Will run in same modules and in 2 new
modules in 2 new Schools next year
JGS_MyrtleHill by Gracey Stinson (nd) (http://mrg.bz/QV2Ixb)
• Positivity about the Learning Hub
• Improved communication
• Proactive approach
– Succeed@Tees workshops
• Self-booking for tutorials
• Location of physical desk
– Learning Hub in social learning area
• Different levels of staff confidence and
• Developing Learning Hub guidelines
• Doing more with less
Learning Hub 2014+
• Project to develop the service
2. Operation of the Learning Hub
• Guidelines, Space, Input into the curriculum,
Communication, IT infrastructure
3. Online Learning Materials
4. Evaluation strategy
5. Expanding PASS
6. Continuing and developing Succeed@Tees