Scaffolding on Oxford's Radcliffe Camera Library. Photo by me, 2009 (CC-BY-NC).
Scaffolding on Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera Library. Photo by me, 2009 (CC-BY-NC).

The subject of putting reading lists online is a rather contentious one at the University, and one which colleagues at other Universities struggle to understand. I was fist met with ‘strength of academic opinion’ when I was undertaking some institutional research for my MSc in Education in 2006, during which I interviewed academic colleagues on their perceptions and experiences of technology use in University teaching. I was rather interested by the angry pushback to my suggestion that reading lists could be shared in a VLE and link students directly to items in the library catalogue. This, it seemed, encouraged our students to be ‘little birds with their mouths wide open, waiting for knowledge to be fed to them with a silver spoon’.

It is important that our students develop the skills to discover readings, interrogate the catalogues and critically assess what is relevant to their studies and what is not. Our TEF submission states clearly we want our students to be independent and critical learners. But that is a difficult point to start from as a new first year student. Scaffolding is needed to be taken to that point. Teaching ethos is not the only barrier, there are concerns around intellectual property and teaching viability, especially in terms of our college tutors whose research is often embodied within their small group teaching and their reading lists. Publication can take so long, and it is seen as risky to make open it up online, including reading lists.

We are embarking on our third attempt to introduce a University online reading list management system in the 17 years I have been here. And this time student voice , addressing the no longer acceptable time-consuming processes of our librarian colleagues, and wider support for digital education will see a University-wide roll-out in the 18/19 academic year. However, I feel we will be working particularly hard to get academic support for this development, and endeavour to make it part of the wider conversation on how digital can create opportunities in teaching and learning, not chip away at the Oxford-experience, but enhance it.


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