Notes on "Hacking the Learner Experience"

Hacking the Learner Experience: Techniques & Strategies for Connecting with Your Instructional Ecosystem
Brian Mathews, Associate Dean, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Andy Burkhardt, Emerging Technologies Librarian, Champlain College, Burlington, VT
Lauren Pressley, Associate Director of Learning and Outreach, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

  • The presenters had mapped out class-by-class what students need to learn from each course.
  • “Threshold concept”: New way of thinking; without this “portal,” student learning cannot progress. The threshold concept is:
    • Transformative
    • Irreversible
    • Integrative
    • Bounded
    • Troublesome (difficult concepts)
  • Taxonomies:
    • “Blooms”: Pyramid learning invented by Benjamin Bloom. The items lower in this pyramid are easier to teach than the items higher.
    • Perry’s taxonomy: 9 stages that students progress through in college:
      • 1st year: Students are very receptive to authority figures and believe they all know the answer
      • 2nd & 3rd years: Contextual relativism; everyone has a right to his or her own opinions
      • 4th year: Commit within the contextual relativism approach
    • Kolb taxonomy: “Learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world”:
      • Assimilators
      • Convergers
      • Accomodators
      • Divergers
  • We need to understand who our students are & where they are in the pyramid.
  • Our instruction has to be learner-centric; not content-centric. We should teach not just tools, tips & tricks, but attitudes & habits of mind. We should not just help on specific assignments, but help our students to succeed overall in their college career.
  • We should also be question-centric; not answer-centric.
  • Poll students:
    • Where do you get your information from?
    • What do you want it to do?
    • How do you search?
  •  We need to teach habits of mind. This serves students much longer than showing them how to search a database.
  • We need to create skilled questioners.
  • Instructors should become co-learners. Inquiry-based learning is a shift in perspective. We need to give up some of our power to empower our students.
  • Students are afraid to fail. This leads to the feeling of incompetence & disrupts learning. Acknowledging this difficulty could stop this vicious circle from happening. The importance of learning by failing is HUGE.
  • Things that work:
    • Gamification of learning
    • Real world experience
    • Maker spaces

Notes on "Creating a Culture of Assessment"

Creating a Culture of Assessment: Determinants of Success
Presenters: Meredith Farkas, Head of Instructional Services, Portland State University, Portland, OR, Lisa Hinchliffe, Coordinator of Instruction and Information Literacy Services, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL & Amy Harris Houk, Information Literacy Program Coordinator and Reference Librarian, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC

  • Assessment of library services – particularly Instruction – should be the norm; it should be a regular part of our practice
  • Assessment is done for improvement first and foremost; not just for accountability & accreditation
  • It should be user-focused
  • All staff involved in assessment need to be learning- and curiosity-focused
  • All data retrieved should be used in decision-making
  • Library assessment is intended to improve student learning & allows us to become better teachers
  • It also helps us advocate for the library and grow our instruction program; it demonstrates the library’s value within the campus community
  • We should be holding ourselves to the same standards as other academic departments
  • We need to align faculty culture, institutional structures & leadership for change
  • Assessment requires a real change in staff thinking. The ideal internal culture needed by staff should have the following assets:
    • Trusting
    • Positive/Optimistic
    • Adaptive
    • Open communication
    • Staff feel safe experimenting
    • User-focused
    • Learning culture
    • Tolerance for the unknown/ambiguity
  • There should be both leadership from above (admins/supervisors), as well as commitment from below (other library staff)
  • Leaders need to lead by example by using data that’s collected
  • Staff should feel empowered, receive training, and know that assessment results will not be used against them
  • The presenters of this panel conducted a survey of 1,604 library directors. 672 (42%) of them responded. This survey asked the directors or heads of their library’s instruction department questions related to assessment in their library. These are the results:
    • 59% of respondents said that their institution had a culture of assessment
    • 40% said that their institution does NOT have a culture of assessment
    • 84% of respondents stated that their campus has an assessment initiative
    • 54% of respondents said that their library has no clear expectations of assessment
    • Only 59% of libraries say that they have learning outcomes
    • 59% of libraries say they do not have an assessment plan
    • 54% of respondents say that there is a shared understanding of the purpose of assessment within their library
  • These findings showed that if there is a campus-wide assessment initiative, the library is far more likely to have a culture of assessment
  • Organizing an on-going committee for assessment is a very good idea
  • These findings also showed that the libraries that did not have a culture of assessment tended to not be user-focused
  • These issues hinder a culture of assessment:
    • Lack of staffing
    • Lack of time
    • Lack of library administration leadership/support
    • Lack of expertise and access to training
    • Institution does not prioritize assessment
  • Without an institutional commitment to assessment, it’s difficult for the library to develop a culture of assessment
  • Institutions accredited by SACS are more likely to have a culture of assessment due to SACS requirements (87% of libraries)
  • We need to have a clear understanding of & expectations for assessment
  • Their article on this should be published soon

Notes on "What Will Libraries Be When They Grow Up?"

What Will Libraries Be When They Grow Up?:  Responding to the Innovations of Technology and Imagining the Future
Presenter: Samantha Hines, Head Librarian, Missoula College of The University of Montana, Missoula, MT

  • Jaron Lanier: “You are not a gadget.”
    • Concerned with loss of context and that scholarly material is being reduced to snippets
    • Lack of deep thinking & ownership of ideas
    • Wikipedia & the bullying of experts trying to correct its entries, but are shouted down by the mob
    • Lanier develops concept of digital humanism
      • Take ownership of one’s creations
      • We are not machines & so we should act with information mindfully
  • Nick Bilton: “I live in the future & here’s how it works”
    • Print no longer meets his needs
    • Online sources are cheaper & more useful
    • He worked for the New York Times & tried to solve how they can profit from digital content
    • “Consumer of the future”
      • Searching for experience, rather than physical goods
      • Need to get back to storytelling
      • Think about what libraries are in order to move forward
      • Creating, thinking & consuming
      • Blend of technology & space planning
      • Studying, learning & customer service
    • Hold the library as a house of learning & knowledge, but allow people to interact with the content in new & useful ways
    • We need blended librarians focused on building and maintaining relationships on campus
    • We’re facing the opportunity to create “The Great Age of Libraries”
    • Know our relevance & adjust our mission accordingly

Notes on "Think Like a Startup"

Think Like a Startup: Creating a Culture of Innovation, Inspiration, and Entrepreneurialism
Panel session presented by: Brian Mathews, Associate Dean, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
Carly Strasse, DCXL Project Manager, California Digital Library, Oakland, CA
Susan Payne, Virtual Services Librarian, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Steve Morris, Head, Digital Library Initiatives and Digital Projects, NCSU Libraries, Raleigh, NC

  • Libraries are filled with extreme uncertainty & need to create something new
  • “Startup”: Valuable, scalable, reliable model
  • 9 out of 10 startups fail; what does the 1 out of 10 do right?
  • Don’t waste time on what doesn’t work
  • End perfectionism: Good enough is good enough to start; launching the minimum viable product is OK, we can always continue to improve upon it after the launch
  • Feedback loop: Build à Measure à Learn
  • Entrepreneurial Library Program at Johns Hopkins
  • What would success look like?
    • Fill a need
    • Align staff skills
    • Careful scoping (encourage innovation without squashing it)
  • What’s gained from innovation?
    • Lessons learned
    • Visibility for the library
    • New skills & expertise among the staff
    • Funding model
    • Stronger relationships through collaboration
  • Some innovations:
    • Discovery & search tools
    • Digital collections & repositories
    • Mobile apps & services
  • Experiment cheaply & quickly
  • Avoid unnecessary complexity
  • Involve – and work closely with – all stakeholders
  • Keep & analyse statistics
  • Manage risks
  • Take advantage of any spin-off benefits
  • Create a timeline
  • Fail4Lib (
  • Failing is OK as long as you learn from it; always fail with grace & style
  • T-shaped model employee (this should be every employee the library hires):
  • Each manager’s brain should be like tofu; it takes on the flavours of those around it
  • DataUp tool:
    • This is an open source tool that helps researchers document, manage & archive their tabular data. It integrates with Excel.
    • Facilitates archiving, sharing & publishing
    • It can be an add-in or web-based application
    • The Add-In appears as a ribbon in Excel (Microsoft-only version)
    • Web-based works with any platform
    • Scientists upload their worksheets and are prompted to create metadata
    • DataUp also generates a citation, which allows scientists to easily copy & paste it into their CVs
    • DataUp then posts their work in a repository
    • We can find the code set for DataUp at
    • Facebook page:
    • This is the result of interviewing 200 scientists to see what they need for their research. Scientists were having issues with lack of data being presented & poor documentation.
    • Intercept researchers where they’re working
  • Hurdles to data stewardship:
    • Cost
    • Confusion about standards
    • Disparate datasets
    • Lack of training
    • Fear of lost rights or benefits
    • No incentives
  • Three unifying themes for innovation:
    • Cause (employees believe that they’re doing something important)
    • “Free” time (employees have time away from core duties to experiment, innovate, create, collaborate, fix problems, share ideas, volunteer to help others, etc.)
    • Sharing (employees are encouraged to share new ideas & invite others into the experience


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