Saturday, 27 February 2016

Robot librarian - coming to a library near you

A robot librarian has been designed by Aberystwyth University students who combined existing robot technology with information from the university’s online library search facility to create their brainchild. “Hugh”, an artificially intelligent library catalogue, will be able to take verbal book requests, work out where the hard copy is and lead students to the relevant bookshelf. Although the model requires some perfecting, the students who designed the robot believe that the design could be one of a line of robots that could undertake specific tasks in places such as hospitals, care homes and supermarkets. He even has his own website! Read more below.

Students at Aberystwyth University design librarian robot

Robot librarian

Hugh's home page

Are PhD vivas unfair?

In the Guardian today a PhD student argues for an urgent reform of the viva process claiming that the system needs to be more balanced and PhD examiners more accountable. The author writes a critical account of their own experience and questions how the system can allow students to study for four years, pass all preliminary checks, and yet leave without any qualification. As it stands the current system means that the academic judgement of examiners cannot be challenged. Read more by following the link below. 

‘All I can do is cross my fingers that it will all work out for the best.’

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Increase your academic profile using social media

Are you interested in using social media to increase your academic profile?  @TheLitCritGuy outlines the potential benefits of using social media to increase your academic profile. As the potential author you get to set the agenda and direct the debate around topics.  Formats such as twitter can provide some level of anonymity, giving greater freedom in terms of expressing opinions or particular views.  He makes a number of useful suggestions that might help to maximise your chances of success.

The full article is available on line.

Neuromyths debunked

Bradley Busch sets out to dispel some well-known myths about student learning and other so called neuromyths.  As with all research, things are rarely black and white, but Busch presents compelling evidence to suggest that even some well-established ideas are simply untrue. For example, the theory that by matching teaching style to a student’s learning style (VAK) will improve learning outcomes.  An alarming 93% of teachers in the UK believe this myth. According to Lia Commissar, from the Wellcome Trust, these ideas appear to fit our observations and therefore gain more credence, despite that fact that there is no scientific evidence to support such theories.The article goes on to dispel some other widely held beliefs including one which states that we only use 10% or our brain.  This particular myth is erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein.The article concludes with a warning to teaching professionals to remain objective and use critical thinking when it comes to using psychology or neuroscience to improve teaching practice.

For more on dispelling other well-known myths, please click the link below...

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

How to get your first academic paper published

Writing in the Times Higher Education today, Kevin O'Gorman offers 10 tips on securing your first academic publication. Recognising that getting your first paper published can be a challenge, he offers some practical and useful advice. Follow the link below to the article. O'Gorman also writes for a collaborative blog which offers resources and support for those undertaking a doctorate. Find a link below to 'It’s Not you, It’s Your Data'. If you have any problems with accessing the THE sign up for a free subscription or access it on the library Nexis UK database. 

how to get published academic paper journal

Tips on getting your first paper published

Link to blog..It's not you, it's your data!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Should PhD students publish while they study?

A recent study has suggested that those PhD students who wait to publish their first work until they have their doctorate in hand may be missing out to those who publish while they are still studying. The study claims that those who managed to publish while still PhD students produced about a third (36 per cent) more papers over the course of their careers than those who did not. Their success, it is claimed, shows that they are able to hone their networking, collaboration and writing skills earlier. While some experts warn that it is 'absolutely necessary' for PhD students to publish, critics warn that it can be 'too much, too soon' with students experiencing morale damaging rejection when results aren't sufficiently evidenced. Read more at the Times Higher Education by following the link below or sign up for a free 5-article subscription with the journal.  

PhD lettered on book spine

Should PhD students publish while they study?

How to submit that PhD Thesis

The final few months of a PhD can often be the hardest, so in the Times Higher Education today a doctoral student who recently submitted her thesis offers a few tips on how to get over the finish line. With corrections to be made, references to chase, a bibliography to check and arguments to refine the process can be stressful. As the author suggests, no matter how stressful it is or how tired you are, take enjoyment out of seeing your thesis come together and from the knowledge that the end is in sight. Read more by clicking on the link below. The article can also be accessed from the Nexis UK library database or by signing up for a 5-article free subscription with the THE.

phd good idea finish line final few days

How to submit that PhD

Friday, 12 February 2016

Women and careers in Stem

A new initiative is under way to encourage girls and women to participate in Stem (Science , technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.  It is hoped that a new organisation, called iWish (Inspiring women in Stem), will encourage more women to take up careers within the area.
Stem is widely perceived as a male career choice, but iWish are hoping to change this perception.  To begin with, they plan to research out to 2nd level students and introduce them to female role models already working with companies like Twitter and Google. 

Currently only 17% of entrants to 3rd level IT courses are women, with just 24% in engineering. In a country where there is already a skills shortage, overall numbers need to increase.  So any initiative that encourages a wider pool of potential employees should be welcomed. Also, as work practices change and technology replaces human roles in the work environment, women may find themselves significantly disadvantaged if they don’t have the skills to take up new roles within the growing area of Stem.  More in the Irish Times article.....

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Study shows students prefer print books to e-books.

The Los Angeles Times reports today on a new study which claims that 92% of college students would rather do their reading the old-fashioned way, with pages and not pixels. The study carried out by author and academic Naomi Baron selected 300 college students in the United States, Slovakia, Japan and Germany and asked how they preferred to read. Baron's book 'Words onscreen: the fate of reading in a digital world' has been ordered for Bolton Street Library LTT collection. Click the link below to read more.

Print book

Print not e-books


12 tips on how to engage a whole university community

This interesting article in the Times Higher Education today offers tips for anyone trying to engage a whole university community. As the author says, while many universities talk about “whole organisation thinking”, staff loyalties often nestle closer to their immediate department or administrative team. The author talks about her experiences of getting a pre-arrival shared reading schemes for freshers off the ground in her own institution. Research has shown that these schemes can benefit enrolment, engagement and retention in universities by promoting a sense of community before students arrive. Based on her experiences, she concludes that whole university strategies can take root, and quickly, but are more likely to succeed if you involve the whole organisation in their development. Here are some of her tips on engagement. Click the link below for access. Alternatively log in to the library Nexis UK database or sign up for a free 5 article subscription with the THE. 

 A team of people working together at a university

Tips to engage a community

Third level in Ireland stretched to breaking point

According to the outgoing chairman of the Higher Education Authority higher education in Ireland is underfunded and is currently "stressed to the point of breaking". John Hennessy said that rising student numbers, cuts to funding and falling numbers of academic staff posed a threat to the quality of graduates. Although student numbers have risen by about 20 per cent since the economic crash, public funding for higher education has fallen by almost 30 per cent over the same period. Read more in the Irish Times by clicking on the link below.

John Hennessy: many in government “short-term in their thinking”.

Third level stretched to breaking

Friday, 5 February 2016

Libraries as a space for free & equal learning

Next Monday, 6th February, is National Libraries Day, a day which was originally imagined to try and avoid further closures of libraries across the UK, and to celebrate libraries as temples of learning. It seems impossible to imagine education without libraries and yet, as the Guardian reports today, libraries remain critically underfunded with a staggering £50m cut from library budgets across Britain in 2014-15 and 106 libraries closed in the same year with further savage cuts planned. As famous writers clamour to support a campaign to halt further closures it should be remembered that libraries remain the last public spaces reserved for free and equal learning and remain as diverse and democratic as it is possible to imagine. While they may seem outdated to some in the age of Google search, they remain vital hubs for older people, a place for poorer students to work in peace, for people of all ages and backgrounds to borrow books, for children to attend kids clubs and for job seekers with no home internet access to look for job vacancies. Read more about the campaign 'My Library by Right' by clicking on the links below. 

Students studying at a library


Thursday, 4 February 2016

University Workplace Results 2016

A recent poll carried out by the Times Higher Education revealed that a large proportion of staff working in universities in the UK find their work rewarding but believe that a deep gulf exists between academics and professional and support staff. One of the main conclusions to be drawn from the survey is that UK academics and professional and support staff inhabit “two parallel universes that have little point of contact”. According to one of the designers of the survey  “professional and support staff are proud of their institution, and appreciate the environment and conditions of employment,” he says. “By contrast, academics report a substantial degree of stress and considerable dissatisfaction with the leadership of both their department and their institution, and a considerable number are looking to leave their current job.” 

Click on the link below to access the article and the full text of the survey. Please sign up for a free subscription to THE if you have problems with access.

People with speech bubbles above heads (illustration)

Link to article in THE

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Do we teach individuals or 'average' students?

An interesting article in the Times Higher Education today states there is no such thing as an average student. The article looks at a newly published book by Harvard University's Todd Rose 'The End of Average: How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness' which aims to highlight the costs of such “averagarianism” and to set out what it might mean to embrace a “science of the individual” instead. According to Rose his thinking is at the heart of an intellectual revolution which universities and researchers need to take seriously. As he says, if universities are truly to play their role in “helping young minds figure out what they are passionate about, and acquire the knowledge and skills they need for a career they actually want”, they need to become much more flexible.

The book has been ordered for the LTT collection in Bolton Street library. Read more by clicking on the link below. Any issues with access can be solved by signing up for a free account with the THE or accessing the journal though the Nexis UK database on the library homepage. 

Crowd of students facing forwards (illustration)

Average or individual?

OECD reports low literacy in Irish university students

According to a recent report by the OECD, Irish university students have some of the poorest literacy and numeracy skills in the developed world. The article in the Irish Times reports that the OECD found that about one in five university graduates can manage basic literacy and numeracy tasks – such as understanding the instructions on a bottle of aspirin – but struggle with more complex tasks. The report also found many Irish teenagers struggling with a basic grasp of language and maths. While the report was based on the performance of the English education system it contained data on other countries. The analysis says students with low basic maths or literacy skills should not normally enter three-year undergraduate programmes at university. Read more from the Irish Times on this subject by clicking on the link below. 

The OECD report shows that about one in five Irish university graduates can manage basic literacy and numeracy tasks but struggle with more complex tasks.   File photograph: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Low literacy in Irish university students

Eight technologies changing education

Whether in a preschool or in a university computer lab, technology is rapidly transforming the way teaching and learning takes place. However, opinion is divided about its merits. While some fear students will become too dependent on technology; others insist it will free up time to develop sought-after skills such as critical thinking. The Irish Times reports today on eight of the most popular technologies and how they are used in the modern classroom. Click on the link below to access the article. 

Some academics fret that the digitisation of information means research skills are being lost. Photograph: Thinkstock

Eight technologies in the classroom