My experience of doing a MOOC

25 Apr

After much deliberation of which platform and which course to do I choose “The secret power of brands” from East Anglia University.

The course was created by the Norwich Business School at the University of East Anglia. It heavily features academics associated with the University as well as members of staff from Wolff Olins. The course stipulates you don’t need any brand or business management background but to simply have an interest in brands and companies.

The course started on the 24th of February and lasted 6 weeks. They recommended you need to allocate at least 3 hours per week to complete the sections.



  • Really easy to set up an account on the Futurelearn website.
  • Enough communication about what you’re meant to be doing e.g. 1) Welcome to FutureLearn website. 2) Email 2 weeks prior to start indicating the content and what you’ll have access to.
  • Good examples from a variety of companies e.g. Google, Starbucks, Tesco, McDonald’s, Apple,
  • Bringing in a range of speakers and practitioners from global companies e.g. Virgin. This brought some of the theoretical examples to life.
  • Encouragement at the end to think about your own personal brand and the next stages in your career (if you’re pursuing a career in branding)
  • Functionality of the FutureLearn website i.e. mark to complete different sections so you do a hour, save it and then log out to complete at a later date.
  • Weekly summary emails which indicated what theory and topics we’d covered.
  • Interesting assessment activity of writing something and then it being allocated to another learner for comments. Nice peer review exercise which asked learners to write up to 500 words on the following topic: “to build a successful brand, it is better to control every aspect of the brand, or to encourage people to adopt it and adapt it?”
  • Opportunity to engage outside FutureLearn; there was also a google hangout for specific sessions but I didn’t try these. Around 100+ people did though.
  • Clear structure to the course moving from definitions to what a brand is, historical emergence of brands, the role of brand agencies and consultancies, how brands make us buy and generate money for the company, types of brand owners,


  • The course said it would take place online and would consist of a variety of videos, articles, audio, discussions and assignments. However I felt the majority of the content was delivered through PowerPoints without audio which you were expected to read through.
  • A pre start survey; I completed this but wasn’t actually sure why I was completing. Presumably to give them data about my previous educational experience and background.
  • The course leader indicated they would be initiating discussions and encouraging social engagement between learners. People did seem to make a real effort with the discussions but I got a bit confused about the sections you could just comment on if you wanted and the sections which were meant to be part of the assessment/activity. So some people seemed to be commenting on everything and others didn’t.
  • Given the number of people taking the course, it was difficult to engage with other learners. Some learners seemed to complete the whole course in one week since the 6 weeks of content were released in one bulk publication. This meant when you got the discussions sections there were already hundreds of comments. This meant if I completed my week’s work on a Saturday, I simply posted my comments and moved onto the next section, deciding I didn’t have time to read all the other comments before mine. So kind of defeated the learning objective for me. The end of course email indicated there were 20,811 comments across the whole programme!
  • Charging for a completion certificate. Would be nice to simply create a PDF version that learners could print themselves. Not sure many people would pay for a certificate.
  • Getting email alerts every time some commented on a post or followed my profile. I probably could have turned these off but I never went and looked for the instructions.
  • Without having a specific brand background I did have to research and really try to think about relevant examples e.g. a question in one of the assessment was “is the brand run more from the top or ground up?”
  • I think some assumptions were made about the digital literacy skills of some learners e.g. activity to draw or sketch something from your 360 wheel idea. Then upload this to the Flickr or google group. Or draw a mind map but no explanation of what or how.
  • Quality of some materials; when you’ve got really good ones e.g. a slick video then a lesser slick video really stands out with audio or sound problems.
  • A lot of the guest speakers seemed to be encouraged to say how important/famous they were or how qualified they were in an organisation. I assume if they’ve been captured on video and incorporated into a MOOC then they are experts.
  • There were requests from international attendees to have the download notes available for all videos and other materials. I’m guessing some people liked to print out the notes instead of making their own.

Overall I enjoyed the experience and found the time to complete the weekly activities and quizzes. I’ve started to follow up on some of the recommended reading and think more strategically about how my place of work and it’s activities fits in with the overall brand.

Interested in other free courses ; check out this website


CILIP AGM in Birmingham

25 Apr

This year’s AGM was held in the new Central Library in Birmingham on the 21st of September. I was looking forward to attending the AGM (especially given some of the items on the agenda) as well as visiting the newly opened library.

The AGM covered the proposed name change and changes to membership charges. Summary is that students are free and we keep the same name. Worryingly only around 7% of the membership voted on topics within the AGM.

There was also a passionate case put forward by Jo Richardson, representing Voices for the Library, for a vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey for failing to speak up on the defence of public libraries.

After the AGM I took the opportunity (along with many others) to have a good wander around the building. Given the recent opening, good PR in the press and a large number of librarians in the city, the building was extremely busy. I was particularly impressed with the layout, the attention to detail especially in areas such as the terrace gardens and the exhibitions of certain collections. A big issue seemed the lack of visible stock (maybe it was out on loan or hadn’t arrived in time) and the queues for the lifts. I also couldn’t help myself from buying a glass of champagne from the café on the upper floor; much to amazement of one member of library staff who asked where I’d got it from!

Worth a £189 million pounds; I certainly think so!

I took lots of photos but these are my highlights below:










Library Design and Space Planning for information professionals event

25 Apr

I volunteered as part of the North Eastern Career Development Group to organise a training event around space planning and design. This seemed particular hot topic given some of the refurbishments which had reported on in CILIP Update and the news generally.

The event took place on the 17th of September in the Robinson Library at Newcastle University. It mainly featured speakers from the North East highlighting projects that were either completed or in the planning stages.

Speakers included:

Kathryn Armstrong who is a Manager for South Tyneside Libraries and Information Service

Consultation tree

Kathryn highlighted a variety of projects within South Tyneside public libraries including a rebuild at Cleadon Park, the planning for a new Central Library in South Shields and a branch library in Hebburn. The clear message from Kathryn’s talk was to be organised and force your way (if necessary) onto the relevant meetings and groups from the beginning. As someone on the ground who works with users, the collections and the building this makes library staff more than well placed to comment on furniture, disabled access, cafe facilities and layouts.


Dr Richard Pears who is an Academic Liaison Librarian at Durham University Library

Richard Pears

Like ourselves at Newcastle, Durham is facing space issues especially with having central located libraries. The expansion of student numbers together with an increased demand for a variety of study spaces means that buildings are under pressure. Durham have dealt with this by putting another three storeys onto their library, this was multi million pound project. This has resulted in more study spaces and shelving space for expanding print collections.


David Errington who is Head of Learning Environment together with Jenny Campbell, a Faculty Liaison Librarian, Robinson Library, Newcastle University.

Jenny and David

In the last few years I’ve been heavily involved in collection management and space planning at Newcastle University Library. It was interesting to hear my colleagues provide an overview and some photos of what the library looked like (both before and after!) We have an off-site warehouse which we call the “Research Reserve” where we store print journal runs together with less used monographs. This was a huge project involving sealing the floor, improving lighting in the warehouse and installing appropriate rolling shelves and units. Each day a collection for print material is made and brought back to the relevant central library for collection by the user. We also developed a digitisation service for journal articles so they could be delivered via a desktop service through email.

The message from the academic libraries was associated with the engagement of stakeholders. So actually surveying and finding out what users want especially in the context of space elsewhere on campus. This involved using students to interview other students, display boards of possible layouts and samples of colours of furniture.

I was pleased to receive such good feedback from the attendees especially those who had travelled to get to the event. There was also a mixture of attendees from different sectors so space planning seemed to be a hot topic which cuts across public, school and academic libraries.




Library Camp North East

25 Apr

Library Camp North East took place on Saturday the 15th of June. After some discussions amongst a couple of people I know and through tweets we decided we should hold one in Newcastle.

Myself, Nichola, Jennifer, Elaine, Isabel and Aude put ourselves forward to plan, organise and host the day.

Through contacts in the Library School at Northumbria University we managed to secure use of a free room on their Newcastle campus. Many thanks to Biddy Casselden for pesturing the Dean and getting authorisation sorted. The beautiful Great Hall in the Sutherland building proved a lovely setting.

A integral part of any Library Camp seems to be cake, so we managed to secure some funding from Library Camp UK and NECILIP for the provision of drinks. Attendees were encouraged to bring something to contribute to the food table. This was to also encourage everyone to stay in the room and network throughout the day.

On the day I chaired the event which was a bit daunting since I had never attended a Library Camp before. So I was a bit worried about how delegates would pitch in topics on the day and how these would be arranged into time slots.  I shouldn’t have worried as lots of topics and subjects were proposed and all I had to really do was a bit of logistical planning and introductions. Once the sessions were “pitched” using post it notes, we organised them into tables and drew up a kind of timetable. It all seemed to work anyway.


We received some really positive feedback afterwards, which was a relief given how far some attendees had travelled on a Saturday in their own time. Some attendees had also attended other Library Camps and said the smaller groups made it easier to talk and discuss ideas. However using one large room proved interesting especially when voices became louder as people were enthusiastically contributing. If we were running another one, we would perhaps search for a venue with a number of small rooms next to each other. I was particularly pleased to see a variety of staff from differen sectors all learning and sharing experiences.

Many thanks for other organisers, Northumbria University, NECILIP, Library Camp UK and the attendees who gave up their Saturday to come along.

Learning more about Student Wellbeing

27 Feb

I attended some new sessions which are being offered to staff across the University about the Student Wellbeing Service. As a module leader for HSS8002 which is an information skills module  (part of the Graduate Research Training Programme), I sometimes get referrals or recommendations from the Student Wellbeing Service. I decided to attend the workshops in order to understand more about the support on offer, how assessments take place and to learn more about what I can do as a member of staff to ensure best practice is implemented.

The first session was  a Mental Health workshop where I hoped to feel better equipped in knowing what support is available. They covered how students are given an intial appointment and where they could be signposted to the most appropriate specialised team. This is merely an assessment of their needs. These can be booked in person, by phone or via a web form and the appointment normally takes around 30 minutes.

The therapetic support can come in many forms with a range of techniques; from group therapy, online packages and one to one sessions. I was suprised by the variety of things on offer especially the online support.

The final section involved how the department can support staff, family members and other students. Again there was a strong message revolving around confidentiality however it was clear you just need to contact the service and they’ll do their best to advise or talk hypothetically around a scenario.

Session number two focused around Disability Support. I was aware of some of the terminology in terms of the assessment centre at Newcastle being called UCAN. But it was insightful to have a diagram presented about how the student can use sections on the UCAS form to declare in advance, apply for support through funding bodies such as the SFE and then attend an Assessment of Need. Understanding this process, which can be lengthy indicates how long it can be until certain support is put in place. The University does make arrangements through the Hardware Loan service and other areas to fill the gaps and provide assistance as soon as any issues are highlighted (whilst waiting for funding to come through).

The final session I attend was on Specific Learning difficulties. We started off naming conditions associated with having a disability but more importantly the impact that this might have upon someone attending University. I found the hand out associated with this exercise really useful in highlighting areas of difficulty, the effect on studying and possible solutions which could help. With a bit of audience participation we then did some practical activities involving reading from The Tortoise and the Hare, where the text had been altered in line with how someone with a visual impairement might see it. Within groups we also looked at some case studies and made some recommendations and reasonable adjustments of what could be put in place to help the “hypothetical” student.

Student Wellbeing leaflets

Overall the day was really interesting and helped allay some of the fears I had about not doing the right or correct things especially when I get recommendation reports from Student Wellbeing. It was also nice to hear about how good the library was in helping with additional loans, provision of dedicated rooms and providing resources in alternative formats.

I was also suprised to learn of some of the more “social” things the service was involved in. This ranges from discussion groups, social activities and helping students to adjust as they move away from home for the first time.

As usual lots of additional help and advice on their website.

Business Librarians Conference Day Three

22 Oct

So the final day of the conference involves the AGM and BLA business. This is followed by members sharing sessions:

1) Daniel Earls (Edinburgh University) Competing for attention. How to engage with students and get them using the library especially when cohorts of students are so different.

2) Dan Grace and Matt Borg (Sheffield Halam University) Co-creating the library gateway. They outlined how they have involved consumers in the product development in the library.

Day 3

3) Rebecca Fong (London South Bank University) Quizslides. Rebecca did a brave live demo of the free software and outlined how she had been using it within teaching. Good for self assessment type activities.


4) Samantha Halford (Cass Business School) Library Loves…More Books! Strategic investment from the University to allow students to request books. They put a sticker on the book which is physical reminder of why the book is in stock i.e. through a student recommendation. Campaign available here.

A final lunch before heading off for more trains. Another worthwhile conference of networking with colleagues, speaking with platform reps, getting freebies and learning new stuff and reinforcing existing stuff. Roll on next year!

Business Librarians Conference Day Two

22 Oct

The keynote of the second day was entitled “students as producers” and was delivered by Mick Healy. He is an HE Consultant and Researcher at the University of Gloucestershire. He recommended that is it essential we get students involved in research and enquiry. Various universities have been doing this in different ways and it is sometimes referred to in different ways including “students as producers” or active learning. The key is to find ways to break down barriers between academics and students. I’ve heard this particular sentence before it still resonated with me; “tell me and I’ll forget, involved me and I’ll learn” This is sometimes hard to achieve especially given the size of some of the classes and modules at the University.

The final keynote was entitled “student quality circles” and was delivered by David Hutchins (academician of the International Academy for Quality and Visiting Fellow at Kingston University) and Waqas Ahmad (BSc Information Technology student at Kingston University.) David opened with a contentious sentence of whether we can motivate people? He argued we can’t but we can ensure we don’t de-motivate them. This seemed to open up a flurry of comments around me of whether people agreed with this statement or not! David discussed quality circles of using small groups of people who provide solutions to management. It was interesting to hear the student experience from Waqas but overall I didn’t take too much away from this session.

We then heard brief product updates from Bureau Van Djik, Dunn and Bradstreet, LexisNexis and Report Linker. This was followed by a summary of a plagiarism survey BLA member completed earlier in the year.

The afternoon activities comprised of a walk around Runnymede which was really good. The weather was quite hot so we started with an ice-cream before heading off to visit memorials and Runnymede itself. The meadow was where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215. The Magna Carter essentially informs the democratic constitutions we have today.


The evening meal was held in the picture gallery at Royal Holloway which provided a stunning location. We were given talks and explanations of some of key pictures held there. My favourite was William Powell Frith’s “Railway Station


After our evening meal our brains were tested by a quiz put together by Andy Priestner.