From sourceware to courseware: extending the role of the library

Changes in form and function of teaching materials and methods are creating a demand for a new library role - courseware advisor.

Traditionally, libraries in educational institutions offer collections for background study and research and not the core textbooks for the courses (sourceware versus courseware). Growing diversity in the form and function of teaching materials, changing teaching methods ('blended learning') and

While it used to be clear to experienced teachers what textbooks to use, and which articles to include in their syllabus, new possibilities not only require a time consuming search for information available, but also knowledge about digital rights, technical skills to put information up on the electronic learning environment and the capability to share and work with social media. Besides all that, choosing courseware also involves looking at licenses and/or subscription possibilities. This is a lot to ask from the current day teacher, but fortunately, the librarian can help.

However, taking up this new role means changing expertise, positions and work processes for both librarians and teachers. Librarians are more familiar with building the library collection than acting as an advisor for the use of course materials; and teachers are not used to asking for help while setting up their course.

At the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, the Library is gradually getting involved in setting up courseware by working on a digital reader, coordinating copyright compliance and advising on the use of online courseware.

A year ago, the Library of the University of Applied Sciences was asked to lead a project to develop a new type of digital reader (syllabus) using the Bookshelf platform. This new type of digital reader meets the growing demand for multimedia and interactive digital course materials at the college. It will not only contain a collection of book chapters, paragraphs and articles, but also animated graphs, movies, audio and interactive quizzes. Teachers are in charge of the way they want to compose and present their course materials in the reader, supported by didactics. Different types of content are brought together in one object using the epub3 format. By using Bookshelf as a platform, the user experience is furthermore enhanced with the ability for both teachers and students to highlight text, make notes and share them with each other. The Library is leading the project and information specialists in the Library help the teachers in choosing the texts, setting up the quizzes and linking to other sources. They also support the production and testing of the digital readers and guidance for using the readers.

While starting to work on the digital reader project, it became clear that copyright issues were far from clear in the digital courseware domain. Copyright checks on the sources used on the VLE lead to fines to be paid by the University and from there to a request for the Library taking up coordination in this area. Here as well, information specialists start to get involved in a very practical way, getting into contact with teachers to help them to choose the right information and use them correctly.

The third way the Library of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences is taking up its role in supplying courseware is by supporting the move to blended learning methods. The Library has made an example with producing video clips on information literacy and is now working on search and discovery of web lectures, knowledge clips and other types of online courseware.

All this puts the Library in the middle of the process of providing the students' course materials and is also leading to involvement in the planning of course materials and being an advisor on innovation of textbooks and digital alternatives. In this way the Library extends its role as mediator of 'just' e-journal and database licenses to the overall supply and curation of digital learning materials: the courseware advisor.

Hilde van Wijngaarden is head of the Library of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.  In Session C102 at Internet Librarian International, Hilde will explain the steps the library is taking towards becoming a courseware advisor and will share the first results of the digital reader project.

Image by Morten Oddvik via Flickr.