I’m currently working on a project that is trying to integrate our library resources into our VLE (virtual learning environment), It’s:Learning. This post deals with the ideas we have about this and the practical solutions that we are currently using to implement them.
A quick aside here — VLEs are also variously called LMSes (learning management systems) and CMSes (course management systems), to avoid confusion with Library Management Systems and Content Management Systems, I’ve chosen to use VLE, which is widespread in the UK.
One of the first and most important point is that we know two things:
- Subject librarians are a limited resource
- Knowledge of library resources and skills related to linking to these isn’t great among teaching staff
These points lead us to believe that it isn’t a good idea to have the responsibility for maintenance of display information (what is actually presented in the each instance in the VLE) placed in the hands of subject librarians — most subject librarians at NTNU have at least three subjects, and each subject may be running tens of courses at any one time; the simple fact is that they don’t have the overview of course content they need in order to perform this task, nor do they have available time to do this. The points also lead us to believe that we need to provide a simple interface that allows teaching staff to provide course resources to their students.
We had a few round-table discussions in the group about this, and we realized that at a minimal level, we want to provide direct searching in the library OPAC and links to research databases. The databases should be relevant to the particular course, and should be easy for the course tutor to include in their course page.
On the whole, I’m against the idea of forcing stuff onto people, but because we want to ensure that there is some content in library “box” in It’s:Learning, we may just have push the standard sets from Metalib. We did toy with the idea of using the teacher’s own “My Space” in Metalib as the repository for selected resources, but there is no good way of accessing these (Metalib has no way of sharing personal database sets). Obviously, a database would solve this problem, but this creates a problem when it comes to authentication — this is solved using the same SSO that we have for our intranet and It’s:Learning.
It is possible that we will provide links to course readings registered in the OPAC automatically, but not to articles. If the articles in question are available in eJournals to which we subscribe, then the teacher can insert these themselves in an “other relevant links” section.
Baking all of this together with X-Server, BIBSYS’ SRU and a few tricks from our toolbox means that you end up with a transportable system (it isn’t integrated in It’s:Learning, because we don’t want to be tied directly to a particular system, but you might well think that it is as an end user because of the level of interoperability and similar styling).