Ten Years of Information Resources and Tools for Research Courses!
The highly sought after Information Resources and Tools for Research course organised by the library for postgraduate students celebrates its tenth birthday this year. What has made the course so popular?
Course sprouts to life spring 2012
In the spring of 2012, Turku University Library organised its first information retrieval course for postgraduate students. Initially, the course was organised in both Finnish and English, but since 2014 the course has only been organised in English. It is now held regularly twice a year, in both autumn and spring semesters.
The course was initially organised as a live, face-to-face course in 2012-14. In autumn 2014 however, the course was piloted as an online course for postgraduate students of the School of Economics. With such positive experiences from the pilot, the course was completely transformed into an online course.
What do you study in the course?
From the very beginning, the contents of the course have been diverse and have aimed to cover different aspects of research where the library can support researchers.
Information retrieval, reference management, publishing ethics, and research evaluation (metrics) have always been included in the course. The contents of the course have been continuously evaluated based on the feedback gathered after each course cycle. New elements important for research have been added on, such as Open Science and research data management.
Students’ experiences of the course
From the start, the library has systematically collected feedback on the course and we have been delighted how willingly the participants have given it.
Instantly the participants took to the course like a house on fire. The practical nature of the course and concrete assignments received good feedback immediately, and what also got praised was the online implementation of the course, how it was structured and scheduled.
Many of the participants have pointed out that the course goes through skills that postgraduate students are often assumed to already possess, without the skills being specifically taught at any point of their education.
“I was motivated to participate as I`ve been missing this kind of teaching during my PhD. I feel like it is assumed that we know all these things magically when we start, even though most of us don`t. This kind of course (though with web-lessons etc.) would be good for everyone when they start their PhD” (Participant feedback from spring 2020.)
Throughout the decade of teaching this course and according to the feedback information retrieval has been the most important part of the course – it has often been the main reason why people have enrolled in the course.
“I signed up for the course specifically to improve my literature research skills. I certainly learned a lot about optimising my search strings and utilising multiple databases to get an even more comprehensive view into the topic of my research. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn more about evaluating scientific publications themselves.” (Participant feedback from autumn 2021.)
The personal feedback received during the course has also garnered a lot of praise.
“The course was very useful and insightful, well structured and very easy to follow and proceed independently. Learning assignments were diverse and instructive. I was very happy about the individual guidance and feedback on search strategies and search strings. Also the well-prepared joint feedback promoted my learning on this course.” (Participant feedback from spring 2022.)
Teachers’ experiences of the course
The teachers of the course have found the teaching rewarding and interesting. Each time, the course has also given a lot to them: it has brought the research projects at the university and the everyday life of researchers closer to the library.
The course has also been analysed from the perspective of teachers' experiences. These results were presented at the 2017 EAHIL conference. After the course’s online implementation, the teachers' time management has become more flexible. In addition, seeing how the participants work in the online course area makes it possible to develop the functionality of the course.
Many of the course teachers found online teaching challenging sometimes, because maintaining the participants’ motivation, messaging in English, and finding effective ways of communicating have required testing a lot of different methods.
What’s next in the future?
"Please don't change the course (at least not too much)!"
(Participant feedback from spring 2021.)
We will continue to follow the feedback and new trends in research and academic libraries, and will modify the course as necessary. We are also answering the wishes of many students, as we are not planning on changing the course, at least not very much and not at once!