Online Library Induction Sessions: Experiences, learning outcomes and reflections

Gaz Johnson's picture
By: 
Emma Hollinshead (Aston)

Library staff at Aston University discussed pivoting to online library inductions in 2020, and the lessons which had emerged from the experience.

Due to the pandemic new student inductions for 2020 looked completely different to inductions in previous years. In our January MSDG event Clare Langman and Andy Doyle (Aston) looked at the design and delivery of online induction and how they were able to engage with students, as well as reflecting on lessons learnt.

Like other universities, Aston had previously offered face to face induction in the library building, with reasonable attendance and variable student engagement during the sessions based on their subject group. The pandemic and resulting lockdown meant that planning for autumn 2020 inductions was a challenge, with the team having to swiftly move from a hybrid to a fully online induction with a focus on the digital services their library had to offer. While this was challenging, major positives from moving online included the ability to run numerous parallel sessions tailored for the specific subject group led by their own Information Specialist rather than any Information Specialist. Aston used Blackboard Collaborate and created the Get Ahead @ Aston module for students to access the sessions which worked really well. As the library service wanted to interact with the students as much as possible during the online sessions, it chose not to use pre-recorded induction sessions.  Nevertheless, there induction sessions were recorded and made available post-event for those students unable to attend their timetabled session.

An impromptu poll of attendees at this point revealed most members had utilized online only inductions in 2020. A few reported though how they had still used live sessions or opted to present pre-recorded sessions instead.

Clare continued by explaining how marketing and promotion of the induction sessions used the Discover Your Library theme used in the previous year’s induction session, but again with a switch in focus to digital rather than physical promotion. Using the approved design company, the library already worked with readily allowed the creation of digital animations, along with banners to use in the library LibGuides and discovery system and social media graphics. This not only helped to promote induction to the student but also served to relate the training to the existing theme contained on signage in the physical building.

Andy then covered the design and planning which went into the Aston induction programme, noting how the Open University session earlier in the year Doing the Covid-19 Pivot on delivering effective library teaching online had provided a useful basis during the planning phase. He explained how it had also been key to work with other library staff to build up their confidence in online teaching. In particular, good use had been made of Aton’s Teaching and Learning Team to help with this via numerous training sessions. Staff also spent some time practicing their induction training over the summer months. Crucially, library staff were encouraged to be adaptable where any technological problems cropped up, and to remember keeping perfectly ‘on script’ wasn’t essential. Provided students left sessions with the key message of ‘the library is approachable, here to help and this is how you contact us’ then the inductions would be deemed to have been successfully delivered.

Sessions aimed to comprise a mix of slides, along with live online service demonstrations such as the Discovery system as well as using interactive tools including polls and the chat facility. In terms of student engagement, staff would log on to the sessions early to offer some informal student interactions via chat before the formal elements commenced. Usefully, this provided time to build up a rapport in advance of the ‘official’ session and seemed to be key to achieving a successful interactive session. Experience soon also showed many students seemed to be more relaxed and engaged in the online chat than they were in the ‘traditional’ face-to-face inductions.

In summary, staff at Aston felt using online inductions had enabled Information Specialists to deliver sessions for students in their own subject group, something which wasn’t always the case in face-to-face inductions. This had allowed staff to meet many more of their own students, albeit virtually, and begin to build up a rapport with them. In turn this helped in delivering effective later teaching sessions along with being something staff could build on throughout the year.

The session finished with the following personal reflections from Clare and Andy:

  • Would we change our future offer? The team would like to continue with online inductions for the Information Specialists sections, supplemented by short tours of the building and demonstrations of certain services such as printing or self service
  • Risk factors? The process made us think about why we did things and that it was OK to have risks in sessions provided there was a backup plan. 
  • Did it help us to up-skill professionally? Yes definitely, it encouraged us to learn more about the different online technologies.
  • Did we enjoy it? Yes!  Initially the team were dreading it but once they had confidence via training and numerous online practices everyone really enjoyed doing the sessions
  • How will we evaluate? As well as feedback post induction, we are planning to run some focus groups to explore further the student view of the online inductions.  These will hopefully be run in March 2021.

Further details

Information on Aston’s online induction sessions and some of the publicity produced for them can be found here: https://padlet.com/adoyleaston/MercianOnlineInduction. Additionally, if you would like to find out further information about Aston online inductions please feel free to contact Clare Langman on c.langman@aston.ac.uk or Andy Doyle on a.doyle2@aston.ac.uk