A Case Study by the Learning Commons Team; Darren Flynn, Carolyn Shaw and Andrew Walls.
Dixons Allerton Academy consists of more than 2000 pupils in primary, secondary, and post-16 education. Our post-16 provision has around 250 students on either academic or vocational courses.
In 2015 a project was initiated to allow our 250 post-16 students’ access to all of their academic resources in a single portal which would become a hub of learning, available 24/7 and accessible from home or anywhere else that they choose to study. Access was provided through FrogLearn, our virtual learning environment (VLE), and all students were issued with a personal Chromebook.
A key part of our project was to provide relevant books in electronic form. We looked at several available platforms and chose VLeBooks from Browns Books because it provided the most comprehensive content and flexible licensing options. We started to build up our collection of post-16 eBooks during the summer term in 2015. These were all non-fiction titles that were available with multiple user access to ensure that eBooks are always available and that we have no turnaways. Funding for the initial 86 eBooks was from the eResources project budget, but subsequent eBooks have been funded from our normal library budget. The eBooks were complimented by an investment in other e-resources such as academic databases and multimedia resources. Stock was selected based on teacher engagement, curriculum and exam board needs and librarian selections.
The new resources were organized into subject areas: links to the eBooks were then stored on the front page of each subject area’s page in order to emphasize the importance of reading around the subject. Additional resources such as file downloads, exam specifications, past papers, noticeboards etc. on the subject pages also increased the traffic to the sites and increased opportunities for students to see the eBook stock. Within the page eBooks were divided into essential, essential and wider reading (core being textbooks and set texts, essential reading for a good pass and wider reading stretch resources for the most able).
A key requirement of the project is that students can access all resources with a single sign-on. We developed macros for each resource to provide seamless authentication and with VLeBooks we can link the student directly to an individual title from within each Resource Centre in FrogLearn, or even deep-link to a chapter or specific page. The technical support team at Browns has always been very helpful and quick to provide assistance when required. eBooks were added to each subject specific eResource page.
In September 2015 we launched our e-Library by including tutorials into the student inductions and talked with teaching staff about integrating the resources into everyday teaching practice.
Take-up by students has been very positive. Within the first half term there were almost 900 eBooks read as well as more than 500 accesses to other e-Resources provided. Usage has continued to grow and is currently consistently more than 150 eBook access per week. 99% of eBooks are read online using the VLeBooks browser-based reader. Students can search the full text, print & copy selected sections or pages, and make notes. Apart from textbook access in classrooms most usage seems to be from home, based on the access times.
By integrating a script into the login process we can analyse usage by student. This has allowed us to show a clear correlation between usage and academic results. Interestingly of all the resources collected on the Post-16 centres, eBooks were shown to have the greatest correlation between usage and academic progress.
We are now providing non-fiction eBooks to year 7 students and would like to make eBooks a habit as they progress through the year groups. Some core reading has also been provided for year 11 students through targeted revision centres.
Has our e-Library been successful? Undoubtedly. We have been able to provide relevant and high quantity content with access at the point of need. Multiple access licensing ensures full availability to whole classes simultaneously making the library service genuinely whole-school. It is providing a real boost to the keenest students and developing an academic culture from Key Stage 3. It is too early to tell if we are better able to engage those students that are less keen but with the analytics we have available to us we will be able to continuously monitor and feedback where usage is low.