In the eye of the hurricane, there is quiet.
For the past fortnight CamGuides has officially been ‘in review’, being put through its paces, tested, critiqued, and assessed by a variety of people. This essential work is being carried out by Rose Giles (University Library) and Amy Theobald (Betty and Gordon Moore Library), and I can barely express my gratitude to them for taking this work on with such commitment and rigour.
Their short- and longer-term recommendations are due any day now, which means I’m currently in a semi-blissful state of not really knowing what Rose and Amy will recommend, or how hectic the pre-launch period is going to be! But this quiet point seems like the perfect time to reflect on CamGuides itself – the product, not the process. There will be time, later, to consider what we as individuals and as a community can learn from its development; there will be time, later, to ensure that we learn from mistakes and missteps, and to share this with the wider CILN teams and the Cambridge library community as a whole.
So, although this might seem premature, with the recommendations yet to be published, here are five things that I would like you to know about CamGuides:
1. It is a set of learning objects.
And it has its own learning objectives. Though the purpose of CamGuides is to support students in their chosen discipline, it is also something to be learned from.
2. It is officially an open educational resource.
Nearly all of the content on CamGuides is licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0, which means it can be reused with attribution and under the same terms. This means that it definitely qualifies as an OER, defined by UNESCO as “teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation and distribution”. It isn’t just that members of the Cambridge library and academic communities can reuse, remix, and redistribute the content on CamGuides. Anyone can.
CamGuides being an OER isn’t just a matter of it being accessible to all students, or outside of a Cambridge authentication wall, though this is also crucial! Rather, this might represent an early step for us, as a community, joining in with and being a critical voice within the openness movement in HE. This movement, lauded as being inherently democratising, anti-hierarchical and counter-cultural (Gourlay, 2015), is also deserving of critique and dissent. CamGuides might catalyse our engagement with these sorts of debates.
3. It will never be finished.
This doesn’t mean it won’t be ready in time for launch before new students start arriving at the beginning of September – it definitely will. (This is more closely a result of stubbornness than good planning). But there will always be room for improvement, for development, and for change. CamGuides is a long-term commitment.
4. It will not solve all of the problems that students face when they begin their Master’s degrees.
Students will still need substantial, knowledgeable and committed face-to-face support from library staff across the whole library community. Fortunately, there’s a lot of that about.
5. It is a product of many hands and voices.
I can’t stress this enough: CamGuides exists because of the commitment and generosity of so many people, who deserve to share both the blame and the thanks. It is a result of current Master’s students who have shared their experiences, lending their voices and giving advice to future Master’s students; of the gifted and committed team at the Language Centre, whose creativity is boundless; of the administrators of the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund, without whom we may never have begun; of library staff across the colleges, faculties, departments and UL – and particularly the Digital Services team and my fabulous colleagues at the English Faculty Library; of experienced and knowledgeable administrative staff who shared links and names; of academic staff who shared ideas and feedback; of Amy and Rose, whose work will improve CamGuides considerably; and of the CamGuides project team – Ange Fitzpatrick, Lizz Edwards-Waller, Chris Grogan, David Marshall and Lihua Zhu – without whom, among other things, it would definitely not have such a catchy name. Thanks to all of you – now let’s get back to work.