CamGuides for Undergraduates is on the horizon

Photo by Simon Motzinger on Unsplash

CamGuides is a freely-available, online resource to support students with their transition to a new level of study at the University of Cambridge. In particular, it aims to introduce the information literacy and academic skills they will develop during their degree. In 2018 CamGuides for Master’s was launched. It is now the turn of CamGuides for Undergraduates.

First of all, thank you!

It seems like only yesterday that CamGuides for Master’s students went live. This is, in part, because it created such a stir at the time that it has been ever-present this past year. Links to it are liberally scattered across the University’s webpages, key figures have made reference to it at public and private meetings, and, at the end of last month, it won the Technology-Enabled Learning Prize at the Pilkington Awards. The team working on CamGuides for Undergraduates* owes a huge amount to the work of Helen Murphy and her team in paving the way for a partner resource.

Preparing the ground

We have benefited from 18 months to research, plan and create the resource; significantly more time than was afforded to the Master’s team. The first year was a series of productive meetings feeding back on literature reviews, interviews with key stakeholders in the institution, gathering input from those who work directly with incoming undergraduates, and scoping out what other universities do to help ease this transitional phase.

Thankfully, we already knew how it would look and feel, building on the original CamGuides model. We are grateful that we didn’t have to agonise over technological requirements and possible platforms. We committed early on to making the resource equally open. It would be generic, aimed at all students, and meant to act as a springboard, rather than replace already effective induction activities. This framework gave us something to hang our ideas off and there was a gradual evolution in our minds (and finally on paper!) of what the resource would contain.

But then we had to get on and write it

Following this considered approach to the start of the project, our level of engagement has definitely intensified. Since January, I have been able to dedicate one day a week to creating the content of CamGuides for Undergraduates. We felt that having a single ‘voice’ would give a sense of unity to the resource, but all team members have been hugely helpful in offering feedback and ideas to help guide my words. Most of all, I have worked closely with our immensely committed team-lead, Catherine Reid, to ensure that we are representing the many voices that have contributed to this project at some stage: from friendly academics who have agreed to cast an eye over a few pages, to engaged librarians analysing it at CILN project meetings.

In addition to the text, we were keen from the outset to follow the lead of CamGuides for Master’s and represent the student voice. We were fortunate to get twelve enthusiastic undergraduate volunteers from across a range of subjects, who were willing to answer, on film, questions on all aspects of their academic life at Cambridge. These have transposed into 28 videos on topics such as note making, supervisions, libraries and time management. The team* are grateful to Caitlin Carr (English Faculty Library), Eva Wewiorski (Newnham College Library) and Sheryl Wombell (Classical Faculty Library) for their help conducting interviews, and to Saimon Clark (Language Centre) for recording and editing them.

The whole resource has recently been subjected to a thorough review, deftly conducted by Amanda Hawkes (Lucy Cavendish College) and Sheryl Wombell. They did a super job interviewing students, supervisors, Directors of Studies and librarians to identify how we could improve CamGuides for Undergraduates before going live. 

And finally…

Which brings me to the main point of this post: the launch! As we work to incorporate the feedback on CamGuides for Undergraduates, the plan is to complete the resource by the end of July so that it can be communicated to Senior Tutors in mid-August, around the time that many new undergraduates receive their exam results. We hope that this targeted communication through colleges will make it relevant at a time of transition and contextualise the resource among all the other material that they receive, which helps prepare students for starting Cambridge. The CILN Communication Group plan to follow this up by contacting staff from across Cambridge Libraries. We hope that librarians will promote the resource and use it, or point students to it, during induction sessions.

CamGuides for Undergraduates is a generic resource aimed at all our new students, irrespective of subject discipline or how much experience they have of the city and university. This means that elements of it will be more relevant to some than others. Equally, it may not answer all their questions before starting their degree. In fact, we hope that it raises some questions, so that students arrive feeling ready to engage and keen to find out as much as possible to help them settle into studying at Cambridge.

*The team comprises: Jenny Blackhurst (Librarian and Fellow for Life & Study Skills, Girton College); Paul Cooke (Library Manager, Seeley Library); Emma Etteridge (Information Services Librarian, Department of Engineering); Laura Jeffrey (Academic Skills Librarian, Wolfson College); Laura Moss (Faculty Librarian, Architecture and History of Art); Helen Murphy (Library Manager, English Faculty Library); Catherine Reid (Librarian, Forbes Mellon Library, Clare College), (Project Lead).

The CamGuides for Undergraduates project is one of the initiatives of the Cambridge Information Literacy Network (CILN).  We are grateful to Libby Tilley, CILN Lead, for her support and guidance and for funding support from the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning. We also appreciate all the help given to the project by members of the wider CILN team.

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