Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Time to start making...

Today's meeting in Bartolome House was a great opportunity for colleagues to catch up with progress on the TASH project, and find out where we're going next. Given the busy time of year, not everyone could make it, and particular thanks to those who did; it was really useful from the core team's point of view, especially in getting feedback about the general structure and design of the site. This is only the first report from the meeting, trying to reflect some of the key ideas; there will be others, thanks to Louise and Willy's prodigious note-taking skills, and materials like Willy's PowerPoint presentation will also be posted in due course.

So, what did we learn today? Mainly, that it feels like time to take what we can from the consultation process (roughly, the last six months of the project), and move onto a stage where we're doing, creating, and testing (the next six months). Input from colleagues has been important throughout, and particularly so in today's meeting, but it seems like we need to start firming up what TASH will be, do, and look like, before we can move onto the next stage of testing and consultation.

The materials Willy and I presented today were always going to be rough, but I think it took the comments of participants to identify just how much more work needed doing. We handed round some draft "rapid routes", linear pathways that would take users from general introductory pages to specific resources. Questions were quite rightly asked about how long these would take, and whether the tone was quite right; and the difficulties were discussed of modelling the complexities of website navigation through a series of essentially linear routes. We also shared some rough reflection exercises, intended to help students get a better sense of what TASH could do specifically for them. These need a lot more work - they need to be more interactive, more focused on targeted academic skills and resources, and more reason given for students to engage with them (encouraging tutors to use them in formative assessment were suggested, and this seems like a good route to pursue). So while the specific materials we disseminated weren't perhaps as camera-ready as we in the core team had hoped, the feedback we got on them was extremely useful, and we can spend the next few months doing the spade-work of constructing the TASH resource for testing.

And that's what we'll do, really; retreat to individual offices, putting pen to paper, cursor to screen, or crayon to wall depending on our creative styles. Come April (or so), we hope to have a version of the site ready for testing, and we'll be in touch with everyone who's ever shown an interest in TASH then. Then during the summer, we'll promote it across the institution, and start the long, slow process of embedding it in institutional practices. One of the most useful comments today came from Lyn Parker, talking about her experiences with the MOLE Information Skills tutorials. First, she had to create them, and publicise them to academic staff. Then, she needed to get them embedded in individual modules and departmental cultures. It was during this second phase that the largest number of students engaged. It might well be that TASH follows a similar arc.

Thanks again to all who came today, and more reports will follow soon!