Since 2018, the School of History and Heritage has been collaborating with the University Library and Talis (an education / library technology developer) to utilise and develop a tool called Talis Elevate to support students in developing their reading skills.
Talis Elevate enables students to annotate resources including text, images and videos. Importantly, they can share their annotations with one another and their tutors. The team found that Elevate facilitates a much more integrated learning experience than, for example, using a discussion board with digitizations. They discovered that the tool, when supported by a robust pedagogic approach, can result in deeper learning and provide students with the opportunity to greater levels of engagement with historical sources.
The team – led by Jamie Wood – asked students to engage in some seemingly simple exercises, such as adding two or three comments or questions to the weekly reading, and this has provoked a marked improvement in their learning. These interventions encouraged students to read actively and purposefully, thereby deepening their understanding of readings and ability to make connections across and between modules. Many students also took advantage of the private note-taking functionality and used the tool to support their independent work.
Elevate was pivotal to the School’s transition to online teaching during Covid-19 lockdown, during which time the School witnessed a step-change in take-up. Over 3,000 comments were made on resources uploaded to modules following lockdown (approx. 4 weeks of teaching), which was a 200% increase on the previous count in the School of History and Heritage.
Student feedback has been very positive:
‘Talis was a useful way of viewing other’s thoughts on readings and getting feedback from seminar leaders.’
‘Talis Elevate was very useful as we could still access sources and comment directly on them and our seminar leader replied. This allowed us to have a more detailed discussions and it gave an opportunity for people who are less inclined to speak in front of others, to engaged with the sources more thoroughly and gain higher participation marks.’
The History team found that using Elevate as an indicator of overall engagement in the module, and therefore factoring it into ‘participation mark’ calculations, has been viewed positively by students. Talis enables tutors to keep track of how students are working outside of class rather than having to rely solely on what they do in class (which students often interpret as rewarding those who speak the most, not those who have actually engaged most fully with the work). Allocating a small assessment component (10-15%) therefore helps to drive learning, as well as offering a fairer measure of student engagement and promoting a sense of equity amongst the student body (ie. ‘quiet’ students see that they will be rewarded too).
Various members of the team have shared their work with Talis Elevate within the University. They have also presented to external audiences. All of these presentations are collected here.
Over the coming year the History team have three aims for this project:
- To extend usage of Elevate further across the school in 2020-21.
- To conduct a research project into the role of active online reading in student learning (see here).
- To disseminate our findings further, especially through publication.