Universities and other organisations have made considerable investment in creating collections of digitised resources for learning, teaching and research. However, these resources are not always as discoverable as they could be by online audiences.
This means that students and learners may miss opportunities to benefit from valuable primary source material. It can also limit the impact of digital collections on education and research, both locally and internationally.
This guide aims to help you make your digitised collections more discoverable and easier to use, including advice on demonstrating usage and impact of your collections.
If you have any questions about this guide, contact Karen Colbron (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Spotlight on the digital: recent trends and research in scholarly behaviour
Ian Chowcat, Jisc (2015).
This report provides an update on the literature relating to the academic library role in discovery for both students and scholars since the earlier literature review published by the Spotlight project in late 2013.
In 2018 Jisc commissioned Sero HE to interview academics who were actively engaging with digital archival collections in learning, teaching and research.
From embedding digital archival collections into the curriculum, to creating open educational resources to support students and researchers, to using digital tools to help students develop better skills of reflection, analysis and evaluation, these case studies demonstrate how the variety and depth of interaction with digital archives can improve pedagogy in both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom.
Digital archives built by students: inherited learning at University of Hertfordshire
Inherited learning is the latest stage of a programme to develop digital history methods in the undergraduate curriculum at the University of Hertfordshire’s history department.
Involving more members of staff than before and a range of topics, it engages students in discovering visual and textual material from online archives in response to specific remits. Learners construct the results into new archival collections that are published on the open web and used as a resource on which subsequent student cohorts can build. Harnessing students’ propensity to use digital technology in their studies, as well as generally in their lives, it puts this to use in the service of techniques integral to the evolution of the discipline and the construction of genuine historical knowledge.
Digital diseases: creating 3D models of human bones at the University of Bradford
Digitised diseases is a collection of 3D models of human bones created at the University of Bradford in partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Museum of London Archaeology.
The collection provides an open access resource for both students and researchers which supports the study of human osteology and palaeopathology, physical anthropology and related medical disciplines. Students can use this collection in conjunction with hands-on access to real specimens, in an innovative and integrated learning environment.
Turning students into scholars: embedding digital collections in the history collection at Cardiff University
Working directly with primary sources in an online digital archive, primarily the UK Medical History Library, has been embedded into the curriculum of a second year social history of medicine module at Cardiff University.
The aim is to take advantage of the accessibility of digital archives so as to introduce students to working with primary source materials early in their education, to offer a grounding in techniques associated with the digital humanities and to progress them faster towards independent research.
Wikimedia in the curriculum: addressing the challenges of digital and information literacy, digital scholarship and open knowledge at the University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh is the first university in the UK to appoint a university-wide Wikimedian in residence. Their role is to work with course teams and students across the university, to demonstrate how learning to contribute to Wikipedia can become part of the university’s strategy to help develop information and digital literacy skills.
Teaching with digital archives to improve pedagogy: teaching digital history techniques to undergraduates at Loughborough University
Good teaching in a digital world requires that students learn the digital skills they need both for their studies and their future careers. With imagination and willingness to experiment, university teachers can use digital tools to help students develop better skills of reflection, analysis and evaluation.
However, experience in history at Loughborough University shows that, with imaginative use of digital archival collections, it is possible to go further, enabling students to work directly with primary sources in ways not previously feasible.
Observing the 80s: creating and curating a digital archive collection at University of Sussex
Observing the 80s is a collection of digitised material drawn from multiple sources including the mass observation project at the University of Sussex.
Having been created in 2013/14 as a collaborative project with undergraduate and postgraduate students working together with academic staff, librarians and IT experts, the materials are now available as an open educational resource (OER) and used for a variety of teaching purposes at the university fo Sussex, including the module "1984: Thatcher's Britain".
Panopticon and the people: digital approaches to the history of crime and punishment at University of Liverpool
The undergraduate module 'panopticon and the people’ was developed by Dr Zoe Alker, Lecturer in the department of sociology, social policy and criminology at the University of Liverpool. Launched in 2017/18 the module uses a range of digital archive collections, both freely available and subscription services, to engage students directly with primary sources.
Resource discovery in action: historical case studies
Since the launch of this guide in 2014, Jisc has worked with UK higher education academics and librarians to highlight resource discovery and the use of digital collections. The audio and written case studies created between 2014 and 2017 provide valuable insights into the methods used by academics and librarians to showcase digital collections.
Board of Longitude: Huw Jones, Cambridge University Digital Library
Huw Jones, Cambridge University Digital Library, illustrates the huge impact that engaging with academic researchers can have on the discovery and use of digital materials through use of the Board of Longitude project.
Modelling, reconstructions, virtual worlds - connecting collections, researchers and the public: Louise Hampson, the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, University of York
Louise Hampson, the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, University of York, discusses the use of modelling, reconstructions and virtual worlds to bring collections and original academic research together.
In the loop: Linda Newington, University of Southampton
As an example of social media in action Linda Newington, University of Southampton, discusses the success of temporarily using Twitter to promote the Knitting Reference Library @intheloop3 activities.
Social media and the balanced value impact model at the Museum of Design and Architecture, Middlesex University
Focusing resource discovery activities and social media strategies at the Museum of Design and Architecture, Middlesex University using the balanced value impact model.
Using Flickr to promote special collections at Queen's University, Belfast
Uploading photographs of 19th and early 20th century China from the Sir Robert Hart Collection to Flickr by Queen's University, Belfast.
Using Google Search console to track impact and use of collections at the University of Sheffield
Implementing search engine optimisation (SEO) to understand users and use of special collections and the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield.
Using resource discovery techniques to create a user-friendly web presence at the Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading
Adopting best practices in resource discovery and website design to re-launch the Museum of Rural English Life at the University of Reading.
Improving student engagement with Box of Broadcasts at the University of West London
Promoting use of The Education Times Collection at University College London
Maximising visibility and the impact of online digital collections at University College London.
Case study: Promoting the institutional repository at the University of West London
Strategies to promote take-up in deposit and discovery of materials in the institutional repository at the University of West London.
What you can do now
This guide is supported by two online courses: maximising the use of digital collections in learning and research and measuring usage and impact with digital collections that aim to transform learning from theory to practice. Each course comprises of two two-hour sessions split over the course of a week, with one week between each online course. Each two-hour session offers a mix of presentations, audio and interactive chat and assignments both as a whole class, with a short assignment to be completed between session one and two.
During the sessions you will have plenty of opportunities for discussions and communication with your peers. We encourage participation and hope that you will feel able to share your experiences and examples of good practice with the group. You will also receive access to a dedicated online course support area where you can continue your learning and get support post-course.
- History and legacy: the impact of TIDSR on resource discovery of digitised collections
The toolkit for the impact of digitised scholarly resources (TIDSR) was a ground-breaking guide offering comprehensive approaches and tools to measure the impact of digitised collections. Read a reflection on the guide and its outputs
- Spotlight on the Digital Web Assessment Summary, Jisc, 2014
- Using Impact as a Strategic Tool for Developing the Digital Library via the Balanced Value Impact Model. Tanner, S. Library Leadership and Management, Vol 30, 4. August 2016
- User behaviours and an overview of resource discovery at the University of Oxford, 2015