Adrian Janes Selected Sources for Higher Education (Part 1)
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By Adrian Janes


DocuTicker editors contribute brief articles to FUMSI on conducting research with grey literature - reports from government agencies, think tanks, research institutes and public interest organisations.


In my work as a contributing editor for DocuTicker, I research publicly available reports on a number of global topics. Here are some of my favourite resources for Higher Education:

In the UK, Government plans to raise student fees are proving extremely controversial, due to the projected vast increase in long-term debt which, many feel, will deter potential students from poorer backgrounds. At the same time, other regions of the world are unable to afford anything like the kind of higher education structure typical of the USA and Europe. The common issue here is access; although the Internet cannot solve this problem, increasingly it is being used by universities, colleges and publishers to make academic resources, in many disciplines, more widely available. This is beneficial not only to paid-up (and paying) members of academia, but also to those who are seeking more in-depth learning, or who perhaps need greater theoretical understanding of the field in which they earn their living, or the simply curious. Many of these resources are free to anyone with Internet access, although some require registration.

The basis of academic achievement is necessarily study skills. The Blended Learning Centre (BLC) at London's South Bank University gives a comprehensive set of guides through its Academic Assistant, embracing the areas of Management (i.e. of oneself and one's time); Study Skills (e.g. taking notes; Communication; Writing; and Assessment. Although the BLC is part of the Faculty of Business, the guidance is broad and varied enough for students of any subject to find it useful.

The UK's Open University (OU) has been a pioneer in open and distance learning since the 1960s, allowing its students to carry on in employment while studying at home. This tradition is now carried on by the website Open Learn. This provides text and video resources in such subject areas as History and the Arts and Science, Maths and Technology . Whichever area you go into, you will notice that many items have the Learning Space symbol alongside. These are OU course materials for which registering for a free account is needed in order to gain access. A flavour is given by such titles from the Business and Management category as 'Finding information in business and management' and 'Planning a project'.

Equally valuable (and requiring no registration) is MIT Opencourseware. While the OU site appears to be kept fresher - all the MIT material is a few years old - this is not a serious defect in the latter's extensive offering, which has a useful set of symbols to show at a glance whether what is offered from a course is lecture notes, video lectures, an online textbook, etc.

Rather than a specific institution, there are sites which pull together academic-standard material from a range of sources. One example is Infomine, created by librarians from various American universities and colleges. As with the examples already cited, the subjects covered range throughout the arts and sciences. Searches produce a concise description of a resource, with a particular feature of Advanced Search being the ability to search both free and fee-based items, or one type alone.

Merlot, (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), comes even more directly from academia, being the collective effort of named academics who submit both their own material and recommend that of others. This approach also enables the development of networks in many disciplines. Each resource is briefly outlined, with the name of the submitter being hyperlinked so that their affiliations can be viewed. Although much on the site can help students, its emphasis appears to be the help academics can give other academics.

The subject categories include Arts; Business; Education; Humanities; Mathematics and Statistics; Science and Technology; Social Sciences. In each case, the category is broken down into aspects of the subject (thus Business, for example, includes Accounting, E-Commerce and Information Systems) and Material Types (such as tutorials, videos and presentations), befitting the site's name.

Although all of these sites present resources relevant to many subjects, none of them has exactly the same subject coverage as another. So it is worth bookmarking a number of such sites in order to have a range of options either for your own searching or to offer an enquirer. Indeed, such is the richness and variety of online academic material that I will explore the topic with further examples in a follow-up article.

Adrian Janes

Related Posts from Docuticker

Universities UK submission to the 2010 Spending Review

Boosting Financial Literacy in America: A Role for State Colleges and Universities

Times Higher Education World University Rankings

UK: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education in the United Kingdom for the Academic Year 2008/09

Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning

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