Wednesday 12 January 2011

Library induction and learner transition

I joined Aberystwyth University in September this year. In my previous job at the University of Leicester, I was involved in a project which investigated student transition into higher education. One major finding of the project was students' characterisation of various types of information presented to them before and during their first few days in University:
  • Objective, highly structured formal information = Cold Knowledge
  • Less structured, semi-formal information = Warm knowledge
  • Informal, less structured and subjective information = Hot knowledge (1)

With this background knowledge, I was keen when I joined Aberystwyth University to learn more about how students feel about different types of information made available to them by the Library.

My first major engagement, in my first week of arrival, was participation in library induction sessions which lasted over two weeks. Instead of the traditional classroom setup, Information Services decided to create a semi-formal learning atmosphere with bean-bag seating and sessions delivered using a combination of lecture, video, demonstration and tours. In adopting this approach, the induction craftily integrated both cognitive and social approaches to learning.

Feedback forms completed at the end of each session indicate that students enjoyed the semi-formal nature of information i.e. “warm knowledge” presented to them and the less structured setting in which the actual induction occurred as shown in the following table and quote:

What did you enjoy about the induction session?

“I think the beanbags contributed towards the relaxing feeling of the session. Sitting in all lecture theatres and having information thrown at you can be very daunting”.

Various studies on learning transition have described the crucial importance of information and how it shapes students’ expectations and approach to learning. Libraries can play a major role in supporting successful transition into higher education using induction sessions. A careful combination of “cold”, “warm” and “hot” knowledge presented in an atmosphere in which students feel at home is bound to make a significant contribution not only towards student transition but also student retention.
  1. Ball, S. J., and Vincent, C. (1998) “I heard it on the grapevine”: “hot” knowledge and School choice. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 19: 377-400.
  2. Edirisingha, P., Cane, C., Cane, R., and Nikoi, S. Informal Mobile Podcasting AndLearning Adaptations for Transition(IMAPAL4T). Retrieved on 10 December, 2010, from

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