I am currently a research assistant for a project titled “Scholarship of Teaching for Transitions: A Review of Teaching for Transitions-Related Teaching and Learning Research and Activity.”* This six month project is based in Ireland, and is funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. It “aims to provide a snapshot of existing national and international scholarship on teaching for transitions, with a particular emphasis on pedagogies for transitions. The research will concentrate on the student’s journey as it relates to Higher Education, i.e. transitions in, through and out of third level.” One of my key duties is to create an online bibliographic database based on the theme of the project. As this is a six month project the initial challenges were to find an efficient way to gather the relevant resources for inclusion, to organise the results, and finally, to locate suitable software for the creation of the database. This post focuses on the latter of those three, how to build and showcase our database.
In the initial planning stages the team used spreadsheets to help organise bibliographic information that resulted from a systematic review of related literature. It made sense, given the project schedule, to consider software that would be compatible with these. Viewshare stood out immediately as an interesting possibility (as well as spreadsheets, users can generate views using an XML file conforming to the MODS schema, Dublin Core Data, JSON Data, or a ContentDM Database). Created and managed by the Library of Congress, Viewshare is “a free web application for generating and customizing unique, dynamic views through which users can experience cultural heritage digital collections. The intended users of Viewshare are individuals managing and creating access to digital collections of cultural heritage materials.” While the task at hand is to create a bibliographic database rather than a cultural heritage collection, Viewshare’s visualisation element poses interesting and useful applications for the “Teaching for Transitions” project.
Viewshare offers a range of visualisations, including interactive maps, timelines, and graphs. It also allows users to add a range of widgets in the header and sidebars such as lists, sliders, tag clouds, ranges, search bars, logos and text. Adding any number of these to the “view” you are creating develops layers of searchability to your data. This is a key consideration in terms of the “Teaching for Transitions” project. There are a wide range of bibliographic databases available. What we are creating is a “snapshot” that curates existing published research in the area of teaching for transitions between 2000 and 2015. However, to make this data meaningful, we need to go a step further than simply compiling a list of references. Thus, the possibility of visualisation is key to adding a unique edge to the database.
To ensure that this software is the right fit for the project, I ran several tests to see what functionality was available for the creation of a bibliographic database. The following are screenshots of a test featuring several visualisations and widgets available:
In the next few weeks I will be creating the final database which will contain hundreds of bibliographic entries under the theme of “Teaching for Transition.” These references have been curated from EBSCO, and each entry will contain the original URL in order to guide our database users to the source information. If users come to our database only to be redirected to another, why create this database in the first place?
Firstly, the database provides a focused snapshot of research on transitions in higher education. It comes at a point when teaching for transitions is quickly gaining prominence as an area of research in the scholarship of teaching and learning during a particular period of time. . The team members have made a number of annotations to the references that will be included, allowing users to ask an array of questions of the data. Therefore, we are providing a useful resource for those wishing to undertake their own research in this area.
Moreover, the use of visualisations to aid users in their searches provides a range of avenues through which users can gain meaning from the snapshot of research that this database will showcase. For example, the use of bar charts and pie charts can portray such information as the breakdown of journals publishing work on transitions, or the percentages of articles that focus on particular types of pedagogies used in teaching for transitions. A timeline is useful for plotting the development of the scholarship over the 15 year period that we are focusing on, highlighting any surge or dearth of scholarship at any point in the date range. The possibilities are as plentiful as the data you choose to upload.
To conclude, we hope that the use of visualisation-based software will cast the existing research on teaching for transitions in new relief. While this database will provide bibliographic information in a traditional list format, we hope that the range of visual search formats will also be of benefit to scholars. This database will be live and ready to use by the end of May 2015. In the interests of transparency we will also make the metadata available for researchers who wish to build on the groundwork we lay. To find out more about how Viewshare has been used to showcase other projects, click here.
*This project is led by Dr Bettie Higgs (Geology, Teaching and learning, UCC), and the team includes Daniel Blackshields (Economics, UCC), James Cronin (Arts, Social Sciences, Continuing Education, UCC), Dr Marian McCarthy (Education, Teaching and Learning, UCC), Prof. Tony Ryan (Medicine and Health, UCC), Dr Catherine O’Mahony (Teaching and Learning, UCC), Prof Shane Kilcommins (Law, UL), Dr Kathryn O’Sullivan (Law, UL).