English literature timeline project
The Faculty of English’s successful project in 2011-12, led by Professor Helen Cooper, Chair of the Faculty Board, and Mrs Elizabeth Tilley, Faculty Librarian, was to develop a programme of English literature classes for new students. The programme was to include essential research skills, skills for employment, and to address the transition from A-levels to higher education.
Based on feedback from examiner reports, the central piece of work in this programme was the creation of an online literature timeline, containing relevant information about the authors that many students study during their degree. Primary and secondary bibliographic material was to be researched and uploaded by students themselves, as well as additional interactive material such as video, images, audio, and tutorials. The value of this for students was to be realised by linking Faculty reading lists to the timeline, saving students time in searching for the books they need.
The timeline was successfully developed, implemented for Lent Term teaching, and was well received by both Directors of Studies and students. It resulted in increased access to and engagement with electronic materials, and active contribution from the library in supporting the Faculty’s teaching and learning.
The timeline software was embedded in the Library’s subject ‘libguide’ (http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/75515/Cambridge-Literature-Timeline/) with public access, and contains entries on both Cambridge’s alumni authors and other major authors, linked to relevant bibliographies created by students. There were also entries of historical interest added, to put the authors’ works in context. A free plug-in to Firefox, Zotero, was used as the basis for gathering bibliographic material. This helped with the project’s success, as it is easy to use, and already in operation within the Faculty.
One aspect that was not successfully implemented in the initial timeframe was the interactive reading lists, due to their length, and due to the volume of chapters that needed to be scanned. It was intended for this work to follow the implementation of the timeline and to sit alongside it.
The project has continued to develop, and is now including students in 'crowdsourcing content' to help create new timelines. The project was highlighted at the recent Sheffield Hallam University Teaching and Learning Conference in June 2015; view the presentation here.