Skip to main content

Making foolish assumptions

There’s a saying about making foolish assumptions, and it certainly applies in this situation. CILIP, a leading professional body for the library sector has recently launched a new Virtual Learning Environment for members, which will provide an online method of tracking and submitting the evidence of members professional registration activities (e.g. Certification, Chartership etc). It should hold all the information we need to do those things, and the My Portfolio area is an add-on to the VLE, a virtual portfolio which allows logging and submission of evidence of your professional activities directly. It should be better than the old, paper based, "oh god, I think I just destroyed half the Amazon, and now I have to index tab it...in triplicate!” option, and simplify and speed up what had become rather time consuming, mainly because of the admin. However..it doesn't appear that the changes, at this present moment, are much of an improvement. I initially went on yesterday to look for information about how my mentee should be tracking their professional activity using it. First though, I thought I should learn more about the VLE, so I went to the section “Getting started on the VLE”. There were two options available - one on getting started, and one on editing your profile. I went to read the getting started section...only to find it was a screencast. On YouTube. With audio. With no subtitling. There are a number of issues associated with the assumptions used with this approach to providing information. The assumption that everyone will have a learning style which works well with videos and audio. The assumption that everyone can access YouTube (one of the most popular sites for work filtering software to block). The assumption that everyone can see visuals when they access the site. The assumption that everyone can listen to audio when they access the site. The assumption that no subtitling is needed with an audio visual resource. And finally, and most importantly, the assumption that no users have visual or hearing impairments, which would mean that a video with no subtitling is completely inaccessible to them. I naturally thought that there would be a text based alternative. After all, given the issues listed above, you would expect there to be some alternative method for accessing these instructions available. However, surprisingly, this was not the case. There is virtually no text of any depth on the site: every section where you expect guidance and information has...a screencast. I cannot understand why anyone thought this was an appropriate or inclusive approach. Many people will be unwilling to sit in their lunch break at work and view time-consuming screencasts, when they could have read the same information in a fraction of the time if it was available as text. Even if they did want to learn in that way, many users couldn’t, and I am one of those people, with a workplace which blocks YouTube. Why is there no text-based guidance for anything? So, frustrated and dispirited, I left the VLE for the day. Then today, I thought I’d try to start logging my professional activities for Revalidation. I tried to look at the criteria for the Evaluative Statement for Revalidation - apparently it should be the same as the Chartership criteria, and can be found in the Chartership Handbook. However, it appears that you can’t see the Chartership Handbook, as clicking on the link to it within the Evaluative Statement tab in the Revalidation section, takes you to a page that requires entry of the enrolment key. However, I do not have an enrolment key as I’m not registered for Chartership. So I decided to put that on hold, and start logging my professional activities. 
My professional activities are meant to be tracked in the My Portfolio area but I’ve never used the My Portfolio area before. When I followed the link within the VLE to My Portfolio, and saw that I needed to log in, I assumed it was a new registration that I needed to do with My Portfolio, so I tried to register myself with my email address. It appears though that this email address is already registered with My Portfolio. So if my email address was already registered, then I assumed it must require my CILIP website password (as I entered via the CILIP VLE, which I had logged in to via the website) to let me log in, but it wasn't accepting that password.

I reset my CILIP website password, just to be sure I was putting in the right password, and tried again: still no access.
Then, I used the button to ask for a password reset, since nothing else so far had worked. I know the email address I asked for the reminder to be sent to is correct, since it’s already told me I’m registered.
Bad idea - I get this nonsense in response: 

The user you requested uses an external authentication method. <a href="http://vle.cilip.org.uk/mahara/contact.php">Ask your administrator</a> for help with changing your password. Or provide another username or email address.


Finally though, I have accidentally found out how to access My Portfolio! 

Attempting access through the link within the Revalidation “course” page doesn’t work (the route I was trying above): the only way I have found to access it is through the Home page of the VLE (but not the "My Home" page, which is a sub-page of the home page, confusingly). In the top right corner is a reference to Network Servers, and CILIP Portfolio sits within that area. Clicking on that link will take you straight into the My Portfolio. But only that link, on that specific page, because as soon as you move into any of the VLE areas to actually use them, that area disappears. This whole process has been extremely dispiriting. I’m not sure if any user testing was done before its launch or whether it was rushed out for a deadline. Either way, it would have been better to delay the launch, than to release something that is far from user-friendly. Like others I was enthusiastic about its launch and was eager to engage with it and document my professional activities. Unfortunately, my experience has been less than positive and all that initial enthusiasm has ebbed away. And I’m not alone - other people are encountering the same issues and frustrations with the site. What concerns me is that somebody was paid to do this, and my membership fees contributed towards it. Myself and other CILIP members partly funded it. Yet it’s currently in a state where it is of limited practical use to myself and other members and, as a result, I am unlikely to use it again until these issues have been ironed out. I hope CILIP resolve these issues as soon as possible. The development of the VLE has been one that has been broadly welcomed and greeted with enthusiasm. It will be a shame for this initial enthusiasm to turn to widespread disillusionment with something that could be a useful and valuable tool.

Comments

Simon Edwards said…
I thought I would take a moment to respond to your blog.

Firstly, I do want to say that if you would like to discuss any of these issues with me further, I would be more than happy to have a conversation with you and to hear your ideas of how we can improve the Virtual Learning Environment.

As we have made quite clear on the VLE, this is a work in progress and we are making improvements all the time, so I am hoping that you will see some of the issues that you mention resolved within the coming weeks.

However, in response to some of your specific points:
Screencasts and videos made available using youtube are one of the most common methods for delivering learning environments such as this. We looked at a range of other providers and resources from within the sector and they all use youtube. Yes, we appreciate that some members may not be able to access youtube from work and we are looking at alternative methods, but many can and many members have accessed this material from home or their own portable devices. We have already had a range of extremely positive feedback from members about this.

We are currently developing written guidance which can be downloaded as an alternative to the screencasts and these will be made available soon.

The issue that you raise about not being able to access the handbooks from within revalidation had already been highlighted to us by a member that contacted the office. This has been resolved.

You do not need a different password to login to the Portfolio area. You simply log in on the CILIP website and this will allow you to access the VLE and move through to CILIP portfolio. The reason that you will have received an error message about changing your password on the VLE is that you cannot have a different password on the VLE to the CILIP website because it is your CILIP web details that are being used to authenticate you on the VLE.

I do take your point about making the link to CILIP Portfolio more explicit. We are currently looking into whether there is anything we can do within the Moodle and Mahara configuration to rectify this. In the meantime we will amend some of the text on the front page.

Finally, you can access the Portfolio from the submission pages in Certification, Chartership, Fellowship and Revalidation. You should see a statement along the lines of ‘Select one of your CILIP Portfolio pages from this complete list, or click here to visit CILIP Portfolio and create a page right now.’

As I say, if you would like to discuss further or have any further suggestions, please do not hesitate to get in contact.

Simon Edwards
Director of Professional Services, CILIP

Popular posts from this blog

Relaunching a library service

What do you do when you decide to do what is verging on library-based insanity, and basically scrap your current library service, and relaunch everything - physical layout, LMS, and classification system? In my case, spend a year, planning, developing, preparing….and then a frantic few weeks hauling stock!
The background to this apparent madness is this: when I took on this role I inherited a library using a layout that didn’t seem to make sense, a classification system I wasn’t familiar with, and an LMS that had been in place for 20 years but didn’t seem suited to our needs. As I was new to the library, a major part of the time I had available while settling in during my initial few months was dedicated to exploring how well these things were working, both for users, and library staff. I had the benefit of my colleague also being new to the library, only a few months after me, so together we looked at these issues with fresh eyes.We came to the following conclusions: The physical layou…

Too close to the problem to see the achievements

Sometimes, you have so much to do, that you can't see what you've actually done. I'm feeling very much that way at the moment, so I thought I'd make a public list for myself of all the work and professional things I've done since taking up my role in mid January. Then maybe I'll feel less like I'm just not very good at anything. It's worth a try. Although for obvious reasons, I can't publicly say much about the baddest/hardest stuff, but...it's in there. Maybe it's not explicit about how hard it's been, but it's there.

So: what have I done?


Service management and development

Replaced someone who ran the library for 21 years, who retired 3 months before I started, and gave me no handover information.Got 6 weeks of company/training on the library from an assistant, who then retired, leaving me as the only person in the organisation who knew anything about how the library actually worked.Done the assistant librarian and librarian job simu…

Impressive shelving technique

I have a new role model: the shelving technique demonstrated between 12 and 18 seconds by the librarian in this Lucozade video is something to aspire to! :D