Top tips for tackling online assessments

Woman throwing books up in the air

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

Even in a ‘normal year’, exam time is always a tricky period. You will often be juggling different exams, trying to revise, as well as meeting other deadlines. This year, it’s made even harder by Covid-19 and the need to take online assessments, rather than traditional exams. This may come in the form of a 24 hour take home exam or you may need to produce coursework under time constraints. Whatever you are facing in the next few weeks, we want you to know that you aren’t alone and we are here to help you through.

But how exactly can we help? Sadly, we can’t do the exam with you, or magically freeze time to give you more hours in the day, but we have a list of resources that will hopefully help you tackle the next few weeks with more of a sense of calm.

  1. Online Assessment guidance – put together by the Writing Development team, these pages will take you through how to revise for a 24 hour take home exam, what to do before hand, as well as running you through exam technique and how to tackle coursework under time restraints.
  2. Library Help – whether you have a question about an essential text or access to a database, Library Help is the place to go when you have a question. Contact us via chat, email, text, twitter, Facebook or alternatively search our Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) database.
  3. Subject guides – these guides, put together by your Liaison Librarians, are designed to save you time and energy by drawing together the main resources for your subject. They are a great starting point for your research and will help you access high quality information that’s needed for you to get those top marks.
  4. Skills guides – similar to the subject guides, our skills guides focus on how to find, evaluate and manage information. These are all essential skills which you will need during this assessment period, as well as throughout your degree.
  5. Book a one to one – both the Writing Development Team and the Liaison Librarians are available for an online one to one appointment. These appointments work best if you come with a specific issue to address. This will ensure that you get the most our of your time with us. You will need to book in advance.
  6. Additional support – it really is ok to ask for help. The pressures are real and can feel completely overwhelming. Do contact your module leader or supervisor if your struggling. You can also seek additional support from your NUSUStudent Wellbeing ServiceNightline and the University chaplaincy.

So good luck. Remember……pace yourself, access the help you need and believe that you can do this!

Spotlight on Construction Information Services (CIS)

Screenshot of CIS homepage

Overview

CIS is produced jointly with the National Building Specification (NBS) especially for architects, civil and structural engineers, building control officers, building services engineers and other professionals in the construction industry. CIS provides fundamental industry information and legislation, as well as additional sector material. The extensive range of full-text documents cover all aspects of the building, engineering, design and construction process in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

The Construction Information Service (CIS) is a comprehensive online collection of over 28,000 construction related standards, regulations, technical advice and articles from 500+ publishers. Content is updated weekly, neatly organised into topic based supplements and delivered through a function rich and easily accessible online portal.

This collection is an invaluable resource if you are studying:

  • Many of our Engineering courses
  • Architecture, Landscape and Planning
  • Geography

Subjects covered include:

  • Building regulations
  • Environmental/land Planning
  • Planning control
  • Urban planning
  • Waste/water management
  • Earthworks/foundations
  • Land drainage
  • Law/legislation
  • Transport facilities/planning
  • Tunnelling and underpinning
  • Engineering
  • Materials
  • Groundwater control
  • Roads
  • loads/stresses
  • …and much, much, much more!

Searching

Within the CIS search box you can enter your keywords or browse by subject in the left-hand menu. There is also an Advanced Search option. There is also plenty of help with how to use CIS under the Help option on the left-hand menu:

Screenshot of left-hand menu on CIS showing where to browse and where to get help with CIS.

Access

CIS is available through our catalogue, Library Search. If you are on campus no password is required. If you are off campus you will need to log in using your University campus ID and password. You can also find it under the Journals and Database tabs in our Subject Guides, and on our Standards Resource Guide.

Copyright

Every document in The Construction Information Service has copyright permission from the publisher. Some publishers do not allow use of their documents or will only give permission for certain titles. Publishers who do give permission can also place an embargo on certain documents, resulting in a delay between publication and inclusion in CIS.

Spotlight on Web of Science

Despite its name, Web of Science provides access to current and retrospective multidisciplinary information from approximately 8,500 high impact journals, including titles within their Social Sciences Citation Index®, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index™ collections.  Web of Science allows cited reference searching where you can navigate forward, backward, and through the literature, searching all disciplines and time spans to uncover all the information relevant to your studies.

Where to find Web of Science

You can access Web of Science from Library Search. This will help you to access the database successfully as you will be prompted to log in with your University username and password. Simply search for it by name from the Library website.

You will also find a link to on the Journals and Databases page of your Subject Guide, which provides a list and links to the recommended databases in your discipline.

What does Web of Science include?

  • More than 20,000 journal, books, and conference titles
  • Over 69 million records
  • More than 90,000 books
  • Over 10 million conference papers

Web of Science content

As we alluded to above, Web of Science includes much more than ‘science’ information, including:

  • life sciences, biomedical sciences
  • social sciences, arts & humanities.
  • strongest coverage of natural sciences, health sciences, engineering, computer science, materials sciences.

Get started with Web of Science with these advanced search tips.

Self Care Week: Top Tips

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Self Care Week is the 16th-22nd of November this year and we don’t know about you, but we think the timing is just right? In the midst of yet another lockdown and having to study / work mostly online, it gives us a chance to stop, breathe and assess whether we really are doing all we can to look after ourselves. It’s so easy in the midst of pressures and worries to forget about looking after our own wellbeing isn’t it? However, it’s even more vitally important to do it just now. So in light of this, we thought we would highlight some of the services and resources available to you at Newcastle University and some of our own recommendations for establishing positive habits.

Student Health and Wellbeing

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Student Health and Wellbeing work with local and national organisations to help to maximise your academic potential and allow you to have the best possible experience while you’re studying. They offer advice and assistance on many topics, from spiritual support to mental health counselling. You can find self-help resources and information here. They are currently offering online services so do make the most of the support that’s there……..they really are some of the most skilled, approachable and nicest people we have met.

iNCLude

iNCLude is a free app aimed at helping develop positive behaviours to ensure you’re focussing on more than just academic studies. The app centres on several themes: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. There’s space to record your feelings in a mood journal and information on campus wellbeing events through your personal feed. It’s available to download on android and apple devices so do check it out.

Silvercloud

Silvercloud is a suite of online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programmes, which can be tailored to your specific needs. It is free and can be accessed anywhere on a PC, tablet or mobile phone. The modules on Silvercloud can be worked through at your own pace and a practitioner from Student Services can help you navigate through the programmes. To find out more and sign up, go to the Silvercloud website.

TalkCampus
TalkCampus is a new mental health service based around peer support, which comes in the form of a free-to-download app. It is perfect if you’re struggling and are worried about your mental health, as it enables you to talk with other students from around the world in a safe and secure way. All you need to gain access to this service is your student email address, but rest assured your identity and location is protected and no-one at Newcastle University will know if you’re using it or not. The app itself is moderated by the TalkCampus team and although it is not a replacement for student wellbeing services, it does help you to connect with other students going through similar issues to your own. It may be a stepping stone for you for getting more help or it might be sufficient in it’s own right. Do check it out if you think it could be of some help.

Be well@NCL

Be well@NCL is a collection of tried and tested books chosen in partnership with Student Wellbeing and other health professionals, so you know you can trust them. The books deal with issues that we all go through at some point in our lives, and even more so at the moment. Topics include stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems, eating disorders, depression, OCD, fears, bereavement and so much more. Find out more about our collection on the Be well@NCL website or on the iNCLude app. Some of the collection is accessible in eBook format, while others you can order and pick up through our Click and Collect Service.

Responsible studying

This year has been like no other hasn’t it? We are all having to adapt to this new world of Zoom, teams and online Canvas content and it can feel overwhelming and draining. We’ve tailored specific content within The Academic Skills Kit (ASK) website that helps develop positive study habits for these times, such as studying online, independent learning, motivation, time management, online assessment plus much more. Visit our website to see the range of advice and support available.

Rosie, a Library assistant at the Walton Library, is a fan of the Pomodoro Technique when studying. She says:

“This technique has changed my life! If you are a procrastinator and/or you’re easily distracted, you need to try it – you set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes, work hard on your task for that period and then reward yourself with a 5 minute break. After you’ve done that 4 times, take a longer break.

Breaking work up into chunks with rewards in between means that you get more done than if you try to work non-stop for hours, and it’s easier to start an assignment when you know you only have to work at it for 25 minutes at a time. This technique is better for your stress levels and mental health than beating yourself up for leaving assignments until the last minute.”

Creative activities
Taking a break from your work to do desk yoga, colouring in or origami is beneficial in the long run – it’ll help you increase focus, retain information and maintain top performance.

There’s a variety of activities you can do while taking a break from studying, for example:

  • Check out the online programmes put together by some of our schools, such as the visiting speakers’ programme from the Department of Fine Art, the live lunchtime concerts put on by our Department of Music or the literary events put on by the Newcastle Centre of Literary Arts.
  • Join a society run through the Students’ Union. These are a great way to meet new people (even if they have to be virtual at the moment). Check out the upcoming events on Students Union webpages and add activities to your diary.
  • Simply going for a walk, run, cycle can do you the world of good. Enjoy and breathe that fresh air.
  • Ring a friend or a family member and have a good chat. Connecting with others can make such a huge difference.
  • Learn a new hobby or pick up something that’s fallen by the wayside such as playing an instrument, drawing, crafting etc.

Stacey, a Library assistant at the Walton Library, likes to knit to improve her mental wellbeing. She says:

“The health benefits of knitting have been known for a while. A 2007 study conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute found that knitting lowers heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute and induces an “enhanced state of calm,” as the repetitive movements release serotonin which can lift moods and dull pain.

Knowing this and gaining the ability to watch your toddler running around wearing clothes you’ve made is a wonderful feeling, as if you are covering your loved ones with wool and love – the only downside is cost (and explaining a million times it isn’t just for old ladies!) Knitting gives me that ‘enhanced state of calm’, or the ability not to be totally radgie ALL of the time, which is essential for my wellbeing.”

14 day self care challenge
It’s easy to read a blog like this and think yeah, yeah, I know what I should be doing but we often find it hard to put it into practice? Why not commit with us then to looking after yourselves better for the next 14 days and take the self care challenge, created by our lovely Library Assistant Rosie. We’d love to hear how you are getting on so do get in touch:

Image of 14 day self-care activities.

Resource Guides: it’s all in the name!

Last week, we let you in on the secrets of Library Search. This week we want to introduce you to our Resource Guides.

Library Search is a great starting point for any piece of research or essay, but there comes a time, when you need some extra help in finding a particular type of information. And that’s where our Resource Guides come in.  We have a range of guides to suit your information needs including: company information, market research, government publications, newspapers, maps, statistics, patents, standards, theses and dissertations, plus much more.

The guides group together all the main library subscriptions we have for that specific type of information, as well as linking out to key external links and resources too. Wherever possible we also include guidance and help on how to get the best out of the databases and links and group the information together into a logical and helpful way. We know how busy life is and we simply want to save you time!

So what you are waiting for, go and check out our fabulously named Resource Guides, because they do exactly what they say on the tin!

It’s as easy as…Reading Lists

As an academic, there are 5 easy steps to creating your own reading list on Leganto, our Reading Lists service, for your students: 

  1. Access or create your reading list via your VLE (e.g. Canvas).
  2. Add resources from Library Search and other sources (e.g. Blackwell’s Book Shop).
  3. Tag each item using the appropriate tag (i.e. essential, recommended or background reading), where:
    Essential = very important to the course, all students will need to use this text.
    Recommended = supplementary texts which students are encouraged to use.
    Background = additional texts which are suggested for background subject area reading.
  4. Send your list to the library for checking and stock orders.
  5. Publish your list to ensure your students can access it.

Things to know:

Tagging each item with essential, recommended and background can generate book orders: there are book/student ratio ordering criteria for items being added to library stock and tagging will allow informed decisions to be made by the Library’s team.

Given we are in the midst of a pandemic and teaching is being undertaken in a different way this term, the Library will attempt to obtain access to all resources online (e.g. e-books) where possible. Please note we do try our best but not everything is available online! Where we can’t obtain an online resource, we will usually opt for the print instead.

There is a Canvas course prepared for you to learn how to use Reading Lists. It’s short and full of useful information on making the best use of the service for your students. Self-enrol on Reading Lists Training for Staff today.

An image of the Canvas-based Reading Lists Training for Staff home screen.

If you would prefer to submit your reading list or lecture/seminar handout to a dedicated team of Library staff to be processed, use the submission form or email the lists to readinglists@ncl.ac.uk for support.

So, Reading Lists are a great way to let your students know what they need to read, and to keep the Library informed too; they are the wise choice. 

If you have any questions about this service, please do contact us via Library Help.

Reading Lists and supporting your students

Teaching is just around the corner and the students are starting to prepare for studying through 2020/21. So, which resources are you going to recommend to your students to support your teaching? How will you ensure the Library can offer access to what you need?

We’re promoting the Reading Lists service to our students. It’s easy to use, accessible and is a good starting point when approaching a new subject area.

Surprisingly, even in 2020, not every book is available online. You can use Reading Lists to check to see if we, as an institution, can gain access to those essential, recommended and background reading materials for you and your students. 

How can you do this? Well, you can self-enrol on the Reading Lists Training for Staff course which is available via Canvas. It will explain each stage of creating and editing your lists ready for your students to use for guidance and to prioritise their reading.

An image of the Reading Lists Training for Staff Canvas course home page.

If you don’t have time to do this now, you can produce a list of books, book chapters, journal articles and other resources and submit this to our dedicated Library Reading Lists team to create the online version to be accessed via Canvas for you. If you are doing this, the team need to know:

  • Module Leader or Coordinator’s name.
  • School.
  • Reading list/Module title.
  • Module code.
  • Anticipated student numbers on module (if known).
  • When it is running, e.g. Semester One and/or Two.

You should think about how the list should be organised: by topic, lecture, seminar, etc.

Finally, each item should be classified as essential, recommended or background reading so the Library is aware of the potential demand on the materials.

We will attempt to source all titles you suggest in an online format. If this is not possible, we will obtain the print edition whereupon your students may need to use our Click and Collect service to gain access until the University Libraries reopen fully again.

If you have any questions about availability of online materials or the Reading Lists service, contact your Liaison Team via Library Help for advice.

Reading Lists and Canvas

The University’s Virtual Learning Environment has been changed to Canvas. After years of using Blackboard, it’s a bit different! But once you start to use it, you’ll find it’s much easier to present the information your students need, to communicate with your students in word, sight and sound, and to work more easily in this online world brought on us by the pandemic.

Why talk of Canvas when this post is about Reading Lists? Well, Canvas makes your reading list for each module more visible so you are more likely to be asked about the lists by your students.

An image of the Canvas Home screen showing the main menu including Library Reading List.

The LTDS Canvas Baseline states ‘…where relevant a reading list must be provided.’

An image of the Canvas Baseline which mentions the Reading List requirement.

So what you should do? Not all modules will need a reading list. But if you do have books, book chapters or journal articles you want your students to read and would like to learn how to manage items on your Reading List yourself, please self-enrol on the Reading Lists Training for Staff course which is available via Canvas. It will explain each stage of creating and editing your lists and will allow you to keep in touch with the Library about the materials you need to support your teaching.

An image of a barn owl sitting in a meadow advertising the wise choice of using the Library's Reading Lists service.

Alternatively, you may wish to produce your reading list in a Microsoft Word document, or module handbook, and submit this to our dedicated Library Reading Lists team to create your online version.

If you have any questions about Reading Lists, please contact Library Help and a member of the Reading Lists team will be in touch.

Reading Lists

A reading list is an integral part of the student experience at University. Although it may be viewed as an archaic term these days, students are ‘reading’ for a degree. How do the students know what to read? It is the academic’s role to guide them.

The University Library’s Reading Lists service (Leganto) allows the Library to work with teaching staff in providing this information to the students in an online and consistent way, through their Virtual Learning Environment (Canvas or the Medical LE) alongside their teaching materials.

The University Library’s Reading Lists service is routinely promoted to the students throughout induction. It contains essential, recommended and background reading for modules taught within Newcastle University. Now we’re using Canvas, it also appears in the standard menu within each course and will be more accessible than in our former VLE.

An image of a Canvas course homepage.

So, as teaching staff, what are the benefits of using this service?

  • You have control and can create, manage and update your own reading lists online. 
  • The Library will ensure online access to resources (if available). If an e-book is not available then the correct number of print copies will be purchased based on the essential, recommended or background reading tags you apply to each item on your list.
  • Essential, recommended and background reading tags help students prioritise their reading. 
  • CLA scans (digitised book chapters and articles) can easily be requested and acccessed through Leganto. There will be no need to email us or fill out a web request form; simply tag the item on your list and the Library will do the rest. 
  • The same principle applies to new books. Once on the reading list this information will trigger adding new material to our stock – there will be no need to contact us separately. 
  • You can export a reading list to your module guide or handouts. This will save you time by only needing to create the list in one place. 

Using this system is a wise choice as it ensures the Library knows what you need to support your teaching and will offer your students direct access to the required resources.

You can find more information on this service via our website, or contact us. We are here to help you.

An image of a wise barn owl over Leganto, the Reading Lists service.

Make the most out of your library’s resources

Image link to the library's Academic Skills page.
https://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/subject-support/

Key resources

Do you have an assignment or research question and don’t know where to start? Search no further, your subject-specific LibGuide is only a few clicks away.

Follow the link above and then choose the Faculty and relevant School. Once you are there you will see the key resources that are provided for you:

Image of the navigation menu displayed in subject guides. It contains a home page, books and e-books, resources for online learning, journals and databases, subject specific resources, special collections and archives, subject help and news.

Navigate to the ‘Journals and Databases’ tab. This will display the databases where you can search for the journal articles that you need. Don’t know how to use this avalanche of links? We have instructions:

Image displaying the contents of the middle tab in the Journals and Databases section. It contains a list of PDF workbooks with instructions to databases.

From the Databases tab, click on the next tab along, in the centre of the screen that reads ‘Journals and Database Help’.

One-to-one help

Is the information too vast and you feel like you’ve hit a wall? You can ask your liaison librarian team for help. From the same navigation menu on the left side of the screen, click on ‘Subject Help and News’. There, you can find the team’s contact details and further down the page, you can request to book a one-to-one consultation with a member of the team.

Academic skills

Do you feel that your academic skills need to be polished a little? Don’t hesitate to look at our Academic Skills page from the Subject Support page:

Image link to the Subject support page displaying the links to guides for the three faculties and Academic Skills.

You will find more guides on this page relating to how to find academic information, reference it, using EndNote, distinguishing between real information and fake news and many more: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/library/subject-support/faculty.php/?f=other.

Academic Writing

You can also get one-to-one help from the Writing Development Centre if you are struggling with study skills or academic writing.

Library Help

Do you have any specific questions? Please contact us via Library Help where we monitor your live chats and emails or have a look through our FAQs: https://libhelp.ncl.ac.uk/.