A New Perspective: Librarians' HERDSA 2023 Experience

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Nicole Johnston & Danielle Degiorgio give their impressions of the 2023 HERDSA Conference...

Main takeaways and highlights – Nicole Johnston

This was our first time attending a HERDSA conference. As a researcher and previous educator, I had an interest in attending to learn more about the scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education and had been accepted to present at the Brisbane conference pre COVID. It was great to be able to finally attend an in-person conference three years later and learn about the latest research and innovations in higher education research.

Having previously worked with keynote Dr Mollie Dollinger on the Council of Australian University Libraries enabling a modern curriculum project, I was interested in hearing her keynote as well as learning more about what universities are doing to work with students as partners, an area that many university libraries work in. It was great to see so many presentations on how academics are partnering or working towards partnering with students in curriculum design. As a researcher in Library and Information Science, I was also interested in learning more about what research methodologies are being utilised in the SOTL. There were many passionate debates about the most effective research methodologies, especially great debate around what is mixed methods and how it’s being used in research on higher education.

In the Library at ECU, we teach students about referencing and meet with students who have breached academic integrity, so we were interested in attending presentations around academic integrity and with the recent explosion of conversations around generative AI, academic integrity was at the forefront of many discussions at the conference. It was good to get an overall perspective of what are the latest trends in higher education and the research that is occurring in this space. Working in the Library we work with Schools and in collaboration with learning and teaching colleagues, so it’s important for us to keep up to date with the latest developments in teaching and learning, so for us this conference enabled us to gain some insight of the latest trends, talk with our colleagues about what they are passionate about and bring back what we had learnt to help inform the support we offer to students and academics.

Roundtable discussions – Danielle Degiorgio

Among the many formats and sessions at the conference, I found the roundtable discussions to be the most useful and engaging. These collaborative forums provided a space for open dialogue, deep inquiry, and personal connection. Seated with academics and experts from diverse backgrounds, the roundtables fostered a sense of intimacy and engagement that larger sessions couldn't replicate. It was in these collaborative exchanges that I felt a strong sense of community and intellectual cooperation.

The most interesting discussions centred around generative artificial intelligence and opened up a world of perspectives from academics and researchers that was both illuminating and thought-provoking as we delved into the multifaceted impact of this technology on teaching, learning, and research. What made these conversations so rich and rewarding was the blend of emotions and insights they encompassed and I found myself not only absorbing the facts but also tuning into the underlying fears and hopes associated with the technology. Dr Klaudia Budzyn and Dr Yeong Hann Ling’s discussion on the challenges of AI in higher education had participants openly sharing their apprehensions about assessment design and academic integrity, but also their hopes for how generative AI could revolutionise teaching practice and the academic landscape. These candid discussions allowed me to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the impact generative AI is having in the world of academia and it was a learning experience that resonated deeply with me, providing inspiration and insight that I will carry forward in my own work and research.

At our roundtable discussion, we engaged in a meaningful dialogue that explored the power of peer champion services in assisting students to transition to new learning technologies. Our conversation turned to addressing an issue that’s plagued many institutions: How can we reach students who feel isolated from the university community? We explored how social media platforms and chat groups could be leveraged as tools to connect, interact, and engage with students who may feel disconnected from campus life. We explored the idea of creating a supportive network run by the peers that could bridge the gap, drawing isolated students back into the university community and back on campus. We are now exploring the potential of using the peer services and social media to bring students closer, foster a sense of belonging, and enhance their transition to new and exciting learning technologies.

In conclusion, for us the main observation from the keynotes and presentations at the conference was that there are big changes coming to universities and education through the Universities Accord and the rapid growth of generative AI, therefore we were left wondering how we as a sector will take advantage of both the opportunities and meet the challenges that are ahead of us?

Dr Nicole Johnston is the Associate University Librarian (Digital Literacy and Library Experience) at Edith Cowan University and a board member of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). 

Danielle Degiorgio is the Digital and Information Literacy Adviser at Edith Cowan University and an organising member of the Council of Australian University Librarians’ Digital Dexterity Community of Practice.


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