One of the interesting features of our new library game OpenTree for me is that it is possible to engage with it in a few different ways. Although at one level it’s about a game, with points and badges for interacting with the game and with library content, resources and webpages. It’s social so you can connect with other people and review and share resources.
But, as a user you can choose the extent that you want to share. So you can choose to share your activity with all users in OpenTree, or restrict it so only your friends can see your activity, or choose to keep your activity private. You can also choose whether or not things you highlight are made public.
So you’d wonder what value you’d get in using it if you make your activity entirely private. But you can use it as a way of tracking which library resources you are using. And you can organise them by tagging them and writing notes about them so you’ve got a record of the resources you used for a particular assignment. You might want to keep your activity private if you’re writing a paper and don’t want to share your sources or if you aren’t so keen on social aspects.
If you share your activities with friends and maybe connect with people studying the same module as you, then you could see some value in sharing useful resources with fellow students you might not meet otherwise. In a distance-learning institution with potentially hundreds of students studying your module, students might meet a few students in local tutorials or on module forums but might never connect with most people following the same pathway as themselves.
And some people will be happy to share, will want to get engaged with all the social aspects and the gaming aspects of OpenTree. It will be really interesting to see how users get to grips with OpenTree and what they make of it and to hear how people are using it.
It will particularly be interesting to see how our users engagement with it might differ from versions at bricks-and-mortar Universities at Huddersfield, Glasgow and Manchester. OpenTree’s focus is online and digital so doesn’t include loans and library visits, and our users are often older, studying part-time and not campus-based.
In early feedback, we’re already seeing a sense that some of the game aspects, such as the Subject leaderboard is of less interest than expected. Maybe that reflects students being focused around outcomes much more, although research seems to suggest (Tomlinson 2014 ‘Exploring the impact of policy changes on students’ attitudes and approaches to learning in higher education’ HEA) that this isn’t just a factor for part-time and distance-learning students as a result of increased university fees and student loans. It might also be that because we haven’t gone for an individual leaderboard that there’s less personal investment, or just that users aren’t so sure what it represents.