In order to support and develop the skills of Independent Living Skills (ILS) students, Gower College Swansea Information Learning Technology team has joined forces with the ILS and Library departments to create a fully accessible Library Management System (LMS). The purpose of the new system is to enable students with specific and complex needs to autonomously run their own library service.
The overarching aim of the project was to develop real life employment and life skill scenarios to support students in developing a range of essential core skills, such as literacy, numeracy, social communication, digital literacy and employability.
The project team evolved the idea of a student-led library service. To support this, the need to develop a bespoke, fully accessible library management system was identified. It was essential that this would be manageable and easily used by students across a broad cognitive and social competence range.
The main objectives were to:
- Design and develop a fully accessible Library Management System (LMS)
- Design a LMS that students, across a range of abilities, could manage autonomously
- Embed library activities in to students’ current curriculum
- Improve students’ core skills
Staff worked with two groups of students from the ILS department. The first group of learners were academically able, but had difficulties with social communication and interaction (typically ASD). The second group of learners had a low cognitive ability (typically General Cognitive Ability score of below 70 – putting the students on the bottom 3-8 percentile signifying a borderline extremely low cognitive ability) with very limited literacy, numeracy and communication skills.
The LMS was designed specifically with the students in mind. The system is simple, accessible and functional. Students are able to add new stock to the catalogue by scanning the ISBN, which allows them to access the author and title and downloads images. The students independently add classification (a colour-based taxonomy) and keywords. For many students, this was the first time they had been asked to analyse the different facets of a book and interpret what each means. When adding the keywords, students were able to select from a database of predefined words or add their own. Students also add users to the system, run overdue reports, issue and return stock.
The skills acquired and developed by the students through running the library itself and maintaining the LMS are wide. They have improved their:
- communication and social skills through serving their peers when issuing and returning stock;
- digital literacy skills through managing the LMS and the data it holds
- literacy skill though cataloguing items and engaging with the books themselves
- numeracy skills through managing the library’s budget and keeping account of any stock that has been lost
Students and staff love the initiative and have seen improvements in students’ abilities across the core skills. We have disseminated these activities via Jisc and have been asked to speak at next year’s Wales conference; through Swansea’s ASD network and College’s Wales ILS Manager’s network. It is hoped that the LMS can be shared across the sector.
Gower College Swansea
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