IPRA 2017 – Second Honourable Mention – Susan Halfpenny

Susan Halfpenny was nominated by Stephanie Jesper. We are calling the nominations placed in second and third place “Honourable Mentions”, and her placing in second means that Ms Halfpenny is the Second Honourable Mention of the Informed Peer Recognition Award 2017. Congratulations to her on this achievement, which recognises the impressive work she does for her users.

The text of her nomination is below.

“Following a restructure of the University of York’s Relationship Management Team in 2014, Susan has been part of a brand new Teaching & Learning team which includes both Library and IT staff. Since then she has been instrumental in developing the direction of that team and its focus on digital skills support for both staff and students.

She led a project collating existing training materials and aligning them to outcomes based upon the JISC 6 Elements of Digital Literacy model. This has allowed us to identify shortcomings in our training offering, and to target areas where we need to add more. This work has been in conjunction with a survey of students’ own perceived skills needs. It has led us to develop new sessions targeted at both perceived and actual need, for instance our involvement in a recently successful Writing Week where we were able to run sessions on critical reading, poster design, reference management, and using Word.

The most visible outcome of this work to develop a cohesive programme of digital skills support is our new Digital Skills Guides platform – http://subjectguides.york.ac.uk/skills – which the Teaching and Learning team have created, largely from scratch, as a student-facing hub for digital and information skills. The pages include interactive content which will work in conjunction with our non-embedded training. The site is also public-facing, so the materials are available for use by all. We hope to expand our online and face-to-face training in the New Year, working closely with other skills support teams to build a taught programme of elective digital skills training.

This year, Susan was seconded on a project to constructively align academic teaching in every department, and this has given her opportunities to work with academics to more effectively (and inventively) support the digital skills that are actually needed by the students on their courses; for example, by embedding teaching sessions on the specific info skills and practical digital skills for creating the academic posters and presentations the students need to make as part of their course. By incorporating digital skills within their programme design, departments can also better prepare students for life beyond academia.

Susan returned to the Teaching and Learning Team this summer and is now acting up as team leader, where she has further worked to advertise digital skills and the work of our team across the university. At the same time she has used the university’s decision to create MOOCs as an opportunity to propagate digital skills beyond the walls of York, building on our team’s existing history of work with Widening Participation. She’s leading on our Becoming a Digital Citizen MOOC – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/digital-society/ – which discusses topics of digital literacy, access, participation, and the digital divide, and aims to develop digital skills and understandings in participants. This MOOC has given our team still more opportunities to work with academics, and will hopefully further advertise our services and expertise within the university as well as out.

In short, Susan has been putting in tremendous effort to develop students’ opportunities for improving their (much needed and all too often neglected) digital and information skills (there’s no such thing as a digital native, as study after study makes clear), finding new channels of engagement by working more closely with other teams (support and academic) across the university, and coming up with new and inventive approaches for blended learning. She has been amazing in transforming her team from a few Librarians and IT specialists into a cohesive group working together and with others to improve digital abilities across the university and beyond.”


Comments from the judging teams on this nomination are below.

“Susan Halfpenny has contributed significantly to teaching and learning, ensuring that models are sustainable and that delivery is effective. Developing digital skills is at the heart of what she has accomplished, with the student’s needs firmly at the forefront. She has obviously had a huge impact across the university, and not just in her substantive role, She has also fostered a culture where teamwork and cohesion are recognised as essential.”

“The work of Susan Halfpenny involves the development of a team focused on digital skills support for staff and students at the University of York. We felt that she had identified an important issue and demonstrated leadership skills and tenacity in taking on responsibility to promote this work across the university. She demonstrated a willingness to share her knowledge, and her work with the MOOC will undoubtedly have long-lasting and important benefits on several groups of people.”

“We felt that Susan Halfpenny seems to be doing some fine work in the areas of dovetailing practical skills with teaching sessions, promotion/marketing and service development. As well as evidence of strong team-working and good collaboration with other departments, which should have long-lasting consequences. Her work on widening participation, and creating resources for the general public to access is also exciting and useful, and almost swings this into another category. We were particularly impressed that all this had been done while she was acting up – it’s not even her job and she’s excelling at it!”


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