Working with a community editorial board on learning and teaching resources

I work in the Content and Discovery area of Jisc. For the past year we have been working in partnership with a group of academics to add learning and teaching resources to the Historical Texts platform.

How we got started

I’d love to take credit for the start of this project, but like some of the best partnership ideas, it came from within the academic community. Dr Bonnie Latimer of The University of Plymouth approached us with the idea. She proposed creating a set of resources to support undergraduate learning and teaching using the primary sources hosted on Historical Texts. This was something we had wanted to do for some time but did not have the expertise within the team to achieve. Bonnie drew together a group of academics to help shape the vision of the project and help create the resources themselves. This group has evolved into the L&T Editorial Board.

Progress of the project

Our project has had 3 phases so far, punctuated by appearances at conferences or the release of content.

Phase 1

  • deciding what types of content to create
  • working out how to present the content so that it was easy to find and use
  • investigating how to work within the confines of the current platform infrastructure.

We demonstrated a prototype to the English: ShareFutures conference in July 2022. Our audience of Humanities academics gave us some great initial feedback which shaped the next phase of the project.

Phase 2

  • working with a UX specialist to improve the usability of the pages and resources
  • responding to the request for more ready to use content
  • making the pages more mobile friendly

We presented the results of our improvements to the prototype at the BSECS conference in January 2023. The feedback was positive, and we put out our first call for registration of interest in being involved with the project moving forward.

Phase 3

  • completing the creation of learning resources before the beta launch
  • identifying how to measure engagement and success
  • investigating how resources could be contributed to the project in the future

We soft launched the resources in beta at the end of February. This was so that if there were any technical issues, we could fix them out of the spotlight of launch publicity. We are working with the Jisc Marcomms team to publicise the resource over the coming month.

Lessons learned

The significance of Bonnie’s role in co-ordinating Editorial Board meetings cannot be overstated. The fact that we have a dynamic, engaged academic to head up this process has meant the difference between success and failure.

By working with the editorial board, we have been able to

  • identify pain points in co-production processes for lecturers
  • articulate the value of what we are creating from an academic point of view.

There have been times when I have had to reset my expectations during the co-production process. We are working with a set of fantastic academics who are giving us their time when they have very busy schedules. Finding ways to reduce friction in the creation process has been a large part of my role.

We wanted the Editorial Board to spend their time on making sure the content we created was pedagogically sound and met the needs of users. It became my role to make sure the content met WCAG 2.1 guidelines and looked appealing.

As well as working with the academics on the Editorial Board, we have benefited from collaborating with internal areas of Jisc. Dave Shaw offered help and guidance on how to make the content more discoverable. We are also working with MarComms, Insights and Events to:

  • promote the new beta resources
  • seek user feedback
  • organise a webinar

Next steps

The project has entered a less frenetic phase of activity where we will be measuring engagement with the beta resources. We will do this using statistics and user feedback. While we collate those statistics, we want to keep the Editorial Board engaged with the project. They will be discussing the question “What might this resource look like in 3 years time?” By keeping the needs and opinions of academics at the heart of what we are doing, we hope that the learning and teaching resources will continue to be useful long into the future.

Get involved

See Natasha’s blog for more on managing collaborative content projects.

Photo credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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