Oct 20 2021

Meet Our Academic Skills Tutor

In our latest Arden University podcast, we speak to Lauren Hamilton, an academic skills tutor from the library team at Arden University.

As an academic skills tutor, Lauren is dedicated to bridging the gap between lecturers and students to offer excellent care and support so they can succeed with their university assignments.

Read on for the Q&A with Lauren as she shares her story on the Arden university library and academic research:

 How did you join the library team?

I’ve been with Arden for just over a year and a half, and when I started it was a day before the March 2020 lockdown.

We were a new team, so we didn’t exist before that - there was just six of us in the first intake and we didn’t really know each other or what the role entailed. When I first started everyone was so lovely, but I felt myself wonder – what are we supposed to be doing?

Over the past year, we have done so much to grow the provision. The nice thing about our team is that we are all academics from different fields. So, my background is in Education and I’m currently doing my PhD looking at critical disability studies. I used to lecture in inclusive practice and equality and diversity, so it’s a bit of change being an academic skills tutor, but I really love it.

What does it mean to be an academic skills tutor?

My day changes every day, and I always say we’re in the best role because we’re academics, but we bridge the gap between lecturers and student support.

We get to help all students across all programmes and all levels. We operate on different levels, so we can do one-to-ones with students who are maybe struggling with a certain university assignment or prepping for academic research and need some advice.

We offer this over Zoom, and more recently, face-to-face sessions. We also deliver workshops, and what’s great about the academic skills tutor team is that we have evening and weekend provision so we can help students whenever they need us.

At Arden, we have such a diverse population of students, many of which are distance learning, so you get to meet so many different people from different backgrounds. My favourite part is chatting to different students and getting to know them.

What is the library portal is and how does it work?

We’ve always had a library at Arden and the nice thing about the library is that because we are mainly distance learning, it’s completely online so we don’t have a physical library that you can visit. However, I think this is better because you can access it anywhere and anytime. With the old version of the university library, we felt like it didn’t have a home or have a portal or interface for it. It was just a link to a certain database.

That’s why with the new university library portal, we have given it its own space and we’ve spent a lot of time making it as accessible as possible. It has so many different databases for journals, e-books and other academic research materials. We also have subject guides, so if you’re studying Psychology for example, you would click on that subject guide and then it has the reading list, referencing guide and links to Twitter. Additionally, it links more to the academic skills tutor team so you can easily book your sessions through there and contact us.

We’ve had such positive feedback from students, the new university library portal is so much more interactive and tailored to programmes. It can be daunting when you first start your degree and you may not understand why the library is so important, but it’s vital that you use academic research and sources in your university assignments, so using the university library should be nice and simple.

How can students gain access to this?

There are a few different ways, but the best way is when you visit your ilearn, in the right-hand corner there is the Resources button, and you can access the university library through there. The nice thing is that it’s a single sign-on, so once you’ve signed in through your Office365 that’s the last time you’ll have to sign in. It’s just a click away!

Could you walk through some of the new features?

We’ve implemented new ways to search literature and academic research, so when you first go onto the university library portal, you’ll find a search bar that will scour the entire library and produces thousands and thousands of results!

However, if you’d prefer to have fewer results, there is an option to search by database, so if you had a specific database in mind, like Perlego, then you can filter that in. There’s also a feature where you can filter by database by programme, so if you study Law, it will only bring up relevant databases.

I can’t express how excellent the subject guides are as they have live reading lists that are updated all the time and are clickable, but also has links to podcasts, Twitter, and associations. The university library portal also has links to different places, such as a link to the academic skills tutor team.

Can you tell us more about the workshops?

 We have so many different workshops available, and they cover a variety of things, including academic writing, how to be critical, how to do referencing and how to proofread.

They’re available every single day and at a variety of times. We’re also in the development stage, so we’re looking at launching even more workshops, for those students who might be doing quantitative research. If you’d like to book one, then click on the university library portal and you’ll find all the availability and can select one that’s right for you.

How would a student reach out to you if they wanted one-to-one support?

There are a few different ways to reach us – you can email our team via study-skills@arden.ac.uk or book through the university library portal for a one-to-one where students can choose whether they prefer the online appointments or face-to-face.

Check out the new university library portal where you can submit feedback, and if you leave a review, there is a draw to win a £50 voucher.

If you’d like to share your story and experience with the Arden podcasts for university students, you can reach out to us on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter channels.