Can you break down the barriers to learning, teaching and research?

Do you have an idea for how technology can support access and inclusion for the UK’s learners, staff and researchers?

Students using a PC
JISC are running a competition ‘Accessible by Design‘, inviting you to pitch ideas which could overcome accessibility issues and improve the experience for learners and researchers.

The winning idea receives £5000 in funding and support from JISC to turn concept into a reality. Video pitches must be submitted via the JISC Elevator page before 26th October.

Recent ideas include a more accessible version of YouTube and an ebook to capture the digital stories of students with Specific Learning Difficulties. For further inspiration have a look at some of the ideas which have been submitted to recent JISC Elevator projects.

Information about the competition can be found on the pages below:

If you would like any help submitting an idea contact the Innovation Group and we’d be happy to help.


Amazing Grace and the Library Z Zone!

Grace Bamber (check name)Sleep Pod

I chatted with Eureka! 2014 finalist Grace Bamber this week about her soon to be launched new sleep-pod competition idea. Here is what Grace had to say about her student-inspired nap area and her experience of being part of Eureka! 2014 last year.

“About this time last year, an advertisement popped up on blackboard for the Eureka! Innovation Challenge Event. The first prize of £1000 worth of vouchers was tempting, but above all it was an opportunity to do something worthwhile for students. I was hesitant to enter, but figured “it’s worth a shot”.

I never expected to be shortlisted to the final with my idea to introduce “sleep pods”. Looking around campus, it’s actually quite funny to see the crazy places that people doze off, and we realise that coffee doesn’t always cut it at 3am in the Ali G. Short naps benefit alertness, productivity, wellbeing and learning, yet still my idea was met with a mixed response. People seemed to either love it, or were completely confused. One of the judges even compared my idea to a hotel, and asked if I would be providing “pod service” to deliver refreshments! However, companies like Virgin Active and Google are jumping on the bandwagon, and it just makes sense that in providing a 24 hour learning environment, we cater for the 24 hour needs of students.

Although I didn’t come out in the top three, being a finalist was the highlight of my first year at UoM, and I am delighted that next month we will be introducing a sleep pod to AGLC. Presenting at the contact theatre with Phil Jupitus as a host was the most nervous I’ve ever felt, but knowing that all this is happening because of me makes the pressure worth it.

Keep your eyes posted for more information on the soon to be launched z zone!


An exciting addition is coming soon to the Learning Commons in the shape of a Sleep Pod (one of the ideas from Eureka 2014).

This is great news indeed but has got me thinking of other ways the Library can potentially assist students with relaxation aids.

I had the idea of a meditation suite, equipped with a number of small booths (bookable or open access) with a comfy chair (or cushion, if preferred).

Headphones could be provided with options for various guided meditations of differing lengths.

Research has shown that even a three minute breathing exercise can be helpful in lowering stress levels and calming the nervous system, so if a student is pushed for time they could just pop in for this – or ten minutes or fifteen minutes.

There could be meditations with instructions on breathing and mindfulness exercises or just relaxing music or nature sounds (rain fall or bird song) depending on individual tastes.

The lighting in the room would be low and calming with perhaps some artwork designed to calm and centre the person entering.

During the well-being activities the Library hosted during exam time in January 2014, many of the students commented that they enjoyed these activities because it didn’t mean giving up their study space as they could literally nip upstairs for massage or meditation and return in less than half an hour, refreshed and focused to get on with their work,

The meditation suite would require minimum staffing and offer an easy but effective way for time out during both exam time and any other time.


Lancaster University Visit – Jolt!


Based on our very own Eureka! Library Innovation Challenge event “Jolt the Library” was a collaboration between Lancaster University’s Library and Innovation Hub. The central idea was to find an innovative idea to improve the student experience at their Library. Lorraine Beard and I were delighted to share our knowledge as project leader and project sponsor of Eureka! and consulted with staff at Lancaster on how to make the afternoon a success. We of course attended the final and were given a warm welcome by the event organisers. If you’d like to know more about the day and see which student idea scooped the top prize of £1000 take a look at Lancaster University Library’s competition page.

Innovation and Ice-cream: Northern Collaboration Conference 2014

NC NC          CT NC

Ciaran and I presented at the 2014 Northern Collaboration conference last week. The title of the conference was “Engagement & Audiences” and our host was Teesside University, the event was held at their Darlington Campus.

Our presentation focused on Eureka! and the “BookedIn” library game ; two of the key projects powered by the University of Manchester Library’s Innovation Group. Both seek to engage with students and enhance the Library experience in exciting new ways. I detailed how the ‘Eureka! Library Innovation Challenge’ competition encourages students to submit their ideas to improve the Library experience. We showed how ideas were shortlisted and how finalists were asked to pitch their idea to a panel of expert judges in a tense 5 minute presentation. Ice-cream featued heavily too as the audience in 2013 were able to testify in our videos as they enjoyed a scoop or two of the cold stuff whilst watching the event in The Manchester Museum.

It was great to share with other academic libraries how Eureka! has enabled us to promote student driven innovation and also boosted the status of the Library as a driver for positive change across the University as a whole.

Spinning off from Eureka, Ciaran presented on the BookedIn project. In collaboration with the University of Glasgow and software developers Running In The Halls, he discussed how BookedIn is seeking to gamify users’ library activities. Via the project students will gain points for visiting libraries and borrowing books, whilst achieving badges for particular challenges. We shared also how the social element of the game provides a platform for students to rate, review and recommend resources to friends whilst viewing and sharing all these activities.

Our session was the most highly attended for its afternoon slot and the feedback for the session was very positive with lots of twitter activity going on throughout the day.

Other break-out session included “Mobile First: The Library in your pocket” from the University of Salford, “Research cafes at Liverpool John Moores University” and the use of “roving student assistants at Edge Hill University”.

Twitter images of the day: