i-skills and staff development

This research  (2006) done by University of Leeds and Loughborough takes as its starting point the i-skills cycle published by the JISC (2005) based on the Big Blue model (2002). The JISC introduced the concept of staff i-skills in an attempt to resolve confusions arising from the multiplicity of terms in this area. i-skills are typically defined as: ‘the ability to identify, assess, retrieve, evaluate, adapt, organise and communicate information within an iterative context of review and reflection.’


  • Structured review of staff skills against the headings offered in the JISC I-skills cycle.
  • Discussion of the nature of i-skills in the workplace as exemplified in two surveyed groups.
  • Adapted i-skills model showing possible ‘gateways’ between traditionally Library based staff skills training provision and mainstream institutional staff development provision.
  • Indicative staff development programme based on the Leeds approach.
  • Recommendations for possible areas of partnership working.
  • Recommendations for three of the i-skills stakeholders – Librarians, Staff development professionals and JISC

Recommendations for staff developers

  • Staff developers should use the adapted i-skills model to identify areas of partnership working in the delivery of staff development support in the following skills: time management and information overload, networking, teamwork and meetings
  • Staff developers should work with librarians to examine existing provision and to identify and integrate i-skills into staff development programmes designed for specific groups e.g. leadership development programmes, training for first line managers and committee servicing. Thereby making i-skills training more relevant to specific groups of staff
  • Staff Development units should encourage departments and units to actively review their structures and opportunities for internal communication and networking to identify positive approaches
  • Staff Development units should actively support and facilitate cross campus networks around work themes. Where there are specific institutional issues which create barriers to networking, such as physical space, new technologies including web based forums, blogs and community space online may be used to create new opportunities and environments for networking.

Recommendations for librarians

  • Librarians should work with staff developers to target training towards specific departments as part of team development, e.g. via departmental away days, or preparation for ‘Quality marks’ such as Investors In People., ensuring the inclusion of i-skills in these events
  • Librarians should work with Human Resources departments to explore how the staff development and review process is managed within their institution and establish whether i-skills are explicitly identified in job descriptions and review procedures
  • Librarians should make their expertise in creating e-learning objects available to staff developers where required
  • Librarians should actively widen their understanding of i-skills to consider how issues such as time management, information overload, networking, teamwork and meetings, and the presentation of data (not just bibliographies) relating to the more traditional i-skills theme

Recommendations for partnership working

  • i-skills training providers across institutions, be they from the library, staff development unit, computing service, learning development unit, e-learning, VLE or careers services, should examine their current staff development provision and map it against the adapted i-skills model. They should work together to embed i-skills into courses which will be highly relevant, appropriate and appealing to staff
  • i-skills training providers should explore options for delivering support for staff in this area in forms other than attending courses and investigate further the role of peer assisted learning and workplace mentoring for i-skills development
    Institutions should take advantage of support offered by JISC and Netskills, e.g. ‘Making Information Work for You’ workshops and the i-skills self-audit tool to kick start and focus their staff development programmes in this area

Recommendations for JISC

  • Training sessions or materials which ask staff to audit or self-assess their i-skills (e.g. Netskills’ Making Information Work for You), should include specific opportunities for personal reflection and action planning
  • JISC should make funding available to promote excellence in institutional i-skills collaboration
  • In light of this research, JISC should revisit the i-skills model in order to make it more relevant to the workplace and consider, in particular, issues such as the model’s cyclical nature and the broader, related skills which impact but are currently missing
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