Outdoor activities slowed to a standstill in Singapore as circuit breaker measures kicked in on 7th April 2020.
All institutions of learning had to cease all physical activities – this impacted not just learning activities but also affected all orientation activities for freshly matriculated students at the cusp of their undergraduate journey.
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Library understands the important role that libraries play in every undergraduate’s life. Given this reality, if outreach efforts were to be effective, they needed to embrace new forms. Hence, a project team with staff from various Library teams was rapidly assembled to redesign the communication and outreach efforts for the year’s new students. With skills ranging from creative writing and multimedia production to social media communication, the team brewed up fresh ideas to connect with the freshmen of NTU in a time of reduced in-person activities.
It was the perfect time to experiment with new mediums to introduce new students to the library. This article shares three fresh ways that NTU library used to engage freshmen.
1. Interactive Online Library Guide
Given that in-person orientation to the library has been halted, NTU Library relied on staff talent to create an interactive online library guide for our new students. Aptly, it is named “Freshmen Library Essentials Interactive Guide”.
The entire interactive guide is housed in a virtual replica of Lee Wee Nam Library, which can be found on the NTU Library website. Students are prompted to click around and explore. In doing so, they are invited to discover the resources, spaces, and services that NTU Library offers, which are essentially every library’s essentials.
2. Animated Videos
Visuals! Visuals! Visuals!
Any mode of information delivery that could catch a new student’s eye is a good medium. Today’s video game industry is valued at $180 billion (Schmidt, 2021) and our freshmen are digital natives who breathe in this world.
NTU Library tapped into our audience’s aesthetic tastes and packaged our services in a style that makes sense to the student. We produced a series of 15-second videos in the style of video games. But the production team was not playing around with the content – we meant serious business. Contained in each tightly produced video is an introduction to a library service or tool which is committed to improving the student’s academic experience. The production team put pixelated characters in the shoes of anxious freshmen, increasing relatability, and recommends a library service or tool to solve a problem at the end of each story.
Have a look at the three videos that we produced:
Each video is modified to fit both on a wide-screen television and on a mobile device. The 15-second format fits the Instagram Story length requirement exactly, making it perfect to play across social media platforms. The videos were broadcasted on big screens throughout NTU, the library website, and social media channels.
3. Augmented Reality
Humans are interactive beings and one key component of this sociability is our innate ability to play (Tonkin & Whitaker, 2021) – a need that perhaps appears even more pronounced in these Covid-19 days. NTU Library experimented with augmented reality technology to add elements of interaction and play for our students, but this interaction is not between humans.
If the interaction is not between humans, then who could the students interact with?
3.1 AR Worlds at the Library
Examination. A phenomenon that brings an air of palpable tension to the university. Walk into the library and you might expect to see students with creased brows and low-hung heads.
Studies have suggested that stress negatively impacts academic performance (Pascoe, Hetrick, & Parker, 2020). Our team wondered if there was a way to wave off the stress…
NTU Library cares about student well-being. We understand that the novelty of new lands and sights has been denied because of the pandemic. To assuage the pangs of wanderlust, NTU Library baked up the fantastical idea of creating augmented reality (AR) worlds to blend imagination, technology, and reality into a special virtual tourism experience. The creative wizards in our team conjured up three worlds – an underwater world, a candy haven, and a day in autumn – which flashed before our students’ eyes in the exam season of March 2021.
In a one-week observation, the team noticed near 200 students interacting with the AR worlds.
3.2 AR Scavenger Hunt
Between April and May 2021, NTU Library experimented with an idea to introduce seven libraries to the students. Sited at seven distinct locations across the NTU campus, it is always a challenge to direct new students to each of the different libraries.
That challenge is made steeper by the pandemic, which rendered it impossible for NTU Library to host group tours.
We then thought: What if we gave the students a reason to visit these libraries by themselves?
The team decided to gamify the journey to various libraries.
We leveraged a free-to-use mobile app (Metaverse) to create an AR game in the vein of a scavenger hunt, inspired by Pokemon Go.
- At seven library locations, we created seven unique AR mini-quest
- Students are to spot a hidden library mascot, unique to the location and snap a picture of it
- The hidden mascot would pop up when the student is physically in the library
- Students who submit 3 successfully captured mascots win a prize
Movies, games, augmented reality worlds. All these are produced by our dedicated project team, committed to unfettered innovation in engaging new students through the year.
Feedback gathered from students suggested that the videos and games created awareness of library spaces, resources, and services. One student expressed that he liked the game-like aesthetics of the videos, which was a nod to the team’s approach.
However, it was not just the students who reaped the rewards of this project. NTU Library staff led the production of each creative endeavour, and everything was done entirely in-house.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment in being able to apply my experience with video production in making the videos. Through this project, I also developed a simple AR game. This is a set of knowledge that I can apply again in the future to other projects.”Project Creative Tech Lead,
Nursyafiqah Binte Suhaimi
This project tapped on hidden staff skills and granted its members a creative space to utilize and develop those skills further. Who knows what future possibilities in engagement and outreach await, as our staff continues to level up through a project such as this?
(The Freshmen Library Experience project will continue for a second run in the following academic year.)
Nursyafiqah Binte Suhaimi
Yeo Zhe Benedict