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Digital Scholarship Lab teaches MSU community value of new technologies

March 14, 2019
The 360-degree immersive visualization room is pictured on March. 13, 2019 at Digital Scholarship Lab in MSU Main Library.
The 360-degree immersive visualization room is pictured on March. 13, 2019 at Digital Scholarship Lab in MSU Main Library. —
Photo by CJ Weiss | The State News

The Digital Scholarship Lab offers technology-based workshops, teach-ins and assistance to instructors, students and the university community at large — serving as a space on campus where anyone can come to explore technology. 

According to Digital Scholarship Technology Librarian Megan Kudzia, the reception to the lab — located in Michigan State’s Main Library — and the resources it provides has been positive since its opening last February. However, Kudzia said one of the biggest challenges has been making sure the community knows the lab is available to help. 

“My suspicion is that there are probably a lot of instructors who don’t necessarily know (providing assistance) is a thing we can do,” Kudzia said.

The lab not only provides assistance to instructors, but educates them on how to design assignments that utilize various computer programs and other technologies. They are also able to recommend the best software to use for certain assignments. 

“Often when they get to me, they already know that — they have a sense maybe of the kind of assignment they want to do, but they’re not totally sure either how to do it or they’re not sure from a technical perspective,” Kudzia said. 

Kudzia and the other data librarians are open to assist in a variety of technical projects. Kudzia said they encourage students to get involved if they also need assistance.

Since opening, the Digital Scholarship Lab has held various workshops, including a series on storytelling with wearable technology, another on geo-referencing, and a weekly open house featuring virtual reality training in the designated virtual reality room.

“This space is really to serve you all,” Terence O’Neill, head of Digital Scholarship and Maker Space Services at the MSU libraries, said. “It’s to bring that barrier down so that you can engage with the technology. If (students) have anything they want to bring in, we’d be super open to conversation,”  

Depending on what workshops are offered, Michigan government officials sometimes use the data and informational resources at the lab to better their practice. Oftentimes, the lab also attracts tourists who come to check out the technology offered. 

“It’s a way to disseminate information but if you’re interested in that topic, we can make that connection with you through a workshop,” O’Neill said. “You get that face-to-face time, you create that shared vocabulary, and a lot of times projects then build out of that connection between the expert resource person and the person that wants to use it.” 

Data librarian Scout Calvert hosts many of these workshops, including crash courses in data research management and how to write data management plans. The workshops are open to the public, but typically cater to specific groups on campus. For instance, graduate students tend to get the most use out of data research, Calvert said. 

During one of the lab’s recent workshops, Calvert offered tips and reminders on how best to go about preventing data loss. The information provided included reminders to use the free services provided through the university, such as SpartanDrive and Google Docs, but also to save things “in threes.” With important data, saving three copies -— on two local spaces and one offsite — is key to ensuring nothing is lost, Calvert said. 

Calvert’s workshop provides insight into just one of the many services offered through the lab, and he said he looks to create workshops that draw attention to the lab. He encouraged students, staff and faculty to contact the Digital Scholarship Lab for potential collaborations. 

“I hope that the workshops encourage the improvement of the data habits that (people) have,” Calvert said.

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