New video series features students sharing tips on academic skills

There’s something different about a new video series designed by two York librarians and aimed at sharpening students’ academic learning skills. Advice does not come from instructors and librarians, it comes from first-year students who have often learned how to study, research and write the hard way.

Recently launched on YouTube, the seven-part, peer-to-peer series, Learning: In Our Own Words  has had more than 1,000 views.

In these five-minute videos, social science and humanities students offer helpful tips on adjusting to university life – manage your time and don’t get distracted by Facebook – writing and research resources, planning essays, choosing sources, searching Google and the Internet, using libraries, writing and citing sources.

The videos come with teaching guides, available on the Learning: In Our Own Words website, and are meant to be used as teaching tools to engage students about how to succeed academically. They can be viewed as a series or as stand-alone videos tied to particular instructional goals.

When Norda Majekodunmi and Ken Murnaghan, research and instruction librarians, began the project in September 2010, they interviewed first-year students on camera to find out what they knew about research skills. The project soon evolved into something different.

“While we initially set out, from a library perspective, to discover what students knew about research skills and create a brief accompanying video, the scope of the project soon expanded,” says Murnaghan.

“We were fascinated to hear students collectively acknowledge their own experience of a much wider range of academic literacy skills than we anticipated,” says Murnaghan.

“We found that few library videos drew on the student experience or dealt with the entire range of academic skills required for university,” says Majekodunmi. “What makes the video series unique, we believe, is not only that we pause to hear the real voice of students, but these student voices can in turn engage critical discussion in the classroom and promote peer-to-peer learning around critical thinking.”

The video series was created by the Learning Commons and York University Libraries, in collaboration with first-year York students and Learning Technology Services.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to contact Norda Majekodunmi at or Ken Murnaghan at