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Populating your IR – one institution’s tips for selecting content and securing buy-in

March 4, 2021

By Linda Willems

CCT College Dublin

CCT College Dublin's team explains the steps it has taken to develop an IR that’s integral to college life.

Want to learn more? In the second article in this series - Why introducing an IR has helped one small institution think ‘big' - CCT’s Head of Enhancement, Marie O’Neill, and Head of Library Services, Justin Smyth, explain how the IR not only benefits the college, but faculty and students too.

In 2019, a small team at CCT College Dublin in Ireland took on a very big challenge. To support strategic development of the college’s twin specializations – ICT and business – they launched a new institutional repository (IR) using the Digital Commons platform. In addition, they incorporated Expert Gallery Suite, a faculty showcasing tool.

Although the IR has yet to receive its official launch, it’s already been successfully embedded across many institutional activities, underpinning and showcasing teaching and learning, student achievement, quality and enhancement projects, research (including student research) and sectoral engagement.

In this article, we hear from CCT’s Head of Enhancement, Marie O’Neill, and Head of Library Services, Justin Smyth, about the type of content they include and why. In a brief how-to-guide, they also share best practices for securing that content and building cross-campus support.

Embarking on an IR project: Where to start?

For Marie O’Neill, a critical first step was to define scholarly activity. She explains: “Traditionally, repositories have been associated with peer-reviewed material in highly-ranked journals, but that’s changing; if you look at the Ivy League colleges, their repositories now house a diverse range of content.”

In 2019, CCT wrote a new research strategy that redefined scholarly activity to include ‘the full range of professional activity that takes place outside the classroom’. In practice, this means the term now covers items such as:

  • Funded research or research conducted for post-graduate programs

  • Any scholarly activity resulting in publication

  • Development of new policies, procedures and products

  • Innovation and patents

  • Advocacy and consultancy work

Marie continues: “We also audited scholarly activity in the college; conference papers, peer-reviewed articles, etc. and used the information we gained to establish a register – that has turned into a primary resource for populating ARC.”

Selecting content: the scholarly activities that CCT captures

To date, CCT has uploaded just over 140 items to ARC, which have been downloaded nearly  1700 times.  Here are just a few examples of the intellectual output they have captured.

  • Content generated by CCT initiatives: For example, the Certificate in Teaching and Learning that CCT runs – all related images and PDFs are archived on ARC. They also capture slides and recordings from the Excellence in Teaching lecture series, which is open to participants across the sector. According to Justin, archiving the content in this way not only showcases CTT, “it’s also great to have as a resource for people who were unable to attend the events on the day. And thanks to Digital Commons’ native streaming capability, they are viewing these recordings on our branded IR, rather than via an external site like YouTube.”

  • Participation in national events: Each year, CCT runs an Academic Integrity Week to coincide with the national event organized by Quality and Qualifications Ireland. All associated activities are uploaded to ARC; in 2020, for example, that included a recording of a panel event on contract cheating.

  • Scholarly achievements at CCT: Archiving the annual student graduation ceremony on ARC is a high priority for the team. Other examples include images of CCT lecturer, Gemma Davis, receiving a Teaching Hero Award from the then President of Ireland, Marie McAleese, and a section that records student achievement, including any awards they’ve received.

  • Content produced by students and staff: All final-year student projects with a mark of 2.1 and upwards are archived on ARC (unless the student opts out). Faculty can also suggest other types of student work for inclusion. In addition, the team loves to feature faculty presentations or published work. ARC also plays host to CCT’s reports and a wide range of reference and strategic plans.

The team also uses the IR as a practical resource to support the daily life of CCT. For example, it is home to a monthly professional development bulletin for staff, it hosts the Expert Gallery, and there is a ‘Featured Researcher’ slot drawn from that Expert Gallery.

Justin notes: “When we began using Digital Commons, there were things that it would never have occurred to us to capture. However, the more you use it, the more uses you find for it.” Marie adds: “These days, we’re quite horrified if we think that we've put something on a site like YouTube that could have been embedded in the repository. That’s a lost engagement opportunity."

Recording the past: Using the IR as an institutional memory

CCT College Dublin is growing rapidly, with a big commitment to teaching, learning and research, and a strong focus on sectoral engagement. Marie explains: “It’s important to us to capture this. ARC offers us a unique opportunity to preserve the college’s history.”

Justin adds: “Having an institutional repository memory is hugely important to the fabric of life at CCT and Digital Commons has given us the scope to present graduations from years past, stories of alumni and student successes. Student partnership, in particular, is such an important part of our remit at CCT – storing that sort of personalized history in all its formats is one of our key reasons for choosing this software.”

Looking to the future: from virtual exhibitions to a new journal

Although ARC is already live and accessible, one of the next steps for the team is the ‘official IR launch’ later this year. But even with the site up and running and a steady pipeline of content assured, they have no plans to take it easy.

Topping their ‘to do’ list are virtual student exhibitions, self-archiving for published faculty, and a project that particularly excites Justin and Marie; launching a new journal on ARC. Both have previous journal experience – Justin is an editorial board member of Studies in Arts and Humanitiesopens in new tab/window and Marie was a founding member and managing editor of DBS Business Reviewopens in new tab/window. So, when they were introduced to the journal publishing functionality on Digital Commons, it wasn’t long before they were jotting down ideas for a new CCT title, says Marie.

Together with faculty, they want to create a journal to showcase the work of students and staff. And it will have the added benefit of driving more traffic to ARC.  Marie explains: “When I was a student, there was a feeling that you weren’t senior enough to publish in peer-reviewed titles. But when we launched DBS Business Review, we accepted submissions from everyone – professors, undergraduate students, Masters students, and so forth. There's a great sense of inclusivity and diversity in that approach and we’d like to create the same ethos with our CCT journal.”  Justin adds: “It will be a very natural extension of the way that we already use ARC to enhance scholarship and research among students.”

But their key focus for 2021 will remain growing the ARC collections on offer. Marie admits: “Sometimes when we look at other repositories, it’s quite intimidating – they might have had 1 million downloads and we’re still at the very early stages, but what we’ve uploaded is being used in very practical ways; for example, we’ve had students tell us that a piece of work helped them understand what a high-quality project looks like and how you structure it.”

She adds: “In the end, it’s about going at your own pace and selecting the items that really add to the intellectual life of your students, lecturers and peers.”

CCT College Dublin and Hume Library

Founded by College President, Neil Gallagher, CCT College Dublin specializes in ICT and Business. Inaugurated on Monday 7 February 2005 with just 11 students, over the 15 years since the college’s launch, staff numbers have reached 70 while student numbers have grown to more than 1,000, enrolled in undergraduate, postgraduate and professional programs.

The CCT Hume Library’s physical book collection is complemented by online journal databases and ebooks. It also offers online reading list software, LibGuide software, and an information literacy program covering areas such as referencing, academic writing and integrity issues. For CCT College Dublin, sectoral outreach is a key priority. Among the initiatives the library contributes to are Women in Tech Dublin, the National Student Engagement Programme, and the Library Association of Ireland.


Portrait photo of Linda Willems


Linda Willems

Freelance writer and owner

Blue Lime Communications

Read more about Linda Willems