What's in Humbul for Further Education?

Randy Metcalfe provides an overview of the materials and services of use to humanities practitioners in the FE sector.

Humbul [1] is the humanities hub of the Resource Discovery Network (RDN) [2] and represents a sound starting point for finding quality resources in this subject area.

Subject specialists have built our catalogue of evaluated resources. And they add to it every day. The goal is to make access as easy as possible to the best of what the Web has to offer in English, Religious Studies, History, Archaeology, Modern Languages and other humanities subjects. Each record offers information about the resource, including a description that should provide pointers to whether this resource will be useful for teaching and learning in the FE sector. It is possible to find records using the Humbul search box or browse through the resources in a subject, organised by type of resource, time period, (especially useful for History resources), or intended audience.

At Humbul, we work hard to enhance our Internet resource catalogue with additional features and functionality, including Humbul Topics, FE Case Studies, and My Humbul, our personalisation service that brings Humbul's resources into users' own Web pages as well as offering an alerting service for new resources. But perhaps most important of all is the Virtual Training Suite (VTS) of humanities subject-related tutorials that introduce students and practitioners to the range of resources available on the Internet.

My Humbul

My Humbul [3] is Humbul's personalisation service. Within it, users have access to My Humbul Alert and My Humbul Include. The service is entirely free, although it is necessary to register.

Since Humbul's network of subject specialists is regularly adding new resources to our catalogue, Humbul's support for the range of subjects may change significantly over time. Of course users can just come and visit Humbul every week to see what is new; or they can arrange for Humbul to come to them, by setting up a My Humbul Alert. It is possible to choose a subject alert or a saved search alert. Users will receive a weekly email whenever a new record is added to Humbul that matches their criteria. For example, if a user wants to be notified whenever a new resource is catalogued that deals with "battlefield memorials", then a saved search alert may be just what is required.

My Humbul Include goes one step further. It enables users to select records from within Humbul and dynamically include them within their own Web pages. They can even choose to add their own annotations to Humbul's descriptions. Meanwhile Humbul continues to check regularly that the resources selected are still available, updating the link and the description as required. This means there are no dead links on course Web pages. And once My Humbul Include has been added to users' Web pages, they can add new records, remove existing records or even change the metadata displayed, all from Humbul's My Humbul interface.

Virtual Training Tutorials

The RDN has begun building a suite of tutorials specifically for FE [4]. Two of special interest to humanities students will be English Studies and Learning Languages. These free humanities subject-based tutorials enable students and teachers to develop the skills needed to make the most of resources they find on the Internet. Humbul also maintains the following tutorials, which were originally written for HE, but which have also proved popular in FE:

  • Internet for English
  • Internet for Historians
  • Internet Philosopher
  • Internet for History and Philosophy of Science
  • Internet Theologian
  • Internet for Religious Studies
  • Internet for Modern Languages

Whichever tutorial users choose, they will have the chance to practise and develop the Internet skills that will support their teaching and learning. It is possible to tour key Web sites for a chosen subject, discover how to search the Internet and recognise the difference between an automated search engine such as Google and a catalogue of hand-picked resources such as Humbul. The process allows practitioners to review and evaluate Web sites, and also identify hallmarks of a quality resource. It also allows teachers to approach the Internet with a plan to get the most out of it for teaching and learning. A major advantage of this method is that users are able to take the tutorials at a pace and a time that suits them. The tutorials even provide the means to assess the development of one's skills, for example through self-assessment quizzes.

Further Education Case Studies

Humbul quickly recognised the value ofpractitioners sharing best practice in the use of its Internet resources. It therefore participated in an RDN project to develop case studies by FE teachers for FE teachers in English, History and French.

There are six case studies for each subject. They run the gamut from individual lesson plans on using a particular resource such as Hamlet on the Ramparts [5] to advice on how to use the Internet to support the teaching of a major subject like the First World War [6]. A few tutorials even focus on how to make the best use of Humbul for your teaching and learning in further education [7].

Humbul Topics

Sometimes a fully searchable catalogue of the best resources on the Web just is not enough. Humbul is working to enhance practitioners' use of resources by inviting subject specialists to write a Humbul Topic that gathers together resources of particular relevance [8]. Usually these will be resources which even with a very thorough search strategy users may not be able to locate easily. Whether it is resources dealing with English Local History or Poetry on the Internet, a Humbul Topic represents a useful introduction to the best available resources on a specific topic. A new Humbul Topic is produced about every two months. We actively encourage lecturers from Further Education to suggest and write Humbul Topics for us. We are keen to learn what FE practitioners want to see in the future.

Humbul Promotional Materials

If you would like to raise awareness of Humbul amongst your students or colleagues, we would be delighted to help with Humbul Promotional Materials [9] such as flyers and bookmarks - up to 50 each free of charge. Just send in your request to info@humbul.ac.uk

Future Plans for FE

Humbul is committed to serving the needs of Further Education. In the first instance, that means continuously building its catalogue of resources, ensuring that subject specialists with experience in Further Education are there on the ground level selecting resources for Humbul. But it also means reviewing more than 7000 existing Humbul catalogue records in order to ensure that their descriptions and metadata make finding the right record as easy as possible. Along with other hubs in the RDN, Humbul will dramatically increase its FE holdings in the next year through a project working directly with FE colleges, part of the JISC Exchange for Learning Project. With that in mind, Humbul is developing ways of browsing search results that make it even easier to reach the resources that will work best for users. In the coming months, Humbul will enhance its subject pages with additional teaching-related content. Future Humbul Topics will explore issues of relevance to FE. And we hope to see Humbul records used on as many FE Web pages as possible through My Humbul Include.


  1. Humbul http://www.humbul.ac.uk/
  2. Resource Discovery Network http://www.rdn.ac.uk/
  3. My Humbul http://www.humbul.ac.uk/help/myhumbul.html
  4. RDN Virtual Training Suite http://www.vts.rdn.ac.uk/
  5. RDN Case Study Hamlet on the Ramparts http://www.rdn.ac.uk/casestudies/humbul/english/case2.html
  6. RDN Case Study World War One http://www.rdn.ac.uk/casestudies/humbul/history/case4.html
  7. Example: RDN Case Study in English subject area, My Humbul http://www.rdn.ac.uk/casestudies/humbul/english/case5.html
  8. Humbul Topics http://www.humbul.ac.uk/topics/
  9. Humbul Publications http://www.humbul.ac.uk/about/publications.html

Author Details

Randy Metcalfe
Communications Manager
Humbul Humanities Hub
Research Technologies Service
University of Oxford
13 Banbury Road
Oxford, OX2 6NN

Email: info@humbul.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.humbul.ac.uk/

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Date published: 
Friday, 30 January 2004
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