emerging technologies in instruction, instruction section, acrl

December 2003 Site of the Month

Pilot: An Information Literacy Tutorial

Authors: Janet DiPaolo, Sara Baron, Sarah Tudesco
Interviewer: Cassandra Osterloh


The tutorial provides students with an introduction to basic skills in information retrieval, evaluation, and use. Students learn the location and function of essential areas in the library, how to locate and borrow material, and how to obtain materials not owned by the library. Students also learn to focus and articulate information needed and identify key concepts of their topic. The tutorial teaches students the difference between controlled vocabulary and key words, how to use key concepts to find resources on a topic, how to interpret bibliographic citations from search results and locate the materials cited. Finally students learn to evaluate the information retrieved and how to incorporate retrieved information into their own texts. Learning objectives are defined and bulleted on the introductory screen of each module. Learning objectives are measured by quizzes at the end of each module, and at the completion of each quiz, students generate a "Certificate of Completion".

Interview with tutorial author:

Q: What was the motivation for creating Pilot: An Information Literacy Tutorial?

A: In 1998-99, as part of our library's strategic plan project, we conducted a campus-wide environmental scan. Results of the scan revealed a need for a wider variety of instructional methods and tools for students, all accessible online. (We're a commuter school, with a mix of students right out of Boston-area high schools and returning, older students.)

At the same time, the university was developing a General Education program in which the library was to have a major role in fulfilling an information literacy competency. Although we intended to re-examine/re-vamp and continue to offer our traditional LI program, we recognized that the tutorial would allow us to meet a variety of learning styles, from the Gen-Y student who may be computer-addicted to the older, working student with a family who doesn't have time to come to a traditional LI session.

Q: How was the tutorial promoted or advertised?

A: The tutorial has been advertised on the Library's homepage. Promotional flyers were posted throughout campus. Instruction librarians mention the tutorial in LI classes of all levels. The tutorial has also been advertised at ongoing presentations made to General Education faculty, at the University's annual ITC 'Teaching with Media' Expo, at the University's Center for the Improvement of Teaching annual conference, and at the annual Peer Mentor training program.

Q: What were some of the challenges (technological or other) that you encountered?

A: Although a five-member project team was responsible for developing the tutorial, we often worked in small, task-oriented groups that presented a challenge in giving the tutorial one voice. In the end, the person(s) responsible for the final edit solved that. (To the great relief and appreciation of the entire team!)

Q: How has Pilot contributed to or influenced your library's instructional services?

A: In varying degrees, all instruction librarians use the tutorial in General Education LIs. In LI planning with a General Education faculty member, we work out to what degree the tutorial will be used -- from a mere mention to an instructor requiring their students to demonstrate proof that they have gone through the entire tutorial or through specific modules - which they can easily do. When a student has completed a quiz at the end of a module they can print/e-mail a certificate of completion (with score results).

In many first year seminar LIs, the tutorial is the only focus. The librarian will do a brief lecture/demo/Q&A then spend the reaming time having students work at computer workstations on the tutorial.

In addition, many instruction librarians demo the tutorial in all sorts of LIs (freshmen English composition classes, 200/300 level courses, etc.).

Q: If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently (or the same)?

A: During the design/planning phase, create additional small, task-oriented groups to a) establish maintenance policy/procedures; and b) draft a marketing plan.

To contact the authors of Pilot: An Information Literacy Tutorial, please write or call:

Janet DiPaolo