emerging technologies in instruction, instruction section, acrl

June 2003 Site of the Month

Information Competence for the Discipline of Black Studies
Authors: Susan Luévano, Tiffini A Travis, and Eileen Wakiji
Interview by Leslie Murtha


Information Competence for the Discipline of Black Studies is an online learning tool for faculty members in the department of Black Studies at California State University Long Beach. The purpose is to help the faculty to become familiar with issues and concerns surrounding information literacy from a Black Studies perspective, and to facilitate the development of strategies for integrating information literacy into the Black Studies curriculum.

The tutorial consists of an introduction, three substantive modules, and suggestions for further opportunities for learning and collaboration. A pre- and post-test self-assessment instrument is included. Each of the four modules includes links to additional material relevant to the topic, and an assignment that encourages critical thinking and the development of dialogue between classroom faculty and librarians.

Interview with Tutorial Authors:

Q. How did Information Competence for the Discipline of Black Studies come into existence?
A. The tutorial was the result of an Information Competence Grant received through the California State University. We decided to target the Black Studies Department because of its size and the fact that there was no published literature pertaining to information literacy and Black studies.

Q. What motivated you to undertake this venture?
A. At the invitation of our Faculty Center for Professional Development, we have been giving workshops for faculty on information literacy since 2000. These workshops are well received but they are half-day sessions attended by faculty from different departments. When the California State University Information Competence Initiative gave a call for proposals in 2001, we saw this as an opportunity to develop an in-depth online course to reach a discipline/department.

Q. What technologies did you use to create the tutorial?
A. The tutorial was created using standard HTML and JavaScript. The majority of the page was created using Front Page ®. Later navigational, graphics and coding changes were created using Dreamweaver ® and Fireworks ®. A professional graphic designer, Houn-Nam Ing, was hired by the team to clean up the coding, and to create a more professional design. The first version of the tutorial can be found at: http://www.csulb.edu/~ttravis/IC/CSULB/intro.htm

Q. How long did the entire creation process take?
A. We could say that the creation of the course went from the grant writing (proposals were due February 2001) to when the Black Studies faculty started the course in April 2002 since we were juggling this with other job responsibilities.

Q. How did you foster interest in this project in the Black Studies department?
A. As the Black Studies Librarian, Susan Luévano has developed an excellent working relationship with the department through ongoing outreach efforts. Dr. Maulana Karenga, who was the department chair at the time the project was conceived, embraced the project because he believed that this collaboration with library faculty would enhance the technological and pedagogical skills of faculty who would in turn teach these skills to students. The department is very concerned about integrating cutting edge research skills into the curriculum. This is really how we sold it.

Q. What has been the reaction of the faculty to the tutorial?
A. Initially, faculty members with minimal technology skills were intimidated by the online format, while more proficient faculty found it wonderfully convenient and innovative. However, once everyone became involved in the tutorial content, they were totally engaged with the readings, activities and reflections. The faculty loved the fact that it was discipline-sensitive. We made a huge effort to find or create discipline-related content.

Q. How successful do you think the product has been as an educational tool?
A. During the last focus group with the department faculty, the librarians said almost nothing. We just listened to the faculty debating issues of information competence within the Black Studies curriculum. In other words, they totally got it! As the Black Studies librarian, Susan has found that some faculty will now consult with her while developing student assignments, while others have indicated that they are more conscious about integrating various types of sources into research assignments. The department is committed to pursuing national standards for Information Competence within Black/Africana Studies. This demonstrates to us that this product is a vital contribution to the discipline.

Q. What were the most challenging things about creating this project?
A. The most challenging aspect of creating this project was converting largely "librarianish" concepts into terms and definitions that made sense to a diverse group of teaching faculty. Finding appropriate literature and developing original content for the site took the longest to complete. This was undoubtedly due to the lack of literature available on information literacy as it related to Black Studies.

Q. What would you do differently now, if you were at the beginning of the process?
A. If we knew then what we know now, we would have stuck to our original timeline in our grant proposal concerning what we had to do. This would have given us the opportunity to work out some of the bugs. We would have also brought in the graphic designer sooner.

To contact the authors of Information Competence for the Discipline of Black Studies, send e-mail to:

Susan Luévano: sluevano@csulb.edu
Tiffini Travis: ttravis@csulb.edu
Eileen Wakiji: ewakiji@csulb.edu