emerging technologies in instruction, instruction section, acrl

October 2003 Site of the Month

LOBO, The Library Online Basic Orientation

http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/lobo2/
Authors: Josh Boyer, Kim Duckett, Cindy Levine, Megan Oakleaf, and Darby Orcutt
Interviewer: Diane Dallis



Description:

LOBO is an introduction to library research tutorial developed by NCSU Libraries. Developed on the research process model, it includes modules covering the steps through which students progress as they search for information for research papers. Interactive components that illustrate complex concepts are integrated into the tutorial.

Interview with tutorial author:

Q. What was the motivation for creating LOBO?

A. In 1997, the first LOBO tutorial was launched as a part of the Freshman Composition course at NC State. By 2001, the original version of LOBO no longer met the requirements of that course. Problems with the first LOBO included a linear, "claustrophobic" design, a focus on concepts rather than skills, and text-heavy pages. Instructors no longer assigned LOBO to their students. Instead they requested one-hour, in-person instruction sessions. With 100 sections of Freshman Composition to cover each semester, we quickly realized that in-person instruction was not feasible. We also were frustrated with the content limits of a one-shot instruction session.

We were faced with three problems. Students were not learning the skills they needed to complete library research assignments. Instructors had limited options for providing students with the instruction they needed within the confines of their curriculum. Librarians were struggling to meet the instruction needs, but recognized that staffing and time limits made an in-person instruction option impossible.

To solve these problems, we decided to recreate LOBO. We created a brand new tutorial with modular design, organized around the research process. We weighted content towards student skills and focused less on conceptual ideas. We incorporated rich content and point-of-use tools within the modules of LOBO including Keyword and Citation Builders, viewlets, wizards, and interactive questions that encourage higher-order thinking skills: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Finally, we incorporated online synchronous student-librarian communication.

Q. How long did the entire creation process take?

A. The first step in the creation process was the development of an outline. The outline was developed in a number of hours, but was based on years of two librarians' experience in teaching in general and library instruction of Freshman Composition courses in particular. Once an outline was created and the decision to create an entirely new LOBO was made, the project took 4 months.

By drawing on interests and talents wherever we found them, we were able to work very quickly. Five reference and distance learning librarians made up the "core" LOBO team. Because of administrative support and the very visible nature of LOBO, we received generous support from other departments in the library. In addition, Freshman Composition instructors cooperated with our efforts by contributing specialized content.

Additions and improvements to LOBO are ongoing, as is training of Freshman Composition instructors who integrated LOBO modules into their courses.

Q. What were some of the technological challenges you faced?

A. Technological challenges included learning Qarbon ViewletBuilder software and working within the HTML template we created. Another challenge is the "cookie" technology used to generate the completed worksheet. Many students have computers that do not accept cookies, and that can be a difficulty.

Q. What support, if any, did you get to assist you in the creation of the tutorial?

A. As noted above, various departments within the NCSU Libraries and a number of Freshman Composition instructors assisted the core LOBO team of five reference and distance learning librarians. While we did not receive monetary or other additional support for tutorial creation, our colleagues were definitely "rooting" for us! Since the launch of the new LOBO, the director of the Freshman Composition program has continued to be supportive of the project, providing opportunities for librarians to train new instructors in the use of LOBO in their classrooms.

Q. What technologies did you use to create the tutorial?

A. We used Dreamweaver as our primary web-authoring tool since we have a license and broad familiarity with the software within the NCSU Libraries. Our "page turner" scripts were written in JavaScript and the Keyword Builder and Citation Builder were written in PHP. Qarbon ViewletBuilder was used to create "show me" animations throughout the tutorial.

Q: Are there other technologies that you considered?

A: No. We wanted to minimize creation costs, keep LOBO maintenance simple, and speed download times for students on dial-up connections, so we used the simplest technologies available to us.

Q: How has the LOBO contributed to or influenced your library instructional services?

A: LOBO forms the first tier of our curriculum-integrated approach to instruction. The tutorial is a mandatory requirement in the Freshman Composition course at NC State. Since nearly all students complete the tutorial, it works well as a baseline upon which we can build more advanced, subject-specific information literacy instruction.


To contact the authors of LOBO, please write or call:

Megan Oakleaf
E-Mail: megan_oakleaf@ncsu.edu
Phone: 919-513-0302