April 2004

Authors: Kim Barber, Christina Calavano, Janice Carter, Elizabeth Harac
Interviewer: Diane Dallis

"Competitive Core Research Skills" is an online class created by librarians at Golden Gate University (GGU) in San Francisco. The class was designed to teach students some basic information literacy concepts such as selecting appropriate sources of information to meet the requirements of a project or assignment, critically evaluating sources of information, and applying existing information sources to course projects and papers. The tutorial is delivered through "CyberCampus", the GGU asynchronous online course environment.

Interview with tutorial author:

Q: What was the motivation for creating CORE?

A: There were two main reasons:
First, aside from the main campus in San Francisco, the library supports Golden Gate University's four main regional sites in Northern California and the University's CyberCampus. Before the development of the cyber course, our instruction program was challenged to reach our regional and cyber students for in class instruction sessions. We really wanted to create a course that would allow students to access a research tutorial when they needed it most, regardless of their location.

Secondly, we conducted a brief faculty survey to gauge the need and significance of these skill sets for our students. The survey results indicated that students needed improvement on their foundational research skills.

Our online research skills course provides students with an engaging, accessible and accurate method of instruction for students to gain foundational research skills on their own (24 hours a day). Additionally the course provides discussion sections where students can post questions and receive answers online from research librarians.

Q: How long did the entire creation process take?

A: We started our planning in April 2003, and launched the course at the beginning of the Fall
Term in Sept. 2003.

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

A: Designing engaging content geared for the 56k user that would also display properly within:

  • GGU's course building system
  • ¬†Internet Explorer
  • and Netscape Navigator

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

A: Our main support came from our partnership with the instructional designers at CyberCampus, which is a GGU in house department specializing in online pedagogy and instructional technology. The library staff supplied the content and the theme of the course. The instructional designers created interactive online activities, structured the flow of the content and presented the material in a visually appealing way.

At the beginning, we surveyed faculty regarding need for the course. After the first draft of content was finished, faculty and students (motivated by a pizza party) provided valuable user testing. We made changes to the course based on their feedback.

Q: What technologies did you use to create the tutorial and how did you choose them?

A: We chose to use the following instructional technologies as they offered compatibility for both browsers and were also low in file size:

1. Animated .gifs
2. Flash movie and quiz
3. Audio
4. Rollovers
5. Quia (an affordable online service which offers many well designed educational templates available at http://www.quia.com)
6. Instructional graphics
7. Java Script self-scoring quizzes
8. .pdf Worksheets
9. Discussion Threads
10. Pop-up windows

Q: Are there other technologies that you considered?

A: Voice over Powerpoint (Impatica), an animated computer screen capture program
(Camtasia) and Real audio

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

A: The course has contributed to our instruction program by making the library and its resources more visible to our users, including faculty. In addition to being used by remote users, it has been used in the in-person sessions. Faculty can recommend that students in their classes complete one, two, three or all four modules. Students can choose to complete or review individual modules, based on their own needs. We are no longer limited to the scarce time that instructors can provide in classes for research instruction, and we can reach students "at the teachable moment."

The course is becoming an integral tool in the University-wide campaign to promote quality research and academic integrity. Faculty are encouraged to see the CORE modules as resources to which they can refer students for clarification on how to use and cite sources appropriately in their research, and how to avoid plagiarism.

The course gives the library an attractive, engaging presence in CyberCampus. The instructional designers created a Flash video with a doctoral student talking about the professional and academic benefits he gained, by working with the librarians. The video sets the context for the course, presenting it as an important tool for students' academic and professional success.
We now, too, extend lessons we learned working with the instructional designers to our other instructional resources and activities. We try to start any project by thinking about what is in it for the students, from their perspective, and how we can best "market" our services and resources to them. We are now beginning to include more visuals in our research road maps to address the needs of visual learners and to make our handouts less text-heavy and more inviting. These are just examples. Working with the instructional designers has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for us.

Q: Are site usage statistics collected? If yes, how are these statistics collected and how are they used?

A: Yes. eCollege, GGU's online course platform vendor, offers a User Activity report that is available to the librarians.

eCollege's user activity software only tracks and records the number of minutes that a user logs into and stays online connected to various sections of an eCollege course.

We are still working out ways to track statistics most effectively. CyberCampus has provided us usage tracking report figures indicating that the course is far more popular than we ever would have imagined. Once we begin to fine tune how we collect statistics on CORE usage, we may be able to see which programs we are reaching and which we are not. Combined with feedback from faculty and students, the statistics can, over time, help us determine how to refine the course. The ongoing process of needs assessment, development, evaluation, and revision will help the course--and us-- evolve over time.

Our usage statistics, displayed in graph form below, have been included to display our course activity to date:

Data image no longer available

To contact the authors of the CORE tutorial, please write or call:

Name: Christina Calavano
Email: ccalavano@ggu.edu
Phone: (415) 442-7251

ACRL Instruction Section