emerging technologies in instruction, instruction section, acrl

August 2004 Site of the Month

Bruin Success With Less Stress


Project Director:
Pauline Swartz, Information Literacy/Reference Librarian
Institution: UCLA College Library
Interviewer: Susan A. Vega García


“Designed as an introduction to academic integrity and intellectual property, Bruin Success with Less Stress educates students about their role in the academic community to help them make informed choices. This resource supports the missions of various campus entities (e.g., the Office of the Dean of Students, the Writing Programs, the Office of Information Technology, etc.), and strives to educate students about issues of academic integrity and intellectual property not only in their academic careers, but also in their daily lives.”

Interview with the Tutorial Author

1. First, I have to comment on the engaging graphic design and content, plus the clear navigation structure. There was obviously a talented team of people working on these different aspects. Was it a challenge to coordinate the development of the Bruin Success project with so many people involved? How was the project managed from start to finish?

I had been a librarian for just under a year when I took this project on, so coordinating the development of Bruin Success presented many exciting challenges and learning opportunities.

The project was broken down into four phases with teams for each phase. Each phase was further broken down and timelined with benchmarks, milestones, etc. Our phases were: 1) exploration/planning/content development, 2) design and construction 3) usability and revision and 4) promotion. These phases were not necessarily tackled sequentially, nor in isolation. When possible, teams worked in tandem and open and clear communication among the teams was essential. For instance, as I was writing the dialogs between Carlos and Eddie (our two main characters), I consulted with Ben (our lead designer) who offered various ideas on how we could present these within our financial and time constraints.

With a minimal budget and a tight deadline, it was vital that each team and its members were familiar with the overall project purpose and plan, and what their individual and team roles were.

2. How long did the development process take? Who was involved?

The initial phase involved exploration, planning, and content development. Members of this team included myself, Stephanie Brasley (the Instruction Coordinator for the UCLA College Library), and Chisa Uyeki who was at the time, a reference and instruction intern working towards her MLIS at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (she's now at California State University, Los Angeles). With our intern graduating and the Instruction Coordinator managing our heavy instruction program, by the end of this phase, I was the last person standing.

During this stage, we explored possibilities by examining existing online tutorials and learning objects. We also consulted with various campus departments to identify their needs, and investigate whether or not an online tutorial would be useful—that is, does this project warrant the time, energy and resources that would be needed to create a quality product? What does our campus community need? What would they actually use? From this process, we developed our student learning outcomes. The learning outcomes were grouped, forming what are now our five modules. The content that we developed during this phase consisted of all of the text, links, questions and answers, with descriptions of ideas for interactivity and visual representations to further the content. We consulted with subject experts (e.g., faculty in the Writing Programs) and students along the way, and as they were looking at only text on plain white paper, they were not distracted by design; where the content was boring or didn't make sense, they were very comfortable with telling us so!

Our design and construction team consisted of three people: Ben Benjamin, the lead designer; David Yamamoto, the programmer; and Ellen Watanabe, our graphic designer.

Ben Benjamin, our very talented freelance graphic designer (who can be reached at benbenjaming@gmail.com, designed the look and structure of the tutorial. Originally, the plan was for Ben to construct the entire site using our content; however, due to the budget crisis that we were facing, the funding that we were eventually allotted was less than half of what we had projected. We had to quickly formulate an alternative approach.

Ben constructed one entire module, “Intellectual Property: Rock Machine,” including the interactive questions and answers and the pop up glossary. Actually, he even wrote the lyrics to Eddie's rockin' love song on the first page. Ben also created color-coded templates for each module (including all of the background artwork), the reference lists, resources pages, homepage, navigation system (which went through several iterations), and the template for the printable nutshells. He provided detailed and clearly organized specs for other team members to follow. We were lucky to have such a talented and enthusiastic artist who was not only willing to work within our constraints, but also helped to devise effective solutions to some of our major roadblocks.

Once Ben finished his portion, David Yamamoto, our superb programmer and the UCLA Library Public Services Web Developer, and Ellen Watanabe, the UCLA Library's top-notch Graphic Designer, took over and added their own flair and talent to construct the remaining four modules and build upon Ben's work.

In the meantime, I was studying up on usability, designing the usability study, applying for IRB exemption and awaiting the IRB results. Once the exemption was granted, I recruited testers, conducted tests, analyzed the results and drafted a prioritized list of recommendations/changes which was shared with David and Ellen.

While many of the changes were being addressed, Dawn Setzer, Director of UCLA Library Communications, prepared an extensive, carefully timelined publicity plan for Bruin Success . Ellen's talents were enlisted to design posters, flyers, bookmarks and other promotional items. I focused on developing ideas to promote Bruin Success to undergraduate students in fall 2004.

An iterative process which required that we juggle not only our regular job responsibilities but other major projects as well, the bulk of the production of Bruin Success with Less Stress took approximately ten months.

3. There's so much original, high quality work here. What support, if any, did you get to assist you in the creation of this tutorial?

Ben was hired to complete a portion of the design and construction, and the project was put in David and Ellen's workflow.

4. Tell us about the technologies that were used to create Bruin Success , and why you chose these. Were there others that you considered?

Ben and David primarily used HTML, JavaScript and ColdFusion to create Bruin Success .

We considered using Flash, but decided against it for several reasons. Ben sums it up: “ Basically the investment in it as far as time and money and effort was not worth the pay off. And several aspects of Flash itself would cause us to lose a small but still important part of our audience.

We were able to maximize the accessibility by limiting ourselves to HTML.

David says, “ ColdFusion was used to handle the stuff that� JavaSript couldn't handle for the [interactive questions & answers] and also for piecing together all of the pages/sections dynamically.”

5. What was the motivation for creating this tutorial?

First, Eleanor Mitchell, Head of College Library and Director of the UCLA Library Information Literacy Program, had attended several meetings where faculty and university administration had expressed a growing concern regarding students and plagiarism, academic integrity, the use of campus networks for illegal file sharing activities, and other issues related to ethics and information. Furthermore, f aculty focus groups conducted by the Information Literacy Program confirmed that students' understanding of academic integrity and the scholarly process were a top priority for faculty.

While we were in our exploration stage, we spoke with the Office of the Dean of Students about academic integrity and campus support services for students; we spoke with the Writing Programs about plagiarism and common pitfalls they observed their students encountering; we spoke with the Office of Information Technology regarding what they thought students should know about the use of campus networks and file sharing; we spoke with students about dealing with the pressures of student life, and their opinions and experiences regarding academic integrity, file sharing and other issues. In the end, our motivation for creating Bruin Success with Less Stress was to empower students with knowledge of campus resources (e.g., stress and wellness centers, tutorial centers, etc.), educate them about their role in the academic community and the scholarly process and to promote academic honesty, while supporting the missions of various campus entities. Basically, we simply wanted to create a resource that would help our students succeed.

6. How is the tutorial currently used? Is it tied to any particular class as a requirement, or how do students and faculty learn of it?

Although Bruin Success is quite new and still under development (we're making enhancements right now), there are several ways that people learn of it. In terms of our campus community, so far, it has been promoted most heavily to faculty and administration. It has been profiled in the UCLA Library's Library News for Faculty , press releases have appeared in various online and print publications, it has been introduced at various meetings, and we always like word of mouth. For instance, Assistant Dean Carlisle from the Office of the Dean of Students has recommended to faculty that they include Bruin Success in their syllabi. Bruin Success has been integrated into several courses thus far including Sociology, Fiat Lux and General Education Cluster courses. We hope to see more and more classes using Bruin Success in Fall 2004.

An ad campaign promoting Bruin Success to UCLA students will begin this fall. The campaign includes posters and flyers to be displayed across campus and bookmarks ( Bruin Success promo on one side, quick citation format guides on the other), trucker caps, pens and highlighters to be distributed at various points on campus including campus tutorial centers, residential halls, in the library and at the Welcome Fair. A link to Bruin Success will appear on My.UCLA, the campus portal to just about everything—email, course registration, events, the schedule of classes, etc.

It is also currently being used in the Library's information literacy efforts (see question #8).

7. What were some of the challenges (technological or other) that you faced?

The challenges we faced were the common ones: funding and time.

8. How has Bruin Success with Less Stress contributed to or influenced your library's instructional services?

Some librarians and faculty have students complete one or more modules before an in-class session as a pre-assignment, or after an in-class session as reinforcement. For instance, our liaison working with the student athletics department has assigned the “Avoiding Disaster: Eddie Gets Organized” module, which focuses on time management and tips for tackling assignments and research projects, to the freshman football team before an upcoming in-class information literacy session.

Bruin Success has led to other interesting projects as well. For instance, the Office of the Dean of Students developed a two-part pilot workshop in Spring 2004 for students who had been sanctioned for plagiarism. The first session was devoted to academic integrity and ethics; the second session was devoted to documenting sources and avoiding plagiarism. I was invited to observe those sessions and provide feedback and have since been asked to teach the second session. I am currently working on further developing this documenting sources/avoiding plagiarism session in order to offer it to all students several times throughout the quarter—just before midterms and finals. I have also begun to collaborate with the faculty in the Teaching English as a Second Language Department to develop a similar session for our international graduate students.

Students who attended the spring sessions of the dean's workshop expressed that one reason students may unintentionally plagiarize is because they are unfamiliar with the conventions of documenting sources, and are unsure of who or what to consult for guidance. Also, some students are unaware of what they do not know until it is too late. Although the library has many style manuals and writing guides, they are scattered throughout the library, with a few in the ready reference area and several in the stacks. I am therefore creating a sort of plagiarism prevention mini-resource center that will be located in a highly visible area of the library. Currently referred to as the “citation station,” it will include several copies each of a variety of style manuals, handouts with citation formatting basics, resources from the Office of the Dean of Students and information on campus resources including campus tutoring centers, student workshops (e.g., workshops on time management, study skills, health and wellness, etc.), and other resources.

We are trying to reach our students in a variety of ways: with in-person workshops, a highly visible collection of print resources in the library, and an online resource that students can access anytime, from anywhere.

9. What kind of feedback, either formal or informal, have you received from students or faculty?

Feedback has been positive so far. In fact, two student honors societies have donated funds to the library to help produce promotional items that will be distributed to students in fall. Also, a student reporter from the campus newspaper interviewed me for an article last spring. Her reaction to Bruin Success was very positive and she felt that students should know about it. So, through the article we got some early (and free) publicity.

10. What are your future plans for Bruin Success ?

Enhancements to the site are being made this summer, including improvements to the navigation system. Bruin Success will be more widely promoted to students in fall. The next step is to continue improving upon the site, and we intend to create a more generic version that will be easily adoptable by other institutions.

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

Things I'd do the same�

A few things that I would do the same would be to hire an outside expert who not only has the talent and experience to construct a solid product from the beginning, but who can also devote a concentrated block of time exclusively to the project. I think breaking the project down into phases and having teams for each phase, assembling teams with strengths appropriate for each phase, worked very well. I also think that focusing on content development early on and apart from construction helped us to avoid allowing technology to drive the project. Keeping our focus on our campus needs and consulting with stakeholders, in particular students, throughout the development of the project is something that I would do again as well.

Things I'd do differently�

In times of budget crisis, funding for the library and library projects is particularly unstable. If I had to do it again, I would write a grant to secure funding for the project, budgeting enough funds to hire an outside designer who could complete the design and construction in its entirety within a discrete block of time.

Also, the College Library has since formed a Student Advisory Council. In addition to seeking out random students for feedback, I would probably consult with this council regularly to tap into a constant group of students who would have a deeper understanding of the purpose of the project, could observe its progression, and who would be able to recognize their visible role in shaping the direction of the project.

To contact the authors of Bruin Success With Less Stress, please write or call:

Pauline Swartz, Information Literacy/Reference Librarian, UCLA College Library

Email: pswartz@library.ucla.edu>
Phone: 310-825-6522