emerging technologies in instruction, instruction section, acrl

February 2004 Site of the Month

Dudley Knox Library Orientation

Authors: Ann Jacobson, Jeff Rothal and Bryan Stoneburner (Dudley Knox Library) and Doug Nelson (Kinection - http://www.kinection.com)
Interviewer: Cassandra Osterloh

The Dudley Knox Library Orientation is a web-based orientation to the Library's services, resources and facility, and to the basic searching concepts and skills that will help Naval Postgraduate School students take full advantage of them.

Interview with tutorial author:

Q: What was the motivation for creating creating the Dudley Knox Library Orientation?

A: The Naval Postgraduate School has a growing number of distance-learning programs, and we felt this would be a good way to provide students in those programs with information about our Library as well as some basic research and searching skills. We also wanted a "just in time" solution for providing library information to resident students, faculty, and staff.

Q: How is the tutorial currently used?

A: It is used on an as-needed basis, other than one library class for faculty for which it is a mandatory prerequisite. It is very visible from our Library home page and from various obvious entry points on the NPS Blackboard site.

Q: How was the tutorial promoted or advertised?

A: We use a variety of methods to promote and advertise our online tutorial including small, visually attractive fliers (for resident students and faculty), bulk e-mails to faculty and students, links from key library and institutional web pages, and a brief description and URL that are included in the e-mail sent to all new distance students with their library account information.

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

A: While it has not replaced any of our formal instruction sessions, it has been helpful to be able to inform students that it is available as a refresher at any time they want or need it. For the faculty class session mentioned above, we have been able to establish it as a "prerequisite" so we can assume a certain level of knowledge when the faculty arrive and can move right in to more substantial material.

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

A: We were extraordinarily fortunate to have a contractor handling the technological aspects of the project, so I can't really speak to those. Some of the other challenges that we encountered were: 1) The project took longer than any of us anticipated (more than 18 months), and it was a challenge for all of us to stay motivated and engaged for such an extended period; 2) the tutorial was designed (and the screen size and graphics were optimized) for the Blackboard learning environment. It was only very late in the project that we discovered that Blackboard wasn't going to meet our needs, so we ended up putting the tutorial on our web site and creating two entry points to it, one in Blackboard and the other on our web site ; 3) our tutorial was originally intended to be a basic orientation to the Library similar to what we would present in a fifty-minute presentation for new students, and it was a constant challenge to stick to that concept and not keep adding more; and 4) working with an off-site contractor presented an interesting challenge in that there was little opportunity for serendipitous conversations and synergy to develop.

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

A: I would recognize that putting together a comprehensive tutorial such as ours is a very large commitment of staff time (even when working with a contractor) and would try to make sure that staff had adequate time to allocate to the project so that it could be completed fairly expeditiously. I would also give more thought to how to track usage by our user community. We can track the number of hits on our orientation launch page, and occasionally someone actually fills out the feedback survey, but it would be helpful to have more data than that. Ours is a fairly small library, and one thing I would definitely do the same in spite of its challenges is work with a contractor. There is absolutely no way with our small staff that we could have produced such an attractive and comprehensive product without that support. I also think our approach of personalizing the tutorial with two real students representing resident and distance students was an excellent way to attract student interest and make the information appear accessible and relevant.

To contact the authors of the Dudley Knox Library Orientation, please write or call:

Ann Jacobson
Research Assistance and Instruction Manager
Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School
Phone: (831) 656-7732
E-mail: ajacobson@nps.navy.mil