Author: Katy Farrell, Get Started! Project Leader
Institution: University of California, San Diego
Interviewer: Susan A. Vega García
Description: Get Started! is a learning tool that's designed to introduce a new library user to conducting research using the UCSD Libraries, its website, and an assortment of online research tools.
Q. What was the motivation for creating Get Started!, and how did you decide on the topics you wished to cover in the tutorial?
A. Get Started! was the result of an examination of the Libraries’ website from an instructional perspective. The Libraries’ Instruction and Outreach Committee decided to build a learning tool that would serve as both a stand-alone tutorial for getting started at the UCSD Libraries and a series of learning objects that could be integrated into the Libraries’ website at the point-of-need. The target audience for the proposed learning tool was the new library user, with an emphasis on the undergraduate student.
Before development began, a survey was placed on the Libraries’ website that asked users why they visited the Libraries’ website and if they were able to find what they needed. This data was used in determining the content for Get Started!
Q. How long did the development process take? Who was involved?
A. Members of the Get Started! development team were from the Libraries instruction, outreach, website, and IT areas. The Get Started! team consisted of 6 people. The development process took approximately a year and a half, which was longer than expected.
Q. Tell us about the technologies that were used to create Get Started!, and why you chose these. Were there others that you considered?
A. We used html, cascading style sheets, and some java scripts to create the website navigation and overall look and feel.
We are still investigating other tools that will help us to develop self-assessment games and quizzes like the “Test Yourself” section with greater ease. We also used the software application, RoboDemo, to create short, instructional video clips.
Q. It’s not always easy to explain the material and concepts that the tutorial covers, and yet you’ve done that very effectively using a minimum of words. Many library instruction materials have the opposite impulse – to explain everything very fully. How did you manage to trim down the text to this extent?
A. STUDENT FEEDBACK. I can’t stress how important it is to get student input as early as possible. The first Get Started! design was based on the development team’s perceptions of what we thought students would want. Consequently, the design flopped in the first round of usability tests with undergraduate students. We quickly learned that undergraduates don’t want to read, they want to act. They want meaningful images; concise, get-to-the-point text; and the ability to perform a task in one window while referring to instructions as needed in another window. In general, anything below the fold was ignored or referred to as last resort. The development team scoured the web for best practices and conducted a series of usability tests with undergraduates throughout the development of the second and final design.
Q. What support, if any, did you get to assist you in the creation of this tutorial?
A. We did not receive any additional support during the development process. When it was time to release Get Started!, we received funding to support our marketing efforts.
Q. 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?
A. Get Started! is not currently tied to any class requirements; however, that is one of our goals. The Get Started! team implemented a marketing plan to help the UCSD Libraries promote the tool. We began with an internal campaign to show Libraries staff how to promote the tool to faculty and at public service desks. Then, Get Started! advertisements appeared in campus print publications and the tool was demonstrated during new faculty, TA, freshman and transfer orientations. Get Started! is prominently placed on the Libraries' homepages and other relevant web pages. For example, the Get Started! module on finding books is integrated into the Libraries’ catalog. It is also integrated into other campus websites including all student and faculty WebCT accounts. Get Started! is branded with a sun logo to help users to identify the tool on any UCSD web page.
Q. What kind of feedback, either formal or informal, have you received from students or faculty? Do you collect any response data from the mini-quizzes at the end of each Get Started! section?
A. Web analyzer statistics indicate that over 3,000 unique users visit Get Started! each month. We are examining the web analyzer data to determine which learning modules are accessed most frequently and from where.
We have received very positive informal feedback from UCSD students and faculty. We plan to continue to collect formal feedback through usability studies and brief surveys. Unfortunately, at this time we can not collect the response data from the mini-quizzes at the end of each section called “Test Yourself.” We are investigating technologies that will allow us to do so.
Q. What were some of the challenges (technological or other) that you faced?
A. Staying on task and meeting deadlines was by far the biggest challenge. This is probably due to the size of the project and Get Started! team members' volunteer status. Also, team members' IT skills were self-taught so it sometimes took longer than expected to develop website design features.
Q. How has Get Started! contributed to or influenced your library's instructional services?
A. The promotion of Get Started! both internally and externally provided us with a platform for promoting the Libraries' instructional services. The tool has brought greater awareness of the need to educate our users. Libraries' public services staff report that they frequently use Get Started! as a teaching tool at their service desk.
Q. Tell us about your future plans for Get Started!
A. Our first priority is to integrate Get Started! into students' coursework. We plan to market Get Started! modules for WebCT courses that include short assignments or quizzes.
Get Started! will continue to evolve. We hope to make the learning tool more interactive with future iterations. There is also opportunity to create subject specific modules using the Get Started! concept and design.