May 2005

Authors: Kathy Keairns, Peggy Keeran, Erin Pheil, and Nonny Schlotzhauer
Institution: University of Denver

Interviewer: Barbara Petersohn

These Flash tutorials are intended to assist the novice user of Penrose Library with library research. They are intended to supplement classroom instruction by librarians. There are 3 tutorials, one each for finding books, finding articles, and evaluating resources, and are intended to be viewed as a series. The tutorials are accompanied by 2 assessment quizzes (one for finding books and articles, the other for evaluating resources)that are used by instructors in the First Year English program to assess student comprehension of library research.

Q. What was the motivation for creating the tutorials?

A. The tutorials are a complement to in-class workshops for First-Year English and to provide instruction for remote users. We wanted to expand our contact with the first year English students, but didn’t want to take two classes to do so. We created the tutorial to teach the basics of searching (Boolean operators, truncation, keyword searching), and how to find books and articles. The students take the tutorial and the quiz a couple of days before coming to the library for a hands-on workshop. In the workshop, they apply what they learned in the tutorials and find books and articles on their topics.

Also, the Graduate School of Social Work has a distance education program. We have used the tutorials to reach this audience as well, and have developed the topic covered in the tutorials to be relevant to the social work students.

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

A. The development process lasted about eight months. Nonny Schlotzhauer and Peggy Keeran from the library’s Reference Department developed the content, Kathy Keairns from the Center for Teaching the Learning was the project manager, and Erin Pheil was the designer. We started with the “Evaluating Resources” tutorial, and then went on to develop the “Finding Books” and “Finding Articles” tutorials once we realized the tutorial could address a need we had.

Q. Tell us about the technologies that were used to create the tutorials, and why you chose them. Were there others that you considered?

A. We used Macromedia Flash MX. We chose it because it can be animated and interactive, and we wanted students to be visually and mentally engaged by the programs.

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

A. We received the support of the Center for Teaching and Learning, a department at the University of Denver, who paid Erin’s wages. The staff at the Center help faculty integrate technology into the curriculum, and provided the expertise to develop the online programs we needed.

Q. How are the tutorials currently used? Are they tied to any particular class as a requirement, or how do students and faculty learn about them?

A. We use them in the First-Year English program, to teach the basics of research. We put the tutorials and the quiz into Blackboard for the classes. The instructors assign the students to take the tutorials and the quiz. The quiz is automatically graded and submitted to the instructors.

Q. What kind of feedback, either formal or informal, have you received from students or faculty? Do you collect any response data from the assessment quizzes? How do you use the data?

A. We get very positive verbal feedback from the English department and the instructors. The students are very engaged in the workshop, and do apply what they learn. We work with each student individually in the workshop to make sure they are using the techniques covered in the tutorial. We use the data from the tutorial to determine which parts of the tutorial need to be covered in the workshop.

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

A. The web interfaces for the databases kept changing and we had to redo them several times. The time it took to develop the tutorials, from working on the content to transforming it into a usable tutorial, was a challenge. In the long run, the tutorials have done what we wanted them to do, but the initial time it took us to develop them was longer than expected.

Q. How have the tutorials contributed to or influenced your library's instructional services?

A. We are developing other tutorials to teach in upper division classes. We now have a business tutorial to teach core marketing resources and search strategies.

Q. What are your future plans for the tutorials?

A. Our next step is to develop tutorials for the broad branches of learning: sciences, social sciences, and humanities. This new program will be developed within the new writing initiative at the University of Denver, which will include writing across the disciplines as part of the curriculum. We want to develop a database which will allow us to develop online tutorials and the quiz integrated into the tutorial rather than separate. We have a grant to do this project, and will start working on it once the writing director and new instruction librarian have been hired.