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November 2005 Site of the Month

CINAHL Tutorial

Author: Pamela Sherwill-Navarro
Institution: University of Florida Health Science Center Libraries

Interviewer: Michael Pasqualoni

This tutorial on EBSCO’s CINAHL database (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) uses a five-module structure that conveys preconcepts and terminology, tutorial navigation tips, narrated sample searches similar to those conducted by health science center students, interactive elements where students can apply what they have learned and printer friendly tip sheets with refreshers on concepts covered in the tutorial. Content within the search examples focuses on converting a general information need into a concise database search statement, using subject headings appropriately, how to employ Boolean operators during a search, author searching and truncation techniques.

Q. What was your motivation for creating this tutorial?
A. There has been a dramatic increase in distance education and online courses in health science degree programs at the University of Florida. When we decided to do this project there were not any tutorials available for the CINAHL database on the EBSCO platform.

Several years ago the University of Florida Health Science Center Libraries had developed a tutorial for PubMed that has been widely used around the world. While it is an effective tutorial, we were looking to develop the skills and knowledge to ‘kick it up a notch.’

Q. How long did the development process take? Who was involved?
A. This project took almost a year from the time we wrote the proposal for funding until the project was complete. The participants were two HSC librarians (Beth Layton and myself); the instructional designer, Marcela Piñeros, who was assigned to the project on behalf of the university’s Center for Instructional Teaching and Technology (CITT); programmers; graphic designers; web designers and other personnel as needed.

Q. Is this tutorial a required experience for any of your students? If not, how has your library been promoting its use?
A. At this time it is not required for the student groups that I work with. They are junior students in their first semester in nursing and additional material beyond the tutorial is presented to them. Last fall when the state of Florida was ‘hurricane central’ and classes were canceled several times, I was unable to meet with all the junior nursing students, so several classes were required to go through the tutorial because of those interruptions.

Although the tutorial is not a required experience, we promote it within bibliographic instruction sessions for groups likely to benefit from its use (nursing and allied health). We have done numerous poster presentations at research day sessions on campus and to professional organizations. The tutorial is ‘advertised’ on the library webpage and has been promoted via email to targeted groups.

Q. How was the project funded?
A. The project received a $12,000 grant from the CITT. The Health Science Center Libraries provided release time for the librarians to work on the project.

Q. Can you describe any feedback, formal or informal, the library has received from students or faculty regarding the tutorial?
A. We have received feedback from a number of medical librarians about the tutorial. They have been very positive about it and were very grateful that they are able to link to it. Several have commented that the scenarios are very realistic and that they have had students come to the reference desk with those questions. Students have commented that it has been very helpful when they are working on assignments late at night and they do not remember how to do a particular type of search, how to locate an article in full text or some other function. Additional feedback from faculty has been informal, but quite enthusiastic. They recommend the tutorial to their students.

Q. Can you comment on the motivation behind including a glossary as one of the five core modular aspects of the tutorial?
A. This grew out of suggestions from the CITT. CINAHL is the primary database for nursing and allied health. Often it is one of the first bibliographic databases used by students. Many of the students are used to doing their research with a web search engine such as Google and there are some important differences between them. We wanted to ensure that if the students encountered unfamiliar concepts they could easily find the definition for such terms, and also that the definition would reflect our use of the term. The instructional designer and others on the team were not librarians and often we needed to explain the concepts to them as well.

Q. One of the more interesting techniques you employ is use of student voices and student images that accompany the research scenarios presented. Are these images, in fact, actual students currently enrolled at your institution? Can you share a little more information about what led to that approach?
A. The photos are not actual students but stock photos. Using actual students would have been a great addition but time and schedule constraints made using students impossible. Although the ‘students’ aren’t students it does serve to add a realistic touch. The voices are mostly of the CITT instructional designer and her colleague, but the HSC Libraries’ education coordinator, George Hack, and I also narrate a few sections we updated later.

The original design did not include the research scenarios. I began to write the material in a scenario format to help the CITT staff understand what we do and how we do it. Their previous work involved course faculty that have student attention for an entire semester. The type of instruction done by librarians is somewhat different due to the fact that it is a very focused one-shot session. The instructional designers thought that it was a good technique to present this scenario material, and it became an important part of the tutorials.

Q. Was it always your intention to present the example searches in this tutorial in three downloadable versions: Flash movie, PDF and MS Word? Any thoughts on why this choice was made?
A. The University of Florida is located in an area that is rather rural. Many of our users are located outside of the city limits and do not have high-speed connections to the Internet. Often the phone lines are older and connection speeds are around 28K. The instructional designers at the CITT are very aware of these accessibility issues. This is why they produced the tutorial in multiple formats. The library computers only have web browsers and Adobe Acrobat loaded on them; they do not have productivity software loaded, so the MS Word versions would not be available inside the library.

Q. How would you say this tutorial has influenced your library’s instructional services programs?
A. Prior to the completion of this tutorial the library hired an education coordinator who was an instructional designer rather than a librarian. Since his hiring, the number of tutorials we produce has increased. The success of this CINAHL tutorial has also clearly had a positive influence on that increase. Moreover, it is not an uncommon practice to include reference to the CINAHL tutorial within our face to face instruction sessions, and this gives students an additional learning option regarding the information literacy concepts covered within the tutorial. Finally, a significant increase in the number of distance education students that we serve results in an ongoing need to create online learning opportunities like this and to publicize such tutorials to these students.

Q. Can you elaborate a little on the allocation of project responsibility between the instructional designer and the librarians? For instance, did the librarians create a storyboard of tutorial content that was then fleshed out technically by the designer? Did librarians also directly participate in any of the technical aspects of creating this tutorial? Likewise, what type of role did the designer have when it came to content decisions?
A. In terms of content, I wrote the research scenarios, along with creative and editorial assistance from my librarian colleague, Beth Layton. We passed these storyboards along to the instructional designer using MS Word documents that included screenshots. The research scenarios were re-written, as needed, as we went along, sometimes turning out to be quite different than originally envisioned. Overall, the librarians focused on content, with the instructional designer working on technical aspects of producing this tutorial. At one point, we had considered a more directly coordinated approach (e.g., with all librarian and non-librarian participants working directly on most aspects of content as well as technical design), but time and financial constraints limited the feasibility of that. However, the design process included frequent communications in the form of monthly meetings with the instructional designer, numerous emails, as well as meetings between the two lead librarians on the project, Beth and I.

Q. Did you learn any specific lessons during the creation process that could represent words to the wise for institutions interested in creating a similar tutorial? Something you might do differently if you were to create this project again?
A. We had assumed that since we had been teaching the CINAHL database for years and knew it very well that creating the tutorial would not take much time. Wow, were we wrong! The biggest challenges were 1) not having feedback from the learners and 2) the need to be succinct using examples that are clear and efficient. Also, developing objectives that were sequential and not illustrating concepts prior to their introduction was another issue we encountered. Controlling the number of objectives per scenario was yet another challenging issue.

If we were to create another tutorial the main thing that we would do differently would be to allow more time for the creation of the material. We totally underestimated how much time it would take.

November 2005 PRIMO Site of the Month