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November 2006 Site of the Month

What Makes A Journal Scholarly

Author: Eileen Stec, Instruction & Outreach Librarian
Institution: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

Interviewer: Courtney Greene

The tutorial introduces the peer review process, and uses the definition of peer review to indicate that a journal is scholarly. Interactive questioning is used to further engagement, not for assessment. Users are also presented with two methods to use Ulrich's Periodicals Directory, and a handout may be printed at the end of the tutorial.

Q. What was the motivation for creating “What Makes A Journal Scholarly?”
A. To provide undergraduates with one simple and memorable rule-of-thumb to identify "scholarly journal articles,” required for the students' research papers. The older method in use – identifying an appropriate resource using a listing of characteristics of popular, professional and scholarly periodical articles – was ambiguous. Since my university subscribes to Ulrich's Periodicals Directory online, it seemed more likely students would use an electronic tool versus a print handout.

Q. How long did the development process take? Who was involved?
A. The development occurred in two stages: first, creating and testing the tutorial material as a guided, in-class exercise and second, translating the exercise into digital form while retaining interactivity. The second stage took two weeks of intensive development work using applications I was already familiar with. The first stage was developed and tested over a semester.

Q. Tell us about the technologies that were used to create “What Makes A Journal Scholarly?”, and why you chose them. Were there others that you considered?
A. I used some Flash animations, two that were included with Adobe's Captivate software and two I developed in Flash, based on MS PowerPoint slides from the earlier "guided" version of the tutorial. Although Captivate allows you to record sound directly into the project, I wasn't happy with the quality. I recorded narration as .wav files using the Sound Recorder provided with the Windows operating system, then edited, cleaned-up and added one special effect using an early version of Sony's Sound Forge

Q. Could you tell us a bit about your experiences producing a tutorial with both an audio and a silent version? Do you have any tips for others who might be considering adding audio to their online tutorials?
A. In the silent version all narration must be shown. The audio version should have the full narration as audio, supplemented by a few, salient text points. You don't want to create an audio tutorial that simply reads the material on the screen; you end up competing for the user's attention (and it is boring.)

Q. What support, if any, did you get to assist you in the creation of “What Makes A Journal Scholarly?”
A. For the past five years, my library has provided development computers and application software in a small development laboratory located in my library. The lab is available to all library faculty and staff that choose to use it. In addition, I was awarded a short, paid research leave (22 days) to complete the tutorial and another publication.

Q. How is “What Makes A Journal Scholarly?” currently used? Is it tied to any particular class as a requirement, or how do students and faculty learn about it?
A. The tutorial has been included in the Rutgers Libraries instruction repository. Librarians and more recently, teaching faculty have access to any materials from the repository. I still teach the guided version, but now include the handout from the online tutorial in my classes. When a course maintains a web presence, I try to include a link to the online version for reinforcement.

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. I collect the students' research paper citations from one large course (600 students) every year to evaluate the inclusion of scholarly journal articles. I don't collect response data from quizzes as I believe the citation review is more authentic and tests retention over time.

Q. So all 600 students from the course for which you collect the citations use the tutorial? That must be gratifying, that's a lot of usage!
A. No, I haven't used it with them yet. I plan to use it this Spring [2007].

Q. In what ways, if any, has the citation data you collect and evaluate impacted the current content of, or future plans for "What Makes A Journal Scholarly?"
A. I check the citation data to ensure that students have met one minimum requirement for their research paper, one scholarly journal article. Our data shows that the "in person" exercise I built the tutorial from is working.

Q. What were some of the challenges (technological or other) that you faced?
A. Flash animations do not import as easily or completely into the version of Captivate I used. Also, Macromedia/Adobe did not respond to my question regarding an ADA compliance issue I have with the tutorial. I hope they've solved both functional problems in the new version, but I have not had the opportunity to try it.

Q. In an earlier answer you had made reference to a Rutgers Library instructional repository, and that other librarians have access to it. Do you have any information about colleagues that might be using your tutorial, or how they might be using it in instruction, in light of its being contributed to this repository? Can you give us an idea of how many learning objects are part of the repository, and how (generally) it is utilized by instruction librarians at Rutgers? (i.e. do individuals primarily develop their own content and submit it, does each person 'cherry pick' from the repository based on what course is being taught, etc?)
A. The repository contains 121 items, as of today (late October 2006). Obsolete items are deleted approximately once a year, and new items can be added at any time. Again, we don't keep statistics on usage of our repository. From reports from my co-workers, we all "cherry pick" from the repository and some adapt the material for re-use. Due to budgetary cutbacks this year, we have been forced to teach "one shot" instruction sessions when previously we taught 1-4 sessions for the same course. We have given our teaching faculty access to our instruction repository and many have been conducting their own sessions using our materials and our computer-equipped library instruction labs. We'll check with the instructors after students hand in their final research papers for anecdotal reports on quality this year versus last year.

Q. What are your future plans for “What Makes A Journal Scholarly?”
A. My plans are to update the tutorial if Ulrich's changes its user interface and if the two challenges I mentioned earlier can be resolved in the software. My overall approach to online tutorials is to make small learning objects that can be used in concert with other small learning objects. If I may make an analogy, I'm writing a collection of popular songs not a symphony--the mix is left up to the instructors.

November 2006 PRIMO Site of the Month