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October 2006 Site of the Month

E-Z Research Workshop Tutorial

Author: Avril Cunningham

Institution: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Interviewer: Britt Fagerheim

Description: This is a basic information literacy multimedia tutorial created as a Flash file with audio, images, text, some animation, movies, an eight question assessment quiz, and automated online certification of completion.

Q. What was the motivation for creating E-Z Research Workshop Tutorial?
A. In the Fall of 2005, Cal Poly Pomona's in-person 90 minute E-Z Research Workshop had reached its scheduling capacity. The program granted certificates of information competency to 200 students a quarter, and over 600 a year. Despite the success of the program, with our current instruction load and available classroom space, we could not offer more in-person classes. E-Z Research Workshop statistics indicated a sharp rise in registered attendees during Fall 2005. We had to offer three to five additional in-person classes, in addition to the ten classes that had already filled up, just to meet the demand for that quarter. It was time to move it online, but we wanted to retain as much of the in-person pedagogical advantages as we could. After investigating the latest selection of software and plug-ins available, we were able to quickly mount an online version of the popular E-Z Research workshop complete with audio, screen casting, images, and an assessment quiz with an automated online certification. The online certificate was crucial in ensuring the success of the tutorial. The certificates verify students attended and learned how to do basic library research during the online instruction and are presented to faculty members who require students attend the sessions. Without the certificate students would not be motivated to attend because they would not receive credit.

Q. How long did the development process take? Who was involved?
A. The development process took one year. In late summer 2005, I contacted my Instructional and Information Technology (I&IT) department and received an account for the Breeze server. I developed the tutorial from our in-person E-Z Research workshop during the fall of 2005. The pilot tutorial was ready to test in February. I selected several sections of two Introductory English classes to conduct usability studies. I had good relationships with both English faculty and asked the professors to give this as a homework assignment. All students also filled out a seven question evaluation form. I ended up with 65 beta testers and 63 completed evaluation forms. I purposely asked the students to not only use the tutorial and evaluate it, but also give me feedback and specific suggestions to help improve the online course for future students. Several forms suggested things that were later implemented in the next version of the tutorial produced during Spring 2006. I was the only person involved in the project.

Q. Tell us about the technologies that were used to create the E-Z Research Workshop Tutorial, and why you chose them. Were there others that you considered?
A. We selected Breeze as the main backbone of the project. This allowed me to take a basic PowerPointand incorporate good quality audio, pictures, animation, and Captivate movies. Breeze whittles down the file size to a tiny multimedia tutorial.

If I had a choice, I would have used Camtasia instead of Captivate as my screencasting choice. Since the software was a 'gift' from the university's IT dept, I did not have the funds to purchase Camtasia. Captivate’s drop frame rate is much higher than Camtasia and results in some choppy transitions. Captivate will actually 'drop' some of the pictures it has taken, resulting in a jerky video that leaves out some crucial pictures. With Camtasia, the product produces a smoother, more seamless capture of what is happening on the screen. For the next tutorial, I will definitely use Camtasia.

Q. What support, if any, did you get to assist you in the creation of the E-Z Research Workshop Tutorial?
A. I received invaluable support from both inside and outside the library. The I &IT department on campus provided a site license to Macromedia Breeze. I&IT staff helped me troubleshoot technical issues when they arose. They also provided space on the Breeze server to house the project. They took care of running statistics that show usage patterns. Additionally, I was provided with a licensed copy of Captivate for the screencasting 'movies'. Also, the library’s HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institutions) grant funds were released for a high quality microphone suitable for audio recording and editing.

Q. How is the E-Z Research Workshop Tutorial currently used? Is it tied to any particular class as a requirement, or how do students and faculty learn about it?
A. Currently it is used as a tutorial that faculty can assign their students for a required homework assignment or an extra credit option. The in-person program has been on campus for four years and is heavily supported by our faculty. Many see it as a way to offer basic library instruction to students without taking up in-person class time. It is also available from our Research and Tutorials page on the library homepage. Many students voluntarily take the tutorial to learn about services and resources the library provides.

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. Library faculty, student library workers, and finally 63 students beta tested the pilot tutorial. They all filled out a seven question evaluation form. Each round of testing resulted in significant changes in the tutorial. I realize now, I originally allotted too little time for this process. In future, I would give myself at least four months to go through the testing, processing of evaluations, and second and third round of changes.

Q. What were some of the challenges (technological or other) that you faced?
A. I did not face too many challenges during the project. I was allowed to develop it over a one year process that included some time for beta testing and revisions. Also, I was heavily supported financially by the university and the IT department in acquiring the software I needed for this project.

Q. How has the E-Z Research Workshop Tutorial contributed to or influenced your library's instructional services?
A. The online tutorial has already helped us free up 40 classes of our time. This energy can be devoted to more subject specific library instruction for upper division classes. It is my opinion that online tutorials are best suited to introductory information literacy skills. Our time is better spent on in-person upper division instruction OR classes that come in with ‘focused, upper division-type’ topics that require our expertise. Also, putting a generic, basic online tutorial together ensures we are consistently teaching the same learning outcomes to our freshmen and new students. The in-person workshop is sometime assessed differently based on who was teaching the workshop and what emphasis they put on what skills.

Q. What are your future plans for E-Z Research Workshop Tutorial?
A. Currently, our plans are to track usage of the tutorial and see if there is a significant usage that justifies the time and energy it takes to ‘update’ the tutorial each summer. Currently, a server in I&IT collects information about page views. I can run reports showing the total number of people who go to the homepage, the number of people who complete the tutorial all the way through (26 minutes), and also the number who answer all eight assessment questions correctly and are granted a certificate of completion.

October 2006 PRIMO Site of the Month