PRIMO August 2007 site of the month, Publish not Perish
August 2007 Site of the Month
Publish Not Perish: the Art and Craft of Publishing in Scholarly Journals
Author: Jennifer Knievel, Humanities Reference and Instruction Librarian
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries
Interview with: Jennifer Knievel
Interviewer: Courtney Greene
This tutorial was created through a collaborative effort of the libraries of the University of Colorado. It focuses on publishing in scholarly journals. In this course the user will learn to: describe the role of scholarly publishing in an academic career; list the essential steps of planning and writing a scholarly paper; develop a personal publication plan; compare and contrast the different publishing models currently in use; describe the types of articles that can be written; list the pros and cons of collaborative authoring; and describe the tools and resources a scholarly writer needs to have on hand.
Q. Many online library instruction tutorials are aimed at the student population, specifically undergraduates. What was the impetus for creating Publish Not Perish, which is aimed at junior faculty and graduate students?
A. The project is a joint project of several campuses in the University of Colorado (UC) system (Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Health Sciences). Our campuses tend to have very different student populations, and we thought that the best way to create a project that would serve all campuses would be to target it toward the one population that was present over all campuses: faculty. After coming up with the idea, we investigated whether or not anyone else had already done it, and were surprised to find that there was very little out there for this target audience.
Q. Could you elaborate on your response to the previous question? It almost seems as though you had a mandate to develop a project that could serve all campuses. Is that correct?
A. Yes, we did indeed have a mandate to create a project that would serve all campuses. The president, when setting this mandate, was thinking of something that would be for students, but we felt this would be more widely useful since our students were so different.
Q. How is the tutorial currently used? Is it part of new faculty orientation programs, or linked to graduate school curricula, or is it provided more as an additional resource for interested parties?
A. It's not linked to curricula or orientations in any formal way (though we'd certainly like it to be). Some faculty have been assigning it in graduate research classes, and we're sending targeted promotion to new faculty who attend the faculty orientation this year in hopes of reaching out to that group as well.
Q. How long did the development process take?
A. From September 2005 when we developed a proposal, to January 2007 when we launched the tutorial, so, the process took a little over a year.
Q. What technology did you use to create the tutorial? Why did you choose it? Did you consider other technology?
A. We contracted out creation of the technology to the Center for Innovations in Training Technology (CITT) at UC - that is to say, we developed all the intellectual content, and they worked on the programming and production of the tutorial. They primarily used Adobe Dreamweaver software to develop XHTML and CSS code to create templates, build the course pages, and add styles to the elements on the pages. For the login page they used the programming language PHP, and for creating all of the web-ready graphics they used Adobe Fireworks.
In hindsight, I think that hiring a technology group to build the technology really helped create a professional looking tutorial, and since the technology group is on campus, we have access to minor maintenance assistance as well. CITT specializes in tutorial-type projects. So they recommended a certain page range per module, and then we came back with a specific number of pages, the contents of each page, and overall structural requirement (e.g. radio buttons here, pop-up window there, etc.). They came up with the look, feel, and functionality of the site, and did a great job.
Q. If you had to start building a tutorial from scratch, knowing what you know now, how would your approach change, if at all?
A. I might do more to build in assessment, though I'm not sure about that. I would definitely do usability testing beforehand, though. We're not aware of any usability problems, but we've been talking about assessing the tutorial for usability, and I always feel a little sheepish doing that after the project has launched. Overall I'm happy with how building the tutorial went.
Q. This tutorial was a collaborative effort across many campuses, with heavy input from outside contractors. What do you see as the advantages or pitfalls of this kind of project? Was the project difficult to coordinate? Were there any lessons learned about long distance (virtual?) collaboration that you could share with us?
A. The major advantage of having input from contractors was that the burden on the individual libraries was lessened. In particular, contracting out the design and programming saved us from having to focus our energies on something that is not our strength. Contracting out, in our case, went very well. We were able to be organized in our efforts and provide clear directions for our contractors. We also saw drafts as development progressed so that we could comment and change the direction the project was taking if we felt it necessary. For the most part, distance was not a major problem. We held our planning meetings in person, and much of the work was able to be done over email.
Q. How do you publicize your tutorial to the University of Colorado community? How about to the outside community?
A. We sent announcements to various listservs, and to bulletins that go to faculty and to graduate students. We also posted the tutorial to the graduate student web page and asked the grad student assembly to forward it to their members (which we think they did), and we placed press releases in all the campus papers and the system papers. This year we're planning to send targeted email to the new faculty who attend orientation as well.
Q. What sort of feedback have you received, if any, from the University community? From other users?
A. Use was very high right off the bat. I got a lot of calls on my campus from faculty interested in assigning it to graduate students. Use has been very high from outside the UC system as well, we've had users at locations all over the country, which really surprised us, but I haven't heard that much from them, though I also haven't dug through the assessment survey in a methodical way yet.
Q. We're really interested to know your reaction to the stronger-than-anticipated response to -- and usage of -- this tutorial. Do you have any plans to expand it? To track patterns of usage?
A. The most common request in the surveys is to add quizzes, so I think that we will discuss expanding it to include that. We may also promote it more widely since it seems so popular. We certainly are pleased that usage has been so high and so widespread.
Q. How are you using the demographic and statistical data you are collecting?
A. So far, the only thing we've done is include the aggregate data in an article submitted about the tutorial. Long term, I think the demographic data will help us understand whether or not we are reaching our target audience and inform our promotion.
Q. What plans do you have for evaluating and assessing the impact of the tutorial?
A. So far the only assessment we have in place is the survey at the end. I've glanced through the surveys and they are overwhelmingly positive. The most common suggestion for improvement was, to my surprise, to add more quizzes, which will also be a helpful assessment tool if we track the results. We'd like to evaluate usability at some point (we ran out of time during development).
Q. Is there anything you'd like to add about your tutorial that you think our readers might like to know?
A. The response to this tutorial, based on usage, was much stronger than we anticipated, and we were delighted. I believe that the faculty are a group under-served by instruction, and perhaps we should be doing more to meet them where they are (in an asynchronous environment) with what they need.