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October 2007 Site of the Month

University of Nevada, Las Vegas Online Library Tutorials

Author: Priscilla Finley
Institution: University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Interviewer: Marie-Elise Waltz

Tutorial Description:
These two tutorials were created for the use of UNLV's first year writing classes. The tutorials are titled "finding books," and "finding articles." Both tutorials are available with and without audio. They are designed as short films which follow the process of doing searches. The material is presented utilizing a Flash player. At the end of each tutorial a short quiz is presented, which can be printed out and submitted by the student to the class teacher.

Q. How many years have you had these tutorials?
A. An online tutorial has existed in some form at UNLV since 2000. We've had the "finding books" tutorial since early 2000. The "finding articles" tutorial was introduced in the fall of 2006.

Q. Why did you decide to use the movie format for your tutorial?
A. We thought the movie format was better because if you show this information in a static format you end up with very long pages that had a lot of screen shots. Also, there would be a lot of clicking, which seemed disruptive. It's easier to show this type of information than to read through it.
We sacrificed some interactivity with the movie format. Watching movies is a more passive process than our earlier worksheet-format tutorial. We hope that seeing the process once with annotations will cement the important points for our students.

Q. What method did you use to create the tutorials?
A. We first used PowerPoint and photos to storyboard the video. It was easy using PowerPoint to move the images and script parts around. Laying it out that way helped us understand which pieces would be best illustrated with screen captures. We then used Adobe Captivate to make our live action films. We didn't create one long video, but captured shorter scenes; this gave us tighter control and allowed us to insert static images when we needed them. The tests were created in JavaScript and are recycled from an earlier iteration of the tutorials - we just edited in new questions.

Q. Tell me about the audio narration in your tutorial. What did it add to your presentation and did it present any difficulties?
A. I think it was helpful to have the audio track as it helped us determine the final timing for each slide. It helped to identify when to highlight an item, and how long we wanted to display a slide.
I used the audio editing features within Captivate and a standard USB headset. One issue we had was with background noise and heavy breathing. I spent several hours cleaning up this type of noise. In the future we have hopes of getting a few student actors for future tutorials.

Q. What did you learn through building these tutorials?
A. We learned our search processes are very complex. We think it is better to involve more people in the scripting and testing of these tutorials. A user's assessment of the tutorial is something we really would like to build into the system.

Q.What would you change about any tutorials you create in the future?
A. One of the things I would definitely like to do is create multiple shorter films, each with a tighter focus. The films we have, which are about 10-13 minutes long, are a bit too long to hold most students' attention. We also worry about overexplaining certain steps that may be self-evident to experienced computer users (e.g. "click 'go' to submit your search") but that may require more explanation to students who are less experienced with web conventions.
I'd like to develop tutorials that are more along the lines of 2 minutes 40 seconds, though I think shortening the tutorials will make it more difficult for me to choose what to leave in and what to take out. Ideally, each tutorial could be a single question with an answer so that students can learn precisely what they need to know at the time they need it.
We also need to develop some assessment tools. It would be great to know how the students are doing on the quizzes, to see how effectively we are conveying the information. Right now, the student does the quiz and then passes the information on to the teacher, but we don't know how the student did. We'd also like to get more feedback from the first year writing teachers about how the current tutorials are meeting their needs.

Q. Do you have any new tutorials planned?
A. Another UNLV librarian has recently created a tutorial on academic integrity and plagiarism. She's done some innovative things, such as using multiple actors for the voiceovers and laying out great looking diagrams on paraphrasing and summarizing. We're also planning to update our current tutorials as our online catalog evolves, and we're hoping to have an instructional designer on hand to help us think through the pedagogy and create a solid assessment plan.

October 2007 PRIMO Site of the Month