November 2008 Site of the Month Interview
Guide to Research for Oral Presentations: Finding, Evaluating and Using Online Sources
Institution: Baruch College, City University of New York
Interviewer: Ken Liss
The Guide to Research for Oral Presentations: Finding, Evaluating and Using Online Sources is an e-learning module designed by the Newman Library and the Communications Studies department at Baruch College for Speech Communication (COM1010). Because of its six-part modular design we expect it will be used with other classes in which students need to incorporate research into their speeches or team presentations. Content covered in the tutorial includes: Navigating the research universe; Finding articles using databases; Evaluating sources; Gathering reference information; Using multiple sources; and Citing sources in oral presentations. The tutorial includes two downloadable homework assignments and three "interactive" activities. A tool, the Database Navigator, helps students choose the appropriate research database. A unique feature of the tutorial is the module on citing sources in oral presentations. It is accompanied by a collection of videos that show examples of speakers at Baruch demonstrating oral presentation techniques that address these guidelines: Quote your sources; Do not quote out of context; Paraphrase correctly; Present statistics effectively; and Use multiple sources. The entire tutorial takes about 30 minutes to complete.
Q. Baruch has a number of online tutorials. Can you tell me how and why this particular one came about?
A. The foundation and keystone of Newman Library's information literacy program is built around reaching students who take Writing I (ENG2100). All students are required to take this course in the first semester of their freshman year. A few years ago, we expanded our efforts by building an information literacy component in Introduction to Business (BUS1000), a gateway course for students planning a business major. This course is also typically taken during the freshman year. When we discussed expanding the program to reach students beyond the freshman year, we targeted Speech Communication (COM1010), a course required of all students and typically taken in the sophomore year. Librarians had been teaching research skills in these classes for years and had built excellent rapport with the faculty. After the success of the Beginner's Guide to Business Research, the tutorial we had developed for BUS1000, we approached the faculty from the Communication Studies department and found them enthusiastic about a collaborative project.
Q. The guide is aimed at students in a particular speech communication class, but of course oral presentation skills are valuable for students in many types of classes. Has the guide been promoted beyond this one course and, if so, how?
A. The guide is available through the library's website on our Tutorials page and also as a "Featured Site" on our homepage. It can also be accessed through the College's Digital Media Library. We have been approached by faculty in other departments to introduce the tutorial to students in their classes. We have also been partnering with Baruch's Bernard M. Schwartz Communication Institute which offers support to many Baruch classes. Baruch College has made a commitment to promoting oral communication skills throughout the curriculum, so we expect that the tutorial will have a place in many courses.
Q. You seem to have made a real effort to combine presentation with hands-on activities, and to offer a lot of options to the user. How do you think this enhances the guide?
A. We asked students why they might use a tutorial and what their expectations and preferences might be. Our research, including a focus group composed of students in a COM1010 course, revealed a preference among students for hands-on activities over lectures and for online resources over books. They wanted specific, discrete activities to step them through the research process. We learned from the focus groups that students attending lectures often could not make clear, practical, application of the principles covered by their professors without concrete step-by-step reinforcement. We created the tutorial to meet this need.
The tutorial activities are presented in three sections: Evaluating Sources requires that students examine a scholarly article using the criteria of reliability, accuracy, currency, bias and context. It includes "Questions to Ask Yourself" when evaluating a source. Building a Citation is a drag-and-drop activity where students create a correct citation in APA format by identifying the elements of a source. Searching a Database is a simulated search that students "click through" in order to learn how to use keywords, narrow a search with additional terms and choose an article by reading the abstract.
Q. Most of the tutorials in the PRIMO database were developed in-house. Baruch used an outside firm, Kognito, for instructional design, project management, and development. How did you decide to go this route? What were the pluses and minuses?
A. This was the third tutorial that the library developed along with Kognito, an instructional design firm that is owned and managed by Baruch College alumni. We knew we could rely on their expertise, and we were comfortable working with their design team. Collaboration with an outside firm responsible for project management and technical design also meant that the librarians and faculty on the team had more time to focus on their areas of expertise in content and information literacy.
Q. What were the roles of the two librarians who worked on the project, and how did they work with Kognito?
A. This tutorial was developed by a three-member team comprised of two librarians and the Chair of the department of Communication Studies. In the early stages of the project we met almost every week with the instructional designer from Kognito to develop the project objectives and then to decide on content and instructional activities. We participated in a focus group with faculty and held another focus group with students from a COM1010 class. We shared our instructional design plan with the faculty and made many revisions before we were able to work on the actual content. While Kognito worked on the interface design and media components, we wrote or reviewed the text of each topic (module). Meanwhile, the faculty developed the questions for the two assignments. The two librarians on the team worked on Database Navigator, a web page that helps students determine which database is appropriate for their research. Last, we incorporated videos that illustrate preparation for public speaking using different kinds of sources and types of evidence. We examined hours of video from Baruch's Digital Media Library to find clips of speakers who demonstrated good oral citation techniques in using quotes, paraphrasing the ideas of experts, and presenting statistics and data.
Q. Were faculty members who teach the speech communication course involved in the development of the guide?
A. We had involvement of many faculty through all phases of the project. The tutorial was developed in response to an extensive needs analysis of the faculty in the Communication Studies department who defined the scope of the project. They were particularly concerned that students learn how to choose and evaluate sources and understand how to cite research in their oral presentations. The tutorial includes two research assignments designed by faculty. These assignments take students through the process of finding and evaluating actual online sources that they can use in their oral presentations.
We agreed with the faculty that, rather than being a supplementary resource, the tutorial should be fully integrated to the syllabi of all COM1010 courses. This collaboration resulted in the faculty not only reviewing the content outline but also the initial instructional design framework.
Q. How long did the project take, from conception to launch?
A. This project took two semesters and a summer to complete. This was considerably longer than other tutorials we had developed at Baruch. The increased time-line was compensated by the involvement of the faculty in as many aspects of the design and final content of the project as possible. In addition, several parts of the tutorial, including the selection of the video clips and the learning activity on evaluating sources, took much longer than we expected.
Q. Do you have any statistics on how often the guide has been viewed? How about feedback from students and faculty?
A. We have not yet compiled any data on how many times the guide has been viewed. However, we have received positive feedback from students who have taken the online survey. We also know that many of the faculty use the tutorial regularly with their COM1010 classes.
Q. One of the challenges of any library tutorial is that the sources we feature can change. Academic Research Premier, for example, which is featured extensively in the guide, introduced a new interface this fall. The basic concepts demonstrated are the same, but the look and some of the specific functions, have changed. Does this present a problem? Do you have suggestions on how to maintain the pedagogical value of our tutorials without having to redo them every time a vendor makes a change?
A. We have not fully anticipated how to answer this question. We did plan, however, at least in some sections of the tutorial, to speak at a level of generalization that would allow for these interface changes. In the module on searching, for example, our plan was to introduce the features and functions of databases using a "model" database to get across the idea that there are features common to all databases. We also introduce the concept of a "Research Universe" to help students understand that there are many online resources they can use in their research. We developed the Database Navigator to show the wide range of databases available. The Database Navigator, located on the opening page of the tutorial so as to give students quick and easy access to the library's databases, connects to seven different categories of databases including those for current news & events, perspectives, statistics & reports, reference/encyclopedias, scholarly journals and multidisciplinary resources. In the first tutorial assignment, students are asked to describe the types of evidence, the types of sources, and the types of databases needed. We also designed the second assignment to reinforce the idea that students should use multiple sources in their research. Our hope was that a principles-focused approach would address this issue.
Q. Is there anything else about the guide that you think our readers would like to know?
A. The principles underlying effective oral communication are similar to those underlying written communication in most academic disciplines, so we feel this tutorial could be of benefit to students not only as they prepare speeches in Speech Communication, but as they plan essays in introductory writing courses. Beyond that, we hope that the tutorial will prove a useful resource for students throughout their undergraduate education.
November 2008 PRIMO Site of the Month