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September 2008 Site of the Month

Company and Industry Research Tutorial

Authors: Carol L. Schuetz and Ellen M. Hampton

Institution: Baylor University

Interview with: Ellen M. Hampton, E-Learning Librarian

Interviewer: Robert Schroeder

Tutorial description: This tutorial takes a student through the steps to researching a company or industry. It also lists the recommended resources, both online and in print, that the student can use to find the company or industry information he or she is looking for.

Q: What inspired you to create this tutorial?
A: Carol Schuetz, our business librarian, came to me with the idea for this tutorial last fall. Every semester she provides library instruction for the classes in Business Writing, which is a required upper-level course for the undergraduate business majors. In these classes, the students have several assignments for which they must research different companies and industries. In her instruction sessions, Carol would cover many of the core business databases that we subscribe to here at Baylor and how to search for relevant information. However, because there is so much information to present during these sessions, she thought that an online tutorial would be a good supplement for the students, so that they could go back over the information at their own pace and time. So Carol and I (as the E-Learning Librarian, responsible for creating our online instructional presence) collaborated on the design and content of the tutorial.

Q: That makes perfect sense - I had similar experiences trying to teach our students how to use all of our industry databases available when I was our temporary Business Librarian. It sounds like Carol still usually teaches her classes and then this tutorial is a resource students are referred to use afterwards. Have the students ever done the tutorial first, prior to a library session or without a face-to-face session at all?
A: Yes, for the students who (for whatever reason) have had to miss the library instruction session, the professors have given them the assignment of going through the tutorial and writing up what they've learned from it. We actually got some good feedback from those particular students. As we continue to develop the tutorial, we'd also like to add some interactive features, like a quiz at the end, so that the many other business classes which also require students to do company or industry research, but who don't necessarily come into the library for instruction, might be able to assign it to their students as homework.

Q: You said Carol came to you with the idea for this tutorial last fall. How long did it take you to complete the tutorial? Were you two the only ones working on it?
A: It basically took us a semester. It was just the two of us: Carol provided the content, and I worked on the design/HTML/CSS. It was pretty much finished by the end of the fall semester, with just a few extra tweaks at the beginning of the spring semester before the business writing classes began to come into the library for instruction.

Q: You made a quick job of it! You say you used HTML and CSS - it sounds like you have some experience creating web pages and tutorials. What is your educational background, and what instructional design or technology classes have you taken?
A: I wrote my first HTML web page back in 1996 when I was getting my BA in Comparative Literature. I knew the basics (actually, in 1996 it was the BASIC basics) but that's about it. However, when I started blogging in 2002, I began to dabble in CSS in conjunction with HTML and began to take web design up as a fairly serious hobby. It was all still pretty much self-taught, though. When I was in library school at UNC-Chapel Hill from 2005-2007, we had a very cursory introduction to HTML in one of our core courses, but it was really my graduate assistantship (in the Instructional Services department) where I began to learn more about web design for instructional purposes, usability, online tutorials, etc. I was able to work with some great people there (shout out to Kim Vassiliadis, UNC Libraries' Instructional Design and Technology Librarian, and my personal instructional web design guru) and help create some online tutorials.

Q: Were there any parts of the design and creation of the tutorial that took you longer than expected or that were much easier than you thought they would be?
A: I think the hardest part was probably trying to make sure the site rendered properly across all browser formats. It's a nitpicky thing, but I try hard to make sure the websites I create are. Other than that, once I got the template for the design finished (which was a considerable chunk of time at the beginning), it was just a matter of putting in the content and tweaking things here and there.

Q: You mention creating a template for the tutorial design - what was your inspiration for the template and how did you go about designing it?
A: When I worked on the online tutorials at the UNC Libraries, I really liked the way their navigation was done, so that was my inspiration for how I laid out the navigation for our tutorial. I obviously wanted to use Baylor colors as well. So I built the basic "frame" of the tutorial - with navigation through the sections at the top, and each section's pages down the left side. Then all I had to do was to add the content provided to me by Carol, and then add in some visual interest, which was mainly some call-out boxes to highlight some information, Creative Commons licensed pictures from Flickr, and on one page, a widget with some RSS feeds.

Q: Is there anything else about your tutorial that you think our readers would like to know?
A:That we'd love to be able to keep tweaking it - adding the quiz, like I'd mentioned before - and perhaps do some assessment and get some feedback that way. It was a fun project to work on (my first big online project since coming to Baylor) and we hope to do more tutorials like it on other subjects.

September 2008 PRIMO Site of the Month