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April 2009 Site of the Month

SMART: Successfully Master Academic Research Tutorial.


Authors: Library Instruction & Information Literacy and iLearning Library Services
Institution: : Brigham Young University

Interview with: Kimball Benson (First-Year Writing Manager) and Rita Christensen (Online Reference & Instruction)

Interviewer: Robert Perret

Tutorial Description: A series of thirteen modules that teach research skills to beginning college students. Topics include, but are not limited to, evaluating sources, background resources, search statements, using academic databases, and creating a bibliography. Some modules include instruction about using resources unique to the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU, but most modules teach skills that reach beyond the college experience and will help students become skilled lifelong researchers.

Q. Can you describe the technologies used to create the modules? What level of experience did the team members have with these technologies?

A. We used many different technologies to complete the SMART tutorial:

  • Microsoft Word: Word processing software was used for tutorial and script creation.
  • Internet: The Internet was used to view our library homepage, Google searching options, academic databases, and RefWorks.
  • PowerPoint: We used PowerPoint to create the introductions and endings of each tutorial section, various teaching modules, and logos.
  • Photoshop: Photoshop was used to edit images and logos placed in the tutorial.
  • GarageBand: A music software application was used to edit our audio clips.
  • SurveyMonkey: was used to create the SMART survey that is included at the end of the last learning module.
  • Camtasia: We used Camtasia to pull all of the elements of the tutorial together and produce it in a usable format.
  • MacPro: Both a PC and an Apple MacPro were used to utilize the programs needed to create the tutorial.

Our team had experience using these technologies on previous tutorial projects.

Q. What was your project timeline? When did you start this project and how long did it take?

A. The project was initiated in February 2008 and was completed by September 2008 (Fall Semester).

Q. What is the biggest challenge you and your team faced in developing SMART?

A. First, gaining the needed technological expertise to create the tutorial, which was answered when the Library’s iLearning Unit was created. Second, deciding what needed to be included and what needed to be cut out to avoid having the tutorial be too tedious or tiring to complete.

Q. . Who was involved in making this tutorial?

A. The Library Instruction Librarian, Library Freshman Program Manager, Library Instruction Teaching Assistants, iLearning Assistant, and iLearning Student Assistants.

Q. Would you describe what the iLearning Unit is?

A. The iLearning Library Services unit designs and implements online instructional tools for distance education students and those visiting the library website. It is located within the General Information Services Department, in the Library Instruction & Information Literacy area. We currently produce most of our content in an online tutorial format; however, upon request, we produce tutorial content in PDF and Podcast format as well. Our “Show Me” logo is used on the library website as a link to our tutorials as needed. We also have an iLearning Library Services WordPress page that provides links to all of our tutorials.

Our process: A tutorial request is made through a linked survey (library employees only). Each request is approved by the iLearning Board. iLearning holds a project meeting with the requester for detailed information on the purpose, goal, and scope, of the tutorial. We produce the tutorial and then the tutorial goes through a review process. We reproduce the tutorial based on surveys and the requester’s directive. Reports and updates are generated as needed.


  • Faculty Member
  • iLearning Manager
  • Three Production Assistant Students

Office Support:

  • Hardware:
    • 3 PCs
    • 1 Apple MacPro

  • Software:
    • Microsoft Office Programs
    • Qualtrics
    • Camtasia
    • Captivate
    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Premier
    • Flash
    • Illustrator
    • After Effects
    • GarageBand
    • Final Cut Studio Pro

  • Other Equipment
    • 4 headsets
    • 2 microphones (1 headset & 1 USB)

  • Physical Facilities
    • Manager's Office
    • Production Room

    Q. Who is this tutorial designed for?

    A. Students enrolled in the university’s First-Year Writing classes.

    Q. Any idea what percentage of students have used the tutorial?

    A. We estimate that 1,980 ENG 150 students (90% of the 2,200 enrolled) used the SMART tutorial during the Winter 2009 semester. This would not include website users who may have viewed the tutorial through the iLearning or Library Instruction pages. In addition, library staff has sent the SMART link via email and IM chat to those who have needed help with research. February 2009 statistics: 4,252 page views, 1,379 visits. March 2009 statistics: 5,902 page views, 1,856 visits.

    Q. SMART is a fairly comprehensive tutorial. Is it intended to take the place of traditional bibliographic instruction?

    A. It is intended to supplement the bibliographic instruction, not replace it. Students complete the SMART prior to coming to library instruction and since they already have a basic understanding of the basic principles and programs they will be using, we do a quick 5-10 minute review of the material and then spend the remaining 40 minutes of class doing individual research consultations with each student. The purpose of these consultations is to either help the student apply what they learned in the tutorial to their topic or take them above and beyond what is covered to more subject specific tools based on their chosen topic.

    Q. Why did you make the decision to send users out to Blackboard to respond to the quiz questions? Has this back-and-forth caused any issues? Do you have any patrons who do not have Blackboard access? (For instance, intrepid high school students or faculty and staff members?)

    A. It’s been a minor inconvenience, but not a major problem. All students who are required to take this tutorial are enrolled in and familiar with Blackboard for other class assignments. Most are already accessing the tutorial through Blackboard and it simply opens in another tab so they can easily have both the tutorial and quiz open simultaneously.

    Q. Your lessons open with the popular song Vida la Vida by Coldplay. How did you go about licensing this song for use? Do you have any concerns that using a popular song might date the tutorial?

    A. BYU’s Copyright Office has given iLearning Library Services a “Checklist for Fair Use” that we apply to music or other material used in tutorials. The Copyright Office has also counseled us on use of music for educational purposes. We create most of our own music for our tutorials; however if copyrighted music is used for a tutorial, we purchase the song through a department account, apply the checklist to our proposed use, and complete the Fair Use analysis. As Library Instruction and iLearning Library Services assess the SMART tutorial on a yearly basis, we are not concerned about the tutorial becoming dated. Text, voice, graphics, and music will change yearly to keep the content, look, and sound of the tutorial current.

    Q. Most video tutorials are narrated by one person (presumably the creator). What prompted you to use two presenters? Was there any design behind having a male and female speaker?

    A. Honestly, we decided that most of us librarians didn’t sound that exciting on a tutorial and we decided to use student voices so students would be listening to their peers. Also, it can get tiring listening to the same person, tutorial after tutorial, so the two voices (one male and one female) were by design to help prevent this issue.

    Q. A significant amount of emphasis is placed on using Google resources, even using Google as the primary means of finding e-books and accessing interlibrary loan. Many libraries would steer students towards their own catalogs or towards library-specific sites like WorldCat first. Can you speak to why you have so fully embraced Google?

    A. We believe in meeting students where they are and then expanding, not replacing their repertoire of research tools. We do not view research as the library versus Google, but see both as being useful tools for the students to use and we want them well versed in both. In particular, the use of Google Books was brought in due to the difficult time first-time users had in using the library catalog.

    Q. How has this tutorial been received by students and faculty?

    A. Very positive. The faculty has loved the switch from traditional library instruction lecture to individual research consultations which is made possible through the use of the SMART. Students have responded favorably to the tutorial itself through surveys and focus groups, saying that it is simple, quick, and to the point.

    Q. Any other comments?

    A. We are currently in the process of reproducing the SMART tutorial. So elements of our tutorial will change: learning modules, text, narrative voices, and survey software.

    April 2009 PRIMO Site of the Month