July 2009 SOM

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July 2009 Site of the Month

The Lake Effect Research Challenge


Authors: Karen Shockey and the Penfield Library Instruction Team

Interviewees: Karen Shockey and the Penfield Library Instruction Team

Institution: Penfield Library, State University of New York, Oswego

Interviewer: Krystyna Mrozek

Tutorial Description: The tutorial The Lake Effect Research Challenge: Information Literacy for Lifelong Learning consists of six modules: 1. Picking and exploring a topic, 2. Searching, 3. Finding books, 4. Finding journal articles, 5. Finding quality websites, 6. Evaluating and citing sources. The Challenge provides two options: (1) Getting assistance with student research by choosing one of the six modules to explore, or (2) Doing the Challenge in conjunction with a class by completing all six modules. In addition, with the second option, the student prints out a worksheet and completes parts of it when triggered within the Challenge. The Challenge promises to teach the student to be an efficient researcher, to write an effective thesis statement, to find reliable resources, and to better use the library and the internet.

Q: I really enjoyed reviewing your tutorial and am delighted that it has been chosen as a PRIMO Site of the Month. My first question for you is what prompted you to create your tutorial and what purpose does it serve?
A: The tutorial was prompted by the need to provide a common experience for all first year students on the basic concepts of information literacy. This experience, tied to appropriate class assignments, provides the basis on which students can continue practicing and building their expertise with information resources within their community of practice. We also wanted to move beyond the linear and explication-based instruction that had been in our previous tutorial, first mounted in 2001. We wanted to emphasize interaction and take advantage of a richer media environment. And also to allow students to customize what they want to learn.

Q:Who is the target audience of this tutorial and how have they been using it?
A: The primary target audience is first year students, with their professors as a secondary audience. Additional audiences include distance learners, other faculty, non-traditional students and students interested in "brushing up" on their understanding of information literacy concepts.
First Year students, especially those taking English 102 (Composition II), are using the tutorial in a variety of ways, depending on the instructor and the librarian teaching the English 102 library session. Almost all English 102 classes visit the library for at least one session (although in recent years, more are coming for two sessions) for basic library instruction. The tutorial ensures that all students receive a basic experience using information literacy concepts.

Q: Do your students ever do the tutorial first, prior to a library session, or without a face-to-face session at all?
A: Sometimes. We encourage librarians and course faculty to use the Challenge in a variety of ways. Advanced students are often referred to it as a pre-requisite to a specialized library session.

Q: How have you incorporated information literacy into the tutorial?
A: We view information literacy as an integrative concept that includes reading, writing, thinking, learning and finding sources. We built all those elements in from the start, as can be seen in our graphical outline located at http://sunyinfoliteracy.pbworks.com/f/graphic+outline+color.jpg
We also focused on scholarly communication and practice as the core of information literacy for college students. Scholarly practice also provides a meaningful context for otherwise trivial tasks. We never explicate information literacy nor its component activities. Instead we expect students to participate and construct their own understanding of scholarly practices.

Q: Who was part of the design process? Did you collaborate with anyone outside of the library? How did your group work together?
A: The Instruction Team members did the design and production work. Although all members of the group participated in all stages of the design process, some of the members of the group contributed more in certain phases based on their strengths. For example, the planning of learning objectives and visioning of the concepts covered in the Challenge offered an opportunity for one of the librarians who has the most knowledge in this area to lead the group. In the stages that involved creating the architecture of the Challenge, which involved web design and instructional design, another librarian took a more prominent role. Throughout the entire process, each member of the team brought his or her own expertise and perspective to the design of the Challenge. Roles remained flexible throughout the design process, and we tried to maximize each member's strengths (technological expertise, good writer, organizational capabilities, and leadership). As the design process moved along, we developed a decision making process. The development culminated in an "immersion" week in which all group members met for several hours per day, which resulted in much progress and meaningful creative collaboration.
Penfield Library's Instruction Team has a long-standing collaborative relationship with the English department, and we relied on members of the English department for input on the design. When we had a draft of the Challenge finished, we conducted beta testing using other librarians, support staff, and student workers in Penfield. Also, we conducted beta testing on instructors and students in English and Communications Studies courses, and librarians from other institutions. We made many improvements based on feedback received from these groups.

Q: What made you decide on this format?
A: Putting the tutorial on the web would allow for access anywhere at any time. We wanted to take advantage of the navigation and interlinking that is possible on the Web. We wanted to move as far from the Sage-on-the-Stage as we could possibly get. We also wanted to introduce more interesting media materials. The Web is now the main arena for scholarly search activity.

Q: What technology did you use to create the tutorial? Why did you choose it and did you consider other technology?
A: We used Dreamweaver, Camtasia, MS Publisher, Photoshop, and SnagIt. These were technologies that were easily available to us, and that some of us had some knowledge of. We purchased one license for Dreamweaver, and four licenses for Camtasia. We committed to every member of the team having the capacity to produce screencasts and videos using Camtasia. We did not do a formal review of technologies.

Q: How long did it take you to complete the tutorial? Were there any parts of the tutorial that took longer than expected or that were easier than you thought they would be?
A: It took approximately two years from creation of the initial plans to mounting the first version on the web. The tutorial is never complete; it continues to be revised, added to, and improved.
Parts that took longer were the planning and the initial template design. Writing went more quickly and easily because of the planning, and our commitment to the "immersion" week. Production of the first version went more easily than expected.
Because we wanted students to explore all the navigation options to move through the Challenge, we decided that the Challenge could not effectively fit in the campus content management system, as the extra navigation possibilities for SUNY Oswego overshadowed the navigation options we provided students in the Challenge. Negotiations with other campus units regarding the use of campus web resources took longer than expected.

Q: What experience or training did you bring to creating this tutorial? What did you need to learn "on the job"?
A: All team members came to the table with varying degrees of instructional design experience. One team member has a background in media design and production. Most of us had a background in a continuous improvement approach to project management. Our work with audience analysis had roots in instructional design, media design and continuous improvement. We also had five years previous experience with building, maintaining and updating our previous tutorial.
We had to learn new things on the job with regard to web, Flash and screencasting production, including one of the team members taking courses in web design.

Q: Have you done any formal assessment of the tutorial? Or what plans do you have for evaluating and assessing the impact of the tutorial?
A: During the beta testing, we developed a formal questionnaire and recruited students and librarians to respond. The responses were analyzed and used to make improvements and corrections prior to its formal launch. Since then, we continue to do informal observations and adjustments as necessary. This coming academic year, we are poised to assess the learning outcomes using a rubric applied to the worksheet.

Q: What feedback have you received from students who have taken the tutorial or from faculty who use it in their classes?
A: The tutorial has been well received. Faculty found it to be workable in their classes. We are aware that some faculty are using specific modules in their courses. We have seen more engagement with higher level learning outcomes such as refining a thesis statement and turning it into a search statement, and an improvement in learning about citing and evaluating sources.

Q: How have you publicized the tutorial?
A:Most of our publicity has been informal in nature. Word of mouth, recommendations to English 102 faculty, and librarian liaison work with their departments, has comprised the bulk of our publicity efforts. The Challenge has also been featured on our campus-wide digital signage system and on the library's homepage as a "new" component. Additionally, various presentations featuring the tutorial have been made at local, state and regional conferences to faculty and librarians. It has also been noted in our state-wide SUNY librarians' newsletter as well as the newsletter for our regional division of ACRL.

Q: How much time does it normally take a student to work through your tutorial? And what do you do with the Challenge Activity Worksheet at the end?
A: It typically takes a student between one and a half and two hours to complete the tutorial. In terms of the worksheet, most often, the course instructors collect and review them. It is up to the course instructors to make them a part of the course grade. On request of a course instructor or an individual student, librarians will correct or comment on them. It is used during a waiver process for a General Education requirement for Computer Science (CSC) 101. During this process, students waiving out of CSC 101 will complete the tutorial and worksheet, and a librarian will correct it with the student present.

Q: I'm particularly interested in the imbedded videos. Could you tell me something more about them?
A: The embedded videos we've created are an additional resource that uses screencasting to offer further explanation for complex processes and concepts such as refining a search, or selecting and navigating to the correct database. Call outs to the screencasts are placed in the tutorial where students are learning related concepts, and offer another option for students who may prefer to have a concept or process graphically presented to them. Most of these videos cover concepts that are enrichment areas and advanced lessons. Also, we use videos to demonstrate technologies such as our open url resolver, 360 link, that are important for students to understand.
We will be constantly updating, improving, and adding to these videos in the improvement phases of our design process for the Challenge. Some of the improvements we're working on are improving accessibility and becoming ADA compliant by adding captions. Also, we've begun working with our Reference team to begin using these videos for reference questions. Q

Q:What was the biggest challenge you encountered during the creation of the tutorial? And did you have any pleasant surprises?
A: The major challenge that the Instruction Team faced was directing our time and effort given busy schedules. Negotiating with administration to block out enough time to be able to work in a relatively consistent manner was essential. To get enough time to work on the Challenge we had to carefully coordinate schedules, and work around reference schedules and other demands. As the design of a comprehensive tutorial such as the Challenge was an extended project, channeling energy and effort in a focused manner was something we had to be constantly aware of.
As SUNY Oswego uses a content management system, with limited options for templates, negotiating with other campus units regarding placement of the tutorial on the campus web directory and servers was important. In the end, we opted not to use the content management system, which created some difficulty in finding a permanent place to host the Challenge.
The support and interest of the Provost and the Office of the Provost has been a pleasant surprise. This support has been instrumental in the creation of the Challenge. Another pleasant surprise has been how engaged students have been when using the Challenge. We have been using the Challenge as part of a requisite for students to waive out of the beginning Computer Science course (CSC 101). As we wrote the worksheet to encourage higher-level thinking, we've all been impressed at how much students have wanted to discuss their answers on the worksheet. Many students have stayed to discuss their worksheets, which has created some good discussions about information literacy.

Q: Is there any advice or recommendations that you would make to someone interested in creating a similar tutorial?
A: Always be aware of time management; this is especially difficult if the design process is spread out over months in sporadic meetings due to other duties. Make it a team effort and create clear channels of communication among group members about progress and sharing ideas. Gain support of library administration and keep them constantly "in the loop", updated about both challenges and achievements. Set your sights and expectations high. Be bold.

Q: Is there anything you'd like to add about your tutorial that you think our readers would like to know?
A: It was important for us to take a different pedagogical approach to this tutorial than what is often seen in tutorials. We wanted to go way past the "click here" syndrome, and focus on active and situated learning. The Challenge is built around the idea that if you allow students to "make their own learning," they will have a more meaningful educational experience.
We recently gave a presentation on The Challenge at SUNY's Conference on Instructional Technologies, which can be found at: http://www.oswego.edu/~infolit/. More materials may also be found at the NY Information Literacy Collaborative Wiki: http://sunyinfoliteracy.pbworks.com/.

July 2009 PRIMO Site of the Month