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May 2009 Site of the Month

Science Information Tutorial

Authors: Jeanine Scaramozzino, Cathy Palmer, Mitchell Brown, John Sisson, Julia Gelfand, and Stacey Arnold

Institution: The University of California, Irvine

Interview with: Catherine Palmer and (where noted) Stacey Arnold.

Interviewer: Robert Schroeder

Tutorial Description: The UC Irvine Libraries' Science Information tutorial is designed to introduce lower-division undergraduates to the production, organization, and evaluation of scholarly communication in the sciences. It can also serve as a review of scholarly communication and the scientific method for upper-division students.

Q: The first thing that struck me when I entered this tutorial was its great graphic look. The graphics are so professionally done and consistent through all the pages! How did this graphic look come about?
A: The Science Information tutorial was the result of a collaboration between the Libraries and our campus Distance Learning Center (DLC). The Libraries were responsible for the content of the tutorial and the DLC personnel were responsible for taking the content and packaging it in an interesting and engaging manner. We worked with a project manager who contracted out the design of the tutorial to a professional graphics designer. You should know that the Libraries paid the DLC for their services. Although the amount seemed daunting at first, we found that we gained access to the expertise of four different skills sets (project manager, instructional designer, graphics designer, and programmer) by contracting to have this work done. We could not have hired anyone to do the same quality of work for the amount that we paid the DLC folks, nor did we have this expertise in-house.
The process for deciding on the graphics was interesting. We spent a lot of time talking about what message we wanted to convey with the tutorial (not the content, but the way the tutorial looked). The designer would share a visual representation with us and we would decide what we liked and what we thought needed to be changed. The graphic design process was the first step in creating the tutorial once we knew what the content was going to be. The designer was very responsive to our requests for changes, which included simple things like navigation and font, as well as selection of icons, or other graphics that were included on various screens.

Q: It sounds like a healthy, collaborative process. How many people in total worked on the project? How many of them were in the library and how many were outside the library?
A: I was the project manager on the library side and Jeanine served as the tutorial editor, creating some content and editing content from others so that the entire tutorial had a consistent voice. In addition to Jeanine Scaramozzino, who was the Research Librarian (RL) for Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics here at UC Irvine, the tutorial also includes content contributed by the RL for Chemistry (Mitchell Brown), the RL for Biology (John Sisson), and the Applied Sciences Librarian (Julia Gelfand).
We also consulted with the Libraries' Web Services Director and the Libraries' Design Services Director at various points. In the end, we also used the services of a library programmer when we actually made the tutorial live on the libraries' site. There were a total of eight people from the library who worked on the project at various points, but the bulk of the work of editing and communicating with the various parties was done by Jeanine while I handled the coordination and sequencing of work flow. The Distance Learning Center team members who worked on the project were Jia Frydenberg who acted as project manager and instructional design consultant, the graphics designer, and a programmer, Stacey Arnold, which makes a total of three people from the DLC. I believe that it is fair to say that Stacey was the DLC person who spent the most time on the project.

Q: About how long did you spend on the project - from idea to finished tutorial?
A: We first had the idea for a Science Information Tutorial in 2006. With Jeanine Scaramozzino acting as editor, we had an HTML version of the tutorial on our library website by September, 2007. The first version was text-heavy and did not include interactions. We began working with the Distance Learning Center in December, 2007 and the current version of the tutorial went live in June, 2008. The significant activities that we spent the most time on were developing content, deciding on the overall look and feel of the tutorial, and the initial development of the content once the graphics were decided.
We also spent time making small editorial corrections at the end. Although we proofread the entire tutorial carefully and in its entirety as a last step before submitting the content to the Distance Learning Center project team, we still didn't notice a few inconsistencies until the DLC project team had almost completed its work. It would have been better to have given one or two other people who weren't associated with the project the task of proofreading the tutorial prior to our final submission.
Content development was the most time consuming aspect of creating the tutorial, especially because we were working with content experts who gave their material to Jeanine. Jeanine then edited the material so that the tutorial would have a consistent voice. The time we took to decide on the graphic design and the overall tone of the tutorial was well worth the effort because it ensured that the DLC team understood what we wanted. There was a lot of back and forth when we first gave them material and got it back for comment because we could see that what looked and sounded right. Once we established the style and approach we wanted, the remainder of the work was fairly straightforward and went quickly.

Q: You mention the interactive sections of the tutorial - I was really impressed with them. It seemed about every third screen was an active learning exercise that really kept me engaged with the material. You used drag-and- drop scenarios as well as other types - were they hard to create technologically?
A: (Stacey Arnold) Creating the interactions was fairly easy. In the past year and a half, we have created numerous interactions using Adobe Flash. As a new one is imagined, the previous templates are manipulated to meet the new needs and then saved as a template. So creating a new one is never starting from scratch.

Q: I noticed some references to Google Scholar and Wikipedia in the tutorial. I'm really curious how the discussions went amongst the librarians regarding the appropriateness of their inclusion. Any highlights you'd like to share?
A: There was no controversy about including Google Scholar and Wikipedia! We had previously included Google Scholar as a resource on our Libraries' "Databases To Get You Started" page at the request of the Research Librarians. We know that students use Google Scholar and Wikipedia and we wanted to acknowledge and build upon their existing research skills. I think the general feeling is that since they're going to use Wikipedia anyway, we might as well teach them how to use what they find there to become better searchers of more scholarly materials.

Q: How is the tutorial used at UC Irvine? Is it a "stand alone" lesson for students to complete on their own, or is it integrated into face-to-face library research sessions?
A: The Science Information tutorial was designed as a stand-alone tutorial and each lesson is designed and intended to be completed by students on their own. However, we also use pieces of it during in-class instruction. The most popular feature for use in instruction sessions is the short YouTube video on "How to Read a Scientific Article".

May 2009 PRIMO Site of the Month