August 2010 Site of the Month

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August 2010 Site of the Month

UC Irvine Libraries Online Workshop

Interviewee: Cathy Palmer

Institution: University of California, Irvine

Interviewer: Ken Liss

Tutorial DescriptionThe UC Irvine Libraries' Online Workshop introduces beginning level researchers to the resources that are available from an academic library and to research strategies that they will need to use those resources. The workshop is intended to help students to develop a conceptual framework for conducting research and practical strategies for using the resources available to them.

Q: What was the genesis of this workshop? Why did the Libraries decide to create it?

A: We needed to update our Library Tutorial, which was over five years old and quite outdated.

Q: How did you decide what to include?

A: We reviewed the materials in the previous library tutorial to determine what we wanted to keep, what needed to be revised, and what was no longer necessary. Then we looked at the curriculum for the lower-division writing courses that all include a mandatory research skills workshop provided by librarians to see if there was something that wasn’t included in the original tutorial. That’s why we decided to include a module on the Knowledge Cycle.

Q: You have a team that worked on the project. How was the work divided? What were the different roles that people played?

A: The library team was made up of people who fulfilled the following roles:

  • Library Head of Education and Outreach: I was the person who was ultimately responsible for getting the project done in a timely fashion within the budget that was allocated. I initiated the project and gave the final approval of the finished product.
  • Project Manager: We were lucky to be able to hire a recent library school graduate who had previously been a junior high school teacher for this role. She was responsible for tracking and coordinating all aspects of the project and was the point person for questions from any of the other team members. She also worked to present the ideas from the content providers (see below) in creative ways that would appeal to our intended audience in an effective manner.
  • The Project Content Providers: Primarily these were librarians in the Department of Education and Outreach, but we included a person from outside our small department to make sure that we considered the content from a variety of perspectives.

The actual design and programming of the tutorial was done by a team in the UC Irvine Distance Learning Center. The roles there were:

  • Project Manager: This person directed the work of the graphic designer, instructional designer and programmer.
  • Graphic Designer: Responsible for the graphic design of the tutorial.
  • Instructional Designer: Advised on how to make the workshop engaging and pedagogically effective.
  • Programmer: Skilled in both HTML and Flash.

Q: Had any of you worked on this kind of project before?

A: Yes, I had worked closely on a similar project, the Libraries’ Find Science Information tutorial, with the Distance Learning Center. The DLC Team was the same group; the library team for the Begin Your Research Workshop was different (except for me) because the content was different.

Q: What kind of software and design tools did you use to put the tutorials together?

A: The Libraries’ did not have to be responsible for the software and design tools because we contracted with the Distance Learning Center to provide this. The workshop was produced using HTML and Flash.

Q: As you worked on the project, did the scope, direction, or design change from what you originally envisioned?

A: The scope of work was determined in advance because we had a contract for the work. This really helped us to avoid project creep! Deciding on the design was included in the contract so we did not have to decide in advance what the design elements would be. Planning for what we really wanted was essential because once the contract was signed, any change would have entailed more cost.

Q: How did you anticipate students using the workshop? Did you expect them to go through it from beginning to end or just to select areas in which they needed help?

A: We purposefully designed the workshop so that it could be used in any number of ways. A student can go through it from beginning or end, or they can simply select areas where they need help. A librarian or instructor can link to a specific page, for example, the demonstration of Boolean operators, if he or she wants to use it as part of a library workshop or class discussion.

Q: How did you publicize the workshop? Have you received help from faculty or others on campus?

A: We publicized the workshop on our library webpage. We also include links to it on various course and subject guides that librarians create.

Q: Are you able to gather statistics on usage of this tutorial? Do you know which sections are used the most?

A: We use Google Analytics to gather statistics on the use of the tutorial. We haven’t analyzed the data to determine which sections are used the most.

Q: Have you done any formal or informal assessment of the workshop’s effectiveness? What do the students think of it?

A: We haven’t done as much assessment as we would like. We have some anecdotal evidence that students who complete the tutorial prior to their library workshop seem better prepared than those who do not.

Q: What are some lessons you learned in doing this project that you can share with other libraries that might want to create a similar project?

A: I’ve identified a ten-step process that any library can use to plan and produce tutorials. This was the topic of a presentation I did at the LILAC Conference this spring.

  1. Identify the need:"Why are we doing this?"
  2. Decide on content and audience.
  3. Outline the content.
  4. Decide on a graphic look and feel.
  5. Create the content.
  6. Determine instructional design to convey content.
  7. Program the tutorial.
  8. User test.
  9. Review and edit.
  10. Final review for quality control

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about the online workshop?

A: I think that one of the most valuable outcomes of creating tutorials is that it forces us to look closely at what we do from the perspective of the user. Working on these tutorials has convinced me that, although content is essential, it is not the paramount consideration when designing online materials that are intended to teach novice users.

August 2010 PRIMO Site of the Month