September 2010 Site of the Month

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September 2010 Site of the Month
Research Basics 101

Amy Gustavson, Coordinator of Instructional Services at Joyner Library, East Carolina University; David Hisle, former Joyner Library Fellow, currently the Reference and Instruction Librarian at Carteret Community College Library; Angela Whitehurst, Distance Education Coordinator at Joyner Library, East Carolina University
Interviewee: Amy Zellner Gustavson
Institution: Joyner Library, East Carolina University

Interviewer: Alec Sonsteby

Tutorial Description:  Research Basics is a collection of six online, self-paced tutorials covering the beginning of the research process through finding resources. It highlights keyword generation, types of resources, the information time line, research evaluation strategies, and library website navigation. Each tutorial includes a concept check with time for reflection. The tutorials enhance library instruction sessions and provide undergraduate, graduate, and distance education students with asynchronous instruction.

Q: I would first like to ask what was the impetus or motivation for the Research Basics Tutorials and who was the intended audience?
A: We wanted to create tutorials which were concept based to teach basic information literacy concepts which could be applied to many library search tools.  We have limited time and staffing to create and revise tutorials constantly, so we wanted ones where the content was not dependent on the look of a web page, database, or other specific research tool.  One intended audience for these tutorials is freshmen, as a preliminary assignment before library instruction and as a means of review.  Also, the tutorials are intended to be used by transfer students and distance education students as a means of providing asynchronous library instruction.

Q: Could you tell us about the process you and your team used to establish and prioritize outcomes for each of the tutorials?
A: The outcomes were an outgrowth of learning outcomes we had previously created for our freshmen English classes, English 1100 and English 1200.  We used the same outcomes for these tutorials as we use when teaching these classes.  We wanted to convey basic information through the tutorials which could be briefly reviewed during a class session and leave more time during class to concentrate on teaching specific concepts related to the assignments.  We believed all the outcomes we created were applicable to all students.<BR>

Q: Who was involved in the production of these tutorials and what skills and talents did they contribute?
A: Amy (Coordinator of Instructional Services) and Angela (Distance Education Coordinator) provided information literacy knowledge, created scripts, and assisted in creating the storyboard while David (Library Fellow) created the tutorials through the use of a variety of technologies: Audacity, Blender 3D, PowerPoint, Photo Story 3, Camtasia, and Windows Movie Maker.  He had just finished a set of tutorials for our Special Collections department, so he was bringing the skills he picked up creating those.

Q: How are these tutorials primarily being used at your institution?
A: The tutorials are primarily being used to teach basic information about Joyner Library and how to conduct library research for freshmen in English 1100 & 1200.  Students are being asked to complete Library 101: Introduction to Research before they come to an instruction session.  This allows librarians to tailor their class activities to reinforce areas of difficulty in the tutorial and to spend more time teaching the skills needed to complete the assignments the students have.  Also they are a means of asynchronous library instruction for remote users to learn on their own.  Video 3: Evaluating Resources is also being played in library instruction sessions to introduce scholarly, trade, and popular resources.

Q: Other than the tutorial about the library's website, the tutorials seem applicable and accessible to other institutions. Was this intentional? Are you aware of other libraries using these tutorials?
A: No, it wasn’t intentional to allow the tutorials to be accessible to other institutions. We’re not aware of any other libraries currently using these tutorials.  However, if anyone is interested in using them, we’d support that.

Q: I like that your tutorials include "concept checks" with time for reflection. Could you talk about how you use this reflection time with your own students or how instructors might do so with their students?
A: Students mainly view the tutorials prior to an instruction session.  They can use the concept checks to reflect and apply what they’ve learned in the video tutorials as it’s important to immediately reinforce the most important concepts presented in the tutorials. When we use the Evaluating Resources video in class, there is an active learning exercise where students compare and contrast scholarly, trade, and popular journal articles.

Q: There seem to be several scenes "filmed" in a virtual library. Was this custom animation done for your project, or does your library have a presence in a virtual world like Second Life?
A: The virtual library was created using an open-source program called Blender 3D.  The idea was to create a handful of “sets” that could be reused throughout the tutorials.  The Information Timecycle (Tutorial #2) was another major set.  Blender 3D lets you build the scene – and from there you only need to tell the camera where to move and record.  We also figured that giving the tutorials a home base of sorts would be grounding for viewers.

Q: From planning to launch, how long did it take to complete your tutorial project? Was this more or less time than you originally planned?
A: We started working on it in May 2009.  It took approximately 9 months and it is still a work in progress.  It took longer than we expected because of our own time constraints and David learning the technology necessary to use in creating the tutorial.  David taught himself Blender 3D, but lost some time attempting to animate a patron.  According to David, “[t]he end result was a jerky and slightly creepy ersatz library patron that contributed little to the end product and we happily deleted it from existence.”  Honestly, we had the end result in mind but didn’t have a planned path to get there.

Q: What technology and skills were required to produce these tutorials? Did you need to seek any "outside" expertise?
A: We knew we wanted a particular look, and Blender 3D, being free and quite powerful, seemed to be the best software for creating that look and was used for the animations.  David had never used Blender before, but knew a bit about video and sound editing from working on a previous set of tutorials.

Additional software was used for the visual portions. PowerPoint—often with still frames from the animations as backgrounds in order to create seamless transitions—was used for most of the text.  Photo Story 3 was used for the photo collages and most of the image zooming; it zooms far more smoothly than Camtasia.  But Camtasia was used for all the video screen capturing (Jing seems like a perfectly acceptable free alternative), and all the video editing/mixing was done in Windows Movie Maker (pre-Windows 7 version only—the newest version lacks a timeline feature).  As the final step, Camtasia was used to add cutouts and closed captioning and for the final rendering.

For sound, a narration track was recorded and edited in Audacity, with any additional sound effects added as additional tracks. The recording was then finally exported as a single WAV file. 

As far as outside expertise goes, searching Google and forum browsing was invaluable, but that was about it.

Q: What best practices were used to guide the production of these tutorials?
A: We knew from the literature that viewers responded best to tutorials that are three minutes long or less, so that was a major consideration, both in the writing and producing of the tutorials.  We also knew we wanted closed captioning.

Q: Were there any existing tutorials on the Web that served as an inspiration to you and your team? If so, which ones?
A: Our favorite library tutorials include: Colorado State University Libraries: and Appalachian State University Library:

Q: From your experience with creating this tutorial what tips would you give to others who are contemplating building one?
A: Take plenty of time in the planning process, schedule time for group members to work together weekly, realize it will be a time-consuming task, there will be revisions along the way, and you will need to develop a written script.  Realize that everyone will have different ways of working.  We noticed two divides in the visual planning and the script planning.  For the visual planning, some of us could verbally describe the picture and others could see it.  A lot of the time, we just had to draw our ideas to share it with the group.  For the script planning, some of us could write the script verbally and then commit it to paper.  For others, flipping back and forth between a written and auditory method was not easy.

On the technical side of things: plan out scene for scene exactly what you want to do before starting; you can find yourself completely lost at times, and it’s good to have a map.  Pay close attention to web videos and TV commercials and the effects people are using.  If you see something cool, like an effect or transition, figure out how it’s done.  Often effects can seem complex but be very simple to implement.  Finally, experiment.  Play with different software – test out all the effects and filters.  You don’t always have to master a piece of software – sometimes you just have to click around long enough to get it to do something cool.

September 2010 PRIMO Site of the Month