March 2011 Site of the Month

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March 2011 Site of the Month 
Library Scene: Fairfield Edition

Authors: Jessica McCullough, Sr. Reference Librarian & Instruction Coordinator; Curtis Ferree, Reference and Electronic Resources Librarian; and Philip Bahr, Reference & Media Librarian

Interviewees: Jessica McCullough, Curtis Ferree, and Philp Bahr

Institution: DiMenna-Nyselius Library, Fairfield University

Interviewer: Jorge Brown

Tutorial Description: Based on the multimedia game, Scene It, Library Scene: Fairfield Edition provides an interactive game that combines animation and live action to orient students to the DiMenna-Nyselius Library. The game has four sections that highlight key library floors and services. Following each session students are presented with four challenges. The challenges are presented in a variety of formats including multiple choice questions, word puzzles, and picture matching.

Q: What was the motivation behind the development of Library Scene?

A: We created the interactive game, Library Scene: Fairfield Edition, to instruct first semester freshmen about library services and to orient them to our building. We needed to create something that would meet both our needs to engage students and to achieve our instructional goals. We chose to base the concept on the popular DVD game, Scene It, since it incorporates multimedia elements as well as traditional game play techniques.

Q: Has any of your team worked on similar projects?

A: The library working group consisted of three librarians (Philip Bahr, Cutis Ferree, and Jessica McCullough). This was the first project of this scale that we had undertaken as a team. The Media Center team (led by Karen Connolly and Steve Evans), had worked on video and multimedia projects in the past.

Q: What software and technology did you use to create Library Scene?

A: We collaborated with our Media Center. They brought their programming and production expertise to the project. For them, it was an opportunity to try something new. They had never created computer animation by superimposing animated people over regular video and still photos. They used Apple MOTION, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Pro Tools, Dreamweaver, and Flash.The library team used Google Docs to easily share and edit the scripts.

Q: How long did it take to complete the project?

A: A colleague brought up the idea in our department in December 2009, and the game was first played with students in September 2010. We calculated about 37 hours spent in meetings, which of course doesn’t include all the time we spent working on the script, reviewing and commenting on the product, and developing game play models. This was a huge time commitment for both the library and Media Center teams.

Q: How was the work divided among your team?

A: The library working group worked collaboratively on the objectives, design, script, and questions/challenges. We know that the strength of the final product is a result of our collaboration. The Media Center group worked on the design, animation, sound, and programming. Both groups met together occasionally to check in, provide feedback, and review progress to date. The collaboration between the Librarians and the Media Center was crucial to the final project.

Q: What led to the decision to use animation vs. live action for certain portions of the project?

A: Good question! In one of our first meetings with the Media Center after they had accepted our proposal, they pitched the idea of animation to us. One of their students had just completed an animated video, which they showed us and explained how it might look. Unsure of how students would respond, we conducted an informal poll of students in the library, asking them if they knew about Scene It, had played it, and if they would prefer animation or live action. We heard a lot of positive responses about animation, and we were intrigued, so we decided to go in that direction.

Animation also had some benefits. We were using the game to replace a 3-4 year-old movie we had used in our classes for the same purposes. The movie was already outdated; clothing styles had changed, the concept was dated, and the student actors had graduated, making it impossible to add to or revise the movie. Animation would give us flexibility to make changes or add modules in the future.

Q: What is the intended use of Library Scene?

A: We played Library Scene with each of our 46 EN 11 classes in the Fall semester. EN 11 is a required class for all first year students, and we see about 95% of the freshman class in the library sessions. We will continue playing the game with first year students next year - either as part of EN 11 or in the Fall Welcome.

Q: How much student involvement did you have on the project?

A: In addition to the student poll we conducted (mentioned above), the Media Center enlisted students to be models for the animated characters. The bodies of the characters are actually images, but run through a filter so they seem animated. Students also drew the faces for the characters based on descriptive information we provided.

Q: What type of descriptive information was provided to the students to draw the faces?

A: “Descriptive information” involved describing ideas for the gender, ethnicity, clothing, and general descriptions of personality type. Largely, though, the Media Center developed these on their own.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you encountered during the creation of the project?

A: The first challenge was time. This project took a huge amount of time, and we relied on colleagues outside of the working group to help cover reference desk shifts and provide us with the time we needed to do this. Fortunately everyone was very excited about the project and willing to pitch in. There were also communication challenges working inter-departmentally and also programming limitations which made us re-evaluate some of what was on our original wish list.

Q: What type of programming limitations?

A: This refers to the programming that went into the actual game play questions. Originally, we had envisioned something that would work in the classroom as well as something that could be played individually online. As we were designing it, though, we found out that it was really difficult to design something that worked really well for both of those formats. So, the final product is a bit of a compromise—there are some aspects of game play that aren’t ideal for in-class play, and some that aren’t ideal for individual online play.

Q: What has been the response from your students?

A: We were thrilled with student response. The added element of competition, the professional look of the game, the animated characters, the storyline and the technology really engaged students.

Preliminary data in the form of electronic evaluations given to students at the end of the instruction classes were extremely positive. One of the questions asks students how the game contributed to their awareness of library services and resources, to which 95% of students answered “somewhat” or “substantially.” The number of students who answered “substantially” increased by 14% over the previous year (when asked the same question about the movie we used). In addition, 17% mentioned the game when asked what surprised them the most about the session, and many mentioned that the library session was fun or interesting. Here is a sample of student comments from the evaluations:

  • “How high-tech the tutorial was. I was impressed with the entertaining aspect…”
  • “The game was definitely a good way to learn about the library….”

Q: What did you learn in the creation of this project?

A: Jessica: If you had asked me two years ago if I would ever write a script for an animated game, I would not have believed you. This project really pushed me to explore a creative side of me that I wasn’t sure even existed! I have my colleagues to thank for making this a really fun project, working incredibly hard, supporting our vision, and teaching me this valuable lesson.

Curtis: Given the amount of time and resources that went into the project, there was quite a bit of pressure to come up with something that would really engage students, and that would also be embraced by faculty and the other instruction librarians. Starting a project with those kind of expectations can be a little daunting, but you have to trust the process and trust your colleagues. I think as a group we really embraced that aspect of working together, and the end result is stronger for it.

Philip: Personally it was a chance to be creative, to step outside of my regular duties, to collaborate with another group of people, to create a short-term project and see it to fruition. Professionally it was exciting to work on a summer project with two of my colleagues and to partner with another department on campus. It forged bonds between people who would otherwise never see each other given our busy work schedules. This was an extremely rewarding experience. And the reaction students have to the final product has made the effort worthwhile.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: There is tremendous potential in working collaboratively within the library and inter-departmentally. Collaborating with the Media Center allowed us to create a product that would have been impossible otherwise, and working with a small team within the library allowed us to extend ourselves beyond what we thought possible.

March 2011 PRIMO Site of the Month