April 2013 Site of the Month

primo banner

April 2013 Site of the Month

Science Information Life Cycle


Authors: Jeffra Bussmann, Caitlin Plovnick, and Cathy Palmer

Institution: California State University, East Bay / University of California, Irvine

Interviewer: Alec Sonsteby

Tutorial Description (provided by the author): This tutorial is designed to help students understand unique characteristics of information production and dissemination in science so that they can use library resources effectively and efficiently.

Q: What was the impetus for the Science Information Life Cycle tutorial, and who is the intended audience?

A: The Science Information Life Cycle tutorial was first published online in 2008 with the intended audience of science undergraduate students. Website technology and design have changed a great deal in the last 5 years, and some of the content was also due for updating and revision. This second generation Science Information Life Cycle tutorial is intended to help undergraduate students who are taking science courses (they may or may not be science majors) to understand information literacy as it relates to the sciences.

Q: How is the tutorial primarily being used at UC Irvine?

A: The tutorial is used primarily as a self-teaching option for students who are looking for science information. It is linked from the Libraries’ “How Do I…?” page so students can find it by selecting that page or by searching “How do I find science information?” on our site. The research librarians responsible for liaison to departments in the life, physical, and applied sciences link to the tutorial from their library guides.

Q: Tell us about the process you used to establish learning objectives for this tutorial.

A: We were fortunate in that the original tutorial already included clearly stated learning outcomes. Our learning objectives for the new tutorial remained in line with these; however, with the introduction of the science information life cycle, we gained a new framework for conceptualizing the holistic process of science information. One very important objective for us was helping students to understand that how science information is produced, shared, and organized influences how it is found and used by them.

Q: Who was involved in the production of the Science Information Life Cycle project and what skills and talents did they contribute? Did you need to seek any “outside” expertise?

A: The UC Irvine Libraries’ Education and Outreach Department, primarily Jeffra Bussmann and Caitlin Plovnick, took the lead on revising the tutorial. Jeffra was a science librarian and brought in the science disciplinary perspective. Caitlin was a temporary librarian whose work focused on various IL projects. We consulted with science and psychology librarians for suggestions and feedback. Furthermore, we solicited feedback from six undergraduate students through a usability study. As head of the department, Cathy Palmer made sure overall scope of the tutorial remained in line with UCI Libraries’ mission. The UC Irvine Distance Learning Center provided the technical skills to implement the revisions.

Q: Accessibility and usability are important considerations for any online tutorial or learning object. How did you take these into account?

A: We conducted simple usability tests with students to reveal areas where the tutorial was problematic or difficult to use. In particular, we were able to improve navigation and layout based on our observations. Several issues with accessibility also came up in regards to the technology being used. The original tutorial was presented in Flash, which is problematic for mobile devices. The new version does not use Flash and is also easier to navigate.

Q: Have you done any assessment of the effectiveness of the tutorial in meeting your established objectives?

A: Right now, we are only keeping use statistics on the tutorial. We can track how many students complete each module and how much time it takes them. We would love to hear from other librarians who adapt the tutorial for use at their institution to see if they have done any assessment of its effectiveness!

Q: I noticed that the tutorial is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Have you considered “packaging” the tutorial for download and adaptation by other libraries?

A: The source files for the tutorial are available for download here: http:www.lib.uci.edu/licenses/license-ucilibs-find-science-info-tutorial.html

We would love to hear from anyone who downloads this package and adapts the Science Information Life Cycle tutorial for their own institution.

Q: From planning to launch, how long did it take to complete this project? Was it more or less time than you originally had planned?

A: We began the project in late summer 2011, and the tutorial was completed and posted to the UCI Libraries’ website in fall 2012. It did take more time than we expected, but this project had to fit in with other time-demanding projects and we had high standards for completing it. Anyone working on a similar project should be aware that it will probably take more time than you anticipated!

Q: What best practices guided the building of this tutorial?

A: Our guiding best practices were to keep it as simple as possible and continually keep the content focused on user needs. In addition, since this is an online resource, we also considered website design best practices.

Finally, we also consulted the literature for best practices in the areas of usability testing, design, navigation, content, and technology.

Q: Are there existing tutorials on the Web that inspired you? If so, which ones?

A: Since we were revising an already existing tutorial, we would have to say that the original Science Information Life Cycle tutorial was most inspirational to us. It was an excellent tutorial that accomplished many of the goals it set out to do and was quite unique. UCI Libraries’ Begin Research tutorial http://www.lib.uci.edu/how/tutorials/BeginResearch/public/begin.html was also a major influence, especially in terms of design.

Q: From your experience, what tips would you give to others contemplating producing their own online tutorial or learning object?

A: We have three tips that we would pass on:

  1. Always consider the question: why is this going to be important and useful to users? Let this question drive what is revised, incorporated and/or removed.
  2. Keep it simple and focused on your project objectives – beware of scope creep!
  3. Usability testing is an excellent way to uncover real user needs.


April 2013 PRIMO Site of the Month