May 2013 Site of the Month

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May 2013 Site of the Month


Author: Jodi Lommer, Associate Coordinator Instruction-NAIT Library

Institution: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology


Interviewer: Jorge Brown

Tutorial Description (description provided by author): iNAIT is an interactive guide to locating and using a variety of information sources. It can be used as a stand-alone resource or embedded in an online course. iNAIT is a descendant of a text-based tutorial intended for use at an old satellite campus in Fairview, Alberta.

Q: What was the motivation behind the development of iNAIT?
A: The NAIT Library is always trying to find new ways of reaching the huge variety of students who attend NAIT. For example, we have three campuses and a large number of distance students and apprenticeship students who may never come to the NAIT Library or have a face-to-face information literacy class. We felt that it was important to try to provide the same sort of information they may receive in person.

Q: Who was involved on the project?
A: There were many people involved--iNAIT was truly a collaborative project. NAIT Library's instruction librarians were responsible for the content. We took a lot of inspiration from an old, original text-based document but had to edit it down to about 5% of the original text and add images, links, and videos for interactivity. NAIT's Digital Media Services department, specifically Randy Troppman, was responsible for putting the tutorial shell together and making the two Flash games within the tutorial.
Library staff members were also instrumental in providing their editing assistance and letting me pick their brains by way of usability testing. Additionally, all of the text in the tutorial was given final approval by NAIT's resident editor.

Q: Has any of your team worked on similar projects?
A: Definitely. Randy Troppman has extensive experience with a wide variety of media design projects. Other than that, though, we sort of just felt our way around.

Q: How long did it take to complete the project?
A: From beginning to end, about 18 months.

Q: What software and technology was used to create iNAIT?
A: Randy created the tutorial shell from open source software, and created the games in Flash. We handpicked each image from a public domain images database, then cropped them or created them from scratch using SnagIt and Gimp. All of the images from the Trades section came from the NAIT image repository. I created the quizzes in Studymate, and we created all of the in-house videos using Camtasia. 

Q: How was the work divided among the team members?
A: A former colleague and I did most of the legwork in the beginning, meeting with Randy to define the tutorial shell specs. We took the text-based original tutorial and began paring it down, designing the look and feel of the tutorial and pulling together and creating the images. Then she left NAIT and we had to recreate the content a few more times. I can't stress enough how much editing went into the text content of this tutorial! I'm so grateful for all the editing help, which took a couple of months and three dedicated librarians around a screen combing through the content word by word.

Once we got the text pretty much nailed down, I asked another colleague for help finding and editing images (she had suggested that we round the corners of the images for aesthetic purposes). Another round or two of comments and feedback from colleagues--including our reference assistants (students in the M.L.I.S. program at the University of Alberta) and some usability testing, and it was put up on the website.

Q: What is the intended use of iNAIT?
A: It is to provide some assignment guidance to students who don't attend our face-to-face information literacy classes. We also wanted to have a comprehensive spot for information for apprenticeship students, who may not use the library or do research in the traditional sense.

Q: How much student involvement did you have on the project?
A: We began with a needs assessment--one for students and one for staff--and rounded up all of the things that students identified as being important. We also asked for some suggestions for the name of the tutorial but that was slightly less successful.

Students were also an important part of the usability testing. Admittedly, I found it a little bit surprising just how inscrutable most of our labels were. We've also just put out a satisfaction survey to staff and students and plan to continue on with usability testing in the next school term. 

Q: What has been the response from your students?
A: We plan to carry on with some more usability and are toying with the idea of creating iNAIT 2.0 in HTML 5 (so it's compatible with all mobile devices). Some instructors use it quite heavily and have made it a part of their class syllabus--and it's in every Moodle (online) course that our librarians get access to. I recently put a survey up and got some extremely positive feedback--from both students and instructors.

Q: What was the biggest challenge encountered during the creation of the project?
A: I guess the time factor and the language. You really don't realize how much library lingo you use until you try to pare a bit of text down and convert it into plain language. It's a constant challenge to find a word for things such as "database" and "catalogue". Often, we just tried to describe the process, e.g. the search process, rather than get stuck on specific terminology.

Q: What lessons were learned in the creation of this project?
A: Anything is possible if you are given the autonomy to create, lots of time to follow a thing through, and the support of capable and talented colleagues. It was really very fun, pretty much from start to finish. I’m sure it would have gone more quickly if I had been able to put aside my other job responsibilities (such as face-to-face IL instruction) but I might have gotten burned out and tried to rush the project. As it stood, I always enjoyed the few hours a week I got to work on it.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A: Nothing really, except that I really appreciate your interest. And we are so proud to have been added to your database.

May 2013 PRIMO Site of the Month