Library Instruction In The Courseware Environment (Midwinter 2004)

RUSA MARS Product and Services Committee Discussion Forum
January 11, 2004 9:30 -12:30 AM, US Grant Hotel, San Diego
"Library Instruction in the Courseware Environment"

Forum Speakers:
Linda J. Goff, Caliifornia State Library Information Competency Assessment WebCT Turtorial
J. Doreen Simonsen, Humanities/Fine Arts Librarian, Willamette University ( Powerpoint presentation)
Kay Henshall, Tutor.Com Virtual Reference Toolkit ( Powerpoint presentation)

The Product and Services Committee Open Discussion Forum consisted of four parts: three presentations by courseware users followed by a discussion for program attendees. Van Houlson, Product & Services Committee co-chair, introduced the forum with the question: How does courseware fit into the librarys role on the academic campus?

First Presentation

Integrating Library Resources into WebCT. WebCT at California State Library: Using WebCT to Test and Teach presented by Linda J. Goff.

Goff has been using WebCT three years at California State University, Sacramento as part of an
Information Competency Project conducted by the library. The CSU project was adapted from a 1999 tutorial at Cal Poly. The software, WebCT, has been a great help in automating the test taking process at CSU, and Goff concentrates her use of WebCT on the testing mode of the software.

All communication studies students at CSU must complete an Information Competency requirement. Approximately 10,000 students have been tested using the program established by Goff. The CSU testing program is part of a statewide assessment task force. Questions for the IC requirement have been gathered from several campuses and are mapped using ACRL standards. At CSU students have the option of testing out of the IC requirement via a pre-test if they score 80% or better. If they do not score 80% or better, they must complete the Information Competency assignment modules to complete their communications studies course.

WebCT was chosen by Goff because it was readily available through a campus wide license. Its advantage to students is that it offers instant feedback to the students and it is very student friendly.

Goff commented that WebCT software automatically collects test data that can be exported to Excel for further analysis. Goff uses Respondus software to write test questions, and then uploads them into the WebCT program. Another advantage to using WebCT is that test questions are automatically graded by the program which has eliminated hours of grading tests by hand.

Problems with WebCT are centered on browser incompatibility issues that students encounter when logging onto the web program. Despite extensive instructions and warnings to students concerning browser issues, about 10% of all students do not check for browser compatibility before taking the CSU Information Competency test via WebCT. Goff averages 150 student emails per semester concerning student problems with the testing process. Her goal is to reduce this number for the future.

Another disadvantage of WebCT is the steep learning curve for course designers. Instructors need some knowledge of html language when using the WebCT course design mode; however it is also possible to use an html editor and dump the code into a template window. The design mode is not user friendly to faculty so instruction and support is necessary to using the software effectively.

The CSU Information Competency test is available through the CSU Library website. Goff supplied forum attendees with guest login and guest password information to allow them to view the IC test from a students perspective. The first step in the testing process is a student survey. It is up to individual Communication Studies instructors to set requirement levels for pass, fail or incomplete. WebCT software provides several reporting features for collection of data that can be analyzed to improve course content.

Second Presentation

J. Doreen Simonsen, Humanities/Fine Arts Librarian, Willamette University Blackboard Courseware and IDS 150: Research in the Information Age, an Information Literacy course at Willamette University."

Willamette University is a small liberal arts college with 13 departments and a freshman orientation program. Simonsen has been Instructional Coordinator at Willamette University since July, 2001. She was trained in the use of Blackboard at Loyola University, New Orleans. Simonsen demonstrated both the student view and the administrators view of Blackboard courseware for the audience.

Blackboard courseware has a learning curve similar to any major software package in the Microsoft Office suite. Blackboard increases contact with online or distance students because instructors can load a variety of materials including quizzes, handouts, and other files directly into the courseware for easy student access. The software includes multiple features including pre-assessment and post assessment tests. It also allows for instructor/student collaboration online sessions, or chat capability, with a smart board attached to these sessions. Blackboard includes lecture hall mode that acts like a virtual classroom, as well as a discussion board feature for posting messages. Tools for students include a digital drop box, a personalized student homepage, and the ability to view their course grades online.

Blackboard allows various access levels and passwords for instructors, students, guests, and teacher assistants. As librarian, Simonsen has teacher assistant level access to all faculty led courses and offers her services and input to each instructor. Willamette University has a faculty development center on campus that teaches and assists faculty in the use of Blackboard.

In the administrative module Blackboards course builder features allow instructors to archive sessions and materials so that they can be evaluated and reused from semester to semester. Its course builder features do not require knowledge of html, and are very faculty friendly. Blackboard uses SmartText to translate common text into a screen viewer within the course software. Blackboard's test manager module offers instructors the ability to grade tests automatically or manually. It also has several data gathering features for course assessment. Blackboard also allows for durable links to articles in other databases and handles user authentication well.

Third Presentation

Kay Henshall, MLIS, Reference Client Manager, of Reference Services demonstrated the Virtual Reference Toolkit with a concentration on the meeting room and material sharing features of the software package.'s Virtual Reference Toolkit contains a meeting room component that can be used for live interactive bibliographic instruction, or to create a virtual meeting space. The meeting room component allows for chat, the ability to push web pages or upload files such as PowerPoint presentations and Word documents. The patron or student receives web pages or other files in a frame beside the chat frame. There are two versions of the software, Interact that allows for co-browsing of web pages and Basic that allows one-way page pushing.

Henshall gave examples of academic programs that use the meeting room feature to support Graduate Nursing students and the Graduate Program at the University of Michigan. When an instructor or librarian sets up a meeting in the VRT software, a URL will be generated that can be emailed or posted to students with the meeting announcement. Students log on at the assigned time and participate in the online meeting via chat that can include a selection of web pages, slides and documents. Before the meeting begins, instructors can create a slide show, load predetermined scripted messages or web links to be used at the time of the meeting. At the end of each meeting a summary list of web links appears in the students chat window. A full transcript of the session is emailed to each participant.

Once VRT software is installed at the institution, the technical considerations are mainly based on the student PC access side of the equation. VRT software works best for students with Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher and with higher speed access. Librarian considerations center on temperament and flexibility because in a live virtual environment the session leader needs to expect the unexpected. Either Basic or Interact mode can be used depending on the age and requirements of the students. There is also a whispering feature available to session leaders. Another feature of the VRT software called Material Sharing allows instructors to push documents to students through the browser.

In addition to VRT, offers a Librarians by Request service that is available 24 hours per day. Those interested in a classroom online visit to the service can arrange for a meeting time. Prearranged online classroom meetings have the advantage of grouping all messages into a single transcript that is shared with the instructor and each member of the class.


At the end of the three presentations, the forum was open to general discussion by attendees. Questions were asked of the presenters, and information exchanged by individuals using the various courseware packages. An evaluation sheet was distributed to those in the audience.

The Product and Services Committee Forum was followed by a business meeting of committee members.