PRIMO Site of the Month: June 2017
Title: Finding Articles & Databases
Author: Lindsay O’Neill
Institution: California State University, Fullerton
Interviewee: Lindsay O’Neill
Interviewer: Jennifer Sharkey
Description (provided by the author)
This tutorial is the third in a planned series of orientation modules for Pollak Library. The goal of this tutorial is for students to learn how to find databases and do a basic article search. Activities in the tutorial include a database searching simulation. The tutorial has closed captioning available as well as a downloadable transcript for accessibility.
Q: As the third tutorial in the Pollak Library module, tell us how you decided to focus on finding articles, specifically scholarly, and using databases. What skills are covered in the other three tutorials in the Pollak Library module?
In spring 2016, I led a team that used the ACRL Framework to design a set of foundational information literacy learning objectives (see CINDEr). We organized these objectives into four categories: Pollak Library, Information Evaluation, Searching, and Citations. The Finding Articles & Databases tutorial is the third of four tutorials that fall under the Pollak Library module. The other three tutorials in the Pollak Library module are Services & Collections (also in PRIMO), which focuses on teaching students about what Pollak Library has to offer; Finding Books, which teaches students to use the library catalog to find books and eBooks and how to locate them in the stacks; and Help & Support, which teaches students about our self-help options (Library Guides and Library Answers) and also teaches them that librarians are always available to help. Together, the four tutorials in the first module comprise an orientation to Pollak Library and the basics of doing library research. The remaining three modules are still under development.
Faculty frequently request that we teach their students to search for scholarly articles and to use library databases, so this was a natural task to feature in one of our tutorials. It’s also a great format to teach these concepts because it’s a safe space to fail, with immediate feedback given when students get off-track. The hope is since we’re using a simulation of a real database, students are able to transfer what they learn into the real world when they conduct their own library research.
Q: In the development of the Finding Articles & Databases tutorial as well as the other Spark Tutorials, you used a competency-based model of instruction. Could you explain this model and how you used it for developing the tutorials?
A competency-based model of instruction is where instruction and assessment are aligned to specific and measurable learning objectives. So, we wrote the learning objectives first as part of our CINDEr work, then as I began storyboarding the tutorials I wrote out the assessment, practice, and content to match the learning objectives for each tutorial. For the Services & Collections tutorial, for example, one of the learning objectives is to differentiate between librarians, Circulation, and Interlibrary Loan. The aligned content for this part of the tutorial is a couple of videos that explain the difference between these services (as well as how to locate them). The practice activity for this learning objective is a (no-pressure) game where students earn points for identifying the service where they would accomplish specific tasks. Then, the final assessment remixes the game along with a couple of multiple-choice questions to verify that the learners now are able to differentiate between librarians, Circulation, and Interlibrary loan.
I feel that using this model is important not only because it keeps a tutorial tight and focused and creates a more effective learning experience, but also because when students complete the tutorial at 100% and earn a badge, the badge is meaningful because they mastered the learning objectives. They didn’t just sit through a video or some other passive activity, they were active and engaged and learned!
Q: Who was involved in the creation of Finding Articles & Databases? Did you collaborate with any stakeholders outside the library as you developed it?
The Finding Articles & Databases tutorial is part of set of modules called the “Spark Tutorials.” I’ve been working collaboratively on information literacy tutorials since 2014, so over time several of our instruction librarians have been able to get involved. (The “Spark Tutorials” name comes from an early prototype tutorial called “FIRe” [fluent information researcher] which we just kept spinning into new acronyms, starting with CINDEr [the Committee for Infolit Design]. The name “Spark” seems apt for sparking information literacy.)
I did (and continue to do) the bulk of the design work and all of the development work on the Spark Tutorials, but I got input and feedback on the tutorial designs and the final tutorials from some of the colleagues that worked with me on writing the learning objectives. My colleagues Adolfo Prieto, Jon Cornforth, and Joy Sage worked with me on this particular tutorial’s design and gave valuable feedback on the multiple prototypes.
I designed this tutorial first as a text storyboard, then as a visual storyboard (using PowerPoint). At each stage, I sent out the storyboards for input. For the Finding Articles & Databases tutorial, I received substantive input and feedback. I incorporated all of their suggestions into the final storyboard, and then developed it using Articulate Storyline. Once developed, I sent it out to my colleagues for review, and got a few more tips on revisions and corrections that were very helpful.
Before I launched all of the tutorials, I did a lot of user testing to work out the bugs and to make sure everything actually worked the way I hoped it would. I asked colleagues to try out the tutorials first, and then I enlisted student workers to take the tutorials.
I did not work with any stakeholders from outside the library on the tutorial design, but the full Pollak Library module was quickly adopted as a component in our First Year Experience program and I’ve received very good feedback on this project from outside the library.
Q: You used Articulate Storyline to create the tutorial. What specific strengths or features does this application have that determined its selection?
I love Storyline! Storyline is fairly easy to learn. Because it’s similar to PowerPoint, you can use Storyline to make something as simple or (almost) as complex as you want. You can create something very beautiful and usable very quickly!
I make a lot of use of the more complex features in Storyline, including states and triggers, to allow students to practice concepts and skills, like where students have to find the Human Communication databases or practice searching for articles on college students and stress. Storyline allows you to create an active learning experience that is true to what students would have to do in the real world. I also like Storyline because I’m able to package tutorials in SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), which means that when I embed them into our LMS, they’re able to communicate with the gradebook. This allowed me to develop a digital badges program in our LMS.
The only thing comparable to Storyline is Adobe Captivate, but it takes a lot more time to make something that is usable and looks good using Captivate.
I used Camtasia to develop the videos that are incorporated into this tutorial. Camtasia is also pretty easy to learn, and I put those videos up on YouTube so that they’re usable on their own. This tutorial is somewhat modular which makes individual pieces reusable in other contexts and also helps make it easy to update and maintain.
Q: Students get a badge for obtaining 100% (but not below) on the final quiz. What led to the inclusion of a badge with the tutorial?
I use digital badges both to recognize students’ accomplishment in completing a tutorial or entire module, and also to assist with faculty tracking student completion.
Students can retake the tutorials as many times as they need to earn the badge, and they get a meta-badge for completing all four tutorials in the module. The badges are a nice little recognition of the student’s work, and also they are meaningful because students do have to work to earn them, they don’t just get to sit back and watch a video. They have to complete simulations and a final quiz. The badges allow students to show off their accomplishment, and also allow faculty to verify student completion.
The badges were difficult to set up but they are worth it. The technical side of getting our tutorials to work in Moodle is fairly complex, especially since the SCORM packages were difficult to set up correctly. Faculty sometimes request to have the tutorials embedded into their own courses. Some learning management systems allow faculty to bring in library modules into their own courses, but Moodle has a more silo-type format. Faculty can link to the Spark Tutorials course, but they cannot copy or embed them directly into their own courses. Because of the complexity of setting up the tutorials, I do not have the time to put them into other courses. Besides, if I did put them into other courses, the library would no longer have the ability to track the students that completed them. The badges also have to be set up separately and cannot be transferred between courses.
Faculty can’t copy the tutorials over, but since we use digital badges to recognize student completion, faculty can quickly check each student’s profile in Moodle to see if they’ve earned them or not, without me having to add them as a co-instructor to the Spark Tutorials course. The badges allow both the library and faculty to quickly track students that have completed the tutorials.
This is an immediate, practical use of badges, but long-term we plan to develop more tutorials and do more scaffolding of information literacy into campus curriculum, so we will also develop more and higher-level badges. Eventually, students will have high-level info lit badges that will a meaningful portfolio piece to show off to employers.
Q: To take the tutorial, students are required to log into your campus’ LMS. How does this aid you in analysis and assessment of the tutorial?
Having the tutorials live in our LMS makes it a seamless experience for students since students are already using the system for their other classes. They don’t have to set up an account or enter any personal information, they just have to self-enroll in the course.
Since I “own” the Spark Tutorials course in our LMS and I have an instructor role, I’m able to track student enrollment and completion, I can see what students are doing within the tutorials themselves (and how many attempts it takes to complete them), and I also have a short feedback form set up to collect any student comments or problems.
We’ve had 880 students self-enroll in the course since it was launched in August 2017, with 610 students completing the Finding Articles & Databases tutorial with a 100% score. We have a rich data set, and the opportunity to eventually see if students that complete the tutorials are more successful as college students.
Because the tutorials are packaged as SCORM, not only do they report scores to the LMS gradebook, they also collect data on what students are doing within the tutorials. I can see what questions they have trouble with, and I can see how many attempts it takes to complete a tutorial, and I can see how long it takes students to get through. Most students complete the Finding Articles and Databases tutorial in one attempt, and most take about 15 minutes to do it.
I have some work to do yet on doing more thorough assessment of the tutorials’ efficacy and impact on student success, but I’m really happy with the technological setup and how easy it is for students and faculty to access and use the tutorials.
Since we’re in the LMS, I know students’ names and I can inquire with our Institutional Research office to get demographic data on them. But, a major challenge I have is that I don’t know student motivation for self-enrolling in this course (beyond that of students required to complete these for the First Year Experience curriculum).
I assume most students self-enroll and complete the tutorials because their faculty assigned them, but I know of a handful of students that found and completed these on their own.
Some other libraries deal with this issue by asking students to enter demographic information at the beginning or end of a tutorial, and I may work on developing something similar so that I can do more targeted outreach and also redesign the tutorials as necessary for the learners that are using them.
Q: How have you promoted Finding Articles & Databases to students and faculty? What type of feedback have you received from each?
This is a real challenge for me, since this whole project is basically a one-woman show. I know that library administration is happy that we have an eLearning option now, but they have not provided any guidance in promoting these to faculty, and I’m not sure how best to do this myself.
I know that my colleagues are generally happy that we have these, but I don’t know if they’re promoting them to their faculty or not. I think we have a lot of work to do in figuring out how these fit into our library instruction program, and how we can leverage a flipped classroom format.
So, it’s actually really amazing that I’ve gotten the enrollments that I have! I think there is a word-of-mouth thing going on with faculty.
I have gotten mostly good feedback on these from students and faculty. Students have reported that they like the format–that these tutorials are somewhat “gamified” while still being instructive. Students report liking that they get instant feedback with the badge popping up as soon as they complete a tutorial.
Faculty like having an online option for library instruction, but don’t like having to go into each student’s profile to check for the badges to verify student completion. I would like to make it easier for faculty to confirm that their students completed the tutorials. I may set something up that allows students to enter their instructor’s name to automatically email them a report when they complete the tutorials.
Q: Any other comments or advice you want to share?
Overall, the Spark Tutorials project is a lot of work, especially since I have three more modules to develop yet besides ongoing maintenance.
But, it’s totally worth it. Since I launched this project in August 2016, over 550 students have completed all four tutorials in the first module, which represents more than 500 hours of student learning, without any librarian intervention.
Since a competency-based model of instruction requires students to master the aligned learning objectives, so I feel that these tutorials are a meaningful learning experience and serve as a useful foundation for further information literacy instruction.
Furthermore, this project is fairly scalable. If enrollments were to skyrocket, there is a chance that the course could crash, but this project is a major learning experience and now and then we encounter obstacles that we overcome. And how cool would it be to get so many students self-enrolling in library tutorials that they bring down the system?
Finally – if you are interested in learning more about how I set up badges on this project, if you would like a short tour of the Spark Tutorials course, or if you would like to try out full versions of the tutorials or even download the raw files under a Creative Commons license so that you can reuse them, you can do so on my website (see post on digital badges and on Spark Tutorials).
June 2017 Site of the Month