May 2017 Site of the Month

PRIMO Site of the Month: May 2017

Title: Y Search


Elise Silva

Institution: Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University

Interviewees: Elise Silva, Leanna Fry-Balci
Interviewer: Gabriel Duque

Description (provided by the author):  

Y Search is a website produced by library instructors at Brigham Young University for use in blended learning instruction with First-Year Writing (FYW) classes. Our FYW classes come in for one week’s worth of instruction (two to three class periods), and the Y Search modules help students learn content outside of class so instructors have more time to problem-solve in class. Y Search currently has four modules: background research, topic development, search strategies, and source evaluation. As the need for more instruction increases, librarians hope to expand Y Search to include other modules like critical reading strategies and synthesizing information.

Each module includes two embedded videos. Librarians wanted these videos to be as brief as possible, so each video is limited to two minutes. The videos are followed by a suggested homework assignment students complete before coming to class, an interactive learning tool where students can practice concepts taught in the video tutorials, and extra links to more video tutorials (not produced by BYU) that provide more instruction on a given topic.

Q:  What inspired you to create the Y Search tutorial and who was your intended audience?

A:  Instruction librarians were having a hard time moving away from “point and click” instruction, feeling the need to cover too much material in class. Short tutorials delivered outside of class, combined with in-class instruction, would maximize library interventions in student learning. Instruction librarians use Y Search with first-year writing students, but research consultants working in the Research and Writing Center use the tutorials for students who are confused, and even advanced writing classes link to Y Search to make sure students have a certain understanding of the research process before advanced library research sessions.

Q:  How did you develop the content and structure of the tutorial and how long did it take you?

A:  Instruction librarians began writing the scripts for the tutorials in March 2016 and the video tutorials were recorded and produced in April and May. Interactive tutorials were produced in June 2016, and everything was loaded onto the finished website for us to beta-test our product on a small group of students in summer 2016.

The content and structure of the tutorials were inspired by the first-year writing library sessions conducted at BYU. The trajectory of the tutorials follow a research process prescribed by the “issues paper” that Writing 150 students compose for their classes. Instruction librarians first noticed students had a hard time choosing and narrowing a topic–thus the modules on background research and topic narrowing. Instruction librarians then realized that while students may learn search strategies in class, they quickly forgot these strategies after class. This led to the search strategies module where students could return and continue to hone skills like database searching. Finally, in the Google age, instructors wanted some thoughtful ways students could assess information sources for reliability. The source evaluation module was borne from this need. Production for all eight video tutorials and four interactive tutorials took six months. Assessment is ongoing.

Q:  Who was involved in the development of the tutorial?

A:  Elise Silva, Freshman Programs Librarian, wrote the scripts and consulted with the student employees throughout the process. Leanna Fry-Balci, Advanced Writing Librarian and iLearning Supervisor, oversaw the project management process throughout.

These librarians worked with a team of two to three student employees who helped with the production of the video and interactive tutorials. Finally, a full-time Senior Software Engineer uploaded the tutorial content onto the website he created.

Q: The tutorial has a clean and attractive design. Was a designer part of this team? Did you need to seek any “outside” expertise?

A:  All design was done in-house. Our student employees were particularly talented, and one had extensive background in graphic design. After consulting with Elise, this student employee put together a color palette and design template on which all of the video production was based.

Q: All of the videos used were created by the BYU Library. Who was involved in the creation of the videos? Did you consider outside videos?

A: We looked at vendor products, and although we liked many of them, they didn’t cover all of our needs, and many (especially the video tutorials) were too long for our liking. Because we wanted this final product to speak directly to the need of our first-year writing students, we collaborated with the FYW program (seeking feedback from teachers and administrators throughout the process) to create our own set of tutorials.

Q:  What technologies do you use for this tutorial? Why did you choose them?

A: All video tutorials were built using Adobe After Effects, which allowed us to create the cutout images and animation. We used Adobe Captivate for the interactive modules. Our students were trained on Adobe products, so it allowed them to create the tutorials easily in these platforms. Also, Adobe Captivate runs well on multiple platforms, and we were able to modify the images so they would display well on any number of devices, from desktop computers to smartphones.

Q:  How long did it take to create the Y Search tutorial?

A:  Production for all eight video tutorials and four interactive tutorials took six months. Assessment is ongoing.

Q:  Were there any best practices and/or accessibility guidelines you followed while creating the tutorial?

A:  We tried to keep the length of the videos short to cater to short attention spans, and let the writing instructors modify the homework assignments on a case-to-case basis. This means that the writing instructors might choose to add questions or change questions to best fit their classes. The point of the homework assignments was for students to put into practice the ideas discussed in the videos, which could be accomplished in a variety of ways. Some writing instructors, for example, instead of using the suggested assignment for module #4, have their students do an annotated bibliography instead.

We also provided closed captioning on the videos as an accessibility consideration.

Q:  Have you done any assessment of the tutorial? If so, what did you find out?

A:  In the summer of 2016 we surveyed students, writing instructors, and library instructors extensively about their experience using the tutorials, and made final changes to the beta product based on their feedback. One change that was particularly helpful was to make the interactive learning activities more visible. In our first version, the tools merely linked to the page via text that said “interactive learning tool.” In the most recent version, the activities have a more visible logo or “button” that calls attention to them.

Furthermore, in fall 2016, Elise Silva administered a post-test to willing student participants to see what research abilities these learners maintained one month after instruction. Data are still being analyzed, and that post-test will be administered again in 2017 for instruction librarians to compare data sets.

Q:  How have you promoted the Y Search tutorial with students and faculty?

Because Y Search is a blended learning tool used in class, when we launched the product we created a promotional video that was emailed to all writing instructors. At the beginning of the first semester it was in use, we held a training with all of the writing instructors as well to teach them about the new tool.

Instruction librarians were involved in giving feedback for the modules from the beginning, but at semesterly trainings more information was provided on how best to engage in blended learning and how the tutorials could be incorporated into lesson plans.

Q: Did you encounter any difficulties or unexpected challenges along the way, and how did you overcome them?

A: Staff turnover (including student employees) has been our biggest challenge. After we conceived of the idea for the website, our iLearning supervisor (who oversaw the students that created the tutorials) moved to another position, leaving instruction librarians to “run the show,” so to speak. Also, because we rely so heavily on our student employees, having any of them leave while a tutorial is in production is particularly difficult for project management.

Q: The tutorials are licensed under a Creative Commons license. Have other libraries adapted the Y Search tutorial?

A:  Not that we know of, but they would be easy enough to hyperlink. The video and interactive tutorials are open access, so if an institution wanted to use them, they would merely need to know the “” web address, pick the tutorial they wanted, and hyperlink to it from their own LibGuide. Libraries could choose to link specific video tutorials via YouTube, or could link to an entire module of Y Search if interested.

Q:  Do you have any recommendations or advice for librarians interested in developing something similar?

A: Hire good help. We relied heavily on talented student employees. By tapping into the resources students offer, we were able to mentor, and build great professional relationships with these employees, as well as help build their resumes. Another tip would be to collaborate with other people in the library if possible. Since library instructors aren’t web designers, we were lucky to have an individual in the library willing to help us with the web design. That way we didn’t have to outsource any of the work.

A final piece of advice is to be mindful of stakeholders. We solicited much feedback throughout the process from all parties involved. This has resulted in not only a better final product, but also more stakeholder buy-in and use of the product.