Home » Distance Library Instruction Virtual Poster Session (Spring 2019) » Making It Personal: Applying Principles of Active Learning and Backward Design to an Online Library Orientation for Distance Students


ACRL DLS Chair: Natalie Haber
Vice-Chair: Amanda Ziegler
Secretary: Stephanie Espinoza Villamor
Archivist: Andrea Hebert
Webmasters: Katie Stewart and Matthew Stevons (dlswebcontact@gmail.com)
Members-at-Large: Karla Aleman and Jennifer Rundels

Making It Personal: Applying Principles of Active Learning and Backward Design to an Online Library Orientation for Distance Students

This poster is part of the Distance Library Instruction Virtual Poster Session hosted by the ACRL DLS Instruction Committee. We encourage you to ask questions and engage in discussion on this poster! Authors will respond to comments between April 1-5.


Audrey Gunn, Mississippi State University

Poster Description:

Recently, the Mississippi State University Libraries redesigned our orientation session for incoming distance students; our goal was to more clearly focus the orientation on key concepts, while also personalizing the content. This poster describes how we applied principles of backward design and active learning to achieve our goal.


(Click below to enlarge the image. A text transcript is also available.)

About the Presenter

Audrey Gunn is the Instruction/Distance Education Librarian and an Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University.


  1. Hi Audrey, thanks so much for sharing your poster! I really liked the idea of having the Distance Education Librarian provide individualized feedback on the quizzes. How many students usually take the orientation? Is it difficult to provide individualized feedback for all of them?

    Michelle Keba
    Reference Librarian
    Palm Beach Atlantic University

    • Hi Michelle,

      I’ve had anywhere from about 9-28 students complete the orientation in a week; the average is probably around 16 or so. I usually don’t find it difficult to provide personal feedback to each of them; for many students, it can be as simple as saying “Nice job on the quiz! [The subject specialist you named] is a great librarian for you to contact with questions.” Then I’ll usually provide my contact information and reiterate that they’re free to reach out to me with questions as well.

      If I have a student who struggles a bit more with the quiz, it can take longer to provide feedback, but I typically try to address any questions that I feel are particularly important to their success. For example, if I have a business student who lists the humanities librarian as “their” subject specialist, or a student who names a book when I’ve asked for a database, I make sure to direct them towards the right answer and explain again how to find that information on our website. I don’t usually worry too much about providing feedback on the multiple-choice questions; I have any feedback I want to provide for those questions automated in Canvas.

      I’d say that grading takes about 2 hours a week on average, including recording statistics and answering any questions in the discussion board, though it can definitely take longer if it’s a bigger group of students!


  2. HI Audrey-

    Thank you for the reminder and encouragement to use backward design when designing or redesigning instructional activities. Backward design was something I didn’t learn in library school. I learned about it as a higher-ed librarian, and it really helped me embrace the idea that I was an educator!

    Do you feel with this orientation students are more likely to reach out to you and the library when they start their courses? If this happens, do you ever ask them to remember something from the orientation. For example, “To find information about xyz, I’d suggest using the Education Source database. Do you remember your orientation and the section on finding databases and brainstorming keywords?…..”

    Best, Jenni CityU Seattle

    • Hi Jenni,

      We only launched the redesigned orientation in late December of 2018 (for the last orientation of the semester, actually), so we haven’t had a ton of time yet to see how it will impact student behavior. Students completing the orientation this semester will start classes this summer or fall, so hopefully we’ll see results at that point!

      Since this version of the orientation is still relatively new, I can’t really refer back to it when helping students yet, but that’s something I might be able to do in the future. Another difficulty with referring back to the orientation is that it’s optional for grad students (not a decision the library has control over), so when working with distance grad students, we don’t know whether they ever completed the orientation. One thing I will do occasionally when helping distance students on chat is link them to the videos (which are all available on YouTube) if I feel like they’d be helpful.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *