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Top 5 Articles: Big Ideas for the New School Year

Compiled and annotated by Kim Wobick and Erica Getts, members of the DLS Research and Publications Committee.

Start off the new school year with a tasting of readings that may inspire you to try something new in your classroom! 

Giannetti, F. (2017). Against the grain: Reading for the challenges of collaborative digital humanities pedagogy. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 24(2-4), 257-269.


The author reviewed literature revolving around digital humanities pedagogy and faculty-librarian collaborations, reflecting on the challenge of this work and “lessons learned” through practice. The primary challenges highlighted in the literature included the relationship dynamics between the faculty member and librarian, which can be strained due to the humanities cultural viewpoint that individual work is more credible than collaborative. Active communication and planning can help aid in the development of a class exercise that is enriching. Another challenge presented is the technical expectations that faculty may have of their students and a misunderstanding of the amount of labor needed on the part of the librarian to confer knowledge of the technology used.  It is difficult to both teach technology, as well as provide an exercise for the student to demonstrate a critical understanding of the implications of the use and outcomes of the technology. Giannetti discusses that one should keep the complexity of the work required by a student to use the technology to a minimum and allow a deeper focus on reflection of the work product and outcomes.


Working in collaboration with faculty in digital humanities spaces is a great opportunity for both faculty and librarian to experiment with new tools, take risks in challenging students, and add to their own knowledge and practice. In a totally online environment, there may be even more challenges, and not every collaboration will be successful. What is important in teaching digital technology in an online environment is to leave space for communication with participants, having the faculty member present in any session, and view the sessions as sincere learning experience to enhance learning and increase the knowledge of all involved.

Goates, M. C., Nelson, G. M., & Frost, M. (2017). Search strategy development in a flipped library classroom: A student-focused assessment. College & Research Libraries, 78(3), 382–395. https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.78.3.382


When students do an assignment before attending a class, such as watching a recorded lecture or completing a tutorial, so they are ready to complete a task in class (what we used to think of as homework), that is known as a flipped class. A major advantage to flipping a class is that it gives  the instructor the ability to answer questions and help students along the way. This article focuses on a study completed by the authors where students in flipped library sessions complete an online tutorial before attending class and their scores on the in class assignment are compared against students in a typical lecture session to see if students in a flipped session improve better than students in a typical lecture session.


The results of the study showed that students in the typical lecture session did better developing a search strategy than those students in the flipped class. This was attributed to a variety of factors such as how recently students had watched the video before attending the class, the amount of attention they actually paid while viewing the tutorial, the type of materials being taught, and the fact that it was a one-shot where students were not receiving a grade based on their performance. Ultimately, each instructor should consider these factors and more to determine if a flipped class is appropriate for what they are teaching.

Gruber, A. M. (2018). Real-World Research: A Qualitative Study of Faculty Perceptions of the Library’s Role in Service-Learning. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(4), 671-692.


The author conducted a survey of faculty at Northern Iowa University who incorporated a service-learning (SL) element into their courses, specifically examining the perceptions that faculty held of the library’s role in SL courses. Literature has described that while faculty have incorporated library information literacy (IL) sessions into a non-SL course, they have not considered how librarians can contribute to the objectives of a SL course. The main themes of the survey were reported to be a lack of faculty awareness of library services and librarian’s skills, as well as perceiving the lack of time to incorporate an instruction session into an SL course. Faculty also perceived the quality of student research skills to be lacking, specifically in SL course research. Additionally, faculty may not realize that librarians are enabled to teach about non-scholarly sources as well as scholarly, and how experience in a SL course can be enhanced with research and students learning critical thinking skills.


As more online programs incorporate service learning into their curriculum, library instruction in a SL course will be important for libraries to do in order to demonstrate their partnership in developing student’s lifelong skills. Many of the same barriers that prevent faculty from including IL into a regular course are apparent in SL courses. Librarians are encouraged to involve faculty and academic departments to engage IL across an entire program. Conducting IL instruction in the digital classroom space may help both faculty and students make research connections to SL. 

Moran, C., & Mulvihill, R. (2016). Finding the balance in online library instruction: Sustainable and personal. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 11(1–2), 13–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/1533290X.2016.1223964


This paper presents five examples of instructional efforts designed to create a sustainable library presence in courses when the librarian to student ratio is disproportionate. This article gives practical tips on implementing each effort while weighing the pros and cons as experienced by the librarians at the University of Central Florida (UCF), a large public university. The authors of this paper, Moran and Mulvihill, present 3 tested and 2 untested methods. Before discussing their instructional methods, they make the point that what is sustainable, because budgets often constrict librarian availability, may not be what makes the library approachable. Scalable efforts include things like asynchronous library tutorials and other learning objects, which the student interacts with through their Learning Management System (LMS). The first method presented involves creating a series of tutorials that were designed to be embedded into courses. While these modules were heavily used by faculty, the faculty found the processes for embedding them confusing, there was no mediation from the library, librarians didn’t have access to students scores on the modules, and updating the modules was difficult to time in order not to interrupt students currently taking them. The next method they implemented was creating a course in the LMS that students in specific introductory course would automatically be enrolled in. This method allowed the librarians to monitor scores and had a ⅔ completion rate during its inaugural Fall semester, but if an instructor wanted to factor in student grades they had to manually import them into their course and using the scores was not mandated. The third method tested was being embedded as an instructor in a course. While this method had great outcomes, including relationship building among teaching faculty, it required 7 different librarians being embedded for 1 course. The 2 untested methods involve moving away from a multiple choice assessment to an assignment graded via a rubric and taking advantage of LibGuides LTI Tool in the LMS. 


In their experience, being personally embedded in a course has the best outcomes, but is not sustainable when librarian to student ratios are not aligned. Using technology to embed library content at point of need within a course’s LMS is a highly sustainable and effective method, even if it lacks the personalized touch.

Rensburg, E. S. J. V. (2018). Effective online teaching and learning practices for undergraduate health sciences students: An integrative review. International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences, 9, 73–80. doi: 10.1016/j.ijans.2018.08.004


This article is targeted to health sciences educators, but contains much information that librarians who are working with students living in a country outside of where their institution is located would find useful. Online education has become an option for students all over the globe, increasing access to education and flexibility of the learning experience. The author included a total of 42 articles in an integrative review that highlighted both positive outcomes and challenges that occur for both students and educators in an online learning environment. Positive outcomes reported include increased student satisfaction and motivation, along with enhanced problem solving and computer literacy skills. Among the challenges reported were issues with technology for both students and educators, including unstable internet connections. There may also be the challenge of having limited computer literacy, negative experiences with other students in a course, and experiencing information overload. 


The opportunity for librarians is to incorporate knowledge of both the positive outcomes and challenges of the online student through trying different methods of teaching and recognition of the varied levels of technological expertise. Incorporating positive practices and feedback into a session will help the student’s learning capacity and experience, as will having the instructor for the course attending online library instruction sessions.

Top 5 Articles on Technology

Compiled and annotated by Hui-Fen Chang and Tracy Coyne, members of the DLS Research and Publications Committee.

Hello and welcome to warmer weather! This quarter we focus on technology and how it can impact student engagement, boost learning, change behaviors, and create a sense of community. We hope you enjoy!

Kanzki-Veloso, E., Orellana, A., & Reeves, J. (2018). Teaching qualitative research online: Using technology to leverage student engagement. Distance Learning, 15(2), 5-13.

Using technology to teach graduate students qualitative research skills while simultaneously asking them to learn and give feedback on online applications may seem like a complicated mission but the authors of this article related how they accomplished it with good results. The learning outcomes, designed by three faculty members, included instruction in how to collect as well as analyze data using conventional and electronic means. Students used apps and established an online learning community to help them carry out their tasks.


The instructors used the ASSURE model to plan the assignment (analyze, state, select, utilize, require, evaluate). Students were required to use Google+, GoToTraining, and Blackboard, to complete the assignment. They used discussion boards to post their evaluations of the tools they were using and to share tips with fellow students. Among the apps that students reviewed were: Interviewer Assistant (create interview questions, store photos and videos); Observation 360 (compatible with iPhone and iPad, record observations, create reports); iTalk Recorder (capture and store voice recordings and easily share files); Dragon (transcribe spoken word with good accuracy, edit, and share); ATLAS.ti Mobile (enables management of large audio, video, and text files); MaxApp (tag, collect, and analyze audio, video, text, and photo files). The students initially balked at having to learn new applications on top of completing their regular assignment (i.e. understanding quantitative research) but in the end said that they valued learning about the technology and especially appreciated the online community they created.

Lewis-Pierre, LaToya, & Aziza, Khitam. (2017). Developing and implementing an interactive end-of-life education module using Raptivity and iSpring: Lessons learned. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 18(1), 9-15.

An instructor and learning designer created an interactive training module for first year nursing students using Raptivity and iSpring. The result was improved engagement in learning materials that cover the end-of-life training for these students.


The instructor and learning designer wanted to improve the delivery of end-of-life instructional materials for first-year nursing students at a four-year university. They were able to integrate a number of tools into Blackboard, their learning management system. Specifically, they embedded Raptivity, which provides game-based templates. They chose to use a 3-D museum template with two rooms and four walls. The walls contained the lesson’s text and audio narration of the script was added to accommodate different learning preferences. The instructor also used iSpring which enables the combining of several interactive tools under one application (PowerPoint slides were used along with YouTube videos and interactive quizzes). The students provided positive feedback on using this technology to learn about end-of-life subject matter and the instructor and learning designer, while admitting that a significant time investment was necessary to create such an interactive module, were pleased to offer their students a unique learning experience which resulted in improved engagement with the course content.

Dold, C. (2016). Rethinking mobile learning in light of current theories and studies. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 42(6), 679-686. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2016.08.004

This article reviews the current literature concerning the use of video as an instructional tool for mobile learning.  Rather than focusing on the technical challenges associated with videos, the author places emphasis on the pedagogical issues surrounding distance learning. Topics examined include how learning theories and our understanding of distance learners’ information seeking behaviors, preferences and motivation can offer important insight for designing effective instructional videos that facilitate learning in the mobile environment.    


 In this paper the author touches upon several key pedagogical issues concerning mobile learning and instructional videos. One such concern is learners’ proficiency with finding and using online information. Review of current studies indicates an increased number of students having access to mobile devices, but it also shows that they have a tendency to overestimate their ability and need instruction to refine their online searching skills.  So how can we as librarians reach these mobile users and offer assistance? Videos can serve some purpose, and yet the challenge is how to make videos that are relevant and engaging for learners. Learning theories and research on user preferences and motivation can shed light on developing instructional videos that promote efficient online learning.  For instance, Richard Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning emphasizes the use of multimedia in combining words and pictures in promoting deep learning, and the cognitive load theory which states that people learn better when a multimedia message is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.  In fact, findings from several research studies revealed that students learn better when instructional video is presented in segments and user-paced.  Research studies also showed that overwhelmingly college students prefer quick and easy access to information.  Knowing our learners and their preferences can inform our development of instructional videos that can result in improved engagement of our learners with the video content, and ultimately result in efficient learning.

Cunningham, P. D. (2017). Bridging the distance: Using interactive communication tools to make online education more social. Library Trends, 65(4), 589-613.

This paper offers an overview of existing literature on distance education.  Topics examined include the history of distance education and technologies, as well as the pedagogical foundations of online education, in particular, the behaviorist and the constructivist models of learning.  Cunningham discusses in great length the strengths as well as the limitations of e-learning tools like course management systems (CMSs), learning management systems (LMSs), and e-courses such as the massive open online course (MOOCs) in engaging learners and in facilitating online communication. Seeing learning as a socially constructed activity, Cunningham argues that distance students need to be able to effectively communicate in these e-learning systems in order to develop a learning community and to allow learning to take place.  She concludes the paper by stressing the importance of evaluating the quality and effectiveness of online communication in e-learning systems to help ensure student retention in distance education over time. 


This paper enhances our understanding of the historical background of distance education, the rationale for creating distance education to reach distance learners, and the availability of communication technologies in shaping the development of online learning and education. While distance education provides opportunities to reach distance learners, there still exists the concern about the efficiency of communication in the distance learning environment, particularly as learning is arguably a socially constructed activity.  While technologies like CMSs and LMSs have made online communication and social interaction possible for distance learners, there is a need for more research to assess and evaluate the efficacy of these e-learning systems for effective and efficient communication.  In addition, the author urges instructors to encourage student engagement and communication online. Only by doing so we can better ensure that distance learners can succeed in online courses and programs. This paper will serve an excellent resource for librarians who are interested and/or are new to the field of distance learning.

Cross, S., Sharples, M., Healing, G., & Ellis, J. (2019). Distance Learners’ Use of Handheld Technologies. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20(2), 224-241.

As handheld mobile devices have been adopted by students in recent years for completing their course assignments, a question arises as to whether this change has resulted in higher quality learning and whether students feel they are more successful when using these devices for class assignments.


The authors examined survey responses from 446 distance learners in the United Kingdom with the goal of determining how students used handheld mobile technology (e.g. tablets, e-readers, smartphones), whether they could learn just as well using handheld devices as they could in a more formal learning environment, and whether they changed their study behaviors. It was found that the more places students used their handheld devices, the greater the variety of tasks were that they attempted. As a result of the increased amount of tasks attempted, students reported that they felt more successful using their handheld device for assignments than they did when using more traditional means to complete their work. The majority of students said that using a handheld device made it easier for them to access resources and 40% said they changed their study behaviors as a result of using the handheld device. However, only one-third of students said they felt their work had improved.

ACRL DLS Member of the Month: July 2019

The ACRL Distance Learning Section (DLS) Membership and Event committee is continuing a “Member of the Month” initiative to highlight our diverse members.  Here is our highlight on Mou Chakraborty, Director of External Library Services at Salisbury University Libraries. 

If you are interested in being or nominating an ACRL DLS “Member of the Month”, please fill out this brief nomination/sign up form.

Name: Mou Chakraborty

How long have you been a DLS member?
17 years and counting!

Where do you work and what do you do there?
I’m the Director of External Library Services at Salisbury University Libraries. I’m the point person for all things distance library services.

What is unique about your institution, and how does your work as a distance services librarian support the mission?
The library has a Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with different institutions in the Maryland area where SU has satellite locations. I touch base with the heads of these libraries to discuss if the needs of the students there are met satisfactorily. In most cases, however, the distance students directly contact me or the SU library. SU Libraries prides in adhering to the ACRL DLS Standards providing excellent services to distance students. I led the Distance Education Task Force which came up with a comprehensive report with short term and long term recommendations. I’ve done several surveys of distance students and faculty. I have created and maintain the Distance Library Services LibGuide. I work with other subject liaisons providing them with the support as needed for distance students in their departments. SU provides a multi-week faculty development program Soaring with Learning to prepare faculty to design, develop and deliver online and hybrid courses. I’m the facilitator for the week on library resources and am embedded in the course.

How do you bridge the distance with online learners? What’s one way you create community for your distance learners?
Often distance students feel isolated having no real connection to the campus. In every interaction I have with these students, I reinforce that they may be far, far away but not lost in the galaxy; help is a phone call or a click away. I created a Star Wars inspired video for our Social Work students who are all over the world which was received very well! Communication and collaboration are the key! I do information literacy via IVN, online, and even F2F. If I’m doing a F2F session on campus, we have ‘Zoomed’ in distance students.

I’m embedded in many courses where I ‘own’ a discussion thread (Ask Mou- the Library Guru!). I also embed course-specific LibGuides. I’ve created an Outreach Plan for distance library services and have realized some of the goals including a Blind Date with a Book, promoting services and resources on our social media during Distance Learning Week. We’ve also featured a distance student during that week on the library FaceBook page as well as in our library newsletter. On a regular basis, I interact with them via chat, email, send them short videos; I do longer IL sessions via Zoom.

How do you recharge your knowledge of distance library services?
I’ve learned so much about distance library services from my former boss at my previous institution who introduced me to ACRL/DLS. Since, then I’ve met some amazing people in the section, and working with them on different committees has been an enriching experience. The DLS conference was my favorite (felt like a home base!) and I’ve learned a lot attending sessions and/or networking with colleagues. I also keep up with professional readings and getting information posted on various listservs. The webinars that different ACRL/DLS committees organize are relevant and informative.

What’s something fun that you’re doing now (outside of your work as a distance librarian)?
Recently I was busy planning my son’s video games birthday party so I had to do a crash course on Fortnite 101 (seriously what up with that llama?!). I love coordinating theme parties. My son got me hooked onto Pokemon Go and now transitioning to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite! 🙂

What are you reading right now?
Pemberley: Or Pride and Prejudice Continued (a left over from our Blind Date with a Book), Percy Jackson – The Lightning Thief (for the mother-son book club that I initiated). I’m also re-watching the Harry Potter movies as I’m coordinating and leading a Harry Potter themed camp (Make your Own Magic: Ingenuity and Self-Reliance through YA Literature).

Twitter, LinkedIn, or other handles you would like us to share?
Twitter- @libmou

What else would you like us to share about you?
I was a medical librarian in my other life! In my previous position as a distance and instructional technology librarian, I traveled all over the country and some overseas! I’m a trained Indian classical dancer, so I choreograph and direct shows.

DLS events at ALA Annual

If you’re attending ALA Annual in DC, please consider joining us at any of our DLS-hosted events and meetings! Check out the poster below or see our calendar for details.

[Note: To open hyperlinks, please view the full PDF document here.]

DLS Events at ALA Annual 2019


Questions? Contact Conference Program Planning Committee Chairs, Sam Harlow (slharlow@uncg.edu) or Mike Courtney (micourtn@indiana.edu).

We hope to see you there!

ACRL DLS Member of the Month for May 2019

The ACRL Distance Learning Section (DLS) Membership and Event committee started a “Member of the Month” initiative to highlight our diverse members.  Here is our highlight on Matthew LaBrake, Senior Director, Online Library & Technology Services at Berkeley College.

If you are interested in being or nominating an ACRL DLS “Member of the Month”, please fill out this brief nomination/sign up form.


Matt LaBrake

Name:  Matthew LaBrake

How long have you been a DLS member?

5 years

Where do you work and what do you do there?

I serve as the Senior Director, Online Library & Technology Services, at Berkeley College. I provide leadership and vision for all aspects of distance learning library services, while also working across our seven physical campuses and Berkeley College Online in the exploration and integration of new and emerging technologies for teaching, learning and creative inquiry. My responsibilities span across budgeting, staffing, strategic planning, policy, electronic collection development, system administration, reference, instruction, assessment, and virtual co-curricular programming.

What is unique about your institution, and how does your work as a distance services librarian support the mission?

At Berkeley College, we pride ourselves in ensuring our distance learners receive the same level of services and support as their onsite peers; and thus have a dedicated staff and budget to support the online library. We have over 1,200 students completing degree programs completely online, and over a third of our campus based students are taking at least one online class. Berkeley College Online is certified by the United States Distance Learning Association for excellence in distance learning, and we have been ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs by US News and World Report for six consecutive years. I lead a team of online librarians in support of the College’s mission. We offer a comprehensive embedded librarian program, live virtual reference services 90 hours a week, and an array of virtual events and clubs available to all students.

How do you bridge the distance with online learners? What’s one way you create community for your distance learners?

We connect with students through synchronous chat, text messaging, and video conferences. An automated appointment-booking tool allows online students to schedule research consultations to be held through Zoom. As many of our online students are working parents, I hire part time librarians who work remotely to support our virtual reference at night and on weekends. The library presence is fully embedded in our learning management system as a tab in every course, and we’ve introduced LTIs that allow for our electronic resources and instructional materials to be embedded at point-of-need within course shells. Librarians work closely with faculty to provide information literacy instruction in online courses, often creating assignments and facilitating weeklong discussions where students apply research skills in relation to course learning outcomes. Some of us create brief video introductions as to apply a level of personalization to our interactions with online students.

We’ve been very successful in building community for distance learners through virtual co-curricular programming initiatives, often in collaboration with faculty and other student support departments. We host an Online Book Club on Goodreads where students participate in asynchronous discussions each term. Book discussions are typically supplemented with live streamed author events where online students can relay questions to guest speakers in real time. We host many other online programs, some of which include a Virtual Art & Creativity Festival, Online Essay Contest, Virtual Field Trips, Online Chat-and-Chews, and Virtual Scavenger Hunts. We find many of our onsite students also participate in these activities, connecting our entire student population across our campuses and virtually.

How do you recharge your knowledge of distance library services?

I’m a lifelong learner, regularly attending and presenting at state and national conferences on topics related to distance learning, online library services, instructional design, online student engagement, and emerging technologies for teaching and learning. I’ve attended the last couple DLS conferences and have found them to be an excellent course of inspiration and networking. I also make an effort to participate in non-library-specific conferences such as OLC and EDUCAUSE. I’m a member of the DLS Instruction Committee and help plan professional development activities for librarians. I also stay up to date by reading the latest library publications, and networking with other librarians through Listservs and other channels like Slack and LinkedIn.

What’s something fun that you’re doing now (outside of your work as a distance librarian)?

My role allows me to work closely with faculty and librarians to evaluate and implement new and emerging technologies for teaching and learning. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to drive innovation with augmented and virtual reality at Berkeley. I recently led a Virtual Reality Faculty Interest Group that led to new research on the impact of VR on student engagement and learning. I’ve also collaborated with campus librarians to develop an Augmented Reality Mobile Scavenger Hunt to orient students to our libraries through a gamified hands-on experience. My continued research interest is around the impact of these technologies on distance learning.

My wife and I are expecting a baby boy later this month and I can’t wait to be a dad!

What are you reading right now?

“Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” by Joseph Aoun, “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss, and “The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be” by Armin Brott.

Twitter, LinkedIn, or other handles you would like us to share?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewlabrake/

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