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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.

Top 5 Articles on Embedded Librarianship

Compiled and annotated by Lindley Homol and Elena Bianco, members of the DLS Research and Publications Committee.

As 2019 begins, our top 5 articles focus on embedded librarianship. The authors of the articles below provide overviews and examine best practices of embedded librarians at a variety of institutions. The articles examine how embedded librarians can integrate with programs, provide instruction, reference assistance and more while keeping scalability in mind.

Abrizah, A. and Inuwa, S. and Afiqah-Izzati, N. (2016). Systematic literature review informing LIS professionals on embedding librarianship roles. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 42(6), 636-643. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2016.08.010

Embedded librarianship currently receives renewed interest worldwide, seeks to bring the library and the librarian to users in their work environment. This paper identifies and documents embedding librarianship roles as reported in the Library and Information Science (LIS) literature. Method: A systematic literature review was conducted using methods promulgated by the Center for Reviews and Disseminations but adapted to the particular needs of this review. Various online databases were used. The search phrases used were: embedded librarianship, embedded librarians, blended librarian, integrated librarian, liaison librarian, information consultants, knowledge managers, and subject librarians. For inclusion, an article needed to contain a substantive description of the identified role and/or activity performed in embedding library practices. Papers that did not describe an actual (rather than proposed) embedding librarianship role were excluded. In total 102 articles were retrieved, 55 were found suitable for the review.

This article provides a comprehensive literature review of embedded librarianship roles. The various literature cited identified the roles of embedded librarians in academic libraries. Successful embedded librarianship incorporates functions such as information literacy instruction, reference services, assistance with research and other scholarly activities, distance and online learning as well as embedding in classrooms.

Connoly-Brown. M., Mears, K. & Johnson, M.E. (2016). Reference for the remote user through embedded librarianship. Reference Librarian, 57(3), 165-181. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2015.1131658

Embedded librarians serve an important role in assisting remote users. Despite the varying degrees of embeddedness, all maintain the goal of ensuring the same high-quality reference and instruction services that users have come to expect from the traditional library setting. Embedded librarians select and use technology that most effectively meets the needs of this unique user group. This technology can include the library Web site, course management systems, research guides, lecture and screen capture software, remote reference (including telephone, chat, and email), web conferencing, online survey tools, citation management, and social media.

This article provides an introduction to several different technologies librarians can use to support embedded reference and information literacy instruction for online and distance populations. One of the biggest challenges to embedded librarianship is scalability, so the authors helpfully provide both examples of how each technology could support an embedded librarian program and also important considerations to keep in mind. These tips should help new embedded librarians–or experienced embedded librarians interested in adopting a new technology–make an informed decision about which options are best for a given program.

Lysiak, L., Mross, E., & Raish, V. (2018). Across the campus and around the globe: Reaching online learners through high-level embedded librarianship. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 12(1-2), 13-34. https://doi.org/10.1080/1533290X.2018.1502717

The authors discuss an embedded librarian pilot project undertaken at an R1 university with a large population of online learners. In this model, librarians aimed for a more engaged approach by working with faculty and instructional designers in three upper-division online undergraduate political science courses over two semesters. The embedded librarians took an asynchronous online course developed by their online learning librarian to prepare them for the embedded role, and they were each given a librarian role in their university’s learning management system. At the end of the semester, the pilot was assessed through survey responses from instructors and students, as well as student coursework. Although student-librarian interaction varied across the pilot, all instructors believed that the embedded librarians helped to improve their students’ papers and citations and would want librarians to be embedded in their courses in the future.

High-level embedded librarianship can be a way to provide equivalent library services and support for distance or online learners. Student engagement with the embedded librarian can be encouraged through the design of graded library activities, though this extra engagement should be weighed against the extra time involved in grading and the librarian’s workload. Due to the asynchronous nature of the many online courses, it is important to count students’ engagement with learning objects or course guides into assessment, rather than just traditional student reference interactions with a librarian.

Olesova, L. A., & Melville, A.D. (2017). Embedded library services: From cooperation to collaboration to enhance student learning in asynchronous online course. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 11(3-4), 287-299. https://doi.org/10.1080/1533290X.2017.1404546

The authors present a case study of a long-running embedded role for a librarian with an online graduate course in instructional design. The embedded librarian was able to work cooperatively and then collaboratively with the course instructor to design the library interaction with the course, relying on a framework that considered learners, content design and organization, instructional strategies, issues in using the LMS for teaching and learning, and an evaluation of the embedded library instruction. Students’ performance on course assignments demonstrated a marked improvement in using citations, copyrighted materials, and reliable sources after the librarian was embedded.

This faculty-librarian collaboration was successful because it began with a cooperative approach in which the librarian determined which embedded resources to include. Once both the instructor and librarian are more aware of the resources students need, the relationship can evolve into a more collaborative one. Timing is key for embedding librarians into courses and should include significant planning time for outreach to online faculty and for the embedded librarian to develop or edit library content for the course.

Raish, V. (2018). Librarian role and embedded librarianship. Library Technology Reports, 54(5), 24-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/ltr.54n5

The article deals with the best practices derived from coordinating embedded librarians in the online environment regardless of school size and online presence based on the experiences of Penn State University. Such best practices included starting at the program level, valuing collaborations, and respecting one’s limits and expertise. The importance of asking questions related to the learning management system (LMS) is also cited.

It is important to recognize the strengths and limitations of the library in terms of being able to embed librarians in online courses. Recommended steps: Begin conversations with programs early. Discuss levels of access to courses, and determine which areas within a program’s curriculum are the best fit for embedded librarians. In addition, it is important to determine the interest and capacity of fellow librarians for embedding into programs. Assessments should be continuous with a focus on improvement.

Top 5 Articles on Reference Services & Information Literacy, July-September, 2018

Compiled and annotated by Kim Wobick and Beth Tumbleson, members of the DLS Research and Publications Committee.

Fall is here, the semester has begun and our thoughts revolve around reference and information literacy! These articles report on some great ideas and research on different ways to meet with students and raise awareness of your library’s resources that you can try out.

Bezet, A., Duncan, T., & Litvin, K. (2018). Implementation and evaluation of online, synchronous research consultations for graduate students. Library Hi Tech News.

Librarians at Northcentral University (NCU) identified the opportunity to assess their online synchronous research consultations for students, to both distinguish these consultations as a distinct library service as well as to measure the impact of these consultations on students’ learning and success. Almost 100% of the research consultations are provided to students at the graduate and doctoral level, with students actively working on their dissertations. Users requesting this type of appointment fill out a form on the library web site, with the option to choose a specific librarians. It is also required that all students view or attend the Searching 101 workshop before the appointment, so that the focus of the meeting is more advanced searching techniques. To assess the quality of the instruction and value of the information in these sessions, a post-survey was sent to both the student and their dissertation chair. The results of these surveys indicated high levels of satisfaction from both the student and faculty members.



Top 5 Articles on Accessibility, April – June, 2018

Compiled and annotated by Lindley Homol, Stephanie Weiss, and Denyse Rodrigues

Happy spring/early summer! It is the time of year many of us work on projects that take a bit more time and thought than typically available during the fall and winter terms. To inspire your work, we offer you a selection of articles on the accessibility of library tutorials, library websites, learning environments, and accessibility conversion processes for library collections.


Clossen, A., & Proces, P. (2017). Rating the accessibility of library tutorials from leading research universities. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 17(4), 803–823. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/672185

The authors selected a random sample of public-facing library tutorial materials from 71 public universities with the Carnegie Classification “Highest Research Activity” or R1. They describe the state of accessibility of these materials and identify common pitfalls in library-related accessible design. The team classified the materials into two categories – videos and web-based tutorials (continuous play vs. click-through) – and assessed them using a rubric focused on usability from the perspective of a disabled person. The team manually evaluated videos for five elements – type, captions, screen-audio coordination, link context, and length. With the help of two tools, AInspector and Functional Accessibility Evaluator, they evaluated web-based tutorials for six elements – headings, alternative text for images, skip-to-content links, tables, text chunking, and findability. Although guides such as Springhare’s LibGuides and similar in-house creations were excluded, the authors suggest that such reviews would be welcome additions to the literature.



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