Title: Selecting Keywords to Search
Authors: Auburn University Libraries: Delaney Bullinger, Toni Carter; Auburn Online: Shawndra Bowers, Andrew Lee, Ashlie Pincince, Jeremy Roberts
Institution: Auburn University
Interviewee: Delaney Bullinger
Interviewer: T. Eloise Stevens
Description of Project (provided by authors):
This tutorial is intended for novice researchers who need to search a library database. It walks students through the keyword selection process, teaching them how to choose keywords related to their research question, and brainstorm related terms to search. The tutorial includes written instruction, videos, and hands-on practice. It incorporates assessment through a flashcard sorting activity and uses embedded forms to capture student responses on an activity asking for their research questions and potential keywords.
Q: Why did you choose to create an online mini-course to teach students about keyword selection?
A: We changed our approach to information literacy instruction for the first-year composition program by moving from in-person to online. This tutorial is part of a larger Canvas (Our institution’s LMS) course developed for composition that guides students through the entire research process, from recognizing the value of different source types to developing a topic, through keyword selection and database searching, finding books in the catalog, and recognizing and preventing plagiarism. Many of the composition instructors require their students to use a general library database for their assignments, so brainstorming keywords for database searching was a lesson that needed to be replicated online.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the steps of making this tutorial a reality after conceiving the learning outcomes? What stakeholders worked together and how were the different elements of the tutorial conceptualized?
A: Auburn Online is a central unit with a team of instructional, multimedia, and graphic designers, audio and video production specialists, and software developers who work with subject matter experts to produce engaging learning experiences. After the tutorial objectives were identified, librarians worked closely with instructional designers to leverage appropriate learning theories and determine the best strategies for students to asynchronously learn the necessary skills for identifying keywords. Auburn Online utilizes a course development process in which instructional designers serve as project managers and coordinate with the visual designers and software developers to produce the designed learning experience. This process allowed for iteratively developing the tutorial, allowing librarians to provide feedback along the development process. Once the tutorial was completed, the Libraries’ technical team and the LMS administrators at Auburn provided technical support to publish the tutorial.
Q: How did learning theory guide your approach to creating this tutorial?
A: The lesson centers on the “Research as Inquiry” frame of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education; while it explains the keyword selection process, it also plants the seed of why the keyword selection process is important. We wanted students to have an active, concise, and meaningful experience. We focused on what students need to know rather than what it would be nice for students to know. We also wanted students to consider their own topic and research, just as we had asked them to do during the in-person sessions. We aligned the tutorial with our program’s instruction philosophies, therefore we designed it so students were active participants rather than a passive viewers.
Q: Can you share a bit about the software and technical choices made in creation of this module? Are there any programs you would recommend to colleagues looking to create similar lessons?
A: The tutorial developers used Articulate 360, which includes Storyline 360 and Rise 360, to develop the learning experience because it (1) provided flexibility with hosting the content either on a website or within the LMS, (2) allowed ADA accessibility requirements to be met as part of the design, and (3) provided a toolset for adding interactive components to the tutorial. Auburn Online and Auburn University Libraries have learned through experience that learning experiences are not about a specific tool. Instead, we first seek to determine the learning objectives and best strategies for designing that learning experience, then identify tools that can help deliver the learning effectively.
Q: How did you incorporate accessibility standards in the creation and delivery of this lesson?
A: Auburn Online designs learning to meet Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines. The UDL framework addresses strategies for developing learning that has multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement. UDL expands the ways learners interact with content. As part of the guidelines, the course development process addresses efficient and accessible navigation, closed captioning, and transcripts for videos, and text and visual content.
Q: How is this tutorial being used across campus? Have you seen it integrated into online and in-person courses in different ways?
A: The tutorial is primarily being used as part of a larger online information literacy instruction curriculum for first-year composition that is embedded in Canvas. Instructors copy the modules into their existing courses, and the keyword selection tutorial is set up as a graded assignment that students complete. Currently, the modules (and thus the tutorial) are being used in fifteen sections of the first-year composition course, and we hope to eventually reach all sections. Because this tutorial is being used as part of an online curriculum, it’s hard to know if or how instructors are utilizing it in an in-person class, but we have heard that some instructors are doing the tutorial as an in-class activity before assigning a research paper. We hope to get a better sense of how instructors use the tutorial as more instructors begin incorporating it into their curricula. The web version of the tutorial is accessed by URL, so students outside of the first-year composition course can access it even if it is not assigned in their course. As of this writing, 72 students have completed the tutorial this semester, all from composition courses.
Q: I was impressed by the “Your Turn” active learning exercises. What do you do with course codes and other information collected in these interactive sections?
A: The “Your Turn” sections in the tutorial are used to provide feedback to instructors and to assess the tutorial. The first “Your Turn” form asks students to pull keywords from an example research question, and the second asks them to do the same with their own preliminary research questions. The “Your Turn” forms send data to a Google sheet, which are copied and sent to the instructor of that course section. We use this data to determine if the tutorial needs to be enhanced or changed, and instructors use it to know if they need to re-emphasize how to develop a research question at the beginning of an assignment.
Q: How has the team been assessing the use of this tutorial? How are the stated learning objectives assessed?
A: Ideally, we will meet with each instructor to discuss their students’ responses to the “Your Turn” survey. Until we reach that level of collaboration, we will want to analyze each students’ response using a rubric and then present the findings to the composition program as a whole. We are not currently assessing the quality of students’ research questions, but rather the keywords pulled from those questions. Based on our assessment, we have already found that there is a need for further instruction around topic and question formulation.
An overarching goal of this project was to attempt to ensure that all first-year composition students are receiving the same level and quality of instruction. Auburn University has a general education learning outcome that is based around the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, and the tutorial will help assess the Libraries’ role in achieving this outcome.
Q: I see a link at the bottom of the lesson page to a course on using Academic Search Premier. How does this lesson on selecting keywords fit in to your library’s overall instruction program?
A: The tutorial is part of our larger online instructional content in Canvas for first-year composition. We are still developing our online instruction program, but we hope to have additional tutorials that form a series on introductory research skills, including topic development, keyword selection, searching Academic Search Premier, evaluating web sources, and using sources responsibly.
Q: What major challenges have you faced in creating this tutorials? Based on this experience, what would you recommend to other libraries seeking to create similar learning materials?
A: The biggest challenge we have faced is in implementation. Since library instruction is not a mandatory part of the composition curriculum, our implementation has been more gradual. The feedback we’ve received from composition instructors who have used the tutorial is overwhelmingly positive, so we hope that implementation will expand as instructors tell one another about the tutorial. If we were to start from scratch, we would continue partnering with Auburn Online, as their knowledge of online instructional technology has been instrumental. We would approach the online instruction program more strategically, beginning with a topic development tutorial and then moving into keyword selection and creation. We would create a goal of having a comprehensive suite of tutorials encompassing the research process for novice learners. We would also think about the logistics in more detail: creating dedicated server space on a library-owned server and figuring out where to host the web tutorial on the library website. We would think about other indicators of success, like embedding a Google analytics code in the tutorial to provide more quantitative usage feedback.