December 2016 Site of the Month

Title: Introduction to Tripod


Authors: Alex Pfundt, Olivia Castello, Arleen Zimmerle, & Christine Boyland

Institution: Bryn Mawr College

Interviewee: Alex Pfundt
Interviewer: Rebecca Maniates

Tutorial description (provided by author): This interactive tutorial provides an introduction to searching Tripod, the library catalog of the Tri-College Libraries (Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College and Swarthmore College), and covers searching for known items and items by topic and finding physical items in the library using Library of Congress call numbers. This tutorial was developed as part of a larger project to “flip” one-shot library instruction and further explore the benefits of blended learning in the liberal arts.

Q: What led to the creation of the Introduction to Tripod tutorial?

A: Back in 2014, Bryn Mawr received a substantial grant from the Mellon Foundation to explore blended learning to enhance teaching and learning in the humanities and social sciences. The research and instruction librarians saw this as an opportunity to breathe new life into our one-shot instruction sessions, so we applied for and received a seed grant from that larger grant to create a suite of tutorials we could use to “flip” our one-shot library instruction sessions and conduct direct assessment of student learning. We identified several generic student learning outcomes we thought could be effectively delivered through digital learning objects, thus freeing up class time for more active learning exercises focusing on discipline-specific information practices. An introduction to searching our catalog seemed like an obvious choice, since we often encounter students in our classes who have had little to no experience searching for materials in a library, or they had made an attempt but gave up because they didn’t understand the call number system. The other tutorials we created cover other basic library research skills, like using interlibrary loan services, finding full text articles, and searching for peer-reviewed literature in databases.

Q: Who was involved in the creation of the tutorial? What was everyone’s role?

A: At the early stages of development, Arleen Zimmerle, our Humanities & Media Librarian, and Chris Boyland, our Senior Educational Technology Specialist, began outlining what would be included in the Tripod tutorial. Olivia Castello, our Social Sciences Librarian, and I had concurrently been working on the other tutorials and getting to know the ins and outs of the software in the process. I later came back to the Tripod tutorial, taking some of the ideas that Arleen and Chris had and developing them further by creating the simulations and quizzing. A student employee also worked on the graphics for the call number module.

Q: Did you collaborate with any stakeholders outside the Bryn Mawr College Library as you developed the tutorial?

A: Yes, we worked with a faculty member, Betty Litsinger, to test out an early version of the tutorial in several sections of a course for multilingual writers. By piloting the tutorial in a course, we were able to informally poll students to gain some user feedback when we visited the class to teach the lesson. Even small amounts of anecdotal feedback helped us make significant improvements. We also had several other faculty members who partnered with us to pilot early iterations of the other tutorials in their courses.

Q: Who is the intended audience, and what is the primary intended use of the Introduction to Tripod tutorial? Is it integrated into classes, workshops, assignments, etc.?

A: We intended this tutorial to be for first-years mostly, although it’s appropriate for any student who has not had practice using the catalog to find materials in the library. We’ve also found it to be helpful for first semester graduate students in our social work program, many of whom have not had recent experience using a research library or have never searched an online library catalog.

We’ve integrated the tutorial into several courses for which we do library instruction. Typically, we’ll ask the teaching faculty to assign the tutorial as homework to be completed prior to the librarian’s visit. This allows the librarian to then plan an in-class exercise that might require some interaction with the catalog as part of a more complex information literacy exercise, and not have to spend valuable class time on teaching the catalog. We’re essentially providing procedural scaffolding so that our students are able to use the tools and resources effectively to achieve the learning outcomes of the lesson in the classroom.

I’ve also started making the Tripod tutorial part of orientation workshops by asking students to complete them in the classroom while I’m there with them. All of our tutorials are available publicly  in our LibGuides too, which is the version now included in PRIMO, and we encourage students to complete them on their own time when appropriate.

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

A: We used Articulate Storyline for this tutorial and the others as well. I was particularly interested in software that would support active learning exercises; we did not want to simply make screencasts that students would watch passively. I spoke to several librarians from other institutions who had experience making interactive web objects and all of them recommended Storyline for its ease of use and its familiar PowerPoint-like interface. We also wanted to make sure we selected software that would support a variety of different media formats. Storyline has the capability of publishing in both Flash and HTML5, which we use for our public version, and  SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), which we use when embedding the tutorials in courses in the LMS.

Q: Were there any best practices and/or accessibility guidelines you tried to follow while creating this tutorial?

A: I’m particularly fond of the work Loyola Marymount University has done with their first-year information literacy tutorials, so we followed some of the best practices suggested by their library staff. Articulate also offers some guidelines on accessibility, so by following those we tried to make informed decisions about what kinds of interactions to include and what to avoid. For example, we chose not to build any drag and drop interactions into the tutorials since we knew that these could not be keyboard-controlled. However, we couldn’t avoid the use of hotspot interactions for many of the simulated search exercises, which are not always keyboard controlled. This is something we are keeping an eye on as the software evolves to include more accessibility features. Right now, we are in the stage of creating accessible PDF versions of the tutorials based on the principles of universal design for learning.

Q: From planning to launch, how long did it take to complete the project? Was it more or less time than you originally had planned?

A: We started the process early in the spring semester of 2014, but didn’t purchase the software until the beginning of May 2014. We then spent the majority of the summer building and testing the tutorials. We had two completed by the end of August 2014. The Tripod tutorial wasn’t completed until early in the spring semester of 2015. So, I would say that for the development of the web objects themselves, it took the better part of a year, but the assessment project, the one for which we received the Mellon grant, took about a year and a half. I actually did not know how long it would take originally, but considering the amount of effort that went into the project, the timeline seems appropriate.

Q: Did you encounter any difficulties or unexpected challenges along the way?

A: The biggest challenge was figuring out how best to incorporate live search experiences into the tutorials. Initially, we thought we could embed our catalog within the tutorial as a web object and create a kind of Guide on the Side-like experience, but we quickly realized that the software really wasn’t built for that. This is how we ended up creating the step-by-step activities that simulate the experience of searching in the actual catalog. Creating the simulations is time consuming because you have to build the interactions frame by frame. Also, any time a change is made to the interface or functionality of the catalog, the tutorial needs to be updated to reflect it. We intend to review and revise each tutorial annually over the summer.

Another challenge was figuring out how to get the tutorials to work in Moodle, our Learning Management System (LMS). I mentioned before that Storyline can publish your tutorial as a SCORM package, which is the format that allows Storyline to track user activity and report back to the LMS for assessment purposes. Having an educational technologist on our team who knew the ins and outs of Moodle was key.

Q: How does Introduction to Tripod relate to your other tutorials?

A: Our tutorials introduce students to several interconnected library systems. In a sense, it would be difficult to fully understand what interlibrary loan is without having a basic understanding of the catalog, and vice versa. We felt that if every student could perform these basic tasks, or at the very least know of their existence, we’d be able to move onto more advanced topics in the classroom.

Q: Have you assessed the effectiveness of the tutorial in meeting your established objectives/goals?

A: We have not done direct assessment of the Introduction to Tripod tutorial yet, but we have done extensive direct assessment on the other three tutorials in our suite, and based on those results, we feel confident that the Tripod tutorial has had a positive effect on learning. Our intention from the start of the project was to not only build these tutorials, but also to partner with teaching faculty to assess whether or not the flipped classroom approach could significantly improve the one-shot library instruction session. We’re planning to publish a paper describing our assessment methodology and results in more detail, but for those interested in a summary of the project, you can download our poster from the Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts Conference from the institutional repository.

Q: How have you been promoting Introduction to Tripod – and your other tutorials – to the Bryn Mawr College community?

A: The liaison librarians make sure to mention them in our “welcome back” email to faculty each semester, and briefly describe the different modes through which they can be incorporated into courses. Many of us also include prominent links to the public versions in the LibGuides we create for specific courses, framing them as an option available to students if they feel they need to review some of the more generic information skills we don’t cover during class time. Also, because our project was funded by a larger institutional grant to promote blended learning pedagogy across the curriculum, we’ve had multiple opportunities to talk about the project at various forums relating to that campus-wide initiative.

Q: Have users provided any feedback?

A: Yes, both formally and informally. We did some user testing with many library student employees when we first launched them. Since then, on many occasions, I have given students the opportunity to provide feedback in class after having completed the tutorials for homework. I’ve also started to incorporate the Tripod tutorial into orientation workshops, which allows me to observe the students as they complete the tutorial. Overall, the students seem to really enjoy them, which I perhaps wasn’t expecting! I think it’s the active learning component that makes all the difference.

Q: Have either Swarthmore or Haverford adapted the Introduction to Tripod tutorials for their patrons?

A: To my knowledge, no. I believe there was an attempt at one time to make institution-agnostic versions of some of the tutorials that could work across the consortium, but that fell through for a variety of reasons.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the development of Introduction to Tripod?

A:  I will say that you really need to have a well-developed plan and buy-in from your colleagues to see a project like this through to completion. This is where having the seed grant really helped because not only did we have to draft a detailed project proposal at the onset of the project to get funding, but it gave us a certain level of accountability as well.