PRIMO Site of the Month: March 2019
Wheel of Sources
Creators: Kian Ravaei, Jennifer Pierre, Doug Worsham
Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Interviewees: Kian Ravaei and Doug Worsham
Interviewer: Emilia Marcyk
Description of Project (provided by the authors):
UCLA WI+RE’s (Writing Instruction + Research Education) “Wheel of Sources” is an interactive tutorial modeled after a game show designed to help students differentiate between primary and secondary sources in specific research contexts. The tutorial uses H5P’s interactive video framework, which presents the learner with activities to complete at key points throughout the module. In addition to helping students understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, “Wheel of Sources” encourages learners to think of “primary” and “secondary” as context-specific characteristics instead of inherent qualities of sources. To help students with key terminology, such as “meta-analysis” and “empirical study,” definitions are included throughout the video. Equipped with this knowledge, learners are then asked to kickstart their own research process by brainstorming possible primary and secondary sources for a research topic of their choice. This module can be embedded in websites and libguides, and integrated into H5P-compatible platforms such as Moodle and Canvas.
Q: I had a lot of fun playing through the module, and appreciated the little details you added (like sound design and effects) that made it feel like a game show. What was your inspiration for the Wheel of Sources, and why choose a game show format?
A: Our process always begins with identifying a challenge. In this case, we approached several librarians and asked them what they thought were the most important research challenges facing students. Differentiating between primary and secondary sources came up again and again, so we made this our key learning outcome.
Having chosen a topic, the next step was to decide the format of the tutorial. We hosted a rapid brainstorming session with library stakeholders, in which everyone was tasked with generating four different approaches to helping students achieve the learning outcome. Everyone at the meeting had the idea to create a game or interactive module of some kind, perhaps because they wanted students to get hands-on experience with primary and secondary sources.
We actually created the content of the tutorial before deciding on an overarching theme. For example, in an early prototype, the game was called “Sourcery,” and the learner played as a valiant research wizard, but it featured many of the same characters and artifacts as the present version (click here to try it out!). We were beginning to notice some big plot holes (What in the world is a research wizard? What are they trying to achieve?), so we searched for a new concept. A game show seemed like the obvious choice, since the activity was structured as several rounds of increasing difficulty, so we rebranded the whole module.
Q: I noticed a couple of different voices throughout the module. Who was involved in creating Wheel of Sources, and how did you divide work?
A: There were quite literally dozens of people involved in creating Wheel of Sources at various stages of the process. Kian Ravaei was the project lead, working in close collaboration with Jennifer Pierre, another member of the WI+RE team. The two of them wrote the script and led several stakeholder meetings. During these meetings, librarians and staff from across campus provided feedback and offered suggestions on early prototypes of the video. Several stakeholders provided examples of research contexts that ended up in the activity, such as the research project on Martin Luther King Jr. and the project on The Rite of Spring. Their input was crucial to creating an accurate and informative tutorial.
Once the script was complete, the WI+RE team began producing the interactive video. Kian and Jennifer both recorded voiceovers, doing their best game show host impressions. As project lead, Kian was mainly responsible for the animations, sound design, and H5P programming.
Q: Why did you choose H5P’s interactive video framework to create the module? What factors contributed to this decision?
A: We knew that we wanted to create some sort of interactive game, but none of us had the necessary programming skills to create a video game from scratch. We created a prototype using MIT’s Scratch framework (you can try it here!), which is great for beginning programmers, but lacked the polished graphics we were looking for.
Eventually, we realized that instead of programming a video game, we could create an interactive video using H5P that still included the drag-and-drop mechanism from the Scratch prototype. There would also be a gentler learning curve, since we had plenty of experience producing animated videos. H5P’s interactive video framework would also allow us to include optional interactions that are helpful for providing definitions of key terms and clarifying information discussed in the video. In essence, H5P helped us create an engaging and highly interactive tutorial without video game programming expertise.
Q: For other librarians looking to use the H5P interactive video framework for their own tutorials, what do they need to know to get started?
A: H5P has helped us address a number of challenges we faced in previous projects. We always want to make our tutorials interactive, but this is not always easy! In previous tutorials, we included prompts to the viewer to pause the video to write and reflect, but we noticed that these prompts were often easy to ignore. H5P has allowed us to more effectively incorporate interactivity throughout each module. We also really like the “export” feature, which allows learners to export all of the work they complete during the activity, giving both learners and teachers a “take-away” that can be used for informal or formal assessment.
As an open source project, the H5P framework (https://h5p.org/) is growing and under ongoing development. It is important to know that there are still a few bugs here and there, and that not all of the features are fully implemented. For example, our integration with the course management system does not have all of the reporting and assessment features that we would like, but we are currently working with what we have. The good news is that there is extensive documentation, and every time we have posted a question to one of the forums, someone has replied within a few days to help us out.
To get started creating your own tutorials with H5P, you will need a hosted website using one of the supported technologies (currently WordPress, Drupal, or Moodle), or you can sign up (for a fee) at https://h5p.com/ to use the hosted service created by the developers. From there, creating the modules themselves is fairly easy. We often use the “course presentation” content type, as it allows you to create a slideshow with different interactions (e.g., interactive videos and quiz questions) on each slide.
Q: How did you incorporate accessibility guidelines into the module?
A: Accessibility and universal design are essential parts of the WI+RE manifesto (https://uclalibrary.github.io/research-tips/wire-way/) and we strive to integrate accessibility at each stage of our projects. Our project checklist, for example, includes a number of accessibility-related prompts to help us make sure we meet and exceed accessibility guidelines. This means that as we work through a project, there are prompts and reminders about including alternate text for images and subtitles for videos. The checklist really helps us make sure we incorporate these steps into every project.
That said, each project presents particular challenges. For this project, we were initially concerned that the drag-and-drop activity might not be accessible from a mobility perspective; because most users will interact with this activity using a mouse, we were not sure how users that do not use a mouse would complete the activity. After doing some testing and checking in with the H5P developer community we were able to determine that our drag-and-drop activities are accessible in H5P, and can be navigated with the keyboard alone.
At the same time, we always try to provide multiple pathways for learning. So for each of our tutorials, we try to create the activity in multiple formats, including an accessible PDF that covers the same learning outcomes. Our hope is that by thinking about accessibility and universal design holistically, and by providing multiple pathways for learning, we are creating diverse solutions for diverse learners. We try to make sure all of our activities and handouts can be found on our website: https://uclalibrary.github.io/research-tips/
Q: Players encounter numerous characters with authentic-sounding research needs throughout the game. How did you come up with the different characters and their research questions?
A: We did a few things to come up with authentic research topics. The first was by browsing through the list of UCLA Undergraduate Research Week abstracts. We didn’t use any of them verbatim, but they showed the variety of primary source research projects happening on campus and inspired us to come up with our own realistic examples.
Our librarians and library staff were also a tremendous help. Besides identifying problematic research topics from early prototypes, they gave us excellent ideas for new research topics. Roy, who was researching Martin Luther King Jr., as well as Mateo and Sierra, who were researching The Rite of Spring, were all thought up by library stakeholders. There were several other wonderful characters that didn’t get a chance to appear in the video, due primarily to time constraints (maybe they will make an appearance in future projects!).
As for the background information for each character, we aimed be inclusive of as many learners and research situations as possible. We also wanted to communicate that research can be done in a wide variety of contexts—not just as a professor.
Q: Another aspect I appreciated was your emphasis on context when talking about source types. Why was it important to for the module to address different definitions of “primary” and “secondary” source, and to consider research context?
A: Because we collaborated with so many people on this project, we quickly found that there is a great deal of variety in how people define “primary” and “secondary.” Right away we saw that a simple definitions intended to work across different disciplines and contexts would be very challenging. We also started running into scenarios where simple definitions just didn’t work. For example, if a researcher is looking at a topic like “colonialism in encyclopedias,” is an encyclopedia still a tertiary source? Or does it become a primary source for that researcher?
As we explored different examples and contexts and collaborated with partners across disciplines, it became clear that we wanted to move beyond simple definitions in order to work toward more conceptual learning outcomes intended to help researchers ask, “What is primary for me and my project?”
Q: Who is the target audience for the module? Is it currently being used in any classes or programs?
A: We created the module with UCLA’s undergraduate population in mind, though it could certainly be used in high school and graduate school settings as well. Like many of our modules, Wheel of Sources provides an engaging introduction to the topic that can be built upon with subsequent activities and conversations. Ideally, once students work through Wheel of Sources, they will follow-up with more disciplinary and course-specific activities that relate to their specific research interests.
So far Wheel of Sources has been used in several English Composition 3 courses (one of UCLA’s required composition classes) as well as a Theater course. One surprise has been that even though we designed the activity to be used outside of class time, several instructors have used it during their in-class instruction sessions and have reported that it is an engaging in class activity. That was a fun surprise! We plan to continue getting the word out, and seeing how the module is received in different disciplines. We would love it if other universities and schools start using the module and very much welcome feedback and ideas!
Q: How are you assessing the module? Are answers to the brainstorming prompts at the end collected in any way? Have you gotten any student feedback on the game, either formally or informally?
A: Yes! We have received lots of feedback – both during the design process and after publishing. We think of the extensive user testing and collaborative design process as the first formative feedback on a project like this. In this case, several library staff members helped create and provide feedback on the examples and challenges in the activity. They also did “play-testing” for the various prototypes that we created along the way.
Now that the module is published, we continue to collect feedback. We mentioned earlier that the reporting and assessment functions of H5P are not fully integrated into our course management system. This means that the brainstorming prompts can not currently be collected. And so, thus far our feedback from teachers and students is primarily anecdotal. The library staff that have incorporated the module into their instruction have said that students have really enjoyed it, even calling out answers to the questions during class sessions. Moving forward, we are working with our IT team on campus to see if we can integrate H5P’s survey features directly into the modules themselves. We’re hoping this would allow us to collect “in the moment” feedback from learners as they complete activities. Ultimately, if we had the time and resources, it would be really fun to take a direct assessment approach, to see whether this module and our other modules have a direct impact on the quality of student research and writing.
Q: The Wheel of Sources is part of a larger project, UCLA WI+RE. Could you talk a little about the overall goals of that project, how it’s used at your institution, and how the Wheel of Sources fits into the bigger picture?
A: Absolutely! WI+RE (Writing Instruction + Research Education) is a learner-led community focused creating quick and practical solutions to key challenges in the research and writing process.
You’ll find all of WI+RE’s work at https://uclalibrary.github.io/research-tips/. Some of our most popular tutorials are on topics like brainstorming research questions, expanding perspectives in your research, finding scholarly articles, and creating literature reviews. We also have some very compelling recent projects like the “Reading for Writing Style Guide” which helps learners create their own writing style guide based on careful reading of disciplinary texts.
The undergraduate and graduate students on the WI+RE Creative Team leverage a design toolkit to create tutorials and modules like Wheel of Sources. This toolkit, available at https://ucla.app.box.com/v/build-something-toolkit, includes empathy mapping and storyboarding tools are integral to our student-centered design process.
If there are other institutions out there doing learner-led and learner-centered design, we would love to partner! We are happy to share our experiences, training process, and design tools with others that are looking to get started!