October 2015 Site of the Month

Navigate: UWF Libraries Research Tutorials


Authors: Joshua Vossler & Britt McGowan

Institution: University of West Florida

Interviewee: Britt McGowan
Interviewer: Danielle Skaggs

Tutorial Description: The UWF Libraries tutorials were in need of updating and also new topic needs had emerged. I (Britt) was able to identify 34 tutorial topics that covered aspects of the five ACRL standards and ones that also met institution needs (Library Orientation & Research Application in the 21st Century Workplace). On the tutorials page, these are grouped into sections by standard or institution need: “Starting Your Research” (Standard One), “Finding Sources” (Two), “Evaluating Sources” (Three), “Using Sources Effectively” (Four), and “Using Sources Ethically” (Five); for institution need, “Library Orientation,” “Types of Assignments,” “Additional Resources/Tools.” Receiving university funds, the library was able to hire Joshua Vossler, an instructional designer and librarian, to create the videos. Together, we worked collaboratively on student learning outcomes, quizzes, and scripts for the videos and gathered input from students and librarians along the way. This project took a full school year, and roll out began in Fall 2014. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Q: What led you to develop this resource?

A: Our library initially developed a set of tutorials in 2004. Every year, we would update some and replace some, but we really hadn’t looked at all of our tutorial topics as a whole in quite some time. [With this project,] we wanted to develop a large range of topics addressing information literacy skills that are important to our faculty and students while presenting them in an engaging, consistent format. We intentionally sequenced them in a way that follows the general research process; however, we recognized that the research process is not always linear. So, we decided that each of the tutorials should also be stand-alone so that individual lessons could also be taken at the point-of-need.

Q: The funding for the creation of these tutorials was through the Pace Academic Development Award. Can you tell us more about this award?

A: The Pace Academic Development Awards are funded internally at our university through Academic Affairs and have supported different initiatives.  Faculty and staff were invited to submit proposals for projects that would enhance the educational experience at UWF. Our dean really encouraged us to apply, and I’m glad he did.

Q: What led you to hire an instructional designer? How did you pick Joshua Vossler?

A: We had great ideas about what we wanted to accomplish, but we struggled with the time and technological knowledge it would take to do it.  We would always update our tutorials in the summer when we had time, but that led to us re-learning software, having to update only the most used tutorials, and putting other summer projects to the side. Hiring an instructional designer with a Pace Award freed us from that.

We received many thoughtful applications from many talented people. As for picking Josh, I was impressed with his videos at Kimbel Library before our process began, so I was excited when he applied.  His video skills, artistic talent, knowledge of information literacy, and humor (which also helped with the process!) are just awesome. Or, as our dean would say, “wicked.”

Q: Tell us about the process you used to determine the tutorial topics.

A: We knew from our old tutorials that there were some topics that were heavily used and still relevant at the university, such as addressing plagiarism and citing sources; differentiating between types of sources; and basic library skills. However, there were also some holes. To fill them, we used the ACRL Standards as a guide while also making some tutorials that were uniquely important to our university (e.g. our “Research Application in the 21st Century Workplace” series).

Q: What technologies did you utilize for the tutorials?

A: Here, I’m going to let Josh answer!

Josh: A hodgepodge of software and hardware. Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing, Adobe Audition for audio editing, Photoshop & ArtRage for digital content creation, and Notepad++ and Open Broadcaster Software to edit and record ArtRage scripts for speedpainting animations. The audio was recorded with an Olympus stereo digital microphone. The video was recorded with a Panasonic HD camcorder. The videos were edited and rendered on a custom PC running an overclocked, liquid-cooled quad-core i7. Digital painting and video editing were done on a Wacom Cintiq 24HD, and there was a USB jog wheel in there somewhere.

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

A: We have included PDF scripts of each tutorial that are compatible with screen-readers, and we are working to close-caption each tutorial as well. We also ensured that the tutorials could be accessed from a variety of mobile devices. As for best practices, we aimed to keep each video short and focused on one learning outcome.

Q: Most of the information covered in these tutorials is conceptual rather than procedural. Was this done to minimize the need for updating?

A: Absolutely! Interfaces just change so rapidly. But also: we wanted the tutorials to move beyond procedure to transferable information literacy concepts, so that students could apply their skills to a wider variety of situations.

Q: How are the tutorials being promoted and used at your institution? Are they integrated into classes, workshops, assignments, etc.?

A: We have promoted our tutorials in a variety of ways, including writing a teaching tip that our Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment distributes, posting on social media, and meeting with faculty.

Many of the series of tutorials have been assigned as class assignments, and some instructors assign them prior to library instruction sessions. Each tutorial comes with a 3-question quiz,  and instructors may assign an individual tutorial or a whole set (e.g., Evaluating Sources has 4 video topics) with a 10-question quiz.  Librarians also use the tutorials in class to supplement what they are teaching in a succinct way.

Q: How did you develop the quiz questions?

A: Josh developed most of them, but I did some too. It was such a collaborative process at the SLO and quiz level. Josh would do a lot of drafting and send me SLOs, quizzes, and pre-writing of the scripts that would fit them. Many times, at this stage, he’d notice that there were two or more different directions we could take it, often identifying that we were trying to cover too much. The instinct to cram is strong in instruction, so I’m glad he caught this tendency. So, he’d send me content to make directional decisions on, and we’d go from there.  In some cases, I’d write quizzes or revise them as an easier way to communicate the librarians’ intentions for the tutorials.

Q: How are you gathering feedback on the tutorials?

A: We have a feedback form on our tutorials page, but we receive most of our feedback informally through the instructors and students who use them.  In the instruction sessions, we usually include a minute paper for students to tell us what they learned in the sessions. Many times, when we’ve used one of the videos, they mention the topic it covered. The feedback has been very positive overall.

Q: Has any assessment been done on the tutorials?

A: Yes. We have a lot of data for both the 3-question quizzes for each of the tutorials as well as the larger 10-question quizzes for each tutorial set.  The sets that I know are assigned by instructors seem to have better results, possibly because the students know they are being graded. For example, in our “Library Orientation” set, 91% of students scored an 8/10 or higher, and in our “Using Sources Ethically” set, 97% of students scored an 8/10 or higher.  Our other 10-question quizzes range between 74% and 83% of students scoring an 8/10.  To improve these, we are analyzing the questions to see if we can identify a pattern in students missing the same questions.

Q: Do you have any advice for those considering the development of similar projects?

A: Even with hiring an instructional designer, the process is still labor-intensive and you’ll want a few librarians helping with reviewing learning outcomes, quizzes, and scripts.  It is nice to focus solely on content, but you still need to work closely with the creator to make sure the tutorial is tailored to your institution.

As with any change, make sure you market the new tutorials and quizzes in advance so that instructors can be prepared for changing links in LMSes, updating their syllabi, etc. To help with this transition, we added notes to some of our old tutorial links or re-direct URLs where applicable.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I love the videos that refer to local places/restaurants and include drawings of our service desks, library spaces, and staff. I’m so glad Josh solicited pictures and local information from us; I think it really made a difference in personalizing the tutorials for our students. Also, I should add that even though Josh now has a day job as the Head of Reference and Instruction at SIU Carbondale, he does still produce instructional videos on commission.  I highly recommend him. Thanks for highlighting our project!

October 2015 PRIMO Site of the Month