PRIMO Site of the Month Interview: March 2022

Thinking Like a Scientist (Psychology Edition)

Creator and Interviewees: Michael Yonezawa, Robin Katz, Phyllis Ung, Megan Ung, and Donovan Frazier
Institution: UC Riverside Library 
Interviewer: Sarah LeMire

Description (Creator Provided): This interactive library tutorial supports an undergraduate course on research methodologies in psychology. Based on the original Thinking Like a Scientist tutorial created in 2020. The Psychology Edition of Thinking Like a Scientist incorporates psychological topics and concepts and introduces users to specialized resources such as APA PsycInfo®, Web of Science, and other tools to find scientific journal articles.

Q: How would you describe the audience for this particular tutorial? How did you determine your audience’s needs and at what level to pitch your content?

A: The primary audience for this tutorial are undergraduate psychology major students enrolled in a mandatory lower division “Psychological Methods: Research Procedures” course, PSYC 012. Library support for PSYC 012 is provided year-round for every academic quarter as well as during summer sessions. Prior to the development of this new Thinking Like a Scientist (Psychology Edition) tutorial, library instruction was provided in-person during class lab sections and focused on introducing students to scholarly literature and how to effectively use specialized databases such as APA PsycInfo® and Web of Science.

Q: In your earlier interview, you described how the original Thinking Like a Scientist tutorial came about in response to a need within the Biology department. How did the Psychology Edition come about?

A: The Psychology Edition emerged mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a need to provide engaging, high-quality library digital learning objects which could be completed by students asynchronously. At the onset of pivoting to remote learning in March 2020, a series of quickly recorded instructional videos were shared along with a handful of other online handouts and LibGuides as a temporary solution. The combination of having to shift to remote teaching along with being severely understaffed accelerated the development of the Psychology Edition tutorial.

Q: In making a second tutorial, how did you differentiate content? Did you find that making a Psychology-focused tutorial required making significant changes from a Biology-focused tutorial?

A: Yes and no. The specialized nature of APA PsycInfo® required the substantial development of new content for the Finding Background Information module and it influenced a redesign of the pre-existing Web of Science content. However, many sections of the original biology-focused tutorial framework were designed with a general STEM undergraduate student in mind, with only particular sections and activities focused on biology topics. This framework allowed the principal designers, Phyllis Ung and Megan Ung, to repurpose much of the existing content while adapting the more topic-focused sections to a psychological theme. Whereas the topic of climate change was used in the biology-focused tutorial, the concept of the mere exposure effect was used for this module as it is a relatable example students are often exposed to within introductory psychology courses. It was important for us to create content that was relevant to UCR psychology undergraduates. As a current UCR psychology major at the time, Megan utilized her knowledge and experience to develop the examples and research questions in the module.

Q: For me, one of the hard parts about teaching concepts in a tutorial is choosing visuals that help convey the tutorials message and engage the reader, but aren’t distracting. Can you walk us through your process of envisioning and selecting the visuals for this tutorial?

A: For the modules, we wanted to keep the visuals clean and simple. We did this by making sure we were using the same colors within our theme and ensuring uniformity throughout the design of all our exercises. We wanted students to understand that all the exercises were connected, and the use of repeated elements made it easier for them to navigate through the module. To make it more fun, we incorporated our shape-based characters who we call “the Atoms,” throughout the module. The characters were created to reflect student experiences and provide some comedic relief. We have also recently updated some visuals across all our tutorials to improve accessibility by better adhering to established best practices such as ensuring sufficient color contrast.

Q: In this tutorial, you use a variety of checks on learning to keep viewers engaged and reinforce learning. How do you develop your checks on learning? How do you determine what types of questions to ask or activities to design?

A: All the knowledge checks are designed to provide the learner with immediate feedback and do not prevent the user from progressing through the tutorial. The types of questions and activities were selected to provide simple active learning activities along with different types of design elements to provide the learner with some variety as well.

Q: Can you talk about your process or plans for revising tutorials? Do you have a schedule for review and revision?

A: We did a major push for revisions across all tutorials at the end of Summer 2021 when the entire University of California system moved to a new combined OPAC and link resolver, rendering many of our images and instructions immediately out of date just before our fall quarter started. We took this opportunity to thoroughly assess all tutorials for any needed updates, changes, and improvements. We will set regular intervals for reviewing content moving forward, but thankfully we do not anticipate such a large-scale revision project (under such tight turnaround time) again any time soon. We did another big push recently to review our tutorials according to W3’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, we made as many changes as we could, and we will set new best practices for the future. We manage revision projects in shared, collaborative spreadsheets which define the changes needed, assign tasks to our team, track assets, control versions, and allow for quality control approvals.

Q: Creating tutorials can be a very time-consuming process. Can you describe for us the timeline for proposing, storyboarding, developing, and launching a tutorial? Do tutorial projects happen year-round, or are there specific times that are preferred for these projects to begin?

A: We don’t have a regular schedule for developing new tutorials. To date, we have worked in response to instructional needs and partners, factoring in our own availability. Realistically creating tutorials can be time-consuming. This can be especially true for the first few tutorials and in particular learning how to use the tool(s) to build the different modules, content, and activities. At the UCR Library, we used Articulate 360 to build our tutorials. In addition to Articulate, we might also use multimedia software such as Camtasia, PowerPoint, or other software to make various tasks easier, such as the editing of images, gifs, videos, and transcripts for ADA compliant closed captioning.

Q: How do students access the Thinking Like a Scientist tutorials? Were there other access methods considered, and why was this method selected?

A: Students typically access the Thinking Like a Scientist tutorials through embedded SCORM files in their course LMS sites (our campus currently uses both Blackboard and Canvas, but is aiming for a full migration to Canvas in the near future). However, some instructors (especially when there may be several dozen or even up to almost 100 sections of a particular course) might opt to use a more accessible version of the tutorials such as the free navigation Thinking Like a Scientist tutorials uploaded to our Github repository. However, not being embedded in the actual course site makes it difficult to track successful completion of the tutorial and/or providing credit/points for completing the tutorial.  Uploading zip SCORM files into individual LMS course sites can be labor intensive and not practical on a large scale. One solution might be to create an easy to access repository of Library tutorials and other similar learning objects within the University’s LMS so individual instructors can select and embed the tutorials on their own.

Q: What are the future goals of the Thinking Like a Scientist project team? Are there new projects on the horizon?

A: We are currently developing an Education Edition for undergraduate education majors focusing on exploring research methodologies, conducting literature reviews, and creating annotated bibliographies. We have also moved into the humanities with a citation tutorial developed specifically for our history department, which will be used in an introductory history course called “Historians as Detectives” as well as across the major more broadly.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the Thinking Like a Scientist (Psychology Edition) tutorial?

A: The designers and creators of the Thinking Like a Scientist (Psychology Edition) would like to dedicate both the tutorial and this selection as a PRIMO Site of the Month in memory of our dear colleague, Christina Cicchetti, who inspired us with her dedication and commitment to our students, especially the psychology and education students she impacted through the years with her knowledge and experience as a librarian and educator.