PRIMO Site of the Month Interview: November 2021

Advanced Search Tips

Creator and Interviewee: Darlene Aguilar, Instructional Design Librarian   
Institution: Loyola Marymount University
Interviewer: Rebecca Maniates

Description of project (creator-provided): The Advanced Search Tips tutorial is an interactive digital object created with Articulate Storyline to teach students to:

  • Differentiate between keywords and subject headings.
  • Implement the steps necessary to find relevant sources using subject headings, citation chasing, and call number browsing.
  • Understand how to access materials that the library doesn’t own.

Students can practice search strategies through simulated sites and are tested on their knowledge at the end of the tutorial. Students also receive a certificate of completion with their score.

Creator Biography: Darlene Aguilar is the Instructional Design Librarian at LMU’s William H. Hannon Library.  She earned her Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology from the University of Southern California.  She works as a team with the Reference and Instruction Librarians, who act as her subject matter experts when she designs learning objects, such as Advanced Search Tips.

Q: What inspired the creation of the Advanced Search Tips tutorial?

A: At the William H. Hannon Library, we provide all first-year students with an introduction to information literacy in their First Year Seminar and Rhetorical Arts courses. The First Year Seminar course is embedded with four asynchronous interactive information literacy tutorials: Starting Your Assignment, Types of Information, Finding Articles, and Finding Books. Alternatively, the Rhetorical Arts course provides a synchronous librarian-led workshop to teach students how to find and evaluate articles for their annotated bibliography assignment. Beyond the first year, students only receive instruction from a librarian if their teachers schedule a workshop or if individual students schedule research consultations. Because of this, the Reference and Instruction department found it necessary to create the Advanced Search Tips tutorial for upper-level students to receive advanced instruction. Additionally, the tutorial format allows us to reach more students.

Q: Tell us more about the team of people who helped create the tutorial and their individual roles.

A: The Reference and Instruction Services Department provided support for the tutorial in various ways. Susan Archambault, Head of Reference and Instruction, initiated the project and brainstormed the general topics covered. I, as the Instructional Designer, designed and developed the project while obtaining support from the rest of the department in terms of testing and feedback. I also consulted with Alexis Weiss, Reference and Instruction Librarian for Theology, who has extensive knowledge on database functions and acted as my subject matter expert for the subject headings and thesaurus topics.

Q: Who is the intended audience, and what is the primary intended use of the Advanced Search Tips tutorial?  

A: The intended audience are upper-level students with research assignments. We hope faculty will integrate the tutorial into their upper-level courses. The Advanced Search Tips tutorial will provide students with more knowledge and tools to help them find relevant sources.

Q: How did you decide what content to include/exclude from the tutorial?

A: We interact with students in various ways including research consultations, the Ask-a-Librarian chat box, and answering questions at the information desk. This allows us to see the areas in which students need the most help. We gathered the tips we were providing most often, and they became the topics of the tutorial.

Q: I like the integration of the Library’s “How To” videos.  Were the videos created to support the tutorial?  Or, was the tutorial designed in a way to use content that was already developed?  

A: That’s a great question. No, the tutorial was not designed to use content that was already developed. Out of the six videos included, only two videos were previously developed (How to use LibGuides and How to: Interlibrary Loans) and we included these at the end to round out the instruction. The other four were developed just for this tutorial.

Q: Were other technologies, in addition to Articulate Storyline, used for this tutorial?  Why did you choose these technologies?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using these tools?

A: Yes, the other technologies included Camtasia for video recording/editing and Audacity for audio recording/editing. Both Articulate Storyline and Camtasia are top products used by Instructional Designers because they are flexible and allow for creativity. Storyline is the main tool used and was chosen because it allows for multimedia embedding, feedback, has various quiz question options, can record data on our LMS or through Google Sheets, includes interactivity functions, has branching functions, and takes accessibility into consideration. The disadvantage of using Storyline is having a steeper learning curve than other tools. Additionally, usability and visual design elements are all dependent on the designer of the tutorial rather than on a template. I have used Storyline for about three years and am comfortable with it now. Storyline requires a lot of testing, but I think the end product is worth it. I also want to encourage more people to use Audacity for audio editing. It is a free program that is simple to use if you are recording voice over. You can easily edit out background noise to get clear audio. 

Q: Creating tutorials can be a very time-consuming process. Can you describe for us the timeline you went through for conceptualizing, storyboarding, developing, and launching this tutorial?

A: This tutorial took about a year to create due to it overlapping with the pandemic and other essential job tasks. Gathering information and storyboarding for this tutorial took about three months, developing the tutorial took the majority of the time, and then testing the draft of the tutorial with the Reference Department and revising based on their feedback took another two months. Of course, tutorials are always being updated and improved so it really is an ongoing project.  

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

A: I always follow accessibility guidelines to ensure my projects have good contrast, alt-text, headings, closed captions, etc. (To learn more about accessibility guidelines, explore WebAIM or seek out professional development opportunities, such as this one from Coursera.)  

I also follow the guidelines for the Universal Design for Learning framework which emphasizes providing options for students. This led me to create format options for the tutorial and videos. I provide an accessible Word document version of the tutorial and transcripts of all the videos. Both versions of the tutorial are uploaded to the LMS and students have the option to use either one. Students use the Word version to take notes, if they have technical issues or for its accessibility. Either way, the choice is theirs. I also follow several learning science principles like Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning (see Mayer’s book, Multimedia Learning) which guides the design of content to avoid memory overload.  To learn more, watch my video focused on Multimedia Design Principles

Q: Did you encounter any difficulties or unexpected challenges along the way?  What have you learned from the development process that you will carry over into the next tutorial?

A: The main difficulties were trying to create authentic practice opportunities. I was able to recreate parts of the library website and Google Scholar to allow students to practice using those search methods, but I couldn’t do the same for practicing with a Thesaurus because there are so many components in a database that it makes it difficult to recreate. I do think it’s useful to recreate a website when possible and provide feedback for missteps. I am planning on updating existing tutorials to change the web-embedded objects to web recreations. 

Q: Did you assess the effectiveness of the tutorial in meeting your established objectives/goals?  How did users provide feedback during the development process or afterwards?

A: We are in the middle of doing this now. I obtained feedback from other librarians and we gather learner data through quiz questions at the end, but we are currently looking for teachers to test this in their courses so we can obtain user feedback. Since we are back in person and were able to hire student workers again, we will likely have them provide feedback as well.

Q: How do you promote Advanced Search Tips – and your “How To” videos – to the University community? 

A: We are promoting the tutorial through our library newsletter, our faculty liaison program, and faculty committees. Next semester, we also plan on providing a presentation at the Center for Teaching Excellence.

Q: We appreciate that you offer this under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.  Do you know if any other libraries have adopted this content?

A: We have not heard from other libraries. This content is fairly new so we hope others reach out. I would gladly share my files so that other libraries can customize the tutorial for their educational context.

Q: What’s next? Do you have any plans to expand or modify this tutorial, or create other instructional materials like this?

A: I am always looking for ways to improve the tutorials especially when it comes to usability. When new features are added to Storyline, it is an opportunity for me to see how these features could improve the tutorial. New tutorials are always being developed. To keep up to date on our tutorials, visit: