ACRL IS Current Issue Discussion Digest – ALA Midwinter 2010 – Discussion 1

What Works? Sharing Best Practices for Teaching Information Literacy Online

Conveners: Mona Anne Niedbala (University of Rhode Island), Lori Mestre (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Lisa A. Baures (Minnesota State University-Mankato), and Veronica E. Bielat (Wayne State University).

January 29, 2010, 2:00 p.m. (ET)- 3:00 p.m.
Virtual Discussion using Adobe Connect Plus platform


The current landscape emphasizes the expanding dimensions of librarianship from that of information manager and savvy technology user to one embracing the multiple roles of instructional designer, curriculum consultant, and effective online instructor.

This discussion is designed for those interested in exploring successful practices for teaching information literacy and/or research skills online. Librarians currently teaching online or preparing to become online instructors will be encouraged to share “best practices” for designing and delivering online instruction.  Particular focus will be on the use of Web 2.0 tools to engage students in the learning process and exploring various venues for collaborating with faculty to develop online instruction.


This was the first online IS discussion. It was hosted through Adobe Connect Pro conferencing software. Registration was limited to 50. The conveners first provided an overview to the participants of the Adobe Connect Pro environment and of the guidelines for online participation.

Prior to each speaker’s brief introduction of a question, participants were asked to respond to a poll question. After a brief 2-3 minute introduction to the question, the participants were able to respond, either through the passing of a mic or through chat. One of the conveners used the whiteboard within Adobe Connect Pro to write notes based on the discussion. At the conclusion of the discussion, participants were invited to continue the conversation via a wiki that had been set up.

Following are summaries of the participant responses to the poll questions and discussion questions.

Question 1 was introduced by Lori Mestre (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

What have been some of your challenges for providing online instruction? How did you overcome them?

The corresponding poll question and results were:

The transition from providing face-to-face to online library instruction has been relatively seamless.

Results: True 5% False 95%

Responses from audience:

Group Communication: It can be challenging to facilitate group discussions in an online environment. Solutions to address this challenge included methods of using groups, side-rooms, or forum options in the online platform, if available. It was also noted that you lose some of the visual cues that let you know if people are engaged, finished talking, etc., in an online environment and that, overall, you need to think through a lot of alternative strategies for individual and group communication.

Technology Issues: One issue is addressing differences in student/participant comfort and facility with technology. Methods of addressing this challenge included: developing short online tutorials to demonstrate how to use the platform or tools. It was noted that people appear to be reluctant to use the microphones, and are more comfortable using the chat screen, which changes the way people interact with each other. The issue of poor connectivity was also identified as a challenge and it was suggested that the ability to provide offline access to some content as an alternative might be a solution.

Working with Faculty: Working with faculty who are not familiar with technology or do not know effective teaching strategies can be a challenge. Developing good working relationships with these faculty so that they will trust librarians to take the lead in these resources will be beneficial. It can be difficult to get faculty support for a library presence within their online courses. One suggestion to address this issue included brainstorming with campus IT staff for ways to integrate some library presence into the course management system. Another suggestion was to ask faculty directly to include the librarian’s name, e-mail, and web page within their web page or course management system (or a Librarian’s Corner). Then each semester the librarian will have a chance to extend his/her role.

Development of Content: Development of content is very time and labor intensive. One suggestion to mitigate these issues was to create linked resources which only need to be updated once (like a webpage or Libguide). It was also pointed out that faculty may just reload older courses and not reconnect with librarians about updating content. Consequently it is also important to recheck with faculty each semester about updates. “Just in Time” information needs make it challenging to plan ahead. It was suggested that librarians pay attention to patterns from courses/semesters.

Student Motivation: Student motivation is an online environment that can be challenging and it was suggested that students tend to participate if(& only if) there is a grade. Suggestions to address this included faculty providing relevance to the course beforehand, and explaining how this might improve their grades could be motivating. One might also be able to set up a way to measure participation in an online platform, but it is ultimately up to the faculty member to make this a clear requirement/expectation.

Question 2 was introduced by Veronica Bielat (Wayne State University)

How can the incorporation of Web 2.0 tools promote student engagement when delivering instruction online? What are some of the Web 2.0 tools that you use and what have been the results?

The corresponding poll question and results were:

The integration of Web 2.0 tools into the process for delivering online library instruction has increased student engagement. True or False

Results: True 100% False 0%

Responses from audience:

Promoting Student Engagement: The responses indicated that students can prioritize their time based on what benefits them. Using social bookmarking allows “on-the-fly” development of annotated resources. Assessment tools such as quizzes, games, and critical thinking questions can be embedded and used at the point of need, can be related to student scenarios or something of interest to students in order to engage them. Tutorials (created with Camtasia or Adobe Captivate, for example) need to “speak” to the students. Interactivity needs to be integrated into the tutorials. CMS’s such as Blackboard allow sending an email when something new was posted on the Discussion Board. It was suggested that when the Discussion Board is used as part of the collaborative instruction, the librarians need to make sure that the students’ work is graded in a way that reflects the amount of time and work that they put into it. Using the Discussion Board could be very time consuming for the librarian. It is also important to have the faculty’s collaboration. Libguides can be incorporated for instruction. Web cams can be embedded into online courses.

Web 2.0 Tools Used: Librarians use blogs which allow feedback and sharing of knowledge. Wikis are used for group authoring and documentation of work, for building knowledge bases, for FAQ questions, or for materials on reserve. Some other Web 2.0 programs used are Ning, Groove, Dingo and Delicious, where students can contribute content, collaborate, and create annotated bibliographies.

Some Web 2.0 Resources:

Question 3 was introduced by Lisa Baures (Minnesota State University – Mankato)

What are some successful models for collaborating with faculty to develop and design information literacy instruction for the online environment?

The corresponding poll question and results were:

Collaborative endeavors for developing online library instruction between teaching faculty and librarians have been successful.

Results: Very Successful 9%; Somewhat Successful 66%; Not Very Successful 25%

Summary of responses from the audience:

In order to successfully collaborate with faculty librarians need to build on existing relationships and have to identify how information literacy standards align with discipline/program learning outcomes. Assessment can assist the collaborative relationship if the librarians give feedback about what students are learning or experiencing. Educating faculty about what librarians can contribute as partners and about how information literacy can enhance their students’ skills are other important aspects. Web 2.0 technology such as wikis can be used by librarians to meet with faculty regularly. Embedding links within courses or inside the Librarian’s corner was another suggestion. It was also recommended that ACRL or ALA offer pedagogy training.

Question 4 was introduced by Mona Anne Niedbala (University of Rhode Island)

Can you recommend a practice or learning theory that you use for designing online courses, library learning modules, or learning objects?

The corresponding poll question and results were:

We use a specific learning theory (or practice) when designing online library instruction. True False Don’t Know

Results: True 37%; False 53%; Don’t know 10%

Summary of responses from the audience:

Some of the learning theories used by librarians are Etienne Wenger’s Community of Practice, Scaffolding (based on Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development Theory), the Learning Pyramid, Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy, Constructivist Learning Theory, the Backward Design of Instruction, and the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.

Some online resources are:

  1. Etienne Wenger’s Community of Practice
  2. The learning pyramid 
  3. Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
  4. The Basic Research Strategy model

Question 5 was introduced by Lisa Baures (Minnesota State University – Mankato)

What are the advantages of correlating student learning outcomes for information literacy to those identified in academic programs, as opposed to embedding or integrating information literacy skills into a course?

The corresponding poll question and results were:

Should librarians be included in the writing of the content curriculum along with the teaching faculty?  Yes  No

Results: Yes 69%; No 31%

Responses from the audience:

Collaboration in the Writing of the Course Content or Curriculum Content: Librarians should participate not only in the writing of the course content but they should sit on curriculum committees and work with partners in the programs to formalize information literacy skills in the unit and assist with writing the learning outcomes. Librarians should participate in the creation of the curriculum content as well. Program reviews are an opportune moment to talk with departments. Capstone courses or projects are another place for students to demonstrate information literacy skills.

Challenges: One of the challenges in collaborating with faculty in the creation of course and curriculum content is the limited subject expertise in small institutions.

Questions and Suggestions: One question was if the ACRL Information Literacy Standards are being revised given the technology changes. It was suggested that ACRL Information Literacy Standards be mapped to other standards such as AAC&U’s core competencies. This can be a way for librarians to collaborate in the creation of course and curriculum content.

Question 6 was introduced by Lori Mestre (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

What is one tip you would share for teaching online?

Responses from the audience:

Teaching Philosophy

  • Think outside the box and stretch your boundaries for teaching, try new things
  • As a sole librarian, think context
  • Try a  little humor

Engaging Students

  • Establish a sense of community
  • Use fun tools and encourage interaction among students
  • Use visual tools to create an online learning community
  • Try new applications
  • Use polls and capture user responses

Collaborating with Faculty

  • Collaborate and make personal connections with faculty
  • Work with faculty to brainstorm ways to enhance experience
  • Have learning outcomes as your goal


Allen, M. (2008), “Promoting critical thinking skills in online information literacy instruction using a constructivist approach”, College & Undergraduate Libraries, Vol. 15 Nos 1/2, pp. 21-38.

The author provides an alignment of constructivist theory, ACRL information literacy standards and critical thinking skills, and discusses how constructivist learning experiences might be formed in an online learning environment.

The Embedded Librarian: New Models for Information Service Professionals, PsycINFO News, Issue 5, 2009, p. 3-4. Retrieved from

A brief article on embedded librarianship and the efforts of two librarians to incorporate this model into their teaching and learning efforts with their learners.

Clark, R. (2002, September 10). Six principles of effective e-learning. Learning Solutions. Retrieved from

A succinct article, based in research, that describes what works and why in e-learning environments.

Costello, B., Lenholt, R., & Stryker, J. (2004). Using Blackboard in library instruction: Addressing the learning styles of Generations X and Y. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 30(6), 452-460.

The article describes the use of Blackboard courseware at Stetson University for providing library instruction to meet the challenges posed by the Net Generation students and to address their learning styles.

Cubric, M. (2007). Wiki-based process framework for blended learning. Paper presented at WikiSym ’07, Montreal, Canada. Retrieved from

The article presents a model of a framework for learning and teaching processes supported by the use of wikis at Hertfordshire Business School.

Jones, K. (2007). Connecting social technologies with information literacy. Journal of Web Librarianship,1(4), 67-80. Retrieved from

The author describes the role of wikis during the first stages of the information lifecycle for researching previously difficult-to-find current information, and also argues about the power of wikis for building fluency in the higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation, and creation of new information.

Kay, R. H. & Knaack, L. (2009). Assessing learning, quality and engagement in learning objects: The Learning Object Evaluation Scale for Students (LOES-S). Educational Technology Research and Development, 57, 147-16.

Discussing the validity of a Learning Object Evaluation Scale for Students (LOES-S), this article suggests a number of criteria to consider when designing and developing learning objects.

Kidd, T., & Chen, I. (2009). Wired for learning: An educator’s guide to web 2.0. Charlotte, NC: IAP-Information Age Publishing, Inc.
“The purpose of this text is to clarify and present applications and practices of Web 2.0 for teaching and learning to meet the educational challenges of students in diverse learning setting. This text will bring teachers and university education into a bold new reality and cause them to move to think differently about technology’s potential for strengthening students’ critical thinking, writing, reflection, and interactive learning.” [From Google Books: Book overview]

Luo, L. (2010). Web 2.0 integration in information literacy instruction: An overview. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36, 32-40.

Luo analyzes responses from 50 librarians on how Web 2.0 technologies are integrated into information literacy instruction at their institutions.

Robinson, C. C. & Hullinger, H. (2008). New benchmarks in higher education: Student engagement in online learning. Journal of Education for Business, 84, 101-108.

Based on the well established National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), results of a modified version of the survey identifying “principles of good practice” for the virtual classroom are discussed.

Thorpe, M. (2008). Effective online interaction: Mapping course design to bridge from research to practice. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 57-72. Retrieved from

A case study exploring the use of mind mapping software to sequence tasks associated with designing effective online interaction provides a possible conceptual framework to connect research and practice.

York, A. (2009). “Taking Library Instruction into the Online Classroom: Best Practices for Embedded Librarians”. Journal of library administration, 49 (1), p. 197.

The author provides an excellent review of the literature related to “embedded librarianship” and its recent origins. She then embedded librarianship practices and identifies 7 “best practices” from results of a survey.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: Development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory states that learning and development are impacted by social interaction as knowledge is co-constructed. Scaffolding, based on Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development theory, describes the use of temporary supports, “scaffolds”, which guide and support learners during the learning process, with the goal to assist them to efficiently complete more complex tasks independently. 

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