User Education for the Internet: Report and Recommendations

Prepared by The Association of College and Research Libraries Bibliographic Instruction Section

Emerging Technologies in Instruction Committee

June 1994


  • Stephen Hupp
  • Daniel Lee
  • Barbara MacAdam
  • Keith Morgan
  • Deborah Tenofsky
  • Terry Taylor

Barbara MacAdam (Committee Chair)
Head, Undergraduate Library
The University of Michigan 48109-1185

I. Background

In January 1993 as part of ACRL President Elect Tom Kirk’s presidential theme of networking and supported by a $4000 grant to ACRL from the Coalition for Networked Information, the Emerging Technologies in Instruction Committee of BIS was asked to undertake the following project: To identify the most appropriate and effective means for librarians to design and disseminate instruction materials for teaching the academic and research community about information seeking information sharing, and information evaluation in the networked environment presented by the Internet. In June 1993 the Emerging Technologies in Instruction Committee, on behalf of the Bibliographic Instruction Section, began work on this project to foster effective strategies for instructing users in the networked information environment.

First Steps

In the first phase of this project, the committee solicited and received considerable input from academic librarians through listservs and BIS meetings on current instructional activities and both current and future needs. Preliminary analysis of responses indicated three general areas of concern: Direct instructional support, connectivity and collaboration, and institutional support.

Expressed needs included the following:

  • Knowing how other libraries have approached Internet instruction
  • Identifying mechanisms for teaching large number of faculty and students
  • Identifying a variety of teaching modes for different levels of users
  • Making current instructional materials available
  • Incorporating critical thinking and evaluation approaches to teach the Internet
  • Documentation
  • Models for teaching collaboration between librarians and computing/systems staff
  • Identifying resource people experienced in teaching the Internet
  • Connectivity amongst groups connected with teaching the Internet, whether within institutions, within the library profession or across professional groups
  • Ways to foster greater understanding and support from administration
  • Better training for staff
  • Models for integrating the teaching function with the reference function

In addition, the Coalition for Networked Information expressed specific interest in finding ways to explore use of the network itself to provide both instruction on the actual use of the Internet and other curriculum, and measurement and evaluation of Internet resources and services.

Three Basic Themes

The Bibliographic Instruction Section proposed concentrating on three areas to address the concerns of the professional community: Identifying practical instruction methodologies which could be used by librarians and the academic community; fostering greater connectivity among groups within ALA and with organizations such as CNI and EDUCOM in instructional efforts; identifying models of instructional collaboration within institutions between libraries and systems departments.

Action Plan

The Committee laid out an action plan concentrating activity in each of these three areas and established several working subcommittees charged with completing the task of soliciting and assembling materials and drafting a set of preliminary recommendations based on the material collected. The groups included

  • Instructional models – to gather syllabi, lesson plans, instructional objectives and working models for Internet instruction
  • Undergraduate credit courses – to identify actual courses designed to teach the Internet being offered as part of an undergraduate curriculum
  • Intra-institutional partnerships – to identify models of instructional collaboration being used within a variety of institutions to bring together a variety of expertise to teach users in the networked information environment
  • Instructional materials – to identify materials and resources which could be used in actual Internet instruction
  • Internet-related groups – to assemble a list of groups engaged in Internet instructional activities and summarize the specific activities in which each was currently engaged
  • Instructional “holes” – to identify unmet needs in current instructional model

Activity To Date

Strategies for soliciting information, fostering a shared understanding of the issues at hand, and increasing connectivity among organizations included

  • a discussion forum held by the Emerging Technologies Committee at ALA Annual conference 1993 in New Orleans on “Instruction in the Networked Environment”
  • a discussion forum chaired by Tom Kirk (ACRL President) and Barbara MacAdam (Chair, Emerging Technologies) at EDUCOM 1993 on the role of networked information in undergraduate education
  • a series of listserv announcements to solicit teaching models and related information and materials
  • contact with a variety of ALA and other organization groups to identify relevant activities and information

Responses and Recommendations

Not surprisingly, the Committee received hundreds of responses to its requests for information and material. The real challenge then was to evaluate and synthesize this wealth of input into a set of meaningful recommendations useful to librarians and other educators teaching in the Internet environment. Several factors became apparent:

  1. Virtually everyone is engaged in some kind of instructional activity related to the Internet
  2. There is a enormous amount of material being created and, even leaving quality aside, most of the material is being reinvented at institution after institution
  3. Similarly, discussion forums, conferences and workshops, both national and regional proliferate, but much of this activity is duplicative in effort and is not available at time of immediate need for practitioners
  4. Listservs from BI-L to Nettrain provide a wealth of information but that information is often fragmented and overwhelming to the novice instructor and fragmented even to the experienced teacher
  5. People consistently indicated their basic need was to have immediate access to good instructional materials, representing a variety of institutional settings and instructional contexts, they could draw upon in their own instructional efforts


That BIS establish an ongoing mechanism to identify excellent instructional programs and materials for teaching in the networked environment and work within ALA/ACRL and with CNI to maintain a suitable electronic resource of such information.

II. Instructional Models

Instructional Guides

The following are examples of instructional guides for teaching the Internet that the subcommittee on instructional models considered to be excellent representatives of the various guides assembled. While they by no means represent the only good materials being used in the learning community, they do serve as models representative of a variety of institutional settings, but whose utility is by no means limited to that setting. Consequently there is one from a small college library, another from a library school course, one from a special library, one from a major university, and finally one from the law library of a university.

Guide: “Access to the Internet” 
Producer: Yolanda P. Jones, Reference Librarian
Institution: University of Miami Law Library
Used for: Internet training sessions for faculty/legal researchers

Guide: “Introduction to the Internet”
Producers: Gary Gustafson, Rebecca Harner, Cynthia Childrey, Kevin Ketchner
Institution: Northern Arizona University, Cline Library
Used for: Basic instruction for students/faculty

Guide: “Internet Tutorials”
Producer: Robert Burgin, Associate Professor Institution: North Carolina Central University, School of Library and Information Sciences
Used for: self-paced tutorials for library/information science students

Guide: “The Internet”
Producer: Andrew W. Ragland, Office Systems Assistant
Institution: Meharry Medical College
Used for: introductory Internet instruction for Medical school students

Guide: “A TRALINET Guide to the Internet”
Producer: Ed Burgess
Institution: TRADOC Library and Information Network
Used for: TRADOC action officers


  1. Solicit permission from the producers and mount on the Internet either the ALA or CNI gopher or some alternative method ensuring ready accessibility and ease of retrieval.
  2. Work with CNI to secure resources and establish ongoing support for digitizing, scanning or other data storage as appropriate.
  3. Establish ongoing mechanism to identify, secure permission, and make available on the network emerging instructional materials likely to serve as models of good instruction

Undergraduate Courses

The following are two courses which serve as excellent prototypes for semester-long credit courses designed to introduce undergraduates to the Internet. Teaching not only the basic structure and use of the Internet, they also attempt to establish conceptual frameworks and the critical thinking necessary for study and learning in the networked information environment:

Course: LIS 340 An Introduction to the Internet Resources and Services
Instructor: Mary Lynn Rice-Lively, Librarian and Adjunct Faculty
Institution: University of Texas at Austin, General Libraries and Graduate School of Library and Information Science

Course: LIS 2937
Instructor: Andrew M. (Drew) Smith
Institution: University of South Florida, Division of Library and Information Science


  1. Solicit permission from the instructors to mount and maintain syllabi on the Internet
  2. Establish an ongoing mechanism to solicit syllabi for courses either teaching the Internet or integrating the Internet as a significant portion of other courses and make materials available on the network

Instruction via the Network

The network itself represents enormous instructional potential. There are already a number of “classics” in instruction including “The Internet Cruise” and Rick Gates “Scavenger Hunt.” The following is an excellent and innovative program to teach Internet basics online.

Instructional program: Internet Basics Online
Instructor: Abbie Basile
Institution: State University of New York at Buffalo,
Oscar Silverman Undergraduate Library
Designed for: Beginning Internet users, series of workshops conducted via electronic mail


  1. Identify and mount a self-paced Internet instruction package on the Internet.
  2. Establish an ongoing mechanism to identify, mount and update one or more such self-paced instructional modules on the Net.

III. Cooperative Instructional Arrangements for Networked Information

Part of the committee’s duties was to determine the current level of cooperative instruction conducted by academic librarians, campus computer center staff, and faculty. Requests for such information posted on BI-L, LIBREF, COLLIB-BL and NETTRAIN as well as Veronica and literature searches on Library Literature and ERIC produced only a few such collaborations. Further, the Coalition for Networked Information’s NETTRAIN archives, in particular the survey of INTERNET training programs conducted by Christopher W. Cockrott, did not indicate use of any type of cooperative instructional arrangement outside the library. The following then are models of what appear to be true programs in cooperative instruction:

Institution: Coastal Carolina University, Kimbel Library, Conway SC 29526
Contact: Margaret Fain, Library Instruction Coordinator
(803) 349-2402,

Institution: Macalester College, St. Paul, MN 35105
Contact: Terri Fishel, Head of Reference
(612) 696-6343,

Institution: Medical College of Ohio
Contact: Karen Torok
(419) 381-5446,

Institution: Columbia University
Contact:Joseph Brennan, User Services Consultant
Dan Caldano, User Support Specialist
Charles Greenberg, Media Services Librarian,
Health Sciences Library,
David Magier, Head, Area Studies
Cathy Thomas, User Services Librarian

Institution: Kenyon College
Contact:Bill Quimbey, Manager of Library Automation
quimby@kenyon. edu

Institution: Augustana College
Contact: Jon Clauss, Math/Computer Science Department

A significant effort in identifying models for curriculum-integrated instruction involving true collaborative teams of faculty, librarians and other campus units is underway via the “New Learning Communities Conference” sponsored by Association of Research Libraries, Coalition for Networked Information, and Association of College and Research Libraries, and EDUCOM. Designed to identify teams who are collaborating on projects which strive to develop new learning communities through the integration of networking and networked information into undergraduate teaching and learning, the conference is scheduled for Phoenix Arizona, July 31 and August 1, 1994.


  1. Establish a portion of the CNI or ALA gopher designated for descriptions of collaborative/team efforts in instruction both on and within the networked information environment.
  2. Develop and ongoing mechanism to solicit, evaluate and identify significant models of such curricular and instruction cooperative programs.

III. Instructional Materials

Books and materials on the Internet abound. Only a handful, however, are specifically designed for use by instructors as texts or materials to support, accompany, or provide Internet instruction. Several titles emerged over and over again as the choice of librarians and other professionals teaching in and about the Internet:

Books Specifically Designed for Use with Workshops

  • Beyond the Walls: The World of Networked Information Instructional Workshop Package. Syracuse University, 1991.
  • Crossing the Internet Threshold: an instructional handbook – Roy Tennant, John Ober, and Anne G. Lipow. Library Solutions Press, 1993. (Additional volumes in series are planned)

(Additional resources are listed in Appendix A)

Note: This material is not included with the electronic version of the report.

These materials are likely to continue to be commercially published and at the same time perhaps too lengthy for networked access, nevertheless, networked licensing possibilities should be explored.


  1. Provide a list of core texts/teaching materials with a description of appropriate instructional use on the ALA or CNl gopher
  2. Explore networking and licensing possibilities with special authors and publishers to make model materials available via the Network.
  3. Establish an ongoing mechanism to identify commercial materials of instructional utility in Internet or Internet-related curricula.

IV. ALA and Other Organizations

Appendix B is a listing of organizational groups and their current interest and efforts related to network information instruction

Note: This material is not available for the electronic version of this report.


  1. Provide a file on the ALA or CNI gopher for ALA committees and other organizations/working groups to provide updated information and contact people about their Internet-related instructional activities.

V. “Instructional Holes “

The single largest missing piece of the instructional picture is that of assessment. While the committee did not make a concerted effort to identify formal measurement of instructional effective in the networked information environment, or any comparative measurement of the current resources and services on the Internet, this is a critical area for research.


  1. Establish or designate a task force to identify research studies related to instruction in the networked information environment.
  2. Explore mechanisms to foster such assessment.

HTML version of this report prepared by Keith Morgan, December 19, 1995.