Friday, February 5, 2010

#onw2010 Using Technology to Reach More Students in Tough Times

An Analysis on Five Semesters of Data Connecting Students with the Information Literacy Skills They Need to Complete their Assignments
Steve Borrelli & Alex Merrill, Washington State University

How do we respond to enrollment increases with steady staff levels?

Students' main points of contact with the library are the reference desk and the one-shot instruction sessions. The one-shot session is inadequate.
  • Too much info to absorb
  • Not enough time to cover everything
  • No assessment (without cooperation from faculty)
  • Often poorly timed related to assignment schedule
  • Students are absent from session and miss their one chance
  • No opportunity to develop rapport
  • Difficult for students to apply what they learned (often not enough time inside the session)
  • Unrealistic expectations from instructors
  • Widely varying levels of student experience in any one session
  • Students' inaccurate assumptions of their own competence
"The one shot is not information literacy. It's a familiarization exercise that can serve as a doorway into information literacy."

WSU set 6 goals for the BA, 1 of which was information literacy. Faculty actually targeted specific courses in majors as the place of intervention for IL instruction. This was supported by President Obama, and complemented by a CMS (Angel) for every course, making hybrid learning the norm.

For librarians, hybrid learning means
  • Multiple opportunities to reach students
  • Creation of content & assignments for courses
  • Providing online resources that allow to reach more classes
WSU increased the number of students receiving library instruction by 62% from 2006 to 2008, mostly through online interactions.

WSU uses ILE - Information Literacy Education Learning Environment. This was developed in-house, by a librarian, student employee, and IT staff member. It's a flexible tool for collaborative assignment design, that is not itself a tutorial but draws on tutorials available on the free web. This allows it cover a much wider range of topics than a single house-made tutorial.

The classes are designed to inform students what they need to do, educate them with tutorials, assess their learning with multiple choice quizzes, and asses their ability to transfer the information with short answer questions.

As a librarian adds tutorials, they also add quiz questions. Each class in ILE defaults to 4 modules, corresponding to the required proficiencies.
Each tutorial has associated quiz question banks, which the system draws out to create a single unified quiz for the class. Which questions are used is randomized. The quiz bank also shows how students did on the question in the past, giving a benchmark to compare a single class's performance to. You can also create custom questions for a specific class. Custom settings include how many attempts the students can make, due dates, etc.
When students log in, they can register for the class. Then they see the list of assignments (including pre-tests). They work through the modules of tutorials - instructions and learning objects. The essay portion has a WYSIWYG editor and autosaves.

The advantages of this approach is that it allows for rapid customization, using the best available learning objects, and builds in assessment data that the library can examine and respond to.

The library having an in-house system provides stability when the entire campus shifts CMSs. The tight focus on just a few features allows it to be easier to use at those specific tasks. But the general idea could be implemented in any LMS.

Total cost was approximately $24,000, grant funded. Early drafts of the tool encouraged large later donations.

In the courses that used the system, 82% of the students used ILE. As of this week, 1401 students participated just this semester.

In some classes, particularly huge large lectures, ILE is the only method of instruction. For other classes, like 300-level history or English composition, librarians grade assignments and/or provide in-person instruction. For basic composition, the tutorial covers the basics of library services, so that the librarian knows going in what the strengths and needs are. Another customized possibility is to customize the tutorials offered depending on which questions the student got wrong in a pre-test.

Students did the best at questions related to evaluating information, and the worst at accessing information (a statistically significant different). This suggests that the reason sources like Wikipedia show up in Works Cited are not that the students inaccurately evaluate them, but because they don't know how to find anything better.

Within the question categories: In evaluation, the students did best at distinguishing between primary and secondary sources, and worst at identifying services by name. The implication is that we shouldn't be cute in naming catalogs or IRs. [LCC is doing well at this - our catalog is just the catalog; LibGuides are labeled as Research Guides.] In ethics, the students did best at fair use, and again worst at name recognition and local knowledge.

In sum, the contributions of ILE are to reach more students in more classes, and providing better assessment data to understand the students.


Part of what this custom interface provides is stability in the face of shifts between WebCt, Blackboard, Angel, etc. Lane CC seems to be stable with Moodle, so the custom interface probably isn't as useful to us. How can we take advantage of this concept without reinventing our interfaces?

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Libri & Libertas: Books & Freedom in a Web 2.0 World by Laura H. Wimberley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.