15 Jan 2016

Moving to online-only information literacy teaching

I’m the subject librarian supporting the DCU Business School and recently completed the move to online-only IL instruction to teach the library basics to first year undergraduates in their first semester. The Business School takes in nearly 1,000 UG students per year and it’s always been a headache planning instruction for all their different programmes. I was embedded in one of the larger modules and delivered this in a blend of lecture, workshop and online assessment (which my predecessor wrote about here). This rushed-but-effective approach taught 300-400 students and I used to catch the rest of them with a dozen or so workshops for smaller groups but there were always gaps as programmes and modules changed year by year.

So last semester, in collaboration with the School’s Teaching and Learning Committee, we identified the one core module that all first years take, Introduction to Microeconomics (EF113), and the lecturer agreed integrate the training with his module.

Here’s now it works:
  • In the early weeks of semester 1, all students do an asynchronous tutorial hosted on the EF113 Moodle page (here’s a public version of it). It’s a combination of video, text, activities and quizzes I created mainly using Articulate Storyline. This takes them about two hours to complete and it covers IL basics like understanding reading lists, academic publications, citing and referencing etc.
  • Next the students complete a microeconomics exercise on finding and manipulating data from sources like the Central Statistics Office and Revenue Commissioners.
  • And finally they do a summative MCQ on both of the above which accounts for 5% of their marks for the module. The students had two weeks to complete all of this.

Overall I was really pleased with the outcome, when compared with the large blended class I had previously taught:

Online - 2015
Blended – 2013
Total students
Total completed assessment
% completed assessment
Avg. mark

The training was popular with students. Here are a few of the comments from the 183 feedback forms completed:
  • “Very helpful overall, easy to understand, and very thorough. Will undoubtedly be an asset to me as I begin my assignments.”
  • “I had been struggling with an assignment for Psychology in Organisations, but now I have a better understanding of what sources to use, when to use them and how to reference them.”
  • “Really good, even though it takes a while the high levels of interactive content throughout made it go by quicker than I would have expected.”

There were a few issues with the technology on Moodle but nothing serious. Whenever there were any issues from students with the content or the tech I was able to respond by email or face-to-face in the Library and resolve it quickly. Other benefits for the students were that they could control of pace of learning, it was (and remains) open to them whenever they need it and they got immediate feedback on their learning from the quizzes and activities.

While I'm satisfied that running automated, online-only training works for first year UGs, I won't be using this approach much for other cohorts like final year students and postgraduates. Teaching here is more specialised and done in smaller groups so it's manageable to deliver it face-to-face and these groups, especially the School's executive education students, value the hands-on workshops in a way I've never really experienced with the first years (it's very hard to get Irish teenagers straight from secondary school to open up!).

I'll be running this again next year and I have a few improvements in mind:

  • More interactivity in the tutorial.
  • Working with the lecturer to find ways to integrate the IL elements more seamlessly with the module.  
  • Improving the assessment. While I’m largely happy using MCQs as an assessment tool, I find it’s not as effective with the more subjective elements of the curriculum like evaluating sources, which the students fell down on. I have enrolled in an online module on assessment & feedback taught by DCU’s Teaching Enhancement Unit and I hope to make this my project. I’m thinking of something like including a peer-evaluated exercise on a short piece of reflective writing. We’ll see.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this sounds great! I'm particularly impressed by the number of students who completed the assessment - have struggled to get such high levels of engagement from the student groups I have liaised with as a subject librarian. Did their marks from this assessment count towards their overall grades?