Doing More with Less: Moving Information Literacy Instruction Online

During a June 18, 2013 webcast (you can get a CD-ROM or stream the recorded webcast here), Academic Impressions asked librarians from academic libraries across North America whether they are looking to move information literacy programming online -- and why. The three main reasons offered:

  • Enrollment growth in online and blended courses, where students may have limited access to the physical library or to meeting librarians
  • Initiatives to support embedded librarians in first-year courses
  • Large numbers of freshman sections needing information literacy instruction, and limited librarians to teach them

Offering information literacy instruction in a mediated, online environment allows your institution to offer these resources to more students without incurring the cost of hiring additional instruction librarians, and may empower you to better connect distance learning students with library resources.

Barriers to Getting This Done

Anne-Marie Deitering, the Franklin McEdward Professor for Undergraduate Learning Initiatives at Oregon State University, led the webcast participants in an interactive discussion about making the move to online literacy programming. During the discussion, Deitering shared the results of a national survey she and her colleagues conducted asking librarians across the US about the most significant barriers they face to offering information literacy instruction online.

Overwhelmingly, librarians indicated that the #1 barrier was time.

Noting this, Deitering reviewed how several libraries have offered low-cost, minimal-time-required online literacy programming.

One Example: Quick, Multimedia Tutorials

One strategy is to embed multimedia tutorial content in the CMS and/or on the library website, where the student can access a brief and engaging tutorial at the point of need -- when a student is already engaged in a process and they need immediate instruction on how to do a specific task.

To illustrate the point, Deitering asked the participants in the webcast to think about a time when they needed to learn something new and they found what they needed online. "What did you need to know?" she asked. "Where did you look? What did you find?"

Participants offered dozens of responses, from learning how to fix a flat tire for a bike to how to remove a virus from a computer to how to hotwire a keyless car.

How did respondents find the information they needed? Most found the information via a Youtube tutorial. Others looked to blogs or other online tutorials.

"Consider what this might mean for information literacy instruction," Deitering suggested. She noted that many of the items students need to learn -- such as searching strategies; facts about databases; proper citation; catalog searching; evaluating search results; locating journal articles -- are mechanical tasks and lend themselves easily to quick and engaging tutorials.

For example, you could video-record a student talking through how to complete a particular task, provide minimal editing, upload the video to Youtube, and then provide librarians with the embed link. These quick video tutorials allow students the opportunity to learn from other students, and provide a more engaging tutorial than the traditional, text-heavy online instruction.

Learn More

For more examples of tutorials -- and for a review of the research on what factors make an online learning module or tutorial effective for the learner, consider ordering the recorded interactive discussion with Anne-Marie Deitering.

And for a more comprehensive look at information literacy programming in the first-year experience, review our free 2011 interview with Anne-Marie Deitering on innovative approaches.