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Enhancing instruction through collaboration.


This article describes how, at the University of Idaho, librarians, Core Discovery instructors, and information technologists worked together to incorporate information literacy skills into the Freshman Core program using a mix of online and face-to-face instructional methods. Collaboration with instructors resulted in online research guides and tailored class instruction; collaboration with information technologists resulted in the development of an online information literacy tutorial.


Academic libraries have responded to the educational challenge of creating information literate students by enhancing the traditional face-to-face classroom session with interactive online tutorials and Web-based research guides. This diversity of approaches supports various learning styles, but also presents a challenge in choosing the optimum mix of instructional methods to best meet teaching objectives. Another key component in teaching students to be active and critical users of information sources is the collaborative relationship that must exist between librarians, information technologists and classroom instructors. At the University of Idaho (UI), collaboration was a two-part effort. We partnered with Core Discovery instructors to develop additional information literacy components to incorporate in their courses and we worked with information technologists in the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) to develop an online information literacy tutorial.

Literature Review

Tutorials can allow students to learn at their own time and pace, give them a sense of control over their learning, repeat sections and be quizzed on their learning. Tutorials also aid librarians in teaching basic concepts with a consistent content and delivery to many students. In one 2002 survey, 78 percent of instruction librarians surveyed felt online tutorials were effective (Hollister & Coe, 2003). However, these same librarians overwhelmingly felt that the lecture/demonstration and the one-shot session were not obsolete, reinforcing the view that direct instruction by a librarian is still viewed as useful. The survey cites comments from librarians who believe that online tutorials should be accompanied by other library instruction.

Several studies have compared tutorial effectiveness to face-to-face instruction. Most have found no significant difference (Germain & Bobish, 2002; Nichols, Shaffer, & Shockey, 2003). One study did find students learned more in the face-to-face class sessions and felt more confident about their library skills (Churkovich & Oughtred, 2002). Though most studies show online tutorials can be effective for learning, some also found that some librarian involvement (face-to-face or direct feedback) was desirable. At SUNY-Oswego, students did the tutorial in a classroom with the librarian present to provide help and sometimes supplemented the tutorial with a traditional worksheet because there was resistance to completely eliminating the visit to the library and the librarian involvement (Nichols, Shaffer, & Shockey, 2003). It was noted that the tutorial alone did not meet the needs of different learning styles. At the University of Arizona, librarians did not teach face-to-face but gave students email feedback on the appropriateness of the articles they chose after completing the tutorial. This proved to be very helpful to the student, but very time consuming for the librarian (Bracke & Dickstein, 2002). At Deakin University in Australia, the face-to-face session was able to provide an exercise relevant to the students' subject and that may have contributed to the higher scores compared to the online tutorial (Churkovich & Oughtred, 2002). Thus, while the use of online tutorials has been increasing, there still appears to be a need for a mix of face-to-face and online when possible. Other studies have discussed how a generic tutorial can lack the specificity or flexibility to meet students' current information needs for an assignment (Ferguson & Ferguson, 2005). Integrating information literacy into the curriculum by developing meaningful assignments through collaboration with course instructors leads to better learning outcomes (D'Angelo & Maid, 2004; Hine, Gollin, Ozols, Hill, & Scoufis, 2002; Noe & Bishop, 2005).


At the University of Idaho, we teach face-to-face library instruction sessions in English composition classes--introducing students to the physical library, teaching them to find books and articles using the library's web page, and teaching the basics of evaluating web sites. These ate the basic skills of information literacy. In 2000, the UI began developing a new set of introductory courses for freshmen called Core Discovery. These interdisciplinary, team-designed classes examine significant topics (e.g., race, ethnicity and identity, the concept of monstrosity; jazz from blues to hip-hop) from the perspectives of various disciplines, and place special emphasis on basic learning and communication skills, critical thinking, methods of inquiry, computer literacy and diversity (Core Discovery Courses, 2005). The library was represented in the planning groups and information literacy was included as an essential skill to be covered (Core Discovery Objectives).

As pilot Core Discovery courses began, instructors requested library tours. Our experience has shown us that a tour or instruction session unrelated to a specific assignment is not very effective. We gently suggested that Core classes would benefit from more sophisticated library sessions with research skills taught in the context of a particular project. As these assignments materialized, librarians developed instruction sessions and handouts of web pages to assist students. This point-of-need instruction was preferable to a general library tour but librarians remained frustrated by assignments that did not lend themselves to teaching students information literacy skills. We wanted the collaborative relationship with Core Discovery instructors that Farber (1999) notes:</p>

<pre> can result in assignments ... where both the teacher's objectives

and the librarian's objectives are not only achieved, but ate mutually reinforcing--the teacher's objectives being those that help

students attain a better understanding of the course's subject

matter, and the librarian's objectives being those that enhance the

students' ability to find and evaluate information" (p. 233). </pre> <p>In 2004, a group of Core Discovery instructors, librarians and information technologists at the University of Idaho applied for, and were awarded, an Idaho State Board of Education (SBOE) grant for a project entitled "Immersion of Information Literacy and Technology into the University of Idaho Core Discovery Courses" (Hill 2005). The project brought together teams to design information literacy content and active learning components for the courses. Each team includes a librarian, a Core Discovery instructor, and an information technologist. The library was closely involved in the grant writing process from the very beginning and proposed that we take a two-pronged approach to:

* increase the collaboration with Core Discovery instructors to develop more information literacy components. Collaboration could include being consultants in the course design stage, resource consultants for faculty, and research consultants for students, as well as teaching in the classroom.

* develop an online information literacy tutorial in partnership with information technologists. This will be available to college and university educators, K-12 teachers, students, librarians, information technologists, and members of the general public throughout the state.

Collaborating with Core Discovery Instructors

Consulting with Core Discovery instructors at the course design stage gave librarians an opportunity to suggest assignments that highlight the research process and promote information literacy skills. For example, during planning sessions, instructors for the race, ethnicity, and identity course shared the objectives of the course project with the librarian. The librarian suggested changes to both the timing of the library sessions and the "Required Sources" section of the assignment. Most importantly, the planning session gave the instructors and librarian a chance to talk together about the project and ensure that all were "on the same page." In another course, the librarian met with the instructor when the syllabus was being developed and determined dates she would meet with the class and what she would cover. The students' assignment was to create an oral history project about local gays and lesbians, so they first needed background on oral histories, and then they would need to research gay/lesbian issues that related to their interviewee. The course instructor and librarian determined that the first session would be a typical lecture demonstration, but by the next session the students would have established their groups, would know their interviewee and the issues to research. Thus, the second session was planned asa way for the librarian to consult with each group.

Acting as resource consultants, librarians gathered materials for the Core instructors to use in their classes. Rather than the traditional "show and tell" of resources in a class session or supplying students with a printed bibliography, an online library research guide (Core Discovery Research Guides, 2005) was created to describe the sources. A template was used for consistent design, making it easy for different librarians to change sections specific to each class. The goal of these online pathfinders was not just to supply a list of resources, but also to teach information literacy skills by:

* Describing unique characteristics of different types of resources (i.e., books, scholarly/popular articles, government documents, reference works, websites, secondary/primary sources)

* Suggesting specific article databases

* Showing examples of search strategies

* Providing links to more in-depth research help

In some cases these guides were developed and used in a class session; in others the guides were developed in close consultation with the faculty member to meet the needs of an assignment and then the students were provided with the link. In gathering resources for the multidisciplinary Core classes, librarians sometimes found gaps in the collection. In one case (the jazz from blues to hip-hop class), librarian consultation with the faculty before the classroom sessions led to "just in time" purchase of useful resources, two series of books covering American popular culture decade by decade that were placed on reserve in time for the final project.

In addition to classroom instruction and online research guides, librarians acted as research consultants for students needing extra assistance. Students were encouraged to take advantage of RAP (Research Assistance Program), which gives students the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a librarian. Some librarians set up appointments with small groups of students. For example, one librarian showed groups of students how to find and interpret demographic information on their ancestor's ethnic group by using immigration data found in old Serial Set volumes. In another class, when helping small groups with the "Work, Aging and UI History" assignment the librarian helped them find old UI yearbooks to find past faculty and alumni information and pictures for a project in which they interviewed UI retirees and researched issues of gender in the workplace during the time periods the retirees were active. Some of the new technology made possible by the SBOE grant meant that face-to-face, in-class instruction was not always done in the library classroom. The sessions for the jazz class were set up by instructor with his own laptop and equipment already installed in the classroom, avoiding scheduling conflicts in the library classroom and eliminating confusion for the students about where to meet for that day.

Collaborating With Information Technologists

Collaboration between librarians and the information technologists at the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) focused on the development of the information literacy tutorial. One librarian served as the co-coordinator for this part of the grant--outlining the content of the modules and meeting with information technologists to discuss design and technical issues. As the information technologists built the modules, she then met with other librarians to get comments and revisions, which were relayed to the information technology team. Unlike the research guides, the tutorial was not designed for one specific Core class, but for a very broad audience--all Idaho citizens, as specified in the State Board of Education grant. There is an inherent dilemma in trying to develop a tutorial to meet the needs of two specific audiences: the students in the subject-oriented Core Discovery classes and anyone in the state of Idaho who needs to hone information literacy skills. In many courses, CTI recommends using WebCT course software, but we were constrained by the requirement that our tutorial be available to everyone in Idaho. Also some of the assessment tools commonly used in WebCT-based courses (such as automatically graded and randomly generated quiz questions) were not available for use in the tutorial.


In our collaboration with Core Discovery instructors, initially only selected instructors worked with librarians to incorporate information literacy skills into their classes. However, by fall 2005, librarians partnered with four additional Core Discovery classes, using online research guides, face-to-face sessions and email assistance. Our pilot project has demonstrated its success by these additional requests from instructors who heard about our resources and services.

Our findings regarding the methods of information literacy instruction mirror the studies cited earlier--showing a need for a mix of online and face-to-face. The results of a questionnaire sent to our Core Discovery instructors, as shown in the comments below, indicate that most of these instructors want this variety of teaching methods used. One instructor was very pleased with the web research guide created, but soundly rejected the thought of using an online tutorial instead of face-to-face sessions with the librarian. She felt strongly that the human interaction was important. Another instructor, whose class came for face-to-face sessions, said:</p> <pre> Although I believe that similar information could be provided on-line, the face-to-face interaction worked particularly well for freshman, who are relegated to online sources most of their time. The face-to-face nature of the workshop made the information stick longer and made it more important to receive the information in the first place. Also, the students could start working in small groups as part of this workshop, rather than scheduling a follow-up meeting with their group members (S. Reincke, personal communication, August 20, 2005). </pre> <p>Another instructor, due to time constraints, opted to use only a web page guide to assist students in evaluating sources and finding book reviews. He later commented that he thought more students would have used the web-based research guides if the librarian had introduced the pages and concepts in person. However, another instructor, who had a face-to-face session, felt that appropriately sequenced tutorials would have adequately replaced the session with the librarian. The web-based research guides were used in a variety of settings. One instructor commented that students found the research guides very helpful in identifying appropriate source material. In addition, the guides helped reference desk staff find materials for students in the classes. In another class, the instructor was very enthusiastic about the research guide, but when the librarian attended the final project presentations, and looked at students' sources, it didn't appear the guide had been used as much as hoped. The instructor commented that more emphasis on quality sources in the final product would be emphasized in the future. Another instructor confronted this issue saying, "I am expecting students to use the resources developed for them in the project they're completing now. I will insist that they consult the resources and calibrate their grade accordingly" (G. Williams, personal communication, April, 2005). The collaboration with CTI technologists resulted in the completion of six modules of our tutorial (Core Information Literacy Tutorial, 2005). Core Discovery instructors and the Core program director have reviewed the tutorial. We will focus on marketing the tutorial, with suggestions for instructors regarding how they might use parts of the tutorial with graded assignments. We also plan to develop more modules tailored to the use of the UI online catalog and article databases, assess the tutorial's effectiveness and revise as needed.


The purpose of our collaboration was to incorporate information literacy skills into the Core Discovery classes in line with the Core program's stated objectives. We also focused on using a mix of online and face-to-face instructional methods--which met the approval of our collaborating instructors. A strong foundation is in place both in resources we have created and relationships we have established. This teamwork approach has led to more interaction with the director of the Core program and more visibility for the library. Using this additional contact with the director, we plan to garner support to implement more use and assessment of the tutorial and also greater participation from more of the Core Discovery instructors.


Bracke, P.J. & Dickstein, R. (2002). Web tutorials and scalable instruction: testing the waters. Reference Services Review, 30(4), 330-337.

Churkovich, M. & Oughtred, C. (2002). Can an online tutorial pass the test of library instruction? Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 33(1), 25-35.

Core Discovery: General Course Objectives. (n.d.). Retrieved August 23, 2005, from

Core Discovery Courses. (2005). Retrieved August 23, 2005, from

Core Discovery Research Guides. (2005). Retrieved August 1, 2005, from Core Information Literacy Tutorial. (2005). Retrieved August 20, 2005 from

D'Angelo, B.J. & Maid, B.M. (2004). Moving beyond definitions: implementing information literacy across the curriculum. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 30(3), 212-217.

Farber, E. (1999). Faculty-librarian cooperation: a personal retrospective. Reference Services Review, 27(3), 229-234.

Ferguson, K.S. & Ferguson, A. (2005). The remote library and point-of-need user education: an Australian academic library perspective. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve, 15(3), 43-60.

Germain, C.A. & Bobish, G. (2002). Virtual teaching: library instruction via the web. The Reference Librarian, 77, 69-86.

Hill, E., Schlater, D., & Young, N. (2005). Immersion of information literacy and technology into freshman core courses. Retrieved August 24, 2005 from

Hine, A., Gollin, S., Ozols, A. Hill, F., & Scoufis, M. (2002). Embedding information literacy in a university subject through collaborative partnerships. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 2(2), 102-107.

Hollister, C. & Coe, J. (2003). Current trends vs. traditional models: librarian's views on the methods of library instruction. College and Undergraduate Libraries, 10(2), 49-63.

Nichols, J., Shaffer, B. & Shockey, K. (2003). Changing the face of instruction: is online or in-class more effective? College & Research Libraries, 64(5), 378-388.

Noe, N.W., Bishop, B.A. (2005). Assessing Auburn University Library's Tiger Information Literacy Tutorial (TILT). Reference Services Review, 33(2), 173-187.

Research Assistance Program. Retrieved August 1, 2005, from

Diane M. Prorak, University of Idaho

Karen F. Hertel, University of Idaho

Nancy J. Young, University of Idaho

Diane M. Prorak is the Coordinator of Library Instruction at University of Idaho, Moscow ID. Nancy J. Young and Karen F. Hertel teach in the Library's instruction program and work collaboratively with the Core Discovery program.
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Title Annotation:online information literacy tutorial
Author:Young, Nancy J.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1U8ID
Date:Dec 22, 2005
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