Case study: are interactive tutorials an effective alternative tool for library or information literacy instruction?
Academic libraries and database providers offer a wide variety of, often interactive, online tutorials, which are presented as a good alternative for the person-to-person instructions by information specialists. We studied how effective interactive tutorials are in the context of library or information literacy instructions (ILI).
Within academic libraries information literacy instruction (ILI) was in the past mostly offered in one-to-one person sessions or in small groups, to maximize the impact on information literacy competences (ILC) of the students. These optimal educational settings are often not possible. Academic libraries have to deal with a growing student population and are more and more asked to participate in curricular teachings of larger groups of students. This evolution puts a large workload on the library therefore in our institution we experimented with different educational methods to master this workload. Video tutorials were studied as a possible alternative for ILI. Video tutorials have a 24/24 and remote availability allowing just-in time self-study of the student. Moreover these tutorials can be used as an educational tool in different settings, such as continuous user support systems.
Study environment and population
In the present study the efficiency of Video tutorials, to obtain IL competences, was studied within the context of a curricular course to first year Bachelor students in Biomedical Sciences at Ghent University. Therefore the assessment of the effect of online tutorials had to be studied while using other active learning tools and formal ILI in a classroom environment. The course consisted of 15 hours of theory and 15 hours of active learning on PC given by information specialists.
The study population started with 176 first year Bachelor students in Biomedical Sciences. We used excluding criteria for students who dropped out during the first months and for those who doubled their year. The final study cohort consisted of 141 students.
Objectives of the study
In an attempt to improve the ILC we investigated the teaching methodologies and searched for the most effective educational formats to enrich the IL training process.
The study had to be performed within a setting of blended learning. Therefore we studied the effect of the Video tutorials compared to other already applied activating interventions both in theory and practice parts of the course. The digital learning environment was used to communicate with the students, to provide learning materials and to perform digital assessments.
The interventions studied were:
- In October 2011 the students were divided into two groups for the practice training. Group 1 received a self-study assignment of PubMed using a selection of online Video tutorials. Group 2 received a hands-on and example-guided instruction by the information specialist. A self-assessment test was given to both groups.
- In December 2011 a cross-over with a similar division of the total group was applied for the training of Web-of-Science. Group 1 received formal ILI teaching, and group 2 engaged in self-study of the Video tutorials. Also here a self-assessment test was administered, and a questionnaire given to the students to evaluate the degree of satisfaction.
- In the theory course, students were activated by the use of voting devices on several occasions.
- Finally we provided self-assessment tasks on the digital learning platform. This allowed the students to keep on practicing and to “feel” their own progress.
The results of the PubMed training indicate no significant difference in the learning outcomes between both groups.
The results of the Web-of-Science training (WOS) shows also no group differences in the acquisition of ILC, despite the observation of all trainers that group 1 was intellectually stronger and more competitive.The WOS test gives better results, probably because the students became more digital competent by the prior PubMed test.
Finally the results of the PubMed and Web-of-Science cross-over tests were compared to the results at the examinations of the present and previous three years.These results indicate a slightly better study outcome, although more consecutive results are needed to confirm this evolution and exclude individual group effects.
The PubMed and Web-of-Science tutorial interventions have effects on the global learning outputs of all students, but no significant group differences can be observed. However, students who used the tutorials where more eager to train and keep on training. This could be measured, by their higher than comparison group presence, in the digital learning environment. We therefore postulate that they acquired a basic level of IL faster than the control group. It was also observed that the remote access of the tutorial worked as a permanent form of feedback whereby students were noted to have less questions for rehearsal in the formal courses. The course speed turned out to be higher than in previous years. So, more time was left for practice and more complex questioning during the formal course hours. These findings by the teaching staff and the results of the final examination outputs confirm findings in literature that the “method of instruction does not influence students retention of IL skills. All methods can be equally as effective.” (Andersona K.,2010 )
Although each group was tested immediately after each intervention, there are no indications that any specific activation method was more successful than another. We must conclude that any method of activation in the educational process will make the students more motivated and also has a positive influence on the trainers. Some kind of positive flow is created, which eventually results in more and better ILC. The best way to teach IL is still a debate, and trying to anticipate to as many individual (in) dependent variables of the learning process as possible is a real challenge. We refer to the contribution of Dumont H. on this matter: “Learning is also individually different, which means that its processes and outcomes vary among students on a variety of pertinent variables. Encouraging and sustaining effective learning therefore means that school should provide as much as possible adaptive education (Glaser, 1977) to take account of these differences.” (Dumont H.,2010)
Our study design evaluates the effects of different educational activation methods within a setting of blended learning. The impossibility to identify the most effective tool, leads to the conclusion that the information specialists should be able to design and use a diversity of educational tools in different settings. The blended activation approach meets better the diversity in education needs, whereby the results on group level improve Video tutorials are just one of the many effective tools for library or information literacy instruction. Blending of different formats meets the diverse learning needs of the individuals in the group and increases the learning motivation of both students and trainers. The fine-tuning of the blend will certainly evolve over the next years.
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Andersona K, May FA. Does the Method of Instruction Matter? An Experimental Examination of Information Literacy Instruction in the Online, Blended, and Face-to-Face Classrooms.The Journal of Academic Librarianship. 2010; 36(6):495–500.
Croft WM, Mihaly EC. Responding to students needs: Trailling a 'blended environment'. In: OLT-2005:Beyond Delivery; 2005 September 27th; Australia, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland. [cited 2012 Jan 19]. Available from:http://eprints.qut.edu.au/archive/00002195/01/OLT_conf_papr.pdf
Dumont H, Istance D, Benavides FG. The Nature of Learning: Using research to inspire practice. Centre for Educational Research and Innovation : OECD Publishing; 2010
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