Library Gazette

In the 'Instruction' Category...

ZSRx Digital Publishing: The Reckoning

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 5:24 pm

Back in the Fall of 2013 (when we were all young and innocent), a young librarian named Billy was approached by a nice library dean and asked if he wanted to conduct a MOOC of his own. He agreed, under one condition: pro humanitate. As such, our (normally shy) hero enjoyed complete autonomy and/or academic freedom re the content of the thing. This is his story. This is history. This is the dramatic story of ZSRx Digital Publishing.

Our friend Kyle had a platform, but needed content. Billy happened to have content, but needed a platform. Either way, Lynn had the “students.” And so the deal went down: Bill would record three modules’ worth of digital publishing-related content, provide external links and readings, conduct online (and “plausibly live”) discussions going for about three weeks, and promise to keep the distracting Tom Waits clips to a minimum, with Kyle massaging said content into the Canvas platform, all while Lynn would recruit some registrants.

Meanwhile, I used primarily the (free) screen-capture program called ScreenCast-O-Matic, and it was awesome, in that it recorded my yammering in front of PowerPoint slides and online websites in such a way that I didn’t really even need a firm script, and so the clips had the distinct feel of a loosey-goosey (who me?) lecture — complete with my incessant stammering and ill-paced cadences. (Honestly, ten minutes of that at time is plenty.) These clips were published directly to my YouTube channel (everyone has one, btw), which Kyle would then “embed” into the Canvas platform, so we didn’t need to bother with fancy/costly video production (or lighting (or makeup (though we probably could’ve stood some of the latter))) or other hassles regarding video storage or distribution. (And I was ready with a rejoinder if anyone might’ve complained about the homemade/rickety aspects of the clips: you get what you pay for.)

Anyhow, we sent come-hither emails in January to various listservs (ASERL, Library Publishing Coaltion, WFU Alums, etc.) and waited. I bought a press release, which got picked up by LJ online, and we waited some more. By the time the course started in February, we had about 400 students signed up — librarians, publishers, vendors, parents, friends, neighbors, homeless people — mostly from North Carolina and the U.S., but some international folks. And since there were actually at least one student each from the continents of Europe, Asia, and Australia, it’s fair to say that ZSRx Digital Publishing was a global phenomenon by the time it officially launched in February (right after the SuperBowl).

We rolled out one “module” a week, for three weeks, with each module consisting of maybe 1 hour’s worth of video (in maybe 6- to 12-minute segments) and links and readings and discussion considerations. I would send a jaunty “announcement” each week, and Kyle and I would prompt some “engaging” discussions based on that week’s module’s content. The discussions turned out to be a hoot and a half — we had a nice handful of maybe a dozen regular contributors, who helped move things along.

Speaking of moving along, I better get around to telling the dark side of my mini-MOOC: there was some distinct attrition, participation-wise. That is, though we had ~400 folks sign up, and though those folks consumed thousands of pages of web content, the course analytics indicated a pretty significant (if typical, according to Kyle) drop-off:

Still, and though the formal exit survey is yet to come, I did fashion a fun little “final exam,” wherein I left some room for “final thoughts,” and here’s where I’ll perk back up by quoting exactly what some students said therein:

  • I appreciate the time that was spent putting this together!
  • I did learn a lot, although I was definitely a passive learner simply because of other commitments for my time!
  • This was an awesome MOOC!
  • I learned so much about digital publishing that I never had an inkling about!
  • Every MOOC should be this much fun!
  • Very interesting course. Thank you for offering it!
  • Enjoyed the course; lots of good information!
  • For my first “online” course…I really enjoyed this!
  • Thanks for your time and effort to put this together!
  • Mindboggling – the amount of digital information and books available!
  • Thanks!!

Not gonna lie, the exclamation points got to me.

And so I’ll close now by just stone-cold declaring my personal and genuine feelings about the whole deal (minus any and all hint of irony or sarcasm or impatience (of which I’m sometimes accused)): my participation in ZSRx has been the highlight of my career at Wake Forest University (and maybe anywhere) so far. And I can’t thank Kyle and Lynn and everyone at ZSR Library enough for allowing me the honor.

–wpk

 

 

Search tip #23: Truncation!

Monday, September 16, 2013 3:50 pm

Raise your hand if you’ve been here before: stuck in a library database, wondering why your search for articles about something like the role of computers in childhood development isn’t returning any really good results. Your search might look like this:

computers childhood development

Seems like a good search, right? Here’s the thing, though: if there are completely relevant articles that discuss the role of computing in how children develop using those exact terms, but they never use the terms computers, childhood, or development, you’re not going to find all of them. How do you rework the search to find all the relevant stuff?

Stand back, children, while I attempt some library-fu. If I rework the search to this:

comput* child* develop*

I’m going to find many more relevant articles.

Here’s what’s happening. Those asterisks (the little * symbols) are what we call truncators. Essentially, they tell the database to look for the root form of the word and include anything that comes after it. This means your search will now find alternate forms of your search terms.

comput* will find computer, computers, computing, computation, etc.
child* will find child, children, childhood, etc.
develop* will find develop, develops, developing, development, etc.

Although this doesn’t work in every single database (or on search engines like Google, which does something similar automatically), it’s a good tool to have in your belt. Now, go, and remember: with great power comes great responsib*.

ZSRx: The MOOC that wasn’t a MOOC

Friday, May 10, 2013 1:37 pm

Remember that time ZSR offered an online information literacy course? No, not that one. This one. The one we designed to be MOOC-like, free and open to anyone, focused on general web literacy skills, in the hopes that *maybe* 100 people would want to sign up. No? Well, let me tell you about it.

Let’s start at the beginning. It was a little more than two years ago that Lauren Pressley designed and taught her online version of LIB100, the first online course of any kind at Wake Forest. She worked hard to create a “Wake Forest” feel to the course: lots of reflection, video responses, close contact. And it worked. She was asked to go before the College Board of Visitors to show them what she’d done, and they were impressed. I’m told that many came up to Lauren after her presentation to ask how they could take her class. This was all before I came to ZSR, of course, but I know enough about this place to understand that when the College Board of Visitors wants to take your class, you find a way to let them take your class.

So we found a way. We gave LIB100 the MOOC treatment: we generalized the content and learning outcomes, focusing on web literacies that are relevant to everyone. We curated third-party content from around the web, finding readings, videos, and websites that anyone could access and easily fit into their busy schedules. We set up a discussion forum and a community blog. We organized everything into thematic modules and built a simple website with free tools to hold it all together. We called it ZSRx: The Cure for the Common Web, and then we told people about it, focusing our marketing efforts on parents and alumni, hoping 100 or so would be interested enough to sign up. Then 700 people signed up.

Let me tell you, dear reader: there’s nothing more real in the life of an eLearning Librarian than when 700 people show up to your party. It was terrifying. I was ecstatic.

As people started introducing themselves on the discussion board, we learned that we had participants from 23 states and 10 countries. There were parents of current and former students, alumni from the class of 2012 all the way back to the class of 1954 (old campus!), and folks here on campus who were just interested in what we were doing. We had folks who had very little computer or web literacy and folks who had taught online for the University of Phoenix. I met an alum living in Florida who is close personal friends with the minister who married me and my wife. People started connecting to old friends, swapping stories of their time at Wake, reminiscing over favorite professors. Although introductions were coming fast and furious, it all felt very… small.

Each of the four modules focused on a different aspect of web literacy. Module One focused on being a more strategic web searcher, Module Two on advanced search tools and techniques, Module Three on privacy, filtering, and SEO, and Module Four on using free web apps to make life easier. For each module, there was more content and more opportunities to participate than I expected anyone to actually get to in a week. The idea, as I shared with participants, was not to try to learn everything the course had to offer, but to treat the course as one would a candy dish–to pull out the one or two things that look most appetizing, and be OK with leaving the rest. If they learned one new thing each week, I emphasized, the course was a success.

It’s strange, actually, calling ZSRx a course. It felt vaguely “course-like,” in that it had a beginning and an end, students and instructors, content that was organized to address learning objectives, and interactions between participants and facilitators. And learning was happening: that much was obvious from the discussions. There wasn’t any traditional assessment of learning, though: no quizzes or assignments. And I think that was a strength, as it forced participants to rethink what a course is and what a course can be online. Although ZSRx was modeled after MOOCs, it was certainly not massive, and it was definitely not impersonal. ZSRx wasn’t a MOOC: this was Wake Forest gathering around a collection of online content and using it as a tool to learn new things as a community. This was a community and a platform for informal learning, and it was awesome. If you’re interested in participation numbers and feedback, I’m working on making it look pretty, but you can see what I’m working with here.

I see offering courses like ZSRx–lightweight, informal, communities wrapped around a collection of content–to be a huge opportunity for libraries of all kinds. We have so much more to offer to the MOOC discussion than locating public domain images or providing copyright assistance for “traditional” MOOCs (if there is such a thing). Libraries have always been hubs of their physical communities–let’s start being hubs of our digital communities. I’ll be helping that process along in the coming months by creating a more robust template of the course with lots of documentation for getting a course like this running for your own community. For now, here’s a quick-and-dirty version of the template. Use it if you’d like!

Finally, a special thanks to Lynn Sutton, for trusting me enough to do this crazy thing, and to Roz Tedford and Hu Womack for being right there alongside me during the planning and running of the course. This isn’t the last of these we’ll be doing. Stay tuned!

E-textbook for Information Literacy is Published

Friday, February 22, 2013 11:30 am

During the summer of 2011, a group of us formed to create an e-textbook for information literacy and received a STEP Grant from a group headed by Rick Matthews in IS. Our group, guided by Lauren Pressley, consisted of Kaeley McMahan, Rebecca Petersen, Audra Eagle Yun, Gretchen Edwards, Kevin Gilbertson, and Craig Fansler. We put out a call for authors to contribute chapters by creating a video. As a result, we received written contributions from Molly Keener, Mary Scanlon, Mary Beth Lock, Ellen Daugman, and Ellen Makaravage.

For most of the STEP grant recipients, the project was a finite period of time covering the summer of 2011. For our group of open-access technology (affectionately called Oats and Tea), this project lasted two years. Last year, we presented our work at TechXploration – which showcased our work to the larger university community. We wrote chapters for this book and conducted editorial review which took longer than we anticipated. Thanks to heroic efforts by Kevin Gilbertson and Lauren Pressley, this e-textbook is now published and ready to be used.

Instruction at ZSR

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 10:23 pm

One of the things that is challenging when someone leaves an organization is the loss of institutional memory. For that reason, I’m leaving this post, to remind you of all the many instructional resources you have available to support your teaching:

  • Instruction website: This page has information about the program we offer–in person instruction, self help instruction, as well as the meta information about the administration of the program. Thank you to Kevin for creating a new look and backend for the instruction portion of the website. It made a world of difference!
  • Wiki page: When I first became head of instruction, we didn’t really have a strong presence on the library website to reflect our program. In response, I made use of the wiki to gather information about projects, professional development opportunities, and FAQs–particularly about university policy. If you’re trying to figure out how to set up your Sakai course or how to deal with challenging students, you will be able to find some answers here. If you know something useful, it’d be nice to add it!
  • Learning Outcomes: As a community we developed learning outcomes to support our instruction. These outcomes were conceived to be broad enough to be useful for any research-based course. It’s easy to forget about them if you don’t have someone reminding you every semester or so, so here’s a gentle reminder: please take a look at the learning outcomes every once in a while and make sure that your class addresses them! Learning outcomes also make it easier to decide what’s not worth covering. If it’s not covered in a learning outcome, it’s not necessary to the course.
  • Template: As you also know, Joy developed a very thorough and detailed template for LIB100 last summer. It currently resides in Sakai, though more information will be available on the website at some point. The template was designed so that you can just pick it up and go, but you can also pick and choose from it to help simplify the planning of your own class if you’d prefer.
  • Teaching tools page: This page contains activities and techniques for teaching the various things we tend to teach. Right now it is more structural in nature, with a few activities. If you find this useful, let Kyle know! If you have something that you think might possibly be useful to your colleagues, send it to Kyle with appropriate metadata! (Can you tell that Kyle will own this going forward?)
  • Plagiarism tutorial: Kyle and Kevin made, perhaps, the most engaging and educational activity on plagiarism I’ve seen, and they made it for WFU students! If you aren’t sure how to teach plagiarism, or if you teach it and your students respond as though they’ve heard it all before and you can’t possibly teach them anything new, please consider using this activity prior to discussion!
  • New course evaluation: Kyle, Mary Scanlon, Sarah, Kaeley, and I worked to update our LIB100 course evaluation to be more useful for instructors and based in sound research. The new course evaluation measures first principles of instruction, as well as makes it easy to get a view of the entire program. This view of teaching across the program will allow Roz to target specific areas that would benefit most from professional development opportunities.

And there are several more things coming soon:

  • eTextbook: We’re in the final stages of this project! I am adding in multimedia as quickly as I can, and by Friday we should have a working version online. I’ll leave it to the group to do a Gaz post introducing it. The people involved with this have been many over the past two years. Audra and Gretchen were involved early on. Craig, Kaeley, Kevin, and Rebecca have been involved throughout the process. This group, along withMary Scanlon, Ellen Daugman, Molly, Mary Beth, and Ellen Makaravage all contributed writing. We are hopeful this book will be useful for LIB100s, one shot sessions (that are focused on a specific aspect of research), faculty who don’t want to give up class time, and other libraries. So that will be exciting for the library!
  • New LIB100 assessment tool: Kaeley, Kyle, Mary Scanlon, and I also have worked on creating an assessment tool for LIB100. The design is for a quick, anonymous survey to test whether we have met our learning outcomes for the class. 200 level classes might choose to modify the survey for their specific class. Again, if used across the program, it would be a useful tool to help identify the learning outcomes that either (1) could stand reinforcement across classes or (2) that might not be as relevant to our teaching anymore, and would need to be adapted for current teaching practices. The entire question bank could be useful if you’d like a final exam as well. Kyle is the point person on this.
  • Update to the Toolkit: And coming way further in the future, Kyle is considering updating the Toolkit. The idea is a new and updated interface and updated video content. His Zotero video is the style of content he will create.

One of the final things I’ve done was work with Joy, Kyle, Bobbie, and Kaeley on a strategic plan refresh for the instruction program. That has been passed on to Lynn and hopefully can provide some useful information for the next few years.

In the process of writing the plan, we did an environmental scan of the field. Joy, Kyle, and I went to the Triangle area research libraries to learn more about local instruction. (We have some amazing programs in this state!) And my main take away from all of this work is that what ZSR is doing with instruction is exceptional. The students at WFU who engage in library instruction have an unusually broad, deep, and personalized instruction experience. Wake students are lucky to have access to this type of instruction, and we are in a lucky position to be able to offer it. I’ve been honored to play the roles I’ve played in the program and look forward to hearing more about the great work you all will do going forward!

New Video Efforts

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 4:58 pm

One of my goals for my first year is to do a complete refresh of all of the content in the Toolkit. In my role serving online students, I understand the power of video in teaching library tools and selling the library as the place to go for research assistance, technology training, and self-help. Having a digital space like the Toolkit–a centralized location for all of our video and other digital learning objects–is incredibly valuable for reaching students and faculty both on campus and online. However, when a space like the Toolkit starts to show its age, we risk losing a bit of credibility. For as much power as they have, videos quickly become outdated as web interfaces or link paths change. It’s also no secret that we’re bound by constraints on our time, so producing video of high production quality often takes a back seat, resulting in videos that look outdated before their time.

So, to help restore the Toolkit to its former glory and to put in place more sustainable workflows, I’ve started using Camtasia Studio to create what I hope are high-polish, ZSR-quality videos that will stand the test of time. I just finished my first one–a teaser video for Zotero–and wanted to share how I did it.

Scripting

With any video project, I find it’s much easier to get the audio down first and make it perfect before worrying about capturing video. I’m not one for improv, so that means writing a script first and paring it down to what’s really essential to get the message across. Our users don’t expect elaborate, drawn-out explanations; they’re watching the video because they hope it will save them time. If the content requires a video much longer than two minutes, it should probably be split into two separate videos. So to keep things brief, I scripted and timed myself rehearsing the script. I kept paring it down until I was comfortably under two minutes, and only then was it finally time to record.

Audio Recording

The scripting and audio recording take up the bulk of the time, but I’d argue that they’re the most important parts. Even the shiniest video will be ignored if there’s annoying background noise or if the speaker is rambling or talks too quickly or too quietly. I used Camtasia to record myself reading through the script twice three four times, then cut and spliced the best parts into the final audio track. So the video doesn’t feel quite so librarian-sitting-in-an-office-talking-at-you, I used a royalty-free guitar track that came packaged with Camtasia to add some interest.

Screen Recording

Now that I had the audio ready to go, it was pretty easy to record the screen. Screen capture is really what Camtasia was made to do, and it does it beautifully. All I had to do was mentally map out my mouse clicks, record a few run-throughs of each “scene,” and I was ready to edit.

I want to note here the significance of recording audio and video separately. One of the major weaknesses of using free, web-based screen recorders like Jing is that you can’t separate the audio from the video; that is, when something in your video changes, like a database interface, you have to re-record the entire video to bring your video up to date. By separating the audio and video, I can feasibly use the same audio track and only update those portions of the video that need updating, saving tons of effort in the long run.

Editing, Callouts, and Text

To bring everything together, I had to manipulate the video clips to match up with the audio. Because this particular video was more of a teaser and not intended to be a “how-to,” I sped up the video clips to keep everything flowing quickly. I focused the user’s attention with some appropriate zooming and panning, then added photos, text, and colored backgrounds when there was no video to display. You’ll notice I like big, bold text that’s readable even on the smallest smartphone screen.

Accessibility Concerns

Finally, to make the video accessible to those with hearing impairments and to those who might not have a pair of headphones in a quiet room, I added a caption track that the user can turn on and off in YouTube. Camtasia makes this almost absurdly easy: all I had to do was copy and paste my transcript into my project, then Camtasia guided me through time-stamping the caption track to sync with the audio.

Looking Ahead

I plan on working my way through the content on the Toolkit as determined by the needs of the online counseling program. I already have planned an entire series of Zotero tutorials, followed by tutorials for the PsycInfo and PubMed databases. If you have ideas for videos I can add to my queue, or if you have a special project in mind, I’m all ears. I hope you enjoy!

 

Got Questions? Get Answers. Ask.

Monday, September 10, 2012 3:27 pm

This fall the Z. Smith Reynolds Library is unveiling it’s new reference service: answers.zsr.wfu.edu!

This website will enable you to get in touch with our friendly librarians in a number of ways:

  • Across the top, you will find a bar that allows you to search our FAQ database.
  • If you have a question that’s fairly common (such as “how can I renew a book” or “do you have any jobs open in the Library?”), you can find the answers immediately.
  • If you have a question that’s not time sensitive and isn’t already listed (such as “where can I find musical scores?”), you can leave the question for us and we’ll reply to you as soon as possible.

To make things easier, on the same page, we’ve included a chat box and a list of our traditional reference channels:

txt: 336-506-7086
email: askzsr@wfu.edu
call: 336-758-5475
meet: research session
visit: 4th floor (Wilson)
tweet: @askzsr

Remember, we’re here to help you succeed, and we’re here to answer your questions when you have them!

Search Tip #15: Quotation Marks!

Monday, September 10, 2012 3:20 pm

Have you been there before, looking for that exact phrase, and finding related articles, but not the perfect one you know is there?

We’ve all been there. And we know a lot of you have been there, too. In a recent usability study of our website, we found that many of our users either didn’t know – or didn’t remember – that there is a quick and easy way to find exactly the phrase you’re looking for.

That way? Use quotation marks!

Using quotation marks around a phrase will tell the search engine to look for exactly the phrase you entered. For example:

“four year college”

will find articles that are about four year colleges while

four year college

will find articles about four buildings that took ten years to build on a community college campus and some articles about four year college.

So, next time you’re searching for a specific phrase remember: quotation marks.

LIB100 Template

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 9:42 am

Those directly involved with LIB100 are very familiar with our recent transition to a 1.5 credit hour course and the template that has been developing over the summer. However, I realize not everyone is so intimately involved, and wanted to let you know about the mammoth project conducted in the instruction unit this summer.

Joy Gambill has created a new template for the LIB100 courses, designed to take advantage of what we have learned in the decade we’ve been offering the class and the extra time we will now have in the classroom. To begin this process, Joy and I interviewed everyone who has taught LIB100 recently and asked about what they covered, what assignments they used, and any other information that might be helpful when thinking through developing a class. Joy took the ball from there and developed an outline for each day, presentations to guide librarians through the content, group activities to take advantage of active learning, and assignments to assess learning. The presentations are comprehensive, sometimes including clicker slides, screenshots for demonstrations, and transitions for class activities.

Perhaps the most fun part of the template is that it takes advantage of some of the most creative and interesting assignments and activities we’ve done. Several are things (or versions of things) that I have heard about for years but never taken the time to figure out how to fit them into my course. It’s really representative of the work that we all have done in developing our classes.

This template is not required for those who teach LIB100–we still maintain that faculty have academic freedom in their teaching. Yet, it is so thorough and integrates the best practices of all our instructors that I plan to use it starting with my class that kicks off this week. The LIB100 instructors have access both through Sakai and through a PDF of the course that contains all the material. However, if anyone else is interested in having access, let me know, and I’ll share the content with you as well.

It’s a TechXploration!

Sunday, April 22, 2012 8:51 pm

Wednesday afternoon was a time of TechXploration on campus. IS hosted a poster session event for people involved with the Summer Technology Grants over 2011 as well as other technology projects on campus.

Kevin, Craig, Rebecca, Kaeley, and I went as part of our involvement with the Summer Technology Group. We made great strides towards completion over the summer, but as you know this year has been hectic, so it’s simmered on the back burner except for intersessions. Luckily, as the semester is wrapping up we have time to focus on it again and we plan to have completed the framework, website, added the text, and created all the various file formats with enough time for people (who wish) to incorporate it into their LIB100 for Fall 2012. Expect to hear more soon!

Oats&Tea @ TechXploration

Our poster was met with a lot of interest. People thought the poster was nicely designed (thanks, Craig!!) and liked the idea of an open access, modular, electronic, format agnostic textbook. We even heard from Brenda Knox that she’d like to incorporate it into the online counseling program. We had a lot of fun talking to people from students to faculty to technical staff and we look forward to having a finished product to share. There was a lot of interest from the crowd about the technical details, so I look forward to our documenting the tools we’re using and creating a model others can follow.

Oats&Tea @ TechXploration

I also was asked to talk about my online class, which I’m always happy to do, so I had a poster on that topic, as well. That poster got far less traffic–perhaps because people are familiar with the class at this point? The day was worth it, though, because of meeting one faculty member who was really really interested in the project and would like to incorporate several of the assignments, organizational structures, and other features into their class going forward.

Lauren Pressley @ TechXploration

All in all, it was a great afternoon! Fun people, good food, and a chance to share with others some of the work we’ve been doing!


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