Engaging hard-to-reach students with online information skills resources

The Teaching and Learning Institute logoThe Teaching and Learning Institute is gathering short case studies of academic practice to enable colleagues to share their approaches to teaching and learning more widely and encourage interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning.

The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning.

In this case study, Laura Woods, Subject Librarian from the Computing & Library Services writes about using Articulate Storyline to develop online resources that students can access at point of need in the University virtual learning environment (UniLearn).

Why did you decide to try this out?

Since autumn 2013, the Subject and Academic Librarians for the School of Computing and Engineering (SCE) have been running optional information skills sessions during the School’s Guidance Week, in collaboration with the SCE Academic Skills Tutor. These have covered topics including finding and using journal articles, academic writing skills, and referencing.

While these have been well received by the students who attended, attendance has often been low. This could be due to a number of factors, e.g. students treating Guidance Week as an extra holiday and going home for that period, challenges in promoting the sessions to students effectively, etc.

In 2015, it was agreed to produce some online resources in place of these in-person sessions. We decided to produce short e-learning modules using Articulate Storyline, which would allow for self-directed, interactive learning. The plan was to produce modules that could either be used in-class, if we decided to re-run the face-to-face workshops, or could be just as easily accessed by students via UniLearn to use on their own.

Over the summer, two of the Subject Librarians each created one Articulate module, based on two of the existing workshop topics: searching for information, and referencing. These were completed and uploaded to UniLearn in August 2015.

Two more Articulate modules, based on the remaining two workshop topics (literature reviews, and locating and using journal articles) are currently in progress.

What were the benefits and challenges for you?

The main benefit of producing these Articulate modules is to allow students to access them at point of need. Scheduling optional workshops is always a challenge: it is difficult to fit in with the existing timetable, students have many demands on their time so can be reluctant to attend optional workshops, and promoting workshops to students is challenging as they are already overloaded with emails and communications from many sources. Students may also not see the benefit of a workshop on academic or information skills unless it meets an immediate need (i.e. they are in the process of researching a literature review), by which point scheduling an appropriate workshop is almost impossible.

Online modules allow for students to find appropriate guidance as and when they need it, rather than attending a workshop that may either be too early or too late to be relevant to them. Using Articulate allows us to embed interactive learning activities such as short quizzes to check learning, which is more engaging than a simple PowerPoint presentation.

Articulate is straightforward to use. It’s very similar in design and functionality to PowerPoint – in fact, it’s often easier to create your outline in PowerPoint to begin with, then import the .ppt file into Articulate to edit and add interactive features. We got to grips with using the software fairly quickly, by sharing our experience and making use of online tutorials available through the University’s subscription to Lynda.com.

Can you share some student feedback?

We do not yet have student feedback, however we have had some positive feedback and useful suggestions for improvement from staff within SCE. Once all four Articulate modules are finished, we intend to pilot test them with a small group of students and request feedback, to ensure they are usable and all concepts are clearly explained.

What’s next?

Once the modules have been pilot tested and refined as necessary, we will upload them to the SCE Academic Skills module on UniLearn. We will also contact relevant lecturers to request that they highlight these resources to students, and/or embed them in their own UniLearn modules as appropriate (for example, they could be uploaded to Final Year Project modules).

Posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen), Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute.

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About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
This entry was posted in academic practice, Learning experience, Learning technology, professional development, student engagement and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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