Creating online resources to develop student information search skills

In 2016, Professor Christine Jarvis, the Pro Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning made funds available for teaching and learning development projects that could make an impact on teaching, learning and assessment. As a result, the seven schools at the University of Huddersfield are running a number of projects and we are sharing some of the project progress and outcomes here on the Teaching and Learning Institute blog.

In the School of Education and Professional Development, a project on embedding critical writing into undergraduate courses was developed. This blog post was written by Jess Haigh, Subject Librarian at the University of Huddersfield who is part of the project team. In this post Jess presents her experiences with carrying out a pilot to create a resource to develop students’ resource searching skills.

Developing an online resource for resource searching skills

As part of the larger project, it was decided to create an educational resource that could be used in the classroom, or uploaded onto the VLE to be completed outside class time, which would have the learning outcomes of differentiating between keywords and non-keywords, demonstrate use of synonyms in context in searching and use these search skills to find more appropriate academic sources. I wanted students to feel more confident about searching the library catalogue. I was also interested in if and how they currently looking for help in searching library resources.

I developed an online resource using NearPod. is a platform for creating resources than can be either student or teacher led. Different licences allow you to do different things, but for a free trial I was able to create a series of activities that I predicted would take students around 10-15 minutes to complete on their own, including watching two short videos. These included drawing, filling in the blanks, and free typing activities. I found setting up this series of activities quite simple and the whole thing from start to finish took less than a working day. I also made the two videos using VideoScribe and Adobe Spark Video ( and ).

I piloted this resource with a group of second year students. The students were fully informed about the purpose of the pilot, and signed consent forms. This was quite a useful exercise in and of itself, as they are about to go into planning research of their own for their Major Study, so I was able to demonstrate good ethical research practice to them. Students filled in a questionnaire including sliding scale questions on how confident they felt about searching the library catalogue and the internet, and open-ended questions about what they interpreted key words, synonyms and related terms as being, and if and how they would ask for help in the library. Students were then given as much time as needed to complete the NearPod exercises, using their own devices. Some students took less than ten minutes, but others took twenty-five, showing my original estimation of how long it would take to complete did not account for differentiation. I also observed some peer learning occurring throughout the exercises: it would be interesting to observe if that took place outside of a classroom environment. Students were then asked to fill in a second questionnaire identical to the first, to measure their learning, and to fill in some open-ended questions regarding their feelings towards the resource.

Enhancing student confidence in searching for information

Attitudes towards the resource itself were mostly positive, with students finding it “informative”, “helpful” and “useful”. There was only one negative response to the task, a student who felt it had not been worth coming to that class as they had done key word searching in their first year. The majority of students also felt more confident in searching the library catalogue after completing the resource, with 46% also feeling more confident in searching for information on the Internet.

What I found most interesting was students’ attitude to online learning. 44% said they would not have completed the task if it had been put on UniLearn, and 46% said they probably wouldn’t, with several citing a lack of time as their reason. It made me wonder how much effort is being put into creating online resources that will never be used by time-poor students who only go into learning spaces to complete specific tasks.

I will be looking further into these results, and adapting the resource according to some specific feedback. This will all feed into the larger project to encourage tutors to include exercises on finding good resources in class. I am also presenting on this project at the Librarian’s Information Literacy Annual Conference in April.

Posted by Kathrine Jensen, Research Assistant, Teaching and Learning Institute (TALI). The Teaching and Learning Institute coordinates, evaluates and disseminates inspiring and innovative teaching and learning. Follow TALI on Twitter


About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
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