Creating a Digital Archive for Students' Research in a Credit Library Course

Article excerpt

Using wiki technology in a credit library course, the authors created an online exhibit for students' research entitled the Distal Archive. The purpose of the Digital Archive is to showcase students' final projects from the course and to demonstrate research skills developed during the semester. It is an ongoing and evolving endeavor between students and instructors, and it will continue as a source of scholarly communication. The authors discuss the use of wiki technology, students' reactions, and lessons learned. Derived from student surveys, course evaluations, and instructor observations, the authors also present an assessment of the usefulness and effectiveness of using wiki technology to showcase coursework.

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The University at Buffalo's (UB's) Arts and Sciences Libraries offers the semester-long, credit-bearing course ULC-257: Introduction to Library Research Methods. The course attracts students from their freshman through their senior years and from widely diverse academic disciplines. Teaching ULC-257 is an increasingly popular and effective way for instruction librarians to integrate themselves into educational curricula and to continue the advancement of information literacy on campus. Librarians teaching this course have the opportunity to use more creative, effective, and research-proven instructional methods than they are accustomed to using for traditional one-shot library instruction classes.

The course is designed to introduce students to the research process and also to library information sources at UB. Objectives for the course include the following:

* Students will become effective and efficient researchers and library users.

* Students will hone their abilities to analyze and critically evaluate information.

* Students will develop the skills necessary for becoming information savvy and for becoming lifelong learners. (1)

The ULC-257 course has been offered since the fall semester of 2003. The structure and content of the course, however, have changed only incrementally since its inception. The authors felt it was necessary to revise and revitalize ULC-257, and they began that process prior to the spring semester of 2008. Placing more emphasis on the students' final research projects was central to all of the changes implemented. Historically, librarians teaching the course suffuse their own creative ideas into the final project, though the basic template of it has remained unchanged. Details of the final project are provided later.

For the spring semester of 2008, the authors seized the opportunity to employ an emerging technology that would revitalize the course and, in particular, the final project. The intent of employing a new technology would be to address students' educational expectations and also meet their diverse and increasingly sophisticated learning styles. For reasons discussed below, the authors opted to create an online showcase of students' final research projects using wiki technology, and they named it the ULC-257 Digital Archive.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The literature is increasingly populated by works about the professional use of Internet-based communication tools. As a suite, these tools are commonly referred to as Web 2.0 applications, and they include blogs, podcasts, social networking spaces, and wikis. Together, the innovative nature of these applications and their popularity among students provide unique opportunities for library use, especially for teaching and learning. Ragains writes, "It seems incumbent on instructional librarians to use Web 2.0 effectively in educating students." (2)

Pedagogical literature from various disciplines provides a modest, though growing, body of evidence that wikis in particular are being used for creative teaching and learning activities. Still, Achterman writes, "The potential for wikis as an educational tool remains largely untapped. …