Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Creating Online Tutorials at Your Libraries: Software Choices and Practical Implications

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Creating Online Tutorials at Your Libraries: Software Choices and Practical Implications

Article excerpt

As this is the last "Management" column I will be editing, some comments on the articles in this new column are in order. Three years has passed very quickly. During my tenure as column editor, I have looked for a variety of practical articles on how to improve reference services and increase opportunities to teach research strategies to our users. Because I am always looking for ways to gather data that can be used for management decisions, there have been two articles on survey tools. Another recent trend in reference service is to reach out to students where they are, so there have been two articles related to this: one on Web-based FAQs and another on embedded librarians. For this last column I have turned to colleagues at Purdue to discuss the new tutorials we are designing, again with the goal of reaching students when and where it is convenient for them.

Marianne Ryan, my colleague, will be the new editor of the column. She comes well qualified, as she has been associate dean of learning at Purdue and is now moving on to be associate university librarian for public services at Northwestern University--Editor

The use of online tutorials for information literacy instruction is on the rise. Active library-related discussion lists such as ILI-L, the Association of College and Research Libraries' discussion on information literacy and instruction, and LIBREF-L typically feature several questions and surveys related to online tutorials every week. Discussion groups and forums at library conferences consistently offer discussions, programs, and resources about creating online tutorials, and share examples.

What is causing the surge of interest in online tutorials? Reasons vary: staff shortages, a desire to provide more point-of-need assistance, and increased distance learning and a growing awareness--particularly in public and academic libraries--of the learning styles of the so-called Millennial Learner, who is said to prefer interactive, technology-based learning experiences. However, one of the main reasons for the trend is that the screen capture software available for tutorial construction has also grown increasingly capable and user-friendly. In this article we will review the software programs that are available, discuss the time and resources needed, and use a set of tutorials developed at Purdue for biology students as an example throughout.


Online tutorials provide some key advantages for libraries and library users. Particularly in libraries where in-person instruction is not always feasible, online tutorials can reach more people than a typical instruction team. Tutorials can provide 24/7 access to library information as well as instruction in information literacy skills and electronic library resources.

Routine training for a large population, such as for library orientation, is well suited for delivery via an online tutorial. Tutorials provide a focused demonstration that can be viewed at the learner's convenience, repeatedly if necessary; users only need an Internet connection and a Web browser with a media viewer, such as Flash, QuickTime, or Windows Media Viewer.

Though many would argue that in-person instruction cannot and should not be entirely replaced by online instruction, a research study by Silver and Nickel (2005) found online tutorials generally proved as effective as classroom instruction, that students' quiz scores and confidence levels were not statistically different depending on the type of instruction, and that the majority of students actually preferred online to classroom instruction. Should we as librarians abandon our traditions of in-person classroom instruction, entirely? Certainly not. Not only do our audiences and their learning styles differ, but there are some instructional opportunities-such as in-depth, course-integrated information literacy and research instruction--that may not be replaced by any current form of online instruction. …

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