Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Redesigning Comprehensive Library Tutorials: Theoretical Considerations for Multimedia Enhancements and Student Learning

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Redesigning Comprehensive Library Tutorials: Theoretical Considerations for Multimedia Enhancements and Student Learning

Article excerpt

Nearly all academic libraries offer online tutorials to assist users in understanding library resources and services. Construction and maintenance of these tutorials is a time-consuming and complex enterprise. Minor revisions to the tutorials are made throughout the academic year as frequent changes to library services, databases, and procedures require. Over the last several years, however, instruction librarians at Washington State University (WSU) reserved summers for the major revision of online tutorials and other online instructional tools. One of the most used set of tutorials, the "online tours," had been revised many times by rewriting text and updating screenshots or graphics. The set of tours was designed for two audiences--for students of the native Pullman, Washington, campus and for distance students enrolled in the "WSU Online" campus. Links to the tours have been available through the libraries' website, LibGuides, and have seen extensive use as an embedded component of UCOLL 300, the libraries' credit-bearing information literacy course.

Designed almost a decade ago, the original "tours" used HTML frames to provide a linear yet interactive environment for students to learn basic library skills. These tutorials relied primarily on graphics (mostly screen shots), textual descriptions, and step-by-step instructions to help students learn about various library services and resources. Students completing the tutorial would first read such a narrative, and then navigate to its corresponding "Try Me" section where they could complete a task related to what they had just learned.

Even at the time of the original tours' construction, HTML frames were no longer widely used for webpages. Nevertheless, the advantages of using frames outweighed the cosmetic considerations at the time. What was gained in functionality, however, was lost in aesthetics. After one of the library's closest campus allies, the English department, expressed reservations about suggesting the tour to its freshman students--largely because of its appearance--library staff became determined to find an alternative format for the tour material that would appeal to the target audience. The old tour had become an "information dump" of important, but uninspiring, content. The task was to move from a very text-based interface to an appealing, pedagogically sound multimedia resource for students. Aesthetically, the goal was to convey movement and process to the student, in contrast to the prior static presentation of content. Otherwise, the basic goals and outline of the original online tours were still valid in that students needed to learn how to

* navigate the libraries' website;

* access and effectively search the libraries' catalog;

* find subject databases;

* access articles and books (from a distance); and

* find course reserves (from a distance).

The project concluded with an assessment of student experiences with a set of eight videos that contained the content of the tutorial and a review of how the various learning theories manifested within student responses to an assignment for a one-credit information literacy course.

This article explores the theoretical framework employed to reconstruct and revise the online tours and outlines design elements that specifically connect to the theories. A brief description of the layout and flow of the online tours is provided, followed by a discussion of the learning theories that guided the revision of the tours. The authors then move to present an assessment project focused on the user experience of the redesigned tours. Finally, discussion of the entire reconstruction process is offered, including limitations of the assessment study and future directions for continued enhancement of the tours.


A review of the literature confirmed the effectiveness of multimedia over text-only instructional tools in providing instruction to students. …

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