Magazine article Online

Ramping Up the One-Shot

Magazine article Online

Ramping Up the One-Shot

Article excerpt

A few years ago our library director retired, and one of my fellow reference librarians took his place. This created a threat to our one-shot orientation sessions for English 103, because Ted, our new boss, no longer had the time to do them.

So I contacted the head of first year English and suggested that we rethink our library orientations. Truth to tell, even though Ted had reached his students, I think you would need Robin Williams or Bozo the Clown to get enough interest to turn orientation into any kind of real learning experience. Most first-year students have no idea what they need to know, so having a librarian force them into an introduction to everything they hate is a virtual nonstarter.

Information literacy librarians do more one-shot instruction (either generic or subject-specific) than any other kind. Yet all too often the task seems like a charade where the skilled teach the reluctant, resulting in something (as opposed to nothing) but signifying little. A session works better if some sort of assignment or test follows, but an hour of instruction does not make an information-literate student.


I see three options for the one-shot orientation sessions.

1. Cancel them and devote our instruction time to something more profitable. The problem with this is twofold. First, the idea of providing library orientation to all students is ingrained in higher education's psyche, especially now that technology has made research so complex. Simply dropping it and going back to those dreary 10-minute library tours seems retrograde. Second, it's hard to know what we would replace them with. More subject-specific instruction? Only if we can reach every student at some point in their programs--a daunting task. Credit instruction? Not unless we can get it on the agenda, though I remain hopeful that this will one day become the preferred option.

2. Transform the one-shot into some form of active learning. There are many possibilities here, from choosing a current topic of interest and leading the class through a Socratic-style exercise of discovery, to having students do group work. True, we'd provide less actual information to our students, but this might be a better way to engage them. In the case of our institution, however, we did not have the staff time to take on such an approach.

3. Doing point-of-need instruction through scheduled sessions with students who are working on specific research projects. This has promise, if we can get professors to mandate it and if the scheduling works. My struggle with point of need, though, is that students who have a need tend not to be in instruction mode. Their mode is performance, which sends the librarian a message to cut to the chase, keep it simple, and not go beyond the bounds of the assignment.


So we had lost our traditional one-shots, and many of the options seemed less than perfect as replacements. We had to get creative.

We thought of using a tutorial such as TILT (http: // It's an excellent tool, it's interactive, and it allows students to take quizzes and have them sent to instructors. But we wanted something that would relate directly to our situation, and, like many smaller schools, we lacked the resources to create a high-powered TILT-like tutorial based on our own library. TILT can be downloaded and adapted to local resources under the yourTILT program, but we wanted a simpler solution.

So I started investigating the capabilities of our courseware system to deliver a tutorial. As I rattled around its functions, I came upon the quiz program. It was structured to provide everything we needed, despite its somewhat low-tech appearance. First, there was enough room to provide an instruction section before each question. Second, the multiple choice answer structure we needed was right there. Since quiz programs in various courseware packages are similar, we knew we could re-create the tutorial easily if we changed platforms later (as we did when we migrated to Moodle). …

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