Magazine article Online

Using the "Live Demo" in Online Instruction

Magazine article Online

Using the "Live Demo" in Online Instruction

Article excerpt

An old bit of wisdom goes something like this: if you want to teach someone something, don't tell them how to do it - show them how to do it. When it comes to online instruction, there's a lot of truth in that saying. An ideal way to provide online instruction would enlist a "hands-on" method where students have their own terminals for search practice. Few libraries can afford such luxuries. More commonly, online instruction utilizes overhead transparencies or audio-visual programs to teach search concepts and present simulated search sessions.

A better method lies somewhere between these two techniques. It relies on a live demonstration of online searching. Increasing the active participation of students is paramount in making the instruction session memorable [1]. A combination of computer projection technology and appropriate demonstration technique promotes dynamic interaction. Both students and instructors will benefit from an online training program that integrates a live demonstration of online searching.


What exactly is meant by "live demo?" It means that the instructor goes online during the instructional session, either for all or part of the session, to demonstrate the techniques of searching. The live demonstration can be used to show the content of specific databases. Such a demonstration can also illustrate a locally mounted database, online public access catalog, or a CD-ROM product. But the search is live" in the sense that it is being conducted while the instructor is interactive with the search system. Demonstrations that utilize "canned" (downloaded) searches or simulated searches created with computerized audio-visual programs are not "live." Live demonstrations sound simple, but need the same thought and planning as any successful instruction method.

The Lippincott Library at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania holds an online instruction session each week. We offer additional bibliographic instruction sessions that focus on topics ranging from business research to job planning. For the past year we have integrated a live demonstration of online searching into our online instruction session. The response from both staff and students is enthusiastic. The live demonstration follows a forty-five minute introduction to databases and specific search techniques.

We also use live online searching to show specific databases for business research. For example, the job planning session mentioned above shows how DIALOG's BUSINESS CONNECTION is searched to generate a list of specific businesses in a specific geographic area. The power of online searching is communicated much more effectively with a live demonstration. This article is largely based on our Library's experience using live online demonstrations for these instructional programs.

There are two key considerations for planning an effective live demonstration. One is equipment and the other is demonstration technique.

A live demonstration is risky. There are elements over which you may have no control. Uncooperative telecommunication lines or finding that the database you planned to demonstrate is inoperable are just some of the problems that disrupt the live demonstration. There is always the potential for embarrassment or failure if the demonstration goes awry. Having the right equipment and determining the proper demonstration technique will increase the odds for a successful live demonstration.


The required equipment includes a microcomputer, a modem, communications software, and a computer projection system. Most libraries already have the first three components. There are a variety of computer projection systems on the market, offering a range of projection sophistication and quality for the expected range in cost. While some systems are expensive, many are affordable for libraries purchasing one of these devices. …

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