Monday, June 3, 2013

Credit, Embedded or One-Shot?

One of my favorite topics to write about in library school was information literacy. I used to love talking about the various intricacies of why credit library instruction was far superior to that of one-shots. At the time, I was a graduate teaching assistant and helped teach a 4-4-3 load of an undergraduate, three-credit course for one academic year. That experience helped shaped how I view a librarian's teaching, student learning and academic culture. 

For-Credit Instruction
The for-credit course I helped teach was a full university course. It was 16-weeks, involved long assignments and multiple choice quizzes, but not a paper. The students were assigned a proper grade on the A-F scale, corresponding to their % of points earned. Each section had about 30-students, with one section being specifically for student-athletes. (More on the student-athletes in a later post.) 

It was required by the Mass Communication and Communications departments. That tended to drive decent enrollment numbers, as well as giving them vital skills for their majors. Despite being required by each major, there was no direct collaboration between the Library and Information Science professor and other departments. I tended to view this as a stake for academic freedom and a full acceptance of the librarian as a professor. 

The general outline for the course was as follows: 
Orientation / Learning Management System
The Research Process
Critical Thinking Part 1
Critical Thinking Part 2
Citing Information Sources Part 1
Citing Information Sources Part 2
The Internet, Virtual Libraries and Directories
Search Engines: General
Search Engines: Google, Bing and Wolfram/Alpha
Library Classification Systems and Catalogs
Periodical Databases Part 1
Periodical Databases Part 2
Specialized Web Databases
Ethics in Information and Copyright
Finals Week

I should also note this course was delivered online for two of the four sections, each semester. The last time I helped run the course was in 2008. 

That's how I was taught to teach information literacy. 

Fast Forward to Being Tasked with Teaching Information Literacy on my Own
When I made my way to Iowa, I was tasked with teaching information literacy. Up to that point, my institution had no formal instruction program. (Truthfully, we still don't.) There was a single dreaded one-shot in our freshmen experience course, but nothing beyond that. One-shots were given once the faculty member requested a librarian.  

At the time of my appointment, there was some excitement about the library. My colleagues had just finished an iPad pilot, which was successful. I had started off meeting with faculty to determine how best to integrate information literacy in their courses. I was lucky and managed to have 16 one-shots in my first term.

First Experiment with For-Credit Instruction
Some of my faculty colleagues had been open to discussing a for-credit library course. They encouraged me to use J-Term to experiment and see if it would go through. My proposed course was approved by the faculty senate in October and would be on the books in J-Term. For the rest of my first semester, I worked to drill down that 3-credit, 16-week course mentioned above into a 1-credit, 2 week course. I managed to do it, but poorly. 

The outline for the new course was as follows: 
Orientation / Library Website
Research Process, Research Question Development 
Introduction to Information, Information Timeline, Scholarly Communication
Critical Thinking, Source Evaluation
Advanced Searching, Keywords, Subjects
Sources on the Open Web, Government Data, Search Engines
Working Session -- Students needed to complete an information hunt
Periodical Databases
Citing Information Sources
Working Session -- Students worked on citations in class
Gross format of APA, Numbers, Headings
Annotated Bibliography 
Working Session -- Students worked on Annotated Bibliographies in class
Ethics in Information 

The first term two students enrolled. I was able to still run the course, since it was an
experiment for the library. From the evaluations, the students seemed to enjoy the
course, but felt there should have been a paper. Their comments also said it felt
disjointed from their other courses. I’d have to agree. 

A New Approach 
The following Spring term, I was approached by an education faculty member. She heard about my J-Term course and that I was able to teach APA style.  When she expressed desire for me to come into her course, I asked if we could try this embedded librarianship thing I heard about. It seemed like a nice meeting between for-credit and one-shot instruction. She agreed and gave me 5, 50-minute sessions in her course. I would be able to give assignments, which would count for ten-points on their paper. 

That outline was as follows: 
Research Questions / Keyword Development
Sources on the web, government data, Periodical Databases
Evaluation of sources
APA Style
APA Paper formatting 

This, we quickly learned was too short of a time frame to cover all that material in-depth.  Today, it has grown into 8-sessions, with a separate syllabus, but still part of the course. 

The more refined outline is as follows:
Research Question Development 
Searching for Information
Web Sources 
Academic Databases 
Evaluation of information 
APA Citations
APA paper formatting & working session 
APA formatting working session 

From student feedback, the students seem to love that partnership. Anecdotally from the faculty, their grades on their papers have improved, more sources are being consulted and cited properly. This is a partnership we both feel has worked very well. 

Another J-Term
Come this last J-Term, I learned my one-credit course was on the schedule and had an enrollment of over 12 students. (Great enrollment for a J-Term course at my institution, especially considering it is not a requirement.) When I ran that course, I used the same 8-sessions outline I used in the education embedded sessions and included more time to work in class. I also required a 5-page paper, with at least 7 sources. As the instructor, I feel the students learned a great deal. The grades had a normal distribution (okay, may skewed towards the left a little bit) and were as expected.

Finally a One-Credit Course that Worked
This last spring, I was asked to work with a nursing faculty to reconceptualize her four-credit introductory to the BSN program course. The course ran 8-weeks and I would have one-credit's worth of time to teach them the same material I was teaching in the education collaboration. There was one catch, it was fully online and I could not require synchronous meetings. 

I ended up recording my lectures for the course and posted them in the LMS. I also posted them to our website. You can check them out here:

A few days ago, I found out the nursing faculty submitted my syllabus and codified the course into the nursing curriculum. 

Where to Go From Here?
So I’ve had some successes and failures with instruction in my first two years. I count my first experience with for-credit instruction to be one of my first year’s biggest failures. However, it did turn into a great success, with the nursing department taking the bones of the course and using it in their curriculum. My hope for the future is to have one more department sign on to either an embedded series or 1-credit course. From there, I feel I can make the case to require this 1-credit course for more, if not all, majors. 

Questions for You

So, you, kind iLove reader, does your school have for-credit instruction?  Do you like doing embedded sessions? How about one-shots? 

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