Core Skills Tutorials

Thanks to a recent Academic Technology Innovation Grant (ATIG) and invaluable assistance from Brian Zimmerman of the First-year Writing Program, the BC Libraries have created and launched a series of Library Core Skills videos that introduce students to the basics of research and citation management, along with short quizzes to test knowledge and skills. All eight videos, housed in YouTube, are available both through the library website and through Canvas Commons; any video or quiz can be added to a Canvas course with just a few clicks.

Students gathered around a table

Teaching librarians developed the tutorials in response to a growing recognition that they weren’t consistently able to reach all students with short courses in core library skills. The majority of students receive at least one library session as part of their First-year Writing Seminars, but many students are exempted from FWS because of advanced placement scores or transfer credits. Other students also may wish to review skills on their own. Tutorials include an introduction to the libraries, using the catalog and databases, advanced searching techniques, focusing research, citation management, evaluating internet resources, and identifying primary and secondary sources.

Production of the “Introduction to BC Libraries” video actually predates the rest of the project by a year; it began in Spring 2015, when a talented group of students and an ITS Help intern collaborated on the concept, and then storyboarded and shot the project, with oversight and scripting assistance from librarians. Creating the bulk of instructional videos began during the 2015-16 academic year with careful planning of learning outcomes, taking into account library learning goals, FWS goals, prerequisite skills for learning advanced research for upper-level courses, and information literacy frameworks developed by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL).

Beginning in summer 2016, the production team developed script ideas in collaboration with Brian Zimmerman, a senior instructor for FWS. Brian then drafted  scripts for each of the videos, which were in turn reviewed by the entire production team. Each script went through the same intensive iterative drafting process. Brian then created video by capturing screen content with Camtasia and other screen capture tools, and by creating and altering images in Powerpoint and Photoshop. For much of the summer, he was the heaviest user of Digital Studio equipment, staff, and resources. Steve Runge, meanwhile, recruited student employees in the libraries and other departments to create voice narration with the new sound room in the Digital Studio.

Though the whole team participated in the drafting process, each video was directed by a librarian who took responsibility for making sure each video focused on the learning goals; Brian patiently returned to redraft many script sections as the director and team refined the focus, meeting production targets and finishing 7 videos in just over two months.

To illustrate the ACRL Framework “Research as Inquiry,” which emphasizes the iterative nature of research, the “Focus Your Research” video describes the “research cycle,” in which a student moves back and forth between their search terms, research tools (like databases) and their research question. In a less direct way, the “Finding Books and Other Items in the Catalog” video walks a novice researcher through increasingly complex search techniques that reinforce that iterative process.

You can direct your students to the videos a variety of ways, all of which are described in a library guide about Adding Library Tutorials to Your Course. You could provide a link to the full page of videos for more self-directed students, or link to individual YouTube videos for content you would like to emphasize in an email or syllabus. To express a little more strongly that a video is course content, you could also embed the videos directly in your Canvas course, either by using the YouTube tool in Canvas or by importing from Canvas Commons. Finally, if you want students to self-assess their understanding of the videos you embed, you could import the corresponding quizzes from Canvas Commons. If you are interested in this adding this content to your Canvas course, you can find instructions on the BC Library website or contact your subject specialist for more information.

Steve Runge

Learning Commons Manager, O'Neill Library