Jazzing Up Next Gen Librarians for Freshman Engineering
Librarians working with the engineering department enjoy a high level of contact, both in-person and online. This contact extends from faculty to students and adds value to course content while focusing on information literacy (IL) skills. Currently, librarians engage with students in three ways. First, they design and deliver an in-class session which covers the basics of databases, citations, and resource formats. Next, students are required to attend an in-library where they complete a five-part worksheet reinforcing much of what was discussed during the in-class session. Finally, students complete online quizzes and an Intellectual Property module.
Overall, students should benefit from this extensive librarian-contact and course content designed to improve IL skills. However, the delivery method for this content is both time intensive for librarians and disjointed for students. During the Fall 2015 semester, librarians visited 18 in-class sections over the course of one week. The library experience required 31 sessions over three weeks, with each session taking from 60 to 120 minutes. Though content delivered in both situations has been used previously, it’s specific to engineering and requires preparation. Students are receiving bits and pieces of information over the course of four weeks, which they are then expected to be able to put together as they work on class research projects.
Librarians, students, and faculty could benefit from a revamped program. Instead of delivering similar content in three different sessions, these can be narrowed down to one online course and one in-library experience. First, students would have the opportunity to complete an interactive online course designed to introduce IL and research skills, while encouraging an organic approach to the research process. This non-linear Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) embedded in Blackboard would help students develop appropriate skills, such as identifying information needs, efficiently utilizing library databases, recognizing the value of peer-reviewed resources, and most importantly understanding their positions as contributors and consumers in the scholarly environment.
There are two benefits to this approach. First, students would be required to complete the online course within a certain time period assigned by instructors. This teaches and reinforces the value of time management and planning, skills necessary for first-year student success. Second, a VLE designed to allow students to complete sections based on need and interest supports the way research is typically approached, as the research process is rarely linear.
The second part would be the in-person element, an experience designed to encourage peer collaboration. Librarians would facilitate discussion of skills learned online course and present real-life research questions for students to answer with their peers. Ideally, students would bring specific class assignments, allowing librarians to assist in real-time with relevant research questions. Additional teaching methods for incorporation include: ACRL IL Framework, ABET requirements, contemplative pedagogy, web 2.0 technology, and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) concepts.
Benefits of this teaching approach are numerous, however, designing and implementing a program of this style requires considerable time and resources. Librarians must collaborate with engineering faculty, campus IT, and other members of the libraries’ Research & Teaching unit to develop, test, and implement robust content. Once developed, content can be taught by any librarian with adequate review and preparation time. Following implementation it will be necessary to review and assess online and in-person elements and make required changes in a timely fashion. Ultimately this program will benefit all stakeholders, but only with adequate and sustained support.
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