Tutorials Toolkit: Creating Sustainable Library Instruction

Today (Wednesday 25) was the day for pre-conference workshops with a limited number of participants, and I signed up for this one a long time in advance. There seems to be a shared need in academic libraries everywhere for more information literacy / library instruction, and an equally shared lack of resources to perform said instruction.

At NIU, even though they had increased student information literacy classes by 50%, a survey showed that students were still unable to find the material and sources they needed. The library applied for, and received, a grant that enabled them to develop nine animated videos produced by an external animation company, as well as to create supplemental video tutorials that were made in-house.

Michelle Guittar, Molly Mansfield, James Rosenzweig, and Kimberley Shotick (all from Northern Illinois University), and Mackenzie Salisbury (Georgia O’Keeffe’s Museum Research Center), hosted the three-hour pre-conference, and the four main sections of the workshop were: 1. how to plan / research a video tutorial project, 2. “how to create conceptual videos  through collaboration”, 3. how to create instructional videos using free software such as Screencast-o-Matic, Jing, and Camtasia, and 4. how to use analytics to assess the use of these tutorials.

There were some interesting lessons to learn from the project at NIU. The survey they conducted before starting to make the tutorials showed that:

  1. Students prefer short videos (surprise, surprise). Preferably less than 1 minute long. That means that more complicated issues / concepts need to be broken up into several tutorials with a common packaging.
  2. They prefer a human voice, and a conversational tone.
  3. Animation and voice alone works better than animation, voice and text on  screen.

According to the NIU librarians, two categories of video tutorials are needed: One that deals with more conceptual material and can be used over time, without having to be updated whenever there is a change in a database  or user interface (e.g. the difference between a public library and an academic library), and one that deals precisely with how to use the resources and that can be changed and updated when needed.

Through their work with both the animated videos and the self-made video tutorials, the group had come up with the following “Best Practices for Creating Online Tutorials” (I have paraphrased some of them):

  1. Make it accessible (make sure it works across devices without special downloads, and make sure it has captioning available).
  2. Make it short (generally under three minutes, have a clear beginning and end, break it up into segments rather than have one long tutorial).
  3. Make it simple (avoid too much text, add callouts to draw attention)
  4. Make it clear (give it a clear, descriptive title, give information on length etc)
  5. Appeal to the learner (establish credibility, use vocal variation)

There is also budget and time constraints to consider: for animated explainer videos (made in collaboration with professional animators etc), they estimated a 4-8 week production process, while simple video tutorials made by librarians themselves can be made for very little money and in a comparatively short time. (Nothing really new there).

The NIU tutorials are all uploaded to YouTube, and can be embedded in the relevant library web-pages etc. YouTube is owned by Google and can therefore make use of Google analytics. This is useful to see how many times a video has been viewed, but also to see which websites the viewers come from and where they go after viewing the video.

I have to stop there, too tired to make much sense. More later.

Conference rooms are dreary, even in Portland:

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My workshop partners: Jeremy (Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar), Randal (University of Notre Dame), Erica (Columbia Theological Seminary), and Zem (University of Michigan):

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I think I learned as much from these guys as from the workshop, and that’s the whole point of going to a conference.

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