I have just completed my third semester of teaching Information Literacy online at Santa Barbara City College. This institution had the wisdom to make information literacy a graduation requirement two years ago, thereby demonstrating its commitment to the student and the recommendations of Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. The class is 100% online, thereby exposing many students to the online environment who may not have normally enrolled. Students take the 1-unit class as credit/no-credit. This is a reflection on some of my experiments.
During the first two semesters, the course was offered using Blackboard’s WebCT product – our campus supported system. Though I tried to incorporate Web 2.0 features, I felt challenged by the WebCT tool. In particular, the discussion boards and the time it took to just to get to the class were unsatisfactory. Therefore, in Fall 2007 I experimented with Facebook and our library’s MediaWiki instance, in addition to using WebCT, in an effort to energize the course and the content. The freshness of Facebook, the ease in which to post media such as video, links, and video were a big plus. In order to provide some semblance of privacy, students needed to use their campus email in their Facebook profile and be part of the Santa Barbara City network before gaining access to the group. This proved to be a significant challenge for some students. The second challenge with Facebook was the lack of threaded discussions. This proved to be a significant challenge for the teacher. To make matters worse, students needed an account on the MediaWiki instance so I could track work by student. Requiring a user name and password for three different systems was a mistake and, as a result of these difficulties, I went in search of a third solution.
A new dean for the online college started in Fall 2007 and he gave a big pitch for Moodle. I took one look and realized this was the solution for Library 101. With its quickness, its ability to easily integrate new tools, and its integrated wiki, a solution for student success appeared. The students found learning in Moodle much easier than learning in WebCT. I incorporated Skype and a Meebo widget so students could quickly and easily reach me – and they did! One particular element of the Moodle discussion tool allowed me to have students make a post, based on a prompt, without seeing any of their peer posts first. This added an element of original thinking and less of the “me too” syndrome.
The course covers the basics of information literacy as outlined by ACRL, including a guest lecture from our School of Media Arts on visual literacy. Since I am big on new tools and like to experiment with the latest trends, I provided some extra credit for students using these new tools. For example, one extra credit assignment asked students to create a Twitter account and then follow the Luria Library and myself. Students were asked to make a minimum of 10 posts and follow an additional five people. Though it was an experiment this semester, in coming semesters I would like to explore this further as Twitter becomes another source for information gathering.
Finally, a comment on the students. Since the majority of students fulfill their information literacy requirement in our college English class, the students who enroll in Library 101 are usually transfer students who completed college English elsewhere or students who were not successful in our college English class. For many students, this is their first online class and my job is to set them at ease early in the term so they can be successful. Though pass completion in an online class is often lower than an on-ground class, I am hoping that the incorporation of new tools that engage the student and provide immediate response will increase student success. Our next course offering begins on June 16 and runs for 8-weeks. If you are interested in enrolling, please apply online. If you are a librarian who is interested in auditing, please send me an email (kenleyneufeld | gmail.com) and I’ll let you know how to gain access.