Category: Read Me

Measuring web tutorials

This just in:

The MAGIC of Web Tutorials: How One Library (Re)Focused its Delivery of Online Learning Objects on Users
Amanda Nichols Hessa
Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning
Volume 7, Issue 4, 2013
pages 331-348
Oakland University (OU) Libraries undertook an assessment of how to leverage its resources to make online tutorials more focused on users’ needs. A multi-part assessment process reconsidered Web tutorials offerings through the lenses of faculty and staff feedback, literature review, and an analysis of other universities’ online tutorial offerings. From there, OU’s e-Learning and Instructional Technology Librarian developed the MAGIC guidelines (Manageable, Available, Geared at users, Informative, Customizable) to resituate OU Libraries’ online tutorials and place users at the center. Putting MAGIC into practice meant integrating Web tutorials at points-of-need, identifying and sharing essential information, and engaging students in the learning whenever possible.
Keywords: Web tutorials, online learning objects, university libraries, online learning, library services, information literacy

A quick dip in the Unified Theory of Information

I like big ideas. I really like big ideas that solve some of the theoretical issues that I worry about. That’s why I had to follow a thread that come through my RSS feeds… “Unified Theory of Information” – has a nice ring to it, no? Like leafs blown onto my yard by a chance gust of wind, I had to follow them to the tree.

First came the post, an item from a table of content from a scholarly journal:

Claudio Gnoli, Riccardo Ridi, (2014) “Unified Theory of Information, hypertextuality and levels of reality“, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 70 Iss: 3

Quick Google searches have given me these threads:
– The group behind this epistemological idea: Unified Theory of Information (UTI) Research Group – Association for the Advancement of Information Sciences
– This 20-question long essay explaining the concept by Wolfgang Hofkirchner, a central figure behind UTI.

Man, I’ll have to stop searching… I keep stumbling on these awesome pockets of ideas !!! More later on the UTI (I am not certain it is of immediate interest to my doctoral dissertation, but definitely worth keeping on my radar screen).

Fuller on the future of education – 30 years ago!

On a whim, I purchased access to a bundle of technology articles from the New Yorker, enjoying these long-form essays from the past years and decades. One of them, “In the Outlaw Area” by Calvin Tomkins (The New Yorker, January 8, 1966, p. 35), presents iconoclast architect and all-around scientific great Buckminster Fuller, whose work is fully visible from the Montréal skyline since the 1967 World Expo. Image Source: Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, ShareAlike

I was surprised to notice that Fuller had written about the future of education back in the 1960s & 1970s, and sounds like his vision fits with the broader lines of experiential & blended learning:


(Images taken from screen shots on my mobile device of the text as displayed, from The New Yorker, January 8, 1966, p. 35)

Definitely worth a read!

So… how do students and profs use technology anyway?

Last May, CRÉPUQ published the results of a study on the attitudes of university students and professors towards technology. The association of Quebec university presidents sponsored the study, which sought to obtain statistically valid information on a broad sample.

University Affairs, a trade publication, interviewed Concordia University’s own Vivek Venkatesh last November and this January about the study, in which he was involved as a researcher. For example, he mentions that:

Our study was not designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of any one (or set of) instructional technique(s) over others. We set out to – and have succeeded in creating – robust, generalizable and predictive models of factors that impact attitudes towards university course effectiveness. Prior research (for example, Wright and Jenkins-Guarnieri, 2012) has analyzed the findings of 11 meta-analyses (193 studies) on student evaluations of teaching, or SETs, with a specific focus on their construct validity, susceptibility to bias, practical use and effective implementation. Their research provides support for the use of SET measures in evaluating instructor skill and teaching effectiveness.

We strongly believe that with a large enough representative sample and a probabilistic sampling strategy, which we have used in our study, gathering students’ perceptions on course effectiveness is a valid measure because it can reflect the reality of what is happening in the classroom – or, dare we say, what should be happening in the classroom. There have been various comments, both as a response to the UA article, as well as in the larger web sphere regarding the generalizability of our results due to a purportedly biased sample and the fact that our research was designed to reach specific conclusions. These assertions are simply untrue and bear very little logic.

You can also listen to a full interview of Vivek Venkatesh on CBC’s Spark.

A further paper will be submitted to the Journal Computers & Education.

Some books about online/blended learning

Here are some books that a colleague from our Center for Teaching and Learning has recommended:

Call Number LB2361 P6813 2009eb
Author Power, Michaël
Title A designer’s log [electronic resource] : case studies in instructional design / by Michael Power
Publisher Edmonton [Alta.] : AU Press, c2009

Call Number LB 1027.23 C24 2011
Author Caulfield, Jay, 1949-
Title How to design and teach a hybrid course : achieving student-centered learning through blended classroom, online, and experiential activities / Jay Caulfield ; foreword by Alan Aycock
Edition 1st ed
Publisher Sterling, Va. : Stylus Pub., 2011

Also found this one through the xEDBook blog:
Teaching and learning at a distance : foundations of distance education by Michael Simonson … [et al] atPearson/Allyn & Bacon (the 5th edition seems to be the most current one).

Measuring information literacy

A new report from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) attempts to measure the effectiveness of various information literacy (IL) initiatives.

The study involved 500 undergraduate students at Georgian College and tested four different models for IL, including providing specific information literacy courses, embedding information literacy into existing curriculum, online tutorials and non-mandatory tutorials. As they state on the announcement,

The study calls for institutions to adopt information literacy strategies that focus on teaching styles, delivery models, human resource requirements, outcome measurements and defining the benefits to student, institution and employer. Many faculty suggested more time be allotted to skill development as well as additional resources including online tutorials.

As may be expected, students’ comfort, accuracy and ability to utilize information literacy skills increased over their two years of study. While the overall results showed no single method of delivery to be particularly advantageous, the students who had information literacy training embedded in their course curriculum did show significantly higher ability to accurately cite source material.

The full report is available in PDF format (about 70 pages), as are the appendices.