Interactive Online Video Tutorials

For my speed date with design thinking activity, I came up with a library product prototype to meet Belinda’s need for effective research skills and to alleviate the doubts she feels about tertiary study as a mature age student and single mum.

I felt that Belinda needed guidance in the area of effective research to help her save time and build confidence in using available technology.  My idea is:  interactive online video tutorials that are designed specifically for education students.

Videos are visual and aural, making them easy to follow.  What’s more they can be paced by the user.  Students in Belinda’s course will be of different ages and have different levels of experience, so I thought that a leveled experience is less daunting with language and tips to suit each level.  Belinda can move through the levels as she needs to with information provided in the former level revisited and expanded upon in the next.  Examples will be provided and Belinda will be given an opportunity to test her knowledge using an interactive interface.  The tutorials will be upbeat and quite brief, a maximum ofA quickly drawn prototype

20 minutes in duration to prevent boredom and getting bogged down, especially when there are so many other tasks to complete as a student and mother. In addition, the tutorial will have an instant chat box ready to answer questions at convenient times, and a suggestion and feedback form to improve the service.

I think an important element is to have an attractively designed interface – not really achieved with my quick drawing.

I’m interested in seeing the ideas you came up with and welcome any feedback on mine to generate an even better library product for Belinda.  Thanks for visiting.

A Library Reference Online Chat Service Review

internet service Pixabay licensed under CC0 1.0

I recently used an Ask a librarian online chat service at a reputable university library. I chose not to name the library or librarians for this review to protect the privacy of those involved.

My enquiry was about permalinks which I’d seen in the library cataglogue.  I wanted to know what they were, and whether they were reliable links I could use for my blogs, or whether they were session-specific and would break. Furthermore, I wanted to know if I used a permalink, would a member of the public, not affiliated with the university, be able to view my source.  I checked the university’s guide to citing and referencing, and searched Google but could not find an answer I could decipher, which led me to use an Ask a librarian online chat service.

Researchers such as Schiller, Shaw and Spink refer to RUSA guidelines to evaluate behavioural performance for online chat library reference services, which are based on 5 areas:

  • visibility/approachability;
  • interest;
  • listening/inquiring;
  • searching; and
  • follow-up of chat reference services

In terms of ‘visibility/approachability’, the online chat gateway was very easy to find on the university library homepage, and the operating hours were very convenient – every day of the week with similar hours to the library’s opening hours.  I made contact during operating hours, however, it took 20 minutes before my online chat began.  This is in contrast to a maximum 1 minute wait-time as a feature of best practice (Schwartz cited in Schiller).  To begin the chat, I needed to complete an enquiry form asking for my name, email address and topic.  Once submitted, an onscreen message appeared:  Sorry no chat agents are currently online.  Twelve minutes later, I discovered a librarian (L1) had just emailed me. I tried to reply but email delivery failed, so I returned to the chat portal, and voilà, a chat window opened within the webpage, and L1 and I began to have a real-time conversation.

Considering the area of demonstrating ‘interest’, I felt this was not fully satisfied by L1.  Although L1 provided helpful information in the email I received, I still had more questions to ask.  Soon after our chat began, L1 abruptly exited the chat.  L1 asked a clarifying question, and before I could respond, I was greeted with another librarian (L2) who informed me that L1’s shift had finished.

Despite this fairly disappointing start, both librarians fulfilled their duty of listening/inquiring and searching.  My enquiry was eventually fully resolved by L2.  On reflection, both L1 and L2 asked clarifying questions and provided links to information sites so that I had a reference point to go back to, demonstrating a teach-to-fish rather than give-fish methodology.  Providing prompts for me to investigate myself made my learning more memorable and encouraged me to be an active participant.

Once I felt that my enquiry was resolved, I expressed satisfaction.  Our parting words were friendly.  In terms of ‘follow-up of chat services’, I received an email request to complete a survey on my experience, which only included questions related to level of satisfaction and not how much I learnt.  In addition, in our parting comments, L2 did not invite me to make contact again.

Ranganathan’s fourth law of library science, save the time of the reader,  certainly applies to library reference online chat.  Although my wait-time was longer than expected at the beginning, my enquiry was resolved faster than other communication pathways.  In terms of customer experience, I would suggest protocols be put in place to help manage customer expectations around wait-time and changing librarians mid-enquiry.  Ask a librarian is a service, nonetheless, its main goal is to educate.  With this view, I came away from the experience a satisfied patron.

Reflections on Twitter

The infamous and ubiquitous # is about to become part of my vocabulary!  Until I started this course, I never thought that Twitter could be used in an educational setting.  Actually, I had a fairly negative view of it.  I saw it as a tool for outspoken people to vent their opinions.  Tweets were those annoying comments that appear on screen during Q & A that distract my attention from the guest speaker.  Not surprising then, Q & A’s host, Tony Jones, hasn’t joined (yet).  But now that I’ve signed up and have a steady stream of interesting tweets flowing in constantly from libraries and librarians, I can see how useful Twitter is for my professional development.  My first Twitter chat (#auslibchat) was exciting and stimulating.  I think it will provide a fun and entertaining way to learn.  My main concern is that chats will remain superficial and topics will not be unpacked adequately to construct meaning.  With the right scaffolding though, I think we will be able to have some insightful chats.  I look forward to using it.

Belonging to a Learning Community


Creative Commons Community Circle” by josephluis is licensed under CC0 1.0

In considering a learning community, I first wanted to define communityThe Cambridge online dictionary defines it as:

the people living in one particular area or people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests, social group, or nationality

In my own experience, living in a particular area has not been a determining factor in the communities I belong to, however, shared interests and goals have.  I belong to a number of communities both online and offline.  My work organisation community is a state government agency where I work as a contact centre customer service advisor.  Also, my side passion of yoga – I am a qualified yoga teacher – has led to my creating a small community of like-minded followers through my weekly classes at a local community hall and online videos on YouTube.  In addition, I use social media on a regular basis to keep in touch with friends, family, teachers and peers.  Occasionally, there are opportunities to collaborate in my communities, but mostly, communication is used to build relationships, and to stay up to date with events and changes.

Now I find myself in a learning community where I must utilise online communication tools and collaborative approaches to learning.  Although I’ve worked in study groups before, the prospect of never actually meeting my classmates and teachers in the flesh is a new prospect.  Since enrolling, I obediently started using Twitter and Google+ to engage with teachers and students.  So what is a learning community in the digital age?  Garrison states:

In a technologically connected society, the community dimension is defined by the identity of the participants in the group, not the physical location. That is, participants identify with why they are members of the group – the purpose for the group’s existence. It is a place to connect with others who possess similar interests and goals. In short, community displays the characteristics of common purpose, interdependence, collaboration, communication, and trust.(from: Thinking collaboratively: Learning in a community of inquiry p.54)

A Community of Inquiry approach underpins the learning community.  It consists of three interdependent presences – cognitive, social and teaching.  These presences are equally important to successful learning outcomes.  As Garrison writes:

“…social presence is the soul of a community of inquiry, cognitive presence is the heart of a community of inquiry…teaching presence is the backbone” (from: Thinking collaboratively: Learning in a community of inquiry p. 71).

How can I flourish in this new type of community?

At my core, I’m a sensitive idealist.  The Myer-Briggs Type Indicator describes me as an ENFJ type – Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging type.  Thus far, my natural way of behaving in communities, both online and offline, is to be very tentative.  I take time to observe and get a feel for the people and environment before I feel comfortable to open up authentically.  Like many, I am frightened of ridicule, but I respond well to constructive feedback from those whose opinion I respect.  I may be perceived as quiet, shy and a bit awkward (I asked my 14-year-old tech savvy son what my online profile was like, and he responded with ‘awkward’, and said I behaved awkwardly with people I didn’t know very well).  A feeling of trust is very important for me to open up.  Despite being at times reserved, I can be assertive in seeking clarification, and ensuring others are heard and acknowledged.  In my professional communities, I am reliable and obedient.  I satisfy and sometimes exceed what is expected of me.

I believe I will play an active role in the IFN 614 learning community particularly in the area of social presence.  Supporting group cohesion and open communication will come naturally to me.  However, I will need to come out of my comfort zone to display a high level of cognitive presenceTriggering, exploring, integrating and resolving in an online public domain is a new approach for me.  Communication will be two-way and I’ll have to be prepared to have my beliefs and thoughts tested and pulled apart, which is a little disconcerting.  How will I be perceived?  Each comment creates my online reputation.  Will I be misconstrued?  Will I ever work in this town again?

But from a collaborative approach to learning and innovation, multiple perspectives are valuable (from: Thinking collaboratively: Learning in a community of inquiry p. 18).  The key is to build trust for open communication so that one point of view does not dominate.  Personally, I will need to muster the courage to bring something to the table and be prepared for it to be pulled apart and turned on its head.  Likewise, I’ll need to question and explore other people’s ideas.  It’s a little scary for this sensitive idealist, but one I’ll need to practice and get used to because  collaborative skills are essential for professional life today and the future.