Workshop for Instruction in Library Use - Day Three

Posted on 24 May 2014 Conference, Teaching, E-Learning

The final day of WILU 2014 continued to be energizing and inspiring with some particularly relevant sessions, plus an honest and challenging closing keynote from Meagan Oakleaf of Syracuse University. Overall, the conference was tremendously successful, and I'm proud of the hard work of my colleagues who acted as organizers. The presentations were topical, the venue and logistics worked seamlessly, and the food was completely beyond expectations in quantity and quality!

The theme and location of next year's WILU conference was announced: Sea Change: Transforming Learning at Memorial University in Newfoundland. I love the choice -- it's a complex and evocative metaphor with significance for the east coast, and etymological roots in Shakespeare's The Tempest:

Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange.

Further, Western University has arranged to maintain an ongoing history of WILU artifacts in its institutional repository, Scholarship @ Western.

Library on Demand: Now Delivering Fresh Services to your Online Course!

Library on Demand Title Slide


From the University of Alberta, Debbie Feisst and Kim Frail described their process of developing and embedding a library widget into their LMS, Moodle. They piloted the library "block" with select classes in the faculty of education, then successfully advocated for the block to be added to the list of opt-in tools available for course administrators. While having the block be visible by default would be preferable, the tool is a permanent fixture of the Moodle landing page where course membership is listed.

I think this type of tool has been on the mind of every instruction librarian trying to increase library visibility in the LMS. The challenge is getting the buy-in of stakeholders and creating something that will be effective despite being one-size-fits-all. An audience member brought up the concern that students would see the links and believe them to be the whole extent of the library. Feisst & Frail were clear that student opinion and use of the library block increased significantly when it was coupled with traditional in-class instruction.

More information was made available on Google Drive.

Recommended resources:

Video Tutorial Reboot: Reimagining the Library Workshop for 21st Century Students

Video Tutorial Reboot Title Slide


Monica Rettig, Colleen MacKinnon, and Denise Smith from Brock University presented on rebuilding and rebranding a co-curricular certificate for reading and writing skills. Throughout the conference, I've been especially impressed by the groups who have worked to make their IL programs required for students, or recognized officially on student transcripts. Their goals were to meet students in the LMS (Sakai), foster pedagogically sound, active learning, and create modular, reusable content.

They developed 3 modules organized by the topics "prepare & plan", "search & find", and "read & write". The content is interactive, with drag and drop activities, videos, and self-assessment quizzes. Most provocatively, they used a third party product called SoftChalk for authoring the learning objects, adding functionality that Sakai doesn't natively support. The drawback is that the library must act as an intermediary between the students and instructor, reporting the grades achieved which are stored outside of the Sakai gradebook. Further, the data from the formative self-assessment quizzes and individual module results isn't retained by the software. Nonetheless, their assessment for learning strategy is strong, and guided by the principles of self-assessment, immediate feedback, and flexible teaching in response to results.

The content of their course is available for viewing online on the SoftChalk Cloud.

Closing Keynote: E-magine the Possibilities: The Role of the Library in E-Learning

E-magine the Possibilities Title Slide


This was my first time seeing Meagan Oakleaf speak, and I was impressed by her ability to be natural, candid, and engaging on stage with challenging and compelling material. I ended up with 4 pages of furiously scribbled notes, and will try my best to distill the essence:

  • For the library to contribute to e-learning, we must become learners ourselves, as students of e-learning. Which is not to say we should forget what we know about "non e-learning". The old principles of instructional design, pedagogy, assessment, and good teaching practices still apply.
  • Oakleaf espouses the Understanding by Design methodology, where you begin with your learning outcomes, create your assessment, then lastly develop a pedagogy.
  • The new threshold concepts from ACRL move away from teaching tools, to teaching more abstract and higher-order concepts. The challenge will be operationalizing these concepts and developing learning outcomes around them. She stressed that the work which will follow won't be easy.
  • In particular, such "enduring understandings" are difficult to assess by any means other than performance assessment. Performance assessment is more difficult to develop, requires more time, and involves collecting artifacts of student work, such as articles, bibliographies, portfolios, and open-ended responses.
Student Artifacts for Assessment


  • Further, performance assessment can be subjective, and validity and reliability depends on consistency across time and across graders. For this reason, we develop rubrics, which in turn must be well-written and normed. The RAILS (Rubric Assessment of Information Literacy Skills) website hosts a collection of rubrics for library instruction assessment.
  • Assessment of e-learning within the LMS is facilitated by tracking and statistics. Participation is monitored, discussion is written, work is submitted electronically, and early warning tools can be set to alert instructors when intervention may be needed. Learning and learner analytics are the next big trend; the application of "big data" can help encourage positive student behaviours that lead to success.
  • The challenge for libraries is, we typically don't collect or retain any patron data. Vendors have been uncooperative in sharing statistics, libraries don't monitor activities within the building (such as PC/wireless logins), and data that is collected is frequently dumped (such as circulation histories). We have been unable to demonstrate library value because we haven't, historically, made connections between learning outcomes and student-library interactions.
  • Oakleaf distributed a package of reading material addressing these topics, including excerpts from journals and worksheets:
    • Belanger, J. & Oakleaf, M. (2013). AMSs: Questions to spark librarian engagement. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39, 354-356.
    • Holmes, C. & Oakleaf, M. (2013). The official (and unofficial) rules for norming rubrics successfully. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39, 599-602.
    • Oakleaf, M. (2010). Academic library value: The impact starter kit. Retrieved from
    • Oakleaf, M. (2014). Correlating library services, expertise, and resources with student learning. Information Outlook, 18(2), 13-16.
    • Hoover, S. (2013). Start racking up your $1.50: A hackademic's guide to libraries. Retrieved from