August 21, 2012

Embedding LibGuides into Course Management Systems

My getting-ready-for-school tasks include creating library course guides for each class I plan to talk to about using library resources. Last academic year, I taught 54 groups, including "one-shot" instruction sessions, orientations for new & prospective students, and non-course workshops.  I created 31 course guides in support of these sessions, including the ever-popular page for Penny Abernathy's Digital Media Economics and Behavior, Barbara Friedman's Women and Mass Communication, and Dave Cupp's History of Broadcasting. These three pages were among the top 10 visited pages of the whole Park Library website last year. 

Whoo! those pages are popular! I have long known that, as a student of website analytics.  A recent article in Reference Services Review provides another level of support for this assertion.

Aaron Bowen, reference librarian at the University of California, Chico, conducted a small study of students' use of LibGuides (software for creating library course guides) in Blackboard, a course / learning management system. The LibGuides were embedded in CSU Chico's Blackboard sites, much as UNC library course guides are embedded in our Blackboard / Sakai course management systems. Bowen queried students about their use of resources used to conduct research for their Communication 131 class.

The results were striking: Of the "57 valid responses, 36 students (63.16 percent) responded they did not use any internet resources, other than the Guide, to complete their assignment." In my words: wow! 63% of students who responded to the survey only used library-sanctioned resources to do research required for their assignment. Those students did not use Google or Wikipedia (or they didn't admit to having done so), while 30% used Google and 16% used Google Scholar in addition to the Guide (9% admitted to having used Wikipedia).

Lots of research indicates that students use Google or other resources on the free Internet to research for their courses. Bowen's research is more consistent with Alison Head's 2007 research described in First Monday that only about 10% of students use Google and other free websites to start their research for courses.

So, good news broadly for student research: there are cases when students are more likely to use library resources to complete their assignments. And good news more specifically for me & my UNC colleagues: embedding library guides into course management systems improves students' use of our resources.
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