For more than a decade, the Library 160 course was delivered as an independent study, self-paced course with one face-to-face opening lecture by a librarian or, more often, a graduate student TA. After that one lecture, students were expected to work through the course's manual, its online tutorials, and assignments on their own, with no further contact or feedback from their instructor or cohort students. The course was sustained during this period largely by the Library 160 office manager, two half-time graduate student TAs - who were responsible for the majority of course sections - and two librarians. Online tutorials were expected to take the place of face-to-face class contact. The Library has learned through student feedback that this model proved unpopular with undergraduate students, who were confused by the independent nature of the course and its almost total lack of instructor contact. Summative feedback from students was often negative. What follows is a description of how course administrators have used the feedback process to change the course for the better. Importantly, student feedback from Library 160 now often includes very positive comments and assertions that the course was very helpful.
Course Self-Assessment: Student negative feedback gathered in 2002 and earlier formed the basis in part for a rigorous review of the Library 160 course, its learning goals, instructional content, pedagogy, course delivery, and student learning outcomes assessment. Major recommendations of the course self-assessment were the following:
- The need to increase the number of faculty librarians teaching the course, as a means of distributing the teaching load in a more manageable way, and also to enhance student learning opportunities from expert faculty librarians. Implemented Fall 2004, with the addition and training of 8 library faculty as course instructors, with a course load of one to three sections each, with most faculty teaching two sections.
- The need for teaching load reduction and greater training and supervision of graduate student TAs teaching the course. Implemented Fall 2004, with the hiring, training, and supervision of two new half-time TAs, and with a much reduced course load of two sections each. The graduate students are involved in the same professional development opportunities and regular Library 160 instructor meetings as are the faculty librarians.
- The need to humanize the course through increased instructor-student contact and feedback opportunities. Implemented Summer 2004, partly through the addition of teaching staff and the redistribution of more manageable course loads, but also through the use of WebCT and communication tools, that allow students an easy medium for communicating directly with their instructor, plus course instructors can more easily provide additional content, discussion questions, feedback, and encouragement to their students. Besides being available via WebCT, course instructors also have office hours for students who prefer face-to-face contact for discussing course content or questions.
- The need to revise course content and assessments to focus less on specific tools and more on IL conceptual knowledge that can be transferred to other settings, other tools, other interfaces. Implemented immediately in Summer 2004, through the redesign and revision of the course manual and all its assignments. This revision will be ongoing, as the information environment itself is constantly changing at a rapid rate.
- The need to revise course tutorials, to eliminate access and display problems, and also make regular maintenance and updating of content easier. Ongoing investigation and development, Summer 2004-present.
- The need to increase and improve course assessment, and to remain focused on and responsive to student learning needs. Examples include:
- The course pretest (described above). The pretest provides students with important feedback on their knowledge at the onset of the course. This helps show students that they don't "know it all," and also indicates important content to be learned. Since implementation of the pretest began, there has been a drastic reduction in student summative feedback stating they already "knew everything", and did "not need" the course.
- Refinement of our use of WebCT. Our own program assessment analyses of Library 160 student data indicate that there is a strong correlation between student use of WebCT and student course outcome (defined as total points earned).
- Increased feedback opportunities for students. Use of WebCT allows instructors to monitor student progress, and provide relevant feedback, encouragement, and instruction. Student reaction to this has been quite positive, and generates a means of providing formative feedback from students to the instructors. This helps instructors identify and address points that are not clear, plus identify and address unexpected student learning needs - such as providing traditional office hours, rather than online only.
Other ongoing improvements to the course have also had their origins in student feedback. These include:
- Revising and updating the course's instructional content (Summer 2004-present)
- Rewording some assignment and exam questions that some students have found confusing (Summer 2004-present)
- Identify and address "fuzzy" content areas and increase time and effort spent teaching these more elusive concepts (these include call numbers, and intepreting citations) (Summer 2004-present)
- Increasing faculty librarian - student feedback and contact, particularly for those students needing extra help (Summer 2005-present)
- Migrating the course's supplemental tutorials to a more flexible software, so that maintenance and updates are easier (Ongoing)