Posted on June 4, 2014.
On May 28th, librarians from Ashford University (AU) and the University of San Diego (USD) delivered an excellent overview of innovative strategies for providing reference and instruction services virtually. The event was generously hosted at AU’s San Diego headquarters.
Elizabeth Grossman, AU’s Senior Director of Library Services, together with librarians Dana Haff and Rebecca Nowicki, discussed the unique challenges of providing information literacy services to an all-online student body. She discussed several analytics and metrics evaluations performed by her team to assess the value of library services and target those services most effectively. Tools and methods included a Qualtrics survey, Google Analytics of website traffic, and phone/chat metrics (using Desk Tracker, LivePerson chat transcripts, and Avaya phone reports). Among other findings, the librarians discovered:
- students preferred asynchronous instruction over live interaction with a librarian
- student demand for library services peaked on Sunday afternoons and evenings (when library staff is not available for customer service), and on Monday afternoon and evenings (when library staff is now available)
- live chat provided the highest ROI of all contact methods, measured by percentage of time the service was used out of time the service was available
As a result of these observations, library staff scheduling has been optimized to meet student demand. The library team has also adjusted its call-center system for fielding incoming calls. They now rotate staff members into phone-reference duties throughout the week, allowing staff members dedicated time for other projects without interruptions. (Before, several librarians were available during their entire shifts, with calls trickling in sporadically).
AU’s librarians have also increased the impact of their services by working with the school’s online course system. When answering a student reference request, they can log directly into the student’s course and see what the actual assignment and learning objectives are. They also relate reference requests to the course that generated the request, allowing them to see which courses are most difficult and warrant extra information literacy instruction. The library team then develops targeted video tutorials and subject guides to be embedded directly into specific course learning modules. Instructional tools AU has used include: Articulate Storyline (which includes a map-building feature), Sparkol VideoScribe, Adobe Captivate, Adobe After Effects, LibGuides, and Springshare LibAnswers (an FAQ knowledge base which includes analytics and a call center style platform for routing new questions). Through targeted course-level instruction, the librarians have significantly replaced one-on-one reference and instruction with instructional tools available to the entire student body.
Librarians Anna Russell, Jane Larrington, and Judith Lihosit from USD’s Pardee Legal Research Center (PLRC) rounded out the evening by demonstrating and comparing several screencasting solutions. They began by explaining the benefits of “flipping” classes—that is, having students watch lecture videos at home before class, then use class time for exercises, questions, and discussion. They proceeded to discuss several technical and administrative issues to consider before you start screencasting, and presented some pros and cons of numerous products on the market. In general, the more features your project requires, the more expensive the requisite software and the more difficult that software is to learn. Lastly, the PLRC librarians demonstrated how you can use PowerPoint as a substitute for screencasting software for very simple projects. Although PowerPoint only produces still images rather than capturing a dynamic screen, you can create projects very quickly and be assured that your users will be able to access the files. Another benefit to using PowerPoint is that the audio is recorded separately for each slide. If you need to go back and update or add a slide, you may easily make those edits in the PowerPoint file and create a new video file. If you need to demonstrate complicated maneuvers, you can create short screencasts (less than 5 mins.) with another screencasting program (like Jing or Screenr) and insert the video file into your PowerPoint.
-Tim Gladson, SLA San Diego Communications Committee
Ashford University Library Group
USD Pardee Legal Research Center Group