A Culture of Collaboration: Library Innovation in the FYE at Bryant University

Posted by Laura Kohl on 2/13/18 8:52 PM

First Year Experience, Information Literacy, Library Instruction

bryant library.jpgBryant University is known for its vigorous academic program, a design thinking experience for first year students, and a campuswide focus on student success. The culture at Bryant provides fertile ground for innovation at all levels of the university. The Douglas and Judith Krupp Library embraces this culture and the elements of flexibility, experimentation, and collaboration, offering library staff the opportunity to innovate within the library and with campus partners.

Information Literacy in the First Year

Through recent initiatives we’ve had the opportunity to showcase the strengths of the library staff and what we are able to offer to campus collaborators. In 2012, Bryant University launched First-Year Gateway Program, moving to an outcomes-based curriculum. The library was chosen by the curriculum committee to help identify the skills deemed most important for our graduates. Along with Critical Thinking, Effective Communication, Ethical Reasoning, and Diversity Awareness, Information Literacy (IL) was selected as one of the 5 learning outcomes.

The recognition of IL as a key outcome has resulted in the library becoming a valued voice in integrating learning initiatives in the curriculum. Research & Instruction Librarian Maura Keating and I, for instance, participated in the creation of a Writing Workshop, the first of its kind at Bryant. We established an embedded librarian for each section of the course, enabling the library to see every first year student at Bryant. Instructors invite librarians into the course at least once during the semester, and collaborate on the creation of assignments. Additionally, all librarians who partner with the Writing Workshop are part of the community of practice, which meets regularly to discuss issues and best practices related to the course (Lave & Wenger, 1991).  

ePortfolios in the First Year

Along with the above changes, we were able to add another high-impact practice, the reflective ePortfolio. This created further opportunities for the library to partner in new ways and embrace the concept of the “blended librarian”, made famous by Stephen Bell and John Shank (2004). The university had long desired to implement an ePortfolio, but without an instructional design team, someone needed to take the reins. In 2012, the library was approached by academic administration to do just that. 

I became the de facto ePortfolio expert, researching best practices and exploring how to set up the ePortfolio to most effectively work with our new curriculum. The ePortfolio is incorporated into the first-year Gateway curriculum using a template that aligns student reflections, by course, and by learning outcome, including first-year student reflections on IL. Our assessments have shown that prompting students to reflect on their learning provides opportunity for growth, and demonstrates insights into early integrative thinking between outcomes, courses, assignments, and student success concepts.  

Student Success Online Summer Bridge

Indeed, Bryant University is known for its focus on and dedication to student success, thanks in great part to the work of the Centers for Student Success. When the change to the outcomes-based curriculum occurred, there was a shift from a stand-alone first-year seminar to incorporating student success components across courses in the Gateway program. While this provided an opportunity for the faculty to take a more intentional approach with the students, some of the content covered in the first-year seminar needed to be offered in an alternative way. A group with representation from Academic Computing, Faculty Development, Centers for Student Success, and the library identified touch points that could be addressed through an innovative online learning initiative.  

The first online course of its kind at Bryant, we launched the summer bridge course, Student Success @ Bryant University on August 1, 2014. E-Learning Specialist Stephen Payne and I worked closely with subject matter experts from Undergraduate Advising, the Academic Center for Excellence, and beyond to build an engaging online experience that would help transition our incoming students through issues such as university jargon, building the ePortfolio, navigating the learning management system, joining a scholarly community, and more. We have worked collaboratively over the past several years to update the course, this past fall adding a Student Affairs and Library module. The course is assessed yearly, and continual improvements are made.

Students have reported feeling more knowledgeable, engaged and at ease with their transition after taking the course. 

The ability for a librarian, and the library as a whole, to participate across campus in the ways described can be attributed to the fact that the university embraces and supports the development and collaborative ideas of its faculty and staff. Curiosity and innovation are encouraged and in the end we can see the very positive impact that this culture has on our most important community members, our students.

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Bell, S. J., & Shank, J. (2004). The blended librarian: A blueprint for redefining the teaching and learning role of academic librarians. College & Research Libraries News, 65(7), 372-375.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press.

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