By Danielle Rapue and Raymond Pun
FYE Correspondent Raymond Pun recently interviewed Danielle Rapue from Pasadena City College to talk about her experiences in teaching research skills and information literacy to students online. Danielle shares some of her experiences and thoughts about teaching these classes, and how important and helpful they can be for academic librarians today.
Ray: Thanks for speaking with us! I know we’ve co-written a blog post before about digital learning objects but I am excited to hear about your new position. Can you tell us about your role and briefly describe your online class for new students?
Danielle: I am a Systems and Assessment librarian for Pasadena City College in California. I teach an online, 1-unit class on college research skills. The learning outcome for the class is for students to be able to find, access, evaluate, and cite information appropriate to their research needs. Since it is a short time frame, we focus on one citation style and students are paced through the process of preparing to write a hypothetical research paper. The students do not actually write the paper, but they do all the steps to prepare for one, fortifying them for when real research papers come up in their coursework.
In the first phase my students brainstorm their topic and come up with one research question using both tertiary and film databases to support their process. In the second phase, students find information using both scholarly and popular periodicals, books, media, and website sources that all support their research question. The final project is an MLA-style annotated bibliography that showcases all the sources they have found for class. Their annotations describe their process for finding and evaluating each source, and how the source supports answering their research question. In each module of the class I model how students can identify, find, evaluate and ethically use their sources using effective techniques. I know students are pressed for time and anxious about college research, so I like to emphasize these techniques as “hacks” that can save them time, or help prevent frustration.
Ray: I like these techniques as “hacks” and I think it helps to integrate them into the process so students won’t feel anxious as you mentioned. Why do you think it’s important for librarians to teach online classes? What is new, exciting, and challenging?
Danielle: I find it extremely important for librarians to support distance education, and offer library skills classes online when possible. My institution is a community college where the student population varies widely in skill levels and abilities. Librarians should be willing to meet students where they are, and help students develop into information literate adults, even when students can’t come to us in person. Some students simply can’t fit a face-to-face class into their schedule, but are willing to put in the effort and learn from home. Teaching online has its challenges, but can definitely be rewarding for both students and instructors.
One of the challenges that I struggled with was teaching students who were still learning English. Many of these students are highly motivated, but do become discouraged when they are having a hard time understanding their detailed feedback or lecture material. I survey my students at the end of the term on what can improve the class. Based on feedback provided, my course was too text heavy. Now I am working on incorporating more images and video than I previously used in the class.
The discussion board forum aspect of online classes was not something I looked forward to when I was an online student. This is a mandatory component of online teaching for my institution, so I decided to try to make it as interesting as possible. I use the discussion board as a way to incorporate critical librarianship in online teaching. I present topics such as algorithmic search engine bias, paywalls to access scholarly content online, or the Google book scanning Supreme Court case, then frame them with questions for the students to respond to. As a class, we have lively discussions surrounding the examination and questioning of these practices and structures. Students often write well beyond the required word count for credit, and genuinely get excited about having critical discussions with their classmates. They don’t always agree with each other, but thus far have always been respectful of one another’s personal views.
Ray: I appreciate that you are facilitating these discussions where students may disagree with each other. It certainly adds additional perspective for them as they learn more about information and access. Are there any plans or ideas to further support your online students?
Danielle: I am now working to build my video editing skills, so I can provide additional video lectures, emulating more of what they might receive in an in-person environment. I am very inspired by the beauty tutorial YouTube community, and how these content creators develop impactful relationships with viewers they have never met. I follow several YouTubers and have noticed many of them use the same techniques to engage their audience. I believe some of these techniques can be incorporated into distance education classes to build community and relationships with students, that in turn can elevate the enjoyment and motivation of students taking the class. In the future, I’d like to formally gather what I’ve come across into a publication or presentation to share with other practitioners.
Aside from creating my own video content, I am also interested in using gamification in online education. Gamification can especially support online students who are at varying levels. Students all start off at level 1 and they progress through different levels by mastering skills or subject content. Students at different levels can spend the amount of time they individually need until they master a skill. With distance education, they also have privacy from their peers who they may perceive judgment from for their skill level. My goal is to incorporate games that can be played for both fun and skill advancement.
Danielle Rapue is the Systems and Assessment Librarian at Pasadena City College. Her role focuses on supporting and maintaining access to library technology and the collection, analysis, and communication of library data. Danielle also provides reference support and library instruction to her campus community. Prior to working in libraries, Danielle worked in market research for 6 years as a recruiting manager, facilitating qualitative and quantitative research for a private sector company based in the Silicon Valley. Danielle received her M.S. in Library and Information Science degree from San Jose State University iSchool in 2016.