Category Archives: Teaching and Learning

Commons Learning

Cindy Fisher teaches first-year students in a class at PCL.

Leading up to the opening of the Learning Commons, we’ve spoken in broad terms about the impact of having a suite of student resources and services co-located for ease of access and use, and how that convenience is expected to improve student outcomes. Much of the talk regarding that impact of the Learning Commons has centered on the process and completion of finished products of a more temporal nature such as reports, projects and other assignments, but beyond the resources — technical help, knowledge resources and technology — that will serve as the basis for user productivity, it’s worth considering the persisting influence that the learning opportunities supported by the new space will provide to the next generation of Longhorns.

Students attend one of the LIbraries' classes at PCL.Staff in the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) unit has played a central role in planning the Learning Commons, and their activities will have a significant impact on the success of the initiative. The longstanding relationship between TLS and the University Writing Center was essential to the relocation of UWC to the Perry-Castañeda Library, and much of the vitality in the Learning Commons will be determined by how the partnership between the two groups evolves over time. UWC’s nascent presence has already reaped ideas for collaborating with the Libraries on programming in the new space, and coordinating with other student resources around campus — such as the Sanger Learning Center — will allow a crossover between the provisional service needs of users for the purpose of completing assignments and the generation of lasting skills like interviewing, public speaking, information literacy, and much more.

TLS emerged in 2002 — at the time designated Library Instruction Services — to take the place of the Digital Information Literacy Office (DILO) and expand on its mission to integrate information literacy into the campus-wide curriculum for general education, which it successfully accomplished in 2010. The unit’s name evolved to Teaching and Learning Services as its mission has expanded to represent a more comprehensive view of the academic landscape and the ways in which students and faculty interact to share knowledge and experience.

By its increased involvement in campus curriculum via information and digital literacy, TLS has routinely collaborated with faculty on assignment design and presents course-integrated classes in hands-on classrooms in the libraries. They’ve also created video tutorials on subjects such as avoiding plagiarism for integration into course web sites and embedding in online courses. Through a combination of these methods, TLS now reaches almost 3,000 lower division undergraduates every year.

Head of TLS Michele Ostrow at an information literacy conference organized with regional high school librarians.“The Learning Commons isn’t just about co-locating academic support services for ease of access but is about collaborating in new ways across those departmental lines to better support teaching and learning,” says Michele Ostrow, head of the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services unit. “We’re fortunate to work closely with a lot of fantastic faculty who teach in our freshmen programs and are committed to helping the excellent high school students who get into UT become excellent college students.” Continue reading Commons Learning

Rallying the Next Generation of African Leaders

YALI participants on-site at PCL.

As the Business Librarian at UT Libraries I frequently work with entrepreneurs from the McCombs School of Business and sometimes from the Cockrell School of Engineering. For the first time this summer I had the honor of working with a group of young entrepreneurs from Africa.

The 25 attendees here at UT Austin were part of the 500 Mandela Washington Fellows for Young African Leaders Institute (YALI) selected from over 40,000 applications for this prestigious program. President Obama invited the group to the U.S. from Sub-Saharan Africa as part of his signature effort to invest in the next generation of global leaders. Twenty universities were selected to host the fellows. UT Austin chose the theme of Business & Entrepreneurship for its institute.

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The UT Austin YALI Fellows are creating and/or growing businesses back home. Their interests are broad; women’s and children’s health initiatives, farming, training computer scientists, and translation services. One of the most inspirational companies is one that trains women incarcerated for prostitution to become fashion designers and tailors. The fashion company hires these women upon their release thereby improving the women’s situations and helping them stay out of prison.

Just like I would for students on our campus, I provided a business research workshop to the YALI group and coordinated with the UT Austin International Office to develop a course guide and a hands-on research workshop for these entrepreneurs. In the workshop we practiced search strategies and I introduced them to resources containing market research, economic, and demographic data.

At the end of their UT visit, the Fellows participated in a pitch competition in front of a three-judge panel of successful Austin entrepreneurs. I saw first-hand how they incorporated their research into their pitch for future funding. The judges asked tough questions about growth and sustainability. The Fellows handled the inquiry with aplomb and you could see the passion they all had for their projects.

To cap off the 6-week event all 500 Fellows attended a summit in Washington, D.C. where they met with Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama. At the summit President Obama announced the program was to be renamed the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders to honor Nelson Mandela. Not only is the program going to continue next year, but the President has also committed to double the number of participants to 1000 for the summer of 2016.

I hope that the University of Texas will be hosting again next year and that I have the opportunity and privilege to work with these global entrepreneurs as they go out and change the world!

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Up Close and Persona

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Instruction Services GRA Anna Fidgeon is featured in a video interview by the Daily Texan examining online personas and privacy on the Internet.

The takeaway? The web isn’t private, so be smart when you’re online.

The Texan interview, however, is just another feather in her onscreen cap. Anna will also be seen starring as a research scientist in an upcoming video ad campaign in support of academics at the university to air on the Longhorn Network.

Breaking Down Tools

Our First-year Experience Librarian, Cindy Fisher, is a guest blogger over at the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s ProfHacker site. In her post, she lauds LibX, a pretty complex, library-specific browser extension from a couple of innovators at VaTech that makes finding and accessing available resources in your library exponentially simpler.

Like I said, it’s pretty complex, so I’ll let Cindy explain it to you.

 

PRIMO Recognition for LIS

Last week staff in Library Instruction Services heard the good news that two more of their instructional efforts were accepted into the PRIMO Database, the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Instruction Section’s peer-reviewed collection of instructional materials.   The purpose of PRIMO is to foster  sharing of high quality digital resources to support academic librarians’ as they teach users how to find and evaluate information.

PRIMO now includes a total of four projects designed by Library Instruction Services:

How to Generate Keywords

This tool helps students turn their research question into a successful database search.  Students often struggle with this first piece of the research process but good keyword selection is vital to bringing back relevant and useful resources.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar posts, which have been featured on this blog before, use comics and video to introduce undergraduates to research strategies, resources and library services.  They are shared through the News For Undergraduates blog,  incorporated into course-specific research guides, and used during chat reference transactions.

All About Plagiarism

This interactive tutorial helps students avoid unintentional plagiarism.  Students learn what constitutes plagiarism, why it matters, and strategies for avoiding plagiarism such as quoting, paraphrasing and note-taking.  The tutorial is assigned by faculty across campus who can upload a related quiz to their Blackboard course site. Libraries staff were also featured in a PRIMO Site of the Month interview discussing the tutorial’s design.

Understanding Citations Tutorial

This interactive tutorial helps students do research and avoid plagiarism by explaining the elements of a citation.  At the end of the tutorial, students are able to discern between different types of citations (a journal article versus a book, for example) and recognize the elements of a citation so that they can build a proper citation for their own bibliography.

These resources are available through the Libraries website 24/7 for students who need help even when the Libraries aren’t open.  They allow us to provide point of need instruction whatever the time of day and support us as we work with students on their research projects.

Catherine Hamer is the Associate Director for User Services at the University of Texas Libraries.

Tip Jars in the Library?

We all know the cliche, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so in age of YouTube and TwitterLibrary Instruction Services decided that collapsing our text-heavy web pages into succinct and visually stimulating comics and videos would help bridge new media, instruction-on-demand, and quick reference for our time-strapped undergraduates.

The idea for these short light-hearted videos evolved over time to incorporate comics instead of actor librarians; we’re slightly camera shy here and creating comic alto-egos mean we’ll never have a bad hair day. Staff in Library Instruction Services scripted the vignettes, and our Library Assistant and resident-artist Elise Nacca and Graduate Research Assistant Krystal Wyatt-Baxter used a free version of Bitstrips to create characters and dialogue incorporating the scripted scenarios.

Since their release in September 2010, the Tip Jar posts have covered topics such as how to use Google Scholar, narrowing a topic and placing it in context , finding E-Books and more.

Creating this digital content means that it’s easily distributed and re-purposed depending on student and staff needs. For instance, Tip Jar instructional videos are integrated with a collection of videos created by students from our 2009 Library Video Contest to be used in the Undergraduate Studies First-year Interest Group program as a way to introduce the students to library services in a fun and flexible way. We’ve also included these videos within our online research guides for course-integrated instruction or during a reference exchange over our Ask A Librarian chat service.

The posts run every other Monday on our News For Undergraduates Blog, which also incorporates events, resources, and items of interest for the University of Texas undergrad community. Stop by and get a tip from us!

Cindy Fisher is the First-year Experience Librarian, Library Instruction Services.


And the Winner is…

On Saturday, July 24, Library Instruction Services hosted the Amazing Library Race as part of the Honors Colloquium sponsored by the School of Undergraduate Studies.

The Colloquium, in its 29th year, invites exceptional high-school students from throughout the state to a unique summer program designed to showcase the very best the university has to offer.  Students attend class sessions and special lectures by distinguished faculty in addition to going on tours and choosing among interest sessions hosted by departments across campus.

During the Amazing Library Race, ten groups raced through PCL, following clues for their assigned country that led them through the stacks, to photocopiers and group study rooms, and to our electronic resources before they had to make a mad dash to the finish line in the Map Room.

This year, Team Netherlands won, finishing in less than 15 minutes. Donuts were enjoyed by all at the end of the race.

The Race is designed to provide students with an introduction to the space and resources of an academic library, allowing them to compare their previous public and school library experiences to the vast collections that they will find in a research library like PCL.  At the end of the event, students had questions about the collections of government documents they saw in the stacks, how they could get a job in the Libraries, and how academic librarians will support them in their research as college students.

This event remains the highlight of the summer for all of the staff in Library Instruction Services and consistently receives rave reviews from the Colloquialists.

See photos from the event here.

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Meghan Sitar is Instruction & Outreach Librarian for the University of Texas Libraries.

Breaking Through Austerity

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

-Benjamin Franklin

You’ve probably heard the news that UT-Austin has initiated a plan to cut $14.6 million in expenditures for 2010 – 2011. Everyone on campus has been looking for places to trim back, trying to decide what is core and essential and what is just “nice to have.”

The UT Libraries has a long-standing commitment to staff training and professional development and that commitment has not wavered during these tough economic times.   However, we have had to find creative ways to provide this training with fewer financial resources.

One approach we have taken is a program called Learning Breaks.  Every other week, someone from the Libraries staff will do two 30 minute presentations, one in-person and one online through our online meetings software, about a topic in which they have expertise.  This approach has allowed us to offer trainings on a wide variety of topics ranging from Web 2.0 applications such as Twitter, Flickr, wikis and blogs to time management practices such as managing your to-do list.

Since these topics are suggested by staff we know they fulfill a need.  What’s more, the benefits of Learning Breaks go beyond what is learned in the training; this peer-to-peer model also allows the Libraries to recognize and value the expertise and diverse talents of the staff.    And by incorporating ongoing training into the work day on a regular basis, Learning Breaks send a message that library staff are worth the investment.

Catherine Hamer is Interim Associate Director for User Services.

Teach-the-Teacher Approach Wins Award

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Dr. Mark Longaker

Annually, the UT System Library Directors confer an award to a UT System faculty or collaborative faculty group to recognize the efforts of integrating library resources into course curriculum.

This year, thanks to his innovative integration of library resources in E398T and RHE306, his collaboration with librarians and the effective use of technology to promote information literacy in multiple courses,  the UT Library Directors’ Award for Excellence in Library Resources Integration was presented to UT faculty member Dr. Mark Longaker at the Innovations in Online Learning Conference (IOL) on May 27.

Research and writing go hand-in-hand and for years, librarians in Library Instruction Services (LIS) have been helping instructors in the basic undergraduate writing course (RHE 306) teach their students research skills.  This approach traditionally took the form of one class visit to the libraries where students would try to learn all they needed to know to find and evaluate information for their writing projects in 50 minutes, but that expectation never seemed realistic.

Over the past year, LIS librarians reinvigorated their approach by partnering with Dr. Longaker – Associate Professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing and head of the department’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee – to create a teach-the-teacher model.  In partnership with Dr. Longaker and RHE 306 instructors, librarians developed resource guides, assignments and lesson plans for RHE 306 instructors to use to teach research skills over the course of the semester in their regular classrooms.  Students were better able to learn important information literacy skills because they were integrated into the class over the course of the semester, so that they could all be introduced and re-introduced at the time of need.  The materials, gathered together in a wiki, were editable by librarians and instructors to ensure that the learning outcomes of RHE 306 were supported. The success of this project was recognized by UT System Library Directors at the recent IOL Conference in Austin.

You can learn more about LIS and their efforts at promoting information literacy in the Spring 2009 issue of the Libraries Newsletter.

Catherine Hamer is Associate Director for User Services at the University of Texas Libraries.