Teaching Information Literacy Online

For all of the talk about the treachery of moving to online teaching, there are some surprising benefits to teaching information literacy sessions online, too. In this post, Touro librarians Edlira Agalliu and Natasha Hollander share their experiences and offer tips for other instructors working online.

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Edlira Agalliu (provided photo)

Edlira Agalliu, Chief Librarian, Avenue J

Are these sessions very different from what you offered in the classes face-to-face? What are the differences?

For me personally, the transition have been very smooth and I feel very comfortable with online teaching, since I have been involved in teaching online via Zoom for a few years now (mainly internationally). However, I still can point out some differences:

  • The interpersonal aspect of face-to-face teaching is very different and hard to replicate in online teaching
  • The social aspect of students gathering in library for orientations gives a sense of community and sense of place that an online platform attempts to replicate with a digital community. The geographical location now is replaced with a virtual one, and students are sometimes spread nationally and internationally and spread across different time zones
  • The psychological aspect of face-to-face teaching makes it easier for extroverted personalities (both students and instructors) to take center stage, but the online platform also gives introverts the opportunity to make their voices heard
  • Although in the literature there is a distinction between synchronous and asynchronous teaching, I always have included asynchronous elements in my face-to-face teaching, so there are no major changes pedagogically

Are there any advantages to the online classes?

There are many advantages to teaching online, including the ability to access the course 24/7 and the flexibility that provides. Instructors can utilize innovative methods and be creative, while students benefit from a different kind of social presence and increased participation for introverts. Instructions for activities can be prepared and saved on the computer as video or Powerpoint presentation, and chat and discussion boards in Canvas can be used to engage students.

What are the disadvantages or challenges? 

There are some disadvantages and challenges as well, including self-discipline for students and teachers and the hurdle of using technology and learning new platforms for online teaching (Zoom, Canvas, WebEx, Google Classrooms etc.) It is hard to ensure that classes are accessible for students with disabilities (using closed captioning and adaptive technologies), although this is a problem in face-to-face teaching too.

Another challenge is taking into account the computer skills of different groups of students, especially the older students that are returning to classroom after years of being in workforce. We don’t have evidence to suggest that they are not involved at all in online learning, but it could be an argued that they might be underrepresented as a group of students and lead to a generation gap.

When teaching internationally or even with classes that have students outside of the eastern states, it is important to consider different time zones to accommodate students, so that might be another challenge. And, silence after asking a question is amplified in online teaching and creates an uncomfortable situation, but we can use it as a tool for critical thinking to reduce awkwardness.

What are some of the success stories you can share with us?

I would call it a success when students are engaged in the classroom and they ask questions — and when they interrupt you because they want to make sure they understand the steps. It also feels like a success when students share their appreciation for your efforts and are thankful for your work, and when they ask for a follow-up session with you to dig into the material more deeply.

How did you collaborate with faculty?

We had scheduled face-to-face orientation sessions before switching to online teaching because of the stay-at-home orders, so I had everything scheduled in my calendar and it was just a matter of reaching out to faculty to set up those instruction sessions online via Zoom. Some others were scheduled via email knowing their classes and interest from previous years.

How do you make it interactive/engage with students?

I try to ask questions during my teaching to make sure that students are following along and that they understand the process, and to make sure I am not going too fast. These might be questions about citations and citation styles, dealing with primary sources, or other research process questions. I also make sure that I reserve some quite time for critical thinking, so that students who need time can formulate their thoughts.

 

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Natasha Hollander (provided photo)

Natasha Hollander, Librarian, Lander College for Women; Adjunct Instructor, School for Lifelong Education

Are these sessions very different from what you offered in the classes face-to-face?

The sessions that I give during my Zoom are a bit different than what I give face-to-face because of the coronavirus. My students are in an area that is very affected by the pandemic, so the classes being offered reflect that.

What are the differences?

I changed the work expectations for my students to better reflect their situations. Now, they are only expected to complete their homework worksheets, a proposal for their final paper, their literature reviews, and a final paper. Normally, I would include a presentation as well, but that would just overwhelm them more. Also, it helped to focus my Zoom classes on a final goal, which I think made it easier for my students.

Are there any advantages to the online classes?

I think that teaching online during this time is nothing but an advantage to my students. My students seem to take more accountability for their own work and have more access to me as their professor online, in terms of asking questions or expressing confusion. I also found that, explaining concepts to the class using the shared screen feature felt more personal than being in our regular classroom, where it is sometimes hard for students to see the one screen. Additionally, the students seem to be a little bit more engaged in class discussions which makes the class feel more actively involved.

What are the disadvantages?

I do not really see disadvantages to teaching this class via Zoom. I am a big advocate of utilizing Zoom to teach classes and reach out to students during this time of social distancing.

What are some of the success stories you can share with us?

In one of my classes, my students opened up over Zoom and started asking me a lot of questions about graduate school and how their work can be improved to benefit them in their future education and careers.

How did you get the opportunity to teach a class?

I got the opportunity to teach this class when I was filling in last summer for the librarian at the Borough Park campus. After discussing my background, my experience, and responsibilities at LCW with the Director of SLE, she offered me the chance to teach this class — and I had to accept.

How do you make it interactive/engage with students?

I engage with my students every time we have class, and even more often now that we are not meeting physically, because when they have a question, they can also schedule a one-on-one meeting with me. This is beneficial to them and shows that the students are taking initiative and taking their learning into their own hands.

Note: this information was originally presented in a staff development webinar to other Touro College librarians in May 2020. These responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.

LOEX Pittsburgh: Library Instruction Conference

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View of Pittsburgh from the conference hotel

From May 5-8, I had the exciting opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh, PA to attend the 44th Annual LOEX Conference, “Learning from the Past, Building for the Future.” College instruction librarians from all over the US came together to share new ideas, proven techniques, and inspiration with their colleagues. Over two days, I attended ten different sessions on teaching, pedagogy, and instructional technology. Lest you assume it was all academic journals and stodgy librarians, the workshops I participated in touched on a wide range of topics, including hip-hop with a professional DJ/Librarian, Newtonian physics, and surrealist parlor games.
Continue reading

It’s National Library Week!

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National Library Week is being celebrated this week, from April 10-16th. This year’s theme is “Libraries transform.” Libraries, and the knowledge and people within them, have the potential to transform people’s lives in many different ways. At Touro College Libraries, we strive to play a part in our students transformations into successful college graduates. We provide information, assistance, and a comfortable place to study, but it’s our instructional services that are at the heart of our education efforts.  Continue reading

Embedded Librarians: Research Help On Demand

Traditional library instruction vs. Embedded library instruction
Traditional library instruction vs. Embedded library instruction

The Embedded Librarian program is a growing service offered by the Touro College Libraries. Like embedded journalists who travel straight to the heart of the action, embedded librarians meet students at the point of need during the learning process, wherever they are. Particularly helpful in online courses, a dedicated librarian is matched with each participating class to provide assistance at targeted points throughout the semester. Continue reading

Critical Information Literacy

Teachers are no longer considered the sole arbiters of knowledge, filling the empty vessels of their students minds (CC0 image)
Teachers are no longer considered the sole arbiters of knowledge, filling the empty vessels of their students’ minds (CC0 image)

Since I have an interest in the philosophical approach called critical theory, I was curious to know if librarianship and critical theory might intersect with each other in relation to current trends in librarianship.  And while doing some research, I quickly came across a curious and what appears to be a quite significant article in the arena of information literacy instruction.  The article, published in 2006, is called Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice, by James Elmborg, Assistant Professor, School Of Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa.  I thought it would be quite interesting to explore just one of many takeaways of this article, so to speak, and give a very short sketch of what sort of impact critical information literacy might have more broadly on academic librarianship in general and perhaps more specifically and interestingly on Touro College Libraries. Continue reading

Staff Profile: Sara Tabaei

Graz, Austria
Graz, Austria

Where were you born?

I was born in Graz, which is the second largest city in Austria after Vienna. Graz is a medieval town with beautiful baroque red roof buildings. In 1999, Graz was added to the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage Sites. Though it is a relatively small city, (approximately 300,000 residents), it is home to 6 universities. So it is a lively and fun city. Continue reading

Welcome! To students new and returning…

"What is a periodical?" video from Touro Libraries
Still from: Touro Libraries’ “What is a periodical?

If this is your first semester, it’s possible that you’ve relied on Google to complete most of your classwork up until now. (That might still be true even if you’ve been in higher education for a semester or four, but it’s never too late! This applies to you as well.) Continue reading

Navigating a post-Google information world

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Sometimes it’s easy to spot the more dubious…ahem, “facts” that have a tendency to pop up online, but what about when a source’s credibility is a little more murky? Read on to find out how you can level up your information literacy and become truly research savvy. Continue reading

Interlibrary Loan

I am a library assistant at Touro College’s Midwood Campus. But I am also Touro’s coordinator of interlibrary loans. This service allows all Touro sites to share our resources and to exchange information with institutions outside the Touro College Library system. Even though the Midwood library has an extensive collection of books, periodicals, video tapes, CD-ROMs and DVDs there is always something we do not have. However, we can get almost anything if it is available to the public, and sometimes even if it is in a private collection. Continue reading