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.

11 Reasons to Consider OER for Your Fall Courses

Open educational resources, or OER, are excellent materials to use for in-person, online, and hybrid classes. As you plan your courses for the fall semester, here are 11 reasons to consider OER.

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CC-BY: Bill Smith

#1: OER are available on day one 

OER can be ready for students on the first day of a course, or even before. You no longer need to wait for students to acquire a textbook to get started with the material.

#2: OER are free forever 

Rather than renting a print copy of a book that needs to be returned or paying for an access code that will expire at the end of the semester, students can use an OER material for free forever. This is particularly helpful for academic programs that build on standard foundational courses; as students move to more advanced levels, they can continue to use their earlier texts for reference.

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CC-BY: GotCredit

#3: OER can be accessed anywhere, anytime 

All students need to read an OER is a device that can connect to the internet. They can access OER materials on their phone, a tablet, or a computer, or they can print out sections or the whole text. Most OER can also be downloaded for offline access.

#4: OER can be adapted to fit your course 

If you are asking students to purchase an expensive textbook, you might be tempted to “teach to the textbook” so that students get their money’s worth. With an OER, you can teach what you want and craft your textbook to match your needs.

#5: OER can be adjusted to match a changing semester  

Whether the semester goes as planned or becomes shorter than you had planned for, OER can fit your timeline. You can adjust a textbook in the middle of the semester to remove units you will not be able to cover or to add in extra material if your class needs additional support on a topic.

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Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

#6: OER go beyond textbooks 

Textbooks might be the most common form of OER, but they are not the only OER. There are free, open versions of test banks, lecture slides, and even whole Canvas course templates you can import. If you can imagine a course material, it is likely that there is an OER version of it.

#7: OER support student success and retention 

Colvard, Watson, and Park (2018) found that “students tend to perform better in course settings when OER textbooks were used in place of expensive, commercial textbooks.” And librarians at Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, found that when they made the switch to online emergency teaching this semester, the retention rate for OER courses was 85%, higher than the retention rate for the college as a whole. This is consistent with retention rates for OER across the semesters there. Not only are OER contributing to keeping students in class, they are contributing to higher grades, too.

#8: OER can be made accessible for all learners

Accessible design is a central tenet of the open community, so finding or creating materials that can be used by students with different learning needs is easily done. Some OER platforms offer audio versions of the text, accessible formats that can be read by screen-readers, and fonts that can be changed to be easier to read. These aspects of good OER design benefit all users, not just those with disabilities.

#9: OER are an opportunity to publish 

Publishing an OER material can be a great way to add to your CV. For many departments, an OER project can count towards promotion, based on research, writing, or service done to contribute to your professional community.

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CC-BY: Giulia Forsythe

#10: OER can lead to deeper learning 

Students and faculty can collaborate to publish OER, deepening the opportunity to learn. This is part of the idea behind open pedagogy, which “is the use of open educational resources (OER) to support learning, or the open sharing of teaching practices with a goal of improving education and training at the institutional, professional, and individual level” (BCCampus OpenEd). Students can engage in meaningful creation of educational matters by using OER as a jumping off point.

#11: OER connect us 

OER start a conversation between authors, faculty, students, and community users from around the world. You can use resources from South Africa and contribute materials that might be used in a classroom in Germany. The “open” community is a welcoming space for connection and collaboration.

This post was contributed by Georgia Westbrook, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian

From the Director’s Corner: May 2020

Timothy Healy, former President of the New York Public Library, said, “the most important asset of any library goes home at night – the library staff.”  Although the Touro College Libraries staff has been functioning from home since March 17th, we have met the challenges and difficulties with our usual sense of service.

As the Touro College community has been isolated from the physical buildings, the library staff has been thinking creatively about how to engage and connect everyone with the library services.  Communicating with our clients is vital and we have revamped and extended our online functions to meet these needs.

At this point I am taking this opportunity to salute the Touro College Libraries staff, our most important asset, for their dedication, commitment, and resourcefulness.

Bashe Simon
Director of Libraries, Touro College

While classes are being offered remotely, we are providing online research and reference help, remote library instruction sessions, and continued access to resources like eBooks, databases, and streaming video services. Due dates for print materials have been extended to June 15 and may be extended again, if necessary.

Get in touch with the Touro College Libraries through email, phone, or chat: https://www.tourolib.org/contact