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Case study: Shifting your IL teaching online – Heather Lincoln



Heather Lincoln is a Liaison Librarian at Imperial College London. She supports the academic subjects of Business, Education, Culture and Communication.


Heather LincolnWhat sort of information literacy sessions have you run during the last few months?

I have taught plagiarism sessions to 500 Business MSc students using the flipped classroom method, which was adapted to be completely delivered online. I recorded a pre-class video, Strategies to avoid plagiarism, with 30 minutes of content using Panopto (lecture recording software), which I was able to download and record at home. As well as showing PowerPoint slides and my accompanying audio recording, I included interactive quiz questions. I asked students to prepare one useful or interesting point they had learnt from the session and one question to feedback when we met online. In addition, ten accompanying, 30 minute, face-to-face sessions were designed as online Questions and Answers (Q&A) style sessions, with 50 students attending in each. These contained the concluding points and top tips of the Strategies to avoid plagiarism pre-class video and used Mentimeter for students to submit their interesting point and question. The two sessions aimed to deliver the content required and provide a class space for questions.

What’s gone well with shifting to online teaching?

I emphasised that it didn’t matter if students hadn’t watched the pre-class video when they attended the Q&A. This might seem counter-intuitive for flipped learning, but it was a busy and potentially demanding time for everyone adapting to online learning as the sessions ran six weeks after lockdown. I hope this created a relaxed learning environment. A benefit of using a pre-class video is that information is available when it suits students. I think students appreciated brevity in the online face-to-face Q&As, especially as these were compulsory. The Q&As presented an opportunity for students to meet to review common issues and observe peer questions, and this aspect worked well. Generally, I found students asked more questions in the online Q&As than they usually do in this teaching when done face-to-face, so the online environment seemed to suit the teaching delivery method.

Another thing that went well was the opportunity to talk to and get help from colleagues. We ran several video conferencing tests and checked the pre-class video ahead of the teaching. I talked to many colleagues about the best way to design the teaching pedagogically and technically, and using their knowledge was crucial.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was designing and delivering a session that gave the best learning experience to students and the simplest and most manageable teaching encounter for us as librarians. The original in-person face-to-face teaching session had lots of content and students voted throughout in a real-time quiz. Replicating this online, 10-15 times, synchronously, to large groups of students, who are internationally located and using two simultaneous technologies, had the potential to be difficult.

Can you share 3 top tips for others planning to teach information literacy sessions online?

  1. Teaching online takes a lot longer than face-to-face sessions do. The preparation also took more time, and I think this is generally expected for flipped and online teaching
  2. A co-host/moderator is essential, especially for large groups. They can let participants into the session, provide links to materials (including websites and evaluation feedback forms) and answer questions in the chat, which adds an parallel layer of content
  3. Write a script of quick bullet points to introduce your online session. I found that there were more housekeeping and introductions required for online teaching. My list included a reminder on online etiquette, what to do in the event of technology problems, the session’s learning aims, how the two sessions were linked and where to get help and further information afterwards.

This case study was produced in response to a survey carried out by the CILIP Information Literacy Group (ILG) Chair, Jane Secker, and one of the ILG School Library reps, Sarah Pavey, as part of research into the shift to online teaching of information literacy that has taken place in UK education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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