Online tutorials: tips from the literature.

Author:Bianco, Cecile
 
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Online tutorials are an important addition to traditional teaching. Time and distance may make them the best option for graduate students. It is important to consider the design carefully, since students will not be able to ask questions. The tutorial must be clearly written and incorporate as many different techniques as possible in order to accommodate differing learning styles. This paper assembles fourteen best practices for constructing online tutorials.

Information Literacy is a skill that college students must acquire, an dit can be argued that it is even more important for graduate students The California State system has worked extensively on an Information Competence curriculum. Among the graduate schools, the doctoral program in education at San Diego and the Educational Psychology Department at Northridge have developed Information Competence standards (Curzon, 2002). The Information Competence program at Northridge can be accessed at www.csun.edu/edpsy/ACES/index.html . In 2001, Kelly, Orr and Houck wrote about their experience designing an online information literacy course at the University of Maryland. The Graduate School of Management and Technology was enrolling more distance education students and the school requested the library create an online resources course that would be required.

Online tutorials can be an effective means of education for graduate students. According to Prestamo (1998), experience has shown that faculty and graduate students often do not ask others for help. She also notes in her study of an online database that the help screens that come with the product are too extensive and technical to be very helpful. An online tutorial solves both these issues. Furthermore, many graduate students are distance-education students. They may hold jobs during the day and study at night. They need information during times when the library is not open, and they may not be able to travel to get it.

An online tutorial is different from a series of help screens. It is not just a collection of words, it is the computer equivalent of teacher, who explains things in an understandable way, has a goal for what the student will learn in that timeframe, provides examples, and tests the student for understanding. This is why design issues are important. Nancy Dewald (1999) addressed best practices in the design and content in online tutorials. Her criteria were:

  1. Relate the tutorial to a specific course

  2. Incorporate active learning

  3. Incorporate collaboration with others

  4. Use media for learning through both auditory and visual channels

  5. State the educational objectives

  6. Teach concepts (like Boolean operators), not just mechanics

  7. Offer a librarian's help.

    In the ACRL "best practices" document, one of the guidelines is that the teaching should respond to "multiple learning styles." Learning styles have been studied extensively in the general and college-age population. For example, people have been categorized into Visual Learners, Auditory/Verbal Learners, and Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners (Reese, 2002). Visual learners learn by textual reading or pictures, videos or charts. Tactile/Kinesthetic learners learn by doing, i.e. "active learning". Tactile learners learn through touch. Kinesthetic learners must move around.

    There have been a few studies addressing graduate students' use of computers and how their...

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