AN ONLINE MODULE TO ENHANCE STUDENTS’ USE OF RESEARCH RESOURCES
The Internet is the world’s largest library, and a major source of information. It is hardly surprising that research finds that university students are more likely to go to the Internet rather than the library for course-related research. This often is evident in their papers which, according to faculty, increasing contain citations from the Internet rather than academic sources. Students’ weaknesses in discriminating appropriate academic resources and evaluating online resources further diminishes the academic integrity of students’ research. Many students have not learned to use the Internet effectively to find appropriate academic resources through specialized search portals such as Google Scholar and PubMed. Likewise, many students searching for references using their university library’s closed network of databases do not understand the difference between a generalized database and specific database such as PsychInfo, and can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of available databases available; in the authors’ university library, there are over 70 databases.
To address the research needs of students, the three authors (a psychology professor, a reference librarian, and an instructional technology specialist) collaborated to develop an Internet-based vehicle specifically designed to facilitate students’ ability to retrieve appropriate research literature and to evaluate online information. The psychology professor defined the specific research requirements for students to complete research assignments in an abnormal psychology course. Based on this needs assessment, the course management system site, Blackboard, was customized with a library module which allowed students online access to appropriate resources directly from the course’s homepage on Blackboard. Clicking the library module brought students to course-specific databases (PsycInfo, PsycArticles, the psychology module of Proquest), American Psychological Association (APA) style guides, as well as information on evaluating Internet sources and finding research review articles.
The program was well received by both students and faculty. Seventy-one percent of students used the library module. Of these, 89% found it useful. Students reported that the most useful links were to the psychology databases (41%) and the APA style guide (28%). Three-quarters (76%) said the module increased their awareness of the library’s electronic resources, and 98% said they would find it useful to have similar Blackboard library modules in other courses. There have been noticeable improvements in student research since the incorporation of this module. Students’ papers consistently cite appropriate reference sources, and are more likely use appropriate APA format. Faculty reactions also are positive. Students are more self-sufficient; the number of questions and e-mails about research sources and proper APA format has dropped dramatically. The module has become a permanent part of the instructor’s Blackboard site for this course.
A major advantage of the online library modules is that they can be customized to meet the needs of any course. Since this initial collaboration, customized research modules have been developed for 50 additional courses in 11 departments. Once developed, the modules can be re-used the next time the course is offered, either with or without revisions. Online library modules can be adopted in other course management systems such as Angel Learning, Sakai or Moodle.
© 2008 Victor Karandashev