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Rising enrollments at Oakland University (OU) have required librarians to decrease instruction time with each basic writing class in order to preserve contact with all sections. As a result, the faculty at Kresge Library developed an online instruction module to familiarize students with library research. Using WebCT course, management software, the librarians are able to introduce students to basic library skills so that in-class time can be used to teach more advanced research techniques. This article focuses on the benefits and drawbacks of using WebCT for such a library instruction program, and the support provided to the instructors of the courses using the module.
Oakland University (OU), a public institution located in Rochester, Michigan, about thirty miles north of Detroit, has experienced steady growth for the past six years, bringing fall 2001 enrollment to 15,875 students. (1) Oakland's administration, faculty, and staff are dedicated to continually strengthening the educational experience of students. With this goal in mind, a two-day "Teaching with Technology" seminar for faculty members was held on campus in the winter 2001 semester, in great part to embolden instructors to reach beyond traditional teaching methods in the classroom. The OU administration also began promoting the use of WebCT course management software that semester, even offering financial bonuses to faculty members who developed WebCT-based instructional programs and courses over the summer of 2001.
Coinciding with this push from the administration was an effort within the library to reorganize the information literacy instruction program offered to the university's freshman writing course, Rhetoric 160 (RHT160). The library faculty at OU typically provided multiday instruction to each section of RHT160, but rising enrollments had increased the number of sections of this class, making it difficult for a small library faculty to maintain that standard. In order to preserve contact with all sections, the librarians had to reduce face-to-face teaching time for each class from three hours to two hours. WebCT provided a platform for organizing the decreased amount of face-to-face time efficiently and effectively. To develop an online instruction module using WebCT, a three-person design team was created: a senior member of the library faculty would assist with content and course design; this author, then the most-junior faculty member, would manage the technical aspects, including any hand-coding, file uploading, and actual construction of the course; and the then-interim associate dean of the library would advise on the project.
Academic libraries of all types have begun to implement similar online instruction programs in order to reach large-scale student populations, and some have determined that an online instruction project positions them strategically on campus. (2) The goal of the OU library design team was to create an instructional module that would both familiarize students with library services and also teach them the basics of library research before ever coming into the building for in-class instruction. This would allow the librarians time to present other types of material face-to-face in the subsequent class sessions, and also place Kresge Library among the leaders in instructional technology on campus.
The WebCT module ultimately was divided into three tutorials, each of which was followed by a short quiz. The online course also included a pretest, to be taken at the outset of the course, and an …