Tagged Library Instruction

Student using Artec 3D scanner in engineering lab to scan football helmet from Georgia Tech Archives

Realizing the Past: Charting a Course for Sustainable Instruction and Engagement with Archival Materials Using Augmented and Virtual Reality Technologies


The role of libraries in education is evolving and we must reframe how our users engage with collections. Library services are expanding beyond simple circulation and access to include specialized resources. Librarians and archivists fulfill roles in instructional programming and provide campus support for data visualization, multimedia production, and knowledge preservation. Because preservation and access fill equally important roles in archival settings, collections use in library instructional activities presents a unique set of challenges. Creating new environments for our users to interact with archival collections opens the possibility to reach new audiences. How might we best engage students and community members with archival collections?

The authors explore the potential for using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies with archival materials to enhance opportunities for instruction and outreach activities at a STEM-based institution. AR, VR, and archival resources support pedagogical models including constructivist learning, inquiry-based learning and game-based education. Through an analysis of the current landscape of technological requirements and educational institutions using AR/VR in conjunction with special collections, this article discusses how simulated environments can democratize archival instruction and outreach. Authors reflect on a pilot class led by librarians that invited students to design creative solutions for engaging the campus community with items from the Georgia Tech Library’s special collections through the use of AR and VR. This educational prototype demonstrates how librarians and archivists drive the research on campus by taking an active partnering and mentoring role in student research. This model of instruction informs recommendations for smart project design and future state anticipations.


Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are becoming more prevalent in educational settings. AR and VR have been used to facilitate and enhance students’ learning in almost all disciplines, including but not limited to science, engineering, medicine, psychology, and the humanities. For example, augmented reality games have been used to create a sense of authenticity in medical training (Rosenbaum, Klopfer, and Perry 2007). The use of AR and VR in the classroom instruction has shown positive impact on increasing motivation and improving students learning outcomes for specific tasks (Di Serio, Ibáñez, and Kloos 2013, Sharma, Agada, and Ruffin 2013). One such example of a pedagogical benefit and affordance of mixed realities is the capacity to resize or manipulate objects that would be too small or too large to study in a traditional setting. Other examples include the ability to integrate and overlay contextual information alongside visual cues. AR, VR, and archival resources support pedagogical models including constructivist learning, inquiry-based learning and game-based education. Given these factors, there is potential to explore AR and VR technologies as ideal conduits for enhancing student engagement within instructional programs of library archives and special collections.

Professionals in museums and other cultural heritage institutions employ these technologies to enhance their user experience with collections. Relevant examples from these allied fields explore the basis of coupling AR and VR with archival resources to democratize instruction and outreach programs. Preservation and security concerns confine the physical manifestations of archival materials to onsite, proctored reading rooms. Archival programs, when able, offer access to digitized, born-analog records to increase discovery and use, as well as protect materials from exposure to elements that speed deterioration. When presented online, both born-digital and analog archival materials may appear static, rigid, and unable to entice contemporary learners. AR and VR not only improve access to archival materials by reducing physical proximity and capability barriers to access, but also aid in the preservation of fragile materials. AR and VR technologies enhance the archival instruction experience beyond current practices of digital presentation. Curating an interactive environment with these technologies provides contextual meaning and additional information that is important to engage students during instruction and outreach initiatives. With AR and VR technologies, instructional experience outside of the archival reading room more closely mirrors the serendipitous, real-life encounters with archival resources.

Despite being mentioned together, AR and VR are different technologies and bring distinct possibilities to instruction and outreach with archival resources. As defined by Ronald Azuma (1997), AR integrates virtual and physical information, interacts with the environment in real time, and the content is displayed in three dimensions. VR, on the other hand, typically creates a virtual scene or recreates reality in a virtual environment to offer an immersive experience. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, a STEM-focused public university, librarians and archivists are exploring the potential for using AR and VR technologies to enhance outreach experiences and facilitate educational engagement with Georgia Tech archival materials. This article discusses the potential of employing these technological tools to help improve instruction and students’ engagement with Georgia Tech’s special collections.

New Pedagogies and Methods of Student Engagement at the Georgia Tech Library

The Computational Media program at Georgia Tech is a collaborative effort by the College of Computing and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC). Students in this program specialize in areas including interactive game design, human-computer interaction, digital arts, media theory, media history, and software design. One component of this program is providing students with an opportunity to focus on their research interests in an internship-style setting mentored by Georgia Tech faculty. Through these research-for-credit course sections, students are presented with a real technology-based challenge from a campus department. The students are given a semester or two to first research the issue and then prototype potential solutions. Student findings are summarized in a report or presentation that is assessed and graded by mentoring faculty. In many cases the students’ findings or outputs are incorporated into the departmental workflow and lead to new use cases, models of service, or further research.

The Georgia Tech Special Collections and Archives have a robust teaching and outreach program. Each year more than two thousand faculty, staff, and students use the archival resources to develop lesson plans, fulfill mission critical duties, and complete course assignments. Most of the archival materials are stored in an offsite storage facility, which provides a high-capacity, state-of-the-art space with ideal climate conditions but stifles on-demand access to most of the collections. Recall from the offsite facility can take up to forty-eight hours. By implementing AR and VR technologies with archival resources, users receive immediate access to the information they need.

In recent years, Georgia Tech librarians and archivists have been serving as mentors for students participating in these research sections. In the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, one of these special topic courses had students working with the Georgia Tech Library Instruction program and the Data Visualization Lab on how VR could be used for teaching and learning. This class was designed to be exploratory and self-directed, presenting students with fairly broad learning objectives. Outside of having the basic framework for a small educational game built, the main learning objective of the class was for the students to be able to identify the main components of the VR design and development lifecycle through hands-on experience. Additionally, the cohort was to produce a report that included a directory of campus resources and tools necessary for these types of projects. Finally, they were to explain how someone using VR for educational purposes might assess the effectiveness of these methods.

This small group of students began analyzing how VR technologies could be used to showcase, enhance, and engage other undergraduates with the library’s special collections. Students were challenged to use immersive technologies to address the issue of accessibility for these unique resources. Approaching these issues through the lens of storytelling and experiential learning, the student team first conceptualized the narrative for an educational game that would introduce other students to items within Georgia Tech’s archival collection.

The class project was initially designed to be a component of the first-year experience program on campus. First year students would be introduced to library resources in a virtual setting and quizzed on these concepts through interaction with an avatar. After storyboarding their initial ideas, the students began with an environmental scan of campus resources, partners, and technologies necessary for completion of the project.

The cohort explored the campus invention studio and tools used for 3D scanning. The Artec Spider 3D scanner was the primary tool used for capturing three-dimensional images of artifacts from Georgia Tech’s special collections. This scanning process creates a three-dimensional representation of an object that can then be imported into Unity, a cross-platform game engine the class used for developing 3D content and compiling all contents to a VR game. Therefore, the scanning process was one of the first phases in the students’ project development. The three-dimensional scanning process alone was a major challenge. The 3D scanning process presented enough hurdles and issues for an entire semester’s worth of analysis and research.


Figure 1. Student using Artec 3D scanner in engineering lab to scan football helmet from Georgia Tech Archives



Figure 2. 3D Scan of “RAT” Hat with Artec Scanner in Artec Editor


One problem facing the students was how to handle scanning complex textures and managing surface variations of the artifacts. Dark or shiny objects proved to be particularly time-consuming and problematic. For example, the students had hoped to use the archive’s prototype of the 1996 Olympic torch in their educational game but were not able to capture the texture information in a 3D scan. In some cases, objects can be greased with a developer spray which prepares the surface and creates an ideal environment for scanning, thus decreasing distortion. However, when it comes to working with rare or delicate artifacts such as the torch, these solutions are not an option. In hindsight, the librarians guiding the project determined that the 3D scanning process could and should have been a solo research project. Future iterations of this class will distill the research focus of the class into manageable components that can be built upon, combined, and eventually grown into a larger scope project over multiple semesters.


Figure 3. Unused 3D Scan of the 1996 Olympic Torch prototype from Georgia Tech Archives



Figure 4. 3D Scan of “RAT” Hat used in project Georgia Tech Space Station


Given the large scope of the topic presented, students later modified their project design to function more as an interactive campus tour that included scanned photos of campus landmarks and some historical imagery from the library archives. This late stage modification was largely a result of the issues they encountered during the 3D scanning process. The 3D scanning and subsequent attempts to import the scanned objects into the development engine Unity proved to be extremely difficult. In an attempt to narrow the focus of their project, the students collectively changed the narrative of the game allowing them to use assets, such as the photographs, that were technologically easier to work with. The substitution of photographs instead of 3D scanned objects allowed the students to focus more of the development process as a whole rather than getting hung up on isolated yet critical problems that would prevent completion of the project.


Figure 5. Hallway in Georgia Tech Space Station Game showing images from the Georgia Tech Archives hanging on the wall, detail below.



Figure 6. 2D scanned archival images hanging on the hallway wall inside of Georgia Tech Space Station Game



Figure 7. 3D Model “RAT” Hat on the Table within Georgia Tech Space Station Game

The Georgia Tech Library’s role in these for-credit research classes presents a new pedagogical model where librarians and archivists drive the research on campus by taking an active partnering and mentoring role in student research. A year of working with the students in this capacity has informed how we approach the role of an academic library and the services provided. Redesigning traditional service points in a cutting-edge way highlights the mission of the Library NEXT project (http://librarynext.gatech.edu), which is looking to reevaluate and chart the course of the library’s place in the twenty-first  century world. Library NEXT is not only a physical transformation and renovation of the Georgia Tech Library, but it is also a reimagining and reinvention of our library services.  A large part of Library NEXT is making services more visible. A new data visualization lab, classrooms, and exhibit spaces in the renovated library highlight data modeling, educational programs, and archival services providing more transparent access.  Virtual reality and multimedia labs in libraries are not uncommon on college campuses, but they are often self-directed or self-serve spaces without librarian and archivist led research or learning initiatives (Oliveira 2017, Moore et al. 2018). Georgia Tech Library faculty and staff are striving to break down these independent silos and passive spaces. This model also presents an opportunity for novel partnerships and collaboration between librarians, archivists, and technology specialists; each brings expertise to the endeavor and all work together to highlight and utilize special collections and resources while engaging our community.

Archivists work with a variety of campus partners to engage local community groups through outreach initiatives. Two times a year, the Georgia Tech Community Development Office hosts primary students from local school districts during a “Tech Discovery Day.” The archivists created sleuthing centers for visiting middle-school students to discover the history of Georgia Tech and have hands-on experience with primary source materials. The event was held in a building separate from the archives department. Had there been rain, the demonstration would have been canceled. The need to protect the rare and unique records from harm or deterioration supersedes any individual experience. Placing this demonstration in an AR or VR simulation will free the materials from the constraints of mother nature. For this particular audience, the digital simulations may also spark interest in “old stuff” presented in a novel fashion.

The Educational Landscape of VR and AR in Archival and Allied Fields

VR and AR as Access Tools

AR and VR technologies have their respective advantages and disadvantages. VR is not attached to the actual artifacts or environments, which allows VR projects to be taken off-site as the hardware permits. However, current high-end VR devices demand specific set up configurations. Major VR devices in this category like Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE, and upcoming HTC VIVE Pro require costly gaming PC to drive high-quality graphic rendering. They also come with tethered heavy headsets and powered sensors as part of the device package. There have been portable mobile VR devices, such as Google Daydream VR, Google cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR, that enable phone VR experience if the graphic quality and room scaling are not the focus of the design. The upcoming Oculus Go sits between these two categories. Different options of VR devices open up opportunities to a variety of archival instructional designs.

AR design, on the other hand, relies on and interacts with the local environments to function. Because of this criteria, some archives-related AR projects only function in close proximity to the archival materials or environments with embedded trigger information, like GIS information or QR codes. AR enhances user experience through interacting with the physical environments. The advantage of AR for archives projects is that the hardware is easy to access, most times requiring only a smartphone, and that layers of information, including text, image, audio, video, 3D scanning, as well as virtual prototype, could be projected on physical objects to enrich and expand the learning experience. When it comes to application in archival materials, it is important to keep in mind these pros and cons to help make design decisions.

The potential for teaching and outreach with archival materials using AR and VR technologies is vast but requires collaboration with partners outside of the field. Tonia Sutherland suggests that “collaborating with scholars in fields such as the digital humanities and embracing new media technologies…create new possibilities for archivists to capture and preserve performance and other traditions, practices, and events” (2016, 393). A variety of AR and VR-facilitated projects have been done in archives-like environments, primarily at museums and cultural heritage sites for educational purposes. The projects detailed below serve as inspiration for the use of these technologies and applications in an archival setting.

Instruction with archival resources lends itself to hands on teaching pedagogies like constructivism and inquiry-based learning. Silvia Vong notes “special collections and archives have great potential to nurture students’ curiosity. Therefore, the use of a learning framework in that environment could transform it from just a physical space that houses books, papers, and objects to a place filled with discussion and interaction between students and teachers” (2016, 150). VR and AR technologies explore further the applications of these frameworks in advancing pedagogies of archival instruction by making the documents and artifacts relate to one another in a way that mirrors contemporary searching styles and information presentation.

Developing VR environments and AR tools to help instruct with archival materials entices students to reconsider the relevance of past events to current issues. Barbara Rockenbach writes “…students should be exposed to a learning environment in which they ‘deal with topics that will stimulate and open intellectual horizons and allow for opportunities for learning by inquiry in a collaborative environment” (2011, 299). The multidisciplinary nature of VR and AR projects using archival materials necessitates an environment where people with different skill sets work towards an end goal. Instructional faculty are also key stakeholders in this scenario. Again, Rockenbach recommends that “nstead of contacting professors with a plan that sounds overly programmatic (a mistake made by librarians trying to shoehorn faculty needs into the strictures of the Information Literacy Competency Standards), we’ve had some success…by listening to faculty and trying to understand their specific objectives and suggesting some creative collaborations based on learning theory” (2011, 302). VR and AR systems using archival materials have a variety of lesson plan and learning objective crosswalks that can increase the usability of the archives by a broad audience.

Technology Applications

In the archival context, the use of new media technologies is a dream hoped for by many but obtained by only a few. Depending on size, budget, and distinction, archival repositories provide inconsistent virtual access to materials. Online descriptions of archival collections displayed by electronic finding aids give minimal awareness of archival content. A more robust digital presence displays actual archival materials at the item level (ie a letter, a photograph, or a map). This access is achieved through digitization projects or links to born-digital records. The potential of AR and VR technologies to create interactive digital experiences lies partly in its ability to empower students and teachers to access and use archival records. Duff and Haskel note that “[a]rchives need to embrace archival 2.0 programs that extend archival access and facilitate open-ended conversations with their communities if archival records are to be exposed to new contexts and new uses” (2015, 42). Archival institutions have been employing mobile apps, social media crowdsourcing, GIS interactives, and gamification projects to reach out to users on their own terms and stimulate virtual learning.

VR and AR technologies are less pervasive in archival instruction and outreach applications thus far. The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) launched a do-it-yourself augmented reality initiative in 2010 known as “History Happens Here”. The project is a low-tech contest where users snap a picture of an historic photo from the NARA holdings using its geotagged location to create a mash-up of past and present (NARA 2010). Remix techniques such as these are creative and provide a different type of access to archival records, but they do not meet the rigor of archival authenticity standards which can limit their usefulness in instructional settings. However, librarians and archivists guiding students through VR or AR interactions with archival materials may use this opportunity to discuss elements of information and archival literacy.

Major AR techniques detect target items based on location or trigger objects, such as images, artifacts or simple QR codes, and then project digital content on these items to improve user interaction and enhance their experience with the environments. The trigger object technique has been utilized with both real objects and in virtual reproductions, such as an image or drawing of an artifact. AR allows users to interact with an overlay of related digital content on top of physical objects. The Playing with the Artwork project applied such a design approach. Users first color digital representations of artwork without knowing anything about them. Then they go out on a scavenger hunt to find these pieces in the museum and compare their coloring with the actual artworks. When users point their app at a matching artwork, it triggers the app to display contextual information about that piece (Pucihars, Klijun, and Coulton 2016). The idea of learning while playing with technology is the highlight of this approach. The Playing with the Artwork project study proves effective among children.

In addition to the rich information AR adds for learners to understand the objects or environments, some designs break spatial boundaries by adding virtual avatars and thus bringing the interaction opportunities to users. Chen’s study designed a museum guidance system offering visitors the ability to interact with 3D scanned items at access points. Additionally, the access point provides contextual information about the artifact. If browsing triggers visitors’ interests, they will be guided to the location of the item within the museum (Chen, Chang, and Huang 2014). This helps visitors curate their own experience at the museum, leading them to the most relevant information for their interests before going to see the item in the exhibit. This prototype could be deployed in schools and other spaces to display educational content. Similar to museums, archives could benefit from such a mechanism for distilling information in a way that is relevant and approachable.

Another category of AR design integrates multimedia content with the actual artifact or environment and enables visitor-object interaction with AR control. One merit of this approach lies in exploring extra information about an object that is not visible to human eyes. The Revealing Flashlight project overlays 3D scanning and visualization of an object’s surface geometry. Users can use AR control to interact with the object and explore its properties by projecting the information of 3D layers instead of directly touching the objects (Ridel et al 2014). This design is of particular value for interacting with fragile materials with which the archives prohibit direct human contact for preservation purposes.

Different from AR, VR typically does not rely on actual objects or environments. Instead, it creates a virtual environment that replicates the reality and offers an immersive experience. The Virtual Experience on an Aircraft Carrier project in China creates a virtual flight experience where visitors interact with other players in the scene (Lu and Zhou 2016). Most VR initiatives to improve and enhance user experience with historical environments and artifacts are designed as games. In Spain, the PLAYHIST experiment used VR recreation of historical events with 3D artifact models to test users’ learning effectiveness through playing historical characters and reliving the historical moments (Aguirrezabal 2014).

In 1994, the National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented a grant program called the Digital Libraries Initiative. Through this program and cooperation with the National Initiative for Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH), the NSF sought ways technology could address needs in the humanities fields. The Virtual Vaudeville Prototype received funding through the Phase II cycle of the Digital Libraries Initiative to explore ways “to use digital technology to address a problem fundamental to performance scholarship and pedagogy: how to represent and communicate the phenomenon of live performance (Sutherland 2016, 393). Project manager, David Saltz a performance scholar at the University of Georgia headed a national team of computer scientists, 3D modelers and animators, professional actors, and subject matter historians. The group set out to create “an archives of experience” that could recreate a dynamic sense of place with on-stage, backstage and audience activity presented in an interactive virtual environment (Saltz 2001). The prototype as written was not fully attained due to time and funding limitations and the work silos created by different institutional teams. The Virtual Vaudeville Prototype launched in 2004 and was last updated in 2005. It has since gone dormant, but the animations are available through YouTube.

VR, AR, and Archives: Techniques, Applications and Hurdles

VR creates a labyrinth of possible connections and deep explorations when incorporating archival materials in teaching and outreach settings. Total immersion allows for documents, photographs, drawings, and other artifacts to be understood in context (Craig and Georgieva 2017). The objects that tell the story of a person’s life or a business’ creative output are seen in a more organic than hierarchical order. For instance, the scrapbooks of H. Wayne Patterson, class of 1912, provide a snapshot of what student life on the Georgia Tech campus was like in the early 20th century. Combining historic documents, photographs, audio, and visual materials into a VR project would allow students to walk through a virtual timeline, learn about major changes in Georgia Tech policy, solve equations with a slide rule, and get a sports lesson from legendary Coach John Heisman. Through such an experience different audiences see the evolution of the school and community.

VR immersive qualities are ideal for instruction of technical and detailed lessons. When combined with archival records, solutions to current challenges could be tried without fear of failure. The Guggenheim Building at Georgia Tech houses a wind tunnel used to test numerous products including fighter planes, radar antennae, and the soil scoop arm for NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. Since the wind tunnel’s initial construction in 1929, the station has undergone several modifications and upgrades to keep up with the technology. Using blueprints, drawings, and photographs of the iterations of the wind tunnel system, aerospace engineers are able to see the building blocks of their current tool. Incorporating these records into a virtual reality environment would allow current aerospace engineers to peel back the layers of information. This illustration also has the effect of transforming archival materials into an interactive game allowing for meaningful connections with a non-traditional audience.

With its advantage of interacting with the physical environment, AR technologies could be applied to archival materials to facilitate instruction and student engagement in various projects. The virtual-real interactive capacity of AR enables loading multiple attributes including surface geometry, inside structure, and extra metadata. With AR, users can explore attributes that are not visible to them in traditional archival display and instruction. One possible application is to scan archival records documenting the 1996 Summer Olympic Games hosted in Atlanta with a number of events held on Georgia Tech’s campus. Currently, archives users cannot interact with some items for preservation purposes, like Olympic hats and shirts. This barrier prevents them from gaining an experience beyond just seeing these items. In an AR design, the hats and shirts could be reproduced with 3D scanning. Users would be able to pick them up and put them on virtually during archival instruction without damaging the originals. AR-facilitated interactions could change archival instruction from traditional lecture to more active learning.

In addition to enhancing user experience in an instruction setting, AR also brings archival experience out of a restricted space into a larger community. One possible application would be to scan historical images around campus. These images could be embedded at their original location based on the geo-information in metadata. Students and visitors could use an AR phone app to find these images around campus, read the history and compare the change of campus over time. This design not only breaks the physical boundary of archival materials, but more importantly, it also reaches out to a community that typically would not come into the archives to explore the collection. The enriched information and interactive experience of AR engages users and students in the classroom to learn about archival materials and inspires deeper and wider discussions.

AR and VR present a wide array of potential educational uses. However, compared to these hypothetical scenarios, there have been few applications of these technologies in archival settings or even in the college classroom environment (Johnson, Adams, and Cummins  2012). This disparity between the hypotheticals and the implementation is typical of early adoption with new technologies but also speaks to the steep learning curve and technological support necessary to develop these kinds of projects. Such hurdles include having access to necessary computing power such as gaming computers with high-end video cards and the high cost of 3D scanners. For effective implementation of educational methods utilizing technology, instructors need assurance it can enhance the learning experience. Without more practical examples in place, educators will be unable to develop a conceptual framework for how best to integrate AR or VR and archival resources.

Other hurdles librarians and archivists will need to address are long-term support, infrastructure, and preservation. This may be one of the more daunting aspects of working with AR and VR presently. However, archivists working with librarians are poised to address this issue as they regularly work to assist users with access to outdated media, digital repositories, and historical documents, while preserving access over time. As mentioned earlier, even with sizable funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and multiple institutions involved in development, Virtual Vaudeville went dormant and is no longer supported (Sutherland 2016). Long term preservation, access, and support need to be addressed early in the development process. This includes adequate publication platforms for these types of projects. Without a robust plan for sustainability and thorough documentation outlining how a project will be maintained moving forward, any changes in personnel or organizational adjustments could derail these technology-rich projects.

Unique to archival collections are issues related to donor privacy and the validity of historical records or artifacts. With AR and VR as a channel for user interaction in the archives, there is the potential to radically change the context in which an artifact or document is presented. This aspect opens discussion around authenticity in information sources and the role technology plays in disrupting. The importance of exact replication hinges on the design intention of the AR or VR project. If the end goal of the project is engagement and enticement of new users with the archival materials, then dependency on the virtual item as the absolute authority is unnecessary. However, in a VR or AR project that intends to contribute to scholarly research, the virtual representation of the archival object must capture all of the information content conveyed in the physical resource.

Even then, in the material transformation, digital surrogates cannot completely convey the aura of the physical resource or replace the original artifact. Walter Benjamin’s theory regarding mass reproductions of original art works in his 1935 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is relevant when grappling with the concept of authenticity in reproductions of original materials in VR/AR environments. Benjamin writes, “The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity…The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated” (1968, 3-4). A replica of an original object is at best a mirrored representation, but it lacks the presence of the original that extends from its creative context and subsequent journey. Therefore, the reproduction is of lesser value than the original item. Interacting with a reproduction of an original object is not the complete experience for researchers, but where it lacks aura, duplications provide increased access to the object.

This article does not judge the socio-economic ramifications of reproducing archival resources but suggests that the reproduction should be specifically presented as such to promote transparency of the information object. Librarians and archivists in instructor roles may use the topic of reproductions in the archives to discuss scholarly interpretation and analysis of original sources. The authenticity of the rendered copy in virtual or augmented reality supports the development of information and archival literacy. For example, the Association of College Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education instructs the information literate student to “use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources, understanding the elements that might temper this credibility” (American Library Association 2015). The additional VR or AR access point to the archival record encourages discoverability. The student may then do a comparison of the physical object to the digital surrogate if and when the project demands that verification.

Applications of VR and AR with archival materials come with need to evaluate donor consent to these types of uses, copyright restrictions, and other sensitivities before including the materials in outreach and instruction efforts. Duff and Haskel note how “Eliminating all control, or opening up the archives to all uses, may not be appropriate or acceptable when dealing with sensitive records that can distress, dismay or impinge on a person’s most private moments” (2015, 54). To this end the collective archival thought is barely brewing and there will be a need for revised policy or statement of principles to help guide archivists through the new realities of teaching, outreach, and instruction with VR and AR tools. Ultimately, using these types of technologies will “engage more participants and more collaborators, but archivists will need to consider how these changes will affect their archives” (Duff and Haskel 2015, 55).

Future State Applications

Archivists and Librarians at the Georgia Tech Library are sensitive to the known hurdles and challenges to instruction with AR and VR technologies. To achieve long-term success, our future implementation of AR and VR project design takes consideration of available resources and parses the process into manageable components. Campus partners fill gaps and create a wide base of support for and use of the instruction designs.

Digital preservation, rapidly changing media, and ongoing technological support is a universal problem in a number of industries and educational fields. This issue spills over into potential scenarios and uses for VR and AR with archival materials. Georgia Tech Library recognizes the need to address this overarching challenge by designing and prototyping smart solutions with multidisciplinary partners. Librarians with functional expertise provide specialized technical skills and instructional design. Tonia Sutherland proposes that virtual reality technologies play a role not only in capturing the essence of archival materials but also in redressing silences in the archival record. The promulgation of VR and AR arenas using primary source materials explores the past and itself becomes a record of enduring value. Archivists play a significant role in guiding sustainable design of such projects, not only from a short-term service perspective but also with an eye towards creating new archival collections. With the guidance of Library Next’s project goals, the stage is set for librarians and archivists to explore radical, cutting edge service changes for teaching and engaging users in innovative ways.


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About the Authors

Amanda G. Pellerin is the Access Archivist in the Georgia Tech Library’s Special Collections and Archives Department. In this role, she promotes the archival holdings at Georgia Tech through new acquisitions, collection processing, descriptive records, and class instruction. Amanda is particularly interested in supporting access to archival holdings through archival advocacy, teaching with primary resources, and oral histories.

Ximin Mi is the Data Visualization Librarian at the Georgia Tech Library. She operates the Data Visualization services in the library to offer research support and related workshops to students, faculty and staff. Ximin also initiates Georgia Tech library’s VR services by managing the hardware, organizing student Interest Group, and co-leading the Undergraduate VR Research Section with colleague Alison Valk.

Alison Valk is the Instructional Coordinator and Multimedia Librarian for the Georgia Tech Library. She is the program manager for the Georgia Tech Library’s instruction program and has been researching the benefits of embedded librarians in college-level courses. She leads numerous specialized educational programs including an IMLS grant funded program that integrates arts-based projects and library resources into the curriculum.

Sample concept map of ‘junk food’ and its related issues, complete with details and examples of each.

Advancing Information Literacy in a Semester-Long Library Instruction Course: A Case Study


The following case study investigated the efficacy of Information Literacy (IL) pedagogy on undergraduate research in a credit-bearing library instruction class. More specifically, the study analyzed student success and sought to determine whether written reflection and practice strengthen IL skills, including the fundamental ability to develop a research question and thesis statement. Developing research questions and formulating thesis statements are among the most challenging duties of a young researcher. From high school through undergraduate, students often have minimal experience conducting research. They may not know where to begin the research process and what steps are necessary. Student frustration is exacerbated by the fact that typically IL instruction is one-shot guidance, given only once in a semester, making it difficult for a librarian to cover all that is needed. Can a semester long, credit-bearing course aid student success in research and improve IL skills? The instructors introduced several techniques to improve IL skills, and instructors evaluated three class assignments based on their college’s core competencies. Additionally, instructors collected and analyzed students’ written reflections of their progress and an end of semester survey as both qualitative and quantitative data.


Information Literacy (IL) is one of the defining concepts of academic librarianship. It influences core functions including reference, collection development and especially library instruction. However, the definition of IL is malleable and influenced by the proliferation of online resources, developments in information technology, and trends in academic publishing, all of which have dramatically altered research methods. In January 2016, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), adopted the Framework for Information Literacy (Framework) for Higher Education. Its six core concepts afford librarians maximum flexibility when teaching IL (American Library Association 2015). This adoption was shortly followed by ACRL rescinding the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (American Library Association 2000), which had served as the defining IL document for professional librarianship since 2000. The ACRL Framework defines IL as, “the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.” Moreover, the framework is based on interconnected core concepts with flexible options for implementation, rather than a set of prescriptive standards or learning outcomes.

The Library Media Resources Center (hereafter Library) at LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) founded in 1971, maintains an active and evolving IL program that impacts reference services, library instruction, and credit-bearing courses. The latter is exemplified by LRC103: Internet Research Strategies, a one-credit, liberal arts elective offered by the Library; it has been offered since 2004, and IL is central to the course’s syllabus (Keyes and Namei 2010, 29). The course teaches students “analytical thinking, problem-solving, and information literacy skills necessary for academic research and digital citizenship” (LaGuardia Community College Catalog 2017-2018). Students receive one hour of face-to-face instruction each week, covering concepts (concept mapping, research question development, citation) and resources (subscription databases, digital images, digitized primary sources) central to developing IL. While LaGuardia is not unique in offering a credit-bearing IL course, a 2016 study concluded that only 19% of higher education institutions surveyed offer such courses (Cohen et al. 2016, 566). Due to this small percentage, credit-bearing IL courses present a relatively unique opportunity to teach IL to students. This is particularly true when compared to traditional library instruction sessions, which are typically one hour long and offered once each semester for select courses (e.g. English 101).

The following case study investigated the efficacy of IL pedagogy on undergraduate research in a section of LRC103 offered during the Spring 2017 semester at LaGuardia. More specifically, the study analyzed student success and sought to determine whether written reflection and practice strengthen IL skills, including the fundamental ability to develop a research question and thesis statement. In fact, the ACRL Framework recognizes the importance of research question advancement. As outlined in Research as Inquiry, research “depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions” (The Association of College and Research Libraries 2015). Developing research questions and formulating thesis statements are among the most challenging duties of a young researcher. From high school through undergraduate, students often have minimal experience conducting research. They may not know where to begin the research process and what steps are necessary (Fernando and Hulse-Killacky 2006, 103-104). Student frustration is exacerbated by the fact that typically IL instruction is one-shot guidance, given only once in a semester, making it difficult for a librarian to cover all that is needed. Can a semester long, credit-bearing course aid student success in research and improve IL skills? The instructors introduced several techniques to improve IL skills, and instructors evaluated three class assignments based on the college’s core competencies. Additionally, instructors collected and analyzed students’ written reflections of their progress and an end of semester survey as both qualitative and quantitative data. As a platform to post reflection, the authors implemented electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) practice for the course. Deeply embedded in LaGuardia’s academic culture, its current ePortfolio program utilizes Digication software in both pedagogy and assessment (LaGuardia Community College, “About ePortfolio”, 2017). All twelve enrolled students were eligible to participate, and eleven elected to take part in the study.

Literature Review

The following literature review reflects the goals of this study and is not intended to be comprehensive. Unlike conventional library instruction, the uniqueness of this study was that it examined students’ IL skills over the course of an entire semester. The research was empirical, using outcomes-based and affective analysis to study IL pedagogy. This case study expanded on the term project for LaGuardia’s LRC102, Information Strategies: Managing the Revolution, a credit-bearing course previously taught at LaGuardia, which called for an annotated bibliography, accompanied by a narrative of research where students describe the process used to find each item in the bibliography and explain its inclusion. In a study of LRC102, Fluk concluded that further research should be done into how research logs and journal writing affect student learning and how logs and journals should best be assigned (Fluk 2009, 50).

Colleges and universities have targeted the following learning objectives when creating or redesigning credit-bearing IL courses: developing research topics research questions, and thesis statements (Mulherrin, Kelley, Fishman, Orr 2004, 24; Frank and MacDonald 2016, 17). Broadly considered, the literature on measuring and assessing the impact of IL instruction on educational outcomes is varied, especially in the wake of the 2015 adoption of the ACRL Framework, which omitted specific standards, competencies, and learning outcomes. Examples from community colleges and/or credit bearing IL courses were sought for this literature review. Longitudinal studies of students at Hostos Community College, a CUNY school with comparable demographics to LaGuardia’s, and Western Georgia University demonstrated that students taking IL workshops and a credit-bearing IL course, respectively, resulted in higher graduation rates, higher pass rates on reading and writing tests, and higher cumulative grade point averages. The Hostos Community College study results determined that students taking IL workshops experienced a 35.3% graduation rate, compared with 9.8% for students who did not take the workshops. Additionally, students who completed the IL workshop passed the CUNY Proficiency Exams for Reading at a rate of 78.5% and for Writing at a rate of 73.5%; the students who did not take the workshops passed the exams at a rate of 57.6% and 47.2% (Laskin and Zoe 2017, 13-16; Cook 2014, 276-279). Similarly, University of Western Georgia concluded that overall graduation rates for students in the study who completed their credit-bearing IL course graduated within six years at significantly higher rates than those who did not, 56% versus 30% (Cook 2014, 277-278).

In their discussion of CUNY’s Critical Thinking Skills Initiative, Gashurov and Matsuuchi stressed the importance of IL for LaGuardia’s LRC103 course to ensure CUNY students are prepared for today’s competitive job market (Gashurov and Matsuuchi 2013, 70-71). The Critical Thinking Skills Initiative was in part a reaction to the financial crisis of 2007-2008, but LaGuardia’s commitment to IL can be traced back to 1991 when it began offering LRC102. As mentioned above, LRC103 was first offered in 2004 and is central to the Library’s IL program (Keyes and Namei 2013, 29). More recently, the Citation Project, a multi-institutional study on source usage in college writing, has concluded that students struggle with all aspects of citation and comprehending sources: summarizing, paraphrasing, and quotation, to name a few (Jamieson and Howard 2013, 125-126). Jamieson’s further research claims that IL pedagogy based on the ACRL Framework, more so than the older ACRL IL competencies, may help students better understand their sources (Jamieson 2017, 128-129), which matches the goals of the present study.

At the postsecondary level, ePortfolio use has matured from a tool to document professional development to a web portal for accessing work, tracking academic growth, and planning a career, acting as a record of skills, achievements, and learning (LaGuardia Community College, “Introduction: What is an ePortfolio?”, 2017). Nevertheless, academic libraries have been slow implementing ePortfolios as compared to other campus departments, due in part because IL instruction is typically offered once per semester, in one class, and tailored to a specific assignment. However, a few have administered ePortfolios as a method of improving research and critical thinking. In 2008, Three Rivers Community College designed a plan whereby students searched for scholarly articles and then discussed the techniques used to retrieve them in a written reflection of their online learning experience posted into their ePortfolio (Florea 2008, 424-425). More recently, in collaboration with another campus department, the Otis College Library in 2014 created a research assignment that students uploaded to their ePortfolio and that instructors graded using the college’s core competencies (Giuntini and Venturini 2014, 11-15).

Methods and Analysis

Instructed by the authors, the LRC103 class in this study met weekly in one-hour face-to-face sessions for twelve weeks in the spring 2017 semester. Class lessons and assignments aimed to advance student research ability by fostering IL skills. The first class lesson introduced fundamental database tools, such as subject headings and subject term delimiters, to narrow a broad topic down to specific issues and subjects. The technique helps students comprehend article indexing and focuses student research to an elemental concept. For example, a search for “global warming” in a standard database yields thousands of results. However, the recommended subject headings “global warming & politics” and “global warming & the environment” generates a more manageable list. Subject term delimiters, custom to databases, refine this list to specifics.  The assignment accompanying the lesson sought to discover if database tools support critical thinking development. First, it prompted students to write a 200-word description of an article found in a research database, summarizing the author’s viewpoint and any evidence provided in their argument. Next, it asked students to frame and develop a research question for further inquiry related to the article’s topic. Lastly, in a reflection, students explained if writing the summary helped them review and disseminate the material to forge a unique and specific area to research (See Appendix A).

The second lesson demonstrated use of an online encyclopedia, illustrating the expansive subject list available. Then, students read an article on a select topic and gathered keywords. Students made note of words that they felt were key to understanding the topic. The final part of the lesson introduced concept maps, a graphical tool for organizing and representing knowledge. Concept maps break down a topic into related issues, with details or examples for each issue (Appalachian State University: Belk Library and Information Commons 2017). Words are usually “enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and relationships between concepts [are] indicated by a connecting line linking two concepts” (Novak and Cañas 2008). Using the words marked in the encyclopedia article, students created concept maps. Following this lesson, students completed the second assignment, the class midterm, which asked them to develop a topic and their own argument using methods learned in class. Students had the option to use the first assignment topic or to select a new one. Suggestions provided were affordable housing, human trafficking, and junk food. The instructors recommended that students first break down the topic using a concept map and then develop a related viewpoint or argument from one issue or concept in the map.  For the first part of the midterm, each student needed to find one scholarly article in support of their thesis argument and give a thirty-second, persuasive pitch in class to argue their viewpoint. In their ePortfolio, they provided an MLA citation of the article and wrote a one-paragraph description, which included their thesis statement, an explanation of the topic, and the reason they selected it. In the second part of the midterm, students supported their arguments with two additional scholarly articles, one in support of their thesis and one counterpoint. To showcase their evidence, students created an annotated bibliography. For this class, an annotated bibliography referred to a list of resources, each with a reference citation in Modern Language Association (MLA) style and a summary or evaluation (Stacks, et al. 2017). Finally, in a one-paragraph reflection, students considered whether or not the lesson and midterm helped them narrow down their research and develop their arguments (See Appendix B).

Sample concept map of ‘junk food’ and its related issues, complete with details and examples of each.

Figure 1: Sample concept map of ‘junk food’ and its related issues, complete with details and examples of each.  Concept maps break down a topic or main idea into related issues or concepts, and onto details or examples.

The class final required students to explain the most successful ways to develop a research question based on skills learned in class, in either a five-minute video, five-minute audio recording, or Microsoft PowerPoint presentation of at least five slides. As part of their work, they needed to describe if they will use the skills learned in other classes and assignments (See Appendix C). Lastly, an eight-question survey given to students on the last day of class provided a means to quantitatively measure success of class pedagogy. It was optional and anonymous (See Appendix D).

To evaluate student work, the instructors created an assessment rubric based on one of LaGuardia’s four core competencies, inquiry and problem solving. Inquiry and problem solving is comprised of the ability to design, evaluate, and implement a strategy or strategies to answer an open-ended question or achieve a desired goal. Students advance this competency by framing an issue, gathering evidence, analyzing material, and formulating conclusions (LaGuardia Community College, “Outcomes Assessment”, 2017). Based on this framework, the instructors assessed student work on ability to: 1) analyze and synthesize research material, 2) formulate conclusions to develop research questions and thesis arguments, and 3) understand and integrate IL skills.

Therefore, students who received a letter grade of A on an assignment demonstrated proficient IL skills. A letter grade of B signified competent skills, a C denoted developing skills, and a grade under C deemed the student a novice. In addition to a grade, the instructors also provided constructive feedback to advise students how they could improve their work.
Since each of the three assignments weighed differently towards the student’s final grade, all grades in this article were proportioned based on one-hundred points. For example, if a student assignment received fifteen out of twenty points, the grade was seventy-five, or a C, and the student demonstrated developing IL skills. In addition to grades, the authors analyzed student reflections to draw conclusions on student progress in class and uncover what pedagogies best helped.


In the first assignment, seven students demonstrated proficient skills, two had competent skills, one showed developing skills, and one was a novice, for a class average of 89.5. In a combined midterm grade, six students were proficient, three were competent, one was developing, and one was a novice, for a class average of 89.1. While student work remained at the competent stage in the first two assignments overall, performance improved to proficient on the final, for a class average of 96.7, as students displayed a deeper understanding of research concepts and were able to express them in presentation and reflection.

A line graph shows student progress, from 89.5 in the first assignment, to 89.1 in the midterm, and to 96.7 in the final exam.

Figure 2: The line graph shows student progress in each of the four class assignments based on 100 points.  The class average changed from 89.5 in the first assignment, to 89.1 in the midterm, and to 96.7 in the final exam.


Student obstacles in the first two assignments were inability to narrow down a topic in a focused research question and lack of solid arguments in thesis statements. For example, the research questions “are artists overly-hypocritical of other artists’ work for biased reasons?” and “is society to blame for engraving the idea that men were/are much more superior than women?” were not open-ended but rather took a position. Similarly, the question “what are the causes of animal extinction?” could be improved by selecting a specific animal or animal habitat.

Conversely, the question “how did Edgar Allan Poe’s life affect his writing?” was open-ended and focused but could be revised by concentrating on one event in Poe’s life. In the midterm, the statement “[weight gain and disease due to junk food intake] has been a problem that has been occurring for many years and there is a solution to the problem” was not a solid thesis but rather only stated there was a solution. On the other hand, the thesis “college students should get free tuition” suggested a solution but didn’t offer any justification. Lastly, the complete statement “due to the highly addictive nature of junk food and food manufacturers reluctance to alter their products or marketing, only some type of severe intervention will improve the quality of the food made in America and lessen the rates of obesity and diabetes” demonstrated a strong thesis and highlighted student learning progress, acknowledging the complexity of the issue while taking a side.

Another student challenge was inability to follow directions. Some failed to provide an opposing viewpoint in the annotated bibliography while others placed too much opinion in a summary. For example, one student wrote: “[with this article] I came up with many more questions than answers.” Still, another student didn’t provide summaries at all, but rather simply listed citations. While most students explained class pedagogy well in the final exam, some didn’t explain it thoroughly enough or didn’t provide examples in relation to assignments. For example, one student simply added a bullet list on the final to support the best ways to successfully develop a research question rather than explaining them. Several students neglected to distinguish between their assignments, making it uncertain where one assignment ended and another began.

Student reflection on progress was generally positive. In fact, a student suggested that one skill learned in the course was the “ability to think critically about information found” in research. In a first assignment reflection, a student commented, “after laying out all the information and my personal thoughts, I felt that I had a better understanding of the article, making it easier to develop my own research question.” Another submitted that in summarizing the article they “started to really absorb the information.” In midterm reflections, concept maps most successfully aided student success. One wrote: “[concept maps] helped narrow down the possibilities of creating research questions and starting my search with general keywords where I could find articles.” Another added: “it allows me to develop a cohesive structure for the ideas that I want to present and analyze the relationship between the ideas and the main concepts as well as how the ideas complement the concept.” Reflections on the annotated bibliography were also positive and suggested that students not only developed IL skills but planned to integrate concepts in other classes. “It breaks down the articles and picks apart key details,” one student suggested. Another delved deeper, adding that they will retain class work for reference in case they need citation assistance: “It will come in handy in classes where the professor prefers MLA8 style.”

Results of the final survey indicated that students were generally pleased with pedagogy and instruction provided, and they generally agreed that reflection aided research. All participants identified both making a concept map and using fundamental database tools as the most useful approaches to develop research questions. Written feedback was also primarily positive, indicating satisfaction in semester-long IL course. One student said: “I thought this class was really helpful and should have been one of the first classes that I took here at LaGuardia because it helped a lot with writing research papers and finding information.” Another said: “the topics helped with my knowledge and expanded my experience with different databases.”


This semester-long case study provides an argument that the course helped students develop IL skills and that further research is warranted. Its limitations were that it was conducted on one class with a low enrollment. The ideal case is either a class with a larger enrollment in a longitudinal study or a comparative study of two class sections, one section using reflection as a learning practice and one without. The authors hope their work can serve as a framework for subsequent studies at LaGuardia and elsewhere to foster IL skills.

While grade success may suggest that students gained academic proficiency in the class, student reflection provides the best argument for credit-bearing IL courses. In their own words, students reflected how they integrated key concepts into their academic work that will be used in both future classes and in life. Students suggested the concept map as the key method to success in the course, making this graphical tool a vital part of library instruction. It allows students to break down a topic and make conclusions about what area to research. Reflections also provided an opportunity to connect class pedagogy to lifelong learning. In a final study feedback response, a student summarized the need for semester-long instruction, and that the course should have been one of the first classes that they took at LaGuardia to guide their research and IL skills.


Student achievement in the course demonstrates that when applied in a credit-bearing IL course, strong IL pedagogy and effective use of instructional technology aids and enhances student success. Students generally felt that the IL skills they developed in LRC103 can be utilized in other courses. However, for IL instruction to be successful, strong pedagogy is tantamount in concert with thoughtful implementation of instructional technology, in this case ePortfolio. Ideally, credit-bearing IL instruction would be offered when a student begins college. The following is a list of considerations when making IL pedagogy decisions generally and possible next steps for LRC103.

Prepare useful lessons and select appropriate assignments

Nothing replaces solid pedagogy. Constructive assignments foster student learning. The lesson on concept maps as a method to develop focused research topics spurred the greatest jump in level of the inquiry and problem-solving competency. Assignments that encouraged metacognition — Student midterm reflections and answers in the final survey — also suggest concept maps as a useful method to help narrow a research topic.

Instructional technology best practices

There is no ideal course management platform.  An easy-to-use format where material and information can be added and retrieved is ideal. Naturally, the library may not be the final voice in what platform software a campus uses. However, it can suggest recommendations based on feedback from students. It is recommended that class time should be allotted at the beginning of the semester for course software instruction. Subsequent instruction should also be considered at the time assignments are introduced or prior to due dates, in order to model best practices.

Finally, organization and maintenance of a platform is key to success, and, as with any electronic tool, ePortfolio is only as good as the effort put to its use. Things to avoid are unlabeled assignments, irrelevant material, uploads that require additional software, broken links, and incomplete evidence.

Gather Qualitative Data

Since LRC103 is a one-credit course with modest enrollment, the sample size will remain small thereby limiting the impact of quantitative data. Gathering more qualitative data in the form of written reflections and student interviews could benefit the ongoing development of IL pedagogy for librarians teaching this course. Regardless of the instructional technology utilized, student reflection and metacognition are essential for credit-bearing IL instruction courses.

Collaborate with other academic departments

To promote library resources and services, collaborate with other departments. The English department is one option. Developing a research question, finding information, formulating a thesis, and then writing an argumentative paper are the basis for a common English class paper. Beyond English, there are ample opportunities incorporate IL pedagogy in various disciplines: history, social sciences, and STEM programs. An essential feature of the ACRL Framework is its flexibility. “Research as Inquiry,” “Information has Value,” and “Searching as Strategic Exploration,” three of the six frames, are central to academic research regardless of discipline. For example, LaGuardia’s Library has collaboratively developed a curriculum of one-hour, one-shot library instruction sessions for the college’s First Year Seminars, introductory, discipline-specific courses that provide remediation (LaGuardia Media Resource Center, FYS Library Instruction, 2017). The curriculum maps from LaGuardia’s core competencies (e.g. global learning, integrative learning) to related concepts in the ACRL Framework and library instruction lesson plans for each seminar; the entire curriculum is hosted on the LibGuides platform. This type of collaboration could be expanded to the Library’s credit-bearing courses to incorporate discipline-specific IL pedagogy. One way to incorporate is participation in LaGuardia’s Learning Communities, which pair two or more courses around a common theme (LaGuardia Community College, “Liberal Arts Learning Communities,” 2018). These learning communities could give LaGuardia librarians an opportunity to teach discipline-specific versions of LRC103 that would implement the conclusions from this case study and supporting research.


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Appendix A: Prompt for Assignment 1

Prompt for Assignment #1.  First, students were asked to write a 200-word description of an article found in class.  Next, they were asked to develop their own research question based on the article. Lastly, they needed to explain in 100 words if writing the summary helped them develop the research question.

Appendix B: Prompt for Midterm

Prompt for the midterm, which was divided into two parts.  In the first part, based on the thesis from Assignment #1 or another thesis on a topic of their own choosing, students needed to first, find one article in support of their thesis and then upload a citation of the article to their ePortfolio.  Secondly, they worked on 30-second, persuasive pitch of their viewpoint, which they later delivered in class. Lastly, they wrote a 50-100 word paragraph in their ePortfolio, explaining why they selected the topic. In second part, students found two additional articles, one in support of their argument and one opposed to it.  Then, the created an annotated bibliography of all three articles and posted it their ePortfolio. Lastly, in a short paragraph in their ePortfolio, they reflected on the assignment and explained if it helped them narrow down and develop a research question.

Appendix C: Prompt for Final

Prompt for the final.  Using a five-minute video, five minute audio recording, or PowerPoint presentation, students were asked to explain the best ways to successfully develop a research question based on the skills learned in class.  In their answer they need to first, describe whether using ePortfolio as a reflective tool helped them develop a research question, then determine if the class assignments help you make connections to other classes, and lastly if they will use the skills you learned in class in future assignments.

Appendix D: Final Survey

Eight-question, student questionnaire to determine success of class pedagogy.  Questions sought to determine both which class lesson for developing research questions worked best to developing a research question and which ePortfolio reflection was most helpful.

About the Authors

Derek Stadler is the Web Services Librarian at CUNY LaGuardia Community College. Derek holds a B.S. in Computer Science, as well as an M.S. in Library Science and a M.A. in History. In addition to library research, Derek is also an avid history researcher, with a focus on New York City and urban studies.

Ian McDermott is an Assistant Professor and Instruction Librarian at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York. His teaching and research focuses on information literacy and open educational resources. He is particularly interested in exploring the intersection of information literacy and critical pedagogy. He received an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh, an MA in Art History from Purchase College, SUNY, and a BFA in Photography from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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