December 11, 2012

Library research expertise, collect them all

From Purdue Passport
Student motivation can be problematic in college courses, and particularly with auxiliary college work where skills are encouraged, but aren't necessarily required to be learned (ahem, library research skills). Some instructors are serious about students building a knowledge base in using the library and developing critical thinking in regards to information, but it's not across the board. As we know from the ERIAL Project, student perceptions are heavily influenced by their instructors' relationships with the library. When the library has a good relationship with an instructor, research assignment design tends to be strong and students get a better grounding in using library resources. As great as this is and as much as we'd hope to advertise this fact to faculty, we can't exactly force every instructor on campus to work with us and especially to incorporate a research-related or info lit-type of assignment if they either don't want to, or it doesn't fit with the course.

So, we wonder, how can we help students develop these skills even if we can't work with them through a class, or if we haven't yet become embedded where they are. I've been thinking about this a lot over the past year in relation to student retention and also gaming and motivation, and became very interested in Mozilla's Open Badges, which I discussed here back in January when exploring badge systems. These badges are tied to certain skills that can be earned through reading and completing certain tasks, which can then be displayed in a portfolio or on social networking sites.

Thinking about how this can be tied to education has been apparent in MOOCs, and just recently, Purdue has developed Passport to offer badges in a university setting. I have been approved to be a beta tester, which I am really excited about. We have been talking about incorporating gamification and a badge system here at the University of Arizona Libraries since I started and was particularly enthusiastic about it, but we run into issues with the programming side of the system since we have limited staff in that regard. We are hoping to develop a gamification layer over our existing tutorials and guides and will have badges tied to the ACRL Information Literacy Standards (as a very basic explanation of these ideas).

Now, let's be realistic, I think we all get it that most students aren't going to be persuaded to do extra work in learning library research skills just because they might get a PNG image after completing tutorials and quizzes (I certainly know I wouldn't have been convinced as an undergrad). However, I am hoping we are able to work with the career center, tutoring, and other areas on campus that might help give the badges more value so students feel they are meaningful. If only one unit on campus is offering these badges, what exactly do they even mean? However, if students can include a suite of them in an eportfolio or on a resume, that does have more value. On the flipside, from our analytics, we do see that students, and even non-students, complete our tutorials regularly without them being assigned, and for the ones offering a certificate upon completion, we have a large number of people submitting their information to receive one. So, there is clearly intrinsic motivation present, but we hope to use a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic to find the right balance in helping students build these skills.

I wrote a literature review on motivation in gamified learning scenarios for a gaming in education course I took this semester, which you can read here if you're interested. Applying these ideas to a badge system in libraries is more tricky than a classroom since we typically do one-shot sessions, and like I mentioned these skills are often treated as auxiliary to a class.

Anyhow, I will keep this blog more updated than usual as I beta test and incorporate badges into our resources! More next time...