William T. Johnson
Texas Tech University
The University Library's program of Internet workshops began in November, 1993. Since then, Internet sessions have been offered several times a year. Many of the workshops have focused on broad academic disciplines, including the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Recent workshops and new seminars have focused on such topics as "How to find a job," "Traveling or relocating in the U.S.," "Improving your grades by using the Internet," and "Strengthening families with electronic resources on the World Wide Web." In addition, we have created several Web pages and placed them on the Library's Web site. They are used as instructional aids in the workshops and seminars, as well as in other library instruction sessions. Our approach to these Internet workshops includes implementing effective planning, organizing, and management procedures; continually improving our presentation styles; keeping up with new developments; acquiring the best instructional technology; and seeking new ideas to attract attendees.
Shortly after March 1993, the provision of Internet instruction for the campus community became an important goal of the Texas Tech University Library's User Instruction program. The first task in accomplishing this goal was to persuade librarians to become involved in Internet instruction, first by learning its components and then by participating in workshops and seminars. In time, six librarians in the Information Services Department volunteered to participate. They began by sharing the knowledge and expertise they had picked up on their own. These librarians signed up for ATLC workshops for more formal training. Because some of them were liaisons for various academic departments with library instruction responsibilities in assigned subject areas, they soon began offering occasional Internet training to graduate-level and upper-level undergraduate classes. They sought opportunities to persuade faculty and teaching assistants to let them include Internet instruction along with the routine database demonstrations that were being given to students. However, the 1993/94 academic year afforded only limited opportunities to provide Internet instruction using this approach.
Once the Texas Tech University Libraries' Coordinator of User Instruction completed his Internet training, library-sponsored workshops were scheduled. The ATLC's microcomputer laboratory was used because the Library does not have its own laboratory. A workshop format was chosen for these sessions because past experience had shown us that students learn better when they have hands-on practice, and because several faculty members and teaching assistants requested that we offer their students guided hands-on practice in the use of on-line databases. The workshops were open to all university-affiliated persons.
At the first Internet workshop, offered in November, 1993, the Coordinator of User Instruction and an ATLC staff member offered a two-hour session titled "Finding Library Resources on the Internet." The ATLC staff member served as a back-up resource person who could answer questions requiring an in-depth knowledge of the technology. The session began with a brief history of the Internet, a description of some traditional library information resources available on it, and suggestions for basic search procedures and strategies to use when browsing in a particular site. Most of the session was devoted to describing and demonstrating Telnet sites such as "Library of Congress Information System (LOCIS)," "Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries (CARL)," "Library of Congress Machine-Assisted Realization of the Virtual Electronic Library (LC MARVEL)," and "Federal Information Exchange (FEDIX)," as well as some listservs and bulletin boards. Each site was described, emphasizing the information available and its research value, and then some major element or feature of the site was demonstrated. The last half-hour of the workshop was set aside for attendees to practice while the presenters assisted them on a one-to-one basis. Handouts for each site, including the address, were distributed at all sessions so that attendees could use them to access sites on their own.
This first Internet workshop set the tone for those that were offered throughout 1994. They were informal, and questions were welcome at any time. An ATLC staff member was present, but he did not participate in the presentations and demonstrations.
The workshops offered in the Fall of 1994 included descriptions and demonstrations of the Internet components, including gophers, Telnet, Veronica, Archie, File Transfer Protocol, Lynx, and Bookmarks for accessing favorite sites. The sites selected for the demonstrations tended to be general gopher and Telnet sites that would have information of interest to faculty and students from several disciplines. The last workshop organized in this way was offered in February, 1995 as a "U.S. Government Resources on the Internet" workshop.
Another new approach to the Internet workshops began in the Spring of 1995. Three workshops were offered: one each for the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. Each team was composed of the subject librarians whose disciplines fell within that academic area. Each member of a team was allotted about 25 minutes to demonstrate sites appropriate for his or her subject areas. The Coordinator of User Instruction remained responsible for planning, organizing, advertising, scheduling the ATLC laboratory, and supervising any preparatory activities needing to be done beforehand.
One important recent change was that the Texas Tech University Library began offering Internet seminars to off-campus persons. Since Texas Tech University is a public institution, the Library must offer many of its services to the general public. On the other hand, the ATLC's policy does not allow off-campus persons to use their facilities, including the personal computer laboratory that the Library uses for its Internet workshops. The Library therefore had to use its own classroom for these outreach sessions. This User Instruction classroom is equipped with a single computer, projector, and screen for demonstrations and lectures. Much of our library instruction takes place in this room. Occasionally, Internet demonstrations are given there to graduate-level classes. However, it is impossible to offer hands-on practice there. Therefore, instead of offering two-hour workshops to off-campus library patrons, we began offering them one or two-hour seminars that included lectures and demonstrations.
In addition, these presenters acknowledged discomfort when answering some of the more involved technical questions on Internet operations. They agreed that File Transfer Protocol procedures were the most difficult to handle. Yet, they felt that there was no need for an ATLC staff member to participate in their future Internet workshops, ATLC staff could do a much better job of answering these kinds of technical questions in their own short courses. While they, as librarians, could excel at identifying resources on the Internet, evaluating those sites, and demonstrating how to browse through the sites to find relevant information. The presenters decided that they would refer attendees with technical questions such as these to ATLC staff.
Since several of the TTU librarians are responsible for selecting and instructing in specific subject areas, they agreed that the workshops would work best if the presenters continued to focus on subject areas relevant to their own subject. The idea of team-teaching the workshops remained attractive because by covering several disciplines they attracted larger numbers of attendees. The presenters also felt that workshop attendees, who did not seem to mind two-hour sessions, would find them more interesting with the differing teaching styles of three or four presenters.
Advertising the workshops improved from one year to the next. The earliest workshops had been included on the ATLC's lists of short courses. This was the only advertising they received in 1993/94. The lists were distributed at the ATLC Information Desk and by campus mail to faculty and staff. Starting early in 1994, announcements of forthcoming sessions were included on-line at the Library's "Information About the Library" option on the Library Information System. Starting with the Fall of 1994, flyers announcing our Internet workshops were sent to all faculty and graduate students in the academic disciplines covered by the workshop. Also, announcements were made in the campus newspaper. Advertising this way helped to increase attendance.
We tried a number of things to help assure the success of the workshops. Several of the Internet handouts used in 1994/95 were obtained from various sites using File Transfer Protocol. Others, such as the bibliographies of additional Internet sites not demonstrated in the workshop, were authored by the presenters or other librarians. Another way we tried to ensure success was that presenters developed overhead transparencies to show sites and explain search procedures. These transparencies were used from time to time because of occasional problems accessing some of the sites to be demonstrated. Evaluation forms were distributed at every workshop during the 1994/95 academic year and the attendees were urged to fill them out. All librarians involved in the workshops reviewed the completed forms regularly. Occasionally, follow-up meetings were held to discuss the evaluations in order to determine whether improvements or changes were needed.
However, the Library's Internet workshops require additional skills. Presenters have to learn how to participate as part of a team. Team-teaching requires cooperation and its own set of skills. In addition, we encourage attendees to ask questions at any time. Occasionally, a presenter may have to stop the demonstration and help someone who is having trouble with a computer, try a different approach if he or she cannot connect to a Web site, or get out overhead transparencies if the system is down. Sometimes, a question will determine the direction the demonstration takes. The workshops include hands-on practice segments at the end of the class. The one-on-one instruction given during this practice and the necessity to handle questions at any time during the demonstrations require that the presenters learn and practice active teaching and learning skills in the workshops.
A program of continuing education at the Library offers librarians opportunities to learn teaching skills from experts. A faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies who teaches public speaking has given two presentations to the library staff: "How to Give Good Classroom Presentations to Undergraduates" and "Team-teaching Methods." He will continue to give us training in teaching basic skills. A faculty member in the Classics and Modern Languages Department will give us a two-hour workshop on "Active Learning Methods" in May, 1997. In addition, the Coordinator of User Instruction attends the Library Orientation-Instruction Exchange (LOEX) conferences each year and shares what he has learned there about team-teaching, active learning, and whatever else may be useful to his colleagues. This training and sharing of information is helpful; however, most of what is learned and used to improve the workshops and seminars comes through experience and the informal sharing of information that takes place at small meetings.
These librarians received encouragement from ATLC staff. The ATLC staff had the computer science background needed to teach the technology, systems, and operational procedures involved with the Internet. However, they lacked the basic skills that librarians use at the Reference desk. Several ATLC staff members involved in teaching short courses readily admitted that librarians, with their unique searching and organizing skills, were well suited to teach the Internet to people who are interested in finding information. In fact, they were reluctant to teach courses that emphasized searching Internet sites for information. They encouraged librarians to "take charge" in this area. Under these circumstances, it was not difficult to schedule the workshops in the ATLC's microcomputer laboratory.
As wonderful as this new equipment is, it does not permit us to offer attendees hands-on practice. Our computer limitations were recognized as early as 1993. However, there seemed to be no hope of the Library having its own laboratory until the University's administration decided that the library building would be renovated. The Coordinator of User Instruction immediately began sharing his idea of creating a computer laboratory to support library instruction with the Library's administrators. The idea was accepted and architects' plans for the renovation include a laboratory of thirty microcomputers and a large classroom to seat one hundred and contain two computers, two projectors, and two screens. This room will be capable of being divided into two classrooms. Once the Library's microcomputer laboratory is completed, it will become the location of the Library's Internet workshops and library instruction sessions requiring hands-on practice.
The information content grew during the developmental period and became much more oriented toward bibliographic instruction. The Web site is now linked to the Library Information System, which includes the Libraries' on-line catalog, other libraries' catalogs, and about additional forty databases; bibliographies in such areas as herpetology and plant genetics; directories to federal science sites and Texas organizations; and bilingual guides on developing Web sites. A few guides to our local collection of Reference works and periodicals have also been developed and an on-line exhibit of the Koger History of Science Collection is in its early stages of development. These resources are demonstrated in our Internet workshops and seminars.
As discussed previously, our Internet workshops are also open to the off-campus community. Texas Tech University alumni, home schoolers, business persons, church workers, as well as public and special librarians come to these seminars. The seminars are offered at various times during the semester to suit the needs of the attendees. As the level of interest in the Internet grows in the Lubbock area, The Texas Tech University librarians expect to increase the level of their involvement in these sessions for the off-campus community.
Distance learning is another area where Internet teaching needs to be increased. Understanding the needs of remote students and developing ways to meet their unique information needs will be increasingly important in the coming years. For example, we will need to develop methods to teach our remote students how to use Web resources like the "Playa Lakes Research Bibliography" which offers not only links to Internet resources and citations to the print literature but also a growing body of full text documents with images (Johnson 1996).