Learner-Friendly LibGuides

I’ve seen plenty of resources on designing LibGuides from a web design perspective, but I’ve yet to come across anything that really tackles them from an instructional design perspective. Beautiful web design and a user-friendly interface do not necessarily equate to learner-friendly design. If you are going to use them for teaching and learning, LibGuides should be learner-friendly.

What makes LibGuides learner-friendly? Consider the following elements:

Needs. Does the LibGuide serve a learning need? Does the LibGuide serve the learners’ needs? Often, we see LibGuides that are created in an attempt to cover learners’ needs in multiple courses of the same subject area (e.g. History, English). The problem is that they tend to be over-generalized. While those LibGuides will certainly meet some learners’ needs some of the time, the goal should be to meet many learners’ needs most of the time. Your best resource for identifying learning needs? Classroom instructors. Start a conversation, send an e-mail, attend a department meeting. Be proactive.

Goal(s) and Objectives. You wouldn’t design a lesson plan or a tutorial or a semester long course without learning goal(s) and objectives, so why would you design a LibGuide without them? What will students learn by using the LibGuide? Be specific. By setting goal(s) and objectives when designing a LibGuide, you’ll need to consider all the knowledge and skills that learners should have in order to use it. And you’ll be more likely to include any instructional scaffolding that learners may need as they navigate through it.

Context. In what context will your learners be using the LibGuide? A learner-friendly LibGuide should be designed for the context in which it will be used. Context-specific can mean course, assignment or skill specific.

Interactivity. In instructional design, interactivity is not just about adding multimedia elements. Interactivity is also about learning through feedback. Feedback can include anything from polls to quizzes to comments to live chat. And you can embed any or all of those elements in a LibGuide. So take advantage of the polls that LibGuides allows you to create. Take advantage of the comments sections by adding your own constructive comments to LibGuides (and encouraging students to do the same). Embed quizzes (e.g. ProProfs) that help learners gauge their understanding of content. Embed a chat widget for live virtual help.

Discoverability. How discoverable are your LibGuides? A LibGuide can’t be learner-friendly if it is not easily discoverable. Make sure to tag your LibGuides liberally and consistently. Add a LibGuides search box or widget to your web site or LMS. Share content and updates with Facebook and Twitter. Some libraries even use LibGuides as their web site.


7 thoughts on “Learner-Friendly LibGuides

      • The UIUC LibGuides are the closest that I have come to finding something that represents a learner-friendly design, but they could still using some tweaking.

        Take this guide for example: http://uiuc.libguides.com/abortion
        It is a good example of being context-centered, and all the UIUC Libguides are very discoverable. However, if I were designing it, I’d also include the following elements:
        1. While the guide clearly states a goal, I would modify the wording to be more specific (i.e. this guide will help you…). It’s more meaningful that way.
        2. The instructional scaffolding is way too broad. For example, under the Statistical Info tab, it would be better to explain why statistics are important in research, and even offer an external link to a tutorial or guide that explains how to use statistics to make an effective argument. Often, writing centers include that kind of information on their sites (e.g. Purdue OWL).
        3. The LibGuide includes interactivity by including a chat widget, but I would also use the comments section to add clarifications and guidance based on questions that arise during instruction or reference transactions. Also, context-specific guides should be shared via the library’s social media (UIUC might already be doing this – I don’t know).
        4. Under the Finding Article tab, search tips are included. That’s good, but I’d also include a database widget so learners can read the side guide instructions and type in keywords, then search. Otherwise they have to toggle back and forth. That’s not learner-friendly or user-friendly. (I also don’t know why they don’t include Opposing Viewpoints in their database suggestions. They must have a reason!?)
        5. Overall, it presents a good template, but I find the instructional scaffolding particularly weak. By designing LibGuides with targeted goals and objectives in mind (not broad ones), you have an easier time shaping your instructional scaffolding needs and strategies.

        Hope this helps!

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