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.