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Distance Library Services Conference 2020: A Model for Leading Virtual Library Workshops by an Online University

About NCU Library Workshops

The NCU Library provides synchronous workshops for its academic community. Our Library team collaborates to create meaningful content presented in an online setting. These workshops also provide students with face-to-face connection with Library Staff, engagement with other students, and participation in interactive online sessions. Library live workshops were introduced in April 2019 on a variety of topics, including Library Orientation, Advanced Search Skills and RefWorks Power Hour: Introduction to RefWorks. We are continuously evolving and expanding our workshop offerings and consider student feedback, review trends in reference questions, and evaluate database enhancements and features for presentation topics. We are also actively collaborating with other academic departments, including the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Academic Success Center, the Institutional Review Board, and the Alumni Office, for presentation topics where library staff can contribute research strategies and database overviews.

Each month, events are posted to the events calendar on the Library website, which is powered by Springshare’s LibCal. This platform allows us to incorporate relevant links to topic and subject guides as well as upload workshop outlines to the calendar listing. Library workshops are hosted through Zoom conferencing software, and while students can register for a reminder through LibCal for workshop information, we embed the Zoom links directly within the description. This allows users to easily access the meeting information, spontaneously join, and share with peers. It should be noted that the NCU Library posts its workshops as a physical location in LibCal. Unfortunately, the Zoom LibCal integration for workshops makes registration a requirement for users to receive the meeting information. We have decided not to use this feature as registration may prolong access and deter users who have a window of opportunity to join.

During sessions, screen sharing as well as other features such as chat, polls, and whiteboard are enabled. We use polls to gather program information from students and gauge attitudes related to presentation content. For example, “What is your level of comfort with accessing and using the Library's research resources?” with answer options that include: Not comfortable - I need help with everything!; Somewhat comfortable - I know the basics, but it's still intimidating: Comfortable - I'm a skilled user, but there's a lot that I don't know: and Very Comfortable - I'm an advanced user, but want to check out new or updated features. The whiteboard is used to outline search techniques and provide examples, namely in the Advanced Search Skills session where search strategies such as nesting and truncation are illustrated. Workshops are recorded using Screencast-O-Matic and a friendly URL is shared with all participants in a recap email that includes additional links and support resources on presentation content, including LibWizard tutorials for post self-guided instruction. Some limitations during a workshop session include students’ lack of participation or a perceived reluctance to engage or ask questions during the session. While we create an interactive environment through initial polling, active learning questions, and various activities, student involvement is a critical factor in making this participatory environment work well.

NCU Library workshops are announced weekly on Library Insider on the Commons, an online university community to which all students have access. We also promote workshops within the program-specific groups. Our goal is to further promote recurring workshops through email blasts from marketing and embed workshop calendars within course guides.

Although students continually register for NCU Library workshops, only a fraction attend. One way that we are looking to increase actual attendance for registered students is through an incentive program providing participation awards. We know that the content presented to students is valuable based on current student feedback, and we want other students to benefit from the information shared in these presentations. Unfortunately, issues with time zone confusion, connectivity issues, or unfamiliarity with technology pose limitations to attendance. All NCU Library workshops are held in Phoenix, AZ MST; however, students may miscalculate the workshop in their respective time zone. A recent update to Springshare’s calendar display may alleviate time zone confusion as users can now set and view events in their local time zone.