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Instructional Methods

At the completion of this section, you should be able to:

Begin by viewing the class presentation in Vimeo. Then, read each of the sections of this page.

Explore each of the following topics on this page:

Engaging Approaches

fraudAlthough students may not express these ideas in writing, most learners want more from a course than readings and tests. They expect to be able to perform, create, and apply course knowledge and skills.

Ask Yourself: 
How will students explore course content, become actively involved in this content, practice new learning, and share their understandings?

Instructional Approach to Inquiry

How we teach is as important as what we teach. You may have heard this phrase before, but it's true.

It might seem like planning for information literacy instruction would be easy. Simply ask students to "do it." Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Do your students know how to formulate meaningful questions? Are they able to evaluate the quality of information they see on television or read off the Internet? Can they synthesize the information they find? Do they know how to use the presentation tool you're asking them to apply? Effectively completing the information inquiry process requires a staggering amount of knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

Gunn and Miree (2012) determined that

"it is not surprising that elements of information literacy involving higher level critical thinking and discerning judgement are hard to establish in brief instructional sessions no matter what the pedagogical approach. The authors believe that more extensive research scenarios that allow students to handle the same research topic over all phases of their research can enable them to evaluate sources better. Offering opportunities for detailed engagement with texts, i.e. time to read a few publications on the same topic, can help in modelling for students how to evaluate resources. The authors will also encourage academic staff to embed steps in their assignment guidelines for research papers that encourage active evaluation in the form of annotated bibliographies or other relevant reflections." (Gunn & Miree, 2012, 32)

Achieving information fluency takes time. You can't possibly address everything students need to know within a single project. That's the purpose of integrating information inquiry competencies throughout the scope and sequence of the entire PK-20 curriculum. Although the process will remain the same, the depth and breath of the investigations will vary.

Example: Kindergartners can trace the origins of the milk on their lunch plate back to a daily cow using pictures and key words like store, truck, and farm. While a high school student might question the use of pesticide in the grain eaten by dairy cows.


Each classroom situation provides an opportunity to introduce new skills and build on existing knowledge. For example, in some situations it makes sense to have students use search engines to locate information to address questions. In others, it might be a more efficient use of time to provide three quality websites and ask students to concentrate their efforts on comparing the three different perspectives. Your choice of approach will depend on the entry skills of your students as well as the specific standard you wish to address in the inquiry. It makes sense for students to use search engines themselves if one of the outcomes relates to helping students narrow or broaden their topic.

In the chapter Empowered Learning in Curriculum Connections through the Library edited by Stripling and Hughes-Hassell, Violet H. Harada (2003, p. 54) describes the work of Wehlage et al (1996) indicating that learning environments that result in significant achievement contain the following three attributes:

Research supports the idea that learner-centered classrooms enhance student learning, social, and emotional outcomes. In these environments, teachers focus on the individual differences and learning needs of children. Then develop a range of instructional activities and learning support to address these needs (Lambert & McCombs, 1998).

childMarzano, Pickering, and Pollack (2001), conducted a meta-analysis of research studies on instructional strategies. They identified nine strategies to enhance student performance.

What learner-centered strategies can be used to help students become more information fluent?

Most instructional situations include a wide range of approaches to attract and maintain the attention of learners, disseminate information, and provide opportunities for practice. Lahlafi, Ruston, and Stretton (2012) developed an active learning experience for business students learning web search skills. In Active and reflective learning initiatives to improve web searching skills of business students, Lahlafi, Ruston, and Stretton (2012) explained that a lecture hall setting was used because of the large student audience. However, the instructors looked for ways to actively engage students in meaningful activities. Examples include:

Gross and Latham (2011, 183) note that "instructional strategies can harness students' preference for people as sources toward instructional ends by developing programs that promote personal contact with trainers."

Limberg, Alexandersson, Lantz-Andersson, and Folkesson (2008, 82) found that

"teacher/student interaction with a focus on learning goals and content is a vital condition for students' meaningful learning. Focus on the object of teaching, away from information seeking skills toward an emphasis on the quality of students' research questions, on negotiating learning goals between pedagogues and students, and on the critical evaluation of information sources related to the knowledge contents of students' assignments improves learning."

Use engaging activities to bridge theory and practice.  Student must be able to use vocabulary, apply rules, and cite principles during scenarios, discussions, and games. Build these elements into the activities:

Look for real-world experiences that bridge theory and practice.

Example: Try the Copyright MicroModule, Citation MicroModule, Ethical Use MicroModule, and Plagiarism Micromodule.

clipView Teaching and Learning Strategies (5:49).

In this video, Annette Lamb discusses teaching and learning strategies, technology as tool, springboard – prior knowledge, information exploration, multimedia rich environment, drill & practice, simulations, tech tools create products – Excerpt from “Integrating Technology in the Curriculum”, Canter & Associates

Read Ostenson, Jonathan (January 2014). Reconsidering the checklist in teaching Internet source evaluation. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 14(1), 33-50.

Let's focus on some specific types of activities that will engage your learners and facilitate the development of specific skills.

Powerful Presentations

Think of a presentation as a performance. Before you enter the "stage," tell yourself that it's showtime! If you aren't comfortable in front of an audience, invent a "teacher persona" for yourself that's confident, motivating, and interesting.


smileHow you look and act plays a large role in a successful presentation.

You may not like seeing yourself on video, but it can be very useful.

try itTry It!
Go to the online workshop Presentations that Pop!
Work your way this this online workshop.

Read Lecturing from Vanderbilt Center for Teaching.
Think of the skills needed for an effective lecturer. Do you have this skills? If not? How can you develop them?



copierFrom showing how to use an electronic database to demonstrating the proper way to scan a historical photo, presentations related to information inquiry often have demonstration elements.

Consider some of the following elements for a successful demonstration:

Expert Interaction

Interacting with outside experts can help learners connect course content to real-world experiences.

Professionals as Experts

expertInvite professionals in the field of study to interact with your students.

Identify Experts. How are experts identified?

Explore Options. How will the expert be involved with your class?

Prepare Students. How will you prepare your students for interaction?

Prepare the Expert. How will you prepare your expert?

Nurture Connections. How do you establish and maintain a group of experts?

Share Experiences. How do you extend the experience?

If live interactions aren't possible, consider recorded interviews along with readings. Explore the Interview Index at The Lives of Teachers as an example.

Learn more at Collaboration: Ask-An-Expert from Teacher Tap

Students as Experts

expert studentAs your students become more familiar with course content, get them involved with sharing their understandings with classmates.

Highlights. Rather than everyone doing everything, ask students to summarize the key points of a unit or discussions. Students might be responsible for 1 topic during the semester. Although this may be in paragraph form, you can also ask for:

Student Bloggers. Involve students in providing examples and sample problems.

To find more examples, do a Google search for your topic and add the word "experts".

Scenarios to Simulations

readingSituated learning places students as close as possible to a real-world situation. When possible, real contexts, roles, and tools are used. When a student connects what is learned to an actual situation, the translation of content becomes clear. The closer to real-life, the more effective:

Key to Success

Successful examples, scenarios, case studies, dilemmas, simulations and role playing activities help students connect prior knowledge to new situations and contexts.

Examples and Nonexamples

social situationExamples and non-examples are important because they help students learn defined concepts. Individual instances are used to help students distinguish characteristics and classify elements of a concept.

Example: Provide a situation that helps define a term. State the term.
: Zach set up a YouTube account using his teacher's name and personal information. He sent a text message to his teacher threatening to post a video showing the teacher smoking pot unless his grade is changed to an A. This is an example of fraud.
Example: Taylor posts on Facebook that his teacher is gay even though he's not sure if it's true. This is not fraud. It’s a non-example of fraud that can be used for comparison.

For lots of examples, go to the Decision-making Process handout. It provides guiding questions and examples related to the use of social technology.

Show examples, then ask students to create their own.


Scenarios are descriptions of situations that provide a context for discussion or debate. They help students visualize a series of actions and can be used to test out ideas and strategies. Unfortunately, they can also be overly simplistic leading to inappropriate generalizations.

social experienceExample: Students are presented with information necessary to take on a role or solve a problem. For instance, Susan observes BLANK. She does BLANK because …. Do you agree or disagree with her reasoning? Why? 
Example: Susan notices that Ben left his computer without logging off. She opens his email and sends embarrassing messages to his friends. She thinks it's okay because "he didn't log off and it's a free country." Do you agree or disagree with her reasoning?

Building Scenarios. First, design a set of circumstances including characters, setting, and action/events. Then, ask students to do one of the following:

Example: Students are given sample searches and must identify the problem.
: Students are given instrument readouts and patient information. Students must identify the problem.
Example: Visit Survival Scenario Exercise, a group dynamics team building exercise, and examine the various scenarios that are included.

Rather than simply providing text-based scenarios, begin with images, audio, or video.

Example: Incorporate short videos with background information for the scenario.
Example: Watch a news program on cyberbullying and discuss the topic.

Case Studies

social situationCase Studies are in-depth examinations of specific situations.

The case study approach involves students in analyzing real or fictional cases in detail. While they are useful in exploring complex situations, they can be time-consuming to prepare and may not meet the spectrum of needs.

A great way to bridge theory and practice, case studies are a practical approach to help students practice course content. You're also able to see how learners apply information and demonstrate understandings in authentic situations. However ask yourself whether a case study is needed or if a scenario work as well.

Building Case Studies. Present a specific situation or set of facts. Ask students to analyze the case:

Example: Rebecca is BLANK age, with a BLANK history, in a BLANK situation. How could you treat her or react to her?
Example: Rebecca is twelve and a seventh grader at Richmond Middle School... She has a computer with Internet access in her room and knows her parents keep track of her use... She isn't allowed to have a cell phone at school, but she hides it in her pocket… She lied about her age to get a Facebook account… In which situations is Rebecca acting responsibly and irresponsibly?

Ideas for Case Studies. Consider some the following ideas:

Case Studies and Critical Thinking. Encourage students to be critical thinkers who:


social situationDilemmas are situations where multiple options are provided, but none are acceptable. For instance, a dilemma may address two moral principles that required different courses of action. When students are asked to determine and justify a course of action, they learn to act on principles of justice and fairness rather than on self-interests or social norms.

Students need to be aware that there may be many conflicting opinions. This approach can be overwhelming for some students, however it is effective and essential at addressing the core issues.

Example: This happened, but this happened. I’m supposed to BLANK. What should I do?
Example: In my social issues class, our team has been documenting the increase in homelessness in our community through photographs. While going through the digital photos team members took of homeless people, I realized many photos included a student from our school. I'm supposed to upload our photos to Flickr before class today. What should I do?


Simulations involve people playing roles with real-world equipment. Use this approach to introduce a learning outcome, review materials, or provide a culminating experience. The scenario can be stopped to point out key ideas.

Simulations help students apply their skills to "real life" situations by providing an environment to manipulate variables, examine relationships, and make decisions. This type of assignment is generally used after initial instruction as part of application, review, or remediation. In most cases, simulations should be used as a culminating activity after students have basic skills in the concepts being addressed in the software. Otherwise it is difficult for them to make informed decisions during the program. Without background skills, the simulation may become an unproductive game rather than a meaningful learning experience.

Types of Simulations. There are many types of simulations.

Building simulation. Invent roles (i.e., patient, responding crew, bystanders, and facilitator. Provide cards for each role. Incorporate at least one of the following:

Make it Real

Adapting Simulations. When selecting simulations consider the amount of time you have to dedicate to the program. Some simulations can be time-consuming if done well. Also consider the grouping of students. Ask yourself:

Creating Simulations. Explore the following ideas for creating simulations:



role playingRole-Playing allow students to practice what is being taught in a controlled setting. Participants in role playing assignments adopt and act out the role of characters in particular situations.

What role could the person in the photo be playing?

They may take on the personalities, motivation, backgrounds, mannerisms, and behaviors of people different from themselves. Set the stage and provide handouts or sheets with key information. Debrief at the end to reinforce learning objectives. (NAEMS, 2006)

Role-Playing Activities. Consider the following activities that involve role-playing.

Conversations and Interviews. Role-playing conversations is a wonderful way to practice foreign language skills, try out parent/child interactions, or conduct mock interviews. Ask students to take the perspective of a member of an organization (i.e., company, school, non-profit).

Debate. Students might be asked to take one of two positions or perspectives in a debate situation. In an online environment, the debate could take place live through chat, audio, or video conference. Working in pairs, students could create a collaborative presentation following the debate format. Each student would create every other slide.

Explore an example at Rhetoric.

Demonstrations. Students might audio or videotape themselves performing a task.

Improvisation. In an improvised situation, students play the role of their character in a free-flow environment. For instance, individuals might take on the role of a past President sitting at a take of other past Presidents. What might they say to each other?

Historical Re-enactments. Using an avatar in Second Life or describing their character in text, learners can design a virtual environment for historical re-enactments.

Mock Trial. Students take on a role related to a trial situation. The trial is acted out through an online discussion.

Response Preparation. Students might take on the role of a first responder and act out the steps they would take in a particular situation.

Outside Evaluator. Students may be asked to act as an "outside evaluator" or "consultant" on a particular topic.

Creating Role-Playing Assignments. Think about the the activities of the instructor and student in a role-playing situation.

The instructor would set up the role-playing situation by:

The students would be responsible for:

try itTry It: I'm Fine. Just Give me a Band-Aid Role-play
Step 1:
   Divide the group in half. Move to opposite sides of the room.
Step 2:   Members of Group A will take on the role of a reluctant patient and brainstorm a set of provocative statements, questions, or demands. 
Example: “I’m late for a meeting and I don’t have time for this.”
Step 3:   Members of Group B will take on the role of EMTs and brainstorm effective statements to defuse the situation and empathic reactions to provocative statements. 
Example: “Sir, I’m sorry you feel that way. We can save time by….”
Step 4:   Identify a member of the opposite team and conduct a one-on-one conversation between the patient and the EMT. A member of Group A will initiate the angry conversation by asking a question or making a demand. The person from Group B will respond in a calm and empathetic fashion to defuse the hostility. After one minute, the pairs will shift. 
Step 5:   After all Group A members have interacted with Group B members, take a couple minutes to create a character and switch roles. Conduct another set of rounds.
Step 6:   Debrief. 
What are techniques and statements that worked effectively to defuse or calm the patient?
What are examples of empathic, apologetic, reassuring, and limit-setting statements?
What is a piece of advice you’d give a new EMT?
Step 7:   Discuss the use of role-playing as a teaching tool and design your own assignment. 
Step 8:
 If you have time, try a round focusing on your own role-playing assignment.

Redesign the "Just Give Me a Band-Aid" Role-play into a "Just Give Me Google" Role-play.

try itTry It: Simulations
Compare examples, scenarios, case studies, dilemmas, simulations, and role
playing activities.
How are they alike and different?
Select and think about one of these techniques and how you use it.


Discussions to Debates

two peopleDiscussions are a way for students to share their understanding of course content. A debate is a type of formal discussion on a particular topic where opposing arguments are presented.

Class discussions are one of the most popular activities in online courses, book clubs, seminars, and conferences. However without careful planning, they can bore participants and be viewed a "busy" work rather than meaningful learning experiences.

Forums can range from free-flow sharing of ideas to highly structured activities. However it's important to identify the specific purpose of the discussion and design assignments and assessment that reflect this need. To accomplish the course goals, it's also necessary for the instructor to carefully monitor and manage the discussions.


Technology for Online Discussions

There are many online tools for coordinating online discussions.

First, consider whether an existing service might be used. For instance, if you're developing an online book club, you might use an existing service such as LibraryThing or setup group at Goodreads as the forum tool for your discussions.

Second, use an online service that specializes in groups and forums such as Google Groups or Yahoo Groups.

Third, if you want to do more than simply hold a discussion, consider a course management tool for nonprofits such as NiceNet. Or, a social network builder such as Ning.

Fourth, if you have access to your own web server consider a open source software such as the course management system Moodle or the forum tool phpBB.

The Cs of Discussions

Be sure that your discussions are part of the larger learning experience. Consider the C's of Discussions:

The Purpose of Discussion

Before designing discussion assignments, ask yourself: What's the purpose of the discussion activity?

Forum assignments provide an environment where information and ideas can be shared and discussed. Start by examining your course goals and objectives.

Will a discussion help students:

Identify the goal of the experience:

try itTry It!
Examine book discussion programs that could be adapted as online programs. How could you promote high level thinking in these discussions?
GoodReads Groups
One Book reading promotion projects from the Library of Congress
Book Group Buzz from Booklist (ALA)
Center for the Book from Library of Congress

As you begin designing assignments, think about ways to associate discussions with course materials. Students could be asked to

Course Discussion: Relevance

Once you've identified specific learning objectives, focus on specific activities that stimulate critical and creative thinking. Consider the purpose of each discussion before writing discussion questions. Also keep in mind that the educational outcomes must be clear to the students.

Students particularly enjoy discussions that involve real-world situations, authentic resources, and practical experiences.

Use the following ideas to help you build meaningful, relevant discussions:

Activate. Motivate learners. Use discussion as a catalyst to generate interest in a new topic. Help students see the excitement and energy that can be found in a subject. For example, show the enthusiasm of mathematicians.

Communicate. Use connections to course content to share ideas, personal perspectives, or shared experiences.

Connect. Provide a context or establish a connection. Bring relevance to the discussion by using a "real world" situation or example.

Critique. Critically evaluate an idea or perspective by using examples to support a position. Many of these examples can be found in professional blogs.

Deepen. Add depth to a learning situation by providing a detailed explanation, thoughtful observation, or new resource that provides additional information or insights. For example, use a law blog to learn more about law and ethics or use an author blog to explore issues in creative writing.

Evidence. Provide resources that students might use as evidence in justifying a perspective, solving a problem, or making a decision.

Expand. Broaden thinking by providing an alternative perspective or different point of view. For example, use readings from different countries to examine cultural differences.

Fresh Look. Use discussion starters to provide current, immediately relevant examples. For example, get the latest science or fashion news.

Inform. Provide primary sources or data that help explain an idea already presented. For example, you can track earthquakes and volcanoes. Consider a statistic or graph that illustrates a point.

Inference. Involve students in resources that can be used to facilitate problem solving and inference.

Launch. Use focal points as a place for stimulating new, innovative ideas. Be the first to present a new idea rather than simply commenting on the work of others. Ask questions to keep the new idea going.

Organize. You may provide resources you wish student to organize. They may categorize, sequence, or create a hierarchy.

Storytell. Involve learners in telling or retelling a story. They may be providing narration, reviewing the steps in a process, or describing events.

Synthesize. Bring a number of ideas together. For example, consolidate these comments and draw a new conclusion.

Teaching. Involve learners in teaching others through demonstrations, mentoring, or sharing course content.

Course discussions are more meaningful when placed in a context. Identify focal points that can serve as a shared experience and provide a context for learning. The focal point may be content that you identify such as a required reading or a set of photographs to examine. It may also be something selected by a student such as an article they have identified or a poem they have written.

Seek out materials that will engage learners. Also look for materials that address different learning styles or intelligences.

Establish a Context for Discussion

Identify discussion focal points that can be used as the basis for questioning, problem-solving, and decision-making activities. This list can also serve as a place to look for examples or real-world applications of course content.

Artwork. Pieces of artwork can convey emotion, reflect a time period, or inspire creative writing.

Audio program or podcast. Although you or your students may choose an entire program for discussion, you may also select a quote from a speech or an excerpt from a podcast as a focal point.

Blog postings. Blogs generally focus on current events and often provide commentary or personal insights. Select or ask students to select a book review, political viewpoint, or piece of commentary as the focus of discussion.

Data Sources. Census data, drug use statistics, and sporting event numbers could all be used in social studies or science discussion, writing exercises, or mathematics problems.

Graphics. Seek out charts, diagrams, illustration, maps, organizers, photographs, cartoons, symbol. Use photographs found on the web or those taken by you and your students.

FlagsExamine the photograph on the right. Consider the following questions:

If you're interested, we took the photo above outside a pioneer cemetery in southern Utah.

Interactives. Although interactives can be used for practice, they can also serve as the focal point for discussion. For example, you might ask students to critique the accuracy of an interactive or suggest additional elements could added to an online game.

Interviews. Ask learners to read, watch, or listen to an interview or conduct their own interview.

Literature. A chapter from a novel, an excerpt from a short story, or a poem can all serve as effective focal points.

Periodical article. Print journals, online magazines, and newspaper articles can all serve as effective discussion starters. Seek out current events: Arts & Letters DailyScience DailySciTech Daily

Primary source materials. Historical documents, treaties, certificates, posters, and other original materials can bring people, places, and events to life. Use them to inspire creative writing, stimulate thinking, or pose math problems.


Examine the photograph above. Consider the following questions:

If you're interested, this is a photo of Annette Lamb's great grandmother Hazel Bolger taken in 1916.

Textbook or course reading. Course readings can be overwhelming causing key ideas to be lost in the ocean of information. Use course discussions as a way to focus on essential elements of the readings.

Video program. From the Library of Congress and PBS to SchoolTube and YouTube, a wealth of video is available online. It's not always necessary to view an entire program.

Wiki articles. Like all resources, it's important that learners carefully evaluate what they read. A wiki is an opportunity to read and critique the work of others. It's also possible modify, expand, and enhance the work of others. For instance, ask learners to read a particular article and expand the references or identify fact vs opinion. For ideas, explore Wikipedia.

Course Discussion: Prompts

Actively engage learners by reaching outside the required textbook readings and standard course content. Bring in multiple perspectives, authentic resources, and real-world problems. Also think about multiple channels of communication. Students may listen to a speech, analyze a political cartoon, or examine government data.

Example. Students are asked to watch a panel discussion titled "Academic Freedom in an Age of Industry Collaboration: A Panel Discussion" (length 1:35:23) at University of California Television (UCTV10). They will then continue the panel discussion online taking on the role of a fictional faculty member or industry representative discussing the key issues.

Students might be asked to

Create a clear, concise prompt that will initiate discussion. The following discussion starters are simple examples to help you generate ideas.

Start with a(n)...

Action. Use verbs to bring a posting alive. Start with an event, disaster, or other activity. Then ask a question.

Example. Compare the number of injuries and/or deaths to similar disasters. How are they alike and different? Speculate on why.

Announcement. Make an announcement or statement. Use this to grab interest.

Example. Deaths due to BLANK are on the rise. Why?

Challenge. Challenge participants with a bold statement that might cause controversy such as one side of an argument or an opinion. Look for the controversy.

Example. State your perspective and support it with evidence.

Choice. Present options or choices then ask a question such as Which do you like best? Why?

Current Event. Present a news item or important local or global event.

Example. Create a problem based on a current event or local news

Definition. Provide a word and/or definition. Or, just a word and ask for a definition, illustration or example. Be sure to cite the source. Ask a question that requires a definition.

Emotion or FeelingTalk about a feeling or emotion related to a particular situation.

Example. How do you react in stressful situations? Why? What can you do to handle stress?

ExperienceFocus on personal or professional experiences and examples. Connect it to the discussion or topic. If possible, incorporate visuals such as photographs.

Opinion. Start with an opinion and take a stand.

Quote. Start with a quote. The quote could be from a famous person, book, news article, or interview. Be sure to use quotation marks and credit the source. 

Question. Focus on questions about a topic (i.e., main idea, connection to other learning), book or movie (i.e., character, plot, setting), or problem.

Riddle or Puzzle. Pose a riddle or puzzle, then provide a reading to help solve the problem. Or, get students involved with writing their own riddles or creating puzzles.

Scenario. Ask readers to imagine a situation. Consider starting with dialog or conversation.

Statistic. How many or how much? Present a shocking statistic or one that people might question. Consider presenting this information in the form of a chart or graphic. Ask students to analyze this data.

Surprise. Begin with a shocking or amazing piece of information.

Course Discussion: Participation

I can't think of anything to say.

Some students find course discussions difficult. Discussions can serve many purposes. Unfortunately, they rarely reach their goal without clear guidelines for student participation. Participants need to be aware of the purpose of the discussion and their role in making the discussion a success.

While some students find online discussions easy, others are easily frustrated. Provide students with suggestions that will help them become successful participants.

Below are helpful hints for students:

Some students need starters for their comments. Here are some ideas:

Encourage Probing Questions

Students may need help generating quality questions for their peers. Teach students to ask probing questions.

The following list can help you and your students extend the conversation through questioning:

Course Discussion: Facilitation

When there's a lull in the discussion, it's tempting for instructors to interject their ideas and opinions into student forums. However, teachers should use caution when posting messages. Some students may rely on the teacher's comments or wait for the teacher to lead rather than jump into the discussion. When possible, let the participants lead and only join the discussion when necessary.

There are situations where the instructor may wish to enter a student discussion. He or she may jump into a heated conversation to cool things off, provide a perspective that seems to be missing, play the devil's advocate, or correct misleading information. However, take care not to anger or embarrass students. It may be possible to defuse a situation through a personal email rather than a public posting.

Many instructors find it valuable to setup and debrief discussions. The setup might include the discussion prompt, assessment information, and suggestions for approaching the topic. At the end of discussion, the instructor may provide an overview of the discussion along with a closing statement. This is also a role that can be rotated among students.

When facilitating discussions…

Facilitating Online Discussions

At first, some students may need guidance and practice in holding an online discussion. If your discussions get off-track or lack depth, you may wish to play the role of coach by:

Regardless of whether you choose to actively participate in student discussions, consider the following guidelines for class discussions.

Creating a Series of Discussions

Rather than cramming the entire class into the same discussion, provide choices. In most cases, you need at least three or four people to really get a discussion rolling, however too many students will make a forum overwhelming. Groups of four to fourteen students work best. You may allow students to self-select categories (i.e., topics, professional interests, grade level interests, problem, team) or assign groups.

If you allow self-selection, keep track of the choices made by students and adjust the assignments each semester in an attempt to even out the groups.

Examine different aspects of your learning outcome and select two or three elements discussion. You may ask students to post in one discussion and reply in another forum.

try itTry It: Infographic Discussions
Use an infographic as the basis of discussion.
Explore some information examples.
Periodic Table of the Internet - Could you make a Periodical Table of research?
Science Fiction and Fantasy Books - Can you create your own chart showing your favorite books?
TurnItIn: The Plagiarism Spectrum - Do you think plagiarism is a problem? Are you surprised by the statistics in the infographic?
Wikipedia: Redefining Research - Select and verify one of the statistics.

Explore some health examples.
Human Subway - Is this graphic correct? Trace each system. Is anything missing?  What other analogies could you use to visualize the human body systems? 
Male Death - Categorize the data. Which are you most likely to encounter as an EMT?
Our Favorite Drugs - What drugs are you likely to encounter as an EMT? 
PTSD - What are implications for EMTs?
Emergency Communication - Are you prepared for a disaster? What other communication systems should be considered as part of this infographic?
In the Event of Zombie Attack - Could you create an infographic focusing on a real-attack? How would it be like and unlike this infographic?

try itTry It: Discussions

Explore the ideas related to discussions.
Select one idea and design a class discussion.



gamesGames are an effective way to review course content and apply skills to new situations.

Games involve overcoming obstacles to solve a problem, accomplish a goal or complete a task.

Read Marino, Megan (2013). Revitalizing traditional information literacy instruction: exploring games in academic libraries. Public Services Quarterly, 9, 333-341.
Think about how games might apply in your area of interest.

When designing a game, you simply need four elements:

try itTry It!
Go to BiblioBouts and try the demo game.
Does this experience have the elements of a game?
Read Students' Behaviour Playing an Online Information Literacy Game by Karen Markey and Chris Leeder.
Learn about the design and use of educational games for teaching information skills.

Categories of Games

Game Shows


Card Games

Question cards. Pick a card and match to the case, person, problem.

Patient cards. Pick a patient (i.e., headshot with description) and make a decision.

Example. Read the card: Your patient converses with you and answers most questions appropriately but is unsure of where she is or who you are. Her mental status is best described as… Place the card in the correct category: Unresponsive, Responsive to painful stimuli,Responsive to verbal stimuli, Alert

Review cards. One table creates questions for another table. The instructor should review cards before trading with another table.

Example. Make words by matching common prefixes or suffixes with the rest of the word. This is a great game to play before class. Place words on tables before class.

Dice Games

People like to roll dice. Roll the dice to

Example. If you roll a BLANK, then you must BLANK

Board Games

Trivia Pursuit

Matrix Games

Hands-on Games

Other Games


Scavenger Hunt

try itTry It: Firehouse Football
Mission. Answer questions correctly to score points.
Step 1:      Layout the football field and place the ball on the 50-yard line.
Step 2:      Divide the group into 2 teams and name a referee (one the ref can be on a team). The oldest player goes first.
Step 3:      The first team picks a card and the referee reads the question and marks the yardage based on the difficulty of the question. Use a post-it to mark first downs.
Easy Question: 5 yards if correct, miss it and no gain
Medium Question: 10 yards if correct, miss it and no gain
Difficult Question: 25 yards (but if you miss it, there's an interception)
Step 4:      You get four downs to make 10 yards. If you don’t make it, the other team takes over. If you make it, you keep going until you score or lose the ball.
Step 5:      After a touchdown, the other team takes possession on the 50-yard line.
Step 6:      In a regular classroom, play 4-twelve minute quarters.
Step 7:      Brainstorm modifications to the rules.
Step 8:      Discuss whether this is an effective review tool or if the game distracts from learning. Talk about ways the game could be changed to increase learning. 
Print out firehouse football cards and answer sheet.

Adapt this game for an information literacy topic. Or, create one based on another sport.

Courtesy of Wikimedia of Wikimedia Commons

Timers and Grouping Tools

Online tools like timers, coin flippers, spinners, and other tools are useful in planning classroom games.

Looking for more? Explore the Games & Simulations for Healthcare database.


try itTry It!

Brainstorm game formats that could be adapted for use in your classroom.

try itTry It!
Go to Web-based Games.
Explore the characteristics of an effective online game.


Interactives and Learning Objects

Interactives are software tools that facilitate computer to human interaction. In other words, communications are sent between the human and the computer forming a relationship. When people design learning spaces for this type of computer-based interaction, they're sometimes called interactives.

Increasingly, courses are using online games, tutorials and simulations.

Example. The Cyberbee Copyright interactive presents questions and answers.

Example. Try the Keyword Challenge. This activity helps participants practice keywords.


Tutorials are interactive that are self-contained modules of instruction focused on specific learning objectives. Tasks are generally broken down in to 5 minute to 60 minute segments. Individuals generally work through tutorials at their own pace.

Tutorials generally provide an introduction, new information, examples, practice with feedback, and a self-assessment. Although they may be text-based, tutorials are increasingly incorporating audio, video, animation, graphics, and interactive elements.

Tutorials present step-by-step instruction teaching new concepts. They are designed to provide new information along with examples and nonexamples of concepts. In addition, practice and feedback is often incorporated into the program. Tutorials work well when

Some tutorials are often linear. In other words, they provide the same information and examples to all learners in a predetermined order. Sometimes called "electronic pageturners" they may not address the needs of individual students. As such, when designing tutorials consider incorporating optional examples, different channels of communication such as audio, video, graphics, and different ways of viewing the content.

Branching tutorials provide alternative paths through learning. Each student receives that instruction he or she needs based on responses to specific questions or problems.

The strength of tutorials lies in their consistency and accuracy. They allow students to work at their own pace and provide individualized practice and feedback which is difficult to do in the traditional classroom environment.

When selecting tutorials consider the instructional strategies incorporated into the program. Ask yourself:

It can be confusing for a student to learn one approach in the tutorial and be expected to demonstrate a different technique in an exam.

Web-based tutorials have become a popular approach to information instruction.

try itTry It!
Go to Web-based Tutorials.
Explore the characteristics of an effective online tutorial.

In Pegagogical considerations in developing an online tutorial in information literacy, Skagen and others (2009), stress the creation of learning objects that guide students through the research process. Go to Search and Write to explore their tutorial.

Weiner, Pelaez, Chang, and Weiner (2012) studied an online information literacy tutorial designed for first-year biology and nursing students. Students indicated that they liked learning online, but they thought the modules could be shorter. They also requested video and audio content in addition to text. They concluded that

"Online learning can be effective if the learner perceives it as useful. Non-linear learning that occurs through tutorial modules is a desired approach that provides access to the content of interest at an optimal time through self-directed learning. This concept enhances interest and learning capability." (Weiner, et al, 2012, 196)

In Share and share alike: barriers and solutions to tutorial creation and management, Deitering and Rempel (2012) found that time and technological expertise were the most common barriers to tutorial creation for instruction librarians. They recommend using content management systems, web-page tools, and subject guides like LibGuides to assist in project development.

Go to Tutorials and Library Instruction from the University of Missouri St. Louis University Libraries. Try one of their interactive tutorials. Notice how they provide interactive aspects and questioning.

try itTry It: Interactives

Evaluate three of the interactives above and share your findings.

Final Assessment. Think about ways to assess “participation.”

Interactive Tools and Simulations

Increasingly, online courses are using online games and simulations. Many of these interactives use Adobe Flash technology. Explore lots of examples by subject area at Flash Exploration.

Explore examples of tools:

Explore examples of tutorials and simulations:

Explore examples of off-line games that could be turned into online games:

Read Good For What? Considering Context in Building Learning Objects by Meredith Farkas (2013).

Practical Projects

Involve students in activities that result in the authentic, meaningful products.

Carol Kuhlthau (1994) identified three elements as necessary in a research assignment.

As students work on projects, teachers sometimes provide one-shot or just-in-time lessons. One shot lessons provide instruction on a particular topic prior to students beginning an assignment, while just-in-time instruction assists students at the specific time and place when they need help.

Van Epps and Sapp (2013) found that the just-in-time approach was more effective.

Product Expectations

Tired, traditional assignments bore both students and faculty. Spice up your classes with alternative products that engage learners in authentic learning experiences.

Products and Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a common problem in both traditional and online courses. Assigning projects that require real-world data and personal connections, eliminates the possibility of simply copying and pasting from papers found online. Also design unique assignments that require students to compare and contrast, critique and create, or design and demonstrate.

Ideas to reduce plagiarism:.

try itTry It!
Explore alternatives to traditional papers and products. Think about how these types of products support multiple intelligence and encourage original thinking.

Products with Pizzazz

As students work with course content, how will they share their understandings? Explore some of the following products:

Audio Product. Audio clips, podcasts, and MP3 files could all be submitted as student products. They might include public service announcements, commercials, interviews, narrations, directions, instructions and other audio-rich content.

Explore an audio project:

Blogs. Use the blog environment as a tool for questioning, exploration, and investigation. Individually or in groups, students chronicle the inquiry process and share their experiences, reflections, and challenges. Classmates interact and share ideas, provide feedback, and critique ideas. Any type of written work can be the focal point for a blog such as poetry, short stories, or television scripts. However, blogs can also be used to share other creative works such as artwork, musical scores, and video productions.


Pride of BagdadGraphic. A picture is worth 1000 words. Think about products that would ask students to create a visual as a final product such as a concept map, map, photograph, drawing, diagram, logo or other visual.

For instance, high school students read the award winning graphic novel titled The Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan. Student write their own graphic novel set in Baghdad using Comic Life software.

Explore the use of Comic Life for producing a biography.

Explore examples of visual products:

Prototypes. Ask students to create an object.

Explore examples of student projects:

Timeline. Create a timeline. Use Timeline at Wikipedia for ideas.

Video Product. Students can submit video projects such as demonstrations, re-enactments, and public service announcements.

Explore examples of video projects:

Wiki. Involve students in constructing a wiki. Learn more about wikis in learning at Wiki World.

Writing Projects

Sormunen and Lehtio (2011) note that many information literacy assignments ask students to write based on sources they have located themselves. This type of writing is known as a "source-based writing task". Students are asked to

"search and study multiple texts and compile another text. The aim is that students read sources with thought, construct knowledge on the given topic, and based on that knowledge and available sources compile a new text indicating what they have constructed and learned. "

Writing Wikipedia articles has became a common information literacy activity. Authors of Wikipedia articles are expected to follow three principles. Content should be verifiable, no original research is to be included, and a neutral point of view should be maintained (Sormunen & Lehtio, 2011; Huvila, 2010).

According to Jennings (2008), the guidelines for writing Wikipedia articles and the information literacy standards from ACRL overlap. He suggests involving students in writing Wikipedia articles as an authentic writing experience and opportunity for students to apply 21st century skills.

Forte and Bruckman (2010) found that students enjoy having a real-world audience for their writing. Creating an article on a public wiki requires students to learn subject-specific content, evaluate sources, cite sources, and write quality content.

In their article Authoring Wikipedia Articles as an Information Literacy Assignment: Copy-pasting or expressing new understanding in one's own words?, Sormunen and Lehtio (2011) reported on a pilot study involving secondary students writing Wikipedia articles as part of geography, biology, and information literacy coursework. They found that students used mostly paraphrased and summarized content from web-based sources and only cited about 30% of their sources. Sormunen and Lehtio suggest that their approach for analyzing student writing would be useful in other information situations.

In Keys to Designing Effective Writing and Research Assignments, the authors present ideas for designing quality, engaging college-level activities that promote learning. Faculty are encouraged to find "ways to add relevance to writing assignments by aligning them with the type of writing required in a specific profession as an alternative to the traditional, semester-long research paper."

Thinking Expectations

Design projects that require deep thinking. Examine your course goals and learning outcomes. Identify the specific critical and creative thinking you expect.

What knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions do you wish your learners to exhibit? Use verbs to describe these actions.

As you brainstorm activities, use the following list to stimulate your thinking.

Analyze. Analyze a book, article, or other posting.

Brainstorm. Pose problems and create a collection of ideas.

Collaborate. Work collaboratively with peers or another group.

Communicate. Interact with an expert or conduct an interview.

Compare. Make a comparison.

Critique. Write reviews for websites, books, movies, games, local sights, or other topics.

Discuss. Examine a problem, question, drawing, photograph, or diagram. Then, write captions, analyze elements, speculate, or create.

Experiment. Share the process and product of an investigation.

Explain. Demonstrate understandings through creating a communication for a particular audience.

Imagine. Imagine a situation or scenario and share understandings and perspectives.

Observe and Log. Observe human interactions, scientific experiments, or other activities and post a record (i.e., kindness journal, plant growth, survey results).

Persuade. Make a persuasive argument.

Predict. Read or watch then predict what will happen next.

Problem Solve. Pose a problem and discuss solutions.

Question. Get students involved with asking questions.

React, Think, Act. Connect in-class learning to blog entries. Transfer learning to new situations.

Read and Jigsaw. Read or use online resources and discuss (i.e., quote, website, poem, historical document, problem, literature circles). Then, analyze, evaluate, and create. Add a comment.

Remember and Reflect. Think about an activity and reflect on it.

Share Teacher and Student Work. Share materials in a digital format including documents, PDF files, photographs, charts, graphics, written work, audio, video, and presentations.

Trace or Track. Track progress or trace a sequence on a timeline; create a parallel timeline. Trace small businesses and economics in New York.

try itTry It!
Consider an online program related to small business start-up. Think about the different types of activities that would involve learners in deep thinking about entrepreneurship. For ideas, read the article: Clark, Lara and Katzman, Eric (May 2006). Small Business Start-ups @ Your LibraryAmerican Library Association.

Field Studies and Experiences

A field experience asks students to make observations in a setting that reflects course content. For instance students might visit a museum and review works of art. Or, observe the social interactions at a local mall.

Students might shadow a professional for a day. The key is connecting course content with activities that will bring content alive.

Some projects focus on a particular shared experience such as an annual event, field trip, or school-wide activity. It might also involve connecting with students in other locations for a virtual experience.

Tools for Field Study. Consider using the following tools to record experiences and observations:

Capstone and Senior Projects

High schools are increasingly requiring students to complete capstone or "senior" projects.

Read AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force Report (May 2014).


Bolton, Tamsin, Pugliese, Tina, & Singleton-Jackson, Jill (2009). Advancing the promotion of information literacy through peer-led learning. Communications in Information Literacy, 3(1), 20-30.

Bowler, Leanne (December 2010). Talk as a metacognitive strategy during the information search process of adolescents. Information Research, 15(4). Available:

Deitering, Anne-Marie, Rampel, Hannah Gascho (2012). Share and share alike: barriers and solutions to tutorial creation and management. Communication in Information Literacy, 5(2).

Jacobson, Trudi W. (2011). Team-based learning in an information literacy course. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2).

Marino, Megan (2013). Revitalizing traditional information literacy instruction: exploring games in academic libraries. Public Services Quarterly, 9, 333-341.

Markey, K., Leeder, C. and St. Jean, B. (2011). Students' Behaviour Playing an Online Information Literacy Game. Journal of Information Literacy, 5(2), pp 46-65. Available:

Ostenson, Jonathan (January 2014). Reconsidering the checklist in teaching Internet source evaluation. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 14(1), 33-50.

Skagen, Therese, Torras, Maria Carme, Kavli, Solveig M.L., Mikki, Susanne, Hafstad, Sissel, and Hunskar, Irene (Fall 2008). Pegagogical considerations in developing an online tutorial in information literacy. Communications in information Literacy, 2(2), 84-98.

Weiner, Sharon A., Pelaez, Nancy, Chang, Karen, & Weiner, John (2012). Biology and nursing students' perceptions of a web-based information literacy tutorial. Communications in Information Literacy, 5(2).


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