Improving Online Library Experiences: A Demo of the New University of Phoenix Library and Discussion of Best Practices

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The University of Phoenix Library will demonstrate their newly redesigned website created using LibGuides CMS.  We will discuss how the Library website supports online learning with a focus on a group of “How do I…?” guides designed to assist with particular library related tasks such as developing a search strategy.


Laura Brewer joined the University of Phoenix in 2013 as a Full-time Doctoral Research Faculty for the School of Advanced Studies (SAS) and now works as the Assistant Dean, Research Protection. Dr. Brewer is a sociologist with more than 15 years of experience in applied research, evaluation and teaching. Prior to coming to the University of Phoenix, Dr. Brewer worked at Arizona State University as the Manager of Research and Evaluation for ASU Online where she designed projects to examine the impact of online learning on student outcomes, persistence and retention. Dr. Brewer also led the research and evaluation efforts at the Applied Learning Technology Institute (alt^I) at Arizona State University where she developed and conducted studies to examine the effectiveness of technology-delivered educational programs. Prior to returning to Arizona State University in 2007, she worked as a Strategic Consultant for Sungard Higher Education and conducted research, evaluation and assessment projects at more than 20 colleges and universities across the nation. Throughout her applied research career, Dr. Brewer continued to teach college and university courses online and she currently teaches a number of research methods online to doctoral students. Dr. Brewer earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Arizona State University and completed her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Dr. Holly Rick is currently Core Faculty in the PhD Management program at Walden University. In her role she focuses on teaching, program development, and research. Her research focus has been on career studies, information literacy and assessment. Her doctorate is in Organization and Management minoring in Leadership studies from Capella University. Holly Rick was the Research and Assessment librarian for the University of Phoenix. She managed the document delivery service and interlibrary loan process, manages the process for electronic reading reserves, and supports the faculty research for the School of Advanced Studies. Prior to this role, she was the Campus College Chair for the School of Advanced Studies in Business. She has taught in higher education for the past 10 years, has mentored students through their graduate and doctoral research, and is the owner of an Arizona based company. She sits on the professional development committee for the Mountain Plains Library Association and publishes within library and business conferences around how libraries can partner with others to promote professional development, building portfolios around professional development, and around the use of anxiety for persistence for online education.

Additional Authors

Karen Grondin's love for library work began when she was an undergraduate art student at Kent State University and accepted a work study job at the library. After leaving KSU, she found that her only marketable job skills were those she'd learned working in the library. She made that her career. She has over 20 years’ experience working in academic libraries including both support staff and librarian positions. In 2007, she earned her Master of Arts in Information Resources and Library Science from the University of Arizona as an online student. Since then, she has been an Instruction & Research Librarian, a Liaison Librarian, the Librarian for a small career college, an Electronic Resources Librarian, and is currently the User Experience Librarian at the University of Phoenix where her focus is on web accessibility. Her interests are wide-ranging and include web site design and accessibility and information literacy instruction. In her free time, Karen enjoys spending time with her husband and their grown-up son, attempting to garden in the Arizona desert climate, and studying and teaching Gong Style Qigong.

Extended Abstract

The University of Phoenix (UOPX) is undergoing a transition that utilizes a third party, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products to replace existing, in-house developed systems.  After examining the process of updating the current library system and evaluating the possibility of other off the shelf products, LibGuides CMS was selected to replace the existing in-house built library website.  LibGuides CMS has many features that had the potential to update the library site.  The LibGuides CMS was originally designed for librarians to use to create online research guides to replace paper “pathfinders” without the need to write HTML.  A traditional pathfinder is a bibliography designed to assist the user with basic research on a particular topic. With LibGuides, the library can move beyond the traditional pathfinder by embedding search widgets, video tutorials, and other technology content not possible with a paper handout.  The innovative features of the LibGuides CMS enable the University Library team to better support online learners than they had been able to do with the earlier system.

LibGuides CMS (Content Management System) is an expansion of the original LibGuides product. It has added functionality that makes it easier for libraries to use the product to run an entire library website in addition to creating research guides.  The updates to the guides include the ability to provide real-time updates and a “one location” update to change multiple content area guides. It also includes the capacity to password protect individual guides and to place individual guides or groups of guides behind the university firewall or proxy server.  The product enables libraries to use LibGuides to create internal process documents and to create assignment specific guides that are only accessible to current students.  Content can be placed at the point of need supporting online students who may be trying to find assistance with research. 

This presentation will demonstrate the new University Library website created using LibGuides CMS and discuss how this site can support online learners.  We will explain the development process the library went through in creating the site, including customizations made following usability tests and additional changes made to meet accessibility standards. We will discuss the learning theories that were used in the creation of assets that are housed on the LibGuides pages.  Special focus will be paid to the “Research Guides” portion of the site which includes guides focused on research for specific topics and a group of “How do I…?” guides that provide strategies and/or step-by-step instructions for activities that students frequently struggle with such as how to find specific publications and strategies for how to develop a search strategy. 

Throughout the demonstration, best practices for online learning and student engagement with the online guides will be discussed.  We will also explore how LibGuides resources can be used for instruction beyond information literacy education.  We will encourage session audience members to ask questions and to contribute to the discussion around the innovative strategies implemented by university libraries to support online student learning.