Building Connections Virtually: Engaging Students with the Library

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session Blended Research

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

In this session, participants will learn how a librarian transitioned their in-person library instruction - online, in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, during the fall 2020 semester. Utilizing the campus learning management system Canvas and developing active learning workshops via Zoom, we will examine how instruction was moved virtually.  


Jamie Johnson is the library coordinator for the freshman seminar course University 100 at California State University Northridge. She values a strong partnership with faculty to create an engaging, welcoming, and inclusive environment for students to learn information literacy skills and library resources/services.

Extended Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected how library instruction, typically one-shot sessions, was and will continue to be provided to students. It created a situation where librarians had to be thoughtful and take into consideration how exactly to shift library instruction to a socially distant virtual environment. Distance education comes with its own set of challenges, for example, are you teaching in a synchronous or asynchronous environment? And how will students engage with the content? Over the summer of 2020 instructional design needed to be updated to fit the virtual reality of our campus that moved fully remotely for the fall 2020 semester.

California State University Northridge is one of the twenty-three California State Universities, located in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. One example of a course that transitioned to virtual library instruction was University 100 (U100), a freshman seminar course that introduces first-time freshmen to the University. The library is one of the campus partners associated with the course. Typically, each U100 section sees a librarian twice in one semester. In the first library session students learn about library services and resources, while the second library visit is dedicated to their research assignment, an annotated bibliography and group presentation on various topics, often using themes from the Freshman Common Read.

After careful consideration and collaboration with the teaching faculty, it was clear they wanted both asynchronous and synchronous library content. The best place to make this available was in Canvas, the campus Learning Management System and synchronous instruction via Zoom.

Here is the lesson plan that will be reviewed during the presentation:

Description & format of session(s):

Asynchronous Canvas Library Modules

Students must self-enroll into the Library’s Canvas Course Site and complete the Library Orientation and the U100 Student Library Module. A U100 Library Faculty module is available in Canvas Commons with all of the directions for students. At the end of the Library Orientation and U100 Student Library Module, students will earn a badge and are told to screen shot or take a photo of the badge as proof of completion. Assignment is automatically worth 10 points and has a due date of September 13th. Feel free to adjust either the due date or point value to fit your course needs. Students must complete the modules prior to the library Zoom session. Please embed the librarian teaching your course into your Canvas course page so they can help trouble shoot or answer any questions from students. It should take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours for students to complete all this content. Instructions on how to embed the Library Module are in the tab to the left labeled Canvas Modules.

Synchronous Zoom Session

Schedule a 45- or 75-minute library Zoom session to take place while students are working on their Information Competence assignment. Students (and your librarian) will need to have their specific U100 information competence/ research assignment on hand. Students should know their group members (if you are proceeding with groups) and their general topic. Schedule the due date for the Annotated Bibliography a week or two after the zoom session.

  • 45 minute session Annotated Bibliography Activity - With short introduction and Q & A.
  • 75 minute session Annotated Bibliography Activity -  With extra time to review their assignment, answer research questions, review updates on library reopening and/or changes.

The presentation will also include student feedback, active learning annotated bibliography exercise, and best practices working with guest speakers.