Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Joy of Collaboration, Teaching, and Learning

As a health sciences librarian, I consider myself pretty lucky to be given the chance to co-teach with Dr. Cynthia Russell in a 2 credit course: NSG505 Informatics for Healthcare since 2006. In the previous two years, part of the class that I was involved in was assisting students researching and searching for information on WebQuest clinical topics. As for 2008 class, we challenged the students to research on the current hot topics in healthcare: never events. The assignment was the development of a comprehensive wiki page focused on a specific never event or never events in general (25% of course grade) of their choice. More than 70 students signed up for 28 never event topics with three in a group each researching on background information about a never event, the effects of a never event from different perspectives (e.g., family, healthcare professionals, healthcare facilities, and insurers), and other arguments or supportive strategies a never event should or should not be on the list. The challenge for students came from two aspects: searching for relevant and quality information to answer questions, and synthesizing and conveying the information onto a wiki page. This offers a great opportunity for students to demonstrate how well their information technology (IT) competencies and information literacy (IL) competencies were as most of them belong to Generation Y. As they think they are computer savvy, when it comes to research and professional activities, are they as good as they claim to be?

During the course students looked for information and worked on their wiki pages, I was swamped, crazy, but happy to help them. Especially the few days before the due date, I received more than 90 email requests, provided more than 20 one-on-one consultations, and got more than 20 SMS messages. In addition, I delivered mini-talks before each face-to-face class on library skills and tips on searching for information using library resources and online resources. The assignment itself was also a challenge to the instructors. We designed just-in-time guides, tutorials, and handouts put on the course wiki page and Blackboard to help students with searching and finding related information. We also brought in a nursing PhD student to assist students in locating information for their assignments. The nursing faculty, the health sciences librarian, and the nursing PhD student have only one goal in mind: help students to achieve success.

I was inspired and impressed as the course moved forward, especially the two learning just-in- time modules developed by Dr. Russell: Searching for Web Resources and Distinguishing Types of Literature. When librarians develop online tutorials or subject guides, they always ask themselves what their patrons need. Few has the answer and just do it out of their own creativity and assumptions. I think these two narrated slide presentations give librarians some ideas on what the students need and what the teaching faculty expect of librarians.

What I have learned from the teaching faculty included innovative ways in using technology to deliver teaching content; creative teaching methods to engage students in learning and critical thinking; and enthusiasm in guiding and helping students. Seeing students grow I feel myself grow, too.

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