Information Literacy and Inverted Classrooms

I’m hearing more and more about inverted (or “flipped”) classrooms as an emerging teaching model in higher education. Today, this Ed Tech article, “Colleges Go Proactive with Flipped Classrooms” really got me thinking more about this technique, and how we might apply it to information literacy instruction. As the article explains:

In a flipped classroom, professors don’t lecture in class. Students watch recordings of lectures online as homework. They learn the material on their own time, freeing up class time for collaborative activities, such as group projects and classroom discussions.

It’s a continuation of more low-fi approaches of the past, where instructors assign readings or course work outside of class, and use those tools as a starting point for in-class discussion, active learning, and engagement, rather than focusing exclusively on lectures to cover the content.

However with the explosion in online learning, easy-to-use web-based teaching and assessment tools, and mobile technologies, the use of this model has started to go gangbusters, and via some really creative and engaging ways.

But can this model of teaching help academic librarians better deliver information literacy instruction? Methinks yes!

I’ve always struggled with the issue of balancing concepts of information literacy with the “crunchier” parts that pertain to demonstrating databases and specific database functionality. I’m of the opinion that demo-ing databases is just not all that helpful in a lecture hall – but it’s essential to students being able to do their research… so what’s a librarian to do?

I can see flipped classroom methods being a really effective solution to this. In particular, I can imagine a scenario where the librarian’s in-class presentation is included in the course outline. Along with that, explanation and links to a small cluster of videos created by the library that outline some of the key concepts and tools students need for their research. Embed assessment questions and hands-on components that require the student to do some work with the databases. Either design is so that they bring a deliverable to class, or require the delivery of that information via the assessment questions within the videos.

For example, imagine teaching the basics of search strategies using a subject-specific tool via an online video. Then use an assessment tool within the screencasting software, or within the the CMS to require students to answer questions about the database, or find examples of articles with specific characteristics, etc. My recent foray into MOOCs has completely redeemed my faith in the use of multiple choice questions and online lectures to deliver effective teaching, so I bet with some creative thought and some engaging liaison relationships, that model could work well. 

In fact, as I’m thinking about it… I remember that when I worked with Adobe Captivate, there were mechanisms to embed those sorts of questions, and I *believe* the data generated from the questions can be delivered to the instructor for review. There’s probably lots of fancy integration available between screencasting tools and learning/course management software that are worth investigating, in order to foster great accountability among students and better data-collecting for librarians. 

As the Ed Tech article points out, students will master database use at difference paces (one of the instructors talked about the difficulty of teaching statistics software in class, but I think the same challenges presents itself with articles databases or other library resources). Allowing students to do this on their own time creates space in class to discuss concepts around evaluating information sources and thinking critically about how information is produced. By reviewing the assessment data, you can do any necessary demos or clarification using the tools that, by this time, are not entirely foreign to students. That feels like a much more effective model for delivering the different types of teaching that are required for delivery of information literacy instruction.

It’s worth it for librarians to see their work beyond the one-time in-class session. We’re expected to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, so getting students to a basic level of proficiency ahead of our teaching session can be a key component in improving the teaching effectiveness and making the best use of precious class time!


2 responses to “Information Literacy and Inverted Classrooms

  1. Alicia Quennell

    OMG!!! Meghan – I just read your article in ola.access! I hope you remember me – we went to Carleton and played Water Polo together in 2001 – 2003. I am a Librarian now too, and have worked in the Peel District School Board since 2005! I would love to catch up some time, so feel free to drop me an e-mail @ (formall Alicia Farquhar – now married with two kids!) Hope to hear from you!