Private Screenings:

Using Short Individualized Screencasts as a Library Instruction Modality for Off-Campus Students

by Suzanne Corriell

Can you use the power of pictures in your job as a reference librarian? Yes, you can – easily, effectively, and economically, according to Brad MacDonald, Distance Learning Librarian for Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Lynchburg.

MacDonald’s program focused on the process for creating short, customized tutorials specifically tailored to student research requests. This program looks at “screencasting” in a different light from many other library conference programs: MacDonald is not a perfectionist. He advocates for loosely scripted screencasts, done on the fly, in response to a single student query.

MacDonald recognized the power of pictures in education when in the Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea. While there, he worked with over 11,000 graphical technology documents on microfiche. At 9000 feet elevation (and in a time of no internet), these documents’ graphics were used to teach about agriculture and water use. Once he began working as a distance reference librarian, he realized that he could use the same techniques for teaching through pictures using screencasts.

Distance learning students submit requests to MacDonald using a form created on EmailMeForm; information to be provided on the form includes professor, due date, and databases and keywords already searched. MacDonald then uses Jing to create a short, customized screencast to send to the student showing all of the steps to complete the request.

When responding to the student, he sends an email with a brief explanation (including length) of the video, a reminder to turn on the speakers, a suggestion to view the video once before re-watching it to take notes, and an offer to follow up if the video’s steps are unclear or the student needs further guidance. MacDonald later sends a user satisfaction feedback survey (using a Google Docs survey) to find out if the process worked for the student and if the student would use it again.

The program showed that screencasting can be done inexpensively, without a significant time or monetary investment. Jing videos are limited to five minutes, requires no download on the recipient’s side, and are stored remotely. It seems like an ideal method to demonstrate to a student how to conduct a search in an appropriate database or highlight new features in a database for faculty members. Just don’t forget to turn on the speakers!

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