RIOT Recap – Creating Effective Guides

Cindy led her final RIOT yesterday (bon voyage, Cindy!) on the topic of creating effective guides.  Here’s her initial blog post.  In light of our upcoming transition to LibGuides, this was a timely and necessary conversation for librarians at UTL.

Cindy started off the conversation by sharing some best practices of web design, many stemming from Using Guides to Enhance Library Services.  Cindy found chapter 6, about integrating teaching and learning into guides, especially helpful.  Using this chapter as a jumping-off point, Cindy began a conversation about the relationship between a design and learning.  Paying attention to things like the visual hierarchy of the guide, for example, can help the reader find what he or she is looking for.  Thinking about rest and focal areas, and using the hot spots (in an “F” pattern on the page) to emphasize important content can also be very effective.  Text is also an important consideration.  Using LibGuides advocates for cutting the amount of text you want to use on a guide in half, twice.  Cindy concurs.  Instead of text-heavy sections, use bullets, integrate bold and italic text, and add images to illustrate steps.  Also think about the appropriate tool for the task you’d like a guide to teach.  Guide on the side is really good for step-by-step or “clicky” tasks, while a video might be better for something conceptual.  At this point in the conversation, accessibility came up as another consideration, particularly when using color or media.  In short, this book (and Cindy), advocates for writing on the web that is concise, objective, and scannable, and to think about these as an instructional tool that requires not only good web design, but good instructional design too.  This is something to keep in mind as we transition to LibGuides.

When LibGuides came up, Cindy suggested that we work from a template (which we will) and that we think of guides as an extension of the library spaces.  We strive to provide consistent excellent service across library branches, and our guides should be no different.  They should provide consistently excellent and usable paths to our resources.  Since there will be no gatekeeper to posting guides, it is up to the guide creators to employ best practices and to seek out assistance if they need it.

As we talked a bit more about libguides, we came up with a few ways to make them into effective instructional objects.  Approaches included:

  1. embedding other kinds of tutorials, depending on learning outcomes, as mentioned above (Guide on the Side, Videos, etc).,
  2. using the tabs to help student progress through the steps of the assignment, with acknowledgement that they may have to repeat steps in iterative processes like topic selection, and
  3. using guides to funnel students to consultations and emails.

More training and information about the implementation of LibGuides will be forthcoming, but this was a great beginning to the conversation about making these guides as effective as possible.  In the meantime, please visit the Learning Technologies SharePoint site to see what other options you have for supporting teaching online.  

Thanks for such a great RIOT, Cindy!   

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