sCIL Open House 2002: "Dealing with Larger Classes"

Angelynn King

Presenters: Angelynn King (University of Redlands), Julie Mason (University of California, Riverside), Kimberly Franklin (Claremont Colleges)

Three Southern California instruction librarians presented some of their solutions to a problem that most of us are currently facing: rising student populations and increased demand for instruction while library resources—human and physical—remain static.

At the University of Redlands Angelynn King described a campus where the student body has grown by a third in five years. Her instruction program’s response has been to make adjustments to instruction for lower-level courses. They have created canned demonstrations (one each for the Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities) that can be presented in classrooms instead of computer labs. They have spread out scheduling to accommodate the increased numbers, and have created paired and group projects in the computer labs.

Angelynn briefly described the sometimes unexpected advantages as well as the disadvantages to these necessary changes. The canned demos are more portable and not Internet-connection-dependent. They also save librarian preparation time. Scheduling sessions has become easier and more flexible. Students are no longer distracted by the presence of the Internet during instruction sessions. Pairing and group work provide hands-on experience for everyone, and students learn from each other. On the down side, canned presentations are of course less customized and cannot always address precise and immediate needs. The boredom factor has increased for the presenter librarians, and the spread out scheduling means that training cannot always be keyed to course schedules. Finally, Angelynn described her efforts to cope with the instruction workload by quoting Joseph Campbell: "When you are falling, dive."

At UC-Riverside BIO-5A is the traditional vehicle for information literacy instruction in the sciences. The class enrolled 150 students per quarter in 1992; today it enrolls 573. Julie Mason described changes in the library’s instruction program responding not only to increased numbers, but also to changes in library facilities and resources. One innovation is the computer-assisted tutorial that is part of the library component of BIO-5A. It’s easy to see how this enables the library to provide instruction to more students. Yet, the online tutorial did not take the place of an in-library session, and it is interesting to note that other changes address issues of integrating instruction into course work, and assessment, i.e. making the instruction more effective. They include required participation, a brief entrance quiz (pre-test), practice exercises, course credit for library instruction, and library resource pages in the course lab manual. Julie demonstrated that "beating the numbers game" isn’t always just about the numbers, it can also be about making our programs more dynamic.

Kimberly Franklin of the Libraries of the Claremont Colleges had a different arithmetic problem. She was asked to devise a way to deliver instruction to all incoming students during orientation week. This meant scheduling many simultaneous 75-minute sessions—and librarians to teach them, and classrooms to teach them in—over a two-day period. This demand on the libraries presented multiple challenges, not the least of which was going out to teach in new environments because there was not enough computer lab space within the libraries. It also meant that library instruction was delivered out of the context of actual course work so was not at the point of need. To this Kimberly responded with devised sample research topics to make the best out of a less-than-perfect situation. The other challenge was scheduling and student attendance and attention. Saturday sessions were not well attended, and student participation tended to flag when the session time was later in the day. Kimberly has been experimenting with ways of accommodating the students during orientation week for two years now and continues to work on improvements. Her advice to us all is to remain open to new ways of doing things.

All three presentations were succinct and left time for questions and animated discussion from a packed house.

Nancy Getty, UC Riverside,