Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Embedded Librarian: Working in the Course Management System

For the first time, I am working as an embedded librarian this semester. I met the class on the second day they met. I have given them instruction in the Library. Now I am offering assistance with research by monitoring a discussion forum with their course management system (CMS). (We use Moodle.) My first post alerted them to recent multimedia tutorials I had created, as well as some older ones. In checking the forum today, no student had asked me any questions about research or asked for help, so I decided to offer a quick search tip, which appears below; this post.

Students tend to wait until the last few days before an assignment is due, before they really begin their research and writing. When this happens they do not have time to ask for assistance, or they might be embarrassed. Sometimes librarians have gone home for the day or the reference desk has closed already by the time they think to ask for help. Perhaps some of these tutorials and tips can be useful for them, since they can be accessed at any time. As long as they think to look at some of these resources, it could be useful for them.

Like other CMS software programs, Moodle allows the instructor to send a mass email to everyone in the class. Perhaps I should take advantage of this function to alert students to the resources they have available to them. Who know? Maybe they will be appreciative of a reminder to conduct their research and actually get an earlier start on it.

Do you have time-tested techniques for reaching students at their point of need? What do you do?

Tip: Did you know you could expand your results with an asterisk or a question mark? This can be helpful if you need more results.

For example, if I were searching for information on prescription drug abuse, I could "truncate" each word to get more results. Ex: prescri* and drug* and abus*. This tells the database to search for variations of the different words: prescribing, prescribe(s), prescription, drug(s), druggie, abuse(s), abusing, abusive, etc. When your search returns many results, this strategy is not recommended, but when you are getting too few results, then it may be helpful.

Note: the asterisk (*) is the truncation code used in the majority of databases (Ebscohost, LexisNexis, ProQuest, etc.). The question mark (?) serves as the truncation code in the Library catalog. Therefore, pigment? would return records with the following words: pigment(s), pigmented, pigmentation, pigmenting, etc. Truncating back to "pig*" would not be so helpful, since it would return results about "pigs" the animal, about humans acting like pigs, about guinea pigs, about skin pigments, etc. in addition to painting with pigments, etc.

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