I've watched many library tutorials over the past year and found them to be too stuffy. I wanted to try to create something a little more natural, something with personality. I didn't want to focus on “information literacy” concepts or the proper way to use library resources, but rather to provide a quick and dirty here's how you can get what you need video clips. Ultimately, I failed. They just didn't capture the vibe I wanted. I guess that's what happens when you don't have a script and basically just wing it. I'm planning to rerecord them over the break before Fall semester and add a few more topics. I'm also pulling together non-library clips that might be of interest, for example a MatLAB tutorial, product and design demonstrations, news clips on alternative fuel sources, and other subject appropriate material.
Here is my proof of concept:
Why use YouTube?
I wanted to experiment with creating a video community, rather than just a listing of tutorials on the library web site. From observation, students don't use or know how to navigate the library site, so why bury video clips on there?
YouTube is cool because it allows you to create a channel. This particular channel is intended for students at Georgia Tech who are studying Mechanical Engineering. It gives me a place to post and receive comments, as well as free hosting of an unlimited amount of videos. The only restriction is that each clip has to be less than 100 MB and under 10 minutes long.
While YouTube is very popular, I am not expecting students to think, hmmm, I need to find journals, maybe there is a video here to help me. Instead I am promoting the channel concept. Whenever I respond to student email, I include a suggestion that they check out the videos I created to help them do research. I've also had it added to the ME orientation materials (from the school, not the library.) And of course, I've promoted it to faculty. The initial reaction was favorable. The faculty like that it is tailored toward their discipline and I'm hoping they will suggestion future topics or searches. For example, if there is an assignment to write a paper on autonomous automobiles, I could provide a customized clip on that subject. One professor is adding the link to his syllabus along with my AIM. So I am cautiously optimistic for the Fall.
The great thing about the videos though is that YouTube is simply a distribution channel. I own the master copy, which can be converted into various formats and used in other environments. For example, videos could be emailed, loaded into WebCT / BlackBoard, added to the library or a professor's site, burned on to a CD or flash drive, etc. Once the product is created, you can reuse it in various ways. Plus they are quick to make. Each clip was conceived, recorded, edited and produced in about 45 minutes.
I previously wrote about some screen casting experiments . I used Camtasia, which is reasonably priced for academic institutions, and found it be very easy and straightforward. The quality of the clips on YouTube is weak, but that is not due to Camtasia. The videos (pre-upload) were QuickTime and roughly about 33MB for 5 minutes. The other formats (wmv, avi, flash) did not provide the same quality. The screens look fuzzy on YouTube; I had to rely on the Zoom feature to make these readable. I know a lot of folks (library people) might complain that the screens don't look perfect, but I'm ok with that. I'd rather sacrifice a little quality in order to build the concept. Plus it's free hosting!
These tutorials are not the be-all end-all on doing research. As I noted, they are a quick little overview, meant to supplement email, IM, and telephone conversations. It gives students a visual – ok, I go here and enter my terms and click on the sfx button to get the article, ah, ok . The technology is only going to improve. Eventually we will have crystal clear online videos, but don't wait until then. I know there is a lot of debate about the value/usage of library tutorials, that's why I say, take them outside of the library domain, and couple them with other interesting and cool videos and see what happens. I will often include a 1-2 minute video clip (which takes less than 10 minutes to make) with my answers to reference requests and the students are usually very appreciative. Now I am going to apply that on a larger level and see what happens. Next up, channels for Computer Science and Distance Learning.