Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship

v.3 no.1-2 (Winter 2002)

Gnosis II: A Library Tutorial for Undergraduate Students

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Elvira Saurina Solanes and Alicia Gaete
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile


Library use instruction in the Library System of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile is an important issue that involves librarians, faculty and students. The Library System aims to have autonomous library users by teaching and engaging them in effectively using the resources offered by the library. Web tutorials offer a relaxing environment to students who can learn at their own pace and when they require it.

Gnosis II is a web-based tutorial, in Spanish, built by three librarians of the Library System, a faculty from the School of Nursing and staff from the Computer Department of the University. It allows undergraduate students to learn and develop library research skills mainly on the Nursing field. It includes the following modules: the library, bibliographic search, source citation, information search on Nursing, and FAQ’s. Using the library tutorial helps students to become "information literate". The article includes screens from different modules of Gnosis II and information on the objective of the product, its audience, methodology, structure and content development, uses and evaluation of the tutorial.

I. Library instruction at the Library System of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (SIBUC)

SIBUC attends the information needs of 19,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and 2,000 faculty through its ten libraries scattered along its four- campus located in Santiago, Chile. It aims at having autonomous users able to state their information needs when they require them, and use the library resources and services to perform effective and successful searches. To accomplish it, SIBUC´s librarians offer library instruction activities and products such as individual assistance, workshops, videos, web-based tutorials, and database use guides. During the academic year faculty request librarians to provide library instruction to students to support their information needs for assignments, background research, and thesis preparation, among others. As an example, in 2000, as much as 1139 students from the Schools and Faculties of Medicine, Nursing, Agronomy, Engineering, Education, and Political Science participated in 48 workshops. Most of them consisted in traditional in-class instruction.
Evaluations of the sessions showed the interest of the students in having a more interactive experience in class through hands-on activities.

II. Description of the Product, Objective and Audience

Gnosis II is a stand-alone tutorial, in Spanish, built by three librarians from the Library System, a faculty from the School of Nursing and staff from the Computer Department, with the financial support of the Fund for Teaching Development of the University. For many years the School of Nursing, through its faculty of Research Methodology courses, requested library instruction sessions for their students to support their research activities and to develop information skills to prepare their final paper. Furthermore, at that time, in 1998, the School was involved in a curricula change that included promoting independent and critical thinking learners. Therefore, it seemed the natural partner for our project.
The objective of the tutorial (see Fig. 1) is to contribute to the developing of information skills of undergraduate students to perform effective and independent searches.
Web-based tutorials offer an interactive and relaxing(1) environment to students with access to a computer, a web browser and a network connection to learn at their own pace any day, any time, when they require it. Students can access the tutorial at the library, computer laboratory, an office within the campus, and lately from outside the campus, using a login and a password.

Fig. 1 An example of the product’s home page

III. Methodology

For the purpose of building the tutorial the authors reviewed library literature on the topic and examined different web-based academic library tutorials from Europe and the US. Their content, general design, layout, navigational aids, and interactivity were carefully revised. In addition, 22 faculty were surveyed through personal interviews, and 29 students through questionnaires. Faculty were personally interviewed by librarians to identify their information seeking habits and to know the skills they considered the most relevant for their students to develop in order to build the theoretical background of their research project and to perform a successful bibliographic search.
Four categories of faculty were surveyed. Faculty teaching Research Methodology courses were selected because of their close relationship to the topic of the tutorial, "innovative" faculty because of their open attitude to new technologies in Education, thesis Advisers and Research Assistants because of their experience in the topic.
Findings of the faculty survey showed that Research Methodology professors considered the development of the software a value added tool to their classes due to it would contribute to develop the independent use of bibliographic resources by the students. Seeking information habits of faculty from different disciplines did not differ markedly among them. Most faculty considered that electronic sources of information, such as indexes and abstracts will continue to be used in the future. Therefore, the software should include instructions to use them effectively.
Students from different Schools of the University were invited to the library to answer a questionnaire about their knowledge of the resources and services of the library as well as to identify problems they encounter when using them. Findings of their responses showed that they considered important to have a software teaching the research seeking information steps, cite preparation, bibliographic search tools, knowledge of services and resources offered by the library and through the Internet, and instructions on how to use them.

IV. Structure and Content Development

The tutorial’s content is based mainly on the survey findings. All those aspects that were considered relevant, by the students and faculty, to perform an effective search of information were included. The language used was direct and precise, information provided was related to SIBUC’s services and products. Links to SIBUC’s web page were made when considered necessary, such as to provide information about the 10 libraries of the Library System or the list of electronic journals subscribed by it. The students defined the design and colors of the software. They chose intense and bright colors. The tutorial, includes five independent and permanent modules designed to teach specific library skills and concepts, and to provide information on the resources held by the Library System. They are presented as fixed options providing a continual overview of the content to the learner. Each one provides information broken-up into parts and subparts with summaries and links to related information.

The Library module (see Fig. 2) provides information on the Library System, its collection and services such as: Circulation, Reference, Reserves, Bibliographic Instruction, Document delivery, and Photocopying.

Fig.2 An example of a screen of the Library module with information about the collection

The Information Search (see Fig. 3) module teaches the learner the basic steps, with examples, to accomplish a successful search.

Fig. 3 An example of a screen with the searching steps

In addition, it offers three options to find general, updated and in-depth (see Fig.4); and statistical information. Each option is linked to various information sources including the OPAC, the National Union Catalog, and the Internet.

Fig. 4 An example of a screen to find updated and in-depth information.

The module Source Citation (see Fig.5) provides the learner with international standards to cite printed and electronic sources of information. Both, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the American Psychological Association (APA) standards are included with examples on how to cite the documents.

Fig.5 An example of the screen to find information on how to cite printed and electronic documents.

The Information Search on Nursing (see Fig.6), a subject-related module, is addressed to Nursing students. Accessing this module the student will know specialized relevant sources of printed and electronic information held by the library. Furthermore, the learner will be able to follow instructions on how to use specific Nursing databases such as CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) or LILACS (Latin American Literature on Health Sciences).

Fig.6 Screen from the Information Search on Nursing module with options to practice an exercise or to follow instructions to learn the use of LILACS and CINAHL

Lastly, a FAQ’s module includes questions regarding services and collections of the library, and the Internet.

V. Use and Evaluation

Since its creation in August 1999, the tutorial has been used, mainly, by Nursing students. To encourage critical thinking and active learning(2) it was used in library instruction sessions with Nursing students of Research Methodology courses, by giving them a follow-up assignment to be completed in class. The students were able to relate concepts and procedures learnt through the tutorial, to subject matters relevant(3) to their research assignments. They take an active, hands-on approach to the material as they follow the tutorial’s instructions on how to use specialized databases, such as CINAHL and LILACS. Applying the principle "learning by doing"(4), students are requested to find information on a topic of their interest using the databases. At the end of the workshop they are able to do a complete search on the topic of their interest on any of the specialized databases.
So far, the tutorial has been used in 12 workshops, assisting over 200 undergraduate and graduate Nursing students, and 122 Faculty and Nurses. Also, a faculty of the School of Nursing included the tutorial in an assignment for her students of the Research Methodology course.
A counter was added in March of this year. Since then, and as of August, over 2400 people have accessed it.
During the first semester of 2001 six workshops were held with the participation of 166 students. An evaluation form with both opened and closed questions was passed among participants after each library instruction session to provide feedback on issues such as: ease of use, examples, organization, learn enough to use CINAHL and LILACS.
For each closed question, students were requested to answer one of three options: "strongly agree", "agree" or "disagree". Regarding to ease of use (see Fig. 7), the majority of the students (54%) strongly agree that the tutorial was easy to use, and 42 % agree. These results were expected due to that during the workshops there were no significant questions asked by the participants about the use of the tutorial.

Fig. 7 A breakdown of students’ responses to ease of use of the tutorial

Again, the majority of the students "strongly agree" (71 %) that the tutorial contained well-illustrated examples. (see Fig. 8)

Fig. 8 Breakdown of students’ responses regarding the examples contained in the tutorial

A very positive response was received regarding to the organization of the tutorial, 64 % of the students "strongly agree" that it is was well organized, and 36 % agreed. (see Fig.9)

Fig. 9 Breakdown of students’ responses regarding the organization of the tutorial

As expected. most of the students (57%) "strongly agree" that they learnt to use CINAHL and LILACS, 32% "agree" and 11% "disagree". The students were requested to use both databases to complete an assignment, which they successfully did. (see Fig. 10)

Fig. 10 Breakdown of students that learnt to use the databases

VI. Conclusion

The goal of Gnosis II was achieved when used by Nursing students as shown by their positive evaluation of the product and their performance in the workshops. All faculty in charge of Research Methodology courses at the School of Nursing know and use the product. Every semester they contact their liaison librarian to schedule a date to send their students to the library where they will use Gnosis II to complete an assignment. The fact that one of the modules is subject-related and that it was prepared by a team of librarians and faculty not only provided a value added product but also it assured its use by the students.
As Gnosis II includes general information on the Library System, its collection and resources that is useful to all students, it is expected that links from future specialized tutorials developed by the librarians will be pointing to those pages. Therefore, keeping the pages current is the biggest challenge for most of the librarians.


(1) Edwards, Ronald G. (2000) Web tutorials for education students: a practical alternative to traditional library instruction-basic issues and concerns" Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian Vol. 18 No2, pp17-21

(2) Dewald, Nancy (1999) "Web-based library instruction: what is good pedagogy?" Information Technology and libraries, Vol.18 Nº1, pp26-31

(3) Dewald, Nancy H. (1999) "Transporting good library instruction practices into the web environment: an analysis of online tutorials". The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Vol.25 Nº1, pp26-31

(4) Sada, Ellis (1999) "Training users in the electronic era". Information Outlook, Vol. 3 Nº 12, pp22-28


Ardis, Susan (1998) "Creating Internet-based tutorials" http://www.informationoutlook.com Accessed 12/12/98

Brandt, D. Scott (1997) "Tutorial, or not tutorial, that is the question..." Computers in libraries, Vol.17 No5, pp44-46

Dennis, Stefanie and Broughton, Kelly (2000) "FALCON: an interactive library instruction tutorial". Reference Service Review, Vol.28 No1, pp31-38

Dewald, Nancy H. (1999) "Transporting good library instruction practices into the web environment: an analysis of online tutorials". The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Vol.25 No1, pp26-31

Dewald, Nancy (1999) "Web-based library instruction: what is good pedagogy?" Information Technology and libraries, Vol.18 No1, pp26-31

Edwards, Ronald G. (2000) Web tutorials for education students: a practical alternative to traditional library instruction-basic issues and concerns" Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian Vol. 18 No2, pp17-21

Holman, Lucy (2000) "A comparison of computer-assisted instruction and classroom bibliographic instruction" Reference and User Services Quarterly, Vol.40 No1, pp53-60

Lederer, Naomi (2000) "New form(at): using the Web to teach research and critical thinking skills" Reference Services Review, Vol. 28 No2, pp 130-153

Sada, Ellis (1999) "Training users in the electronic era". Information Outlook, Vol. 3 Nº 12, pp22-28

Web Sites

"Critical thinking in critical care" http://nursing.umaryland..edu/students/~jkohl/scenario/situatio.html Accessed 5/5/99

"Information-thinking and evaluation skills" http://library.jmu.edu/library/gold/infsk.htm Accessed 8/12/98

"Into Info Programs" http://educate.lib.chalmers.se/infoprog.html Accessed 7/4/99

"Library tutorial" http://www.nv.va.us/library/tutorial Accessed 8/12/98

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