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Review of Distributed Learning: Pedagogy and Technology in Online Information Literacy Instruction (2017), edited by Maddison and Kumaran

Reviewed by Joni Boone

Publication Details

 OLOR Series:  ROLE Reviews
 Author(s):  Joni Boone
 Original Publication Date:  15 July 2018


Publication Note

This review was originally published in Research in Online Literacy, vol. 1, no. 2 (2018).

Resource Overview

Resource Contents

Review of Distributed Learning  

Information literacy (IL) skills are essential for all students in higher education. Students need help understanding research practices, and universities may struggle with how these practices should be taught and by whom they should be taught. Traditionally, academic libraries provided students with tours and one-time face-to-face introductions to resources within physical facilities, but student needs and the resources available to librarians have changed dramatically in recent years. Students enter universities with varying IL skills and difficulty navigating endless online resources. Academic libraries are challenged with serving more students in person and virtually with smaller staffs and budgets. Most higher education institutions have adopted distributed learning (DL) tools and practices to reach more students in various ways, and these tools and strategies are extending to IL. Distributed Learning: Pedagogy and Technology in Online Information Literacy provides a thorough investigation of how higher education institutions are incorporating web-based tools and distributed learning strategies to promote and support IL. Sections range from theory and practice to tools and future advancements in the field of IL.

The book begins with a robust literature review of the trends, opportunities, and challenges associated with online learning in academic libraries. This review provides readers with a background of theory and practice, but it also highlights specific technologies used in distributed learning—learning management systems, screencasting tools, and more. Other chapters in the book provide readers with examinations of online tools and how they are used in specific contexts. For instance, readers can compare how libraries have used Moodle, D2L, and Blackboard to best fit their particular needs, or why a specific screen capture software or assessment feature was used over another. There is great value in learning from the experiences of academic librarians in these case studies, especially in understanding the rationale for their decisions on tools and updates to existing tutorials.

Several takeaways emerge from the book. One in particular is the importance of incorporating an IL component, specifically related to the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, in web-based tutorials and learning objects. This framework, instituted by ACRL after rescinding the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, emphasizes knowledge creation, collaboration (especially between librarians and faculty), and metaliteracy—all necessary skills for the current age and themes addressed in this book.

Another important avenue in the book includes the process of creating resources. Several chapters emphasize instructional design techniques that librarians can use, in consultation with instructional designers, administration, and faculty, to thoughtfully create distributed learning resources for students. Chapter 4, “Designing Online Asynchronous Information Literacy Instruction Using the ADDIE Model” presents a clear overview of instructional design options, such as the Dick and Carey model, R2D2, 4C, Kemp, and Gagne. The ADDIE model is eventually chosen for this particular situation, but understanding the benefits and limitations of several other processes can help librarians discover a model that might work well for their specific needs—keeping their student population, available resources, timeline, and administrative expectations in mind. Despite the design model chosen, flexibility is essential in planning for distributed learning, which Maddison and Kumaran emphasize in the book.

Case studies presented in the book often highlight the need for collaboration, especially among faculty and librarians. Though buy-in is needed from all stakeholders, including administration, web services, design teams, and curriculum and instruction, the librarian-instructor connection is vital in making many of the IL projects successful in these case studies. Among the many helpful suggestions included in Chapter 8, “Developing Best Practices for Creating an Authentic Learning Experience in an Online Learning Environment: Lessons Learned,” is to “Befriend the gatekeepers” (p. 138), including faculty. Many case studies in the book point out that embedding library tutorials within an LMS, and more specifically, within a particular course, tying it to an objective or specific assignment, is key, and partnerships with faculty are necessary for these projects to be implemented successfully.

One case study focuses on perhaps the most prominent issue associated with IL—plagiarism. Though several chapters mention the inclusion of plagiarism avoidance as part of a broader IL approach, Chapter 19, “Rethinking Plagiarism in Information Literacy Instruction: A Case Study on Cross-Campus Collaboration in the Creation of an Online Academic Honesty Video Tutorial,” provides a detailed, helpful explanation of the production of a video plagiarism resource. One objective of this particular resource is a focus on the positive learning opportunities rather than a punitive approach. This focus on a positive tone is mirrored in a chapter on gamification as well and supports the efforts of many distributed learning practices of student engagement. Along with keeping tutorials succinct, relevant, and tied to specific assignments, appropriate tone is crucial for engagement.

Throughout the book the above strands are explored in a variety of higher education settings from small liberal arts institutions like Fontbonne to expansive institutions, such as the City University of New York, to global organizations like Glasgow Caledonian University. A variety of student populations—from traditional undergraduate and graduate to rural, remote, and adult—are represented. This variety provides readers with examples of approaches from traditional spaces, hybrid spaces, and online courses. One sector that was not represented were fully-online institutions. Online universities have experiences creating and incorporating IL resources in digital spaces and collaborating with partners virtually to create these resources. Librarians from various types of institutions could learn from the pitfalls and successes of such ventures.

In the introductory chapter of the book, Maddison and Kumaran express their hope that librarians will find this volume useful. Though librarians may be the intended audience, the reach of this book goes beyond the library staff. Due to the collaborative nature of the projects mentioned in the chapters, administrators, instructional designers, and especially, faculty, would also benefit from the book. Distributed learning information literacy resources and support have the potential to touch all students within higher educational institutions, and continued research, such as this volume, is needed to help make this happen.

Image of book's cover

Distributed Learning: Pedagogy and Technology in Online Information Literacy Instruction

Tasha Maddison and Maha Kumaran, Eds. (2017). Amsterdam: Chandos Publishing. [ISBN 978-0-08-100598-9. 437 pages, including index, $USD 100.00]

About the Reviewer

Joni Boone has a master's degree in English and has taught and tutored composition for 15 years. For the past 4 years, she has been a faculty developer at an online university. Her research interests include multimedia feedback, plagiarism trends and prevention, and personality type in organizations and education.

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