A Survey of Instructional Video Tutorials

In preparation for updating and expanding Duke’s library tutorials, we decided to first get a sense of the current landscape of instructional video tutorials. As part of this project, Alice Whiteside and I completed an environmental scan of peer institution tutorials. Of the twelve institutions that we surveyed, five did not have any tutorials. Our conclusions are drawn from tutorials created by UNC, UVA, Yale, Stanford, NCSU, Cornell, and Emory.

There was a fair amount of consistency in terms of content, especially related to “how-to” tutorials. Many libraries had tutorials on how to search the catalog. Another popular topic was how to access materials that are not readily available: ILL, requesting off-site materials, and how to use a proxy server. There were several tutorials on how to search article databases, either generally or a specific one such as Google Scholar. A few libraries had tutorials related to RefWorks. Some libraries, such as NCSU, tend to focus on more topic-oriented issues. The most common type of topic-oriented tutorial was explaining either the difference between popular and scholarly resources or what defines a scholarly resource.

There were some consistent issues related to presentation, particularly regarding the location of tutorials within library websites. Many universities with multiple libraries have a main library homepage in addition to homepages for individual libraries on campus, and we found that tutorials were sometimes linked from the latter without being directly accessible through the former. Some libraries presented links to videos, while others embedded the video directly. Video tutorials that were simply linked were not always clearly identified as such. We think that it is most effective if videos can be embedded rather than simply linked, as students will be more likely to click on them. If this is not possible, then they should be clearly marked as video tutorials, so that users understand what is available and what to expect if they click on the link.

In all, we felt that Cornell offered very strong tutorials that provide an excellent example of effective delivery. Promoted under the title of “Research Minutes,” these tutorials are brief, creative and consistent. NCSU has created some unique and informative topic-oriented tutorials such as Peer Review in Five Minutes and Wikipedia: Beneath the Surface.

Libraries wishing to develop or expand tutorial offerings may want to consult The Animated Tutorial Sharing Project (ANTS), which is a shared repository of library tutorials created using screencast software. Since many libraries may wish to create tutorials on similar topics, it is worth checking to see if something meeting your needs may already be available here before reinventing the wheel.

For more information on developing video tutorials, we recommend the following links:

Learning to Teach Through Video (Kim Leeder)

Guidelines for Animated Online Tutorials Used in Database Instruction (ANTS)

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