Elevating Engagement in a Virtual Lesson: The Case at SIT Library
posterposted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Debby R WegenerDebby R Wegener
If education is a “social activity based on communication” where the communication is both verbal and non-verbal (Al Tawil, 2019, p. 145), what happens when the non-verbal side is almost completely removed? As a university of applied learning, the Singapore Institute of Technology Library has always used applied learning pedagogies to help the students explore and apply critical thinking skills in selecting, evaluating, and using information. The Librarians also work closely with the Faculty to ensure the concepts of information searching are constructed within the context of the student projects. The lessons are heavily case-based and require careful classroom facilitation. With the COVID-19 pandemic where learning was shifted online, how can librarians continue to effectively facilitate learning online, and what lessons did they learn that may be helpful to other educators.
Since the start of the Singapore Circuit Breaker in 2020, the Library has been providing Information and Digital Literacy classes and research consultations online. They have also developed asynchronous online learning programmes for the students. In these classes and programs the students are taught skills, and then given chances to apply these skills. In addition, the Library has also been providing a number of other opportunities where students can apply their knowledge and skills in new contexts in library projects. For example, helping the librarians organise an online Library Resources Fair, and working with the librarians to conduct a usability study and co-author the resulting research paper. To date, both quantitative and qualitative data has been collected on these initiatives.
When it comes to asynchronous online learning, the librarians found that the use of informal language, music, videos, humor, and a strong Social Presence from the Community of Inquiry framework worked best. To explore the statistical validity of the difference between the pre-test and post-test scores for the asynchronous online programme, a paired samples t-test was applied and the difference was found to be statistically significant – an indication that the programme is successful in helping the students learn. The feedback gathered from the other online sessions and events was most encouraging as it shows that, after one or two hiccups, the librarians were able to engage the students, meet their needs, and continue to help them learn.
In spite of all the pre-COVID efforts to take lessons online, it seems that not everyone was adequately prepared (Sutton & Jorge, 2020). Some have even referred to this COVID-prompted online move as “emergency eLearning” (Muller et al., 2021, p. 1) which implies a lack of thought and planning. In addition to this, there is still a digital divide in Singapore, albeit a relatively small one. What the librarians found, however, is that most of the obstacles could be easily overcome as long as they put their “heart and soul into the class” as advised by Acevedo (2020, p. 12461). As the students struggle with the effects of the global pandemic, the librarians can continue to successfully teach learning and life skills with empathy, patience, and humor.