The Peer Research Assistant (PRA) program at the Michigan State University Libraries began as a pilot project in Fall 2013. It gives undergraduate student PRAs the opportunity to provide basic reference assistance to their peers in four residence halls across campus. The target audience is other undergraduates, mostly first-year students who are required to live in the residence halls and who are doing college-level research for the first time. You can learn more about MSU's Neighborhood system here.
This virtual handout accompanies the poster presentation given by Emilia Marcyk at IFLA WLIC 2016, and outlines some of the training tools used by the program
Online Training and Job Aids
- Common Reference Questions Chart - This chart outlines the steps that PRAs should take to answer common reference questions. Students can use it as a quick reference while assisting patrons, or developing their skills (created using Pikochart)
- Reference Interview Game - a choose your own adventure game which introduces PRAs to the theory behind the reference interview (created using Twine)
- Brainstorming Search Terms - an interactive module about choosing keywords and creating a search strategy (created using Adobe Captivate)
- Do You Have Enough Information? - a choose your own adventure game which asks the PRAs to consider whether they have enough information from the virtual patron (created using Twine)
In Fall 2016, Emilia will pilot a three-part module about working with students on common research "pitfalls" or problems. The module will incorporate videos created at other libraries with a Google Forms quiz to help PRAs refine their problem-solving skills. Check out the draft versions of the module here:
Tools for Creating Online Training
Want to make your own modules? Here are the tools I've used to create the tutorials above:
- Google Forms - Google forms (part of the Google Drive suite of tools) allows you to collect responses from users. The recent addition of a self-grading quiz function makes this an even better tool for asychronous training, as students can check their own understanding as they proceed through the quiz. I've used Google Forms as a platform for content with an embedded quiz or activity
- Piktochart - Piktochart is an online infographic tool, which you can use to present information in an eye-catching and engaging way
- Twine - Twine is an interactive fiction (or text-based game) creation tool, that can also be used to create choose your own adventure stories. I've used it to create branching game spaces for students to explore and learn about different concepts related to reference. If you are interested in using interactive fiction for student training, please check out the ACRL TechConnect Presentation I did in 2015 with Angela Stangl and Mark Wardecker
- Adobe Captivate - I typically use Adobe Captivate to create modules that seemlessly incorporate video, interactivity and self-grading quizzes
- Camtasia - I use Camtasia for creating screen capture videos or short explainers
These resources are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.