Literati by Credo for Columbia University’s Undergraduate Writing Program
Columbia University’s Undergraduate Writing Program (UWP) is a first-year seminar-style course that challenges new students to read, write, and think as critically as established academics. Graduate students teach the course, and librarians supplement that presentation with an introduction to research skills and methods.
Columbia has partnered with Credo Reference on various customizations since the university first subscribed to the database in 2007. In fall 2011, Credo approached Undergraduate Services Librarian Anice Mills and Digital Humanities Librarian Bob Scott to pilot a new project that could enhance the role librarians play in university writing instruction.
“We wanted to empower students by showing them a set of simple tools to master any database they come across,” Scott said. In December, the librarians began working on a set of tutorials and videos that could be embedded in Credo’s new Literati interface. The tutorials are intended to help students brainstorm topic ideas for term papers, perform effective database searches, evaluate the credibility of resources, and understand plagiarism, copyright, and the need to cite references correctly. “We want students to become sophisticated users of online information by teaching them skills that will be useful well after they’ve graduated,” said Mills. The librarians also worked to further refine Credo’s customizing tools leading students from reference works to relevant databases in the collection.
“We find it helpful to think of Literati in three parts,” said Shiva Darbandi, solutions associate at Credo. “The first component is content. A subscription to Literati includes access to a variety of ebooks and scholarly articles, images, and hyperlinked videos. The second component is technology. The platform includes features such as Mind Maps, Topic Pages, and customized instructional multimedia. The third component is the information literacy tools and services available. These consist of special projects tailored to a client’s needs, such as a marketing campaign, evaluation and assessment, or a suite of subject-specific videos.”
Scott and Mills said Credo provided them the opportunity to collaborate with its customer solutions team to create multimedia materials based specifically on UWP course learning outcomes and Columbia library resources. These instructional multimedia materials are accessible in the Literati platform as well as through persistent URLs that can be used anywhere on the library’s website. “We appreciated the opportunity to work with an outstanding technical staff that could respond quickly to our specific institutional needs,” Scott said. In a poll of students who used Literati, 87% said that the strength of their paper increased significantly as a result.
Scott and Mills encouraged the faculty to access the tutorials for their instructional use as well, and colleagues gave positive feedback. One instructor said, “Because [Literati] is such a rich resource, students gravitate toward it. It is intuitive and helps them with preliminary work on their projects.”
The librarians see this as a promising model of how database vendors can constructively collaborate with academic librarians to ensure that research skills continue to be a priority.