Reference eReviews | May 15, 2013

EResearchReady

EasyBib; www.researchready.com

 

CONTENT Librarians are often found in college and high school classrooms, teaching students the skills they need to complete research assignments and evaluate the information they need for their studies and daily lives. Online educational opportunities have increased, and librarians are asked to squeeze more and more into already busy days. The ResearchReady educational platform from EasyBib provides educators and librarians with tools to help them meet the educational needs of their students.

ResearchReady is a series of tutorials on a variety of basic information literacy concepts. Students can work through the lessons on their own, answering assessment questions as they go. ResearchReady contains six “courses,” each of which is divided into multiple lessons that can be viewed independently.

The course “Sources, Sources, Sources” introduces students to primary and secondary materials, the differences between popular and scholarly sources, and when to use OPACs, databases, and search engines to find information. “Internet 101” helps students understand URLs, the ease of posting information on the web, and tools for analyzing web sources. “Website Evaluation” delves further into vetting online materials, helping students understand the purpose, accuracy, authority, relevancy, and currency of websites. Students learn more about the steps involved in research, including pre-searching and advanced database use in the course “Conquer the Research Process.” Plagiarism and copyright infringement concepts are introduced in “Cite it Before you Write it,” as are skills to help students read and create formal citations. Finally, “Inquiring Minds Want to Know” guides students through the process of developing a thesis statement, researching evidence to support their point of view, and putting everything together in a cohesive project.

The tutorials are well thought out and suffer from relatively few errors or misleading pieces of information. They deal well with some of the same challenges we all face when designing tutorials. I appreciated that the lesson on “Finding Sources” from the “Sources, Sources, Sources” course explains the difference between OPACs, databases, and search engines without denigrating search engines: each tool is useful for different things. The lessons also deal well with exceptions: they explain basic concepts before bringing up those examples that create complications. In the lesson on primary sources, the nature of newspapers as both primary and secondary sources is handled well.

The lessons aren’t flashy: there are no animations, and the graphics won’t be winning any art awards. But this simplicity makes the tutorials much easier to use than more tech-heavy competitors. Users can click through lesson pages even on slow Internet connections, the tutorials work well on tablets and are even usable on mobile phones.

The tutorials include just the right level of humor. ResearchReady lessons feature two line-drawn characters: Scott, an information-literature student and Bubo, a pun-loving, woodchuck-hating owl that’s in need of information-literacy instruction. Bubo asks questions that the lessons seek to answer, and inserts a bit of humor into occasionally dry topics. A lesson about the characteristics of scholarly sources gets an “Ugh, snore,” for example, and website-evaluation tips become very owl centric, “Watch out for bias! Particularly when reading anything a woodchuck wrote. They are decidedly anti-owl.” Yes, the humor is corny, but it fits in well.

Assessment questions appear throughout the lessons, but are especially prominent in the “Real World Application” parts of the courses. In these sections, students are asked to examine real-life sources: an annotated version of Steve Jobs’s commencement address to Stanford University published in The Guardian, a StoryCorp interview, scholarly journal articles and websites (e.g., http://manhattanairport.org). Students get immediate feedback on multiple-choice questions, and long-form questions are submitted to account administrators for further review. Administrators can work with the ResearchReady team to customize questions for their institutions.

There are some small details that need a closer look; these are indicative of the newness of the platform. Links within assessment questions are not always hyperlinked, forcing students to copy and paste the URL into a new browser tab. Also, the assessment questions are sometimes repetitive when compared to the lessons and the “Real World Scenarios.” Since the web is constantly changing, it will be a test of the platform to make sure that links stay current and that expected behaviors (such as search results) are consistent with assessment-question expectations.

 

Usability Students log into ResearchReady and see the courses their teachers or librarians have assigned to them. For each course, a progress bar illustrates how much of the course the student has completed; these bars also accompany each lesson. Students receive a printable certificate at the end of each lesson, indicating how many assessment questions they answered correctly and the date and time that the work was completed. The system stores the certificate for later printing. Users can retry lessons to review the material or to increase the number of assessment questions answered correctly.

The lessons are structurally simple: images and text make up each page and users click “next” or “previous” to navigate through them. The lack of flashy animations works well: users are less likely to encounter technical issues and the content is presented in a straightforward manner that makes it easy to navigate.

Student accounts are connected to an administrator account, allowing teachers and librarians to keep track of who has done what and how well they performed on assessment questions. I was unable to test the administration interface for this review.

 

Pricing Annual prices for ResearchReady start at $200 and are dependent on institution size. Customization of assessment questions and lessons is available and will affect the cost.

 

verdict I was impressed with the content of the tutorials and the ease of use of the system. I would recommend ResearchReady to high schools and colleges, especially those with a small staff of instruction librarians or a large number of online courses.

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Bonnie Swoger About Bonnie Swoger

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu.

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