Chat Transcript Analysis Reveals that Undergraduate Students are Open to Instruction, While Instructors and Librarians Care About Supporting Student Learning
AbstractA Review of:
Jacoby, J., Ward, D., Avery, S., & Marcyk, E. (2016). The value of chat reference services: A pilot study. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 16(1), 109-129. https://doi.org/10.1353/pla.2016.0013
Objective – To investigate student, instructor, and librarian perspectives of chat reference service in the context of first-year undergraduate students conducting research for an introductory composition course.
Design – Focus groups, individual interviews, and surveys.
Setting – A large, public university in the United States of America.
Subjects – 57 library reference providers, 36 instructors of an introductory composition course, and approximately 936 undergraduate students in certain sections of the introductory composition course who were assigned a specific research project.
Methods – In spring of 2014, all participants were invited via email to respond to an anonymous chat transcript of a librarian interacting with a student working on his or her research project. Study participants could participate via a brief survey or by taking part in a focus group or individual interview. The invited instructors were asked to forward the invitation to the students in their sections, and reminder emails were sent two weeks after the initial email.
Main Results – Nine instructors, 24 students, and 25 library reference providers participated in the study, representing a response rate of 25%, 3% (estimated), and 44%, respectively. The authors conducted a qualitative analysis of key themes that were derived from both the focus groups or individual interviews and the survey questions. The themes were: students as novice researchers, question negotiation, open and closed questions, instruction, speed and convenience, customer service, and referrals. The theme of “students as novice researchers” is based on student comments related to their frustrations of being inexperienced researchers, as well as librarian comments on strategies for helping these students. Opinions regarding the traditional reference interview, including specific techniques that made the interaction successful, were categorized as “question negotiation.” The “open and closed questions” theme focused on feedback on the types of questions used by librarians in the reference interview. Several components related to chat and instruction were encompassed within the “instruction” theme, including whether those participating in the study were conscious of librarians providing instructions via chat and whether it was deemed valuable; the impact of a library instruction session in which students participated; and identification of missed teachable moments during the chat. The “speed and convenience” theme represented thoughts regarding the balance of instruction and librarian support of news skills, with the student expectation of having their question answered quickly and efficiently. The “customer service” theme focused on the service quality of the reference transaction, while the “referrals” theme encompassed thoughts related to whether students were referred to subject specialists, writing specialists, instructors, or if there was a lack of a referral altogether.
Conclusion – Based on the research results, the authors highlighted the importance of the interconnectedness of teaching that is done in the classroom, in library instruction sessions, and on the reference desk, as all three types of instruction should align. Furthermore, because students are open to instruction via the chat service when they are creating and revising their research question and delving into subject research, chat can be viewed as a key teaching and learning opportunity.
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