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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 155-115-E
Division Number: VI
Professional Group: Audiovisual and Multimedia
Joint Meeting with: User Education
Meeting Number: 115
Simultaneous Interpretation: No

Multimedia and user education at Rutgers

Martin Kesselman
Media and Digital Library Projects, Rutgers University Libraries
New Jersey, USA
E-mail: martyk@rci.rutgers.edu


The computer as a multimedia workstation has created a major shift from traditional modes of teaching and learning that focus on the classroom and lecture to a multitude of new and exciting options for instructors and users. The increased potential of multimedia capabilities for computing with new devices such as DVD-ROMs and increased network bandwidth provide exciting opportunities for the delivery of audio, video, and graphics.

Utilizing multimedia for teaching is really just another tool that provides a new type of learning environment. But multimedia is of very limited use without content. There is also the danger of providing too much glitz, color, animation, and transitions resulting in students being dazzled by the media and forgetting about the learning. However, with this caveat, multimedia can make learning fun, or what some have termed edutainment. Usually learning is verbal, yet we are multisensory beings. Multimedia can combine the senses of sight, sound, and touch and thus increase opportunities for learning. Multimedia instruction can provide active learning where by the student becomes an active participant in their learning and information retrieval rather than only a bystander. Multimedia can also motivate and involve students in the learning, because their learning is often independent of fellow students and the teacher.

At Rutgers University Libraries the convergence of multimedia with computing has led to a merger of Media Services and our Scholarly Communication Center into a new unit named Multimedia and Digital Library Services. Rutgers University Libraries is committed to the exploration of new forms of information and instruction through its strategic plan, "A Bridge to the Future: The Rutgers Digital Library Initiative." This plan notes that "The Digital Library Initiative is a five-year plan to move aggressively, but intelligently, towards the creation of a new library system. That new library is characterized most specifically by it's ability to use technology to enhance information services to students and faculty, to support new instructional methodologies, and to improve access to all forms of information."1

Rutgers University Libraries are currently employing multimedia instruction in a variety of settings both within and beyond the classroom. Special funding for Media Services led to significantly upgrading 58 classrooms and lecture at the university over the past three years. These "Smart Classrooms" include an instructor's podium in each room which has been specially designed so that all equipment (VCR, laser disc, audiocassette, CD, laptop projection, slide projector, visualizer) is operated from a menu on a programmable Crestron touch screen. The rooms are called "smart" because they include connections for laptop computers and data and modem ports to access the campus network and the Internet. The use of these networked resources greatly enhances teaching capabilities by connecting to research and instructional materials worldwide.

Beginning this fall, our library is a partner in the new Rutgers University Television Network, a private cable network comprised of several Rutgers-owned stations along with traditional cable programming. Several channels will feature original instructional programming created by the university community, including the libraries. For the first time our general library orientations to incoming freshman will be broadcast via the RU-TV system. The library will also have a mini-head end and will control programming for two of the stations; we're calling RUL (Rutgers University Libraries) Mediavision. With RUL Mediavision, instructors can request materials for broadcast from the library's collection that support classroom teaching.

Beyond the library and classroom, Rutgers Libraries have been involved in providing information instruction via the Web. One of these programs, Knowledge Maze, was written in Toolbook and converted to HTML, provides a basic inroduction to Rutgers Libraries and to library research. Knowledge Maze enables students to pace their learning at a time convenient to them. Students can repeat sections or move around within the tutorial until they feel they have assimilated the materials. Self-assessment tests give students further control over the learning process, by providing them with immediate feedback on their progress.

Several authoring systems are now available to develop web-based instructional tutorials directly. Older packages involved learning on an individual pc with the learner working on their own. Newer web-based packages offer various tools to create teaching units integrating seamlessly text, graphic and audio/video files. These tools also include options for threaded discussion groups and chats, have course management features allowing the students to check their grades, to take online quizzes that can be graded automatically or manually, to view a course calendar, and review their classmates' homepages. The instructor can also track the students' progress. For most of these packages minimal knowledge of HTML, if any, is necessary. Many of these packages have free demonstration versions available for download on their websites.2

At Rutgers University, we are using one of these packages, Web-CT (Course Tools), in a collaborative grant-funded project between the Spanish and Portuguese Department and the Scholarly Communications Center of the Library. The project, entitled "Learning Links: Reading, Writing, Information, the Web, and the World,"3 is organized around a series of WebCT websites developed to support various undergraduate Spanish Literature classes. With Learning Links, students develop their reading and comprehension skills in Spanish and expand their knowledge of Hispanic culture and literature. Various print and electronic resources are being incorporated into student learning such as literary criticism, demographic, and cultural information residing on external websites, literary texts and author biographical information found in the library, and excerpts of video and audio tapes found in the Media Center, such as clips of plays or movies that may have been adapted from the texts studied. Students are also learning how to search the Web and how to evaluate relevant websites they discover on their own.

A unique aspect of this program is the development of learning communities. Students in upper-level undergraduate classes are creating websites as writing assignments, providing cultural and historical information in Spanish that is relevant to the reading in the lower-level courses. These students are also researching and identifying links for existing websites in Spanish and are working with the Latin American Resource Librarian to learn to search the monographic, journal, document, and audio-visual collections of the Rutgers Libraries and elsewhere. Students will not only be developing information literacy, but technical literacy as well. As a final project, each student developed their own website using Netscape Composer or created a presentation using Microsoft Power Point. Graduate students are involved in the preparation of the multimedia materials and in teaching the web-based course; these activities allows them to experiment with cutting-edge teaching technologies, and thus provides them with the skills they will need to become the education professionals of tomorrow. Students at all levels are encouraged to interact with the librarians involved in the project through training sessions, one-on-one consulting, participation in threaded discussion list, and email. The Rutgers Libraries' Scholarly Communication Center built a Collaboratory for students to work together on computers as a group or on a one-on-one basis with the librarians.4

With the increase in the use of multimedia teaching and new forms of scholarly communication, what are some of the new roles for library buildings? Major renovations are underway in two Rutgers Libraries to reflect these changes and in some cases we are moving to a place where the library is the classroom. Many academic libraries already have electronic classrooms for teaching, but these two projects go steps beyond.

The first is the vision to turn the Douglass Library, a traditional undergraduate library at Rutgers which also contains research collections for music, performing arts and women's studies, into a new facility that can serve as a model digital library and intellectual center for the campus, providing innovative and multimedia interactive learning opportunities.5 The second is the development of a Center for Instructional Information Technologies at the Rutgers Dana Library at the Newark, New Jersey campus.. This technology-enhanced facility will assist the Newark campus in developing and using multimedia and other information technologies in support of outreach programs to urban schools and other local institutions and providing technology-based local and global linkages for enhanced learning.6 Several unique spaces are planned for these facilities. Douglass Library will include a digital performance/exhibition space equipped with large-scale plasma monitors that lay flat on the wall. The CIIT will have facilities for creating digital libraries, models, simulations, tutorials and virtual reality systems. Both facilities will include multimedia resource laboratories with videoconferencing software that will enable students to engage in collaborative learning with their peers at other Rutgers campuses and at educational institutions around the world.

For more information, consult the following webpages:


  1. A Bridge to the Future: The Rutgers Digital Library Initiative, Rutgers University Libraries, June 23, 1998

  2. Tobin, Tess and Kesselman, Martin. "Evaluation of Web-Based Library Instruction Programs," prepared for the Workshop on Web-Based Instruction sponsored by the IFLA User Education RT at King Moghut University, IFLA Annual Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, August 1999.

  3. Bretz, Mary Lee, et al. "Learning Links: Reading, Writing, Information, the Web, and the World," (proposal to the University Vice-president for Academic Affairs, Rutgers University, Spring 1999.

  4. Kesselman, Martin, Khanna, Delphine, and Vazquez, Lourdes. "Web Authorware and Course-Integrated Library Instruction." College and Research Libraries News 61 (5): 387-390, 402.

  5. Concept Document: Douglass Library for the 21st Century (D21), Rutgers University Libraries, June 1999.

  6. Center for Instructional Information Technologies Summary, Rutgers University Libraries, August 1999.


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