Four Semesters of Video Game Strategies in Information Literacy

This week marked the fourth semester that the information literacy team at the University of Dubuque applied video game strategies into a resource review activity. The activity was originally designed in the spring semester of 2006 as a way to address student fatigue late in a semester. The following semester, we added video game strategies which included: personalization and open-ended/nonlinear navigation.

Over the four semesters, we modified the activity to make the goals more clear and change when we conduct the activity during a semester. At first we used the review at the end of a semester, but based on student feedback we moved the activity to the middle of the semester. It now serves as a review after the set of information literacy instruction. It works very well as a review and occasionally an introduction for some students who didn’t use certain types of sources previously. We’ve received a variety of verbal and written feedback over the semesters. Most students provided positive feedback including:

“I thought the activity was useful, however, it seemed to be a big review… But reviews are always helpful–it made me feel like I knew what I was doing and I feel really confident in my research skills.”

And some constructive negative feedback as well:

“It was a fun activity but we did already know how to find research since we had already done two papers.”

The biggest challenge the activity has faced has not been if the students do well, or the gaming strategies successfully engage students. The biggest challenge has come internally from the librarians resisting the urge to over-structure the activity. In an effort to make the goals clearer for the students, we have struggled against a traditional desire to define the entire process and path of the assignment. The temptation is understandable given traditional instruction that clearly lays out the steps and the process for the students. While the librarians agree with the application of video game strategies, it can be challenging to keep the activity open. Being willing to accept and discuss whatever results the students arrive at, even if they go against what we just taught them, are an important.

When I first used this lesson, I was impressed with the variety paths students used to get to the same sources. The activity can teach both students and librarians a lot, if we allow to the students to choose and trust that regardless of the path and the results there is something to learn.