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ALA | Tips for Developing Effective Web-based Library Instruction

Instructional Technologies Committee, Instruction Section, ACRL

Tips for Developing Effective Web-Based Library Instruction

Web-based instruction has expanded past the now “traditional” web tutorial into a world of the “read-write” web. New interactive technologies facilitate the ability to engage students through the incorporation of Web 2.0 into information literacy instruction. The availability of social software and other two-way technologies offer exciting potential for providing a learning environment that encourages students to construct new knowledge and engage in inquiry-based learning in this era of connection and collaboration.

Web instruction interfaces should follow the general principles for good Web page design, as outlined in other sources.1 For examples of effective web-based teaching, please consult Peer Reviewed Instructional Materials Online (PRIMO), a database maintained by the Instruction Section2 of exemplary online tutorials.

In addition to these sources, the following tips on the pedagogy of Web instruction are suggested.

Outline the objectives and outcomes clearly to establish purpose and realistic expectations.

  • Outcomes address the larger overall goal(s) of student learning.
  • Objectives address actions or learning behaviors that will result from the instruction.
  • Keeping this tip in mind helps to avoid the use of technology for technology's sake.

Provide a clear, intuitive structure that:

  • reflects the objectives of the instruction
  • allows for different learning styles
  • permits the student to self-pace and remediate

Include active learning techniques to foster student-computer, student-student and/or student-instructor interaction. Some techniques to consider incorporating include:

  • promoting user-created content
  • developing tools to aid in student self-assessment and feedback
  • providing occasion for discussion
  • creating collaborative opportunities to enhance comprehension of concepts being taught

Give attention to information literacy concepts rather than the mechanics of a particular technology so that

  • skills learned will be more transferable to future use

Incorporate contemporary language and topics, be as succinct as possible, and don't be afraid to entertain. This strategy will:

  • establish relevance to students’ lives
  • not overwhelm them with verbiage
  • help to keep their interest

Provide multiple ways for students to communicate with the instructor and subject experts such as librarians.

Whenever possible, make instruction course-related so that it:

  • provides context for the concepts being taught
  • makes the material more relevant to the student

1. See for example: Lynch, Patrick J. and Sarah Horton.Yale Style Manual 15 Feb. 2000. <> and Nielsen, Jakob. The Alertbox: Current Issues in Web Usability. 20 Feb. 2000. <>


Selected Resources:

Bartlett-Bragg, Anne. 2006. Reflections on pedagogy: Reframing practice to foster informal learning with social software.

Cole, Robert A. 2000. Issues in Web-based pedagogy: A critical primer. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Dewald, Nancy H. 2003. Pedagogy and andragogy. In Developing web-based instruction: planning, designing, managing, and evaluating for results, ed. E. A. Dupuis, 47-68. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Kasowitz-Scheer, Abby, and Michael Pasqualoni. 2002. Information literacy instruction in higher education: Trends and issues. ERIC Digest (29 April),

Mestre, Lori. 2006. Accommodating Diverse Learning Styles in an Online Environment. Reference & User Services Quarterly 46 (2): 27-32.

Newlin, Michael H., and Alvin Y. Wang. 2002. Integrating technology and pedagogy: Web instruction and seven principles of undergraduate education. Teaching of Psychology 29 (4): 325-330.

Owen, Martin, Lyndsay Grant, Steve Sayers, and Keri Facer. 2006. Social software and learning. Bristol, UK: FutureLab.

Richardson, Will. 2006. Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Smith, Susan Sharpless. 2006. Web-based instruction: A guide for libraries. 2nd ed. Chicago: ALA Editions.

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Last Revised: May 21, 2007