New Focused Inquiry module helps students master core research skills

December 14, 2021

Teaching new students research methods requires perseverance and creativity. VCU Libraries’ new online module is the latest example of fresh approaches to teaching that engage students in new ways, on their own schedules.  

Created for use tied to Focused Inquiry’s UNIV 200, a course required of all incoming students, the self-paced module covers core skills such as formulating an effective research question, locating sources from VCU Libraries and differentiating types of sources. “This short module was developed to provide foundational library research instruction to our fully online students and we have seen the added benefit that many professors are leveraging the content for in person classes as well,” explained VCU’s Online Learning Librarian  Hope Kelly.  

Introduced in fall 2021, the module saw 128 UNIV 200 students enrolled with 72 students meeting all requirements to earn a completion certificate that many faculty leveraged as homework, extra credit, or in preparation for in-person library instruction. 

Focused Inquiry faculty give the module high marks. Instructor Nadia Inserra found “It was also helpful for me because the assignment was graded, so students had to read the material and it was easy for me to grade it using the completion certificate.” Frank Cha noted, “My thinking was that having students learn about resources and strategies developed by the library would allow them to better understand the concepts and activities that the librarian incorporated in her session...I plan to continue assigning the module in the future...because I think it encourages students to learn about key research skills that we as a class could expand upon once they complete it.” 

The impact on student learning seems promising. More than 91 percent of students who completed the module demonstrated that they were able to conduct keyword searches and filter results for time spans and peer-reviewed resources. Students also performed well on the short quiz on identifying source types, averaging 95 percent.  

The module will close over winter break to incorporate changes from FI’s Information Fluency Committee feedback and item analysis for the quiz. The module will reopen for student self enrollment at the beginning of spring semester and this assignment can be incorporated into course sites for faculty wishing to collect completion certificates within the Canvas platform.  


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