Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering: A Case of Efficiently Educating Engineers

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The Solution

The library team at Olin decided to partner with Credo to design and implement a more streamlined, dynamic, and user-friendly delivery of research literacy instruction using Credo's Literati Academic product. The information literacy platform combines faculty and student outreach, multimedia instruction, and tools for assessment, as well as content-led reference resource discovery. Literati is also extremely customizable, which was appealing to Olin since the institution prides itself on its unique teaching methods. Those methods include specific language, the configuration of the learning material, and specific tools. This all had to be done without diluting or significantly altering the comprehensive rubric that the library team had already developed. Because of that, the Literati platform would best fulfill the needs of Olin's students, the college's resources, and the specific engineering coursework. 

"Institutions with non-traditional, unique learning environments-Olin being one example-absolutely need a specialized platform and multimedia materials customized to their curriculum. The Literati service component allows subscribers to determine which tools and services would have the greatest impact on their work," explains Carol Helton, executive vice president of customer solutions and marketing at Credo.

After a standard assessment process, Credo worked with Olin to design an interface for the library's rubric for research literacy. This meant incorporating Olin's philosophy and approach in teaching: students "do" and practice hands-on application of concepts before specific instruction on the underlying theory. In addition, Olin's library had already developed engineering-specific learning modules and interactive instructional multimedia materials that were implemented into the customized Literati platform.

"Olin College is an ideal Literati subscriber because they know their students and their students' needs well," Helton notes. The development process was relatively swift: only one academic year. This was due, in part, to library director Magnoni's already proven rubric and instruction outlines. 

The Olin team knew that the college's students would be the best group to test the new Literati system, and Credo conducted usability testing with them. "Our students are very used to their opinions being asked," Magnoni shares. "[T]hey're obviously very analytical as future engineers."  Through this testing process, it was determined that some adjustments were needed before full implementation could occur. 

"The process was thorough," Magnoni explains. "[Olin and Credo] didn't skip any steps." While this meant pushing full implementation from the original spring 2013 target to fall 2013, the Olin library team was comfortable with this in order to ensure the best final product. 

"What we have now is something completely new created for Olin," says Magnoni. "The team at Credo is fantastic. They provided all the skills I don't have at Olin and they were extremely responsive yet very patient."

The Outcome

While the full implementation will begin in the 2013 fall semester, Magnoni and Olin College are pleased with the final Literati product and feel confident that it is now strategically streamlined and comprehensive. It also keeps with the college's teaching and learning philosophies.

In addition to the single interface for students, the platform is also designed for a cleaner assessment portion. Librarians and faculty have the ability to see students' work, which not only assists in grading but in deciding when to intervene should a student need additional research help. Literati also makes it easier for library team members and faculty to create statistics, as well as see and track changes over time. 

In the short term, Olin is looking into developing additional multimedia materials to further enhance the modules. Another project that will be implemented soon is a shared badge program that will allow students anywhere-particularly undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students-access to the college's Literati platform research literacy program. 

Olin and Credo also hope to create a writing skills module focused on abstract writing, which is integral to engineering students. This endeavor would include writing rubrics that students could complete online, working at their own time and pace through the Literati platform.  

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