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Creating a visual Learning Aid for Ebsco's Discovery Service

Cloud created by:

Marie Susan Smith
26 March 2018

Title: Using Discovery - Visual Learning Aid

Narrator: Marie Smith


When they arrive, many of our first year students have a “Google mentality” and are used to typing their essay titles into Google to find information. Ebsco's Discovery emulates Google in that it finds articles, books and other academic material through a single search. However, it is so much more than this. I wanted to help our first year students make the transition from further education to higher education, and showing them how to search electronic resources with confidence would be a step towards achieving this.

Ebsco's Discovery is a search engine that finds articles, books and other academic material through a single search. I was looking at how students were  using the Discovery service, how successful their searches were, and how satisfied they were with the Discovery search tool in general. The qualitative data from snap focus groups, along with quantitative data gleaned from a simple questionnaire I designed, and first-hand experience – talking to students and showing them how to use the Discovery tool while working on the Enquiries Desk - suggested that they weren't using filters to refine their searches and were getting too many results.


To provide a simple, visual learning aid that breaks down the steps of a Discovery search. To improve the student experience, enabling students to search Discovery with confidence to find meaningful results. 


I hoped to produce a simple flowchart – a visual learning tool that would guide students through the process of searching Discovery and refining their results. Success criteria = Students becoming more confident in their abilities, and ready to embrace more in-depth search techniques.


I discovered that I was rubbish at producing flowcharts - and just to reiterate, the aim of my project was to produce a SIMPLE, visual learning aid. My flowchart was anything BUT simple! It also didn’t break down the steps in the way that I hoped it would, and didn’t convey a lot of the information that I wanted to share with our students. It was time to go back to the drawing board.


In the end I decided to use a tree diagram as a visual learning aid. While I was reading about visual literacy, I discovered that the most memorable visualizations are the ones that feature natural images. This being the case, I decided to make an actual tree a key feature of my visual learning aid. Completing this project was a valuable lesson. I found the courage to admit when my design wasn't working, and began thinging about other courses of action. In the end I was much happier with my visual learning aid, which is now available of the University Library website as both an animation, and as a poster. It is also used by the Faculty Librarians in their teaching, and I use it during my one-to-ones with students.

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