Searching 101: A new interactive digital book teaches student how to [re]search

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 2.58.25 PMMost instructors who assign any kind of research and work with first-year students have probably spent time explaining good search practices. Some courses, especially those in the humanities and specifically those in composition, often dedicate a day or more of each semester to walking students through the process. Now, the Ohio State’s library department has created a fantastic, free resource for students: Searching 101 is a crash course in search engine mastery using practice search terms, quiz questions, and simple, pleasing images.

This text really is a great, zero-cost tool for both instructors and students:

  • First, let’s revisit the cost — free! While the internet is full of resources that are available at no cost, they usually come with ads, require wireless connection, and are limited to text and images. This is a full guide for learning the research process developed by library professionals for student purposes. Once downloaded, students can access this text anytime they need, regardless of connection.
  • Wonderful design. At fifteen pages, not a word or widget was wasted, but nothing is missing either. The design of this book is really purposeful, seamless, and effective. The visual representations are clean and clear as well.
  • Practice, not just instruction. Each step of the search process is first explained them demonstrated with widgets that give students the chance to check their answers. Readers are given situational prompts throughout the book and asked to choose the most effective action. Not only can they practice, but the book is filled with pop-up answers that will help them understand why their choices worked or didn’t work.
  • The book file type is an iBook, meaning it can be read on an iPad or Mac. If you want to review the book but don’t have an Apple device, visit any of the Digital Unions to browse there. Continue reading

OpenStax: “Open” is better than “Free,” and What the Resource Offers

OpenStax2Yesterday, David Harris, Editor in Chief of OpenStax, came to speak about the organization’s project and development. OpenStax is a free, open textbook resource, meaning that not only are their texts available for use at no cost to staff or students, but they can also be cut, modified, and customized endlessly with no copyright issues. More about them from their website:

OpenStax College is a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials. Our free textbooks are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate, and meet the scope and sequence requirements of your course. Through our partnerships with companies and foundations committed to reducing costs for students, OpenStax College is working to improve access to higher education for all.

For those interested in browsing their content, we have made their textbooks available for download here. To be clear, OpenStax is working to create texts that are not only free but infinitely adaptable without the instructor themselves having to author the work. OpenStax very much aligns with the goals of Creative Commons — the intent to make information and resources available for use without concern of copyright issues. While copyright itself may not seem of imminent concern to all, especially students, another viewpoint to be held is that copyright equals cost. Hence, “open” resources of any time translate into reduced costs for students. Were a university to entirely adopt this system and eliminate textbook costs altogether for undergraduates, that would mean a student who had needed student loans to get their college education would graduate with thousands of dollars less in student loan debt.

If you have questions, Ashley Miller would also be happy to talk in more detail about OpenStax to any interested parties. She can also arrange a phone call or WebEx with the OpenStax team, particularly if anyone would like to see a demonstration of the web editor interface. You can email her at