What is a Course Analyst? An Overview of a Rare Student Job

Submitted by Faith Harris, student at The Ohio State University and Course Analyst in the Teaching and Learning Department of University Libraries

When I was looking for a campus job before my second year, I came across a job called “course analyst.” Seeing as it was a job at Thompson Library (and having a life-long love of libraries and books) I decided to apply and see what this job was all about. I interviewed with (my now manager) Hanna Primeau, an instructional designer in the Teaching and Learning Department, and loved everything I heard. I began working in September of 2022 and set off on my newly found work.

Imagine my surprise when, a couple months into the job, I was told I am the only person on campus, and across multiple universities, with this position. And I was offered the opportunity to write about my position on this blog.

My job consists of many different responsibilities, including editing future courses, providing student feedback on the content, and suggesting changes to be made. I go through the course as if I am actually taking it for credit, doing all of the assignments, reading all of the assigned texts. I do the final projects, the midterms, and the quizzes. Afterwards, I utilize the Word document created by my manager and tear the course to shreds!

Only joking! After completing each assignment, I provide my feedback: what I liked, what was helpful, what didn’t make sense, and what could be improved. On top of this, I look for any typos, broken links, any sentences that don’t make much sense and record it all in a document for Hanna. I have provided feedback for two different courses so far, ARTSSCI 2120 and course 1411 by Danny Dotson.

I also take on other random projects that come up around the department. I have provided feedback for specific modules in different courses, I have recorded videos to be added to courses, and (my most recent project) went through the Choosing and Using Sources textbook to look for any errors and help improve the user experience.

Overall, the main purpose of my job is to provide a student perspective on assignments, readings, websites, pretty much whatever comes my way! The Teaching and Learning department uses me as their gateway into the student mind. Hanna told me from the start to always be honest with my feedback: if something is boring, say it’s boring. If something doesn’t make sense, say it doesn’t make sense. Our goal is to make these courses as enjoyable and as useful as possible for the students taking them, and that’s where I come in!

The Importance of Access to Librarians in High School

Post written by Janell Verdream, Instruction Librarian at The Ohio State University- Newark and Central Ohio Technical College.

In 2021, I joined librarians from Miami University, Abigail Morgan and Jerry Yarnetsky, as they built on a study they conducted in 2019. We surveyed first-year students at Miami and OSU-Newark who attended high school in Ohio before coming to college. The main focus of our research was to investigate how access to librarians in high school may impact feelings of preparedness for college-level research. We were also interested in comparing high school typologies (district size, poverty levels, and district type such as rural, urban, etc.) as we viewed our survey results.

Overall, students reported feeling anxious when it comes to conducting college-level research and using their university library. Only 41.4% of the respondents reported feeling prepared for college-level research. We found that students who attended high school remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic felt especially less prepared.

The good news is that instruction from librarians in high school did seem to make a difference. Having learned research skills from a librarian (instead of another person, an online module, or not at all) was correlated with feeling more prepared. Additionally, the smallest amount of help from a librarian in high school makes a huge difference. Only 27% of students who never received librarian help reported feeling prepared. This percentage nearly doubles when students “rarely” received help, with 50% of those students feeling prepared. 62% of students who “occasionally” received librarian help felt prepared for college-level research, and the students who felt most prepared (83%) were helped “frequently” in high school.

The unfortunate news is that 54.5% of our respondents reported never receiving help from a librarian in high school. This percentage is even higher among the students who attended a small-town high school (72.4% never received help) and those who attended rural high schools (58.8% never received help). Furthermore, it is those students who received the least help that reported feeling the most intimidated by their college libraries.

Inspired by our study results, Abi, Jerry, and I have made some changes to our day-to-day interactions with students. We are reducing library jargon on our signage and websites, as well as going back to the basics (how to access the library website, how to read call numbers, etc.) in our one-shots. We encourage you to consider your students’ perceptions of their research abilities and their levels of library anxiety as you plan future instruction sessions.

If you would like to learn more about our study, you can find our presentation at ALAO Annual 2022 here. NEO-RLS members also have access to a recorded webinar from earlier this month. We will also be presenting our research at ALA Annual this summer with additional updates based on conversations we’ve had with other library-related professional organizations around the state.

Taking the Easy Way Out Leads to Poor Information Literacy

Post written by Danny Dotson, Associate Professor, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist, and head of the Orton Memorial Library of Geology & the Gardner Family Map Room at The Ohio State University

At some point in their lifetime, many current university students have been given bad rules to use in their information seeking and use behaviors. I’m going to give some examples of these rules, why they’re bad, examples, and alternatives.

I’m going to make this graphical – that way, I won’t ramble (or rant).


So there you have it. Several rules I’ve heard over the years that, while good intentioned, end up doing some harm. They result in students making mistakes or not fully understanding they nuances or the WHY of what they’re doing. So let’s go more into those shades of gray.

Share Your Instructional Resources!

Written by Jane Hammons, Teaching & Learning Engagement Librarian at The Ohio State University

One of the best things about the library profession is that folks are usually very willing to share their ideas and resources with others. Sites such as the Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox and the PRIMO website provide great places where librarians can go to find instructional materials.

In that spirit, I wanted to share some instructional resources that I have recently developed using Adobe Express (not a paid advertisement for Adobe, I promise!). This is a program that allows you to really quickly create professional looking infographics, newsletters, and web resources. After finding out about this and seeing an example, I became basically obsessed with using it to develop new resources (ask the folks in my department if you don’t believe me). In my position, I often have instructional materials that I want to share with other instructors and librarians, not all of whom are at Ohio State. Many of these are housed in Canvas, but that creates challenges for sharing with folks outside of the institution. Express has given me the ability to create resources that I can easily share directly with others without requiring a log in.

A few of the recent resources I have developed include:


These two guides are aimed at students and are intended to provide a quick overview of some of the more common misconceptions that students might hold about source evaluation (such as all .org sources are trustworthy) as well as an introduction to the lateral reading method of source evaluation.

In addition, I created short guides for each of the core concepts in the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (Association of College & Research Libraries). These are intended to provide quick overviews of these concepts for either instructors or students.



If any of these resources may prove valuable to your instruction, please feel free to use them.

Do you have any instructional resources that you have developed that you would like to share with others? If so, we would love to see them. Please feel free to post a link in the chat below.


Written by Jane Hammons, Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian with University Libraries Teaching and Learning Department


What can librarians and instructors learn from Shakespeare and other playwrights or composers that we can use to get, and keep, students’ attention in the classroom?

In Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It, James M. Lang explores the topic of distraction and makes recommendations for strategies we can use to cultivate students’ attention. While his book was not intended specifically for librarians, many of the strategies are ones that librarians could use to help capture students’ interest. As Lang notes, “Teaching fails when we can no longer focus our students’ attention” (pg. 5). And so, thinking about, and strategically incorporating, practices to garner students’ attention should be one of our key focus areas when planning an instruction session, workshop, or course.

Before diving into the strategies, Lang takes some time to explore the broader issue of attention and distraction. He describes a narrative that is likely familiar to many of us, which is the idea that at one point in time, we all were able to focus. But now, thanks to all of our devices, we have lost that ability. Lang, however, challenges this notion, stating that “we have been sidetracked” by “assertive voices who lay the entire blame for our distractible natures at the feet of our laptops and phones” (p. xiii). Instead, Lang argues that we have always been distracted, providing examples of complaints about the inability to concentrate that are found throughout history, well before the first smartphone. Distraction, Lang argues, is natural to humans. And so, rather than focusing on strategies for avoiding distraction, such as banning technology in the classroom, Lang proposes that we instead focus on strategies that we can use to get attention. Lang insists that it is possible for us to get and keep students’ attention but that this must be something that we cultivate deliberately.

And this is where the reference to Shakespeare and other playwrights and composers come in, for these are folks who are regularly able to get, and keep, people’s attention for long periods of time. Based on these examples, and other research into learning, Lang provides several strategies that instructors can use to help keep students focused. A few examples include:


  • Create a sense of community in the classroom. As Lang notes, we are social beings, and “we are built to pay attention to other human beings…” (pg. 98). Having students interact with other students in groups or pairs can help them to stay on task.
  • Use students’ names. As we know from those times when we hear our name shouted out in a crowd, “our names have tremendous power to capture our attention” (pg. 107). While this can be challenging for librarians teaching one-shot sessions, there are things that you can do, such as temporary or erasable name tents, that can allow you to use students’ names even during a one-shot setting.
  • Move students, and yourself, around. While this is not always possible due to room configurations, having students move around, or making sure that you move to different places in the classroom, can help to refocus attention. When possible, Lang recommends that you “make your movements around the room deliberate” by standing near different groups of students. He encourages you to “join them in their space” rather than remaining behind the invisible plane that often separates teachers from the students (p. 119).
  • Make students curious. Rather than starting with an overview of learning objectives, start with a question or activity intended to get students interested in the content of the session. For example, show an image and have them consider how that might be related to the overall theme of the class session.
  • Make it modular. Think of an instruction session of consisting of several different short modules, and have each module be a different kind of event or activity. For example, a short lecture followed by a group activity followed by a demonstration followed by an individual writing activity. When possible, try to follow a passive activity, such as a lecture, with a something more active, so that students are switching between modes. As Lang notes, attention degrades over time, so each time you switch between modules it is a chance to recapture attention.
  • Think like a composer or playwright and provide transitions and signposts. Similar to the point above, plays are broken into different acts, with each new act being another chance to regain the audience’s attention. In addition, the audience usually is given a program that provides them with clues to what is coming up and allows them to reorient themselves if they get lost. Providing a similar structure can also help get students’ attention.


As you review this list, you may be thinking that you already do many of these things, just as general best practices related to teaching. In this context, the key is thinking about these strategies as tactics for getting and keeping students’ attention, and making sure you are being deliberate about how you employ them in the pursuit of attention.



Lang, J. M. (2020). Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It. Basic Books.


I’m Using EBSCO

Post written by Danny Dotson, Associate Professor, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist, and head of the Orton Memorial Library of Geology & the Gardner Family Map Room at The Ohio State University


So have you ever had a student tell you that they’re using EBSCO or ProQuest – or some other “database” for their searching? If you’re a librarian, you’ll know this isn’t useful info. But I’m going to help demonstrate just HOW unusual it is.

For those that may not know why at all, a background.  EBSCO and ProQuest are database vendors. They sell many different databases. Many many databases.  And while their branded platform may make most, if not all, of their databases look the similar (if not the same in some cases), what these databases search for and their search features can vary.

Imagine if you asked someone what they were eating. And they replied “Nabisco!”  That’s not very informative. Are they eating Chips Ahoy!? Ritz crackers? Easy Cheese?

Using what Ohio State has to offer, here are the possibilities for when people name a vendor rather than the actual database:

Now let’s look closer at EBSCO’s database.  I mean, real close.  How small does the font have to be to get all of the databases to fit so that this blog can be drafted in just a 1 page Word document (1/2 inch margins)? Even using 4 columns, the Arial font has to be at 4 pt!

This just addressed two vendors. There are others with multiple databases..

So next time you have someone say they’re using EBSCO or ProQuest, let them know you had some Nabisco earlier!

Principled Uncertainty as Catalyst for Learning

By Craig Gibson, Professor and Professional Development Coordinator in the Libraries at The Ohio State University


On Wednesday, April 20th, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST, The Ohio State University Libraries (OSUL) will host a virtual chat entitled, “Principled Uncertainty as a Catalyst for Learning: A Conversation with Barbara Fister.” Barbara Fister, a well-known information literacy advocate and the Scholar in Residence at Project Information Literacy (PIL), will join Michael Flierl, the Information Literacy and Research Engagement Librarian at OSUL, who will moderate the 90-minute session, to discuss how librarians and educators can help students deal with uncertainty by developing ethical curiosity as an everyday life habit.

As academic librarians, how do we develop dispositions like curiosity in order to enable “principled uncertainty,” especially at scale? How do we work across curricula to develop this habit of mind in assignments and courses? How do we work with faculty and faculty developers to accomplish this shift in mindset over time? How do we leverage the “one-shot” instruction session to encourage more open-ended exploration of complex subjects on the part of students to encourage more open-ended exploration of complex topics as learning trajectories, to resist the drive for “settled answers”?

During a virtual conversation with librarians, faculty, staff and students from the OSU library system, Writing Center and the Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning, at OSU as well as members of the statewide ALAO organization, Fister will explore these questions and draw from both her depth of experience leading an academic library and her recent article, “Principled Uncertainty: Why Learning to Ask Good Questions Matters More than Finding Answers,” for the PIL Provocation Series. Fister, Professor Emerita, Gustavus Adolphus College (MN), designed workshops and taught courses on information literacy at the college level for over 30 years. She is the Contributing Editor for the PIL Provocation Series, and has been PIL’s Scholar in Residence since 2019.

The virtual discussion is limited to 60 – 65 participants who may register in advance hereALAO members are invited to attend.


Limit Yourself

Post written by Danny Dotson, Associate Professor, Mathematical Sciences Librarian & Science Education Specialist, and head of the Orton Memorial Library of Geology & the Gardner Family Map Room at The Ohio State University


One of my favorite things to do when visiting a course is to talk about the value of the limit options in library search tools. I go into this knowing that some will likely not make use of some of these and go through the habit learned from years of using Google of doing a more manual sift through of content. I’ve even had a student in my own credit course say they preferred the manual sift after being introduced to these advanced features. Until they were made to use them and then indicated they realize how much work they made for themselves by not using these options.

I try to demonstrate the value by showing how much less you have to look at. For example:

Why limits?

Maybe you don’t read another language….

Maybe you don’t want to get up from your computer…

Maybe you only want to focus on recent content…

Or maybe you want all of these….

Of course, in any case, there may still be items not relevant. Relevant items may be removed because they don’t fit the imposed extra criteria. But it means less (sometimes far less) items to examine for relevance.


So make your life easier – limit yourself.


Connecting Instructors with Resources: Introducing the University Libraries’ Instructor Resources Site

Written by Jane Hammons (Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian), Hanna Primeau (Instructional Designer), Amanda Larson (Affordable Learning Instructional Consultant), and Allison Schultz (Library Liaison for the Office of Technology and Digital Innovation) at The Ohio State University.


One of the challenges for librarians can be making sure that instructors are aware of all of the resources available through the library. Instructors, meanwhile, may find themselves searching for instructional materials to help students engage with the library and develop research skills, but not know where to go to find them. To overcome this problem, a team from The Ohio State University Libraries Teaching & Learning department has been working to develop a one-stop site where instructors can find guidance for incorporating library resources into their courses, learning more about affordable and open educational materials, and teaching information literacy and research.

Site Development

The creation of the site was a multi-year process that began with a desire to inventory the existing digital learning objects that had been created by Ohio State librarians and staff. The road from this beginning to the site launch did not always run smoothly. The COVID19 pandemic saw three members of the development team given new responsibilities to support the rapid transition to virtual instruction, taking time away from the project. An initial WordPress version of the site was developed and launched in 2020, but then came a new opportunity to transition to site to a location on the library website. While this shift brought new work, the opportunity to have a more visible and easily accessible location for the site was worth the challenge.

Site Overview

One of the major goals for the site was to connect instructors with “ready to share” resources that can be quickly integrated into a course. Resources include videos, recommended readings, and sample activities.

The newly launched Instructor Resources at University Libraries site provides information and resources on a range of different topics, including:

  • Integrating library materials
    • The materials on this part of the site are intended to help students gain familiarity with The Ohio State University Libraries system, with “ready to share” resources that will teach students how to utilize the library catalog, navigate databases, discover eBook collections and more.
  • Locating and teaching with affordable materials
    • This part of the site provides instructors with an overview of the affordability spectrum and gives guidance for locating, evaluating, and teaching with affordable resources.
  • Teaching research and information literacy
    • This part of the site includes resources and activities that instructors can use to help students select appropriate search tools, develop research questions, evaluate information sources and use information ethically.

In addition, instructors can request several pre-made Canvas modules on topics such as synthesizing sources, citation tracing, citing sources, annotated bibliographies and literature reviews. Modules can be downloaded into a course and edited by the instructor to meet course needs.

Resources are available to anyone teaching at The Ohio State University and are intended to be ready to share with students with minimal or no modification needed. Many of the resources are also available to librarians and instructors outside of Ohio State.

Next Steps

While the creation of the site was a long journey, our hope is that it will be a place where instructors and librarians can quickly locate library-curated materials to support student learning. We also recognize that the “launching” of the site does not mean the end of our work. For our next steps, we are developing a plan for the ongoing development, maintenance, and assessment of the site. This involves creating guidelines for how new material will be added to the site, including material created by Libraries’ faculty and staff outside of the development team.

Use These 5 Ideas from the Dance Classroom To Liven Up Your Next Instruction Session

Written by Mara Frazier, Curator of Dance at the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at The Ohio State University.


Take a moment to close your eyes and take a deep breath, filling up your belly. Let it out through your mouth. Teaching is hard. Teaching library instruction in a one-shot, during a global pandemic, is especially challenging.

Challenges in library teaching are many and include:

  • tricky instructor requests
  • library anxiety
  • limitations to the 50-minute 1-shot

Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has destabilized us. Due to Covid we must learn new tech tools and teach online and hybrid instruction. Covid has put an added emotional and cognitive load on students. All of this can make it hard to convey the information that we need to get across in a one-shot.

In 20+ years of teaching dance, I found that sustainable, transformative teaching always accounts for the mind and body. As crazy as it may seem to apply dance instruction ideas in the library, I believe that it is quite sensible.

The key is the common ground of the body.

What I am about to say is both obvious and profound: We all have a body.

It is with/through/in a body that we sense, process, and navigate the environment.

This is obvious and yet we often forget its import. We might focus more on the information we need to get across in a teaching session than on the ways our students will experience it in. By changing our orientation towards learning to account for the way mind and body work together, we can improve student engagement in our classrooms.

Here, I’ve gathered a few examples of how this plays out in the dance classroom and paired the examples with thoughts about how to implement this­–in fact, how I do implement this–in library instruction.

I hope in this list of 7 things, you find something you might want to try in your next one-shot to increase the engagement of your students.

1. More listening, less talking.

Chances are, you are talking too much in your teaching. (I know I do.)

As a novice dance teacher, I used to take a lot of time to explain the correct ways to do and think about a given movement. I would talk about a movement’s history, other names, and a thousand technical pointers about how to perform a given movement correctly. Meanwhile, students were standing, waiting, with their eyes glazing over. Over the years, I learned that almost anything else worked better. I learned to structure chances to practice early and often into the class. By doing, students could observe and respond to themselves and others.

The next time you are planning library instruction, build in time for listening and doing. Think about where and when to talk less. Where can you pause and offer students the opportunity to talk or experience?

For example, when a student asks a question, instead of answering it, open the question to the class. Try, “Great question. Does anyone have an answer they can contribute?” Or, when teaching a specific search strategy, try starting with an experience before explaining anything about it. Let the students have an experience, respond to it, and go from there.

2. Be Present

Many of us have been taught to prepare, prepare, prepare. But have you ever spent hours developing a beautiful slide deck and handouts only to have to skip the last 40% of the slides and rush through the handout in the class session? Have you ever spent so much time prepping that you have developed an overwhelming assemblage of information that is too much to share, and then become too stressed to connect with students and swore never to teach again?

I have. I’ve done the equivalent in the dance classroom too. This means rushing into and through dance movements in front of students, while forgetting to relate to them as actual humans. This results in stressed students and a stressed instructor. People who are stressed don’t learn well.

I’ve learned to replace some of my prep time with mindfulness meditation or deep breathing. Instead of a detailed document outlining my class plan, sometimes I will do a simple flow chart showing the concepts and activities I intend to engage in. Therefore, I show up more present and responsive.

Figure 1. A simple flow-chart style lesson plan for a dance class. Try something like this instead of a detailed document to free up your time and attention to be present with students.

It is more powerful to be mindfully present than to cover a large batch of information. Next time you’re prepping a lesson, take a step back.  Instead of detailing activities and resources down to the word, try simply sketching your class’s flow in a simple flowchart. Then use your remaining planning time to breathe and visualize your class. How do you want students to feel during and after the lesson? How do you want to feel? This is inspired by activist Adrienne Maree Brown’s idea of “more presence, less prep”–a principle of her theory and practice, Emergent Strategy.

3. Embrace Practice

Practice is everything in dance. In dance, a student may at first be unable to accomplish even the most basic step correctly. Take the plie, a bend of both knees with a straight back. Nearly every ballet class begins with a plie. It is only through years of repeated, intentional practice that dance students achieve mastery of this simple step. In the process of repeating it over years, students grow profoundly.

Furthermore, even expert ballet dancers continue to start their daily practice with plies. As an individual returns to this basic movement over the course of a career, they gain new insight into the same movement information.

What if we approached our library teaching sessions with a practice mindset?

We know that students will not achieve mastery in a 50-minute one-off. Therefore, it makes sense to think of the student’s lifelong relationship to information. Even though we may only have one instruction session with them, they will need to access information over and over throughout the course of their lives. What foundational concepts can you give students a chance to practice in your next teaching session, even if they have practiced it before? Can you allow the possibility that students will struggle with their practice, knowing that they may achieve mastery down the road through the struggle?

4. Invite students to explicitly pay attention to their physical sensations

Dance classes often start and end with ritualized opportunities to become aware of sensations. This may include instruction to take a deep breath, to be still, or to sense one’s physical weight supports in a seated or standing position.

Applying a strategy like this doesn’t have to be anything complicated for the library classroom. It can be as simple as an invitation to observe something they see in the room, to observe the temperature, the feel of air on their skin, feel their seat underneath themselves, or take a deep breath. This can be particularly useful when trying to approach an activity or topic that you anticipate can bring up anxiety, like engaging with technology or using complex search strategies. You can offer this as simply as how this article began, by saying “Take a deep breath.”

Explicitly acknowledging the body can feel like an impossible barrier to breach as an instructor. However, in my experience, students love to be given a low-stakes opportunity to become aware of their sensations, breath, or physical location.

5. Try a “brain dance”.

Brain dance comes from creative dance instructor Anne Green Gilbert, who founded the creative dance center in Seattle. Brain dance moves reduce tension, helping students coordinate their breath, body, and focus of their eyes, becoming more ready to learn. When I see students showing tension in their muscles or becoming restless, I offer a brain dance exercise as a quick reset.

A simple, non-threatening, brain dance-inspired exercise to invite students to do during library instruction is to a cross-lateral movement. This is any movement that brings a body part across the body’s center line to the other side. For example (this is the one I use most often), invite students to bring their right fingertips across their body to touch the back surface of their left shoulder. While touching the shoulder, invite them to take a deep breath into the belly and let it out. If you phrase it right, explaining that this is an optional reset to help them focus better on the next phase of a lesson, you can avoid making anyone feel performance anxiety, and give an out to any who are determined not to participate in a movement activity.

Try it out

I hope this post gave you a few physical or mental strategies you’d like to try to increase student engagement in your classroom. Now I will turn it over to you:

How do you already engage students physically in their learning?

Which of these things would you like to try in your next one shot?

How would you tailor it to apply to your subject area?

Let me know in a comment.



Adrienne Marie Brown, Emergent Strategy (Chico: AK Press, 2017).

Anne Green Gilbert, Brain-Compatible Dance Education. (Champaign, Human Kinetics, 2019).