November 18, 2017

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Get Middle and High School Students Research Ready with SKILL Modules

Credo courseware is a platform that helps students prepare for higher education and the workforce by focusing on the development of skills such as critical thinking and written and oral communication. This new database offers middle and high schoolers a set of mini lessons on standard information literacy and research-related topics, such as avoiding plagiarism, learning how to craft a thesis sentence, understanding search engine results, and evaluating sources.

SKILL Modules by Credo

Grade Level Gr 6 Up

Cost Pricing ranges from $500 (small school) to $750 (large school) per annual subscription.

Content Students enter through a “Start Here” link and are presented with a cleanly designed framework. An overview menu with drop-down sections runs down the left side of the page, while content appears in a large central window. Within individual sections, a paginated menu appears across the top of the window. “Next” and “previous” buttons let students progress through the course.

After a welcome greeting and pretest, the course is divided into four major sections, “Taking on a Research Project,” “Using and Understanding Resources,” “Academic Integrity,” and “Study and Writing Skills.” It concludes with a posttest.

Within each section, much of the instructional material consists of animated videos, each roughly three to five minutes long, with available real-time transcripts, which can be turned off for students who find them distracting or activated either to the side of the video or as a “closed caption” at the bottom. Transcripts are also downloadable.

Videos cover a range of interrelated subjects, including the research process, the various categories of resources, choosing a database, digital citizenship and plagiarism, understanding search results, and note taking. Instruction moves at a moderate, conversational pace and can be slowed to three-quarter time or sped up to 1.5. Videos are easily paused and moved forward or back.

Tutorials or sections including print rather than video instructional materials cover subjects such as the key differences between background and more in-depth research, preparation for a pro/con debate, and 10 common writing errors, including verb tense and subject-verb agreement.

The unit on research opens with a three-minute video on inquiry and open-mindedness, then moves on to a video and a five question quiz on the research process. This is followed by a video, “How To Narrow Your Topic,” and a tutorial offering back-ground research tips.  The unit closes with a video and quiz on thesis statements and another video on searching with keywords.

Multiple-choice quizzes appear through-out the course. Tutorials include broader “test your skills” activities.

Videos and tutorials can be used individually for one-shot library lessons or as multimedia resources for a flipped classroom instructional model. Material from outside sources is cited appropriately.

Ease of Use Navigation tools are clearly marked and intuitive, making it simple to jump around the site or search for specific elements, and the design is free of advertisements, flashy graphics, or bright colors. In addition, the prominent “bookmarks” but-ton lets users flag individual pages to access them later.

Content is presented in a combination of text and video formats with accessible tools and utilities for a limited degree of student customization.

Student and Teacher Resources Information is available for subscribing instructors to embed in library or school websites, either as an entire course or individual elements. Content may be accessed by a password or within an institution’s network via IP authentication.

Separate views are provided for staff and students. The staff view displays links to embed codes and URLs for course materials, as well as a “how to” and an instructional dashboard that includes auto-mated assessment tools and reports. Students see only the “Home” and “Start Here” links. The staff view also offers an instructor guide for each section, with learning objectives, pertinent AASL and ACRL standards, discussion topics, and activity ideas.

Verdict  While the cost is not trivial, it is within the typical range for database services. The content is well organized, easy to navigate, and clearly presented. With its plain design and concise lesson structure focused on brief lessons and discrete skills, this resource is adaptable to a range of instructional contexts, either in total, as a stand-alone or supplemental course, or as a collection of individual multimedia resources for more targeted information skills instruction. This is a solid purchase for middle and high school libraries.

Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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