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Working with Faculty on Extracurricular Projects

October 16, 2020

Engaging with faculty to develop and incorporate projects in conjunction with the library is a great way to engage with students. Librarians can use these projects as opportunities to help students work on valuable information literacy skills in an interactive, student-driven activity that is closely aligned with the work they’re doing in class.

However, the process of recruiting faculty and developing the project is not always easy and there are several things to keep in mind as you begin these conversations:

  • At the beginning of the project, be sure to set clear goals and objectives for the students to achieve. This will help you explain the value of the project to faculty, as well as the students, and it will help you stay on task as the project inevitably evolves and changes as students begin working on it.
  • Start communication with faculty early. Most projects, even relatively small ones like a book display, will take a lot of coordination between the library and the instructor. At the very least, you should contact them the semester before you would like the project to take place so faculty can see how it fits into their syllabi.
  • One of the reasons you want to start early with faculty is to allow them to build in enough time for you to visit (or virtually visit) the class to explain the project. For many projects, you will have to essentially embed yourself in the class, requiring multiple visits or meetings outside of class time to lay out the details and provide students with instructions. This will take a big chunk of class time so coordinating the schedule with faculty is important.
  • Allow your project to be scalable. While some instructors may be happy to incorporate the project into the course as a required assignment, others may be more willing to offer it as extra credit. Depending on how it is offered to students, you may get a full class worth or simply a handful. Allowing your project to be flexible regarding the number of participants ensures that students can still develop their necessary skills while also ensuring the project meets its core objectives.
  • When you do meet with students about your project, be sure to be very throughout in describing the project, especially if there are unique tools or submission requirements. Even relatively simple or common tools, such as GSuite, may require some familiarization on the part of the student. Including activities and incremental assignments to help students become familiar with the appropriate tools and techniques will provide students with specific instructions on how they can complete the project.
  • If working on this project with students and faculty remotely, students will be even more difficult to communicate with. Be understanding that not everyone may be able to attend specific meetings. Consider creating multiple office hour times for students to meet with you or record and share your Zoom meetings. At the same time, they must understand that they are still responsible for putting in the work. If it is an extra credit project outside of the class, set strict expectations for participation in meetings and require students to attend one of your sessions or view the recordings to remain active in the project.
  • Do not forget to include a way to share your project when it is done! Whether it is through an article, a student research presentation, or simply a social media post, you and the students created something that is worth sharing and showing off to others. It may also create opportunities for collaborations with other students and faculty on future projects!
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