Online tutorials and teaching citation management tools

The number one thing that was missing for me with online tutorials is the “stop and wait for me to try it” aspect of a live instructor. Obviously, there is a pause button, I know, but even so, it’s not the same. If I have an automated learning experience, I like to be able to work through the process on an imaginary project or something, where I can compare my finished project to the model. Instead, tutorials can often be guided tours… I tried a few as a got to know Zotero and Mendeley a little better. (But I still don’t really get it, sigh…)

Are you familiar with the University of Arizona’s “Guide on the Side” software? It’s kind of that idea of having a virtual coach talking you through the steps as you go, like in a sidebar. I would love to see more of this kind of thing! Maybe that’s something I will have to keep in mind if ever I am an online workshop creator!

While live instructors can give feedback, answer questions or re-calibrate their instruction based on where the learner is, an insightful online tutorial could predict some of its learners needs and try to proactively address them. For example, I feel like PIMs involve a paradigm shift for many would-be users, as they probably already had some kind of system in place. When I switched from Firefox to Google Chrome, I was overwhelmed and felt like I needed an experienced insider to hold my hand and show me what I needed to know–not the “special features show-off videos from Google.” For whatever reason, the idea of a search bar and address bar all in one was a shift for me.

Short of being forced/pushed/strongly encouraged to use a PIM, I feel similarly about leaving behind my old system. I’d really like someone to just sit down with me and show me live what they like about Zotero and Mendeley. (I also wish I knew who uses either in real life, so that I have a buddy to bug with questions.) But, given that I lack a peer to sit down with me to show me the ropes, I feel like the closer you can get to a step-by-step get-to-know-the-tool workshop (and farther from the guided-tour video) for citation management instruction, the better.

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