8 Collect all Eight

Choose your own adventure in learning to develop information literacy skills using QR codes for first year students

Amy Dye-Reeves

“the future of the library will be shaped in part by those librarians who have chosen to develop a challenging medium, one of shifting platforms, unproven ideas, and constrained resources” (Hahn 2009)


Texas Tech University is a public research university located in Lubbock, Texas. The university is a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). The total students are approximately 30,041 undergraduate students and 6,798 graduate students. (Texas Tech University, 2022). The university library contains one dean, two assistant deans, three associate deans, forty-six faculty members (librarians/archivists), and one hundred and two staff members.

The University Libraries building structure includes the Main Libraries, Architecture Library, Costa Rica Library, Peters Family Legacy Library, and Southwest Collection/Special Collections. The library’s mission is driven to “connect users with resources that advance intellectual inquiry and discovery.” (TTU Libraries Mission Statement, 2022).

For this case study, I am part of the Reference, Instruction, and Outreach (RIO) department that provides personalized research assistance to all faculty, staff, and students. The department contains thirteen full-time faculty librarians that support varying academic colleges and departments within the university. The work in this department includes group instruction, individual student consultations, and participation in outreach programs. Each summer, the department participates in the campus-wide initiative, Red Raider Orientation (RRO), which helps incoming students navigate the university before the start of the fall term. In the past, the RIO department was part of the RRO program by offering extensive group tours with multiple librarians taking students around all the various floors of the library. The tours were often seen as problematic due to many students not hearing all of the information provided by the librarians. Upon returned evaluations, students still felt uncertain about moving comfortably within a sizeable academic library.

Due to various circumstances, the department felt it was critical to begin providing information on both in-person and digital services. The goal was to offer a low-stakes experience where students felt safe to explore library resources online. RRO also began offering all orientation experiences online. As a result we found participants must be self-motivated to complete any extra activities. For motivation we considered offering a prize or special certification would need to be incentivized as this library experience would be voluntary. As discussed later, the task force and I worked with the Communication and Marketing department to give each participant a prize pack for completion. The prize pack included the following: pens, jump drives, sunglasses, and notepads.

The following chapter will discuss a digital library orientation experience.

Literature Review

The reviewed literature is well-documented concerning library-centered orientations and associated library service point tours where students are more likely to request additional research assistance with papers, projects, and presentations. (Boff & Johnson, 2002; Brown, Weingart, Johnson, & Dance, 2004; Du Mont & Schloman, 1995; Pellegrino, 2012; Ury & King, 1995; Vance, Kirk, & Gardner, 2012); as this directly connects to end results of patrons engaging within the digital library orientation. The active learning exercises in the literature included escape rooms and scavenger hunts that provided low-impact opportunities and introduced library locations and services that helped lower anxiety and increased overall completion rates.   (Broussard, 2010; Burke & Lei, 2012; Cahoy & Bichel, 2008; Kasbohm, Scheon, & Dubaj, 2006; Marcus & Beck, 2003 McCain, 2007)

During the systematic review process, I retrieved the top three relevant topics that applied directly to the case study. The topics included: understanding physical library orientations, implementing virtual library orientations, and the benefits of gamification within library orientation experiences with a focus on low-stakes games and assessments.

Physical Library Orientation Programs

Rice (1981) explained that library orientations often focus on the physical building, the introduction of library faculty and staff members, and related library procedures. Students will also have different academic backgrounds when participating in this event, which would need to be structured broadly. (Bhornchanit, Leenaraji, et al., 2021; Cook et al.; 2003). Klain- Gabby and Shoham (2019) denote that student orientation programs are needed to propel and highlight library services within a student’s academic career. The literature must continue to be examined as a need for knowledge of library services expands to equipping students’ comfort level to ensure accessibility, lending materials, and other vital resources needed to support the entirety of the research process. (Hamilton 2009; Sin 2012; Baglier and Caswell 2016). Other authors have explored the positivity of self-guided tours within physical environments to improve one’s academic career. (Goldman, Turnbrow, Roth, Friedman & Heskett, 2018; Kaneko, Saito, Nohara, Kudo, and Yamada, 2018;  Ly & Car, 2010; McCain, 2007). Students that receive a library orientation would likely ask for additional research assistance with future course papers, projects, and presentations. (Boff & Johnson, 2002; Brown, Weingart, Johnson, & Dance, 2004; Du Mont & Scholman, 1995; Pellegrino, 2012; Ury & King, 1995; Vance, Kirk, Gardner, 2012). However, physical library orientation might not always be appropriate for everyone and provide flexibility for all involved parties (Granholm 2007).

Virtual Library Orientation Programs

While conducting the literature review, I found that the virtual library orientations consisted of the following digital structures: asynchronous (Dent, 2004; Dickelson, 2002; Fitz-Walter et al., 2011; Georgas, 2014; Mikkelsen and Davidson, 2011) and hybrid opportunities (Dennen et al., 2015; Elsom et al., 2021; Hicks and Sinkinson, 2011; Kaneko et al., 2015; Leenaraji et al., 2021; Levitan and Rosentein, 2019; Stark, Opuda, McElfresh, et al., 2021; Whitchurch, 2011; Tang 2021). In addition, the author noticed a large amount of virtual programming ranging from escape rooms, scavenger hunts, and other forms of gamification in which to engage their audience.

However, the systematic review focused on studying, creating, and implementing digital library scavenger hunts in this case. Therefore, it would be the main focus of this systematic review section. A library scavenger hunt is an “assignment designed to acquaint novice students with the physical library and its resources. It comprises a list of questions that have no immediate relevance to course content. It is not preceded by a former library orientation or instruction session.” (McCain, 2007). The activity has the participants explore the building and introduce them to library resources and services. Lyn and Car also found the activity to be problematic as a “much criticized, even hated by many instruction librarians as ineffective ways to teach research skills. (Ly and Carr, 2010).

Benefits of Gamification Held Within Virtual Library Orientations

Gamification looks at the logic and experimental design that engages and motivates users to accomplish a specific or set number of objectives. (Tang, 2021). Multiple studies have shown that educational games can increase attention, engagement, motivation, and knowledge retention (Alsawaier, 2018; Groening & Binnewies, 2019; Kaneko, Saito, Nohara, Kudo, & Yamada, 2018; Subhash & Cudney, 2018; Woolwine, Romp, & Jackson, 2019). In addition, students connect personal relevance to their learning and adopt problem-solving skills within gamification simulations. (Latham, Gross, 2013). Veach (2019) denotes these types of orientation activities can demonstrate a “low stakes, controlled environment where students could feel safe asking for assistance.” (p.558). Finally, Leach and Sugarman (2006) indicated that students are more willing to participate in gamification efforts with the informality of low-stakes gameplay, resulting in lower anxieties and tensions associated with the overall research process.

A disadvantage within virtual gamification efforts consists of technical knowledge and budgetary issue for designers. Mozier et al. (2009) denote that designing games for learning require skills and intangible efforts within creativity and time. Westera (2017) also explains that individuals may have different experiences or struggles centered on technological knowledge and experiences with utilizing various products.

Research also demonstrated that low-stakes activities encourage library usage without being tied to a graded assignment. (Boss, Angell, & Tewell, 2015; Burke, Lei and Rogers, 2014; Cahoy & Bichel, 2008; Foley & Bertel, 2015; Giles, 2015; Kashom, Schoen, & Dubaj, 2006; Marcus & Beck, 2003; McCain 2007; Snyder Broussard, 2010). The low-stakes activities might also combat feelings of library anxiety by helping students locate resources and services for future usage. (Cahoy & Bichel, 2004; Gross & Latham, 2007; Jiao & Onwuebuzie, 1999; Mellon, 1986; Van Scoyoc, 2003).

Overall, the systematic reviews on physical and virtual scavenger hunts showcase the library as a fun, innovative, welcoming, and forward-thinking experience that helps further their personal academic goals. (Goldman, Turnbrow, Roth, Friedman & Heskett, 2016; Ly &Car, 2010; McCain, 2007). Walsh (2014) explains that gamification and elements of played interaction are critical to providing a “safe environment to experiment and learn new things that may otherwise be reluctant to do” (p.41).

Case Study: “Choosing Your Own Adventure in Learning”- Orientation Library Guide

Background Information

For the past several years, Texas Tech University Libraries have held in-building tours focusing on specific services and resources that would be utilized by all new university students entering the fall term. However, services needed to be expanded to include the digital realm to include all learners despite their geographic location.

To aid in this response, I enlisted the help of the Outreach and User Experience librarians to create a digital scavenger hunt experience. The group met bi-weekly through Zoom to structure the program. The project had a budget of zero dollars, and I would need to be creative when constructing a large-scale project.

I also looked towards the advice of Donald Ray, “a library- an organization of knowledge into fields- addresses itself not to various student populations but various subject inquiries… So perhaps we first need to ask ourselves what the library, as a library, would offer students…” (Ray, 1989, p.148). Greiner ‘s (2000) observations about working in a college library denoted that “when those who use the library consistently get the help, they need to find the information they want, they will come and come again”.  (p. 88). I believe this quote helps library patron understand the purpose of an academic library and who can help them, especially during the beginning steps of entering an academic library.

Beginning Steps of the Project: Creating Learning Objectives for Library Orientation

The goal was to create an online environment with interactive elements. Watts believed that “all students need to be more engaged in their learning, connected to their experiences, and supported in their attempts to understand the world of scholarship”. (Watts, 2005). The task force also looks towards the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Distance Learning Standard of Access Entitlement for further help

“All students, faculty members, administration, staff members, or any other members of an institution of higher education are entitled to the library services and resources of that institution, including direct communication with the appropriate library personnel, regardless of where they are physically located in relation to the campus; where they attend class in relation to the institution’s main campus; or the modality by which they take course.” (Association of College and Research Libraries, Standards for Distance Learning, 2000).

The first step for the task force was to develop and map out the learning objectives for the digital scavenger hunt. What would the students need to know to navigate the university library resources successfully? The learning objectives need to be broad enough to encompass all academic learning and not focus on a particular major or minor program of study. After much discussion, we composed the following three learning objectives:

  • Each participant will identify the library and related services through the digital library website, such as collections and circulating materials in physical and digital accessible formats.
  • Each participant will recognize how to locate their subject librarian for which to learn to ask for assistance with the research process
  • Each participant will choose and complete the modular activities for which to further construct information literacy skills to apply in their academic careers.

We found it essential for students to be familiar with the physical and virtual library services upon future stay-at-home orders being lifted. Therefore, the focus was on providing both physical and virtual experiences to meet the needs of all participants.

Beginning Steps: Creating Pre- and Post-Assessments for the Virtual Library Orientation Experience

The main goal was introducing library resources and services to all new first-year students. Therefore, the pre-assessment’s main focus was to inquire about past experiences with all types of existing libraries (such as school, public, and community colleges for those taking accelerated courses).

After drafting a list of mock questions in a Google Document, the group agreed upon the following two pre-assessment questions:

  1. Please describe your past exposure to using libraries (for example, school, public, or community college). For example, was the process easy or hard to locate the resources needed to complete any previous library research projects?
  2. How do you currently feel about using an academic library based on your previous experiences?

The following screenshot displays the implemented questions used within the quiz feature through LibWizard.

Figure 1.

Pre-assessment quiz

Finally, the group created the post-assessment questions centered around the orientation’s effectiveness. Later in the chapter, I will explain the incorporation and dissemination of the post-assessment questions.

Beginning Steps of the Project: Exploring Technological Products

During the explorative process, we initially examined four products: GooseChase, Scavify, Eventzee, and Adventure Lab. Unfortunately, each product was only accessible behind a paywall. The primary issue was the overall cost, and the project had a budget of zero dollars. Therefore, the group needed to explore only freely available options. The options included: Springshare’s Libguides (already purchased through the university libraries) and Google Forms. The university currently does not have an agreement with any Google Suite products. Therefore, Libguides and the associated Springhare suite products provided the best option for this orientation project. Everyone was also very familiar with using the Springshare products, and no one in the group would need to spend extra time learning the technological platform.

Creating and Implementing the “Choose Your Adventure in Learning” Game

The task force began by creating a research guide (Springshare Product) to house the entirety of the game. https://guides.library.ttu.edu/digitalorientations

The guide, as mentioned, was created using side navigation for ease of mobile usage and ADA compliance based on previous user experience data. The manual consisted of eight modules included the following links: University Libraries Overview, TTU Library Account and Checking Out Materials, TTU Libraries Study Spaces and Reservations; Spaces and Technologies; Computers, Laptops, and Printing; Research Databases and Research Guides; Getting Help at TTU Libraries (Chat and Face to Face Reference Interviews), and Workshops and Library 1100 (one-credit information literacy course).

Figure 2.

Choose your own adventure homepage.

Ready… Set… Go: Game Layout and Directional Information

The first step was laying out the game directions for all participants. The overall goal was for participants to collect all eight QR codes upon completion of each module and upload them within the “Proof of Course Completion and Feedback Form” section. In addition, each section contained a brief instructional video, a list of academic links to explore later, and a short assessment quiz. The screenshot below demonstrates the directions held within the research guide activity.

Upon reviewing the game instructions, each participant will choose their own adventure in learning by clicking on any of the modules and completing the short assessment to ensure learning was completed throughout the modules. All participants need to complete all eight modules to receive a prize pack.

The following screenshots provide examples of the modular layout with academic-focused content.

Figure 3.

Game website with modules.

Figure 4.

Closer look at module 2.

Each module assessment at the bottom of the screen was created using LibWizard and embedded into each section of the guides for consistency. Each quiz would contain only two to three questions per module. The task force group felt that a more extensive assessment would cause students not to complete the overall virtual scavenger hunt experience. The following screenshot shows an example of a modular embedded quiz.

Figure 5.

Opening screen of module 2.

Each student was required to answer each question and could not leave any answers blank. However, if the student missed a question, they could keep correcting the answers until they received a perfect score. The goal was for each student to feel confident and retain all the provided information. Upon completing each assessment, the student would receive the following message with the associated modular QR code.

Figure 6.

Module 2 completion certificate.

After collecting all eight QR codes, each participant must navigate to the last section of the guide entitled, Proof of Course Completion & Feedback Form and deposit the QR codes within the submission form.

Upon QR deposit, each student would need to take the embedded post-assessment within the listed form or scan the QR code to complete the feedback form concerning their experience with the digital orientation scavenger hunt program. The feedback form was required for completion amongst all student users. We felt that leaving the feedback form optional would allow many students to skip this experience and will not provide the group with any valuable insight into improving this experience for future iterations. Second, the students must upload all eight QR codes. We also found that the best way for students to upload the QR codes was to copy and paste them within a word document and upload the document within the overall submission form. The following screenshots denote both feedback forms and uploaded forms.

 Figure 7.

Feedback form (part 1).

Figure 8.

Feedback form (part 2).

Upon culmination, each participant was given a prize pack for completion. The prize pack included the following: pens, jump drives, sunglasses, and notepads. The students could physically pick up the prize pack upon the reopening of the university libraries. The prize package could also be mailed to participants registered as distance education students.

Digital Scavenger Hunt Reflection

The following infographics correspond with the number of participants who responded to the digital scavenger hunt program. The two university library faculty members listed were invited to beta-test the program. The scavenger hunt was targeted new first-year college students to get them acclimated to using the university library’s services. However, the two listed graduate students found the experience through social media posts from the University Libraire’s Communication and Marketing department. The two graduate students were not targeted for this experience but were welcome to participate in the scavenger hunt.

Figure 9.

Graph of participants by type.

 The following infographic provided information about the overall experience within the program:

Figure 10.

Experience within the program.

The task force group did not receive fair or poor ratings. However, as discussed, the participants were also required to leave comments to aid in reconstructing future reiterations of the program. The following chart provides the participatory comments on the modules’ helpful and least helpful themes within the digital orientation program


What was the Most Helpful? What was the Least Helpful?
Videos- Visualization of library skills Computer Availability
Ask A Librarian Feature (multiple comments) about the virtual chat, virtual consultations, etc Workshops/LIBR 1100- students noted they had way too many other courses to complete in college
Research Tabs- held within the Modular Guide Quizzes- found them to be unnecessary
Printing/Laptop Checkout (multiple comments) Technology section (Makerspace, etc.)
Locating All Library Resources (multiple comments) Finding Books in the library- “We should have been focused on just electronic books.”
Checking Out Books (Physical Materials) Videos in the Orientation- freezing up on the user’s end
Locating Library Study Spaces (multiple comments) for future usage. Multiple technological errors due to the MediaSite software program used to create the interactive video experience.


Conclusion and Future Casting

From fall 2020 to spring 2021, the team examined ways to improve the digital scavenger hunt program and re-elevate the process with the possibility of gaining funding for the project.  The goal was to continue to explore all three different service models: asynchronous, synchronous, and purely face-to-face methods. In 2022, the task force group reassembled and voted on creating a self-guided physical tour due to limitations experienced during the pandemic. The physical walking tour would be a companion to the already discussed QR code digital orientation game held within this chapter. During the explorative process, the group expanded to additional members of the Marketing and Promotion department and supplementary members of the Reference, Instruction, and Outreach teams. The physical tour contained audio clips, instructional videos, and audio transcripts for the hearing impaired located around critical service points throughout the building, as denoted in the following screenshot. The goal was to make this one hundred percent mobile-friendly within all electronic devices. The physical orientation contains a starting point, and supplementary clues were given throughout the orientation model to lead students to end up at a centralized point to receive a prize upon completion. All readers can find more about the experience here: https://guides.library.ttu.edu/tomeraider

I found that Hahn (2009) summarized it well by saying that “the future of the library will be shaped in part by those librarians who have chosen to develop a challenging medium; one of shifting platforms, unproven ideas, and constrained resources.” (p. 273). As I feel that we are constantly are looking towards new idea and shifting paradigms to further meet the needs of all students.



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About the Author

Amy Dye-Reeves is an Associate Librarian within the Texas Tech University Libraries. She is the liaison to the College of Education and the Department of History. Previous publications are held with the Association of College and Research Libraries, Journal of New Librarianship, etc. Previous presentations venues: Association of College Research Libraries Conference, American Libraries Association, EDUCUASE, Online Learning Consortium, and more.

In addition, she provides information literacy instructional sessions and workshops throughout the year. She loves assisting faculty members and students with upcoming research projects. She received her Master of Information Science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Additionally, she has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in History from East Tennessee State University. Before joining TTU, Amy was an Assistant Professor of Research and Instruction at Murray State University. She previously spent five years as a certified State of Tennessee Educator with a Pre-K to Grade 12 (Library Media Specialist) endorsement. In 2022, she won the Marcellus Turner Alumni Award from the University of Tennessee School of Information Science, an award given to only one alumnus every fifty years. Previously, in 2019, she won the Innovators Award from the University of Tennessee School of Information Science. Research interests include information literacy instruction, learning outcomes assessment, instructional design, and gamification.

Amy can be reached at amy.dye-reeves@ttu.edu


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