MSU Libraries Emerging Technologies Summit: Online Conferencing Tools for Outreach & Instruction

Welcome MSU Libraries Emerging Technologies Summit attendees!

Sources referenced in my poster, along with some related resources, are listed below. They are also available via the Diigo collaborative bookmarking site: mbfortson’s msuleets12poster Bookmarks on Diigo.

A pdf of my poster is available here: Online Conferencing Tools for Outreach & Instruction. If this document is not accessible to you, please contact me so I can get it to you in a format that is.

Thanks for visiting.


As liaison to The University of Alabama’s Early College program, I utilized Blackboard IM, an “instant collaboration system” designed for academic use, to offer library instruction to high school students earning college credit by taking online classes. In spring 2012, I worked with the University’s College of Continuing Studies to hold Blackboard IM “office hours” for distance learning students enrolled in English 102 courses.

Blackboard IM offers such features as audio/video conferencing, instant messaging, application and whiteboard sharing, and queued chat. It is an excellent resource for librarians to whom it is available; however, not every institution offers (or can afford to offer) access to the tool.

This poster offers an analysis of both proprietary services (such as Blackboard IM) and no- and low-cost alternatives, such as Google+ Hangouts, Skype, and Best practices and lessons learned regarding library use of online conferencing tools will also be shared. A laptop and iPad will be made available to those interested in trying out the services, and poster session attendees will leave with tools to help them apply these emerging technologies in academic library outreach and instruction.

Selected Tools

The poster lists these tools:

In compiling information about features, I referred to the product websites listed above and the following:

My poster highlighted seven tools, but there are many, many others. The three sources linked above are a good place to start when looking for additional tools and information, as are these guides:

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

This portion of the poster draws from my own experience and that of other librarians.

I learned quite a bit about how other librarians use online conferencing tools at the Fifteenth Distance Library Services Conference, held April 18-20, 2012 in Memphis, TN. The sessions I referenced when developing my poster are:

  • Blackboard IM for Virtual Reference Service (Yingqi Tang & Jodi Poe, Jacksonville State University)
  • Real Time With the Librarian: Using Web Conferencing Software to Connect to Distance Students (Tom Riedel & Paul Betty, Regis University)
  • Table for One – How Librarians Provide Individualized Services to Distance Students via Web Conferencing (Shelley Arvin, Indiana State University; Anthony Kaiser, University of Central Missouri; Heidi Steiner, Norwich University; Anne Barnhart, University of West Georgia; Julie Arnold Lietzau, University of Maryland University College; Sandra Lee Hawes, Saint Leo University)

Presentation descriptions and materials are available on the conference website.

I also consulted these articles:

  • Barnhart, Anne C, and Andrea G. Stanfield. “When Coming to Campus Is Not an Option: Using Web Conferencing to Deliver Library Instruction.” Reference Services Review. 39.1 (2011): 58-65. WorldCat.
  • Hawes, Sandra L. “Playing to Win: Embedded Librarians in Online Classrooms.” Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning. 5 (2011): 56-66. WorldCat.
  • Lietzau, J.A, and B.J Mann. “Breaking Out of the Asynchronous Box: Using Web Conferencing in Distance Learning.” Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning. 3 (2009): 108-119. WorldCat.
  • Reeves, L.A.. “Piloting synchronous online reference services with Elluminate vClass.” Internet Reference Services Quarterly. 10.2 (2005): 19-33. Publisher.
  • Steiner, Heidi. “Bridging Physical and Virtual Reference with Virtual Research Consultations.” Reference Services Review. 39.3 (2011): 439-450. WorldCat.