Story: “Star Wars, escape rooms, and Zoom: Innovative teaching at David Lam Library explores different learning styles”

This post was originally published by the University of British Columbia Library.

Photo by UBC Library Communications and Marketing

Creating teaching materials that blend popular culture with complex subject matter can be a tough formula to get right, often walking a fine line to achieve student engagement. But Kimberly Fama, Reference Librarian at David Lam Management Research Library, has found a way to infuse some fun into the library orientation sessions she delivers to marketing classes at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

“I think it was two years ago that I started using pop culture,” Fama says. She uses storytelling in her sessions to introduce a problem that students are then tasked to solve in teams, using the business databases relevant to their course, available through UBC Library.

Initially, she created her presentations using the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) visual literacy framework, but over time has adapted the content based on student feedback. The attention to detail, use of sound design and recognizable visuals from culture touchstones such as the Harry Potter books and movies, The Office television show, and the Star Wars franchise makes for a memorable lesson. The topics also change, says Fama. “The pop culture theme I choose for a class depends on what I think that specific cohort best relates to.”

A different year, a different experience

When UBC Library’s physical branches closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 outbreak and instruction moved online, Fama created an entirely new presentation format that would work better in a virtual setting. The result is a two-hour, Star Wars-themed adventure in a virtual escape room that gets students collaborating in Zoom breakout rooms.

“I worked in corporate before, in events and marketing, so I want to make it fun for people and help them feel that librarians are approachable,” says Fama, a UBC iSchool alumna who also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Ateneo Graduate School of Business. “Because having all the right tools and resources isn’t necessarily enough. Students need to be fully engaged in order to maximize their learning experience.”

The library’s business resources are expansive, Fama says, and can often be intimidating for students who may not know where to start with their research. “My role is just to make that easier and be that bridge for them to connect with our awesome library resources.”

Flexible learning through David Lam Library

Irena Trebic, Reference Librarian at David Lam Library, says that flexible timing and delivery have been important for the orientations and other library sessions she’s taught this year, not only to accommodate students in different timezones, but also multiple ways of learning: “I teach a lot of organizational behavior classes, and for that I created a 15-minute video for students to watch before my instruction. Some of them I’m sure did watch it beforehand, and other didn’t. You’re giving them an opportunity to explore different learning styles.”

“We do reach a lot of students in classes, but of course we don’t reach every one,” says Trebic. She notes that the volume of email reference questions received this year increased significantly, and that the reference hours offered on Zoom were a welcome alternative while the physical branch has been closed. “We want to let students know that we can support them in different formats.”

Learn more about key marketing research resources available at the library, get research help,  or contact your subject librarian.