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Today our guest is Caroline Reed, Director of Research, Instruction and Outreach Services in the Jane Bancroft Cook Library at New College of Florida in Sarasota. I met Caroline at ACRL 2015 and when she told me about her innovative use of the Project SAILS test, I asked her to tell the story here.

Question: Would you briefly describe the information literacy program at New College of Florida?

Caroline: We are in the early stages of developing our information literacy program. Currently we do the traditional one-shots requested by faculty. We also encourage students to make consultation appointments with librarians. We have recently developed a liaison program with faculty where each of our instruction librarians is responsible to one of our three divisions--Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.

Library instruction is a part of all Seminars in Critical Thinking, which are research and writing intensive classes originally set up as part of our QEP, as well as our WEC (Writing Enhanced Classes).

We have a librarian who is a Wikipedia Ambassador. She has been able to work with faculty and students to edit and create Wikipedia entries as replacements for the traditional research paper assignments.

Librarians work with students on annotated bibliography projects as part of the January Independent Study Project (ISP) that 1st - 3rd years have to complete. This year one of our librarians actually sponsored the ISP so that she was the faculty member of record on those projects.

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In light of the new framework for information literacy being developed by ACRL, the Project SAILS team is working toward a new assessment. The current SAILS assessments, including both the cohort and individual scores measures, will continue to be available to any institution that would like to utilize them for the foreseeable future. In fact, we are rolling out a number of improvements to SAILS.

We have been working hard to improve the SAILS tests and the results of all of that work will become available beginning in June. Here are the changes you can look forward to for the next academic year.

Informed Consent

Because of the requirements of Kent State University, your students had to be given the choice to opt-out of allowing their responses to be used.  That requirement ends this June. We've updated the SAILS tools to allow you to include the informed consent agreement if your institution requires it. If you turn on the informed consent option, your students will be presented with the following question before beginning the test:

May we use your responses for our research project?

Only students who agree to allow their response to be used will be included in your report. This option is available for both the Cohort and Individual Scores versions of the SAILS tests.

Custom Demographics

Currently you have only been able to include up to nine responses for each of your custom demographic questions. Beginning in June you will be able to include up to 50 responses per question. This will allow you to ask more complex questions and report out in more detail. This change is available for both the Cohort and Individual Scores versions of the SAILS tests.

Benchmarks for Individual Scores

Beginning in June, when you complete an administration of the Individual Scores version of the SAILS tests, you will be able to download an additional spreadsheet with benchmark data. The benchmark will include data for the previous three years. The spreadsheet will include benchmarks for similar-type institutions, institutions in the same country, all institutions, and, optionally, your pre-defined consortium. There will be an overall table for these benchmarks by demographic variable as well as a table with details for each item in the version of the test you administered.

SPSS Instructions for Individual Scores Results

When you complete the administration of an Individual Scores test, your report of student performance comes in the form of a spreadsheet. We realize that conducting extensive analyses of the data is not an easy task so we have created a guide for this purpose. The guide offers advice and step-by-step instructions for working with the data in SPSS to answer questions about how performance varies across various factors, such as majors and class standing. The guide will be available in June.

Price Change

With these enhancements comes a price change, although we will continue to keep our pricing affordable and easy to understand. The new price for the Cohort version of the SAILS test will be $5.00 per student up to 1,000 students and then $5,000 up to 5,000 students. There is still a minimum of 50 students required.

The Individual Scores version of the SAILS test will be $6.00 per student up to 1,000 students and then $6,000 up to 5,000 students with no minimum number of students required.

The price changes will go into effect on June 15, 2014. The SAILS tests remain the most economical way to assess your students' information literacy skills.

SAILS participants often ask if our information literacy assessments can be customized with additional questions. The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

The test questions themselves cannot be changed and no test questions can be added. The calibrations, scoring, reliability, and reporting all depend on having one set of validated test questions for all participants.

However, we do offer the option for participants to slightly modify two standard demographic questions and to create two custom questions.

Standard Demographic Questions

All test administrations have two standard demographic questions, class standing and major.

Shown to the right is a screenshot test administrators see when completing these standard Custom labelsdemographic questions. Test administrators can re-name class standings  and major labels to fit their institution. Another option is to delete class standings and majors that are not needed. These changes allow each test administrator to customize class standing and major labels to match the terminology used at their institution.

Creating Custom Questions

You have the option to create two custom questions of your own choosing. Each question can be up to 255 characters long (typically 30 – 40 words) and with up to nine responses of 40 characters each. In June 2014, the number of response options will increase from nine to fifty.

What kind of questions would you want to create? Perhaps you want to compare test performance among students enrolled in certain courses. Or you want to see if students who had prior information literacy instruction score higher than those who did not. We analyzed years’ worth of custom question created by our participants and discovered that most custom questions fall into these categories:


The Value of Custom Questions

Custom questions not only allow test administrators to learn more about the students taking the assessment, but they also make the data received more valuable.

By having additional information about test takers, administrators are able to slice the data in more ways in order to develop additional findings that can lead to positive changes in instruction. For example, by asking if students have received information literacy instruction from a previous course, test administrators are able to understand if these courses are having a positive impact on the information literacy skills of these students versus peers who have not received prior instruction.

Project SAILS is dedicated to providing valuable data to testing institutions and we have seen the addition of custom demographic questions provide additional value to those utilizing them. We hope that whether you are setting up your first test administration or your tenth, you find a way to utilize custom demographic questions to their full potential.

Ready to start? Register for a free account and begin your test administration today!

We’ve been fortunate to work with many great institutions of higher learning across the country since our information literacy assessment went into production. In fact, we even have a few institutions that started with us in 2006 and are still testing with Project SAILS today.

One such institution is Polk State College, under the direction of Bill Foege. We had the opportunity to sit down with Bill at ACRL 2013 in Indianapolis to learn more about how he has used our information literacy test at his institution.

As Bill shares, Polk utilized the cohort assessment within their nursing program to better understand the information literacy skills of its students.

In 2010, Polk began testing graduating students with the individual scores test at both their Winter Haven and Lakeland campuses.

Polk State College has utilized both versions of our information literacy assessment in order to collect different types of information – exploring the individual skills of students and determining the skills acquired by graduating students during their two years of study.

Learn more about using Project SAILS at your institution today!