Course management systems (CMS) such as Blackboard
(Bb), ANGEL, Sakai, Moodle, etc. are becoming
standard on many higher education campuses.
Use of CMSs has fostered expectations from both
faculty and students that access to library services
and materials will be provided in this new learning
environment. CMSs have not addressed those
expectations. As early as 2004, Buehler observed
that “Course management software (CMS)
or courseware products, such as Prometheus,
FirstClass, Blackboard and WebCT, do not include the
Library as an essential curricular component in
their design” (p. 75). Bell & Krasulski (2004)
further observe that “By design, courseware systems
offer no presence for the academic library and
faculty members can unknowingly create an
information environment for their students that
largely ignores library resources” (p.85). The
result is that the return on university investments
in both library resources and course management
systems are minimized. (Cohen, 2002, p. 12; Council
on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), 2002,
#7). However, libraries immediately recognized the
problem and are moving quickly to create methods of
integrating their services and resources into CMSs
to meet faculty and student expectations. This
article reports a recent survey of the Harold B. Lee
Library’s (HBLL) integration in Bb courses. Results
confirm that the integration was helpful to students
completing research papers or projects.
CMS use is growing on many campuses. Data from the
2001 Campus Computing Project indicates
“approximately one-fifth (20.6 percent) of all
college courses now use course management tools, up
from 14.7 percent in 2000.” (Campus Computing
Project, 2001). Morgan (2003) found that “Course
management systems are an increasingly important
part of academic systems in higher education…[and]
the numbers of faculty using these systems is
increasing rapidly…” More recently, the 2006 ECAR
Study of Undergraduates and Information Technology
found that of the 28,724
students surveyed, “Three quarters of these
undergraduates use course management systems, most
of them using it several times a week or more ” and
“Three-quarters (75.6 percent) of those who use them
are overall, positive or very positive about them”
(Katz, p 5). Hybrid courses, where the
supplements the face-to-face course, are common on
many campuses as are totally online courses and
distance education courses. A 2006 Gartner survey
In the Gartner 2002 higher education learning
survey, a little more than 30% of the courses were
hybrid; in 2004 it grew to almost 45%. In 2006,
overall, more than 57% were hybrid…Many institutions
in our 2006 survey indicated that many traditionally
taught courses were required to use CMSs to post
course content, for assessment and course discussion
Since 2000, articles have been written advocating
the need for library integration into course
management systems and reporting integration of
specific library resources or services such as
E-Reserve and information literacy materials, into
CMSs. An editorial in Online Libraries &
Microcomputers (2001) asserts that “With all of the
hype surrounding new courseware, however, there
appears to be a missing element—the library.” Cohen
(2002) points out that libraries provide access to
numerous electronic resources representing an
enormous institutional investment, and goes on to
say that “Librarians spend much time selecting
resources from the Internet and
organizing…information that is best for student use.
Integrating course-management software with the
library’s digital offerings is essential for getting
the maximum value from the institutional investments
of both money and expertise” (p.12). It is essential
that libraries discover ways to integrate their
services and resources into CMSs to support student
requirements for appropriate and credible resources
in their coursework (Shank & Dewald, 2003, p. 38).
As late as 2005, Gibbons claimed that “To remain
relevant, academic libraries must go where the
students and faculty are. More to the point,
libraries need to be where the learning is
happening, even if this is the virtual environment
of a CMS” (p.12).
Examples of integration of library services and
resources into CMSs are found in the literature.
Integrations reported thus far fall into two main
areas—Information Literacy (Getty, Burd, Burns &
Piele, 2000; Giles, 2004; Cox, 2002; Lenholt,
Costello & Stryker, 2003; Roberts, 2003 (Corrado &
Mouliason, 2006 ) and E-Reserve (Cubbage, 2003);
Ziegenfuss & McCloskey, (2004); Bell & Krasulski,
(2004); Holobar, (2006); Sander, van Vuren &
dePlessis, (2006) ). A recent search by this author
retrieved a few articles reporting on broader
integration of library resources into CMSs.
Articles that report the evaluation and results of
integration are scarce in the literature. Sander, et
al. (2006) found that their Library LIVE integration
resulted in student awareness of “what quality
information is electronically available.” Students
“view research as a means to an end” so employing a
goal based structure, Collard & Tempelman-Kluit
(2006) postulated that students would use the
resources as a “means” to complete assignments, “the
end” (p. 58). Their results showed high use of
library resources integrated into Bb courses
correlated with “busier and slower research periods
of the year” (p.63). In a more recent article,
Hightower, Rawl & Schutt (2008) found that faculty
are interested in providing library resources via
and that usage picked up when a library module was
promoted during instruction sessions.
History of BYUs use of Blackboard
Brigham Young University (BYU) is a
Doctoral/Research Extensive institution with
approximately 30,242 undergraduate students, 1484
graduate students and 1600 faculty. BYU adopted
Blackboard as the campus CMS in 2000. Use of Bb
picked up momentum gradually, beginning with fifty
courses in 2002 and increasing to 1350 courses in
winter of 2003. Faculty implementation of Bb varied
based on personal preferences and comfort with the
technology. Some faculty moved their entire course
content to Bb; others used a few features such as
announcements, the grade book and the assignments
folder. Whatever features faculty use, a large
number employ Bb as an adjunct to their existing
course. A 2002 survey revealed that eighty-one
percent of BYU students have at least one Bb course
and seventy-eight percent of students prefer that
their professors use Bb (Waddoups, 2002). Further,
In the winter 2005 semester, only 14% of instructors
surveyed were not using Bb at all, and 53% were
using Bb for multiple courses. …only 5% of students
surveyed during winter semester reported not using
Bb in any of their courses… On the average, students
are enrolled between three to four Bb courses each
semester. (West & Kennedy, 2005, p. 39).
Student and Faculty Library Expectations in
Soon after Bb was adopted, it became apparent that
both students and faculty were expecting a library
presence in Bb courses. During a break out session
of the Annual University Conference, a panel of
students and instructors discussed their experiences
using Bb. Students
on the panel wanted the library’s online resources
to be available in their courses. Faculty expressed
similar feelings in a recent evaluation
by the Center for
Instructional Design (CID)
of the Bb implementation. In that evaluation
West & Kennedy (2005) reported that “Most
instructors want their Bb course to be a ‘one-stop
shopping’ experience for their students where they
can get everything they need in one place….” (p.1.)
Knowledge of student and faculty expectations
provided a significant opportunity to integrate
library support in Bb courses.
Faculty were the focus of the library’s initial
integration efforts. First, the library produced and
distributed a brochure outlining library services
available in Bb. Librarians handed out the brochure
booth at the annual Technology Info Fair as
they demonstrated adding library resources to
courses. Second, the library participated in CID
sponsored seminars for faculty interested in
teaching with Bb. Faculty, subject librarians and
CID technical personnel worked together during the
seminar. Subject librarians assisted the faculty to
choose the most appropriate resources for inclusion
in their course and CID technical personnel taught
them how to construct the HTML links inside their Bb
course. Third, the Distributed Learning Services
Librarian developed a short tutorial on constructing
links to library resources that was linked to the
Faculty Resources tab in Blackboard. Two things
became very evident from these efforts--faculty were
not experts at creating or maintaining library links
and thought it took too much time to do so—occupying
valuable time they could be using to improve their
During the same time, the library also created a
student information module on the “My Institution”
page in Bb courses. The module contained generic
links to library materials and services, that
librarians thought would be helpful to any student
taking a Bb course. While this was a scatter-shot
technique, it had the advantage of linking students
to the library within the course, regardless of
which course they were enrolled in. Students no
longer had to leave their Bb course to login to the
library Web page. The library felt that students had
easier access to library resources and service by
providing these links. An apparent disadvantage was
that students had to return to the “My Institution”
page to access the links.
An upgrade to a newer version of Blackboard provided
an enhanced opportunity for integrating course
specific library resources into Bb courses.
Building on Shank and Dewald’s (2003) concept of
“macro-level” vs. “micro-level” integration, a
Library Services tab was added to the “My
Institution” page. The tab is highly visible and
easier to access because it remains on the top frame
of the page no matter where a student is in the
course. The tab consisted of two modules, one with
links to finding materials, services, and research
help (macro-level integration) (see Figure 1).
1. Contents of Library Services tab.
Further, an application programming interface (API)
technology was used to construct a “Building Block”,
making it possible for the library to integrate
subject specific resources into Bb courses
(micro-level integration). After logging into a Bb
course and clicking the Library Services tab, the
building block presents a list of all the courses in
which the student is currently enrolled. The course
title, listed under the Course Research Page module,
is a link to the subject page for the course (see
Figure 2. Example of subject page.
The subject page contains a federated search tool,
links to appropriate databases and research guides,
and contact information for the subject librarian.
An Instant Messaging application was added later,
but was not available as part of this study. The
building block required no learning curve or
implementation time from the faculty. Students
benefit by being able to access library resources
without having to leave their course environment and
by being able to access library resources for all
their courses, regardless of the course they are
logged in to at the time.
How The Building Block Works
Programmers and librarians collaborated on the
building block. After a project team determined the
functionality of the building block, a programmer
from Library Information Systems (LIS) worked
closely with the both campus Bb engineer and Bb
corporate support personnel to build and test it.
Existing, carefully prepared, subject pages created
by librarians were linked to the corresponding
departments in the university so that students in
that department would get the appropriate page for
their course. Only one subject page can be linked to
a department, so for departments like history where
there are several possibilities, the building block
displays a page of all the subjects and the student
chooses which page to use (see Figure 3). While this
is not the ideal situation, nevertheless, students
are linked to a page where they can access resources
for their course. The building block was
successfully deployed in all Bb courses during the
summer term of 2005.
Figure 3. List of all subject pages.
Marketing and Publicity
Providing automatic integration of library resources
and subject pages in Bb courses was a big step
forward. However, the library knew from previous
experience that merely providing the link and hoping
that students would find it was not enough. Holobar
(2006) corroborates this finding “As the online
learning environment has become simultaneously more
integrated and compartmentalized, simply making
resources available on library websites isn’t
enough” (p.70). Therefore, the library embarked on
a publicity campaign to inform students and faculty
about the library link in Bb courses. The library
knew that “Faculty’s encouragement and guidance
decide to a large extent the resources that online
students seek out in support of their course work” (Cahoy
& Moyo, 2005, p. 2). MacDonald & vanDuinkerken
(2005) state, “If professors are aware of the
service, they can recommend it to their students” (
p. 33). Marketing focused on the desire articulated
by both students and faculty for Bb to provide a
“one-stop shopping” experience for students.
The library targeted faculty in two ways. First,
the library hosted a booth and a scheduled session
at the university’s Teachnology Expo. This event,
jointly sponsored by The Center for Instructional
Design (CID), the Faculty Center and the Library,
consisted of organizational booths, faculty
presentations, a working area with computer stations
and scheduled fifty minute sessions on various
models for effective use of technology in teaching.
The author and other librarians demonstrated the
improved library integration at the booth and in a
session. Second, a short piece in the Faculty
Library Guide, published and disseminated by the
Communications Officer, also explained the
integration. The guide emphasized the benefits of
library integration to students in the courses and
highlighted the fact that the integration required
no time or effort from faculty—it just showed up
automatically in their courses.
Concurrently, the library Multimedia Production Unit
also worked on a short promotional video to increase
student awareness of the library integration and a
module on the “My Institution” page of Bb advertised
the enhanced library services, and the fact that
they were embedded in the course. The promotional
video, with screenshots and background music,
demonstrated to students that the library tab would
lead them to the resources for all their Bb courses
in the same place, thus saving them valuable time.
The video played on a large plasma screen at the
entrance to the library for a full year.
Assessment of Library Integration
A year after the integration occurred, the library
assessed the effectiveness of student experience and
the integration strategy. A survey was used to
evaluate student experience and to discover if
students found the page helpful in their course
work. The library wanted to know if students felt
that their papers, projects, etc. were improved
because they used the resources on the course page.
Additional objectives for the survey were to
determine: (1) how much students were using the
course pages, (2) how students learned about the
library integration, and (3) how hard or easy the
pages were to use. Finally, the library wanted
their suggestions for improvements.
The library partnered with CID for this survey
because they routinely survey students twice a year
about their experience with Bb courses. Originally
the author planned to add the questions about the
CRP to their survey; however, CID personnel decided
this approach made it too long and that the library
questions did not fit the purpose and scope.
Consequently, the library evaluation was sent out
separately. Since the survey went out under the
auspices of CID, Institutional Review Board approval
was not necessary.
A ten-question survey was constructed (see Appendix)
using Qualtrics software. The first three questions
asked about how participants used, learned about and
accessed the CRP. Next, four questions asked about
the page itself. Finally, three questions solicited
suggestions for improving the page. The first seven
questions were a mix of multiple-choice and yes-no
answers with the opportunity for further explanation
and the remainder were open-ended.
The survey review process involved four steps.
First, the library’s Process Improvement Officer
reviewed the questions. Second, it was sent to
several other library faculty members to review the
clarity of the questions. Third, it was vetted with
CID student employees from four different
disciplines. Fourth, the CID Quality Assurance team
took the survey in preview mode to test the timing
and accuracy of the survey.
Once constructed, CID used the student database to
select a random sample of students. Those selected
were emailed an invitation to participate with their
reply serving as consent to participate. The survey
was sent to 600 students and of those, ninety-four
responded. For the purposes of this evaluation, and
based on prior experience, the library did not want
survey recipients to answer the questions about the
page if they had not used it. Therefore, the first
question on the survey asked if the student had used
the CRP. A
screenshot of the page was included so that those
who may have used it, but did not remember what it
was named, could still answer the question. If the
answer to the first question was “No” the software
prevented them from answering any further questions.
On the advice of the Quality Assurance personnel at
CID and because it was nearing finals, CID opted to
close the survey after receiving thirty completed
surveys where the recipient indicated they had used
the CRP. While this was a small sample size, it
should be noted that the administration of the
survey was handled by CID and therefore subject to
their determination of an adequate response pool.
Results and Discussion
The responses to the survey questions reported in
this article represent only the thirty respondents
who indicated that they had used the page.
Percentages were rounded to the nearest whole
percent. The library hoped to determine if there
were correlations between a respondent’s class
standing and their answers, but it was impossible
due to the fact that over half, fifty-seven percent
of the respondents were seniors. The remaining
forty-three percent were almost evenly divided among
freshmen, sophomores, juniors or those who did not
indicate their class standing. The first question
asked if respondents had used the CRP. Of the
ninety-four survey respondents, thirty-two percent
(30) of respondents had used the CRP while
sixty-eight percent (64) had not. This seemed to
indicate that in spite of the marketing and
publicity efforts, a large percentage of students
were not aware of the existence of the CRP.
The second question asked respondents how they
learned about the CRP. The two most common ways
students learned about the CRP were from their
instructor, sixty percent and from a library
instruction session, fifty-seven percent (see Figure
4).Percentages for this question total more than
100% because respondents were asked to check all the
ways they learned about the course. The responses
substantiated the fact that learning about library
resources from an instructor, whether in a course or
during a library instruction session, was one of the
most successful ways to increase student awareness
of library integration in Bb courses.
Figure 4. How students learned about the CRP.
The third question asked respondents how they
typically accessed the CRP once they knew about it.
The predominate method of accessing the page,
reported by seventy-seven percent of respondents,
was accessing the page by logging into their Bb
course (see Figure 5).This figure was obtained by
combining the responses for those who said they
logged on to their Bb course and those who marked
“Other”, but specified that they accessed it via
the library website or through the university
website. Both the library and the university
websites provide access to Bb courses, but no direct
access to the CRP, therefore the supposition was
that the respondents logged on to either the library
or the university website and then into their Bb
course where they accessed the page.
Figure 5. Method of accessing the CRP.
Question three was of particular interest to the
library because of a significant drop in use
statistics beginning and continuing through 2006.
One supposition was that students were book marking
the page and were not counted in our statistical
tracking tool because it only counted those who
logged onto the page via their Bb course. However,
the findings did not support this conjecture. After
the survey was completed, the programmer discovered
that the required data needed to link the CRP to the
correct course had not been received for almost a
year. Consequently, all students were being linked
to the Subjects A-Z page where they were required to
choose which CRP to use. This may have been a factor
in the declining use of the CRPs. The error has
since been corrected and current statistics show
that usage is again on the rise.
The next four questions asked about the use of the
page itself. Question four asked about the ease of
use of the page. A majority of the respondents,
eighty-seven percent, answered that the page was
“Very easy”, “Easy” or “OK” to use (see Figure 6).
Thirteen percent said it was “Hard to use”.
Because the survey had been previously taken by four
student employees from CID with no problems,
definitions of these terms did not seem necessary.
Explanations from those who responded that it was
“Hard to use” included experiencing technical
problems, feeling that the amount of information
available made it hard to know where to start, and
not knowing what the links were for or which one to
Question five asked respondents if the page helped
them locate resources for their paper/project.
Ninety-three percent responded “Yes” and six percent
said “No”. Those who responded “No” commented that
they couldn’t figure out how to use the resources.
Confusion about which sources to use and not being
able to figure out how to use the resources could
have been a function of the way our federated search
product works or perhaps unfamiliarity with
searching online databases.
Figure 6. Ease of use of CRP
Question six was designed to elicit the respondents
opinion of whether using the CRP improved their
paper/project. Eighty-seven percent responded “Yes”
and thirteen percent said “No”. Reasons given for
the paper/project being better included: more
sources, helped find sources, got results and
sources were organized (see Figure 7). Reasons given
by respondents that their paper or project wasn’t
better were: difficulty in finding appropriate
sources, easier to use the library homepage and used
Google rather than the CRP. The library provides
high-quality resources for students but also wants
to know if the resources students use contribute to
better papers. These responses indicated that a
large majority of students felt that using the CRP
improved their paper/project.
Figure 7. Reasons paper or project was better after
using the CRP.
Question seven asked if respondents would recommend
the CRP to others. Ninety-three percent said “Yes”
and seven percent said “No”. When asked why they
would recommend it to other students,
several responded that they found it
helpful and felt that other students would, too.
Another group of respondents indicated that the CRP
was a good place to find resources, that it was a
convenient way to find resources, that the resources
were good, accurate sources and that it’s easy [to
use] (see Figure 8). Of respondents who answered no,
one said “I haven't used enough to remember it very
often” ; another reported a poor experience with
page, and a third said “because there are more
resources available through the library website.”
The majority of positive responses to these
questions leads us to believe that the CRP contains
specific resources that respondents found helpful
for their course and that they found the page
Figure 8. Reasons students would recommend CRP to
When the survey was analyzed, the library wanted to
know if the respondents who said the page was “Hard
to use” also responded that the CRP did not help
them find resources for their paper/project, that
their paper/project was not better because they use
the CRP or that they would not recommend the CRP to
others. No significant correlations of questions
five through seven with the ease of use response in
question four were found.
The final three survey questions were open ended and
focused on respondent opinions about the CRP.
Question eight elicited suggestions for improvements
to the page which fell into four main categories: 1)
twenty-six percent had no suggestions for
improvement; 2) six percent said it was “good”; 3)
thirteen percent provided no response to the
question; and 4) fifty-five percent, slightly over
half, suggested making the page easier to use,
providing instructions on how to use the page, and
promoting the page (see Figure 9).
Figure 9. Suggestions for improvements on CRP.
Suggestions for making the page simpler to use
included clarifying database features, making it
easier to navigate and search through, and help
choosing from among the various options. Providing
use instructions for the page was not considered in
the initial integration plan since students,
presumably, used these identical pages from the
library website as demonstrated in the responses to
question nine. In the aggregate, the responses
indicate that the subject pages require further
fine-tuning or that the library needs to provide
some use instructions in order to address student
needs. Based on the answers to this question
combined with the number of respondents who had not
used the page, promotion is also an area that needs
Question nine asked if respondents had discovered
anything on the page that they were previously
unaware of. The majority of
percent), said they had not discovered anything new
on the page. Of those who had, seventeen percent
responded “everything”, “databases, tutorials,
resources”, and “I don’t know.” The remaining
thirteen percent respondents said “Yes”, but did not
indicate what they had discovered. The fact that
seventy percent of respondents did not discover
anything new on the
indicated some familiarity with the page and with
the resources included on the page. This finding was
encouraging because it indicated that students had
previous knowledge about CRPs and that only five of
the thirty respondents were totally unfamiliar with
The final open ended question, number ten, invited
respondents to make any other comments about the CRP
(see Table 1). A total of fifty-three percent had no
comments or responded “Nice” or “Thanks”. Seventeen
percent did not provide a response to the question.
The remaining thirty percent provided comments that
generally fell into two categories: (1) features
they liked about the CRP and (2) problems they
experienced with the page or specific suggestions
Table 1. Respondent comments about the CRP.
Features I liked on the page
Good work. It’s a great asset to the university
and the library.
It needs a lot of work. It is still very
I’m so glad that we have it because it makes My
life as a student much easier; it also provides
easy access to the articles I needed so I
didn’t have to spend hours and hours trying to
hunt them down.
Maybe a quick tutorial help. Kind of like with
Windows how it has that little paper clip or Dog
that helps you if you have any questions. That
would be useful!
I like that there is a person’s profile on it
where you can ask for help if needed.
The view button doesn’t work in results. (This
refers to a problem with our federated search
tool, not the page itself.)
It provides great data and information, which is
extremely valuable to us students. The page has
a greater potential if some of the UI is
improved, as I mentioned. Thank you and good
My only recommendation is to try and get
teachers to explain how the page is used (many
of them probably don’t know it exists also) as a
tool for easier research. I would image [sic]
that this page is relatively unknown among the
It is kind of hard to use, because it is so
Specific sometimes it is hard to actually get
what you want.
Overall, the results showed that most respondents
surveyed were not aware of the CRP. For those
respondents that were, the page was easy to use, it
helped them locate resources for their paper or
project, they felt their paper/project was better
because they used the page and they would recommend
the page to other students. Upgrading the ease of
use, providing use instructions and better promotion
were the main suggestions for improving the page.
Final comments about the page mirror these same
concerns along with providing positive feedback on
some features of the page. An online tutorial and
improved promotion that focuses on those who were
not aware of the page are two areas the library will
begin to address.
For those who were aware of the CRP integration and
used it, the library met student and faculty
expectations for resource availability inside their
Bb courses. Integrating the library into Bb made it
a “one-stop shopping experience” for students. At
the same time, it freed the library from relying on
faculty to add library content to their courses and
freed the faculty from the burden of creating and
maintaining links to library services and resources.
On the other hand, the number of students who were
not aware of the page also means that the library
needs to redouble its efforts to make faculty aware
of the CRP so that they can recommend its use to
Further research should investigate whether faculty
think student papers/projects are better as a result
of the CRP integration and student use of the page.
Another area for continued investigation is whether
faculty are amenable to embedding a subject
librarian in their course to provide answers to
library related questions on discussion boards,
through course assignments or other means. Subject
librarians could provide proactive help during times
of heavy research projects or respond to students
who find the page difficult to use. Becoming more
deeply embedded in Bb courses requires an effort by
librarians to reach out to faculty and establish
strong collaborative relationships with them. As
Shank and Dewald (2003) observe, if the library is
successfully integrated into courseware,
relationships and collaborative ties with faculty
will be strengthened. Finally, “Course management
software, with all its bells and whistles, should
…offer an enhanced learning environment in which
students, faculty and librarians collaborate in the
construction of knowledge” (Ziegenfuss & McClosky,
2004, p. 95). Knowing students perceptions of the
CRP integration is a first step in that direction.
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1-Did you use the Course Research Page under the
Library Services tab?
(If you answered “No”, please do not continue
with the survey.)
2-Check each of the ways you learned about this
Instructor informed me
Announcement on Bb Welcome page
Saw it on the plasma screen in the library
Clicked the Library Services Tab in my course
Someone at the library told me about it
I learned about it in my library instruction
Classmate told me about it
Other, please explain
3- After visiting the page the first time, how did
you access it subsequently?
I bookmarked the page
I logged on to my Blackboard course
Other, please explain ______________________
4-Was this page
Very easy to use Easy to use OK
Hard to use, please
5-Did the page help you identify sources for your
If No, was it because:
The resources were not specific to my topic
The resources appeared (seemed) to be
appropriate, but didn’t contain the information I
I couldn’t figure out how to use the resources
6-Do you feel your research project/paper was better
because you used the page?
Please explain why or why
7-Would you recommend it to other students?
Please explain why or why not
8-What are your suggestions for making the Course
Research page more useful?
9-Please tell us about anything you found on the
page that you were previously unaware of.
10- Is there anything else you’d like to tell us
about this page?
NOTE: Questions for the survey were adapted with
permission from the Oregon State University
Libraries Interactive Course Assignment Project.