Using Lucid Chart to help Users Navigate Complicated Processes

Yesterday I finally finished a process long in the making: a flow chart walking users through the process of finding the materials they need.  It can be so complicated figuring out what service to use and how to access materials, so I wanted to create a flowchart that not only explained the steps, but included instructional content.  I thought perhaps I could make this using some sort of infographic building program, but everything I tried wasn’t quite robust enough.  So I tried Prezi.  I knew Prezi would allow me to embed videos and include links, and there are some great templates.  My problem with Prezi is that you could have only one straight path, and not jump around too easily.  Users can grab and drag, click around, etc., but Prezi isn’t widely used enough that our users would find it easy to use.

Finally I tried Lucid Chart.  It was the absolute perfect tool to use for a flowchart.  It automatically aligns objects for you and provides a grid, while still allowing you to customize yourself. You can embed images, videos, and include links, and easily lock arrows to boxes for easy manipulation.  It was perfect!  Lucid Charts can be hosted online, embedded into LibGuides, and downloaded as various file types.  So awesome!  My chart is embedded into a LibGuide, and anytime the chart is edited in Lucid Chart, it will automatically be reflected in the embedded version without me changing a thing in LibGuides.  See the chart online, or take a look at the PDF, pictured below.

Finding Sources


Visual Tools to Engage Users

There are many tools out there that allow you to be more creative and bring visuals into the classroom, or just into your daily work.  Recently I’ve been experimenting with a7-10-2014 9-53-05 AM few different visual tools, including MindMupLucid Chart, and Piktochart, and shared a bit of this knowledge lightning style through workshops for AOTL librarians, and for the librarians and staff at the John Tyler Community College libraries.  Spending less than 15 minutes per tool doesn’t really get you deep into any of them, but it was just enough to spark some interest.  I already know of librarians who are trying them out on their own and developing some really cool graphics!

Here’s a snippet about each tool, and included here is a link to a Prezi with some basic information.  I encourage you to try them out on your own!


Used to create mind maps, which is a diagram for visually organizing information.  This tool could be used in the classroom to help students break down their research topic to develop a search strategy, and it can be used by anyone just trying to brainstorm a project or map out information.  One of the cool features is that you can share a map and collaborate on it with “anyone” in real time.  But therein lies the problem.  I had dreams of pulling up MindMup in the classroom, sharing a map with the whole class, and having students work together on the map, breaking down a topic together.  Or have students work in pairs or groups on the same map on different computers.  The sharing is done through Google drive, which works for VCU users since our email is now on Google apps.  But for the librarians at John Tyler, even though their email accounts are supported through Google, their accounts did not support access to the MindMup app they would need to connect to their accounts.  But the biggest problem is that collaborating is more often than not, “unavailable at this time.”


One of the nice things is that you can add images and attachments, and the attachments allow you to add more information without cluttering your map.

Ultimately, this could be a great tool for classroom and individual use, if you choose not to rely on the collaboration aspect.  In the meantime, I’m searching for a more stable tool that can support real time collaboration.

Lucid Chart

Lucid Chart is a very powerful tool that enables you to create charts, graphs and diagrams that can be incredibly dynamic, and even interactive.  It is very easy to use, and you can embed images, videos, and even create hot spots that link to other websites, pages, or layers within the chart.  Some cool features is that it will automatically adjust your chart as you add things, but you still have the ability to manually manipulate your objects as needed.  The real time collaboration works much more smoothly than it lucidchartdoes in Lucid Chart, but can be a bit tricky to get started.  (Sometimes you end up with a link that allows people to view the chart, but not edit, and you have to create a new link for collaboration.)

Out of both workshops, people seemed most interested in Lucid Chart, since it has many practical applications outside of the classroom.  You can see that we had a little fun with everyone in the workshop adding things to the chart at John Tyler.



book review infographicI’ve been using this tool the most lately to create handouts and the base for hover maps to embed into LibGuides.   This infographic I created in Piktochart can be used as handout, put on a PPT slide, or embedded into a LibGuide.   Unlike the other tools, you cannot collaborate on documents, and although it is free, the free version is very limiting.  There are enough themes and graphics to get you started, but I often find myself seeking out free graphics to upload, and taking stylistic cues from other themes and starting mine from scratch.  But the free version does still have some really awesome features, such as embedding videos, and the ability to create maps, charts and graphs containing your own uploaded data.  It’s very easy to use, and in addition to infographics that you can publish online, you can use it to create handouts, presentation slides, reports, and banners.

Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU)


My Poster: Preparing English-Language Learners for the American Academy

In May I attended the Workshop for Instruction in Library use (WILU), in London, Ontario, where I gave a presentation and presented a poster.  This conference is very similar to LOEX, except it takes place in Canada.  Unlike LOEX, it does not have any staff, and the conference is run completely by the hosting institution.  This does make it difficult to preserve organizational history, and this year, Western University proposed to become the hosting institution of all conference materials.  You can find all of this year’s conference materials on Scholarship at Western, and they are working on tracking down conference materials from years past so they can start accumulating everything in one place.  I wanted to share a few highlights so you can get a glimpse of the conference.

I arrived early to attend a pre-conference workshop on assessment, where I got some really good ideas to help me start up my assessment projects for online learning tools and ELP classes.  Much of the session focused on RAILS, which contains tons of material freely available to help anyone get ideas for assessment.  A later conference session I attended provided some additional ideas for assessment.  We typically think about assessing student learning, but this session presented the idea of assessing the strength and applicability of the learning outcomes, and the strength and applicability of the lesson plan.  This could be a very useful and effective way to help improve our teaching in the future.

Two members of the team writing the new information literacy thresholds gave the keynote address.  They shed were able to explain their goals a little bit, but did not give much further explanation on the process or the threshold concepts themselves other than what is already out there for the public.  They did stress that the most their major goal for the framework is to create a flexible system of learning information literacy concepts rather than a focus on skills.  Students themselves are creators of information, not just consumers, and we need to embrace that in the library classroom.  For those of you still a little fuzzy on the idea of a threshold concept, their definition of a threshold concept is a portal or gateway that students must pass through in order to achieve and understanding of their field.  They want to address the idea that students get stuck at certain points in their learning, and they need to get past that point of being stuck.  In order to get past it, some sort of intervention needs to occur: librarians are that intervention.

A session on “Reimaging the LibGuide” encouraged librarians to move away from the idea of a LibGuide as a resource guide, and more towards a learning tool.  What good is a list of databases if students don’t know what a database is or how to use it?  Theoretically, students should learn these skills in the University College, but there are those who don’t care enough as freshman, forget, or just can’t seem to get these skills to stick.  A simple resource guide isn’t good enough for them.  When designing a guide, think about:

  • what do they know (or what should they know)
  • what do they need to know
  • what do they need to do
  • how do they need to do it
  • what if they can’t do it?

This would help us develop more dynamic guides that really engage users and help them learn, rather than clicking away at different links and trying to find what they need.14259820006_529e008902_z

This was a pretty good conference and I’m glad I got the opportunity to attend and present.  It is a little smaller than LOEX, and most sessions I attended were well worth it.  They have a pretty good Flickr site, where you can see how they turned Western’s circulation desk into a bar for the opening reception.






Innovative Library Classroom Conference

In May, I attended and presented a lightning talk at The Innovative Library Classroom held at Radford University.  This is a brand new, small conference that focused on bringing innovative practices into both the physical and online classroom.

The keynote speaker encouraged us all to embrace design thinking and break away from the traditional models of teaching.  The basic principles of design thinking challenge you to ask yourself the following questions, and move forward based on the answers:

  • Why is it this way?
  • Who cares about this issue?
  • How can I make It better?

One thing I really liked about design thinking was the idea that failure is okay, even encouraged.  If you don’t fail and run into problems in the development stage of a project, it will be more difficult to fix them later.

A random tidbit I picked up from librarians at High Point University considers the use of the word “bias” when evaluating information.  “Bias” has a negative connotation – when you ask a student to identify bias in a piece of information, they will automatically start thinking more negatively about the information.  Instead, a more neutral word to use is “position.”  Asking students to identify or describe the “position” of the article will result in different responses than if you had asked students to identify or describe “bias” in an article.

One of the best presentations I attended was by librarians and grad students at UNC Chapel Hill.  They showed their concept based videos, and discussed how they can be used in developing active learning library sessions.  I really like the idea of creating more concept videos to work with our how-to videos, because concepts don’t change as much.  By creating tools that can introduce concepts outside of class, we can focus more on context and active learning in class.  Concept videos like this one on developing a topic can be used before a library session to teach the concepts, the librarian focuses on skills and practice in the session, and how-to online tools can be used after a session to supplement skills practiced in class, or help refresh students’ memories.  I hope to work on more on these in the future for our suite of online learning tools.

The most fun idea I am excited to try is based off of Old Dominion University’s “One Minute Tips” Series.  Most of these are quick how-to’s that are a great way to show common things that students need to know, such as how to print, using the self-check out, or getting started with Google Scholar.  Keeping these to one minute and promoting them that way may result in more visibility and impact amongst our students.

The one-day conference really did live up to its name and bring together quite a few innovative ideas to use inside and outside of the library classroom.  If you want to see more, the presentations, including my lightning talk, can be found online on the TILC website.


Infographic as a Handout

Handout Tomorrow I am meeting with the UROP summer fellows and I wanted to bring them some sort of handout to help them remember that the library can help them.  Sometimes students forget!  I had this super boring handout that I used for other groups, and started modifying it a bit for the UROP students.  But then I had a brilliant idea: I’ll turn it into an infographic instead!  This is way more fun, and students are probably way more likely to read this.  Maybe it will help in getting students engaged with the library, maybe not, but at least I tried!

Library Support for UROP Summer Fellows

Librarian Meme

One of my awesome colleagues showed us the meme she created, and inspired me to create my own.  Another of my awesome colleagues had the idea for me to have one with the word “librarian” around me head in a bunch of different languages since I am the librarian for international students.  I think I will at least use this on PPTs for intro classes, and possibly orientations for other groups as well.  Not sure yet if I will go so far as to posting it on a Libguide or printing it on a handout.  I tried making it the profile picture for my LibGuides for international students and ELP, but I can’t change the picture for those guides without changing it for all my guides.  I don’t think I want this on every single guide, but I thought it would be fun for those.  Perhaps LibGuides 2.0 will provide more flexibility?


This one is more for me so I don’t forget which word is in which language!  For both, too many words and different alphabets did not lend itself well to the bold colors and black-outlined white text of a traditional meme.


Expanded Listening Skills Class

Lecture for ELP Expanded Listening Skills classes.  The goal is for students to practice their listening and note-taking skills, and this lecture is presented during their unit on sleep deprivation.  The lecture is followed by Q&A, and a vocabulary activity incorporating both library vocab, and vocab from the sleep deprivation unit.