Using Web-Based Guides in Instruction

Screenshot of U-M research guide

This post originally appeared in the Instructor College Blog hosted on

On April 11, 2011, Karen Reiman-Sendi led an Instructor College-sponsored brown bag discussion of using web-based guides in instruction, touching on the research literature surrounding the use of guides and our local data about patron use of guides. The slide presentation from the event is available. Attendees collaboratively developed the following best practice statements:


  • Use a course-related/workshop-related guide:
    • to solve a specific problem/to accomplish a task or assignment
    • to provide easy accessibility to needed information
    • as an opportunity to work with a faculty member
  • Think about logical organization of material to meet needs of your audience and the identified educational outcomes
  • Avoid too much text – extraneous information is awful – and keep a balance between content and white space
  • Include some visual interest appropriate to the purpose of the guide (but don’t rely on color to do this)
  • Use screencasts or screenshots appropriate to the task at hand, to illustrate points, strategies, concepts, etc. (See MLibrary Instructional Videos guide)
  • Avoid using too many tabs (“pages”) but do use tabs to help define “modules” or sections of the guide
  • Help students choose the appropriate resources, information, strategies, etc. by using smaller box content, by using headings within boxes, by providing some “navigation” within and between your tabs (“pages”)
  • Provide not just a list of appropriate resources for a specific assignment, but include strategies for understanding the assignment/for completing the assignment, based on your educational goals/outcomes for the guide
  • Keep in mind that guides will be viewed on mobile devices and by individuals with visual challenges (accessibility)
  • Take care in using drop-down menus in tabs (“pages”) because these areas may be difficult to see or to navigate
  • Wherever possible collaborate with colleagues on guide creation to eliminate unnecessary duplication
  • Provide uploaded files of your instructional slides and handouts, as appropriate
  • Keep the guide up to date and/or take it “offline” when no longer needed
  • When providing a list of resources, include short annotations to help students choose Provide links to related guides where appropriate
  • Provide a link to the course/workshop/session evaluation
  • Include your profile box on the first tab (“page”) of guide as well as the Ask a Librarian contact box


  • Background of guide must be white
  • Title of course guide should be the course catalog label, e.g. AMCULT 209: History of American Popular Music
  • Guide description should include the purpose of the guide, and ideally the name of the instructor and academic term, e.g. Key information resources and services for completing the honor’s thesis. Prof. John Doe. Winter 2011.
  • Instructor profile must appear on “home” tab/page in right column. The profile box can be labeled “Library Contact” or “Library Instructor” or “Workshop Instructor” etc.
  • “Library Help” box appears below the instructor profile box and contact information
  • Tabs/pages will vary from course to course but might include “Introduction,” “Your Assignment,” “Finding Articles,” “Finding Data,” “How to [do something],” “Citation Styles,” etc.
  • When published, include the “course_guide” or “technology_guide” tag
  • Set guide to “private” at the end of the current term if the content will not be taught in the following term

Which of these statements, general or specific, most resonates with you?  What's missing from our lists?