INFO 281-14
Seminar in Contemporary Issues
Topic: Examination of Global Library Issues Using Project-Based Learning
Fall 2016 Syllabus

Melanie Sellar
Office location:
 No physical office; online through Canvas
Office Hours:  By appointment 

Syllabus Links

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 24th, 6 am PDT unless you are taking an intensive or a one unit or two unit class that starts on a different day. In that case the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled into the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

This course provides students with the opportunity to examine select issues relating to global  libraries in underserved communities with an emphasis on a specific regional context (Guatemala) of Librarians Without Borders (LWB). A project-based learning approach is used to support student investigations of specific authentic community needs translated from those broader issues. 

Project-based learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. For more information on PBL, read 

Students will design and deliver a collaborative project. The issues the teams might investigate include literacy programming for second-language learners, collection development strategies for no-budget schools, asynchronous digital librarian training, family outreach strategies for open-library transitioning, school-community library partnerships, and assessment measures for school/community libraries. In addition to team evaluations, there are also individual assignments and checks to ensure that each student is contributing to overall team work.

The role of the instructor in a PBL course is one of designer, facilitator, and coach. The instructor designs and sets up the problems, acts as a resource for teams, provides ongoing feedback and mentorship as students test alternative ideas, and helps promote students’ metacognitive growth by thinking aloud alongside them. In short, the instructor does not give teams the answers, so students should be comfortable with this different arrangement of the classroom. 

Note that academic libraries and their needs are not the focus of this course, rather school/public/community libraries is the context. 

Course Requirements

This course has the same weekly workload expectations as a 3-unit course. It differs in that it is shorter than a 3-unit (minimum 45 hours of work), not that the work itself is less intensive. Students should carefully consider these workload expectations and this syllabus when registering for the course. 

The project-based learning focus of this course favors a particular kind of learner: concrete and abstract random thinkers. Concrete random thinkers are creative, make intuitive leaps, like choices, are self-motivated, see the big picture, and enjoy unstructured problem solving. Abstract random thinkers also seek environments that are active, busy, and unstructured and like to discuss ideas and interact with others.

This course disfavors students who are concrete sequential thinkers: those who respond best to step-by-step instruction and set structures. These kinds of thinkers may not feel most comfortable in a project-based learning course where the instructor serves to facilitate and guide, not to provide “right” answers. Students again should carefully consider their personal learning style. 

This course will use the experiential pedagogy of project-based learning to examine select issues affecting global libraries within a specific community context of Librarians Without Borders (LWB). Project-based learning is a pedagogical approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem.

The early weeks of the course will establish a conceptual foundation and then students will undertake small team investigations of a specific issue by working through the following stages: defining the issues, gathering information, and generating next steps with recommendations.

There are three categories of assignments: participation, individual writing, and team project.

Participation assignments include required attendance at a September 25 synchronous meeting via Collaborate. Select participation and team assignments require the use of a webcam and the cloud-based FlipGrid software. As such, students are expected to have access to a working webcam for this course. 

The individual writing assignments are an opportunity for a student to reflect on course work and demonstrate their understanding of course material separate from the team-based projects.

Team project submissions will take the form of white papers, for which instruction will be provided. A white paper is a genre of professional writing that is used widely in LIS work. 

Teams are expected to meet weekly after October 3, and be collaborating until the end of November 18. Modules 4-8 will be entirely team project work with no lectures or required readings by the professor. Instead students will use that time for project work.

Note: the peer evaluations and individual writing assignments are mechanisms built into this course to help ensure the productivity of all team members and to ensure that a student will not be penalized for an under-performing team member. 

Professionalism of Discourse
The netiquette statement -- that is, expectations for how to communicate with peers -- will be published in the course. Students are expected to converse with their peers in group work and discussion forums in adherence with this statement. Those who do not are subject to point deductions from their participation/teamwork grades. 

There are three categories of assignments: participation, individual writing, and team project.

Individual Participation (10 points/200)




Due By


Introduction Icebreaker




Attendance at REQUIRED synchronous class meeting



PST early evening


Instructor observations at team meeting

(CLO 1 & 2, Comp C & D)



Individual Writing (60 points/200)




Due By

Journal Post

Response to background readings (CLO 1 & 3, Comp C)



Journal Post

Analysis of a course of action

(CLO 3 & 4, Comp C & D)



Team Project (130 points/200)




Due By

Team writing

In-progress draft of solutions (CLO 3 & 4, Comp C & D)



Peer evaluation

Evaluation #1 (CLO 2)



(online form)

Team writing

Final report (with individual contributions noted) (CLO 4, Comp C & O)



Peer evaluation

Evaluation #2 (CLO 2)



(online form)

*The points assigned to particular assignments are subject to slight revisions prior to course launch.*

Course Calendar
*Subject to change with fair notice*

19th September-18th November

All modules will be published late Sunday evening of their respective week.


Main Activities / Topic Focus

Assignment/ Required Activity

1. Course orientation

9/19- 9/25

Instructor lecture

Approaches to international librarianship

Intro to the region: history, education, libraries; focus on marginalized populations


Introduction icebreaker via FlipGrid (students are expected to use a webcam to record an introduction)

Attendance at required synchronous class meeting on 9/25 in early PST evening

2. Continuing introduction to Guatemala libraries

9/26 - 10/2

Instructor lecture

Intro to the region: history, education, libraries; focus on marginalized populations

Introducing topics for team projects.

Formation of project teams.

Journal Post #1: Response to readings / videos of Week 1 due by 10/2 (prompt provided by professor)

Submit project interests via Google Form by 9/30. Teams announced by 10/2.

3. Highlight of specific issues for class projects


Introduction to range of potential issues relating to LWB’s Guatemala partner communities.

Instruction on how to write a white paper

Initial team meeting set. Ideally no later than 10/10

4. Project Teams:

Define Questions and Create Plans


Teams have/had first meeting and create an action plan with deadlines/responsibilities and meeting schedule.

Individual team members begin research on their questions and topics.

Teams are meeting weekly from here on out to discuss and evaluate emerging ideas.

5. Project Teams:

Gather Information


Teams enacting plans through individual research and information gathering.

Instructor attends a team meeting between 10/17-10/30.


Instructor evaluates individual contributions in meeting

6. Project Teams:

Gather Information & Begin Drafting Ideas for Solutions


Teams continue to gather information as they refine questions. Begin drafting potential solution pathways.

Continued: instructor attends a team meeting

Journal Post 2: Individual analysis / commentary on a potential course of action.

Due by 10/28.

7. Project Teams: Drafting Solutions


Stage three (solving problems)

Team submits graded draft, dynamic document of emerging ideas.

Team Project:

Draft document due by 11/3.

Peer evaluation #1 due (via Google Form)

8. Project Teams: Finalizing Solutions Plus Team Report


(2 weeks)

Teams receive feedback on draft from instructor by 11/6.

Teams discuss and action upon instructor feedback of draft

Teams prepare and submit final white papers.

Team project:

Final team white paper due by 11/8 with separate form that breaks out contributions of each team member.

Peer evaluation #2 due (via Google Form)

The team project is the core of the course. To promote an individual's performance on the team and ensure individual accountability, assessments of the individual on the team are built into the grades. This includes peer evaluations, individual writing assignments, and clear annotation of who contributed what to team deliverables.

*Subject to change with fair notice*

Rubrics will be provided in advance by the instructor for all assignments.

For dates of assignment submissions, see the course calendar.


Assignment / Required Activity


1. Individual Participation

a. Discussion forum: introduction icebreaker

0 points

(10 pts total)

b. Meeting: attendance at REQUIRED synchronous class meeting

5 points


c. Meeting: instructor observations at team meeting

5 points


2. Individual Writing

a. Journal post #1: response to background readings

30 points

(60 pts total)

b. Journal post #2: analysis of a course of action

30 points


3. Team Project

a. Team peer evaluation #1

10 points

(130 pts total)

b. In-progress draft of solutions

40 points


c. Final report (with individual contributions noted)

60 points


d. Team peer evaluation #2

20 points 

Rubrics and peer evaluation forms will be provided in advance by the instructor.

Assignment late policy: 20% deduction per day, with assignment not accepted after 2 days. This applies to both individual and team assignments.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 281 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Develop detailed project plans collaboratively and effectively with a team, and then execute those plans collegially and thoughtfully with that team.
  2. Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of a chosen library issue (generated authentically from the needs of an LWB partner community) by sourcing, evaluating, and synthesizing information to develop a coherent, accurate background paper as part of the final team project.
  3. Analyze the information synthesized on that issue to develop a community-focused, highly contextualized, and realistic set of recommendations/solutions/products for LWB and the partner community.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 281 supports the following core competencies:

  1. C Recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity.
  2. D Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.
  3. O (for students entering from Spring 2015) identify ways in which information professionals can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities.


No Textbooks For This Course.

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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