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Virtual Reference: An Introduction eCourse
Sujin Huggins
Item Number: 1541-9171
Publisher: ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions
Price: $175.00
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This eCourse is now closed. We plan on offering the eCourse again soon. If you’d like to an email alert when we schedule the next session, please complete this form.

Asynchronous eCourse beginning January 9, 2017 and continuing for 4 weeks
An ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions eCourse facilitated by Sujin Huggins

Please note: Your purchase at the ALA Store is only Step 1 of a 2-Step Registration process!

Upon purchase you will receive a registration PDF in the form of a digital download. This PDF contains a link to our Registration page and a password. You must download this PDF and follow the instructions in order to complete the registration. The download link can be found on the final confirmation screen after you complete your purchase, and may also be accessed from your Account History. Confirmation with login instructions, reminders, and alerts will go to the email address used in the registration.


This eCourse is licensed for a single user. For pricing on bulk purchases in excess of $1,000, please contact us for more information.

Estimated Hours of Learning: 24
Certificate of Completion available upon request

Learning outcomes

After participating in this eCourse, you will:

  • Understand the basic tenets and nuances of virtual reference
  • Identify and manipulate tools used to conduct virtual reference
  • Analyze and conduct virtual reference interviews
  • Understand and perform a variety of search strategies in the virtual environment

Reference services do not just occur face-to-face anymore—they occur over email, Twitter and Facebook—the ways are endless. Reference 2.0 (virtual reference) is unavoidable in the current digital landscape and is increasingly being offered by public and academic libraries throughout the U.S. It is also the least intuitive of the various forms of reference delivery for those who are not as comfortable with or proficient in the use of these tools.

In this eCourse, expert Sujin Huggins will walk you through the standards, processes, and pitfalls of virtual reference. You’ll learn how to facilitate the active use of these services where they are offered.

eCourse Outline

Week 1: The Nature of Virtual Reference

  • Contents:
    • Defining virtual reference: What it is and what it isn’t.
    • Exploring RUSA guidelines for effective virtual reference service
    • The differences between virtual reference and face-to-face reference
    • Issues and challenges with virtual reference delivery
  • Materials:
    • Slide presentation (multimedia)
    • Articles and websites for reading
  • Assignments:
    • Short reflection on your personal and professional experience with virtual reference
    • Short response to assigned articles

Week 2: Virtual Reference Tools and Platforms

  • Contents:
    • The nature of Reference 2.0
    • Subscription-based platforms
    • Free commercial applications for Instant Messaging
    • Mobile or internet-based phone for SMS delivery
    • Streaming media – including blogs, wikis, social networking applications
    • Virtual world reference
  • Materials:
    • Slide presentation (multimedia)
    • Articles and websites
  • Assignments:
    • Inventory and analysis of Reference 2.0 services at a selected library (can be based on your home institution if available). Worksheet provided.
    • Short response to assigned articles and supplementary resources

Week 3: Conducting a Virtual Reference Interview

  • Contents:
    • Strategies for conducting a virtual reference interview: best practices and pitfalls to avoid
      • Establishing rapport
      • Negotiating the question
      • Testing the waters/involving the patron
      • Closing the transaction
  • Materials:
  • Slide presentation (multimedia)
  • Articles and web resources
  • Chat transcripts
  • Library websites based on the criteria discussed in this week’s presentation.
  • Role -play conducting a virtual reference interview with an assigned classmate. Post the transcript
  • Assignments:
  • Analyze 3-4 of the virtual reference transcripts provided.
  • Virtual reference service report. Select a library that offers virtual reference service and ask a question as a patron using that service. Analyze the effectiveness of the transaction and a brief analysis

Week 4: Search strategies in virtual reference

  • Contents:
  • Exploring online reference collections and open-access resources
  • Effective search strategies for time-sensitive responses
  • Providing answers in various virtual forums/instructing the user
  • Course wrap up and reflections
  • Materials
  • Slide presentation (multimedia)
  • Articles and web resources
  • Tips from reference librarians
  • Assignments
  • Question quiz: categorizing the answer; visualizing the answer; suggesting an answer
  • Short learning reflection

How this eCourse Works

The eCourse begins on January 9, 2017. Your participation will require approximately six hours a week, at times that fit your schedule. All activities take place on the website, and you will be expected to:

  • Read, listen to or view online content
  • Post to online discussion boards
  • Complete weekly assignments or activities

Instructor Sujin Huggins will monitor discussion boards regularly during the four-week period, lead group discussions, and will also answer individual questions. All interaction will take place on the eCourse site, which will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's recommended that students log into the site on the first day of class or within a few days for an overview of the content and to begin the first lesson.

User Requirements

Participants will need regular access to a computer with an internet connection for online message boards participation, viewing online video, listening to streaming audio (mp3 files), and downloading and viewing PDFs and PowerPoint files. ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions eCourses are fully compatible with Windows and MacOs.

At Your Service

Accommodations are offered based on user needs. For transcription or other accessibility requests, please contact us at

About the Instructor

Sujin Huggins is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University. She holds MLIS and PhD degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sujin teaches courses in youth services librarianship and children's literature, reference and online services, and community informatics. Prior to pursuing the doctoral degree, she worked as a librarian at the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago.


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