What do a book-loving therapy dog, top four social media tips, and research proposal support all have in common? Faculty and students can find these topics and more in the University Libraries’ online learning tool repository Odyssey.

Lisa Becksford, University Libraries’ online and graduate engagement librarian, presented about this unique digital library at the Distance Library Services conference in San Antonio, Texas, and later collaborated with Stefanie Metko, University Libraries’ director of teaching and learning engagement, on an article published in the Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning.

“Odyssey is an online collection of unique resources to help professors and librarians teach students how to become confident researchers,” said Becksford, “from accessing, using, and citing library resources, to managing research data and sharing their research with their communities.”

Faculty can access these teaching and learning tools created by University Libraries’ faculty on their own through the Odyssey website. Also, the learning objects housed in Odyssey are openly-licensed, which means that anyone is welcome to use the objects as they are or modify them as needed for their context.

“For instance, a librarian who needs to teach students about how to find a book in Newman Library may use the Moose the therapy dog video from Odyssey in a research guide created for a particular class or program, and a professor may create a Canvas module featuring a handout and video from Odyssey to teach students about poster design,” said Becksford. “Students will encounter the content in both of those situations without necessarily knowing that there's a thing called Odyssey, but the fact that the items were in Odyssey in the first place enabled the items to be found easily and shared with students via other platforms.”

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“There were a couple of challenges that Odyssey was designed to overcome. One of those was the need to scale our library instruction — the campus is growing, both in in-person programs in Blacksburg and our extended locations and in online classes and programs,” added Becksford. “Online instructional materials enable us to reach more students. Whether they’re in Blacksburg taking an in-person class or studying in our other locations like Roanoke or Northern Virginia, they have access to research support and instruction through Odyssey.”

The learning tools are openly available to the community as well.

“Odyssey also serves educators outside of Virginia Tech and addresses challenges that they may face if they do not have someone creating instructional tools. It provides a place for librarians and educators outside of Virginia Tech to find openly-licensed materials to teach library skills — not just videos, but interactive tutorials and handouts as well,” said Becksford. “I see Odyssey as a way to help Virginia Tech fulfill its global land-grant mission because it’s available to educators all over the world.”

Becksford said learning tools are continuously added to the digital library in response to faculty and student needs. “We’re hoping to add quizzes, lesson plans, and Canvas modules in the future.”