Screen-scraping is a fantastic tool. It allows your webpage to react to other elements on the page. This is particularly useful when you only have editing privileges on specific parts of the page – and this is the case in many learning management systems like Blackboard.
First, look at a course site in your learning management system. Is there any information on the page that would give you a clue as to what subject the class is about in a controlled-vocabulary kind of way? The most obvious candidate is a course number, which usually includes a three-letter or four-letter code for what department or major the course is offered in (e.g., “BIOL” for Biology, “ENG” for English).
Then comes politics. I’m very lucky to have an IT unit on campus with a pedagogical focus. They are also extremely friendly to the library. I’m hoping it will be easy to convince our Blackboard administrators to include this page in the shell of every new course created at the University. I also plan on approaching our University’s Faculty Senate, who were also instrumental in providing feedback on our new library’s website.
The result? Every course site comes standard with a Library Resources link that points to the most relevant research guide for their class. I would like it to be in each course by default, and give faculty a choice to opt-out. This is how it works with our current link to “Ask a Librarian”. Courses that do not have a specific research guide are directed to the library home page instead.
Details for Blackboard
Please remove ALL COMMENTS from this code before you paste it into Blackboard. For some reason, Blackboard does not like to have comments in your code, and it will break the code. I have also discovered that Blackboard hates loops, which would have made it easier to find a four-letter code anywhere in the courseID, not just at the front.
Paste this code into a New Blank Page (video on how to do this) in a blackboard course to try it out and customize it.
Once you’ve tested it, added all your links and link labels, ask your Blackboard administrator to add this page to the shell of every new class that is created. Be prepared with a demonstration (video of a demonstration) of how it works and describe how this eliminates any friction with faculty.
Moodle, Sakai, other LMSs
The only think that changes are two lines of code near the top.
Code for Moodle in a .TXT file (untested – I don’t have edit privileges in that Moodle)
I’m sure it will be very similar for other LMSs. If your pages are embedded in an iFrame, you might have to add window.top. in front of the document.getElementById function in the code.
Project To-Do List
Currently our LibGuides do not have any standard feature. Even LibGuide landing pages vary greatly from Subject to Subject. If this is to be some student’s primary access point to library resources, some standard features should be on the landing page from Blackboard. Our library has not had this discussion yet, but I like UT Arlington’s LibGuides pages. Each subject guide has standard library services links, librarian profile, and major resources for the subject (example, example, example). Kudos to them for having such consistency!
After standardization, I want to know if the LibGuides they hit from their course pages makes sense. Would it be more appropriate to send them to the general library page? What are they looking for when they click the link that says “Library Resources”? What do they expect to find when they click on it? Does the link live up to expectations?