Health literacy education: the impact of synchronous instruction

Purpose This article examines the integration of librarian-led health literacy instruction into an undergraduate course, focusing specifically on how the method of instruction impacts learning outcomes and self-reported confidence levels in completing a course assignment. Undergraduate students struggle to critically evaluate online health information in an increasingly diffuse information landscape. Assessing the success of different instructional techniques aimed at building these abilities can guide pedagogical choices and provide new opportunities to increase health literacy skills in a variety of library user populations. Design/methodology/approach A quasi-experimental research design with pre- and post-tests and a participant survey was used to compare one-shot information literacy instruction techniques in two hybrid sections of a kinesiology course. One class received a traditional, face-to-face librarian-led session and the other a synchronous online instructional session through web conferencing. Findings There were no significant differences in student learning between the in-person and online groups. Students in both conditions demonstrated an extremely significant increase from pre-test to post-test scores, suggesting that librarian-led instruction in either format can lead to substantial learning of online health literacy skills. Survey results showed no significant differences in confidence levels following instruction and suggest both methods of instruction provide a positive learning experience for students. Originality/value This study provides evidence that synchronous online instruction can be as effective as face-to-face instruction in teaching students to evaluate health-related information resources. These findings are valuable for librarians in a variety of settings who are considering providing health literacy education in an online environment.