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Online Tutorials: Tools and Best Practices

What is Guide on the Side (GotS)?

Guide on the Side is open source software developed by University of Arizona librarians. It helps you quickly and easily create online interactive tutorials.  The Guide on the Side was built on sound pedagogical principles of online learning including interactivity, authentic tasks, and individualized feedback.

GotS is an excellent tutorial creation tool that can be used to develop interactive learning experiences for a wide range of e-learning objectives:

  • instruction on the general use of a specific research literature database, e.g., Scopus, PsycTESTS or Pubmed
  • instruction on a very specific service or utility of a research literature database, e.g., cited reference searching
  • instruction on searching techniques, e.g., boolean and proximity searching
  • promotion of information products by enabling a "test drive" of a new database,e.g., PolicyMap, or information service, e.g., BrowZine, to demonstrate the value of these new and often expensive products to our university community

All of the examples above would provide "user engaged," interactive learning.  The possibilities are endless.

Why use GotS

Active Learning: GotS actively engages the user with activities such as screen manipulation, data input, problem solving. The learning is anything but passive.

Quick & Easy: The learning curve for GotS developers is very low.  The development of GotS tutorials can be very fast, though the tutorial "storyboard" may require considerable deliberation.

Editing: Soooo fast.  Unlike editing for video, sound or even screen capture sequences used by many e-learning tools editing GotS content is quick and easy.

Publishing: Also easy & quick -- complete the tutorial and click on "Publish."  The tutorial is loaded on the ULS application server.  There are no hosting problems.  The GotS tutorial link can be placed in LibGuides, Blackboard, or the link can be emailed to individuals or contact lists.

Sample tutorials created with Guide on the Side

Training resources

Additional GotS Resources (RSS feed)

All the resources below provide access to full text.  To access the full text click on the title link to open the item in a RefShare shared folder.  Many of the items in the RefShare folder provide a URL which will take you to the full text.  Some of the items are journal articles, and these items can be accessed via the [Article Linker] button.

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Best practices


  • Keep text to a minimum – students tend to skim and scan most digital text, even important directions.
  • Break text apart with spaces, bullets, and chapter headings.
  • Highlight important words.
  • Use steps to highlight key directions.
  • Use images instead of text.


  • Use a variety of question types: short answer, long answer, multiple choice, and true/false.
  • Use questions for comprehension checks.
  • Use questions to ensure students are on the correct screen.
  • Individualize feedback to student’s response – avoid using “incorrect” only.
  •  Let students go back and figure out the correct answer.


  • Pick starting point carefully – students tend to begin with immediate action and click on what they already know without reading directions.
  • Give clear directions for what to click on ‐ NOT: “Click on the Results button,” but “Click on the green Results button located on the top menu on the left side”.


  • Offer plenty of chances for hands‐on, authentic practice
  • Update regularly and have a schedule
  • Have student workers go through tutorial to find mistakes

Source: The Guide on the Side: Best Practices. AzLA Annual Conference, Scottsdale, AZ, November 13‐15

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