Building a better M.I.C.E. trap: Using virtual focus groups to assess subject guides for distance education students

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Journal of Library Administration

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Subject guides are often used as an alternative to in-person library instruction for distance education students. However, when students are not on-campus, it can be difficult to assess if they are getting all of the relevant information they need. In an organization that serves students located across the United States and even outside of the country, a method was needed to assess the effectiveness of library information provided to distance learners on specific topics. The William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration (Hotel College) at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), offers a number of on-campus and distance education courses, including classes taught at a satellite campus in Singapore. With diverse course offerings via distance education, the conventions and exhibitions subject area was chosen as a case study. Often referred to as M.I.C.E., the study of meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions in a hospitality context is a major subdiscipline within the Hotel College. After researching different approaches to studying the effectiveness of subject guides, a virtual focus group was chosen to gather feedback from students. This paper will demonstrate how focus groups can be created and how the information gathered can be used to increase effectiveness of subject guides. Readers will discover effective techniques and pitfalls for using virtual focus groups in conjunction with subject guides assessment.


Academic libraries – Reference services; Distance education students; Effectiveness; Electronic information resources; Libraries and distance education; Library subject guides; Online information services; Virtual focus groups


Library and Information Science




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