Community Informatics · Miscellaneous · Syllabi · Teaching

Community Informatics Studio, Summer 2016

Co-instructors: Martin Wolske and Kirstin Phelps
Weekly Meeting Time: Tuesday and Thursday, 6-8:30pm, June 14-July 7
Simultaneous Meeting Location: LIS242 and Online

Community informatics studio projects have regularly focused on design of programs and space in response to needs and opportunities brought to the class by community partners. For summer, 2016, we’ll zoom out a bit more to explore various dimensions of adapting and implementing a library trend to a new context, and how we can develop our capacity to lead such an initiative. This class will be open to both on-campus and online students, and is also available as a continuing education course. 

Driving our work will be the following key question:

What if, as an LIS professional, you’re asked to take a look at a library trend — e.g., makerspaces, information commons, artist-in-residence, knowledge center, civic engagement — when no similar initiatives currently exist at your library, in your community, or even in your region?

Too often such trends are offered as packaged products that can be dropped into place. But how can we know if the community is ready for some or all of the components of such a trend? Are stakeholders informed and aligned regarding design and implementation of a trend? What leadership roles are available in the process of developing, championing, and implementing the trend? What adaptations need to be made to fit the historical and existing social ecology of the community and the library? What work needs to be done to secure approvals given the specific forms of municipal, city, school, board, director, administration governance of the library? What parts of the trend fit within, or conflict with, the strategic plan of the library? What policies might need to be reviewed and revised to support implementation?  

Using a CAOS heuristic to consider the Cultural, Administrative, Organizational, and Social dimensions affecting work within the organization and with community stakeholders, this course will help prepare students to engage as change agents and leaders. Students will work in teams to prepare a plan of action to implement the CAOS heuristic for one or more case studies — class participants are encouraged to propose a case study from their own field experiences as a focus for a project team. Two- and four-credit hour students (LIS490ST2 and LIS490STG, respectively) will work together in teams and jointly present their plan of action; four-credit students will be tasked with creating final written documentation of the plan of action.

While this course is offered through the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, we seek graduate students from multiple disciplines, such as education, social work, human and community development, gender & women’s studies, African-American studies, informatics, etc. On-campus students traveling during the summer can elect to join class online as needed.

Pre- and Co-requisites: Consent of instructor for non-LIS graduate students.

Learning Objectives:

  • Individual: To advance the development and exercise of student’s leadership role as a professional by combining real-world community informatics project-based research, studio-based learning pedagogy, and student’s rich past experiences and education.
  • Team: To promote collaboration and teamwork across different domains of knowledge by having students work as a member of an interdisciplinary team within a studio space and in the field applying a critical interpretive socio-technical framework in collaboration with community partners.
  • Community: To prepare students to play a lead role in inclusive partnership development and community engagement on behalf of their community anchor institution by guiding students in a process of racial and cultural awareness, consciousness, and positionality through their engagement with different socio-economic and culturally-based communities.
  • Project: To foster their project management skills by affording students the opportunity to engage in multiple phases of a large-scale community project.

Course Structure Overview: Studio-based learning (SBL) is rooted in the apprentice model of learning in which students studied with master designers or artists to learn their craft. The pedagogy emphasis is on “learning to be a professional” as opposed to “learning knowledge needed to be a professional.” SBL is also closely related to John Dewey’s inquiry-based approach to learning.

Using SBL methods, this course will bring together students, instructors, professionals from related fields, and community members in a collaborative environment to address a real-world problem or “case.” Project work will be very much student-led, with the instructors and outside experts serving as mentors and professional role models. Students will be asked to work individually and in teams in a working environment meant to closely mirror a professional workspace.

Readings, class discussions, and pre-recorded lectures may be used to provide students with background knowledge and information related to the case for the semester to inform creation of an initial plan. However, the majority of the class is used to primarily emphasize “learning through doing”, with class time being dedicated to peer support and instructor mentoring to inform project development.

Doing project work will require more than the limited time available during class, and students should expect to spend time each week working individually or together as a team outside of class. In this way, as implemented the studio brings together the best of class lab and class discussion formats with a group practicum/service-learning experience. In some cases, this will include travel to partner sites as necessary to collaborate and conduct interviews with stakeholders and collect information needed to create a viable proposal/implementation in response to the needs of the case.

Using a Critical Friends approach, critiques will be incorporated into class meetings at regular intervals throughout the semester. Some of these will be informal or “desk critiques” while others will be more formal presentations of progress, culminating in the final presentation of project(s) and critique on the last day of class. Project work will be posted on appropriate course-related sites throughout the semester.

SBLDiagram-Rev1The overall flow of the course is represented by our adaptation* of Brocato’s** SBL design path proposal, highlighting the role that readings, discussion, and community engagement play in our studio design process.



* Wolske, M., Rhinesmith, C., and Kumar, B. (2014) “Community Informatics Studio: Designing Experiential Learning to Support Teaching, Research, and Practice.” Journal of Education in Library and Information Science, 55(2).

** Brocato (2009) Studio based learning: Proposing, critiquing, iterating our way to person-centeredness for better classroom management. Theory Into Practice, 48, 138-146.


Assignments and Methods of Assessment: Students will be graded on a 90% (A), 80% (B), 70% (C), 60% (D) scale. Graded assignments and the overall percentage for each category of assignments are listed below.

Professional Journal (40% of grade): Each week students should spend about an hour writing down their reflections on the in-class discussions and in-field experiences from the past week. These will be posted to the Professional Journal forum. Students should also periodically comment on the reflections of other students to affirm and expand upon lessons learned. In all posts, students will be expected to develop their capacity to bring into dialog: 1) personal histories, field experiences and knowledge; 2) the insights of authors from this and other classes; and 3) lessons learned from in-field professionals and community members. Overall, in lieu of more classroom contact hours, students will be expected to use professional journal entries and open discussion forum to extend dialog on in-field experiences, readings, and project ideas as a form of field notes and collaborative offline discussion.

Development and Presentation of a Plan of Action  (50% of grade): Students will work in teams to apply the CAOS (Cultural, Administrative, Organizational, and Social) heuristic fora case study — class participants are encouraged to propose a case study from their own field experiences as a focus for a project team. Two- and four-credit hour students (LIS490ST2 and LIS490STG, respectively) will work together in teams and jointly present their plan of action; four-credit students will be tasked with creating final written documentation of the plan of action. This score will be prorated according to credit hours. Class time will be used to learn about different aspects of the heuristic, to report back on progress, to participate in critical friends feedback sessions, and to collaborate as a community of practice. Most of the project work will require outside class time to accomplish.

Instructor Evaluation (10% of grade): The instructor  will evaluate student attendance, active participation, and overall progress throughout the course of the semester. The following rubric will be used to assign a score at the end of the semester.

  • 10 = Student has been an active participant in class discussions based on assigned readings and lived experiences and is demonstrating an increasing grasp of the key concepts covered in class.
  • 8 = Student has been an active participant in some of the class discussions based on assigned readings and lived experiences and is demonstrating some gains in grasping key concepts covered in class.
  • 6 = Student is occasionally active in class and is demonstrating some learning, but it is clear they are not performing to their full capabilities
  • 4 = Student has missed several classes and/or is not always active when attending class
  • 2 = Student has been absent frequently and/or rarely is active in class
  • 0 = Student has consistently missed class during the rated period

Attendance and Participation Policy: Students are expected to attend all class sessions except in case of emergency. If you have an emergency, communicate with the instructor as early as possible to prevent negatively impacting your grade. Unless otherwise negotiated with the instructor, students with an excused absence will still be expected to complete professional journal entries.

It is expected that students will participate actively in the class activities and discussions in a professional manner, showing respect for differing ideas and a willingness and ability to defend their ideas by referring to relevant readings.

Library Resources:;; 217-333-3804

Academic Integrity: Students should review and follow the University policy on academic integrity, available online at: . When you submit an assignment, you are certifying that the work is your own, or that of your project group, and that all use of other people’s material is used in accordance to fair use and copyright policies and is properly referenced.

Statement of Inclusion: The following is adopted from the Chancellor’s Commitment Statement (

As the state’s premier public university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s core mission is to serve the interests of the diverse people of the state of Illinois and beyond. The institution thus values inclusion and a pluralistic learning and research environment, one which we respect the varied perspectives and lived experiences of a diverse community and global workforce. We support diversity of worldviews, histories, and cultural knowledge across a range of social groups including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities, economic class, religion, and their intersections.

As applied to LIS490ST, technology is broadly defined as a socio-technical system that includes the physical component, its design, its application, and the training on and use in community. The class recognizes that technology as applied in society is not socially or culturally neutral. Every technology instance reflects the cultural and societal history, norms, and values of those who participated in its design and implementation and equally reflects the absence of the cultural and societal history, norms, and values of those who did not participate in its design and implementation. Further, the adoption of technology will have unique positive and negative impacts within each community. However, considered, participatory adaptation of technology has the potential to help make its adoption more inclusive. The readings and in-class discussion are meant to help each of us take a more considered approach to the adaptation and adoption of technology in community. Difference is a critical resource in this process, and every student is asked to complete readings in advance of class and to bring their insights to the discussion to inform us on the issues as expressed in the statement of inclusion.

Accessibly Statement

To obtain accessibility-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603 (V/TTY), or e-mail a message to

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