Instruction via chat reference: does cobrowse help? Academic Article uri icon


  • PurposeThe purpose of this research is to determine whether instruction would be welcomed by instant messaging (IM)/chat users, whether instruction is possible in this medium, whether it can be effectively provided, and if the use of cobrowsing enhances learning.Design/methodology/approachTwo studies were conducted in which IM/chat reference transcripts were analyzed and patron surveys collected. This research paper compares results from these studies, the first based on use of textonly IM software, the second using commercial chat software with a cobrowse feature.FindingsFindings indicate that patrons welcome instruction, whether they ask for it or not, and are satisfied with chat/IM as an instructional medium. Librarians usually provide instruction, though they are more likely to do so if patrons ask for it, directly or indirectly. Cobrowsing was used little and did not increase the amount of instruction provided. Patron question format had an impact on the likelihood of cobrowsing. Despite a high rate of technical difficulties, cobrowsing was very well received by survey respondents.Practical implicationsFindings suggest more training on the importance of instruction in virtual reference is needed.Originality/valueProviding instruction via reference is an established practice at the physical reference desk, yet few studies of instruction in virtual reference have been conducted and none on cobrowsing as an instructional tool. This study addresses the need for research on instruction in the virtual reference environment.

published proceedings

  • Reference Services Review

author list (cited authors)

  • Graves, S. J., & Desai, C. M.

citation count

  • 16

complete list of authors

  • Graves, Stephanie J||Desai, Christina M

publication date

  • July 2006