Instruction via chat reference: does co‐browse help? Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose - The 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 co-browsing enhances learning. Design/methodology/approach - Two 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 text-only IM software, the second using commercial chat software with a co-browse feature. Findings - Findings 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. Co-browsing was used little and did not increase the amount of instruction provided. Patron question format had an impact on the likelihood of co-browsing. Despite a high rate of technical difficulties, co-browsing was very well received by survey respondents. Practical implications - Findings suggest more training on the importance of instruction in virtual reference is needed. Originality/value - Providing 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 co-browsing as an instructional tool. This study addresses the need for research on instruction in the virtual reference environment.

author list (cited authors)

  • Graves, S. J., & Desai, C. M.

citation count

  • 17

publication date

  • July 2006