iSchool Faculty Members Advance Research in Technology and Learning


Four iSchool faculty members have received grants and awards to spearhead research projects investigating data visualization, the educational potential of blogging, the cultivation of research skills, and mobile technologies in patient care.

Data visualization, the educational potential of blogging, the cultivation of research skills, and mobile technologies in patient care are among the pioneering research areas being investigated by experts at the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information. Four iSchool faculty members have recently received awards and grants to spearhead projects to advance research in these areas.

Dr. Michelle Chen has been awarded a College of Applied Sciences and Arts (CASA) Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (RSCA) Infusion Funding award, and  Dr. Michael Stephens, Dr. Lili Luo, and Dr. Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca have been selected as recipients of  RSCA funding grants from SJSU.

Chen’s project, “Improving the Analysis of Large Digital Collections: A Topic-Based Visualization Model for Better Information Access and Retrieval,” tackles the daunting challenge researchers face trying to retrieve key information from large data sets. According to Chen, “One approach for helping users find, retrieve, and analyze information from large digital collections effectively is information visualization.” Chen used funding from an RSCA grant for the 2014-2015 academic year to develop, test, and evaluate a new information visualization model which, she explained, “allows users to view digital documents at a semantic level through topic modeling, while at the same time being able to visualize the relationships between those documents very clearly.”

Chen, who also teaches courses in data visualization for graduate students in the iSchool’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, will use the CASA RSCA Infusion Funding award to complete the project and disseminate the results. In addition to publishing her work, Chen is planning a presentation on data visualization for the iSchool-sponsored Library 2.015 Worldwide Virtual Conference on October 20, 2015. 

Stephens’ project, “Connected Learning: Evaluating and Refining an Academic Community Blogging Platform” grew out of cutting-edge educational research about teaching and learning and its application in the recently updated Information Communities course offered in the MLIS program. According to Stephens, the study “will contribute to a better understanding regarding how blogging communities can enhance student learning experiences, encourage reflection, and afford the creation of affinity spaces.” Stephens is particularly interested in students’ perspectives in an online course, and plans to explore topics such as student participation, effective student support, and how an online community enhances the learning experience.

Teaching will also go under the lens in Stephens’ study, since he plans to determine best practices for online instruction as well, highlighting “what strategies were most effective at fostering student interaction with course content and with peers, how to best involve instructors in mentoring students, and how to assess student performance.” Stephens believes that his findings will benefit instructors at the iSchool and elsewhere, since his research will “identify challenges associated with offering new models of online course communities and sustaining the model in the future.”

During the period of her RSCA grant, Luo will be completing two chapters of a book she is co-authoring, Enhancing Library and Information Research Skills: A Guidebook for Academic Librarians. According to Luo, “The book will generate more awareness about the value of research among librarians, encourage them to apply research to enhance practice, and promote the evidence-based culture in LIS.”

The acquisition of research skills is a passion for Luo, who, along with Stephens, is in the middle of a three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services funding the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship (IRDL), a collaborative project with scholars from Loyola Marymount University with the goal of helping academic and research librarians become skilled researchers. Similarly, the book project “aims at helping librarians become more confident, competent and productive researchers, enhancing the “research-mindedness” of the profession, and ultimately improving the quantity and quality of LIS research,” explained Luo.

San Nicolas-Rocca will be using her RSCA grant to investigate how a multimedia mobile e-health application can be used with patients who need endoscopy to disseminate important health information and improve endoscopy outcomes. The project, “Use of Mobile Health Application to Improve Endoscopy Outcomes,” builds upon San Nicolas-Rocca’s current research in mobile health information systems, and holds great promise for patient education. In addition to publishing her results, San Nicolas-Rocca plans to share her findings with MLIS students enrolled in her courses at the iSchool.

Faculty members, doctoral candidates, and graduate students at the iSchool serve as principal investigators and participants for a number of research projects covering diverse topics. More information can be found on the Center for Information Research and Innovation, the iSchool’s virtual research center.