20 April 2006

Anecdote of my information literacy infiltraton within a ‘flexible’ program faculty

“I do not like to repeat successes. I like to go on to other things.”
~ Walt Disney
Anecdote of my infolit infiltraton within a ‘flexible’ program faculty
What is a Flexible program? A program is the same as a Degree, Diploma, etc. A course is = to a subject/unit of study. A flexible program is defined as one which is largely determined by the student, where from first year they choose elective courses, within the particular course requirements, but it is essentially student-centred. It is problematic for information literacy initiatives because you never know what the majority of students will choose to study and it is difficult to employ a stepped/graduated approach from 1st year through to the final year in any particular program. It also can have a large proportion of Off-campus students due to external offerings. These are also majority online courses. This is the beauty of working with a Faculty that either has a core course which every student must complete or structured programs where all students of a program complete the same courses except for final year when elective courses are undertaken.
* Look out for seminars & workshops, Faculty Education Committee meetings – there may be opportunities for infolit planning with Faculty staff. If you are ‘active’ with the Faculty, with your visits and keeping them up-to-date on email, when they have a need, they will contact you, of that you can be sure. The challenge is being prepared, getting help with other tasks when the opportunity arises is a big ‘make’ or ‘break’ thing, so let your supervisor know EVERY TIME you are contacted by someone for infolit course development.
* Be ready for the question – “What can you do for us/me?”
* Liaise with HR staff in Faculty to ensure that all new staff members have a ‘library orientation’ as part of the staff induction process. This way you get the ‘jump’ on possible new infolit advocates – at least you meet all the new staff, both general and academic and can make a time with academic staff for more in-depth discussions about the library and what you the librarian can do for them.
* Research Methods courses - I had the opportunity to work with an academic and incorporate infolit 'activities' into a Research Methods Study Guide. A previous librarian had done the ‘groundwork’, there was a lot of infolit theory and concepts, but no practise or activities, and unfortunately neither of us could convince the need for allocating marks, and again I didn't have the opportunity to spend anywhere near the time I would have liked to on this. But at least where there's a start made, others can improve on this as time goes on. [providing a new lecturer doesn't come along and totally revamp the course & remove the infolit components, although you’d have to wonder about the teaching philosophy of someone who does this].
To improve this component I would have shown the academic literature which supports the argument for allocating ‘marks’ for infolit tasks – literature repeatedly argues that infolit is more successful when ‘marks’ are allocated as this sends a message to the students, this is important we are getting marks for this part. Also the time and effort spent on learning these competencies is rewarded. I would have started ‘small’ and asked for 5 marks out of total marks. Better some than none.
* Writing or communication courses along these titles – Communication and critical thinking, Critical thinking lends itself to developing the ‘evaluative’ and ‘higher order’ of information finding, using and evaluating; Professional & technical communication
* I have worked closely with an academic at her request to help with incorporating infolit into a ‘rewrite’ of a course titled ‘Cultural Industries’. This lecturer was brilliant in her grasp of infolit concepts and a module in the Study Guide was titled, Doing Research, Writing and Referencing. This module covered topics such as intellectual property, copyright, plagiarism, background reading, defining topic, Search statements, keywords/synonyms, boolean operators, Information sources, Evaluating sources, Referencing – Style required for course, What are the elements of a reference in a Reference List? and putting the reference list together.
The module also supported my personal philosophy of teaching [or is that learning] from ‘end to beginning’ with regards references. This was all covered in Week 4 of term.
To improve this component I would have given the academic literature which supports the argument for allocating ‘marks’ for infolit tasks – literature repeatedly argues that infolit is more successful when ‘marks’ are allocated as this sends a message to the students, this is important we are getting marks for this part. Also the time and effort spent on learning these competencies is rewarded. I would have started ‘small’ and asked for 5 marks out of total marks. Better some than none. Also, this ‘module’ perhaps could work better broken down over a number of weeks and interspersed in course content of earlier and later weeks. I would also discuss eliminating ‘screen captures’ of the catalogue which demonstrate ‘boolean’ concepts because with every upgrade of any catalogue or database it is immediately high maintenance to keep updating, so that students don’t get confused. Wherever possible, use ‘graphical representation’ with text and diagrams to illustrate concepts. I would then move on to 'spread out' the concepts within the course content to move from 'implanted' to 'integrated' information literacy.
* Information systems management with e-commerce applications – with this course, the lecturer was developing an assignment that required the students to include different types of journal articles in the References of an assignment. This would have been a great opportunity to look at course content and opportunities for including infolit content, such as the ‘differences between, scholarly, trade, popular magazine articles’ and ‘evaluation criteria’. My family relocated to another part of the State and my husband transferred, so I didn’t have the opportunity to bring this to fruition.
* Human computer-interaction – was also looking at ways to incorporate infolit into this course. The lecturer involved was brilliant and the students did a lot of 'teamwork' assessment, so perhaps a Blog would be a good 'tool' to use to introduce infolit and build on the 'team' aspects.
*Online teaching opportunities - with Faculties that offer External courses, most teaching is online, so look for ways to 'improve' or 'faciliate' these online courses and by doing this you can open the door to information literacy.
*Use your 'online information literacy tutorial' as much as possible because the ground work is already done - some 'areas' are not necessarily critical if not given a subject-specific example, e.g. "how do I read a citation?" but some are such as "Which information sources will I use?" This section could be expanded or 'disciplinised' [not really a word I know but sounds good] because it's the 'sources' and 'level' of information that changes significantly between disciplines.

All the best to LL’s involved with Flexible Faculties! It can happen, it all comes down to that commodity we are always short of, TIME! As well as academic interest and open opportunities! The 'online tutorial evaluaton form' post has been re-schedule for a few weeks time.

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