08 May 2006

How do you implant information literacy into Faculties that offer ‘flexible’ programs?

Quote of the week - “As regards obstacles, the shortest distance between two points can be a curve.”
~ Bertolt Brecht
How do you implant information literacy into Faculties that offer ‘flexible’ programs?
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 a course of study 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 3rd year in any particular program. This is the beauty of working with a Faculty that either has a core course which every student must complete and even better when programs are structured. A structured program is where all students of a program complete the same courses except for final year when elective courses are undertaken. So, you have an opportunity, what will you do?
 Initial planning with Faculty staff in ‘Flexible’ programs:
 Keep in mind that if your Faculty does not have 'structured' but flexible programs, there is only so much 'scaffolding' of infolit that will be possible.
 It’s also a short window of opportunity on the academic calendar for ‘re-writes’ or ‘new course’ developments. You need to make the most of these opportunities and again the time-frame is usually very tight so don’t expect to produce the ‘Taj Mahal’ initially.
 You could choose one course from each stream with historically high enrolments [I have done this to some degree of success, and some infolit is better than none]. Look at all course levels, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and Honours level Research methods courses. A research methods course is an ideal opportunity to implement infolit.
 Keep an eye out for Writing / Communication /Critical thinking / Literacy courses, these lend themselves to information literacy initiatives.
 Do you have an ‘Ask Your librarian’ service? Do you receive more than 5 questions per term for a particular assignment? Review the assignment and where it fits into a program. Follow this up with the lecturer, this course might be a candidate for infolit. Contact the ‘course developer’ to meet with them re: your concerns, but have some ‘solutions’ on hand. Do you need help to brainstorm solutions, run this by your ‘information literacy’ librarian, teaching/instructional team or your supervisor. Put your questions out to a wider group, such as an infolit ‘discussion group’. Collective wisdom is so wonderful! If you hit a red light with the course developer, perhaps a library web guide which covers only the specifics of the assessment would reduce your duplicated effort in repeating the same thing over and over. Remember to make use of any general online tutorials when possible!
 Do you have a ‘system’ that all Information Desk staff can use to log ‘problematic’ assignment questions. i.e. limited resources available, poorly worded or designed assessment which needs clarifying with an academic, etc. Liaison Librarians could regularly check this in order to become aware of these before they become Ben Hurs. Librarians on the desk could first check the ‘logs’ by course code to see if the issue has already been logged. Perhaps your internal Action/Request system could be used? Do you have another system used to ‘log’ technical/computer problems which could be duplicated for ‘Information Desk’ issues? Does the volume of ‘problematic’ assignments warrant this? The advantage would be that it’s included in the ‘system’ and becomes a ‘quantifiable’ statistic, and everyone could see that it is a ‘logged’ and known problem, rather than 5 different people, including casuals, separately emailing the librarian. [Another waste of staff time].
 Ask your Faculty staff if they know about the Infolit standards – show them where these are on the library home page.

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