råd & VINK

Web tutorial in information literacy for students
The aim of the project ‘råd & VINK’ (‘hints and advice’ is to produce a web-based tutorial in information literacy for students in Norway. The project is a collaboration between the libraries of Telemark University College (HiT) and Stord/Haugesund University College (HSH). The tutorial is expected to be ready by October 2004 when it will be made freely available on the web. The tutorial consists of two main parts. In the first part the student is led through the research process: finding a topic, defining and refining a research question, finding information, evaluating sources and preparing to write the assignment. The second part consists of a tool box of information literacy skills and links to guides and resources.

The libraries of HiT and HSH are working to improve their teaching in library and information use to students on campus and to the growing number of distance learning and part-time students. A web tutorial and guide is seen as an aid in this task. At the time of planning the project, we were not aware of any Norwegian language tutorials, and saw, therefore, the need to create a tutorial ourselves. The aim of the project is to create an interactive web-based tutorial in information literacy for students. It should be possible to use the tutorial as a part of the library’s face-to-face teaching, and also as selfpaced self-instruction. The tutorial will be module-based and it will be freely available on the web.

The term ‘information literacy’ can be interpreted in many ways. It is often used as a synonym for library skills, information skills and computer skills. We have chosen to adopt the description formulated by the American Library Association in 1989: “To be information literate, a person must be able to recognise when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” This description forms the basis for information literacy standards in higher education in USA (ACRL 2000) and Australia (CAUL 2001).

Teaching methods such as group work, problem-based learning (PBL) and project work require that the student is competent in the acquisition and use of relevant information. However, libraries often experience that students are not sufficiently information literate even though they have attended library education and information literacy courses. A study made as part of the Godin Project at the University of Roskilde in Denmark showed that students soon forgot what they had learned at the information literacy course (Clas Poulsen, 2002). This is in accordance with our own observations.

Why is this so? There seems to be two main reasons. Firstly, information literacy teaching or library skills teaching is not usually an integrated part of the main course curriculum, but is just an ‘add on’. It can, therefore, be difficult to motivate the student to see it as an essential part of studying. Secondly, most librarians do not have the necessary teaching skills to motivate the students to learn new strategies. According to Sharon Markless, librarians “… spend time helping users to develop the strategies that they need to exploit resources and to use information more effectively. However, it is not easy for people to adopt new strategies: such changes in behaviour cannot simply be handed over to users.”

After a literature study in educational theories, androgogy, web learning and web design, we concluded that we need to design a web tutorial with the main emphasis on the research process rather than on the technicalities of information searching. It should stimulate the student to active participation, problem solving and reflection. We searched for web tutorials in English and the Scandinavian languages to see if an existing tutorial could be translated into Norwegian and adapted to our needs.We found only one tutorial which we considered to be totally process- orientated, rather than task-orientated – the Danish tutorial SWIM.

SWIM looks at information literacy from the student’s point of view. “SWIM is a social simulator based on interactive video, where the user has to reflect on and make decisions on information searching strategy in different dilemmas.” (Niels Jørgen Blåbjerg, 2003). In addition to the role play, there are five modules, which go into the information search process in more detail. SWIM presents information literacy in a very realistic way and is extremely student-orientated. However, we found the sequences in the role play to be rather long at times and the feedback confusing. The navigation was also rather rigid in the role play section. Re-recording and dubbing the Danish dialogues in Norwegian would be prohibitively expensive.

SWIM is based on Carol Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) (Kuhlthau 1993).We found this model for information searching interesting. It places more emphasis on the early stages of the research process than many other models. It has six phases: task initiation, topic selection and prefocus formulation, focus formulation, information collection and search closure. It also incorporates dimensions such as thoughts, feelings and mood in addition to actions and strategies.

Comic strips as a guide
We decided to base our tutorial on Kuhlthau’s model and to use SWIM as our inspiration.We saw the need for a process-orientated tutorial covering the complete research process from the time the student receives the assignment to the completion of the paper.

At the same time, the student should be able to find specific information on information literacy skills.

The process-orientated part of the tutorial will consist of a series of situations consistent with Kuhlthau’s six phases. The situations will be presented in the form of a comic strip showing a group of students who are doing a project. After each sequence, the user will be presented with a choice of actions and strategies. The user will get immediate feedback on his/her choice and will be able to click on links to further information if required.

This additional information will also be available in the form of a tool box which will contain guides in information searching techniques and strategies, search guides to specific databases and catalogues, evaluation techniques, study techniques and writing techniques. The tool box will function as a reference work, where the user can pick and choose from the tool box according to his or her needs.

At the time of writing, the manuscript for the process-orientated part has been completed and an illustrator and a web designer are working on the web presentation. The project co-workers have started on the content and construction of the box. Here we are looking at the many existing web tutorials in order to find good ways of presenting the information in regard to content, pedagogy and information design.

The aim is to test out the tutorial on student groups in September in order to make any necessary adjustments before the final launch in the middle of October 2004.


List of references

American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (1989)
Final report. Chicago: ALA.
Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) (2000)
Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Chicago: ACRL. http://www.ala.org/Content/NavigationMenu/ACRL/ Standards_and_Guidelines/standards.pdf
Blåbjerg, Niels Jørgen (2003)
Information learning strategies (SWIM) In: Knowledge III. Information literacy, bridging the gap between teaching and learning promoting the educational role of the librarian, Akureyri, Iceland – September 25-26, 2003. http://vefir.unak.is/CKIII/default.htm
Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) (2001)
Information literacy standards. Canberra:Council of Australian University Librarians. http://www.caul.edu.au/caul-doc/InfoLitStandards2001.doc
Kuhlthau, Carol Collier (1993)
Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. – Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1993.
Markless, Sharon (2003)
Information literacy: a learning-focussed approach. In: Creating Knowledge III. Information literacy, bridging the gap between teaching and learning promoting the educational role of the librarian, Akureyri, Iceland – September 25-26, 2003.http://vefir.unak.is/CKIII/default.htm
Poulsen, Claus (2002)
Problembaseret undervisning i informasjonssøgning: teori, erfaringer, metode og undervisningsmateriale. Roskilde: Roskilde Universitetsbibliotek. (Godin projektet. Slutrapport) (Skriftserie fra Roskilde Universitetsbibliotek nr. 38) http://www.rub.ruc.dk/rub/omrub/skrserie/slutrapport.pdf

Head of department, Telemark University College, the library.