VIKO:The road to information literacy

Background for the project
Last year the library of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim started the VIKO Project ‘The road to information literacy’ (Veien til informasjonskompetanse). The purpose of the project is to develop a tutorial, a web-based guide, which will help students to acquire information literacy. VIKO’s primary target group is new students. All new students at the NTNU must attend compulsory courses spread over two terms and the examples and tests in VIKO are designed with this in mind.

The VIKO concept is based on information literacy, focusing on problems and solutions rather than providing a tool to assist in finding one’s way around the library. It can still, however, be used as a resource offering practical help.We attach great importance to presenting tasks that are relevant and test problems with a pedagogic answer. These answers are intended to bring a student’s knowledge a step further by demonstrating that there can be several alternative answers, also why some are good and others are bad. The problems are designed to give students the opportunity to test for themselves whether or not they have understood what they have read and gone through. VIKO is divided into seven modules and provides a complete course from start to finish for new students. Individual modules and parts of these can be used as a tool box and can be implemented by students in other on-line courses and guidance programmes, both those of the library itself and those of the university.

Pilot project
During the period January – March 2003 we carried out a pilot project, where we examined several tutorial programmes, some of them very closely. We contacted a number of libraries in Scandinavia and the USA in order to obtain information about their use of tutorials, their technical solutions, the costs of designing and maintaining the programme, their experience with the use of tutorials in relation to costs and the degree of integration in the libraries and their mother institutions. The answers received with regard to benefits and use were very mixed. The most positive response came from the university library at the University of Massachusetts, whose tutorial is called Merlin. The library had received very positive feedback from students who had used Merlin instead of the normal library introduction for new students. They felt that they learned more in this way than from a ‘one-shot’ session in the library. This also meant that the library had more time available for specialist training at a higher level. Parts of Merlin are linked to other basic tutorials in the library. A conclusion common to all the answers we received was that tutorials must be integrated into library training and also employed in teaching at the mother institution. Little use was made of ‘stand-alone’ tutorials. The results of the pilot project encouraged us to recommend the NTNU library to develop the VIKO tutorial and bring it into use.

The project
The VIKO project was started in May 2003 and Version 1 was completed 1st July 2004. The NTNU library contributes by making labour available and paying salaries. The project group consists of three persons. In addition there are three more to assist with the development and writing of the modules, together with a reference group of four persons from various sections of the library.

VIKO consists of seven modules. These are: Sources of Information, Defining Your Research Topic, Essay writing, Use of the internet and Source Evaluation. We will make a new version of parts of the two practical modules, Finding Books and Finding Articles; this is due to the fact that we are waiting for a new version of the library system Bibsys before we can produce examples of information retrieval and exercises to be carried out.We have carried out two usability tests in accordance with the Jakob Nielsen model. The feedback with regard to VIKO was overwhelmingly positive and as a result of this test we shall be carrying out a number of alterations in navigation.We have made a two-minute ‘teaser’ video to arouse interest in VIKO. This will be used in our marketing of VIKO during meetings with students and teachers and also on our web pages.We are also considering making a video providing practical help in finding a particular book on the shelves.

The way ahead
The response from students and staff confirms that VIKO is useful and that there is a great need to learn how to find information, assess it critically and use it in completing academic assignments. The challenge is to persuade the target group to make regular use of the programme. We would like to see VIKO as part of the compulsory general courses or as a separate course earning credits.We have a number of strategies to reach our aims for the implementation and use of VIKO. We shall offer teachers separate modules tailored to their special subjects and the possibility of implementing parts or all of VIKO in the university learning platform ‘it’s:learning’.

We shall work to have VIKO included in the training programme for teaching assistants at NTNU. Since the introduction of quality reform, NTNU has made considerable use of teaching assistants to help students with the writing and correcting of their work.We also intend to promote actively the use of VIKO in the library’s own teaching and instructions to students.

In the autumn of 2004 we shall be setting up a pilot project for the integration of VIKO with ‘it’s:learning’.We shall also be creating an English version of VIKO. This is already sought after and will provide useful support in the teaching of foreign-language students. We must also turn our attention to maintenance requirements and the further operation of VIKO. The technical status should initially make it possible to update and modify the contents of VIKO, but we need to clarify the chain of responsibility in order to ensure that VIKO does not become out-dated. Responsibility for integration and practical assistance for each individual subject and course will rest with the relevant members of library staff, but VIKO in its role as a basic tutorial in information literacy requires follow-up and modification in step with the development of the library’s electronic services and with any future changes in our practical rules and arrangements.

The future challenge for us will be to ensure VIKO’s secure integration into both the library’s and the University’s teaching and to maintain and further develop the programme as a live and dynamic tutorial.

Translated by Eric Deverill

Portraits by Geirr Brækstad

Senior librarian, NTNU Library, Trondheim.
academic librarian NTNU Library, Trondheim