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Information-literacy programmes and course curricula:
the case for integration

Author - Anne Ambrose and Brian Gillespie

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Information literacy and DIT

All DIT Library centres offer information-skills courses. To date, however, these have generally been organised in response to specific requests from lecturing staff, are generic in nature and non-standard across courses.

In autumn 2004, DIT library staff will present the information element of an information and communication studies module in the newly validated B.Sc. in accounting and finance. This is a core module carrying 10 ECTS credits. Library and academic staff worked closely in designing the new module, and clear objectives and related learning outcomes were identified. The seven SCONUL key information skills, (see Fig 1) were used as the applicable standard to the library component. The new course will incorporates three separate strands:

> information technology studies – the hardware and software used in the organisation of information;
> information studies – the structure of information, how information is generated, its location, retrieval, evaluation and exploitation; ethical dimensions in the use of information;
> communication studies – the ability to communicate the information retrieved in a variety of formats, including writing skills, presentation skills etc.

This is a first for DIT library and, quite possibly, the first time a full information-literacy module has been introduced into an academic programme at an Irish third-level institution. It is hoped that this programme could act as an instructional pilot across the DIT campus.

More recently, in autumn 2002, a pilot information literacy course was presented by staff at Aungier Street library for students on the MA in interactive media programme. Again clear objectives and related learning outcomes were identified and the SCONUL set of key skills provided the foundation. Taken in six one-hour sessions, the course covered the following:

> organisation of information;
> recognising the need to use information;
> characteristics of information resources;
> defining a search strategy; locating and accessing information;
> evaluating, organising and applying information;
> copyright, plagiarism, currency and reflection.

Student response was enthusiastic, except for the timing of 9.30a.m. on Monday mornings! All the evaluation sheets, without exception, included some variation on the comment  ‘I did not know how much information was available’.

Looking to the future – issues for third-level institutions to consider

Institutions should recognise the importance of information-literacy as a key component of academic success, containing a necessary set of transferable skills for life-long learning in the information age. To this end, the concept of the information literate-graduate should be formally integrated into teaching and learning development strategy. Academic libraries should carry out the necessary research to evaluate the resourcing and implementation of information-literacy programmes across undergraduate and post-graduate courses. From this research should emerge a clearly defined implementation plan. Costs should be evaluated and the necessary funding identified. Information literacy courses should be an integral part of all new course design. Librarians should be included in course boards and course-design teams. Skills mapping techniques should be used to identify the level of student competencies in information literacy skills as a basis for course design. In the short term, faculties should recognise the need to allocate curriculum time to library programmes. Academic and library staff should collaborate to ensure that the programmes on offer are course-related and relevant to immediate student need.

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