“Flexibility and Persistence” – Critical Information Skills in SNL (and Beyond)

For decades, librarians have argued that information literacy skills – those associated with the creation, discovery, evaluation, and use of information – are lifelong learning skills for all in an information-rich environment. Information literacy has long been recognized as a critical skill for students in DePaul’s School for New Learning (SNL), which offers adult learners to pursue a self-directed program of study that combines traditional coursework, online coursework, and competency-based education.

Since 2008, DePaul University librarians have provided information literacy instruction as part of SNL’s online Research Seminar (LL 300). With the expansion of online course work in SNL in recent years, and with the revision of DePaul’s information literacy learning outcomes for undergraduate students, librarians and faculty members took the opportunity to revise the existing instructional model in order to better promote information literacy among SNL’s distinctive student body.

In 2013, Jessica Alverson, Jennifer Schwartz, and Susan Shultz revised the online instructional model to include brief consultations, focusing on high touch and quality contact with the students, practices understood as establishing ‘teaching presence.’  To measure the desired learning outcome – Students will be able to demonstrate flexibility and persistence in developing and revising strategies for finding and using a range of resources – the team created a rubric based on the review of students’ bibliographies. Using a citation analysis of final papers collected over six quarters and representing 177 students, they compared (1) sufficiency of sources, (2) quality of sources, (3) selection of sources, and (4) diversity of perspectives in bibliographies created before and after the revision of the curriculum.

Findings of the study show that their added attention to online Research Seminar students resulted in improvements across all of these metrics. Seventy-five percent of the students successfully met three of the four criteria: (1) Number of sources (74%), (3) Number of sources found through library databases (81%), (4) Evidence of two or more perspectives (86%), with just under half of the students finding the required number of scholarly sources. While these results demonstrate the impact of information literacy instruction for academic purposes, what we know of information literacy as a transferable skill valuable in the workplace suggest even greater impact for the working adults who make up the SNL student body.

The results of the study have been presented at the Information Literacy Summit at Moraine Valley Community College and in a lightning talk and poster session at DePaul’s annual Teaching and Learning Conference, earning this year’s Assessment Award. If you have attended one of these programs, or would like to know more about how to promote student mastery of defined information literacy learning objectives as part of your course or your program, please contact Heather Jagman, Coordinator for Reference, Instruction, and Academic Engagement, or your liaison librarian.

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