This project, sponsored by The University of Texas System Digital Library, utilizes the World Wide Web to educate students about online research. The completed project will take the form of an online tutorial employing the interactivity of a Web-based interface to teach information literacy. Visitors will learn brief historical information about the Internet and then, based upon their personal interests, will learn about the process of research in online sources. The self-paced nature of the tutorial and multimedia approach to introducing students to new information will strive to accommodate varying personal interests and learning styles.
The current generation of students entering the university are savvy to the use of computers. An email address is becoming as familiar and essential to many of them as a phone number, and publishing on the Web itself is now a prerequisite for many classes. The increasing problem new students face is the sheer amount of information and varying formats that confront them as the Web and number of library databases grow at exponential rates. The visual seamlessness of the Web interface demands that students gain the skills to discern between varying content. Information literacy ensures students can choose sources best suited to academic research; effectively search available resources; critically evaluate the information they find; and organize and cite electronic information. This project aims to teach information literacy to a generation whose libraries are increasingly digital. Accessible through the Web, the tutorial will be available to a large number of students throughout The University of Texas System, across the state, and around the country.
Unlike many library tutorials on the Web, this interactive tutorial provides a "problem based learning" environment. A problem-based approach has, we believe, implications for how the computer can be used as a teaching tool. Rather than drilling students about library jargon through a linear presentation, students will be presented with basic concepts and encouraged to work through a series of interactions. We feel that one of the greatest assets of the Web as an educational tool is it's interactivity, where user input affects outcomes and results in multiple ways. We plan on giving significant attention to the instructional design and graphical layout, as a means to counter the dry formalism much of the content may otherwise succumb to in a more traditional presentation.
As a secondary goal, we hope the project will serve as a model for other educators and librarians. Many library tutorials are akin to Web-based textbooks; students follow screens in a linear manner and then take a test upon completion. The textbook approach effectively conveys basic principles but does not challenge students to apply those principles to unfamiliar situations. We intend to provide basic content and then allow students to explore and experiment with the information, thereby forming their own conceptual models of how online research is structured and performed. Given basic principles, and then encouraged to become active learners, students are more likely to develop their own research strategies. Self-assessment at the completion of each module will be important for students to discern if they have grasped the main concepts, though we believe the personal exploration and discovery element will be far more significant towards longterm comprehension and use.
The current state of Web technology creates an opportunity for librarians to analyze how students interact with library concepts. It is important to us that the project reciprocally inform our own pedagogical approaches and practices towards the subject of information literacy. Through analysis of student responses we can better understand the evolving nature of the library and tailor our instructional programs to best meet students' needs.