Monday, April 1, 2013

Information Literacy Courses at Idaho State University

            The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) defines information literacy as “a set of abilities requiring individuals to ‘recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.’”[1]  Over the last decade the Oboler Library has advocated for and educated individuals across the ISU campus about information literacy.  ISU librarians used to teach a two-credit library research course that helped students earn a certificate as media specialists or school librarians.  The College of Education sponsored this certification program; however, with the retirement of one of the professors in that college, the program died.
            Since that time, librarians have promoted information literacy in workshops and presentations.  Library representatives on campus committees have also explained and advocated the importance of information literacy in today’s information-rich society.  The foundation they laid prepared faculty for the course proposals put forth in recent years.  Therefore, Curriculum Council accepted a proposal in Fall 2011 to create a one-credit course titled LLIB/ACAD 1115: Information Research.  This change first appeared in ISU’s Undergraduate Catalog: 2012-2013.  However, students first enrolled in the course during the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters, taking it as an experimental course.  The Student Success Center assisted the Library to ensure the class appeared on the class schedule that first year, and the course was cross-listed as an ACAD and LLIB course with the experimental number designation 1199.
            Initially, the class met twice a week during the second block of eight-week classes.  This changed in Fall 2012, and the students attended class once a week for sixteen weeks.  It seems that student success increased with these changes due to the fact that the work spread out over a longer period, rather than loaded into eight weeks when students tend to be the busiest at the end of the semester.
            LLIB/ACAD 1115 seeks to help students accomplish the following objectives:
  • Identify sources of academic, popular, and professional research
  • Show evidence that you can select relevant and credible sources in support of a research question
  • Summarize, interpret, and analyze sources
  • Document sources in an accepted style format
  • Navigate search engines, article databases, and library catalogs to find relevant sources
  • Demonstrate an ability to distinguish between primary and secondary sources
            Assignments every two weeks require that students find a specific type of source, like a reference article, a book, a scholarly article, a newspaper article, etc.  They must explain how they found the source, summarize it, and evaluate its credibility.  Completion of these assignments prepares them to create an annotated bibliography, which is the final project of the course.  In-class activities also get students on track to complete the bi-weekly assignments.  Students who have completed the course often say that this course should be required for all students or that they wished they had taken the course as freshmen, because it would have been very helpful.
            Library faculty believed this course would be beneficial for all students.  Consequently, they put forth a proposal to change the course to a three-credit course and for the course to be considered as an option to fulfill a general education requirement for undergraduate students.  In recent years the General Education Requirements Committee (GERC) had drafted a revision of the requirements (, and information literacy appeared as one of the new objectives.  Beginning in Fall 2013, incoming students must meet either the critical thinking or information literacy objective.  LLIB 1115: Introduction to Information Research will be a course that fulfills the information literacy objective, since the Curriculum Council and GERC both approved the necessary proposals. 
            LLIB 1115: Introduction to Information Research will be taught in Fall 2013 as a three-credit course with the following objectives:
  • Determine the nature and extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base and value system
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally
            These objectives were adapted by the University and Library from the ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.
            Currently, the Library plans to teach five sections of LLIB 1115 with one section being taught entirely online in an asynchronous format where students will complete assignments independently and view course materials and recorded presentations online.  The other four sections will meet on the Pocatello campus in computer laboratories to accommodate the hands-on nature of the course instruction and assignments.  Oboler Library faculty look forward to this new endeavor and are working to make this course a valuable one that will contribute to future student success.

[1] Association of College and Research Libraries.  Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.”  Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, ACRL, 2013. Web.  27 February 2013.