Information Literacy Course Yields Mixed Effects on Undergraduate Acceptance of the University Library Portal
AbstractObjective – To determine the effects over time of a 3-credit semester-long undergraduate information literacy course on student perception and use of the library web portal.
Design – Mixed methods, including a longitudinal survey and in-person interviews.
Setting – Information literacy course at a comprehensive public research institution in the northeastern United States of America.
Subjects – Undergraduates at all levels enrolled in a 3-credit general elective information literacy course titled “The Internet and Information Access.”
Methods – A longitudinal survey was conducted by administering a questionnaire to students at three different points in time: prior to instruction, near the end of the course (after receiving instruction on the library portal), and three months after the course ended, during the academic year 2011-2012. The survey was created by borrowing questions from several existing instruments. It was tested and refined through pre-pilot and pilot studies conducted in the 2010-2011 academic year, for which results are reported. Participation was voluntary, though students were incentivized to participate through extra credit for completing the pre- and post-instruction questionnaire, and a monetary reward for completing the follow-up questionnaire. Interviews were conducted with a subset of 14 participants at a fourth point in time.
Main Results – 239 of the 376 (63.6%) students enrolled in the course completed the pre- and post-instruction questionnaire. Fewer than half of those participants (111 or 30% of students enrolled) completed the follow-up questionnaire. Participants were primarily sophomores and juniors (32% each), with approximately one-quarter (26%) freshman, and only 10% seniors. Student majors were concentrated in the social sciences (62%), with fewer students from science and technology (13%), business (13%), and the humanities (9%). The 14 participants interviewed were drawn from both high- and low-use students.
Overall, the course had a positive effect on students’ perception of usefulness (PU) and ease of use (PEOU), as well as usage of the library portal. This included significant positive changes in perceived ease of use and information quality in the short-term (from pre-instruction to post-instruction). The results were mixed for perceived usefulness and system quality. Though there was mixed long-term impact on usage, the course does not appear to have had a long-term effect on PU and PEOU. The interview participants were asked questions to explore why and how they used the library portal, and revealed that both high- and low-use students used the library portal for similar reasons: to find information for research papers or projects, to search the library catalogue for books, and in response to a mandate or encouragement from instructors.
Conclusion – The study supports the theory that an information literacy course could change student perception and use of the library portal in the short-term. Replicating this design in other settings could provide a systematic approach for assessing whether information literacy courses address learning outcomes over time. A longitudinal approach could be useful for comparing proficiency and information behaviors of those who take information literacy courses with those who do not.
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