Student‐centred active learning approach in an online information literacy credit course for PhD students Vilve Seiler, Kärt Miil, Krista Lepik University of Tartu Library, Estonia Lilac 2012, Glasgow
Overview• Information literacy as a transferable skill in doctoral curricula• Context of the study – online information literacy course “Introduction to information research ”• Methodology ‐ Content analysis of students’ reflections and feedback• Results of the study
University of Tartu Founded in 1632• 9 faculties and 4 colleges• 70 bachelor’s, 80 master’s and 35 doctoral study programmes• 18,000 students (over 670 international students) More than 1 400 doctoral students • Over 34 000 research publications (including 2 500 in the Web of Science) http://www.ut.ee/en/university/general
University of Tartu Library • Founded in 1802• Collections of 3.5 million physical items• Access to 22 000 e‐journals and 27 000 e‐ books• 51 000 registered users• 2.6 million virtual visits http://www.utlib.ee/en/
Information literacy online courses• “Basics of Information Literacy” for bachelor’s and master’s students• “Information literacy or why Google is not enough” for gymnasium students• “Introduction to information research” for PhD students • Courses integrated info different subjects
Information literacy as a key competence in PhD programmes• Information literacy as a transferable skill• Information literacy as a university‐wide elective subject
Defining the needs• An e‐mail inquiry• Experience of subject librarians• Experience of other libraries• Situation at the university
Online course Introduction to Information Research• Elective course for all doctoral curricula• 3 ECTS credit points, 9 weeks• Since 2008, 70‐80 graduates every year • Target group: PhD students of all faculties• Subject librarians as instructors• Individual tutoring and feedback
Content analysis of students’ reflections • Data derived from course reflections provided by graduates • Qualitative content analysis as a method for data analysis and interpretation• Qualitative data analysis software Atlas.ti
Teaching method • Student‐centred active learning • Individual assignments – information search exercises on the topic of doctoral theses• Analysis of fellow students’ exercises• Individual feedback from subject librarians • Discussion forums as a contribution to the learning community
Teaching method – students’ opinions I already had spent time in searching for literature in my field, but the systematic approach of this course, and getting familiar with new databases and reference management systems will surely make my further searches more effective. Without this course I would never have started to search in so many different databases and I would never have learned that there are databases where I can find materials from the year 1774 and others that contain articles published this year. Within this course I performed searches in various databases, using different search words and different methods. Such approach is very important in order to understand the logic of databases and the possibilities they offer.
Course assignments1. Searching in EBSCO and /or CSA Illumina databases.2. Exporting search results into Refworks and EndNote Web, choosing a reference manager for next assignments.3. Searching in other subject databases and e‐book databases, exporting the references.4. Analysing of a fellow student’s 3rd exercise.5. Searching in Thomson Reuters WOS and in Scopus, comparing the databases, exporting references.6. Searching in research repositories and scholarly search engines, exporting references.7. Analysing of a fellow student’s 6th exercise.8. Reflecting on the learning process, presenting a bibliography in the chosen reference style.
Assignments – students’ opinions Assignments Due to the exercises, I had to get thoroughly familiar with the advanced searches of different databases and, together with this, also to specify the actual content of my searches. I liked this course very much, especially the structure of exercises. Solving these problems gave me new knowledge, as well as skills and confidence.Analysis of the An interesting nuance of the course was the works of opportunity to evaluate and analyse the works of fellow doctoral students. I believe that it was fellow beneficial for both the analysers and those whose students works were under examination.
Questions for reflection• Did you find new sources for your research?• Was it useful to search a number of different databases?• Which databases will you keep checking up in the future?• The latter was rephrased in 2011: which databases were the most useful for you?
Themes that emerged from the content analysis of the reflections • Teaching method and assignments• Course organisation and learning process • Usefulness of new knowledge• Previous knowledge of the learners • Changes in attitudes and approaches • Suggestions for further improvement of the course
Different learners• First year doctoral students• Fourth year doctoral students• Proceeded from master’s programme to doctoral programme• Graduated more than 10 years ago• Teaching experience• Different computer skills• International students
Assessment of the course and learning processThe courseThe course has been built professionally. It gives basic knowledge to uninitiated and surely offers much to old hands as well.Useful learning materialsLearning materials are compact and well explained.Getting feedbackPatient tutoring, useful criticism, competent, motivating.
Problems• Technical problems• Search in many different databases• Unclear instructions• Loss of motivation• Equal opportunities for foreign students
Difficult and time‐consumingDifficultI think that passing of this course was important for me, because I struggled with it a lot but I never felt like dropping out – it was too interesting. Time‐consumingThe nine weeks of this course were very taxing, but at the same time, very informative.It could be said that information search is quite a time‐consuming activity. And you can decide only after having read the article whether your result was relevant.
Tutors’ opinions about the course Positive E‐learning is suitable for teaching The course widened my own horizons Being useful to others makes you feel good The course has a positive effect on the quality of subject librarians’ workNegative Time‐consuming I am worrying whether I can manage to teach searches on complex subjects. With time the work becomes a routine Working with badly motivated students Unclear evaluation criteria
What is important for students in tutors’ opinion?Positive•Individual feedback•Good learning materials•All exercises are obligatory•Analysing of the others’ work•E‐learning is suitable for teaching this courseNegative •The first chapters are too theoretical
Suggestions for changes from tutors and learners Tutors• Evaluation criteria should be clarified• Contact seminars• A separate theoretical exercise should be createdLearners• Learning materials• Proactive communication ‘If you will translate those explanations from Estonian to English, the course can be one of the most useful which I have attended.’
New knowledge and its advantages: practical search tipsSearch tipsMore general search tips are probably more important than introductions to individual databases More confidenceThanks to the course I can more confidently and purposefully search for articles and research publications and I do not limit myself to surfing among thousands of Google results any more. EncouragementThis course created the so‐called Wow!‐effect – things can be done this way and I want to try it out. I mean, I learned about limiting my searches and combining search words, exporting different records, etc.
New knowledge and its advantages: databases +Databases + Google Scholar Google ScholarI prefer to combine the searches in EBSCO, ScienceDirect and Google ScholarSearch options on Google ScholarThe most surprising results can be retrieved with Google Scholarsearches, but due to its smaller number of search parameters, only experienced researchers can expect success here.Everything in one and the same placeIdeally, only one database, containing all articles, would be the best, but I’m afraid that it is not realistic.I was delighted because with Google Scholar, I can find e‐books, articles and other materials all in one and the same place.
New knowledge and its advantages: reference managersFor me, the best surprises were RefWorks and EndNote Web – I had never heard about such possibilities.I took much trouble with this assignment, downloading Write‐N‐Cite III and mastering it. I needed help in adjusting my computer, but working with it later was truly enjoyableI was finally able to make sense of article and reference management. So far, I had felt that it was very difficult to get a good idea about ongoing processes in the world of science.
New knowledge and its advantages: added valueOvercoming of a ‘writer’s block’I had just hit a wall when writing my article – I did not know where to look for source materials – and quite unexpectedly, this course gave me everything that I needed.during information search I was able to recapture my already disappearing motivation. Joy in the search process I enjoy working with databases and I am pleased to see that I can find the articles that I need with little trouble and little amount of time. Earlier, I was more frustrated than motivated by article search. :D
Attitude towards information literacy as a subjectSpreading of knowledgeRefWorks ja My EndNote Web proved to be the most useful tools. I had never before used these excellent new tools but now, I am even going to teach my colleagues to work with them.I have already played a ‘missionary’ among my colleagues and acquaintances; very few of them knew about these tools and they generally used only some most common journal databases. Practically none of them had ever heard about the reference management system.
The course should be made obligatory! I introduced this course to my supervisor and suggested that such a subject should be made obligatory. Put this course in obligatory curriculum. It is very important for all students to know how and where to find relevant information for their thesis, articles, homework, etc. This course should/ought to be made obligatory for all doctoral students and researchers (it would be good if all lecturers passed such a subject‐based course too).
I would have needed this course much earlier! The more I got used to working with databases, the more I was troubled by the question WHY IS THIS COURSE NOT OFFERED EARLIER THAN DURING DOCTORAL STUDIES? I feel that I would have benefitted more from this course if I had passed it, for example, in my first year of master’s studies. This is the time when students start to work with scientific articles more seriously. I would have found many needed articles in a much easier way. This subject should be taught much earlier, because doctoral students have, as a rule, already done research and found suitable information sources..
Previous knowledgeThey used Google Scholar So far, I had search mostly with Google Scholar, but the results were quite stretched. They did not use logical operatorsI had never before used logical operators and had, when searching databases, quite often received a huge number of articles of varying relevance. They gained information from their supervisors My supervisor has a large collection of important articles, but they are mostly printed on paper and already slightly outdated; thus, the selection of materials is somewhat limited. I received the articles that I needed from members of my research group.
Wow!Get rid of old searching habits When performing searches, people are very often stuck with their old habits.Comparison with others … the feeling that Estonia is a backwater country where only old and mouldy materials can be found is gradually lessening.Discoveries I discovered that there is another, much larger globe inside our globe. And the things that can be found there are not only useful, but interesting as well.