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“The real world”: information in the workplace versus information in college - Hall


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Presented at LILAC 2017

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“The real world”: information in the workplace versus information in college - Hall

  1. 1. “The Real World”: Information in the Workplace vs. Information in College Russell A. Hall, Penn State Behrend LILAC Conference Swansea, Wales 12 April 2017
  2. 2. Information Literacy  Everyone here likely has their own working definition.  The definitions might differ around the edges, but we can probably all agree that the core is the same.
  3. 3. A Challenge “[W]hile we continue to impose a library-centric view on the information literacy skills debate, we will find that we continue to lack relevance to the world outside librarianship.” (Lloyd, 2010)
  4. 4. Context Is Critical For Information Literacy  Information needs change depending on context.  Therefore, information literacy is different depending on context.  What is the procedure for how we handle employee absences?  Should I cite this academic journal article?  What’s the best way to remove a tick from my dog?
  5. 5. Figure 1. “Fountain,” by M. Duchamp, 1916-1917 ( Public domain.
  6. 6. Figure 2. “Fountain by Duchamp,” by FHKE, 2008 CC BY-SA 2.0.
  7. 7. The ACRL Framework for IL in Higher Ed.  Information Creation as a Process  “Experts recognize that information creations are valued differently in different contexts, such as academia or the workplace.”  Authority is Constructed and Contextual  “Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used.” (emphasis mine)
  8. 8. Workplace Information Literacy  How do people use information in their daily work lives?  Context is different from school  Context is different from home / community  Information needs will therefore be different
  9. 9. The Workplace IL Literature  “The LIS profession tend to focus on the use of secondary sources of information materials traditionally given access to by the library. In the workplace, very little emphasis was given to secondary sources of information and generally members of the staff were dealing with primary data (names, numbers, etc.) and not secondary information.” (Hepworth & Smith, 2008)
  10. 10. The Workplace IL Literature (cont.)  “[Interning students] indicate[d] a preference for verbal over written sources of information, where the process of learning how to be a professionally competent social worker is bound up with notions of professional identity and enculturation into a community of practice.” (Eyre, 2012)
  11. 11. Project Information Literacy  “Participants most frequently discussed three challenges…  An increased sense of urgency permeates the workplace  Research tasks are assigned with little structure or direction  Information seeking and use is highly contextual and fundamentally social” (Head, et al., 2013)  “[M]any called coworkers their go-to source, especially for learning how to perform certain tasks they did not know how to do and how to avoid pitfalls.” (Head, 2016)  “After graduation they had come to realize those learning dispositions [acquired in college] were transferable and critical to their success both as employees and as lifelong learners” (Head, 2014)
  12. 12. This Project  Interviewed 35 alumni of Penn State Behrend who graduated between 2009- 2014  How do they use information at work?  What information techniques/mindsets did they carry with them from undergraduate into the workplace?  How can we improve?  Much of the workplace information literacy literature focuses on a specific professions. I looked at a broader spectrum from a narrower base, searching for commonalities (as well as differences), and how we might improve locally.
  13. 13. Types of Resources Used At Work  Internal Sources Figure 3. From “Email Campaign,” by JASE Group LLC, 2007 ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.  External Sources Figure 4. From “Google 2015 Logo,” by Google, Inc., 2015 ( Copyright Google, Inc.
  14. 14. Internal Resources  Co-workers / Communities of Practice / Boss  Email!!!  Reports (sales, marketing, etc.)  Data internal to the organization (product info, labor stats, etc.)  Policies and procedures
  15. 15. Internal Information Examples  “There’s the operational database, […] which is where the operations and sales teams, that’s their system where their entering all the customer data and vendors we pay, any bills that we pay goes through there. And then we also had a Oracle-based accounting system.” - Senior Financial Analyst  “So we have a lot of templates on there [company intranet] or a lot of documents that people have used for their projects.” – IT Specialist  “[W]hen you leave college and go to the workplace, either the information will exist internally and you have to find it or it doesn’t. You can’t just always Google, right?” – Marketing Manager
  16. 16. Non-Textual Sources Figure 5. From “Barack Obama Business Meeting in the Blue Room,” by White House, 2009 (
  17. 17. Non-Textual Sources  Higher education tends to put a primacy on text, especially scholarly literature.  Not necessarily the case in the workplace  Written documents are often important, but interpersonal communication is key
  18. 18. Examples From Interviewees  “So I would say a lot of verbal communication would be the main way that I get information, share information, either that being email or sitting in meetings.” – Accounts Payable Manager  So trying to understand what the customer needed I usually ended up asking peers in kind of concentric circles of, I guess you could say authority. So I would ask my peers, if they didn’t understand I would ask a senior member or a manager, and if they didn’t know usually we’d end up setting up some kind of meeting or just a quick call with the client to get that information. So at every point it was sort of an interpersonal communication” – Software Consultant
  19. 19. More Interpersonal Examples  “[…] the importance of reaching out. Whether that’s subject matter experts or people that know something that you need to know. Don’t just rely on someone reaching out to tell you or sometimes you just can’t rely on Google or whatever search engine or books you can find. It’s really important to know who has the answers and be able to get to them” – IT Specialist  “Talking with those coworkers, either one-on-one or in a meeting, saying hey can you kind of bring me up to speed on what you mean by this or what you’re looking for with this. […] trying to harvest the information from them in a sense.” - Student Affairs Administrator
  20. 20. External Sources  Google results!!!  Web sites  Online forums  Clients  Vendors (spec sheets, instruction manuals, help databases, etc.)  Media (including social media)  Industry information (laws, regulations, standards, etc.)
  21. 21. Access to External Sources  Interviewees sometimes talked about how they were limited not by their employers demands, but rather what was available to them within budget limits.  “I’m not discounting it’s not important to use scholarly sources. Because I mean that’s just as important but if you don’t have access to them after school. It was kind of what limits it.” – Business Analyst  “I think I’ve occasionally tried Google Scholar maybe, but we don’t really have access to databases that are paid for.” - IT Specialist  Some interviewees were limited to information resources preferred/mandated by their organization.  “[W]e have operations manuals and things like that, that pretty much the whole lab […] we have approved references that we use” - Military Defense Engineer Trainer
  22. 22. External Information Examples  “Google’s the best tool.” – IT Help Desk Associate  “Just do like a Google search and a lot of times I’ll read, I know it’s not that accurate sometimes, but usually a lot of times the first thing I do is if there’s a Wikipedia entry on it and then there’s a lot of information online through other vendors and other companies within the oil and gas industry.” – Oil and Gas Drilling Supervisor  “Also there’s a large community around this application that I pull upon that’s unrelated to the vendor itself. It’s just users like myself and other companies that share best practices and things like that. So a lot of the information resources I use are online” - Information Program Manager
  23. 23. Types of Information Problems  “Tidy” versus “Messy” information problems  “The problems in the educational setting tend to be well defined. In the workplace it may not always be obvious when, or even desirable to use the procedure.” (Leberman, et al., 2006)  Problems are well-bounded in school  Use 3 peer-reviewed articles, no web sources, and at least one book other than your textbook  Problems at work tend to be open-ended  Here’s the problem, go solve it
  24. 24. Tidy Information Problem Figure 6. From “Model of an Alternating Tread Stair,” by Diomedis Spinellis, 2006 ( CC BY-SA 3.0.
  25. 25. Messy Information Problem Figure 7. From “Lego Messy Desk,” by Pascal, 2013 ( CC BY 2.0.
  26. 26. Solved Information Problem Figure 8. From “Twisted Lego Tower,” by Matt Mets, 2007 ( CC BY-SA 2.0.
  27. 27.  “For the most part with undergraduate experience, it was what was in the book.“ - Senior Data Engineer  “[I]t was very, very strict that you had to get your information from reputable sources, so from the library databases […] But I really feel like it kind of limited your options a little bit on what’s really out there and the differing opinions on things.” – Business Analyst Tidy Examples
  28. 28. Tidy Examples  “Even in like the accounting classes even when you’re looking at financial statements it wouldn’t be like, ‘ok here’s a 10-K, let’s look at it.” It was, “ok, here’s this little section, here’s this balance sheet here, and oh here’s the note that refers to this balance sheet,’ but it was never the full set of data. So it was very limited in that capacity.” - Senior Credit Analyst  “[U]nderstanding that as an educational institution you want to provide all the information for your students to be successful but at times it feels like if you keep giving the students all the information they need to succeed they won’t know how to go looking for the information they need to succeed.” - Maintenance Engineer
  29. 29.  “When you get in the real world, it’s completely different. You don’t have a teacher there. You don’t have book to read to figure out the answer. The answers aren’t in the back of the book.” - Payroll and Scheduling Supervisor  “[…] when you head into the real world there are no more filters. You’re not just kind of catering to what someone wants based upon a syllabus.” -Social Media Manager, Hunger Relief Agency Messy Examples
  30. 30.  “I think everything is kind of a controlled environment in school. […] don’t use Wikipedia. Don’t use this because it’s not perfect. And then you get out into the workplace and you’re expecting robust systems that are all perfect and just make a click here and it does everything. But there’s a lot of smaller companies that that’s just not even close to that. […] I think you just used to looking up research reports on a database and thinking yeah, everything is just there and it’s right and it’s not usually the case.” - Senior Financial Analyst Messy Examples
  31. 31. Transfer of Learning  “[T]ransfer of learning occurs when prior-learned knowledge and skills affect the way in which new knowledge and skills are learned and performed.” (Leberman, et al., 2006)  “[T]he success of the transfer depends on the similarity between the context of training and testing (application), it is important for educators to know what knowledge needs to be learned at school so it is useful later in life.” (Leberman, et al., 2006)  Two basic types of transfer (Schunk, D., 2004):  Far Transfer (Decontextualized, little overlap)  Near Transfer (Similar to original context, much overlap)
  32. 32. Transfer Problems for IL  “In considering information literacy transfer, it appears that near transfer may only be possible and demonstrable when the information literacy practices as they are currently taught in an educational context, transfer into educational contexts, i.e. through different years of university education or from university or discipline-oriented workplaces.” (Lloyd, 2010)  How to mitigate this?
  33. 33. Authentic Learning  Learning “experiences that reflect real-world ways of knowing and doing. It is thought that such experiences allow learners to transfer knowledge from formal education to practice, and so provide opportunities for meaningful learning.” (Bennett, et al., 2002)  Work with faculty to make innovative assignments that simulate workplace research  Problem-based learning  Engaged scholarship (including partnering with the community organizations and local business)  Other types of experiential learning  Multiple “correct” outcomes. The important thing is the learning process, not the “textbook answer.”
  34. 34.  “[H]e just told us that this is what happens when you do it and this is what they do and that kind of thing but I never put two and two together like why would you do that? What are you trying to accomplish? […] I feel like my entire education lacked that connection of what we were doing this for” - Biomedical Lab Technician  “[B]asically most information would be from the book. The main thing that I didn’t necessarily like about my program was just more so that, yes I learned a lot, yes I had a lot of information that was thrown at me but I never really understood how it was applicable to the real world” – Senior Data Engineer Not Authentic Learning
  35. 35.  “[O]ne of my favorite classes was my marketing analysis and my business simulation class I had my last few semesters. Because it was more of a real world feel. You were in a group. You were working with people. You weren’t by yourself. And you had like an actual product that you had to market and you had to sell and you had to run data analysis on it. So I think more of those types of classes first and then, how do you obtain that information basically would be more helpful.” - Payroll and Scheduling Supervisor  “You either were the baseball player or the ball park organization. And you had to arbitrate the person’s salary. And how the salary was developed, it was super interesting. And it was, you learned about, you learned so much through that process that if you just tried to teach it out of a book it probably wouldn’t have been half as interesting.” – Accounting Auditor Authentic Learning
  36. 36. The Rub  Likely need a foundation to scaffold authentic learning on top of.  “I think people learn more if you give an example or they’ll remember a specific situation more likely that a general question about accounting or economics or whatever. So I think that if more of education was based on real-world situations that would probably be more useful in your working life. But then by the other side of that is you have to learn the foundation somewhere. You can’t learn that through a real-world example…you’re kind of stuck just teaching it by the book.” – Accounting Auditor
  37. 37. How To Improve?  Partner with faculty to make upper-level course research similar to a workplace information environment  Authentic learning  Keep stressing the academic information environment in the underclass years  It is their context for the next few years  More group work to foster interpersonal communication and collaboration  Teach advanced uses of Google and other non-subscription resources
  38. 38. Questions?
  39. 39. References Association of College & Research Libraries. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from Bennett, S., Harper, B., & Hedberg, J. (2002). Designing real life cases to support authentic design activities. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 18(1), 1-12. Eyre, J. (2012). Context and learning: the value and limits of library-based information literacy teaching. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 29(4), 344–348. Head, A. J. (2014). Project Information Literacy’s lifelong learning study: Phase one: Interviews with recent graduates research brief. Retrieved July 15, 2016 from Head, A. J. (2016). Staying smart: How today’s graduates continue to learn once they complete college. Retrieved July 15, 2016 from Head, A. J., Van Hoeck, M., Eschler, J., & Fullerton, S. (2013). What information competencies matter in today’s workplace? Library and Information Research, 37(114), 74–104.
  40. 40. References, Continued Hepworth, M., & Smith, M. (2008). Workplace information literacy for administrative staff in HE. Retrieved from Leberman, S. (2006). The transfer of learning: participants’ perspectives of adult education and training. Aldershot, England; Burlington, VT: Gower. Lloyd, A. (2010). Information literacy landscapes: information literacy in education, workplace and everyday contexts. Oxford: Chandos Publishing. Schunk, D. (2004). Learning theories: An educational perspective (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.