University librarians create digital classroom to elevate student research
Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015
MANHATTAN — Even though traditional college students have never known a world without online information, they haven't necessarily learned to use that information wisely.
A consortium called New Literacies Alliance, or NLA, is working to address that dilemma. Under the leadership of a team of university librarians from Kansas, the alliance has created several free, open-access tutorials that teach students how to become better researchers.
"Many college students haven't learned how to conduct basic research or to determine whether their sources are reliable," says Joelle Pitts, instructional design librarian at Kansas State University Libraries. "We've created online modules to teach students to critically analyze information of all kinds."
When Pitts and her colleagues at Kansas State University first pursued the idea of creating online research training modules, they discovered that librarians at the University of Kansas Medical Center were hard at work on a similar project. The two groups joined forces to both build and promote the New Literacies Alliance on their campuses. Universities such as Fort Hays State University, Marquette University and the University of Indiana, Bloomington have partnered on the project. Other institutions, such as Pepperdine University, are using the lessons in their classes.
Like other open educational resources, the New Literacies Alliance modules are free and easily accessible. Each of the alliance's interactive lessons introduces information literacy concepts introduced in the recently released "Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education" from the Association of College and Research Libraries. Additionally, each lesson assesses students' understanding of those concepts through built-in online testing.
The New Literacies Alliance team developed the lessons in an online learning platform that allows students to master skills at their own pace. The platform, SoftChalk, records students' scores, which can be shared with course instructors mentoring students' research and creative activities.
Heather Collins, assistant director of research and learning at KU Medical Center, said, "These online modules can be implemented at any institution; they don't require specialized technology, software or vendor licenses."
"An added value of moving this information literacy instruction online is that librarians and professors can spend time in class focusing on active learning opportunities and advanced research skills relevant to their area of study, whether that's history or kinesiology," said Sara K. Kearns, head of undergraduate and community services at Kansas State University.
Pitts stresses that the New Literacies Alliances is different because the content of the lessons is based on the ideals of metaliteracy, or learning/thinking about how to be literate. This means that they can be applied to an unlimited number of research assignments, and they teach skills that are beneficial long after students graduate and enter the working world.
The alliance is actively seeking additional partners. For more information, contact Pitts at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://guides.lib.k-state.edu/nla.