Information Literacy Online

Numerous studies, including large-scale studies conducted by Project Information Literacy, The Citation Project, and ERIAL, have shown that students often struggle with research assignments–whether it’s deciding on a suitable topic, assessing the credibility of a source, or understanding the content of a scholarly article. Surveys of our own UofL faculty conducted by Ekstrom Library’s Information Literacy and Research Instruction Program likewise indicate that students need more assistance with research. In particular, faculty tell us they would like to see their students thinking more critically throughout the various stages of the research process and evaluating the quality of their sources more effectively .

While the Ekstrom instruction program teaches thousands of students each year during face-to-face sessions at the library, we are dedicated to expanding the scope of the program to reach even more students and faculty. To this end, we have turned to online instruction as a viable option for reaching new audiences. One of the most common reasons faculty give us for not bringing their students in for library instruction is that they simply can’t allocate the time on syllabi overcrowded with content. Additionally, some faculty teach very large classes, making it difficult to find adequate space for hands-on research instruction with computers. Online instruction can help solve these problems of time and scale, offering more flexible options.

What does information literacy and research instruction look like in the online realm? Although we have been creating course-specific online guides for many years (often as a supplement to face-to-face instruction), we are now working to develop interactive learning modules that can be embedded into Blackboard course shells. Due to the efforts of librarians Sue Finley, Samantha McClellan, and Toccara Porter, we have already reached more than 1,000 students this past year through information literacy content in Blackboard. Our modules are designed to help students learn to use library resources and evaluate information from a critical perspective. We often incorporate multimedia content, such as film clips and interactive diagrams, to illustrate key concepts. And we can also include short activities that reinforce the material, linking them to the Blackboard Score Center for grading by the instructor (or automatic grading).


In order to take these initiatives to the next level, we have formed an Online Learning Team within the instruction program. Under the leadership of Toccara Porter in her new role as Online Teaching and Outreach Librarian, this team is working to improve instructional offerings for distance students and other online learners. Along with Toccara, members of the team include Kelly Buckman, Sue Finley, Samantha McClellan, and Barbara Whitener. The long-term goal of the Online Learning Team is to build the instruction program’s capacity to collaborate with faculty across disciplines to embed customized online information literacy content into their courses.

If you’re interested in learning more about integrating online information literacy instruction into a class at UofL, please contact us! We will work with you to tailor the content to specific learning objectives and class assignments. And stay tuned for our new website in early 2015!

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