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Electronic information resources in undergraduate education: an exploratory study of opportunities for student learning and independence

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The fast–growing array of electronic information resources is often viewed as a significant opportunity for change in education, with shifts towards increased student independence in learning. In order for this to happen students need to develop the capability to deal with information. This qualitative interview–based study examines lecturer perspectives on the roles of electronic information resources in undergraduate education. In line with the phenomenographic tradition, three functional categories of electronic information use are proposed. Firstly, the “electronic academic library” offers new opportunities for access to materials but lecturers indicated minimal change to their teaching approaches. Electronic resources were simply added to reading lists and the responsibility for developing students’ information skills was seen to rest with librarians. Secondly, lecturers identified changes towards more constructivist approaches to learning, drawing upon new sources of primary data available electronically and described specific teaching approaches to assist students to develop the relevant information handling skills. Finally, lecturers were uncertain about the value of the wider information resources of the Internet/Web for students and were concerned about variable information quality and the possibilities of plagiarism. The research indicates that information use in student learning is a multi–faceted phenomenon. Much current discussion centres on the concept of information literacy which draws together information skills and subject-related skills and knowledge. Students do not merely require generic information skills but a knowledge of the discipline and the capability to handle complex information. Partnerships between academics and librarians are a way forward in helping students to develop as autonomous information users. Not only do the two professional groups offer different expertise, but they also bring different perspectives on the problematic balance between student autonomy and student support.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Northumbria

Publication date: 2002-06-01

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