‘Information Fluency’ Course Undergoes Revisions

Course Now Covers Information Seeking in All Areas of Life

In time for Fall 2015 classes, the undergraduate “Information Fluency” course offered by Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science was revamped to better align learning outcomes with national standards.

It’s a class every undergrad in the College of Communication and Information (CCI) is familiar with, as it is a requirement for graduation.

Pending approval, the course name “Information Fluency in the Workplace and Beyond” will be changed simply to “Information Fluency,” Winter Woolston, a SLIS alumna (M.L.I.S. ‘14) and part-time instructor in the course, said.

“The goal of the course is to give students skills in finding, interpreting and creating information in all areas of their life — academic, professional or personal,” Woolston said. “Finding information in the workplace is part of the final project but is no longer the exclusive focus of the course.”

ACRL Provides Framework for Learning Outcomes

The content has been revised to provide students with more guidance on how to conduct research, Omer Farooq, a CCI doctoral student who is teaching one of the classes, said. Farooq received his Master of Library and Information Science from Kent State in 2012.

“The reason for the change was to meet the new framework provided by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL),” Farooq said. “The learning outcomes [for the course] are based on their framework.”

Woolston said the course was also altered to be more relevant to students after graduation.

“We wanted to make the course more than just a library skills course,” Woolston said. “It didn’t make sense to focus exclusively on a bunch of databases they were about to lose access to after graduation.”

According to the syllabus, after completing the course, students should be able to distinguish among dimensions of value of information; formulate a research process to satisfy an information need; discriminate between search processes based on circumstance, need and type of inquiry; articulate the significance of different information creation processes, methods of delivery and formats; evaluate the authority of information sources to meet an information need; and recognize scholarly and professional conversations at different levels.

Information Literacy During and After College 

“What we teach students in this class is going to help them as they finish their degree program,” Miriam Matteson, Ph.D., a SLIS associate professor who helped with the revisions, said. “[The course] will also bring value to the workplace because being a good employee in any industry still means being able to use information effectively.”

In previous years, a textbook was required to complete class assignments. Now, instead of heavy reading assignments, the course will have links to short video clips that align with discussion questions. Instead of exams, students must complete a midterm project and a final project in addition to weekly assignments and discussions on BlackBoard.

Because of good reviews from students and professors, the final project remained the same, but a midterm project was added.

“We added a midterm assignment that asks students to write a persuasive letter to refine some skills that they could really use in the workplace,” Matteson said. “One of the characteristics of being information literate is having a question, finding some information and synthesizing that information, and then writing about it persuasively.”

The final project asks students to pose a potential research question they might face in the workplace, search for information on the research question and present the results in a PowerPoint presentation accompanied by an annotated bibliography.

The 10-week course is typically offered online-only, but one in-person version of the course, taught by Farooq, was offered in Fall 2015 and will be offered again in Spring 2016.

Matteson, Farooq and Woolston were responsible for revamping the course in Summer 2015, with support from Kent State University’s Office of Continuing and Distance Education (OCDE). OCDE offers assistance to faculty who are building online courses.

“[OCDE] was checking all along the way — unit by unit — to make sure that our learning outcomes aligned with the reading materials, video clips and assignments,” Matteson said. “The course is better because of it.”