Using online collaborative learning to enhance information literacy delivery in a Level 1 module: an evaluation

Geoff Walton, Jamie Barker, Mark Hepworth, Derek Stephens
2007, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. pp. 13 - 30

Abstract


Purpose
The purpose of this study was to encourage Sport & Exercise Level 1 students to use the discussion board facility in the Blackboard Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in order to engage them in online collaborative learning of This was achieved by using notions of scaffolding, reflection and situated learning in delivering the information literacy (IL) elements of the programme. Delivery of the programme was carried out in a blended fashion (a mix of face-to-face and online interventions). The study is part of a PhD pilot study and a Learning & Teaching Fellowship project undertaken by the main author. information literacy.


Methodology
This was a quasi-experimental design using both qualitative and quantitative strategies. Qualitative data was gathered via: capturing student postings and examining their content; a questionnaire administered at the end of the module and from Focus Group responses. Quantitative data was gathered via pre and post delivery tests and by calculating numbers of postings and time taken by students to make initial postings.

Findings
This paper indicates that it is possible to engage students in even the most detailed aspects of IL (for example, breaking down a URL as a criterion for evaluating a web site or where to place commas in a reference) if the appropriate tasks (involving active hands on, collaborative working), settings (within a subject based module during a timetabled session) and assessments (task based with some form of evaluation and reflection) are used. Discussion board output captured via VLE provides a rich insight into what students learn as they tackle IL online activities. From the tutors’ perspective the process of iteration used in the evaluation activities was successful and was an unanticipated outcome of the delivery. It can be seen that by seeding online discussions with student comments ‘moments of iteration’ were provided which enabled IL learning to be articulated in increasing detail.


Practical implications
We feel that the study shows that IL programmes underpinned with a productive collaborative relationship between support services and faculty is central to successful delivery. Scaffolded learning has two benefits: as a successful pedagogical technique within online collaborative learning (OCL) and as a mechanism for realising the iterative process within IL itself. A new process map showing how to structure this within the Blackboard discussion board facility is put forward for the purposes of improving future delivery and providing the basis for further research. However, the research also revealed that more work is required both in terms of courseware development and in articulating more robust techniques for analysing discussion content.


Originality
Providing learning opportunities via means of online collaborative learning to level 1 Sport & Exercise students is a novel approach to the delivery of IL in the university sector.


Keywords


Information Literacy; Higher Education; Undergraduate students; Teachers: librarians; Sports faculty; Qualitative research; Quantitative research; Blended learning; Teaching methods; Online collaboration

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