Information literacy support for off-campus students by academic libraries in the Republic of Ireland

Philip Russell
2008, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. pp. 46 - 62

Abstract


Purpose: This study investigates the perceptions of academic librarians to the development and delivery of information literacy support programmes for off-campus students.

Methodology / approach: The approach was predominantly quantitative, with a self completed questionnaire being designed and disseminated to a purposive sample of academic librarians in Ireland with responsibility for information literacy development at their institution, to determine their approach in supporting off-campus students, and how this relates to their role in developing information literacy. The questionnaire also examines current practice in terms of library teaching methods and library support for remote students. Institutions chosen were from the university and institutes of technology sector in Ireland and the National College of Ireland. A literature review was carried out focusing in particular on international examples of best practice.

Findings: The results indicate a low level of academic librarian involvement on off-campus academic programmes and minimal collaboration between teaching staff and librarians in relation to planning, design and delivery of these courses. However, the findings do, reveal a willingness on the part of most academic librarians to take on additional responsibilities and new roles implicit in the support of off-campus students, if adequate support and resources are provided. The results indicate that there is a lack of knowledge and low level of awareness amongst librarians when it comes to educational theory. Very little pedagogical training is provided for academic librarians involved in teaching information skills. The findings also reveal that non campus based learners are generally being supported through traditional means, with new technologies (online information literacy tutorials, VLEs, eReference services), innovative communication tools and teaching aids not being exploited to the full by Irish academic libraries as a means of support. The paper also includes selected free text comments from survey respondents, which provide further qualitative information, on their viewpoints on information literacy development for off-campus students.

Originality / Practical implications: A survey to determine the attitude of Irish academic library managers to information literacy support for off-campus students and a review of current practice in terms of teaching methods and support has not been conducted before in Ireland. The findings and recommendations are likely to be of interest and of potential value to Irish academic library practitioners and policy makers and will inform future research to contribute to the development of information literacy in the Republic of Ireland.

Keywords


academic libraries; information literacy; information skills; off-campus students; dist

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