Use of Online Information Resources by RMIT University Economics, Finance, and Marketing Students Participating in a Cooperative Education Program

Article excerpt


In the Business Portfolio at RMIT University, students participate in a cooperative education program as part of their undergraduate degree, under the auspices of the Work Integrated Learning (WIL) program For Economics, Finance and Marketing students, their cooperative or 'co-op' placement is undertaken in their third year, with students spending two semesters in paid employment. They gain valuable industry experience and apply the knowledge and skills they have gained at university in the workplace. They complete a series of educational tasks, including the completion of a business project and report: students investigate and report on an aspect of the organization in which they are employed, or prepare an assignment on an approved topic. (1)

Liaison librarians work with academics to integrate information literacy into many programs. They use their knowledge of online information resources to contribute to their design and delivery. While they have a good knowledge of online information resources relevant to students for study purposes, less is known about which resources are used by students out in the workplace. This paper investigates the use of online information resources both for study and work purposes, by Economics, Finance, and Marketing 3rd year students in the workplace during their cooperative year.

It is hoped that this research will assist the library to provide relevant and customised information literacy training for this group of students and also for final year students preparing for researching in the workplace. It will inform the library about online information resources used in the workplace that the library could acquire in order to increase the range and availability of resources useful for students in the workplace, and will also explore barriers to using online information resources.

Literature review

The literature review focuses on work-integrated learning, and on understanding factors that might influence on students' use of online information resources. These include changes in the business information environment, trends in information seeking behaviours, barriers to using online information resources, and workplace information literacy.

Work integrated learning

RMIT University has a strong history of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programs and alignment with industry. Accordinly, one of the objectives of the Learning and Teaching strategy is to "produce work-ready graduates with a hunger for life-long learning". (2) Work-integrated learning has a significant role in the development of graduate competencies. It is a "holistic triparate, endeavour in which students, employers and faculty within educational institutions work together to produce graduates that are more 'work-ready". (3) Graduate employment capabilities at RMIT University consist of generic or employability skills valued by employers. Information literacy and an orientation to lifelong learning are both listed as employability skills at RMIT University. (4) The School of Economics, Finance, and Marketing has a Work Preparation Programme designed to prepare students for their coop placement (5), which includes the development of resume writing, job search strategies and interview skills* Other universities such as Flinders University (6) also have these programs. The University of Southern Queensland (7) has 'The-Backpack-to-Briefcase' project, which includes employability skills workshops and induction support for students in the Faculty of Business. This is based on a lifelong learning developmental approach. Graduate employability is one of the measures of success for undergraduate programs, and is therefore part of the criteria upon which AQUA assesses universities for funding allocation. Employer satisfaction and graduate destination surveys are used to gauge of performance in this area. (8) Therefore, developing graduate employment capabilities in students is an important focus for Schools. …