Computer Literacy in Information Studies: A First World/third World Perspective

Article excerpt

At the University of Natal's Department Of Information Studies in South Africa, students com from very varied backgrounds and are employed in a variety of drastically different library and information work situations. Students from libraries in developed countries with completely automated systems sit side by side with those from Third World information centers having only a card file for information access.

Course of Studies

The usual pattern of information studies education is the postgraduate Higher Diploma in Information Studies (HDIS, one year), Bachelor of Bibliography - Honors (one year), Master of Information Studies (one year), and the Doctor of Philosophy (two years).

The students entering Information studies at the University of Natal for the first professional degree, the HDIS, come with a Bachelor's degree in various subjects and a wide range of computer literacy. It is the computer literacy of the HDIS students with which we are concerned at this point.

Why Computer Literacy?

Even with unlimited resources, it would be extremely difficult to address in detail all of the needs for computer literacy education in information studies. With limited resources it, becomes a question of addressing these needs in the most efficient manner possible, while taking into consideration the computer literacy skills brought to the educational situation by the student.

In this context the following question has arisen: since many students will go to work in libraries and information centers that do not have any computer facilities, what is the point of their being computer literate?

While it is true that there may be no immediate need for computer literacy, it is also true that these students may need computer literacy in the future when they change jobs. If students are computer literate, they understand the value of computers in information work, and can intelligently PrOmote arguments for the addition of computers where they are not currently available.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, it is virtually impossible to understand any modem techniques of information manipulation without being computer literate.

Introductory Short Course

The computer literacy of the students ranges from expert knowledge of programming to not knowing what a computer is. This Presented the problem of designing a short course that would not bore the expert or overwhelm the novice.

The solution was to use the universitY's local area network (LAN) as a teaching tool and include applications of immediate personal benefit to the students as teaching examples. Even the experts would be exposed to new material in learning how the network operated and would be able, if they wished, to explore additional areas of the network while the novices were working in required basic areas.

As an alternative, the advanced students could help the novices with th, required basic work. …