Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Poor Information Literacy Skills and Practices as Barriers to Academic Performance: A Mixed Methods Study of the University of Dar Es Salaam

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Poor Information Literacy Skills and Practices as Barriers to Academic Performance: A Mixed Methods Study of the University of Dar Es Salaam

Article excerpt

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is increasingly used in Tanzanian education. Knowing how to operate ICT alone is incomplete without knowing how to use it as a tool for organization, communication, research, and problem-solving. In recognition of this challenge, information literacy (IL) has been identified as a key attribute to students as they progress through their learning paths. Based on a mixed methods strategy, using questionnaires and focus group discussions, this study measured the level of IL skills among University of Dar es Salaam's (UDSM) postgraduate students, to gain insights into the students' perceptions and experiences with information problems. A total of 102 students from four institutions answered the online questionnaire and 22 students participated in six focus group discussions. The questionnaire scores of the students were poor in the majority of IL categories, suggesting ineffectiveness of the current IL training in imparting IL knowledge and skills. The study ends by discussing recommendations to improve current IL practices at the university.

Information and communication technology (ICT) can increase the quality of education in both developed and developing countries if it is used efficiently. (1) ICT is being increasingly used in Tanzanian education, and the latest situational analysis of ICT in Tanzanian education showed that all universities have computer labs and many have high bandwidth Internet connection through fiber optic cable. (2) Although the majority of Tanzanian university students and staff have access to ICT and the Internet, analysts have noted that the integration and exploitation of ICT in teaching and learning practices was still limited. (3) The same analysis also showed that current ICT training at the Tanzanian universities covered basic uses of ICT, such as basic word processing and spreadsheets, basic statistics, and simple searches in journal databases and generic search engines. ICT training rarely, if ever, covers advanced topics that truly unleash the power of the Internet and computers in learning and research, such as Web 2.0/3.0 content creation and networking environments, critical information literacy, advanced search tools and techniques, and information management. In other words, knowing how to operate ICT alone is incomplete without knowing how to use it as a tool for organization, communication, research, and problem-solving. (4)

The University of Dar es Salaam

The University of Dar es Salaam was established in 1961, and it is the oldest and largest public University in Tanzania. UDSM started to give information literacy courses to students in 2001 when the Internet enabled free access to subscribed resources. (5) Library orientation programs are given to students at the beginning of the academic year to introduce students to the layout of the library, its collections and services. (6) At the time of writing, the library has two computer labs and a total of 41 computers with fiber Internet connection. There are also 20 computers with access to Online Publication Access Catalogue (OPAC) placed in convenient places in the library. The library subscribes to more than 30 e-journal databases with more than 10,000 online journal titles. (7)

The IL training was included at UDSM as a stand-alone course in which the students could participate voluntarily. (8) This is still valid today, as students and staff are encouraged, but not obligated, to participate in the IL training programs. A study by Lwehabura found that approximately half of the respondents were not aware of the possibility to attend IL training. (9) Among the students who attended the training, a majority (53 percent) expressed that the training was not effective, mainly due to the insufficient time and resources afforded to appropriate the skills. Today, however, there are more computers available at the library, and more students have access to a personal computer. …

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