Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Online Search Strategies (1)

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Online Search Strategies (1)

Article excerpt

An Active Learning Approach to Teaching Effective

A Librarian/Faculty Collaboration

The 21st century university library can bewilder incoming college students whose high school experience had limited them to casual Internet browsing or searching paperbound indexes found in the 20th century library. Electronic libraries can enhance student productivity by improving the quality of the research they conduct, while decreasing the amount of time spent finding and retrieving resources. Many undergraduates have found that their major research weaknesses are an over-reliance on Web resources and an inability to find online academic information (Ensor 1992; Lake 1998). If students are skilled in searching electronic resources, they can better satisfy their professor's expectations by using appropriate academic sources for research assignments. Students need to understand the scope and depth of academic databases, and learn the search and retrieval commands for the search engines of online databases.

This article describes the workshops that resulted from the collaboration of a librarian and an economics faculty member. We explain our method of instruction, and some lessons we have learned about electronic resources and college students(1). The object of our workshops is to teach students how to locate appropriate academic sources on the Web and in library databases, how to create an effective search strategy, and how to use the retrieval features in InfoTrac.

In the literature of library instruction, the active learning model is recognized as a valuable complement to the traditional instructor-centered lecture approach (Bren, Hilleman and Topp 1998). Several recent articles (Alden 1999; Bren, Hilleman and Topp 1998; Kaplowitz and Contini 1998; Germain, Jacobson, and Kaczor 2000; Leuthold 1998; Vander Meer and Rike 1996) describe specific successful applications of the active learning model to bibliographic instruction workshops. Several other recent articles describe educators' experiences teaching computer literacy in library workshops, and offer reflections on lessons learned (Brandt 1998; Greenhalgh 1997; and Kryder 1999).

This article introduces an active learning approach for instructing undergraduates on how to search electronic databases in the library.

The Active Learning Approach: Librarian, Teacher and Computer Staff Collaborate

As a librarian (who knows how to find information) and as an economics professor (who suggests information to look for), we have collaborated for several semesters to construct active learning tools for use in a lab where each student is at a computer workstation. According to Agarwal and Day (1998), "hands-on" experience gained while using the Web "provides a better understanding of the subject matter and makes the learning process more active." The librarian leads the class in two workshops during the semester. The economics instructor is always present, participating in the workshop and assisting with hands-on instruction. During the workshops, students learn how to navigate the Web and the electronic library Web pages, and learn how to find and use the online academic databases.

Online quizzes are an integral part of our active learning approach. The online quizzes are written in PERL script. The university computer staff writes the server-side programs and the client-side quiz template. It is this template that we are able to customize for our classes. For example, after a lecture and hands-on scssion about a particular search engine, we administer an online quiz. The quiz, which has multiple-choice and short-answer questions, tests the knowledge of search commands for retrieving information on the Web. It is immediately graded and returned to each student's desktop. We conclude with a discussion of the search strategy and syntax for each of the questions. Students respond with enthusiasm to these pedagogical devices, which help engage them in the learning cycle and reinforce learning. …

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