Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Developing Web-Enhanced Learning for Information Fluency; a Liberal Arts College's Perspective

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Developing Web-Enhanced Learning for Information Fluency; a Liberal Arts College's Perspective

Article excerpt

Learning is likely to take a new form in the twenty-first century, and a transformation is already in process. Under the framework of information fluency, efforts are being made at Rollins College to develop a Web-enhanced course that encompasses information literacy, basic computer literacy, and critical thinking skills. Computer-based education can be successful when librarians use technology effectively to enhance their integrated library teaching. In an online learning environment, students choose a time for learning that best suits their needs and motivational levels. They can learn at their own pace, take a nonlinear approach to the subject, and maintain constant communication with instructors and other students. The quality of a technology-facilitated course can be upheld if the educational objectives and methods for achieving those objectives are carefully planned and explored.

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As the growth of knowledge as well as technology have reached unprecedented size and pace over recent years, the impact on education has been profound. It is unlikely now for any institute of higher learning to rely solely on the traditional way of teaching and learning to disseminate knowledge to students. (1) Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that 97 percent of public two-year institutions have already developed distance education courses for undergraduates, enrolling 55 percent of total students, compared with 75 percent of public four-year institutions enrolling of 31 percent of students and 47 percent of private four-year institutions enrolling 14 percent of their student population in distance education. (2) Clearly technology-enhanced instruction has been moving more classrooms into a new learning environment.

Like it or not, learning is taking a new form in the twenty-first century, and this new learning environment requires a new set of learning concepts and approaches. As Rhinesmith states, "technologies that change how, when, and where people work will also change how, when, and where they learn." (3) In the not-too-distant future, students and faculty are very likely to engage in a learning environment where on-demand instruction, hands-on training, and immediate access to information are available at any given moment. (4) Clearly, transformation is underway in education. Vasarhelyi further predicts that computers will take over some of the routine faculty monitoring of student progress, leading to some form of cyber-teacher. This tool will enhance teaching by freeing faculty of administrative burdens and low-productivity tasks. Eventually it will lead to the rise of a few super universities and star teachers who will bring students to their electronic stadiums with their superior communication skills. Future courses will be less expensive, full of multimedia experiences, monitored closely, and presented to students who will be physically more distant from their instructors. (5)

While some of those sensational predictions will certainly cause heated debates among educators, the question remaining is whether technology-facilitated distance learning and Web-based education are as good as traditional in-class learning. Furthermore, if some predictions turn out to be correct, what will be the working strategies for liberal arts institutions and librarians in particular in this transformational process? An important value of a liberal arts education is its ability to graduate individuals who are informed, knowledgeable, self-sufficient, and able to collect and evaluate the information needed to make decisions. This paper shares the experience of the faculty at Rollins College in developing a one-credit course on basic information fluency skills for its undergraduate students using a technology-facilitated courseware program.

Literature Review

Current literatures in education, library science, and information technology are flooded with all kinds of buzzwords, such as virtual or cyberinstruction, computer-assisted teaching, Web-enhanced education, and Web-based learning. …

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