E-learning has become one of the burning issues of the modern era as well as one of the most progressive and innovative approaches to education, teaching-learning activities, and the process of gaining experience through digitized technologies. In this respect, it is necessary to provide the learners with well-planned workshops by enabling the tutors to guide such e-learning sessions using appropriate materials, examples, and activities that would meet the requirements, needs, and expectations of learners, and increase their information-seeking skills. As such, I am going to present examples of workshops in e-learning as a training assistant for information literacy for mature students.
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Profiling the Audience
The main audience of the information literacy workshops will be mature students who have some experience of searching for required information but may experience some discomfort while asking for help. As suggested in the study by Weil (1993), mature students can cope with more tasks due to motivation even if they had poor achievements at school.
The reason for choosing this particular segment of learners includes the lack of information-seeking skills mature students have and their constant claims about lack of information on topics assigned. What I want to show mature students at these workshops is that every type of information can be found unless there is no such data on the internet. They may be confused though they desperately need that information seeking skills to be improved to succeed in learning.
As a rule, mature students have some life experience and want to learn something because they realize what types of information they would need in their professional activities. In this respect, it is necessary to make their skills in information seeking more profound so that they can cope with the most challenging tasks and are not afraid to try some new approaches.
Regardless of the divisions used for students in the study by Boud and Feletti (2007) where ethnic minorities were taught apart from the ethnic majority, males apart from females, and other types of divisions (p. 112), the current study is aimed at conducting workshops in medium-size groups of up to twenty students of the different history of achievements, gender, ethnic belonging, and religious/political preferences because these aspects do not influence information-seeking skills.
Outline the needs and background
The category of learners for the workshop includes mature students that claim that information on the topic is not available. Though this can be seen as an exaggerated statement of the background of mature students, the problem is that the students, even those who have a great learning experience and can find different types of information required, fail to complete the most elementary tasks and explain their failure as the lack of information on the topic.
As different demographic groups and people about various professions are claimed to search for information in different ways (Case, 2007), mature students should be approached uniquely because they have some experience in e-learning due to the increased number of reforms in education and can manage the websites and surf the web if needed. The basic needs of mature students in terms of information literacy coincide with the topics/skills that are planned to be covered during the workshop activities.
Accommodate the needs through the e-learning program
The major needs that will be accommodated through learning activities include key-word searching (two workshops), source identification (two workshops), and source evaluation (two workshops). The abovementioned skills are basic though they would enable mature students to cope with information-searching tasks and retrieve only the data needed. Each skill will have two workshops where the first one will be conducted to familiarise the learners with the problem and explain the methods to cope with it while the second one will include a lot of practical application of acquired information.
As suggested in the study by Nichols (2008-2010), “online learning will eventually make use of intelligent agents – computer programs that search the internet for content that is relevant to their users” (p. 15). In this respect, search engines and their structure mean a lot for the results of the research and the students will have to use the search engines convenient for them in terms of structure, color format (if some students are easily distracted by bright colors), and overall characteristics of the search engine.
Increase information-seeking ability
The information-seeking ability will be increased through theory and practice, different types of assignments aimed at work in groups, individual assignments, visual and oral instructions, and other tools that seem to be appropriate for the workshops in information literacy.
Outline of Workshop Programme
Information skills/s of the program
The information-seeking skills that will be improved during the workshop program include key-word searching, source identification, and source evaluation.
The rationale for the whole program
The program is designed to enable mature students to search for terms of different assignments and different types of data needed. As such, information literacy will be developed to make students capable of solving problems related to source identification, source evaluation, and key-word searching.
Summaries of workshops
The first workshop will be aimed at familiarising students with the search engine and basic activities related to key-word searching. Students will be given instructions on searching through Google and its additional applications such as Google Scholar and Google Books. The tutor will have to explain the theory and then show it in practice. The first assignment will be easy enough so that all students could cope with it but also sufficient enough so that some questions occurred and we could discuss the problem in class.
For instance, a tutor may ask students to enter ‘health care reform’ into the search engine box; they would see the immediate results of applying the theory to practice if they add some other keywords to this cluster such as “+results” or “+conflict”. The sign “+” is essential in keyword searching because it helps to avoid an increased number of prepositions and conjunctions.
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This workshop will be dedicated to the improvement of source identification skills. The students will be given a task to find three books, three articles from scholarly journals, and three visual presentations of the picture ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci. Students will have to find out what books are available on this topic, how many sources are available, and what the main theories in evaluating the secret of this picture are. The beginning of the workshop will be marked with brainstorming activities to reflect their comprehension of the previous workshop; as such, the tutor will name the topic and the students will be asked to name as many relevant keywords as they can.
The third workshop will be aimed at increasing source evaluation skills. First, the brainstorming activity will help to recollect what they learned from the previous two workshops: the task will include a search of the book by available data (include a few words from the title of the book and mention that it was published within the period of last three years). The main activity will include work with sources. As such, students will be given a task to work with Google Scholar and find as many as possible results for pollution; the time of publication should not be earlier than 2000 and there should be an organization as an author. Students should evaluate the book in terms of authorship, relevance, and analyze if the topic is properly covered.
This workshop is also aimed at keyword searching activities and the improvement of keyword searching skills. First, brainstorming will include the identification of the source and its evaluation. The students will be given the following link <http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/30/44/38227981.pdf> to see the paper and identify the following aspects: title, author, type of source, publication data (place and year). The main activity will include referencing this paper using different academic citation and referencing styles such as Harvard, MLA, APA, and Chicago. For this purpose, students will have to use keyword searching to find relevant sources where rules of referencing and basic guidelines are available on these styles.
This workshop will be aimed at improving source identification skills. First, the brainstorming activity will be aimed at finding the primary sources. However, this time they will be asked to work in groups of three to identify the leaders and those who are not able to cooperate; the groups will be asked to find primary sources on the issue of the White House. For this, they will have to find out what the primary sources about and how to search them.
As such, students will be able to ask the tutor to help only provided that they correctly formulate their requests (asking ‘where can I find documents?’ cannot be considered correct). In this respect, the assessment of students’ techniques and communication during the workshop is the primary goal of the tutor.
The sixth workshop will be dedicated to the improvement of source evaluation skills. The brainstorming activity will include a list of books and an assignment to identify what information is available (only reference data, table of contents, detailed table of contents, editorial reviews, criticism, etc.). The main activity will be aimed at using the same keywords as in the first workshop ‘health care reform’ though students will be asked to work in groups to evaluate the sources available through assessing the reference data (if the source can be properly referenced using different citation styles and identify the most appropriate citation style to reference the source) and validity of sources.
For instance, news in the form of videos on YouTube can be referenced while some students may hesitate about using Wikipedia as a reference. Discuss the appropriateness of using Wikipedia for different purposes (reading to search some ideas of keyword searching or citing it which is considered inappropriate by many tutors).
Results and discussion
Each activity used in the workshops is sure to last no more than twenty minutes without breaks. Every forty minutes the students will be allowed to have a break and have some refreshment drinks. Every workshop except the first one will start with a brainstorming activity. Work in groups will be assigned only during the last two workshops to ensure that students can communicate effectively, select a leader, and distribute parts of tasks. Individual work and discussions will be the basis of the classes while the discussions will be conducted every twenty minutes to ensure that no gaps occur and every learner can cope with the task.
The Workshop for Mature Students: Example
I have decided to include an example of the learning package for the first workshop where students are asked to find three books, three articles from scholarly journals, and three visual presentations of the picture ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci.
The content of the workshop
The active learning (Information Literacy DS34020, n. d., p. 21) will be the basis of all workshops and the tutor’s role will be in introducing theory at the beginning, conducting the brainstorming activity, answering students’ questions if any, and giving feedback on the progress of students and the outcomes reached. The students will have to follow the tutor’s guidelines and participate in the discussion if some questions occur to receive answers.
Information-seeking skills to be covered
The information-seeking skills to be covered include source identification and computer literacy.
Example of activities/exercises
An example of an activity is the analysis of the sources available on the topic required and identification of sources as books, articles from scholarly journals, and visual presentations. As such, students are required, for this task, to identify if the source they have found can be labeled as a book or a visual presentation and choose among different variants of similar sources.
For instance, if two websites offer visual presentations of the same painting, it is necessary to analyze the information available for reference such as the name of the website, the name of the article/webpage, the author’s name, date of publication, and data when the page was last updated. Also, governmental and educational websites are more credible than other ordinary sites; so the visual presentations of pictures can be easily retrieved from the official website of the national museum or gallery.
Feedback (answers for the exercise)
The feedback for the task of searching for three books, three articles from scholarly journals, and three visual presentations of the picture ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci cannot be universal because different resources may be found by students. If a tutor is interested in students finding a particular source, he/she should give special guidelines for this portion of the workshop. Moreover, the feedback should also include an assessment of the achievements to identify their strong and weak points and suggest possible ways for improving information seeking skills that appeared to be weak.
Introducing the activities
The process of introducing activities should be accompanied by visualization of activities with the help of symbols introduced above. Besides, while introducing each activity, the tutor should make it more is suggestive form rather than an obligatory task because mature students know what they need and would not agree to participate in questionable activities unless they see that the activity suggested would be beneficial for their learning. In this respect, expected outcomes and rationale should be introduced for the activities.
Timing the activities (guidance for tutors)
For timing the activities, it is necessary to conduct a test workshop about hypothetical time necessary for breaks, discussion, and asking/answering questions. As such, the following timing scheme can be introduced:
Boud, D., & Feletti, G., 2007. The challenge of problem-based learning. 2nd ed. Kogan Page Ltd: London.
Case, D. O., 2007. Looking for information: a survey of research on information seeking, needs, and behaviour. 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Academic Press.
Gaunt, J., Morgan, N., Somers, R., Soper, R., & Swain, E., 2009. Handbook for information literacy teaching (HILT). Cardiff: Cardiff University.
Information Literacy DS34020, n. d.
Nichols, M., 2008-2010. E-Primer series. Wellington, NZ: Ako Aotearoa. Web.
Weil, S., 1993. Access: Towards Education or Miseducation? Adults Imagine the Future. In: M. Thorpe and R. Edwards, eds. 1993. Culture and processes of adult learning: a reader. London: Routledge in association with The Open University, pp. 159-177.