Just in case you’re in a hurry, here’s a tl;dr money quote from an important new study whether recent university graduates feel ready to use the information:
A vast majority. . . believed they had transferred information skills from college to interpret and apply research findings (76%) and think about how best to learn (74%). Yet far fewer – less than a third (27%) – agreed that university had helped them develop their ability to formulate and ask their own questions.
I assume you are in a hurry because these graduates certainly are. That’s part of the problem: they face a host of information needs for their work, their lives and to connect to new communities and it’s a huge challenge.
What would we do without Control of project information? It is arguably the largest long-term, multi-institutional research project ever launched on how students use information in school and beyond. This week, another report based on years of research came out. This one examines in detail how well students can use the things we hope they will learn about information after graduation.
There is good news and bad news.
As the quote I started with indicates, graduates feel quite well prepared to make critical judgments about sources of information and not just rely on the first thing that pops up. Of course not. This is real life, not an essay due tomorrow. It’s good to hear that they feel their college experiences have developed their ability to tell whether or not a source is worth considering. Kudos to us.
The bad news is that they don’t feel well prepared to develop their own questions. This should trouble us all, as it is a rather important function of higher education and one of the most important types of learning that can occur in a university library.
Another good news/bad news less profound but still important: it seems that we have passed on the message that scholarly sources are useful. Unfortunately, three-quarters of graduates said they struggled to find affordable sources of information, and half expressed frustration that the databases they used in their university library were now inaccessible to them, as well as Classes. MOOCs aren’t what they have in mind – a large majority say they don’t have time to enroll in massive online courses. But locking this year’s class notes in a course management system makes up-to-date information inaccessible to former students). If the solution is “go to the public library” – okay; in fact, about half do. A total of 70% say they look for information in books obtained from a variety of sources. But so much publication in journals is virtually inaccessible to those outside the walled gardens of academia.
I am delighted to have further confirmation that there is a desire beyond academia for open educational resources and open access scholarship. But I’m frustrated that we haven’t solved this problem. It doesn’t make sense to instill in students a deep respect for research and then tell them it’s just for school or for people who can afford to pay $35 for every paper they want. to consult. It’s just stupid, and we can change it.
Another finding that struck me: Students describe difficulty developing a personal learning network that can help them keep up with new information. In addition to day-to-day learning – how to budget for groceries, how to cook their own food, how to do the things an adult has to do – they need to learn how to communicate with older colleagues, develop their careers ( which may involve leaving their current job) and how to keep abreast of new developments in their field. We don’t give students much experience finding and filtering new information as they develop. Instead, they research for assignments (and sometimes with professors), but may not know how to connect with people beyond campus and program boundaries or how to monitor conversations. in progress that will concern them professionally. Very often, the efforts of librarians are focused on getting things done, and so are our tools. We generally do not help students identify the streams of information where the articles they retrieve begin.
There is so much more. I barely scratch the surface. This well-designed study involved a survey of 1,651 people who graduated from one of ten colleges and universities between 2007 and 2012. In addition, interviews were conducted with 126 subjects to dig deeper into the findings. It is the most ambitious of the studies in the Information Literacy Project and arguably the most important because there is nothing else like it out there except the Project previous study on a smaller scale. This adds a great deal of weight and depth to what we know about the ultimate ends of our information literacy efforts. As Alison Head, the study’s author, points out, data on students is abundant. Data on what happens after graduation, not so much.
We all owe her a debt of gratitude that she is helping to change that.