Information Competence Development in Europe: trends and future prospects

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Information Competence Development in Europe: trends and future prospects

  • Sirje Virkus
  • Tallinn University/Manchester Metropolitan University
  • 1.07.2005


  • Context and Concepts
  • My research
  • Methodology
  • Survey: preliminary findings
  • Multiple-case studies: preliminary findings
  • Conclusions

Personal background

  • TPU – student, Library and Information Science
  • ISTIER – researcher, ICT, information systems
  • TPU, 1985 - teacher, administrator
  • ODL 1994 (WebCT, LearnLoop, IVA) – learner, designer, teacher, tutor
  • MMU, 2001 – student, researcher, teacher, designer, tutor (distance mode)



  • Debate of competencies
  • Transferable skills, key or core competencies, [transversal skills, generic skills, soft skills, personal skills, general competencies, soft competencies]
  • Creativity, analysis, problem solving, self development, learning skills, communication….
  • Meta-competencies

Key Competence

  • Contribute to a successful life
  • Contribute to the development of the quality of societies
  • Apply to multiple areas of life (Gilomen, 2002).

OECD surveys of competencies

  • Adult competencies
    • - International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS)
    • - Adult Literacy and Lifeskills (ALL) survey
  • Students at school (15-year-olds)
    • - Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Complexity of the topic (Gilomen, 2002)

  • Theoretical models and concepts
  • Visions of
  • society and
  • individuals
  • Cultural context,
  • biographical variability

HE and competencies

  • The general move is clearly towards a greater attention to employment prospects and the acquisition of core or transversal skills.

Transmission of competences

  • Not exclusive responsibility of the education system
  • Other social institutions such as family, workplace, mass media or cultural organisations are important
  • ……but further research needed (Gilomen, 2002).

Assessment issues

  • Assessment strategies should include assessment of social contexts
  • More importance should be given to the competencies of acting autonomously and joining groups
  • Focus on critical aspects of key competencies
  • Cyclical structure of assessment program among adult population
  • Alternative methodologies have to be explored
  • ....but further research needed

Importance of Information use

Importance of information handling and use

  • Several reports have emphasized the importance of finding, evaluating, and using information in our modern society

Importance of Information use

  • “The knowledge-based economy is characterised by the need for continuous learning of both codified information and the competencies to use this information. …the skills and competencies relating to the selection and efficient use of information become more crucial... Capabilities for selecting relevant and discarding irrelevant information, recognising patterns in information, interpreting and decoding information as well as learning new and forgetting old skills are in increasing demand”
  • OECD (1996). The knowledge based economy. Paris: OECD.

Importance of Information use

  • “The ability to produce and use information effectively is thus a vital source of skills for many individuals. So, the knowledge economy is based on the production and use of information and knowledge… “
  • OECD (2001a). Educational policy analysis 2001. Paris: OECD, Centre for
  • Educational Research and Innovation.

Importance of Information use

  • Having the competence to use information effectively has been suggested also by management gurus as essential to organizational success
  • Drucker, P. (1993). Post-capitalist society. New York, NY: Harper Business.
  • Drucker, P.F. (1994). Managing in turbulent times. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • Senge, P.M. (1994). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning
  • organization. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday.
  • Grainger, P. (1994). Managing information: your self-development action plan.
  • London: Kogan Page.

The report EU Policies and Strategic Change for eLearning in Universities

  • Refers to the importance of using digital information: ‘… they [students] should be enabled to learn using digital information sources.
  • Coimbra Group of Universities (2002). EU policies and strategic change for
  • elearning in universities. Report of the project 'Higher education consultation
  • In technologies of information and communication' (HECTIC). Brussels,
  • Coimbra Group of Universities.

Information literacy

  • Library and information professionals call these information-related competencies as ‘information literacy’.

Lots of definitions and models

Information Literacy Umbrella

  • Patrica Senn Breivik.


  • IL cover the following experiences:
  • the use of information technology;
  • the use of information sources;
  • executing a process;
  • controlling information for retrieval;
  • gaining knowledge;
  • extending knowledge;
  • gaining wisdom.
  • Bruce, C. S. (1997). The seven faces of information literacy. Adelaide:
  • Auslib Press.


  • Information literacy is the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to identify, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, leading to wise and ethical use of information in society
  • Webber S. & Johnston, B. (2002). Assessment for information literacy.
  • Paper presented at the International conference on IT and information
  • literacy, 20th-22nd March 2002, Glasgow, Scotland.

Information literate person

  • Recognizes the need for information
  • Identifies sources of information
  • Develops successful search strategies
  • Accesses sources of information
  • Evaluates information and sources
  • Organizes information
  • Processes information
  • Uses and presents information


  • Information Literacy encompasses knowledge of one’s information concerns and needs, and the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, organize and effectively create, use and communicate information to address issues or problems at hand; it is a prerequisite for participating effectively in the Information Society, and is part of the basic human right of life long learning.
  • The Prague Declaration (2003).


  • Information literacy - the ability to recognise when information is needed and to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information
  • American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information
  • Literacy (1989). Final Report. Chicago: American Library Association.
  • Competence
  • Skill
  • Competency
  • Literacy
  • Concepts ?
  • Information
  • Learning
  • Expertise

The Concept of Information

  • Information seems to be everywhere. We talk of its being encoded in the genes… disseminated by media of communication… exchanged in conversation… contained in all sorts of things… Libraries are overflowing with it, institutions are bogged down by it, and people are overloaded with it … [yet] no one seems to know exactly what information is.
  • Christopher Fox (1983, p.3)
  • Donald O Case. Looking for Information, 2002.
  • Case, D. (2002). Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on
  • Information Seeking, Needs, and Behaviour. Academic Press

The Concept of Information

  • Anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1972) defines information as any difference that makes a difference to a conscious, human mind
  • Summarizing 30 years of commentary, Levitan (1980) declared that 29 different concepts had been associated with the term of information



  • “The ability to read and write” (Concise Oxford)
  • Literacy has been seen as a concept, a process, a competency, a skill and a tool that has meaning in relation to the demand of the economy and society or individuals and communities
  • also a mode of behaviour, which enables individuals and groups to gather, analyse and apply written information to function in society
  • Gilster sees it as a fundamental act of cognition (Gilster, 1997).


  • The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) defines literacy in terms of proficiency levels of usage information to function in society and economy.
  • Literacy is defined as a particular capacity and mode of behaviour, the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities, at home, at work and in the community - to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential (OECD/Statistics Canada, 2000a, p. 12).


  • In IALS literacy is measured operationally in terms of the three domains:
  • Prose literacy
  • Document literacy
  • Quantitative literacy

Levels of literacy

  • Level 1
  • Level 2
  • Level 3 is considered a suitable minimum for coping with the demands of everyday life and work in a complex, advanced society. It denotes roughly the skill level required for successful secondary school completion and college entry. Like higher levels, it requires the ability to integrate several sources of information and solve more complex problems.
  • Level 4 and 5 describe respondents who demonstrate command of higher-order information processing skills (OECD/Statistics Canada, 2000a).


  • Several observers have expressed concern that putting two fuzzy terms together doesn’t make the overall concept clearer.
  • Others assert that it doesn’t matter what you call or define it, as long as it gets done.

Competencies and skills

  • Competence has two dimensions – knowledge and skills.
  • “Knowledge may be seen as our understanding how our everyday world in constituted and how it works.
  • Skills involve the ability to pragmatically apply, consciously or even unconsciously, our knowledge in practical settings.
  • In this setting, “skills” can be conceived as the technical aspects of competence, emphasizing the aspect of “how to do
  • Anttiroiko, A.-V., Lintilä, L. & Savolainen, R. (2001). Information society
  • competencies of managers: conceptual considerations, In: E. Pantzar,
  • R. Savolainen & P. Tynjälä, eds. In search for a human-centred
  • information society. (pp. 27-57). Tampere: Tampere University Press.


  • Complex cognitive skills (problem solving, qualitative reasoning, self-regulation, learning to learn);
  • Highly integrated knowledge structures (e.g. mental models);
  • Interpersonal skills and social abilities;
  • Attitudes and values.
  • Kirschner, P., Vilsteren, P., van Hummel, H., & Wigman, M. (1997).
  • A study environment for acquiring academic and professional competence.
  • Studies of Higher Education, 22 (2), 151-171.

Alternative terms

  • information competence
  • information competency
  • information mediacy
  • information problem solving
  • information problem-solving skills
  • information fluency
  • information mastery
  • information literacy competence
  • information literacy competencies
  • information literacy and skills
  • information literacy skills
  • information handling skills
  • information handling competencies
  • skills of information literacy
  • Infoliteracy
  • information empowerment


  • Information literacy = information skills= information competence
  • IF information literacy = competence THEN information literacy competence = information competence competence
  • IF IL = competence AND competence = knowledge and skills and attitudes THEN WHAT is information literacy skills ???

Other terms and their relations with IL

  • Study skills
  • Learning skills
  • Learning to learn skills
  • Academic skills
  • Media literacy
  • Digital literacy….

Information literacy and learning

  • “Information literacy is about learning” (Bruce, 1997)
  • “Information literacy is a way of learning” (Kuhlthau, 1993)
  • In the literature the terms “learning styles” and “cognitive styles” are often used interchangeably
  • Learning style refers to how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning environment, it is a measure of individual differences
  • Cognitive style refers to a learner’s preferred way of processing information; that is, the person’s typical mode of thinking, remembering, or problem solving

Terms for IL

  • In Finland informaatiokompetenssi,
  • informaatiolukutaito
  • In Norway informasjonskompetanse
  • In Denmark informationskompetence
  • in Sweden informationskompetens
  • In Estonia infopädevus, infokirjaoskus,


  • In modern society everyone needs to develop increasingly sophisticated skills for information handling and use

Information handling and use

  • identifying, locating, gathering, storing, retrieving and processing information from a variety of sources;
  • using a range of information-retrieval and information-processing skills confidently and competently;
  • organizing, analysing, synthesizing, evaluating and using information;
  • presenting information clearly, logically, concisely and accurately.


Why there is an increasing interest in information literacy?

  • New learning approaches and new focus on student learning in a lifelong learning context
  • Expanding quantity - information overload
  • - In different forms/places
  • - E-everything
  • - Uncertain quality
  • - Plagiarism

Old and new paradigms of HE (Kathy Tiano)

  • Old Paradigm
  • Take what you can get
  • Academic calendar
  • University as a city
  • Terminal degree
  • University as ivory tower
  • Student = 18- to 25-year-old
  • Books are primary medium
  • Single product
  • Student as a ‘pain’
  • Delivery in classroom
  • Multi-cultural
  • Bricks & mortar
  • Single discipline
  • Institution-centric
  • Government funded
  • Technology as an expense
  • New Paradigm
  • Courses on demand
  • Year-round operations
  • University as idea
  • Lifelong learning
  • University as a partner in society
  • Cradle to grave
  • Information on demand
  • Information reuse
  • Student as a customer
  • Delivery anywhere
  • Global
  • Bits & bytes
  • Multi-discipline
  • Market-centric
  • Market funded
  • Technology as differentiator

Responses of HE Institutions to Changes

  • New technologies;
  • Student-centred learning approaches and constructivist models of learning;
  • Improve and innovate traditional HE education and to provide new and alternative learning opportunities (DE);
  • On-line education and electronic learning environments;
  • Open their doors to non-traditional learners and design new programmes and courses;
  • Experiment with collaborative learning and teaching supported by ITC.

Collis & van der Wende

  • The traditional lecture has still remained the ‘core medium’ for many HE institutions with ICT serving as a complement to already existing instructional tools
  • Collis, B. & Van der Wende, M. (2002). Models of Technology and Change
  • in Higher Education: An International Comparative Survey on the Current
  • and Future Use of ICT in Higher Education. Report, December 2002, Center
  • for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS), Twente.

Information overload

  • Personal information overload - personal stress and loss of productivity at work
  • Organizational information overload - overall productivity of the organization
  • 'information fatigue syndrome' (IFS)

Influence of overload

  • time is wasted - 38% of managers
  • decision-making is delayed - 43% of respondents
  • distraction from the main tasks - 47% of respondents
  • stress
  • 42 % leading to tension with colleagues, loss of job
  • satisfaction, illnness
  • 61 % reduced social activity
  • 60% tiredness
  • Information overload recognised as a critical problem
  • Reuters Business Information (1996). Dying for Information? An Investigation
  • into Information Overload in the UK and Worldwide. London: Reuters.
  • Reuters Ltd. (1998). Out of the Abyss: Surviving the information age. London.


Different approaches can be used

  • develop a guide for students to use or for resource evaluation,
  • present a class sessions,
  • create a course Web site giving students a guided tour for searching the Web,
  • develop an assignment where students work on a search strategy appropriate to a problem statement,
  • assist students in preparation of their literature reviews,
  • develop online tutorials or
  • integrate or embed IL into curriculum.

Integration of IL into learning

  • An integrated ‘information literacy’ component in learning would have a positive impact on
  • students' mastering of context,
  • fulfilling research tasks and problem solving,
  • becoming more self-directed,
  • assuming greater control over their own learning,
  • enabling individuals to engage in a variety of learning situations and opportunities in optimal ways (Todd, 1995, George & Luke, 1995)

The Role of Library in Education

  • It is believed that library and information professionals have an important role to help students in becoming information literate

New Skills

  • Sound pedagogical knowledge;
  • Good technological skills;
  • Advanced teaching skills;
  • An ability to develop and deliver effective learning experiences.

New Skills

  • It also requires that the teaching librarian functions as an educational professional one who can:
  • engage in educational debate and decision-making processes,
  • influence policy,
  • forge strategic alliances and
  • demonstrate diplomatic sensitivity.
  • Peacock, J. (2000). Teaching Skills for Teaching Librarians: postcards from
  • the edge of the educational paradigm. COMLA Seminar 2000: User Education
  • for User Empowerment Christchurch, New Zealand 19 – 20 October 2000.


  • How many librarians are qualified for the role as teachers?
  • Is it not more likely that teachers will develop their own information expertise?
  • Brophy, P. (2001). The Library in the Twenty-first Century: New
  • Services for the Information Age. London: Library Association Publishing

IL education

  • “Whilst much attention has been paid to IL by American policy-makers, librarians and academics, the results are still relatively narrow, giving a potentially superficial guide to the nature of a curriculum for IL in HE”.
  • Johnston, B.; Webber, S. (2003). Information literacy in higher education:
  • a review and case study. Studies in Higher Education, 28 (3), 335-352.

How are things in Europe?

  • References to IL initiatives in Europe are, however, quite rare and fragmented.
  • The majority of publications have come from the UK.
  • Part of the problem of understanding European IL activities stems from the language barrier.

How are things in Europe?

  • EC funded projects EDUCATE and DEDICATE, from the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden
  • a research project for a doctoral thesis on information seeking and use in a learning context by Louise Limberg, from the Swedish School of Library and Information Studies in Borås.
  • Webber and Johnston research
  • Albert Boekhorst, Claire McGuinness, Eva Ortoll Espinet, etc.

Online delivery

  • Virtual tours
  • OPAC tutorials
  • IL tutorials


  • About 50 universities have some form of electronic IL package
  • the contents of IL tutorials vary from basic to advanced searching skills, only some tutorials were subject specific and most of them in generic in nature.
  • Only 10 tutorials outlined the learning outcomes and and 4 gave an indication of how long the tutorial would take to complete (Stubbings & Brine, 2003)

Electronic IL tutorials

  • Most rely heavily on text with only few make good use of colour, images and layout of text.
  • 14 tutorials allowed participants to navigate their own route through the packages.
  • Only 5 appeared to encourage reflection and discussion
  • There had little inter-activity throughout the tutorials, but several provide quizzes at the end of each section or tutorial (Stubbings & Brine, 2003)
  • Seven pillars of information literacy

How are things in Nordic countries?

  • It is difficult to find national and Nordic development programmes where IL is the objective (aim)
  • Curriculum plans do not deal with IL directly
  • New pedagogic approaches contain such learning mode that support IL
  • A lot of skills compete with each other
  • Maria Schöder, Hankeet 2001-2003, 19.11.2002 (NORDINFO)


The aim of the study

  • To investigate information competence development within European higher ODL in order to develop a framework that facilitates the effective delivery of information-related competencies


  • Mixed methods:
  • Survey
  • Multiple-case studies
  • Grounded theory approach

Philosophical assumptions

  • Interpretative and constructive paradigm
  • Ontology - relativism
  • Epistemology - subjectivism
  • Methodology - hermeneutic/dialectic



  • member
  • Institutions
  • [map borrowed from EADTU
  • homepage]


  • E-mail survey (policy, curriculum development, research, supervision, staff development)
  • The survey aimed to find out the size and scope of information competence development in EADTU member institutions and to explore the role of libraries within this process.
  • to identify the examples of ‘good practice’


  • Collection of data started in March 2003
  • EADTU member institutions 150 dual/mixed-mode universities + 6 open universities.
  • persons who have overall responsibility for teaching and learning

Some preliminary results

  • 71 institutions responded, from 16 countries
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • UK

Institutional policy

  • 38
  • 22
  • 10
  • 38
  • 23
  • 10

Some preliminary results

  • Policy documents in these institutions included
  • strategic plans in teaching and learning emphasising the integration of PBL and RBL into the curriculum (23)
  • lists of graduate attributes or ‘qualities of graduates’ (16)
  • information literacy plans (19)

Some preliminary results

  • 26 of the institutions answered that library staff belong to the educational committees that make decisions about curricula and learning.
  • 34 of the institutions indicated that existing procedures for review of curriculum design in their institution require the incorporation of ideas about ‘IL’ development
  • 50 referred to collaboration between librarians and the faculties to integrate ‘IL’ into the curriculum. However, 31 institution noted close collaboration between librarians and faculty on planning learning

Some preliminary results

  • Librarians were involved in
  • developing courses (always – 1, sometimes - 46),
  • providing online tutorial support, assessment and evaluation (always – 3, sometimes - 39),
  • assisting students in the preparation of their literature reviews and (always – 14, sometimes - 46)
  • assisting students in the preparation of their assessed work (always – 9, sometimes - 47).
  • were involved in developing Web sites for courses and subjects (2; 40), self-paced ‘IL’ modules (4; 34) and Web-based learning materials that may be used by staff and students (7; 44).

Some preliminary results

  • A brief tour of the library (34)
  • a handout &/or map (31)
  • verbal instructions from tutors or staff (30)
  • A section in a student handbook (23)
  • a lecture or seminar especially devoted to these topics (17)
  • a course or series of lectures devoted to these topics (6)
  • a phased programme of detailed induction by staff (5)
  • several lectures/seminars on using the facilities (4)

Some preliminary results

  • 13 of institutions indicated that their students earn credits for a unit or component on ‘IL’ during their studies on a cross-disciplinary basis and 31 of institutions indicated that as part of a discipline specific course.
  • 17 institutions referred that there are some other programmes that foster IL or a range of generic attributes including IL

Some preliminary results

  • 30 of the institutions referred to some research in their institutions on ‘IL’,
  • Librarians and faculty partnership in the area of research (4)

Supervision partnership where librarians

  • …and faculty share expertise and responsibility for helping students through the phases of higher degree research (26)
  • …act as co-supervisors ensuring that literature reviews are relevant (15)
  • …keep supervisors and students up to date with information resources and services (45)
  • …participate in preparation of literature reviews and research proposals (19)

Some preliminary results

  • 42 of these institutions also noted that there have been several workshops or other activities aiming to introduce faculty to the idea of ‘information literacy’ education.


Interpretative case studies

  • 2 national and 3 + (1) dual/mixed mode ODL universities in Europe.
  • Site visits: August 2003 – September 2004.
  • Semi-structured interviews with students, academics, senior managers and librarians.
  • Document analysis, observations.

Interpretative case studies

  • 4-5 DL students
  • 3-5 academics
  • 2-5 librarians
  • 1-2 senior managers
  • 72 in depth interviews


Preliminary findings

  • University senior managers
  • 1 rector
  • 1 vice rector
  • 1 educational development officer
  • 1 sub-dean for learning and teaching, director of the school
  • 1 head of e-learning department
  • 1 head of IT unit
  • 1 international project coordinator
  • 1 leader of IT innovation

The concept of IL

  • Accepted and appreciated (4)
  • Accepted, but some hesitation about the term (3)
  • Unknown (1)

The concept of IL- Acceptance

  • Is the concept IL familiar to you and to your institution?
  • A1: Yes, absolutely, this is very commonly used term in […..] discussions, also we have not yet agreed what would be the [….] term or the right […] word for information literacy, because literacy can be translated in so many different ways.

The concept of IL - Acceptance

  • Is the concept IL familiar to you and to your institution?
  • A2: I think, in our University, during the last two or three years, this term has been used very often in different connections.

The concept of IL - Acceptance

  • Is the concept IL familiar to you and to your institution?
  • A3: Yes. In this part of the University […], we take, I think, information literacy quite seriously and recognize it as an important part of the curriculum for our students.

The concept of IL- Hesitations

  • Is the concept IL familiar to you and to your institution?
  • A 4: I think that information literacy is a good concept because it shows what is important. But the word of IL doesn’t say what IL is and….IL has been different things … and IL now is another thing as it was just 20 years ago…

The concept of IL- Hesitations

  • Is the concept IL familiar to you and to your institution?
  • A5: … it’s too broad and at the same time it’s not telling you very much when it wants to incorporate everything from getting… or having an information problem to solving it and presenting the results to the outside world.

Importance of IL

  • A5: ….presenting information in a good way is very important, because we have all this project work, you know, producing a good project, product, report or whatever you do, is very important. So, it’s the whole way from having an idea about what you need to know and find it, and use it and present it.

Lack of IL

  • A7: In general that we have seen in their essays, when they write essays, it’s clear that the ability to make use of information services is not very well developed, it is not so good developed than we would expect.

Lack of IL

  • A1: We frequently face situations when researchers who should be very skillful in using information tools can not fully make use of those opportunities that are available. We still should find better methods to support our staff members that they will make use of new opportunities for finding literature and using it and handling it.

Integration of IL into curriculum

  • Integration of IL into learning is in the beginning stage in all ‘good practice’ institutions
  • However, not all administrators are familiar with the extent the IL is integrated into learning in the whole institution

Integration of IL into curriculum

  • Please tell me to what extent IL is integrated into learning in your institution.
  • A3: I think, it would be too much to claim that it is fully integrated into learning, I think; it is patchy across the different courses and different programs of study…I think it’s early days really.

Integration of IL into curriculum

  • Please tell me to what extent IL is integrated into learning in your institution.
  • A1: …I can’t say that we would have a situation which is sufficiently good or we can be satisfied with the IL skills of our students or our staff members.

Integration of IL into curriculum

  • Please tell me to what extent IL is integrated into learning in your institution.
  • A2: Even the concept is familiar to us and we have had this discussion, I do think that there is still a lot of work to do…

Why IL is in this early stage and not integrated?

  • The modular nature of the programmes, each course is very free standing
  • University has used to provide the students with all the resources they need
  • It is very difficult in terms of economy of students’ and tutors’ time and effort

Why IL is in this early stage and not integrated?

  • A3: It puts on load on the student and their time, it also puts quite a load on tutors who are working with them, because the tutors then have to, if you like, a lot of sources of information they are not aware of. In that a sort of contained course, the tutors are pretty well clear about the material the students will have been using. We have to go certain way in that direction, but I don’t think we can make the all course with that kind of open source approach.

Why IL is not integrated?

  • Lack of awareness
  • Lack of good examples
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of resources
  • Personal issues
  • High workload of staff

National Policy

  • National policy supports IL developments (in the context of information society developments, Bologna process, electronic or digital library initiatives, e-learning or key skills initiatives, lifelong learning agenda)

National Policy

  • A1: …the most active discussions have now taken place as a part of the Bologna process, if we are developing a new university structure and new curriculum, the important part of new curriculum in different fields will be so called general skills, and now when we have started to talk about it, about these general skills, then of course information literacy has been one of the promising candidate that should be included into those general skills that should be taught in all disciplines in all degree programmes.

National Policy

  • A2: IL has been very hot topic in […] discussions at all levels of education and somehow it is also included into the new curriculum of our primary school and high school…

National Policy

  • A3: I have seen information literacy referred to in a number of government documents, that are about the development of higher education, the development of education generally in the country at different levels.

Institutional policy

  • Some respondents refer to strategy documents which also emphasis IL, even the word IL is not always explicitly mentioned
  • Other institutions has no such kind of strategy documents, but the main strategy documents on IL are developed by the library

Institutional policy

  • A4: No, I don’t think it’s written down in an official document, because in schools and also in university ….. it’s agreed that the responsibility for all teaching activities is left for individual teacher ….it’s integrated into culture instead, you now….

How do you know that your students are information literate or have attained information fluency?

  • A3: I don’t think we do know that. I’m not aware of any studies that, from which we would be able to draw that…We have so many other dimensions on which we have to assess students, if you like, that I can’t image that very sort of that tight framework of information literacy skills is ever going to be the leading edge of a course assessment.

How do you know that your students are information literate

  • Student essays
  • Student project work
  • Master Thesis

Role of the library

  • Dramatic changes during some last years related to the spread of digital materials
  • Very promising time for libraries
  • The role of the university library and good contacts highlighted
  • Library staff is well represented in the main learning and teaching committees and make good use of these committees

Role of the library

  • A3: the Internet took off and electronic library services then, I think that it allowed all the ideas about information literacy to flourish.

Role of the library

  • A3: I think they have been largely effective at making us think and telling us about some of the ways on which students ought to be behaving in a kind of knowledge society.

Staff development

  • A3: And the library is very good at putting on whole series of staff development events….The liaison librarian or subject librarian working with that faculty will organize things and push colleagues to take part in it. Other events are much more focussed on, if you like, topical areas and themes. And to my knowledge, I have been at least three events, quite well attended, which were getting over, if you like, the benefits of working with digital resources and online access to information and the associated skills what would be needed. So, I think there have been a plenty of staff development events.

Staff development

  • A3: Course teams are so busy, so under pressure that staff development events of that kind often take a quite a low priority.



Interviews with students

  • 4-5 students from each case study institution
  • Limited interest to participate in this study
  • 24 students participated in the main study and 8 additional students answered by e-mail


  • 10 male and 14 female (1 M + 7 F)
  • Age: 18-69
  • Level: BA, MA, PhD
  • Subjects: law, languages, management, history, business, geography, etc.

The concept of IL

  • Is the term ‘information literacy’ familiar to you?
  • Unknown (7)
  • The majority of students can understand what the term IL means but do not use it or have hesitations about its meaning
  • Some students connect IL mostly with ICT literacy
  • Some students offer other terms

The term IL - Unknown

  • A7: No, no. I have never heard it.
  • A9: No, that term is not familiar to me.
  • A18: Not familiar with this term…

The term of IL - not used, but they can understand it

  • A8: It is not a term I have heard before…But I think I can understand what it means – the ability to search, read and understand after required information.
  • A4: Actually that’s not so well known, it’s not part of my vocabulary, but if I think it could be… it’s like collecting information from different points and like teaching how to do it the best way and what different places you can use for that…

The term of IL not used, but they can understand it

  • A2: Yes I know what it is but it is not an expression I would use in everyday language. When telling people about my course [recently taken IL course] I would just say it was learning to use the internet properly and search for information about a particular subject.

The term of IL - not used, but they can understand it

  • A6: Yes. I have probably heard it from [….] . I have been in his lectures and so the concept of information literacy is familiar to me, but what its actually means is not so familiar. I’m aware that its very broad concept that has many different kinds of meanings. If I think what I myself think what it means, its…, I feel it is related to the fact that nowadays there is such a vast input of information from everywhere and it is getting more difficult to find a piece of information you need

The term of IL - not used, but they can understand it

  • A 15: Yes, I have heard the term, but I find it a bit confusing. It means nearly everything and it is not possible to draw its exact borders, it is connected with learning, thinking, problem solving, analysing, communicating….it is a part of everything… and you learn it through all your education and through all your life… at different level of your education … and in different ways…

Other terms

  • A 20: The term ‘information literacy’ is not very familiar to me, but it sounds like ‘information competence’, which I’ve read sometimes in web sites and other electronic resources and is maybe related to the same subject
  • A 24: I have not used this phrase previously, preferring to use terms such as Knowledge acquisition, knowledge audit, research analysis.
  • A 71: It means… knowledge management

Information literacy is a good term

  • A 22: Yes – the term ‘information literacy’ is familiar to me but I guess the term ‘information skills’ is also used in HE. I feel information literacy is a good term as it implies skills beyond formal education – skills that could be used in the workplace by professionals, managers etc.

The nature of their motivation

  • It was obligatory in their studies
  • It enabled to develop new skills or update skills
  • It enabled to support their career prospects
  • It was CPE course and paid by the institution
  • Personal reasons

The nature of their motivation

  • A 4: It was part of the study …[..] so you didn’t have a choice
  • A 76: I want to join the police force eventually as an information analyst and this was the closest and simplest course I could find that may demonstrate that I know how to find data, analyse and report it. My main study is in psychology and this course fit nicely between years.

The nature of their motivation

  • A 16: …so I thought it would be useful to go to the course also and you can get some training from the University and the pay for it. So, I applied for the course as far I could get it free and I did leave it to the last minute, but I did the degree anyway and I did get it, I did get it free.

How competent our students think they are in IL?

  • Novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, expert
  • All categories were covered, but the competent user was the most dominant
  • Usually their level of competence increased one level after participating in courses/programmes with IL component


  • Generally satisfied and believe that achievement of IL has influenced their general learning outcomes, academic performance, course completion and success


  • A 17: It helped me in broadening my awareness of development in online databases, electronic journals etc. I found it useful for my continuing professional development.
  • A14: Yes. Now I am an information co-ordinator for a help centre at a local hospice. Having completed the course recently helped my application for the position and gave me confidence in taking on the job


  • A 15: I believe it has affected the whole results in two main ways: there is usually a well distributed amount of references in my works and there is also a clear connection between them. This is mainly due to a hard previous work in searching, selecting and distributing data (sometimes I think this is what really guides the order of the writing, somehow, the logic of the contents -which it’s probably not bad).
  • A 4: It has saved me researching time – that I was then able to spend on writing the essays


  • A 5: Probably not, I’m not doing as well this year as last year though the course is harder but also I probably have too much information now that I struggle to make an essay from it that is flowing and logical.

Some more complains: Interaction

  • A 10: I was also disappointed to the extent, there was an e-mail discussion list.., what they call it…., conferencing or conference room… And I was rather disappointed with that also because it was supposed to be students, you know, exchanging ideas and things about the course and trying, I suppose stimulate what would you get if you work doing things face to face and it didn’t really.

Face-to-face meetings

  • A14: I did miss the face to face things, and I think I would have got even more out of it with the opportunity to meet some of the course team, maybe face-to-face, even for an afternoon, even for two or three hours when I could just, you can just go and say what I don’t like, I think this resource you suggested is dreadful, I can’t get one with it and they could say, no it isn’t if you look it in this way or if you look it in that way and when they would suggest something…

Knowledge finding

  • A17: the course seems to me not to have understood why somebody would want to be doing research, it .., the model that they had of learning was the knowledge is out there, all you have to do is to go and hunt for it. This is a librarian’s view of the world, it’s not the researcher’s view of the world, the researcher’s view of the world is: I have some interesting questions and I want to know is there any good. I want to know how can I develop my questions, I want to know if anybody else is similarly interested.

Personalized tasks

  • A 19: …there is no need at all, it seems to me, for you to determine what it is that should to be investigated as a main project, because if you really do have the expertise that you claim by virtually publishing this course you would be able to check very quickly whether or not there is any particular search, any particular project was satisfactorily done, it would only take you 10 minutes to do it. So, why not allow your students to investigate the matter of their interest and curiosity…

Personalized tasks

  • A 8: I didn’t like the assignment, it wasn’t what I wanted to do…I was not interested in research on it and we had to research it and we had to look up and I thought it was too descriptive, you know and I only did it, because, I just felt I wanted to complete it and also because it was paid for…

Library support

  • Do you usually contact library staff for help or advice? In what circumstances?

Library support

  • A8: I have only contacted library staff when there were serious difficulties for finding basic data (when I had quite nothing to start with, only a few unknown references) or problems to access online resources.
  • A9: Yes – only in cases of technical difficulties
  • A18: Yes, if I can’t locate something, to arrange book loans via post

Library support

  • A 22: I have only used the resources available on the Library web page, I haven’t contacted the Library staff, no.
  • A 24: Very seldom. They have been a presence on the FirstClass conference for the Masters course… Generally they’ve come up with answers long after certain clever students have presented solutions on the course conference, but good that they are there.

Library support

  • A10: ‘…because when you go to the university library, there is obviously the desk, on which you take the books and you return loans also, and I think, those people there, there are always long lines of people with their books and in a hurry and people who could have the time and to help us in research, I don’t actually know where they are…’

Library support

  • A 8: I know one particular, when I had loans from university libraries in Sweden and when I had to renew them, then I knew that OK I go to that holeway and then there is the door and I know the person who will renew my loans is sitting there, but I wouldn’t contact her and ask for help in searching information from the Swedish library databases from the library where I got the loan. No, they are not very visible, at least in here, so I wouldn’t just go to the holeway and knock on the door and, hey, can you help me search…

Library support

  • A74: We have a very helpful library/info centre at work on the same floor as me so often consult them
  • A 14: Yes – if I have queries about using databases on or off campus etc.
  • A 16: Yes – when I am stuck and don’t know what to do next.


  • IL is a complex phenomenon and may be approached from a variety of perspectives.
  • Multiple meanings of IL
  • The importance of IL is acknowledged in Europe even the term is not always used and some confusion with the term
  • IL initiatives in European ODL are quite fragmented and further exploration is needed
  • IL development still at beginning stage

Carol Kuhlthau

  • Kuhlthau said: "We do not have the information literacy problem solved. More work is needed."
  • The fourth Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference,
  • held May 21­24 at the Interuniversity Centre in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Thank you for your attention!

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