Digital libraries play an important role for students. Online students struggle to find scholarly resources to support their graduate work. Many students fall into search habits that may assist them in completing an assignment but will not build lifelong learning skills or information literacy skills needed for future employment. The use of Google and Internet resources while easy to use do not always provide the appropriate content students need to support their work. University libraries have slowly been shifting into building robust digital collections to support their online students. Digital library collections can be difficult to navigate or provide an infrastructure that is not intuitive to the research process. Cothran (2011) research “make a strong argument for librarians to focus on improving the usability and accessibility of library resources and the linking between library databases and Google Scholar, instead of simply discouraging students’ Google Scholar usage.”
The objective of this Research Highlight session is to present findings from a mixed method study designed to evaluate online graduate students’ experiences with a University library resource designed to support their research activities. By understanding how students make meaning about their experiences with the library and the library’s resources, we can better promote (and accelerate) online student learning.
A social constructivist framework suggests learning is constructed through social interactions (Vygotsky, 1978). For this study, online students interact with the information literacy resource, a library guide about literature reviews, and students make meaning of that interaction. The meanings that online students attribute to their experiences interacting with the literature review library guide will likely influence their future interactions with the with the University library. If we better understand online student experiences with the University library, and with a specific online library resource, in particular, we’ll be better able to support the development of effective online information literacy resources.
When building the strategic plan for the University library, information literacy instruction and support were identified as an area of opportunity; enhancements to the current information literacy services were assessed. Many different delivery methods were explored including media, full credit courses, and micro learning assets. After an exhaustive review of the literature and assessing information literacy training, the University invested their efforts in building online guides to target specific areas where students struggle with information literacy application.
Effective research skills are critical for graduate student success. Understanding when and how library resources might be best introduced to promote online student success is important. This study evaluates online graduate students enrolled in the Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree experiences with an online library guide about how to conduct a literature review.
The following research questions direct this mixed method study.
• How does program level influence online graduate students’ perceived value of a “Literature Review” online library guide?
• How does the timing in which the “Literature Review” online library guide is introduced to graduate students influence their perceived value of the resource?
• What do online graduate students’ value about the “Literature Review” online library guide?
A purposive sample of 100 online graduate students will be selected in July to August 2016, approximately half of the students are enrolled in the online MBA program, and the other half are enrolled in the online DBA program. About half of the students in the MBA sample will be selected from an early research course (Applied Business Research and Statistics QNT 561) and the other half will be selected from the program’s capstone course (Strategic Planning and Implementation STR581). For the doctoral students, about half of the students will be selected from the Also dissertation writing seminar course (DOC 722) and the other half will be selected from students in the last dissertation seminar writing course (DOC 734).
Faculty in these courses will to think critically with information from the University library about how to introduce the online library guide for literature reviews to students in the course. The library guide learning material will be in into the online course within the first half of course and students will be prompted to complete a short online survey designed to measure perceived value of the resource during the last week of the course. The online survey asks participating students if they would be willing to participate in a follow-up interview about their experiences with library guide. Interviews will be conducted over Skype with approximately four students from each course (16 students in total). Interviews are designed to gather descriptive information about student use of the library guide and their perceptions about the value of this resources. Researchers are interested in evaluating how the timing of the introduction of the resources into the program might influence student perceptions and their beliefs about the library services supporting their research activities and their success in their degree programs.
The quantitative data will be combined to create a single “perceived value” score for each student and t-tests will be run to compare groups. The qualitative Skype interview data will be analyzed to uncover trends related to providing online library support to online graduate students at different points in their online programs.
Findings from this study will inform online library resource development at this University and indicate whether the timing of resources is critical to the impact on learner perceptions. Future research may build on the findings from this study to explore the ways in which administrators, faculty and librarians create strategies to sustain or increase their online student populations. In addition, this study may suggest additional research about how online students benefit from library instruction, specifically as it relates to student success including higher GPA’s, grades and retention. Higher education institutions that tie information literacy assessment outcomes to their general education outcomes find that information literacy instruction increases their students’ ability to critically think, ethically reason, and understand problems at a global context.
The researchers will end the session inviting the audience into an open conversation around the methods that others use for information literacy instruction and support at different organizations. We will continue the dialog to include best practices of information literacy support, the timing of the introduction to the support materials, and encourage the audience to consider how they might enhance the value of similar online library support materials for faculty and administration, as well as students.
Cothran, T. (2011). Google Scholar acceptance and use among graduate students: A quantitative study. Library and Information Science Research, 33(4), 293-301. doi: 10.1016/j.lisr.2011.02.001
Vygotsky, Lev (1978). Mind in Society. London: Harvard University Press