Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Information Literacy in Europe: Ten Years Later #ecil2013

Sirje Virvus (Tallinn University) talked about Information Literacy in Europe: Ten Years Later following up from her much-cited 2003 paper, at the European Conference on Information Literacy. She started by summarising conclusions from the 2003 paper (which is linked below). She went on to talk about her doctoral work, an exploratory study of online distance learning in higher education in Europe, with the research question What is the nature of successful information literacy educational practice and what are the factors which influence this?
There is a reference below (Virkus, 2012) which gives some information from this work. She used a mixed methods approach. She carried out an email study of people in European Association of Distance Teaching Universities, getting 71 respondents.
She then did case studies in six universities in 5 European countries and her data collection included interviews with a sample of academics, students and librarians. The results showed that their were promising developments, but progress was patchy and variable. She concluded that the integration of Information Related Competencies (IRC) into curricula was a the "beginning stage": academics, or academics and librarians, were incorporating IRC into courses, but there was not enough evidence to identify "best practice" in most areas.
One issue (apart from the usual ones of lack of time etc.) was the modular nature of the distance learning courses.Another conclusion that Virkus drew was that the concept of Information Literacy was perceived as useful by the participants, but that the term itself was a barrier. Also participants noted that IL was not included in key policy documents at the national and European level. It emerged how important individuals (such as library managers) were bringing about IL developments.
In the end she identified four dimensions influencing the development of IRC: Strategic, professional, educational and research; "a complex interaction of factors in each of these dimensions enhance the development of IRC".
Looking at other people's publications, Virkus showed how the number of publications about information literacy has grown since 2013,and although the USA, UK and Australia are the top 3 countries for authorship, there were many more publications from a wide variety of countries, than there had been 10 years ago. At ECIL itself there are 126 presentations from 31 countries, with co-authorship from different countries. Another trend she noted is the better recognition that "one size does not fit all" in teaching information literacy, with an emphasis on context and more attention to the socio-political issues. IL is also better embedded in European policy and strategy documents (though not always by that name). However there is still a lack of a holistic approach to IL in European higher education.

- Virkus, S. (2012) Information Literacy from the Policy and Strategy Perspective. Nordic journal of information literacy in Higher Education, 4 (1).
- Virkus, S. (2003) "Information literacy in Europe: a literature review." Information Research, 8(4), paper no. 159
Photo by Sheila Webber: purposeful cat, Istanbul, October 2013

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