Re-thinking Information Literacy in a postgraduate Information Systems class at the University of Cape Town

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Information Literacy is an integral part of university libraries. At the University of Cape Town (UCT) it has had varying levels of success, depending on the size of the class, the access to devices, the time provided, and the frequency of sessions. Unlikely other universities around the world, information literacy is not embedded in the curriculum. The standard practice in our context has been once-off sessions offered to students at the beginning of an academic year. This is targeted to different courses and disciplines. This study sought to understand the information (IL) and digital literacy (DL) skills of postgraduate students in an Information Systems (IS) course. Specifically it looked at how they undertake their academic writing tasks without formal exposure to IL or DL training. It examines the general IL and DL skills, the ineffectiveness of IL interventions provided and explores opportunites for curriculum integration of Il in postgraduate courses. This case study uses a case study approach to explore the perceptions of students and their lecturers of the IL presentations which the library offers. Using a mixture of interviews with lecturers and a student questionnaire and focus group discussions with students the study sought to provide a wholistic picture of the various perspectives and experiences. Findings showed that students and lecturers had a very narrow perception of IL, although IL is a skills set that helps students to acquire competencies for a lifelong learning journey in terms of information usage generally and digitally in particular. A framework for librarians is proposed based on SCONUL's Seven Pillars of Information Literacy. This would enable a more wholistic approach to IL as it develops student as self-directed learners rather than learners who just aim to comply with course regulations. Integration of IL into the curriculum is proposed as a necessary strategy and if librarians increased their teaching professionalisation working in partnership with their academic colleagues, they could raise the profile of IL in institutional priorities.