Information Competence


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CSUS Information Competency

Information Competence for Future Teachers
Project Report
CSU, Sacramento

Roz Van Auker and Linda J. Goff

Project Proposal

The project proposal is located at: /services/inst/indiv/libinst/infocompprop.htm

Overview of the Project

The purpose of this project was to provide Information Competence (IC) skills to future K-12 teachers and to determine whether delivery of IC instruction via web tutorial should be considered as an effective alternative to in-person instruction by a librarian.

An upper division population of Child Development majors was selected to extend the existing information competence instruction at CSUS. A prior IC project has now developed into a unit that will be required in both lower division Communication Studies classes which meet the Area A Basic Subjects requirement in Oral Communication. Because many of our students come here as transfer students from the local community college we wanted to target an upper division course for education students. This project provided an opportunity to reach them with information competence content related directly to their major.

This project targeted Child Development students completing their foundation courses or core requirements for Pre-Credential Preparation. Research in Human Development, CD 133, is the research methodology course for the CD major.

A secondary purpose was to compare student outcomes in different sections of the course, contrasting web-based IC instruction with traditional delivery methods.


Existing IC tutorials and related exercises from the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo project had been previously modified for use at CSUS during Spring 1999. These were rewritten with topics and examples chosen which related to education and child development issues. A sixth tutorial on ethical use of information was transferred and a brand new tutorial on ERIC FirstSearch was developed and incorporated into module 4 of the project.

Tutorials selected for this project can be found at:


They  include:

  1. Define a Research Topic
  2. Determine your Information Requirements for your Research Question
  3. Locate and Retrieve Relevant Information
  4. Use the Technological Tools For Accessing Information
         (with link to ERIC Tutorial)
  5. Evaluate Information
  6. Understand the Ethical, Legal, and Socio-Political Issues Surrounding Information and Information Technology

The bulk of the work done in Fall 1999 was to replace the exercises that had already been modified so they could be emailed to the instructor with Java script messages so that users would receive immediate feedback on their answers as they went through the six tutorials. Significant effort was made to to include education content and concrete examples of research topics related to the course. The new tutorial for the FirstSearch version of ERIC was written to incorporate a live online session.

For the post-test, our original proposal indicated that we would use an existing IC assessment instrument developed at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. It was necessary to make some modifications in their instrument to allow us to better align it with the tutorial content in our project. This revised instrument was then used as the post-test to assess both in-person and web tutorial instruction.

Subjects were students in five sections of a pre-credential education research course.

The five sections were assigned to receive either traditional instruction from a librarian or to take the online tutorial. In order to reduce variability, two of the three participating CD 133 faculty divided their sections so one received traditional instruction while the other section took the online tutorial. All five sections received the same printed materials and took the same post-test.

A special effort was made to align the presentation content so that the librarian’s sessions included similar material to that included in the 6 modules in the tutorial. Obviously since these session were limited to one hour and fifteen minutes, it was not possible to include the same level of detail available in the tutorials.

Each group started at the same web page:


which started with an introduction to the project and gave detailed instructions on how to establish a campus computer account (SacLink) which was a prerequisite to access WebCT course management software where the brief survey, pre-test and post-test resided. A decision was made to place the tutorials on the web where they would be most easily accessible. In addition, WebCT proved an inhospitable environment for the frames-based format of the original tutorials developed at CalPoly.


While not articulated as part of the original proposal, an added benefit was that the project provided a preliminary needs assessment for the targeted population of Child Development majors. The opportunity to administer a library skills assessment instrument to a significant number of students (approximately 100) most of whom had been on campus less than two semesters, has identified a number of weak areas that can be included in future IC instruction.

Librarians were able to evaluate the potential of using WebCT course management software for collection and analysis of student data.  Development of  a productive relationship with the WebCT consultant in the CSUS Computer Center may pave the way for future collaborative projects. It also gave librarians a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of WebCT and its potential for future IC activities.

Working relations with Child Development faculty have always been cordial but the project has enriched this partnership with librarians.


Putting the tutorials on the Web made them available to anyone, but in doing so the ability to track individual student progress through the tutorials was lost. This decision was because WebCT was not compatible with the frames format of the original tutorials. An additional factor was that librarians wanted the tutorials available to all interested library users, not just to course enrollees.   Modification of the entire program to WebCT would have required extensive reprogramming, beyond what was funded with this grant or which was possible during the timeframe involved.

The project was hampered by the resignation of a Systems Office staff member familiar with the project, and delays were also caused by difficulty in recruiting skilled student assistants with JavaScript expertise.

While cooperating faculty all agreed that all students would be instructed to set up campus SacLink accounts as soon as the semester began, student compliance was problematic and not done in a timely manner. Technology can be a barrier as well as an enabling feature toward achieving Information Competence.

A significant obstacle to a fair comparison of the two delivery methods was the constrictions imposed by the class period in the librarian delivered mode. The tutorials had no time limits and could be completed at the convenience of the students while the live sessions had to allow enough time to administer the survey, the pre-test, and deliver the instruction. It also included the post-test all within one or two class sessions. Obviously since these session were limited to one hour and fifteen minutes, and had to accommodate student questions, it was not possible to include the same level of detail available in the tutorials.

While not a total surprise, it was found the amount of librarian time needed to deal with many details needed to bring the project to fruition was significantly underestimated. It was necessary to simultaneously coordinate with faculty, respond to student queries, negotiate problem solutions with the WebCT coordinator and the Library Systems Office in order to meet project timelines and to make the project work.

The CSU Information Competence Work Group, which provided funding for this project, established a March 1, 2000, deadline for all 1999/2000 IC project reports.   Since this project was still underway, much of the data analysis and evaluation of student outcomes will be completed later in the Spring 2000 semester.


Student feedback forms were due the week of February 28, 2000 from two of the five sections while the remaining sections are expected by March 8th. Reports of the time they used to take the online tutorials will allow a better basis for comparison of the two delivery modes.

Since students did one or the other, not both, there is no actual data about which format was preferred, however student comments as well as faculty perceptions will be reviewed with this in mind.

It is anticipated that analysis of the post-tests will show which delivery method was more effective in teaching the six Information Competencies.


Project Timeline

Demographic Survey



Student Feedback Form


Questions or comments? Contact:
Roz Van Auker, Education Librarian,
Linda J. Goff, Library Instruction Librarian,

updated 3/1/2000
Linda J. Goff, Library Instruction Librarian