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Infolit ANGEL:. Courseware, Information Literacy and outreach to adult learners  - a case study. DCULT/CeLC 2011, Halifax April 27 2011 Betty Braaksma, University of Manitoba Libraries. Examining new arrivals in Immigration Examination Hall, Pier 21, Halifax, NS, March 1952.

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Infolit ANGEL:

Courseware, Information Literacy and outreach to adult learners  - a case study

DCULT/CeLC 2011, Halifax

April 27 2011

Betty Braaksma, University of Manitoba Libraries

Examining new arrivals in Immigration Examination Hall, Pier 21, Halifax, NS, March 1952

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

“As Digital Immigrants learn…to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their "accent," that is, their foot in the past…

There are hundreds of examples of the digital immigrant accent. They include printing out your email…needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it; and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL)…

Those of us who are Digital Immigrants can, and should, laugh at ourselves and our “accent.” Marc Prensky 2001,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Are adults still “immigrating?”

  • Cell phones :

    • 85% of American adults own cell phones; 90% of all adults live in a household with at least one working cell phone.

  • Desktop computers:

    • most popular with adults ages 35-65.

  • iPod or other mp3 player :

    • Almost half of all adults own one.

  • Game consoles:

    • 63% of adults ages 18-46 own them.

  • e-book reader:

    • 5% of adults own one.

  • iPad or other tablet computer:

    • 4% of adults own one. 1.

  • Social networking: use among internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88%--from 25% to 47%, April 2009-May 2010 2.

  • Generations and Their Gadgets. Feb 2011

  • Pew Internet & American Life. Older Adults and Social Media


What I’ll be talking about

  • How I got involved in teaching an online information literacy/digital literacy course for adults

  • The course:

    • logistics

    • ideas & design

    • platforms

    • Learners

  • Assessments & Discoveries

The e-memo, March 23 2009

“The Digital Literacy course, part of the CETL, begins May 4, 2009. 

To be literate in a particular age (or subset of society) is to possess proficiency in the media and tools of the generation. Organizations today expect employees to be literate with text, scientific-thinking, media, images, and, increasingly, social technologies. The American Library Association defines information literacy as “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.” Microsoft defines digital literacy skills as: “basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use computer technology in everyday life to develop new social and economic opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities.” In education, calls are issued for increased emphasis on 21st century skills – the combination of core skills with media, technology, life, learning, and innovation skills.”

The invitation, April 9 2009

Hi Betty,

 Peter mentioned you were interested in co-teaching our upcoming course on digital you have time to meet next week thur/fri to discuss?


Some background

  • CETL = Certificate in Interdisciplinary Studies: Emerging Technologies for Learning (ETL)

  • CETLwas originally envisioned and developed by Peter Tittenberger and George Siemens, who were part of the former UM Learning Technologies Centre

  • CETL is now being offered by the Faculty of Extended Education

  • Digital Literacy is a 36-hour elective course within the CETL program

What is digital literacy?

  • Many different definitions

  • Some emphasize computer skills

  • Some emphasize information literacy/critical thinking skills

  • Some emphasize collaboration & content creation

‘Digital Literacy” = Many literacies

Information literacy in a digital world

There are many definitions of information literacy (infolit/IL). Most are similar to:

“Information literacy is knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.” - CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals)

Where do adult learners fit?

  • Digital literacy/information literacy studies mostly focus on students in the K-12 & higher education sectors

  • The specific needs of adult learners and digital literacy have been studied, but are less well known; work is progressing:

“Developing and Managing Digital/Technology Literacy and Effective Learning Skills in Adult Learners”, Jeffrey Hsu, Zhongxian Wang, Karin Hamilton.International Journal of Digital Literacy and Digital Competence (IJDLDC) Volume: 2 Issue: 1. 2011

How to Design the Course?

  • Students CETL were/are adult learners, many in higher education, who need or want certification in new technologies, either out of interest or as a requirement for their jobs

  • A wide range of computer skills; not much exposure to web 2.0 in any context

  • The CETL course had to be developed quickly; sometimes on the fly

  • Needed to blend the philosophies of IL and Connectivism


  • George Siemens is one of the creators of the idea of “connectivism” which he describes as “a learning theory for the digital age. “


Principles of connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.

  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known

  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.

  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.

  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.

  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

ACRL IL Standards

  • Determine the extent of information needed

  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently

  • Evaluate information and its sources critically

  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base

  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose

  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally

Some Practicalities

  • Students needed to be able to use what they learned in an actual work setting

  • This largely ruled out the use of library databases since these require authentication and are not able to be accessed after they are no longer registered at U of M

  • Also needed to use open web sources so that they could experience real-world information use

Iteration #1:Spring/Summer 2009

  • 12 weeks

    • 6 weeks of infolit (Betty)

    • 6 weeks of digital lit (George)

  • The framework of Infolit section corresponded to the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

  • Platforms: Moodle, Elluminate

Structure of each week

  • Lesson – an essay about the theme of the week.

  • Readings – related to theme. Some required, some optional

  • Activity – directed activity to have students experience the issue/theme being examined.

  • Participation – online asynchronous forum for reflections & comments, weekly live chat


  • marks for participation and a final presentation on a topic of their choice, in the medium of their choice.

  • George did the marking; I had input

Translating IL into Digital Literacy themes

  • Week 1 Activity: Read definitions of information literacy. Choose one that best matches their own ideas. Comment on the forum : which one resonated and why.

  • Week 2 Activity: Do a comparative search for assigned topic in Google, Google Scholar and a publicly available database (e.g. PubMedCentral) Compare results. Discuss how you might modify an existing assignment to develop a good “search strategy”.

  • Week 3 Activity: Read a Wikipedia article. Comment on how “truth” or “authority” is determined. Discuss student use of Wikipedia and allowing inclusion/exclusion in assignments.

  • Week 4 Activity: Evaluation of selected sites; Deep Web, information storage and “format agnosticism.”

  • Week 5 Activity: Comment on a controversial blog on plagiarism. Discuss how this fits with your views on intellectual property/filesharing/collaborative culture.

  • Week 6 Activity: Comment using information literacy models/methods in teaching and learning? Does the concept of information literacy still have relevance in the Web 2.0 world?

A Learning Experience for all

  • Instructor (me):

    • Learn Moodle & Elluminate

    • Put IL theory into practice (quickly)

    • Tailor to needs of adult learners – make practical, focused, interesting, relevant, current

  • Pros: students were engaged and had good participation in forum and chat

  • Cons: too much information & activities too demanding, disorganized, working one step ahead of the students

Iteration #2: Winter 2009

  • George Siemens left U of M

  • LTC disbanded; course responsibility now Extended Ed’s

  • Co-teacher is Ben Akoh, in Senegal

  • Students are teachers & administrators at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore

Changes & Challenges

  • Structure of course was much the same:

    • lessons and readings were trimmed;

    • themes refocused to reflect makeup of the class – more applied and less academic

  • Logistical challenges with working across 3 time zones & unreliable telecom access in Africa

  • Unexpected scheduling problems partway through the course meant that Weeks 3-12 had to be compressed; delivered 12 weeks of content in 8 weeks

  • Platforms: Moodle, Skype & Elluminate

Iteration #3: Fall 2010

  • Ben Akoh moves to Manitoba to study at U of M; the whole course is now my responsibility

  • U of M decides to abandon the Moodle platform & go with ANGEL Learning

  • Have to design weeks 7-12 & translate course structure and activities to ANGEL

  • Smaller group of students, all in North America

  • Live chat platform is now iVocalize – have admin privileges

Changes & Challenges: More structure

  • Digital Literacy now has to fit into a template for all Extended Ed. courses

  • Have to define learning outcomes, create a marking rubric, decide on a final assignment

  • Activities become assignments

  • Unchanged: the philosophy of having students learn and model real-world digital experiences


“Part of learning about digital literacies is experiencing them, so active participation in the course is essential. Students will be evaluated in 3 areas:”

  • Participation in weekly discussion forums (30%)

  • Participation in the weekly online live chat sessions. (25%)

  • Major Assignment - eportfolio: (45%)

Working with ANGEL

  • More flexible and easier to use than Moodle

  • Part of the university’s course management system – better support and integration with other systems

  • Easier to link to and upload documents for readings

  • Students able to deposit eportfolios in ANGEL; UM Angel eportfolio feature not switched on

  • Analytics better and more useful

Discovery:IL + Connectivism = Authentic learning?

Characteristics of authentic activity:

  • Have real-world relevance

  • Are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and subtasks needed to complete the activity

  • Comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time

  • Provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resources

  • Provide the opportunity to collaborate

  • Provide the opportunity to reflect and involve students’ beliefs and values

  • Can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and lead beyond domain-specific outcomes

  • Are seamlessly integrated with assessment

  • Create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else

  • Allow competing solutions and diversity of outcome

Authentic activities and online learning HERDSA 2002

Example of student eportfolio created for CETL Digital Literacy


Measuring success (or not)

  • Students in all 3 versions of the course did well, averaging around a B – B+

  • About 5% of students in each course dropped out, either due to time pressures or different expectations

  • Comments on forums indicated that students had experienced information technologies in a new way, and could see application to work and life

  • Two of the students planned to continue using their eportfolio at work

Criticisms: “ to make a good course into a great course”

  • More interactive time

  • More frequent feedback

  • More frequent communication

  • Better scheduling; collaborative scheduling

  • Less content; smaller reading lists

  • Rubric in 3rd iteration is too rigid

Did the “immigrants” arrive?

“I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed this course. It was my last one of the certificate and I think it was my favorite. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!"

Thank you


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