Internet research skills

Posted November 2nd, 2007 by vtsstaff

One of the Virtual Training Suite’s aims is to advocate and support the teaching of Internet research skills to university students and I hope this blog might facilitate discussion about developing these skills.

Students may well be savvy with new technologies when they arrive at university but I believe they need advice and guidance to develop the skills required to use the Internet to support their academic work.

This view is supported by some recent research findings from a JISC study:

Student Expectations Study, JISC, July 2007

The study surveyed sixth form students about to go to university. One of it’s findings was that:

“Students do not fully understand how ICT and learning can work together. They imagine and like the idea of the traditional, Socratic, or “chalk and talk” methods with face to face learning.”

So students don’t expect everything at university to be online and high-tech’, they actually expect traditional face-to-face teaching, and are unsure how to apply new technologies to their learning.

Surely we should help students to develop Internet research skills that can support their university work, just as we have always taught them good scholarly practice; how to use the university library, and how to approach and present an assignment in an acceptable format for the scholarly norms of the subject discipline?

One of the reports recommendations:

“Traditional teacher/pupil learning methods are preferred as the backbone for everyday learning. Technology needs to be used as a tool to complement this way of learning. Similarly HEIs should explain the benefits of technology”.

It might be a mistake for lecturers to assume that just because students have used the Internet before they arrive at university, they will know how to use it for work at higher education level. However, the JISC report suggests that students are open to learning about the role of new technologies in their work:

“… these students are not inflexible – once they arrive at university it is likely that their opinion of ICT and its role in learning will change”.

So if there is a need to help students to learn how technologies can support their university work the next questions that arise are:

Where do Internet research skills fit in undergraduate curriculum / student experience?

What methods can be employed to teach these skills?

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