The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, “Information Has Value” frame includes the knowledge practice of “articulate the purpose and distinguishing characteristics of copyright, fair use, open access, and the public domain.” This is an important consideration as engineering educations continue to put emphasis on teaching technical communication skills. While technical communication can take many forms, a common form in both education and industry is the use of presentations. However, one component of the presentations that can easily be overlooked by both students and faculty is ensuring the use of images that are obtained in an ethical manner. This area of instruction is a concern to both librarians and engineering instructors as it will be a recurring task in the engineering field after graduation.
This paper presents a study examining the ethical use of images by students in presentations given for a Mechanical Engineering senior lab course. The objective of this research project was to determine if, and to what extent, integrating information fluency instruction pertaining to the ethical use of images into engineering lab sessions improves the quality of information fluency skills demonstrated in student presentations. A rubric was used to assess the use of images in student presentations for two criteria: 1) attribution and 2) use of images that have appropriate Creative Commons license, have public domain status, or are original creations. Students completed an initial lab presentation early in the semester with no information fluency instruction. Students then received direct in-person instruction in the ethical use of imagery from a librarian specifically developed for the purpose of this study. The students then completed a second lab presentation. Both presentations were scored using the rubric to compare the changes in information fluency skills of students pertaining to the ethical use of images. Then, the license type and attribution of the individual images in the presentations were determined. To better understand the trends that were captured, the measurements were also carried out on a control group from the prior academic year, where no instruction was given.
The results showed some positive gains based on the instruction. The results from rubric-based assessment indicated improvement, although these measured increases in attribution and ethical use of images could not be definitively connected to the instruction alone. The image-based assessment demonstrated a significant improvement in attribution usage in the test group after the instruction. It also showed that students reduced the use of copyrighted images, although further study will be needed to definitively correlate the improvement to the instruction. The results also demonstrated some of the challenges encountered with using the rubric-based assessment. Going forward, a combination of the quantitative methods used in this study in combination with qualitative methods may help improve this instruction process.
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