This case study focuses on the mandatory and credited information literacy training sessions offered by a team of librarians since 2002 to more than 5000 graduate students enrolled in a research program at a francophone engineering university. Their creation was justified in part by a survey in which many professors mentioned they would like their students to develop better information research skills. This paper describes how these sessions have evolved since their implementation and discusses the factors that contributed to their continuation over time.
Initially, these training sessions were mandatory for all PhD students. In 2008, they also became mandatory for all research master’s students. Due to the significant increase in the number of students attending these sessions, important changes were made to the type of learning assessment. At first, the students were required to produce a portfolio related to their research projects that the librarians graded and to which they suggested ways of improvement. This evaluation method being time-consuming, it was changed to open-book exams. After a few years, the librarians decided to modify the assessment again to allow students to work on their own projects. Moreover, a heterogeneous clientele posed some significant challenges. For example, the university has welcomed a growing international graduate student population that did not speak French. In response to these challenges and to institutional requests, the team of librarians started offering classes in both English and French in 2010, and integrated more active pedagogies. Throughout these transformations, the University’s senior leadership always approved the proposed changes and maintained the mandatory information literacy training.
Students participating in the training sessions filled teaching evaluation surveys, for which the results are presented in this paper. The surveys asked the students about their degree of satisfaction regarding the different objectives of the training sessions, namely defining an information need, building and optimizing a search strategy, finding information sources relevant to their field, and learning how to ethically use information. The surveys also asked whether sufficient time was allocated to reach the objectives and whether the students generally improved their information research skills. Overall, the results show a satisfaction rate of over 90% since 2011 for all evaluated criteria. In addition, creating and executing a search strategy in specialized databases is among the most common answers to an open-ended question about the most important thing the students learned.
The discussion section argues that the high satisfaction rates, the adjustments made to cater to the evolving needs of the clientele, and the compliance to the institutional requests contributed to maintaining the information literacy training sessions in the graduate programs. Positive effects include the librarians’ professional development and an increased visibility for the Library resources and services. It also discusses the positive impact on the students’ research skills and on their literature reviews. Consequently, the training sessions contribute to achieving the University learning objectives for graduate students in research programs.
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