Persuading students through technology

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are becoming more accepted as educational tools in classrooms. This is only going to become more prevalent, with schools increasingly distributing iPads instead of textbooks and using mobile phones to engage students. In exploring current persuasive techniques in use, it is possible to determine how to incorporate even more efficient ways of using persuasive technology in the classroom. Murphy and Alexander (2004) indicate that persuasion is an inherent part of education, and forms the basis of student engagement. Without persuasion, students would not be able to utilize current knowledge for building fuller frames of comprehension. Currently, technology has become a focus of education and is being evaluated as a measure of student success. Collins and Halverson (2010) found technological mastery as being considered an indicator to predict economic advancement. They found parents feel obligated to purchase electronic devices to assist in their children’s education, providing an opportunity for educators to utilize these devices within educational settings (Collins & Halverson, 2010).

This paper aims to address the following research questions:

  • What types of persuasive technology are currently being used to support instruction?
  • What factors of persuasive technology are currently being used to support instruction?
  • How can persuasive technology be used more effectively to improve student learning?

Literature Review

 Various approaches have been used for making students participate and interact with information, but now teachers have technology as an option in the classroom. Through technology, planned persuasive design simply provides an additional tool for educators to engage students. Several researchers have explored how persuasive technology has been utilized in educational settings.

Functional Value

 Barab, Pettyjohn, Gresalfi, Volk & Solomou (2012) found in their study that educational games provide meaning to content, providing “functional value” (p. 532) in how students can apply information to practical applications and achieve personal satisfaction from the results. Applying knowledge in real or imagined worlds provides the content for when the information would be used. This exemplifies why a student needs to learn the information, and what the consequences could be if they do not. Many times, textbooks provide information without context, leaving students to determine how it would be applied in real life.

In early learning, many students do not understand the purpose of the material they are learning. They lack sophistication in educational procedures, and learning attempts can quickly lead to frustration. By making learning fun and engaging, this frustration is elevated and students are motivated to participate.

 Mobility

Mobility is an important issue for many people. They need to be able to access their technology on the go, and they utilize tablets, laptops, and even mobile phones. Having persuasive educational technology available on a variety of platforms allows greater flexibility for users, and consequently greater usage of applications. Several studies have utilized mobile phones to deliver messages to participants.

Goh, Seet, and Chen (2012) explored how short messaging services (SMS) were utilized in supplementing educational messages to students. According to Goh et al (2012), the researchers used the seven principles of persuasive technology in the SMS messages, and found those to be effective. The most improvement was evident in self-regulated students, and researchers suggested SMS interventions would be effective for high risk students (Goh et al, 2012). These messages were delivered through mobile phones, making the service mobile and easy to deliver no matter where the participants are located. This ability to have the application with them at all times enabled the persuasive technology to be effective.

Wang, Shen, Novak, and Pan (2009) employed a popularly used digital device in their study, using mobile phones to engage students who otherwise would have limited interaction with instructors and classmates. Texting applications between students and instructors used the most popular technology, and allowed students to start participating in their own education. Current educational processes have embraced the use of laptops and other portable devices, however mobile phones are just beginning to be considered as learning tools.

In China, the most popular mobile device is the mobile phone, and educators are looking to expand educational services through mobile learning (mLearning) to create an interactive educational environment (Wang et al, 2009). Classes in China are typically in a classroom, or live online, but allow little interaction with instructors or classmates. Researchers found students participating in mLearning reported stronger engagement and connection to the course material (Wang et al, 2009). Instructors reported increased student interaction and improved performance (Wang, 2009). Utilizing popular technology enabled students to participate in their education, instead of passively experiencing their education (Wang et al, 2009). Through texting, students were able to interact to a higher degree than they were able to previously. Questions and comments could be exchanged between students and teachers, making the learning experience more interactive.

Mintz & Aagaard (2012) performed a study using the HANDS web application, with interventions creating positive results in forming educational, emotional, and physical outcomes. This study shows positive results in using persuasive technology in educational settings, whether the targeted goal is distributing knowledge or informing behaviors. Through this application, participants could utilize the application wherever and whenever they encountered a difficult social situation.

Gamification

Gamification provides an opportunity to learn through play. Using game concepts and mechanics to engage students, these applications offer fun and inventive ways to involve students in learning. Gamification is typically conveyed through technological means, using consoles, mobile phones, tablets, or computers. This allows the student to engage anywhere and anytime, even extending the experience outside the classroom.

Video games are popular forms of entertainment where participants explore imaginary worlds and complete complex tasks. Gee (2003) suggested through the experience of playing video games, that people are “learning a new literacy” (p. 199). Due to the content of the game itself, participants are learning to identify with the complex symbolism inherent to our society. Instead of reading letters and numbers through a textbook, the participant is being exposed to pictures, charts, tables, and artifacts that are also important for students to learn and understand the meaning of (Gee, 2003). The selection of video games available to purchase is wide enough that most people are able to find some that are appealing to play.

Games allow participants to play, and not have real life consequences beyond the expense of time. This aspect of playfulness is appealing to many people. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown contend the essential learning properties of “curiosity, imagination, and a sense of play” (as cited in Cohen, 2011, p. 16) are not evident in conventional textbooks and text based education. However, these properties are all evident in video games. Many video games send participants on quests to find people or items in an imaginary world that creates obstacles. These obstacles have to be navigated, utilizing critical thinking skills. Participants open doors and containers while attempting to locate an item, satisfying their curiosity while fulfilling the quest requirements. The participant has to imagine the need for finding the item is real, even if only to proceed to the next quest.

While playing a game, learning constantly occurs because participants are self-motivated to discover, evaluate, and disseminate information continuously (Cohen, 2011). Participants can work together sharing information and ideas without the pressure of getting the exactly worded correct answer. Participants can take risks without real-life penalties (Gee, 2003). In contrast, exams and tests do not allow for trial and error, with students that make mistakes having no opportunity to correct a poor grade. By being able to take risks they would not in a test situation, students can explore boundaries and alternate options and not chance a lower grade.

Games can be used to build skills that can later be tested for proficiency. Barab et al (2012) suggest appropriately constructed educational games influence children socially and personally through their need to obtain specific information in order to be successful. The experiences in a well-designed educational game could still provide the needed knowledge to test well (Barab et al, 2012). Through educational games, academic content is transformed into an interactive activity, allowing the students the opportunity to participate in their own education.  After the game, the participants can retain the knowledge gained through the activity, and apply that information to test questions successfully.

Persuasive Technology Currently in Use. There are programs and schools currently using persuasive technology, and gamification in particular, successfully. Successful programs include the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Kids’s Interactive Whiteboard Games which offer programming for pre-kindergarten through grade eight in areas such as language arts, art, math and social sciences. This web application has proven to be highly popular, and offers a great enough variety that children at different learning levels are still engaged. The majority of the application is geared towards very young children, with basic skills being the main focus. However, many of the activities are available to older children and are equally popular. The Learning Company’s WII and Nintendo 3DS educational game, The Oregon Trail, explores history using persuasive technology in the form of gamification (Cohen, 2011). Participants journey through the Oregon Trail, learning history, geography, and geology as they travel. Trophies are earned through gameplay, persuading participants to continue on to the next trophy achievement while learning.

While the concept of gamification is relatively new, games in school are not. However, not many schools build their curriculum around the concept of making everything into a game. That is what an experimental public charter school in New York City, Quest to Learn (Q2L) has done. They have almost entirely eliminated textbooks from the curriculum, and instead use gamification in the classroom. The school uses games to encourage students to “actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others” (Quest to Learn, n.d.). The students actively participate in constructing games, as well as playing them. The curriculum is designed to involve the students as much as possible, and does not expect rote memorization over developing a deeper understanding of concepts and ideas.

Discussion

 Summary of Findings

The capacity for persuasive technology to assist educators is just starting to be explored. Persuasion is not a new technique in education, but merging tried-and-true persuasive teaching techniques with emerging technology creates an opportunity to infuse students with the initiative to participate in their own education.

Limitations of these studies

            While the use of persuasive technology in educational programs and applications seems an obvious opportunity to engage students, not everyone is convinced of its effectiveness. Dominguez et al (2013) suggested the cognitive impact is insignificant between persuasive technology and traditional teaching methods. They further suggest that while gamification could influence motivation toward learning, the overall scoring between the educational methods did not otherwise indicate any improvements (Dominguez et al, 2013). Proposing existing educational methods be changed without first obtaining proof of effectiveness could prove to be a costly mistake with the high cost of technological equipment.

Technical limitations

The effort required to design and implement persuasive technology in education is significant. Designers and technical personal would be required to create and install programs and applications. After installation, personnel would be needed for training and trouble shooting. Changing current curriculum to a computer systems based methodology would require training of administrators, educators, students, and possibly parents. Families would have to invest in information and technological communication (ICT) equipment to allow students to work on schoolwork at home. That would require educating families of computing equipment requirements, software, and means to access the internet.

The expense of technological equipment could present a barrier for students and families of lesser socioeconomic status.  Whereas traditional education provides free textbooks to students, technology requirements could be significantly higher in cost. A traditional textbook could be used for more than one year, but software licensing for a student would be individual and not transferrable. If the application was custom designed for a school program, the cost could be even higher in development costs. The burden of paying for these applications could be paid in part by the school, but families will likely incur some added expense due to the scope and variety of technologies being used.

             Pedagogical limitations

             Persuasion is an inherent aspect of teaching, requiring educators to use a variety of persuasive measures to engage their students (Murphy, 2004). Persuasion is any message designed to change existing beliefs while representing new ones by capitalizing on current knowledge and beliefs (Murphy, 2004). Through building on these current ideas, an educator is able to slowly inform change in students. However, while technology has offered many opportunities for growth, “the education system remains rooted in a gray industrial past” (Cohen, 2011, p. 16).

Many educators are not familiar with persuasive technology and are uncertain how to utilize it effectively. Teachers that have already been effectively engaging their students and have proven successful could be particularly resistant to changing their methods. Often, it seems that educators attempt to circumvent technology, disallowing use of technologies such as wiki’s and calculators. They do not allow commonly assessed information routes in an attempt to maintain an academic standard, sacrificing tried and true methods to obtain answers that could be utilized into adulthood. Until educators are willing to embrace technology in all its aspects, shortcuts and all, education will not extend beyond memorization of textbook facts.

Conclusions and Future Study

Deliberate and “planned persuasive effects of computer technologies (Fogg 1999, p. 27) provides educators an alternate method to use in engaging students. There is no one-method-fits-all way to teaching, and having a variety of options addresses the diversity and variety found within any student body. Just as Dewey recommended in 1938 that education have students participate instead of spectate, teachers have an opportunity to utilize technology to get students to be participants (as cited in Barab et al, 2012). Some students excel at reading textbooks and synthesizing concepts into practical applications, however students vary in what they are capable of understanding. Educators should have a toolkit of ways to present information to students, with a variety of ways to engage them and compel them to learn. As the world becomes more technical, students are going to have to know how to proficiently navigate a computer, or some computing device.

Persuasive technology may not be more effective than traditional educational methods. If not, that does not mean it should be discarded. Students deserve to be exposed to technology as much as possible, because it is only going to become a greater part of their lives. If the advances within the last twenty years are any indication of the growth in technology that can be expected, students should be given every opportunity to become more proficient with different developing technologies. However, studies show promise in the effectiveness of persuasive technology in education, particularly in motivating students to stay engaged.

Further research is being conducted to examine the efficacy of persuasive technology in education. Simoe, Redondo, and Vilas (2012) began applying aspects of social games to the social educational environment to verify the validity of gamification in education. As an ongoing study, the researchers are tracking progress to determine if gamification provides better results than traditional pedagogy. Through an established social learning web application, Simoe et al (2012) have formed a framework for using gamification in social education. Only through ongoing study will the results of persuasive technology in education be evident.

References

Barab, S., Pettyjohn, P., Gresalfi, M., Volk, C., & Solomou, M. (2012). Game-based curriculum and transformational play: Designing to meaningfully positioning person, content, and context. Computers & Education, 58(1), 518-533. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.08.001

Cohen, A. (2011). The gamification of education. The Futurist. Vol 45(5), 16-17. Retrieved from http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/806087346

Collins, A. & Halverson, R. (2010). The second educational revolution: rethinking education in the age of technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26, 18-27. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00339.x

Dominguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., de-Marcos, L., Fernandez-Sanz, L., Pages, C., & Martinez-Herraiz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.12.020

Fogg, B.J. (1999). Persuasive technologies. Communications of the ACM, 42(5), 27-29. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/jXwPxg

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach US about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: 10.1145/950566.950595

Goh, T.T., Seet, B.C., & Chen, N.S. (2012). The impact of persuasive SMS on students’ self-regulated learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), 624-     640. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01236.x

Mintz, J., & Aagaard, M. (2012). The application of persuasive technology to educational settings. Education Tech Research Dev, 60, 483-499. DOI: 10.1007/s11423-012-9232-y

Murphy, K., & Alexander, P. (2004). Persuasion as a dynamic, multidimensional process: An investigation of individual and intra-individual differences. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 337-363. DOI: 10.3102/00028312041002337

Public Broadcasting Service. (2013). Interactive Whiteboard Games. Retrieved from http://pbskids.org/whiteboard/

Quest to Learn. (n.d.). Curriculum. Retrieved from http://q2l.org/curriculum

Simoe, J., Redondo, R., & Vilas, A. (2012). A social gamification framework for a K-6 learning platform. Computers In Human Behavior, 29(2013), 345-353. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.06.007

Wang, M., Shen, R., Novak, D., & Pan, X. (2009). The impact of mobile learning on students’ learning behaviors and performance: Report from a large blended classroom. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(4), 673-695. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00846.x

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Researching Incoming Graduate Students’ Information Behavior

Researching Incoming Graduate Students’ Information Behavior

Within the first few months of graduate study, the quality of my research greatly improved. My information behavior methods have become more sophisticated, and I now use previously unknown academically rich resources. Before starting the semester, citation mapping and chaining were not part of my research arsenal, and I never used advanced academic catalogs, such as the Web of Science. Certain factors contributed to my ignorance, including extended pauses in my academic career, being an older adult student, and unfamiliarity with university resources. The most astounding discovery from this information literacy growth has been the ironic realization that when entering the graduate program, I believed myself competent in information literacy, only to discover how much I was missing. This experience created an interest to learn about the information behavior of other incoming graduate students, and who or what forms their information behavior.

 Literature Review

Research abilities and information literacy skills

There have been several studies exploring the abilities of incoming graduate students, and these studies have evaluated whether incoming graduate students were prepared to accomplish the rigorous research required for their programs. Incoming graduate students have unique information needs due to the gap in expectations between perceived and actual research expertise. Monroe-Gulick and Petr (2012) considered that gap large enough to suggest the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) re-evaluate their graduate student standards, and use the current graduate student standards for undergraduate instruction. They suggested graduate student instruction should focus on the research process instead of general information literacy.

Chen and Lin concluded in 2011 that graduate students confuse familiarity with the internet for information literacy. Through their study at Carnegie Mellon University, George et al. (2006) found resource searching through internet search engines such as Google and Wikipedia were the most popular methods used by graduate students. Allen and Weber (2012) analyzed reference lists and found the journals being used by incoming graduate students were not the best sources for research studies, with students lacking the skill to distinguish the difference between evidence-based resources from opinion and general information resources.

The transition between undergraduate student and graduate student is abrupt, no matter if there is a lapse between enrollment, and a lack of information literacy skills during this process can hinder the transition. Students returning to school for graduate course work encounter challenges in academic difficulty and technological advancements (Allen and Weber, 2012). Chu and Law (2008) determined that the skill of graduate students does not meet the levels that are required for graduate research, and information search training is still needed at the graduate level to help students become competent at information searching.

Conway (2011) found the issue of students completing undergraduate study without the skills they need for graduate study troubling. Her study to determine the different in literacy skills between graduate and undergraduate students indicated the difference is “hardly overwhelming” (Conway, 2011, pg. 132). Undergraduate students typically have research topics assigned and research methods do not need to be extensive to fulfill course requirements. In contrast, graduate students are expected to determine their own research topics and to locate the appropriate research materials to study and substantiate ideas. This methodology is supported by Khosrowjerdi (2011), who found prior knowledge of subjects reduced barriers to information seeking during his study of graduate students at Tehran University. Students learning about a topic in class and then researching that topic have different research needs than graduate students selecting a topic for research, particularly for thesis papers. The research required for graduate study is more intense and self-directed, requiring higher levels of information literacy than undergraduate course work.

Guidance sources for research resources

Studies have investigated the people and sources graduate students utilize the most. Graduate students often rely on faculty to determine accepted standards of research resources within their specific academic program (George et al, 2006). Students utilize the resources suggested by faculty, limiting where research resources originate. Faculty mentoring and guidance during the research process influences students to use specific databases and particular information sources (Chen and Lin, 2010). Chen and Lin (2010) suggest faculty is the most influential in encouraging information literacy methods to incoming graduate students. It is during the initial stages of a research project that a graduate student depends the most on faculty and faculty advisors for research guidance (Barrett, 2005).

Interestingly, Barrett describes the lack of librarian guidance used by graduate students. He reported students agree on the value of librarians on locating materials, but otherwise they do not typically use librarians as a guidance source. In a longitudinal study, Rempel (2010) found graduate students did not think librarians could help them because they were not familiar and trained in their specific field. Graduate students typically do not consider using librarian assistance, and creating a relationship between librarians and students equivalent to that held by faculty has proven challenging (Monroe-Gulick & Petr, 2012). Increased contact between students and librarians will benefit the students’ information literacy skills (Barton et al., 2002).

Rasul and Singh (2010) determined that graduate students want libraries to provide more classes on information literacy, but they failed to mention how the library literacy classes were already being utilized to determine if this was a valid desire on the part of the students. In other studies, students have been surprised to discover information literacy and research classes were available (Sadler and Given, 2007).

Studies in improving information literacy skills

There have been several studies to determine what can be done to improve incoming graduate student’s information literacy skills. Rempel (2010) conducted a longitudinal study where graduate students were oriented by library reference staff on research methods and information literacy skills. These students showed increased research skills, and had greater ease in locating appropriate materials for use in their research. They also reported utilizing new databases and better understanding research resources. Although these students reported positive results, the instance of reference library and orientation use is still infrequent, with most graduate students declining reference librarians’ assistance for their research. Researchers Liu and Winn (2009) speculated that libraries are not promoting the various services offered, causing the students to be unaware the resources are available. This idea was supported by Sadler and Given (2007) when they discussed the affordance theory and how academic librarians should focus on promoting the library by creating a dialogue with students and faculty. Barton et al. (2002) suggested further research should be conducted to determine why students request additional classes and services, but do not take advantage of the classes and resources already available to them. Liu and Winn (2009) presented a study on the use of library services by Chinese graduate students at the University of Windsor. They reported that among the students who reported to have attended library literacy classes, everyone thought the time spent in the class was worth it, and stated the classes were helpful (Liu & Winn, 2009).

Psychological Barriers

Several researchers have studied the possible psychological barriers to incoming graduate becoming proficient in information literacy skills. Onwuegbuzie and Jiao (2004) explored the way anxiety can influence graduate students. Students that experience library anxiety have a difficult time understanding library resources, and have high instances of procrastination (Onwuegbuzie and Jiao, 2004). Anxiety affects research performance by inhibiting students’ ability to concentrate on research material and determining if the materials meet their research needs. Onwuegbuzie and Jiao (2004) suggested anxiety could prevent students from developing satisfactory library research skills due to misunderstanding signs or instructions, or refrain from seeking help.

Another barrier to incoming graduate student acquiring sufficient research skills is the issue of competency. Gross (2005) discusses the overconfidence incoming graduate students experience when entering their master level program. These students are unaware that they do not have the information literacy and research skills needed to successfully complete their programs. Some students are unable to adequately evaluate their work in comparison to other students, causing them to not consider their research inferior (Gross, 2005). This could be an explanation as to why new graduate students are not flooding libraries seeking to learn how to improve their research skills.

Research Questions after Literature Review

How would library orientation increase graduate student literary skills?

1.)  How would library orientation affect graduate student literary and research skills?

2.)  If library orientation is found effective, how would universities offer library orientation?

3.)  How should graduate student library orientation differ from undergraduate library orientations?

4.)  How would the issue of distance learning be addressed in library orientations and information literacy skill instruction?

Overcoming barriers to graduate students seeking reference librarian assistance

1.)  What causes students to have library anxiety?

2.)  How can students overcome anxiety in seeking librarian assistance? What tools do they need for this? (Anxiety-Expectation Mediation)

3.)  Is there a connection between information literacy skills and library anxiety? Do individuals who experience library anxiety have high or low literary and research skills?

4.)  How can incoming graduate students be educated about literary and research skills when they are ignorant of their ignorance? (Competency Theory)

Research Study Purpose

The purpose of this research study would be to answer the question of how incoming graduate students can be educated about library literacy and research skills when they are unaware of their lack of knowledge. These students are experiencing an academic transition requiring more effective and intense research abilities than were required as undergraduate students. Incoming graduate students often experience academic gaps between undergraduate and graduate study causing them to be unfamiliar with current research technology and methods. Students attending universities different than they attended as undergraduate students are unfamiliar with library resources due to being new to the university. This study will evaluate how effectively incoming graduate students evaluate their own library literacy in relation to research, explore their current knowledge of research resources, and their prior use of research assistance.

Study Questions

  • How would you rate your research abilities? (Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent)
  • What print resources do you use for research?
  • What online resources do you use for research?
  • What databases do you use for research?
  • Did you attend this university for an undergraduate degree?
  • Have you been to library orientation for graduate students?
  • Would you participate in a library orientation program for graduate students?

Why or why not?

  • How often have you discussed research goals with reference librarians as an undergraduate student?
  • Do you feel you could instruct others how to research effectively?

Study Methodologies

The research method would utilize currently established university orientation programs to survey incoming graduate students. Universities require students attend orientation prior to starting classes, and often have campus and online sessions. The survey would be distributed during these orientation sessions, and then collected or submitted during the session. An optional longitudinal section could be added to follow up on the initial survey results, with students who attend a library orientation taking the survey again after the library orientation.

Data Analysis

Survey questions would have either yes/no or short answer results. Charts and graphs would be compiled by response to look for commonality and trends. A comparison would be done between the initial self-assessment of research expertise in the first question and the final self-assessment of the ability to instruct others on research in the last question to determine validity of the expressed research expertise. A strong self-rating in the initial self-assessment that is not supported by the ability to teach research skills to another person might indicate a true lack of confidence in research ability. The data compiled from the responses for research resources and databases would support or refute the expressed proficiency. A lack of knowledge of research resources and databases do not exhibit a lack of proficiency, but advanced knowledge of research resources would indicate a higher level of expertise. Survey questions relating to familiarity to the university can be used to determine if students new to the campus are more or less willing to attend library orientation. Results will need to be evaluated to determine if students who have attended the university as undergraduate students respond differently than students new to the university.

If the longitudinal section is supplemented into the study, a comparison between the initial survey responses and the supplemental responses would be done. This would examine whether library orientation had significantly improved library literacy and research capabilities.

Benefits of Applied Research

A new graduate student walks into a library and goes to a database they were introduced to during graduate level library orientation. They enter into the database their research subject and find 100 resources, with at least half of the resources completely meeting the student’s needs at a cursory glance. The student enters in Boolean operators, and the results are refined to 30, with all of those resources seeming to meet the graduate student’s needs. The student is able to locate, obtain, or request all of those resources, and they go on their way.

Another new graduate student walks into the same library and goes to the same database. They enter into the database their research subject and do not find any resources. They remember from library orientation that the fewer words used in a search, the more likely they are to find resources. The student enters a generalized subject into the database, and still does not find any resources. They consider giving up the subject, as there does not seem to be any resources for that subject, but then they remember there are research librarians willing to help. The graduate student discusses their subject with a librarian, and together they find the needed resources.

A third new graduate student enters the same library. They enter into the database their research subject and do not find any resources. They try being more descriptive of the subject in hopes of finding resources, but still do not find any. They try several more subject searches in the database, all with no resources being found. After hours of fruitless searching, the student decides to give up and leaves the library without having found any valid resources for their effort.

Not finding research resources is typical. The first and second scenarios are the exception, not the norm (Yu and Young, 2004). Most incoming graduate students do not participate in library orientations, and are ill prepared for the intense research requirements found in graduate school.

Improving Information Services

The results of my research could form the policy for colleges and universities on programs for graduate level library orientation. These policies would require graduate level library orientation as part of the entrance orientation, or as part of the curriculum. Graduate programs could include library orientation as part of their programs for incoming students, similar in format to the workshops utilized by Rempel (2010). Faculty members would encourage students to utilize help from research librarians and participate in library workshops to improve research skills. Libraries could advertise research assistance through school email and websites, specifically targeting graduate students. The result would be improved research abilities for graduate students, enabling them to bridge the academic gap between undergraduate and graduate study. Understanding how to research properly can influence a graduate student’s entire academic career, and having the proper skills reduces stress from trying to meet the new expectations placed on them as they enter this new phase of academic life.

References

Allen, E. & Weber, R. (2012, March 29). Graduate students searching proficiencies in the selection of qualitative and quantitative journal references. The Journal of

            Academic Librarianship, 38(3), 130-134. DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2012.02.007

Barrett, A. (2005, July 15). The information-seeking habits of graduate student researchers in the humanities. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(4), 324-

331.

Barton, H., Cheng, J., Clougherty, L., & Forys, J. (2002, January). Identifying the resource and service needs of graduate and professional students. Portal:

            Libraries and the Academy, 2(1), 125-143. DOI: 10.1353/pla.2002.0014

Chen, K. & Lin, P. (2010). Information literacy in university library user education. Adlib Proceedings, 63(40), 399-418. DOI: 10.1108/00012531111148967

Chu, SKW. & Law, N. (2008, September). The development of information search expertise of research students. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science,

            40(3), 165-177. DOI: 10.1177/0961000608092552

Conway, K. (2011, June). How prepared are students for postgraduate study? A comparison of the information literacy skills of commending undergraduate and

postgraduate information studies students at Curtin University. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 42(2), 121-135.

George, C. A., Bright, A., Hurlbert, T., Linke, E. C., St. Clair, G., & Stein, J. (2006, January 1). Scholarly use of information: graduate students information seeking

behavior. Information Research, 11(4), paper 272. Retrieved from http://InformationR.net/ir/11-4/paper272.html

Gross, M. (2005). The impact of low-level skills on information-seeking behavior – implications of competency theory for research and practice. Reference and User

            Services Quarterly, 45(2), 155-162.

Khosrowjerdi, M. & Iranshani, M. (2011, Oct). Prior knowledge and information-seeking behavior of PhD and MA students. Library & Information Science Research,

            33(4), 331-335. DOI:10.1016/j.lisr.2010.04.008

Liu, G. & Winn, D. (2009, Sept 11). Chinese graduate students and the Canadian Academic Library: A user study at the University of Windsor. Journal of Academic

            Librarianship, 35(6), 565-573.

Monroe-Gulick, A. & Petr, J. (2012). Incoming graduate students in the social sciences: How much do they really know about library research? Portal: Libraries and the

            Academy, 12(3), 315-335.

Onwuegbuzie, A., & Jiao, Q. (2004). Information search performance and research achievement: An empirical test of the anxiety-expectation mediation model of

library anxiety. Journal for the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 55(1), 41-54.

Rasul, A. & Singh, D. (2010, December). The role of academic libraries in facilitating postgraduate students’ research. Malaysian Journal of Library & Information

            Science, 15(3), 75-84.

Rempel, H. G. (2010, November). A longitudinal assessment of graduate student research behavior and the impact of attending a library literature review

workshop. College & Research Libraries, 71(6), 532-547.

Sadler, E. & Given, L. (2007). Affordance theory: a framework for graduate students’ information behavior. Journal of Documentation, 63(1), 115-141.

DOI: 10.1108/00220410710723911

Yu, H. & Young, M. (2004). The impact of web search engines on subject searching in OPAC. Information Technology & Libraries, 23(4), 168-180.

Pinteresting Wedding Plans

This past July 22nd, my boyfriend of five years proposed while we watched the sunrise on the beach. It was five years, to the day, after we met and it was the first sunrise we had ever watched together. As the sun was slightly over the horizon, he took my hand into his and asked me to marry him. My response to his question was a happy and excited yes.

Part 1: My search for wedding planning information

            My next task, and what has consumed my life since I became engaged, has been the planning for our wedding and reception. I never realized the level of planning that goes into a wedding. My maid of honor, who coincidentally is working on her internship for event planning, highly recommended I start looking at Pinterest.com for ideas of what I might like and want to do. Since then, a day does not pass that I am not looking at something on Pinterest. Some days, an hour might not go by without me looking. Every time I sign in, there are new images posted setting my imagination awhirl. What I love most about Pinterest is that it contains easily found images of what other people are doing, or have contemplated doing, for their own weddings. I can type in “wedding favors” and see hundreds of images of what other people have collected and thought would be good wedding favors. I can then scroll through the pictures for ideas, and when I find one I like, I can click on the picture to link back to the original website that posted the picture. Frequently, the original website will indicate how to make the item or where it can be purchased, so I can shop and get do-it-yourself ideas at the same time. I can also re-pin my favorite images to my own boards, so locating the image/website/idea again later is possible. I can locate these images without having to hunt the internet or sort through a list of saved web pages while not really remembering what I am looking for at that particular site. Through Pinterest, I have chosen my wedding colors, invitations, ceremony details, reception decorations, wedding cake setup, and photography poses. I have read articles other brides have posted about how to keep wedding costs down, and etiquette on who is responsible to pay for what. I have even pinned timelines letting me know when I should have details finalized, and when I should pay for those details.

So, in less than two months, I have decided on most of my wedding plans. I have several decisions to make still, including which caterer has the best tasting food, but all the small details have been decided. I know what items are needed to be purchased and have a good idea on where to get it for the best price. Pinterest has provided the resources and ideas to start putting together my own dream wedding, hopefully one as romantic as my fiancée’s proposal.

Part 2: Pinteresting Information

Information

Boulding stated information is any message producing a change in our image of reality, which manifests as a “picture in our head” (as cited in Case, 2012, pg. 62). Gregory Bateson further defined information as significant differences perceived by an individual, regardless whether those differences are derived from physical or psychological sources (as cited in Case, 2012, pg. 46). When I became engaged, my image of reality changed when I realized I was going to have to plan an event for a large group of people. This realization developed from the psychological acknowledgement that my present knowledge base lacked the information and experience to accomplish this new image of reality. I did not know who I needed to hire or the inventory of items I would need to purchase. Even with aspects of a wedding I was familiar with, I was unaware of the options available to fulfill those needs in the wedding merchandise market.

Information Needs

            When I recognized my knowledge was inadequate to satisfy my goal, this generated a need for me to seek information to provide that knowledge (Case, p. 5). My initial information resource was my maid of honor. With her experience as an event planner, she knew I lacked sufficient knowledge about weddings to make decisions without first being aware of the many options available. She suggested my main information behavior be through searching the images posted on the Pinterest website, a searchable photo database inputted by users with images categorized by general topics for browsing.

My information needs continue to evolve while planning my wedding. The interconnected nature of event planning necessitates each aspect to be coordinated. No sooner do I resolve one issue before I identify another dependent issue needing to be addressed. Satisfying one information need leads to the realization of another gap in my knowledge, causing my information need to change during the process of seeking (Case, p. 84).

Information Seeking

To fill my information need, I began to look at the images on Pinterest, accumulating information to satisfy the information needs I was identifying through my search for answers. I started with familiar aspects of a wedding, such as bridal dresses, hair styles, and invitations. Those first images led to host websites, which provided articles and information about other aspects of weddings yet unfamiliar to me. My initial search for wedding invitations led to information about save-the-date notices. I learned it is popular for people to send save-the-date notices to people who will be traveling long distances so they can arrange their travel plans in advance. My wedding will be in New York, and a large number of the guests will have to travel to get there, so I decided in favor of sending these notices. After reflecting about the save-the-date notices for a few days, I realized I had additional information needs to understand how far in advance of the wedding I should send them out and how they are traditionally formatted. I went back to Pinterest and found many images of the notices, including another image that listed a chronological timeline of when wedding planning components should be completed. That list indicated when the save-the-date notices should be sent, and when the venue should be reserved, which also led to the realization that I needed to find the place where we will have the ceremony and reception. A pattern emerged of finding solutions to information needs, which then caused me to realize another information gap.

Information Behavior

My information behaviors include more than the active seeking of information from friends and through Pinterest. Tom Wilson stated information behaviors include “passive reception of information…without any intention to act on the information given” (as cited in Case, 2012, p. 90). Friends who are aware of my engagement or have seen my Pinterest wedding ideas board have given unsolicited suggestions and vendor referrals. I feel obligated to listen out of politeness, even though the suggestions and referrals are usually impractical. Contextual advertising, which is advertising based on web browsing activities, constantly invades my browser. Even now, I have an advertisement on my browser window stating, “Bridesmaid Dresses!  Classy dresses, free shipping, over 700 styles. Browse now!” I have no intention of following the advertising links, no matter how attractive the headline, but they are still there reminding me of additional information needs. I have also started to receive catalogs and mail for wedding products, although I have not requested any of it nor do I want to receive it.

John commented on my week02 blog post how Pinterest has become an integral part of social media, and it has become common to see the “pin it” icon next to images while browsing the internet (J. Yackulics, personal communication, September 9, 2012). This information behavior is shaped by using images to create a new image of a desired reality. My use of Pinterest demonstrates a willingness to use popular social media as an information source. Social media allows an instant exchange of ideas impossible to duplicate with printed material. In retrospect, I could have easily looked through books about wedding planning. If I had used published material, I might have understood all the aspects of event/wedding planning from the beginning of my information search. Instead, I wanted to know what is popular today, and not what was popular when a book was published.

Part 3: Applying the ELIS Model and the Theory of Least Effort

Savolainen’s ELIS Model

Reijo Savolainen developed the model of everyday life information seeking (ELIS) while interviewing “ordinary citizens pursuing nonwork activities” (Case, pg. 149). His information model differs from other models because he examines the information seeking of everyday life, and the overlap of everyday and work life. Isolating information seeking habits as work or non-work discounts the complexity of information seeking performed to fulfill multiple needs at once.

Studying the ELIS Model.

Lisa Given applied Savolainen’s ELIS model to a study of the information seeking of mature adult undergraduate students. The study included the reported information seeking habits of 25 undergraduate students at a single Canadian university who were at least 21 years old and who also had a gap in their higher education for at least three years. Givens reinforced through the study how “job-related information seeking and ELIS complement each other” (Savolainen, pg. 266), and should not always be considered separately.

Students in the study reported information needs to fulfill academic obligations, and separate needs “arose out of their engagement with the university” (Given, pg. 5). These needs included child care, employment, and housing, which they sought to fill through academic resources in spite of the need being outside of academic learning. The academic resources were used as primary information sources solely because they were the easiest and most familiar to engage, and because the students believed they would have the best solutions. The students later found the most appropriate solution did not necessarily originate from the university resources, but they frequently relied on these answers until another resource presented itself or their information need became dire.

The article further discusses how overlap behavior between everyday and work information seeking can influence each other. Given (2002) stated how a student “chose assignment topics related to her occupation, and used information from colleagues and other work resources for her studies” (pg. 8). Students utilize personal and social information resources in their academic work, saving time by combining everyday information seeking with work and academic obligations. Given suggests through her study that blending the purpose of information seeking between everyday and work life is common and beneficial for saving time and resources.

Applying the ELIS Model to my information behavior.

The ELIS Model is evident in my information behavior because of the nonwork nature of my information behavior. Through Pinterest, I am seeking information to plan an event and make purchases for a life event, and this behavior is not connected or directed by my work life.

Zipf’s Theory of Least Effort

            Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort indicates individuals will expend the least effort needed to satisfactorily accomplish their work (Case, pg. 175). This effort could be the positioning of often used tools close to the work area, using the same words repeatedly when writing, or using the same database to satisfy information needs (Case, pg. 175). The Theory of Least Effort states researchers will “take a path of least resistance when seeking information rather than focusing primarily on quality” (Bronstein & Baruchson-Arbib, 2008).

            Studying the Theory of Least Effort.

Jenny Bronstein and Shifra Baruchson-Arbib explore how Jewish studies scholars in Israel utilize information resources. The study included the reported information habits of 135 researchers from four universities in Israel, followed by an additional 25 researchers from various Jewish studies academic departments at the same universities. To avoid bias, the study was sent electronically and through the mail. Bronstein and Baruchson-Arbib (2008) reinforce through the study how operational difficulty does not significantly influence the scholar’s choice of information resources within the field of Jewish studies scholarship. Unlike most studies which corroborate the idea of researchers preferring online databases, Jewish studies researchers within this study did not indicate any preference to an electronic resource type. They indicated they were inclined to browse libraries hoping for “serendipitous discovery” (Bronstein & Baruchson-Arbib, 2008) and willing to wait extended periods for printed resource materials to become available.

The study also evaluates how academic research generalizes all disciplines within the humanities, and these finds do not take individual discipline’s needs and usage into consideration. The study explores how a specific group, in this case Jewish studies scholars, as atypical from generalized research results which typically reflect Zipf’s Principle of Least Effort. The researchers prefer to use traditional methods as they are effective resources for their discipline.

The study proposes Jewish studies researchers are not influenced by the difficulty of accessing a resource, but will choose information resources based on the quality of the information provided. Applying a model, paradigm, or theory to a broad group can give the wrong impression of the information needs of smaller subgroups. Only through further studies can the information of each subgroup be understood and used to make the process more efficient.

Applying the Theory of Least Effort to my information behavior.

The Theory of Least Effort is evident in my information behavior because of the first resource I decided to use, my event planner maid of honor. I decided without personal knowledge of her planning expertise to use her as my primary knowledge base. In retrospect, calling her and asking her what I needed to plan the wedding was not the most effective method, but it was the most convenient. Her recommendation to use Pinterest to learn about wedding planning was also the most convenient, instead of borrowing or buying books that would take me longer to read. The amount of time I spent viewing pictures on Pinterest could have been used for researching formal information sources, but instead I depended on social media for all of my information due to easy accessibility.

Part 4: Comparing and contrasting the results of my analyses

            My Pinterest use was initially shaped by my desire for the newest and most current information available for wedding planning, and my need to control and direct information resources while researching. Along with planning a wedding, I have the responsibility of working full time job and taking graduate classes full time, so I also wanted to acquire the information without difficulty.

Applying Savolainen’s (1995) ELIS model to my information search, a “mastery of life” (pg. 259) has emerged and I have solved “problems not directly connected with the performance of occupational tasks” (pg. 267). The ELIS model discusses how “mastery of life” can create order and influence decision making for everyday life projects, such as buying decisions, time budgeting, and enjoying hobbies (Savolainen, pg. 263). I have used Pinterest exclusively to explore my options for “money spent on the acquisition of various goods and services” being used for my wedding (Savolainen, pg. 263).

The ELIS model further discusses two vitally important dimensions of information seeking which include the “seeking of orienting information concerning current events and second, to seeking of practical information which serves as the solution to specific problems” (Savolainen, pg. 272). When I first became engaged, I initially sought orienting information from another person, who then recommended Pinterest as a better orienting resource. Dervin (as cited in Case, 2012, pg. 177) explains how common it is for people to rely “on close friends and relatives for their information” based on the Theory of Least Effort. I explored Pinterest to determine how a wedding is typically planned, and obtained an overview of what decisions must be made. I then explored Pinterest in further detail to find practical solutions to the specific issues needing to be resolved. In the end, Pinterest has familiarized me with wedding planning, and it has also offered real world information which I can use to resolve my individual wedding planning issues.

Another aspect of my information behavior has been how I have linked my Pinterest use as an academic topic in multiple classes this semester. Savolainen’s ELIS model discusses the non-work information seeking habits of ordinary people, and it also discusses the complimentary relationship between non-work and work information seeking (Case, pg. 149). To isolate each aspect can be misleading because combining the two can explain how many information decisions influence each other. Many models focus on work information needs, and exclude “way of life” (Savolainen, pg. 263) aspects from being an influence. The information study by Lisa Givens made me recognize how my own academic information behavior has frequently reflected my personal and professional goals. The majority of my academic life has been as a mature student and I have used nonacademic experiences to inspire my research topics and information needs. In doing this, I have saved time by connecting my academic, professional, and personal information seeking techniques.

 

 

References

Bronstein, J. & Baruchson-Arbib, S. (2008). The application of cost-benefit and least effort theories in studies of information seeking behavior of humanities scholars: the case of Jewish studies scholars in Israel. Journal of information science, 32(2), 131-144.

 

Case, D.O. (2012). Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior (3rd Ed.). Bingley, UK: Emerald.

 

Given, L. M. (2002). The academic and the everyday: Investigating the overlap in mature undergraduates’ information seeking behaviors. Library & information science research, 24(1), 17-29.

 

Savolainen, R. (1995). Everyday life information seeking: Approaching information seeking in the context of way of life. Library & information science research, 17(3), 259-294.

 

Information Needs and Uses: A Review

A review of:

Dervin, B. & Nilan, M. (1986).  Information needs and Uses. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 21, 1-26.

Main Points Made in Presentation

Traditional Paradigms & Studies – These studies have been used to explain differences among respondents of information behavior dimensions with common predictors.

  • Demographics
  • Sociological
  • Lifestyle
  • Task Description

Discussion Questions:

  • Are studies based on demographic, sociological, lifestyle, and task description predictors the most effective in assessing information behavior?
  • How do we assess information behaviors through these studies? How it is used?

Traditional Information Needs Assessment Approaches – Approaches that imply knowing how users have or might use systems, it is possible to know what their needs are or might be.

  • Demand on System/Resources Approach
  • Awareness Approach
  • Likes-Dislikes Approach
  • Priorities Approach
  • Community Profile Approach
  • Interests, Activities, and Group Membership Approach

Discussion Questions:

  • Do these approaches define system needs or user needs?
  • How do they assess system needs?
  • How do they assess user needs?

Paradigm Shift Debate
Alternate Paradigms & Studies – Suggested alternative to traditional perspectives of information needs and uses research.

  • Objective vs. Subjective
  • Mechanistic, Passive vs. Constructivist, Active Users
  • Situationality vs. Trans-Situationality
  • Atomistic vs. Wholistic Views of Experience
  • External Behavior vs. Internal Cognitions
  • Systematic vs. Chaotic Individuality
  • Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

Alternate Information Needs Assessment Approaches

  • User-Values Approach – Perceptions of utility and value.
  • Perceptions of utility and value – How people make sense of their worlds and how they use information and resources in the process.
  • Sense-Making Approach – People in problematic situations with views of the situations that are incomplete or limited in some way.

Discussion Questions:

  • How are these Alternate Approaches similar to each other?
  • How do they differ from Traditional Approaches?
  • How do they assess user needs vs. system needs?

Conclusion

While this article has been one of the more challenging articles to understand, it was important to read due to the explanation of traditional assessment approaches and the suggestion of alternate assessment approaches. Through the class discussion, we were able to establish that traditional assessment measures address system needs and not user needs. The suggested alternate approaches explore different ways of assessing user needs, and challenge information behavior research to go beyond the statistical and become individual. Further study is needed to research user needs that go beyond common predictors and instead investigates actual information behavior using wholistic views of experience.

Information Needs and Behavior of Incoming Graduate Students: Initial Exploration

Concepts and Themes

Incoming graduate students research abilities and information literacy skills

Incoming graduate students have unique information needs due to the gap in expectations between perceived and actual research expertise. Undergraduate students typically have research topics assigned and research methods do not need to be extensive. As graduate students, it is expected that they are able to determine their own research topics and to locate the appropriate research materials to study and substantiate ideas. The research required for graduate study is more intense and self-directed, requiring higher levels of information literacy than undergraduate course work. The transition between undergraduate student and graduate student is abrupt, no matter if there is a lapse between enrollment, and a lack of information literacy skills during this process can hinder the transition.

Who graduate students typically rely on for guidance on research resources

Graduate students often rely on faculty to determine accepted standards of research resources within their specific academic program. Students utilize the resources suggested by faculty, limiting where research resources originate. Faculty mentoring and guidance during the research process influences students to use specific databases and particular information sources.

Improving information literacy skills in graduate students

In select studies, graduate students were oriented by library reference staff on research methods and information literacy skills. These students showed increased research skills, and had greater ease in locating appropriate materials for use in their research. They also reported utilizing new databases and better understanding research resources. Although these students reported positive results, the instance of reference library and orientation use is infrequent, with most graduate students declining reference librarians’ assistance for their research.

The role of anxiety in libraries

Students that experience library anxiety have a difficult time understanding library resources, and have high instances of procrastination. Anxiety affects research performance by inhibiting students’ ability to concentrate on research material and determining if the materials meet their research needs.

Research Questions after Literature Review

How would library orientation increase graduate student literary skills?

1.)  How would library orientation affect graduate student literary and research skills?

2.)  If library orientation is found effective, how would universities offer library orientation?

3.)  How should graduate student library orientation differ from undergraduate library orientations?

4.)  How would the issue of distance learning be addressed in library orientations and information literacy skill instruction?

Overcoming barriers to graduate students seeking reference librarian assistance

1.)  What causes students to have library anxiety?

2.)  How can students overcome anxiety in seeking librarian assistance? What tools do they need for this? (Anxiety-Expectation Mediation)

3.)  Is there a connection between information literacy skills and library anxiety? Do individuals who experience library anxiety have high or low literary and research skills?

4.)  How can incoming graduate students be educated about literary and research skills when they are ignorant of their ignorance? (Competency Theory)