UNL 205X: Information Literacy
Quarter 1 (8W1) Fall 2011
Instructor: Professor Trudi Jacobson
Title: Distinguished Librarian & Head, Information Literacy Department
Office Location: LI 107D
Phone: (518) 442-3581 Fax: (518) 442-3088
Office Hours: Mondays 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. or by appointment
Course Day & Time: Wednesday, 9:20 to 11:20 a.m. Section #4264
Location: University Library Basement, Room LI0048
Course Web Page: http://library.albany.edu/usered/unl205
Information is an extremely necessary and valuable commodity in today’s world. Information is far
more accessible than it ever was, and is generated by a far broader range of authors than ever
before. Indeed, you yourself are an information producer, and you may be publishing some of this
information publically on the Web. Because of this incredible abundance, it is imperative to be able
to efficiently find information and to critically assess and evaluate it and the sources in which it
appears. In this course, you will interact with a broad range of information sources and strategies for
finding information. You will practice using your skills in the context of a team-based wiki on a topic
connected with information in today’s world. There will be a focus in the course on a wide range of
ethical and social issues connected with finding and using information, from plagiarism to the effects
of technological access, not only to increase your exposure to different viewpoints, but also to
empower you in your own decision making processes. UNL 205X meets the Information Literacy
General Education requirement. Please see the end of the syllabus for more details.
When you leave this class, you will have gained or honed the following skills that will be important in the
workplace or in graduate school:
1. You will know where to look to find the information you need. If you don’t know immediately, you
will have strategies to determine where to look.
2. You will know that appropriate format, as well as creator and quality of the information, will affect
where you look.
3. You will have effective skills for finding the information you need, without wasting time.
4. In conjunction with the knowledge you gain in your major, you will be an effective evaluator of the
information you find. This will help you with your projects or reports.
5. You will be a good resource for others whose information finding skills are less developed.
These skills will increase your value to employers, as well as your skills when researching job
opportunities and preparing for interviews.
Each student is expected to contribute to an environment conducive to the learning of all students. This
contribution includes, but is not limited to:
Respecting the opinions of others
Being prepared to participate actively, both in the class as a whole, and in your team
Taking responsibility for your learning and progress in the course
Helping your team and the rest of the class to learn, and allowing others to help you learn
Seeking help from the instructor as needed
Students are responsible for knowing and following the policies. University policies are outlined in the
Undergraduate Bulletin (http://www.albany.edu/undergraduate_bulletin/regulations.html).
This course will be using a Team-Based-Learning (TBL) format (www.teambasedlearning.org). This
instructional method aims to help develop your workplace learning skills and will be done in a way that
will hold teams accountable for using course content to make decisions that will be reported publically
and subject to cross-team discussion/critique. During the first class, you will be assigned to a team with
approximately 5-6 students. You will sit with your team during all classroom sessions.
Phase 1 – Preparation: You will complete specified readings/videos/tutorials for each module.
Phase 2 – Readiness Assurance Test: At the first class meeting of most modules, you will be given a
Readiness Assurance Test (RAT). The RAT test (containing multiple-choice questions) measures your
comprehension of the assigned readings, and helps you learn the material needed to begin problem
solving in phase 3. Once the test period is over, the instructor gives a short mini-lecture to clarify
concepts that are not well understood as evidenced by the individual test scores. The purpose of phase 2
is to ensure that you and your teammates have sufficient foundational knowledge to begin learning how
to apply and use the course concepts in phase 3. RATs are closed book and based on the assigned
Individual RAT (iRAT) – You individually complete the multiple-choice test based on the readings.
Team RAT (tRAT) - Following the iRAT, the same multiple-choice test is re-taken with your team.
These tests use a “scratch and win” type answer cards known as an IF-AT. You negotiate with
your teammates, and then scratch off the opaque coating hoping to reveal a star that indicates a
correct answer. Your team is awarded 4 points if you uncover the correct answer on the first
scratch, 2 points for the second scratch, and 1 point for the third
Appeals Process - Once your team has completed the team test,
your team has the opportunity to fill out an appeals form. The
purpose of the appeals process is to allow your team to identify questions where you disagree
with the question wording or ambiguous information in the readings. Instructors will review the
appeals outside of class time and report the outcome of your team appeal via a Blackboard
message. Only teams are allowed to appeal questions (no individual appeals). Only teams that
appeal will receive any extra points that are awarded (if any).
Feedback and Mini-lecture - Following the RATs and Appeal Process, the instructor provides a
short clarifying lecture on any difficult or troublesome concepts.
Phase 3 - In-Class Activities: You and your team use the foundational knowledge, acquired in the first
two phases, to make decisions that will be reported publically and subject to cross-team
discussion/critique. We will use a variety of methods to have you report your team’s decision at the end
of each activity. Sometimes you will write your answer on small whiteboards or on large Post-It sheets,
and other times a short worksheet will be completed, and then random teams will be selected to report
their findings to the rest of the class.
Most writing assignments will be submitted through Blackboard, and teams will be using a wiki to
present their work.
Because of the structure of the course and your team’s reliance upon every member, you need to
attend regularly in order to do well.
1. Class attendance policies:
Readiness assessment tests are generally given at the beginning of class, and once one
starts it is not possible to take it if you arrive late.
Work done during class is integral to the course, so this work cannot be made up. Your
team will be counting on your participation. Please let your teammates know ahead of
time if you are unable to attend a class.
o It is always the responsibility of the student to know when assignments are due.
o In order to show exact formatting, you must type citation and annotation
assignments. I do not accept handwritten citations and annotations. Submit these
assignments in Word or rtf files via Blackboard before midnight on the day before
o Please write “This is my work and only my work” on each assignment you turn in or in
the Blackboard submission comment box. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense and
may result in a failing grade for the course. I will also report it to the Office of
Undergraduate Education. For more information on plagiarism, go to
3. Please turn off personal electronic devices before class starts. In order to protect the
computers, only water can be brought into the classroom.
4. Incompletes are not given for this course.
Grading and Course Requirements: Scale
Grading (A-E grading system) A 1000-926
14% Discussion posts on Blackboard B 865-826
24% RATs (divided between individual & team) B- 825-796
10% Individual research guide components C 765-726
7% Individual social media resource C- 725-696
25% Team wiki
8% Team presentation D- 625-596
12% Team peer feedback and assessment E 595 and below
5% Extra credit available
Course Discussion Forum Posting Assignments (7 posts: 5 responses, 2 news alerts)
Threaded discussions will be used in the course to highlight information issues and breaking news
with information literacy-related content. Depending on the week’s assignment, you will be
responding either to one of my posts or to one of your classmate’s posts. Grades will be based on the
quality and depth of your responses. You will earn more points if you effectively respond not only to
the initial discussion posting, but also to others’ comments. You will also bring two such information
literacy-related news stories to the attention of the class. These posts are due before midnight on
September 13 and October 4. When you alert the class to a news item, you also need to comment
perceptively on it, relating it to issues we’ve discussed in class. Thoughtful, in-depth posts will
probably be in the range of two substantial paragraphs. Brief, perfunctory, or unoriginal responses
will earn few points. Please be civil and considerate in your posts.
Your final course project is a wiki-based information guide, produced collaboratively by your team. This
guide will provide solid evidence of your team’s understanding of the material highlighted in this course.
Consider it, too, as a guide for novice researchers on the topic you are addressing. You should create
your wiki guide with these interested users in mind. The information guide will contain those elements
bulleted below and on the next page. I encourage your team to use the team discussion forums I will
create within Blackboard to facilitate communication.
Submit individual assignments that contribute to the team wiki via Blackboard before midnight on the
day preceding the class meeting, as follows:
Week Two: Research strategy worksheet with preliminary thesis statement, ideas for narrowing the
topic, and search terms.
Week Three: Book and print specialized reference book (cited and annotated).
Week Four: Two articles found through databases—one must be from a scholarly journal and the
other must be from a popular or professional magazine or newspaper. These articles should not be
Web-only articles such as those found on CNN.com or similar sites. Cite and annotate both. Also
submit your database review/comparison.
Week Five: Primary source citation and annotation. Also, a creative yet informative work on your
team’s topic developed using a social media tool such as Prezi, Dippity, XtraNormal (posted to
YouTube), or another tool of your choice. Share this item with your teammates at the same time you
submit it to me.
Week Seven: Completed team wiki guide.
The final wiki-based research guide will contain the following components, presented in an aesthetically
pleasing and functionally effective way:
Indication of the wiki’s components, with a way to maneuver between them.
Thesis Page: This page will include your team’s thesis statement, and a narrative of
approximately one page that indicates how key items in the research guide helped you prove
or disprove your thesis statement, what surprising elements you learned about your topic,
and what other researchers should be careful about when searching the topic.
Annotated bibliography: See next bulleted list for full specifications.
Analysis of a valuable library subscription database with comparison to a second, less helpful,
database. Includes a helpful and focused search strategy for the best database.
Links to one or more social media items that team members have created, with explanations
of what they are and why they are important for your team’s guide.
An example of a website providing misinformation on your team’s topic, along with
The grading rubric that your team has filled out. Bring this to class, or submit it as a Word
document through Blackboard.
The annotated bibliography portion of the wiki should contain the following arranged in an order that
your team thinks is the most helpful to readers:
A specialized reference source in book format (not electronic, nor a general encyclopedia,
Two articles (one popular, one scholarly)
One primary source
Use the MLA page in CitationFox (linked through Blackboard or available through the library’s website),
or the 7th edition of the Modern Language Association of America’s style manual, MLA Handbook for
Writers of Research Papers (ReadyRef LB 2369 G53 2009, also available in Reference) to make certain
your citations are written correctly.
Required and suggested readings for this course are available through Blackboard. The writing
assignments, videos, and other course materials are also there.
#1: Goblin Threat Game (15 points)
If you complete this game successfully by September 14 and send (or bring) your confirmation of
completion page to me, I will give you fifteen points toward your final grade. Register with your name
as you enter the game, so you will have proof of playing the game at the end.
#2: Convincing Other Students of the Importance of Information Literacy (up to 35 points)
Develop a creative product (artwork, short video, song, poem of at least 20 lines, engaging Prezi or
PowerPoint presentation, series of a half dozen or more Twitter posts accessible via a distinctive hashtag,
creation of an IL-focused Facebook group which attracts UAlbany members, etc.) in which the goal is to
convince UAlbany students who have not yet taken the information literacy general education
requirement of the following:
The importance of being information literate in everyday life
Possible consequences of not being information literate
There is obviously no “right” response to this assignment. I am looking forward to enjoying your
creativity. To be eligible for full points, you will want to do some research on the importance of being
information literate, and provide evidence of this research in your product. Points given will be based
upon covering the two bulleted items just above and incorporating information gained through your
research. Please feel free to ask questions of me if you are interested in this assignment, and wish
further information. You must submit your product, either electronically or in person, by class time on
October 12. If you are willing to share your product with your team, the rest of the class, or even more
broadly, on the UNL Website, that would be much appreciated!
August 31 / Class 1
Class 1 Topics:
Introduction, students’ introductions
Team selection process and explanation of team-based learning
Review of syllabus and class policies
Readiness assessment tests (individual and team)
What does it mean to be information literate?
Introduction to wiki and team topics
September 7 / Class 2:
Assignments due for Class 2
1. Respond to discussion topic before midnight on September 6.
2. Read: Finding Context: What Today’s Students Say About Conducting Research in the Digital Age.
3. Read: How to Write a Thesis Statement.
4. Complete the Research Strategy worksheet individually: draft thesis statement, major concepts,
synonyms, and related terms. Submit through Blackboard before midnight on September 6.
5. Watch: The three Minerva virtual demonstrations (basic, advanced, subject searching).
6. Watch: The Reference Universe tutorial.
Class 2 Topics:
Readiness assessment tests
Methods of finding and accessing information
Online catalog, Minerva
Style guides, citation and annotation formats
Team work on wiki: formulating your thesis statement & selecting search terms
September 14 / Class 3:
Assignments due for Class 3
1. Thesis statement and initial search terms are on team wiki. Consider bubbl.us, mindomo, or another
concept mapping tool for displaying the search terms.
2. Identify one book and one specialized reference book in print format on your team’s topic (not a
general encyclopedia). Type the citations with the accompanying annotations for both. Label each at
the end of the annotation, either (book) or (reference book). Due before midnight on September 13.
3. Respond to this week’s discussion topic before midnight on September 13.
4. Post a link to an information literacy news story along with your thoughtful comments about the
issue before midnight on September 13.
5. Read: Using AND, OR, and NOT (Boolean Operators).
6. Read: Annotation Guidelines.
7. Watch: Finding Articles Tutorial with Audio. This was developed for another university, but the
general information they provide is not site-specific. Once you have watched the tutorial (you do
not need to complete the quiz unless you’d like to), go to the University Libraries’ Website, and
identify the link that will allow you to access our databases. Go to the “search by name” entry for
Academic Search Complete. Read the “About” file, which is to the right of the database name.
8. Read: Characteristics of Scholarly Journals, Trade Journals, and Popular Magazines.
9. Optional: Complete the Goblin Threat Game and provide me with the completion page with your
name on it if you would like extra credit. (See page 6 of the syllabus.) Due by class time on
Class 3 Topics:
Readiness assessment tests
Periodicals: scholarly journals, popular magazines, trade journals, newspapers
Electronic databases: selection; search strategies: Boolean operators, fields, controlled
Team work on wiki: adding entries for best book and print reference book, reviewing accuracy
of the citations and quality of the annotations
September 21 / Class 4:
Assignments due for Class 4.
1. Book and reference book citations/annotations are on team wiki.
2. Cite (actually, all you have to do is give the complete name of the database) and annotate the
database that you found most useful for your team’s topic. Analyze the database features, indicating
specifically those that were advantageous. Provide an effective search strategy. Also note any
problems you encountered using this database. In the second part of this assignment, compare your
preferred database to one that was less helpful. Explain clearly what led you to this judgment. Due
before midnight on September 20.
3. Write citations and annotations for two articles on your team’s topic: one must be from a popular or
general periodical (this can be a magazine or newspaper) or trade/professional magazine, and one
must be from a scholarly journal. These articles MAY NOT be articles posted on a news Web site,
medical Web site, etc. You need to use databases to identify the articles for this assignment. At the
end of the annotations, label each source: (scholarly article), (popular article), or (professional
magazine article). Due before midnight on September 20.
4. Respond to another student’s discussion thread before midnight on September 20.
5. Read: Best Bet Search Tips, The World of Search Engines (including the linked sections on general,
meta, concept categorizing, and vertical search engines), The Deep Web, and Finding Scholarly
Content on the Web.
6. Read: Primary and Secondary Sources (both for the Humanities and the Social Sciences and for
Class 4 Topics:
Primary and secondary sources
Web search engines and effective Web search strategies
Introduction to data visualization
Team work on wiki: adding entries for 2 best articles, reviewing accuracy of the citations and
quality of the annotations, selecting best and less good databases and providing required
September 28/ Class 5:
Assignments due for Class 5.
1. Two article citations/annotations and the database review with search strategy are on team wiki.
2. Use a Web-based social media tool such as Prezi, Dippity, XtraNormal (posted to YouTube), or
another tool of your choice to enhance the information your team has found on its topic. This
project is initially an individual project. Be creative yet informative. Submit the link to instructor and
team members before midnight on September 27.
3. Identify one primary source on your topic, cite and annotate it. Label it (primary source) at the end
of the annotation. Due before midnight on September 27.
4. Respond to the week’s data visualization discussion topic before midnight on September 27.
5. Read: Evaluating Web Content.
6. Read/Watch: Items in the Data Visualization folder in Blackboard for Week 5.
Class 5 Topics:
Readiness assessment tests
Evaluation of Web- and print-based information
Team work on wiki: primary source, accuracy of the citations and quality of the annotations,
wiki design and structure
October 5/ Class 6:
Assignment due for Class 6.
1. Primary source citation and annotation are on team wiki.
2. Watch A Fair(y) Use Tale.
3. Find, cite, and annotate a website that provides information that is false or unreliable.
4. Post a link and your thoughtful comments about an information literacy news story before midnight
on October 4.
5. Complete your peer assessment form for your team members.
Class 6 Topics:
Legal aspects of information: the copyright conundrum
Team work on wiki: writing thesis page, adding social media tool(s) and unreliable source,
additional formatting of the wiki, reviewing content
October 12/ Class 7:
Assignment due for Class 7.
1. Complete the team wiki. (See pages 5-6 for the components.)
2. Respond to the specified discussion topic before midnight on October 11.
3. Team completes wiki grading rubric (one per team). Turn this in at the start of class or submit via
4. Optional: Complete creative project for extra credit. (See page 6 of the syllabus.).
Class 7 Topics:
Information ethics continued
Short time for last-minute work on the wiki
Team presentations of their wikis
Characteristics of all General Education Courses
1. General Education courses offer introductions to the central topics of disciplines and
2. General Education courses offer explicit rather than tacit understandings of the procedures,
practices, methodology and fundamental assumptions of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.
3. General Education courses recognize multiple perspectives on the subject matter.
4. General Education courses emphasize active learning in an engaged environment that enables
students to be producers as well as consumers of knowledge.
5. General Education courses promote critical inquiry into the assumptions, goals, and methods
of various fields of academic study; they aim to develop the interpretive, analytic, and
evaluative competencies characteristic of critical thinking.
Information Literacy General Education Courses
Information Literacy General Education courses introduce students to various ways in which
information is organized and structured and to the process of finding, using, producing, and
distributing information in a variety of media formats, including traditional print as well as computer
databases. Students acquire experience with resources available on the Internet and learn to evaluate
the quality of information, to use information ethically and professionally, and to adjust to rapidly
changing technology tools. Student must complete this requirement within the freshman or
Rev. August 22, 2011