Changing Mountains into Molehills
Information Literacy Training - IN THIS AGE of LIMITS - challenges or mountains as
I like to call them and especially DURING a merger both national and institutional –
the CREATION of EQUAL Information Literacy Training is NOT an easy MOUNTAIN
The MOUNTAIN of Combining IFL skills across campuses
Who at the Start of the merger were faced with what seemed to be insurmountable
Not having the:-
• Same facilities in place
• Insufficient training staff
• Different concepts – of what to include in InfoLit training
• Insufficient funding
• Students – many from more disadvantaged rural areas were info illiterate
Can take YEARS to achieve!
I would like to spend the next few minutes looking at HOW in this age of limits - we
LEVELED THE MOUNTAINS and moved onto SUCCEED at Tshwane University of
Step 1: To pulverise a mountain - identify the mountain
Mountain 1: Unequal Life skills
Our first mountain was the merger of our tribes under the banner of “equality in
As you know South Africa has gone through a metamorphosis in the last few years.
The majority of the students being accepted into our university lacked the knowledge
or skills to access and evaluate information correctly both printed and online, but
This new found freedom for all people to gain access to the university, posed
massive challenges to TUT as far as Information Literacy training was concerned.
The information and technology infrastructure was there but according to a short
survey I ran with 1st years over a period of three years, the incoming population were
technologically unskilled and information illiterate due to the fact that most of them
had never used a library – school, public or media centre and at the time of the
merger many had not even touched a computer before.
Mountain 2: The Institutional Merger
The second mountain was the merger of Technikons into one university. One of the
new merging partners had all the technology, infrastructure and fixed modules in
place, while other merger partners had next to nothing.. This mountain went hand in
hand with the ‘resistance to change’ mountain and the ‘the way we do it is the right
You know the motto of the 3 musketeers – ‘all for one and one for all’ well it took a
few years before the training became a melting pot of input from all the partners and
the final Information Literacy course with its modules to be set in place.
Mountain 3: Meetings
When you sit with a challenge like we have with campuses as far afield as Witbank,
Soshanguve and Emalangeni etc, we soon learned that Skype is an easy way to
communicate – just using the text box. Topics that need detailed discussion are
circulated via email in advance of the meeting for pre-reading. PowerPoint or videos
that need watching are dropped into DropBox a free online file sharing site, where all
the trainers can access the uploaded information and download them for pre-
evaluation. This keeps meetings short and effective and minute keeping a dream
come true as everything is captured by way of the text box.
Step 2: Agree on the Goals you are aiming for
Without a common goal your training is like a car without a steering wheel.
We had to ask ourselves what are the competencies of an information literate person
and how were we going to identify what they needed as an individual and how we
would meet their needs.
Special attention had to be taken icw the needs of students coming from rural or
disadvantaged backgrounds. E.g. within the content we found a need for defining
computer, library, Internet and Database terminology and this was built into all our
I found the easiest way is to work from what they know in their everyday life as a
foundation and build on that to train them up in what they don’t know.
[hide] Content for InfoLit had to cover:-[only read headings - just have on a slide ]
o Knowing what different resources are available – printed, online or
o Knowing how and having the practical skill to access the resources
o Knowing and having skills as to where to start the search
to find information - Librarian, online, printed, multimedia
o Having practical skills to do the search in multimedia, printed or online
material as independent researchers
o Being able to sift through the information (process) and evaluate
(disseminate) it as suitable for their tasks.
We ended up with 4 modules all done in PowerPoint. This brought us to Step 3-
Step 3: Identifying Innovative Trainers and Training methods to
reach the senses and also bridge the skill gap
Once we had the content in place we had to identify innovative ways to address
information literacy skill learning to involve the whole person. When it comes to gaps
in information literacy skills then just presenting a verbal training does not meet the
total need. It’s not just an ‘ear’ that walks into the training room –it’s a student with
five senses to learn through, some with predominately left and others with
predominately right brained learning preferences. One such way is linking visual with
audio as part of the learning process and this we did via different methods.
Use Innovative Trainers
Identify and use Trainers that can function comfortably within an innovative
training environment and bring innovated ideas to the table. Pulling lecturers
into assisting with evaluation of content and even assisting with training – just
to mention it is a road that we are starting to follow,
Trainers with Passion
Not every librarian makes a good Training Librarian. Use people with passion
for teaching and passing on skills - do not use people who are scared of the
methods they have to use, or so negative that the session is done in
monotone and boring. The passion to pass on life skills to students must
come from within. It’s not something you can teach someone.
Once students have met ‘Librarian Google’ they will write off InfoLit training if
they are not captured by how you present the modules, your knowledge base
and your passion in what you are presenting.
Photos add a virtual tour
My first action was to photograph the whole library and all its sections so that
during training the student would have a visual of what section I was talking
My next action was to work together with Teaching and Learning with
Technology who are the department at TUT that adds the ‘wiz and bang’ to
training. I registered with them to produce short video clips to enhance the
verbal training e.g. How the Dewey Decimal Classification was established
historically and how we use it. These are either uploaded or linked to
I brought the Information Literacy sub-committee on-board and together we
were able to write the content to guide the video producers in what we
MyTutor – Making tutorials available
These video clips are also uploaded onto TLwT local server – they host it for
us via MyTutor and they are made available via a secure online connection for
viewing if a student wanted to revise what they heard and are also suitable for
distant education students.
Go where the students are
Our Facebook science library page filled with useful internet addresses, short
articles, video tutorials and has a world-wide following.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
On YouTube institutions and video houses have created short 5 – 12 minute
video clips that are suitable for Information Literacy training. High quality clips
can be obtained by simply writing to the author or publisher and either paying
for the copy or getting a sponsored download from them.
Video Clip Insert Demonstration
Step 4 Experiential Learning
Experience brings change – when you are actively involved in the learning process –
it cements the facts and skills into your life, and that is what we want to achieve –
training that is part of life-long learning and forms foundational information literacy
life skills. Based on the idea ‘never teach something, a student could discover for
themselves’ I put methods in place that made this learning happen.
.Experiential Learning means you have to Think out of the Box
The main object in any training situation is you. You have to invest in yourself – to
expand your methods and ideas to pass on information. Today’s generation want
instant gratification and answers. Their concentration span is diminishing especially
when it comes to listing to facts. They are used to TV where everything is visual, or
computer games where everything is interactive. You as a trainer have to be sold out
on what you want to share – and think out of the box. If you are going to reach this
generation you have to bring not just your knowledge and facts but also involvement
of the students in a way that identifies as ‘their world’.
There has to be a skill/truth learned that brings about change
The old saying goes “you have not taught unless there is change”, and to achieve
this you have to meet a need. People learn when needs are met.
In a University class you have to build a set of needs for them. They don’t necessary
know on the outset what skills they need or how the training will benefit them. No
one is going to listen if they do not know the reason and benefit for them of being
there. So right from the start you have to get them on-board by selling the training’ to
them as beneficial to their studies and give the reasons why.
Don’t be predictable
If I am going to be facing the same group for several weeks I do not want to be so
predictable that they know what’s coming each and every time. This goes hand-in-
hand with the following point.
Invest in yourself
Start to build a library of ideas, methods and visual aids. Have a feedback section
where you log the pros and cons of the idea that you tried.
Keep your methods fresh by subscribing to mailing lists on relevant methods or
scour the Internet including online videos and adding idea found there to your
Library. Attend conferences and courses both face-to-face or online that promotes
I bring those ideas that I find to the training and test them- then I adjust it, keep it or
I have to change and stay flexible and open to ways to train when it comes to
training each new generation with their own new quirks and learning styles.
Fun verses Fear
Students are highly competitive and working in teams means you can balance the
stronger academic with those who were disadvantaged. Training Life Skills does not
have to be straight laced – it can be fun. The students I meet, have just come out of
high school. They will learn quicker if the fear factor is removed and they have fun
and learn in the process. Working with groups takes the pressure off the individual to
perform and when you have fun – fear takes a back seat and learning occurs.
Idea 1: After a session of theory – Questions get put to a team based on the theory.
If they answer correctly they get to spin the revision wheel. Each colour on the wheel
is worth different points and the winning team is the group with the highest points.
Idea 2: An inter-team row for row answering questions with scores attached to ‘easy,
hard or expert’ choices also raises the competitive level. All you as a trainer has to
do is fill in the gaps of knowledge if you see the answers are incorrect.
Idea 2: Harvard Referencing. They divide into teams and all get given photocopies
of needed info e.g. title and transverse pages, a journal and an online article which
they have to reference according to TUT Harvard Reference guide which they all get
given – this exercise allows for much needed practice in the use of its contents.
We use BlackBoard to create online question banks that are useful for revision or
assessment. Even these we try to be as creative as possible and we do not just use
the monkey puzzles. [demo slides]
Success – Mountains to Molehills
TUT Library and Information Services - like most academic institutions in South
Africa faced the prospect of having to change mountains into molehills – and at TUT
the InfoLit Trainers are doing just that - one innovative, interactive, passionate -
Information Literacy Training module at a time.
SAOIM SA Online Information Conference
I am pleased to advise you that your paper Changing mountains into molehills has
been accepted for presentation at SAOIM 2012.
Your provisional time slot will be 14:00-14:20 on Wednesday, 6th June. Please note
that owing to the large number of papers this year, your presentation must be
limited to 15 minutes only, with 5 minutes for questions. You should take this into
account when preparing your talk. Also keep copyright restrictions in mind when
preparing your presentation and please make sure to reference and acknowledge all
photos/graphics/articles used to prepare your presentation.
All required documents and information must be submitted to Adèle van der Merwe
(AvdMerwe@csir.co.za) by the deadlines specified below:
The abstract of your paper, as submitted in your proposal, will be used in the
conference programme – if there are changes, please submit your revised abstract
by the 4th May.
Please provide an abbreviated CV (1 paragraph) for the programme by the 4th
All presentations will be pre-loaded before the conference and therefore must be
submitted by the 28th May at the latest. In addition all presentations will be
published on the conference website immediately after the conference. Please
let Adèle know should you have any objections to your presentation being
Presenters receive a complimentary registration for the 2-day conference. Please
note this does not include pre- or post-conference workshops or the SAOIM evening
Lastly, thank you for your participation and we are looking forward to an exciting and
successful conference. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
Madelein van Heerden
Chair: SAOIM Organising Committee