Monday, September 17, 2012

Ready for the Real World?

Life has no textbook.
As professors work to prepare university students for their futures outside the classroom, they should keep this in mind and strive to introduce students to a diverse set of materials. To be sure, textbooks are useful, as they gather information in one place and present a single coherent view of a subject. In the world of elementary and secondary education, this is acceptable. However, university graduates must be able to gather their own information and address the different perspectives found in those sources.
For students, having the freedom and responsibility to work independently is an essential part of higher education. Some professors might have worries, however. What if they do not use the right sources? What if they do not select the best bits for quotation or paraphrase? They must be taught, of course! Critical thinking skills are vital and this is what they should be learning here at the university. If they learn these skills, they will be better equipped to deal with the “real world” where an overflow of information — much of it biased — will rain down upon them. Would we rather have graduates who are overreliant on a single source?

Here at UDC, the Learning Resources Division is the strongest ally of professors and students. The mission of the university library is to collect, organize, and provide access to materials that support the mission of the university. Here is the gateway to the wider world of information. Here is a collection that has been carefully examined and selected.
How many of this semester’s assignments require your students to go beyond their textbooks? For the projects that do, have you set clear standards for the sources they should use? Have you explained how to evaluate sources? Have you yourself examined the library holdings in your discipline so that you know what is available? Remember that the Learning Resources Division welcomes the input of faculty regarding acquisitions.
Assignments that require students to make use of outside sources should also ask them to become familiar with the different formats and platforms that exist. Have all your students used an e-book? An archival database? A historical newspaper? A journal aggregator database? A streaming video collection? Now is the time to make them aware of these and to guide them to the appropriate resources for their assignments. LRD faculty and staff are here to assist, whether with in-class instruction, informal consultations at the level 5 reference desk or via chat or e-mail, or one-on-one tutorial sessions. See the link below for more information.
Future posts on this blog will highlight some of these resources and also examine strategies for discovering and collecting information in an organized way that avoids the haphazard approach used by many inexperienced information seekers.
Michael Fitzgerald, Electronic Services Librarian

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