Promoting the Development of Information Literacy Skills: A Problem-Based Learning Perspective Utilizing a WebQuest


This poster includes the use of WebQuests and librarian-faculty partnerships to promote the development of information literacy skills among undergraduate students in an online environment through problem-based learning. Information literacy instruction is also enhanced through the availability of online tutorials that utilize graphics to guide students in the use of electronic resources. Creating problem-based learning WebQuests with faculty offer librarians an opportunity to provide college students information literacy instruction in the context of course work. The nature of the instruction, through the WebQuest and tutorials that contain numerous illustrations, remain especially well suited for the current generation of students who seek visual and interactive learning environment rather than traditional teaching.

Research underscores the success of information literacy instruction through problem-based learning in the context of course work. Problem-based learning represents the ability to identify a problem, analyze possible solutions, implement a plan, and present the solution. Information literacy complements problem-based learning and both concepts enhance the growth of skills that support lifelong learning. The WebQuest appears especially well-suited for faculty-librarian partnerships in providing information literacy instruction through a distance learning environment since the structured format complements the steps associated with problem-based learning. In addition, the problem-based learning WebQuest exercises offer students a hands-on approach to practice their information literacy skills on seemingly real-world problems.

The author utilized the templates available from the San Diego State University WebQuest portal to create problem-based learning activities for a hypothetical unit designed to promote the development of information literacy skills in an undergraduate class for education majors. In each WebQuest students work collaboratively on problem-solving activities to identify the problem, generate possible solutions, analyze the solutions, and present the plan. Although these WebQuest remain geared for freshmen education students, librarians can adapt the exercises to other disciplines through the use of problems and resources relevant to that field. Preparation for these WebQuest exercises requires students possess familiarity with the resources available from their college library webpage as well as basic information literacy skills. For these WebQuest exercises the author also created tutorials to provide basic information literacy instruction in support of the problem-based learning exercises. The author, a doctoral student in instructional technology at Towson University, designed the project for a class assignment aimed at online learning environments. A wealth of literature on problem-based learning and WebQuests for information literacy instruction supports her thesis.

The learning outcomes include: gaining search expertise in identifying the problem and utilizing appropriate keywords for searches, selecting relevant electronic resources, performing simple, field, and Boolean searches, as well as evaluating the relevancy of search results for commercial databases and websites. Students also gain experience in problem-based learning.

Each WebQuest contains a rubric that serves as the method of assessment for the problem-based learning exercises. A rubric represents a form of measurement that allows teachers to evaluate student’s performance through the appearance or absence of specific criteria. The rubric utilized in this learning environment rates student groups performance from an information literacy perspective on five activities associated with the learning environment including: the identification of the problem, the databases and websites selected, the search strategy employed, the presentation of the results, and the contents of the bibliography.

Lastly, assessment considers the student groups improvement from the first to the third WebQuest since participants presumably developed information literacy skills and problem-based learning experience from the previous exercises. Ideally student groups’ rubrics will show improvement over time. Research suggests assessment outcomes remain entwined with student’s prior exposure to problem-based learning.

Learning Outcomes:

  • To develop experience in identifying the information need and utilizing appropriate keywords to locate relevant material to solve a problem.

  • To perform simple, field, and Boolean searches, as well as evaluate the relevancy of search results from commercial databases and websites.

  • To gain experience in problem-based learning, especially in identifying the information need, crafting a search statement, devising a solution, and presenting the plan. In this exercise students also obtain exposure to the graduate school application process and community service opportunities.
  • Presenter:

    Barbara Blummer
    Doctoral Student, Instructional Technology, Towson University
    and Librarian, Center for Computing Sciences





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