CSU is working to prepare students for the workforce

Helping students learn Internet research skills

Contact: Clara Potes-Fellow, (562) 951-4800, cpotes-fellow@calstate.edu
Carlos Munguia, (562) 951-4817, cmunguia@calstate.edu

(March 4, 2005) -- The California State University system is creating a way to measure students’ Internet research skills, which have become indispensable in today’s modern academic and work environments.

Students often use the Internet as the first resource for research and to identify other resources when they do class papers. The CSU is working to prepare students to discriminate between credible and non-credible information on the web.

Students at all CSU campuses have volunteered to take a test that measures Internet management skills or, in academic lingua, “Digital Literacy.” Currently, students are “testing the test” to identify technical glitches that might come up as students undergo the computer-based assessment.

For example, students at CSU Long Beach are probing the test and at the same time learning about the quality of their research skills.

Cal State Long Beach student Christina Asi can recall not learning academically correct and ethical steps in citation, copyright, and on-line searching until she reached her junior year in college. It was at this point that she took a research and methods course required by her journalism department prior to graduation.

“After taking this course, I understand more about the importance of copyright, properly choosing credible online databases and citations,” said Asi. “The course also helped me understand how easy it is for students to plagiarize work without realizing it sometimes.”

Based on similar experiences of other students, the CSU is responding to the challenges brought about by the Information Age by implementing information assessment at its 23 campuses.

The CSU is a leader among seven universities that are working with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that helped develop the Information Communication Technology Assessment.

The test evaluates the students’ skills using computers and online databases to conduct research and write papers. The test also evaluates how students manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information indispensable to function in a knowledge-based society.

The CSU, a system of nearly 400,000 students, began in 1995 to look at student preparation in information skills. With the help of its librarians, faculty, and instructional technology specialists, the CSU began to assess changes in students’ habits and the use of new technologies as educational tools.

“Students no longer frequent the university library where books and other sources have been carefully chosen by highly trained librarians based on the academic respectability of the source,” said Lorie Roth, CSU assistant vice chancellor of academic programs. “Students now are able to access databases from the comfort of their own home, cut and paste onto research papers, oftentimes doing it without taking into account copyright and citation rules.”

The assessment is aimed at three key audiences, said Barbara O’Connor, communications professor at CSU Sacramento. O’Connor also served on an International ICT Literacy Panel conducting tests in Europe and South America.

First, it will benefit CSU students entering their junior year and high school students preparing to be accepted into a CSU campus, O’Connor said. This means that it could be implemented as a capstone experience of general education courses at the CSU and also help the university assess the information literacy skills of community college students intending to transfer to the CSU.

A second key audience is upper-division students who would benefit from a more in-depth assessment of their information-seeking and information-using skills.

A third audience will be any other student who wants to be aware of her/his academic abilities or limitations. Either way, the objective is to academically prepare students from any discipline or college level for the workforce and for advanced study.

The ETS ICT Literacy Assessment will require test-takers to utilize basic technology as a tool to find solutions, perform management tasks such as extracting information from a database, developing a spreadsheet, or composing an e-mail summarizing certain research findings.

According to Roth, universities are turning their attention to the lifelong skill of learning how to learn: how to educate students to find, evaluate, and effectively use information that is constantly changing.

The CSU hopes to make the assessment available to its students statewide in early 2006, to help them in their college years and in the future as they prepare for work and life after college.

Students who take this test in early 2006 will receive an overall score as well as subscores in four different areas: define/access, manage/integrate, create/communicate, and evaluate.

For more information about the ICT assessment, please contact Lorie Roth, CSU assistant vice chancellor of academic programs, at (562) 951-4779 or lroth@calstate.edu, or Ilene Rockman, CSU manager of the Information Competence Initiative, at (510) 885-2446 or irockman@calstate.edu. To learn more about ETS, go to www.ets.org/ictliteracy.

To learn more about the CSU’s work to improve students’ information competence skills, please go to www.calstate.edu/LS/infocomp.shtml.

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Last Updated: March 8, 2005

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