December 2011 No.79  
   In this issue

Collaborative delivery of holistic instruction to information systems students: a case study from the Li Ka Shing Library


The Li Ka Shing Library at the Singapore Management University (SMU) has worked with the School of Information Systems (SIS) to design a hands-on training programme to develop research skills in first-year students taking the IS101 (Information Systems Management) course.

The IS101 course introduces students to an overview of fundamental business concepts with an emphasis on the challenges of managing the integration of business and technology. In this course students are required to use the library’s resources to conduct subject research and use Media Wiki as a platform to do group projects. The IS101 teaching team approached the Li Ka Shing Library and Integrated IT Services (IITS) to develop two training components for the IS101 course. Research for Your First Assignment was offered as a customized library training to introduce SIS students to basic research methods, the library collections, and advanced search skills in both multidisciplinary areas and subject areas.

   New Beginnings: Adding Value

Developing and applying effective search skills, making effective use of library resources and appropriate citing of sources are some of the learning outcomes of IS101. The IS101 teaching team felt students did not use proper research methods nor possess effective search skills. In 2009 the library was brought in to provide a training programme for students. The library partnered with IITS to package the training with the Media Wiki training into a two-hour programme. The author, who is also the Research Librarian for SIS, discussed the curriculum with the IS101 teaching team and designed the training with the specific needs of the IS101 students in mind in order to help them prepare for their first assignments. All first year SIS students need to register for this training which is normally held after hours on weekdays during Week 3 and Week 4 in Term 1, just before they begin to research their first assignments.

   Instruction in 3-D: Designing, Developing and Delivering

The library training was taught hands-on with an activity sheet which was developed around a case study in IS topics such as cloud computing in government and collaboration tools. Students learned how to retrieve information using advanced techniques and features from both multidisciplinary and subject databases. The case study topics change every year to reflect ‘hot topics’ in the IT industry. Students were guided on how to build complex search strings, realizing in the process the importance of narrowing their search results using filtering facets. The Research Navigator for SIS was also introduced to the students as a one-stop research portal. Given that they are new students, the research guide will help them throughout their academic journey in SIS.

Reflecting on the experience and past feedback, the IITS trainer and the author decided to schedule the two hour training back-to-back from 7pm to 9pm during three weekdays. Each training was one hour long and this allowed more students to attend at their preferred times and dates. The library, the instructor from IITS and the teaching team from SIS conducted six sessions. Over 93 percent of IS101 students registered and over 81 percent attended in 2011, which is an exciting improvement over the last two years.

   What they said

This year the results from the feedback survey that was conducted at the end of every training session indicated that the training was successful, with a total of 95 percent of the students rating it as Good (64 percent) or Excellent (31 percent) as reflected in the chart.

Other highlights from this year’s survey were: Over 99 percent of the students thought the trainer was well prepared given the effort expended in customizing the course. Over 96 percent reckoned they would use the resources and skills introduced to them. The introduction of new resources and new search skills and the usefulness of the training were appreciated as reflected by 95 percent of the students. 94 percent thought the training content was delivered effectively.

The bar chart illustrates graphically more rating details (5 for strongly agree and 1 for strongly disagree):

Reviewing the open-ended feedback, some commented: I had a better understanding of using the research tools. The session covers all information I want and need to know. I can search much more effectively now. To be able to use sources such as Safari. Knowing SMU has this database is really awesome.

Overall, students felt that the training programme enhanced their ability to conduct research. Informal feedback from the IS101 teaching team was that they saw an improvement in the quality in students’ research assignments and the sources used. Review, enhancements and modifications to the programme are done every year in collaboration with the IS101 teaching team and IITS to further increase its effectiveness.

   IS101: What’s Next?

The Research Librarian, who is also the author of this article together with the IS101 teaching team, is designing a library curriculum for the students. The library curriculum will be defined in Learning Outcomes Measures (LOMS) for School of Information Systems (more information available here). The Research Librarian has identified niche outcomes such as search skills as areas where she can add value by offering programs to equip the students with the necessary skills. This will be offered in 2012.

Contributed by: Ms Wei Xia, Research Librarian, Information Systems, Li Ka Shing Library. Email contact:

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