Elective Courses – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

2.3 The Times They Are a-Changin’

When looking back the last 20–30 years it seems that IL teachers have done it all—from library instruction to virtual librarians, from searching to citing, optional courses and credit-giving courses, from lectures to problem-based teaching methods. As in most other areas of our society, change is necessary in educational institutions to develop teaching methods better adapted to student needs. Meeting new (and old) challenges for libraries means sticking your head out in the world to find new ways of doing things, improving the old ways of doing things, or simply doing something completely different. In this last part of this chapter, we will look at possibilities for change in IL teaching.

As the world and society around us change, so do we. Even though teaching methods in academia are far from revolutionized, there have been changes, and this should be reflected in the way we teach IL. The typical lecture and seminar teaching methods used for hundreds of years in academia are slowly being supplemented by other ways of supporting learning. The increased use of technology in society means that education can now take place whenever and wherever.

Increased focus on higher education and a changing job market has led to a huge increase in young people seeking an academic education. With such a variation in student demography, new challenges have appeared in higher education. Many students struggle to complete their degree. Some find it hard to adapt to learning the “academic” way, i.e., through individual work, self-discipline and an internal motivation to learn. With few guidelines on how to follow the academic path, it is no wonder that some strive to find their way.

What is emerging in current IL teaching is less of a focus on technical skills, and an increased focus on learning. The latter is not exactly new, but is more necessary than ever because of the above-mentioned variations in the student demography, a changing job market, and because of the increased availability of technological devices. We see a “move from providing teaching to support learning” (Virkus, 2003, p. 45).

Virtual learning environments, online tutorials, digital instruction, flipped and blended teaching: These are all elements of modern education. Flexible teaching and learning methods open up for more people taking higher education, regardless of geography, or social or economic background. This has also influenced the way universities teach information literacy. If a part of the student population no longer is present on campus, the IL services need to be offered off-campus as well. A reflection on the differences of teaching face-to-face and online therefore needs to be considered, as we will return to in Chapter 6, Teaching It All.

On a more administrative level, it is almost impossible to talk about library changes without mentioning money. The cuts in library budgets that are experienced almost worldwide, clearly affect services at libraries, and opportunities are limited for librarians who want to take further education, travel to conferences, buy new equipment for online teaching and so on. Even more worrying is the downsizing of staff, not just in libraries but also in the educational sector in general. Can we manage on the same level as today or even increase teaching activities with fewer staff?

Establishing practical and well-functioning routines for IL teaching is important to all educational institutions. Overcoming the obstacles is not always easy and demands perseverance, tact and long-term strategies. Read more about how to deal with IL challenges in Chapter 6, Teaching It All. In the next chapter, however, we will explore important aspects of how learning takes place, and how to accommodate the learning process in the best possible way.