Creating a 16-week LIS 101 class takes a lot of work. If your administration is like mine, you will need to plan out the class in its entirety before even approaching administration about the possibility of actually offering it. When you approach them to tell them about this great idea you had for a class, the first thing they will want to know is: which other schools will accept it for credit? Oops. You hadn’t thought that far ahead, had you?
Just so you know what you are getting yourself into, here are the steps we had to take at my school, a two-year, urban community college that is part of a seven-college system. If you are at a four-year university, some of these steps may not be necessary.
1) Decide what you are going to teach. That means creating student learning outcomes (that is, what students will be able to do AFTER learning what your class is teaching). We recommend basing these outcomes on an agreed-upon definition of what your field is about. In our case, the ACRL has neatly summarized what we do.
You can easily break the definition of information literacy down to its component, measurable parts. Ie. After taking LIS 101, students will be able to:
- Determine the extent of information needed
- Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
- Evaluate information and its sources critically
- Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
- Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
- Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally
Even with the Framework adopted by the ACRL Board in 2016, the outcomes remain much the same. Though the Framework provides a much fuller explanation of what we teach, concepts such as authority being constructed and contextual, information creation is a process, scholarship being a conversation, and so on, are merely putting finer points on the outcomes associated with the earlier definition of information literacy.
2) You will need to create a master syllabus for the class which details the objectives, outcomes, classroom policies, and weekly schedule. Much of that information should be boiler plate at your school. You will, of course, provide the outcomes, objectives, office hours, weekly schedule, and so on. For more information on this, see here.
3) Present your master syllabus to your school’s curriculum committee or other commensurate body that determines what can and cannot be taught at your school. They will no doubt have invaluable suggestions about what you have left out. After you make whatever corrections or additions they recommend, you can present it again for approval.
4) Approach your state’s state coordinating board for community colleges (if applicable). Your school will almost assuredly have support professionals in place within its administrative framework to reach out to accrediting agencies and the like.
5) Get articulation agreements with transfer schools. Your administration will have a list of schools that your students frequently transfer to. You will need to write those schools and obtain articulation agreements, which are agreements that schools will accept classes for transfer credit. This is a key bargaining chip with administration, which may be less concerned that students are information literate than they are that students can apply the class toward graduation at State U.
6) Get faculty and student buy-in. You will need to have faculty in other departments supporting what you are doing so they will be more inclined to recommend your class to students as well as to build learning communities with you.
7) Market, market, market, market! You need students to sign up for your class, so you have to promote the class constantly! Reach out to the other departments to build learning communities, to student advisers to tout the short- and long-term benefits of the course, and to student groups to express the importance of information literacy skills for their classwork and future careers.
If this seems like an impossible task, keep in mind that administration may have people in place who can help you. If you are concerned that administrators will not be receptive, consider gathering allies before you approach them. Librarian Amy Mars provides a useful framework for performing an environmental scan. Following her recommended steps will help you recognize the stakeholders in your institution who can help.
It is an involved process but well worth the effort. Your students will be graduating with a much better understanding of research skills and the complex information landscape they will have to navigate to participate in the global, networked community.