Developing information literacy skills can be challenging, especially in an online environment. One strategy is to use an embedded librarian and an online search tool to promote the development of information management skills in an online evidence-based practice (EBP) course.
The main function of an embedded librarian focuses on bibliographic instruction such as assisting students in the development and mastery of effective search techniques. Immersion of campus librarians could prove instrumental in building students’ health information literacy skills essential to research. The relevance of a research problem can be supported by an embedded librarian by assisting students in reviewing, critiquing, and ranking manuscripts related to the health question. Thus, a nursing research course provides a logical context for the assessment of information management competencies and use of an embedded librarian.
In collaboration with another institution, graduate library science students were enrolled, or embedded, in the online courses, providing an additional resource to nursing students while also earning graduate credit in their own library program. The course instructor was responsible for ongoing supervision of the library students assigned to the research courses. The embedded librarian was enrolled as a teaching assistant and stayed in contact with students throughout the semester, sending out regular e-mails and suggestions. The embedded librarian assisted students in developing appropriate search techniques, helped to ensure that sources used were credible, and assisted students in developing properly formatted bibliographies.
Students’ comments reflected the perceived usefulness of the embedded librarian, although one student suggested that the embedded librarian should have conducted the searches for them. Future research is needed to explore the use of embedded librarians in online classes as the experience level of embedded librarians may have significant impact.
The online search tool was developed to provide structure to the formative review of literature assignment. The tool consists of rows that correspond to the six levels of Stetler’s evidence hierarchy (1998). The columns direct students to required design components for each level and suggestions for search engines, databases, and key words to assist them in their search.
The tool was also used to provide feedback on the formative search prior to completion of the final EBP paper. The EBP assignment focused on quality indicators from an ongoing quality initiative within a state-wide department of corrections. The quality indicators used included measures of routine health screenings. Students were able to select indicators of interest.
Identification of appropriate literature and completion of this tool constituted the formative assignment for managing information. The summative EBP paper further developed the review of literature, addressing aspects of information literacy related to integrating, analyzing, applying, and presenting information, and was rated using the department outcome rubric.
The managing information survey was used as a pre- and posttest measure of self-perception of information literacy. It is a 10-point Likert scale in five areas that include searching and screening, integrating, analyzing, applying, and presenting abilities (Ku, Sheu, & Kuo, 2007). Students reported a perceived increase in information skills of 22.6% for all five areas of information management.
Embedded librarians and online search tools are useful to students as they develop information literacy skills related to searching for and screening information. Using these strategies for formative and summative assignments allows students to develop additional information literacy skills needed to integrate, analyze, apply, and present information.
Janice Putnam, PhD, RN
Diana Faltermeier, MSN, RN
C. Jo Riggs, PhD, RN
Karen Pulcher, MSN, RN, APRN
University of Central Missouri
Royce Kitts, MLS
Emporia State University