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Digital Campus : "Réseaux.doc : Training in Information Skills"
How to Locate Information?
Experimental training courses for first year DEUG (Preliminary Degree Course) :
English - Comparative French Literature

Thanks to the close collaboration between the various partners, and also between the disciplines: the professors in methodology, civilisation & literature of LCE (Foreign Languages, Literature and Civilisation) and LEA (Applied Foreign Language), along with the IT Education Research Service (SER), who provided a computing room at Clignancourt 4 hours a week and with Michèle Thèry, in charge of tutors, who appointed a tutor for training in information skills, it was possible to set up this experiment at the start of the academic year in 2001, as approved in the Digital Campus scheme (obtained in July 2001) and described in issue n°9 of the university newspaper "Nouvelles de Paris-Sorbonne" (November-December 2001, La Documentation à Paris IV, p.17).

Led by a counsellor, who was trained with the involvement of the Joint Library Services, and substituted by a tutor in the second semester who also benefited from the same training, we were able to set up 20 groups, spread over the whole year, in first year English at DEUG (Foundation) level. From February onwards, we will try to extend this training to the second years if any places are available, as we have chosen to begin with a short introduction of 5 hours over 5 weeks, just one hour per week. The programme was developed with the help of URFIST (Regional Units on Technical and Scientific Information) - and their long experience. Students can always consult the CERISE web site (Student Support for Information Literacy in Research) to refresh their memories of the training course "How to Locate Information?" http://www.ccr.jussieu.fr/urfist/cerise

The idea that drives us is to make students, from the first year, aware of the importance of acquiring skills, not only of acquiring ease in using research tools, but in skills which should allow them to master their subject better and should be a support to help them succeed throughout their studies. The aim is to make new tools available to students who, simply by mastering them, could obtain real gains in time and performance. However, it is clear that this does not mean they only need to 'click' for a degree.

By examining the issues they have to study with our Civilisation colleagues, for example, we have adapted our research programme with elements that the students will need later to better assimilate their courses, such as "Foreign policy in Great Britain through the headlines of various newspaper". This is only one example from many in the Civilisation curriculum.

The same work can be done in American or English Literature for the authors studied on the programme. In French, First year Modern Literature DEUG (Foundation) level, DLM100F1/F2 : Methodology, Literary Documentation, New Technologies, a lecture was given at Malesherbes thanks to the collaboration of Professor Mélanio and Professor Murun, with whom we attempted a duo on Balzac's "La Peau de Chagrin" (Shagreen): access to the BNF (French National Library), analysis of bibliographic notes and editions, use of search engines, recommended sites to consult, warning about the limits of the Net. Moreover, the speakers insisted on the necessity of always cross- checking in the old hard-copy catalogue if necessary, to ensure that information obtained, certainly more rapidly, is accurate and offers the required guarantee of quality for research.

This work was possible thanks to the teachers in charge of practical courses, who attended the training and then went over points with students and tutors during small group sessions, with further investigations on sites mentioned.
This year, it is important to develop a programme that answers the needs of first year students. The English student-supervisor has started to develop this by writing an initial report about a ten-week experiment carried out with ParisX-Nanterre, our partner and motivating force in the Digital Campus project. She produced a questionnaire at the start, and evaluations after 5 weeks of training. Her first report will soon be available on the site that we are constructing for Réseaux.doc with Nanterre. It will be possible to consult this work, which will show the exercises done, on the Paris IV site.

Besides the problems of simply manipulating Word functions, and knowing its possibilities and safety instructions, students also need to learn note-taking, summary techniques, as well as how to use search engines. For the moment, five hours is short but it's a start. We hope in this way to give students a taste for methodological investigation practices, combined with keeping a critical distance, which could lead them either to the world of research or to the outside world. Indeed, companies are more and more open to EDM (Electronic Document Management) as seen in the feasibility study which we were asked to do this year. Students can consolidate these exercises by using the self-access sessions in the computing room or the library.

In the future, we hope to be able to propose this programme as a "free credit unit" that can be adapted to each discipline, as universities are required to propose training in methodology since 1997 during the first semester of the first cycle (preliminary degree or foundation level in French universities).

Because of the difficulties experienced by the students for all that concerns information retrieval, and in view of their considerable lack of knowledge in methodology, this project aims to provide training that structures documentary research and the use of paper or electronic documentation: introduction to consulting Internet and using databases; CD ROMs and Internet navigation (printed bibliographies and databases); sources and documentation sites; networks and hypertext; analysis of multimedia documents; use of tutorials, digital images, & digital cartography; using the web as an authentic document.

For the moment, participation in the "Information Skills Tutorials" is voluntary and we have observed differences compared to regular tutorial groups. It is already clear how useful "library" tutorials are, but we are hoping that this formula will appeal more to students, with a more structured and better adapted content which answers real and immediate needs during their studies. Meanwhile, the methodology teachers are trying to find a way to give value to this training for students who have put effort into it.

At the same time, we are training the teachers thanks to URFIST (Regional Units on Technical and Scientific Information) and the untiring help of Claire Panijel, who many colleagues now know because of the numerous information skills training courses she has organised. Indeed it is crucial that teachers themselves be informed, helped and trained: this is obviously one of our concerns.

Three training courses, with 15 participants each time, took place at the URFIST main office, for French and English professors, as well as Legal Science Professors from Nanterre. The first one was about research on Internet, the following ones about preparing documents for publication on Internet using publishing software. Another will take place in February on digital image processing. These sessions always begin with an explanation of key concepts and hands-on computer practice for each of the participants. Subsequent training courses are planned with the help of Ms. Chassaing and the training division of Paris IV, on putting courses online or using software like Dreamweaver (Website creation).

The main principle is to integrate ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) into the curriculum of each discipline. We are preparing to extend this experiment to other levels. It is already the case for an English Cultural History elective at Licence (degree) level, which uses online resources and at masters level (French third cycle).

For all the student-supervisors at the Sorbonne Humanities CIES, the Sorbonne Centre for Initiation to Higher Education (177 candidates this year), this training was requested by the CIES Directors and has existed for three years. The professor Marie-Madeleine Martinet and myself have regularly given conferences (14th January in 2002 at Malesherbes), drawing part of our documentation from the Jojnt Library Services and from URFIST.
Since this year, we have also done some for the doctoral students in our Doctoral School "Civilisations, Cultures, Literature, Societies" on documentation methods relevant to these disciplines.

We publish research aids on the Research Centre and Doctoral School sites (summaries of documentation training courses, lists of useful sites), which allow students to revise and to follow-up points studied. Consult : http://www.cati.paris4.sorbonne.fr (information skills training)
and the IV Doctoral School sites (http://www.paris4.sorbonne.fr ) see "Recherche ED IV"

It is possible to compare and evaluate experiments at symposiums and exhibitions where we present this experiment, as in the recent French Education Show. It is important that ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) become convenient, integrated research tools, not the be-all and end-all, nor a miracle remedy for all the problems in teaching and research - I will very likely entitle the next article "The Language of Aesop".

Liliane Gallet-Blanchard
Associate Professor of Electronic Communication.
Joint Director of the CATI Research Centre (Cultures Anglophones et Technologies de l'Information - English-speaking Cultures and Information Technology).
Project Leader for Digital Campus "Réseaux.Doc": Training in Information Skills

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