Evaluation of the "Information Retrieval Skills - Agri220" module in the Faculty of Science and Agriculture at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
An evaluation was conducted on a credit-bearing module that has recently become compulsory for second year students in four of the six schools in the Faculty of Science and Agriculture at the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg. The module was based on a course that has been run for Agriculture students since the 1980s. The module "Information Retrieval Skills" (Agri220) is run over a two week period at the beginning of the first semester and covers the library computer catalogue, OPAC and other retrieval tools such as print-based abstracts and indexes, SABINET Online and the CD-ROM databases in the library. The study sought to determine students' perceptions of the Agri220 module, to determine whether the outcomes as described in the Agri220 module template were evident in students, and to determine the use students made of the library. The method that was used in the evaluation was summative, and thus conducted after students had completed the module. Furthermore to find out their views about the contribution of the module to their studies, the study focused on students who had done the module over a year previously. The respondents were students in the School of Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness as these were the students for whom the module was compulsory in 1999. A survey was done of five third year classes , which consisted of both third and fourth year students, and questionnaires were distributed and completed in the classes. Students were very positive in their feedback about the module and reported becoming more efficient in their use of the library. They were largely familiar with the interlibrary loan service and OPAC but were aware to a lesser extent of the print-based abstracts and indexes in the library. The study found that students predominantly used books and to a lesser extent journals. Electronic retrieval formats were popular. The students who supplemented their notes with extra readings relied on reserved material and reading lists. Students made suggestions about changes to the module: such as extending the length of the module, bringing it forward to first year, and teaching the module in smaller groups.
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