Information needs and information seeking behaviour of international students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus.
The purpose of this study was to identify the information needs and information seeking behaviour of international students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus (UKZNP). The study assisted in identifying different information services offered by the International Student Office (ISO). It also determined various information seeking situations involved in relation to academic needs and personal issues of international students. The approach that the researcher undertook was a triangulation approach where both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. Instruments used for data collection were a self-administered questionnaire and semi-structured interview. A sample size of 150 international students was surveyed, with 137 students responding, giving a response rate of 91.3%. The Head of the International Student Office (HISO) was also interviewed. The validity and reliability of the instrument were established by pre-testing the questionnaire with four international students enrolled at UKZNP. The quantitative data was analysed using SPSS and the qualitative data was analysed using thematic content analysis. The international students’ information seeking behaviour was identified using Wilson’s (1999) model of information behaviour which suited the group under study. The outcome of the study revealed that more than half, 62.7%, of academic needs were characterized by two situations, namely, the registration process (32.2%) and issues around lectures (30.5%). Other main issues discussed were based on information literacy skills and English language problems experienced by international students enrolled at UKZNP. In terms of personal issues, a majority (60.2%) of respondents mentioned either accommodation (34.9%) or health issues (25.3%). A minority, just on 30%, of the respondents resided on campus and for the majority of the respondents who lived off campus, accessing the Library and computer LANs after hours was not possible as transport at night was not always available. Thus the accommodation need was regarded as a very significant problem. The study indicated that two main sources used in relation to academic needs were library resources and information from the Faculty offices, while the most used source by international students for their personal issues was the consultation of colleagues. Based on the results and conclusions of the study, recommendations for action and further research were made. Recommendations included the need to consider a temporary registration period during which the complex requirements of the registration process could be pursued and satisfied by the students and, in response to the accommodation crisis experienced by students, consideration be given to the Student Housing Office giving priority to first year international students in particular when allocating rooms.
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