Digital Information Literacy Among the Faculty of Applied Science Students at a Private University in Malawi

Digital Information Literacy Among the Faculty of Applied Science Students at a Private University in Malawi

Donald Flywell Malanga, Boemo N. Jorosi, Wallace Chigona
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8942-7.ch008
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This chapter reports on the study that aimed to assess the digital information literacy (DIL) skills among second-year students at the Faculty of Applied Science, University of Livingstonia in Malawi. About 132 students were sampled randomly to participate in the survey questionnaire. The study found that although students were aware of different types of digital information sources, they experienced challenges when it came to actual usage. The sampled students showed a deficiency of skills in basic ICTs, use of online databases, search techniques, web retrieval tools, and evaluating digital information. With respect to the ethical use of digital information, the study noted that while students acknowledged the importance of citation and referencing, they demonstrated ignorance on such citation and reference styles and the use of citation and reference management software tools. It also emerged from the study that ICT infrastructure, time limitation, and lack of interest affected student participation in DIL courses. The chapter potentially contributes to policy and practice.
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Digital Information Literacy (DIL) skills have emerged around the world as essential skills for the 21st Century, complemented by advancement in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (Malanga & Jorosi, 2018). Due to abundant information choices, students are faced with diverse challenges in their academic studies (Malanga, 2017). Digital information is available in unfiltered formats, raising questions about its authenticity, validity, and reliability (Al-Aufi, Al-Azri, & Al-Hadi, 2017). In this regard, the effective use of digital information by students has become a necessity. Information in whatever formats, has become a factor that enables students at all levels to achieve better results in their academic undertaking and even at work after graduation (Malanga & Banda, 2021; Mertes, 2014). Therefore, DIL skills could potentially help students cope with formation from a variety of electronic formats and present techniques and methods of gathering digital resources. DIL creates awareness of issues like copyright and intellectual property rights in digital environment. It is imperative that students need to be digital information literate in the information age to be competent in this digital era (Al-Aufi et al., 2017)

Furthermore, digital information exist in various multimedia formats, including graphical, video and text. These formats pose new challenges for students in evaluating and understanding digital information (Okiki& Mabawonku, 2013). While most students use general purpose search such as Google, many are not aware of academic search engines such as google scholar and web of science (Weber, Hillmert, & Rott, 2018).

Despite the availability of studies in DIL, few studies have investigated the assessment of students’ DIL skills in universities in developing countries (Malanga & Chigona, 2019; Malanga, 2017; Nancy, 2017; Okiki & Mabawonku, 2013). Malanga and Jorosi (2018) attest that imparting DIL instruction to the students whether formally or informally is important because it helps to determine students’ mastery of skills and knowledge associated with such DIL programs. It also serves as a tool of determining the efficiency of DIL programmes (Foo et al., 2013). In addition, studies have shown that lack of DIL skills among students is partly the cause of underutilization of existing ICTs and digital information resources available in the university libraries (Nancy, 2017). This is making it a challenge for universities in trying to achieve quality and excellent output in their graduates as they enter the job market (Aholony&Broneisten, 2013).

Similarly, few extant studies are reported on DIL skills among undergraduate students in Malawi, particularly those from the field of applied sciences (Malanga & Chigona, 2019; Malanga & Jorosi, 2018; Malanga, 2017).Besides, studies have shown that the DIL programs in higher education institutions in Malawi are still at their infant stage. The DIL programs are curtailed by inadequate ICT infrastructure, absence of DIL policies and lack of qualified librarians to deliver the DIL courses. In addition, DIL literature in Malawi is concentrated on public university libraries, and scholars have paid little attention to private universities (Malanga, 2017). To the researchers’ knowledge no studies have been conducted to understand the DIL skills of undergraduate students in the field of applied science at UNILIA and other private universities in general. Based on this lacuna of knowledge, there is a need for further conceptualization of DIL among students in universities. Therefore, this study was conceived to assess the DIL skills of undergraduate students in the field of applied science at the University of Livingstonia as one of the private universities in Malawi.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Literacy: Refers to the ability of students to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology, computer hardware, software, the internet, cell phones, Personal digital assistant (PDAs) and other digital devices ( Warlick, 2005 ).

ICT Literacy: Defined as the ability of students to use digital technology, communication tools and/or networks appropriately to solve information problems to function in an information society ( Rockman, 2005 ).

Digital Information Literacy: Refers to the students’ abilities to recognise the need for and being able to access electronic information ( Jeffrey et al., 2011 ).

Information Literacy: Refers to the ability of students to recognize when information is needed to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information ( American Library Association, 2003 ).

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