ERIC Identifier: ED303175
Publication Date: 1988-06-00
Author: Minor, Barbara B.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Online Information Services for Secondary School Students: A
Current Assessment. ERIC Digest.
This digest is based on ONLINE INFORMATION SERVICES FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL
STUDENTS: A CURRENT ASSESSMENT, by Elizabeth Smith Aversa, Jacqueline C.
Mancall, and Diane Oesau.
Online searching in schools is a relatively
recent phenomenon. The earliest reported access to online databases was in 1976
in the Montgomery County Public School System in Maryland, when high school
seniors were allowed to supplement their manual information gathering by
submitting search requests to the district's Professional Library to be
conducted by professional searchers. DIALOG reports that the first instructional
password for training students to search was acquired by Radnor High School in
Pennsylvania in 1980. Since that time the importance of providing information
for students from electronic sources has been acknowledged by a growing number
of school library media specialists and administrators at the local and state
levels, who have acquired the equipment, supported training, arranged for
financial support, and developed curriculum materials.
Schools across the country have expanded reference and bibliographic access
by going online, although such access is still extremely limited in scale, and
where it does occur, is often limited to a special group of students or classes.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF ONLINE ACCESS
numerous advantages to connecting students and information electronically. Such
access extends the limited resources available to them in the school library
media center, increasing the potential diversity of information available to
solve information related problems. Students are able to locate the most current
information since online databases are updated at frequent intervals. Search
time is reduced by the cumulated, comprehensive database indexes. Additional
entry points for searching are available, such as key words and phrases. In
addition, electronic access creates excitement about the search process, and
provides a means to search multi-faceted topics.
One of the major disadvantages is that going directly to an online search may
not be the best approach for all subjects, e.g., a single concept search. Other
disadvantages include the lack of suitable databases for students in some
subject areas; difficulties in finding some of the journals and sources
identified by the online search; user frustration when computer systems are down
or telecommunications difficulties are encountered; start-up and training costs;
investments in materials and equipment; and the additional time for media center
staff if online is added to the existing services provided.
School library media specialists who wish
to initiate online information retrieval for students must, first of all,
understand what online access is and the type of information suitable for
students that is available online. Equipment, telecommunications software, and a
search service vendor must be selected, and curricular objectives and materials
must be prepared. While the rationale for the budget will depend on the goals
and objectives established for the program, specific budget items will fall into
the categories of capital expenses for equipment and space needs; operating
expenses for connect time, communication costs, supplies, documentation,
professional training, print charges, fees for saved searches, and costs of
online ordering; and miscellaneous expenses such as equipment upgrades and
maintenance, and travel to online conferences and demonstrations.
It has been suggested that library media specialists might prefer to skip
online systems and wait to move directly into CD-ROM, which would give them
access to databases in disk format on a subscription basis and permit unlimited
searching of locally held databases.
Aversa and Mancall (1986) suggest six instructional goals for teaching online
to students: (1) training students to become knowledgeable information seekers;
(2) expanding students' perceptions of how to access their information
environment; (3) assisting students in refining their information research
process; (4) creating enthusiasm among students for independent investigations;
(5) working cooperatively with teachers in planning online instruction that is
integrated with classroom activities; and (6) expanding the knowledge of
teachers and administrators about what information is available electronically
and how to access it.
Aversa and Mancall (1986) also suggest that school media specialists working
with online services will need to have: (1) enhanced interviewing skills for
working with students and teachers in the pre-search stage; (2) knowledge of the
advantages and disadvantages of using different vendors and of the content of
available databases; (3) online search skills; (4) knowledge of other community
resources and formal and informal ways of accessing materials in their
collections; (5) management strategies for financial control, planning,
training, general collection development, and evaluation of the service; and (6)
knowledge of how to teach online searching.
IMPACT OF ONLINE SERVICES ON STUDENT BEHAVIOR
obtrusive and unobtrusive measurement strategies have been used to assess the
impact of teaching online searching on the behavior of students. Craver (1985)
directly asked students' opinion of the worthwhileness of completed units on
online instruction with positive results. Others (Mancall & Bertland, 1985;
Mancall & Deskins, 1984; Wozny, 1982) report the use of such unobtrusive
measures as comparing the referencing patterns in papers of students who have
had the opportunity to search online. Other means of examining student response
to online training that have been reported include testing students on their
understanding of terminology, selection of appropriate databases, search
formulation, and interpretation of an online citation (Craver, 1985); keeping
online logs to capture data on who is searching and for which courses; the level
of satisfaction of those who search or request a search; subjects areas that are
most frequently searched, in which databases, and with what success; types of
materials that are being referenced; number of relevant references retrieved and
average cost per relevant reference; and how many relevant references are
available on site or locally (Mancall & Bertland, 1985).
While few basic patterns have been uncovered, Wozny (1982) reports that
whether or not students use materials identified by online searching in their
papers, those who have been taught online searching use more current and more
diverse types of materials than similar students who have not been exposed to
this innovation. She believes that the major influences on the student are the
teacher and cooperating library media specialist who used online searching as a
technique to achieve their educational objectives, i.e., assisting students to
develop appropriate search strategies, and expanding their concepts of the
different types of information available.
A synthesis of the literature and survey of
current practice in secondary schools in 1986 point to the following: o point of
rapid expansion. o support instruction in this area, the school media specialist
can anticipate the development of commercially produced materials as more of the
major database vendors, producers, and publishers realize the economic potential
of this market. o school setting will undergo considerable change in response to
the initiation of online services. o technology. The availability of databases
on CD-ROM, the possibility of shared disks, and the continuing need for currency
must all be considered as schools plan for the provision of information to
students, teachers, and administrators. (Aversa, Mancall, & Oesau, 1987, pp.
Aversa, Elizabeth S. and Mancall, Jacqueline C.
(1986). "Managing Online Information Services in School Library Media Centers." In Shirley L. Aaron and Pat R. Scales (eds.), SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA ANNUAL 1985,
pp.219-236. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Aversa, E. S., Mancall, J. C., & Oesau, Diane. (1987). ONLINE INFORMATION SERVICES FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS: A CURRENT ASSESSMENT. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information
Craver, Kathleen W. (1985). "Teaching Online Bibliographic Searching to High
School Students." TOP OF THE NEWS 41(2), 131-136.
Mancall, Jacqueline C. and Bertland, Linda. (1985). LIN-TEL IN 1985: A
PERFORMANCE EVALUATION. AN ANALYSIS OF LIN-TEL'S IMPACT ON INFORMATION DELIVERY TO STUDENTS, TEACHERS AND LOCALADMINISTRATIVE PERSONNEL IN PENNSYLVANIA. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania
Department of Education, Bureau of State Library, School Library Media Services
Division (unpublished report).
Mancall, Jacqueline C. and Deskins, Dreama. (1984). HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, LIBRARIES, AND THE SEARCH PROCESS; AN ANALYSIS
OF STUDENT MATERIALS AND FACILITIES USAGE PATTERNS IN DELAWARE FOLLOWING
INTRODUCTION OF ONLINE BIBLIOGRAPHIC DATABASE SEARCHING. Unpublished report, Drexel University. ED 262 823.
PENNSYLVANIA ONLINE: A CURRICULUM GUIDE FOR SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA CENTERS. (1985). Harrisburg, PA:
Pennsylvania Department of Education, State Library of Pennsylvania, School
Library Media Services Division. ED 264 887.
Wozny, Lucy Anne. (Fall 1982). "Online Bibliographic Searching and Student
Use of Information: An Innovative Teaching Approach." SCHOOL LIBRARY MEDIA
QUARTERLY 11(1), 35-42.
This digest based on ONLINE INFORMATION SERVICES FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL
STUDENTS: A CURRENT ASSESSMENT (Aversa, Mancall, and Oesau, 1987) was prepared
for the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources by Barbara B. Minor. June