I am writing to express my concern over the removal of information literacy as a standard for assessment in the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s proposed accreditation standards. In my professional opinion, an institution that meets these proposed standards and yet does not have a robust information literacy instruction and assessment program does not demonstrate academic rigor or quality; failure to consider information literacy will negatively impact student learning opportunities.
The current MSCHE accreditation standards include a detailed section about information literacy including definition, objectives, collaboration recommendations, and assessment requirements. I am at a loss as to why the new standards remove information literacy completely, rather than simplify and shorten the language in the more concise document.
The current standards state that technological competency, which is retained in the proposed standards, is considered to be “closely tied” to information literacy, and yet technological competency is retained while information literacy is removed. To be quite frank, the ability to turn on or use a piece of hardware or software is simply not as important as information literacy, which is defined in the current MSCHE standards as the ability to “determine the nature and extent of needed information; access information effectively and efficiently; evaluate critically the sources and content of information; incorporate selected information in the learner’s knowledge base and value system; use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; understand the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and information technology; and observe laws, regulations, and institutional policies related to the access and use of information.” (MSCHE, 2006, page 56).
It is critical to retain the objective of information literacy in the proposed accreditation standards because information literacy is a critical life-long skill needed for learning. Indeed, innovative learning simply cannot take place without information literacy. Students entering schools of higher education often lack information literacy skills precisely because educators mistakenly believe that digital natives have these skills when in fact they do not. A recent report from Project Information Literacy (Head, 2013) found that almost 75% of incoming first year students experienced difficulty with creating effective research strategies. These students stated that their information literacy skills were simply inadequate to perform college-level research. It is therefore essential that professional librarians and teaching faculty collaborate to provide this instruction. It is equally critical that this important work be recognized, assessed, and required in any future MSCHE accreditation standards.
The importance of information literacy, paired with innovation, is becoming increasingly recognized in the workplace. An article in Forbes, authored by a CEO (Moran, 2010), highlighted the importance of librarians in a digital age. Mr. Moran discovered that while employees who grew up as digital natives may be technologically competent, as the MSCHE proposed standards require, they are woefully unable to create effective and efficient search strategies, effectively sort through the huge amount of information retrieved to select quality sources, or evaluate the sources that they utilize. He determined that this lack of information literacy in digitally native college graduates impaired their ability to perform required tasks and detrimentally affected his business.
It is absolutely imperative that MSCHE return information literacy to the proposed accreditation standards and include language that requires and assesses professional librarian and teaching faculty collaboration to improve student learning outcomes. Thank you for considering this feedback.
Head, AJ. (2013). How freshman conduct research once they enter college. Project Information Literacy Research Report. Retrieved from http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_2013_FreshmenStudy_FullReport.pdf
Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2006). Characteristics of excellence in higher education: requirement of affiliation and standards for accreditation. Retrieved from http://www.msche.org/publications/CHX-2011-WEB.pdf
Moran, M. (2010, March). Young learners need librarians, not just Google. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/22/moran-librarian-skills-intelligent-investing-google.html