TTT logo

Volume 10, Number 5: March 2004

Integrating Information Literacy in the Hybrid Environment

by Nerissa Nelson,
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point


"The role of a librarian is to make sense of the world of information.
If that's not a qualification for a superhero, what is?"

Nancy Pearl quoted in the "Seattle Times" 7/15/03

Several participants at the Women's Studies Consortium conference held in early January 2004 demonstrated successful models of incorporating hybrid (i.e., web-enhanced ) courses into Women's Studies pedagogy. While the hybrid environment is still a fairly new pedagogical approach toward integrating face-to-face and online learning, the overall reaction from the conference participants was that "hybridization" was the best of both worlds, because it actually increased student involvement and discussion in the learning experience.

As courses adapt to the hybrid environment, librarians must consider how information literacy instruction can be successfully integrated. My presentation focused on integrating information literacy instruction into Women's Studies programs taught within a hybrid environment. I reviewed Women's Studies programs that have incorporated information literacy components into the curricula from other institutions, including online, hybrid and traditional courses. I also demonstrated an introductory Women's Studies course (WS 105) taught by Professor Pat Gott from the English Department at UW-Stevens Point, who was kind enough to let me use her syllabus and make changes for a mock hybrid course that I created using Desire-to-Learn (D2L), a course management platform implemented throughout the UW System.

Library orientation, bibliographic instruction, and information literacy are terms frequently used to describe the teaching functions of librarians. While, to some degree, the meaning of these concepts overlaps, information literacy is a more holistic approach in that it provides an intellectual foundation for understanding information beyond the mechanical use of tools in locating sources. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has established five national standards addressing information literacy. These standards include the following:

The information literate student…

1. Determines the nature and extent of the information needed;
2. Accesses needed information effectively and efficiently;
3. Evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system;
4. Uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; and
5. Understands many of the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally.

Nationwide, there are many information literacy initiatives guided by the ACRL standards that involve successful partnerships between librarians and faculty. Some of these initiatives are carried out within Women's Studies programs. One specific example discussed in my presentation was the model created by Wendy Kozol, Director of Women's Studies; Frances Hasso, Assistant Professor of Women's Studies; and Jessica Grim, Reference Librarian, all of Oberlin College. This particular partnership stemmed from a consortial grant support initiative among the Five Colleges of Ohio, including Oberlin, to integrate information literacy into the liberal arts curriculum. Although the Oberlin example does not necessarily weave information literacy into the hybrid course environment, the model does provide an excellent framework in its emphasis of different phases of integrating information literacy skills throughout the course sequence required for a major. The following includes their model of basic and advanced information literacy competencies for 100-200 and 300-400 level courses:

Basic Competencies (100-200 level courses)

  • Identify the need for information
  • Formulate search strategies
  • Primary vs. secondary sources
  • Scholarly vs. popular journals
  • Searching the Web

Advanced Competencies (300-400 level courses)

  • Searching subject-specific tools (indexes, abstracts, and other databases in feminist research)
  • Formulating thesis statements, research questions, and a variety of search strategies
  • Critically evaluating the information retrieved
  • Organizing, synthesizing, integrating and applying information appropriately

Using this framework as a base for constructing the mock Women's Studies hybrid course, I incorporated information literacy skills into Professor Gott's syllabus using a "building block" approach. Aligning these skills with her goals and objectives for the course, I included face-to-face "research labs" with brief in-class library assignments that were connected to the readings, discussions, papers, activities and final group projects. Online meetings included student discussion threads describing the pros and cons of their information seeking skills. A pathfinder product was assigned as a companion piece to the final group project. A pathfinder is a navigational tool created to locate a variety of sources on a given topic using an organized information structure based on certain criteria. Resources, such as books, articles, Web sites or videos are included, and the format of the pathfinder can be designed as a Web site, handout or brochure. Criteria may include elements, such as scope notes (brief description of content), subject headings, annotations of sources, call numbers or Web sites. The purpose of assigning the pathfinder was to include both technical and evaluative components, and to reinforce the concepts learned in the research labs and through the discussion threads. At this stage, students learned the necessary skills to successfully explore what exists in the literature and reflect on the information seeking process. In many ways, the pathfinder goes beyond the typical "treasure hunt" type assignment and builds on the information literacy skills learned over the course while being creative in the process. The students also have a "tool" or "product" they have produced and can take with them for future study in Women's Studies courses.

The following schedule is just a snapshot and abbreviated sample of the mock hybrid course. I included annotations for the research lab components to further illustrate the integration of information literacy instruction:

Schedule of readings and assignments for WS 105:

F2F - In class meeting (face-to-face)
OL - Online meeting (using Desire-to-Learn - D2L)
RL - Research Lab (Meet in Library, Room 107)

Week One (F2F): Intro to class/Definitions of Feminism
Week Two (OL): Video "No Way-Not Me" (Active Discussion)
Week Three (F2F): "The Yellow Wallpaper," "The Handmaid's Tale" (Readings, Active Discussion)
Week Four (F2F/RL): "Searching for Feminism"

  • Understand information literacy as a foundation
  • Explain research labs, assignments and online discussion threads
  • Describe final pathfinder product and how it pulls together the skills learned in the research labs, building on the foundation of information literacy
  • Demonstrate simple searching using the library catalog to locate sources related to feminism
  • Brief in-class assignment using catalog to locate background information on feminism

Week Five (OL): "The Yellow Wallpaper," "The Handmaid's Tale" (Readings, Active Discussion)
Week Six (F2F): Topic: Women in Government
Week Seven (OL): "New Technologies of Race" (Active Discussion)
Week Eight (F2F/RL): "Invasion of the aggregators: the all-purpose search"

  • Understand the function and purpose of general periodical databases
  • Scholarly vs. popular articles
  • Search strategies and keyword building
  • Demonstrate Ebsco, WilsonWeb and Proquest databases
  • Brief in-class assignment using databases to locate articles related to assigned topics

The remainder of the course continued the "building block" approach of information literacy, including one additional research lab that focused on Web searching ("Trash vs. treasure: Finding the needle in the cyberhaystack").

The purpose of demonstrating this hybrid course was to illustrate the potential for integrating information literacy in this new environment. Librarians planning the transition to hybrid should carefully consider effective modes of collaborating with faculty and information technology (IT) designers, allow ample time to plan and participate in the redesign of existing courses or in the creation of new courses, determine the need for complementary library tutorials, and incorporate existing library instruction components into the hybrid environment.

Although the focus of my presentation was specific to Women's Studies, the basic strategies for teaching information literacy within a hybrid setting applies to all disciplines. Regardless of the subject area, these strategies involve a building block approach that begins with basic information literacy competencies and then advances to the stage of evaluating, integrating, and synthesizing information.


Further Reading (a short list)


Grassian, E. S., & Kaplowitz, J. R. (2001) Information Literacy Instruction: Theory and practice. New York: Neal-Schuman.

Bopp, R.E., & Smith, L. C. (2001) Reference and Information Services: An Introduction (3rd ed). Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc. (179-182).


Christe, K. B., Glover, A., & Westwood, G., (2000). Infiltration and Entrenchment: Capturing and Securing Information Literacy Territory in Academe. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 26 (3), 202-208.

Farmer, L.S.J., (2003). Facilitating Faculty Incorporation of Information Literacy Skills into the Curriculum through the use of Online Instruction. Reference Services Review, 31 (4), 307-312.

Halverson, A. L., Volker, J. (2000). Information Literacy in the Electronic Arts Library: Strategies for the Hybrid Professional. IFLA Journal, 26 (2), 120-122.

Iannuzzi, P., (1998). Faculty Development and Information Literacy: Establishing Campus Partnerships. Reference Services Review, 26 (3-4), 97-116.

Maughan, P.D., (Jan. 2001). Assessing Information Literacy among Undergraduates: A Discussion of the Literature and the University of California-Berkeley Assessment Experience." College & Research Libraries, 62 (1), 71-85.

Nichols. J., Shaffer, B., & Shockey, K. (Sept. 2003). Changing the Face of Instruction: Is Online or In-Class More Effective? College & Research Libraries, 64 (5), 387-88.

Norgaard, R. (Winter 2003). Writing Information Literacy: Contributions to a Concept. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 43 (2), 124-130.

Shapiro, J.J., & Hughes, S. K. (March/April 1996). Information Literacy as a Liberal Art. Educom Review, 31. Retrieved 12/22/03 from

Ward, D., (Oct. 2001). The Future of Information Literacy: Transforming the World. College & Research Libraries News, 62 (9), 922-5.

Information Literacy Standards and Competencies (National & State)

Objectives for Information Literacy Instruction: A Model Statement for Academic Librarians
American Library Association - ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries)

Information Literacy Competencies and Criteria for Academic Libraries in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians

Web Sites

Information Literacy overview - ALA/ACRL

Collaborating with faculty - ALA/ACRL

Creating faculty/librarian connections - Portland State University

Principles of online design - Florida Gulf Coast University

Five Colleges of Ohio for Information Literacy - Women's Studies initiative

Information Literacy for Women's Studies - Deborah LaFonde, Social Sciences Bibliographer

Information Literacy for K-16 Settings - Dr. Lesley Farmer, California State University