Iowa State refreshes their longstanding information literacy course


By Jack McClellan

Parks Library photographed from it’s southern face

Jack Mcclellan

Iowa State is updating the curriculum to their LIB (library) 160 course on information literacy and research evaluation. The class is intended to help students get acquainted with the university’s tools for success and build a basic understanding of the research process.

LIB 160 is a half-semester-long one-credit pass or fail course required for graduation. The course is one of Iowa State’s most long-standing, first instructed to students over 130 years ago. Since then, the course has grown with the university and its technology.

After a successful pilot of the revamped course last fall, students have begun taking the course, featuring a textbook developed in-house at Iowa State and more emphasis on student engagement.

“What we’ve done is we have moved around some of the ways that some of the modules are presented,” said Jeffrey Kushkowski, instruction and information coordinator at Parks Library. “We have basically refreshed and modernized the course so that it better reflects what students need in terms of being able to find, use and evaluate information.” 

The course aims to lay a foundation for information literacy in all students. This foundation would allow students and scholars of any sort to think critically about the information they consume.

“I think the biggest one nice thing about this approach is that it clarifies that the skills that you’re learning in this class are transferable to other courses that you’re in and to other areas of your life,” said Kushkowski

Originally centered solely around lectures, the course was refined in 1947 to include a printed course manual and some written assignments. In the ’70s, the university briefly experimented with instruction delivered through prerecorded videos, and in the ’90s, the university began developing interactive online tutorials.

Today, LIB 160 takes place entirely online, with most instruction coming from the textbook: “Library 160: introduction to College Level Research,” which is offered open-source through Iowa State’s Digital Press. To help students engage more with the class, Iowa State is trying a hands-off approach that would allow professors to coordinate their classes and set up extra instruction how they deem necessary. 

“There are some instructors that have they do a weekly, they do a weekly video segment that talks about the concepts that are gonna be talked about during the class that week,” said Kushkowski. “There are we have opportunities for office hours, each of our instructors has office hours where they can meet with students.”

Ultimately a more engaging and thorough LIB 160 curriculum builds a stronger base for students to construct their own well-informed understandings. For more information on the course, visit the Iowa State University website to see the LIB 160 course guide.