Developing Undergraduate Students’ Multiliteracies ?· 2013-04-19 · Developing Undergraduate Students’…

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    Developing Undergraduate Students Multiliteracies with

    an Outcomes-based Education Approach

    Samuel Chu, Kai Wah Faculty of Education

    The University of Hong Kong

    Randolph Chan, Chun Ho Faculty of Education

    The University of Hong Kong

    Celina Lee, Wing Yi Faculty of Education

    The University of Hong Kong


    This study examined the effectiveness of applying

    outcomes-based education (OBE) in developing

    information literacy, computer software literacy, and Web

    2.0 literacy (collectively termed as multiliteracies) among a

    group of undergraduate students at the University of Hong

    Kong. These BSc Information Management (BScIM)

    students completed three paper-based perceptual surveys,

    which assessed their perceived importance and familiarity

    of the three kinds of literacy, upon entry into the program

    and again after each academic year. Individual interviews

    were conducted to further document their learning

    experience. Preliminary findings indicated that students

    improved in the three forms of literacy after each academic

    year. The findings suggest a positive influence of OBE on

    students attainment of multiliteracies and give insights on

    improving the implementation of OBE for students



    Outcomes-based education, tertiary education,

    multiliteracies, 21st century skills


    In the 21st century, the literacy landscape has changed from

    a print-saturated system to a multimodal semiotic system

    (Iyer & Luke, 2010) owing to the rapid technology

    advancement and globalization (Cazden, 1996). As a

    response to such transformation, multiliteracies have been

    regarded as increasingly important skills to be acquired by

    students in the 21st century society. The term

    multiliteracies was coined by the New London Group in

    1996, and despite the ongoing discussion surrounding this

    concept, scholars and researchers have yet to reach a

    consensus over its definition. Westby (2010) has broadly

    defined multiliteracies to be consisted of any literacy that

    extends beyond the conventional areas of reading and

    writing skills.

    With the emerging emphasis on multiliteracies, educators

    have been struggling to find an effective pedagogy to help

    students develop these knowledge and skills. As the more

    traditional didactic approach encourages a unidirectional

    knowledge transmission (Chang, Jones & Kunnemeyer,

    2002), it appears to be incongruent with multiliteracies,

    which could not be developed through rote memorization.

    Teachers tend to lack experience and confidence in

    teaching multiliteracies (Rowsell et al., 2008) as it is a

    relatively new education focus. Moreover, as the term

    multiliteracies remains broadly defined, teachers may

    have vague ideas of what knowledge and skills exactly are


    With the challenges faced by educators in facilitating the

    development of multiliteracies among students, this study

    tested the feasibility of the outcomes-based education

    (OBE) as a pedagogical approach. In this study, we focused

    on three specific multiliteracies: information literacy,

    computer software literacy, and Web 2.0 literacy. The

    familiarity and importance of the literacy components as

    perceived by a group of undergraduate students in the BSc

    Information Management (BScIM) program in the

    University of Hong Kong was measured. It is expected that

    there is a linear relationship between the perceived

    importance and familiarity. If students become more

    familiar with a kind of literacy, they will tend to perceive

    that as more important. Changes in students perceptions on

    multiliteracies were examined. Based on the findings of

    this study, suggestions on how to maximize the potential of

    OBE are given.

    LITERATURE REVIEW Multiliteracies an overview

    The New London Group (1996) pointed out that with the

    rapid development caused by globalization, technology and

    social diversity, the traditional language-based education

    approaches required a breakthrough change. Since then, a

    new education focus has emerged, with multiliteracies

    being regarded as important skills to be acquired. Despite

    the rapid growth of interest and emphasis put on

    multiliteracies, definitions have varied. In Tynes (1998)

    interpretation, multiliteracies include amongst others,

    computer literacy, networking literacy, technology literacy,

    information literacy, media literacy and visual literacy.

    Anstey and Bull (2006) defined a multiliterate person as

    one who is flexible and strategic and can understand and

    use literacy and literate practices with a range of texts and

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    ASIST 2012, October 26-31, 2012, Baltimore, MD, USA.

    Copyright notice continues right here.

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    technologies; in socially responsible ways; in a socially,

    culturally, and linguistically diverse world; and to fully

    participate in life as an active and informed citizen (p. 55).

    More recently, Westby (2010) emphasized that literacy has

    to be extended beyond the conventional areas of reading

    and writing skills.

    Information Literacy

    Amongst a wide range of components comprising

    multiliteracies, information literacy has been widely

    discussed (Bawden, 2001; Bruce, 1997; Catts & Lau, 2008;

    Hepworth, 1999; Huvila, 2011; Spitzer et al., 1998; Webber

    & Johnston, 2000). Sawetrattanasatian (2008) summarized

    that the central features of information literacy include (1)

    searching for information effectively and efficiently, (2)

    evaluating information sources critically, (3) organizing

    and using information properly and ethically, and (4)

    contributing new ideas and knowledge. In this study, these

    common features of information literacy were considered

    in assessing students perceptions.

    Computer software literacy

    Haigh (1985) broadly defined computer literacy as the

    knowledge and skills a person needs to acquire, to work

    and live in the society. It is also defined by Martin and

    Grudziecki as knowing how to use applications and

    computers for practical purposes (as cited in Covello, 2010).

    Despite the significant increase in the use of computers in

    classrooms over the past few decades, the term computer

    literacy has remained poorly defined (Goodson & Mangan,

    1996). In this study, computer software literacy refers to

    the ability to use computer software purposefully.

    Web 2.0 literacy

    Web 2.0 is defined by Chiang et al. (2009) as an umbrella

    term to explain the various Web developments and its key

    concepts, including collaboration, user participation, file

    sharing, social networking and rich user experience. This

    study examines Web 2.0 literacy as it refers to the ability to

    make use of technology such as blogs and social

    networking tools to interact with other users.

    Multiliteracies and students learning ability

    One of the reasons behind the importance of multiliteracies

    comes from their potential to enhance students learning

    experiences. Many researchers have suggested that students

    with higher level of multiliteracies are able to utilize

    learning opportunities better. Alexander (2008) suggested

    that with the use of Web 2.0 tools in learning, students

    develop information literacy that allows them to explore,

    critique and learn from a rich reservoir of links and

    resources. He also suggested that a higher level of critical

    thinking skill is required from students to sift through

    materials using search engines. He further claimed that the

    open Web has a positive effect on learning as students have

    more opportunities to write. Similarly, Dang and Robertson

    (2010) pointed out the benefits of Web 2.0 applications

    associated with increased opportunities for students to

    express their ideas, hence enhancing their confidence and

    engagement in learning activities. Chan and Cmor (2009)

    also noted that students perceived blogs as avenues to learn

    research and information skills, share knowledge with peers,

    and consequently improve the quality of their assignments. Developing students multiliteracies

    Tierney (2006) noted that educators struggle with teaching

    multiliteracies. Webber (2000) suggested that in order to

    help students acquire multiliteracies, schools should allow

    more time and space for the librarians, who are information

    experts. Chu et al. (2011), in their study on the

    development of multiliteracies of a group of primary school

    students, suggested that the combination of collaborative

    teaching that involved librarians, and inquiry project-based

    learning contributes to the development of information

    literacy and IT skills. They found that the characteristics of

    these pedagogical methods, which require deep thinking,

    the ability to apply knowledge, reasoning skills and in

    depth exploration of issues, contribute towards the

    development of multiliteracies.

    Outcomes-based Education (OBE)

    OBE has its roots from competency-based education, a

    pedagogical approach introduced in the North America

    during the 60s to cope with the concerns about students

    lack of necessary competencies upon school completion

    (Butler, 2004). Spady and Marshall (1994) defined OBE as

    a teaching strategy that organizes and develops an

    education system around a set of objectives to be achieved

    by students upon completion of the learning experiences.

    Hence, OBE puts more emphasis on the learning outcomes,

    which are perceived to be more measurable than the more

    personal learning process (Kovalik & Dalton, 1997).

    Compared to the traditional didactic teaching approach,

    OBE is student-centered (McDaniel, et al., 2000). Instead

    of focusing on the knowledge transmission process from

    teachers to students, OBE emphasizes the knowledge and

    skills that students can learn from the lessons (Botha, 2002).

    Being a student-oriented pedagogy, OBE requires teachers

    to assume the role of facilitators who create learner-friendly

    environments through teacher-student interactions, peer

    interactions and the use of new technologies in the

    classrooms (McDaniel, et al., 2000).

    OBE had been adopted worldwide (Aldridge, et al., 2006;

    Berman, 1995; Brindley, 2001; Rees, 2004; Shipley, 1995;

    Wien & Dudley-Marling, 1998) and in all levels of

    educational settings ranging from primary to tertiary

    institutions. OBE had been widely employed in tertiary

    education, especially in the subject areas of medical

    education (Harden, 2002; Rees, 2004; Ross, 1999), food

    science (Hartel & Gardner, 2003) and life sciences (Ryder,


    The major component of OBE is the outcomes and

    studies have defined and measured learning outcomes

    (Butler, 2004; Faris, 1998; Hartel & Gardner, 2003; Jenkins

    & Unwin, 1996; Kovalik & Dalton, 1997; Lorenzen, 1999;

    Shipley, 1994; Spady, 1994). Faris (1998) defined learning

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    outcomes as clear statements specifying what a learner

    should know, understand, and able to do (p. 11). More

    recently, Hartel and Gardner (2003) presented a more

    detailed meaning of learning outcomes as precise

    statements of what faculty expects students to know and be

    able to do as a result of completing a program, course, unit

    or lesson (p. 35).

    Together with well-defined learning outcomes, the

    effectiveness of OBE can be gauged by conducting

    evaluations and assessments. The faculty members need to

    critically review the instructional approaches in order to

    recapitulate whether each learning outcomes statement is

    sufficiently addressed (Hartel & Gardner, 2003). Minimum

    learning outcomes achievement should be explicitly

    identified for the students (Faris, 1998). Authentic and

    tailor-made assessments should be developed (Lorenzen,

    1999) in order to examine if the students are able to attain

    the desired specific learning outcomes. Students project-

    based assignments in the forms of portfolios or course-

    specific tests or examinations are some of the common

    methods used in assessment (Brindley, 2001). A few

    studies had also recommended the use of self-assessment

    surveys in determining the students attainment of course

    level and program level learning outcomes (Brindley, 2001;

    Hartel & Gardner, 2003; McCullough, 2008; Shipley,

    1994). The suggestions by Lorenzen (1999) and Spady

    (1994) for the successful implementation of OBE could be

    summarized in three main stages:

    1. Delineate learning outcomes to be achieved by students;

    2. Develop appropriate curriculum and incorporate suitable instructional methods to help students achieve

    the desired learning outcomes;

    3. Assess students attainment of learning outcomes through various evaluation methods.

    While OBE has been widely implemented, there have been

    relatively few studies that utilized the approach specifically

    for the development of multiliteracies. This study focuses

    on the application of OBE and changes in students



    This study implemented OBE over a 2-year period, and

    changes in multiliteracies were examined among

    undergraduate students. The implementation of OBE in

    facilitating these changes was also evaluated. The desired

    learning outcomes for information literacy, Web 2.0

    literacy, and computer software literacy were identified,

    and the following research questions were set to guide the

    research process:

    1. Did the students perceptions of their learning outcomes change over the 2-year period?

    1. Information literacy 2. Web 2.0 literacy 3. Computer software literacy

    2. Did students learning expectation change over time and did it meet with the learning outcomes?

    3. How did the students and lecturers perceive OBE as a pedagogy for facilitating the development of



    This study employed a mixed methods research design,

    combining quantitative and qualitative data to generate a

    more comprehensive understanding of the research focus.

    Instructional design

    The BScIM (20092011) was a two-year full-time

    undergraduate program. Students were required to

    complete 16 courses, covering information management,

    information retrieval, knowledge management, digital

    libraries, database systems and other topics related to the

    scope. Among the 16 compulsory courses, Professional

    experience and Project are two courses that allow

    students to apply the theories and knowledge they learnt in

    other courses into real-life situations. Program outcomes

    were devised by the curriculum design team and every

    course was designed, in terms of teaching strategies and

    subject knowledge. Information literacy, computer software

    literacy and Web 2.0 literacy were identified as the generic

    academic learning outcomes of the BScIM program. The



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