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Information Skills Training For Engineers

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.339.1 - 3.339.8

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Paper Authors

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Gulcin Cribb

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1441


Gulcin Cribb The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Introduction The 1996 review of engineering education in Australia "Changing the Culture: (1) Engineering Education into the Future" in discussing the changing focus of engineering education, states that "the focus of engineering education will be on creating lifelong learners, from early education, through undergraduate education to continuing professional education, and from generalist to technical specialist." This report also advocates that "students will be more responsible for their learning. The highly structured and prescriptive nature of traditional undergraduate courses in engineering will be replaced by programs affording greater freedom of choice." Project-based, problem- based or inquiry-based education encourages the shift in ownership of the education process from staff to students, from teacher to learner. Dependence on reading lists, one or two text books, lecture notes and the pearls of wisdom coming from the teacher do not allow students to take responsibility for their own learning, rather, it restricts their ability to be independent seekers of information and knowledge and to be able to solve problems on their own in a creative and independent way.

Engineering education, like the rest of higher education, needs to prepare students for a changing world where “teaching existing knowledge is becoming less important than (2) (3) teaching effective information-gathering skills” . Smerdon discusses the critical importance of lifelong learning for engineers who need to upgrade their careers continuously. Engineers need to acquire the skills and habits that will enable them to update their knowledge and skills on an on-going basis when they commence their undergraduate education.

The volume of information available to engineers is increasing rapidly, particularly in electronic format. Engineering students are generally highly computer-literate. Computer literacy and information literacy are not however synonymous, even though information skills training normally encourages computer skills acquisition. One of the myths widespread use of the Internet has fostered in recent years, is that all the information students need is available on the Web. Even if this were true, students still need to learn how to use the Web efficiently, critically and productively as the Web contains raw data. They also need to learn what they are NOT going to find on the Web and both the direct and indirect costs of locating and retrieving useful and relevant information efficiently.

Most contemporary engineering courses only attend to the development of information skills as an afterthought (e.g., an add-on library skills seminar) not as integral to the education process. The goal of learning information skills is more than learning how to


Cribb, G. (1998, June), Information Skills Training For Engineers Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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