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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Information Literacy: Issues and Challenges for a South African University

Lisa Thompson.

Academic institutions have embraced changes brought about by technology. Since 1999, the University of Pretoria, a multiracial, multicultural institution, has a campus wide computer and information literacy (CIL) programme that is compulsory for the majority of the undergraduates. In 2003 there will be in the region of 5000 students registered for the course, many of whom will have attended schools with few or no computer facilities or electricity and who study in English which is not their mother tongue.

As a result of the CIL courses there has been a noticeable change in the skills and competencies of students. Once the undergraduate students are computer literate and have mastered the basic skills of information literacy, other issues arise.

There is more to information literacy and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the classroom than being able to download information, however students are under the impression that if they are not able to retrieve information for an assignment from the Internet and "cut and paste" it into a document, that the assignment is "too difficult".

Many definitions of information literacy include the wise and responsible use of information and information technology as well as being able to communicate effectively, It is easier to teach the practical aspects of information literacy than the issues around responsibility and communication especially in a multicultural society. We need to refocus our energy to the effective communication of and the wise use of information.


Lisa Thompson  (South Africa)
Lecturer in Information Science
Department of Information Science
University of Pretoria

  • information literacy

(30 min Conference Paper, English)