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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Student-centred Learning: The Case of Students from the Disadvantaged Communities

Albert Arko-Cobbah.

There have been profound changes in the various education systems throughout the world. In South Africa among the changes are outcome-based education, a new institutional landscape for higher education, and student-centred learning. Some of the reasons for these changes are the ever-growing pressure in school systems, that society itself is changing into one in which knowledge becomes increasingly important, the ubiquitous nature of information and communication technology (ICT), and the problem of funding. These changes have given rise to certain trends like the ever-growing number of students and of different types, like women and older people. Again, there are other factors like increasing combination of work and study leading to a need for more flexible study arrangements, and campuses and school buildings that no longer become attractive as central to the education process. There is also a trend towards lifelong learning, which leads to an emphasis on learning to learn, and the need to accommodate different learning styles, customisation and alternative learning routes, or the need to build on experiences and background of students.

With these changes, the role of the teacher, which has become central to the educational process, is rapidly changing. Education is becoming more student-centred, that is, learning and teaching place much emphasis on student responsibility and activity in the educational process. This type of learning is in contrast to the conventional didactic teaching that places strong emphasis on teacher-control and the coverage of academic content. It is believed student responsibility and independence help to develop characteristics of lifelong learners like motivation, self-evaluation, time management and the skills to access information.

Student-centred learning goes with resource-based learning. The expectation of the latter is that students will learn from their own use of learning resources either individually or in a group, rather than from conventional exposition by the teacher. Resource-based learning has been identified as a way of ensuring that the learning experience of students is enhanced and extended while freeing lecturer’s time for contact with groups and individual students.

The Paper will argue that whilst the lecturer’s time is “freed” for contact with groups and individual students in both student-centred and resource-based learning, the librarian is bound to play more active role in ensuring the learning success of the students. The librarian’s role becomes more crucial when one considers students from the disadvantaged background where most of these learning resources may be entirely new to them. Libraries are expected to provide facilities like more study spaces for individual and group study, longer opening hours, more personal computers (PCs) and work-stations, more CD-ROM and online-data bases, user access to e-mail and internet facilities. In some cases, especially with regard to students from the disadvantaged background, it may be necessary for the library to arrange for them to hire PCs and modems at advantageous rates.

Furthermore, librarians are expected to give guidance and support in the use of the resources and to train the students on how to make effective use of them. The involvement of librarians will include the promotion of the use of the library resources and services, identification, selection, acquisition and management of the resources for users. Other aspects will include liaising with academic and computer staff, collaborating in Subject/Faculty teams to ensure that resources are appropriate, accessible and available to users when required, and preparing and providing guides and manuals on the use of resources. Librarians may be also required to put information sources on the wide world web or on institutional Intranets. There are other challenges like language use and reading style that confront students from the disadvantaged background that the Librarian may be required to deal with, and the Paper will discuss them and others as well.


Albert Arko-Cobbah  (South Africa)
Campus Librarian
Bloemfontein Campus
Vista University

Campus Librarian at Vista University specialised both in Information and Library Science and Public Administration. Possess BA, B. Bibl (Hons) and MPA. Currently working on My PhD dissertation. Made various conference presentations both in the fields of Librarianship and Public Administration.

  • Student-centred learning librarians
  • Students disadvantaged communities South Africa

(30 min Conference Paper, English)