So, what happens to those college graduates information literacy skills after they leave school and enter the workplace?
How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace
BY ALISON J. HEAD, PH.D.
38 Page PDF
PROJECT INFORMATION LITERACY RESEARCH REPORT
THE PASSAGE STUDIES
October 16, 2012
RESEARCH SPONSORED BY THE INSTITUTE OF MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SERVICES (IMLS) AND CONDUCTED IN COLLABORATION WITH THE BERKMAN CENTER FOR INTERNET AND SOCIETY AT HARVARD
“Qualitative findings about the information-seeking behavior of today’s college graduates as they transition from the campus to the workplace. Included are findings from interviews with 23 US employers and focus groups with 33 recent graduates from four US colleges and universities, conducted as an exploratory study for Project Information Literacy’s (PIL’s) Passage Studies. Most graduates in our focus groups said they found it difficult to solve information problems in the workplace, where unlike college, a sense of urgency pervaded and where personal contacts often reaped more useful results than online searches. Graduates said they leveraged essential information competencies from college for extracting content and also developed adaptive information-seeking strategies for reaching out to trusted colleagues in order to compensate for what they lacked. At the same time, employers said they recruited graduates, in part, for their online searching skills but still expected and needed more traditional research competencies, such as thumbing through bound reports, picking up the telephone, and interpreting research results with team members. They found that their college hires rarely demonstrated these competencies. Overall, our findings suggest there is a distinct difference between today’s graduates who demonstrated how quickly they found answers online and seasoned employers who needed college hires to use a combination of online and traditional methods to conduct comprehensive research.”
“The major findings from our interviews and focus groups are as follows:
1. When it was hiring time, the employers in our sample said they sought similar information proficiencies from the college graduates they recruited. They placed a high premium on graduates’ abilities for searching online, finding information with tools other than search engines, and identifying the best solution from all the information they had gathered.
2. Once they joined the workplace, many college hires demonstrated computer know-how that exceeded both the expectations and abilities of many of their employers. Yet we found these proficiencies also obscured the research techniques needed for solving information problems, according to our employer interviews.
3. Most college hires were prone to deliver the quickest answer they could find using a search engine, entering a few keywords, and scanning the first couple of pages of results, employers said, even though they needed newcomers to apply patience and persistence when solving information problems in the workplace.
4. A majority of employers said they were surprised that new hires rarely used any of the more traditional forms of research, such as picking up the phone or thumbing through an annual report for informational nuggets. Instead, they found many college hires—though not all— relied heavily on they found online and many rarely looked beyond their screens.
5. At the same time, graduates in our focus groups said they leveraged essential information competencies from college to help them gain an edge and save time at work when solving workplace information problems. Many of them applied techniques for evaluating the quality of content, close reading of texts, and synthesizing large quantities of content, usually found online.
6. To compensate for the gaps in their skills sets, graduates said they developed adaptive strategies for solving information problems in the workplace, often on a trial-and-error basis. Most of these strategies involved cultivating relationships with a trusted co-worker who could help them find quick answers, save time, and learn work processes”