City Research Online

The information-seeking behaviour of distance learners: a case study of the university of London International programmes

Tury, S. (2014). The information-seeking behaviour of distance learners: a case study of the university of London International programmes. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


Understanding the information-seeking behaviour of distance learners will lead to better-designed distance learning libraries that effectively support the information and learning needs of distance learners. It will also inform a debate on how national guidelines for distance learning library provision in the UK might be formulated. This study explores the information-seeking behaviour of distance learners registered with the International Programmes of the University of London, which is the second largest distance learning provider in the UK. The population includes both postgraduate and undergraduate students registered on six different social sciences and humanities programmes. All participants were registered library users.

The study discusses possible influencing factors and barriers that distance learning students may encounter while seeking, accessing and, to some extent, using information needed to complete their university studies. The kind of information activities that students engage in, the kind of information sources they use including those not provided by the library, the reasons why they use them, the challenges they face and the strategies they adopt to overcome these challenges are all explored. The study methodology comprised preparatory desk research including a thorough literature review in the areas of Information-Seeking Behaviour, including existing models, and an assessment of existing distance library provision in the UK.

The research uses a combination of quantitative (questionnaires both online and by post) and qualitative (laboratory-based observational study using think-aloud protocol) methods and one-to-one interviews using open-ended semi-structured questions. Statistical analysis using the chi-square test for independence revealed that the significant factors which influenced distance learners' information-seeking behaviour first of all directly relate to the learner him or herself, the individual context in which they work and the barriers that stem from that specific context, such as those imposed by time, distance and instructional approaches (pedagogy) as well as ease of access to required information sources. These are the variables that Wilson (1999) calls 'person-in-context' and 'intervening variables'. They include demographic, role-related / interpersonal, psychological, environmental and logistical variables as well as sources and their characteristics, the student's social networks and the student's information literacy skills. This leads to the construction and proposition of a new model of information-seeking behaviour that directly relates to distance learners. The study makes a series of recommendations for supporting the library and information needs of distance learners in the electronic age effectively. They include the following: the role of electronic provision; design for ease of access and ease of use; the need for access to physical libraries; the need for technical support; the need for student support in the broadest sense; the responsibility of the institution for full provision of information resources and for the provision of information literacy skills; the design of distance learning programmes with integral information design rather than merely a translation of on-campus programmes; the need for a communications strategy; and the role of the institution in education literacy skills for a better understanding and appreciation of the purpose of study.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Library & Information Science
School of Science & Technology > School of Science & Technology Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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