Course Exam—INFS 200

Information Seeking & Society in the Information Age

INFS 200 (Information Seeking & Society in the Information Age) is a three-credit humanities course that engages students in critical inquiry and research as they use information systems, including the internet, mass media, and libraries, to investigate key issues pertaining to information, knowledge and society in the information age.  The course provides a foundation for students to participate effectively in scholarly communities and to explore their roles as citizens in the dynamic, multimedia landscape of the twenty-first century.  INFS 200 has no prerequisites and has a Challenge for Credit option if you are interested.

Information Seeking & Society in the Information Age is made up of one assignment weighing fifteen percent, two assignments worth ten percent each, one assignment weighing twenty percent, a weighted discussions and glossary section worth fifteen percent, and a final examination for thirty percent of the total mark.

This course will teach students how to critically reflect on social, economic, and political contexts distribution and use of knowledge and information in the information age, be able to demonstrate an understanding of practices for maintaining intellectual honesty, be able to develop and apply online search strategies, and to discuss the implications of information and communication technologies for society and citizenship.  The final examination for INFS 200 must be taken online and must be scheduled and taken with an Athabasca University approved invigilator.

Fred Chagnon has been a student at Athabasca University since 2014 and started INFS 200 in November of 2017 and finished the course August 2018.  He states, “If you do the math you will find a few extensions in there, which is completely the cause of my own life events and procrastination, not a reflection of the effort required to complete the course.”

He describes the course, stating “I understand that the course used to be called “Information Seeking” in its earliest revisions, and has since evolved into “Information Seeking in the Information Age”.  It therefore covers two thematic learning outcomes.  First and foremost, it is a study of information seeking as a competency; how to fetch information through various forms outside of keyword searches on Google, combined with how to evaluate that information in terms of authenticity, and where it is in the information lifecycle.  The second broad theme is a look at the information age in general, looking at the impact the internet has had on our ability to consume and provide information.  One of the assignments in paticular involves a critical response to an essay written in 2001 that expresses several concerns about the information age in general.”

He explains, “The course is split into four distinct units.  Within each unit students are expected to do the following: read the study guide which is generally about a dozen pages of AU provided material; read one to two chapters from the textbook, which as of this writing was provided in print only (a bonus for the e-text haters out there!); contribute two two-hundred word posts to the online forum that draw on glossary terms and concepts from the reading (and optionally engage with other students on their posts); complete a long form assignment; and lather, rinse, repeat for each unit.”

Fred continues, “A student can realistically expect to take anywhere from two to four weeks on each unit, resulting in eight to sixteen weeks overall time investment, not including the final exam.  I found the assignments to be an effective way to apply the practice elements of each unit.  For example, in the first unit, the Information Lifecycle is a large focus area, and the assignment of this unit asks the student to choose a newsworthy event, and analyze the information published on this event through the information lifecycle: from breaking news through to academic analysis.  The final two assignments were each seven- to eight-hundred-word APA formatted essays, the final one including an annotated bibliography.”

Overall, Fred found the course particularly read and write heavy, and states “A student who considers themselves particularly information literate and effective at conducting research cannot expect to get through this course quickly.  The nature of the work and assignments still require a large amount of time output.  The way I have described it to others, is more akin to shoveling a drive-way.  The work is not difficult, but still requires some amount of unavoidable effort.”

He continues, “The greatest learning outcome for me was about the value of academic journal articles and their contribution to research.  Where before I might have seen an article use a mathematical model to prove a theory on a social science topic, and I would have felt intimidated by the article.  Understanding the value of peer review, I know I can consume this article by reading the introduction and the outcomes, skipping the proof, and trusting the authenticity because someone more qualified than I am has already checked that proof.”

As for the final exam for this course, Fred states “The exam was based almost exclusively on the content covered in the printed text.  It followed naturally from two-mark definition questions, through five-mark concept explanation questions, finishing with a thirty-mark essay question.  Absolutely appropriate and not esoteric at all — and this is coming from someone who abhors exams.”

He concludes, stating “I would recommend this course to anyone looking to improve their ability to conduct research skills for future courses.  It would make a great early degree program course for students going on to further study in Humanities, Social Sciences, or Computer Science.  It is heavy on reading and essay writing.  If you are not comfortable with your essay writing prowess, ENGL 255 is probably a good prerequisite.”

Whether INFS 200 is a degree requirement of yours or the information discussed above is of interest to you, this course will teach you how to be a more critical reader and it will teach you more around the topic of information in the information age!

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