Teaching Information Literacy Skills through Gaming

Teaching Information Literacy Skills through Gaming
Jenny James Lee
August 4, 2016

Students at computer.Today’s students have grown up in a digital world with a seemingly endless amount of information available at their fingertips through their multiple connected devices. So, it does not seem like much of a stretch to assume that these students are well versed in information literacy.

However, studies show that most incoming college students lack fundamental information literacy skills - relying on familiar open resources such as Wikipedia or Google.

Libraries are at the forefront of teaching information literacy skills. At Drexel, librarians partner with faculty to ensure that information literacy is on the curriculum, working on tutorials and guides, guest lecturing and providing consultations on research efforts.

Liaison librarian for engineering, Jay Bhatt, has taken it one step further. For the past several years he has worked with Knovel (an vendor of engineering resources) to create the Knovel Academic Challenge. The game is developed by students, for students, and has participants work in teams to answer questions and solve problems using engineering resources.

A dynamic leaderboard available on the Academic Challenge website offers an element of competition. The leaderboard shows only the performance of an institution or university, fostering a sense of team among the individual challenge participants who work collaboratively to advance their standings.

You can hear Bhatt and Daniel Christe, a co-author of the paper, discuss their work in this Elsevier produced video. They also recently participated in a panel session titled Bringing Students, Faculty and Librarians Together: Game Based Learning for Interdisciplinary Education along with Antonios Kontsos. 

Bhatt continues to evolve the challenges and seeks new ways to teach information literacy. Below is the abstract for his white paper titled, “A Game-based Learning Approach to Information Literacy.”


Academic librarians have launched multiple efforts to address 21st century information literacy needs of students and faculty, such as the usage of databases. Despite these efforts, undergraduate students remain largely unfamiliar with their usage. Knovel (recently acquired by Elsevier) provides an online library of engineering-focused content, serving more than 700 customers worldwide, including over 400 universities. The Knovel Academic Challenge is a global game designed to highlight key features of the Knovel Academic Collection, which includes 3500 reference items and 90,000 interactive tables, graphs, and equations. In this work, we investigated how online games can be used to promote database literacy. In previous years, challenge questions were comprised of interactive equation references, unit conversions, derivatives, and periodic table lookups. For the Fall 2015 challenge, a committee of students at Drexel University developed a new set of questions based on contemporary engineering grand challenges. To generate campus engagement in the challenge, we organized hackathon-inspired “Knovel marathon” nights in which undergraduate and graduate students solved the challenge, the vast majority of them using Knovel for the first time. Students showed high levels of engagement and enthusiasm during the marathon, demonstrating how games can be used to reinforce key functionalities of databases, library resources, and their application to academic research workflows.