An Ecological Model to Understand the Variety in Undergraduate Students’ Personal Information Systems

Backhouse, Judy
Hughes, Mitchell
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LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg
A first-year undergraduate course in Information Systems in a South African university includes an opportunity for students to reflect on their own use of information and personal information systems. Their reflections provide data about the technologies and tools that they use to find and manage everyday life information, as well as academic information, and about the sources of information they draw on. This paper analyses data collected over three years and reports on the dominant technologies and information sources that students use. We then adapt the ecological model of information seeking and use developed by Williamson (1998) to make sense of the diversity of information sources and students’ choices in engaging with them. The results show that students rely to a very small degree on traditional university information sources. The study offers insights into the information contexts and behaviour of students and argues for the importance of a flexible range of information sources to support students in the complex process of managing information for academic success. The results will be of interest to those involved in designing and delivering undergraduate programmes, as well as those providing information services and infrastructures.
personal information system, information behaviour, undergraduate students, information technology, information seeking, information sources, personal informatics
Backhouse, J., & Hughes, M. (2015). An ecological model to understand the variety in undergraduate students’ personal information systems. The African Journal of Information and Communication (AJIC), 15, 14-24.