Information Overload of Academic Staff in Higher Education Institutions in Estonia
Tallinn University, Estonia
Objective and Value
Information overload is the condition where the amount of potentially available relevant information is a barrier to effective information use. This is not a new phenomenon, however, in the digital age, individuals and organizations face new challenges. It has been stated that information overload is rather the „co-product“ of other problems in the digital age (Savolainen, 2007), namely, overload of work-tasks, lack of time, and fragmentation of actions (Bawden & Robinson 2009). Misla & Stokols (2012) have also analysed the health outcomes of information and technological overload.
In this paper we focus on perceived information overload of academic staff (teaching faculty) in the context of the information culture of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Estonia. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between the perception of information overload, information management, and information literacy. The aim is to give recommendations to HEIs for the development of information culture and information literacy skills that support coping with the information overload.
Our research used a web-based questionnaire survey. The study used data that was gathered for the study of information culture of HEI (Lauri, Heidmets & Virkus 2016). The questionnaire consisted of 39 questions, both closed and open-ended, thus yielding both quantitative and qualitative data. We presented most items as statements and respondents indicated their agreement on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A total of 144 academics from 12 HEIs (four universities and eight professional HEIs) completed the survey.
More than 60% of academic staff admit that it has been hard for them to cope with information overload during the last month. At the same time, only 38% have been involved in developing their information literacy skills. Almost half of the respondents haven’t used new information channels or software during the last month. The main barriers to work-related information seeking and use that were outlined were lack of time, information overload, and information that was too unstructured, scattered between different sources. Analyses of the empirical study results revealed differences in information management, sharing and use in different types of HEIs. The higher education system in Estonia consists of universities and professional HEIs. Professional HEIs provide higher education programmes in the first and second cycles of higher education, and are more oriented towards the labor market. The information sharing practices have been more formalised in professional HEIs. People cooperate more frequently within the HEI and members of the academic staff are more satisfied with the organisation and availability of information in these institutions. According to the previous study of information culture in HEIs (Lauri, Heidmets & Virkus 2016), an integrated information culture is the prevailing form of information culture in professional HEIs. However, further study is needed in order to understand the impact of the information culture for coping strategies with information overload.
Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Sciences, 35(2), 180–191.
Lauri, L., Heidmets, M., & Virkus, S. (2016). The information culture of higher education institutions: The Estonian case. Information Research, 21(3), 722.
Misra, S., & Stokols, D. (2012). Psychological and health outcomes of perceived information overload. Environment and Behaviour, 44(6), 737–759.
Savolainen, R. (2007). Filtering and withdrawing: Strategies for coping with information overload in everyday contexts. Journal of Information Sciences, 33(5), 611–621.
Thinking Youth Popular University as a Participative Space: Focus on a Speakers’ Corner Experience, between Participatory Culture, Citizen Commitment and Political Empowerment
Lille SHS University, France
This paper draws on the first results of an ongoing research (2017-2021), on the implementation of a Youth Popular University (YPU) in a French metropolitan area (Northen France). Our objective is to study the actions developed under this project, and specifically, during the first phase, how young people (18-30 years old) are mobilizing, in particular when involving in speakers' corner experiences.
Few studies exist on YPUs, but are numerous on popular education. Many of them highlight a youth participation „through action“, and a commitment „by doing“; they refer to a political vision tending to „the promotion of activation and empowerment of users“, at the opposite of a consumerist approach (Loncle et al, 2008). In this perspective, „speakers' corners“ (SC) are seen as opportunities, in non-formal environments, to live rich and complex experiences. Recent studies insist on their role as „meeting places“, where actors can interact, debate, verbalize their experiences...; and as „potential spaces“, promoting problematization of knowledge from experiences, along with the development of social and informational skills. Seen through the lens of knowledge, it is part of „participatory culture“ (Fortin & al., 2014; Jenkins, 2016), and closely related to the ability of „critical consciousness“, essential to the building of a coherent and reasoned vision of reality (Elmborg, 2006). However, studies point out that participation is not equally educative, it does not necessarily create opportunities for deeper learning and broader thinking.
What can we say about the speakers’ corner experience and its role in citizen commitment and political empowerment? What do the actors' practices reveal about its potential? To what extent does it contribute to the development of participatory and critical (information) culture(s)?
In terms of methodology, we use a qualitative and comprehensive approach, collecting field data in immersion, close to the actors (young people, facilitators), to better understand their experiences.
The results are based on the data collected throughout the SC implementation process: from the reflection on a previous SC experience (strengths, limitations), to the mobilization of young people during a training phase until the key moment of its effective implementation. In an anthropological perspective, we consider the SC as an evolutive process, paying attention, beyond their narratives, to their „ways of being“, between individual and collective, sensible and intelligible.
Elmborg, J. (2006). Critical information literacy: Implications for instructional practice. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), 192–199.
Fortin, C., Neustaedter, C., & Hennessy, K. (2014). The appropriation of a digital speakers’ corner: Lessons learned from the in-the-wild deployment of megaphone. In Proceedings of the Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, June 21-25, Vancouver, BC, Canada (pp. 955–964). New York: ACM Press.
Loncle, P. et al. (2012). Youth participation in Europe: Beyond discourses, practices and realities. Bristol: Policy Press.