Brief history

In the late eighties, the changing academic environment and the approval of university status for the Queensland Institute of Technology (QIT) was an ideal climate for changing the ways in which students interacted with the Library, and for reimagining the Library's provision of what was then called "bibliographic instruction". This change in status corresponded with a change in academics' perceptions of the research skills required by students in a newly emerging technological environment.

In 1988, in response to these new directions, Christine Bruce (then Librarian now Professor), redeveloped a series of undergraduate level bibliographic instruction workshops to meet the needs of postgraduate engineering students. Titled "Advanced Information Retrieval Skills (AIRS)", this program was adopted by the (then) Faculty of Engineering as a mandatory condition of undertaking an Engineering doctorate. With momentum gathering around the necessity for all higher degree students to develop research skills and capability, the Library's Associate University Librarian and University Librarian (Janice Rickards and Tom Cochrane, respectively) successfully championed the full accreditation of IFN001 through the Academic Board with IFN001 subsequently commissioned as a QUT unit of study in 1989. Until 2024, IFN001: Advanced Information Retrieval Skills (AIRS) remained a 4-credit point coursework requirement of enrolment for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) students at QUT, the first and only mandatory unit of its kind in Australian higher education.

Until 2005, the unit was offered in on-campus mode only. Conscious of the geographical distribution of students enrolled in a PhD at QUT and the need to widen access, the Library leveraged new technologies to redesign IFN001 with a primary online mode of delivery. Design of the new online course ("AIRS Online") allowed flexible progression through the content with deadlines and milestones incorporated into the course schedule to assist students in managing their progression through the 12-week course period. The AIRS Online curriculum addressed advanced search strategies and techniques, mastery of electronic information resources, efficient and effective Internet searching techniques, and proficient information management and current awareness strategies and practices. AIRS Online was offered to students in this alternate online mode from February 2005.

In 2011, a research consultant from the Melbourne School of Graduate Research, University of Melbourne (Jennifer Warburton) was commissioned to conduct an external review of the unit to assess the capacity of IFN001 curriculum to respond to the dynamic research terrain of the future to meet the needs of contemporary researchers. Subsequent recommendations highlighted opportunities to redevelop the curriculum, course structure, assessment component and evaluation of the program, particularly with respect to content and scope incorporating recent developments in the areas of data management, scholarly publishing and communication, intellectual property and copyright, and the use of online collaboration tools. It also recommended a minor change of unit title to more accurately reflect a more definitive scope, as well as significant changes to the governance of the unit and staffing model, including the provisioning of an on-going administrative support position and engaging Liaison Librarians as a core teaching and curriculum team. In 2012, the Library undertook the AIRS redevelopment project to implement these recommendations.

In 2014 IFN001 was comprehensively redesigned to transform the pedagogical basis of the curriculum from an instructivist approach to an active blended learning experience that meets the diverse needs of contemporary researchers. At this time, the assessment was reviewed and constructively aligned, providing students with more relevant and productive learning. To ensure quality assurance of marking, the teaching team participated in professional development activities and as an outcome, a system for moderation of marking was implemented.

With a commitment to continuous improvement to assure curriculum meets students' changing needs, the Library provisioned a website enhancement project in 2016. Enhancement to the website was based on student feedback regarding unit content and learning and interface design and functionality.

Like all educational programs, 2020 saw the need to convert IFN001 to remote delivery only. With the already blended learning mode in action, the team and students quickly adapted to Zoom workshops. When time provided opportunities to progress past the initial emergency remote teaching (ERT) mode, the AIRS team were able to redesign online content and workshops to provide opportunities for demonstration, engagement and discussion, while maintaining self-care in an uncertain social environment.

In 2023, a significant review of IFN001 AIRS was undertaken with the following objectives:

  • Develop a deeper understanding of the needs of our HDR student cohort.
  • Ensure alignment with QUT strategy, policies, and guidelines as well as external accreditation requirements.
  • Make sustainable service improvements in the delivery of IFN001 AIRS that reflect contemporary approaches to learning and teaching and student engagement while managing staff workload.
  • Demonstrate the value and impact of IFN001 AIRS to QUT Library Leadership Team (LLT), QUT stakeholders and QUT Executive in relation to supporting the development of Higher Degree Research (HDR) students at QUT to become independent and effective research graduates.
  • Continue to set the standard in research skills training for higher degree research students with our valued contribution to the QUT research community, wider Australian higher education sector, and Australian research context, with current, relevant, and credible research skills training that engages students through quality, innovative learning, and teaching strategy.

Approval was given by the QUT University Research Board to replace IFN001 with a new unit, IFN006 with the following changes:

Key changes include:

  • Increase to 6-credit points.
  • Satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading.
  • 2 assessment tasks.
  • Unit delivery in 10-week teaching periods with 4 offerings per calendar year.
  • Refined unit learning objectives designed to focus on the key information literacy skills needed early in candidature for finding, evaluating, organising, and using information effectively for research.
  • All learning content to be delivered through Canvas.
  • Redevelopment of the openly accessible, Creative Commons licensed AIRS website to reflect the updated unit content.

In 2024, QUT Library and the AIRS team began delivering IFN006. Teach out of IFN001 for remaining students concluded in June 2024.

Awards and nominations

2005 | Recipient - QUT Vice-Chancellor's Award for Institutional Advancement in Learning and Teaching (Team award: AIRS Online)

2008 | Recipient - Australian Learning and Teaching Council Teaching Excellence Award | Programs that Enhance Learning (Category: Flexible Learning and Teaching): Research skills online from undergraduate to postgraduate: a learning process - Pilot and AIRS online

2015 | Nominated - inaugural Australian Financial Review Higher Education Award in the category of Learning Experience