Skills Development Providers (SDPs) & Training Providers

The Library and Accreditation

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    Hannes Nel

    I recently spoke to the CEO of a private learning institution about his efforts to obtain accreditation. He felt rather dejected. They submitted an application for accreditation with the CHE/HEQC five years ago and are still struggling to obtain the accreditation. According to him the only stumbling block is their library – the CHE feels that their library is not good (big?) enough in spite of the fact that they successfully accredited to offer a good number of other qualifications with the same library.

    I have a library in my pocket that provides me with access to more information than any university or public library in the world. For any topic on which you may search for information in books I will find more and more recent information on my cell phone.

    Many, probably most, lecturers at universities are opposed to students consulting and quoting web sites in their research reports. The internet, they claim, is full of worthless and false information – most certainly not acceptable for academic research purposes. Why would books be any different? Through the ages as much nonsense has been written in books as is currently on the internet. Even so, students need to adapt their research approach to the nature and volume of information that is available on the internet. All that is needed is that students find corroboration for anything that they use in their research. Simple logic will tell the student if it is necessary to confirm information and to what extent. Triangulation comes to mind.

    When studying for a D Phil I visited the university library three times, then gave up. Normally I love spending time in a library. However, this time I could find only two books with information that I could use and in both instances it was only one paragraph in each book. Even more, the large majority, probably more than 80% of the books in the library, are so outdated that one can no longer quote them. We are living in an age when information is becoming available faster than an exploding nuclear bomb can spread it’s radiation (ok, perhaps I am exaggerating a little bit here).

    The Pretoria university library is currently developing a databank with the most recent South African legislation and amendments to existing acts. I am sure some students will be able to use this. However, any student who knows how to operate a laptop computer can find any information on the most recent legislation on the internet while working in his room, sitting on a bench in a park, watching rugby at Loftus, etc. without having to consult a university library.

    Some three years ago I visited a professor at the Free State University. I did not know where his office was and while trying to find it I came across this huge hall.  The front windows stretch from the floor to the roof, so that the room is friendly and warm. The whole place was filled with students sitting on bar stools at round tables, working on laptop computers. All right, some might have been playing computer games. The place reminded me of a super-size internet café, which it probably is. I cannot think of a more stimulating atmosphere in which to do research and study. If we had such facilities when I was a young student I would have moved in there, and I would have stayed there probably for a decade or longer.

    Meanwhile private learning institutions are required to have huge libraries if they are to stand any chance of being accredited. Even learning institutions offering online learning are required to have a library full of dead trees transformed into sheets of paper. Mark my word, if you are not an accomplice in killing your share of trees you will not be accredited.

    Hannes Nel

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    Hannes, I did my PhD with UNISA and the librarians could give me a list of about 5 appropriate references. I did my whole thesis via internet research, using googlescholar as the basis. The UNISA guidelines say that the majority of references should be peer-reviewed journals with a minimum number of books. There are a number of open-source repositories as well such as the African Library. CHE needs to wake up and come into the modern world of technology. On any thesis, I as tutor, supply my students with a list of appropriate weblinks to recent journals and we go from there. It’s nonsense that any college should have a library that can match a university library which can literally take up whole buildings. 

    Lynel Farrell

    Shocking to say the least.  Now if the public libraries were up to date with the most updated books, open to the community (which includes learners) it would help, but not even the public libraries (those who are left) can cope with all the learning material and that is why we study the internet, as the latest information is available for us there, and sometimes (a lot of times) these “books” are not even printed (they call it now – e-books?).  I feel sorry for those who needs to buy books that will never be used, just to show they have a shelf(s) of books.

    David Jooste

    Looking at the facts and figures of those students that actually exit the Higher Education system with a qualification one need to ask the question if Libraries is the solution to a (bigger?) problem or misplaced criteria contributing to the problem. I had the pleasure and frustration recently to try and make use of public libaries to look info up and from what it seemed the last time a new book was purchased dates back to 1992. But as always an interesting and thought provoking article from you Dr Nel. Thank you I enjoyed it


    I agree with you Jacqueline.

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