The following is the deliverable for the Information Literacy module of an independent study course called MetaOlin designed by 6 Olin College students in the Spring 2007 Semester. The six students involved in the course were: Mel Chua, Chris Dellin, Boris Dieseldorff, Chandra Little, Marco Morales, and Andy Pethan. For an overview of the entire MetaOlin independent study see this summary post.

Information Literacy: Executive Summary

The goal of this module was to understand how people find information, how they learn to find this information, and how this information is converted into knowledge. This module was one week long and was taught by Dee Magnoni. It began with a discussion on the availability of information in the world and how different institutions approachinformation fluency and teaching, including Olin. The second part of this module concerned how one goes aboutobtaining information, how to improve one’s information fluency, and further examined Olin’s treatment of information fluency in particular. This module was one week long, and the final deliverable is an attempt to incorporate what we found to be a lack of formal information literacy instruction at Olin into a co-curricular format.

Many Olin students have varying levels of instruction on information literacy, but for the most part students spend little time thinking about how they process information. Our meta-inspired co-curricular is designed teach students where to find information, how to find it, how to process it efficiently, and how to present it accurately and effectively through different topics of interest such as: speed-reading, advertising, data skewing, email etiquette, and PowerPoint presentations, among other things.

MetaOlin: Information Literacy –> Introduction: Life Hacking


Olin’s Founding Precepts describe an Olin engineer with an assortment of important skills and experiences. The Precepts also aspire to change engineering education to reach these objectives. “[C]hanges … include interdisciplinary and integrated teaching, hands-on learning and research opportunities for students, improved communication skills, [and] students working as members of teams …” At the heart of each of these goals is a fundamental capability to work with information and turn it into knowledge – identifying, searching for, collecting, triaging, analyzing, presenting, and sharing the vast amount of information available to today’s problem-solvers. While Olin aspires to teach many of these skills through disciplinary exercises in the classroom, developing and reflecting upon “information literacy” can benefit from a focused co-curricular experience. By focusing on some of these ideas, Olin students can become more effective and efficient at managing information in today’s world.


We have provided a number of mix-and-match sample modules that can be used in any order as-is or as inspiration to develop future modules (or to present to students with the suggestion that they develop and teach modules oftheir own). It is important that the first session make it clear that this is a student-driven co-curricular, and that students should sign up to organize and run modules on the topic they feel most passionate about.


Teach students where to find information, how to find it, how to process it efficiently, and how to present itaccurately and effectively. The five fundamental skills of information fluency we will cover are:

  • Locating / Searching (advertising, etc.)
  • Analyzing (statistics skepticism, etc.)
  • Organizing (notetaking, etc.)
  • Synthesizing (speedreading, etc.)
  • Interpreting (lie detector, etc.)
  • Evaluation (feedback, reflection, etc.)


We believe students are more likely to take a co-curricular on “lifehacking” than one entitled “information literacy.”We have therefore provided modules around the topic of life-optimization with the common thread that they all optimize one’s life around the handling of information. However, we don’t tell people this until the end of the semester. 😉

Target Audience

Although the co-curricular would be open and available to all students, this curriculum is designed with the needs of first-year students in their second semester at Olin in mind.


Below is a presentation outlining some of the various modules we expected to cover all in the hope of addressing learning content goals for information literacy.

[slideshare id=7715078&doc=lifehackingcurriculum-110423100658-phpapp01]