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AVAILABILITY AND UTILIZATION OF WEB-BASED INFORMATION RESOURCES FOR RESEARCHERS IN UNIVERSITIES
Background to the Study
Universities are the foremost tertiary institution in Nigeria, with responsibility for equipping people with knowledge and skills to undertake specific tasks and employment functions which are necessary for the transformation of societies (Osagie, 2009). The functions of a university in Nigeria are usually stated to include teaching, certification, research, production of texts, storage and retrieval of knowledge, community service and enlightened services (Ifidon,1999).Speaking further on the roles of universities in Nigeria, Nwagwu (2000) states that “Nations today depend increasingly on knowledge, ideas, skills which are produced in universities. As a nation’s knowledge industry, universities increase the productive capacity of the labour force. This is to say that the developmental status of a country depends largely on the universities’ input and output which brings us to a discussion on research. Research is a systematic observation of events or reality in order to determine the validity of an idea. Meredith (2010) stipulates that research is the systematic and objective analysis, and the recording of controlled observations that may lead to the development of generalizations, theories and principles resulting in prediction and ultimate control of many events that may be consequences or causes of specific activities. According to the above author, research seeks to establish a fact or a reality, explain, control or prevent, offer solutions and also predict the future of specific activities. Therefore research can be understood to be a general term which covers all kinds of studies designed to find responses to worthwhile questions by means of a systematic and scientific approach (Alzheimer, 2009). Ivowi (1999) listed three uses of research: research leads to further studies and knowledge, serves as a powerful tool for solving problems through better understanding of a giving situation, and normally leads to development and then actual production of goods and services for societal improvement. Research, generally, is considered to be a formal, systematic and intensive process of applying the scientific method of data collection and analysis (Whyte in Afolabi, 1997). Research is one of the tripartite missions and functions for which universities are established, (research, teaching and learning). Therefore, the need for research in a university cannot be over emphasized.
Researchers in the universities are lecturers, undergraduates and post graduate students. Lecturers in the universities continually engage in research activities in their various areas of specialization. This is part of the academic exercise they have to offer universities for their ultimate development. It also forms part of the necessary requirement for their promotion. Undergraduate students also embark on research, which is referred to as project report and is supervised and submitted to the department of the researcher in partial fulfillment of the first degree under study. The same applies to post graduate students pursuing higher degrees of Masters or Doctors of Philosophy.
Successful research depends largely on human and material resource. One needs information to carry out research; therefore, information is a key resource for the academic researcher. Laloo (2002) provided some properties of information; according to him, information is not consumed in its self, it can be shared by many and can even be used simultaneously without any loss to anyone. It is the most democratic resource in that it can be consumed by the rich and the poor alike, depending on their intake capacity. Information is dynamic, ever growing and continuing, and no final word is said or will ever be said on any aspect of it (Ozioko, 2007).
Because of the diverse and infinite nature of information, university researchers need different information resources to carry out their research activities effectively. This is why the university libraries offer different services and resources. In other to obtain useful information for a research, a researcher must first of all identify what kind of information he needs. This is because different kinds of information are found in different kinds of resources. The kind of information a researcher needs will determine which resource is most appropriate.
Information resources in the library comprise all forms of materials that can be used to disseminate information to information seekers that come to the library. These resources include book and non-book materials. That is, they come in print and non-print forms. The book forms include text books, encyclopedia, journals, magazines, pamphlets, gazetteers, newspapers, dictionaries, e.t.c. while the non-book forms include audio-visual and archival materials, internet services, data and web-based, virtual libraries, and e-libraries. Among these, web-based information resources have gained more prominence in recent years.
World Wide Web is defined by Soorayanaragana and Mahesh (2000) as client server based, distributed hypertext, and multimedia information systems on the internet. According to Paynter and Pearson (2007), a web based information system is an application that not only disseminates information but also proactively interacts with the users to aid them in their task of information acquisition and dissemination.
To infer from Gbaje (2007), web-based services are those services which librarians provide using websites as a means to facilitate access to specific internet and other digital resources. Alternatively, a web could be seen as a door way that can be customized by individual users to automatically filter information from the web, while Web portals can be seen as “a customized learning and transactional web environment designed purposefully to enable users to personalized the content and look-of the website for his/her own individual preference”. Additionally, it can be defined as a collection of inter-linked computer networks.
Web-based resources can be used for diverse reasons including communication and sharing of information and other things quickly and inexpensively with millions of people from diverse cultures around the world via electronic mail, internet telephone, keyboard chart and video conferencing. There are also a growing number of interactive, multimedia games, educational tools, databases, libraries, news groups, around the world to gather information on any topic; for work or recreation. The information could be in form of text, pictures, or even video materials. Email files can also be stored on the web-based server.
A web-based information system can be defined as an application that not only disseminates information but also proactively interacts with the users to aid them in their quest of information acquisition and dissemination (Painter and Pearson, 2009). In a WWW-based information system, therefore, information is presented to the user in a bi-directional manner. This definition has generalized everything about www-based information resources but, it is pertinent to point out that there are some commonalities between such resources. WWW-based resources irrespective of type must adopt extension to the basic HTML, using Java Lava script or UB script to provide additional functionality to the basic hypertext link
Web-based information resources, according to McAfee (2006), are an application that facilitates interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration between the disseminator and the recipient of the information. The World Wide Web is understood not only as a screen full graphic but as a transport mechanism through which inter-activity happens. It can appear on a computer screen, on television set, cell-phone or handheld game machine. As Minigashi-Maganja, (2007) puts it, the web has become a universal standard-based integrated platform.
The universities under study are Benue State University, Makurdi; Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; and University of Mkar, Mkar. Benue State University was established in the 1992/1993 academic session by the then civilian governor Rev. Moses Orshio Adasu. .Owned exclusively by the Benue State government, it is a conventional university offering courses in both Sciences and the Humanities/Arts. The University offers programmes in Pure and Applied Sciences, Medicine, Arts, Law, with the prospect to expand into other fields. The motto of the university is scientia liberatio populorum meaning, knowledge for the liberation of the people.
Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; is located in the Benue State capital Makurdi. University of Agriculture, Makurdi occupies an arable land area of 8,048 hectares, thus making it the largest holder of agriculture land mass amongst institutions of its kind. By federal operational policy, the UAM mandate covers over 60% of Nigeria with 19 states of the federation and the federal capital territory as its catchment area. The UAM was established in 1988 with the mission of improving scientific transformation of traditional agriculture and to accelerate the drive towards national food self-sufficiency. This is embedded in the philosophy that the average Nigerian farmer should have access to fruits of scientific agriculture.
The University of Mkar was licensed by the Federal Government of Nigeria in June,2005 to operate as a private Christian university in Nigeria. It however took- off on 4th October 2005. The university is owned by the NKST church, an offshoot of the Dutch Reformed church/Sudan United Mission of South Africa and North America respectively. The vision of the university is to be a world class university that is committed to the advancement of knowledge through quality teaching, research and holistic education that puts God at the center of all learning. The mission is that through learning the university can develop change agents in the academy, church and society, using knowledge based on God`s word for service. The university aims to develop a total person through education that is qualitative, comprehensive and relevant, and that propels the individual to be self-reliant. University of Mkar operates a collegiate system comprising of three colleges; the College of Food Science Technology, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, College of Social and Management Sciences, with various departments.
Statement of the Problem
It has been observed that university researchers in Benue State have consistently complained of inadequate and limited information resources that would effectively support their research. This seems to manifest in difficulties in their research activities, unnecessary duplication of research locally and globally, limited coverage in literature used and obsolescence of academic and research works. One of the reasons adduced for duplication and obsolescence in research activities, which results to low quality in research output in Nigerian universities, is lack of current and adequate information to support the research activities of university researchers (Ikpaahindi, 2005).
Information and services that are available to university researchers are not current and adequate enough to meet the needs and expectations of the present day researcher at the university level. Ikpaahindi further stated that more often than not, recently generated information, such as research reports and conference papers across the globe, seem to be inaccessible or are not adequately or currently provided to a good number of university libraries in Nigeria. This according to him, has accounted partially for the perennial low research productivity in Africa. Yet observation reveals that libraries in Benue state have acquired web-based information resources to support research.
This situation raises questions concerning the potentials offered by the global web-based information resources and services to research and researchers globally as a result of accessibility and skills to access the available resources. Could it be that these lecturers are not aware of these potentials? It is obvious therefore that if this situation is not looked into, it could lead to poor research output and obsolescence (outdated information delivery among university academia in the state). While countries of the developed world have taken complete advantage of the potentials provided by web-based information resources, most countries of the underdeveloped world, of which Nigeria is one, may not yet be taking full advantage of this opportunity.
Based on this, it becomes imperative to carry out a study to investigate the availability and utilization of web-based information resources and the factors affecting their use as well as extent of utilization of these web-based information resources.
Purpose of the Study
Generally, the purpose of the study is to investigate the availability and utilization of web-based information resources by university researchers in Benue State. Specifically, the work is to;
- Find out the web-based information resources and services available to the university researchers in Benue State.
- Determine purposes for which researchers utilize web-based information resources.
- Find out the extent of utilization of web-based information resources for research.
- Inquire into the attitude of university researchers towards web-based information resources.
- Identify problems associated with the use of web-based information resources and services.
- Proffer strategies that could enhance the utilization of web-based information resources for university researchers in Benue State.
The study was guided by the following research questions;
- What are the web-based information resources available to university researchers in Benue State?
- For what purposes do researchers utilize web-based information resources?
- To what extent do researchers utilize web-based information resources for research?
- What is the attitude of researchers to web-based information resources?
- What are the problems associated with the use of web-based information resources?
- What strategies could be used to enhance the utilization of web-based information resources in university researchers in Benue State?
Significance of the Study
It is expected that the findings of this work will be useful to the following categories of people: University management, librarians, researchers in universities and the field of library and information science. For the university management, it is expected that the findings of this study will be useful in instituting effective use of web-based resources that would bring about world class information resources essential for effective research. It is expected to make policy makers in collection development of universities to realize the need to support librarians by making policies and decisions that can facilitate and enhance the availability of these resources for university researchers.
For the librarians, it is also expected that this study will go a long way in contributing to programmes, services, and strategies which they could adopt to their evolving library services to meet the contemporary need of researchers within and outside their universities. It is also expected to help them to improve on their present services in this regard to their patrons In addition, it is hoped that the findings of this work will go a long way in providing the required facilities that enhance research activities which in turn will enable researchers in carrying out essential and relevant researches.
Finally, it is also expected that the findings of this work will contribute to the literature of information technology especially in the neglected area of Benue State. It is also expected to enable future researchers to realize the need for further research and studies on the subject of availability and utilization of web-based information resources and therefore guide them on various dimension open for further research.
Scope of the Study
This study is on web-based information resources for university researchers in Benue State. These researchers are research fellows, lecturers and postgraduate students of the three universities in Benue State. The Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, the Benue State University, Makurdi and, the University of Mkar, Mkar.
In terms of scope, the study was limited to the availability and utilization of web-based information resources for researchers in universities with a view of obtaining information on; availability of web-based information resources for the said group of researchers; determine the purposes for which researchers utilize web-based information resources;find out the extend of use of web-based information resources for research; inquire into the attitude of university researchers towards web-based information resources; identify problems associated with the use of web-based information resources and services, and finally to proffer strategies that could enhance the utilization of web-based information resources for university researchers in Benue State.