Towards an information literate medical university from the undergraduate


Towards an information literate medical university from the undergraduate


Hacia una universidad médica informacionalmente alfabetizada desde el pregrado



Manuel Delgado Pérez1, Odalys Aguila García2

1 Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Cuba. E-mail:
2 Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Cuba. E-mail:




At present, the university education has enough reasons to enter in the formation of informational competences. Higher education institutions are called upon to develop courses on information literacy to be included in the curriculum. Medical universities recognize that the teaching training of professionals lacks appropriate programs to teach the use of techniques and tools necessary for the selection, search and retrieval of information sources and resources. The experience of the last years at Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences confirms the limited presence of the informational component in the curriculum of the students; for this reason, the professorship of Information and Knowledge Management (IKM), settled in the Provincial Center for Information on Medical Sciences, has undertaken various actions to promote and increase the presence of informational content in the teaching activities of students.

MeSH: information literacy, education, medical, undergraduate.


La enseñanza universitaria tiene en la actualidad suficientes motivos para adentrarse en la formación de competencias informacionales. Los centros de enseñanza superior están llamados a desarrollar cursos sobre alfabetización informacional, a incluir en el currículum. En las universidades médicas se reconoce que la formación docente de los profesionales carece de programas apropiados para la enseñanza del uso de las técnicas y herramientas necesarias para la selección, búsqueda y recuperación de las fuentes y recursos de información. La experiencia de los últimos años en la Universidad de Ciencias Médicas de Villa Clara confirma la escasa presencia del componente informacional en el currículo de los estudiantes; por ello la Cátedra de Gestión de la Información y el Conocimiento radicada en el Centro Provincial de Información de Ciencias Médicas se ha propuesto realizar diversas acciones para promover e incrementar la presencia de contenidos informacionales en las actividades docentes de los estudiantes.

DeCS: alfabetización informacional, educación de pregrado en Medicina



The university teaching has enough reasons to enter in the formation of informational competences at present. These include:

  • The high knowledge generated in all areas of knowledge. It requires that the university student be prepared, not only to appropriate theories and basic knowledge of the teaching disciplines, but also technologically to obtain the information needed both in their professional activity and in their specialization and research.
  • The diversity of sources where knowledge is socialized. Traditional forms coexist with the forms in digital medium, it is imposed that all university develop competences for the use of the specialized information in this context.
  • The protagonist role of the student in the construction of its own knowledge.1

Learning to use scientific information contributes to the students' scientific thinking and develops the capacity to produce a documented scientific production, in addition, the solving-problem capacity is formed, it develops critical thinking and encourages methodologies to be self-taught. During the transition to their professional life, students need to learn to differentiate sources of information that produce reliable results from those that are questionable.2

The student should have competencies to carry out autonomous information searching, which contribute to the independent and critical thinking of the subject. This exploration must be induced, planned and agreed upon jointly by the teacher and a specialist in Information Literacy (INLIT) 3 The current Cuban university has among its aims to achieve a high degree of professional competence; for this reason it is considered essential that professional training should include the development of informational competences, considering them as basic and essential for life.1

Despite the importance of INLIT in higher education, it is not yet an integral component of many university programs and curricula, and as a consequence, students are graduating without adequate information skills; the INLIT at the institutional level is not always seen as a priority in the curriculum.4

Higher education institutions are called upon to develop courses on this subject to be included in the curriculum. In this effort, all professionals must work together: information technicians and teachers.5

In the particular case of medical universities, it is recognized that the teaching training of professionals in the area of health lacks appropriate programs for teaching the use of the necessary techniques and tools for the selection, search and recovery of sources and resources of information.5

As a trend, the inclusion of contents on scientific and technical information within Medical Computing programs is observed, with few hours and diluted within the broad field of this discipline. It is evident the need to design a subject that provides the student with the necessary knowledge and skills for the use of information, as proposed in the international scientific literature on the subject.5

The Study Plan of the medical career has had different changes for its continuous improvement in search of a better development of the teaching-learning process, in response to the scientific advances and the trends of the medical education. At the moment the Study Plan D is applied, reason why all the subjects pertaining to the integrating discipline have undergone different perfections in view to form a more skilful and comprehensive professional.6

The experience of the last years at Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences confirms the scarce presence of the informational component in the curriculum, that is to say the literacy of the students that are formed in the different careers and for that reason the professorship of Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) has set itself to carry out various actions to promote and increase the presence of informational content in the teaching activities of students. The first experience goes back to two previous academic years in which, in coordination with the Medical Computing Department and the (IKM) professorship, contents of scientific information were given as part of the Medical Computing course in the first year of the medical career. A more recent experience materialized in the first semester of the academic year 2016-2017 when inserting a theoretical-practical teaching activity in the subject of Comprehensive General Medicine in the first year. It is the beginning of a more ambitious projection, which seeks to progressively match the university to contemporary demands.

Current times demand that university students acquire and develop their gifts and abilities in the use of information since their registration in higher education. Undoubtedly, knowing how to search, evaluate, interpret and use information in any of its forms offers advantages to today's learner, who faces the challenges imposed by the information society and knowledge.5

Havana´s Declaration on Information Literacy7 proposes: to encourage information literacy, information competences training, to have, as far as possible, curricular and/or extracurricular presence, and that the validation of these competencies be a requirement, a value-added, a differential advantage of great importance in pre-school, primary, secondary and university educational institutions.

The training of informational skills can be done using different methodologies, though the undergraduate with the integration of content in curricula through a subject up to the cross-sectional insertion of content in different subjects. Some models recommend that this postgraduate practice can be addressed through diploma courses, master´s courses and doctorates, always linked to the paradigm of lifelong learning.8

The information culture in the academic community contexts must be formed in function of the improvement of curricula and system of subjects imparted and the identification of the levels previously reached by its participants around the informational abilities in function of the academic performance. Some aspects to promote within these spaces towards an effective information culture are learning online, using information technologies as teaching resources that motivate students, creating a technical culture in them, and collaborative learning, based on the comprehensive use of collective knowledge, including the management strategies assimilated by the community.9

The approaches in respect to the concept information literate university refer that the higher education institution must integrate a series of closely related elements: an administration for INLIT, with strategies, resources, policies and infrastructure, research in INLIT, students and graduates Informational literate, a curriculum in which INLIT is recognized as a subject of study and that is present in the learning processes, teaching and evaluation, development programs for the personnel in these subjects and information literate librarians.10


Declaration of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



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Submitted: January 31 2017.
Accepted: February 24 2017.



Manuel Delgado Pérez. Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Cuba. E-mail:

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