EENHANA – Walking around the Eenhana Community library in Ohangwena region, a keen observer will notice that the stacks of books on the shelves have to compete with laptops, iPads and respective power cables.
Books remain stacked neatly on the shelf as readers have a “faster” source to acquire information and knowledge, the internet. Welcome to the digital age that has gradually seen books replaced by hours behind computer and phones screens.
A librarian at Eenhana Community library, Princess Iitembu, says previously, students and learner in universities, vocational training centres and schools alike in Namibia spent hours flipping pages of books in pursuit of information, but a click on a link is not only saving them the time but also resources. “The Internet as a research medium offers fast and precise results and, hence the increasing popularity among students, learners and some researchers. But as the latest development seems to ease the learning and research processes, it has been numerously termed as a short cut that could cause one to overlook crucial information hence the copy and paste case,” she says
Joseph Kamwi, an English Trainer with the Namibian Training Authority (NTA) and a Masters Degree candidate in Public Administration and Policy (MPA) with South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, says the use of the internet for research has been on the rise because academic books can be difficult to find or come at a high cost. He also cites the difficulties students face when trying to access them as another factor that has pushed many to go online. “The internet provides a much sought solution to learners and students who may not have access to well equipped libraries or students who are searching for the latest books which may not be available in local book shops and stores. The system enables students to avoid lots of “unnecessary” material since they state precisely what they are looking for during online research,” Kamwi says
But even with the benefits of the latest development, Kamwi thinks the internet as a source of information during research cannot be relied on solely.
“When conducting a research, the role of books cannot be simply replaced by the internet sources. The internet should complement the content sourced from books. Research conducted online may not be correct since many are free to post all sorts of things,” he says
Posani Ncube who claims he read more than 2, 000 hard books when writing his thesis, says in most disciplines, books will remain an indispensable source of information as they heighten student’s knowledge in a way the Internet cannot.
“When a student goes through a book during research, she or he tends to collect a lot of information beyond what she/he is looking for and that may prove useful eventually. Both can co-exist with the Internet complementing the hard copy books,” he says
Some educationists contend that the internet has fuelled academic fraud and laziness, especially in reference to plagiarism among researchers and students. Those who disagree are quick to point out that even with the internet, one still has to read just like it is the case with books.
Simasiku Kalonda, an Administrator here at University of Namibia ( Unam) centre, popularly known as Simwine here says the internet is nothing short of a public library. “The way we used books, journals and other hard copy materials is the way we should use the internet to get access to data, information and knowledge,” says Kalonda aka Simwine. He says the internet act as a quick source of information if you know where to search. “It only makes it quicker to access information one is looking for if you know where to find it, just like in books. It doesn’t make it easier as most people assume, and it only summarises the findings. There are many good articles on the internet just as there is “junk”. It is up to the reader to verify the information therein. There are mechanisms to verify the authenticity of the information. On obtaining information, students or researchers ought to reference the work to the source to avoid plagiarism,” he further notes
Paulina Sheehama, a student with the Namibia College of Open Learning, Namcol, says most of the assignments given by facilitators can easily be tackled using the internet and use of books is only in rare cases.
“It is easy to work on assignments as you can find a lot of information on sites such as Wikipedia.” On whether the internet has made her academically “lazy”, Paulina says she rarely uses books during research as it is time consuming and one has to go through lots of books which come off as boring to students.She says the internet is not to blame for the quality of research but the researcher.
By Clemence Tashaya