Use of the Internet has changed contemporary American life in ways that were unimaginable two decades ago. Proficiency with digital technology and online communications are crucial skill-based methodologies for conducting evidence-based research in all realms, including the fields of medicine, public health, and higher education. On a typical day almost half (49%) of Internet users search for information related to their work, leisure activities, education, and/or health care, according to research conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project [1
]. In the six-year period between 2002 and 2008, the percentage of users who searched for general information on the Web climbed by 69%; during the same period, the number of Internet users who searched specifically for information about health-related topics surged by 79% [2
]. As everyday life becomes increasingly digitized, Internet users face new challenges as they endeavor to solve information problems.
Without a doubt, in-depth knowledge about subject matter, theory, and pedagogy are vital components of contemporary college and university-level teaching. In order to ensure the effective integration of information and communications technologies (ICT) into teaching, faculty also need an adequate understanding of and proficiency with ICT [3
]; however, this is not always the case. Researchers at the Pew Internet & American Life project noted a substantial generation gap between college professors and their students with regard to Internet usage, interests, and abilities [5
]. A measure of reluctance among university faculty regarding the use of web-based technology in the classroom remains, and as a result, researchers continue to underscore the need for professional development for educators at the university level [4
University students may appear to be more comfortable in technology-intensive environments than are their professors, but it does not necessarily follow that they have the knowledge and critical thinking skills to effectively locate, filter, and evaluate information found online. A core competency for operating in electronic environments is information literacy; however, until recently information literacy initiatives were primarily the concern of librarians [8
]. A national survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life project, entitled Information searches that solve problems
, found that 63% of those who used the Internet were successful in finding the information they needed, but only 57% of users seeking information specifically about health-related matters were successful [9
Although support for evidence-based medicine (EBM) has grown in recent years, as means of improving patient outcomes as well as improving the overall quality and effectiveness of healthcare delivery, case studies assessing clinically integrated EBM courses incorporating ICT in the form of digital technologies and online web searches are less abundant [10
]. Recent studies have found that methods for teaching EBM are not only inconsistent among medical and dental schools, but may also be underdeveloped, suggesting a general lack of consensus regarding which methods represent best educational practice [11
]. Although a variety of methods exist for both teaching and learning of EBM skills, it is becoming increasingly clear that these methods should incorporate substantial components of ICT, e-learning and must include guidance to acquire the skills for filtering and establishing the quality of current information gathered during this process [10
These data demonstrate the need to integrate information literacy skills (ILS), specifically using web-based technologies that students will likely use in clinical practice following graduation. This study describes the development and dissemination of a research-based assignment, integrating web-based technologies to acquire theoretical and applied knowledge and concepts of a dental curriculum, within a specific first-year dental course. In addition, assessment of student performance, as well as recommendations for future modifications, are presented to provide a focused, targeted assignment with the potential to be adapted and implemented in a variety of teaching and learning environments.