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Q: What is the Digital Literacy Contest (DLC)?

The DLC is a fun, high-speed competition to find and evaluate information online hosted by university libraries.

The contest is usually in the evening and lasts between 1.5 - 2 hours. Participants are encouraged to pre-register by coming to this website and creating a username.

Libraries either use computers in the library or in university computer labs. Participants log in to our web-based contest a few minutes before it begins. When the contest begins, they compete to answer questions such as, "How many images were in U.S. patent #2393676 by Buckminster Fuller?"

The contest is similar to Jeopardy in its grading. Answers are free response (i.e. the DLC is not multiple choice). Correct answers are worth between 1 - 5 points depending upon difficulty. Incorrect answers are penalized as equally as correct answers are rewarded. For example, answering a 3pt. question incorrectly penalizes you 3 points, whereas answering it correctly rewards you with 3 points. The highest score wins.

These free response answers are graded in near real time by our staff. Winners are announced shortly after the contest ends.

Q: Why should our library host the DLC?

The three most important reasons are:

  1. Engage patrons with an exciting new contest. Over 95% of participants want to compete again and would refer friends. The number of people competing at Purdue University grew 140% in a few months. Within a year the contest spread to three other universities.
  2. Inform patrons of library resources. Contest questions can require participants to use library databases. Questions could also ask participants to browse library initiatives, event calendars, hours, etc.
  3. Create positive publicity in local news. In less than a year, the contest has had over 600,000 in media coverage.

Other benefits of hosting the DLC include:

Q: What are example contest questions?

Question #1:
The National Archives and Records Administration can help you hire a researcher. What is the zip code of the asbestos researcher in California they recommend (give five digits, e.g. XXXXX)?

Question #2:
What is the username of the person who edited the Wikipedia article 'Exxon' on August, 26 2007 at 4:02 am?

Question #3:
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), what was the per-capita real Gross Domestic Product for Rwanda in 2005 in U.S. dollars?

Question #4:
On January 3, 2008 PLoS published an article specifically about the pharmaceutical industry. To whom should correspondence be addressed regarding this article (give last name)?

Question #5:
According to U.S. Census Bureau data collected in 2006, what is the difference in average wages between men and women with a Bachelor's degree in U.S. dollars?

Question #6:
According to the BBC, what was the exact local time of the October 17, 1989, San Francisco Earthquake (give Pacific Time)?

Q: How do you determine if the answers are correct?

We create our questions based on reputable and authoritative sources. Also, most questions are verified from multiple sources.

Participants submit the source URL from which they got each of their answers. If there are any discrepancies we can check their sources.

Q: What are statistics from the contest?

After each Digital Literacy Contest, participants complete evaluations. The data below prove the DLC attracts and engages students not yet involved with libraries. It's also a lot of fun, and students want to participate again.

Q: Do students participate in teams?

Not exactly, but we do have a loose team feature. For example, teams can be made of:

Q: How did the contest begin?

In 2005 Purdue University Philosophy student Daniel Poynter thought a contest of Google skills would be a lot of fun. Two years later, during the summer of 2007, he watched this episode of zefrank.

The video encouraged him to write a proposal describing a contest in which participants compete to find information online.

He approached several graduate students for their feedback. The proposal changed a lot after these meetings, and Daniel wanted an easy way to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest version so he created this website ( ).

He then met with several Purdue University professors to ask for their feedback. Then he met with Deans and Associate Deans. After meeting personally with over twenty people the contest took the name 'Digital Literacy Contest.' Dean Mullins of Purdue Libraries graciously offered to contribute pizza for the first contest on August 29th, 2007.

Fifty students came to this first contest. Over fifteen people helped proctor and manage the contest. A full 95% of participants enjoyed the contest, and 90% would refer friends.

Q: How has the contest grown?

Quickly! =)

A large team of students and faculty helped organized a second contest because of the overwhelmingly positive support received in the first contest:

This second contest was January 23rd at Purdue University, and it attracted 120 participants -- 140% growth from the first contest. Things began to really take off once the contest was proven.

December, 2007 - our core team submitted a 3 page Executive Summary for the Purdue University Burton Morgan business plan competition.

January, 2008 - out of about 50 other teams, we were among the 30 selected to advance to the next round. We submitted a 30 page business plan which described how we would help university libraries host the Digital Literacy Contest.

February, 2008 - out of these 30 teams, we were among the 10 selected to advance to the final round.

April, 2008 - out of the undergraduate teams, we won 2nd place and $7,000 in the business plan competition. We continue to live on this award to support our work.

September, 2008 - the following universities hosted successful pilot Digital Literacy Contests: Brown University, Indiana University, Purdue University, University of Florida. Of all the participants,