From a Distance - Page 2
Library professionals have long been at the forefront of information technology
Posted Tue, 09/22/2009 - 13:37
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James E. Andrews, director of the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Florida in Tampa, states that his school’s faculty “generally engage their online students through the use of asynchronous tools in the learning software, such as weekly discussion boards and blogs, and other Web 2.0 tools.” He adds, “We also use audio and video in lectures, and many professors design creative projects that involve such activities as online group work, library visits, or others that go beyond merely presenting the content online. The key to the most successful use of these is sound curriculum and instruction design that goes beyond merely the gratuitous use of technology.”
San Jose State University has positioned itself as the “global e-campus in library and information science,” according to Ken Haycock, professor and director of SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science. “We have invested heavily in web-conferencing software for both audio and video synchronous class sessions,” he says, noting that the graduate school “also sponsors SLISLife, a Facebook-like program allowing students to connect by interest, by course, by geographic region, and more. With students in 46 states and 14 countries, both academic and social professional engagement is critical to student success.”
Drexel University Professor Kristen Betts developed a framework to engage online students called online human touch (OHT). The framework enables faculty to welcome new online students to Drexel and invite them to attend a “virtual tea.” “Tea sachets are sent to them in the mail and they’re invited, usually the second of week of enrollment, to attend a live lecture. At the lecture, the students introduce themselves to their fellow online classmates, and they meet Drexel support staff such as librarians, technology support specialists, and writing coaches,” Betts explained.
Throughout the academic year, other online events are held to keep students engaged, including a “virtual wine-and-cheese party” and alumni lectures. These interactive events enable students to learn about new technologies, discuss career opportunities, and network.
Down the road
The only thing certain about the future of online learning is that technological developments will enhance online instruction, and that prospective LIS graduate students will increasingly enroll in those distance-education graduate programs with the demonstrated ability to provide a practical and engaging learning experience.
Interestingly, it may be the significant movement toward online learning in the K–12 sector that will drive higher education to expedite its delivery of online instruction (e.g., over 700,000 K–12 students took online courses in 2005–06, and some states now require one online course for high school graduation). School librarians, in particular, will be called upon to help teachers develop and teach online K–12 courses.
Also, studies and reports on the merits of online learning, such as the May USDOE report, will continue to validate new pedagogical approaches to online instruction, highlighting best practices in the field.
Librarians must lead their respective organizations into the 21st century’s era of e-learning, or risk being viewed as dinosaurs by colleagues and constituents.
And we all know what happened to the dinosaurs.
Links to Learning
Of the 50 graduate ALA-accredited programs in library and information science that have incorporated an online-learning component into their curricula, 14 offer programs that are conducted entirely via distance education, according to the Directory of ALA-accredited Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies maintained by ALA’s Office for Accreditation. Besides Drexel University (see article) the 13 other institutions offering online-only instruction leading to the MLS are:
- Clarion University of Pennsylvania
- Florida State University, Tallahassee
- North Carolina Central University, Durham
- Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
- San Jose (Calif.) State University
- Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven
- Texas Woman’s University, Denton
- University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
- University of Puerto Rico, San Juan
- University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg
- University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
- Wayne State University, Detroit
The list is available at www.ala.org. Choose Office for Accreditation from the Offices dropdown menu, and then select from the Accreditation Resources links.
Distance education can also enable busy library workers to pursue continuing-education opportunities. Several ALA divisions offer webinars as well as online courses extending over several days or weeks through such interfaces as Moodle. Content ranges from serving children with disabilities to podcasting and an introduction to taxonomy.