I Did It . . . Finally!

May 24, 2007

I just emailed a letter to the Dean of the School of Information, Communication and Library Science at SCSU. I had initially sent him an inquiry at least a month ago, and he asked for the issues that I would like to have addressed. With the end of the semester, I had to push it off a bit – and really, I needed some space and some distance from this past semester. Once things quieted down, I began to second guess myself, question whether I wanted to continue to push things, and think about climbing back into my shell and just powering through the rest of the program. I definitely got the impression that several people would be very happy if I just let things go. Fortunately, I had the support of my advisor and with some subtle (so subtle he might even have realized that he was doing so) prodding on his part, I made myself revisit the whole thing. I determined that I needed to say something. We (students) can sit back and complain incessantly about things we think are unfair, wrong or unclear. However, how do people know what is wrong if people don’t tell them? I don’t want to be someone that just accepts status quo. If they will let me, I want to be an agent of positive change – to make things better – to make the education experience more rewarding. Along with some help from Pink and my new favorite song, U + Ur Hand, I got myself fired up again.

So, it is done. I wrote the letter – and we shall see.

Distance Learning & Quality

May 9, 2007

In the recently released issue of Educause Quarterly (Volume 30, Number 2, 2007), Stephen R. Ruth, Martha Sammons and Lindsey Poulin examine the current state of distance learning in an article titled “E-Learning at at Crossroads – What Price Quality?” One of the things that I found very helpful about this article is the section with demographic statistics about online learning enrollment in the U.S. – including the fact that there are about 3 million students (out of 17 million total) enrolled in online programs. While a good portion of these students are studying in community college, approximately 1/3 (or 1 million students) are in graduate programs. The authors then go one to look at several areas that they believe will provide significant challenges to distance programs: use of part-time and non-Ph.D.’d instructors, overall quality of programs, incentives for faculty to teach online programs, faculty productivity and an atmosphere of innovation at the administrative level.

The article is worth a read for anyone interested in distance learning. I can say that I honestly wasn’t aware that some institutions have a great deal of difficulty getting established faculty to teach online – which can often lead to a greater number of adjunct faculty having to teach the online classes. I was also amazed at the number of students taking classes from non-accredited, online programs. This seems to be a large problem – especially for distance business programs where the top three online programs, in terms of enrollment, are not accredited.

These are exciting times in postsecondary education, and there’s probably no issue more significant than the dramatic proliferation of e-learning. The foresight and innovative spirit of academic administrators will determine whether the next few years of e-learning are characterized by discipline, efficiency, and attention to quality—or unbridled growth, decreases in graduation rates, and fragmented service.

Here, they stress the need for an innovative spirit in order for online programs to distinguish themselves. This part caught my attention. Innovation will be the ways the schools and programs distinguish themselves from the crowd. It isn’t enough for schools to take their traditional classes and just put them online. In order to succeed in the long run, online programs need to be better.

Some Thoughts on My Program:

SCSU’s MLS program is accredited by the American Library Association – that much I did check before I applied. Fortunately, there is not a significant percentage of adjunct faculty or instructors versus full-time faculty. So far, all of the classes that I have taken have been taught by full-time, tenured instructors that teach both online and face-to-face classes. However, this was not something that I thought to check before I enrolled. I guess students ought to add these items to the list when exploring and comparing distance programs.

Distance Education & The Library – Web Resources

May 4, 2007

These are web resources that I used for my recent paper on the impact of distance education on the academic library for ILS560-College & University Libraries.

College & University Distance Education Websites

Other Web Resources

Distance Education & The Library Resources

May 3, 2007

These are the resources the I used for my paper on the impact of distance education on the academic library for ILS560-College & University Libraries earlier this semester.

  • ACRL (2004). Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services. American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/acrl/resjune02.html (Accessed on April 13, 2007). 
  • Adams, Chris. (1997). The Future of Library Services for Distance Education: What Are We Doing, Where Are We Heading, What Should We Be Doing? Journal of Library Services for Distance Education, 11(1). http://www.westga.edu/~library/jlsde/vol1/1/CAdams.html (Accessed on April 15, 2007). 
  • Bancroft, Donna and Susan Lowe. (2006). Helping Users Help Themselves: Evaluating the Off-Campus Library Services Web Site, Journal of Library Administration, 45(1/2), 17-35.
  • Black, Nancy E. (2001). Emerging Technologies: Tools for Distance Education and Library Services. Journal of Library Administration, 31(3/4), 45-60.
  • Buchanan, Elizabeth A. (2000). Going the Extra Mile: Serving Distance Education Students. Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 3(1) http://www.westga.edu/~distance/buchanan31.html (Accessed on April 19, 2007).   
  • Buckstead, Jonathan R. (2001). Developing an Effective Off-Campus LibraryServices Web Page: Don’t Worry, Be Happy! Journal of Library Administration, 31(3/4), 93-107. 
  • Butler, John. (1997). From the Margins to the Mainstream: Developing Library Support for Distance Learning. An Occasional Newsletter of the University of Minnesota Libraries. 8(4). http://staff.lib.umn.edu/LibraryLine/LLvol8no4.htm (Accessed on April 19, 2007). 
  • Calvert, Hildegund M. (2001). Document Delivery Options for Distance Education Students and Electronic Reserve Service at Ball State University Libraries. Journal of Library Administration, 31(3/4), 109-125. 
  • Casado, Margaret. (2001). Delivering Library Services to Remote Students. Computers in LIbraries, 21(4), 31-38.
  • Cassner, Mary and Kate E. Adams. (2006). Assessing the Professional Development Needs of Distance Librarians in Academic Libraries, Journal of Library Administration, 45(1/2), 81-99.
  • Caspers, Jean, Jack Fritts and Harvey Goover. (2001). Beyond the Rhetoric: A Study of the Impact of the ACRL Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services on Selected Distance Learning Programs in Higher Education. Journal of Library Administration, 31(3/4), 127-148. 
  • Coffman, Steve. (2001). Distance Education and Virtual Reference: Where are We Headed? Computers in Libraries, 21(4), 20-25.
  • Cooper, Jean L. (2000). A Model for Library Support of Distance Education in the
    USA. Interlending & Document Supply, 28(3), 123-131. 
  • Cornell University Library. (1998). Cornell University Library Distance Learning White Paper. http://www.library.cornell.edu/staffweb/Distance.html (Access on April 15, 2007). 
  • Croft, Rosie and Nancy Eichenlaub. (2006). E-mail Reference in a Distributed Learning Environment: Best Practices, User Satisfaction, and the Reference Services Continuum, Journal of Library Administration, 45(1/2), 117-147.
  • Dewald, Nancy, Ann Scholz-Crane, Austin Booth, and Cynthia Levine. (2000). Information Literacy at a Distance: Instructional Design Issues. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 26(1), 33-44. 
  • Dewald, Nancy H. (1999). Transporting Good Library Instruction Practices into the Web Environment: An Analysis of Online Tutorials. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 25(1), 26-32. 
  • Gaide, Susan. (2004). Integrated Library Services Boosts Online Recruitment and Retention, Distance Education Report, 8(8), 1-4.
  • Gandhi, Smiti. (2003). Academic Librarians and Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 43(2), 138-154. 
  • Getty, Nancy K., Barbara Burd, Sarah K. Burns and Linda Piele. (2000). Using Courseware to Deliver Library Instruction Via the Web: Four Examples. Reference Services Review, 28(4), 349-359. 
  • Gibbons, Susan. (2002). Course Management Systems. Library Technology Reports, 41(3), 7-11 
  • Gregory, Vicki L. (2003). Student Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Web-based Distance Education. New Library World, 104(1193), 426-431. 
  • Hanson, Brian. (December 2, 2001). Distance Learning. CQResearcher, 11(42). Retrieved online at http://library.cqresearcher.com/ (Accessed April 14, 2007). 
  • Hines, Samantha Schmehl. (2006). What Do Distance Education Faculty Want from the Library? Journal of Library Administration, 45(1/2), 215-227.
  • Hisle, W. Lee (November 2002). Top Issues Facing Academic Libraries: A Report of the Focus on the Future Task Force. College & Research Libraries News, 63(10). http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlpubs/crlnews/backissues2002/novmonth/topissuesfacing.htm (Accessed April 14, 2007). 
  • Kazmer, Michelle M. (220). Distance Education Students Speak to the Library:Here’s How You Can Help even More. The Electronic Library, 29(5), 395-400. 
  • McIsaac, M.S. & Gunawardena, C.N. (1996). Distance Education. In D.H. Jonassen, ed. Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology: A Project of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. 403-437.
    New York: Simon & Schuster. http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/dechapter/index.html (Accessed April 19, 2007).
  • McLean, Evadne and Stephen H. Dew. (2006). Providing Library Instruction to Distance Learning Students in the 21st Century: Meeting the Current and Changing Needs of a Diverse Community, Journal of Library Administration, 45(3/4), 313-337.
  • Moyo, Lesley Mutinta and Ellysa Stern Cahoy. Meeting the Needs of Remote Library Users. Library Management, 24(6/7), 281-290. 
  • Nipp, Deanna. (1998). Innovative Use of the Home Page for Library Instruction, Research Strategies, 16(2), 93-102. 
  • O’Leary, Mick. (2000). Distance Learning and Libraries. Online, 24(4), 94-96. 
  • Painter, Mary Ann. (2005). Library Support for Distance Learning. Distance Education Report, 9(12), 3.
  • Peacock, Judith and Michael Middleton. (1999). Mixed Mode Education: Implications for Library User Services. New Library World, 199(1146), 11-19. 
  • Reiten, Beth A. and Jack Fritts. (2006). Distance Learning Librarianship Over Time: Changes in the Core Literature, Journal of Library Administration, 45(3/4), 397-410.
  • Richard, Debbi. (2006). On the Road Again: Taking Bibliographic Instruction Off Campus, Journal of Library Administration, 45(3/4), 411-425.
  • Roccos, Linda Jones. (2001). Distance Learning and Distance Libraries: Where are they now? Journal of Distance Learning and Administration, 4(3). http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall43/roccos43.html. (Accessed on April 20, 2007).
  • Stevens, Norman D. (2006). The Fully Electronic Academic Library. College & Research Libraries, 67(1), 5-14. 
  • Wang, Chengzhi and Zao Liu. (2003). Distance Education: Basic Resource Guide. Collection Building, 22(3), 120-130. 
  • Williams, Pete and David Nicholas. (2005). E-learning: What the Literature Tells us about Distance Education. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 57(2), 109-122. 
  • Woolls, Blanche, Ken Dowlin and David Loertscher. (2002). Distance Education: Changing Formats. The Electronic Library, 20(5), 420-424.

Online Education: Things That Work & Things That Don’t

April 11, 2007

Over on the blog SLIS Associate Director: Discussions on a Curriculum for a 21st CenturyLibrary School, there is a bit of discussion about things that work well and things that work poorlyin online classes – and it looks like the comments are from students. I have to agree with most all of the comments expressed. Even more, I love the fact that students and the administration at San Jose State University are having these conversations!!!!

How To Make The Most of Distance Education

March 21, 2007

Recent events at SCSU have been making me think seriously about how students can optimize their distance education experience. It is undoubtedly may well be true that students in online classes should be prepared to take greater responsibility for their own education than their counterparts in face-to-face classes and that they may be required to extremely resourceful to make the most of their program. This is an important point for people to consider before applying to a distance program. The ability to discipline oneself is critical to finding success. There are many distractions at home – family, the tv, the telephone, the refrigerator, etc. – so that finding time can be difficult.

Support for distance students can be very different than for on-campus students, especially if one attends a program where there are no residency requirements or established cohorts. At SCSU, it is extremely easy to apply and start taking classes. If accepted, one is in. It becomes more problematic when students have questions, need help and/or want to talk to someone. There is no general orientation. Students don’t really “meet” unless they are in class together. There isn’t much opportunity to officially bond outside of class. It can take one a while to get comfortable with the system and understand how it works.

However, there are advantages to a program like the one at SCSU. There are no residency requirements, so one never has to set foot on campus. Courses generally don’t require any live meeting times for chats, etc. This program is incredibly convenient, and for me that was the bottom line when choosing a program. It has been a challenge to adapt to learning online, but a rewarding one (for the most part).

So, how does one make the most of distance education? Here are some my suggestions – in no particular order:

  1. Create a blog– There are some wonderful online communities that can offer great support. Some of the people that I have relied most heavily upon are fellow bloggers who aren’t associated with SCSU. Other bloggers are often willing to help answer questions, offer stories of their own educational experiences and act as sounding boards. If you do know some students in your distance program, try and start blogging together. You might be surprised how quickly a community could evolve and expand. I think this would be a wonderful project for newly accepted students into any MLS program.
  2. Make friends with the distance education librarian – You may encounter all sorts of situations where you need some guidance. Distance education librarians can really help and not just with library questions – even if only to point you to the right person on campus. There may be problems with the course management system, questions about classes or registration, or confusion over student services and how they relate to distance students.
  3. Research the faculty– Relationships with faculty will be key. It can be very difficult to develop a rapport with any individuals in the program – especially faculty. Chances are you won’t learn much about professors until you actually take their classes. It will be critical that you have a good relationship with your advisor. Determining faculty research interests before you apply can help you determine which professor your interests coincide with most closely – and help you figure out where you should be going to school.
  4. Get to know your advisor early– You will need to rely upon your advisor a great deal. Make sure you are comfortable with the advisor you have been assigned. Don’t be afraid to ask for another advisor if you think that would be best.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get a bit personal in course discussions – This is really a good way to let a bit of your personality shine into the digital world. Otherwise, you may never really get to know your fellow students – or your professors. You may feel a bit left out if you don’t develop some personal ties. Honestly, I was very hesitant to join in on discussions that seemed to consist of mostly banter during my first semester. As such, I didn’t really develop any friendships in that class.
  6. Don’t give up – keep asking questions– Distance students can feel left out or a bit removed from things that take place on campus. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little bit of work to get questions answered sometimes. It isn’t always straightforward to figure out where to direct questions. Fellow students sometimes may be the best resource you have.
  7. Create a comfortable school-work zone – You will need a place at home where you do your school work. I found it helpful to designate a spot as a study/work zone – where I had all of my books, articles and notebooks (yes, paper is still key for me). My husband quickly came to understand that when I was in this zone, I was doing homework – and should not be disturbed unless necessary (He learned that helping him locate his shoes did not qualify – and that “YES, you need to answer the phone”). I also had to learn to be clear with my family about my due dates and what days I wanted to reserve for homework. There were things I couldn’t do without adequate time for scheduling. One caveat: you don’t want your work zone to be too comfortable. I made that mistake also and learned that almost everything is more exciting that homework (including napping).

Update: I added to this list. I noticed last night that some things were missing from the original post. I would love to blame WordPress, but sadly think it was user error!

Working Together – It’s Good For You

March 15, 2007

On Monday evening, I put together (with lots of help of several of my wonderful colleagues from school) all of the concerns and suggestions that students from SCSU put together last weekend on a wiki that I specifically created for this purpose. I added a cover sheet and sent the email off to the ILS department chair. On Tuesday, the chair sent an email acknowledging receipt of documents that I had sent and explaining that she did intend to share the information with the ILS faculty at the meeting that afternoon. She also mentioned some suggested times that might work to get local students to meet with the faculty. One of the other faculty sent me an email on Wednesday with some positive feedback about the document. Given that I had an immediate feeling of “Oh-my-goodness-what-did-I-just-do?” once I emailed the document, this feedback calmed me down considerably.

After a bit of rest from the whole subject, I regrouped a bit. I sent an email to the student listserv today asking students if they were interested in a meeting with the faculty and if so, if one of the suggested meetings times that the chairperson suggested would work. This definitely sparked some serious debate. Distance students feel a bit left out (which I entirely understand and agree with). Others think that meeting with the faculty in late May or over the summer is too late – and that this will let too much time pass between now and then. I’m not entirely sure where all this will go, but I’m trying to give students the opportunity to speak out.

I’m still amazed at how many students have banded together to work together in this project. I’ve been in contact with more SCSU students over the past week than ever before. It has been exhausting in the extreme – and a tad bit stressful. Currently, I’m in the process of cleaning up the wiki that I created so that I can publish the URL to the student listserv. Hopefully, this will encourage continued participation. I’ve also created a new blog that I can use to keep everyone in the MLS program at SCSU informed. Boy, no wonder I’m exhausted!