Good morning and thank you for joining me today. I appreciate having the opportunity to meet all of you and I’m looking forward to sharing some of my thoughts on the topic of “Emerging Trends….”In the last several years, distance education has continued to grow and evolve. Reasons for this growth are varied, but can be attributed to expanding access, cost savings and the need for increasingly flexible scheduling options for students.Advances in technology have not only allowed this growth, but have provided an opportunity for creating much more effective learning spaces. These new learning environments , however, require the instructor, as well as the user to be functionally literate in a number of aspects such as information, media and technology.
Today I would like to discuss three ways in which we have a positive impact:
While having a library website, on-line chat options, access to databases and materials, and reference services goes a long way in reaching distance education students, they may miss out on other instructional services, library orientations and other important services offered by the library. More importantly, they may not be found or utilized by the students that need them the most.
By engaging with instructors both before their course begins as well as periodically during the semester, an embedded librarian can build a more effective and customized plan for working with distance ed students. They will have a better understanding of both the student’s needs as well as the professor’s expectations. Being actively involved in the class in such as scheduled discussions or being active on forums can help increase the literacy skills of the student regardless of the class topic. This engagement with students can help meet the research needs of the students through reference assistance, evaluation of resources, citation guidance, as well as tips on how to use the multi-media tools available.
As information professionals, many of us may alternate between conditions of technophobia and technolust. We may love Facebook or can’t live without our iPad, but are terrified of trying to start a website or a blog. With all of the new technologies available, oftentimes it is up to the librarian to discover and test out these options. Through a better understanding of the available technologies, we can better advise faculty and students on what Web 2.0 applications best meet their needs.I believe there are three ways in which librarians can effectively utilize Web 2.0 applications to enhance the distance education experience and increase literacy skills.First, as information professionals, having a thorough understanding of the strengths and limitations of an application can allow us to make better choices in how and when we use the tools in instruction or demonstration. Second, making these new tools available to both students and faculty-Teaching them the ins and outs and providing ways in which their use can have a positive impact.Finally, allowing opportunities for students to explore these tools themselves can provide not only skills in technical literacy but helps them explore find new methods of creation and exploration of their own ideas. One final comment to make about the use of any technology deals with usability. Usability and design have become hot topics in the field of information science as we continue to look for ways in which to improve our services and systems. Do they fit your student’s needs? Do they function as intended? Does ongoing maintenance or bugs in the system interfere with learning outcomes? Much of this assessments falls under the first category we discussed “find the right tool” however, we can’t always know how the tool will work in the real world. Something that may seem to be a wonderful new discovery in the “lab” may fall short in real life. Usability testing of some type is highly recommended by both students and faculty when widely incorporating new systems for use.
Bluford Library does a tremendous job in already defining their core competencies in information literacy, something I rarely see done in universities. This step easily allows for specific objectives to be considered for evaluation.
Assessment of the usability of the tools we are using leads us to the final method in which information professionals can positively impact the information literacy needs of distance education students. While evaluation is an intensive and ongoing process, there are many ways in which to help identify strengths and barriers to success in our current practices. In terms of information literacy and distance education assessment, there are a number of objectives that could be measured such as skill increase, student engagement, information access. Measurement tools can include surveys of students and/or faculty, (there are a number of currently developed designed to measure literacy skills), satisfaction levels or library usage.Ensuring that we are using the rights tools and methods can go a long way in determining if students are learning the necessary skills. You may offer 24 hour service or offer wonderful instructional sessions but if these services aren’t being utilized, they are not doing anything to increase literacy skills.
In conclusion, I believe there are some exciting new developments that have come out of the growth of the distance education market. However, as we continue to struggle to engage students in library services, I believe that all of these methods can and should be used to encourage interaction with students on campus as well. As digital technologies increase, the lack of face to face contact often grows as well. Finding new and exciting reasons for students to engage in library services will always have a positive impact on their literacy skills.Thank you so much for joining me today. I have included links to my adventures and trials in web 2.0 applications. You can watch my first attempt at creating a Prezi Presentation on this topic. I can also share this powerpoint with you on slide share. There are links to many types of web 2.0 applications that you may or may not be familiar with so feel free to take a look!
Emerging Trends in Distance Education and Information Literacy
Emerging Trends in Distance Education & Information Literacy<br />Angela Wacker, MA, MSIS<br />December 2010<br />North Carolina A & T University<br />
The Big Question<br />“How do we as information professionals effectively increase these literacy skills with such a diverse audience of students that we may never meet?”<br />