Online Learning: The Evolving Role of the Academic Library


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  • Good morning! Thank you very much for inviting me to your campus today. I thought I would start off today by telling you a little about myself. I am very excited to be here. My topic today is the role of the academic library in online learning.
  • You have probably participated in online learning in one format or another. Whether it was a computer-based training session or an online course.  Online learning or online education shares much in common with traditional, in person learning, but relies more heavily on technology. This allows for many opportunities to use unique and innovative tools and techniques, but also creates additional learning curves for both the instructor and student.These new technologies and techniques may allow for better learning, but there are hurdles – especially related to a lack of familiarity or fear that may slow adoption. Online learning will be a major part of education in the future of higher education across the globe and is a topic that SUNY has highlighted as of high import.
  • Online learning has evolved over time. Until recently, most of us probably thought of distance education courses when we thought of online learning. This has been around for quite sometime. SUNY actually first began its online efforts in this regard with Empire State College back in 1994.  In the past year or so a new word hit the online learning vocab: MOOC. MOOCs, or massive open online courses are open to students around the globe. In most cases, they are free to participate in and you receive no formal credit for completion. Some see it as the answer to the rising cost of education. It allows individuals who couldn’t afford to or couldn’t get to campus to participate in courses taught by world-renowned experts. Coursera and Udacity are two of the leading MOOC platforms. Within 5 years, Coursera expects to grow from 200 to 3,000 courses being offered. This is a growing trend. How many people in this room have registered for a MOOC? How many have completed the entire course? The completion rate for MOOCs has been reported to be less than 10%. Some drop out due to lack of time, others because it wasn’t what they envisioned. It’s free, so there isn’t really a commitment. SUNY has been preparing for the online education boom for years and we watch it move forward with the announcement of Open SUNY. This initiative anticipates enrolling 100,000 new online students in the next few years. They hope to speed the degree completion to 3 years. An increase in student/faculty engagement at an international level is also expected.
  • Online education is not going away. It is the future, but it is rapidly becoming the present.  Many universities already offer online courses. Some programs offer online degrees, including highly respected institutions and advanced degrees. Johns Hopkins, one of the top-rated Public Health schools, offers an online Masters of Public Health. Drake University offers a PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) program where all didactic material is offered online. The only instruction which is not offered online is experiential, as is required for accreditation.  The society of higher educators is moving away from the idea that a lecturer talks at students from the front of a classroom and they earn credit based on the number of hours that they sat in class, provided they could pass the test. It is moving towards competency-based assessments and requiring proof of knowledge attained for receipt of credit. For example, the University of Wisconsin system is developing and implementing a system where individuals can receive credit by examination. That is, if they can prove that they already understand the material, they are granted credit for a course offered at UW (for a reduced fee compared to enrolling in the course). This paradigm shift, from instructional model to learning model, doesn’t solely rely on distance learning and online education, but it is greatly enhanced by it. But how are students and faculty reacting? Many students, especially tech-savvy students, may be excited about the opportunity to learn at their own pace from the comfort of their own home. They view it as freeing them to engage in learning when they want to rather than when their class is scheduled. They are able to take in their classes like they do media, watching their favorite shows on their computer screens, streaming from the networks’ websites or from Netflix. Other students and faculty may not be as comfortable with online education, because of concerns about using technology with which they are not familiar, a drastic change to the teacher-learner dynamic, or (in the case of faculty) a concern related to the time commitment necessary to offer effective online education.  Our role as librarians is the same that it has been for generations. To guide those who seek to learn. To facilitate access to information.
  • So, we have to continue to support this type of learning just as we’ve done in the past. Here is a quote from the Association of College and Research Libraries Distance Learning standards. [Read quote] What this statement says is that our mission as librarians does not change simply because our faculty and students aren’t standing in front of us. Our mission remains the same. It is only the technology that we use that is changing.
  •  So let’s step back for a moment and think about what we librarians do in a traditional teaching and learning environment. What do academic librarians do to support learning in person? [Ask audience.]
  • We still offer those same services to our distance learners. Let’s take a look at some examples of outreach that we currently do and compare it to the online world.
  • What challenges do MOOCs bring to academic libraries?  The importance of scholarly resources needs to continue to be stressed. We need to help faculty find ways to incorporate scholarly resources into their MOOC offerings. This brings an important issue up: copyright. We need to investigate ways that scholarly sources can be incorporated into the MOOC courses. Encourage use of materials in the public domain or subject to open licenses such as Creative Commons. Carefully read license agreements. Consult with campus legal counsel to determine use of materials. Educate staff on owning the rights to their content and making it accessible to people (via digital repositories). It is important to know who our users are. We will have users in some countries who may not have access to various resources. There will be technological issues, such as lack of support of Flash-based projects. There will be cultural barriers, such as library jargon and services not familiar to international populations.  Students need to access quality sources of information and will need instruction in finding, evaluating, and using information. Academic libraries will be involved in making sure these information resources are provided as they support their institution, faculty, and students who are involved in MOOCs
  • As librarians, we need to be prepared for new expectations of us. We are well known for being adaptable to change. We have moved from card catalogs to electronic catalogs. We have watched students type research papers on typewriters to moving to desktop computers to tablets.  How do we support online learning environments?  We need to have experts in the areas of: copyright and scholarly communication, digital pedagogy, instructional design. Librarians may take on more active roles as co-instructors and content creators. We’ll be discussing ways to archive and re-mix the MOOCs that our faculty create.
  • As online education continues to grow – and in new, open, massive, ways – how do we prepare for it?  Set up search alerts in databases to keep up to speed with newest research articles.Join professional organizations relevant to the topic. Two such starting points: ACRL Distance Learning Section and the ACRL Library Support for MOOCs Discussion Group.Embrace our personal learning networks. (Informal network of people whom you interact with or derive knowledge from.) It can be in-person or virtual. If you’re on Twitter, you could follow top-notch instructional designers and online educators. You could also try online forums such as Reddit.Reddit is an online forum that has thousands of sub-forums on various topics. There is a subreddit for elearning:
  • As we grow in the area of online learning, we also need to be regularly assessing our participation. As we create content for online learning environments, we need to create learning outcomes for every service and product that we offer. We need to regularly evaluate student learning to ensure that the outcomes are being met.We need to be sure that the goals and outcomes of the instruction are clear to the students.
  •  This is an exciting time for SUNY, Buff State, and all of higher ed. We face new challenges and we are all learning together!
  • This is an exciting time for SUNY, Buff State, and all educators. We face new challenges and we are all learning together. I was ecstatic when I saw this position because it is the perfect mixture of all of my favorite things: outreach, instruction, and technology. Thank you for inviting me here today to talk with you and learn more about your campus needs.
  • Online Learning: The Evolving Role of the Academic Library

    1. 1. Online Learning: The Evolving Role of the Academic Library Bridget Schumacher August 28, 2013
    2. 2. Image Source: steveritchie on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0 What is online learning?
    3. 3. Where we’ve been, where we are, where we are going Mikecogh on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
    4. 4. Image Source: clemsonunivlibrary on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
    5. 5. Every student “is entitled to the library services and resources of that institution, including direct communication with the appropriate library personnel, regardless of where enrolled.” –ACRL Distance Learning Standards Source: ACRL Standards for Distance Learning Library Services, 2008.
    6. 6. How do academic libraries support learning?
    7. 7. We do the same things, but in different ways. In Person • Departmental office hours • Reference desk • Overhearing • Research guides • For-credit courses • Programming • Resources Online • Office hours in CMS • Chat, text reference • Social media monitoring • How-to videos • Move to eLearning; LIB 100 • Online book talk/journal club, social media games/contests • eJournals, eBooks, streaming video, etc.
    8. 8. Challenges of online, open courses Challenges: • Access to scholarly resources • Copyright issues • Global-scale of participants • Instructional design Next steps: • Investigate access to content – OERs (eTextbooks), open access journals, digital respositories • Identify research skills required and find ways to help students develop those skills • Prepare for different learning styles and types of users
    9. 9. It’s time to explore new roles and responsibilities. Image Source: CSUF Pollak Library on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
    10. 10. How do we prepare for the rapid change in online learning landscapes? • Read the emerging literature • ACRL Library Support for MOOCs Discussion Group • Personal Learning Networks Image Source: Anne Davis 773 on Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
    11. 11. Assessment is Key • Create learning outcomes • Evaluate student learning • Set clear goals and outcomes Source: “Best Practices in Distance Library Instruction.” ACRL Distance Learning Section Instruction Committee. 2/2012. Image Source: dkuropatwa on Flickr,CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
    12. 12. Questions? Comments?
    13. 13. Image Source: fenng on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0