Online LIS education: towards the right balance of flexibility and engagement

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Presentation by Aliese Millington, Jo Hanisch and Hilary Hughes at RAILS7, 10 May 2011

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  • Schilling (2009) investigation of an information management course reports on improvements made in content delivery and online navigation resulting in higher student satisfaction and participation though no significant improvement was found in student’s performance. In a survey of Australian LIS students Combes and Anderson (2010) found ‘ LIS students’ emotional response to online study and their feelings of anxiety and confidence are closely related to feelings of isolation and their ability to connect with the university and the online/on campus community’ (Combes & Anderson, 2010, p. 270) study concludes that for online learning to be viable and worthwhile experience for students, universities and lecturers need to do more than simply provide electronic versions of their course materials.
  • In his study centring on the use of forums in the online LIS course at Charles Sturt University, Pymm (2006) while students had a generally positive attitude towards the potential for online tools to support online learning, both undergraduate and postgraduate students rarely used them in any meaningful way. Overall, students supported the idea of the forum even if though they may not have used it a great deal (Pymm, 2006, p.107). Bunn (2004), investigation of blended MLS course in New Zealand most important factor that influenced students to persevere with their chosen course a degree of interpersonal contact, either online or face-to-face with students and educators. Similar to Dow (2008) in a study on social presence in online LIS courses students preferred blended learning in order to feel more comfortable and engaged with their course
  • Burnett, Bonnici, Miksa and Kim (2007) study on quality of online interaction in LIS masters courses Aimed to identify factors that ‘contribute positively to student satisfaction in Web-supported library and information studies (LIS) master's courses’ The three dimensions that were identified as most beneficial were 1) frequency, 2) intensity and 3) topicality of interaction. Yukawa (2007) found that online participation was significantly impacted by students’ previous experiences with online tools, learning styles and other social factors In a significant investigation of Charles Sturt University’s experience providing a blended learning LIS course to students in Asia Mills, Eyre and harvey 2005) found that if online courses are to be successful, a careful consideration of the cultural and learning background of the students was essential. Marley (2007) found that gender significantly impacted on many aspects of online learning, and should be an important consideration when designing online LIS courses.
  • The WISE consortium attempts to incorporate students’ measures of satisfaction into their strategies for course provision. WISE (Web-based Information Science Education) aims to ‘pool resources and increase the scope and quality of educational connections in LIS’ (Montague & Pluzhenskaia, 2007, p. 38). Central to the mission of the organisation has been the establishment of quality metrics concerning administrative and technical support, faculty, learning effectiveness and students’ satisfaction. A regular review of student experiences with online education is imbedded within the course as a means of providing feedback to faculty and administration.
  • Literature review and scans: to establish and report what was already known about opportunities for LIS education in Australia; LIS student demographics; Current students ’ and recent graduates ’ expectations and experiences of their LIS Course, and; recent graduates ’ destinations on completion of their course and to what extent their courses had met their expectations in preparing them for their professional LIS career; Government research bodies were approached to see what data was already available about LIS students and recent graduates in Australia, and about Australian students and recent graduates in general that could be used in comparison; Data collection and analysis: two online self administered surveys and five focus groups. Surveys incorporated Likert and open-ended questions, were completed respectively by current LIS students studying in Australian institutions, and recent graduates of Australian LIS courses. focus groups were conducted by phone with LIS students and recent graduates. While the survey responses provided demographic information and data concerning student/graduates ’ expectations and outcomes of LIS courses, the focus groups provided deeper insights about their educational experiences.
  • A significant proportion of students undertake LIS studies as part of a plan to re-enter the workforce or begin a second career. These and other LIS students often juggle their studies against work, family and other commitments (Bunn, 2004). Such students require the flexibility to study when and where it is convenient. With the advent of the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW), universities and TAFEs are offering many of their courses wholly online and in mixed mode (online and on campus) to provide a blended study model for students. This trend is occurring worldwide (De Jonghe, 2010; Gulatee, 2009; Allen & Seaman, 2008; Peltier, Scgibrowsky & Drago, 2007; Kazmer & Haythornthwaite, 2005).
  • 47% wholly online - indicating that online delivery is an increasingly important study mode for students.
  • Overwhelmingly (91 per cent), current students reported that flexibility for time management was the most important
  • From the data it is evident that the graduates chose their LIS course carefully, based on the quality and nature of the course, and its relationship to the current LIS profession and career outcomes.
  • For graduates: From the figure, the most commonly reported obstacles to online learning relate to lack of face-to-face contact (30.5 per cent)
  • Results from this research indicate that many students still experience feelings of isolation and loneliness when working online with 35 per cent of current students and 43 per cent of graduates reporting that forming relationships online was difficult for them. Research suggests this experience is common across ages, but warrants further investigation (Combes & Anderson, 2006; McSporran & King, 2005; Muilenburg & Berge, 2005; Gulatee, 2010). Mixed feelings about online forums to alleviate this
  • However, some students do find the online forums beneficial
  • Students were also asked about their comfort levels when asking questions and giving opinions in the online environment. In the current student group, 73 per cent said they were comfortable
  • Only 39 per cent of the graduates said they were comfortable asking questions and expressing opinions online, while 18 per cent said they feel uncomfortable, but 41 per cent did not comment. From the figure, the most commonly reported obstacle to online learning …..poor communication (32.5 per cent)
  • In the current student group 74 per cent felt the guidance and direction provided by online teaching staff was appropriate, while 71 per cent of graduates fell in this category. In both survey groups there is still a number of students (15 - 20 per cent) who did not feel they received enough guidance or direction from their online lecturers/teachers.
  • The low level of graduates (43 per cent) who would enrol in the future in an online course calls for urgent improvements in online course design to enhance learning experiences and outcomes and attract returning students. There is an evident need to enhance the quality of online learning, and especially to increase support and networking opportunities for students. In particular, course providers need to address the discrepancy between graduates’ stated preference for flexibility in study and the obstacles, limited motivation, discomfort in asking questions and limited interaction with peers they experience with online learning. The graduates’ obstacles to online learning presented in Figure 3 offer a useful starting point for course providers in determining development priorities.
  • The low level of graduates (43 per cent) who would enrol in the future in an online course calls for urgent improvements in online course design to enhance learning experiences and outcomes and attract returning students. There is an evident need to enhance the quality of online learning, and especially to increase support and networking opportunities for students. In particular, course providers need to address the discrepancy between graduates’ stated preference for flexibility in study and the obstacles, limited motivation, discomfort in asking questions and limited interaction with peers they experience with online learning. The graduates’ obstacles to online learning presented here offer a useful starting point for course providers in determining development priorities. rather than promoting online learning as a replacement for face-to-face teaching, educators should explore different learning paradigms where the learning experiences and opportunities are different, but of equal value to face-to-face experiences.
  • Online LIS education: towards the right balance of flexibility and engagement

    1. 1. Online LIS education: towards the right balance of flexibility and engagement Dr Jo Hanisch, Dr Hilary Hughes, Dr Mary Carroll, Ms Barbara Combes & Dr Aliese Millington 10 May 2011
    2. 2. This research comes out of The ALTC Priority Project Re-conceptualising and re-positioning Australian library and information science education for the twenty-first century . Project aim : to establish a consolidated and holistic picture of the Australian LIS profession and identify how its future education and training can be mediated in a cohesive and sustainable manner.
    3. 3. <ul><li>Project framed around three areas of consideration (three sub-studies) which represent key stakeholder groups in LIS education: </li></ul><ul><li>Workforce considerations </li></ul><ul><li>Tertiary education considerations </li></ul><ul><li>Student considerations </li></ul><ul><li>This paper comes out of the work of the Student considerations sub-study. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Student Consideration Team: <ul><li>Academics: </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Hilary Hughes (Sub-study leader Jan-Jul) (QUT) </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Jo Hanisch (Sub-study leader Aug-Dec) (UniSA) </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Mary Carroll (VU) </li></ul><ul><li>Ms Barbara Combes (ECU) </li></ul><ul><li>Research Assistants: </li></ul><ul><li>Mr James Whittle (QUT) </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Aliese Millington (from Sep 2010) (UniSA/Flinders University) </li></ul>
    5. 5. Overall Aim: <ul><li>To determine the current profile of students and recent graduates of Library and Information Science courses in Australia </li></ul>
    6. 6. Four Sub-Aims: <ul><li>Learning opportunities – Barbara Combes </li></ul><ul><li>Learner attributes – Mary Carroll </li></ul><ul><li>Learning experiences – Jo Hanisch </li></ul><ul><li>Learner outcomes – Hilary Hughes </li></ul><ul><li>This paper is drawn from the research and findings of </li></ul><ul><li>all four sub-aims. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Background <ul><li>Defining trend in LIS education today: prevalence of online learning as part, or even sole, method of instruction. </li></ul><ul><li>Universities are offering courses on campus, online and by distance education </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some or all of the content materials are delivered by methods other than online and may include print materials or CDs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some courses are delivered wholly online, while others are available using a combination of two or all three methods </li></ul><ul><li>Aim for various delivery methods: providing a flexible learning environment and a quality educational experience. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Background <ul><li>Literature on online learning in LIS: </li></ul><ul><li>Improvements in online delivery, higher student satisfaction (Schilling, 2009); </li></ul><ul><li>Isolation/anxiety related to emotional response to online study (Combes & Anderson, 2010) </li></ul>
    9. 9. Background <ul><li>Literature on online learning in LIS: </li></ul><ul><li>Positive attitude of students to online learning tools but rarely meaningful use of those tools (Pymm, 2006); </li></ul><ul><li>Interpersonal contact vital (Bunn, 2004); </li></ul><ul><li>Blended learning increased comfort and engagement (Dow, 2008) </li></ul>
    10. 10. Background <ul><li>Literature on online learning in LIS: </li></ul><ul><li>Beneficial factors frequency, intensity and topicality of interaction (Burnett, Bonnici, Miksa & Kim, 2007); </li></ul><ul><li>Impact of previous experience, learning styles, social factors (Yukawa, 2007); </li></ul><ul><li>Impact of cultural and learning backgrounds (Mills, Eyre, & Harvey, 2005); </li></ul><ul><li>Impact of gender (Marley, 2007) </li></ul>
    11. 11. Background <ul><li>New directions in online learning </li></ul><ul><li>WISE (Web-based Information Science Education) Consortium </li></ul><ul><li>Established 2003 by Syracuse University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Washington </li></ul><ul><li>Pooling resources to increase scope and quality of educational connections (Montague & Pluzhenskaia, 2007, p. 38). </li></ul><ul><li>Quality metrics </li></ul><ul><li>Regular review of student experiences with online education </li></ul>
    12. 12. Research methods: <ul><li>Literature review and environmental scans (opportunities; student demographics; student/graduate expectations and experiences; graduates ’ destinations) </li></ul><ul><li>Government research bodies (LIS students, general comparison data) </li></ul><ul><li>Data collection and analysis (2 online self administered surveys and 5 focus groups; self-selected from survey responses) </li></ul>
    13. 13. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Flexibility and online study </li></ul><ul><li>LIS studies often taken up to support second career; students therefore juggling work, family and other commitments (Bunn 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Online provision of LIS education (wholly or mixed mode) often seen as a way to provide flexible study options (worldwide trend) (De Jonghe, 2010; Gulatee, 2009; Allen & Seaman, 2008; Peltier, Scgibrowsky & Drago, 2007; Kazmer & Haythornthwaite, 2005) </li></ul>
    14. 14. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Flexibility and online study: our study </li></ul><ul><li>“ marketing the flexibility … that’s how X University got me. I had wanted to go to Y University because I’d done my undergraduate study there but X got me because they … promoted how flexible their learning would be... People that are enrolling in masters degrees, they usually are already working, they’re already taking on big responsibilities. That workload is huge to do that study so that flexibility needs to be there” (K, student) </li></ul>
    15. 15. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Flexibility and online study: students in our study </li></ul><ul><li>84.5% - high levels of satisfaction with the amount of flexibility offered by their institution to help them complete their course </li></ul><ul><li>Most students studying externally, with second most popular mode blended learning </li></ul><ul><li>47% of students studying wholly online </li></ul><ul><li>73% of students studying wholly online expressed high levels of satisfaction with the online learning environment </li></ul>
    16. 16. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Flexibility and online study: students in our study </li></ul><ul><li>Students rank 5 aspects of online learning important to them: </li></ul><ul><li>91% flexibility; </li></ul><ul><li>30% rich content; </li></ul><ul><li>23% online forums; </li></ul><ul><li>22.5% IT skills acquisition; </li></ul>
    17. 17. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Flexibility and online study: graduates in our study </li></ul><ul><li>80.5% per cent said flexible study mode was an important or very important factor in course choice </li></ul><ul><li>44% graduates studied externally, 30.5% blended learning, 23.5% wholly on-campus </li></ul><ul><li>33.5% of graduates studied wholly online </li></ul>
    18. 18. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Flexibility and online study: graduates in our study </li></ul><ul><li>Graduates rank 5 aspects of online learning important to them: </li></ul><ul><li>60% flexibility; </li></ul><ul><li>24.5% online forums and discussion; </li></ul><ul><li>21.5% rich content, IT skills acquisition; </li></ul><ul><li>However – only 43% would enrol in a future wholly online course while 33% would not. </li></ul>
    19. 19. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: lack of face-to-face, lack of interactivity </li></ul><ul><li>“ when people just tape the lecture from the lecture theatre and then just upload it, so it's just an hour long MP3, I can't stand that because my attention wanders and then because you can't follow the notes at the same time. It's the same with videos, if they're talking you can't see the notes and if they're on the notes you can't see them talking. So you kind of miss a lot of the cues that you get, in online, in real life lectures, when you actually go to the lecture theatre and you've got the big screen and the microphone and you can tell a joke and everyone laughs” (BA, student) </li></ul>
    20. 20. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: loneliness and isolation </li></ul><ul><li>35% of current students and 43% of graduates report that forming relationships online was difficult for them </li></ul><ul><li>“ if they post right at the start of the semester and there's three or four people who already know each other from something else. They'll sort of get together and compare notes but if you don't already know anyone it's very difficult to break into that unless you make really interesting, intelligent points that other people want to discuss with you. So you have to sort of package yourself as being attractive if you want to get any friends at all” (BA, student) </li></ul>
    21. 21. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: loneliness and isolation – mixed feelings? </li></ul><ul><li>“ Sometimes it's hard to interpret a written response. But [when students] are commenting on what you're saying and affirming that your feelings are valid …that part of it has been really helpful….It just reaffirmed that we're all on the same page. Sometimes we're not getting responses from the lecturers … But to have someone else say well, look, I emailed him and this is what he said….At least with a forum, you are very focused, you know … That's one of the benefits of it. It's there, it's there to come back to … It's that written record. Whereas in your tutorials, you don't have that.” (K, student) </li></ul>
    22. 22. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: lack of motivation </li></ul><ul><li>Studying online compared to face to face: </li></ul><ul><li>23% of students found levels high or very high </li></ul><ul><li>36% of students found motivations levels low or very low </li></ul><ul><li>35.5% of graduates found levels high or very high </li></ul><ul><li>17% of graduates found motivations levels low or very low </li></ul>
    23. 23. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: poor communication/fear of communicating online </li></ul><ul><li>73% of students felt comfortable asking questions and giving opinions in the online environment: </li></ul><ul><li>In an online forum </li></ul><ul><li>“ the barriers are brought down. You're not afraid to ask whereas in a big group of people in a lecture hall or even just in a tutorial group, it could be too confronting for people” (K, student) </li></ul>
    24. 24. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: poor communication/fear of communicating online </li></ul><ul><li>However, only 39% of graduates felt comfortable asking questions and giving opinions in the online environment ( 18% said they did, 41% did not comment) </li></ul><ul><li>Overall, poor communication was the most commonly report obstacle to online learning as reported by graduates ( 32.5% ) </li></ul>
    25. 25. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: guidance and direction of teaching staff </li></ul><ul><li>The online tutes, I find are excellent because it's like a blog and you're talking to all of the other students…You get to know them but very rarely is there any notice into that blog from the actual lecturer or tutor themselves. I find that really frustrating because you just don't know. Are we hitting the right target? Are we answering the question? Are we covering the topic the right way? Where are we going. So feedback is a major issue. I often send emails to the lecturers and I get no response. (D, student) </li></ul>
    26. 26. Findings and discussion <ul><li>Barriers to learning when studying online: guidance and direction of teaching staff </li></ul><ul><li>74% of currents students and 71% of graduates felt that the guidance and direction provided by online teaching staff was appropriate </li></ul><ul><li>For both groups, however, there are still a number of students ( 15-20% ) who did not feel that teacher support was enough online </li></ul>
    27. 27. Conclusions <ul><li>Given the increasing emphasis on online learning in higher education, the sub-study findings offer important insights to course providers about students’ relative dissatisfaction with the online learning environment and teaching. </li></ul><ul><li>Low levels of current students (48%) and graduates (43%) who would enrol in an online course in the future providing concern for effective teaching and learning ; hence impetus for improvement </li></ul><ul><li>Student engagement is essential for successful online learning. Without student ‘buy-in’ (participation and collaboration), the learning is not in-depth or rich </li></ul>
    28. 28. Conclusions <ul><li>Course providers must address discrepancy between students/graduates’ stated preference for flexibility in study and the obstacles the experience with online learning. </li></ul><ul><li>The obstacles outlined in this paper provide a starting point for course providers. </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of online learning is essential to provide support and networking opportunities for students </li></ul><ul><li>Rather than promoting online learning as a replacement for face-to-face teaching, educators need to explore different learning paradigms where the learning experiences and opportunities are different, but of equal value to face-to-face experiences. </li></ul>
    29. 29. References <ul><li>Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the Course: Online Education in The United States, 2008. The Sloan Consortium, USA. </li></ul><ul><li>Bunn, J. (2004). Student persistence in a LIS distance education program. Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 35(3), 253-269. </li></ul><ul><li>Burnett, K., Bonnici, L., Miksa, S., & Kim, J. (2007). Frequency, Intensity and Topicality in Online Learning: An Exploration of the Interaction Dimensions that Contribute to Student Satisfaction in Online Learning. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 48(1), 21-35. </li></ul><ul><li>Combes, B., & Anderson, K. (2006). Supporting first year e-learners in courses for the Information professions. . Journal of Education for Library and Information Science (JELIS), 47(4), 259-276. </li></ul><ul><li>De Jonghe, A.M. (2010). Readiness of traditional universities for quality and innovation. European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning, (EFQUEL). Retrieved from http://www.efquel.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=219 per cent3Areadiness-of-traditional-universities-for-quality-andinnovation&catid=54 per cent3Acategory-quality-in-elearning&Itemid=66&lang=en </li></ul>
    30. 30. References <ul><li>Dow, M. (2008). Implications of Social Presence for Online Learning: A Case Study of MLS Students. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 49(4), 231-242. </li></ul><ul><li>Gulatee, Y. (2009). An Investigation into Online Teaching and the Delivery of Computer Science Topics: Practice, Content and Environmental Factors. Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. </li></ul><ul><li>Kazmer, M. M., & Haythornthwaite, C. (2005). Multiple perspectives on online learning. ACM Press, 25(1), 7-11. </li></ul><ul><li>Marley, J. L. (2007). Gender Differences and Distance Education: Major Research Findings and Implications for LIS Education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 48(1), 13-20. </li></ul><ul><li>Mills, J., Eyre, G., & Harvey, R. (2005). What Makes Provision of E-Learning Successful? Charles Sturt University's Experience in Asia. Education for Information, 23, 43-55. </li></ul><ul><li>Montague, R., & Pluzhenskaia, M. (2007). Web-based Information Science Education (WISE): Collaboration to Explore and Expand Quality in LIS Online Education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 48(1), 36-51. </li></ul>
    31. 31. References <ul><li>Peltier, W. J., Scgibrowsky, A. J., & Drago, W. (2007). The interdependence of the factors influencing the perceived quality of the online learning experience: A causal model. Journal of Marketing Education, 29, 140-153. </li></ul><ul><li>Pymm, B. (2006). Distance education and the use of on-line discussion forums in education for librarianship. In P. Hyder & B. Pymm (Eds.), Education for library and information services: a festschrift to celebrate thirty years of library education at Charles Sturt University. pp. 107-120. Wagga Wagga: Charles Sturt Centre for Information Studies. </li></ul><ul><li>Schilling, K. (2009). The Impact of Multimedia Course Enhancements on Student Learning Outcomes. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 50(4), 214-225. </li></ul><ul><li>Yukawa, J. (2007). Factors Influencing Online Communication Style in LIS Problem-Based Learning. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 48(1), 52-63. </li></ul>
    32. 32. Acknowledgements <ul><li>Support for this activity has been provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. </li></ul><ul><li>The views expressed in this activity do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. </li></ul>

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