E-Libraries and Distance Learning

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1 Category: IT ducation Libraries and Distance Learning Merilyn Burke University of South Florida-Tampa Library, USA IntroductIon With the explosion of distance learning, academic libraries have had to change to meet the needs of their faculty, staff, and students. The ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) presented guidelines to help librarians manage these changes. The proliferation of articles on this topic points to the rapid acceptance of this form of education. This rapid expansion has offered interesting challenges such as providing equitable services for all students, and greater assistance to faculty in supporting their classes. How libraries respond to these challenges will impact the success or the failures of these programs. Background Historically, distance learning or distance education began as little more than correspondence courses, which promised an education in one s own home as early as 1728 (Distance Learning, 2002). By the 1800 s the concept of distance education can be found in ngland, Germany, and Japan (ASH Reader on Distance ducation, 2002). In 1933, the world s first educational television programs were broadcast from the University of Iowa and in 1982, teleconferencing began, (Oregon Community Colleges for Distance Learning, 1997) often using videotaped lectures, taped-for-television programs and live programming, adding a human dimension. Students and faculty were now able to interact with each other in real time; enhancing the learning process by allowing student access to teachers across distances. By 2006, e-learning is incredibly mainstream, no longer relegated to a sideline position in higher education; e-learning earned its own berth in U.S. News & World Report with an annual guide not unlike the college & university edition. (U.S. News & World Report, October 16, 2006). Not only has learning gone online, so have the textbooks and other information sources. Libraries must respond to the pressures and needs of these students or become irrelevant. academic libraries and distance learning Distance learning can be defined by the fact that the student and the instructor are separated by space. The issue of time is moot considering the technologies that have evolved allowing real time access. Today, universities around the world use various methods of reaching their remote students. With the use of technology, access becomes possible, whether it is from campuses to remote sites, or to individuals located in their own homes or even the dorms on campus. The development of course instruction, delivered through a variety of distance learning methods (e.g., including Web-based synchronous and asynchronous communication, , and audio/video technology) has attracted major university participation (Burke, Levin, & Hanson, 2003). These electronic learning environment initiatives increase the number of courses and undergraduate/graduate degree programs being offered without increasing the need for additional facilities. During the academic year, the NCS (National Center for ducation Statistics) estimated in the United States alone there were 3,077,000 enrollments in all distance education courses offered by 2-year and 4-year institutions with an estimated 2,876,000 enrollments in college-level, credit-granting distance education courses, with 82% of these at the undergraduate level. (Watts, Lewis, & Greene, 2003, p. 4). Further, the NCS reported that 55% of all 2-year and 4-year U.S. institutions offered college-level, credit-granting distance education courses, with 48% of all institutions offering undergraduate courses, and 22% of all institutions at the graduate level (ibid, p. 4). It is clear that distance education has become an increasingly important component in many colleges and universities, not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Although educational institutions create courses and programs for distance learners, they often omit the support component that librarians and accrediting organizations consider critical. It is recommended that courses be designed to ensure that students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services appropriate to support their learning (WICH, Western Interstate Commission for Higher ducation). Further, course should incorporate Copyright 2009, IGI Global, distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of IGI Global is prohibited.

2 information literacy skills within the course or in class assignments to ensure skills for lifelong learning (American Library Association, 1989; Bruce, 1997). In addition, the Association of College & Research Libraries, ACRL, issued guidelines for distance learning library services that were approved in June, 2004 that update various guidelines that were developed beginning in 1963 for extension students (Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services, ALA 2006.) Distance learning (DL) students are unlikely to walk into the university s library for instruction on how to use the resources, from print to electronic journals, as well as services such as electronic reserves and interlibrary loan. The elements of any successful distance-learning program must include consideration of the instructors and the students, both of whom have needs that must be examined and served. With imaginative use of technology, libraries have created chat sessions, which allow 24/7 access to librarians who direct students to the resources that are available online or through interlibrary loan. In addition, librarians assist faculty in placing materials on electronic reserve so that their students can access the materials as needed. Libraries have become willing to provide mail services and desktop delivery of electronic articles to their distance learning students and, when that is not possible, refer their students to local libraries to take advantage of the interlibrary loan system. Online tutorials have been created to help students learn how to access these resources, while other libraries have specific departments that assist their distance education students and faculty. The role of the library in this process is one of support, both for the students and the faculty. Of all of the traditional library functions such as materials provision, electronic resources, and reciprocal borrowing available to the distance learner, there remains a significant gap in service, that of reference. Although chat lines and other 24/7 services are available, these services simply do not provide the DL student the same quality of service that the on-campus student gets when he or she consults with a librarian in person. Newer versions of distance learning course software provide external links to resources, but do not yet include reference service by and live chat sessions with librarians in their basic packages. It will continue be the responsibility of the library to make these services easily available and known to the distant learner whose contact to the institution may not include information about the library and its resources. Proactive planning by the library with those who are responsible for distance education can ensure that the students are made aware of what is available for them in the library. Recently, libraries have been looking at e-commerce business models as a functional way to serve their clientele in reference services, as today s customers are savvier and businesses have become more sophisticated in responding to customer s needs. Libraries can use these models to provide the service for DL s whose level of skills has risen with the increased use of the Internet. Coffman (2001) discusses the adaptation of such business tools as customer relations management (CRM) software such as the Virtual Reference Desk, Webline, NetAgent, and LivePerson. These programs are based upon the call center model, which can queue and route Web queries to the next available librarian. A quick visit to the LSSI Web site (Library Systems and Services, L.L.C, allows a look into the philosophy of offering live, real-time reference services. LSSI s virtual reference desk allows librarians to push Web pages to their patron s browser, escort patrons around the Web, and search databases together, all while communicating with them by chat or phone (www.lssi.com). Many of these systems provide the capability to build a knowledge base that can track and handle a diverse range and volume of questions. These collaborative efforts, with a multitude of libraries inputting the questions asked of them and creating FAQs (frequently asked questions lists), provide another level of service for the distance learner (Wells & Hanson, 2003). These systems have great potential, and while they show tremendous possibilities, they need more work to make them more functional for library use. Chat sessions are problematic when the patron is using his or her phone line to connect to the computer, and libraries must look to the emerging technology to find solutions to such issues to prevent becoming obsolete. Another direction is the development of virtual reference centers, which would not necessarily have to be located in any particular physical library. Current collaboratives among universities have created consortial reference centers accessible anywhere and anytime. The reference center librarian could direct the student to the nearest physical resource or to an online full-text database based upon the student s educational profile (e.g., university, student status, and geographic location). Although the physical library may indeed become a repository for books and physical items, the reference component may no longer be housed within that particular building. An example of support is Toronto s Ryerson Polytechnic University (Lowe & Malinski, 2000) infrastructure, which is based upon the concept that, in order to provide effective distance education programs and resources, there must be a high level of cooperation between the university, the departments involved, and the library. At Ryerson, the continuing education department studied what types of support the students needed and identified technical, administrative, and academic help as three major areas of concern. Technical help was assigned to the university s computing services, administrative help was available on the Web and through telephone access, and academic help included writing centers, study skill programs, and library services. Ryerson s philosophy encompassed the concept that synchronization of all these components would assist in making the student s 1350

3 experience richer and give the student a higher degree of success. Their report shows an interesting view of librarians working to redefine their roles and participate in an important and exciting reference service to their distance learning population. (http://www.ryerson.ca/continuing/distance/) The library and the distance education unit worked to provide connectivity to resources that were important to the classes being taught online or at-a-distance. It is these types of library involvement that can make distance learning an even more successful and enriching experience. When a university system, as a whole, embraces a collaboration of all its components, both the students and the university reap the rewards. Future trends As distance learning continues to flourish, research will be needed to examine the effective implementation and ongoing management of distance education. While several issues emerge as salient such as the social aspects of communication in the networked environment, and the integrity of Web-based course resources, it is the role of libraries in support of distance education that must be considered. Recent advances in groupware technologies have enhanced an individual s ability to stay connected for both work and social exchange through the use of synchronous and asynchronous remote communication and the previous concern of isolation has been all but forgotten (Li, 1998; Watson, Fritz et al., 1998). However, the increased use of technology suggests that formal and extensive training on both distance technology and team communications are necessary (Venkatesh & Speier, 2000). Libraries, often overlooked in this process, are working to be far more assertive in the distance learning process. Libraries can be a center of technical and administrative help along with the traditional academic role that they have normally held. The growing DL field allows librarians to re-define their roles, and request monies for advanced technological necessary to become as virtual as the classes being taught. In addition, to serve the ever-increasing DL population, library education must now include the course work that will provide future librarians the training necessary to serve this ever-expanding population. conclusion Distance education will continue to grow. In order to support this educational initiative, academic libraries must establish a supporting framework and commitment to those services traditionally provided by libraries such as lending books and answering reference questions in person or by telephone, plus new services such as live chat and desk top delivery of articles that are unique to the virtual environment. Faculty and students in distance learning courses should be able to depend on the academic library for their resources and services, and the library must be able to deliver materials to students or assist them in finding alternate sources in a timely manner, otherwise the students and faculty will seek other sources of materials. Libraries need to be able to identify and assist their DL students. Help desks, chat rooms, blogs, programs, and live reference all contribute to the support of the distance learning programs. Since DL students may never visit a library s physical facility, it is important to provide information on how best to access the library virtually. Faculty members also require library support for their courses. For example, materials may be scanned or digitized and placed on the Web, in a content management program, or videos may be streamed for online access. In order to digitize and make these items accessible, faculty members need information on the correct use of copyrighted materials. It is also important to put into place an action plan to implement a program for distance learning and a method for assessing that program once it is in place. references American Library Association. (1989). Presidential committee on information literacy. Final Report. Chicago: The Association. Bruce, C. (1997). Seven faces of information literacy. Adelaide, South Australia: AUSLIB Press. Burke, M., Levin, B. L., & Hanson, A. (2003). Distance learning. In A. Hanson & B. L. Levin (ds.), The building of a virtual library (pp ). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing. Coffman, S. (2001). Distance education and virtual reference: Where are we headed? Computers in Libraries, 21(4), 20. Distance ducation (2006, September). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved on December 14, 2006, from Distance Learning. (2002) advertisement for correspondence course. Retrieved March 8, 2002, from Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services. (2006). American Library Association. Retrieved from ala.org/acrl/resjune02.html Kingsbury, A., & Galloway, L. (2006, October 16). ducation online. U.S. News & World Report, Volume 141, issue 14, p Retrieved from edu/elearning/articles/1007classtech.htm 1351

4 Li, F. (1998). Team-telework and the new geographical flexibility for information workers. In M. Igbaria, & M. Tan (ds.), The virtual workplace (pp ). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing. Lowe, W., & Malinksi, R. (2000). Distance learning: Success requires support. ducation Libraries, 24(2/3), McConnell Funding Project Final Report: A Digital Reference Service for a Digital Library: Chat Technology in a Remote Reference Service. Diane Granfield, Principal Investigator, May 15, (www.ryerson.ca/library/ask/ McConnell.pdf) Oregon Community Colleges for Distance Learning. (1997). The strategic plan of the Oregon community colleges for distance learning, distance learning history, current status, and trends. Retrieved March 8, 2003, from cc.or.us/spoccde/dehist.html Sittler, R. L. (2005). Distance education and computer-based services: The opportunities and challenges for small academic libraries. Bookmobiles and Outreach Services, 8(1), Retrieved November 19, 2006, from Library Literature & Information Science database. Venkatesh, V., & Speier, C. (2000). Creating an effective training environment for enhancing telework. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 52(6), Watson Fritz, M., Narasimhan, S., & Rhee, H. (1998). Communication and coordination in the virtual office. Journal of Management Information Systems, 14(4), Watts, T., Lewis, L., & Greene, B. (2003). Distance education at degree-granting postsecondary institutions: Washington, D.C.: National Center for ducation Statistics. [NCS ]. [Also available as an electronic nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/ pdf]. Wells, A. T., & Hanson, A. (2003). -reference. In A. Hanson & B. L. Levin (ds.), The building of a virtual library (pp ). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing. WICH (Western Cooperative for ducational Telecommunications). Balancing Quality and Access: Reducing State Policy Barriers to lectronically Delivered Higher ducation Programs. [lectronic document]. Retrieved September 2, 2003 from key terms Asynchronous Communication: Is when messages are exchanged during different time intervals (e.g., ). Blog: A blog is a Web site where entries are made in journal style and displayed in areverse chronological order. Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual although some focus on photographs, videos, or audio (podcasting), and are part of a wider network of social media.the term blog is derived from Web log. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Chat: A realtime conferencing capability, which uses text by typing on the keyboard, not speaking. Generally, between two or more users on a local area network (LAN), on the Internet, or via a bulletin board service (BBS). CRM (Customer Relationship Management): This term refers to how a company interacts with its customers, gathers information about them (needs, preferences, past transactions), and shares this data within marketing, sales, and service functions. Desktop Delivery: Using electronic formats to send articles to users. Distance Learning/Distance ducation: Taking courses by teleconferencing or using the Internet (together with e- mail) as the primary method of communication. lectronic Reserves: The electronic storage and transmission of course-related information distributed by local area networks (LANs) or the Internet. Also known as e-reserves, in addition to displaying items on a screen, printing to paper, and saving to disk are often allowed. Internet: A worldwide information network connecting millions of computers. Also called the Net. Link-Rot: The name given to a link that leads to a Web page or site that has either moved or no longer exists. Next Generation Internet (NGI): Currently known as Abilene, the next generation Internet refers to the next level of protocols developed for bandwidth capacity, quality of service (QOS), and resource utilization. Real-Time: Communication, which is simultaneous; see Synchronous. Social Aspects of Communication: A social process using language as a means of transferring information from one person to another, the generation of knowledge among individuals or groups, and creating relationships among persons. 1352

5 Streaming Video: A technique for transferring data as a steady and continuous stream. A browser or plug-in can start displaying the data before the entire file has been transmitted. Synchronous and asynchronous communication: Synchronous communication is when messages are exchanged during the same time interval (e.g., Instant Messenger TM ). Virtual Library: More than just a means of collocating electronic resources (full-text materials, databases, media, and catalogues), a virtual library also provides user assistance services such as reference, interlibrary loan, technical assistance, etc. Voice Over Internet protocol (VoIP): A protocol that enables people to use the Internet as the transmission medium for telephone calls. Web (World Wide Web): A global system of networks that allows transmission of images, documents, multimedia using the Internet. 1353

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