Monday, May 19, 2008

Week Nine: Issues with flexible learning - Sustainability

My thoughts about Samuel's talk and how it relates it to my planning ideas. Try to address a triple bottom line view to sustainability (economical, ecological, sociological sustainability). This blog has been sitting in my draft folder since 19 May. I keep returning to it but am not happy with how I was presenting my thoughts. Now I've decided I need to move on so I apologise for my waffle at times.

Now trying to remember the talk that I listened to by Dr Samuel Mann is a challenge. I have listened to it a number of times but I always have difficulty with something that is entirely audio because I am such an overwhelmingly reader/writer learner. I have since clicked on the link which took me to Departmental Progress wiki and found that helpful.

To start with I am finally going to outline my plan and try to triple bottom line view to sustainability to this.

Project Name: Librarian's attached to the School of Occupational Therapy Postgraduate Courses blackboard sites
Date: May 2008
Organisation: School of Occupational Therapy
Project plan author contact details: Penelope Kinney, School of Occupational Therapy
Executive summary
Summarise as much of the information in the rest of this template into a concise statement.
Project background
As part of my coordinator of the Postgraduate Programmes role I have had a lot to do with the day to day needs of the students enrolled in the courses. One of the things that became obvious to me is that within the institution not all students are equal. The courses that we run are entirely by distance and advertised as such. This means we can get students not only from all over the country but also the world enrolling in the courses. Accessing library catalogues and databases is an important part of completing the assignments. Due to the students coming from around the country those students can utilise the remote library services within the Otago University. This allows them to access books, journal articles and other resources from both the library shelves within the Otago University as well as other libraries. The remote service is willing to send these books and articles across the country if they require.

What happens for the Dunedin based students is that they are required to come into the library (any of the Otago University libraries) if the book or article they require is held on site. Now for some you might think well whats the big deal? Our students all work full time, often they have work loads that require them to be a work longer than the 40hrs per week. The bottom line is they don't have the flexibility to have to come to the school or to the library to access what they need. What has happened in the past is that I end up photocopying, scanning and sending articles to students. I had one student who was considering pulling out of the distance course due to her frustration she was experiencing with the library.

Another aspect that has become clear to me during this semester is that for a large number of students (either Dunedin based or remote), getting back into study is new and accessing library services can be daunting. As a result I have done a lot of the running around and being the middle person between the librarians and the students. Making the library service more user friendly would be better for all the students.

Aim - The aim is to have a number of the librarians attached to the blackboard sites of the postgraduate course at the school of Occupational Therapy. They will be attached as instructors and therefore be able to place information on the sites as well as be involved in the discussions.
List of objectives -
Create a user name, login for either the reference team or individual librarians to be attached to the blackboard site.
Set this group up with instructor status.
Discuss the scope the librarians will be responsible for.
Change all the library information to the Community Tab of the Postgraduate Organisation
Set up a number of discussion threads.
Place an announcement to draw students attention to the change.

List of performance indicators (outcomes) - The librarian will be attached and up and running carrying out the above objectives by the beginning of the second semester.

Flexible learning analysis
What are the perceived flexible learning needs of the people that your plan is targeting?

Accessing library information to enable equity for all students and to make the library services more accessible to all students.
What type of flexible learning services will you provide?
· enrollment - this is more about ensuring ongoing re enrollments from previous students
· communication strategies - this is the main reason, ensuring good communication is maintained with all the students and everyone is hearing the same.
· information formats - librarians will be able to update any new information for all students to be aware of.
· learning support services including technical support - this is about students using the librarians as a support tool for their on going study.

Indicate the type of services which already exist that compliment and/or compete with your plan.
Access to the library services already exist within the postgraduate courses. This project aims to complement what already exists. For the Dunedin students they will now have a contact within the Bill Robertson Library and will be able to find out information regarding their courses quickly.

For all the students the hope of having librarians attached to the blackboard sites will be to make accessing databases, catalogues etc more user friendly. They will be informed of any changes and are able to ask librarians for help directly. Answers that are given to questions will benefit all those enrolled.

Outline how you will address the following items in your flexible learning services: · sustainability - In terms of the triple bottom line, this project will address social benefits for all the students enrolling in the courses. Though it doesn't address the issue at a institutional level it is a step to allowing Dunedin students access to librarians, which may get rid of the need for them to drive to the library. Environmentally this project may eliminate the need for students to get in their cars to drive to libraries. Potentially with the sharing of information students may choose not to print resources if they realise they don't need to. Finally Economically, potentially if this project makes studying more streamlined and user friendly then the likelihood of students remaining in programmes increases and this will also encourage those apprehensive about study to engage as we will be able to use this as a marketing tool.

· access & equity - I think this has been addressed in the above statement. One of the concerns that led me to thinking of this project was the fact that Dunedin based students are disadvantaged. Also for some students the prospect of searching on databases can be confusing and daunting so by having librarians accessible this makes life easier for them.

Rough list of costs and resources of key steps in your plan
The cost for this project will involve staff input and training.
- Training for librarian in the use of blackboard and their scope
- Postgraduate Coordinator time to set the blackboard sites, train librarian and informing potential and current students.
Time line for development - To be completed for the semester two courses
Rough dates that indicate the time needed for key steps in your development plan
June 2008 - Set up usernames, login for the reference team, establish the scope the librarians will be responsible for. Promote this resource to potential/current students
July 2008 - Set up the discussion threads, train the librarians on the use of blackboard, familiarise them to the environment.
August 2008 - Librarians attached to the blackboard sites
November 2008 - Seek feedback from students/lecturers/librarians on how this worked.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Week Eight: Issues with flexible learning - The modern Internet

What are some of the issues that the video, the debate, and other participants in this course highlight that you think are significant in terms of what the modern Internet has to offer to flexible learning?

Now I think this is an interesting question. When I first read this question (and before I had read any of the resources) my first thoughts were around access. Access to an Internet speed that would enable the user to download large files quickly. And then my thoughts moved on to how slow our broadband is and how its not actually available to all areas in this country and if students want to participate in courses that require them to watch YouTube clips and don't have a fast Internet connection then they have to go to a internet cafe and pay extra to allow them to participate in certain courses. Now for some this is YAY! time away from home, for others it "when do I get time to do that?" especially for those who have children and who complete their work at night when they are in bed (because they've enrolled in the course due to its flexible delivery!).

Imagine my surprise when reading the resources and realising this wasn't really what the question was bout. As I was reading through the debate between David Weinberger and Andrew Keen I was finding myself agreeing with both arguments. I find it an interesting concept that with web 2.0 tools we can contribute to a body of knowledge that others will then use (rightly or wrongly) as evidence or back up for their own learning. On one hand I think this is a fantastic idea. All of a sudden the pot of knowledge is endless and we get to learn and contribute endlessly, on the other hand how can we verify what we have accessed is creditable? Weinberger argues there are experts who have already done this for us, though my question is how do we know they are experts? My other view is with all this information going onto the internet we run the risk of not being able to find what we actually want. As people develop blogs etc ensuring they put certain words into their names so when others search for these words their site will the first on the list this then makes it more frustrating for those of us who aren't as computer literate or savvy and just got "I give up" when confronted with 12,000 hits to a certain search!!!