Tuesday, July 1, 2008

DFLP - Final version of my Flexible Learning Development Plan

Project Name: Flexible librarian support for Occupational Therapy postgraduate students through the use of Blackboard
Date: May 2008
Organisation: School of Occupational Therapy
Project plan author contact details: Penelope Kinney, School of Occupational Therapy

Executive summary:
Students within the Postgraduate Programmes at the School of Occupational Therapy complete their courses by distance. A blended mixture of online discussion and teleconferences are used to deliver the material. The students backgrounds are wide and varied with some coming soon after graduating with degrees and others returning to study 20 years or more after their training. As a result students confidence and knowledge with digital literacy is varied. Also though the courses are classed as distance students within the Dunedin city boundary are unable to access the remote library service within the University of Otago. This has created inequality amongst some students.

There have been number of comments from students about the library service. Some are frustrated due to living in Dunedin while others are intimidated, nervous or daunted by the prospect of having to do all the searching online. A plan to introduce the librarians to the students through the current learning management system was developed. This is to enable to students access to knowledgeable staff who would provide the students with answers to their questions, helpful hints on searching databases and links to relevant resources they have validated and ensured are reliable.

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 Bill Robertson library (and in fact any of the Otago University libraries) if the book or article they require is held on the shelves (if it is only available via the University of Otago online network then it is classed as not being on the shelves).

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. I am currently talking with a potential student whose main concern about enrolling in the courses is that they have not completed any further study since completing their Diploma of Occupational Therapy in the late 70's.

Finally the other consideration, for this plan, was as a result of our NZQA External Monitors visit at the beginning of the year, one of the recommendations made, was to have librarian access to the blackboard sites of the postgraduate courses, to allow the librarians the access to place announcements, be involved in discussion threads and to monitor and upgrade the information and resources that were available.

Taking all of this into account, and realising there was more flexibility that could be put in place, a plan for the above project came to fruition.

The aim is provide flexible online library access, resources and librarian support for Occupational Therapy Postgraduate students.
Annand 2007 talks about the fact that the silent struggle to implement the use of technology in academia is far from resolved. This project is about changing these problems into challenges and working to find solutions to the barriers and the aim is that this is one of the solutions for our students!

List of objectives
* Create a user name and password for either the reference team or individual librarians to be attached to both the individual course blackboard sites and the Postgraduate Programmes Organisation.
* Set this group up with instructor status.
*Discuss the scope the librarians will be responsible for.
* Explore and negotiate with the librarians/reference group, the types of resources students need and the best way for the library to provide them.
* Change all the library information to the Community Tab of the Postgraduate Organisation.
* Enable the statistical tracking to monitor the usage
* Set up a number of discussion threads - these will be determined with discussion with the reference team from the library.
* Prior to courses commencing there will be an announcement created to draw students attention to the change, this will be emailed to all participants.
* Engage students into discussion threads - create FAQ.
* Evaluate success of support tool - this will be carried out in a range of ways.
- evaluate the statistical tracking
- approach students to ask for feed back
- talk to the librarians regarding their evaluation
* Implement changes as necessary

List of performance indicators (outcomes)
The librarian will be actively involved in the discussion threads.
The librarian will make changes and monitor the information on the blackboard site.
Students will be utilising both the discussion threads and information folder.

Flexible learning analysis
What are the perceived flexible learning needs of the people that your plan is targeting?
The students need an ability to access library information simply and easily (that doesn't require them to get in their car).
There is diversity amongst the students on their level of knowledge when accessing databases etc.
Access to updated information as the distance students don't use their student email addresses and at times have missed out updated information that goes out as global emails.

What type of flexible learning services will you provide?
· Enrollment - Enrollment into the Postgraduate courses is dependent on an number of criteria being met. They must have a registration from a World Federation of Occupational Therapy (WFOT)approved course, relevant Diploma or Degree and preferably they are currently working as an Occupational Therapist. There is no criteria about the level of achievement they must have reached in their Diploma or Degree.
As a result this plan is about ensuring ongoing re enrollments from previous and current students - that the support is enough for them to feel as though they can complete the study. A possibly is that this could be used as a marketing tool for new students who don't have as much knowledge about how to search databases or who are not able to go and look around the library.

· Communication strategies - this is one of the main reasons for the project, ensuring good communication is maintained with all the students and everyone is hearing the same. Students will be encouraged to utilise the discussion threads, that no question is too small and in fact these could be questions that all actually have. One of the reference team will attend the Postgraduate teaching team meeting to hear what the school is doing and provide information as appropriate too.

The Learning Management System used with the courses is the Blackboard programme. This flexible plan will initially be linked within this tool because this is where the students expect to find their information and they have spent time learning how to use it. It has been chosen to enable ease for the students. However due to its closed nature of the system the plan would be to move the links and resources to the Library web page in the future, this would then ensure that if Blackboard was to change or close the resources etc would not then need to be moved. Before this could be done a meeting with the Bill Robertson Library and University of Otago would need to take place to discuss this option and the viability of it.

· Information formats - Librarians will be able to update any new information for all students to be aware of. It is planned the librarians will be involved in a number of ways. They will be able to establish discussion threads, to encourage students to ask questions. These can then be developed into FAQ to also be put onto the site. It is anticipated a range of threads can be included from - Searching databases and catalogues to Assignment preparation. They will also be responsible for overseeing the information that is on the blackboard sites regarding the library, updating as this changes, ensuring it is all current and this includes relevant links to other appropriate resources. They will eventually provide links on blackboard to the library web page. This will include initially providing guides for the different databases the students may use. The
Online Information Literacy Modules will also be linked in this area, eventually these modules will be developed to be more specific for the occupational therapy courses, so that they provide specialist support for the students. Eventually the aim will be to transfer this resource to the library web site.

· learning support services including technical support - The students will be able to use the librarians as a support tool for their on going study.

Week Eight's discussion around issues with the Modern Internet highlights how, with Web 2 tools anyone and everyone is able to add to a body of knowledge and therefore that must impact on those people who aren't as digitally literate to ascertain whether the information they are reading is actually of value and reliable. By having the librarians present on the blackboard site will provide a sense of security to the those students who don't have the confidence in their own ability to ascertain reliable knowledge or even how to search for it.

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. Students can access the library web page through the Otago Polytechnic home page. The remote library service (within the University of Otago) is available for students outside the Dunedin city boundaries. Students are currently required to access different sites to get the information or to either ring or enter the library if they live in Dunedin.

How will you use complimentary or competitive services favourably?
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 without having to drive to the library.

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.

By having the links to the information in one place the students will no longer be required to leave the blackboard site to search. They will have the confidence that the links to specific web pages have been validated by the library staff and therefore attempting to address some of the issues associated with the modern internet.

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, that is it is fair and beneficial 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, with a more flexible manner. 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.

By ensuring all of the resources are in one place and therefore easily updated this will reduce the amount of time needed to complete the task and therefore ensuring both the students enrolments and the access to appropriate information will be more likely to continue. It should be acknowledged however that there are potential limitations associated with having the access/links to the resources on a learning management system which is unable to be accessed by anyone not enrolled in courses. This is the reason the librarians are going to be involved in the discussion area of the Community Tab - this area of Blackboard is accessible to any of the Occupational Therapy Postgraduate students, including Masters and those completing Negotiated Study (both don't have a blackboard shell). However this is not available to those not enrolled in the Postgraduate Courses and on consultation with other staff within the school currently this is the preferred option, focus is to remain on up skilling our own students as a priority.

In terms of Sustainability by having these resources all on the same site it will mean students do not have to look for different web pages, thus simplifying their workload and ensuring they continue with their enrolments. It also means for staff that there is only one area to update and ensure links are active.

· access & equity - For me 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. By providing materials and support to students to improve their digital information literacy, access and equity will be enhanced, ie, making it more likely that all learners will be able to access the materials they need for their study and therefore reducing the barriers for students who are currently disadvantaged.

There are many issues when looking at Open, Networked and RPL in relation to courses. The Postgraduate courses are closed, that is students need to apply and provide entry criteria before they are accepted. However much of the support and resources the librarians are to provide is already available to everyone. Now I realise that many people have wondered why I am planning to create a resource within a closed environment as much of the resources which will be added to the blackboard community tab, and monitored by the librarians is already in the open arena. Links to the library web page, OIL modules etc are already available to be used by others. So why place them on the blackboard site? Because it is for the students. They will then only have to go to one site to access all the information they need. Its about making it simple for them and by having the librarians involved in discussion threads if the students have difficulty with searching etc they can then go into the Discussion forum and ask questions while it is still fresh. They don't have to move away from that site to do it.

. cultural diversity - Cultural needs and cultural differences need to be taken into account at every phase of the design and delivery of online materials and support if courses and learning content are to meet learner needs (
Australian Flexible Learning Framework). For me this hit home, especially as my project is about adding to an online component of the distance courses we provide in our Postgraduate Programmes. Thinking of cyberspace as having a culture in itself means there is much more to think of. In terms of my own project often the thought of using "new fangled technology" for some of the students puts them off before they start and by not meeting their needs in the first place we get the withdrawals from programmes. By adding this more personal support tool the aim is to address some of the needs the clients have.

. strategic plan - I believe this project complements the
Otago Polytechnic's Charter. It aims to provide students with better learning opportunities, creating better equity between students, providing relevant, flexible and accessible learning opportunities and providing an environment which supports innovative thinking.

Learning theories/models and/or examples does your plan refer to?
The main learning theory that I see this plan relating to is that of
Kolb learning styles. Students have an opportunity to try this new support tool (experiencing), reflect on their learning (reflecting), processing what happened and what they did (thinking) and finally incorporating it into their study (acting).
The other learning theory that I identify as being relevant to this plan is that of Constructivism. This has a believe that students form their own understanding by engaging and then reflecting on what they have done.

Rough list of costs and resources of key steps in your plan
The cost for this project will involve staff input and training.
For future development of this project then an application to the Teaching and Learning Innovation fund will be appropriate.
Training - Of the librarians about the use of Blackboard, how to post announcements, add discussion threads and oversee the relevant areas.
Set Up - Time take by myself to meet with relevant personal to create log on and passwords for the librarians. To set the blackboard sites up for the courses and to ensure all the relevant information was available.
Running/Maintenance - Both the librarians and myself will be required to provide input into the blackboard sites while the students are enrolled in the courses. This is anticipated at being approximately 2-3 hours per week.
Evaluation - For the time taken by both the librarian staff and myself to evaluate the success of this project. This will initially take a few hours.

It is anticipated that an application to
Ako Aotearoa for funding to complete a research project on the success and viability of the project would occur.

Time line for development:
To be set up for the semester two courses, evaluation to occur at the completion of the courses and a research project to occur during 2009.

Rough dates that indicate the time needed for key steps in your development plan
June 2008
- Set up usernames and password 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.
- Librarians to take over the scope they are responsible for and make adjustments to the resources as appropriate.
July - November 2008
- Librarians actively participating in the discussion threads.
- Monitoring the library information
- Programmes Coordinator monitoring usage of the different areas.
November 2008
- Seek feedback from students/lecturers/librarians on how this worked.
- Evaluate the success.
January/February 2009
- Implement changes where necessary.
Semester One 2009
- Complete a research project to evaluate the success of this project.

Feedback was sort from a variety of areas. These included a pole on my blog site,comments from the slideshare presentation, from colleagues, face to face with both students of the Designing Flexible Learning course at the presentation, lecturers from the course and postgraduate students from the Occupational Therapy courses. I have attempted to incorporate the feedback into the above plan.

Overall the feedback has been positive though there has only been a few people participate in the pole and one comment from the slide share presentation. Please feel free to make comment regarding my plan. I am hoping this will be my final one but am happy to incorporate any further feedback as it develops.

No comments: