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LITA Distance Learning IG

From Cheryl Blevens, Distance Learning IG Co-Chair

At the 2013 ALA Annual Conference, the topic of LITA’s Distance Learning Interest Group’s discussion session was “Embedded Librarians in Course Management Systems: Transforming Ourselves.” As a prelude to the session, co-chairs Cheryl Blevens and Erica DeFrain created an annotated bibliography for supplemental reading.  This bibliography was posted on the LITA website. Additionally, business cards listing the URL (http://bit.ly/DLIG_Bib) were distributed at several LITA sessions. Discussion session participants were asked if they were embedded in a Course Management System (“CMS”). They were asked to share challenges, opportunities, and best practice methods they used to collaborate with faculty and strengthen communication.

In a casual discussion environment, participants shared their challenges, opportunities, and best practice methods for collaborating with faculty and working with students. All of the participants’ universities had separate departments or divisions dedicated to distance learning, also known variously as “continual learning” and “online learning.” These departments afforded the embedded librarians additional sources of support and collaboration to bring the library and its resources to the attention of the online teaching faculty and distance learners.

Librarians have created LibGuides that in addition to informing distance learners of the services the library offers, provide access links to those services. They maintain virtual office hours and make themselves available for threaded discussions. They continually monitor tutorials that show how to navigate software, assuring that online learners are kept as up to date as students who are physically on campus.

An example of an idea of a resource that one of the participants makes available to their university faculty and student population, can be adopted by others who may not have already thought of it. UNCG’s instructional tech “toolkit” Libguide (http://uncg.libguides.com/toolkit) contains six tabs with defined sets of educational tools: access, collaborate, feedback, organize, present, schedule. Each tool has small descriptions, functionality, usefulness and a link to the tool's website. There is a clear disclaimer that says that many tools may not be supported by UNCS, but that the information about the tool (basics, ideas for use, how-to guides, tutorials, or additional resources on potential uses) is being shared by the librarian who has vetted the product. The intent is to share these potential resources that the student might find useful. 

As the session drew to a close, participants expressed appreciation to each other for the shared ideas, the networking opportunities, and recommendations of sessions that might be particularly helpful in their jobs as Distance Education librarians.