Thursday, October 18, 2007

Distance Ed from NE2007

I want to report in-depth about one program I attended today, A-1 - Education Without Borders: Distance Education for Librarians and for Law (speakers: Edwin Greenlee, Penn & Drexel Info Science school; Susan Herrick, U. Maryland; Juanita Richardson, for SLA). All powerpoints for each speaker available at NE2007. Remember you will be able to buy tapes.

Edwin Greenlee spoke about his experiences teaching legal bib to MLS students at Drexel’s distance MLS program. They cap the online classes at 30 and he usually draws 25-30 students in a semester. The online courses only last 10 weeks, so it’s a constricted semester. He gets library students from all types of library settings, and only a few most semesters with the JD or legal research experience. Some of his students plan to work in law libraries, but others just want the background for a public or business library setting.

Edwin uses Blackboard to teach the class. He uses only a small amount of video, mostly lectures, readings, online discussions and Powerpoint. They have weekly exercises, a mid-term exam, a final exam and a pathfinder paper. So you can see he is really packing things into this class. He has learned to consider that not all students will have fast connections and great bandwidth, so he uses video very sparingly. He chooses a 1-L research text, finding that his library students really like the Mersky & Dunn text, Legal Research Illustrated.
Edwin gives his students a lot of direction in using online tools like Westlaw's Keycite. He gives lots of directions, exercise and feedback on using Keycite and analyzing statutes, for instance. For CALR, he uses Powerpoint. He answers questions every day (7 days a week, I think), and stressed how important it was to respond quickly to queries. He tries to look at law in context, discussing law in popular culture, and help students see how pervasive law is in our lives. He delivers his lectures with a Word document with hyperlinks. Students select their own pathfinder topics, and choose an audience, which then defines the levels of sophistication and explanation in the paper. He offers sample pathfinders in the Blackboard Course Info tab, along with the syllabus. His assignments are in a different tab.

It did not work with library school students who have no law school experience to try in-depth discussions of court cases or hypotheticals. The students lacked the context and experience. The students then have an option to continue with 2 other online law librarianship classes. So they have Legal Bibliography, Advanced Topics in Legal Bibliography, and Law Library Management. Students may also take an internship for credit. The online MLS classes are very popular with students. Edwin noted that even students who are local and can take classroom options are choosing the online courses.

Susan Herrick, in comparison, discussed the experience at Maryland’s law school library with offering a distance ed course in advanced legal research to law students. At Maryland, the advanced research course has been made mandatory before graduation, and part of the motivation for the distance course was to fill the huge, sudden demand that was overwhelming the librarians. A key learning was that this was NOT a time saver for the librarians. Susan referenced Judith Anspach, who is offering advanced legal research online at Indiana U., Indianapolis, where the course is not required. Their experience is that the law students really LOVED the distance course, for its flexibility and interactive learning. It fit their lifestyles. They did complain that it was too much work for the 1 credit hour given.

ABA Standard 306 and interpretations affect distance education in law school. Of note is the rule that of less than 2/3 of the classroom instruction is NOT distance, the course is not covered by the distance ed limitations. But this standard limits distance ed in law schools to a maximum of 4 credits per semes4er and a total of 12 credit hours toward the JD. The rule for approval is that the school must show “ample interaction with instructors and other students and ample opportunity for mentoring.”

Maryland began with a 5 person team teaching effort. After one semester, they moved to two librarians co-teaching and limiting the class to 26 students (rather than the original 65!). The teachers liked being able to do the work ahead and post the materials. They discovered it was better not to release all modules at the beginning of the semester. Some student would wait until the end of the semester and try to do everything last minute. Each class so far has been offered in the summer, and they have to require that the students have access to some kind of library, IT support. They are considering requiring a minimum grade point average, because students in the top half of the class do very well but students at the bottom of the class really struggle and do not do well with the distance class.

Susan agreed with Edwin that responses to student questions must be very fast. The students require lots of feedback. So, teaching load remained a factor. They plan to continue offering the class, but possibly offer a hybrid class that combines in-class and distance. They question whether Blackboard (which they also use) and distance ed is the right format for teaching advanced legal research. One thing they discovered is that the distance format reinforced student perceptions that there is not much they need to learn (!),

One interesting thing that Maryland does is that they use Adobe's Captivate (TM) to create lectures for the course. The librarians prepared Powerpoint slide shows and used Captivate to create voice-overs to create distance lectures. Susan recommends the Law Library Lights review of Captivate, Camtasia and more.

They also used virtual office hours in Blackboard. This was a very successful feature. They used the Gradebook funcoction on Blackboard as well. Students uploaded completed assignments to the Gradebook tab, as well as loading CALI exercise scores (this was sometimes a technical difficulty). They tried to require discussion s through the Blackboard Discussion boards but were disappointed in the outcome, where most of the students would just chime in after one student comment, “I agree.” Not useful. They assigned readings, assignments, CALI exercises and a pathfinder final project.

The final presentation was Juanita Richards to explain the development of CLICK U Project.

CLICK grew out of the SLA executive director, Janice LaChance, asking members what they needed. The answer was professional development that is barrier free (barriers of cost, travel and time). This is distance ed for continuing education. The suite of offerings was developed by contracting with, who provided not just the technical underpinnings but a suite of programs already developed. They also have partnered with two info science/library schools, Drexel and Syracuse, who provide distance MLS programs. The CLICK programs have been certified by the International Association of Continuing Education.

CLICK programs come in different formats.
1) Virtual Seminars (called CLICK U Live)
2) Continuing Education sessions, taping proceedings of SLA conferences and webinars.
3) Course Libraries for self-paced learning. They offer a course of the month for free, varying the free offering . Other courses are kept very low cost (about $15).
4) Adjunct Faculty – a variety of professionals offer courses and programs using CLICK U as a portal;
5) CLICK Certificate Suites - Users can choose to complete a series of classes and become certified (in Competitive Intelligence, for example), or choose single classes from the group.
6) Online Library of e-books, in conjunction with E-brary;
7) In partnership with the 2 library schools, participants can register for library school distance education programs and receive a professional SLA discount.

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