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Change Drivers in Higher Education

I just began taking another MOOC called the Current/Future State of Higher Education (CFHE2012). I’ve already talked about why librarians should join a MOOC, and this one is really relevant to our work. It has to do with the change taking place in higher education. It’s also not simply a linear course but uses connectivist learning where participants create knowledge as opposed to simply consuming it. The first week has been focusing on the different tensions in higher education and factors driving change. In my view, after doing the reading and watching the webinars, some of the most prominent are:

Value

The value that institutions of higher education provides is being called into question by parents, students, and society. Books like Academically Adrift ask the question, “Are students actually learning?” Consumers of higher ed are asking if huge costs and crushing student loan debt are worth it, especially as less new grads are finding jobs. A question that those in higher education need to be asking is, “how can we better demonstrate value and what are the places that we provide significant value over other options?” Jordan Weissman argues that professional help, formative experiences, a seal of approval for businesses are still things that students cannot get other places. I would say that experience as a whole is the main advantage for higher education. A degree is not simply a stamp of approval or a ticket to a job, but a life changing experience.

Increasing Options

Students now have more choice than ever in their education: two year schools, four year schools, public, private, for profit, certificates, free online classes, MOOCs, learning communities. More than ever, students are mixing and matching different pieces of their education, and in this way education is becoming unbundled. It is no longer a single package like an album, but much more customized like a playlist. Now instead of institutions vying just for a student, they are vying for a piece of that student whether it’s the sophomore transfer student or a student needing continuing education.

Changing Perspectives on What Higher Education Should Be

With the various disruptive factors at work today in the world — the economic slowdown, ever-increasing connectivity, high costs of education, political polarization, etc. — more and more questions are being raised about the role of higher education. Is it a means to a job or is it to help produce thoughtful engaged citizens? Is it a public good or a private good? Should higher education be accessible to everyone globally or only the elite who can afford it? Are those seeking higher education consumers or are they students? The way that we answer those questions, and the other questions we ask are going to dictate where we put our energy and what is really important in higher education.

I am really enjoying the class, readings, and videos so far and I’m looking forward to the next several weeks!

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MOOCs and Information Literacy Instruction

I’ve been taking a Coursera MOOC and have been thinking a lot about how libraries can utilize elements from some of these new educational models. Daphne Koller, one of the founders of Coursera, discussed in recent TED Talk a key difference between face to face learning and online education models.

Massive online courses, like the Introduction to Finance class that I am taking, are great at evaluating students through things like multiple choice and fill in the blank quizzes. Peer grading and self grading are also being explored with some success. But these courses are still mostly successful at teaching content and practical, how-to skills. The value of face to face education is being able to “ignite creativity.” Face to face learning is best suited for active learning, critical thinking, and problem solving as opposed to delivery of content.

What could this mean in information literacy instruction? Content is important. Students need to know the nuts and bolts of evaluating a website or how to properly cite so as to avoid plagiarism. But I would argue that some of this “content” is better suited for outside the physical classroom. Avoiding plagiarism and knowing the difference between a reputable website and a questionable website are skills that all professors want and that all students need to succeed.

If this content could be delivered outside of the classroom via video, module, game, flipped TED Ed lesson, or other learning objects, in class information literacy instruction could focus on critical thinking about information choices. Lessons could focus on the changing nature of attribution, citation, and ethical uses of information in the digital age. There could be lessons about having a balanced information diet and understanding where your information comes from. These type of lessons have the potential to unleash the curiosity and creativity of our students in ways that talking about plagiarism and how to use a database can’t.

I don’t think that face to face learning will ever be replaced, but some pieces surely will. I see elements of MOOCs and other new online education models enhancing our effectiveness in the classroom as we’re trying to help students become sophisticated information consumers and creators.

How do you see these changing educational models affecting information literacy instruction?

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Award Reception And “Allies In Education”

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”Aristotle

Staff with ACRL award

We had our celebration for the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award on Monday. You can check out some of the pictures from the reception on Champlain College’s Facebook page. We got to celebrate with students, our student workers, the library staff, the faculty, the administration and even trustees. It was truly a community event which is exactly what library events should be.

Another really fun aspect of the party was a video that an alumni of our digital film-making program produced for us. It highlighted the importance of the award and some of the things that make our library great. But my favorite part of the video is at the end when my good friend Steve Wehmeyer, a professor in our Core Division, is talking about the work that librarians do. He says, “Whether they’re coming into the classroom doing creative info literacy sessions, or whether they’re helping us develop engaging activities for first-year students, I’ve really come to see librarians as our allies in education.”

I loved that phrase “allies in education.” That’s how we have to think of our work. We’re not just running a library and curating collections. We’re educators who are partnering with other educators to provide the types of environments, resources, curriculum and events that facilitate and empower learning.

Our library team is really dedicated to the work we do. We were all excited to win this award, but we also know that our work isn’t done. There is still a lot of room for growth and improvement. There is a lot that we can learn from other libraries who are also doing amazing things. If as Aristotle said, excellence is not an act but a habit, we have to continue our work and keep building on our successes. The work of an educator is never done.