2002

Macauley, Peter. “Doctoral Research at a Distance: Are the Deficits Illusory?” In Research in Distance Education 5: Revised Papers from the 5th Research in Distance Education Conference, Deakin University, 2000, edited by Terry Evans. Geelong, Victoria: Deakin University, 2002, 64-76. Also online (in pdf format)
The author studied the emotional factor of isolation for doctoral candidates in off-campus and on-campus programs at four Australian universities. The study found that while distance education candidates have a perception of isolation, some on-campus students also experience a sense of isolation. Off-campus students imagine that all on-campus students are engaged in camaraderie and intellectual debate with colleagues. However due to the nature of doctoral research, even on-campus students noted that much of their work was done in isolation of others. Interestingly, both off-campus and on-campus students and their supervisors make use of email. Macauley studies the support given by supervisors in the literature review process. The further into the degree process and the older the student, the less likely students were to be satisfied with the supervision they were receiving for their literature review. I. Frank.

2001

Barraket, Jo and Geoff Scott. “Virtual Equity? Equity and the Use of Information Technology in Higher Education.” Australian Academic and Research Libraries 32, no. 3 (September 2001): 204-212.
This study looked at experiences of students from disadvantaged groups with information and communications technologies (ICT) at the University of Technology, Sydney. A focus group study was used to develop a detailed survey administered to student equity groups which included students of low socio-economic status, students with disabilities, rural and isolated students, etc. 1323 detailed surveys were completed. Compared with a control group, the study found that the high costs of both computer equipment and rural dialup service were barriers to student use of ICT. High costs of adaptive technologies were a factor for students with disabilities. Some students noted that home study conditions were not ideal. The study also found that lack of exposure to information literacy led to a lack of self-confidence among some respondents. Libraries can play an important role by providing access to well-equipped computer facilities as well as training in information literacy and computer technology skills. The study suggests that support units across the University work together to provide ICT training for students in a culturally sensitive manner. Libraries can play a key role to support the development of ICT competencies in all students. I. Frank.

Macauley, Peter. “Menace, Missionary Zeal or Welcome Partner? Librarian Involvement in the Information Literacy of Doctoral Researchers.” New Review of Libraries and Lifelong Learning 2 (2001): 47-65.
The library literature suggests that users are deficient in the knowledge and skills needed to conduct an intensive literature review. Given that, are librarians perceived as welcomed potential partners in the dissertation process? Macauley analyzed surveys returned by 409 doctoral students and supervisors at four Australian universities. Questionnaires captured demographic data, data concerning information literacy skills, scholarly communication, and the supervisory process and the relationship of library and librarians to doctoral research. The study found that information literacy is considered important in doctoral research. Younger PhD candidates had more often received training in information literacy than older candidates. Those in the Sciences were less likely than those in the Arts & Sciences and Education to agree that a librarian should assist the student in their research. Older students were more apt to agree. Candidates’ comments indicated respect for librarian expertise in information literacy though Macauley cautions that librarians may be placing too much emphasis on highly structured searching as an end in itself. Librarians at some Australian universities have acted as supervisors of the literature review providing on-going support and training. Macauley points out that many librarians are not content experts and may not be able to fully accepted into the scholarly community. I. Frank.

McCarthy, Jennifer Joan. “Integrating Library Services into the eLearning Environment at Queensland University of Technology.” Australian Academic and Research Libraries 32, no. 3 (September 2001): 222-238.
Responding to the University’s goals and plans, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) librarians have developed a flexible learning environment serving both on-campus and external students. User surveys have been used to gauge student satisfaction with the library’s efforts. The library increased the availability of full text databases. Library hours were extended. Hours of staffing at service points were increased. Hours for library orientation sessions were adjusted to include nights and weekends. An electronic reserve system was developed. The library created a Course Materials Database to provide access to library resources via the University’s online courseware. Librarians are involved in course materials development teams. The library has supported staff development and training to aid these efforts. In 2001, a survey indicated that while slightly more than half the students are satisfied with library services, students report that the databases are difficult to use. At the same time, a number of students never or rarely use the help information available. Another survey result indicates that one in five students have low confidence in using computers. More training sessions are being provided. The library recognizes that students value personal support as well as online support such as virtual reference. On-going challenges include incorporating information literacy into the online curriculum. I. Frank.

2000

Fletcher, Janet. “Designing the Library Home Page for Distance Education Learners.” In Libraries Without Walls 3: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users, edited by Peter Brophy, Shelagh Fisher, and Zoë Clarke. London: Library Association Publishing, 2000, 60-77.
Library websites and home pages are vital tools for all users, but especially for distance learners. Defining the goals and objectives of a library website and following some characteristics of good web design should improve subsequent usability. In the end, user studies can help determine the effectiveness of library websites. This study used a focus group of 16 undergraduate distance learners who had already completed at least one year at Southern Cross University. Participants looked at seven university library home pages and discuss their reactions. Participants noted that they were confused by library jargon and parochial terms even when explanatory text was included. Even common terms like “what’s new” were not always clear. Participants suggested that email would be a more effective tool for providing updates. In terms of design, they appreciated a limited number of colors, graphic elements, and limited number of choices. Scrolling was tolerated up to a second screen. All participants were interested in provision of help both in the form contacts with individuals and with online tutorials. When asked about the library in 2010, participants wanted to tell the computer what they needed and have the computer send a list of relevant full-text articles. They wanted the system available continually including access to help at all hours as well. Based on this focus group, some changes were made to the Library’s home page. A follow-up questionnaire is planned. I. Frank.

1999

Orr, Debbie. “Globalisation and the Delivery of Library Services.” DESIGnation, no. 17 (April 1999): 2-3.
Several surveys at Central Queensland University’s Sydney International Campus found that some international students are reluctant to learn library skills. Electronic resources were made available in 1996. One survey was conducted in 1997. Respondents were from countries such as Malaysia, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Most students had lived in Australia for a few years. While most said they were frequent library users and reported that they had attended library orientation sessions, they rated “newspapers, the Internet, the stapler, the quiet study area, and the scanner ahead of databases.” Students expected to find books at their campus as opposed to electronic resources. In other surveys non-international students were more apt to rate library orientation as vital and more apt to have experienced prior use of libraries. Many international students surveyed did not recognize the importance of learning information literacy skills. There may be language limitations. Some students have limited vocabularies making it difficult to construct searches. With this in mind library services should be tailored to international students. I. Frank.

1998

Zobec, Helena. An Investigation of Library Literacy Levels of Flexible Learners at the Canberra Institute of Technology: A Pilot Study. M.A. thesis, University of Canberra, 1998. 261 pp.
The objectives of this study were to measure library literacy levels of open or flexible learners at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) and to investigate to what extent the information skills component of open learning modules influence adult learners’ library literacy levels. The research population was comprised of three comparable CIT flexible learning groups representing different program areas. Pretest and posttest questionnaires were administered to the learners in the three groups to establish how information resources were used in their studies before and after six weeks of instruction. Interviews were then conducted with half the participants from each of the groups. No strong correlation was found between the library literacy levels measured and the key competencies targeted in the course modules. Also, no significant gains in library literacy levels were found between the pretest and posttest stages of the research. The author attributes the low levels of change partly to the course facilitators not encouraging use of libraries and information resources. She concludes that the main learning outcome of the pilot study was that measuring library literacy levels, particularly of flexible learners, is very difficult since there is no standard measuring instrument. A number of recommendations based on the research results are offered to facilitate the development and measurement of library literacy levels of open learners. A. Slade.

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