2004

Bailey, Pam, Glenda Cook, Elaine Thynne, Eunice Weatherhead, Sheila Glenn, and Angela Mitchell. “Distance Learning in Post-Qualifying Nurse Education at Northumbria University: Implications for the Role of the Library and Library Staff.” Health Information and Libraries Journal 21, no. 1 (March 2004): 66-69.
Northumbria University provides distance learning courses to nurses who are often returning to school after long gaps in their education. Using an action research approach, distance learning nursing students kept a diary of their experiences with their information needs. They filled out a questionnaire about their experiences and approaches with distance learning and participated in focus group interviews. Students indicated that access to electronic resources was important even though not all students used them. Some students were aware of their lack of computer skills. Due to difficulties with electronic communication, some students were interested in face-to-face contact with library staff. Many students remain unaware of all the resources available. The library staff needs to develop more printed and online material to assist students. The librarians note that working with students involved in the study helped close the gap between librarians and students. I. Frank.

2002

Brett, Julie. “Distance Learning Zones: A Pilot Project.” In Libraries Without Walls 4: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users, edited by Peter Brophy, Shelagh Fisher, and Zoë Clarke. London: Facet Publishing, 2002, 19-28.
The British Council set up Distance Learning Zones – a network of libraries and information centers supporting United Kingdom post-graduate distance learners in other countries. Four UK universities work with 150 learners in six locations providing access to an information broker who provides direct assistance to learners; information about local libraries; study space; computer support and training in the use of electronic resources; interlibrary loans; social support. Participating UK institutions pay a joining fee and a per-capita fee. The author outlines the assessment plans for this project. Learners were surveyed before the start of the project. When asked to rank services, 72% ranked access to an information broker and information on local libraries as the services most likely to be used. Around half expected to use study space and training in the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). Only 26% indicated that they were likely to use the social networking opportunities. Follow-up studies are planned. The British Council plans additional centers worldwide including access to electronic resources and tutorials via video-conferencing. I. Frank.

Craven, Jenny and Jillian Griffiths. “30,000 Different Users, 30,000 Different Needs?: Design and Delivery of Distributed Resources to the User Community.” In Libraries Without Walls 4: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users, edited by Peter Brophy, Shelagh Fisher, and Zoë Clarke. London: Facet Publishing, 2002, 173-186.
The DEvISE (Dimensions in Evaluation of Internet Search Engines) and the NoVA (Non-Visual Access to the Digital Library) projects examine the use of search engines by visually impaired users. In the DEvISE project, sighted and visually impaired users searched for information in each of three search engines. Most participants used the simple search option. Users rarely went beyond the first page of results. Only 30% reported feeling satisfied with their search results. The NoVA project asked 20 blind or visually impaired users to find information about weather forecasts using the UK AltaVista search engine. Half used the simple search option while 40% used the categories provided. All users looked at the first page of results only. Users reported that the results were difficult to find especially since the top of each page was the same. Users commented that it took “a lot of action to get some simple information.” Users expressed more satisfaction with efficient rather than effective results. Comparing the two studies found similarities between sighted and visually impaired searchers. Most used simple search options. The number of terms used was similar. Most users only looked at the top ten search results. The authors suggest that all users – both sighted and visually impaired – want access to simple, effective search engines. I. Frank.

McGill, Lou. “Measure for Measure: Using Statistics to Monitor Service Take-Up of the University of Leicester Library’s Distance Learning Unit.” Library & Information Research News 26, no. 82 (Spring 2002): 16-25.
In 1999, the University of Leicester Library established a new Distance Learning Unit to serve the needs of over 6,000 distance learning students. The Unit needed to demonstrate the value and effectiveness of its service in order to secure funding beyond the initial three-year funding period. Accordingly, a comprehensive procedure was established to record transactions which included both manual and computer-generate data. Statistics were collected to aid library management, provide information to academic departments and for broader University management. The quantitative data revealed a significant growth in all service areas and qualitative feedback was very positive. There have been several positive outcomes as a result of collecting this information and staff remain highly committed to collecting this data. F. Devlin.

2001

Edwards, J. Adam. “UK Libraries Plus: Use by Education Students.” Education Libraries Journal 44, no. 2 (Summer 2001): 5-10.
UK Libraries Plus, a reciprocal borrowing program offered to distance learning students, part time students and students on teaching practice, is evaluated. Survey results assessing student satisfaction are presented, with emphasis on data representing education student satisfaction. Included in the survey were questions on courses taken, modes of study, age, use and usefulness of services, and how students became learned of services. The study found that most education students were in their thirties, regarded the services as important or vital to their studies, and tended to use only one library in addition to the home institution library. Limitations of UK Libraries Plus were identified as a quota limiting the number of books students could borrow, and lack of access to computers and the Internet. J. Markgraf.

Fytton, Rowland and Iris Rubbert. “An Evaluation of the Information Needs and Practices of Part-Time and Distance-Larning Students in the Context of Educational and Social Change Through Lifelong Learning.” Journal of Documentation 57, no. 6 (November 2001): 741-762.
This evaluative study used telephone, personal interviews, focus groups, and a questionnaire to look at the use of information by distance learning students from 17 universities in the United Kingdom. Students using traditional sources of information cited restrictive library hours, short-loan periods, delays in receipt of interlibrary-loan material, and competition for materials from students with the same readings lists. Students made some use of public libraries finding the librarians friendly and helpful. Even though use of electronic information was important, this study found that only 46% of the students had received an introduction to library and Internet resources. Students were impatient with the search process and spent little time learning to use search tools effectively. Since these students were already in the workforce, professional associations were a source of useful information. Students often utilized Internet access provided by their employers. Students expressed interest in the concept of subject gateways to streamline their search process. Such gateways could help students identify academically relevant information. These gateways should be free of charge to students. In spite of a high level of Internet use, students continue to appreciate access to physical libraries and traditional resources. Generally, students felt they could achieve better academic results with improved access to all types of information resources. I. Frank.

2000

Bremner, Alison. “Open University Students and Libraries Project 1999.” Library & Information Research News (LIRN) 24, no. 76 (Spring 2000): 26-38.
The Open University (OU) began in 1971 with a policy that its library would not provide services to students. OU courses relied on self-contained course packs. When necessary, students were expected to use local and regional libraries to supplement their course materials. Starting in 1995, the OU Library began providing more direct services to students including library web pages, remote access to online databases and electronic journals, and library support by telephone, email, fax, etc. In 1999, a two-stage Delphi survey consisting of open-ended questions was sent to both graduate and undergraduate students to determine further directions in user support. One finding indicated that almost 60% of both graduate and undergraduate students were using information sources beyond their course packs. Students found additional information at bookstores, on the Internet, newspapers, journal, etc. with only 17% of the students using “other academic libraries.” The survey also indicated that many students in the survey (32.8%) did not have Internet access. In the second part of the survey, students were asked to score a list of suggested library services. Highest scoring about the suggested services included providing a list of relevant books/journals/articles for each OU course, online access to the OU Library; and lists of libraries that are open to OU students. The OU Library notes that some of the “suggested services” are already available in some form and should be marketed. It plans to administer this survey on a regular basis. I. Frank.

Edwards, J. Adam. “UK Libraries Plus: A Vital Lifeline: Report on the Survey of the UK Libraries Plus Scheme, July 2000, Funded by SCONUL for the Work of the Task Force on Distance Learning.” SCONUL Newsletter, no. 21 (Winter 2000): 66-70.
UK Libraries Plus provides reciprocal borrowing and access to 91 higher education libraries in England, Scotland, and Wales. Registered users can borrow from up to three libraries in addition to their home library. A questionnaire was sent to 1300 registered users to determine customer satisfaction. The response rate was 39%. The survey found that students in the program were engaged in a wide range of programs. The average age of the students was 38. 65% of the students were part time, with distance learners at 23%. Most users learned of the service through contact via library orientation, tutors, and other students. Only 2% found out about the service from the website and only 6% from a leaflet. 85% of the respondents rated the service as vital or important. Users appreciate the proximity of Plan’s libraries. 16% use them as a place to study. Some students wanted to borrow more books than currently allowed. Others requested additional service in the form of access to computers and the Internet. Other more minor problems were identified. As a result of the survey, more prominence has been given to contact information about local representatives on the program’s website. A copy of the survey is included. I. Frank.

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. Reprinted in ASHE Reader: Distance Education: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, edited by Lenoar Foster, Beverly L. Bower, and Lemuel W. Watson. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2002, 156-166.
A literature search and a focus group helped to identify criteria for the design of a website for distance education learners at Southern Cross University in New South Wales. D’Angelo and Littles’ 1998 article in Information Technology and Libraries provided the University with the most comprehensive guidance. Their guidelines limited content of the library homepage to seven library related functional categories. A focus group of 16 participants was organized and asked to compare six library homepages for usefulness. They were also asked to rank the six most important characteristics of the web sites other than prominent and clear identification of the library and its institution. The focus group ranked in order of importance: (1) simple language; (2) drop down menus that lead directly to resource, especially full-text resources; (3) prominent links to help; (4) grouping resources by subject; (5) prominent links to the catalogue; and (6) uncluttered design with two or three contrasting colors with meaningful graphics. The article has an extensive bibliography. M. Horan.

McCartan, Audrey. “Use of IT in a Postgraduate Distance Learning Course: Part 2: Staff Perspectives.” Innovations in Education & Training International 37, no. 3 (August 2000): 192-198.
Teaching and Information Services Department (ISD) staff developing a Masters course in records management at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle were interviewed concerning their experiences with information technology and their experiences working with distance learners. The ISD staff included librarians and technical support staff. The teaching faculty were concerned that it was difficult to get to know distance learners. They were concerned about the functionality of IT systems. Technical difficulties made it difficult to exploit the use of communications and applications software. Teachers hoped that more university-level support would be forthcoming. ISD staff members were also conscious of these difficulties. The librarians hoped to train users to do their own research. Librarians noted that they were able to work with the few distance learning students individually as needed, but that this would become more and more difficult as the numbers of distance learners increased. Both teachers and ISD staff recognized that better systems needed to be developed as the University developed more distance learning programs. Their concerns parallel those of students in the program. I. Frank.

Nankivell, Clare and Peter Dalton. “Models for Working Together: Lifelong Learners, Library Cross-Use and Collaborative Solutions.” 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, 49-59.
With the trend away from full-time, on-campus students to distance and lifelong learners, libraries of all types are finding there is an increasing demand to provide resources and services for these students. The People Flows survey studied learners’ patterns of use of public, university, and college libraries in Birmingham and Sheffield. The two-year project surveyed more than 10,000 library users. 57% of the respondents used libraries for study and for work and for other reference purposes. The survey determined that around 10% of all library users had frequented at least four libraries in the past year. Learners were likely to use a library nearest to their home – often a public library. Learners frequented additional libraries to fill their information needs. Problems in using other libraries included getting into the library, accessing information technologies, borrowing items. Another problem was limited hours of operation. The study suggests that cooperative agreements among all types of libraries can provide much-needed support for learners. These agreements could lead to collection and resource sharing, joint policies, “duty” libraries providing access during nights and weekends, and other forms of networking. Agreements to serve a variety of users take the commitment of senior management and front-line staff. I. Frank.

1999

Cole, Louise. “The SCONUL Award 1998: Providing Services to Distance Learners: A Look at Practice in UK Higher Education Libraries and Consideration of the Needs of Undergraduate Distance Learners.” SCONUL Newsletter, no. 17 (Summer 1999): 39-43.
In 1998, the author received a Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) award to carry out research on library services for distance learners. She looked at the needs of undergraduate distance learners at the School of Continuing at Leeds and looked at collaboration between different types of libraries. As a result of her studies, the author suggests enhanced document delivery services, a national discussion list to deal with issues related to distance learners, reciprocal agreements between all academic institutions, a visible presence for the support of distance learners at each institution, more equitable policies at all institutions regarding interlibrary loan and document delivery, and longer hours of operation. The author surveyed 200 undergraduates at Leeds hoping to identify which library services were the most valued. However, the response rate was low. Of the respondents, just over half said they could consider paying fees for some services. Many respondents rely on their public library. The respondents had not made much use of remote access to online catalogs, etc. The author argues that providing less restricted access to more libraries would benefit students and lifelong learners. I. Frank.

Gillham, Mark and Hazel Hall. “‘Alive’ on the Internet: A User-Centred Evaluation of BIS-Online.” New Review of Academic Librarianship 5 (1999): 61-79.
Online course modules were developed for second-year undergraduate students’ use of online modules for a Business Information Sources course taught at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh. The modules were designed to parallel the class textbook and meant to supplement lecturer-student class contact. In 1999, twelve students (half of those in the course) were given a questionnaire to determine their use of the site, their general views about web-based education, use of computer facilities, etc. Focus groups were used as well. Findings indicate that students appreciated the interactivity and colorful design of the web site. The students were concerned about computer access since some did not have home computers. All twelve students rated the site as “essential” or “useful.” While they appreciated the online access to supplemental course materials, they were interested in maintaining face-to-face contact with faculty and their peers. Students using BIS-Online had higher examination marks compared with the marks of students going back to the 1994 academic year. The same instructor taught all the classes. The author notes that BIS-Online would not have been created without the funding to hire a contract web developer. I. Frank.

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