ASSOCIATES (vol. 3, no. 3, March 1997) -

Table of Contents

                   *EDUCATION ON THE INTERNET!*
                            Kirk Rau
                       Asst. Dean Library
                       University of Maine

My parents once  told me, "The only way to get ahead is to get an
education."  I agree with that statement, but there are many ways
to get that education.  Formal schools and colleges are the most
accepted way of obtaining that needed education, but some people
are able to acquire the information and skills needed to be
successful in other ways, primarily though hard work in reading
the literature and studying on their own.  What method is right
for you?  It is your decision but we all must continue to
learn.  Experts say that the amount of information available to
society is doubling every three years.  This fact, along with the
technology revolution, is creating havoc in the library world.
CHANGE is the word that has been on most librarians' minds for
the past few years.  Library staff will have to adjust to change
and learn to grow or move aside, because libraries need people
who are willing to explore new horizons and  lead society into
the next century using information as the key to success.
I have been in the library business for more than 20 years.  For
the first 15 years things moved along at a pace such that
continuing my education was a plus but not necessary to stay
employed.  In the last five years if I had not grown and learned
the new technologies I would be out of a job.  Everyone needs to
take responsibility for her/his own future.  Some people can get
there by reading literature, self-directed study and staff
development.  Others will need to attend workshops, conferences
and college courses in order to meet the ever-changing needs of
the library profession.  One of the problems I see with
continuing education at all levels in the library world
is access.  With M.L.S. programs closing and only a handful of
A.S. degrees around the country, the problem is getting worse.
People who are in need of M.L.S. programs can either move to
areas that have programs or access some of these distance
education programs such as Syracuse University and University of
South Carolina.  The need is just as great if not greater for
paraprofessionals but for the most part people in these positions
are place-bound and the financial incentives are not great enough
to make relocation feasible.  Another issue is that those
professional development dollars many times do not trickle down
to the paraprofessional level, so paraprofessionals do not have
opportunities to go to workshops and conferences.  We have to
address these needs.  The College of DuPage is doing a great job
in providing teleconferences, "Soaring to Excellence," which is
a start, but we need to provide other options, such as  a
To my knowledge there are two A.S. degrees available for library
staff which are available as a distance education program:  the
University of Maine at Augusta and Front Range Community College.
Each program appears to have a different curriculum emphasis,
which is great, so people can select the program that best meets
their needs.  From my reading of the literature and understanding
of the history of A.S. degrees, most colleges which have offered
this degree have not been very successful because there is not
enough of a population base to make the programs viable. Distance
education seems to be the answer.  In Maine that is a proven
fact. Two different campuses have tried to create programs in the
past and both have closed because of low enrollments.  Six years
ago the library community came to the University of Maine at
Augusta asking if we would create an A.S. in Library and
Information Technology using its distance education facilities.
Within a year the program was up and running.  The program has
been very successful with 125 students enrolled as of today, with
25 graduating this year.
If  library professionals are to continue to learn and improve,
the programs that provide education for librarians must also
continue to grow, learn and take chances so we can show by
example how to be leaders in the years to come.  At the
University of Maine at Augusta, we have been evaluating and
analyzing the curriculum and our delivery method for four
years.  Because I coordinate the program and do all academic
advising for the 125 students, I hear everything about the
program's pros and cons.  After studying the evaluations, we came
to the conclusion that the curriculum was very good but needed a
couple of slight improvements.  The scheduling of classes and the
mandates of the Instructional Television System were creating
problems for both students and the faculty.  The problems were
that our program was not getting the time slots on the ITV system
that met the needs of our students.  Many of our students are
working adults with many responsibilities that are common for
adult learners such as jobs, families and school.  The other
problems were large classes and not enough hands-on experience;
there was too much "show and tell."  To address these issues we
developed a plan.  The remedy to the scheduling problem was to
create an asynchronous delivery system.
A brief description of our asynchronous format:
     1. Prerecorded lectures would be sent to students at home.
     2. An extensive syllabus would accompany the video lectures.
     3. Assignments would consist of readings and a variety of
          hands on projects at local libraries.
     4. Internet searching would be part of most courses.
     5. Communication would be on a listserv and E-mail.
     5. Maximum enrollment per section would be 25 students.
The changes we are making will affect the currently enrolled
students in Maine because they have been taking the classes over
our ITV system, but we feel that the change is best for all.
Change is not easy for many people but as library professionals
we need to be ready to embrace it  and learn from the new
experiences.  As we developed our delivery method, the other
problems were solved relatively easily.  The other areas that
were important to address were the problems of lack of hands-on
assignments at local libraries and of having the classes
integrated into today's technology of E-mail and the Internet.
These were valuable additions to the curriculum.  The only
drawback to the change was the loss of the instant feedback that
was available on the ITV system.  We will ensure that a toll-free
phone line will be available for the few times during the
semester when E-mail is not the best way to communicate with the
instructor.  The hope was that this would enable students to have
at least one personal contact with the instructor during the
semester.  Adapting to change is not easy, but if we expect
library patrons to learn how to use the new technologies, we need
to be ready ourselves.
The Provost gave us permission to test two sample classes during
the summer of 1996 to evaluate the new delivery method.  The
classes were small, with a total enrollment of 24 students.
Our evaluation showed:
     Areas that needed improvement:
          1. Quality of videos
          2. Logistics of shipping materials
     Areas of improved quality:
          1. Flexible scheduling
          2. E-mail and listserv experience
          3. Video interviews with library staff in their
          4. Small classes
After the evaluation was done, it was decided that the areas that
needed improvement could be dealt with without additional
budgets.  The major reason why we had problems with the videos
and shipping was that we did not allow enough lead time before
the start of classes.  The evaluations confirmed that fixing
these problems was a positive move that would enhance the
program.  Approval was given to go forward with the changes
starting summer of 1997.  Not only is the change good for Maine's
students, but it allows us to offer the program to anyone around
the country who has access to the Internet.  One requirement of
the program is that the flexible schedule will only be on a
weekly basis.  In other words, students must work out a schedule
that meets their needs but stays on track with each week's
assignments.  The topics discussed on the listserv will last only
one week then go onto the next topic.  One reason our program has
been successful is that we have been able to reach library staff
in the rural areas of Maine.  I believe that this program will
enable people in rural areas of other states to have the same
opportunity to acquire an Associate Degree in Library and
Technology or just take selected courses for professional
development.  If students were interested in obtaining a degree
from UMA they would take all required library classes from UMA as
distance education classes and take other requirements for the
degree at local colleges.  No residency at UMA is required.  Here
at the University of Maine at Augusta, we are very excited
because we can now provide a more convenient delivery format
along with an improved  learning experience to Maine citizens and
for anyone with Internet access who wishes to improve her/his
skills or get an Associate Degree in Library and Information
Technology.  With very little marketing we already have three
students enrolled in the program from states outside of Maine.  I
think UMA is in a very unique position.  We can help to improve
the quality of libraries and library service in Maine, but we can
also have an impact on other library services around the country.
For more information about associate degree programs contact:
Library Paraprofessional Clearinghouse
Library Support Staff Resource Center
Kirk Rau
Assistant Dean of Libraries
Coordinator of Library and Information Technology Program UMA
46 University Dr.
University of Maine at Augusta
Tel:      207-621-3341
          1-800-696-6000 ext 3341 (Maine only)
Fax       207-621-3354