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SCCTP and Distance Learning
Report and Recommendations
Prepared by Jean Hirons, October 2003
Distance learning courses are now being widely offered by universities and graduate library schools for university students. The use of distance learning courses for training library staff is really just beginning; however, many institutions, including LC, make use of the Web for supplying in-house procedures, instructional manuals, etc. Perhaps most widely known are the courses developed by OCLC, both free and for a fee, that range from system-specific courses, to more general courses, such as cataloging electronic resources and understanding MARC. CDS has also recently developed its own Web-based course on using the Catalogers' Desktop. And while there is some resistance to distance learning, its use is sure to grow as younger people come into the job market. Results of a survey conducted by Outsell for OCLC showed that 51% of respondents were using distance learning, while 65% planned to in the future, citing its convenience and affordability.
The development of distance learning as part of SCCTP has been a goal from the inception of the program. However, it was clear from the initial needs analysis that face-to-face training workshops were preferred, with Web-based training as a second choice. Now that SCCTP has five workshops, covering all of the basics of serials cataloging, the time may be right to consider the development of some form of distance learning.The following report is based on a number of resources:
Goals and assumptionsDistance learning, if developed as part of the SCCTP Program, should be:
Synchronous vs. asynchronous
Distance learning possibilities include both synchronous and asynchronous types of courses. In synchronous courses, the student must sign on for a specific time frame, joining a teacher and other students online using chat rooms and other means of communicating. Asynchronous courses may be taken at any time, are self-paced, and do not necessarily involve interaction with others. Given the nature of SCCTP and its management, asynchronous courses are the only type that seem feasible. Certainly, synchronous courses could work nicely; however, the registration and administration of such courses is not something that the CONSER office or CDS could handle.
Success factors of SCCTP
In considering distance learning development, we should consider the reasons why SCCTP has been such a successful program. First, the program focuses on serials, an area where there are few other training opportunities. Secondly, it draws on experienced professionals to provide the training and share their day-to-day experiences. Thirdly, it is affordable. Workshops have been held in many venues and often for modest fees. Thus, trainees have received high-level training at an affordable price and they feel that have received their money's worth. They often sign up for other courses as a result.
Distance learning could embrace factors one and three, but would probably fall short on factor two.
If there is sufficient interest to pursue, I recommend the following:
Based on discussions with various catalogers at ALA, I don't believe that developing full-blown Web-based distance learning courses at this point would be very successful. People really like the contact with not only the trainers, but also their colleagues. It is also much easier to learn in an environment separate from the workplace in time set aside for this purpose. (Respondents to the Outsell/OCLC survey reported lack of time as the biggest drawback to distance learning courses.)
However, the large number of responses to the recent SCCTP trainee survey citing the need for follow-up suggests that we can do even better with the current model. By creating a chat room, or a monitored reference service, we can keep trainees involved and feeling like they are still in touch with the program and its trainers. I believe that we can do this with a minimum of effort, but careful thought must be brought to the task.
I am excited about the possibilities of developing Web-based courses
for a different audience--those who need basic skills in serials. Such
courses would have wide applicability in LC, as well as in the greater
library community. Staff in acquisitions, check-in, copyright, and
potentially monograph catalogers could benefit. Such courses could
also find a wide audience in other countries. Modules from some of
the SCCTP courses could be selected to be redesigned and developed
as "learning objects." A team within Serial Record could
work with a professional instructional designer, under contract with
CDS. We now have a number of very talented staff in the division, including
Linda Geisler, who has experience with Web-based design and SCCTP.
We should look to CDS's Desktop course as an example to see how this
form of training is being received.
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