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REPORT ON EXISTING ACADEMIC PROGRAMMING OFFERED THROUGH DISTANCE EDUCATION FOR THE NEW ENGLAND ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES The University of Maine at Augusta Augusta, Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn And over 100 locations statewide September 20, 2002 2 Contact Information: Chief Academic Officer for UMA: Provost and Executive Vice President, Joshua Nadel, MFA e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 207.621.3106 Contact Person for Distance Learning Questions: Dean of Libraries, Instructional Support and Extended Learning Programs, Thomas Abbott, Ph.D. e-mail address: email@example.com Telephone: 207.753.6610 or 207.621.3342 Contact Person for Library and Information Technology Program Questions: Program Coordinator and Assistant Dean of Libraries Jean Thomas, MLS e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 207.621.3341 Access Points for UMA Distance Learning: http:// uma.maine.edu – UMA general WebPages http://www.uma.maine.edu/academics/uacadprograms.html – UMA’s listing of Academic Programs offered statewide via distance learning methodology http://www.uma.maine.edu/libraries/pages/spclibinfo.html - Information about UMA’s only online programs, the AS, BS and Certificate in Library and Information Technology http://www.learn.maine.edu/ – Home page for University College, the University of Maine System out reach centers and the “utility” that supports UMA’s distance education efforts through Interactive television (one-way video with two-way audio, Video conferencing (two-way video and audio), and web-based online instruction using Blackboard http://www.courses.maine.edu/ – University of Maine System’s Global gateway to Blackboard version 5.5.1 3 Technical Infrastructure: Overview: In 1998, UNET/University College, the University System technology and Distance Education support utility purchased Blackboard for all campuses to use. Version 5.5.1 is now in use, and in the fall of 2001, UMA offered 19 courses online and enrolled 404 students. By far the majority of students are enrolled in one of the three Library Information Technology Programs (AS, BS and Certificate). Addressing a state of Maine need in 1996 asynchronously, UMA soon realized that the same need existed nationally. With little advertising other than ListServe notices, UMA’s Library and Information Technology Program has grown to 283 matriculated students in the fall of 2001 taking 12 Lib Tech course sections. This program enrolls students from 28 states and 4 foreign countries. In the spring of 2002, UMA graduated 19 Associate Degree students and13 Baccalaureate Degree students in Library Information Technology. Other departments offer occasional courses, but no other offerings lead to online degree opportunities. Technical Specifications for On-Line Courses: Bandwidth: The Blackboard server is connected to the University of Maine System Wide Area Network (WAN). All UMS campuses are connected to the WAN via leased (ATM) circuits. The Augusta campus is connected with an OC-3 level (155 Mbps) ATM circuit while the Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn campuses are connected at DS-3 level (45 Mbps) ATM circuits. Details of Connectivity: The UMS WAN is connected to the Internet via a 90 Mbps circuit. Peering arrangements with local Internet service providers insure less stress on the out-of-state Internet links. For example the UMS network connects directly with Adelphia cable, so that signals from cable modem users in Bangor and Augusta don’t need to transverse the Internet in Boston. Network Maintenance and Support: A system-wide service, UNET, provides technology support for the ITV system through the Network Operations Center (approximately 10 staff) in Orono. The hardware platforms are located on the computer (mainframe) floor and monitored by the Computer Operations staff. Course Management Software: Centrally the UMS runs the Blackboard system (version 5.5.1, level 2) on two Linux servers using Oracle as the relational database management system. The hardware platforms are Four-processor (Xeon) computers with 4GB of RAM. 4 Helpdesk Services and Staffing: UNET operates a helpdesk that is open 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM Monday-Friday, and 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM Saturday. Through an 800 number students can reach technical support to report troubles or ask for assistance in using course management software. Four individuals staff the help desk. A Teleservice department staffed by 2 individuals is also available during normal business hours to assist students in solving problems or identifying resources. Security: The Blackboard system is provided the same full level of physical and computer security that is afforded any operational system managed by UNET computer operations. A very restricted number of staff administer the system. Students access the Blackboard system through a password-protected account. These accounts are set up on an automated process based on assigned email accounts, and students use an activation code to create their password. Backups: The Blackboard system is backed up on a daily basis. Partners: University College of the University Maine System E-mail: email@example.com Mt. Wachussett Community College: (MWCC) 444 Green Street Gardiner, MA 01440 UMA and MWCC hold a formal agreement that allows MWCC to promote UMA’s Library and Information Program to regional students and provide general education course and non-library electives for participants. Highline Community College (HCC) 2400 South 240th Street Des Moines, WA 98198 HCC and UMA hold a formal agreement that allows HCC students to transfer to UMA as full-fledged juniors into the UMA BS in Library and Information Technology Program. UMA offers the only online baccalaureate degree program in the country specifically designed for library support staff . 5 2. Curriculum and Instruction The initial Associate of Science in Library and Information Technology program is best described as UMA’s response to a consumer need. In 1993, the Continuing Education Committee of the Maine Library Association asked UMA to help them standardize education and training for library support staff in Maine. At the time the Masters in Library Science (MLS) was the standard professional credential, and there were no graduate or undergraduate library programs in Maine. After creating an advisory board for the program and consulting with librarians across the state, UMA knew it had enough support to move ahead. The advisory board represented MLS librarians, distance educators, state library leaders, a representative from the Maine State Library and several library support staff within the profession. The first pilot version of the Library Tech associate degree was delivered in 1994 on UMA’s statewide ITV system to approximately 30 “receive” locations within the state. Time slot availability and early small enrollments forced staff to consider asynchronous delivery modes. This first asynchronous in 1996 version included prepackaged video lectures mailed anywhere in Maine or the USA accompanied by a “coursepak” of readings and directions for participating in the ListServ discussion process. That version lasted for about three years until the University System purchased and began supporting the Blackboard instructional and computer conferencing software. Since then, with a few exceptions for essential basic task instruction, videos have all but disappeared. We anticipate the streaming of audio and video images over the Internet as the next iteration. Those options are now in their infancy with two instructors streaming video and another planned for spring semester 2003. Students who do not have high bandwidth access, can receive compact discs from the bookstore as an alternative delivery method. In the future, as more cost effective bandwidth reaches rural areas, video streaming will expand significantly. The Library Information and Technology Associate Degree program proposal was developed and sent through the on-campus and University System approval process. It earned approval within six months of initiation, a record for the usual “glacial” university pace. The process for the baccalaureate degree was essentially the same with the added advantage of several years of successful associate degree delivery and a cadre of students clamoring for the baccalaureate degree. Along the way, UMA faculty and staff presented at national conferences and state library meetings around the country, and learned that not only was UMA’s associate degree in good company as one of about 50 degrees nationally, but also that UMA’s associate degree offering was one of the few available at a distance. Additionally, UMA learned that no one in the country was offering the baccalaureate degree online. At about the same time that UMA’s program went online, the library profession began waking up to the fact that 50 plus percent of its professionals, part of the baby-boomer group, would be retiring within 10 years. That same analysis indicated that even at enrollment capacity, 6 the existing MLS programs could not produce enough librarians to meet the pending need. That professional staffing problem has brought many in the American Library Association to reconsider their emphasis on master’s level preparation. UMA is currently involved in the national discussion on library “career ladders” and accrediting undergraduate programs. Learning outcomes for the associate and baccalaureate degrees, as well as each individual LIB course, were established with input from advisory board members, and from study of the national discussion on library curriculum. Demonstration of analysis, comprehension, communication and effective research skills are all addressed in individual Library Tech courses, and they all come together in the required capstone internship courses in each program. (See UMA Library Program WebPages for details) The UMA Library and Information Technology Programs deliver only the LIB courses online. The programs were designed to allow incoming students to transfer existing college credits in or earn them at regionally accredited institutions worldwide. In Maine, students are able to take core and elective courses via the UMS ITV System or by taking face-to-face courses at any of the seven campuses or 12 University College Educational Centers. The Program requires that the UMA’s transfer office and the Program Coordinator approve the transfer courses, and that they meet the general education or major requirements. Students must take 30 credit hours with UMA to meet its residency requirement for the BS and 15 for the AS Degree. The Coordinator must approve all “away” courses ahead of time, and relevant documentation is placed in the student’s individual file. UMA’s Arts and Humanities Dean has been especially helpful in evaluating whether variously named courses from “away,” suggested by students, meet the UMA Humanities’ requirement. The Library and Information Technology Programs are coherent and complete. That is not to say they are perfect. Changes continue to be made to accommodate professional recommendations, student needs and alterations made in UMA’s general education requirements. The latest curricular changes include the addition of a writing intensive course requirement, part of the new UMA Core, and a change from a Computer Department programming course to a specific Library Technology Computer Applications course (LIB 325.) These changes resulted from faculty and student recommendations collected annually, and were approved through the UMA College and University curriculum approval processes. All materials used by the students are available online, are sent to them by the bookstore, directly accessed online from Off-Campus Library Services, or are loaned by the Coordinator. In the last category are the Sears and Dewey Series, reference guides used for the cataloging course. Students in this program have a very strong respect for library materials and return them without loss or problem. That may change in the future and if it does, UMA is prepared to ask for a refundable deposit at the beginning of the course to cover lost materials. 7 Three individuals, as well as the faculty manage program oversight. Dean Grace Leonard of the College of Natural and Social Sciences is the academic leader and advocate for the program at the Provost’s level and is known across the state for her development of academic programs, especially for the state’s Departments of Mental Health and Human Services. Coordinator Jean Thomas holds a Masters of Library Science and has many years of library education and administrative library experience. She serves as student advisor, and curricular specialist and is also Assistant Dean of UMA Libraries. Dean of Libraries and Instructional Support Tom Abbott assists with administrative and distance education issues. Dean Abbott holds his Ph.D. in Higher Education Management and is nationally recognized for his work in developing off-campus library services programs, distance education, program evaluation and accreditation issues. These individuals meet on a regular basis to address curricular and policy issues. Faculty feedback is received via e-mail discussion and annual meetings held at UMA. Occasionally, student assistants support coordination and advising for the Program. These individuals are select senior students who have demonstrated excellence and an understanding of UMA students and the faculty members’ teaching methods. They come recommended by Library Tech faculty members. The students’ assigned tasks are at a level commensurate with their ability. Peer advising is used widely and effectively at UMA. All program requirements are spelled out on the UMA Library Tech WebPages. All UMA students receive a program checksheet at the time of their admission and their successful completion of graduation requirements is based on this document. If a checksheet changes in the course of a student’s matriculation, she or he may select to move to the new checksheet or remain with the original. Students learn about course offerings online, and because courses fill quickly, the majority of them register within the first week of availability using toll-free telephone nationwide numbers. The students’ minimum technology requirements are spelled out on the UNET/University College’s introductory WebPage and are compatible with our students’ computers. Because Maine is a rural and relatively poor state, UMA is very sensitive to students’ resource needs. Accordingly, the introduction of streaming video has been slow, and where it is used, alternative CD formats are available. Course scheduling continues to expand with demand in numbers. This fall (2002) UMA added two additional sections of introductory courses to satisfy students on waiting lists. Most courses are available at least once every year with many being offered each semester. Due to the unique nature of the Program and the option for students to take general education courses elsewhere, our partners are very important. UMA’s consortial partners are regionally accredited institutions of higher education. Their non-financial based support for UMA’s Library and Information Technology Program is that of a marketing partner in a distinct region of the country. Mt. Wachussett, Community College advisors direct interested regional students to UMA’s Library and Information Technology Program, and then assist them with registration for MWCC courses that satisfy UMA’s 8 general education requirements. At Highline Community College, their associate degree Library graduates are encouraged to continue in Library Technology with UMA’s baccalaureate program. This allows additional flexibility for students desiring a BS degree without requiring them to move to another school. With this type of partnership, quality control lies with the faculty of these accredited institutions rather than with UMA. While UMA actively monitors the curriculum of our two-plus-two partner, the real confirmation of quality lies in how well their students do in UMA’s upper level Library courses. To date, the pilot project with Highline has been successful, and led us to pursue similar opportunities with other two-year Library Technology programs. Online programs such as UMA’s Library and Information Technology Program require a new way of teaching. Faculty and students find many more ways to directly interact. Getting used to this new teaching methodology has been interesting and a great deal of work, but faculty members have clearly risen to the occasion. The interaction between student and instructor is being managed better today than when online delivery began. In one of the first online classes of 30, a faculty member had 700 e-mails in one week. Since that time, guidelines regarding the type and quality of communication have been implemented, and students are encouraged to work in groups. The volume of interaction between faculty and students has come down to a reasonable level and students are doing as well or better. Faculty workloads are manageable and instructional creativity has increased. Faculty members have learned how to better utilize Blackboard “discussions” and small group activities allow students to work independently without faculty intervention. When “chat” opportunities are available (similar work schedules, time zones etc.) faculty find that students enjoy the live synchronous interaction and take full advantage of the time. Students use roaming toll-free numbers to contact their faculty members at home or offices across the country. They also regularly communicate toll-free with Off-Campus Library Services, Tech Support, the bookstore etc. Faculty members are reimbursed for returning long distance calls, but are encouraged to use more cost effective e-mail. Coordinator Jean Thomas monitors student feedback on an ongoing basis and addresses concerns with faculty members directly or with the faculty as a whole via e-mail. In two cases, part-time faculty members were not rehired after efforts to correct deficiencies in performance were unsuccessful. Student evaluations and unsolicited feedback indicate that the program is hugely successful. 9 3. Faculty Support The University of Maine at Augusta is part of the University of Maine System and as such conforms to the Maine Labor Relations Act which, when it was created, established five collective bargaining units for university employees. Full and part-time faculty members are represented by their own collective bargaining organizations and maintain separate contracts with the University System. Faculty workload, compensation and ownership of intellectual property are all matters for negotiation and are covered in the collective bargaining agreements. In addition to the salaries mandated by the part-time faculty collective bargaining agreement, UMA has added a semester stipend to support at-home computer connections, and awards for course development or revision. UMA caps enrollment at 30 in all online courses to recognize the high degree of student-faculty interaction present in all online courses. This year all faculty members in the Library and Information Technology Program will be involved in a newly inaugurated program evaluation process led by Dr. Johan Koren, the Program’s one-year Libra Fellow, a University System annual award to UMA. Until this year, UMA’s program reviews were conducted by one or more individuals associated with a program and followed a set of data requirements and questions that needed to be answered. These reports were determined to be ineffective at stimulating or supporting program improvement. Alternatively, UMA is now developing an outcome assessment process, and the Library and Information Technology Program will be one of the first to participate. Dr. Koren, in the first month of his fellowship is confirming program goals, desired outcomes, measurements and methods of measurement. He will develop a draft assessment framework in concert with faculty and administrative staff this fall, and in the spring semester conduct the data collection and analysis to determine exactly how well the program is performing. The Library Tech Assessment will serve as a model for other UMA academic programs. In course development and faculty support, faculty members participate in training programs offered annually by UNET/University College, and have access to instructional designers also provided by UNET/University College. The results of these activities include several new courses and revisions of existing courses, all including the latest additions to Blackboard. Additionally, the UMA Distance Education Council provides financial support for course development and revision. UMA faculty members may apply for a range of awards from their incentive fund. Unfortunately, budget reductions in the past few years have required that routine maintenance and upgrading of existing online courses be paid from this fund as well as new initiatives. UMA is currently examining alternatives to paying faculty stipends for online course development. Central to this new idea is the use of “release time” as the incentive rather than stipends. This tact would free the current course development budget for stipends of major overhauls of existing courses. University College instructional designers work with all University System faculty members who teach online. The instructional designers are part of the same organization 10 that manages Blackboard, as well as the entire computer network of the University of Maine System, so consistency and currency of information are high. Training programs are held regularly for faculty, and e-mailed announcements, FAQ pages and toll free access to the instructional designers round out the package. Faculty participation in training activities is significant and Program staff receive excellent feedback. Mentoring among faculty also plays an important role in the continuous improvement of the program. 4. Student Support UMA’s commitment to the Library and Information Technology Program is best demonstrated by the regular play it receives in presidential discussions about the future. Dr. Charles Lyons, President of UMA, is asking why other niche program are not moving more quickly to the same type of online delivery options for their distant students. Online courses are growing faster than any other course delivery mode across the University System. In the fall semester of 2000, there were 53 online courses offered by the seven University campuses and this fall, there are 99. While UMA is committed to hiring tenure track faculty members for the Lib Tech Program in the near future, it has done an excellent job in hiring and monitoring its adjunct faculty member in the interim. Our adjunct faculty members are or have been library professionals. Our entire faculty hold at least a Masters degree in Library Science or a related field. This year UMA hired a Ph.D. in the field through out Libra Fellowship Program to teach, and assist with the coordination, planning and assessment of the program. Both the associate and baccalaureate degree programs fill a national and statewide need, and as long as the students continue to enroll in large numbers at UMA to earn their degrees, the programs will continue. UMA is committed to making sure all students who enter the program have the ability to complete it within a reasonable period of time. Students can progress through the Program on a part or full-time basis. Hiring of full- time faculty members to anchor the Program will certainly demonstrate this commitment and assure Program excellence. Prospective students learn about the Library and Information Technology Programs at UMA by word of mouth from colleagues and library professionals, through an assortment of ListServes that UMA contributes to, through presentations provided by UMA at state and national meetings across the country, and by searching the World Wide Web and locating our program. All UMA programs are listed in national directories for distance education program and all available information is accurate and current. The Lib Tech WebPages provide an overview of the program including program costs, curriculum, goals, and the minimum technology requirements for each student. UNET/University Colleges provides a student orientation to taking online courses, and that is available for our students. UMA advisors at all locations are being trained to 11 interview prospective students regarding their readiness for the independence of online courses. With one exception, students in this Program are admitted through the same admission process used for other UMA students. The added component for Library Tech students is a personal phone call or e-mail communication from Jean Thomas, the Program Coordinator. During this call or contact, Jean reviews the process of course delivery and questions the individual about his or her readiness. A noticeable and relatively consistent dropout rate from online courses has led us to scrutinize our screening process and tighten up the counseling efforts during admissions. Studies indicate that between 20 and 25 percent of course registrants drop before the course is completed. This number has been consistent for three years, is similar to national numbers, and certainly bears further scrutiny. The Program also shows a loss from those being admitted against those continuing to completion. This data is being analyzed. Retention issues will be considered as staff and faculty members pursue the program assessment process this year. Common sense suggests that improving retention will be a priority for the program review process. It is unclear at this point why so many students leave classes before completion, and whether some of the loss of students in the pipeline result from them accomplishing their objectives prior to graduation. UMA delivers distance education courses to up to 2500 students each semester, and has for almost fifteen years. UMA prides itself on being a leader in distance education and with the support of its delivery partner, UNET/University Colleges, effectively delivers an assortment of support services including: online library access to a complete library collection and reference librarians; online course listings and registration; standard Blackboard infrastructure for all courses using an online component, orientation, online bookstore; online grades and academic history; FAQ pages, and helpdesk support; access to UMA website information including toll-free numbers for students to reach faculty and staff members and the UMA Student Handbook containing all student related policies, e.g., the UMA Grievance Policy. After fifteen years of serving distance students, UMA continues to adjust and refine policies and procedures based on feedback from students, faculty, and staff. The most recent improvement was the expansion of helpdesk hours to 79 hours a week. Also, weekly ITV tutoring sessions in mathematics were added recently. An online version of this tutoring model for students who do not have access to ITV receive locations is under development. Plans for serving students with documented qualifying disabilities are developed on a case-by-case basis. The technology and flexibility built into the online delivery systems sometimes helps to ameliorate the impact of disabilities on learning. At UMA, our most common accommodations provided involve time, special seating or separate testing. These are typically non-issues in asynchronous courses. Some early WebPages were not compatible with the adaptive software, and we have learned to screen up front for this compatibility. Other needs are handled, as they would be in a live course. For example, 12 in web-based courses that use videotapes, we provide interpreting services for our hearing impaired students. Online students do not have access to all of their required UMA courses online. As noted above, only the Library and Information Technology courses are guaranteed online. Some general education and elective courses are available and more are planned to permit students to complete both UMA degrees online. UMA routinely recommends other University System online courses to Lib Tech students. If particular UMA core courses are not offered online, students are allowed to take general education courses and electives from any regionally accredited institution in the world, with prior authorization from UMA. The main problem identified by the students in the program is speed of response from the Coordinator and the transfer officer. UMA has agreed to add at least one full-time faculty member as its top priority as soon as the budget permits. Additional budget requests include a half-time support person who can field routine calls, prepare mailings to prospective students, and help with filing. These changes should help address these identified problems and improve Program quality. Additional areas being expanded on are development of online placement testing for students who have had no prior college experience. UMA’s Library Tech Program does offer a one-credit Information Literacy course online for all students who need additional support in this area. Information and library use instruction are integral components of both the AS and BS programs and therefore are not taught separately. The UMA Bookstore has a fully operational website used by many students whether or not they take online courses. Orders placed via the Web are shipped directly to the student within 24 hours as long as the required text is in the warehouse. As anyone in higher education can imagine, building a college community is the most difficult task of the entire process of online education. UMA and UNET/University Colleges have taken this challenge very seriously. For the in-state Distance Education students, 10 Centers and 85 receive sites (usually high schools) are strategically located around the state and provide local contact points for students. Some attend face-to-face and ITV classes at Centers, and make use of computer labs, advising staff and cultural activities. Two years ago UMA developed a Student Government Association for distance students, one of four participating units (Augusta, Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn and Distance Students) of the UMA General Assembly. Participation of DE students thus far has been limited, and it has been difficult to sustain officers. There will be a strengthened effort this year to bring the fledging organization to life so it can represent all distance students. Already this fall, an ITV meeting attracted 53 distance students to a Student Government information session. 13 For online students there are limited opportunities to come together physically. The Coordinator has been successful in promoting regional meetings, usually social, for students in California, Florida and North Carolina. Online with the use of Blackboard discussion groups, students work together successfully on course projects and topical discussions. There is also an informal chat and e-mail capability which students take advantage of to interact socially. At last year’s UMA graduation 19 graduates came together in Maine. Students from Florida, Massachusetts, Maine and Arizona attended. During visits to relatives in Florida, Jean Thomas has met with students at two community colleges to help promote student connections. All students link to individual faculty members during their courses via individual discussion forums. When messages to all students need to be sent, the Coordinator sends the information to all faculty members, and they relay the message to all the students. The Coordinator can also communicate with all students through another ListServ just for students. All students in the Program understand and value e-mail as the primary mode of communication. Students with problems communicate with their instructors, the Coordinator, the bookstore, other University offices and the helpdesk as needed. Jean Thomas provides mediation support for faculty and students, as needed; she advocates for students with other UMA departments and serves as the information broker for all UMA information needing to reach students. Feedback from students is ongoing with an end of term evaluation form completed by students in each class. The Coordinator and the Dean of the College review these. Financial Aid is available to students matriculated in the Library Tech Programs. The Student Financial Aid Office works with online students in the same way they do with on campus students. The one wrinkle we are aware of is that some UMA students awarded financial aid have attempted to use that aid at their local higher education institution where they may be taking non-library courses. By federal regulations, this is not possible unless UMA has a written agreement with the other school. Writing agreements for one student at a time has been deemed impractical, but agreements are being considered where a group of students takes courses toward a UMA degree at a single institution. In summary, it is fair to say that UMA has been highly successful in providing the rudiments of an online college community, but that more needs to be done. The Library and Information Technology Program is UMA’s first attempt at an online program, after many years delivering ITV courses to Maine students. UMA believes the model for supporting the ITV students now managed by UNET/University Colleges is exceptional, both in staffing and services and can be translated to support online students. In the next few years, UMA will expand online programming and continue to find new ways to support and involve students. Based on student feedback, the Library and Information Technology Program is a huge success and is meeting the needs of its students. 14 5. Evaluation and Assessment UMA Library and Information Technology faculty members evaluate the effectiveness of their courses by evaluating student performance on tests, written documents and course participation and contribution. Each course has established learning objectives that support and build toward the Program’s objectives. They form the basis for instruction as well as evaluation. UMA includes online programs, in this case, only the Library Tech Program, in the University program review process. This year with the help of Dr. Johan Koren, the program will undergo a thorough program review. That report will be completed by end of summer 2003 and included as a back up document for UMA’s 2005 NEASC Re-accreditation visit. UMA faculty use an assortment of techniques to ascertain that the students registered in each course are the ones who actually participate in the evaluation processes. Among them are time-limited tests, given at specific times, comparing written submissions with the student’s online participation, review of student writing against online plagiarism prevention tools, personal contact with each student by the faculty and coordinator and proctored exams. UNET/University Colleges continues to develop policies and processes to assure integrity of student work. To date, there have been no incidents of suspected cheating. Each UMA student, whether online or taking classes face-to-face, is assigned a computer access identification and password. Secure assigned ID’s and passwords are required to access Blackboard and to access student grades or schedule courses. This information is tightly controlled by UNET/University Colleges, which manages all University System computing. The University Registrar’s Office manages all UMA student records and follows the standard practices of AACRAO. Faculty members use individual e-mail to send test results and personal feedback to the students. Continuous feedback from students is collected by faculty members and the Coordinator and is shared with both Deans and the Provost as appropriate. This information is used to revise and adjust the curriculum, make policy changes and recommend changes to UMA at large and UNET/University Colleges. Christine LeGore, the Associate Director, Academic and Student Support Services, for UNET/University Colleges sits on the UMA Provost’s Staff as a means of linking her unit’s support of distance education students with academic policies and practices. UNET/University Colleges administers an online evaluation of faculty, the course and the technology and support system. All feedback is shared with Program staff and is used to make changes and improvements. One of the values of teaching students across the country is that they come to UMA with diverse and different experiences and from technological systems with varying degrees of maturity. These students share their experiences with each other and are not at all shy about making suggestions to faculty members and the Coordinator. These suggestions will be factored into the program review process as it evolves this year. 15 Assessment of core curriculum skills and values takes place in an informal way with faculty members giving feedback when students need writing support or have difficulty understanding some aspect of the individual course. During the 80-hour Program internship (120 hours for the BS), students work with onsite supervisors in a library environment and “meet” with their UMA Program faculty member weekly. Feedback during the internship from both the site supervisor and through phone and e-mail correspondence with the UMA instructor is collected and evaluated against the outcomes of the Program. If on the rare occasion the student has not met the expectations set forth in the Program outcomes, the student would not receive a passing grade on the internship and would fail to graduate. Additionally her or his opportunity for future recommendations for work may be limited. This worst-case scenario has not yet happened, and the Coordinator feels that students who cannot perform adequately are counseled out of the Program long before the final internship. The history of the UMA Library and Information Technology Programs demonstrates that continuous assessment does indeed result in improvements. Moving from ITV sent to fixed sites in Maine, to videotaped instruction with e-mail discussions, then to online courses delivered worldwide shows clearly how the Program staff and faculty have taken advantage of new technologies and made the Program available to students who otherwise would not have such a degree opportunity. Faculty members participate each year in a UNET/University Colleges workshop dedicated to sharing best practices for teaching at a distance, and take advantage of the instructional designers on staff to make the best of their teaching efforts. This year’s program review will include all aspects of the Program’s success including, whether program and course outcomes are being achieved, how to improve the retention problem, and how to connect students can more effectively UMA and to each other to strengthen the online university community. As noted above, ongoing assessment has determined that this financially successful program needs a larger budget to support its worldwide activities and certainly adding one or more full-time faculty members to the Program in the next two years is essential for its continuation. The program review conducted this year will provide the hard evidence for those requests. Program review documents and recommendations from staff and faculty members are sent forward to the Provost’s Staff for discussion and recommendations from there go to the president and ultimately the UMA Budget Committee. Recommendations on curricular changes go to the College of Natural and Social Sciences, the UMA Curriculum Committee, as appropriate to the UMA Faculty Senate, and finally to the Provost. 16 Closing Summary Clearly, UMA’s experiment with asynchronous online education in this global library support staff niche market has been successful. The Program was designed and built based on well-documented consumer need, and has filled a professional need in the library world. Some of all success can usually be attributed to being in the right place at the right time. UMA’s Library and Information Technology Program is no exception. UMA entered the market when new technology was raising training needs, when “baby- boomer” professional librarians began retiring in large numbers, and when the newness of online education made participation intriguing and practical for busy library employees. UMA’s history of success in distance learning in Maine, and our ability to take advantage of the excellent technical infrastructure built by the University of Maine System came together to create a synergy to make the Program a great success. This year’s program review will be a thoughtful reflection about all of the Program’s components, including the structure and purpose of the curriculum and the application of technologies to enhance learning. We all anticipate making improvements as a result of the study. UMA’s Provost and President are committed to finding ways to add one or more tenure track faculty members to the Program as the next faculty priority; and the part-time adjunct faculty who are the heart and sole of the Program continue to perform extremely well. UMA is proud to have expanded the tradition of serving distance learners begun in 1985, and looks forward to continuing to grow and change as we meet a global need for library and information technology education. Should there be unanswered questions as you read this report we are happy to answer them for you, and we look forward to your reactions. Respectfully Submitted by Dr. Thomas E. Abbott, Ph.D.
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