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Volume 8, Number 2: October 17, 2001

University of Wisconsin School Library Education Consortium

Eileen E. Schroeder (UW-Whitewater), E. Anne Zarinnia (UW-Whitewater),
Gyneth Slygh (UW-Eau Claire), Dianne McAfee Hopkins (UW-Madison),
Louise Robbins (UW-Madison), Ella Cross (UW-Superior), Penny Garcia (UW-Oshkosh)

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What do you do when your program can't provide enough graduates to fill the positions open in your state--especially when, statewide, these programs have shrunk or disappeared over the years?

This is the challenge school library media education programs around Wisconsin have recently faced. Annual studies of educational personnel commissioned by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) show that school library media specialists are in short supply, and the shortage will worsen over the next ten years as retirements increase. Some library media education programs have had difficulty replacing faculty who have retired, and some have closed completely. The remaining programs are not geographically dispersed throughout the state.

We have determined that practicing teachers represent the fastest and most effective way to meet this surge in demand. They know schools, children, curricula, communities, and parents--and they hold the required teaching license. With additional competencies in literary and information resources, teaching, instructional design, information organization, library administration, and information and instructional technologies, they can become leaders who promote information and technology literacy and who engage in collegial curriculum development with their peers. However, this target population of in-service teachers is bound by job location and time and often has limited access to traditional on-campus programs. Offering distance education seemed the most logical alternative.

Beginning in 1998, faculty from UW-Whitewater and UW-Eau Claire piloted a distance education licensure program for a small group of students. In 1999, faculty from three other UW campuses (Madison, Oshkosh, and Superior), a group of practicing library media specialists, and one representative each from UW System and the DPI joined the project to develop a multi-year, multi-institutional collaboration that would deliver a distance education licensure program for school library media specialists. Funded by UW System PK-16 Technology Initiative Grants over three years, this newly formed University of Wisconsin System School Library Education Consortium (UWSSLEC) redefined, clarified, and extended the competencies for initial and professional licensure for school library media specialists, as well as the upcoming competencies for instructional technology coordinators.

This fall, the Consortium is delivering its fifth class in a series of ten for initial 901 licensure and will complete three additional courses by the summer of 2002. (see map) Faculty at each home institution are working with their students for the two final field studies courses. We are now developing our own course evaluation tools and undergoing a program evaluation by an external evaluator. We plan to begin courses in the second stage of licensure in spring 2002, with the second round of initial licensure courses beginning in fall 2002. Over the next year, we will also examine overlap in coursework with the upcoming instructional technology coordinator license, which we hope to implement by 2004 when the license goes into effect.

Consortium members believed certain competencies require face-to-face instruction and/or assessment. As a result, a hybrid format, web-based instruction with one to two intensive on-campus sessions each semester, was developed. We communicate the necessary technology requirements and skills to students before they begin the program. As an introduction for new students, we developed a series of technology modules with accompanying quizzes; each student must complete these modules in his/her first course.

Technology problem-solving is handled through campus resources, UW-Madison DoIT's technology support services, faculty assistance, and each student's local technology resources. Help from fellow students has also become very important over time. Faculty are currently examining ways of long distance problem-solving in technology-heavy courses using technological means.

The Consortium explored a range of options for library resources. For the first series of courses, we contracted with the Wisconsin Interlibrary Loan Service (WILS) to provide interlibrary loan and access to databases common across UW System through one library page. Students may also use their home institution's library resources for reference, interlibrary loan, and database access. Instructors often choose to use their own library for electronic reserve during their classes. This adds a layer of complexity, because students need timely authorization (e.g., user IDs and passwords) to access the different resources.

Resources from our five campuses helped devise a virtual campus structure for marketing, registration, course delivery, support, and program administration; this allowed students to register at one campus but take courses through all five. However, the home institution model required major adaptations in campus structures for registration, billing, transfer of student credit hours, technology support, and library services.

At the onset of the program, UWSSLEC developed an inter-institutional agreement signed by each campus provost to address some of the special issues we anticipated in advance, such as ensuring support from campus registrars, financial services, department chairs, deans, and provosts. Through the inter-institutional agreement, arrangements were made to transfer student credit hours and tuition to the institution of the faculty member teaching each course. A collaborative nursing program across several UW campuses broke ground for this procedure, but some details still required resolving.

Additional issues emerged as the process got underway. For example, we discovered a need for a pseudo-departmental structure to respond to student and faculty concerns, implement and use the results of course evaluations, schedule courses, determine how to staff courses that have grown beyond the agreed upon maximum enrollment, and balance the needs of each campus with those of UWSSLEC. Non-tenured faculty are especially aware of potentially conflicting demands from campus departments, tenure committees, and the Consortium.

Some other concerns include:

1. Maintaining continued communication. The consortium faculty and practitioner group have held two to three day meetings twice a year. We will continue holding regular meetings to facilitate planning, problem-solving, and ongoing communication--via our listserv, a WebCT site for faculty, and by phone.
2. Meeting staffing needs. Minimally, we need a faculty member to guide the program year-round, as well as administrative assistant support.
3. Clarifying and consolidating procedures. This includes admissions practices, course set-up and scheduling, student notification, collection of course registration data from multiple campuses, and timely submission of grades from all campuses. Arranging course timelines to meet the needs of each campus can be especially challenging. While students generally do not use on-campus resources, they may still need campus identification cards, passwords, user IDs, and other student data.
4. Providing consistent technology training and support for faculty who are developing courses. Resources differ across the campuses. Some faculty could receive training locally, while others traveled to UW Madison for training through DoIT. Some of the campuses provide additional technical and instructional design support for faculty locally, while others do not.
5. Unbundling copyright ownership rights of course materials to best balance faculty and consortium needs. Ideally, an intellectual property agreement would have been completed before any courses were delivered, but the consortium is currently finalizing theirs using UW System guidelines. While it would be highly desirable, no campus provides a service for seeking copyright clearances for course materials.

This process has taught us much. Foremost, we feel our students benefit from exposure to the wide range of faculty knowledge, skills, and experiences available at the five campuses. Has it been easy? No, but we feel we have developed a program to serve a previously unmet need in Wisconsin. In the process, we have strengthened ties across our institutions and improved our own programs.

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