Learning to TeachJanuary 26, 2010
This year I’m taking a module from UCL’s Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education which has been really useful for meeting new lecturing staff from other departments.
Tomorrow we have to present a piece of research from our own subject area that deals with an element of teaching or learning research. I’ve chosen Kate Marek’s recent paper in the Journal for Library and Information Science on ‘Learning to teach online’. I chose it for this assignment because it covers a topic that’s important in LIS but also of interest across the faculties.
Marek conducted an online survey of LIS faculty in US universities in order to establish the support they receive and the support they perceive they need. Specifically, she asked
What support structures exist in LIS programs and their institutions to help faculty develop new skills in online course design, delivery and content? (p.279)
296 faculty members replied to Marek’s questionnaire, with the majority coming from institutions with over 10,000 students (p.280), and the most frequent form of support available was peer-to-peer training (63%) followed by university IT workshops (58%). Formal training lagged some way behind – only 44% had received university training and 20% through the LIS programme (table 2, p.281).
This is interesting, since Marek points out in her literature review that Harman in a 2008 study
cautions against this sort of dependence on the innovation and energy of a few [peer-to-peer support], citing short-lived and spotty progress, inconsistent results, and limitations of scale across the institution. (p.278).
Indeed, Marek’s respondent’s listed course attendance as their “chief need” in preparing for online teaching, although “only 13% of respondents to this survey report its abailability.” (p.287). The need for consistent IT support and the availability of hardware, software and training for it is also important, as well as conference attendance (p.288).
As the number of courses delivered online continues to increase, faculty members must gain enhanced pedagogical skills for online learning environments. Universities should see their commitment to faculty development in this area as a significant investment in institutional quality. (p.289).
This paper is really useful in highlighting the literature on the subject and providing some quantitative data on the sort of needs that LIS lecturers have expressed regarding online learning. From the UK perspective, where library schools and teaching staff are fewer in number, it is helpful to see a survey of a large sample of US colleagues, although, of course, some things would inevitably be different in a local setting.
I also hope that the paper will be accessible to my non-LIS colleagues tomorrow morning in our PGCLTHE class.
Kate Marek (2009). Learning to teach online: creating a culture of support for faculty Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 50 (4), 275-292