Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Existing outside of the Learning Management System

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Existing outside of the Learning Management System

Article excerpt

The process of providing online services for learners brings with it inherent challenges that guide decision-making and impact delivery. As you evaluate tools for suitability, you enter into an analysis that guides your decision-making, establishing criteria for inclusion or exclusion and laying a foundation for a systematic framework to support your efforts. Most of the available tools will comply with legalities like the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA); however, this does not absolve you from knowing and following guidelines. Additionally, equitable access remains a high priority for all educators and requires carefully weighing the benefits and challenges of the decisions you make.

When thinking about opportunities for libraries to serve learners in online spaces, what comes to mind? Do you envision a website with basic information such as policies, hours, and links to resources such as online tutorials? Or do you see an interactive, dynamic collection of curated and designed content organized into a virtual library?

Whatever your vision, prioritizing these opportunities should begin with asking questions to create a needs analysis that accurately captures the goals of your organization and represents the needs of your patrons. Answering questions related to your needs triggers an evaluation process directly aligned with selecting tools and mitigating challenges. Further, this analysis helps you determine if an all-in-one approach will work or if a custom-built solution of multiple tools will better meet needs. Using this framework will help you navigate the constantly evolving educational technology marketplace and provide a rich opportunity to design and share resources for your patrons.

Identifying Needs

The first phase of addressing any instructional problem requires analysis. The focus of analysis in this phase rests on identifying and analyzing learners and local context to help guide decision-making and prioritization. This process benefits from generating an organized structure, such as creating a concept map that clearly illustrates the learners, stakeholders, content, and other relevant components as you work through this phase. As shown in the example in figure 5.1, the concept map might have a branch highlighting the fact that your library works most often with younger learners. You might use this information to determine that online resources should support both the learners and their parents, such as including the link to a Common Sense Media review of a particular app or recommended book or movie. (1) The goal of the map is to create a visual representation of the different factors that contribute to and shape your library's needs.

To help generate a concept map, draft a variety of questions related to your patrons, collaborations and partnerships, content sourcing, and learning goals. Questions you ask should initiate conversations and discussions that directly contribute to the concept map you create. Some examples might include the following:

1. Who are the learners we most commonly serve?

a. What are their ages?

b. What types of content do learners need access to (e.g., video, audio, e-books, tutorials, references, apps, etc.)?

2. Do we cooperate with other institutions and organizations to support programming?

a. Do partners provide online resources we should be using? If yes, what formats are resources provided in, or how are they made available for sharing?

3. What types of open education resources might we curate from popular open education resource (OER) platforms to support our learners?

4. Does the content we supply or provide access to support formal learning, informal learning, or a blend of both?

Note that there is no right or wrong way to approach this analysis or the concept map you generate. During this process, you may find that you create more than the four main themes described above, and you may find that subsequent questions arise as a result of the process. …

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