Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Utilizing Web-Based Case Studies for Cutting-Edge Information Services Issues; a Pilot Study

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Utilizing Web-Based Case Studies for Cutting-Edge Information Services Issues; a Pilot Study

Article excerpt

This article reports on a pilot study conducted by the Academic Libraries of the 21st Century project team to determine whether the benefits of the case study method as a training framework for change initiatives could successfully transfer from the traditional face-to-face format to a virtual format. Methods of developing the training framework, as well as the benefits, challenges, and recommendations for future strategies gained from participant feedback are outlined. The results of a survey administered to chat session registrants are presented in three sections: (1) evaluation of the training framework; (2) evaluation of participants' experiences in the virtual environment; and (3) a comparison of participants' preference of format. The overall participant feedback regarding the utilization of the case study method in a virtual environment for professional development and collaborative problem solving is very positive.

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Information services departments are focusing on defining their roles and responsibilities in a new environment of rapidly changing technologies. Collaboratively learning to embrace changing technologies, take risks, and do things differently will be critical to our success in the new century. As a training method for change initiatives, "the case method is supportive of a culture that places high value on review and innovation." (1) From our participation in conferences, committees, or departmental meetings, many of us have been introduced to the use of case study discussion to generate ideas, share information, and propose solutions to a real-life situation given to us in the form of a short story. The positive outcomes of those discussions demonstrate that by working together in a spirit of cooperation and sharing information and differing perspectives, synergies and learning opportunities occur in multiplicity.

As Galvin stated in his pioneer research on the use of the case study method as a problem-oriented approach for the education and in-service training of librarians, "the best kind of professional education and training is the kind that most nearly approximates the reality of professional practice ... in an environment that incorporates as fully as possible the manner and technical complexities of the real world." (2) Mirroring the reality of the rapidly changing technological environment and the use of advancing technologies, technology-based collaborative education and training forums that show participants how to incorporate technology into information services will be a key strategy in coping with information overload. Distance learning technologies, such as the Internet, e-mail, chat rooms, and virtual learning communities, can also assist in creating an effective and efficient learning climate for adult learners to accommodate their preferred learning style of highly interactive and communicative collaboration. A Web/virtual synchronous classroom (W/VSC), or chatroom in the case of this study, is a distance learning technology that facilitates real-time collaborative group learning through discussions, problem solving, and reflection. (3) Similar to Web conferencing, training via a W/VSC has many benefits including:

* wide geographical reach;

* little or no cost involved;

* effective delivery directly to participants' desktop;

* user familiarity with the Web;

* training that integrates with other Web technologies, such as hypertext;

* possibility of archived sessions as they actually occurred; and

* the possibility for extended interaction and collaboration with other professionals. (4)

Could the benefits of the case study method, as a training framework for change initiatives, successfully transfer from the traditional face-to-face format to a virtual format to also take advantage of the bene fits inherent in a real-time virtual communication or synchronous Web environment? …

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