Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Web-Based Information Science Education (WISE): Collaboration to Explore and Expand Quality in LIS Online Education

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Web-Based Information Science Education (WISE): Collaboration to Explore and Expand Quality in LIS Online Education

Article excerpt

This article provides an overview of the Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) consortium of 13 schools, including the emergence of WISE, three elements of the model (quality metrics, faculty development, and course share), and approaches to assessment. Results from preliminary data collection and analysis of student experiences in consortial courses are presented. Findings reveal students are generally satisfied with online education experiences both within the consortium and in other online education contexts; however, specific student concerns are identified relating to lack of course organization and interaction. Incorporation of results into a cycle of continuous improvement in WISE is discussed. Findings provide new insights and potential for application to achieve better practices across the spectrum of library and information science (LIS) education.

Introduction

The Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) consortium, established in 2003, aims to maximize educational potential in the online realm - increasing access to and improving quality of online education in library and information science (LIS). WISE collaborators at 13 schools are working toward this goal by creating quality metrics, providing faculty development opportunities, and offering course share. Ongoing, multifaceted assessment informs continuous improvement within the consortium.

Data presented in this article are based on student experiences during early course share. Several issues, including content, organization, interaction, and technology are identified and considered. A general overview of growth of online education and the WISE consortial model are included before results of the research are shared to provide context for the discussion.

Growth of Online Education

During the past decade, online education has expanded nationally and globally. It has entered the mainstream in higher education. According to a 2005 report sponsored by the Sloan Consortium,1 2.35 million students pursued studies online in the U.S. in 2004. Growth in quantity and quality go hand in hand. Participants in well-developed programs find that online education, or education that blends online and classroom activities, has advantages over traditional methods of delivery. Benefits of well-designed online education include: delivery of courses anytime and anywhere, increased student-to-faculty and student-to-student interaction, greater access to faculty with specialized expertise, and participation by diverse and often otherwise isolated learners. Online education "enables new connections with the wider world."2 The intent of the WISE consortium is to pool resources and increase the scope and quality of educational connections in LIS.

WISE Pilot Course Share

In March 2003, faculty, administrators and technology staff representatives from LIS schools at Syracuse University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Washington met for two days of discussion about forming an online education consortium. The discussion emphasized pooling resources to promote quality across programs. The initial meeting focused on exploring options for a pilot course share model, and several possibilities were considered. It was agreed that the most effective model for course share would involve host schools with excess capacity in online courses (in the form of virtual seats) offering predetermined numbers of seats per course to other schools in the consortium - paralleling a seat-sale in airline industry terms.

A plan to share information about courses (recent or draft syllabi) and numbers of available seats was implemented. Then other schools in the consortium could decide (usually by review of a curriculum committee) if the course would be of interest to students without duplicating their own offerings. Selected consortial courses would be offered during regular enrollment periods to students as pre-approved transfer credit. …

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