Equity and the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy

I’ve been involved with my college’s student success and equity efforts over the past few years. Our focus on these isn’t new, but a couple of years ago we joined the Achieving the Dream (ATD) network and committed resources more intentionally to student success and student equity initiatives. Our involvement with ATD (specifically looking at success and completion data disaggregated by ethnicity, age, gender, etc.) primed us for completing our first Student Equity Plan—required via the Board of Governor’s Student Equity Policy.

I’m grateful that our administrators thought to include me in this work, as I’ve been able to advocate for the Learning Resource Center in the planning documents and to explore the role of the library in equity efforts. The most concrete way that our students will benefit from the library’s inclusion in the Equity Plan is through expanded collections and resources. Additional funding has been secured for the purchase of textbooks for our ever-popular RESERVE collection, which improves access for students, many of whom are from lower income brackets. Other collections will be expanded as well, including materials for Basic Skills, ESL, college success, professional development titles, and materials that reflect the diverse backgrounds of our students.

So, this issue of equity has been shaping my work these days. It was no surprise, then, that when I read through the new ACRL Framework, I noticed how central the concept of equity is to Information Literacy. Frame 1 (Authority is Constructed and Contextual) expands what it means to evaluate information sources. Learners are encouraged to develop dispositions that recognize and value the plurality of voices in the information landscape. Some examples of these dispositions:

  • Question traditional notions of granting authority and recognize the value of diverse ideas and worldviews;
  • Develop and maintain an open mind when encountering varied and sometimes conflicting perspectives.

Frame 3 (Information has Value) touches on a concept I learned about reading Char Booth’s informative blog—that of Information Privilege. Two key dispositions listed under this frame are:

  • Recognize issues of access or lack of access to information sources;
  • Understand how and why some individuals or groups of individuals may be underrepresented or systematically marginalized within the systems that produce and disseminate information.

Frame 5 (Scholarship is a Conversation) also has the thread of equity running through it. One of the knowledge practices in this frame states that information literate learners are able to:

  • Recognize that systems privilege authorities and that not having a fluency in the language and process of a discipline disempowers their ability to participate and engage.

Our library department will be revising our student learning and program learning outcomes this year to align our instruction with the Framework. We want to encourage students to view themselves as producers as well as consumers of information and to reflect on their role in the construction of authority. We want them to develop open minds when locating and using information sources.

Is adapting our library instruction to the new framework enough to adequately tackle this issue of equity in a meaningful way for our students? How are other librarians involving their campus communities in adapting the framework? What are other librarians doing to address equity planning at their institutions?

Balancing the needs of students in the community college library space

As I write this, I’m sitting at the main service desk in my library. I can see all of the computers in the library from my viewpoint. We’re a small library on a small campus – but each of my 22 computers is in use.

Here’s what the students I can see are doing. There are students working in pairs, talking and discussing what they’re doing. There are students working independently on their classwork. There is a small group of students having a great time at the computers in the corner.

With all of this comes noise. Lots of noise.

In the rear of the library we have study carrels and tables. Many students are currently using these – they are attempting to use the library as a reprieve from the chaos elsewhere on campus and at their homes – yet I wonder how it’s working for them. Do they notice the noise? Is it bothersome?

How can we balance the needs of these varying groups of students in our very small libraries? We have no funding (or space) to build additional study rooms – we already have a small conference room (with no computers) and a very tiny “quiet” study room (that’s adjacent to my very noisy library instruction classroom).

It’s exciting to see so much activity in the library – but as a person that needs quiet to study, I cannot see how many of the students in the back are managing to get their work done.

How do you manage the different needs of different students in your library?

Re-Writing the Research Process

Happy New Year, dear readers!

In the month I’ve had off between semesters, I’ve reflected on “The Research Process”—the foundational process that informs most of what we teach our students. Here and here are sample versions. For several years now, I’ve made minor tweaks to the “Seven Steps in the Research Process” lecture I inherited from my mentor because I feel it is outdated and missing something integral. Why must students wait to look for web sources only after they’ve located books and database articles (especially when preliminary research on the Internet can be so useful for topic development and more)? Shouldn’t evaluation of sources happen at all steps of source location? Shouldn’t it be stressed that the process is iterative? Also, and this is what has been keeping me up at night over break: Where does writing come in? Doesn’t it have a central place within the research process?

When working with students writing research papers, I’ve noticed that they typically approach research and writing completely separately. The daunting task of research comes first and, only after locating all the sources (that they think they need) does the actual paper writing begin. I tell students that it takes some research to begin writing and it takes writing to discover what (else) to research—that the two go hand in hand. I tell them that they likely will continue their research well into the writing of their paper.

My latest version of “The Research Process” lecture includes some pre-writing strategies, specifically outlining. I’m not sure where creating an outline would fit most perfectly into the process but it occurs to me that it should happen early on, near the first step of topic development. Having students create a short outline of what they think their paper is going to cover would greatly assist them in knowing what direction to research and what areas of their outline need additional sources.

Do any of you intertwine writing into teaching the process of research? What writing or pre-writing strategies do you include? Have any of you encountered cool “Research Process” lectures, guides or infographics that you use? Please enlighten me!

Open Educational Resources and the Community College

OER (Open Educational Resources) is the new buzzword whizzing around college campuses these days.  The term was “born” at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on Open Courseware, where it was defined as:

“…teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.  Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work.”

So what does this exactly mean for a community college? It makes total sense for community colleges to really look at OER as a way to make college even more affordable for our students.  Recently, my school was lucky to have Marilyn Billings, who is the Scholarly Communication Librarian (my dream job) at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She came down to talk to us about how UMass has really invested in this initiative, and the joys and pitfalls they encountered along the way.  She shared with us some statistics on the cost of text books that were pretty startling:

books1

According to the BLS, the cost of textbooks have risen 802%. As a librarian, this isn’t really new “news.”  How many times do students walk into your library looking for textbooks because they simply can’t afford them?  I just had a student the other day walk in looking for a psychology book for her PSY 101 class because it was $265.  Most of our students at community colleges simply can’t afford these really expensive books that have no buy-back value.  The worst offenders are the professors who order custom text books.  They have zero buy back value from our book store.

UMass Amherst decided they wanted to seek out cheaper alternatives, so in 2011 they launched a pilot program for faculty to redesign their courses using only OER.  At the end of this program, Billings shared her results with us:

  • Over 30 faculty participants, 44 courses (Gen Ed through Graduate level)
  • Humanities
  • Social Sciences
  • Sciences
  • Professional Schools
  • $39,000 invested, over $1 million in savings for more than 5000 students

The feedback was positive, with comments that student grades had actually increased.

Some of the pitfalls were:

  • Time consuming to find high quality OER resources
  • Time consuming to create OER
  • May lack prepared tests/quizzes that commercial  textbooks offer
  • Student preference for reading offline
  • Longevity of file formats
  • Lack of knowledge by faculty
  • Resources
  • Licenses, copyright
  • Support

Here at my institution, we also started a pilot program with faculty.  It involved the librarians, distance learning team, and instructional designers. Out of the group who were interested  at our initial informational meeting, only a handful actually completed the turn over to OER. Many found it was simply too time consuming, and some were not comfortable having their syllabus turned over to the “public domain.”  Another drawback is that students still like to print everything out.  We see this with our on-line courses and the PowerPoints professors use.  Also, many of our students receive book vouchers.  This means that if an instructor wanted to use a textbook from Openstax  for their text book, to print it out would be $70. This is cheap by text book standards, but not so much if you are a student who relies on a book voucher. You could download the PDF for free, but as I wrote previously students tend to want to print it out, establishing more of a cost burden on them.  We will be running another pilot program soon, but this time following UMass Amherst’s lead by having faculty apply (instead of a free for all) and having them in cohorts.  This seems to be the better practice when facilitating a pilot like this.

I also should mention as a librarian to brush up on your copyright knowledge. There are a lot of great resources out there and MOOCs. I just took a fabulous course run by Duke University, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Emory.

Resources:

Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER)
a joint effort by individual community colleges, regional and statewide consortia, the Open Courseware Consortium,  the American Association for Community Colleges, the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges, and many other educational partners to develop and use open educational resources,  open textbooks, and open courseware to expand access to higher education and improve teaching and learning.

http://oerconsortium.org/

OER Libguide from Bristol Community College adapted with permission from Umass Amherst:

OER Libguide

TEACH ACT:

http://www.copyright.com/Services/copyrightoncampus/basics/teach.html

The following guidelines are excerpted from the Conference Report to the 1976 Copyright Act. They apply to classroom copying in a non-profit educational setting.