Keys to Connection, the Library and Learning Center Webinar Series: a Blended Initiative

Author Information
Author(s): 
Emily OConnor, Director of Library & Learning Resources
Author(s): 
Jennifer Stoker, Learning Center Manager
Author(s): 
BethMarie Gooding, Online Librarian
Author(s): 
Erin Lasley, Learning Center Manager
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Rasmussen College
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

It is the mission of the Rasmussen College Librarians and Learning Centers Coordinators to provide a combined online and on-ground learning experience in which students gain an awareness of resources and opportunities for skill development. The objectives of each individual webinar are aimed at improving overall student success, while improving communication between students, faculty, and staff.

The ability to connect with students virtually is vital as our students come to rely on and expect information to be available in an online, asynchronous and synchronous, 24/7 accessible format. As a college with over twenty campuses in five states and a large online student population we sought to engage our learners with multiple live webinars occurring throughout the quarter. By leveraging the entirety of our library and learning center team across all campuses we are able to offer over forty diverse online live workshops utilizing the Wimba live classroom conferencing software. Our conferencing software allows live student interaction, assessment of learning through polling tools, and the capability to archive all of our workshops. Senecal and Gazda (2010), in synthesizing the work of Bower & Hedberg, (2010); Little, Passmore, & Schulllo,(2006); and McBrien, Jones & Cheng, (2009) found that preliminary data suggests that live online learning via webinars can increase student engagement through collaboration and contributions and improve overall student satisfaction. This method of connecting with students also allows for greater communication between the students, faculty, and staff of the school. Soulé (2008, p. 14) in Transforming School Communities emphasizes, "Web 2.0 tools are especially helpful in the three areas of transforming communications: advocacy, networking and collaboration." We strive to foster our student interaction within the Rasmussen community as we build our webinar series along with student opportunity to network with education professionals and their fellow students. In his theory of transactional distance, Moore (1997) argues that the distance between learners and teachers is less about the geographical location, but depends more on the interaction between learners and teachers, and the student's engagement in his/her own learning.

Through our Rasmussen College Library and Learning Center webinar series we are able to build a sense of community with our geographically dispersed student body. Enhanced virtual services allow comparable instruction when face-to-face service is not feasible. The results of piloting this webinar series since Fall of 2010 include a marked increase in the variety of workshops available to all students, ease of accessibility for online students with over 600 attendees in the first two quarters, and the enhancement of student engagement with fellow online students and with the team of library and learning center professionals.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

The Library & Learning Centers team of Rasmussen College is comprised of librarians and learning center coordinators at each of our 22 physical campus locations, in addition to an Online Librarian and two Learning Center Managers who provide support for our students using online resources and services (over 80% of our seats are online).  In Fall Quarter, 2010, the team came together and developed a collaborative schedule of 30+ webinars on a variety of library & learning center topics, including study skills, research, academic writing, and citation style.  Two team members were assigned to each webinar: one to develop content or secure a speaker on the topic; the other to manage the webinar room (Wimba software) and track participation in the live session and subsequent links to the archive.  By collaborating to develop a set of webinars, we eliminated duplication of workshops at the physical campuses and provided flexible opportunities for our students to participate.  Workshops were marketed via on-campus advertisements, online advertisements, Facebook updates, e-mail announcements, and online Course announcements uploaded via instructors.

Content in Fall and Winter Quarter followed a standard webinar format, typically consisting of a presentation (designed in PowerPoint and uploaded in the webinar room), supplemental handouts sent to participants via e-mail, and live lecture/discussion.  Several speakers made use of the interactive tools available in the webinar room, such as polling, to engage participants and adminster formative assessment.  In Summer Quarter, two team members piloted the use of break-out rooms to create a group-work setting: students were asked to bring their assignments to the groups for constructive criticism and improvement.  It was also our first attempt at requesting advance sign-up for the webinars; and while few students signed up (less than 40 for each), over 50% of those who signed up did particupate.

As we progress into Fall Quarter, we have organized Webinars into tracks (Computer Skills, Career Skills, Research, Learning Skills, New Students, Math, Writing, APA, Finance & Budgeting) in the hopes of simplifying marketing for our faculty and directing specific tracks to the students who need them the most.  Additionally, we are exploring newer technology, including LibCal, to provide a place where students can see the workshops offered and register at the same time.  These efforts, combined with peer review and development of webinar presentation skills will elevate our webinars to improve student engagement and, ultimately, learning.

 

 

 

 

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Effectiveness is measured by a combination of means:

Attendance - Attendance was counted in two ways: 1) Participants attending a live session; and 2) Individuals clicking on and watching the archive of the webinar session.  In Winter & Spring Quarters, we logged over 400 attendees, and are tracking over 200 participants thus far for Sumer Quarter.

Satisfaction - The teams built a satisfaction survey using Survey Monkey to rate specific components of content and presenter effectiveness, as well as overall effectiveness of the workshop in which the individual participated.  92.1% of attendees rated the workshop as "Excellent or Very Good", with only a 1.2% rating of "Fair or Poor".  Participants were also encouraged to provide comments:

"Keep on doing what you do because it was great and very helpful for students!"

"everything was what i needed to know on how to write a great paper."

"I really wish that this workshop was available to me in my first quarter not when I am almost done. This information is so helpful and useful I was amazed, almost made typing APA style papers EASY! I think this seminar should be for EVERY student in their first quarter just as much as in their last."

Peer Review - in Summer Quarter, our Library & Learning Center Assessment Committee developed a Peer Review rubric specifically for webinar evaluation.  Online instructors, deans, and team members participated in observing several workshops throughout the quarter, and then sent the feedback to the speaker and to the Director of Library & Learning Resources for documentation purposes.  While the rubric ratings & feedback are designed to help the presenter improve his/her technique for future webinars, the reviewer was also asked to rate whether or not the webinar should be offered in future quarters, and comment on proposed changes to format & content.

Formative Assessment/Work Product: Because student attendance is not mandated at webinars, nor tied to a specific course or assignment, formative assessment is difficult to implement and track.  However, several presenters had success using the "polling" tools in the webinar technology to gauge learner understanding of objectives.  Additionally, when we transitioned to the small-group work sessions on writing assignments, we were able to clearly denote which students were able to make changes to their content based on instruction during the webinar, and which had additional questions and required follow-up.  While this is our greatest challenge area, it is our goal to specifically improve and continue to integrate more opportunities for formative assessment into each webinar, as this is the most effective way to guage the quality of the webinar experience for the student.

Faculty Satisfaction: Our measures of faculty satisfaction (based on their perceptions of effectiveness related to students' classroom success) are anectdotal, at best.  We consult with faculty during the planning stage to garner suggestions for changes to webinars or additions; we also seek out faculty to serve as speakers.  Faculty feedback also drove the changes to our marketing for Fall Quarter, 2011: specifcally, the move to organizing and marketing webinars by track.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Access: Whereas a traditional library or learning center workshop is campus based or limited to classroom participants, this Webinar Series is broadly accessible by all students, faculty & staff; is scheduled for student convenience; and is archived for later viewing for those unable to attend live.

Faculty Satisfaction: In this practice, the faculty in question are primarily librarians and learning center coordinators.  By collaborating jointly on a webinar series, librarians and learning center coordinators share responsibilities for creating and delivering instruction, rather than having to manage the responsibility individually.  Additionally, partnering to provide support during the live session allows the primary presenter to focus on instruction & engagement while the support presenter manages the room setup, technology, and attendance statistics.

Learning Effectiveness: 97.6% of students agree or strongly agree that workshop content will be useful for their class assignments; 90.5% of students agree or strongly agree that the workshop will be useful for the student's program or career.  Additionally, students who completed formative assessment during workshops showed evidence of understanding and integration of learning objectives into their knowledge base.

Scale: Because we are using a webinar tool, in-house speakers and content created by the library & learning center team, travel and resource production costs are nearly $0 per student.  As our enrollment grows, we can expand our webinar offerings or heavily market current offerings & archives to manage participation swell.

Student Satisfaction: As indicated in both webinar attendance and satisfaction survey results, the majority of our students are highly satisfied with the webinar content and the means that the content is delivered.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Webinar Software (Wimba; WebEx; GoToWebinar; Adobe Connect)

Scheduling Database (Excel is a cost-effective organization & tracking tool)

Survey Tool (Survey Monkey)

Calendar/Registration Software (LibCal; useful but not required)

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Webinar License costs vary by institution type and size.  There are some online tools that cost as little as $25 per month.

LibCal software is currently available in a free version.

All other tools for this webinar (beyond Human Resources) are free.

References, supporting documents: 

Senecal, J., & Gazda, R. (2010). Harmonizing the Virtual Choir: Interactive Synchronous Webinars for Online Education. Journal of Interactive Instruction Development, 21(3), 13-16. Retrieved from http://www.salt.org/salt.asp?ss=l&pn=publications

Soulé, H. (2008). Transforming School Communities. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(1), 12-15. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/journals.aspx

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Emily O'Connor
Email this contact: 
emily.oconnor@rasmussen.edu
Effective Practice Contact 2: 
BethMarie Gooding
Email contact 2: 
bethmarie.gooding@rasmussen.edu
Effective Practice Contact 3: 
Erin Lasley
Email contact 3: 
erin.lasley@rasmussen.edu