Web-based education throughout the library & information science curriculum: Diverse challenges, opportunities, and perspectives



This panel will explore the issues, opportunities, and challenges inherent in teaching information science course online. All panelists have extensive experience teaching online as well as face to face, and ask common questions about their teaching experiences and students' learning experiences. However, they teach a diverse range of courses, use a variety of delivery modalities, and work at widely differing universities. The purpose of the panel is to raise the common questions about online education that stem from these diverse backgrounds and engage the audience in a meaningful discussion about the changing nature of information science education.


In recent decades, the boundaries of information science education have been progressively expanded as higher education has experienced the advent of technology and particularly the World Wide Web. While the way we deliver our course content and the number of outlets multiply, keeping up with these changes becomes more and more complex and contentious for information science programs in North America. Faculty members find themselves playing significant roles at the center of this new web-based learning context. Web-based learning leads to evolutions in course design. There are also other stakeholders involved in the delivery of an online course other than the instructors. In some settings, a course can be seen as an organization in which different actors such as IT staff or instructional designers are involved. Online course delivery also fosters collaboration that focuses on opportunities for the instructors to work in teams.

Web-based courses have unique dynamics that require a different approach to course design and evaluation. Pedagogical and technical design of online courses requires distinctive skills and knowledge. Increased collaboration exists among the students as well as with the instructor.

Since Dewey founded the first library school Dewey in 1887, the nature and content of LIS education has received considerable criticism in scholarly literature, particularly core course requirements and corresponding emerging trends (Dillon & Norris, 2005; Tenopir, 2002; Aytac et al., 2011; Irwin, 2003; Hallam, 2007). Furthermore, with the advent of the World Wide Web, the content and the nature of the curricula as well as the mode of course delivery have been challenged (Harasim, 1990).

Since Hiltz (1993) coined the term “virtual classroom,” a paradigm shift has taken over in higher education. According to Allen and Seaman (2011), nearly one-third of all higher education students in the United States – over 6.1 million students – were taking at least one online course. Web-based education is a current challenge for educators and students in any given discipline. Specifically, it is becoming increasingly important for LIS schools to offer Web-based courses in today's competitive environment. For the past several years, Web-based LIS course offerings have grown substantially. Currently, 22 of the 63 American Library Association-accredited LIS programs offer 100% online programs (ALA, 2012).

Web-based education is part of the long-term strategy for many LIS schools. Meeting this challenge requires the coordination of efforts across all stakeholders. It is vital that LIS programs examine successful tools and strategies to build successful Web-based learning experience in LIS education. To meet this challenge, a number of initiatives such as Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) Consortium and ALA online learning offerings have been instantiated.

This panel connects scholars whose research and teaching interests live in diverse areas of information science, including knowledge organization, social media, and computer networking/security. Each panelist has extensive online teaching experience in her respective area. Differences will be noted in the issues inherent in their respective subject areas as well as their institutions' settings.

The panelists will discuss challenges and experiences teaching information science graduate courses in North American information science programs as well as discuss implications and future opportunities. The panel will also touch upon the emerging trends in information science course curricula and the increasing collaboration among the instructors in the new web-based course delivery era. The panel will conclude with discussions on what action is needed to embrace the changing face of information education in North American schools as we move toward a better future for the changing face of today's higher education demands.

Panelists will consider the following general questions:

  • How should the pedagogical or technical design of the course as well as course evaluation be addressed?

  • How can communication and collaboration among students and faculty best be facilitated online?

  • How does poor writing abilities impact graduate level students in the online environment?

  • What are the optimal conditions for the most positive learning experience possible?

  • What similarities and differences exist among students who are enrolled in (1) primarily face-to-face programs at brick-and-mortar schools, (2) online-only programs at brick-and-mortar schools, and (3) online-only schools?


The session will last 1.5 hours. Panelists will present their research and teaching focus, and they will give a short review of their research and teaching work in this area. Each panelist will raise questions relevant to the topic of the panel, with the goal of motivating the audience to discuss the future of web-based teaching in information science and how it can intersect with emerging trends in information research and practice.


Diane Rasmussen Neal

Using social media to teach social media: Freedom and interaction

Diane Rasmussen Neal is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at The University of Western Ontario. She is an ASIS&T Director-at-Large and the 2011 SIG Member of the Year for her work as chair of SIG CR (Classification Research). She has been an online student and has taught online since 2004, and her edited book Social media for academics: A practical guide is scheduled to be published by Chandos in August 2012. She co-edits a blog on gaming and information with ASIS&T New Leader Jacob Ratliff at tl-dr.ca.

Diane will discuss her online course called “Social Software and Libraries” to Master of Library and Information Science students at The University of Western Ontario. She teaches the course using only freely available, cloud-based social media such as Skype, Edmodo, and WordPress. Traditional methods of online course communication such as institutionally-provided courseware and email is noticeably absent from her approach. She will reflect on her experiences as an instructor using these methods, and will share students' thoughts on this teaching and learning approach as revealed in a discourse analysis of their course blogs.

Selenay Aytac

Traditional in-class vs. Web-based asynchronous LIS core course: St. John's University Case Study

Selenay Aytac is an associate professor at Long Island University, NY. She is also an adjunct professor for the Knowledge Organization courses at St. John's University and Pratt Institute. Her research interest included scholarly communication, curriculum design and assessment, knowledge organization, and particularly classification systems.

The “Organization of Recorded Knowledge and Information” is an exemplar of a required information organization course for ALA-accredited graduate programs among North American LIS programs and the nature of this course requires practical hands on lab assignments as well as theoretical lectures. This presentation will report back the lessons learned from a recently launched web-based LIS core course called “Organization of Information” which was taught face-to-face in previous year by the same instructor at St. John's University Division of Library and Information Science. The fulfillment of the requirements based on ALA core competencies through the web-based learning management system will be discussed as well. Another advantage of an online course can be noted as an easy analysis of the learning outcomes through direct measures for the course assessment. Collaborative learning among the students and instructor, course evaluation, and the pedagogical or technical design of the course will be also examined briefly. From the students' point of view, one of the most notable advantages of this course content which makes learning experience available at any time and any place for students who have full time jobs and family responsibilities.

Margaret E. I. Kipp

Traditional and non-traditional tools for web-based instruction in information organization

Margaret E. I. Kipp is an Assistant Professor and member of the Information Organization Research Group, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Margaret has a background in computer science and worked as a programmer/analyst and a systems librarian.

Information organization is a core course in many library and information science programs. Many tools used in the course are traditional cataloguing tools such as Cataloguer's Desktop and LC Classweb now available online. These tools are based on their print counterparts, which require extended training to use properly. Additionally, with the change to RDA, the new cataloguing standard to take place in 2013, and with the increasing interest in Semantic Web technologies such as linked data, students in information organization are expected to master increasing numbers of technical platforms for the course. This presentation will highlight the use of a variety of traditional and non-traditional tools in online information organization courses and the development of a virtual metadata lab for students. The focus will be on the transition from onsite to online courses in metadata and linked data based on the presenter's prior experience converting an introductory information organization course to the online environment.

Lynne Y. Williams

“If I'm going to be an IT geek, why do I need to know how to write?” Issues in graduate level writing and plagiarism

Lynne Y. Williams is a professor in the Master of Science in Information Technology degree program at Kaplan University online. Dr. Williams pursues research in information security, online privacy issues, and other areas where people interact with information systems. She also lectures part-time for the University of New Mexico. She was introduced to the CS-IT field when working as a computer graphics technician for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Far too many writing-challenged adult learners in the online environment are unable to analyze information, much less process that information or take meaningful action based on their analysis. This observation strongly implies that the student's basic writing skills are not the key problem. In more abstract terms, many adult learners simply have little to no understanding of how to logically order and present information in a comprehensible manner. In other words, there is a large body of online graduate level students who lack the ability to write effectively, which implies that they also lack the ability to read critically, to think abstractly and last, to think analytically. As teaching professionals, who should be concentrating on our specific area of expertise, how do we aid this category of student with their writing deficiencies? Should we be expected to aid them at all? And is this problem more chronic in the online environment than in a “brick and mortar” environment?

Catherine Johnson

Do learning management systems adequately support student learning? Strategies (and difficulties) in translating the classroom experience to the Web.

Catherine Johnson is an associate professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. Her recent research interests include how public libraries contribute to the social capital of communities. She has taught collection development and public libraries courses in both online and onsite environments. She has been teaching online courses since 2004 using mainly university supported learning management systems.

This presentation will focus mainly on the affordances offered by learning management systems to make online courses a positive experience for students and instructors. The deficiencies of these systems in delivering course material will also be explored. Having taught the same courses in both online and onsite modes, Catherine will also compare the effectiveness of teaching online courses with that of onsite courses. Questions raised in the presentation and addressed in the discussion will be to what extent course design should be different for onsite and online classes, to what extent should the instructor be “present” in the online course, and how best to measure student engagement with online courses.