Digital media internships: LIS Education 2.0

Authors


Abstract

The one year Digital Media Intern Project was funded by a grant from UBC's Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund to support four SLAIS Interns (students in the MLIS program). Theywere charged with developing and delivering educational modules related to Web 2.0 for UBC students. A total of 16 workshops were offered, as well as training through a “This is Your Life 2.0” blog on which a series of mini-modules was posted. The project demonstrates that the dynamic and evolving nature of the Learning Centre is a perfect laboratory for educating information professionals for their changing roles in a new information environment, while the Learning Centre benefits from dynamic programs delivered by students for students.

Introduction

In today's technology-intensive, electronic-resource-rich, social networking environment, academic libraries are assuming an increasingly participatory role in student learning (Bundy, 2004; Vicente, 2004). While academic libraries and librarians are exploring their developing role as educators, interpreters of technology and guides to a vast array of digital resources, students are changing their approaches toward learning, with increased emphasis on networking, group and collaborative work, multi-tasking, and a blurring of social and study spaces (Bennett, 2003). In response to these changes, many academic libraries are adopting a Learning Commons Model, which integrates library, technology, and a range of student support services (McMullen, 2008). As the roles of academic librarians change, MLIS programs must also change in order to prepare graduates for this new library/learning environment.

In 2008, the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre opened at the University of British Columbia, with the goal of creating “a learning environment that provides the tools and support to turn information and data into knowledge, understanding, and solutions for today's and tomorrow's world” (IKBCL 2009). As an academic tenant in the Barber Learning Centre, the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS) was eager to contribute to the goals of the Learning Centre, in support of its own mission to prepare professionals to exercise leadership in planning, implementing and promoting the preservation, organization and effective use of society's recorded information and ideas. The one year Digital Media Intern Project was funded by a grant from UBC's Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund to support four SLAIS Interns (students in the MLIS program) and provide them with the opportunity to contribute to undergraduate learning outside the classroom, to obtain experience in project management and curriculum design, and to gain instructional skills and experience.

Methodology

In Summer 2008, the four Digital Media Interns were charged with developing and delivering educational modules related to Web 2.0 for UBC students. The particular shape of these modules, subjects to be covered, and specific pedagogy were left to the Interns to determine after evaluating student needs, existing resources, and available technologies.

The project was divided into three phases:

  • Phase One (Summer 2008): Environmental scan and project definition

  • Phase Two (Fall 2008): Workshop development

  • Phase Three (Winter 2009): Workshop roll-out

An advisory panel of two SLAIS faculty and two UBC staff members from the Learning Centre were available for consultation as needed.

The environmental scan included a review of digital media tools available, an assessment of the instruction on their use currently offered, and a survey of undergraduates to determine their knowledge of these tools and interest in learning about them. Workshop content, and the principles used when developing them, built on the lessons learned in the environmental scan. Workshop content was delivered either in-person as hands-on training, or as online tutorials, or both. Working collaboratively and embedding the workshops in existing series where possible, based on the contacts made during the environmental scan, helped to ensure participation by the maximum number of students.

Results and Discussion

The environmental scan indicated that existing Web 2.0 workshop programming for students at UBC, especially undergraduates, was minimal. The general trends in student learning and research in an online environment which were identified were relevant to student use of the Web. For example, students do not recognize that they can transfer their Internet skills to library resources (or to their academic life). Culturally, students are unclear on the roles of users and creators of digital information; and students often do not question their right to manipulate and reuse online information (Brown, 2002; Lippincott, 2006; Sweeney, 2005).

From interviews with university faculty and staff members, and discussions with the advisory panel, three key concepts emerged to guide planning and implementation decisions in the Digital Media Intern Project:

  • Content would be modular

  • Content would be situated in the context of use

  • Content would be delivered within existing programs wherever possible.

The specific modules developed for this project were determined based on needs assessed through the questionnaire, the functionality of tools observed while testing them, gaps in the university learning environment, and the interests and expertise of the Interns. The modules were grouped around four scenarios:

  • promotion and organization for student clubs

  • organization of student research

  • collaboration and writing for group projects

  • an everyday life series of mini-modules entitled “This is Your Life 2.0”.

In all, 16 workshops were offered, reaching about 200 students. Feedback on the workshops indicated that the majority of attendees found the sessions extremely valuable. The fourth scenario was offered online through the “This is Your Life 2.0” blog on which a series of mini-modules was posted over the course of the term.

Conclusions

The Digital Media Intern Project was an experiment in experiential learning for future information professionals, within the context of a modern Learning Centre. The Interns gained valuable experience in project implementation, from idea creation through evaluation. The independent nature of the project meant that each of the Interns took a leadership role in program development, while working collaboratively toward a common goal. The experience demonstrates that this type of directed real-world project planning can be a valuable component of LIS education, consistent with the increasing importance of an instructional role for information professionals.

The project also shows the potential for collaboration between an MLIS program and a Learning Centre. The dynamic and evolving nature of the Learning Centre is a perfect laboratory for educating information professionals for their changing roles in a new information environment, while the Learning Centre benefits from dynamic programs delivered by students for students, as well as receiving a set of modular course materials for future use. We are exploring ways to continue this collaboration by incorporating Digital Media Internship opportunities more formally within the MLIS curriculum.

Acknowledgements

Financial support from the UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund is gratefully acknowledged.