For ALIA’s Blog Every Day in June, I thought I would write about my undergraduate studies through distance ed.
Many many years ago I was going to do Year 10 work experience in a library, but did not follow through. My decision to change careers and study library and information management was in part to fulfil that long ago desire. I find knowledge and information management and communication a fascinating area and libraries can still give me butterflies in the stomach at all the learning opportunities and possibilities they contain.
I undertook the Bachelor of Applied Science in Library and Information Management (LIM) through Charles Sturt University distance education starting in 2008 and finishing earlier this year. The course has since restructured as Bachelor of Information Studies with specialisations in Librarianship, Information and Knowledge Management, and Records and Archives Management.
The greatest benefit distance education gave me was the huge amount of flexibility, which enabled me to accommodate my family and work commitments with my study commitments. For a degree that focuses on information connectivity there were times that communication with lecturers was difficult but I feel that there would have been similar sorts of issues with face-to-face study, albeit slightly different ones. I believe that maintaining a positive outlook was an important part of getting through the course work; again would that have been any different with face-to-face study? Probably not; I have certainly learnt self motivation skills in the process.
Looking at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2006, 2009 and 2011 Household use of Information Technology in Australia confirms the impact on every age group of the growing use of the internet within our society. Distance education capitalises on this usage.
I experienced firsthand the shift in how online services are provided and how educational information delivery has shifted exponentially in the last decade. The way students manage their course material, study notes and study load are in a continual state of flux through the rapid change we experience through the ongoing development of the World Wide Web, and the services it provides - like social software and cloud computing.
Overall I had a very positive learning experience from distance education. I would not hesitate to recommend this mode of study. Subject and reference material were accessible anywhere and all the time. The library services were excellent. The skill of working 18 hr days to meet an assignment deadline has also been developed.
There were a few very dry subjects (best not to elaborate) along with the really fascinating ones. The subjects that worked best were ones where the material was well structured and the subject coordinator interacted on the forum regularly. When posting a comment or response; if the coordinator consistently gave feedback to comments no matter how minor, it builds on the sense of being part of an interactive student community. When an opinion is acknowledged it goes without saying that forums work best when then their coordinator understands the subject material in depth or had input into the subject matter.
Coming from a Tafe Horticulture Diploma as my last educational effort; the experience of the LIM degree was most marked by the currentness of the reference and resource material. When writing an essay on information services any books over 4 years were considered too old as a reference because of the rapid changes in the interaction of library and information services with the internet and online services. This contrasts greatly with my experience of horticulture design and utilising resources that though old are greatly valued. A good example of this is the way online chat services have developed and their importance has waxed and waned. Huge shifts in library programs and service delivery, as well as the advent of ebooks.....using social software like Facebook to interact with library users.....so many changes have occurred in this field since 2008. It reinforces the fact that there is a continual change process occurring in delivery of services for the library and information field.
When studying practical horticulture I remember a high point was when maculata species changed genus from Eucalyptus to Corymbia - a different pace of change entirely to that of the library and information field. I currently volunteer at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens Library, and greatly value the chance to work on bringing records online with the faster pace of an ever-growing information environment.
I have certainly developed many skills that I am eager to put into practise, and am now on the journey of seeking work in the library and information management field; realising how useful a course on completing Selection Criteria for job applications would be!