Collaborative learning is an instructional approach heavily promoted and widely practiced in online teaching. While the effectiveness of collaborative learning in face-to-face settings is well established and its benefits well documented (Johnson, Suriya, Yoon, Berrett, & La Fleur, 2002), collaborative learning in online environments is different. Instead of working face-to-face in groups, online collaboration takes a distributed form. Students from diverse geographical locations form virtual groups and rely on Internet communication technologies to coordinate group processes and carry out group activities. Group interactions are mediated by computer networks.
As this is my first CIRI blog, I would like to tell you about my primary research interest, crisis informatics. Crisis informatics is a term that I coined in 2006 in a paper entitled “Using research to aid the design of a crisis information management course” presented at the Association of Library & Information Science Educators (ALISE) conference Special Interest Group Multicultural, Ethnic & Humanistic Concerns. Crisis informatics is an emerging field of inquiry which explores the inter-connectedness of information, people, and technologies in *crises/disasters and examines the intersecting trajectories of social, technical and information perspectives in crises /disasters.
One of my research interests is to study how online users behave and interact with each other, and how such interaction dynamics impacts the formation and impression of virtual communities. Among the many interesting user behaviors is group polarization, which has been studied extensively in psychology and social science literature.
Computers provide 24/7 access to endless amounts of information for every aspect of our personal and professional lives. We use the World Wide Web for shopping, socializing, traveling, dating, writing, banking, scrapbooking, organizing, and sharing perhaps more details of our lives than most people care to know. With our dependence on computers in their multiple versions and formats, it is no wonder there has been an explosion of online learning in the past fifteen years. While faculty developed their skills for traditional teaching over a lifetime of observation and modeling by their instructors, teaching online exploded without the benefit of established systems and practices.
I continue to research the impact and effectiveness of self-directed learning programs in libraries. I wrote about Learning 2.0 here last May. Foundational to the Learning 2.0 program model is an emphasis on instilling a desire for lifelong learning, empowering personnel to engage in a self-paced, learner-managed environment, creating an interactive learning community, and fostering increased confidence in participants to explore new technology on their own. Today’s library personnel face financial and time restrictions when choosing to engage in professional development.
Library science is both a discipline and a profession. It differs from many other academic disciplines because the focus is not a subject, but an activity or maybe even a process, which implies that the discipline changes when the profession evolves and changes. The curriculum must therefore reinforce the student’s capacity to solve problems and use skills in constantly changing real-world environments.
In 2010, I received an Early Career Development Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to study the practice of text reference service, investigating how texting is being used as a new venue to offer reference service, and how text reference service can fulfill users’ information needs and engage new users like teenagers, the fastest growing group of individuals using text messaging. Now the project has come to fruition and the findings may help generate best practices guidelines, and therefore lead to an enriched view of texting’s affordance as a reference service venue.
The Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt, the most famous library and cultural center of the ancient world, was constructed in the 3rd century BC and charged with collecting and sharing the world’s knowledge. In its quest to become an international library, it acquired an impressive collection of books from beyond the country’s borders. It served as a research institution that contained works in mathematics, astronomy, physics, and the natural sciences.
As we work with our research students here at SLIS one thing we try to stress is quality. This includes how to evaluate a piece of research to determine the quality of that research, as well as how to conduct research to insure it will be evaluated as a quality piece of work. As with most things, there are certain fundamentals that provide a solid basis for good research and examining (or re-examining) those fundamentals is always a worthwhile endeavor.
From 2006-2010 or so, libraries and education exploded in virtual worlds, especially the virtual world of Second Life. Hundreds of articles were written and experiences shared. There was a very large active group of librarians and educators building libraries, offering programs, having conferences and events. Alliance Library System (Now RAILS – Reaching Across Illinois Libraries), the New Media Consortium, and San Jose State University SLIS, among others were leaders and assisting other educational groups to get started and succeed.