Recent Publications by School of Information Faculty Focus on Valuable Online Learning Experiences


Recent publications by faculty members at the SJSU School of Information discuss online collaboration for international projects and how to increase student satisfaction with online group projects.

The San José State University (SJSU) School of Information (iSchool) is widely recognized as a leader in online education, and recent publications by faculty members point to the continuing research in online learning being conducted at the school.

From Theory to Application

Dr. Sue Alman, lecturer at the iSchool, has co-authored a paper that was recently accepted by the International Information and Library Review with Paiki Muswazi, librarian of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The article, “Strategic Planning: International Online Collaboration,” discusses the collaborative online strategic planning projects done by students in Alman’s spring 2015 INFO 204 Information Professions course.

Alman and Muswazi decided to collaborate on a strategic planning project in order to give Alman’s students an opportunity to examine how their work might be adapted and used in an actual library in South Africa. The projects done by the students could then be used as evidence for Core Competency O of the e-portfolio culminating project for the iSchool’s Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree, which requires that students “identify ways in which information professionals can contribute to the cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our global communities.”

Students in the course analyzed strategic planning documents from the Wits University Library, prioritized the library’s goals, and conducted a comparative analysis using another library’s strategic plan. The opportunity to help set an actual library’s strategic direction greatly enhanced the learning value. “It was thrilling to be involved in a ‘real world’ project,” explained Julie Cervantes, a member of one of the student teams.

Group Projects in Distance Education

Dr. Anthony Bernier, associate professor at the iSchool, and Dr. Cheryl Stenstrom, lecturer at the iSchool, have co-authored an article for the journal Education for Information on improving student learning outcomes in small group collaborations.

Their paper, “Moving from Chance and ‘Chemistry’ to Skills: Improving Online Student Learning Outcomes in Small Group Collaboration, examines student satisfaction with group projects. Data was collected from voluntary surveys of students in INFO 202 Information Retrieval System Design and INFO 204 Information Professions in spring and summer 2014.

In the spring courses, the students were provided with a recorded lecture about successful group work. In the summer courses, the students were provided with the recorded lecture and also given guidelines which “encouraged students to explicitly define roles and establish mutually agreed-upon ground rules to both guide the work in producing a deliverable as well as a means to assist in anticipating and resolving issues commonly associated with small group work conflicts.”

The data collected in the student surveys revealed that the students who received the additional guidelines about group work expressed greater satisfaction with working collaboratively in small online groups. Bernier and Stenstrom noted that “offering more specific guidance through pedagogical initiative can begin to raise student awareness that successful small group collaboration relies less on chance or random ‘group chemistry’ than on consistently executing specific procedures and skills.”

More information about the current research being done by SJSU School of Information faculty members is available on the school’s Center for Information Research and Innovation (CIRI).