The Open University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 6918-6925
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
This paper presents the results of a University funded practitioner research project exploring the role played by a ‘Online Library’ in supporting distance learners studying Social Sciences Qualifications at The Open University, UK.

The key aims of the project were to consider students’ perception of the concept of the ‘online library’ in order to understand more about the role played by an online library to support student success. The wider impact and the benefits of undertaking collaborative practitioner research with both academic and academic support colleagues is also discussed. Specifically, the benefits resulting in more collaborative learning design for new courses, ensuring that students know how to use the online library to help counteract the assumption that recent research has found that distance learners do not know how to use an online library and so are not directed to use it (Ritterbush, 2014).

The practitioner research explored student understanding of the ways in which use of an online library contributes to their skills and employability. Building on previous research in the field e.g. particularly how students understand the online library environment (Hemmig, 2012) and that online digital literacy is a key factor within student retention and success (Fini, 2009), the research employed both quantitative and qualitative methods to derive evidence. Online questionnaires and telephone interviews were undertaken with cohorts of Levels 1 and 2 students studying three qualifications.

This research focussed on two key questions:
1. What do students understand by online library services?
2. What employability skills do students think they will be equipped with after using online library services as part of their qualification?

Analysis of the data indicates that student expectations and understandings of both the online library and the ways in which it contributes to their skills and employability are influencing the ways in which they perceive their learning experience, offering new insights into their journey towards independent learning.

Outputs from our research and collaborative working is also helping to inform new types of targeted distance learner engagements such as online tutorials, internet broadcasting and use of social media.

[1] FINI, A. (2009). The technological dimension of a massive open online course: the case of the CCK08 course tools. In The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
[2] Hemmig,W. Johnstone,B.T. Montet,M (2012) Create a Sense of Place for the Mobile Learner, Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning, 2012, 6, 3-4, 312-322
[3] Ritterbush, J. (2014) ‘Assessing Academic Library Services to Distance Learners: A Literature Review of Perspectives from Librarians, Students and Faculty’, Reference Librarian, Vol. 55, No.1, pp. 26-36
Distance learning, blended learning, Digital Libraries.