One of the many challenges that we face in supporting our increasing numbers of distance learners is providing relevant and effective support with developing search strategies. In a department where literature reviews of all forms often form the bedrock of many assignments and dissertations, getting the search strategy right is an increasingly vital part of many research projects and methodologies. Traditionally, we have invited students to meet with us in the library to talk face-to-face about their search strategy, usually looking at their progress so far and making suggestions for amendments and improvements. Doing this effectively for distance learners had been a challenge, but now we are increasingly finding effective technological solutions that allow us to offer equally effective support to both distance and face-to-face learners.
The webinars are hosted via Adobe Connect, which we already use for 'live' online lectures, and are usually scheduled to take place on two separate occasions, and this allows students in a variety of different time zones to attend. It also allows students who are nervous of attending a live session to simply "lurk" at the first session, to get a sense of how the webinar works, and then to potentially attend the second session with their own search strategy which they will then share with other students and ourselves. The webinars allow us to give live, direct feedback to students and to have the same kind of conversation we would have with a face-to-face student, and of course students are able to also see the approaches their fellow students have taken to various different searching problems, enabling them to learn from eachother.
Offering this support enables us to provide equal and fair support to all our learners, wherever they are. Distance learners present many challenges to the provision of library and information services, but this one, at least, we think we have overcome!
Posted by Claire