Integrating library content into the university's online learning environment

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Copyright 2004 Griffith University
The provision of high quality online learning environments is a major strategic objective in higher education institutions. Within a relatively short period of time institutions have been required to deal with issues of policy development, selection of technical solutions, change management, reskilling and training of academic staff, development of new structures, curricula and online course content, and access management. Much of this work has occurred within existing organisational structures while we simultaneously found a home for these new roles and responsibilities. Flexible Learning departments and libraries are now both heavily involved in the development and provision of access to online content. An issue facing our institutions is to bring together the locally developed online content provided by the flexible learning department via the learning management system (eg BlackBoard, WebCT) together with the externally sourced (purchased or subscribed) content provided by the university library (in print or via the Library Catalogue and Library Web site). Universities spend millions of dollars per annum on print and digital library content. Digital library collections need not be stand alone services used as information gateways designed to facilitate resource discovery (to unknown information items) supporting research and student assignment work. Library content can also be more fully integrated into the online learning environment to provide seamless access to specific items of information at the point of need, to enrich and improve the student learning experience. Collaboration between flexible learning and library organisations is imperative if this is to be achieved and if our institutions and students are to receive the maximum benefit and value for money from our library collections. The issues of organisational structure and staffing profiles, digital libraries content, copyright and license management, effective linking strategies, and technological integration are explored in relation to integrating library content into the online learning environment. New structures and staffing profiles The digital environment has brought about a convergence of information professions and roles. The traditional organisational structures of Information Technology, Flexible Learning and Library departments commonly [formerly] found in educational institutions are being continually challenged. The roles once played solely by information technologists, educational designers, web designers, librarians and teachers are merging and cutting in new ways. Staff are required to learn new skills and to be more aware of the responsibilities, priorities and technologies of other work areas. High quality work produced within budget and timelines requires structures and staff to work more cooperatively and flexibly than they once did.
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Borchert, Martin
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