This chapter reports on one academic library’s experiences with expanding instructional services by adding synchronous library instruction to better serve its online students and faculty located across the globe. Web conferencing software allows librarians to provide interactive, high-touch library instruction for online students equivalent to the experience of students in traditional face-to-face courses. While providing this real-time instruction on library resources and research skills, librarians are embedding themselves in online programs, becoming more readily accessible to online and distance students. By meeting the changing needs of academic library users wherever they are, librarians are reaffirming their integral role and relevance as partners in the educational endeavor.
Serving Online Students
According to the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Standards for Distance Learning Library Services (2008):
“Every student, faculty member, administrator, staff member, or any other member of an institution of higher education, is entitled to the library services and resources of that institution, including direct communication with the appropriate library personnel, regardless of where enrolled or where located in affiliation with the institution. Academic libraries must, therefore, meet the information and research needs of all these constituents, wherever they may be” (Executive summary, para. 1).
Fulfilling this mandate is becoming increasingly important as the number of distance and online courses continues to grow. Statistics from the 2006-2007 National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) suggest that 66% of postsecondary institutions were offering distance courses of some kind, whether online or hybrid (Parsad, Lewis, & Tice, 2008, p. 2). This number represents an increase of 10% from the 2000-2001 NCES survey (Waits, Lewis, & Green, 2003, p. 4). Though MSU has been involved with distance education for almost three decades, the number of courses has been relatively small and the institution has gathered few statistics. However, the statistics available suggest that MSU meets this trend of continued growth of distance education. As of spring semester 2010, 10% of MSU students were taking at least one class online while during the 2010 summer session 32% of students were enrolled in an online class.