From the Office: Re-Defining the Continuing Education Box
Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director
"Kobayashi Maru". Star Trek fans know that this is the test that all Star Fleet Academy cadets must take. It is the ultimate impossible un-resolvable situation. Only one cadet ever beat the game, James T. Kirk*. Kirk did so by "re-defining" the game. One might argue that he did indeed "think outside the box", but I prefer to say that he "re-defined the box". He took what was there and altered it to his advantage.
So it could be said ALCTS is in the process of doing something akin to this with its continuing education (CE). CE can be construed to be a broad array of learning events. For my purposes, I will concentrate on two such events in the cadre of ALCTS offerings: Preconferences and Web courses.
1. preconferences and a "re-defined" structure
For 2005 in Chicago, ALCTS will embark on a preconference structure that really does "re-define" how preconferences are presented. The emphasis should be on the "how", for it is the "how" preconferences are presented that is the "re-defining" aspect of the new structure. We are "re-defining" what the preconference "box" is.
The current "box" you all know: one to two days of speakers on or around a topic. There are maybe three to choose from but in three different locations. You register for one, show up in the morning, follow the schedule, maybe show up again on day two, follow the schedule. You hear a lot of speakers, learn something, meet people, and generally have a good time (we hope). Not bad.
What if we offered those three preconferences all together in one location in half day sessions and you could pick and choose which of those half day sessions you wanted to attend regardless of the name on the preconference? And what if we charge registration fees by the day, not by the preconference? And what if the sessions are not only coordinated horizontally across the sessions but maybe vertically within one session? And what if you could attend for a half day if you wanted to? And what if we had half-day sessions by themselves? And what if you received all the handouts for all the sessions for the day you attend and could buy the other day's handouts, if you wanted to? And what if we started this in 2005 at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago?
Well, the "what if" will become a reality in Chicago in 2005. ALCTS preconferences "re-defined" means that you pay by the day, can attend any session during that day, get all the handouts for that day for all the sessions, and don't have to leave the building.
This structure also allows ALCTS to have a lunch with a featured speaker each day (at an additional cost). It also makes the preconferences easier to manage on-site, easier to budget, easier to schedule rooms, equipment and catering, and more flexible.
Interested? It's not too late to propose a preconference for 2005. The new procedures are further described in a separate article of this issue of the ALCTS Newsletter Online and will be available on the ALCTS Web site soon. You only have to decide on your topic, think in terms of half-day sessions, come up with your speakers, and make a proposal to the ALCTS Program Committee at Annual Conference this year in Orlando. The Committee has set aside time in its agenda to review proposals. Contact Steve Dalton, Program Committee Chair, for more information.
2. Web courses - a virtual success
The importance of a robust continuing education curriculum cannot be overstated. It is a feature of ALCTS membership that people look for and a valuable benefit for those who take part. However, attending CE events remains a financial hardship for many members.
Enter the Web course Bringing CE to your PC.
ALCTS currently has one Web course, Fundamentals of Acquisitions. During its brief history, FOA has exceeded all anticipated goals of success. It has sold out each time it has been offered, without ever advertising it. The reasons are very clear and should be an impetus for ALCTS (you, the members) to develop more Web courses across all areas of our expertise.
A Web course provides wide spread access for library staff who cannot or choose not to travel to attend CE events. Being more cost efficient, in general, there is also support for allowing library staff to take a Web course. Having that course delivered to a person's desktop certainly eliminates a great deal of expense for both the library and the staff member. There is also support among people who take Web courses to offer more. With the great explosion of Web curricula available, such courses are now considered mainstream educational events when only a few years ago they were considered a novelty. Many younger library staff members are particularly attuned to electronic delivery of everything. Taking a Web course is just another one of those electronic deliverables.
Web courses have thus become highly sought after and increasingly popular for the reasons already cited. It is indeed a viable alternative to an in-person offering.
ALCTS supports WebCT. ALCTS wholeheartedly supports the development and presentation of Web courses. There is much content that is suitable for conversion to a Web course. Not everything, but a great deal. Designing a Web course may seem a daunting undertaking, but it is not a lot different from developing CE in other formats. The daunting part comes in the conversion to the electronic environment and the pacing of the course over four weeks or so. ALCTS is prepared to help anyone who wants to embark on the Web course development journey.
Need a topic? Start with the fundamentals of knowledge about the varying concepts needed to work in libraries.
Need an audience? Look to your own staff: beginning librarians, support staff, staff who have changed jobs.
Fulfill a need: Help expand ALCTS' Web course offerings into a curriculum for technical services, collections, and preservation education.
*FYI: The "T" in James T. Kirk stands for Tiberius.