I. Why Gettysburg College would like to participate in the CNI Assessing the Networked Environment Project
Since 1990, Gettysburg College, a small liberal arts institution, has invested heavily and deliberately in building a ubiquitous network environment. By 1995, all faculty and staff offices and 95% of the residence hall rooms had a network connection. It is only after we began developing the network, knowing that it was something that needed to be done, that discussions became heated about what to do with it. One of the results of those discussions was the merging of the computing services and the library staffs. Among our salient goals as a division is to provide top quality information, which in our definition includes easy to access, relevant to student, faculty and staff needs, and appropriate. Defining ‘relevant’ and ‘appropriate’ continues to pose a challenge for those responsible for measurement.
We have built an award winning campuswide network that provides high speed, reliable, secure, network connectivity *everywhere* on campus. We have greatly improved our desktop computing environment – everyone has access to top quality machines capable of displaying, accessing and manipulating digital information – from multimedia to online scholastic journals. We have substantially increased the quantity available and the quality of our faculty and laboratory desktop computers and have put emphasis on getting our student residence hall computing environments to a similar level, via our in-dorm service, computer store, and residence hall networking. We have modernized and added to our large computer systems so that they are capable of being cutting edge information access tools. Yet, with all of this development, we have yet to assess or evaluate the value of WHAT we provide. Despite this, we continue to add online indices and databases, on-line journals, and cd roms. In short, we know that we have an infrastructure that supports access, but we have not yet assessed how what we provide impacts the teaching/learning environment.
As we think about our networked resources as part of our collection, we are not inclined to assume that quantity is also quality. Is the mark of a good library collection based on the number of volumes? Some would lead you to think so. Our concern, given that we are not and never will be a research library, is whether or not the resources we provide, network or otherwise, dovetail with curricular and research needs at our institution. Unfortunately, data like the count of the number of hits on a given database or software does not define how it is being used nor whether or not it is relevant and appropriate to any given user.
In the quest for establishing metrics of all kinds for our division- staff performance, optimal selection of resources, customer satisfaction, to name a few, the CNI Assessing the Networked Environment Project comes at an optimal time for Gettysburg College.
II. Why Does Gettysburg Wish to Participate in this Project?
Although we have very limited familiarity with the McClure/Lopata manual, the staff of information resources is very interested in developing ways to measure our effectiveness. Since there is already extant material on the assessment, it would be of value to us to field test what is out there, in the context of the environment we inhabit, and to be able to share what we find with other like institutions.
III. Specific Areas of Assessment Gettysburg is interested in working on:
Recognizing that technology will continue to play a major role in education at all levels, with special implications for the way teaching and learning happen at the college level, Gettysburg has set as primary strategic goals to develop the best possible computer-based information resources and programs; to promote exploration of the curriculum and cocurriculum using technology and to provide appropriate access to these resources.
What impact does this new environment have on the learning environment? It is already plain that rather than waiting months for the latest research to appear in printed form, as long as something is available in electronic form, we have the ability to retrieve it. Standard reference materials can already be purchased in CD-ROM form and accessed from an appropriately-equipped desktop computer, and Gettysburg College is slowly acquiring more and more electronic-based material, including non-print formats. Our plan is to extend the work that we have done in all areas with an objective to never allow either the network or the desktop to be the primary restriction to technology incorporation in the scholastic process. Among some of the things we are thinking about doing to maintain and improve our network are to: deploy campuswide wireless networking to improve “access anywhere”; improve network technology to match the needs of information sources; improve reliability and security; never allow the network to be the primary restriction to technology incorporation in the scholastic process
We are finding at Gettysburg that network access to resources is precluding the need for people to come into the library. How to measure the value and contribution of networked resources to the teaching/ learning environment?
Network resources are changing the expectations we have for access and speed of retrieval of all sorts of information. How do we know we are providing the right resources, as opposed to just lots of them? The learning environment is changing: how also is the learning process changing? And are our structures and processes set up to support this? These are the questions we are asking.
IV. Assessment experience Gettysburg/departments have had, particularly involving networking.
Very little comprehensive work in terms of network content. The features of our network– capability for expansion, flexibility, design for ubiquitous access–however, did put us on the map for our network architecture, and we continue to spend some time gathering hard statistics on the number of connections we have available, total number of users, the volume of activity, the number of network jacks in residence halls, and the like.
We are well aware that our community is virtually dependent on networked resources, ranging from email to the world wide web. We have conducted several random user surveys on a wide range of services we provide to assess the efficacy of our training programs and online resources, among other items. If anything, oftentimes too much information is available over the network, so what is available doesn’t necessarily get used or read.
V. Gettysburg Team Members
The Gettysburg Team would be largely comprised of our planning council for information resources. The staff is a blend of former computing services and library professionals and is led by Dr. Dennis Aebersold, Vice President for Information Resources. Dennis had been associate provost for sciences and head of computing services at Gettysburg College before his 1994 appointment as Vice President for Information Resources.
Leader of Delivery Technical Team– Mike is an electrical engineer with 20 years of experience in conceptualizing, planning, designing, and integrating technology in educational and administrative settings. He is also an adjunct professor of Physics at Gettysburg College.
Leader of the Training Team–Mary manages and implements the training programs and creation of user documentation for the campus community. Formerly the associate college librarian for information and technology, Mary brings a wealth of experience in software applications and supports instructional needs for a wide variety of user requests, including electronic databases, multimedia applications, software, groupware, internet resources, and library OPAC services.
Associate Vice President for Information Resources– Mike is an electrical engineer and the salient architect of the Gettysburg network. He is experience programmer, designer, systems manager and has until recently been responsible for all technical operations at Gettysburg College computing.
Director of Communications and Planning–Paula serves as a relational manager and manager of communication for the division. She serves on the vice president’s staff and coordinates, implements, and promotes services within the division, helps to design measurement and evaluation systems, obtain feedback, and communicate with various external and internal constituencies on behalf of the division. She holds a masters of education and has over 10 years of experience in higher education development.
Leader of the Delivery Access Team– Robin holds an MLS and an MA in History and has over 16 years of library experience working with circulation, automation, reference and bibliographic instruction training for users, and collection development resources. She is currently managing a team of 13 who maintain and expand acquisitions, and access to and retrieval of library information.
Leader of the Selection Team–Bill brings a wealth of education and background to his role as selection team leader. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and has served the computing services division for years as a trainer, coordinator of software support, and designer and manager of many on-line services, such as Gopher. As leader of the selection team, he is responsible for making sure our acquisitions processes–of electronic, print and multi-media formats, meet the curricular needs of the campus. He is also responsible for assessing the efficacy of those systems and processes.