Off-Campus but not Alone: Supporting the Research Needs of Nontraditional Students Using Digital Resources
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While most libraries have implemented changes that integrate electronic resources with traditional library services, and reference and instruction methods have become more effective at reaching library users in their new digital space, many nontraditional students who have chosen a face-to-face classroom environment for their education may not have the necessary level of digital literacy to access, evaluate, and use electronic resources that are critical to their research efforts. Central Michigan University offers master's degree programs designed to meet the unique needs of working adults. Face-to-face classes meet at over 60 locations in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and CMU's Off Campus Library Services (OCLS) continually looks for ways to ensure that off-campus students benefit from library resources even if their digital comfort level is low and the physical library building is many miles away. This session will begin with an overview of CMU's Off-Campus Library Services and the resources – digital and traditional - available to a diverse and widely distributed student population. A summary of OCLS strategies for providing research assistance and document delivery will familiarize session participants with the overall environment. Background information about the Atlanta MA in Education program will be presented, along with a description the student population. An overview of the requirements for the capstone research project that completes the degree will be followed by a snapshot of capstone project data for the Atlanta-based program. The session will review some of the barriers to timely and successful completion of capstone projects, and offer further discussion of the library's role in supporting student research, with an emphasis on serving working adult learners in an off-campus environment. The presentation will outline OCLS' ongoing research and program development efforts designed to better understand the needs of students, and to identify the best methods for providing additional support during this research intensive time in their program. The presenter will describe the Atlanta Metro Center's recently implemented capstone research labs and individual consultation services, which provide an opportunity for students accustomed to face-to-face classroom environments to also consult face-to-face with OCLS librarians. These services are intended to help students develop the digital literacy needed for online research - to build comfort with the research process, with online searching, and with using electronic resources.