Technology Requirements for MLIS Students

Recently on Hack Library School, Amy Frazier posted about her idea of the ideal library school with higher-level technology classes and require more tech skills for librarians-to-be.

Librarian By Name, Geek By Nature.

The post generated quite a lot of comments including my own. It’s definitely an issue that I have seen discussed more often in the last year or two. When I was in school, a number of students (including myself) expressed the desire for more technology courses in our program.

Including More Technology Courses

One side of the discussion is getting MLIS programs to offer more tech courses. While personally, I could have used more tech courses, I don’t necessarily think that it’s viable for a lot of schools. It’s difficult enough for schools that librarianship is very broad, add to that that many MLIS type jobs are not in libraries, and you get the basic problem of “how do you offer courses to cover all topics of interest in a single library school?”

Basically, you can’t. It’s impossible. At my school, there is a PhD program, so at the Master’s level, it even needs to cover all the research side of things.

Option 1: Partner with the CS department

One way is to possibly have the faculty partner with the CS department to allow students to take lower level programming classes or recommend CS classes that aren’t programming heavy. Unfortunately, like at my school, universities will normally not allow credit to be given for lower level courses when in a master’s program.

Option 2: Partner with other LIS schools

There is always the option of partnering with other schools to offer classes (this includes non-technology related courses). This already happens in many schools, but due to different schedules and the difficulty of getting through other schools’ admissions for classes and such, it is traditionally not particularly convenient. Improving the shared courses system would definitely help though.

Option 3: Offer 2-3 introductory courses

I would say that, at the least, LIS schools should at least have introductory courses (again possibly in partnership). At my school, they offered a 1-credit class as an introductory course (a regular class is 3 credits). I think for its first time, it did quite well and a lot of students had signed up. What I would like to see is for additional 1-credit classes to be offered to introduce the basics of other languages or a 3-credit course, which can almost be a survey type course where you’re introduced to the basics of a couple of languages and taught the process in making decisions on which to use when. An existing class covers technology management and what we dubbed “systems 101”. Schools might consider partnering with professional associations to offer these sorts of classes.

But if you want tech…

In the end though, if students want a library program that is very tech heavy, then perhaps they should do more research into which schools already offer that sort of program before applying. Much like at the undergraduate level, different schools emphasize different things, so it’s up to a student to do the research and do their best to get in.

Requiring More Technology Skills

The other big idea that came up in the discussion is requiring the completion of a course which involves a higher level of technology skills. While I think library students need to graduate with at least a basic amount of technology skills, I think what’s more important is knowing how and when to integrate technology into library services to best support users.

Solution?: Technology Integration

Some of the commenters also proposed this idea, at least to a degree (I admit that I have not read every single answer though).

The biggest issue I had with my required technology class (other than the fact that we couldn’t be exempted even if you had a CS background) was that much of what we learnt was not put into a practical context.

If you want students to learn how to make a PowerPoint presentation, don’t make them do something that involves lots of different animations (no one does this, or at least should do this in a real presentation), but instead, tell them to make a presentation that pitches an idea or teaches a skill for example.

In an instructional class, have students make a video a la research minute for example. Get them to work with a real library and upload it to their YouTube channel when done.

My favourite classes were ones where we got a practical project that involved learning a new technology. For example, I took a class on digital collections, so we read all the usual papers, sat through all the lectures, and we learned how to use DBTextWorks and ContentDM. That means that I now can (with a bit of wrangling) build a digital collection should I see the need (or become responsible for that sort of thing).

More than anything, I think students need to learn the situations where it would be beneficial for them and patrons to integrate technology, and if they need help, then to go ask their systems team.

Ryerson Faculty Conference: Students’ View on Academic Social Media Use Panel

Some notes from the panel, which consisted of three presenters/moderators and a group of 5 students.

Some Statistics on Technology Use Among RU Students

  • 42% smartphone users used their devices for academics
  • 78% own smartphone
  • 20% integrated seamlessly into classroom environment
  • 50% institution uses technology effective
  • 39% institution needs more technology

Above averages over all students in survey (except the last, which is below).

What Social Media Do You Use for Class Work?

The theme seemed to be convenience in many comments:

  • Use Facebook for IM + file exchange
  • always there, goes straight to smartphone
  • In FB, easy to separate people into groups
  • use Google Apps for docs, calendar, etc.
  • Twitter more convenient than email
  • email is the easiest way to submit assignments

Why do you prefer Social Media outlets instead of the CMS?

  • doesn’t crash
  • user friendly
  • more real world
  • connect outside of classroom
  • inconsistent look and functions e.g. discussion not always enabled
  • habit – already using Twitter/FB before entering university

What Changes Would You Like To See?

  • more consistent use of CMS
  • possible integration into social media
  • possible notifications (though some consider it to just add to the “noise”)
  • automated audio/video capture to be posted for later reference

Faculty also expressed concerns not only on the time commitment needed in an attempt to engage students with different social media outlets, but also privacy. Students, however, said they were more likely to use the CMS if it was more user friendly, had more options, more consistently used, and most importantly, that expectations were clearly outlined.

Ryerson Faculty Conference Keynote #2: Getting Students Engaged

Presenter: Dr. Arne Kislenko

Everyone does things differently and there is a huge subjective component to teaching. What’s presented is also not necessarily based on theories of teaching, but based on overarching principles garnered from experience.

1. Enjoy the Teaching

Teaching is the greatest job in the world. This is the most important place to start, that students understand that you like your job, that they see your enthusiasm. Faculty can actually influence people’s lives, which is a great honour. However, some teachers don’t show up, cut classes, lecture right from a textbook, substitute with technology, which does not allow the development of a personal connection. You need to be there, students need to want to come to class.

It’s worrisome that many universities seem to be diminishing the role of teaching by putting the pursuit of research above all else. However, teaching reinforces research and through teaching we actually communicate with our students.

2. The Active Citizen

We have to teaching from the perspective that students in our classrooms are trying to become citizens in the full sense of the word. We should teach research, writing, critical thinking, objective analysis, to care and take an active role in the world. We should impart some broad consideration of the world.

If someone is apathetic about everything, they are a lost cause. Students should see their education as more than 3-4 years here with a job at the end. They should graduate with a sense of ability to think critically, engage in analysis, direct thoughts about search, and care a little bit about the world, especially since they want to work in this world.

Not only do students need to be engaged, they need to be made engaging with a broad perspective, not just the classes they take. They should be questioned about how they are going to move forward in the working world.

Many students though feel unchallenged and many instructors are fine with them just getting by.

3. High Standards

Respect them as adults with responsibilities and obligations instead of coddling them as children. Have high standards, communicate that to students, and they may aspire to them.

Aside. Draw Connections

We should leave students guessing what we think, and we should welcome them as participants and journeymen.

4. Extracurricular Activities

Be prepared to deliver to our students more than just in the classroom. e.g. alternative spring break – overseas working with NGOs, international discussions

This is the best way to enrich the educational experience, and increase personal growth for students.

Ryerson Faculty Conference Keynote: Can Statistics Help Us Understand Student Engagement?


  • Christopher Evans

National Survey of Student Engagement

While statistics don’t tell the whole story, it shows student perceptions, which are important because those are passed onto other current students and prospective students.

  • 1st + 4th year students, 4200+ at this university
  • from 146 countries


  • live with parents 69%
  • commute to campus 95%
  • >10 hrs/week commuting 38%

Student Employment

  • on campus 13.6%
  • off 54.7%
  • work 68.3%
  • work >10 hrs/week 45.3%

Campus Life

  • participate co-curricular 40%
  • attend campus events < 50%
  • < 10 hr/week (outside of class) 68%

Academic Life

  • significant time studying 79%
  • prepare >10hr/week for class 61%
  • unprepared for class 35%

Satisfaction with Education

  • good/excellent 79%
  • would attend again 81%
  • faculty available/helpful/sympathetic 66%
  • faculty make students aware of research activities by applying their research to teaching 62%

This last point is valuable experience for students and gives a little window to faculty life, which allows students to get to know faculty a little better.

Sense of Community

  • in class 56% – faculty crucial to student’s feeling at home at Ryerson
  • academic program 46%
  • study groups 29%
  • none 12% – realistically, no matter what, some students won’t feel at home, will never be zero

Contributions to Engagement

  • presentation 39%
  • project that integrated ideas from different sources 86%
  • worked with other student during class 46%
  • worked with classmates outside of class 70%
  • discussed ideas with faculty outside class 56%
  • received prompt written/oral feedback 50%

All instructors feel that they give prompt feedback, but perception might be skewed somewhat. For example, an instructor might return a quiz the next class, but when midterms are returned a week later, students may think faculty are being lazy. Faculty activities become important for student perception of engagement as well.

  • participated in community based project 34%
  • practicum/intership/co-op/etc 30%
  • worked with faculty members on activities other than coursework 38%
  • capstone/thesis/senior project (4th only) 23%
  • worked on research project with faculty member outside of program requirements 8% – skewed to lower side, because includes 1st and 4th year students


  • work/financial 83%
  • family
  • health/disability

What would Improve Learning Experience

These were very generic answers.

  • quality of instruction 34%
  • increase contact 21%
  • improve quality of academic support 24%
  • more opportunities to undertake research with faculty 25%
  • reduce class size 13% – large classes aren’t a big deal, but the subject matter and how it is presented

Teaching Chairs Report – Faculty Concerns

  • most common presentation forms: lecture, seminar/method course, lab/studio
  • motivating students 89%
  • evaluating students’ learning 65%
  • understanding learning differences 53%
  • understanding how students develop intellectually 59%
Faculty Express Concern About
  • students attitudes and behaviour – class attendance, participation
  • administrative and logistical challenges – scheduling, large class sizes

Faculty feel large class sizes are a problem, but students don’t.

What does the data tell us about engagement?

NSSE data gives us hints about academic and social interaction

  • academic integration: perception of faculty interest, academic resources, academic preparation
  • social integration: student’s perception of his/her ties to the post-secondary institution, which include extend to which student is involved in institution-related activities, perception of faculty and staff attitude, institutional sensitivity, institution events

Some faculty portray a kind of remote veneer that keeps them at arm’s length, which makes them unapproachable.

The data tells the what, but not the how or why, and only about student perception.

Levels of Engagement

While the NSSE focus on two types of levels of engagement, the data doesn’t give us much insight into any of the others.

  • mentoring – highlevel, multi-variant interaction (NSSE focus)
  • personal
  • functional interaction – contact for particular, institutional purposes (NSSE focus)
  • incidental
  • disengagement

Benefits of Increasing Faculty Student Engagement

  • higher grades
  • improved student confidence
  • increases student perception of being valued
  • increases persistence in higher education

Faculty may find it a bit of a balancing act for sure, but asking about a student concern at the time may help to save time later, should situation grow worse.

How to Increase Engagement

One slice does not fit all – some suggestions will not be for you.

  • provide opportunities for students to write = dialogue
  • attend student events, esp those at are purposeful (e.g. student colloquium)
  • encourage students to attend offices hours, and keep encouraging
  • have projects that encourage collaboration and continued feedback
  • pay close attention to student interactions – if socailly isolated, struggling
  • have faculty model their methods of engaging students to each other – some faculty members are known to be oustanding teachers and have the skills with engaging students, we can learn from them