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Component D: The organization's learning resources support student learning and effective teaching.

 
 
While VCSU's student services generally help shape an environment productive to learning, several resource areas specifically support student learning and effective teaching: the university library, the information technology center, and the learning center.

Allen Memorial Library

The primary mission of VCSU’s Allen Memorial Library is to support and enhance the academic programs of Valley City State University by providing the customized learning and teaching resources needed by students, faculty, administration, and staff. Allen Memorial Library provides learning resources in all formats, including access to online databases. The library’s staff helps users to develop information literacy - to recognize when information is needed, and to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the information they find. (Allen Memorial Library mission statement)

The University’s library is located at the heart of the VCSU campus, between McFarland Hall and the Student Center. While many of the library resources are online and accessible 24 hours a day, print and media items, access to printers and other equipment, and reference assistance is available six days a week, when the library building is open. The library offers building-wide wireless access to the Internet, a student lounge and meeting areas, a classroom on second floor, and several listening areas and computer workstations with a variety of multimedia equipment.

To support the overall mission of Valley City State University, Allen Memorial Library personnel provide access to resources through expedited cataloging and technical processing procedures, information literacy instruction at point of need and informal educational settings, efficient interlibrary loan and document delivery systems, and a customized request-for-purchase system that fills over 90% of suggestions for purchase.

The Allen Memorial Library is open approximately 75 hours per week when classes are in session, and approximately 40 hours per week during other times of the year. Professional library faculty and staff provide reference and information literacy services to the campus community, enabling students, faculty and staff to find, locate and use the best information available.

Because VCSU is a laptop institution, the online library resources are extensive. Students, staff and faculty currently have access to over 100 online databases and electronic book collections through the library, with information available in all academic areas. Available databases include Academic Search Premier, SCOPUS, Lexis-Nexis, and ProQuest Education Journals. The focus on these online resources continues to grow due to the continued growth of VCSU’s distance and online educational programming. The Allen Memorial Library is committed to providing access to those patrons who are not on campus.

In addition to its extensive online resources, the library contains over 100,000 print volumes, a music collection which contains musical scores and recordings, and a broad range of audiovisual materials. As well as offering print and digital resources, the library provides interlibrary loan services to increase the materials available to the campus community.

The Library’s web site, at http://library.vcsu.edu, provides customized access points for a variety of resources including links to the state-wide OPAC via the Aleph interface, state and federal government documents, online ebooks, eReserves, electronic journals, and many other resources. On-campus access to all resources is IP authenticated, while members of the VCSU community from a distance can access the subscription resources through a simple remote authentication process. In order to better serve online information demands, the library is continually increasing the number of online and electronic resources.

The Library systematically surveys users to determine patron satisfaction and obtain input for improvement. A 2007 survey indicated that users were, in general, satisfied or very satisfied with library services and collections. Statistics provide evidence that users prefer electronic resources more than four to one. However, fifty-eight percent of students indicated that they came into the library facility "between 3 times a week and twice a month". Four percent said, however, they "never" came into the Library. Student comments for improvement suggested that extended open hours would be appreciated. A joint effort between the Student Senate and the Library made it possible to extend Library open hours two additional hours on the weekends and one additional hour each night of Finals Week in the fall and spring of 2010-2011. Library budget staff increases will make it possible for these extended hours to be continued in the future.

The gate count for the Library has increased over the past ten-year period from around 22,700 (2005-2006) to 33,543 (2010-2011). Ongoing efforts to promote use of the Library facilities continue in the form of updating policy to allow and even encourage food and beverages in the building, a renovation to establish a more contemporary study setting, and the re-location on campus of the Learning Center. An initiative several years ago to encourage campus athletic study tables at the Library has also contributed to the overall increase in gate count. Not only do students attend the required athletic study table but often return with friends on their own time to use the Library facility.

Facilities and Collections

The lower level of Allen Memorial Library houses the Curriculum Library which supports the University's undergraduate and graduate library education programs as well as the Teacher Education Program. It provides a representative collection of pre-school through high school instructional resources, including textbooks and instructional multi-media, along with children's fiction and non-fiction books. In addition, the library cooperates with the Valley City Area Teacher Center and the South East Education Cooperative by housing those collections and providing office space for administrative personnel. Resources in the Teacher Center are available for use by university staff, students, and faculty under the cooperative arrangement. Also housed in the lower level are a closed Periodicals collection, the university archives, and the VCSU Learning Center. The library's reference collection is located on the main floor of the building, and the main collection is located throughout all four floors of the building.

The second floor of Allen Memorial Library features an informal work area with vending machines, microwave, and DVD and VCR equipment, a small study room, and a recently remodeled classroom with wireless access, laser printer and digital presentation equipment. A satellite dish provides access to 128 informational, educational, and entertainment channels. The VCSU community uses this facility for collaborative work, informal class meetings and other campus events.

History and Special Collections

Allen Memorial Library, named after Valley City State University President Carlos Eben Allen (1918-1936), opened its doors in 1951 and presently houses nearly 200,000 books, periodicals, microforms, and non-print materials. The collection's strengths reflect the curricular strengths of the University: education, business, information science, the arts, as well as general science, mathematics, humanities and social sciences. Special collections include
  • the North Dakota Collection (which includes the centennial histories of many towns),
  • a growing Germans from Russia Collection, and
  • the Larry Woiwode Manuscript Collection.
Over the last ten years, there have been numerous changes within the library. The instructional services budget for the library has seen a slight increase to allow for the purchase of materials to support several new programs of study, including the graduate education program. New resources purchased include access to dissertations and theses (full text and abstracts), research-level online journal databases, and print resources. The budget has been increased to support new programs and initiatives. Electronic access to resources has been greatly expanded, and an ever-increasing amount of the financial resources of the library are being devoted to electronic resources. The statewide consortial library management system has been upgraded, which enables continued access to interlibrary loan resources statewide. There have also been some minor improvements made to the library facility.

Effects of the 2009 Flood

Although Allen Memorial Library has been working to migrate selected areas of the collection - specifically journals and reference materials - to electronic format since 2001, the flood fight in the spring of 2009 accelerated those plans. In the spring of 2009 the entire audiovisual, print journal, curriculum library, and lower-level book collection had to be moved from the basement of the library to the main floor due to the threat of flooding. Although no water damage was sustained, re-shelving the 38,000 titles was a major effort and was not completed until early fall of 2009.

As a result, the Library Director, with the assistance of other professional staff re-evaluated the library's mission as an archive of print journal titles as well as the VCSU community's preference for electronic journal articles versus print. A decision was made to purchase four additional JSTOR collections online and then offer archival print collections to other libraries in the state. The process of removing large runs of bound print journals continues into Fall 2011.
Another collection affected by the flood fight was the audiovisual collection. As the items were re-shelved, circulation statistics were compiled. It was found that in most cases audiovisual items in older formats including VHS were not being circulated and recent requests for audiovisual items were increasingly being made for streaming video format. The Library Director is exploring the copyright and cost implications associated with moving the majority of audiovisual holdings to streaming video and purchasing only streaming video in the future when available.

Changes in Staffing Workflow

As electronic resources increasingly make up the larger portions of the collection and are in the greatest demand by patrons, library staff workflow and job descriptions have undergone changes to facilitate access to these resources. Outsourcing cataloging of newly-purchased print items is currently being tested in order to free up time for the Systems Specialist to focus on improved library website design, more consistent access to electronic resources, and the development of tutorials and help documents to facilitate use by the online patron.
 

The Information Technology Center

  • To provide an innovative technology environment and superior customer satisfaction (ITC mission statement).
The ITC provides a variety of services to the campus, including technical support and training, help desk services, information technology resources, and laptop initiative support.

Help Desk Technical Support. The VCSU Help Desk, located in VCSU Rhoades Science Center 119, provides technical support for computers, computer networking, telephone, and interactive video services. The VCSU Help Desk is available for phone and walk-in support approximately 13 hours per day, Monday-Thursday and 8 hours on Friday. A North Dakota University System Help Desk provides additional phone support for approximately 16 hours per day, seven days per week, except holidays.

Personal Web Portal. All registered students have access to a personalized web-based portal. The portal organizes web-based services and provides a single point of access to email, a personal calendar, custom technical support documents, VCSU news and information, personal web site and file storage space, software downloads, and class information. Students have access to these services anytime, anywhere, on any computer with a web browser and network connectivity.

Online Learning Management System. All VCSU classes use an LMS (Learning Management System) to enhance student learning. The LMS includes tools for course handouts, announcements, group and private discussions, test administration, internet links, and delivery of course content. The typical classroom course uses one or more of the tools, while totally online classes use all of the available tools. An internet link to each online course a student is registered for automatically appears within the student's personal web portal.

IP Telephony and Unified Messaging. All VCSU employees and students have an IP (internet protocol) telephone extension and a Microsoft Exchange account. A special Cisco Systems "software phone" is available at no extra charge for all registered students. The software phone turns an ordinary computer into a sophisticated video phone that can be used to contact other users. Cisco System "Presence Detection" allows a user to see when another user can be contacted and the communication means available, e.g. voice call, video conference, chat, or voicemail. Calls and messages between users can be placed anywhere in the world without incurring long distance fees. Voice mail messages appear in the user Microsoft Exchange account along with email messages.

Web Conferencing. Faculty and students use a web conferencing system to allow guest speakers and students located at distant locations to participate in a live session. The system is occasionally used for general student advising and communication purposes. Users can collaborate via chat, voice, video, and an electronic whiteboard.

Class Recordings. Some classes use a recording system to capture voice, computer, and video information. The system serves several purposes, including the following: 1) students absent from a class session view missed information, 2) students can review a class session to improve their understanding or to review for an exam, and 3) faculty can create reusable multimedia resources and store them in the online learning management system.

Software Licensing and Distribution. VCSU obtains institutional site licenses for a variety of professional software. Microsoft Office Professional and antivirus software is available to all registered students. Other software is distributed to users based on the unique needs of learners and courses. The software is professionally installed on University owned computers, or it may be distributed to distance learners for installation on their personally-owned computers. Reference the section on Notebook Computers for additional software available on VCSU-owned computers.

Internet Access to Electronic Library Subscriptions. Web-based servers provide registered students with convenient access to nearly all of the subscription-based, electronic journals of the VCSU Library. This service extends valuable library resources to online students and to students studying off campus.

Campus Connections for Administrative Computing. Campus Connections is a North Dakota University System administrative computing service that provides all students with internet access to class registration, class schedules, grades, fee statements, and financial aid award statements.

Interactive Video Services. Some classes use internet based, two-way interactive video to provide real-time collaboration with other students and professionals at multiple locations. The North Dakota Interactive Video Network (IVN) is a high quality system used primarily for the delivery of entire courses. IVN classrooms are typically designed and equipped to be used exclusively for interactive video conferencing, especially when multiple sites are involved.

Notebook Computers. Every full-time, on-campus student is issued a notebook computer for the entire semester. Every student enrolled in the VCSU elementary education program at the NDSU campus, regardless of part-time or full-time status, is issued a notebook computer for the entire semester.

Depending on the amount of technology fee paid as part of normal course registration, some part-time students qualify to receive a notebook computer on a full-time basis at no extra charge. If they do not qualify under the no-additional-fee provision, part-time students may elect to pay an additional fee in order to have a computer issued to them on a full-time basis. The rules and process for full-time computer access by part-time students is available at the VCSU Help Desk or online.

Finally, part-time, on-campus students have the following two options to gain access to a notebook computer at no additional fee:
  • Checkout a computer from the Help Desk as needed for coursework and as available for homework, or
  • Share a computer with one other part-time student who agrees to joint responsibility.
All users participating in the notebook initiative get new computers every 24 months and software is upgraded at least annually. Notebook computer access includes Microsoft Office Professional (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access), Adobe Photoshop Elements (image editing) and Acrobat (PDF viewer), Pinnacle Studio (video editing and DVD authoring), Antivirus, a computer carrying case, and a computer exchange service in case of damage or corruption. All VCSU graduates participating in the notebook computer initiative have the option to purchase the computer at the end of each lease.

On-Campus IT Services. In addition to notebook computers, classes and workshops held on the VCSU campus and at extended campus classroom locations in Fargo have access to the following IT services:
  • Smart Classrooms. Classrooms are equipped to take advantage of the notebook computers. A typical classroom includes tables, chairs, network and electrical connections for every student, a networked laser printer, a LCD projector, and other audio/video equipment.
  • Network Connections. Notebook computers can connect to the internet via Ethernet, phone modem, or cutting-edge wireless. A fiber optic backbone network connects all buildings. There are approximately twice as many high-speed, end-user, Ethernet connections as people. Wireless access points provide service throughout campus. Modem and broadband connectivity is available off-campus from a variety of local internet service providers.
  • IT Equipment Checkout. Digital video cameras, digital still cameras, LCD projectors, amplified speakers, and document scanners are available for periodic checkout from the Help Desk. This is a free service to all users.
Effects of World-Class Technology. This rich technology environment has enabled a transformation of nearly all aspects of the learning environment. Faculty have become proficient at integrating technology in instruction, including online environments. Students are more involved in the learning process as they use their computers to take notes, conduct research, communicate, create, and solve problems. Students develop electronic portfolios that demonstrate Abilities not documented on a resume or transcript. The campus website has become the preferred campus information system, and in many cases the only source of particular information. Multiple surveys, conducted over several years, provide evidence that students, faculty, and staff believe the information technology at VCSU provides a more effective learning environment.

Monitoring Levels of Usage. Usage of information technology is monitored using electronic log files, campus surveys, and observation. Electronic log files include network DHCP logs, server logs, server application logs, network data flow logs, counts related to the number of courses within the learning management system, logs within the course management system that track student usage, and analytical software that tracks activity on websites. Campus surveys have periodically asked questions related to the use of technology both in and outside the classroom. Finally, direct observation and group discussion is valuable for gathering information about general use of classroom video and sound systems, use of laptop computers, and use of laptop peripherals available at the help desk.

ITC decisions that directly impact students, faculty, and staff are made with systematic attempts to gain input from all users. The CIO consults regularly with the Technology Advisory Committee to develop technology plans and policies. A major decision, such as the biennial laptop upgrade, is supported by product showcases with vendors at the Student Center, student surveys, faculty and staff surveys, rationales from programs making specific product requests, and discussions with Student Senate.
 

The Learning Center

The VCSU Learning Center began as a Writing Center in the fall of 2005 in response to direction from the State Board of Higher Education that each campus provide writing instruction support for students who receive an ACT score in writing of less than 16, and/or struggle in ENGL 100 and ENGL 110. Its original purpose was to help VCSU students write more effectively. VCSU upperclassmen were selected and trained to tutor students in need of learning support for their writing assignments. In Fall 2009, the Center began offering math tutoring services to students in Math 102 and 103, using a similar tutoring model. With the direction of a new VPAA in Spring 2009 and a new Center Director in Spring 2010, discussion of the Center's purpose in supporting student learning increased. Now renamed the Learning Center, in recognition of its increased scope of services, the Center is located in the lower level of the Allen Memorial Library, and provides an inviting yet studious environment for students.

The Learning Center continues to support the learning needs of VCSU students as well as special requests for learning support from faculty, athletic coaches and administration. The greatest request is for the support of writing. Students with writing and/or research needs from non-General Education courses continue to increase each semester. To support the learning needs of all VCSU students, the Learning Center averages 20 available hours of math tutoring per week and 45 available hours of writing tutoring per week. Writing and math tutors are also available during scheduled team study tables for each athletic program.

Learning support requests from faculty and athletic coaches include the support of research and writing needs of face-to-face and online students, and workshops to support research writing, study skills, test taking. Praxis I test preparation, learning intervention support for targeted athletes, and tracking of weekly independent study table time completed by athletes. Learning support requests from administration include delivery of ENGL 199 Composition Lab as a co-enroll to ENGL 110 for students whose English ACT score is between 14 and 17 and learning intervention support for students on academic probation.

Below are the numbers of students served and the hours spent tutoring for Fall 2010 to Spring 2011.
Learning Center
 
Athletic study table time spent in the Learning Center is not included in the above data. The Learning Center tracks in a shared calendar with the coaches the check-in time and check-out time for approximately 125 athletes each week. Study table requirements range from 1 hour to 4 hours per week pending athletic program requirements. An athlete may use study table time to meet with a tutor for learning support.

A pilot is scheduled towards the end of the 2011 summer session for the delivery of a student satisfaction survey to students served during the 2011 summer session. The delivery of this survey aligns with the process for delivery of course evaluations. The Center also has an advisory board - made up of faculty and coaching staff - who provide feedback and suggestions.
 

Student Academic Services

Disability Support Services. The Office of Student Academic Services provides support and assistance to students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are encouraged to submit their documentation to the office of Student Academic Services as soon as acceptance to Valley City State University has been received. The number of students seeking services has remained steady over the past several years. In 2011-12 the office is expecting to serve 24 students seeking a wide range of services such as speech to text conversions, note taking, test taking assistance, and text book conversions. In order to effectively meet the needs of various disabilities, the office uses a number of modern tools such as screen readers, Livescribe pens and speech to text software. The office served 21 students in 09-10, 24 in 08-09, and 25 in 07-08.

Tutoring. Tutoring services are offered in both the Learning Center and in the Office of Student Academic Services. The Learning Center is open to all students and tutors are available in the areas of math and composition. In the Office of Student Academic Services, peer tutoring is available in most of the courses at Valley City State University for two hours a week per course. In order to qualify for peer tutoring services, a student must attend class regularly, possess a desire to learn/willingness to improve, be receiving a letter grade of “C” or lower, meet with the instructor prior to requesting a tutor, and have completed any prerequisite courses prior to requesting a tutor.

Students at VCSU appreciate and understand the need for student academic support services. Each year, the Student Senate Finance Commission approves an allocation of student fee dollars to support tutoring in both the Learning Center and Office of Student Academic Services. On the Noel/Levitz SSI, students rated both, Tutoring services are readily available 5.95 and Academic support services adequately meet the needs of students 5.85, significantly higher than national averages.
 

Evaluation of Core Component 3d

Valley City State University provides a variety of resources that support student learning and effective teaching. The library provides a variety of physical and online resources. IT strives to provide technology conducive to learning. The institution provides services for student tutoring, help sessions, and mentoring. Faculty and staff are dedicated to provide a strong learning experience.

Strengths: Clearly, one of VCSU's strengths is its access to technology. Students and instructors are provided with laptops and software related to their programs and what the market demands in their disciplines. The institution researches and invests in new technologies to meet the changing needs of the campus. Additionally, students and faculty have a robust variety of physical and online resources to access through the institution's library, effective for both the face-to-face and online students.

New Initiatives: As instructional technology evolves, so do the needs of the students and faculty. The IT Department is researching the effectiveness of apps and cloud computing, which would enable students to use the device of their choosing (i.e. iPad, iPhone, laptop) in which to download software. Classrooms throughout campus are being upgraded to include Smart Boards and projector systems that work like smart boards. Additionally, the Learning Center is a work in progress, as hours, tutors, and programs are added and the need increases via the number of students utilizing the Center.

Challenges: Technology is constantly evolving, and the ability to keep up with this evolution is challenging. As more courses are placed online, more server space is needed for these courses. Online students have different needs from the face-to-face students, and they have limited access to campus personnel to ask their questions. Research must look at the effectiveness of these online courses. As the institution continues to create online programs, it must consider the resources needed to successfully implement these programs. Overall, research must continually be conducted and data gathered to determine the needs and directions of these resources.
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