Daily Archives: March 31, 2006

More On Ethnographic Methods Webcast

Earlier this week I posted a summary of a webcast sponsored by the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community about “Ethnographic Methods and Participatory Design in an Academic Library”. As a followup, for those interested, Darlene Fichter attended the webcast and provided some fairly detailed notes on her blog. So if you couldn’t be there, you may wish to review Darlene’s report.

Bring “Helicopter Parents” In For A Landing @ Your Library

Today’s CHE provides a link to a Survey of Current College Parent Experiences (PDF), which, among other things, tells us that:

“Of the 839 parents surveyed, 74 percent communicated with their student two or three times a week and one in three did so at least once a day.”

This is consistent with what our Student Success people tell us here at Kansas and is one the the reasons why KU is one of the many institutions to have created a Parents’ Association, which begs the question: what are libraries doing for parents?

I first started to think about the significance of parent involvement a few years ago when the NSO staff at Washington State took the library off the standard summer orientation tour. I didn’t hear complaints about this from incoming students, but I did hear complaints from their parents who, for some odd reason, wanted their students to be oriented to academic resources as well as to social opportunities. That feedback helped with later NSO discussions. Here at Kansas, we have a very successful NSO workshop program, but the Parents’ Association is new and we’ll have to work to get involved. This would dovetail nicely with some development activities that we’ve pursued with parents of current students in partnership with the KU Endowment.

As the oft-cited-this-week Susan Gibbons mentioned in her presentation at the Taiga Forum, there is another dimension to “helicopter parenting,” as well. Her research showed that undergraduates are likely to consult parents during the research process and she concluded that effective ILI programming for parents could help direct their children back toward library resources and services during one of those weekly (or daily) phone calls.

So, another audience for our services and another opportunity to partner with our colleagues in Student Affairs!

Commission On Higher Ed Aims Sight On Accreditation

I hope ACRLog readers have been following the proceedings of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education over the last few months. Sometimes we are so focused on our libraries and institutions that we neglect to pay attention to the industry in which we work. I suppose that’s one reason I recently shared my higher education reading list. This morning the major higher education news outlets reported on a big development from the Commission, though I don’t think it was unexpected given its nature and the past work of its chairman.

Previously the Commission, which is focusing on how to create greater accountability for American IHEs, seemed to be concentrating on a national standards test for college students. Today they turn their attention to the regional accreditation process itself. In a issue paper released by the commission, they essentially question what in their view is:

a system that is created, maintained, paid for and governed by institutions is necessarily more likely to look out for institutional interests.

The Commission appears to have a number of problems with the current accreditation system beyond the fact that those being accredited create and support the system (I don’t think I’m stretching things by saying that the Commission is suggesting that because colleges and universities support the system, we go too easy on each other):
* accreditation standards between the regional agencies vary too widely
* specialized program accreditations are completely voluntary
* the quality of the higher education has fallen dramatically despite accreditation
* the current system if more focused on the needs of IHEs than the needs of the public
* the public has difficulty accessing accreditation data and reports

What is the solution to the problems of the existing accreditation system? More federal government oversight and involvement of course. The paper says the solution is:

A new organization could achieve the multiple needs for alignment. The Congress and the President could enact legislation creating The National Accreditation Foundation.

I believe it is Larry Hardesty who is fond of saying, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” in referring to such proposals. Having just went through the self-study process at my own institution, and having recently returned from participating on a re-accreditation review team at another institution, I would agree that the regional accreditation system – a system in which we review ourselves – is going to have some weaknesses and challenges. However, it is a system that in the opinion of many academics works effectively to maintain the quality of higher education. It is true, as the issue paper points out, that very few institutions ever lose their accreditation, but those who have worked within the system know that accreditation teams do observe and identify serious accountability flaws within institutions that are then closely monitored by the accrediting bodies until they are corrected. The thought of the federal government, especially given the ineptitude of the current administration, taking over the responsibility for higher education accreditation certainly sends a chill up my spine.