Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ball State Libraries Promote Undergraduate Research Culture

Ball State University Libraries’ programs, services, and rich collections of digital and print resources provide a productive environment to nurture and advance an undergraduate research culture that supports immersive learning experiences for Ball State students.

We continually seek ways to enhance students’ undergraduate educational experiences for learning and discovery a focus of the University’s objective to provide immersive learning opportunities that meld content, skills, societal need, and students’ interests into an intense, real-world transformative experience. Development of an undergraduate research agenda is a valuable tool and opportunity for the University Libraries to support students’ academic plans and immersive experiences at Ball State as they prepare to advance to graduate study and/or to succeed in the workforce. They will develop and enhance problem-solving skills, improve communication skills, and learn to work collaboratively.

Selective examples of how the University Libraries advance and promote an undergraduate research culture that assists in promoting immersive learning include:
• Access to an ever expanding universe of sophisticated digital information resources
• Global resources available 24/7/365 at student and faculty desktops
• Accessibility to the latest computer technology to support classroom learning, research projects, and utilization of emerging technologies
• Physical environment that promotes collaborative and individual learning
• Expert librarians who provide help and guidance to students and faculty for research projects

In June, 2006, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) published a research paper, "A Culture of Evidence: Postsecondary Assessment and Learning Outcomes." It identifies four dimensions of student learning:

• Workplace readiness and general education skills
• Content knowledge/discipline-specific knowledge and skills
• “Soft skills," or non-cognitive skills such as teamwork, communication, and creativity and
Student engagement.

The University Libraries greatly assist Ball State students in these four dimensions of student learning by means of dynamic research resources, cutting-edge technologies, an environment conducive to student creativity and collaboration, and committed professional and paraprofessional personnel.

Our technologies and classroom-critical electronic academic databases and the array of educational resources greatly conserves our students’ research time while also providing them with rich and relevant resources for added depth and specificity for their research. Convenient access to excellent computer technology and productivity software allows students opportunities to conduct sophisticated analyses, synthesize research, and create high-quality work.

Specific examples of these resources and tools provided by the University Libraries in support of workplace readiness, knowledge and skills development, soft skills enhancement, cooperative learning, and student engagement for creating an undergraduate research culture and augmenting immersive learning include:

• 363 public access computers, including 19 Mac systems, that are available 120.5 hours each week for student use
• Flatbed scanners, film scanners, digital video cameras, and circulating laptops available to support student research projects
• FindIt@BSU, an open URL link resolver technology that links database citations to full-text articles from almost 13,500 e-journals and to interlibrary loan services
• Software available on public access computers to support research including statistical packages such as SPSS, Minitab, and Fathom; design programs Adobe InDesign, Printshop, and Illustrator; and video processing applications Adobe Premier, Sony Vegas, and Final Cut Studio
• More than 105,000 digital objects in the Libraries’ Digital Media Repository that include scholarly journals, audio and video files, newspapers, photographs, maps, and much more
• Subscriptions to over 200 excellent academic databases, including Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, Lexis Nexis, and Web of Science to provide students and faculty with point-and-click access to millions of full-text journal articles and scholarly citations as well as thousands of e-books, newspapers, and digital images for research and learning
• SerialsSolution’s 360Search, a federated search utility that allows students to search multiple electronic collections of e-resources simultaneously and present results in an organized results set
• Free public printing from the University Libraries’ desktops or individual’s laptops
• Nearly 844,000 books, 276,000 print journal volumes, and 231,500 microforms to support research and learning
• Expert librarians who help students by providing in-person and personal research and reference assistance as well as answer questions, provide guidance, and share their expertise both in person and through Live Chat.

Librarians also provide instruction in a variety of formats, including sessions tailored to meet the individual needs of academic classes In addition to facilitating easy access to the University Libraries’ resources and tools that serve to strengthen Ball State’s undergraduate students’ research and immersive learning experiences, the ETS paper emphasizes the importance of students’ developing their “soft skills” for communication, creativity, and collaboration.

To accomplish this, the University Libraries strive to create an environment of community conducive to collaboration and creativity for students. For example, the popular Bookmark Café @ Bracken Library is a place where our students can grab a cup of coffee or tea, a variety of snacks, and meet to talk with friends or colleagues. In addition, the Libraries offer other gathering spaces with comfortable furniture where students can watch world news or other television programming, and where they can chat and discuss issues of all types with each other.

Ball State University Libraries take a progressive, mission-driven approach to re-imagining the academic library as a hub for scholarship, collaboration, and networking. The conceptualization of the University Libraries as “a destination for research, learning, and friends” demonstrates our on-going commitment to creating and sustaining an undergraduate research culture as a vital part of immersive learning experiences and cooperative learning supported by the Libraries’ rich collections, excellent services, and advanced technologies.

For more information, contact Dr. Arthur W. Hafner, Dean of Ball State University Libraries, AHafner@bsu.edu, 765-285-5277.
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