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NRO 10


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From Book to Internet? - Significance of Learning Resources for the Student

Kaisa Sinikara, Director
University of Helsinki
Undergraduate Library
(translation Ilkka Pellikka) 

University of Helsinki has committed itself with the other Finnish universities to develop network learning and to participate in the creation of a Virtual University. The motivation for this are the current changes in society and in the styles of knowledge work. A university student must gain competence in functioning in the society of the future, in using and evaluating information and knowledge published in different formats, so that she or he can produce new knowledge and services. 

The teaching and learning environment has been described in Helsinki university's Programme for the Development of Teaching and Studies 1998 - 2000; the updated programme for years 2001-2003, 
see (

The previous plans concentrated on the development of teaching only; now for the first time, the targeted aims were both guided and independent learning environments seen from the student's point of view.

The current learning resources in the library

Undergraduate library made a survey in collaboration with Oulu University Library and Oulu Region Polytechnic in 1999, in which were surveyed the value of different study materials and learning styles to the student. At the same time the aim was to gather concrete feedback for the developing of the library services. Undergraduate library has for years habitually made clearings and surveys of its functions. This time the intention was to get acquainted with the students' opinions and to map out their learning styles. (see:

770 students from six faculties answered the questionnaire. The main points are:

1. The centrality of the book in the studying process surprised us. The book was overwhelmingly the most important tool for studying and learning , although there were relatively large differences in regard of the faculty.

2. The value of lectures was clearly less than the studying based on the independent use of literary sources. There were differences between the faculties. The one concentrating mainly on books was the Faculty of Law, whereas the Faculty of Sciences used for the greatest part other study materials than books. 

3. The Finnish student seems to work alone. The paucity of group works and amount of reading done at home support this statement.

4. Internet materials were not used as study material. Reason for this might be the scarcity of material in the net that corresponds to textbooks, or that the students are not accustomed to use them. About half of the questionnaire's responders had Internet link at home. 

5. Relatively few had taken part in information retrieval courses. This prompted the libraries to reconsider their training responsibility and to redesign the information literacy programs.

National services

Interest in the use of IT in teaching has been increased by the support of both the universities and the state during the last few years. In 1997-1999, the Ministry of Education plentifully funded the creation of networks and the acquisition of hardware for the universities. Currently the content production has become of prime importance. The universities have a need of moving from the period of single IT enthusiasts to a stage of development where network environments and digital contents are a natural part of university teaching and studies.

In Finland, the libraries have a tradition of networking. One notable result of this is the Finnish National Electronic Library (FinELib), supported partially by the Ministry of Education. In a few years it has acquired for the universities' use databases and several thousands of digital full text periodicals. The researchers' possibilities of efficient network material use are relatively good because of this. New high grade materials are constantly being acquired. (link: )

For the time being, few users are students, but FinELib is of great importance to researchers.

Cooperational networking

To survey the problems concerning network learning, the Ministry of Education financed among other things the joint project of five university libraries, Learning Resources in the Internet, in 1989-1999. ( )

The original task of the project was 
1) to find organisational structures and practises for the financing of digitized learning resources and 
2) to test technical solutions and environments in which these digital resources are used.

The coordinator of the project was the Undergraduate library. All together, about 50 persons from different fields of academic life were taking part in the project during 1998-1999. The other participating institutions were the libraries of the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, of the Universities of Vaasa and Jyväskylä and of the Helsinki University of Technology.

The Helsinki university's directing group's active cooperation greatly enhanced the project's interest value. In about half a years' period the pilot group and its three subgroups met 28 times, despite the fact that the chairman was the vice-rector, whose time is much in demand, as well as professors and heads of administrative departments. The experience was a shared learning process, during which was established a shared view of the factors of change imperative in the network learning process. This view is reflected in the report Academic Teaching and Learning Material in the Net (in Finnish), in which the expanding of network learning in universities is charted from different viewpoints. 

Already at a very early stage of the project, it became evident that a wider scope had to be taken in order to answer all upcoming questions. Also, a special, detailed study was made concerning copyright issues in the digital learning environment. The single, main result of the project, therefore, is certainly the realisation of the fact that the organisation, production, use and financing of digitalized learning and teaching resources all form but one object of developing - they are intertwined in such a manner that one aspect of their development cannot be handled without paying attention to all of them.

The more detailed arguments and suggestions of the project include:

* Universities must estimate the useful amount of computer assisted teaching and learning; it is not to be recommended that the whole curriculum should or could be done "virtually". After the evaluation, possibilities shall be created for students and staff to facilitate their use of digitalized learning resources.
* Unified copyright practises should be agreed upon between universities.
* Resources and time should be available for teachers to get training and assistance in computer assisted teaching and for the planning of it.
* Some sort of mechanisms should be created in universities to evaluate the quality of the digitalized learning resources and computer assisted teaching. These evaluations are to have a place in filling academic teaching vacancies.
* The need for a publication series for digitalized learning resources must be studied.
* The growth in use of information technology in universities must be monitored so as to ensure that the academic unity of staff and students is strengthened and learning standards raised by it.
* Libraries are to be developed as open environments of learning, where printed and digitalized learning resources, reading areas and pc's, and information services are found all in one place. The integration of these learning centres to academic teaching must be supported.

Report: Yliopisto-opetus ja opintoaineistot verkossa 1999, 300 pgs.
( )

Developing projects 2001

With the support of the university, Undergraduate library has gained the capacity to produce digital services for teaching that are needed in networking. This year (2000), the University of Helsinki has founded a Center for supporting teachers, which will especially aid the pedagogic development of teachers and provide training in the use of IT technology in teaching. In the university, a network type collaboration between the library, the IT department, and the Learning Resources Centre is of utmost importance. The further developing of Undergraduate Library has been collected under the rubric of "Services of the Learning Resources Center". ( )
This has four main groups:

1. Organizing the locations and hardware as well as the user services supportive of the students' and teachers' work in cooperation with other service units.

2. Developing electronic reading rooms and a study material database, and integrating the services in such a way that the databases as well as the libraries' and study administration's IT organizations are mutually adaptable and compatible. 

3. The acquisition and governance of the digital study material and/or their user rights (cf. The HERON-project in Britain).

4. Academic netskills; the joint project of several libraries to create a module-structured program of information literacy.

Only if the sectors responsible for teaching, for learning, for libraries, and for the IT work in unison, can the Virtual University be fully and effectively realized . We need organizational networks and international cooperation as well as freedom from preconceived opinions when searching for partners in cooperation. To the libraries, the situation presents a demanding challenge while being a most interesting possibility of development, in which I believe we shall succeed.

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