SWON Visits - Union Institute & University
Monday, November 2, 2015
Posted by: Melanie Blau McDonald
Most of us are familiar with the phrase ‘digital native’ which refers to a person who’s grown up with digital content. They’ve not experienced the world without it. Similarly a document may be referred to as ‘born digital’ which means that it existed digitally first and then perhaps was printed or made into some other format second. Union Institute & University was born to distance learning. As Matt Pappathan, Director of Library Services at Union Institute & University, shared with me the history of school, he made it clear that while many universities now offer distance learning, Union is truly the expert based on its entire experience. Today that experience consists of using all manner of tools including digital natives’ favorites. While they do have campuses around the country, all of their courses are online. Founded in 1964, its aim was to serve non-traditional students by providing flexible, affordable and high-quality distance learning. And those are still Union’s goals today.
Library staff serves students working on their Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral studies in fields ranging from Business, Education, Social Science and the Humanities. Advanced degrees focus primarily on leadership, the humanities and counseling. Using text messaging, interactive chat, email, telephone, live within library hours and by-appointment, library staff try to be available when the students need help, no matter what time zone they’re connecting from. They use GoToMeeting when possible because it supports screen sharing and is more like an in-person research meeting than other platforms.
Union Librarians also use GoToMeeting each month to share what they know with their peers who are across the country and time zones too. They compare search statements to solve complicated and focused searches, usually coming from the Doctoral students. Just as Union Institute & University began as an experimental school willing to try new things, so too the librarians are willing to use whatever tools are useful to support their students and each other wherever they are. Quality distance education is the result.