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Scottie Bruch, assistant director of the Sturgis Library, finds that taking online library classes through Black Hills State University offers her the convenience she needs to balance a full-time job and her family life while completely the educational program she needs to advance her career.  She says the class material is relevant to her job duties and feels that the classes provide her with additional insight for her position as assistant director of the library.
Responding to a shortage of trained librarians in the state, Black Hills State University developed a library media program that is available entirely online.

This fall the BHSU College of Education and the E.Y. Berry Library-Learning Center reintroduced the library media program in a completely online format. The program has generated a lot of interest and enrollment tripled this fall.

The all-online format was developed to better serve students throughout the state and help alleviate a shortage of trained librarians. The online library media program creates an opportunity for people already working in a school or library to pursue their library education while maintaining their employment. Nationwide a shortage is developing as more librarians are retiring than those completing the needed education.

“This program offers incredible convenience and flexibility. Even the practicum requirements may be completed at a local library, which means our students can finish all of the coursework without leaving their hometown,” Dr. Nancy Hall, dean of the College of Education, says. “With the utilization of technology to facilitate student learning, this program is especially relevant for today’s librarians.”

Students agree that the convenience of online learning is creating opportunities for them to earn a degree while they continue working.

“I am very pleased with this program. It has given me the opportunity to get college credit for courses online.  This is the only way I am able to access classes at this time,” Debra Moor from Kadoka says. “Students need to be self-motivated for this program to work, but it is clearly the way to go in this rural region.”

Margaret Pate, Rapid City, enrolled in the library program before it went  online but says the switch to online is much more convenient for her.

“I drove three nights a week from Rapid City to Spearfish. This program is much more convenient for students who are working. It allows students to work on it at an hour that fits their schedules rather than having to be at a class at a certain time. The requirements are still there, but the hours are more flexible,” Pate says.

Students from throughout the state including Pierre, Kadoka, Mobridge, Parkston, as well as Rapid City, Sturgis and Spearfish enrolled in the fall courses.  There was also one student enrolled from Lander, Wyo.

The focus of the library media minor at BHSU has always been to train library media specialists for school systems. Students completing the course work can then obtain certification as library media specialists in both South Dakota and Wyoming. Information on certification is available from the South Dakota Department of Education and the Wyoming Professional Standards Board through the Wyoming Department of Education.

Though the primary focus of the program is training school library media specialists, employees of any library can benefit from the training according to Hall.  Many of the students enrolled are currently working in or plan to pursue careers in public libraries. In addition to preparing students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education to be school media specialists, library training is an excellent complement to students pursuing degrees in such fields as English or history.  Students who have already completed their bachelor’s degree can take four of the courses for graduate credit.

The spring semester began recently for the course Library Media & Technology (ED431/531).  BHSU plans to offer three courses this summer.  For more information about the program visit the program web site at: http://iis.bhsu.edu/lis/librarymedia/index.cfm or call (605) 642-6834.

According to Rajeev Bukralia, library director and chair of the library media program, the online courses are delivered using cutting-edge technologies that stimulate a higher degree of student-instructor interaction and improve students’ understanding of the subject material.

This is one of several distance learning initiatives BHSU is pursuing to meet the needs of students who are looking for educational options. The university offers flexible, independent learning options at off-campus sites at several locations in Rapid City and other locations as well as online, correspondence, and videoconference classes. In the last five years, enrollment in online courses has more than doubled at BHSU.

BHSU offers a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction (MSCI) which is delivered in an online cohort format as well as site-based options. The online courses are comprised of students, many who are working teachers, located anywhere in the world who pursue their entire coursework via the Internet. The MSCI students, who have the option of a MSCI reading specialist and the MSCI technology specialist, proceed through the program together in a sequence of courses leading to the degree.

The increase in online enrollments at BHSU is a trend that Sheila Aaker, coordinator for extended services at BHSU, expects to continue. BHSU currently offers more than 30 different online courses that include several general education courses, business courses, sociology courses, education courses and others. She indicated enrollments are pretty evenly split between students who are attending courses at BHSU who take an online course to compliment their schedule and students who are not taking other courses at BHSU. Students at other state universities in South Dakota often choose to take online courses offered by another Regental campus because the course goes directly on the student’s transcript and is applied to their degree program. Courses are also often transferred to out-of-state universities.

For more information about distance learning options at BHSU call 1-847-8134 or visit www.bhsu.edu/distancelearning.