Archive for the ‘Distance learning’ Category

Blooming the Wrong Way

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Daffodils in our rock garden, blooming while facing the fence after years of blooming towards the backyard

Daffodils in our rock garden, blooming backwards towards the fence after years of blooming forward towards the backyard

As most gardeners know, the arrival of Spring means it’s time to clear out the overgrown dreck of Winter.

It’s been a season of clearing out the dreck from my career as well. Previously, in the midst of motivational ennui, I believed there were very few options to choose from and that leaving librarianship was a near certainty once I was done with my second Masters degree this year. While I have a vision of integrated learning technologies/instructional design, distance learning, and information science, I couldn’t find it existing elsewhere in the health sciences field and it saddened me. Please note I’m not saying instructional design in distance learning doesn’t exist in medical librarianship; I know full well it does and several of you who are likely reading this are champions at it. What was there was not quite the same thing as what I envisioned myself working towards. It’s hard to articulate what you see that doesn’t yet exist. I was like these daffodils, blooming with ideas but facing the wrong way from where I knew I needed to be going.

Is there such a thing as a mid-second career crisis? If so, I think this Winter was it for me.

I’m no longer there and am starting to see new opportunities on the horizon. What the garden has gently reminded me this Spring regarding career growth and development is this:

It takes hard work to clear things out – you can see how overgrown with weeds things are to the left and along the fence due to a year of neglect. Blackberry brambles, dandelions and all sorts of other crud is choking out the vinca towards the back, but I have to be careful not to rip it out along with the dreck. The same strategy goes with a career. Maybe ripping it out and throwing everything in the yard waste bin isn’t the only option and there’s still beauty in there worth holding on to. It just takes some digging to find it again. Speaking of digging, I recently found my notes from Managing and Revitalizing Your Career as a Medical Librarian in 2012. What did I write as my first thing under Where do you want to be? for mapping my pathways to new opportunities? “Distance Education Teacher: Concepts of Place and Space?” Yep. I’d already articulated part of my vision then promptly lost sight of it again.

It takes time to clear things out – I’m such an all-or-nothingist. I’m still struggling with the fact that the vast majority of the rock garden is a wreck right now while only one tiny section is looking nice, and to me it’s taken an awful lot of time for very little reward. I want our rock garden to be worthy of Better Homes and Gardens now! Can’t I just fast forward to the fun part where I’m perusing the nursery aisles for the perfect new plants, latte in hand? Reality is I’m intentionally planning 30 minutes each evening to be out there, clearing out the dreck one bit at a time. While there can be epiphany moments of clarity regarding career directions and growth, they also take little bits of consistent time to develop fully. I’m not going to neglect things for 2 years again.

Avoid toxicity – I could dump casoron, RoundUp or other nasty things on the remains of what I rip up to keep the weeds at bay, but does that benefit or poison ourselves and the environment? The same thing applies for career networking – find those who help strengthen your layers of positive growth as newspaper and bark mulch does to choke out the weeds without destroying everything else in the process. It’ll take ongoing maintenance to keep things that way. You’ll find you’ll also help others grow forward as you dedicate time maintaining these positive networking relationships too.

When you’re making progress, things will still hurt you along the way –

Don't worry, I'm current on Tdap.

Don’t worry, I’m current on Tdap.

Case in point, my not-so-graceful fall off a mossy rock where I somehow caught most of my weight on my inner wrist. Oops. OW. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d just continued to ignore the dreck in the rock garden and distracted myself with the rest of life, but where is the growth and beauty in that? Life and careers involve other people, and other people involve Unexpected Things Happening. Take the time you need to heal and learn from Whatever Happens as you grow forward instead of avoiding the potential risks of doing so in the first place.

Avoid the ‘Do What You Love’ mantra – do I honestly love falling on my wrist, getting scratched by blackberry brambles, and wondering just how much dirt on my jeans and miscellaneous twig bits in my hair are socially presentable enough to carry on the rest of the evening after I’m done gardening? Of course not.  Avoid devaluing yourself and others by saying the same thing about all aspects of our work too, especially those of us in academia. Slate says it better than I can. Balance is good.

Twitter as Continuing Education

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014


Quick. come up with a way to teach how to participate in a Twitter hashtag chat *without using a single word*. This assignment nearly killed me.

Quick. teach how to participate in a Twitter hashtag chat without using a single word or picture. This instructional design assignment nearly killed me.

Two Twitter-related things to draw your attention to for now with rambling insights to follow later.*

Get ready for our second #medlibs journal club led by Tony Nguyen on Thursday, February 27th at 9pm Eastern/6 Pacific! We’ll be discussing The value of library and information services in patient care: results of a multisite study. Details are at the #medlibs chat blog.

Also, please help out a library student in Oxford with her dissertation about Twitter for professional development. She is taking on what I’ve long been meaning to with a much broader scope, and she’s offered to share her results later.

* Yes, I’ve been quiet here for months. That’s changing now that I’m closer to finding my new job/third of the way done with second masters degree/various professional commitments/family/life balance. I think. Some weeks are more questionable than others but this isn’t one of them.


Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Edit: Thanks Connie for the comment alerting to Managing Burnout in the Workplace: A guide for information professionals

So, to make an incredibly long story short, September was an enormous month of change over here. Our son started middle school (the Summer of Seventh Grade has paid off well thus far), our house was burglarized (stuff is stuff, we are fortunate and so many good people helped to outweigh the bad), we’re waiting for the results of some family health diagnostic testing, and I have resigned my full time position over here.

Wait, what?


This year has shown me that life is short and it was time to implement a career change I’ve been dancing around for quite some time: I’m starting the University of North Texas Learning Technologies program this month, and am seeking part time employment opportunities because I like having my evening hours with my family. I anticipate graduating in December 2014 and being involved more extensively in support of online education, which is undeniably my true passion. Look at the number of posts I managed to write this year – what were most of them about?

However, I have been talking with many of us across the nation about some (or all) of the aspects of making a career change away from librarianship and have noticed an alarming trend: Many of us are not happy. I’m not talking about being unhappy because Starbucks ran out of pumpkin spice syrup or because the satellite dish went out, but extremely unhappy to the point of exhaustion and feeling hopeless about work. This isn’t a healthy way to enter into National Medical Librarians Month!

If this resonates with you in any way, please read The Unscientific Causes and Cure to Burnout and know that you are not alone. Please take care of yourself first and remember we are humans and not machines. Your wellbeing is far, far more important than a job. All of the field’s potential for innovation and progress mean absolutely nothing if the people at the heart & soul of it are burned out and struggling to make it through the day.

There are a lot of ‘What’s next for…’ questions and I don’t have all the answers just yet. Unless the #medlibs community decides to kick me out I’m not planning on leaving, and other leadership/committee decisions involve many other people. I’m not flat out bailing and am excited about a future involving both the information science & learning technologies focus I’ll have, and will continue blogging the journey ahead!

#medlibs chat for CE: eScience series

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Whew. I really wish there still weren’t so many variables at the moment, but the time has come to announce something that a whole heck of a lot of people have been working really hard on:

Week 1: e-Science Portal for New England Librarians
Thursday, August 15, 2013
9:00 pm Eastern/6:00 pm Pacific time
#medlibs Twitter chat

Join your colleagues for the first of a five week series presented by the University of Massachusetts Medical School Lamar Soutter Library eligible for Medical Library Association Continuing Education hours (more on that at the bottom of this post) where we will be discussing the e-Science Portal for New England Librarians ( and the e-Science Community blog

For more details including how to register for and earn MLA CE, please see the #medlibs blog post at


Summer School Alert: Statistics in Medicine

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Edit: Thanks for the tip on Harvard’s Health in Numbers MOOC, which will start again on October 15th and is also on the edX platform.

Some similarly interesting upcoming MOOCs from edX’s courses listing include The Impact of Drug Development (September 16th), Fundamentals of Clinical Trials (October 14th), and for those really long range planners Genomic Medicine Gets Personal (March 4, 2014). Keep an eye on their Medicine and Biology/Life Sciences categories which have loads of fascinating topics.

As I gave some early indicators of, my priority this summer is not blogging over here but working hard during the day and teaching the Summer of Seventh Grade (primarily pre-algebra) at night.

However, in an effort to better understand both teaching and learning math, I did something crazy last week and signed up for another free online class about it that has a local study group. It is short, nowhere near the level of coursework of previous MOOCs I’ve attempted, designed very well, despite having over 20,000 students registered has shown no signs of crashing, and uses the edX platform over at Stanford’s online courses.

I’m not sure if other medical librarians were already aware of Stanford’s HRP258 Statistics in Medicine course that launched back in June and runs through August 18th. The description is

This course aims to provide a firm grounding in the foundations of probability and statistics. Specific topics include:

1. Describing data (types of data, data visualization, descriptive statistics)
2. Statistical inference (probability, probability distributions, sampling theory, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, pitfalls of p-values)
3. Specific statistical tests (ttest, ANOVA, linear correlation, non-parametric tests, relative risks, Chi-square test, exact tests, linear regression, logistic regression, survival analysis; how to choose the right statistical test)

The course focuses on real examples from the medical literature and popular press. Each week starts with “teasers,” such as: Should I be worried about lead in lipstick? Should I play the lottery when the jackpot reaches half-a-billion dollars? Does eating red meat increase my risk of being in a traffic accident? We will work our way back from the news coverage to the original study and then to the underlying data. In the process, students will learn how to read, interpret, and critically evaluate the statistics in medical studies.

The course also prepares students to be able to analyze their own data, guiding them on how to choose the correct statistical test and how to avoid common statistical pitfalls. Optional modules cover advanced math topics and basic data analysis in R.

I’m sorry that I missed this one! Registration is still open for the class, but it is a hardcore (8-12 hours per week estimated workload) class that doesn’t sound easy to catch up on. I’d keep an eye out for future offerings of it and related courses as thus far their instructional design and navigability is the best I’ve seen in the MOOC world and I’m learning a lot not just for my summer school teaching but also for my own online course design for effective student learning.

Khan Academy: Medical Education and Lessons for Librarians

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Recently I read The One World School House by Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy. We are already diving into Khan Academy with gusto and gratitude because while our son will complete his 6th grade coursework in June (he’s in 5th grade, our district doesn’t skip grades but accelerates curriculum) he’ll cover 7th grade coursework this summer with us so he is prepared for another jump ahead to 8th grade coursework in the fall.

This excerpt in particular has been resonating with me, from pages 251-252

The school I envision would embrace technology not for its own sake, but as a means to improve deep conceptual understanding, to make quality, relevant education far more portable and – somewhat counterintuitively – to humanize the classroom. It would raise both the status and the morale of teachers by freeing them from the drudgery and allowing them more time to teach, to help. It would give students more independence and control, allowing they to claim true ownership of their educations.

To humanize the classroom with technology.

I love this. I sincerely care about both the subject I’m teaching and my students being able to deeply understand it, regardless of if I’m teaching in person or via distance learning. I don’t want to be a presence of disembodied pixels scratching a superficial surface of learning. I try to keep authenticity at the core of every webcast I host and/or present, every Moodle course I teach, and in our Thursday night #medlibs chats. I have been thrilled to see so many new students and colleagues joining in, and am so thankful for everyone stepping up to share in leadership of the discussion.

So how does all of this tie in to medical education, let alone medical librarianship?

Did you know Khan Academy already has a Healthcare and Medicine section with some really great resource videos? Last week the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges and Khan Academy to provide free online resources to help students prepare for the revised Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) coming in 2015.

Per the news announcement

“This exciting new collaboration with Khan Academy and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will provide all students with free access to high-quality online educational materials to help them prepare for the revised MCAT exam in 2015,” said Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the AAMC, the organization that administers the MCAT exam. “We view this effort as an important addition to the work the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals are doing to encourage and attract future physicians from diverse backgrounds, including students from economically and educationally disadvantaged communities.”

Medical students and residents are encouraged to find out more at MCAT Video Competition, but I especially encourage librarians to scroll down that page a bit and check out out the wealth of resources under How To Make a Khan Academy Video. The guidance and tips there are key for all effective and engaging instructional videos. Think of your screencast tutorials and Jing recordings on your library website/LibGuides – is there potential for some revamping?

Turning Five Tomorrow

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Me, December 15, 2007 – University of North Texas

Yeah, I can’t believe they let me have a Masters degree either, especially after the other five year anniversary post I wrote about the process of being waitlisted and ultimately declined.

To mark the occasion I’m sharing excerpts of my 2009 nomination letter for Dr. Ana Cleveland, who received the 2010 ALISE Award for Teaching Excellence in the Field of Library and Information Science. It tells a story that many know parts of but not as a collective whole and certainly not with the picture that says a thousand words.

My name is Nicole Dettmar and it is an honor to support the nomination of my former professor and lifelong inspiration Dr. Ana Cleveland, Regents Professor and Director of the Houston and Health Informatics Programs of the Department of Library and Information Sciences at the University of North Texas (UNT) for the ALISE Award for Teaching Excellence.

On the day Dr. Cleveland called to notify me that I had been accepted as one of the fellows but needed to be a full time student as part of the fellowship program, I tried to decline the opportunity as I didn’t see how this would be possible while working and raising a family. Dr. Cleveland refused to allow me to do so. I will never forget her saying “Do not despair! We will support you!” and was humbled by her confidence in me and my abilities when I had little in myself.

Dr Cleveland was true to her words of support then, numerous times throughout the sixteen months it took to earn my Masters of Science in Information Science degree with a 4.0 average, and now as I am one year into my professional career. When I was a student, she advised me on a course load each semester that included challenging core courses and her health informatics curriculum with other classes that allowed balance for school, work and life. Dr. Cleveland contacted several of her colleagues in the Seattle area about me, an essential introduction that gave me a vital boost from being an unknown distance education student at a Texan school living in Washington to ‘one of Ana’s students.’

Nine days before graduation in December 2007, our house flooded from a storm. I called Dr. Cleveland in tears, once again not seeing how things would be possible for me to still graduate. “Do not despair!” She took the lead and contacted all of my other professors, explaining the situation and coordinating times for me to work out modified final project arrangements with them. I could not have made it through that time without her support and was grateful to still be able to fly out to Texas with my family for graduation after all. Her beaming smile behind me on the platform speaks a thousand words of pride.

I cannot envision a more dedicated, knowledgeable advocate for students and professionals in the medical information field, nor a more genuinely supportive professor than Dr. Ana Cleveland. I also cannot adequately express how grateful I am for the many opportunities she has given me.

Forever and always, thank you Dr. Ana.

Crashing and Phoenixing: Data MOOCs

Monday, December 10th, 2012

That social network analysis MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) I signed up for that initially went so well? I started having technical problems (not being able to view the videos at all, or seeing them without sound) on both Internet Explorer and Firefox. Updating browser versions, Flash & Java weren’t being able to fix it and I quickly learned closed captioning alone isn’t enough for me to ‘get it’ with videos, so I called it quits.

That said, there are several other MOOCs that have caught my attention for 2013 that may be of interest to you especially for data management and visualization. Things like the Electronic Health Records Infographic from don’t create themselves, although my quibble is the source data at the bottom needs to actually be legible.

Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization – January 12 – February23, 2013. This is the second offering of the class from the Knight Center for Journalism and the course platform is Moodle. I teach using Moodle so I’m studying the design and management closely – currently there are over 3,400 of us in there when I often cap my classes at 50 to keep things manageable. Enrollment was painless and provided immediate access after account setup to the main page and an introduction video, syllabus, instructor bio and even links to the first week reading assignments to get a head start. Course objectives include

  • How to analyze and critique infographics and visualizations in newspapers, books, TV, etc., and how to propose alternatives that would improve them.
  • How to plan for data-based storytelling through charts, maps, and diagrams.
  • How to design infographics and visualizations that are not just attractive but, above all, informative, deep, and accurate.
  • The rules of graphic design and of interaction design, applied to infographics and visualizations.
  • Optional: How to use Adobe Illustrator to create infographics.

As with most MOOCs no academic credit is offered, and a completion certificate is available for $30 if you meet the requirements for finishing the class. Thanks to Susan Kistler of the American Evaluation Association for the tip!

Data Management for Clinical Research – April 2013 for six weeks (this seems to be a standard MOOC course length) by Vanderbilt University on Coursera, the same platform that was crashing & burning for me so I’m hesitant to give it another go plus I’m not directly involved in clinical research or supporting it. The course description is

This course is designed to teach important concepts related to research data planning, collection, storage and dissemination. Instructors will offer information and best-practice guidelines for 1) investigator-initiated & sponsored research studies, 2) single- & multi-center studies, and 3) prospective data collection & secondary-reuse of clinical data for purposes of research. The curriculum will balance theoretical guidelines with the use of practical tools designed to assist in planning and conducting research. Real-world research examples, problem solving exercises and hands-on training will ensure students are comfortable with all concepts.

It would definitely be of interest to those new to working in clinical research , and thanks to Amy Donahue for alerting the Twitter #medlibs community to it!

Speaking of Twitter #medlibs chats, they has been consuming the vast majority of my personal bloggage time – I can apparently either do that or this blog well/regularly but not both at the same time. Be sure to stop by this Thursday, December 13th (last organized #medlibs chat of 2012) and check the #medlibs blog for details and transcripts of the great conversations your colleagues have been having.

More MOOC Madness

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

After writing Feeding hungry minds: Libraries and MOOCs I backed it up a few steps over at our work blog to cover in more detail What is a MOOC and Why Would I Take One? with a picture that was so much fun to work with. That preoccupied cow line just had to be written to support it, and that’s what I’m always going to think of MOOCs as since our 10 year old son bellowed ‘MOOOOOOC! MOOOOOOOC!’ when he saw what I was writing about. Speaking of distance education, I forgot to mention here that I wrote A Librarian’s Guide to Webcast Wrangling  for Letters to a Young Librarian back in September – whoops! I hope it’s of help for librarians who are increasingly becoming involved with webcasts.

Back to MOOCs. The day after I wrote the work article, our Provost wrote about the University of Washington’s involvement in MOOCs. What was mentioned as the future of higher education in the opening keynote by Steven Bell at our Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association (PNC/MLA) Emerging Roles Symposium in Portland a few days later? MOOCS and the fact that just 6 months ago no one was really talking about them.

His other thoughts included (according to my notes)
alt-librarian – where does a traditional librarian fit in? If someone’s in a MOOC, what kind of library support would this student get? UPenn is participating in Coursera MOOCs, are their students looking for library resources within them?
The state of Minnesota was faced with a very public calling out on that when initially they said residents couldn’t take MOOCs via Coursera because the company had done so without registering with them first and paying applicable fees, as they require for universities offering online courses in the state, then backtracked after the ensuing hue & cry.

Another quote from Steven Bell that I liked is

If you want to create change, you have to be a leader willing to step outside traditional limits.
It’s exciting to see how the rapid evolution of online education to include MOOCS is challenging traditional limits and I hope librarians will continue seeking ways to become involved in being present within them.


Feeding hungry minds: Libraries and MOOCs

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

I’m a huge fan of distance learning since it is one of the main focus areas of my job and also how I obtained my graduate degree. I constantly seek out opportunities to attend webcasts, online courses, Twitter hashtag chats (#medlibs tomorrow on expert searching, anyone?), you name it – I want to experience it all, see what does and doesn’t work, and see how I can adapt my teaching style to be more effective. Speaking of, check out the free new courses from the National Library of Medicine National Training Center along these lines!

Over the weekend I read a great article from The Seattle Times entitled Why some of the best universities are giving away their courses that I highly recommend if you have remained skeptical about all the distance learning buzz as it provides a great overview of the history of distance education and the reasons why more universities are offering classes via Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

I’ll give away the surprise ending because it’s easy to miss, and more in our field need to think about this role in the future (Sally Gore already is!), bold emphasis mine:

People with hungry minds will always find a way to feed them.

“We’ve had MOOCs and open learning resources for centuries,” says Dave Cillay, executive director of WSU Online. “They’re called libraries.

I’ve never met Mr. Cillay but I want to even though he’s obviously a Coug and I’m, well, a Dawg (our mascot is cuter).

The social network analysis course I wrote about earlier began on Monday and I am very impressed thus far. This is not so much due to the content (although I am learning from it!) but the Coursera class page layout, navigability, integration of adult learning concepts (how do they have these videos with quizzes embedded at intervals within them that offer immediate feedback to student answers along with tracking that they’ve been attempted?!) and other features thus far blow everything I’ve experienced in distance learning via Vista, Blackboard, Moodle and other platforms completely out of the water. I want it for my own teaching!

By the way, Massive is an understatement when it comes to this particular online class. Consider the course launched on Monday, this tweet as of just before 6pm Tuesday notes

I don’t know what librarian involvement there may be in this particular MOOC but I’d like to hope there was some.  I see opportunities for health sciences librarians to become involved in similar settings that align well with the international Trends in Health Sciences Librarianship that Mark MacEachern featured (links all better now! the PubMed link includes a UMich proxy so it’s a little off but you can grab the PubMed IDs ) especially increasing roles as teachers and greater emphasis on online access. My coworker Gail Kouame alerted me to a free webcast series from Libraries Thriving, “A Collaborative Space for e-Resource Innovation and Information Literacy Promotion. Thinking and doing” and I’m checking out their January webcast To Evaluation and Beyond: The Evolving Role of the Embedded Librarian.

More thinking and doing by librarians leads to satiated minds. What better way to do so than checking out quality free education resources that are accessible from anywhere, analyzing the concepts you’ve learned from them to see what would & wouldn’t work for you and your job duties/setting, and sharing with your colleagues?