Notes from the Field: UMA Online Classes in Palau!

A few weeks ago I posted an interview with two classmates who are pursuing degrees in Information and Library Services, which UMA offers online. While getting permission to use a graphic from the ILS page, I made a fortuitous connection with Jodi Williams, who created the graphic but does so much more.

Jodi is a professor who has taught online for over ten years, and she’s the Coordinator of the ILS Program at UMA. When we “met” online, she was about to leave for the Island Nation of Palau to help develop the ILS program at the Palau Community College there so that Palauan students (and students throughout Micronesia) can take courses through UMA.

I asked Jodi if she’d be interested in doing a guest post here, and she enthusiastically agreed, so here she is!

I think it’s interesting that the ILS program was originally started to fill a need in Maine’s unique rural library community, but has expanded across the U.S. and beyond, via distance learning. UMA, too, is growing beyond its niche as a commuter college for busy working adults in Maine to include students across all ages, regions, states, and countries, again due to online classes. So cool!

Please take a look at Jodi’s personal/teaching website to get a sense of who she is – clearly a person committed to learning, to her students, and to removing boundaries in distance education.

Many, many thanks to Jodi for sharing these Notes from the Field.

Here’s Jodi:

I met Sandy my second day in Palau. A librarian at the National Museum and Research center in Koror, Palau, upon being introduced she assertively asked, “Are you ready for me?”

Megan, the coordinator of the Library Services program at Palau Community College, laughed and said, “oh yeah, Sandy doesn’t hesitate to ask when she has questions!”

“Excellent,” I said as I grinned back at the 30-something 5’4” island woman facing me, “I’m not sure if we are ready, but we’ll do our best.” I couldn’t help but grin at Sandy’s intense smile that belied a relaxed, fun-loving, generous spirit I found common among the Palauan people.

I flew more than 25 hours from the Augusta Airport in Maine to Koror, Palau via Boston, San Francisco, Honolulu, Guam and Yap to meet the people at Palau Community College and representatives from various Universities and Colleges of the Micronesian Islands.

Second Row, Middle Dr. Tillei, President Palau Community College & Megan Beard, Coordinator LS Program, PCC (I am seated in front of Dr. Tellei)

The question I have been asked many, many multiple times over the three weeks since I was first invited, was, Why? Maine and Palau – what’s the connection?

The connection is an undergraduate degree in Information & Library Services (ILS) that the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) offers via distance education and a Library Services Associate degree program at Palau Community College. UMA’s ILS program is a bit of a rogue in the United States, developed to meet the needs of rural libraries and their staff in Maine to help them better serve their patrons. Many of our students have been working in libraries for years but never completed a degree, and many of our students go on to Masters programs around the United States. While the program started to serve a need in Maine, it has grown to provide that service and support students around the United States and the world.  Palau Community College is the only place one can study library services in the Micronesian islands and currently that program has only been offered on-site.

But that is about to change and that is why I was invited to Palau.

Rock Islands, Palau

A year ago the coordinator of the undergraduate Associate degree program at the Palau Community College (PCC) contacted me about developing an articulation agreement. PCC is a regionally accredited Community College with an Associate Degree in Library Services, and our program in Maine is a perfect match for their students wishing to continue their education. While Palau is geographically on the opposite side of the world, the Palauan people have a need and love of learning, a desire to better their lives, a drive to improve their communities through education, and a passion about preserving their culture and promoting learning through local libraries and organizations.

Palauans have many things in common with our UMA students.

The excitement and enthusiasm in the room could be seen in the eager faces of both students and administrator as we talked about how technology can be used to not only educate those at a great distance, but to create a sense of place, a sense of connection and used as a means to remove the distance that can sometimes be felt in distance education.

We have plans to strengthen our ties to PCC as their students begin our UMA ILS program in 3 weeks. The goal is to work closely with Sandy and Mary and see how our Maine program unfolds in a remote island with limited bandwidth and sometimes-sketchy internet connection. And then we will be working with other colleges and universities from the Federated States of Micronesia to develop similar articulation agreements and host a potential cohort from the College of Micronesia-FSM starting in the Fall.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of Jodi’s guest post…

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7 Responses to Notes from the Field: UMA Online Classes in Palau!

  1. I am currently enrolled in the ILS program offered through UMA mentioned above. I met with Jodi Williams during orientation. She was very friendly and approachable. I am quite anxious to get started and hope to expand my knowledge of books, make new friends and connections, and be a part of a growing community of fellow book lovers. – Andrea Fillingim

    • Hi Andrea, So glad you’ve gotten to know Jodi. I never had her a a teacher but got to know her through this blog. I hope you get to study with her-I hear she’s pretty amazing. Her guest post on this blog continues to be very popular. I wish you great luck with your ILS degree!

  2. Pingback: Online Learning and Online Teaching | Going the Distance…Three Credits at a Time

  3. Pingback: Connections: On the Web, In the Classroom | Going the Distance…Three Credits at a Time

  4. Arica Smith says:

    I am an online student at Walden University, and, as a part of our course requirement, we were asked to join a blog relating to higher education. So, here I am. As I was reading your blog, I was astounded at my lack of knowledge of how technology has a more far reaching arm, if you will, at connecting people, in remote locations by allowing them the opportunity of attaining degrees and make a significant living for themselves. I was so impressed with your blog at how you captured how the students in Palau use their educational opportunity to better their communities as a whole.

    Thank you for broadening my mind on the important role of technology.

    Kindly yours,

    Arica Smith

    • leenthebean says:

      Hi Arica, I’m so glad you found my blog and that you’re finding it useful. If you’ve taken online classes before, you know how crucial technology is in furthering your education goals. I was also surprised to learn about my school connection with the college in Palau, which was why I wanted to share that here. The ILS program mentioned in that post and an earlier one is rooted in the use of technology and web-based sources, so is a perfect match for online courses. And I’m so grateful to Jodi Williams, who heads that program. She was the one who actually went to Palau to help set up the program there, and who wrote the “field report” post that you read!

  5. Pingback: UMA Online Classes in Palau – Part 2 | Going the Distance…Three Credits at a Time

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