WISE: Where Information Specialists Empower 21st Century Learners (WISE) was designed to support teachers from rural and underserved school districts who want to obtain the education necessary for licensure as a school library information specialist. The WISE proposal grew out of the University of Wisconsin System School Library Education Consortium’s (UWSSLEC) 902 distance programs that began in the late 1990s.
The UWSSLEC is a consortium of faculty from five separate school library licensure programs in the University of Wisconsin System: Whitewater, Superior, Oshkosh, Eau Claire, and Madison. UWSSLEC engaged permanent faculty in all five collaborating campuses through an agreement signed by the Provosts at each campus that allowed creation of a virtual System department. They agreed to share graduate courses while maintaining autonomy and support for the separate on-campus programs and courses. The essential purpose was to provide teachers access to professional preparation regardless of their location.
Teachers seeking a school library license through the UWSSLEC program are asked to select a home campus from one of the five UWSSLEC universties. They take a series of seven (21 credit hours) graduate-level initial courses—all offered by the Consortium in hybrid form and mediated through the Desire2Learn platform. The UWSSLEC offers year-round programming by dividing the course rotation over three semesters (Summer, Fall, and Spring). Each course is sponsored at one of the home campuses and all UWSSLEC students attend the on-campus session at the campus sponsoring the particular course. For example, Digital Tools is offered at UW-Oshkosh while Information Literacy is offered at UW-Whitewater. The capstone experience for the initial license is a practicum course managed at the students’ home campus with placement located as close to a student’s permanent address as possible.
UWSSLEC sought funding from the Institue of Museums and Library Services (IMLS) in 2007 and again in 2008 to strengthen its ability to promote 21st Century skills and assist schools in isolated sections of the state to keep technology and information literacy programs staffed by highly-qualified, licensed professionals. The WISE grant ($1.5 million) was approved and the Consortium selected scholars and began to implement WISE activities in late spring 2009.
In this Laura Bush 21st Century Librarians grant from IMLS, UWSSLEC collaborated with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, area educational agencies and the state professional association and accomplished three goals: