Going the Distance

Article excerpt

The future of online learning is now, says Kenneth E. Hartman, academic director for Drexel University Online and chairman of National Distance Learning Week (November 9-13). His article in this issue (p. 48) makes a compelling case for online education in general and distance learning in particular.

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Earlier this year, I taught a one-week summer course in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. When I arrived, SLIS Dean Louise Robbins asked me if I wanted to conduct the course in a traditional classroom or in the computer lab. After one look at the computer lab and one short conversation with the IT person staffing it, I leaped at the chance to use the lab.

While the course, on "writing for the profession," certainly didn't constitute distance education, it was definitely online learning. A class session on blogging? Up on the screen with the Free Range and the Shifted librarians. A session on writing for the web? Up on the screen with www.loc.gov.

Having never taught a library science class before, I was blown away by how well information technology serves the library school curriculum and by how adept the students were at using it. Although I loved interacting with them in person, I also realized that I could have conducted the class from Chicago. Yes, face-to-face interaction is important, but for many entering our profession, the distance-ed option is the difference between getting the degree or not. …