Distance Learning Challenges Us to Adapt Our Services

Article excerpt

One of the initiatives that my institution is investigating is the concept of distance education. This term has become a buzzword, and may be interpreted in a number of ways. According to a draft policy of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, our accrediting body, distance education is defined as "a formal education process in which the majority of the instruction occurs when student and instructor are not in the same place." Various instructional methods and media are used to support distance education, including correspondence-type workbooks, audiotapes, vid .aa telecourses, two-way interactive video (i.e., PictureTel), and now the Internet add Web.

A study conducted in 1995 by the National Center for Education Statistics discovered that one-third of all higher education institutions were offering distance education to more than 700,000 students. In the last 3 years this movement has grown, fueled in part by technology-based systems such as the Web. Distance education is a way that institutions can reach out to students, including working parents, employees who need additional training to advance, and those who have time and place constraints. On a national level, the federal government is considering proposals to expand Title IV student aid eligibility for students in distance learning and to fund grant proposals for innovative pilot projects (http://www.ed.gov/offices/ope/ppi/reauthor).

Distance learning is a trend that challenges libraries in several ways. First, remote learners are entitled to the same access and services that on-site students receive. This goes beyond having the catalog online! It means answering reference questions by e-mail and shipping materials directly to the student. …