Going the Distance
Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries
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.
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. …