JASIS Distance ED Issue

Journal of the American Society for Information Science
Perspectives issue on Distance-Independent Education

edited by
Howard Besser, Univ of Michigan School of Information
Stacey Donahue, Univ of Michigan Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work

November 1996
official table of contents


Introduction to the issue

With dwindling financial resources and more extensive public, corporate, and governmental scrutiny, many pundits see the late 1990s as marking a major transformation in academic institutions. Many institutions see the need for developing new audiences and methods of delivery, and view distant-independent education as a key part of this transformation.
What do we know about distant-independent learning? Why should the ASIS community be interested? This special Perspectives issue views distance learning as squarely within the realm of the JASIS audience -- pro-active distribution of information. The implementation of distance learning causes a rethinking of a University’s resources, how to deliver them, and who its clientele is. It also causes a redefinition of quality measures (for example, the variety and content of online resources may become even more important than the traditional measure of academic library quality -- number of volumes).
This issue gives the ASIS audience the background knowledge on what distance-independent education is, and what are the major issues involved in its implementation. It frames important questions, and offers examples of existing programs as well as visions of where the field is headed.

Authors for the issue


Distance Education in North American Library and Information Science Education: Applications of Technology and Commitment,
Daniel D. Barron
, College of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina


Chronicles the use and evolution of distance education within the library and information science education programs.

The Story of Distance Education: A Practitioner's Perspective,
Judy Roberts
, Principal, Roberts & Associates


In answering the journalistic questions involved in telling a good story (who, what, when, where, why and how), this paper's goals are to provide an historical overview of the issues and opportunities presented by distance education throughout the world and to offer some thoughts about what the future may hold. To meet these objectives, it very briefly highlights: (1) those who develop and those who participate in distance education courses and programs, (2) what distance education is and what subjects lend themselves to this approach, (3) where distance education is currently used, (4) when distance education started and how it has evolved over time, (5) why individuals and institutions participate, and (6) how to implement distance education effectively.

Issues and Challenges for the Distance Independent Environment,
Howard Besser, Univ of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies


Formal education has been viewed as a "same time same place" interaction of students and instructors. We'll use the Robert Johansen grid of time/place intersection and add a third dimension of interactivity to provide a frame of reference for distance education.
What infrastructure and resources needed? What kinds of classroom set-ups are possible (fixed classroom, portable set-up) and what are the pluses and minuses associated with each?
What is the role of the instructor? How do traditional instructional support roles (teaching assistant, librarian, etc.) change? What new instructional resource support mechanisms are required (web pages, online conferences..)? What new roles emerge in this "classroom" (publisher, camera operator, producer, instructional material designer)? What is the role of the student?
Where is the locus of control (multi-site does not mean multiview, audio systems responsive to the loudest speaker)? If you are not seen can you be heard? What new relationships emerge? What are the characteristics of the backchannel to support different types of communication and different types of learning (filtered backchannels - t.a.s, exams, phone calls, fax, in class Q&A)? What is the role of computer mediated communications?

The Teacher of the Future,
Ben Davis
, Getty Museum


Distance education is often described as the attempt to replicate the material delivered in a classroom setting to geographically or otherwise isolated students. The introduction of new information technologies into a distance setting allows us to reexamine content we are delivering, how we are delivering it, the evolution from “sage on the stage to guide on the side” and how students may interact with it and with other students.
We need to develop new models of how material is created and distributed as “multimedia packaging of information merges form and content” and must cross geographical and cultural boundaries. We need to identify and address cogent pedagogical issues that arise as content consumption is learner driven. What is the role of a teacher and particularly a “good” teacher at a distance?

Inside-out Thinking about Distance Teaching: Making Sense of Relfective Practice,
Elizabeth Burge
, Univ of New Brunswick Faculty of Education


The Kolb experiential learning cycle organizes some critical reflections on years of distance education practice. The results include a list of conceptual confusions, technological challenges and criteria that focus more on "classics" than "basics".

The Impact of Distance-Independent Learning,
Howard Besser and Maria Bonn
, Univ of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies


Distance independent learning has the potential for a fundamental and beneficial transformation of higher education. By combining the best aspects of our present university and college system with the opportunities offered by recent developments in communications and information technology, distance independent learning could lead to high quality highly individualized instruction and the creation of intellectual communities that transcend the limitations of time and space.
This potential infuses the rhetoric of the proponents of distance independent learning. But in order for that potential to be realized, the educational community needs to carefully consider the costs of relying on distance independent educational delivery and to analyze how the educational community can best be served by such delivery.

Engineering Courseware Content and Delivery: the NEEDS Infrastructure for Distance-Independent Education,
Alice Agogino and Bill Wood
, UC Berkeley College of Engineering


Explains the goals of a unique multi-campus distance education effort in the field of engineering. How has it reshaped the traditional model of curriculum development? (teaching as authoring and publishing - no longer an individual endeavor but a studio enterprise) How is access provided (system requirements, authorization, learning readiness)? How can the courseware be customized/individualized(are there gateways, checkpoints for prerequisites or baseline knowledge)? How is the role of the instructor changed and challenged? (teaching what to look for, what questions to ask, how to navigate through information spaces) What are the issues surrounding a shared central knowledge repository? (maintenance, reuse, indices, tracking student progress, quality control - insuring “best in practice is delivered”)? What opportunities are provided for teamwork (virtual teams possible?)? How is success measured? What are the lessons learned? Is there a next generation of the software?

MLIS Distance Education at the University of South Carolina: Report of a Case Study,
Gayle Douglas
, College of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina


In 1992 the University of South Carolina's College of Library and Information Science undertook the delivery of its American Library Association accredited Master of Library and Information Science degree program to a three year cohort of students in West Virginia and Georgia through a combination of live interactive telecommunications instruction and onsite class meetings in each state. After tracing the development of distance education at the University of South Carolina with emphasis on the College of Library and Information Science, the author describes a case study comparing the performance of this cohort of students with that of their counterparts in South Carolina.

Planning for the Twenty First Century - The California State University,
Stuart Sutton
, San Jose State University School of Library Science


The San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science and the Office of the Chancellor in cooperation with industry partners designed and implemented a broadband network prototype to explore leveraging human and instructional resources among the twenty-two campuses of the California State University. With its current OC-3 capacity, the prototype network is capable of supporting near-broadcast quality two way interactive video with simultaneous access to mutli- and hypermedia resources across the network. Faculty and student collaborative work is facilitated by desktop video teleconferencing from faculty offices and student computer labs.

Collaborative Technologies in Inter-University Instruction,
Maurita Holland
, Univ of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies


Can we demonstrate and implement scalable, cost-effective distance independent learning? At the University of Michigan during the 1994-1995 academic year, we worked through this problem and offered a course concurrently in Ann Arbor and at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
After looking both at the various forms of interaction which instruction involves (class lecture, team projects, interaction amongst peers, discussion with faculty) and the types of assignments (individual, group via computer, group via conversation ) necessary for successful demonstration of mastery of course objectives, we selected technologies to fit the tasks and exploit a range of collaborative tools in a distance independent mode. Those technologies and applications included ISDN videoconferencing, telephone conferencing, CU SeeMe, Timbuktu, PowerPoint, Internet tools and fax. Many of the materials used in the class were available on the Internet (URL: http://www.sils.umich.edu/~mholland/class/joint/introjoint.html) or through local servers at both institutions, Throughout the term, students provided feedback on their level of engagement and satisfaction with newly-introduced technologies; much of this data and evaluative comment is also available at the same URL.
This paper develops the matrix of technology/task fit, describes the various components of instruction, and presents some evaluation of the course from both the student and faculty perspective. It concludes with an overview of on-going work and a perspective on future directions for distance independent learning.

Distance Learning and Digital Libraries: Two Sides of a Single Coin,
Charles B. Faulhaber
, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley


The esoteric nature of the curriculum, low enrollments and budgetary constraints contributed to the development of distance education version of aCatalan language and literature course that spanned several campuses. Key to the success of this endeavor was the reliance on digital means for communication and access to course materials.

Programs and Resources in Distance Education,
Stacey Donahue
, Univ of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies


Short portraits of a wide range of distance education programs around the country. These profiles will cover the courses offered, the format, degreed/non-degreed, student population served, recruitment policies, tuition, technology used, type of faculty used, support staff used, degree of campus independence (no travel to class ever required?), assessment measures used, challenges program faces, successes achieved, future directions.

Cognition and Distance Learning,
Marcia C. Linn
, Univ of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies


Evaluating Distance Teaching -- to Improve Distance Learning,
Derek Rowntree
, Univ of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies