Distance Learning Essay #3
by Daniel Gorelick


A new experience: I had another new experience for this class... I was involved in the MOO meeting for the information retrieval group. I thought it was pretty cool, but it was excruciatingly slow on productivity. But I was able to appreciate the remote nature of it much more because I was at home sick (with a temperature of 102F). We had all agreed to meet on campus to get together to do the Moo thing, but I was so sick I could not get myself out of the apartment to meet the group (in person that is). However, I was able to meet with everyone through the Moo! In the comfort of my apartment I connected to campus, with my roommate's Home IP account, and started a telnet connection to the Moo; where we ran around a virtual library, through different rooms, trying to find a place to settle down and get down to business. Meanwhile we had to learn the commands and follow people and sit down and stand up and follow people again. All in all, I did not find the experience that novel, because I have played a MUD before, and I was also cut off by a phone call in the middle of our meeting (watch out for call-waiting).

Back to the class: Since this is the last distance learning essay, I feel I should sum up my experiences from this class. Most aspects of this class have lead to an overall positive experience. I am greatful for the opportunity to apart of such a new and technologically advanced (and expensive) class. Being able to have a class in Ann Arbor and Berkeley at the same time is both novel and amazing. How did we get so far so fast?

It has been an interesting experiment to study. I think we did quite well adapting to the limitations of bandwidth, lag, resolution, and a great deal of miles. We obviously developed protocols and etiquette to deal with the awkwardness of distance learning, and I think I will be interesting to find out if the rules we developed will be different than those for distance classes in other fields of study.

I also think the on-line nature of this class should be addressed. The fact that the syllabus, as well as reading materials, discussions, homework, and the act of turning in assignments was all on-line has been as much a new experience as having my professor being thousands of miles away during class. From my observations of our class, I recommend that future class organizers be aware of the importance of having the on-line tools debugged before the students are supposed to use them. For example, I think that the newsgroups would have been more successful had they been ready to go when we first tried to start using them. Another example is "turning in" assignments on time. I did at least the first three assignments on time and had them up on my page promptly, but they were very slow on being "collected". So I actually did not get my next couple of assignments done when they should have been done. I noticed that after we discoved the casualness of "collecting" and timing, quite a lot of other students were also lagging on getting their assignments up on their home pages. If we were grabbing the assignments right away I'm sure we all would have been more timely in getting our homework done. (By the way, I am not trying to place blame or anything here. In fact, I am more interested in the effects than I am interested in what caused them or how they could have been avoided, if at all).

Lastly, I feel I must address the results of distance on the personal interaction between myself and the class. It seems like I got to know quite a bit of the students in Berkeley but I don't feel like I know anyone in Michigan well enough. It was not enough to find out about my colleagues through the web pages because of the lack of consistency and content to the information. However, I was flattered that on Ann Arbor's project presentation day Shannon recognized me (by name...yea!) when our camera was on wide view and I was sitting all the way in the back of the room.

Well, thanks for the class and the experience. Take care all.


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