Distance Learning: the second time around

by Jack B Huynh
"As long as we depend on technology to learn, we have to depend on it working in order for us to learn." -jbh

It's not the most catchy quote, but it was the case for numerous classes since the my first distance learning essay. It's really ironic that the technology went smoothly for the initial classes, but then disintergrate to a low point of listening to audio only. Although I had expected difficulties, I wasn't prepare to deal with it when it actually happened. In other words, I did have high expectations for the technology to work smoothly, yet I was rather disappointed when it did not. As the difficulties became more frequent, I became less interested in the class. I have to confess that there were several occasions that I read the newspaper/magazine will discussion was taking place. Obviously, I was not interested in the class simply because of technical difficults, but I found the subject matters to be less interesting then I expected.

Previously, I had commented that as I get more accustomed to being in the camera's eye and with the environment, I would be more likely to speak in class. Unfortunately, that has not been happening and it has largely been due to the subject matter of the class. The fact that we talked about OJ Simpson every week really got to me (not exactly, but definitely too much). Although I understand that his news story is pertient to the class, I thought the subject matter was simply over discussed. Furthermore, there were several occasions that I felt that the discussion was too random. Although it was nice that there was no fixed agenda (as I preceived it), the discussion did venture into subject matters that wasn't really revelant to the class. Sometimes the Professor stepped in and steered it back to an academic level, and sometimes he didn't.

The professor had speculated that where ever he was physically located, that group tended to speak more. I have to agreed with his speculations and add that the 'other' group was less respectful to the instructor. I've already confessed that I didn't always give my full attention to the class and I witnessed a lot of other people doing the same (especially during the audio only session). Part of the frustation is that when you want to speak, you have to get the camera's attention. I saw that several people got tired of rising their hands and waiting for the professor to call on them. Certainly, that techincal obstacle would support the professor's speculation as to why the other students were speaking less.

On a good note, I've enjoyed the guest speakers that were in the class. Being on the cutting edge of education means refering to experts in the cutting edge field. Without a doubt the professor is on the cutting edge to teach the class, but he can't be an expert on every subject.