Distance Learning Essay Number 3

Based on my experiences in ILS 609, an experimental distance learning course being taught jointly at the University of Michigan and UCLA-Berkeley Information and Library Studies Departments, I am convinced that major changes are required in order to present information in such a way that it will be more beneficial than a video tape.

First of all, because of the setup of the class, it was impossible for students to become acquainted during class time. I think that there were several ways to avert this problem, including giving students the opportunity to introduce themselves on a more personal level, as is common in other classroom settings. Also, by using class time differently, it may have been possible to force a situation where more interaction with students on each side was required. If students from each side had needed to meet outside of class with each other, using CU-See Me for example, in order to complete projects and assignments, I think that those faces on the screen may have become more real.

Another problem that I had with the distance learning aspect of the course was that at least for the Michigan side, the lack of Internet connection from the ISR classroom was quite frustrating. Throughout the course, whenever we needed to see some information which was posted on the class homepage, it has either needed to photocopied and show over a video monitor, in which case it was often too small to read, or the Berkely side would photograph their computer screen and transmit those images to us to read. This was terribly inconvenient and it wasted valuable class time with a rather menial task. Also, for presenting our final projects, this will present a major stumbling block. I presume that we will need to print out every screen of our HTML documents.

Finally, I think that the last guest presentation we had during class was interesting, but rather more confusing than valuable. It is hard enough to decipher who is speaking from across the lines when there is video hookup, let alone when that video is no longer available. Having both the visual guest and the telephone guest was chaotic. I felt that there were just too many other parties at that point. The UM class, the Berkeley class, the televised guest and the telephone guest, not to mention the instructor made for too many cooks in an already cramped kitchen.