Distance Learning Impressions 3

John Powell

School of Information and Library Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
jpow@umich.edu

NOTICE

The purpose of this "page" is to discuss my impressions of Howard Besser's Distance Learning Class held on Fridays from 1 - 4 pm EST in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Berkeley, California. This is the third paper in a series of three.

Lack of Communication on March 10

I just wanted to comment briefly on the break down of communication during the Friday, March 10 class. I found it really to conduct class through a speaker phone. This made it extremely difficult since only one person at a time could speak or respond to an answer/question. In the classroom setting where conversations and discussions need to keep moving allowing several people to participate or interject comments, this was practically impossible. I found that this was a really bad hour. It was extremely difficult to pay attention since every noise in either class broke the sound connection. In the future of distance learning classes, I think there needs to be some our background system other than the telephone. The telephone is by no means a proper medium to conduct a classroom.

Classroom Discussions

I have noticed over the past few weeks that discussions tend to focus around the classroom where the instructor is located. There is definitely something to be said or examined about the classroom where the instructor is. I notice a major difference in the Ann Arbor class when Howard is in Berkeley. What does this mean? I'm not sure but I think that a lot is missed in the classroom setting with the lack of eye contact and interaction. I would like to see more studies about distance learning and social interaction. I think we are creatures of social interaction and we definitely need that in a classroom setting. With a focus group looking at virtual communities, one of the issues needed to be looked at is social interaction. I think before we through both feet into the water with distance learning, we need examine a bit more with do students learn better with distance learning or is it worse?

Face to Face Discussions

I really enjoy watching face to face long distance discussions between two persons. I think this is something that should have been done earlier in the term. One thing that would help the class would be to hire camera personnel who are trained in film and video.

Submitted by John Powell