Impressions of Distance Learning #1 by Karen McLaughlin Feb 3, 1995

I realize I am still in awe of the technology. When someone on my side of the camera speaks, I have to remind myself to look at him rather than his image on the screen. Even with Howard in the room, we all stared at the screen rather than focusing on him. I expect it's only the newness that mesmerizes us, but I doubt we'll forget the screen that separates us from our Michigan classmates.

As we get settled in and used to the camera, I expect the discussions will become more of a dialogue. Right now, some of us are on a steeper learning curve than others.Those who already had a web page, were comfortable with html, and frequented newsgroups are eager to focus on substance. I, on the other hand, find I'm still caught up in the excitement of finding my high school's web page and checking out UNC's Sunsite. I am also feeling frustration at devoting at least as much time to figuring out how to post this esssay as to actually writing it ! But, these are only temporary distractions. I expect within the next couple of classes we'll all notice a difference in focus as we all attain a basic understanding of the technology.

One dynamic of distance learning with which I am stuggling, as are others, is the strange lack of connection I feel with the Michigan group. I noticed the very different compositions of the two groups on the first day. We have a smattering of grads and undergrads from a number of departments. Michigan seems to be more homogeneous. We have 4 women in a class of 25 or so. The Michigan group is about 50/50. Having spent the last 10 years in 90% male environments, I was surprised at myself for minding the lack of women in the Berkeley class. But, it was even stranger to realize that I did not feel a connection to the women on the screen. I felt as though they weren't an actual part of my experience, much as actors on a screen don't really enter my world. I hope to feel more connected as we share ideas in newsgroups and spend more class sessions together.

I am looking forward to interacting within a study group. I think the small group focus will prove one of the most meaningful parts of the class. Getting to know a few more of the faces on each side should also help all of us to feel more connected.