Distance Learning III

As the course progresses, my initial impressions are solidifying. As has been mentioned, there appears to be less participation on the Michigan side when Howard is in Berkeley. I feel a definite temptation to sit back and watch the Howard Besser show, live with studio audience. In several class sessions, the picture was foggy and choppy. I find it mentally demanding to pay attention in the best of situations, and this made it pretty exhausting to stay focussed.

Also, the tendency to make (usually negative) asides seems to be increasing as the term progresses. I think this is because the Berkeley group is nominally present, but not really part of "the group."For some reason, standard rules of etiquette donąt apply. If these people were in the same classroom, this type of behavior would probably never occur.

The experience of hearing Karen Ellis and Stephen Dunifer was interesting -- it made me realize that although there are certain problems with applying this technology to a discussion group, it would be even more irksome to use it in a more unidirectional setting. What Stephen Dunifer had to say was certainly interesting, but an image on the screen is more difficult to pay attention to when no interaction is required. Interestingly, I thought that "Karen Ellis", for all that we only had voice, was a more immediate presence for being in the same room with us. It seemed, at least for me, that physical proximity, in whatever form, is more compelling. A phone call is something more familiar and more "connected" than an image on a television screen.

Berkeley has certainly added much to the discussion, and has even carried it on occasion. And I really enjoyed getting perspectives from disciplines outside of ILS -- communications, computer sci., etc. However, we missed out on a lot by not having a traditional classroom setting for this course. I don't feel I got one of the great advantages of a seminar -- getting to know my classmates well. This as a result of the larger class size and the fact that we so often directed our comments at the monitors and there was not much direct interaction among class members. I speculate that several people who were reluctant to contribute (ahem, myself included) may have been more comfortable in a less formal and more intimate environment. No matter how good the technology, relating to people on a computer screen is certainly never intimate. Personally, I have a difficult time "reading" people, and therefore pay very close attention to cues -- eye contact, expression, etc. and can interact better with whole, physical people.

A note about using online course materials: This was by far the most frustrating part of the class. I commute and spend only two half-days on campus. I assumed that, since I have a computer and a modem at home, this woulc be an ideal course for me and I would have an easier time accessing course materials than I would more traditional materials available at a reserve desk. I couldnąt have been more mistaken. First of all, as Sarah Ryan informed me, since I dial in to U of M, I am assigned a random IP address each time I connect. Therefore, I could never receive permission to read the news articles. Since they could only be counted on to appear on Thursday evening, I had to make a special trip down to Ann Arbor (one hour each way) just to read the news articles. I did this for a few weeks, but finally gave up. It was impossible to check ahead of time whether the articles were up, server was working, etc. A couple of times, I made the trip only to find that for some reason or other, I still couldnąt read the articles. I found myself wishing the articles were on regular reserve -- at least the library hours are consistent and knowable.