Moderator: Betsy Peck-Learned, Architecture Librarian, Roger Williams University
Sponsor: Academic Library Division
Tom Riedel, Regis University
Ilene Frank, University of South Florida
Eric Schwab Cornell University
Each speaker gave updated presentations of articles that had appeared recently in Art Documentation.
Tom's presentation, "Promoting and Providing Resources and Services to an Invisible Community," focused on the state of libraries in distance education, particularly at his institution Regis University. On the ARLIS-L electronic discussion list, Tom took an informal survey on how librarians are handling distance education. Among the results were the discovery that nearly half of the respondents never knew what the assignments were and that only about half provided specific support for distance education students by phone, Internet, or other means. He noted some of the problems this presents for librarians and students: the fallacy that all information is available on the Web; access to off-campus electronic databases is not always easy; online databases may not always be the best resources; and distance education typically assumes that the student has computer skills and librarians comprehension of computer technology. Tom also discussed some of the services offered by his library to support distance education, and his plans for the future to help students and faculty increase their use of library databases and services for their research.
Ilene gave a presentation entitled "Going the Distance: Experiences Teaching Online," which focused on her role as a librarian and adjunct professor teaching distance education classes at USF. She has been teaching a course on the use of the Internet since 1994. This course used to meet in person, but now meets exclusively online. She offered suggestions for prospective online instructors: use a textbook; create a discussion list and class web page; assign lessons such as ongoing discussions, a scavenger hunt, and the creation of a basic web page; and offer at least one face-to-face session on HTML. Ilene also offered advice to those who might want to teach in the online format: encourage a friendly atmosphere with introductions on a discussion list; respond quickly to emails; acknowledge students' work when received; always send URLs; and be prepared to answer lots of technical questions.
Eric spoke on his experiences as a former MLS student who earned his degree through distance education in a talk entitled "Distance Learning: Options for the Developing Library Professional." Eric was a student at the University of Kentucky. Since the campus was many hours away and he worked full-time, it was more convenient to obtain his degree through the distance education program offered via live classes and compressed digital video (CDV) technology at Northern Kentucky University. He praised the value of distance education for its possibilities for full-time students or isolated individuals. But he also noted some of the problems involved: little involvement with other students; little or insufficient library support; very few scholarship opportunities; and poor technical support on off-campus sites. He also noted the idea that distance education is motivated by revenue and not academics. As an example of the latter point, he discussed a new form of distance education being established at his university called E-Cornell, a for-profit corporation that will offer distance education opportunities via the Internet. Overall, however, he believes that distance education is positive and he is confident it will improve over time as some of the negative quirks are worked out.
Roberto C. Ferrari, Florida Atlantic University