I was a traditional university student for a good six years of my life. I completed a double Bachelor’s and a Master’s. The requirements for my classes were varied; some courses were more rigorous than others, and some required more dedication on my part. While working on my MA, I served as a TA and as an instructor, so I think I have the advantage of knowing what it’s like on both ends of the class.
This past summer, I entered an LIS (library information science) program as a distance learning student, and it’s been a very different learning experience. The subject of distance learning in LIS has come up often in journals and such, so I wanted to share my take.
I chose to enter this particular program because I no longer have the time (or the financial support) to be a traditional student. I have to admit, after six years, I’m tired of spending my days in a classroom as a full time student. I’m currently enrolled for two classes (3 being a full time load), though I am considering taking three next term. The program grants me the kind of flexibility that I want, so I can focus on personal as well as professional goals.
I think there is a lot to be gained from a distance learning program, but I think this is due in part to the student’s ability to study and learn independently. I find that there is always the one class that feels like an independent study course. The amount of interaction between student and professor obviously affects the quality of the course, but how a professor employs the medium available for online teaching also plays a role. I’ve taken four fully online and two blended (in-person meetings/online sessions) courses since entering the program, and I have mixed views on both. My first blended class was interesting, but I felt that the professor did not take advantage of the online side of the class–the online discussion activity felt like a reading journal rather than a discussion. I have had some great fully online classes where the professor employed different modes of teaching and really engaged the class with the readings and assignments.
This semester, I am taking a fully online class and a blended class, and the online one already feels like one of those courses where the professor will have little involvement in my learning. I will take what I can from this course because I am one of those studious types who learns through research, but I know I could be learning more if I had some guidance. Meanwhile, my blended class is extremely interactive and looks to be a great course despite the subject matter (cataloging).
I did my research before starting the program and I knew that I would be able to keep up with the coursework given my background, but if I someone asked me if I recommend distance learning over traditional approaches, my answer would be this: Only if you are absolutely certain that you are okay with teaching yourself.