Online learning isn’t new to me. I got my MLIS through Syracuse University’s Distance Learning Program in 2000. When I enrolled in 1998, it was one of very few such programs in existence and there was still a lot of skepticism about the quality of such programs. I expected to feel very isolated but didn’t have much choice at the time. I was working, had two little kids, and driving an hour each way to campus for courses was just not a possibility.
At that time short on-campus residencies were required at the beginning of each semester and my classmates and I bonded during what we called “Library Boot Camp” in a way that I never experience in my undergrad work. Because the program was so unique at that time, there were students from all over the country who traveled to the residencies. There was a doctor from Russia whose medical license wasn’t accepted in the US so he was planning to become a hospital librarian. I became good friends with a woman from Barrow, Alaska and I am still in touch with several other members of my cohort. We had the opportunity to get to know each other during the residencies, but also through our shared work. Unlike a face-to-face classroom, everyone had a chance to express their point of view and, especially during the reference/research classes, share their unique approaches to solving the seemingly impossible tasks that were assigned. I think that exposure to myriad search strategies was one of the most valuable aspects of the class.
This past summer I participated in my first MOOC, the New Librarianship master class through Syracuse University. I loved it! Advancements in technology meant that the professor was able to record videos of lectures that he wanted to expound upon beyond our textbook. At first I had a problem with my attention drifting when I would just watch the videos, much as it does whenever I have to sit and listen for too long. One day I decided to take the laptop out on the porch to work on my flowers while I listened and I discovered that deadheading my petunias was the perfect activity to accompany listening to the lectures. It was mindless enough that I could listen, but active enough to keep me focused. Each lecture was followed by a short quiz and I actually did better on the quizzes when I was doing a mindless task while listening. (That discovery is a topic of its own!)This course also had a message board and discussion topics, but, unlike my graduate courses, this time I found online discussions to be overwhelming. I suppose that should be expected when there are literally hundreds of participants.
I’m not sure if this counts since it wasn’t discussed in the blog post, but I’ve also used YouTube as a source for online learning. I wanted to teach myself how to knit so I bought a book, but I just could not figure out the diagrams to cast on. On a whim, I searched YouTube and found a great video. I had to watch it more times than I care to admit, but I just kept playing it over and over while I attempted to follow the steps until I achieved success. My son used YouTube to learn enough geometry to pass his Regents.
I know there are a lot of people who are still ambivalent about online learning, but I think it’s another one of those things where one size does not fit all. For me and my learning style, online is the way to go. The Russian doctor and Alaskan librarian would not have traveled all the way to Syracuse for a traditional MLIS program. I don’t know of any professor who would tolerate me deadheading my plants while seated at a desk in a traditional class. I like being able to choose not only what, but when and where I learn and I’m so grateful that technology has evolved enough to allow me to do just that.