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Distance ed and virtual worlds…(9751 weekly response #1)

07 Sep

I downloaded the two articles a couple of mornings ago with the intention of reading them after I got back from the barn that night. However, I ended up spending 3 hours followed by 2 the next morningjust trying to sort out Second Life. My avatar wouldn’t appear (just had that swirling particle thing happening) regardless of what I did. So, started to do a little online research only to find my lovely little MacBook Air, isn’t really equipped to deal with the SL viewer. Ahh…guess that would explain why the fan came on two minutes after opening it and the computer was almost hot enough to fry an egg on…hmmm. Didn’t bode well. So more research.

Found a blog post that suggested playing around with all the preferences to make things a little “less”. Did that. No avatar and still a very hot, and whiny computer. Then found out you shouldn’t really being using wireless with SL. Another problem for a Mac Air; that’s all they are. There’s no place to plug in a cable—unless of course, you buy a dongle (funny word, “dongle”; actually sounds completely inappropriate: “Excuse me, have you seen my dongle?” Say that to the wrong person and I bet you get slapped 10 ways to Sunday). So, dongle aside, because that doesn’t solve my actual computer issue, what to do…more searching and found another blog and YouTube video suggesting using Phoenix as the viewer as its supposed to solve some of my issues. Did that. And finally…the avatar appeared. Success! Except my computer was still pretty unhappy. However, the next hour was spent trying to customize and clothe the avatar…sadly, there were issues here too as I couldn’t solve a clothing malfunction, so while she’s clad, she could be considered to have eclectic dress sense (at best). But at least she’s not simply standing there in her knickers, so small mercies I suppose. (Update: finally fixed the wardrobe malfunction!)

This entire preamble is just to say that given this week’s articles are an introduction to the idea of distance education, my own experience has shown the many pitfalls of technology when it is needed to complete specific tasks. I think it’s important to remember that technology that is not seamless or easy to manipulate can quickly put up barriers. To be honest, if this experience had been at the beginning of a course that I was taking “just for fun” (maybe like something offered in a public library setting, perhaps) I might have given up with the idea that it was too much work. Anyway, on to the articles…

As soon as I read the first paragraph of Buck’s article (“There are many benefits to being a distance education student while working as a distance education librarian.

Through this experience, I feel I have gained a better understanding of the issues that distance education students’ face and how the library can help them.”) I knew exactly what she was talking about: I have often felt the same way this past year.  As a teacher, going back into the classroom as a (Masters) student, has certainly gave me much food for thought in terms of my own practice, as well a renewed understanding of the challenges of learning new information and skills. I will endeavor to keep the student view in mind whenever I end up in front of students.

Another personal connection I had was regarding the lack of communication from the library to the distance student. A few years ago, I took a professional development course in the area of Special Education; it was a distance course offered by an Ontario university.  I was never contacted by the university library and had no idea that accessing the library via was an option. When it came to finding resources for our final project, I ended up purchasing articles online because I didn’t know that the university’s databases were available to me. Having now had the experience of access a raft of material from Western Libraries remotely, I cringe to think of my ignorance at the time.

My first thought on the “Embedded Librarian” article was whether embedding in a virtual world mean that students will expect librarians to be available 24/7? After all, students have a wide (and sometimes very late—or rather, very early!) range of times when they work so if their learning experiences are taking place in the virtual world will they not expect their resources to be always available too? After all,  there are some reference services that are 24/7…

However, as I read further into the article I realized that there were both set classroom and library times. But that’s interesting too to me because I have always thought of “online courses” being that 24/7: you log in, do your work by a certain date, get feedback by a certain date. At least that’s been my experience in a distance course. Of course here, in this example the course offered in Second Life essentially followed the same format as a face2face course—everyone showing up at the same time for the lecture etc. What I found particularly interesting were the comments about the challenges (aside from technology which I have already experienced myself) faced by instructors and librarians: “[s]eeing slumped avatars during the course of a presentation caused librarians to speculate about the students’ attention level.” (p. 129) Yep—welcome to teaching: plus ça change, plus c’est la même.

I was also curious about their study. Was something similarly done with embedded librarianship in a face2face environment? I think that would be interesting to see how students feel about their skills etc. after virtual embedded librarianship vs face2face embedded librarianship….

Articles:

Buck, S. (2011). A distance education librarian becomes a distance education student: Switching roles. College & Research Libraries News, 72(1), 34-35.

Davis, M. & Smith, C. (2009). Virtually embedded: Library instruction within Second Life.  Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning, 3, 130-147.

 

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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in 9751 stuff...

 

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