HAVE NIGHTMARES ABOUT ATTENDING CLASS in their pajamas, but for
Lisa Henson it’s a common, real-life experience.
crazy. She’s just enjoying the perks of taking classes over the
Internet. After she deals with her three energized little boys and
her husband, teaches three classes of eighth-graders, runs the computer
lab and helps out the school librarian, taking her college courses
in comfort is a blessing.
“I can put
on my favorite pajamas, slide into my slippers, and I’m ready for
class,” says Henson, who teaches literature in Monahans, Texas.
“And the best part of taking classes over the Internet is that I
can do it anytime, anywhere.”
one of nearly 1,000 students taking UNT web-based courses. These
distance learners are coming online from as far away as India and
Thailand to take courses in every one of the university’s colleges
at the click of a mouse
fully interactive classes, students may view lectures via Internet
video feeds, interact with faculty and other students through chat
rooms and e-mail, and download class assignments at their leisure,
says Phil Turner, associate vice president for academic affairs
for distance education. The Center for Distributed Learning, which
reports to Turner, assists in creating and managing the university’s
entire line of web-based courses.
established a name for ourselves,” says Turner, who is also dean
of the School of Library and Information Sciences. “On account of
our success, other universities are seeking out tours of our programs
to see how it’s done.”
web-based courses provide a means to fulfilling a dream.
librarian is the culmination of what I’ve studied throughout college
— English, reading and kids,” she says. Henson is working on her
master’s degree in library science, a degree she can earn entirely
on the web.
“I can hop
on the computer and work on assignments during lunch breaks or in
between teaching my classes,” Henson says. “And even when I took
my kids on vacation to visit their uncle, I could go to class. I
just logged in on my brother’s computer.
are a blessing. Pretty soon I’ll be the full-time librarian.”
Simpson, assistant professor of library and information sciences,
teaches all of her courses online.
hermits and Internet junkies
blessing is Carol Simpson’s challenge. Simpson is one of Henson’s
library science professors. All of Simpson’s courses are online.
She still keeps office hours, but most of her students prefer to
contact her via e-mail since they’re spread out across the country.
Simpson says the lack of personal contact with students is the only
downside to teaching this way.
some goodies on my desk to bribe students into coming by,” Simpson
says with a quick glance at a platter of mini chocolate bars collecting
dust. “What can I say? I’m a people person.”
says that sometimes she just feels like a “virtual hermit.”
it all, she feels her students get as much from e-mails and chat
rooms as they could from face-to-face interaction. She says a misconception
about online courses is that they are automated instruction. In
reality, Simpson spends hours on the computer, monitoring student
discussion forums and reviewing assignments.
began teaching this way, I was online 20 hours a day, partly because
I was still learning the ropes,” she says. “After a year and half,
I’m online only six hours a day. These classes take just as long
as regular courses and are just as much work for the teacher and
saying her web courses are intense.
sit in the back of the classroom and hide with these courses,” she
says. “Participation is everything in a web-based course.”
learners also interact with guest speakers, who lecture online at
a scheduled time. The students can pick the minds of the lecturers
in chat rooms, and the speakers love the simplicity of logging into
a class. “
in California lectured to one of my classes last semester,” Simpson
says. “Normally, it’s impossible to get five minutes in person with
this speaker, but online it’s a different story.
lecture, the staffing expert sent me an e-mail saying, ‘This is
the first time I’ve lectured in my pajamas — it was great.’”
the web-based library courses for bringing interesting people online
to share their points of view and expertise. Recent lecturers have
included a Texas Education Agency representative and a 15-year-old
hacker. It all adds to Henson’s librarian education.
such a great way to learn,” she says. “All of my eighth-graders
know about my online classes and they all keep saying that’s how
they’re going to college. I keep telling them, let’s just work on
going to class right now.”