Online and Distance Learning: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications

Alastair G. Smith (Victoria University of Wellington)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 11 April 2008




Smith, A.G. (2008), "Online and Distance Learning: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications", Online Information Review, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 288-290.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Online and distance learning impinge on library and information management in an increasing number of ways. Tertiary education libraries support courses being taught in online and distance modes, and on‐campus students who access many resources online. Library and information studies programmes are delivered online. Training in organisations is being delivered online, and this affects special libraries. So how useful to information managers is a six‐volume compilation of online and distance learning articles?

IGI claim that Online and Distance Learning: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications enables libraries to provide a reference source to meet the needs of “researchers, educators, practitioners, administrators, and all other stakeholders in the online and distance learning context”.

The collection is divided into eight sections: fundamental concepts and theories, development and design methodologies, tools and technologies, utilisation and application, organisational and social implications, managerial impact, critical issues, and emerging trends. A preface (reprinted in each volume) attempts to provide an overview of the collection, and the editor provides an introductory chapter on contemporary research in distance learning. This appears to be the only chapter specifically written for the collection.

The grouping into thematic sections does not seem to work very well – there are no introductions to provide links between the articles. The articles seem to date from 2004‐2006 and appear to be reprinted in their original form with no updating. References in articles appear mostly to date to 2002 and earlier. Some articles seem to be candidates for updating – for example Michael Shaughnessy's “Educational Software Evaluation” appears from the references to have been written in 2000. There are differences in format, depending on whether articles have been derived from journals or encyclopedias.

My impression was that selection was done on the basis of keyword – if it mentions IT and education, it is in, regardless of the relationship. For example, the 2005 article entitled “Learning IT: Where Do Lecturers Fit?” by Tanya McGill and Samantha Bax is a reprint from the International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education that relates to the role of the conventional lecture in IT education, and (despite a statement in the collection preface) does not discuss distance learning.

Despite the lack of overall structure, lucky dipping can be rewarding. Brian Fox in “Supporting and Facilitating Academic Integrity in Distance Education through Student Services” discusses a systems approach to the vexed question of plagiarism in assessment of distance learning. Vanessa Paz Dennen and Curtis Bonk, in “We'll Leave the Light on for You: Keeping Learners Motivated in Online Courses”, have a number of useful suggestions for giving online classes the same degree of involvement that face‐to‐face classes enjoy. Jonathan Frank, Janet Toland and Kren Schenk's “E‐mail Usage in South Pacific Distance Education” underlines the importance of basic email communication in delivering distance learning in a widely distributed tertiary institution, the University of the South Pacific. Bryan Bradley, in “Legal Implications of Online Assessment: Issues for Educators”, uses a couple of scenarios to illustrate potential legal issues that may arise from automated evaluation of online learning. Clint Rogers and Scott Howell, in “Distance Education from Religions of the World”, discuss the use of distance learning in theological training in both Islam and Christianity – at first sight an unlikely area for ICT. Mathematically‐inclined administrators may be able to make good use of Kathryn Zuckwiler, Marc Schniederjans and Dwayne Ball's “Methodologies to Determine Class Sizes for Faculty Work Load in Web Courses”.

There is an overall author index and chapter list at the start of each volume, and a subject index at the end of each volume.

There may be an argument for publishing a collection of classic articles in online distance learning; however, the field has probably not yet stabilised enough for this, and in any case would be much more selective and structured than this collection. Libraries would better serve their patrons by subscribing to the range of online sources in the topic, including the IGI database.

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