I have been a student at UT Knoxville for two semesters now, and I have learned a few very important things about being an online student. For example, if your professor says that you do not have to read the required readings before class, you should probably read them anyway. I have also learned that finding a support system among your other classmates is one of the greatest assets an online student can have. My classmates and I use Facebook to keep in touch, especially when our professors do not give us a discussion board to use for communication. Being an avid user of Facebook, I have begun to wonder what our lives would be like if we did not have it. Since I do not know my classmates that well, it would feel strange to call them at home to discuss school work. Thinking back to high school, even though we had AOL Instant Messenger, hardly any of our communication using AOL centered on schoolwork. I have heard that some high schools are now using Blackboard (an online class management tool) to supplement their on campus classes. To me, using this in high school would be strange, but to the high school students who are using it now, it is just something they do in addition to going to class every day. In the 1990s, my classmates and I had to use the telephone (who uses that anymore??) to communicate since we did not have texting or Blackboard yet. We even had to drive to our friend’s houses to let them borrow notes! Nowadays though, you do not have to pick up the phone to get in touch with someone, and you can scan documents to a computer and email them to all your friends who want them. Libraries and schools all around the world have begun to embrace these new technologies, and are now incorporating them into the services they offer and the classes their students take.
I recently joined the Music Library Student Group (a student run group out of the Music Library Association), and every aspect of our communication, publicity and meetings is done online. We will have some articles in MLA publications, but the majority of our work so far has been in an online environment. We have programs like Skype and Adobe Connect that let us get together using our computers to talk, and to share information that we would not be able to share easily without them. Back in the 1990s, if we wanted to get together to talk, someone would have to have three-way calling enabled on their phone, and even then we would not be able to share documents or look at presentations. From what I remember about three-way calling, if you had more than three or four people on the line, the call quality would begin to deteriorate to the point of not being able to understand each other. Although now that I think about it, we mainly used three-way calling to prank call boys.
As a future librarian, I cannot wait to see what new technologies are in store for us and how we will continue to use current technologies to help our patrons. A running joke among my family members is that since I am in library school, I know how to use all the new gadgets and technologies. I hope this continues to be true 10 years from now as well!
Alison DePollo is the Student Supervisor/Stacks Manager, Circulation Department at Sherrod Library, East Tennessee State University. firstname.lastname@example.org