Distance Education and Library Services

Distance Education and Library Services

Diane M. Fulkerson (University of South Florida Polytechnic Library, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0234-2.ch001
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Remote access technologies for library collections are the result of the growth of distance education programs in higher education. With the increased demand for online education, students needed a way to access library collections without coming to campus. As technology improved, the ability for students to use a library’s database without coming to a physical campus became a reality. Through such technologies as virtual private networks (VPN) and EZProxy, students could use their ID and password to gain access to library collections. Distance education was the driving force behind the need to provide remote access to collections. As a result, students now have the ability to search a library’s catalog or find articles in a database without coming to campus, anytime of the day or night. Librarians also have the opportunity to promote library resources and teach synchronous instruction sessions in online classes. Remote access technologies provide students, faculty, and librarians with the opportunity to meet user needs regardless of whether or not they are on campus. This chapter examines the growth of distance education programs at post-secondary schools, a trend expected to continue for the near future.
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The first distance education programs were correspondence courses. Students enrolled in programs for everything from secretarial programs to cosmetology. Students were mailed the course material and assignments were returned to the instructor via mail (Hansen, 2001). Technology played a role in some of the forms of distance education. The development of the Linnebach lantern made possible the projection of images in public lecture tent shows. With the development of the phonograph and recorded sound after World War I university owned radio stations broadcast educational programs. The advent of movies with sound provided the opportunity for creation of educational films for training, especially during World War II. With the 1950s came the growth of instructional television courses (Berg, 2010). By 2000, web- based courses replaced correspondence courses. According to the most recent statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the period from 2006-2007 there were 4,200 postsecondary institutions and 66 percent of the institutions offered some type of online or distance education courses (Department of Education, 2008). According to a report supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, over 5.6 million students took at least one online course in the fall term of 2008 (Sloan Consortium, 2010b)

Distance education is no longer the exclusive domain of traditional non-profit colleges and universities. In recent years, there has been a rapid growth of for-profit online universities. One of the leading for-profit colleges is Phoenix University. Others include Capella University and Kaplan University. The Department of Defense also offers military online universities such as Air University from the United States Air Force. Many major corporations offer online universities such as McDonald’s Hamburger University that provides operation training and develops new leaders. There are also numerous online learning resources providing content for online courses. MERLOT, the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching provides peer-reviewed online course materials. The materials on the MERLOT web site cover a variety of topics and include everything from tutorials to lectures (Rudestam & Schoenholtz-Read, 2010). Students who want to take online courses now have several options. They are no longer tied to traditional non-profit colleges. Regardless of which type of postsecondary institution the student chooses they need access to library materials.

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