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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2002

Book Reviews

The Browsable Classroom: An Introduction to E-Learning for Librarians

Beth Roberts
Agricultural Sciences Librarian
The University of Maryland Libraries

Braun, Linda W. and Carolyn Noah. The Browsable Classroom: An Introduction to E-Learning for Librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2002. 171 pp. ISBN 1-55570-425-5 $45.00

While distance education is not new, the Internet has transformed it from the one-dimensional correspondence course model into a potentially engaging and interactive learning environment. The Browsable Classroom, part of a series of Netguides from Neal-Schuman Publishers, discusses and shows how technological advances have changed the way librarians, students and educators can learn and teach in this new environment. Distance learning today can be complete online degree programs or it can be a continuing education class. It can include face-to-face interaction or be done entirely at a distance.

The Browsable Classroom is primarily directed at librarians wanting to learn more about how to set up distance education classrooms or wanting to better support the needs of distance learners. Others that may benefit from reading this book are students and educators, or anyone wanting to better understand the burgeoning world of distance learning online.

The book begins by explaining the types of learning that are available online, such as asynchronous (time-lagged) and synchronous (real-time) and the ramifications of the two types of interacting on the teacher, student, and others involved in providing help for or working with these classes. The authors then provide models of distance programs that are currently active at various universities and other organizations, including libraries. Librarians and schools of library and information science appear to be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to developing these kinds of programs.

Distance learners have specialized needs that libraries and librarians need to be prepared to cope with. They especially depend upon access to materials in electronic format and can be aided by services such as online chat. If a library has not already considered how it will support distance learners, then this chapter will be enlightening. The authors point to the 1998 ACRL guidelines for libraries response to the increase in distance education. The guidelines state that:

"Services for distance learning communities may be different but should be equivalent to those provided for on-campus learners (Association of College & Research Libraries 1998)" (Braun & Noah 61).

In order to provide distance learners with the equivalent level of services, the authors suggest that we need to be responsive to their needs and prepare our libraries to handle this type of learner.

Designing an effective distance-learning program is perhaps the principal challenge for many of us. It requires us to re-think traditional educational models and instructional delivery methods. The authors discuss ways to create an effective classroom and manage the technical aspects of the design. They show ways to do this if you are lucky enough to have assistance and ways to handle it if you do not. The Browsable Classroom also includes a chapter on how to teach effectively in an online environment.

Many librarians will have to adjust to distance learners in increasing numbers, or even be responsible for teaching in this way themselves. This book is a helpful guide to the process and the issues that will arise for librarians involved in any way with distance education.

References are included at the end of each chapter. Many of the chapters include screen shots to give the reader a better sense of what the authors are describing. The book also includes tables and figures to aid in understanding the concepts presented. In addition, there is a glossary, bibliography, notes and credits and an index.

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