Recently there has been a rash of emails on the Newlib-l listserv about distance education classes in MLS programs. In a recent post on the Wanderings of a Student Librarian blog, Joy Weese Moll discusses how the debates are primarily about the perceived lack of jobs for those with MLS degrees and beliefs that distance education will attract even more students to a profession where there is already a shortage of jobs. Fortunately according to a report published by the ALA entitled Library Retirements - What Can We Expect, an expected wave of librarian retirements is expected to take place starting in 2015. An entry in an LISNews.com blog suggests that by 2027, there will be a good market for librarians.
On a more personal note, I am currently taking an entirely online library science class. I am hoping to be admitted to a MLS distance education program - one that is entirely online - meaning that I will never have to set foot on campus or take an actual face-to-face class. I admit to having some reservations about distance education, but given my physical location, the high cost of the closest MLS program and my work schedule, I cannot actually attend a traditional class. As such, my choice was clear.
I am now two weeks into my first online class and I have been pleasantly surprised by the experience. The major means of communication is through threaded discussions and email. Despite the fact that I do miss the personal interaction (I find it difficult to judge what the professor is looking for or what his expectations are), the discussions are quite lively, well thought out and often allow the personalities of the students to shine through. The difficulty level of the class seems to be appropriate - I think the assignments are challenging without being overbearing. Of course, I have to keep in mind that I haven't actually done most of them yet. It is obviously quite early in the semester, but each day I get a bit more comfortable with the format - and I think my typing skills are improving. So far, I think I am getting money's worth and am being intellectually challenged.