courses from Gander
Jeff Webb goes the distance
24, 2000, Gazette)
Dr. Jeff Webb and
Mary Elizabeth Archer
to the Gazette
many ways, Dr. Jeff Webb is a typical university professor. He
completed his BA and MA at Memorial, earned his PhD at UNB, specialized
in various aspects of Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada history,
published and won awards for his research. Hes been teaching
at Memorial for eight years, the last three of which have been
almost exclusively at a distance.
unusual is that for all the classes had has taught over the past
three years, he has not set foot on campus. You see, Dr. Webb
doesnt just teach at a distance, he teaches from a distance.
his return from UNB, Dr. Webb settled down in his hometown of
Gander. There, he taught first-year Memorial University courses
through the local college. By the time that program closed down,
his wife was established in her career and their daughter was
only two months old.
now had to make a decision: would he uproot his young family
in search of a new position, or try to find work in Gander? In
a small town, theres not much call for a doctorate in history,
but Dr. Webb discovered he could have his cake and eat it too.
the winter of 1996, Dr. Webb has been preparing and delivering
distance education courses for the School of Continuing Education
from his home in Gander. For him, its an ideal situation.
education teaching enables me to take care of my daughter while
still being active in my career. I continue to teach and publish
within my field even though I live in a town without a university
also allows me to have a much closer relationship with my daughter
than many men are able to have, and closer than most young male
or female academics who are often under tremendous career pressures.
Needless to say, Dr. Webbs workday doesnt follow
the typical pattern. He enjoys recounting some of his experiences.
the first year I taught through distance education, for example,
I was writing course manuals, changing diapers, answering student
e-mail inquiries, feeding the baby, splitting firewood, reviewing
textbooks, all in the same day.
communication system that is today part and parcel of distance
education also fits in well with Dr. Webbs work style.
He finds e-mail tends to be faster than tracking someone down
for a face-to-face meeting. The Internet is going to have an
even stronger impact on his work in the near future. Hes
recently developed a Web-based course covering the history of
the 20th century just in time for the millennium, too.
method of teaching presents some opportunities to do innovative
things, and it is exciting to be part of it, he said.
asked to dispense advice to future distance education instructors,
he asserts that planning is the key. To ensure students are given
complete and clear information, instructors need to consider
the level of knowledge their students will have well before the
students studying at a distance, Dr. Webb recommends they keep
pace with the reading and allow themselves ample time to do the
written work assigned for each course. He says he is often impressed
by the high quality of work his students produce on tests and
assignments. Perhaps they have picked up on his passion for education.
think a life in which you are not learning new things and having
your preconceived notions challenged is not worth living, and
I am happy to play a small role in bringing an education to people
who cannot get to the campus.