January 1999 // Spotlight Site
The Web of Asynchronous Learning Networks
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: "The Web of Asynchronous Learning Networks" The Technology Source, January 1999. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

The Web of Asynchronous Learning Networks promises as its motto, "Net Learning—Anytime, Anywhere"; it is an ambitious and worthy goal. The ALN Web site aims to promote this goal by supporting the work of faculty and others who are interested in asynchronous learning networks. For those very new to the idea, there is an ALN workshop on Internet Basics; the workshop is designed to familiarize beginners with the vagaries of the 'net itself. After overcoming that hurdle, the visitor can obtain information on and register for "Getting Started Creating On-Line Courses," a workshop run by the ALN Web Group at Vanderbilt University.

For general information on the state of ALNs, this site features both the Journal of ALN (JALN) and ALN Magazine; back-issues are available in either HTML or Acrobat format. (The visitor can also order a paper version of the JALN.) The magazine and journal abstracts, as well as the articles themselves, are extremely helpful.

Another section of the ALN site includes a listing of ALN Projects that schools have run using grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (one of the site's sponsors). These projects are organized by group according to how accessible the programs are to those off-campus.

One of the great benefits of Web sites is their interactivity, and ALN takes advantage of this by hosting ALN Talk and Medical ALN Talk, a series of discussion forums from which visitors can choose a topic to read and/or post on. These are nicely organized and very helpful. Each forum is moderated by an expert in the subject of discussion.

The recent redesign of the ALN Web page has dramatically improved the organizational framework of the site. The handy Java menu on the index page enables visitors to select specifically which information they would like to find. Also recently added are a concise definition of ALN's mission and a reorganized hot links ("A Few Sites...") page, which includes both an alphabetical and subject index.

Overall, the Web of Asynchronous Learning is a top-notch site; it provides interesting information, dynamic discussion forums, a very helpful Internet 101 course, a valuable listing of ALN Projects which show what is being done in the field, and two online journals that provide viewpoints from which to assess this work.

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