Google has set up a separate search page, http://scholar.google.com/, where you can search for materials that Google has determined are "scholarly" (it's not clear exactly what that means, right now.) They are definitely including full text articles available freely on the web as well as abstracts of materials that are only available through paid-for services. Some of the associations mentioned so far as having their materials included in Google Scholar are IEEE and ACM. Both of those institutions charge for their full text.
Google Scholar also lists how many articles in it's database cite each article, giving a rough idea of the "impact" of the article and also providing a list of potentially related articles. Similar citation analysis databases include the subscription-based Web of Science (Southern subscribes to the Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences segments), and free endeavors such as CiteSeer (computer science).
How can the distance student or faculty use Google Scholar? You can use it like any other database that has both indexing/abstracts and some full text. You do your search, read/print out/save the full text articles, and then look on Journal Locator for the journals that don't have the full text for free. Journal Locator will tell you if we have that journal available online or in print in the library. If we don't have access to it, you can request it from Interlibrary Loan.
You may also be able to buy the article from the publisher. You should first check if we already have free access to that article through one of our databases, but paying for it is an option if we don't have it and you don't want to wait for Interlibrary Loan.
Faculty: if you know of resources that are not yet included in Google Scholar, for instance an online version of your own work, you can make a request for it to be included.
For more information on Google Scholar, Google has an About Google Scholar page at http://scholar.google.com/scholar/about.html. A good review of the service is available from ResourceShelf at http://www.resourceshelf.com/2004/11/wow-its-google-scholar.html. Another good review is from SearchEngineWatch at http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3437471. Both of these reviews list some of the benefits and pitfalls of the new service.