I will share my experiences of using virtual classrooms in two higher education contexts: 1.MSc BOE (Napier, Scotland) 2.Med e-Learning (Massey, New Zealand)
Why live? E-mail, online asynchronous discussions, blogs, online recorded audio and video are common means to reach learners online. The choice to ‘go live’ should be a deliberate one! Synchronous learning should be encouraged and deployed when synchronous learning is suited.
What needs can be served by synchronous interactions? Teaching Collaboration Support Socialisation and informal exchanges Extended outreach ( for fully online and for blended learning opportunities; for meetings and consultancy; for supervision, C&IT Support or Library help desks...)
Teaching Use of interactive whiteboard to show and explain slides, emphasise points, annotate slides based on students’ feedback! Use the powerful set of emoticons to receive ‘feedback’ and ‘feed-forward’ Blend videos, slides, web-tours to keep my students motivated!
Collaboration Arrange groups of students to work together real- time to supplement other online activities (debates, role plays) Provide ‘anchor points’ for vital parts of your online courses ( for example, Education Reading Groups) Collaboration between campus-based and distance learners, or between two campus based groups linked via a fast and easy to set up and manage web-conference!
Support Virtual office Hours Feedback tutorials Library catalogues and e-resources tours Technical support (if you can! Or bring someone who can!) Supervision support for both Masters and PhD students
Socialisation (informal gatherings) Students Clubs Theatre, cinema and book critiques! (believe or not we even hosted an whisky tasting using Elluminate)
Extended Outreach Bring a guest speaker either for your online students, or your campus-based, or both! Bring two classes together from different locations, countries or continents! Project collaboration Virtual mobility of students
Does it always work? Technology is not very predictable! So, you must be prepared. Have a back up plan! E-moderation is vital to the process. The more you are doing it, the better you will become There is no magic number of how many, how long, how much! It all depends on your ‘Why go live’ decision
What did our students tell us? It’s fun It’s meaningful It’s useful It’s flexible But..... Can be frustrating Can be boring Can be a waste of time