• April 23, 2014

Absent Students Want to Attend Traditional Classes via Webcam

Professors already welcome their guest speakers using this same technology

New Question for Professors: Should Students Be Allowed to Attend Classes Via Webcam? 1

Lissa Gotwals for The Chronicle

Paul Jones takes frequent advantage of Skype videoconferencing to invite guest speakers to his mass-communications classes at the U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Among them are (below) Danah Boyd, a fellow at Harvard U.'s Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Fred Turner, an associate professor of communication at Stanford U.; and Howard Rheingold, author of several books on virtual communities.

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close New Question for Professors: Should Students Be Allowed to Attend Classes Via Webcam? 1

Lissa Gotwals for The Chronicle

Paul Jones takes frequent advantage of Skype videoconferencing to invite guest speakers to his mass-communications classes at the U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Among them are (below) Danah Boyd, a fellow at Harvard U.'s Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Fred Turner, an associate professor of communication at Stanford U.; and Howard Rheingold, author of several books on virtual communities.

It was just 30 minutes before class when Thomas Nelson Laird, an assistant professor of higher education at Indiana University at Bloomington, got the e-mail from a student: "I can't make it to class. Can you beam me in by Webcam?"

"I thought, I don't know if I can do that," the professor says. He looked at the clock and thought about the time it would take to rig up a link via Skype or some other video-chat system. He had used the technology before, though, so he figured, Why not?

Professors across the country are facing similar questions. Webcams are ubiquitous, and students are accustomed to using popular services like Skype to make what are essentially video phone calls to friends and family. Recognizing the trend, this month Skype unveiled a service for educators to trade tips and tricks, called "Skype in the classroom."

Professors also frequently bring in guest speakers using the technology, letting students interact with experts they otherwise would only read about in textbooks.

Mr. Nelson Laird's course, on diversity in education, has about 20 students in a circle. So on one seat, he set a laptop with a built-in Webcam for the missing student, who could not make it because of a snowstorm. It worked—the student even gave a five-minute presentation, her face displayed on the laptop screen and projected on a screen at the front of the room. But the professor noted that he had squandered five to 10 minutes of class time in setting up the connection, with a program called Adobe Connect.

The scenario was a first for Mr. Nelson Laird, and he says he hasn't yet thought out what his policy will be should a flurry of such requests occur. "Am I willing to do this occasionally? Sure," he told me this month. "But I'm not going to set this up every week."

Exactly how often professors fire up Web­cams in their classrooms is hard to figure. The most recent data from the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement shows that about 12 percent of professors said they had used videoconferencing in their teaching. Mr. Nelson Laird helps lead the annual survey, which was conducted in the spring of 2009, of about 4,600 faculty members at 50 American colleges and universities.

As that number grows, will videocon­fer­encing change the dynamics of traditional classrooms?

Talking Heads

Perhaps no classroom professor has experimented more with videoconferencing in a single course than Paul Jones, an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In his fall 2009 course on virtual communities, he brought in a guest speaker via Skype nearly every week. That let his students inter­act with some of the leading scholars and authors on the topic—including Fred Turner, an associate professor of communication at Stanford University, and Howard Rheingold, who has written many books on Internet culture—who would have been unlikely to make the trip down to speak in person.

The guest speakers did not have to offer prepared remarks. Instead they were asked to simply make themselves available for questions from students during their Web­cam appearances. In advance, students were required to use their Webcams to record short videos about the visitors' ideas. The guests would view the responses ahead of time, on YouTube or some other video-sharing site, to see what the students were most interested in.

"It's a bargain for these guys," says Mr. Jones, referring to the guest speakers. "They don't have to prepare a talk, and they get to interact with really smart students who are familiar with their work—and they don't have to travel."

Mr. Jones chose not to record the guests' video appearances themselves, or open them to the public. "I wanted the speaker to feel free to say whatever the hell they wanted," he says.

When I visited the University of Virginia last year, I saw a Skype guest speaker in action. Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies there who frequently explores new educational technology, had agreed to give a half-hour talk via Skype to a friend's class at the University of Wisconsin at Madison's library school, and he let me sit in. A few minutes before he was to appear, he headed to his faculty office, logged onto Skype, and donned a headset. A Webcam built into his monitor broadcast his image, and thanks to a camera on the other end, he could see the classroom full of eager students. He spent a few minutes on prepared remarks, and then took questions. Afterward, he joked that his friend now owed him a beer, or else a guest lecture in return.

In his own courses, Mr. Vaidhyanathan cashes in on those favors. During one recent class session he linked in Jeff Jarvis, an associate professor of journalism at the City University of New York. "I get to talk to students I wouldn't have otherwise talked to," Mr. Jarvis told me. "I've done this probably a dozen times at least. You're in for 30 minutes, and you're out. The obligation is so minimal that it makes it easier to say, What the heck?"

New Chore for Professors

There are some downsides to classroom videoconferencing.

The technology does not always work, although it is far more reliable than it was just a few years ago.

The first time Katherine D. Harris, an assistant professor of English literature at San Jose State University, tried inviting a guest speaker via Skype, she could not get the video to work, despite help from one of the university's tech-support staff members. Students in the course, "Digital Literature: the Death of Print Culture?" could hear the guest but not see him. Sometimes the audio would cut out as well, which made it harder for them to concentrate.

Would she do it again? Only if she knew technical help was close at hand. "It's almost easier to do it in person because you don't have the technology mediating everything," she says. "There's just so much to handle and take care of rather than just going to pick someone up."

Even letting students participate via videoconference has its drawbacks.

"I want to throw out this caution," says Scott Johnson, director of Illinois Online Network, the online division of the University of Illinois. "Unless the professor is committed to personally supporting and facilitating these ad hoc accommodations and provisions, and willing to carve out class time to set up and maintain the provisions, this is a moderately dangerous road.

"My issue is that the creation of an on-demand condition of readiness for any technology is not feasible for the majority of the faculty of many institutions. If the institution has educational technologists on staff, it is critical to enlist their assistance for the present and future if this technology-friendly teaching climate is going to be sustainable."

The concern reminds me of a scene in the 1985 film Real Genius. A series of scenes shows a classroom at an elite university. Early in the semester, all the students are in their seats, attentively taking notes. As the term wears on, more and more students have left tape recorders in their seats, since they're too busy to make it. Finally, recorders fill every desk, and the professor, too, is absent—replaced by a reel-to-reel machine playing his recorded lecture. On the board reads the message: "Math on Tape Is Hard to Follow: Please Listen Carefully."

Some level of phoning it in might be helpful, but professors will have to decide how far to go in accommodating their students' desire for convenience—and their own.

College 2.0 covers how new technologies are changing colleges. Please send ideas to jeff.young@chronicle.com or @jryoung on Twitter.

Comments

1. vitak - January 30, 2011 at 01:40 pm

In my department (Media & Information Studies) at Michigan State, we've been Skyping with guest speakers for a couple of years now. In fall 2009, Nicole Ellison had a very similar setup to that of Mr. Jones, with speakers Skyping in most class sessions and students asking questions. This was a PhD-level class, so it was a small group of students and worked very well. Technical difficulties aside, I think it is very useful to be able to pick scholars' brains and ask them questions that aren't directly addressed in their research. I imagine this would be harder in larger classes and with undergrads, who are less engaged/invested in the research, but I think it's always nice to put a face to your readings. It helps bring them out of the clouds and (literally) into the classroom.

2. rossemmett - January 30, 2011 at 03:01 pm

Skyping with guest speakers; done that many times (I'm also at Michigan State, but in James Madison College). But the webcam use by a student reminds me of an old joke about the prof who tape-recorded his lectures for a class because the university had mistakenly double-booked him in two classes simultaneously. One day a few weeks after the start of term he went by the classroom just to see how students were doing, only to discover a tape-recorder on every desk, taping his tape-recorded lecture. Not a student in sight. If you're going to webcast live, why not just go ahead and film it at your convenience and put the course online?

3. smalljones - January 30, 2011 at 03:14 pm

The way we did this class is a little more complicated. The students, about 20 undergrads, viewed a lecture by the speaker (usually from TED, Berkman, Standord Library etc) in advance of the class at their convenience or at least on their own schedule. The students each then posted a 2 minute response to that talk in a video, animation or audio over screen capture or slides. The visiting scholar could and often did review the responses before visiting the class. The time in class was spent in face to face interaction between the class and the speaker. Quite a different approach from that described in @rossemmett's humor story; letting tech work in the different ways that tech works best.

You at MSU may be interested that during one of the many times UNC was in the NCAA basketball finals (particularly 2008), one of our students did his final presentation using the combination of Skype (two way again) and Google Presenter from his hotel room in San Antonio. Perhaps you'll have a chance to try that out under similar circumstances one day.

4. andreaadamsmiller - January 31, 2011 at 09:40 am

The use of technology in the classroom is instrumental to non traditional students from those students with sick kids at home to the student who has fallen ill themselves! This opportunity to SKYPE in has been a godsend to those ambitious students who still want to be active in the classroom, yet have an obstacle that prevents their actual physical presence! This is an opportune way to allow them the flexibility that is necessary for student success. The obstacles for teachers include: school accessibility for technology, school support for web/distance participation, and access to technology for the students. Often, I have to integrate technology on my own accord using my own account, my own laptop, and my own webcam. This is extra work on my part to access all of this and set it up, however, the ability to help a student succeed who is in the hospital in traction after a car accident or assisting a child with a terminal illness is immeasureable for the student and the teacher!
Andrea Adams-Miller, Author of "How to be the Awesome Teacher Your Students Need". www.AndreaAdamsMiller.com "A Leading Authority in Healthy Relationships"

5. steph_m - January 31, 2011 at 05:52 pm

I think there is more depth to this conversation than the article suggests. There are many cultural aspects to this, and I know this question is being considered more as universities struggle with class sizes outstripping physical space to accommodate students (debating class size is another topic altogether). Part of the cultural shift to more of this would be what andreaadamsmiller suggests above - a recognition of a more plural definition of learners rather than the very narrow definition of only the person who is able to be nowhere else at that time but in a specific classroom. "Diversity" tends to focus on age and gender, but research is suggesting that those are superficial indicators that mask underlying socio-economic realities for many students. When we begin to truly define diversity in broader terms, then options like these are far more friendly - and less about just technology - than they appear on the surface.

The article ends by emphasizing "convenience" as the primary motivator. That is hardly the most appropriate label both for (a) a solution set that allows diverse learners to participate in learning and (b) planning and design decisions about the use of technology in educational environments and what that facilitates. While some might make use of it purely for convenience, the bottom line to all this technology is actually access. The alternative to convenience is just inconvenience, but the alternative to access in inaccessibility. I would encourage more of an "access" perspective (along with an "equity" perspective achieved through conscience design of desirable learning experiences that are mediated or blended).

6. 11164868 - February 01, 2011 at 06:19 am

and there was a Mad Magazine cartoon in the 1960's showing the tape recorder scenario

7. russmeade - February 01, 2011 at 07:10 am

Great article!

I have been using SKYPE in all my synchronous and asynchronous for years .

Just how it is used is only limited by the Professors lack of creativity. It is a Web 2.0 tool that can take an often static class into one that is highly dynamic, interactive, and fun!

In all my classes I require my students to download SKYPE and then use it to connect with all their classmates and myself. They use it to assist each other with the material, to work in groups though at a distance from the campus and from each other and to simply get to know one another just as if they were on the same campus and in the same room.

One of my students SKYPED her wedding for the entire class to attend and then went on to do her oral presentations while on her Honeymoon! Another connects with me daily while serving in Afghanistan. Still another extremely shy student in my synchronous class never speaks in class but on SKYPE she is a human dynamo!

As a Professor who loves to travel, I take my students with me everywhere I go via SKYPE!

So far, I have visited 52 nations and in each, I connect with my students and video tape lectures of some interesting business points from each country. I then have office hours to video chat one on one.

Last year, I traveled into the Sahara desert, connected with my class via SKYPE as well as Voice Threads and simply chatted with my students on the political and social life of this unique place.

After about an hour, a group of Muslim students were watching over my shoulder on just what I was doing. I then invited them to take over the discussion. They sat down and connected with my American students with an enthusiasm seldom seen in an synchronous class. My students tell me that they stayed connected for 4 hours simply getting to know on another and sharing their lives.

SKYPE as a stand alone tool is great but when combined with other Web 2.0 tools such as Voice Thread

(See recent article: http://voicethread.com/community/library/Using_VoiceThread_in_an_online_course_from_Professor_Russ_Meade/ ) it is fantastic!

8. tcbalser - February 01, 2011 at 07:49 am

It's certainly where the world is headed, and I enjoyed this article. This semester I have been learning a whole new "take" on Adobe Connect -- we are required to use it to accommodate a student who is legally blind. We've set up Adobe Connect with a dedicated laptop, and we load our files onto that laptop in advance. It gets streamed to the laptop of the student, sitting in the front row. Things we put on the document camera, or video clips we show, are likewise broadcast straight to him. It reminds me how technology is increasing access for a range of students -- not just those at home because of snow storms!

9. cleverclogs - February 01, 2011 at 08:00 am

I appreciate the altruism that seems to motivate professors and the dedication that students seem to display here. But this statement, from russmeade (#8), hurt my heart:

"One of my students SKYPED her wedding for the entire class to attend and then went on to do her oral presentations while on her Honeymoon!"

As far as I'm concerned, this is a tragic development. For pity's sake, can't we all have an occasional break?

If a student of mine has to stay home with his or her sick kid, then presumably s/he wants to concentrate on the kid, not on Skype. That's OK by me. When s/he comes back and is able to concentrate fully on class, s/he'll catch up.

10. tappat - February 01, 2011 at 08:07 am

I don't see why the professor can't just skype into the classroom, and let any (or all) of the students skype in, too. I think we can run pre-recorded videos, too, so everyone could just record his or her contribution and schedule its transmission. This would be really good for cold and flu season, which I always think is a bit longer than the experts say. I think this would really help, especially for classes students are required to take.

11. 22280998 - February 01, 2011 at 09:39 am

Any insights/comments on how this affects large and small group discussions and exercises?

12. dowlingpatrick - February 01, 2011 at 10:57 am

cleverclogs is correct. When you're on vacation ... you're on vacation. Multi-tasking is one thing, but we need to respect serious rest.

13. missoularedhead - February 01, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Perhaps it's because I teach at a rural community college, but we use ITV for classes, faculty meetings and even administrative meetings. And in our learning center, we do tutoring via Skype. I had not thought about it before, but that might actually be a useful idea for my online classes to hold virtual office hours.
Thank for the idea!

14. smalljones - February 01, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I appreciate the folks in rural and/or sparsely populated areas early interest in telepresences by various means. One of our very first Skype visitors several years back was a former student who was working for the UN in Sudan. While it did not make the international experience completely real, it did work to establish a presence and an empathy that had not been available from readings or even prepared video.

As I mentioned above, we used a mix of asynchronous videos, student produced responses and face to face - over skype - interaction. The idea was to let each part of vernacular video do what it does best.

About class size. 20 is about the cap for what we've done. Possibly 25. That's not 25 separate Skype sessions. That's one speaker interacting with a classroom of 25.

15. pragmatist - February 01, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I have been teaching split classes (some students physically present in the classroom while others participate over a Tandberg system) for four years now, and I hate it. The students who are not physically in the classroom seldom perform as well on exams, and miss classes more often than those who physically attend the class. There is no replacement for direct interaction between the students and instructor.

16. henr1055 - February 01, 2011 at 01:02 pm

Lecturing is the part of the class time I use to explain either applications of the material or the more complex aspects of the material I would get no feedback from the students. In addition if they are Skyping in and text messaging their friends while the class is going on you will never know if the students are attending to the class or texting their friends. Since the Educationologists at the regional accrediting agencies say faculty are accountable for the students learning we should at least be able to know if the students are paying attention.

17. painter33 - February 01, 2011 at 01:31 pm

"Today's class is... oh, wait; let me line up this putt...is about.. ah, missed it...today we're focusing on... just a short one coming back...focusing on...I CAN'T BELIEVE I MISSED THAT - IT WAS A GIMME... we're focusing...well, I'm not focusing or I wouldn't have missed the second putt...focusing on... a six..on... I said a SIX...geez, I have to play more if I'm going to get any better...no, I'm trying to teach my class here...on, ah, um...what was the last class about?"

18. ladyd111982 - February 01, 2011 at 04:09 pm

It certainly seems like a viable option for smaller classrooms of dedicated students. As some have mentioned, it probably would not be the best option for large classes, particularly with undergraduate students who don't always have coursework as a priority. If there were some way to resolve the problem of inattentive undergraduates, it would be a great advantage for adjunct faculty who teach multiple sections of the same course at various locations if they could use a webcam and broadcast it to all of the locations at one time and perhaps even visit the different locations on a rotating basis to have the face-to-face experience with the students as well.

19. bendicott - February 01, 2011 at 06:03 pm

I've used technology for a number of years to leverage my classes. This year I was able to add a cohort of 15 students to one of my classes by offering it online through Adobe Connect symultaneously with an in-class offering. It adds a dimension to the class to have the online folks contributing to class through chat, 'raising their hands' to ask questions by audio, forming teams with students in the physical classroom.

We've also been able to bring in guest lecturers from around the globe--we have a researcher from Wales participating next week!

20. drdtking - February 02, 2011 at 07:34 am

As you say, it's happening already. Guest speakers, too.

Won't be long and most education from high school on will be delivered online.

21. wayne_detzler - February 02, 2011 at 08:07 am

We do it all the time here at Southern Evangelical Seminary. It enables us to have students all over the United States. We actually have discovered that remote students are able and eager to enter into class discussion, which enriches their educational experience. We are designing our distance education program around the concept, which is especially helpful to our military students deployed around the world.

22. jrlupton - February 02, 2011 at 08:32 am

I Skyped in two guest speakers for my Design Writing class this fall. It was a great way to enrich student offerings without the expense and inconvenience of arranging visits. I had to do all the tech myself,though, and did find it challenging.

23. tjsmith - February 02, 2011 at 09:39 am

This is a great use of video conferencing technology. For the comment as to why professors don't just film it at their convenience and show it online - that takes away the synchronous aspects of the lecture, which is what gives it the added value for the students and guest speakers. Both Skype and Adobe Connect work well, but should be set up ahead of class time.

24. 12109204 - February 02, 2011 at 09:58 am

For those of you using Skype with your students, do you set up a separate account for that purpose, or do give out your personal Skype information (if you also use for personal purposes)?

25. wittseek7 - February 02, 2011 at 10:09 am

I offer what is clearly a minority opinion. However..
If you have read the recent proliferation of articles about the generally high anxiety level among students--and you have read the studies that ascribe this mood disorder, not only among students, but also among the general population of the U.S., to a loss of sense of community--and you have considered the extensive research that shows electronic communication does not have the positive social effect of in-person conversation/discussion--then, you might wonder if providing your students video connection to your classroom or to guest speakers is a good way to operate. If the broadcaster's feeling is that "something is better than nothing," I would point out that this attitude is deeply involved in the diminishing quality of much of our country's schooling. I can appreciate the fact that, for students who are severely physically handicapped or are suffering long-term illnesses, there may be exceptions, but the best education (and best sense of community) is clearly learned through live dialogue.

26. profshelly - February 02, 2011 at 10:38 am

B"H

I do most of my office hours with students via Skype in the evenings when I am home, but my college still insists that those office hours don't count. They want me physically present in my office sitting, alone, in the middle of the day waiting for students who don't come--and won't put Skype on my college computer because of "security" concerns. Sigh.

We do have Second Life, though. This semester I was struck with a horrible case of laryngitis. My doctor refused to let me go to the college to teach, insisting I was infectious and that I was not allowed to speak, under any circumstances, for three full days.

So, I twittered and facebooked to my students that our class would be via Second Life.

I taught Tuesday and Thursday as my "avatar" self, texting to my avatar students in Second Life--and took roll.

It wasn't the best class I ever taught, but I was "there" for them!

Michelle

27. wittseek7 - February 02, 2011 at 11:17 am

Profshelly,
I greatly admire your dedication to your students, but surely they can be encouraged to visit you in-person during your regular office hours. Your private time in the evening is valuable for your own study and recreation. Very occasionally, I have invited students who are ill to telephone me at home; and, at those times, I have seen how phone conversation--or Skype--can be useful. But, typically, I shut down my computer at 6:00 PM, so that I can read, write, and eat peacefully--and enjoy uninterrupted time with my family and friends.
When I was an undergraduate, and also as a graduate student, I was happy with the opportunity my teachers' office hours presented. The professors were hardly sitting alone; often, there would be other students ahead of me--and we would chat while we waited our turns.
I can't help but wonder if, in these days of increasing overbooking, some students place a low priority on meeting a teacher's office hours. Why should a professor--except in cases of illness--extend his or her availability into the evening, which needs to be personal time? To do so may enable a student to overbook still more.

28. coreydavis_ocglobal - February 02, 2011 at 11:27 am

I agree with andreaadamsmiller in that "The use of technology in the classroom is instrumental to non traditional students," and that includes me. It is NOT just about accommodating students' desire for convenience, as the writer of the article suggests. Using webcams and streaming courses live is about equity and access, and to me access is equity, or at least it moves us that much closer to it. That's why as the executive director of online education at Odessa College, we're beginning to use web cams and live broadcasting as standard feature in some of our face-to-face and online classes. We use several platforms: Skype, Livestream and WebEx, depending on the content being delivered and the EXPERIENCE we want students to have. For others (single moms and dads with one or two kids at home, people who lack reliable transportation or a bus stop near their home, rural students, students who are physically disabled on top of being economically poor - all of whom make up a good number of our student population)it's the only way to get to that experience. And for some learners, web-cam classes is the best fit for their learning style and in my case, learning disability. Web-cam classes is not a replacement for face-to-face classes, it is its own thing - it's own learning expereince - a valuable one, with distinct advantages and disadvantages. It's sustainability does not depend on whether or not a school has technologists on staff as Mr. Johnson asserts, but rather on school's (and teachers) level of commitment to achieving access for all (and that includes people who have legitimate reasons why they can't GO to a class) and at, the end of the day, the real demands needs of the students.

29. 11272784 - February 02, 2011 at 01:09 pm

I applaud the sentiments of most faculty here - and I wish more of ours felt that way. Campus students today deserve a way to review lectures, and distance students need a high-quality lecture capture. It's not hard to do this IF faculty will cooperate and use the tools which are available.

I often ask faculty if one of their stated objectives is "Student shall apply buttt to chair in my classroom for 45 hours." Of course, that's not within the objectives. If students can meet the stated objectives without being in class, more power to them - they pass.

30. wittseek7 - February 02, 2011 at 03:17 pm

11272784,
As you "often ask faculty" a question, I infer that you are, at least part of your time, an administrator. I would hope that one of the stated objectives of your institution is to foster the best possible teaching and learning. Your dismissive characterization of in-classroom work as a "butt-to-chair" experience sounds demeaning to both teachers and students. Of course, a student sits in class; that relaxed posture promotes better discussion and facilitates the taking of notes. And attendance in an actual classroom, with live discussion's spontaneity and subtle visual and verbal communications, strikes me as an inherently better means to teaching and learning than a second-hand alternative.
You appear to discount the value of in-person learning. To say that a well-motivated student can pass a course by means of electronic participation is undoubtedly true--but is this the best possible way for a professor to teach or a student to learn? I think not.
If you wanted to discuss an important issue with another person, would you prefer to talk with her in person or via electronic transmission?
For the poor, the disabled, and for those who live in deeply rural areas, the transmitted classroom is, potentially, a godsend. But why shouldn't those who (or whose family) pay for the choice of an on-campus education be required to attend class, thereby doing their best to learn, just as those who are forced to study at a distance are doing their best?
Having been an administrator as well as a teacher, I cannot imagine suggesting that faculty who insist their on-campus students attend class are lacking in proper sentiments or are somehow anachronistic stick-in-the-muds. Hope you will reconsider these issues from a broader perspective.

31. 101214 - February 02, 2011 at 05:50 pm

I agree that it is beneficial for students to have access to experts in their chosen field, as the article suggests. Videoconferencing is one way to make this happen. Technology is wonderful when everything works well, but IT specialists are critical if the professor cannot effectively trouble-shoot. We have the luxury of having IT staff on hand in my school, but I am not sure of this availability in other departments/schools. This enables us to have students attend the same lectures on two different campuses with IT professionals to set up the connections and record lectures. We have yet to attempt to make the leap to allowing students to “attend” live class sessions from the comfort of their homes. However, with recorded lectures, students can review the material presented in class at any time from anywhere when logged into Blackboard.

As we all know, students have different learning styles, needs, and situations. Some students need face-to-face interaction, while others have life circumstances that prevent them from attending courses that are not available online or such. In my opinion, universities who offer a variety of options for their students, as well as professors who are diverse in their teaching are able to reach the greatest number of students.

32. chroniclebarnacle - February 03, 2011 at 12:27 am

Russmeade- facinating post! I really enjoyed the way you used this technology. The opportunity in the desert was particularily interesting- what a learning experience for our students.
Others- great comments as well.
Clevercloggs and another one or two- relax- we all know certain technologies can be invasive but it is up to us to control it.
Young students today embrace technology on a greater level than we will ever understand and they will expect more of it in the classroom. I just hope I can keep up....

33. ihartedu - February 03, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I think this a great way to effectively use education in the classroom. This of the possibilities on who you can interview. There are so many brilliant educators who are just a click away from you.

@profshelly - I feel saddened at the lack of enthusiasm from the administration at your school. Your approach to be available to students when it is convenient for them is applauded.

34. asintjago - February 03, 2011 at 04:22 pm

I am a PhD student at the University of Minnesota. As a was walking to work during the first day of the semester to attend a meeting (I work as a GA at the U of M), I slipped on the ice and broke my leg in two places. This happened two weeks ago and I had a surgery yesterday. Yet, however unfortunate this event was, because of Skype, I have only missed a single class. I have not listened to class lectures but I have also contributed to class discussions. The only class I missed was one in which the professor was originally not familiar with the technology.

35. tweetklbz - February 04, 2011 at 09:49 am

I'm a doc student and an adjunct instructor in a teacher education program. I have used Skype for years to bring in speakers from distant locations, and to facilitate a connection to students who must travel for business or are absent for other valid reasons.

I have Skyped into my own doctoral classes during ice storms and when I have been ill and, in collaborating with other doc students, we have shared computer desktops, files, and sometimes visits from curious pets.

I have used Skype for office hours and have a separate, work only Skype ID. This enables me to set clear boundaries between work and personal time.

Is it perfect? No. Is it the equivalent of face to face contact in the same physical location? Sometimes. Does it make possible what would otherwise be impossible? Oh yes. And that, in my mind, is the only justification for using it.

But, and this is a big but, I usually have to use my own equipment. And, as wonderful as our institution's tech support team is--N. B., make it a point to befriend these usually beleaguered folks--they aren't always well-versed in the details of setting up a Skype connection. Recently, for example, I talked via cell phone with one such person to coach him through a Skype set-up so that I could attend that event.

There's the Catch 22. People in Higher Ed face growing criticism for being so out-of-the technology 2.0 loop, but without the tools or support, how do they learn?

So there are two realms of difficulty we need to overcome. One is pedagogical, one is organizational.

I can't wait for the day when using Skype and other technologies in our teaching isn't news.



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