Long distance learning of the 90s has given way to online learning where students and instructors communicate through the internet, either synchronous or asynchronous. Over 3.2 million students took online courses in 2005, and that rate continues to increase (Koenig, 20120). Video conferences, email, and discussion forums facilitate communication between students and teachers. Instructors use various tools to meet these needs and new web sources will continue to be developed. Skype is a free video or audio conference method. Elluminate Live! and Wimba Classroom, now part of Blackboard Collaborate is an online tool for communicating via web conferencing, mobile collaboration, instant messaging, and voice authoring. It is a web based platform that helps instructors create the virtual classroom where students can interact and be part of an online learning experience.
When designing the virtual classroom, instructors should take care to use synchronous activities such as web conferencing sparingly, and for items that cannot be covered in an asynchronous activity where students can access information on their own time schedule (Horton, 2012). It is best when students have many questions and should not be used because an instructor simply did not have the time to create an asynchronous activity (Horton, 2012). In fact, one of the concerns of online learning is that faculty and students will lose the benefits of the traditional classrooms (Koenig, 2010). In a study of 1,206 students and 160 faculty, conducted at New York Institute of Technology in 2010, researchers concluded that in classroom learning was superior to video conferencing and online learning (Koenig, 2010).
In creating a plan for a web conference, you must address technical aspects first: internet speed, availability of students, ability to share a common language and understand each other, and typing speed (Horton, 2012). This information should be made available far ahead of the video conference in consideration of meeting Bloom's Taxonomy of learning (Overbaugh, n.d.). Other information needed for students and facilitator include: day and time of conference, length, an agenda, how to collaborate or participate and where the conference will be stored for after hours access (Horton, 2012). Roles of participants must be presented before the day of web conferencing. Students will be given the opportunity to voice their questions after certain slides. The method of signaling questions will be part of the web conference platform. This method of interaction follows the theory on connectivism learning, encouraging learners to connect with other students and the instructor (Siemens, 2004). A copy of the conference is an important contingency plan for students who cannot attend the synchronous web conference (Horton, 2012). All learners will have a place -- a discussion board -- where they can ask questions that may come up after the web conference, improving dialogue and connectivism ( Siemens, 2004).
Horton, W. (2012). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer
Koenig, R. J. (2010). A study in analyzing effectiveness of undergraduate course delivery: Classroom, online and video conference from A student and faculty perspective. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(10), 13-25. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=61252685&site=eds-live
Overbaugh, R. & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from http://ww2.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm