Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Web Conferencing eh?

well i like to think that i am fairly knowledgeable when it comes to web casting, webinars, web conferencing...call it what you will. my ph.d. involved using a different webcasting technology and i have attended enough webinars to know and understand that glitches happen. even with this previous experience, our first online session was a real eye opener for me. i'm up to the challenge - as are my students i hope - but i tell you teaching in this medium is a very different experience and requires a number of adjustments. basic things like having to take turns to talk to minimize feedback and time lag; remembering to keep an eye on the chat log for those students who arent using the voice feature; making sure that the screen i am showing doesnt block the chat so that everyone - including myself - can keep an eye on what people are saying; and then just making sure that what i am showing is centred on the screen and not getting cut off at the bottom [i didnt catch this until i looked at the archive]

getting kicked out of my own session was a new experience for me. i have to admit that i did panic and it felt like forever until i was able to get back into the meeting. after class when i read the chat logs, i had a good chuckle seeing when students finally clued in that i had disappeared from the attendee list. i was thrilled, however, to see that they kept talking to each other, including about what chapters they were interested in, and then started joking about who would take over if i didnt make it back in.

as a teacher there is definitely a sense of disconnect as you cant see the visual cues that one takes for granted in a face-to-face [f2f] setting. things like how attentive the students are being, do they seem to be following along or do i need to adjust my pace? etc. online those cues are lost and i wonder if the students feel this way too. i found that i'd resort to asking my students to answer yes or no to questions so that i could figure out if things were ok and on track. then when i was talking i was very aware of the 'silence' and at times felt like i was talking out into a void. flip the coin to the other side, i felt so frustrated for the students who were have technical difficulties - i kept worrying about how these distractions were effecting their experience. i was happy too thought to see that students started helping each other out and giving advice when people needed to troubleshoot issues, including when we got to creating the blogs.

anyway these are first steps. i look forward to exploring this further and hope that my students will still be on board with me...

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