Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Teaching Online Synch Classes - 19 Recommendations

SYNCHRONOUS Classroom Activities - Online?
Gilbert's recommendation:  Collaborate with at least one co-leader
Kim's 10 recommendations (Headers Only):
1. Web Classes Go Fast
2. Tech Problems Happen
3. Pay Attention to Timing
4. Post an Agenda
5. Take Turns
6. Stress Community and Logistics Rather Than Content
7. Be Inclusive
8. Less Is More
9. Maintain a Firm Hand
10. Continuously Learn

Garay's 8 additional recommendations (Headers Only):

  1. Instructors and presenters should use two computers
  2. ...have a moderator (TA or volunteering student) available to handle/filter comments and questions 
  3. Record the online sessions for on-demand playback 
  4. Have a teleconference and well-known telephone# ready to go 
  5. Do plan ahead and build a detailed agenda 
  6. Keep things interactive by pausing regularly 
  7. Set up an ongoing Web conference session 
  8. Schedule a practice Web conference session
Full text available from “10 Guidelines for Running Synchronous Web Teaching Sessions,” By Joshua Kim, July 19, 2011 9:15 pm EDT, Inside Higher Ed Blog + 8 more recommendations from COMMENT  “Think Async” from  Ed Garay at University of Illinois at Chicago on July 20, 2011 at 9:45am EDT  


GOOD SUGGESTIONS, GUIDELINES in general, especially when adding Garay's additional recommendations.
MY PRIMARY OBJECTIONS & CAVEATS:  Many of Kim’s recommendations seem to be based on admirable but much too narrow assumptions about the purposes and limitations of online synchronous sessions.  Some of Garay’s useful recommendations require resources unavailable to many college/university faculty members.  Neither mentions the value of collaboration when planning and running such sessions.  My strongest additional advice:  
It is almost always more effective and enjoyable to run online synchronous sessions with at least one co-leader.  For most faculty that would be a luxury and counter to local customs about teaching undergraduate courses. However as pressure grows to find ways to offer courses more “cost-effectively” - i.e., with higher student-faculty ratio - it is worth exploring carefully how online synchronous sessions with more than 50 students can be run effectively by two or three co-teachers.

I enjoy participating in and hosting online synchronous sessions, but they are NOT “a necessary component of an online or blended learning program.”  


“5. Always go down the list of all students in the meeting asking for questions or comment.”  NOT NECESSARY AND THERE ARE VARIATIONS THAT MAY BE MORE APPROPRIATE - e.g., asking all participants to “post something about your current location”;  using online versions of the Classroom Assessment Techniques [Cross & Angelo]

“7. Be Inclusive: Successful web based synchronous class meetings include comments, questions and ideas from everyone present (if possible). 30 participants is about the maximum size possible for an inclusive online class.”  IMPLIED DEFINITIONS OF “SUCCESS” AND “INCLUSIVE” ARE TOO NARROW.
I’ve participated in and run much larger sessions that were “successful” and “inclusive”.  Just as in face-to-face meetings, SOME participants can be actively engaged intellectually without speaking or asking questions or receiving any direct feedback;  SOME OTHER participants need to “speak” and be “heard” or to get some feedback aimed specifically at them to feel included.

“10. Continuously Learn: Always make time for a postmortem with the faculty and staff about what worked well and what did not, so adjustments can be made quickly for subsequent meetings.”  ACCIDENTAL OMISSION?  Not including students, participants as important source of feedback.

Photo "Synchronized swimming, dolphin style"
Some rights reserved by el__vaquero el__vaquero's photostream Tim Briggs

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