This post is one in a series for a MOOC. You can find similar posts searching under the Category MOOC or searching for hashtag #eteacherTOOL for more about this particular MOOC.
My background is primarily face-to-face and blended learning, so the idea of virtual or fully online learning still holds some mystery for me. One of the areas I am struggling with is how would I come across on video lecture, as in a flipped class, or on a web conference style presentation to students. While I do use web conference products for meetings with vendors and colleagues far away I had not yet considered how my presentation would shift for content delivery to students.
In a virtual learning situation learning opportunities must be provided through such synchronous tools. The virtual class which my department does offer support for uses Microsoft Lync (district paid product)for the teacher to: conference with individual students, evaluate students foreign language conversational skills. What does occur is meant to be an approximation to the face-to-face experiences that have the highest productivity in teaching and learning. This means forethought on that part of the teacher; not only in the selection of which portion of curriculum and/or assessment must take place synchronously versus asynchronously, but which tool is most appropriate to her/his choices.
Teachers might choose, based on their instructional needs, to utilize: whiteboard, web cam, audio, instant messaging, polling, break out rooms.
Presently, open source software packages for synchronous learning are available as well, and these are, oftentimes, deemed “free” versions. However, employing an open resource package requires technical consultation or an in-house Information Technology (IT) department that can manage the hosting, upgrading, integration, and continued usage of open source tools.
Looking through the suggested links and resources I found Center for Learning and Performance Technologies: 40 Web Meeting/Conferencing & Virtual Classroom Tools to be the most informative listing of tool options for providing synchronous teaching and learning opportunities.
The listing of vendor versus OER products was also interesting. However, the school/system/district which might provide an LMS should look to include this type of tool as part of the spectrum our uses by teachers and students.
I know the high quality of Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEx, GoToMeeting and Collaborate are terrific. Yet, if given the choice at a teacher-level of paying the cost of these services or using a Google Hangout or BigBlueButton – I would pick the free option all day long. I think these purchases will only be made at a school/district/system level. And I believe the best option is to include these in the LMS purchase.