Hello and thank you for allowing me to share some thoughts on something that I am testing out this semester in terms of course delivery. I am trying a new approach to online teaching in my MBA 613 – QL / IS 413 – QL Information Security Management course. It’s new to me, anyway! I am attempting to blend synchronous and asynchronous delivery in the same section. Specifically, I am supporting three forms of participation: face-to-face, live online, and asynchronous. The reason behind this approach stems from this past spring and summer, when during the registration period, several students expressed frustration with only an online option for the course. For a variety of reasons, they were not in favor of online instruction and wanted a traditional face-to-face experience. For many of them, online course delivery felt very distant, non-participatory, and non-engaging. We’ve all heard this before, and in some cases, I’m sure this perspective is justified. Online course delivery is challenging and difficult to tailor to those that relish the synchronous, face-to-face interaction with peers and their instructors.
So, based on this feedback, I made a promise to the students to support both synchronous and asynchronous participation and, through the support of Dr. Elizabeth Fisher, Ms. Randi Kirkland, and Dr. Ronan O’Beirne, started evaluating my options.
Each Monday at 12pm in BEC 320, I hold a class whereby I deliver lecture material to any student that wishes to attend in person. Through the use of Collaborate, a tablet pc with a camera, and a headset, I am also able to support live online students that wish to attend the lecture session as it takes place. From the online students, I am able to receive video, audio, and IM texts, depending on their desired level of participation. Throughout the lecture session, I am able to present the same material (slide decks, web content, or other applications) and lecture annotations simultaneously to the face-to-face and online students by simply connecting my tablet to the overhead projector in the classroom. The entire lecture session is recorded, archived, and then linked into the appropriate learning module for asynchronous consumption. Throughout the week, I am able to use discussion forums in Blackboard to support questions and discussion opportunities with everyone, including the students that participate purely asynchronously.
As with any course delivery approach, however, there are challenges. Collaborate is a fine tool and, in conjunction with tablet, a camera, and headset, allows for extensive annotation and student participation. However, to project the Collaborate session to the face-to-face students, I am tethered to the projector cable, effectively restricting my movement in the classroom. Like many instructors, I have a tendency to move around when I lecture. This is a challenge that I am currently working with our IT group to resolve. Wireless projection is the likely short term solution. A Mediasite classroom seems like a solid long term option. The other challenge is in dealing with the translation of in-class discussion and questions by the face-to-face students to the online Collaborate session. Without proper outfitting of the classroom with drop-down mics, I am forced to restate face-to-face questions so that the online audience can hear them. Again, a simple solution is available and likely forthcoming.