Holding virtual meetings or virtual classes can be a great way to implement interaction in your online course. Virtual meetings are synchronous interactions between professors and students conducted with a web-based application. These meetings benefit students by creating a learning community, making students feel like valuable participants, and adding a human connection. Most applications used for online meetings include audio, chat, white board, screen sharing, and video. Several applications also offer archival features in which meetings can be recorded and then reviewed at a later date.
Why are live class meetings important to teaching and learning online?
Research shows that social presence in an online course is a vital element in online interaction, as reported in this American Journal of Distance Education research article.
Instructors can promote social presence by holding live online class meetings. Here is a list of additional reasons to include a live class meeting in an online course:
- Creates teaching presence
- Helps build a rapport with students
- Allows a way to address different learning styles
- Engages students
- Encourages and motivates students to participate in group work
- Builds camaraderie among students
- Creates opportunities for students to present to one another
- Increases student satisfaction with the course and the instructor
- Helps eliminate student isolation
Tips and Recommendations
Virtual class meetings may not be familiar to many students so they will need to be told the plan for the meeting. Preparing content and students is essential for success. Here is a list of tasks to consider while preparing for a live online class meeting. This list is not comprehensive, but it should be helpful in incorporating live online class meeting in an online course.
Preparation Checklist for a Virtual Meeting:
- Schedule a consultation meeting with a TLPDC instructional designer for customized ideas on how to incorporate virtual meetings into your online course.
- Schedule a practice session before the actual virtual meeting.
- Schedule the virtual meeting times well in advance. Consider polling students for a time that works best for them.
- Encourage students to test the technology before the class meeting. They will need to test their hardware capabilities for audio and video, and they will need to become familiar with using the meeting software. (The first time students start the software, they will probably be guided through a test of audio and video capability.
- Have a start and end time for each meeting, and stick to it.
- Have an agenda for the meeting, and share it with your students before the meeting.
- Let students know exactly when and how they are expected to participate during the meeting.
- Have all digital content that you plan to display open and minimized on your computer, including any websites you plan to share, before beginning the meeting.
- Include Q&A time at the end of the meeting to help wrap up the meeting
- If your software allows, start recording the meeting when it begins and make it available to students after the meeting for review.
Possible Tools for Virtual Meetings
Some of the more popular tools for virtual meetings are listed below. Currently the TLPDC can assist faculty in their use of Microsoft Lync.
- Blackboard Collaborate.
- Microsoft® Lync® is provided to all TTU faculty, staff, and students, free of charge. You can download it from www.eraider.ttu.edu. With Lync, users can see their contacts' availability; send an IM; start or join an audio, video, or web conference; or make a phone call—all through a consistent interface. Lync is fully integrated with Microsoft Outlook. The Microsoft Lync desktop client is available for Windows and for Mac. Mobile versions are available for Windows Phone, iPhone/iPad, and Android devices.
- Skype: Skype is a free, global community for users to connect, discover new cultures and share ideas. Students can see what other users are doing over a Skype video call and students can share ideas and collaborate on projects.
- EDUCAUSE: 7 Things You Should Know About Virtual Meeting. The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative's (ELI's) 7 Things You Should Know About... series provides concise information on emerging learning technologies and related practices.
- Educause Quarterly (EQ): Asynchronous and Synchronous E-Learning. A study of asynchronous and synchronous e-learning methods discovered that each supports different purposes.
- The Professional Counselor: Bringing Life to e-Learning. This article provides a context and rationale for incorporating online synchronous learning experiences, discuss the use of simple technologies to create meaningful educational experiences, and present one model for combining synchronous and synchronous instructional approaches online.
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