Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Synchronous Communication in Online Course

The lack of live communication has often been considered an inherent drawback in fully online courses and the accompanying feeling of detachment through distance and time can frustrate instructors and students. But, through the development of instructional technology, synchronous communication can return to your online classroom.

Mary Brady, an Education professor at Wayne State University, tried virtual, synchronous online lectures by using the Virtual Classroom tool in Blackboard (Online Cl@ssroom, June 2006). Students spent up to one-fourth of their class time in the synchronous sessions where she gave live lectures, and students worked on group projects.

With synchronous meeting tools, you and your students can have similar teaching and learning experiences to those in a traditional classroom, with virtual tools like slides, whiteboards, multimedia, document sharing and so on. Adobe Breeze Meeting is one of the tools.

The idea of real-time communication in the online world can be exciting. However, as with planning any new course element, you should consider the following questions before jumping in:

-Do I need synchronous communication or collaboration in THIS course?

-How will synchronous sessions fit into the whole course and connect with the other components of the course?

-What will I and the students do in each synchronous session?

-How many synchronous sessions will there be?

-How long will each session be? (Brady’s were between 45-60 minutes.)

Another big concern about adding synchronous meetings to your online course is finding a time convenient for everyone. We all know how HARD that can be. But, what Brady did is to post a sign-up sheet in her course at the beginning of the semester for the student to register for several available dates. And, if you set up group sessions, it may be easier to find times for smaller groups of students.

Think about what you do in your face-2-face classroom, and then consider using a synchronous communication tool such as Adobe Breeze to accomplish similar tasks in your online class. What do you think? Please share your ideas.

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