Open Synchronicity for Online Class Support

Open Synchronicity for Online Class Support

Clark Shah-Nelson (SUNY Delhi, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-853-1.ch011
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Instant messaging and text chat, online collaborative whiteboards, web conferencing and other synchronous Web 2.0 tools are increasingly finding their way into higher education and are available in both commercially-branded and open source varieties. This chapter describes best practices and challenges in using these new tools, focusing on free and open source software for synchronous course delivery, collaboration, learning activities, and technical support, based on the author’s experience in online teaching and online-teaching support. Synchronous tools can provide immediate and efficient communication for instructors, learners and support staff, fostering community and establishing a heightened sense of social presence. An increasing number of practitioners in the field of distance learning are using synchronous tools to reach their learning and support objectives (Murphy and Rodríguez Manzanares, 2008). Today, free and open-source tools offer similar functionality as costly enterprise systems. This chapter will describe these new open source tools, the types of needs that drive their use, and strategies for effective use and implementation
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Instant Messaging And Chat For The Instructor

One of the primary reasons the author began using instant messaging with students while teaching online was to use a communication system students frequently used and knew to get immediate responses, and to know that the student had read the message. Whereas with email, one can send a message and wonder if the other person has received or read it, IM offers direct instant feedback that leaves little doubt as to whether the other person has read the communication. An online instructor can use IM to catch up with students who have not recently completed work, or to give a specific student immediate feedback about grades, questions, performance, etc.

Using the tools provided within the LMS was not enough to effectively communicate with students. Announcements and email were often ignored, but when students could be contacted via IM, specific questions could be asked to guide the students and get direct answers immediately. While there was a “chat” tool within the LMS, it never seemed to be used because one would have to launch it separately (without knowing if anyone else was in the chat room or available), and the chat room would quit automatically if inactive for a certain period of time. It turned out that adopting a certain IM system and informing students of an IM name, as well as getting their IM names to add them as “buddies” was most effective.

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