Originally Posted: February 5, 2011
We now live in a globally connected, diverse, and multicultural world. Everything from online games (computer or console based), blogs, and social networks in general have made it completely possible for anyone to develop an ongoing interaction with others outside of their own culture. The specific technology may change over time, but the underlying activity has become firmly rooted in modern society. The same may be said about education in general, and e-learning specifically. “The role of the teacher is changing” (McIsaac & Craft, 2003, p. 45).
Oliver, Kellogg, Townsend, and Brady (2010) suggested that utilizing synchronous communication methods, such as messaging and/or chat, may assist with collaboration and/or planning projects (2010). McIsaac and Craft pointed out that the exchanges taking place between instructors and learners are morphing as a result of synchronous online learning environments. In order to be successful, instructors must be able to adapt and utilize their knowledge to design interactive content (2003).
Most courses will be a combination of synchronous/asynchronous activities. Horton (2006) suggests utilizing synchronous activities when students need to actively interact with other students, synchronous events provide positive peer pressure, students have the same requirements and/or need for teacher interaction. Piskurich (2006) suggests several components and/or activities that should be considered when implementing synchronous virtual classrooms with VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Table 1 lists these various suggestions:
Summary of design considerations for synchronous virtual classrooms
- Small one-minute icebreakers
- Agree/Disagree questions about content
- Learner(s) to instructor(s)
- Learner(s) to learner(s)
- Learner(s) to panel
Note. Adapted from “Design Considerations for Synchronous E-Learning,”
by G. M. Piskurich, 2006, Rapid Instructional Design: Learning ID Fast and Right.
(2nd ed.). p. 350-353. Copyright 2006 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Jackson and Helms (2008) documented various strengths and weaknesses as reported by students regarding their experiences with (a)synchronous activities. Some of the strengths included being able to learn from other students’ perspectives, better utilization of time, and professional networking opportunities. Some of the weaknesses reported included the inability to form true study groups due to geographic location of students, less time with the professor, and more time to procrastinate.
This author has had the opportunity to witness the benefits/weaknesses of synchronous classroom activities personally, in addition to, watching his wife complete her Master’s degree via National University, and watching his son participate in synchronous activities via National University’s Virtual High School program. Overall, it appears that classmates are very cooperative and more than willing to assist whenever possible. There usually seems to be a short “feeling-out” process during the first synchronous activity until participants achieve a level of comfort with each other. Once the timing of a synchronous activity is figured out, the effectiveness of the activity seems to be on par, if not superior, to that of asynchronous activities.
Horton, W. (2006). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Jackson, M., & Helms, M. M. (2008). Student perceptions of hybrid courses: Measuring and interpreting quality. Journal of Education for Business, 84(1), 7-12. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.nu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=34772191&site=ehost-live
McIsaac, M., & Craft, E. (2003). Faculty development: Using distance education effectively in the classroom. Computers in the Schools, 20(3), 41-49. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.nu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=12440246&site=ehost-live
Oliver, K., Kellogg, S., Townsend, L., & Brady, K. (2010). Needs of elementary and middle school teachers developing online courses for a virtual school. Distance Education, 31(1), 55-75. doi:10/1080/01587911003725022
Piskurich, G. M. (2006). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.