Remote guest lecturers, students who are unable to travel, panel participants, and even entire remote classrooms can join in the physical classroom with ease thanks to an evolving array of technologies.
Post written collaboratively with Curtis Taylor.
The ways in which schools are leveraging synchronous virtual classroom technologies are expanding every day. Popular tools like Skype and Google Hangouts are increasingly being employed to bring students, guest lecturers, panel participants, and others into the physical or online classroom. There are also a growing number of education-specific apps like WizIQ and e-Lecta to facilitate virtual classroom participation. Web-based audio or video conferencing apps enable this functionality, and options like chat, online whiteboards, and file sharing can enhance the experience.
While distance learning and online education have been common for years, the primary focus of this article is a slightly different concept – the idea of using online technologies to bring remote participants into the physical classroom. Of course, some of the tools that enable fully virtual schools can also be used to bring virtual participants into the brick and mortar classroom. There are many angles to how synchronous connectivity can be employed in teaching. Be it K-12 or higher education, these “remote participation” technologies are gradually expanding the possibilities and the nature of the educational experience.
In the 90’s and early 2000’s, online participation in learning consisted of things like doing self-study using a website or CD and frequent visits to the school, but this has evolved tremendously, driven by the growth and evolution of fully online education. Thanks to technologies like Skype, Zoom and others, instructors can give lectures online, and students who can’t attend a physical class session can still participate. This concept can be extended to others who might be invited into the classroom but due to distance or time constraints can not get to the location of the classroom – bring them in virtually!
Another exciting capability enabled by some of these tools is the ability to record and save the remote participant’s contribution in archives for future use, or for review by attendees who might have missed some (or all) of it.
Here are four applications that can be used to bring remote participants into the classroom, along with some examples of uses. These tools all have free versions or free trials.
Skype is one of the best known free apps for connecting people with voice and video online. We’ve used it at The College of Westchester for years to bring guest lecturers in, let students who are out with medical situations deliver presentations, and even to let an instructor who could not be present for a couple of class sessions instruct remotely.
Skype is user friendly and the free version generally works well, but it’s important to know that there is no guarantee it will be available when needed. In cases where it is not connecting, one usually only has to wait a few minutes for it to become available again. Premium accounts, which get priority over paid accounts, are available from $4.99 a month.
Hangouts is a pretty recent entrant to the video chat app arena, but with the Google name behind it and the millions of free Google accounts in use, it quickly became pretty popular. In this article from teacher “Mr. K”, we have multiple examples of connecting several classroom using Google Hangouts.
“Back in February I was able to connect one of my classrooms with Paula Naugle who is a teacher in New Orleans and my students who are in New Jersey were able to learn from other fourth grade students about Mardi Gras and how it is celebrated in New Orleans.
On March 11 four classrooms (two schools in New Jersey and two schools in Pennsylvania) used Google Hangout to have a HW Debate.” – Mr. K
WizIQ is a widely used application for learning and teaching online. With WizIQ, you can take or attend online classes from your home, office, Internet café, library, or even while traveling. Its a powerful tool for collaborative online learning and teaching. People can also use WizIQ smart phones and tablets devices. WizIQ enables synchronous distance learning with tools like real-time virtual classrooms with multi-way audio, multiple live video streams, integrated chat, online whiteboard, application sharing, breakout rooms, and more.
Check out their Case Studies page for lots of examples of how the application is being used.
e-Lecta Live is also used to carry out remote participation and collaboration solution for online teaching session. e-Lecta Live offers features including whiteboards, video, presentations, text chat, screen and files shares, and it has smart phone tablets support. The software offers a teaching environment that is led and managed by the instructor. e-Lecta Live is especially designed for online universities and schools to manage multiple teachers for hours, to take more than one class in the same time and control students activity. Their ‘benefits' page suggests various approaches to leveraging the functionality the application offers.
The number of applications that are available to position teachers to bring participants into their live classroom settings from outlying locations continues to expand and improve from year to year. These tools offer myriad possibilities for connection, collaboration, and learning from anywhere at any time.
Have you used tools like these to bring students, teachers, guest lecturers, or others into your classroom? Readers love to hear real world examples from other educators. Please tell us a little about your experience.
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