Chat tools can be difficult to use for online teaching – typically, with 20 or more students participating, all seeming to ask questions at the same time or having separate discussions, the chat can get very busy and hard to follow.
However, used with some sort of protocols in place, they can be managed effectively to provide an effective online tutorial. I have been involved with a number of very successful online chats, where senior editors from major international publishing houses have discussed writing and publishing with writers. These chats were set up with a few simple protocols for those participating, and flowed well, with the guest experts not overwhelmed with questions, time to respond, and much learning for all involved.
In the current issue of Innovate, the journal of online education, Craig W. Smith's article Synchronous Discussion in Online Courses: A Pedagogical Strategy for Taming the Chat Beast provides a good outline of a suggested 'Virtual Class Chatiquette' to enable effective use of chat tools in teaching.
The approach described by Smith is similar to the simple one I've experienced, and can be used both for tutorials with the course coordinator, and for chats with guest experts, whether the expert is in your office or half a world away at their desk – another one of the benefits that online teaching brings.
If you’re using photographs of places in your teaching, you might be interested in a geotagging site provided by BeeLoop.
Actually designed for use with Flickr (the photo sharing website), it generates a code you can paste into any html document which students can click on to go to a Google satellite photo of the place that the photograph was taken.
As an example:
Click here to see where this photo was taken. By courtesy of BeeLoop SL (the Mapware & Mobility Solutions Company).
(The photograph is of the back of Booloominbah, the homestead built in 1888 by the White family and later donated to form the University of New England. You can take a virtual tour of Booloominbah to explore it’s gorgeous interior and exterior.)
An interesting but brief item from the online BBC news last week about how a lecturer is restructuring his teaching to utilise some of the benefits of the web and free up more of his time for small-group teaching.
Dr Bill Ashraf is using podcasting technology to deliver lectures to students, which they can listen to in their own time, using their computer, mp3 player, or phone. He will respond to questions about the lecture on his blog.
Dr Ashraf said the move would better suit the needs of distance learners, part-time students and those balancing studies with family and work.
He said: “Some lecture classes have 250 students, so I question the effectiveness of a didactic lecture for an hour.”