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How a web conference classroom evolved into a distance learning classroom with live support


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Hydrology and Erosion Management, part of the Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEngTech) Degree, is taught flexibly within New Zealand. Flexible, by the BEngTech definition, refers to flexible space but fixed time; hence web conferencing is used to provide real time contact with students based at other tertiary institutes. Delivering a traditional lecture via web link exaggerates the weaknesses of the lecture format. Limited personal interaction with the tutor and with fellow students makes it challenging for students to stay engaged. Shifting the class focus to online activities, and requiring the students to do these within “web conferencing class time”, created a virtual classroom where all students could be treated equally. The web conferencing tool therefore became secondary and was used to support the online activities through short periods of information and clarification.

The purpose of this study is to produce a model of a successful flexible classroom that actively engages students with the learning outcomes, the tutor and each other and produces a positive learning experience for the students.

A questionnaire was developed in 2012 to ascertain how the teaching model suited the students and what improvements could be made. This small sample produced quantitative data on the students’ perceptions of the web conferencing class. In 2013 the modified questionnaire was more qualitative and targeted, asking how the balance of activities, web conferencing and online work each aided the student to learn the course material.
Feedback from questionnaires was analysed in conjunction with student participation with the learning management system activities and the student results. The quality of students’ answers to tutor-directed online activities reflected the depth of their learning. Initial conclusions were drawn between traditional styled lectures, traditionally styled web conference classes and this flexible classroom model based on the multiple data sets described above.

In 2012, anecdotal evidence showed students were positive about this model of learning experience, reducing common fears of how challenging learning in this type of environment might be. The feedback from 2013’s cohort showed an improvement in engagement levels. This is likely to be as a result of increased tutor confidence and competence in using web conferencing and learning management software in conjunction with each other. Further, with experience, learning activity instructions have been improved to clarify expectations to suit the changed teaching environment. The learning environment has now transformed from a web conference direct transmission classroom into a virtual classroom through a learning management system with live support.

With the removal of many of the barriers found in traditional web conferencing classrooms the students have expressed their appreciation of learning in this type of environment. As the online environment was a base for all sessions, the web conferencing aspect became of secondary focus allowing students the freedom to more easily interact online with the content, their peers and with the tutor.

Item Type: Journal article
Uncontrolled Keywords: distance delivery, web conferencing, blended delivery
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Divisions: Schools > Centre for Science and Primary Industries
Depositing User: Aidan Bigham
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2014 00:38
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 03:19

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