Creating Online Learning Communities Using Video Conferencing
Two apps that work well for creating online learning communities are Skype and OoVoo. Both apps are free and specialize in the ability to video chat, send instant messages, exchange files, and create conference calls. In addition they can both be used on a variety of devices and work with both Microsoft and Apple products. One advantage of Skype over OoVoo is its ability to chat with up to twenty-five people at one time. Although OoVoo only allows twelve people at one time, it has an additional feature that allows users to watch YouTube videos together.
Video conferencing can be used within online courses to generate a greater sense of community by creating a synchronous gathering. Synchronous technologies can create a sense of connectedness or social presence as students meet online to interact and discuss course content and assignments (Abe & Jordan, 2013; Rockinson-Szapkiw, 2014; Yuan & Kim, 2014). One way to foster the idea of an online learning community is to have students use web conferencing for online group projects. As Rockinson-Szapkiw (2014) indicates, students generally have a negative view of online group work because of the challenge it poses when conducted asynchronously. Using technology that allows students to video chat in real-time allows for improved communication and promotes not only student-to-student engagement, but can also provide better student-instructor engagement as well (Yuan & Kim, 2014).
Challenges usually ensue with the use of technology. Students need to be guided in the use of web conferencing before it is required in the online classroom. As Abe and Jordan (2013) state, even though most students are digital natives, they are not familiar with all types of technology used in education. And, let’s not dismiss the time factor vis-à-vis faculty planning a lesson around the use of web conferencing. As online education continues to expand and technologies continue to be developed, designing ways to increase social interactions and to create a feeling a community in the online classroom will be important for student learning.
Abe, P., & Jordan, N. A. (2013). Integrating Social Media into the Classroom Curriculum. About Campus,18(1), 16-20.
Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. (2014) Technologies that assist in online group work: A comparison of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration technologies on students’ learning community. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2014 1, 672–677. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
Yuan, J., & Kim, C. (2014). Guidelines for facilitating the development of learning communities in online courses. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(3), 220-232.
Links for free web conferencing:
OoVoo Link: http://www.oovoo.com/
Skype Link: http://www.skype.com/en/
Reflections on Blogging:
The blog that I have created for this class is my first real blog. I created one about five years ago just to try out blogging; however, I abandoned it because at the time, I did not see its practical value. My interest has been renewed; and, I can now recognize the advantages that blogging can offer in the areas of teaching and learning. As Dowling (2013) indicates, blogs are learner-generated content that students create to not only share, but also to interact with others in a public forum. The educational blog motivates students to carefully craft the content so that it can become a valuable resource for others. According to Sullivan and Longnecker (2014) blogs offer several benefits to students, including learning more about a specific subject, fostering a sense of community as bloggers interact with each other, and increasing writing and critical thinking skills.
The main challenge that I have found in maintaining an individual blog as a classroom assignment is the time commitment involved in posting, reading classmates posts, and consistently commenting to others. Another challenge to blogging has been to learn the nuances of the different types of blogs, i.e. WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger. Despite the challenges, blogs give students the opportunity to deeply learn about a subject from multiple perspectives and a diverse audience.
Dowling, S. (2013). Using blogs to share learner-generated content. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 17(2), 22pp. http://www.eric.ed.gov/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=EJ1017787
Sullivan, M., & Longnecker, N. (2014). Class blogs as a teaching tool to promote writing and student interaction. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(4).