2007 was Bronwyn's first year working full time at GippsTAFE. She is an experienced drug and alcohol counsellor and now teaches these competencies in a program aimed at people currently working in the area of drug and alcohol counselling. Because all her students are working the program is offered flexibly; a mixture of RPL and online training.
Vanessa is an experienced online facilitator with a good, working knowledge of the use of the online classroom, Elluminate, but no expertise in the area of drug and alcohol counselling. She works in the GippsTAFE Innovation Department and one of the roles of this department is to promote and support the introduction of online learning across the institute.
Early in 2007 Bronwyn decided that she would like to introduce weekly Elluminate sessions to her program. She approached the Innovation Department and it was decided that Vanessa would act as her mentor offering her support and assistance through the process.
Bronwyn had previously participated in a number of online classroom sessions and although she had never been a presenter approached her first session with a fair amount of confidence. How hard could it be she thought. However she found the experience overwhelming even though Vanessa was there as a co-facilitator; there was just too much happening. Her students were new to this type of learning, there were a number of technical issues and due to shyness they were reluctant to speak.
Before the next session Bronwyn and Vanessa revised their approach. Vanessa advised that they should limit the number of Eluminate tools that they would use to allow the students to become more comfortable with the technology. Vanessa would be responsible for trouble shooting and monitoring the text chat so Bronwyn could completely ignore these aspects and focus on her presentation. The students were asked to write down any questions and could ask these at set times during the session. Bronwyn also developed pre-session activities that the students were asked to complete. This helped them to feel more confident about contributing to the online session.
As the year has progressed Bronwyn has become much more confident about using Elluminate and now needs very little help from her mentor, Vanessa. She has gradually increased the range of Elluminate features that she uses. Her sessions include brainstorming, audio presentations by her students and some assessment activities. She conducts and records RPL interviews in Elluminate and has even used it in conjunction with the virtual world, Second Life, to conduct an online role play.
Student feedback has been very positive. Most reported that they found their first session wierd as they were not used to communicating online in this way but they have have quickly got used to it and requested longer sessions. They like the flexibility of studying online and appreciate the added interaction of the online classroom sessions.
From Bronwyn's point of view she says that the addition of the Elluminate sessions has made it much easier to teach flexibly. The ability to record sessions is great for proving learner engagement when it comes to audit time. Her skills in using Elluminate have grown so she now feels much more confident and is even teaching other teachers about how to use an online classroom.
Here are Bronwyn's five tips for those just starting to use an online classroom:
- have a co-facilitator
- keep it simple and don't use too many functions at once
- use pre-session activities to help students prepare for each session
- control hands up; pause for questions at set times in the presentation
- treat it like a normal lesson
Thank you to Bronwyn and Vanessa for sharing their valuable experiences with the group. The session was recorded, please contact me at email@example.com if you would like a link to the session.
This is the final Classrooms Online session for 2007. Thank you all for your interest in the network and I look forward to meeting you online again in 2008.