This is the most common use of web conferencing, where the students and the instructor are not in the same geographical location, and interact in real time using a "virtual classroom" provided by web conferencing software.
To make this work most effectively, the students and instructor should each have multimedia-capable computers, a high speed network connection and a headset (microphone and earphones). A web camera is sometimes desirable, but not required. Read more about hardware required for instruction to a remote audience.
In this scenario, an instructor is teaching face to face (F2F) to a group of students, but has one or more students joining the class from a different geographical location using web conferencing software.
To make this work most effectively, the instructor should have a speaker and one or more microphones set up in their classroom and connected to the web conferencing software for the local students to be able to interact with the remote students (the remote students feel a greater sense of involvement and community when they know they are being included in the class, rather than just being spectators).
This type of blended instruction works most efficiently in smaller "seminar-style" classes. As the face-to-face class size increases, it becomes more difficult for the remote students to interact with the local students and for the instructor to present content to both groups. As the number of remote students increases, it becomes more difficult for the instructor to balance classroom management between the face to face students and the remote students. At some point, it becomes necessary to have a "moderator" (usually a student in the face-to-face class) using a second computer to assist in managing the interaction between the local students, the remote students and the instructor
For blended instruction (in a small or large class) to work best from a technical perspective, remote students should each be connecting from their OWN computer with their own headset, even if the remote students are in the same geographic location. The setup for students becomes technically unworkable if they need to think about getting speakers and microphones for a group of students in the remote classroom. The instructor's biggest challenge from a pedagogical standpoint involves remembering to focus on the remote students as well as their face-to-face cohort. Read more about hardware required for blended instruction.
Web conferencing can be used to "broadcast" lectures or seminars classes in which local participants "mix" with a similar or smaller number of remote participants. For example, for the past two years the School of Public Health has been offering a weekly or bi-weekly outreach seminar series on various Public Health topics to a combination in-person and remote audience. Web conferencing software has enabled members of Saskatchewan's Health Care services from communities such as Yorkton and Prince Albert to attend and interact in ways previously not possible.
For a mixed seminar to work from a technical perspective, it is important to have quality audio provision for both the presenter and the local participants, as the remote participants become frustrated if they are unable to hear questions posed by audience members. The ability for remote viewers to participate via audio is desirable but not crucial; however, having a moderator available to assist presenters (who will not likely be familiar with the web conferencing technology) and to manage interaction with the remote audience is crucial to the success of a mixed seminar. Read more about hardware required for mixed seminars.
Web conferencing provides opportunities for instructors teaching F2F courses to take advantage of resource people who might be otherwise unavailable to their students. For example, in the Spring of 2010, a local Religious Studies professor at the U of S was able to bring a noted authority on the Muslim faith from Virginia State University into his classroom to lecture and interact in real time with his local students using Skype.
The technical requirements for this scenario are somewhat greater than those for others as a data projector, room microphone and speakers will be required in the local classroom and at least a computer headset will be required at the remote location, if not a web camera. There can also be challenges in the standardization of software and availability of technical support between institutions in these situations
Instructors teaching distance courses can use Web Conferencing technology to provide their remote students with additional "outside of class" access in a synchronous environment.
Virtual office hours are relatively easy to implement from a technical perspective, as their requirements are the standard ones: multimedia-capable computers, a high-speed network connection and a headset (microphone and earphones). A web camera is sometimes desirable, but not required.
Web conferencing tools and internet telephony tools can assist students taking distance or face to face courses in collaborating on group projects or assignments.
This type of usage is not usually as technically challenging as other types, but it does require that the tool being used is available on an ad-hoc basis.
For groups that are distributed over a wide geographical area, web conferencing tools are an inexpensive and time-saving alternative to traveling to other locations for group meetings.
Ad hoc staff meetings can have varying technical requirements depending on the size of room/audience and the number of locations involved.
Most full web conferencing packages have the capability to let a user "share" their computer, computer applications and/or documents with other participants. This can be an invaluable tool for technical and even procedural troubleshooting of issues that co-workers or students might encounter. The technical requirements are usually not very steep; however, this type of use does require a fairly in-depth knowledge of the conferencing package.
The use cases above are by no means an exhaustive list of ways these tools could be used. They all, however, assist hugely in promoting interactivity in the distance classroom, the local classroom and the distributed workplace.
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