Archive for Distance Learning Tools

A Research Study on the Use of Wimba Classroom

Recently at the 2009 Wimba Connect conference me and my colleagues gave a presentation on “A Research Study on the Use of Wimba Classroom.”  

The University of Southern Mississippi (Southern Miss) chose to implement a virtual classroom due to the increase of fully online courses being offered and the need to accommodate different types of courses through an online medium.  Many of the departments that were asked to put courses fully online were concerned about the lack of interaction and student engagement tools available.  Southern Miss decided to investigate the feasibility of adding a tool to our current Learning Management System, Blackboard, that would increase opportunities for student-to-instructor and student-to-student interaction.  After auditioning applications from several different companies, Southern Miss decided that Wimba Classroom was the best fit for the goals and objectives it had set out to achieve.

Southern Miss began implementation of Wimba Classroom in spring 2007 with a pilot group of 15 faculty across multiple disciplines.  The University entered full implementation in summer 2007.

To evaluate the implementation of Wimba Classroom, instructor and student perspectives, and the impact on student engagement and learning outcomes, two survey instruments were developed.  A survey instrument was created to administer to instructors and a separate survey instrument was created to administer to students.  The survey instruments were sent to the instructors who used Wimba Classroom for their courses.  The instructors were asked to distribute the student survey to the students in their course.  The surveys were collected and the data was analyzed.

Results to be discussed in the session include items such as: (1) all the instructors and more than half of the students had used collaboration software prior to using Wimba Classroom, (2) students reported that they found learning to use Wimba Classroom easier than did their instructors, and (3) instructors reported using application sharing more than twice as much as their students.

We are currently revising the instruments and preparing to administer the questionnaires to multiple institutions, which use Wimba classroom. Data collected will be compared to see if findings are consistent across multiple institutions and provide further evidence for the generalizability of these findings. The data collected in the evaluation of the pilot are outlined in the following presentation.

A Research Study on the Use of Wimba Classroom
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The Pilot Use of Wimba at USM

Recently, at the 2009 Creating Futures Through Technology Conference, me and two of my colleagues presented on “The Pilot Use of Wimba at USM.”  In this session we discussed why The University of Southern Mississippi (Southern Miss) chose to use Wimba classroom, the pilot implementation phase in spring 2007, and the evaluation of that implementation.   We discussed the methodology and the instruments used to conduct the research study as well as the results of the data analysis and the conclusions. Results discussed in the session included items such as: (1) all of the instructors and more than half of the students had used collaboration software prior to using Wimba Classroom, (2) students reported that they found learning to use Wimba Classroom easier than did their instructors, and (3) instructors reported using application sharing more than twice as much as their students.  We have revised the instruments and are preparing to administer the questionnaires to multiple institutions, which use Wimba classroom. Data collected will be compared to see if findings are consistent across multiple institutions and provide further evidence for the generalizability of these findings.  Below are the slides from our presentation…
Pilot Use Of Wimba At USM
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Mississippi Wimba User’s Group

I am working on forming a Mississippi Wimba User’s Group.  Wimba has become a product that is widely used across our state and I wanted to create a way for us to collaborate and share our experiences.  I’m not sure if any other states have done this, but if there is another Wimba User’s Group out there, I would be interested in hearing from you.  Since we are just starting up, it would help to hear what others are doing.  One of the great things about working at an educational institution is being able to collaborate and learn from what other institutions are doing.

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WizIQ

I found a new Web 2.0 tool that is pretty cool.  It is a free virtual classroom called WizIQ.  You must create an account to be able to use the virtual classroom, but it is free.  You can create meeting times and invite other members to attend.  It allows you hold live meetings with audio and video.  It also has a text chat area.  It allows you upload content that will show up in the content area for everyone in the room to see.  It has a great eBoard toolbar with all kinds of visual tools to use to make annotations on top of your content (very impressed by the amount of options on the toolbar).  It has a tabbed content interface to allow you to have multiple content open at the same time.  It has a large set of math symbols to use as well.  When I tested it with a colleague the audio and video worked very well.

The meetings are archived, but I couldn’t figure out how long the archives would be available for me to view.  There are some other things that would be nice to have, such as application sharing, breakout rooms, and a call-in phone number for users that might not have a microphone.  With that said, for a free application, this is a very nice.  There is a premium membership that you can pay $49.95/year for additional features.

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Does Second Life have a place in higher education?

I have read a lot of literature about Second Life and how institutions of higher education are beginning to incorporate this into education.  It scares me a bit about opening this up to students and makes me wonder how universities will regulate this and what policies to protect the university need to be created.  How much liability will universities have if students are harrassed and what implications will this have for education?  Right now, I have more questions on this subject than I do answers.  I would love to hear from other schools who have instructors who are using this for their courses, such as how they are using it.  Does the university support this (technical support or instructional design support)?  Have instructors run into any issues in using it?

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Ning

Ning is a social networking tool. The sign-up is free and you are able to create private and public networking sites. A public site is like a Web site where everyone can see what you put up. A private site requires that you invite users to join the site for them to be able to see the content.

I have been using Ning for about 6 months now. I have created 3 Ning sites so far, one for our family that is spread out all over the U.S., Europe, and Africa. I created this one as a private network so that only those I invite can join our network. I also created a private site for our Boy Scout troop. I created one public site for the Scoutreach Division of our local Boy Scouts of America, of which my husband is the director. He uses this site to communicate with parents, volunteers, and others in his district about events and what is going on with scouting in his district.

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Podcasting

We are getting ready to roll-out podcasting here at our university. It has been over a year in the making. We began with a pilot last summer, but it has taken this long to work out all of the kinks of technical and policy. We had intended on using iTunes U but that has been put on hold for reasons I won’t go in to. We ended up developing our own internal solution. We got the idea from Mississippi State University but ended up developing are own from scratch. We use LDAP authentication so that only our faculty, staff, and students will have access to the application. Only faculty and staff have access to create podcasts and students have access to view podcasts.

We hope to be able to implement iTunes U at a later date, but we have run into road blocks with that so we are not sure when that will come about.

Many discussions of policy about use, accessibility, and best practices went into this before we are arriving at this point. We are set to release our solution university wide July 1st and so now I am feeling the pressure to finish all of the documentation as we will be offering our first training in just a few weeks.

In training, I plan to not only talk about the technical side of podcasting, but also include information about the pedagogy as well. I think it is is important to emphasize certain best practices and using the technology appropriately for their courses.

As we get materials up on our Web site, I will post links to those.

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