Online Real-Time Learning
VTP pilots real-time online learning

Elluminate Live!‘s motto is “no user left behind,” and Margaret H. Martin, assistant professor of vocational-teacher preparation, is in the midst of a pilot to use the online conferencing software to extend learning opportunities to place-bound adult students.

She and adjunct instructor Lawrence R. Hill demonstrated the potential for live, synchronous (real-time) online learning this year in the department’s introductory/ gateway classes, VTP 307 and VTP 309. The pilot, offered with assistance from Campus Technology Services and the Division of Extended Learning, will continue for a third semester next fall.

“The pilot program seeks to provide opportunities for a more diverse student body to access and complete college-level courses,” Martin said. “The experience with synchronous online course delivery during these three semesters will be invaluable.”

The current, traditional model for online courses offered through the SUNY Learning Network is asynchronous—students can “go to class” any hour of the day. But Martin said that some students have trouble completing coursework offered asynchronously, citing learning disabilities, learning styles or lack of computer proficiency. 

VTP students—typically older, married with family obligations, employed full time and located throughout the state—include a higher proportion of those having difficulty with the SUNY Learning Network model. “Often they are returning to school after many years and have learning styles that reflect ‘days gone by,’” Martin said. “Technology can be extremely intimidating.” 

She said her hope is that the synchronous learning experience will help students to have more success in completing classes online.

Coming together

The SUNY Learning Network model using Angel course management software is the predominant platform for both VTP 307 and VTP 309, Martin said, because VTP students are so geographically dispersed. The pilot supplements it with a weekly Elluminate Live! session providing a setting similar to a real-time class—professor and students visibly all together at the same time—“a model they appear to favor,” she said.

“Despite a few rough spots—for example, the software placed limitations on the number of cameras or microphones that could be used at any point in time—we found that online students responded favorably to the main feature of Elluminate’s software, the ability to interact live with other students and the instructor,” she said.

Martin said the survey responses of the 29 students completing VTP 307 and VTP 309 during the fall semester were positive and enthusiastic. “The reaction suggests synchronous online learning is feasible and may further the ability of colleges and departments throughout the college to reach a new student population,” she said.

Campus Technology Services will offer a Spring Breakout session on Elluminate next Wednesday for others wishing to pilot the software for workshops, meetings and instructional or other presentations. For more information and to register, see http://www.oswego.edu/about/centers/CELT/springbreakout2011.html.

(Posted: May 06, 2011)