Some say vermouth and gin.
Others say Blackboard, It’s Learning or Moodle.
The former are the ingredients for a martini, the latter are examples of course management systems (CMS) which represent one aspect of e-learning, centered on asynchronous delivery of information: instructor posts information and students download information.
And no James Bond-stuff: vodka is not a proper download for a “virtual classroom.”
A virtual classroom is similar to the desktop sharing that happens when IT staff control one’s desktop, remotely. Now, throw in the bangs and whistles of a CMS and you have a “space” where students can “enter” and draw on each other’s desktops. Unlike Skype (which also enables this), virtual classroom technologies place no restriction on the number of users in the space. Also, the space is equipped with additional learning tools.
Such as chilled, stemmed glasses which are important because it all comes down to how you prepare the space: virtual classroom provide tools for polling, surveys, and student assessment.
E-learning in virtual classrooms can be categorized as synchronous or asynchronous (with definitions to follow). They can also be categorized as blended (again, definitions to follow).
This fall, IMM@HiB will experiment with a blended synchronous/asynchronous virtual classroom for a class called Dynamics.
Dynamics (the study of motion and the forces that cause it) will be taught in Bergen, Florø and Kristiansund to approximately one hundred and fifty students. WizIQ will be used, but other tools include Big Blue Button, Collaborate and Zoom. The software will open on the instructor’s desktop (but his/her physical location is irrelevant). Students will connect to the virtual classroom (a shared memory arena on the corporate server). All student workstations will display the instructor’s PowerPoint slides and the class will commence when the vermouth is poured over ice, shaken and then dumped. You only need a few drops—just enough to kiss the glass.
When a student has a question, he or she will raise the “hand icon” using the software. The instructor will pass desktop control to the student. All the other participants will hear and see the student as he or she circles equations of the PowerPoint. The instructor can then regain control and respond. The anonymity of the software alleviates the stress of asking questions in large classrooms.
The software is very sophisticated, but the entire process can get rough and intimidating for the instructor, so pour the gin gently into the glass: don’t bruise the gin—friction will heat it. This is simple thermodynamics which is a different course, of course.
The process just described is called “synchronous learning” because the virtual class is live. But when the entire session is recorded for later playback, this is called “asynchronous learning.” When an e-class is partially synchronous and partially asynchronous, it is called “blended learning.”
Which is what you hope happens when you blend dry vermouth with an olive into the class—sorry, glass.
The class itself is new on a second fronts. First, aspects of Lie Group Theory, Cartan’s Moving Frames and notation from Geometrical Physics are deployed. Second, instruction will be supplemented with interactive 3D animations using WebGL that will alleviate student internal visualization disparities. Examples of the 3D animations can be found here. Please keep in mind that unlike traditional visualization software, this animations require no downloads, no plugins, runs on all browsers and can be viewed on mobile devices. In fact, Pearson Publishing will leverage create the first 3D e-text to be released in 2017 by rolling the animations into the e-text using Habitat/Inkling.
The instructor has done experimented with this type of e-learning before; and with success. He redesigned a computer programming class using blended learning, supplemented with Cognitive Load Theory. The result drastically improved the performance of female and non-traditional students in the field of programming. All the students performed well and the technology—Wimba, at the time—ran flawlessly. In fact, one time he informed his US class that he would teach the class from the airport between flights. He informed the class that he had only one hour and there would be no time for questions. Students were told to enter the room, listen and email questions. What they did not know was that Dr. Impelluso was testing the technology, was actually in the airport bar, knocking down a martini—lemons are fine—while watching a Yankee game—as he played the recording of a prepared lecture and the students never knew… that the class was shaken, not stirred.
Yes, the technology can be abused. Just don’t repeat this deceit or you’ll be forced to drink an appletini—and that is never a good thing. But it might be wise to embrace all this technology and be active in setting the standard, rather than be caught with a hangover and left in the dust.
And that is how Dr. Impelluso learned to create the perfect mar—oops!—the perfect blended virtual classroom.