Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Please note: This was published over a year ago. Phone numbers, email addresses and other information may have changed.

Meeting students virtually through “Online Rooms”

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One characteristic of classroom learning that students and instructors miss in the online world is face-to-face synchronous interaction. Direct interaction with the instructor as well as with other students can stimulate engagement with the course content. When students are engaged in the learning experience, retention will improve. While it might not be possible for online instructors to meet students in person, an excellent alternative is to meet them virtually using Collaborate. In Collaborate it’s possible to share screen applications, draw on a whiteboard, view images or web resources together, take a quick poll, and of course share through text, audio, and webcam.

Four excellent ways to use this tool:

  1. Host a weekly Q & A session for 30 minutes, an office hour online.
  2. Deliver a mini-lesson.  Be sure to record it for those who are not able to come.
  3. Arrange to meet students 1-1 for conferencing, e.g. to offer feedback on a paper or to go over a math solution.
  4. Use it as a meeting room for small groups of students. You can create multiple rooms to use for small groups. You can also leave the room open for students to collaborate on projects or form a study group anytime they would like to.

Kathy Carrigan, Chemistry Instructor at Cascade, sums up her department’s use of Collaborate this way…

“We connect with students in a very real way, bringing in humor and humanizing the course.  We feel like we are teaching, facilitating learning and interacting with students in a way similar to being in class with them.  For example, using a tablet with Collaborate allows me to draw chemical structures for my students as if I were in front of them.”

Getting students to come

Collaborate is a lot of fun to use.  Students really like it if you can get them to try it.  Here are some tips for getting students to your sessions.

  1. Require that they come to a certain number of sessions, e.g. at least two during the term.
  2. Try varying the time of the session, at least at the start, in order to accommodate different schedules.
  3. Highlight a concept during your virtual session that will certainly be on the exam.  (Students can view the recorded session if they can’t come.)
  4. Engage your students during the session. Ask questions, take polls, ask for opinions or otherwise engage them in the discussion.
  5. Keep office hours short so students will come on time, and you won’t be waiting around if no one comes.
  6. Ask students to come 10 minutes early initially in order to test their audio settings.

Next steps

PCC has a site-wide license for using this tool, and easy for you to set up a virtual classroom inside of your course in Desire2Learn. You’ll start by adding the tool “Online Rooms” to your navigation bar, and then it’s easy to create a virtual room to use for the entire term.  For more information about the tool, training possibilities, and how to use it inside of D2L, just follow the link below.

Tell me more about using Collaborate and Online Rooms.

About Greg Kaminski

Distance Education: online course design consultant, coordinator of Online Faculty Mentors, Quality Matters facilitator, interactive teaching practices enthusiast. more »