Roxanne’s post on the Face Time article in THE Journal reminded me that I wanted to blog about it. The article covers collaborative videoconferences such as Read Around the Planet and Monster Match, as well as the new Collaborations Around the Planet site. Overall it’s a great article, and you should read it.
I, however, wanted to express my angst on how the article ended. It closed with this from an e-learning vendor (emphasis mine):
Real-time communication technologies like videoconferencing, Ericson points out, require synchronous interactions, which rob users of one of the most valuable qualities of web-based networking: the ability to time shift—to interact with others whether or not they’re online with you at the same time. E-mail, blogs, and wikis all allow for time-shifted interactions; online chat rooms and virtual communities such as Second Life require you be there at the same time as those with whom you are communicating.
“One of the big advantages of virtual education and learning,” Ericson says, “is that you can do things on demand, when you want to. We do believe that chatting and videoconferencing have a place. But in our model, it’s not as valuable as allowing students to participate in the community on their own terms, whenever and wherever they are. The idea of forcing a synchronous model, where everyone is on at the same time, well, that’s what a classroom is for.”
First of all, you should know that not only am I crazy about VC, I also have taught nine different online classes several times each since 1999. I am taking two online classes right now, and will start teaching two next week. I love the reflection and thoughtfulness in online classes.
But, I don’t think it’s fair to compare synchronous vs. asynchronous distance learning and say one is “more valuable” than another. I also think it is definitely not fair to have a vendor with a vested interest in asynchronous distance learning critique the synchronous medium.
So, here’s the question for you. Is synchronous distance learning like videoconferencing worth the trouble? Is it worth staying up in the evening to connect to places half way around the world?
I can think of a few benefits to real-time – besides the learning that goes on – think of these:
- engagement levels (think of the posture when kids watch a video vs. participate in an interactive VC)
- accents & dress differences (can’t see that in a discussion board)
- body language & face time
- the feeling of being together and connecting (they are the same as us!)
When I read Roxanne’s list of Read Around the Planet ideas I was encouraged. I’m deep in the challenges of dealing with the RAP leftovers. The ideas reminded me of the kids’ enthusiasm in these events. When you’re tired and stressed with too many videoconferences to suppport, think of the kids. When you get all your matches next week and have a ton of RAP test calls to do, think of the kids. When you’re frustrated with the pain of scheduling, think of the kids. Imagine the faces of the kids in the last VC you did.
What do YOU think? Please comment. Is synchronous distance learning worth the trouble? Why?