Sunday, March 30, 2014

Telecommuting Students into Class

I recently had a experience where a student had an injury that prevented her from physically attending class. Since I had been offering students the opportunity to use skype for online meetings, she thought we might be able to use facetime to have an online meeting. I then began thinking about having her telecommute into class and came up with several options.

Since I use the classroom computer for moodle, lecture slides and videos, I could not use the class computer to communicate with the student. Classroom computers also do not have cameras or microphones. But both myself and students have smartphones and tablets.  Also since I have my lecture slides with embedded videos on moodle and open them during class so that students can follow on their phones, tablets or laptops as an option to viewing the projected images, a person at home could also follow.

Hearing the lecture and discussion might require two pieces of equipment such as a phone for the audio and a tablet or computer for moodle. If students only have the equipment for the audio, they would essentially be the same as a conference call and could hear what occurred in class. They could review slides and videos afterwards.

If there is only one student, I could connect to them with my ipad using either skype or facetime.  I would probably not use the video because I doubt if I could project the screen clearly and I move throughout the classroom. It is my understanding that skype allows group calls but I have not been able to figure out if this works with ipads. If there are multiple students who might require this, maybe members of the class can use their phones to connect them. Skype uses the school's wi-fi conenction so that such students do not need to pay for their telephone calls or use their data plans.

This option also requires faculty to make some policy decisions about who and when such actions take place. For example, it might only be used for those with documented medical needs that prevent them from attending class.  It might also require permission of other class members during planned discussions.

I would like to hear from others who have used or have ideas about using technology strategies to help students participate in classes when they are unable to physically attend.

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