Friday, October 26, 2012

Oh, the Places You Can Go with Web Conferencing!

Now that we've institutionalized Web conferencing, it's beginning to become apparent that this kind of collaboration can support many more kinds of learning and support than the traditional teacher-to-student interactions we originally envisioned. Even in the latter, of course, I've been constantly (and pleasantly) surprized by how innovative educators adapt the tools and their own approaches to instruction in order to create learning environments that make full use of the rich tools of the Confer classroom. But here are some examples that transcend the classroom and potentially open doors for students who might not otherwise be served.

Psychiatric Care. At the University of Rochester (NY) Strong Ties Community Support Program, members of the inpatient and outpatient teams have been meeting since 2010 using Web conferencing. Leslie Tomek and J. Stephen Lamberti, two of the psychiatrists, describe the use of this technology: "Initially it was peculiar speaking to a video monitor instead of face to face, but the monitor quickly seemed to disappear and we became one large team of clinicians working collectively to provide effective care for our most acute patients." Among the benefits they report from adopting this technology: better discussions of patients' progress; streamlined planning for discharges; enhanced follow-up decision-making. Web conferencing "allows large groups of people to communicate concurrently. We have also found that patients and their families are pleased to hear about our new form of communication." In higher education, one can imagine that regular Web conferences between physicians, counselors, nurses, and other health care providers would have similar benefits.

Psychotherapy Training. Allan Abbass et. al., in Web-conference supervision for advanced psychotherapy training: A practical guide, report that the "advent of readily accessible, inexpensive Web-conferencing applications has opened the door for distance psychotherapy supervision, using video recordings of treated clients. Although relatively new, this method of supervision is advantageous given the ease of use and low cost of various Internet applications. This method allows periodic supervision from point to point around the world, with no travel costs and no long gaps between direct training contacts. Web-conferencing permits face-to-face training so that the learner and supervisor can read each other's emotional responses while reviewing case material. It allows group learning from direct supervision to complement local peer-to-peer learning methods."

Language Instruction. Sng Bee Bee and David Gardner report in the International Journal of Web Based Communities on research they conducted to determine the viability of Web conferencing for language instruction. (I have reported elsewhere in this blog about California Community College instructors who have successfully taught Spanish and other languages using CCC Confer.) Two groups of learners, one Thai and one Vietnamese, were located in two different countries: Thailand and Singapore. They met by means of Web conferencing and - based on participants' feedback - concluded that this technology was effective in helping to accomplish the learning objectives.

Library Research Skills Instruction. Sheila Bonnard and Mary Anne Hansen of Montana State University report that they have successfully taught library research skills to online students in real time for the last two and a half years. Their article, "From Two Dot to Turkey", provides tips and lessons learned, along with amusing anecdotes about the rural communities (including Two Dot) served.

Tutoring. Karen Kear et. al.from the Open University describe a Web tutoring pilot that involved about 140 tutor groups and report that "tutors and students reacted positively to the opportunities Web conferencing provides for interactive learning and teaching." They also stress the need for prior preparation and "real-time improvisation" in this environment, along with the challenges of establishing social presence and avoiding cognitive overload. (As with language instruction, I have written elsewhere in this blog about successful tutoring efforts using CCC Confer).

Research and Data Collection. David M. Glassmeyer and Rebecca-Anne Dibbs describe in "Researching from a Distance" how geographically separated learners can use Web conferencing software to collect qualitative interview data by conducting interviews in an online graduate education course. And Yang et. al. describe "Use of Webinar and Web Meeting to Support Research Collaboration Between Italy and China" in the 2012 Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications.

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