The increased availability of web conferencing helps address many of these issues and complements the primarily text-based interactions especially for remote learners very well. The real-time communication sector, however, is changing rapidly, and current solutions are quickly becoming technologically outdated. We observe a major technological shift towards WebRTC, a W3C-backed standard for web-based real-time communication that, as opposed to current solutions, promises a browser-based plugin- and installation-free environment for all devices, while also enabling new functionality.
The new functionality has the potential to enable pragmatic interaction in ways that are not impossible, but difficult to achieve with previous generation tools, especially in scenarios such as:
- Blending synchronous and asynchronous activities through the same interface.
- Blending synchronous individual and group work.
- Mixing on- and off-campus students through digital interaction opportunities.
In this session, we will explore these options based on examples inspired by the enhanced functionality of the WebRTC-based innovation. We will brainstorm the potential and usefulness for education to conclude whether the issues below are realistic prospects or idealistic promises:
- To improve remote students’ learning and social experiences.
- To develop more personalised learning activities and resources.
- To enhance access for off-campus students to on-campus academic development opportunities.
- To improve usability by using standards-based plugin-free platform- and device-agnostic software.
- To provide tutors with a simple tool to create useful audiovisual resources.
The session content builds on recent research on student and tutor experiences of live online learning (Cornelius, Gordon & Schyma 2014), the recent substantial Australian “Blended Synchronous Learning” project (Bower et al. 2014), and general blended learning literature (such as Bonk, Graham & Cross 2006).
A case study project will be conducted following ALTC 2015 with the aim to investigate the educational potential of the newest iteration of a fast-evolving technology.
Bonk, CJ, Graham, CR & Cross, J (2006). The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer Publishing.
Bower, M, Dalgamo, B, Kennedy, G, Lee, MJW & Kenney, J (2014). Blended Synchronous Learning: A Handbook for Educators. Australian Office for Learning and Teaching: Sydney. Available from: https://blendsync.org/handbook
Cornelius, S, Gordon, C & Schyma, J (2014). Live Online Learning: Strategies for the Web Conferencing Classroom. London: Palgrave Macmillan
Rovai, AP (2003). In search of higher persistence rates in distance education online programs. Internet and Higher Education, 6 (1), 1-16.
Tinto, V (1993). Leaving college: rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.